Archive for October, 2009

“Iran counterproposal may validate Western skepticism of negotiations”

“Iran counterproposal may validate Western skepticism of negotiations”
October 26-29, 2009
     Iran is reportedly set to demand revisions to the IAEA deal [previously covered here]. Julian Borger writes that Iran’s demand to export its low-enriched uranium in stages through simultaneous exchanges for higher-enriched uranium would effectively undermine the West’s intentions to alleviate tensions by temporarily removing a large portion of Iran’s LEU stockpile (Guardian).
     Andrew Lee Butters writes that Tehran is divided between ideological and pragmatic interests, arguing that while President Ahmadinejad needs a deal with the West in order to avoid sanctions and military action while bolstering his regime’s domestic and international standing, hard-line conservatives remain against accepting US conditions too easily. Butters adds that Iran has long engaged in brinksmanship to successfully soften the West’s position on Iran’s nuclear program (Time).
     In an analysis written prior to this month’s Iran-P5+1 talks, Raymond Tanter argues that Tehran simply uses negotiations to buy time to continue its nuclear activities. Predicting a “vague and drawn out proposal-counterproposal cycle”, Tanter calls for the West to pursue “crippling” international sanctions, political recognition of opposition groups and the threat of military strikes (Middle East Strategy at Harvard).
Guardian | Time | Middle East Strategy at Harvard


“German smuggler case highlights limits of intelligence assessments”

“German smuggler case highlights limits of intelligence assessments”
October 23, 2009
     David Albright and Christina Walrond outline the trials in Germany of Mohsen Vanaki for transferring dual-use equipment to Iran in 2007. One crucial element of the case involved discrepancies between US and German intelligence assessments of whether Iran had a nuclear weapons program at the time [previously covered here]. Vanaki was fined and given a suspended sentence on charges including the transfer of high-speed cameras typically used for military applications and the attempted export of radiation detectors.
     The authors point out that the term “moderate confidence” used in the 2007 US NIE [previously covered here] carries a significant level of uncertainty and conclude that that status of Iran’s nuclear weapons program should not be assessed based solely on the 2007 NIE.

“Competition for UAE contracts could drive regional nuclear energy race”

“Competition for UAE contracts could drive regional nuclear energy race”
October 20-25, 2009
     The US Congress has approved a 123 Agreement with the UAE, enabling bilateral nuclear cooperation with “unprecedented commitments” to ensure the peaceful nature of the UAE’s budding nuclear program. The agreement will allow the US to compete for $40 billion of nuclear development contracts (Reuters). Andrew Bast describes the UAE’s pledge to outsource the entire nuclear fuel cycle (likely to France) as “groundbreaking”, and the US hopes the UAE will serve as a model for peaceful nuclear development (Newsweek).
     However, there remains concern that the deal could trigger a regional nuclear energy race providing sensitive nuclear technologies to unstable regimes. Iran could also obtain nuclear materials through its strong trade ties with the UAE (Foreign Policy, Reuters (2)). Fareed Mahdy writes that France, the US, Japan and South Korea are “pushing” Arab states toward a nuclear energy race as they compete for lucrative development contracts (IPS News).
Reuters | Newsweek | Foreign Policy | Reuters (2) | IPS News

“Australia claims diplomatic victory with Iran-Israel meeting”

“Australia claims diplomatic victory with Iran-Israel meeting”
October 16-22, 2009
     Daniel Flitton reports that the International Commission on Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament (ICNNPD), a joint Australian-Japanese initiative, succeeded in bringing together Israeli and Iranian officials for a “very robust exchange” at a secret international meeting held in Cairo last month (The Age). While Israel’s Meirav Zafary-Odiz and Iran’s Ali Asghar Soltanieh did not meet or shake hands outside the meeting, Soltanieh directly asked Zafary-Odiz if Israel had nuclear weapons, receiving only a smile in response (Haaretz).
     Israel has argued that participation in the meeting does not imply direct diplomatic contact, while there are conflicting reports that Iran has denied the meeting took place (BBC) or adopted a line similar to the Israelis. One unnamed analyst suspects the reports on the conference are designed to lower Soltanieh’s domestic credibility, with some “senior figures” already wondering if Iran is bowing to international pressure (The National).
     John Lyons touts the meeting as a diplomatic victory for Australia, reporting that the chairmanship of former Australian foreign minister Gareth Evans was “masterful” according to an unnamed participant. Lyons writes that the ICNNPD is “seen as an Australian body” (The Australian). Reports in Japanese newspapers have been limited to brief summaries mainly citing the Haaretz article.
The Age | Haaretz | BBC | The National | The Australian

“US analysts greet draft LEU agreement with caution”

“US analysts greet draft LEU agreement with caution”
October 21, 2009
     US analysts are responding to the draft uranium export deal with caution and skepticism. Michael Singh writes that while the deal [previously covered here] is a “bold and innovative” move by the US to test Iran’s peaceful intentions, it comes at the cost of legitimizing Iran’s uranium enrichment activities and demoralizing Iran’s opposition movement (Foreign Policy). Kristen Silverberg adds that the deal, if agreed to, would effectively prevent additional sanctions while Iran potentially remains able to speed up enrichment efforts by activating more centrifuges and any undeclared facilities (Foreign Policy (2)). Joshua Pollack calculates that Iran could recreate the uranium to be exported in less than half a year (Arms Control Wonk).
     Under the deal, drafted by the IAEA, 1,200 kg of Iran’s LEU would be shipped in bulk to Russia by the end of the year for further enrichment. To placate Iran’s hard line against France during negotiations, France’s role in preparing fuel rods would be considered optional (Guardian). Iran’s negotiator Ali Asghar Soltanieh emphasized that Russia is the main partner in the draft deal (Tehran Times).
Foreign Policy | Foreign Policy (2) | Arms Control Wonk | Guardian | Tehran Times

“Amid mounting international pressure, Israel affirms defense ties with US”

“Amid mounting international pressure, Israel affirms defense ties with US”
October 15-21, 2009
     Israel, recently facing international pressure with the so-called Goldstone report [1, 2] and deteriorating ties with Turkey [previously covered here], began a major military exercise with the US on Wednesday. The Juniper Cobra exercise, the fifth in a series started in 2001, will merge US and Israeli air defense systems against simulated missile attacks (Reuters, Press TV) and is expected to serve as a warning to Iran and other potential aggressors while reaffirming US commitment to Israel’s security (BBC).
     US President Barack Obama also surprised a meeting of Israeli leaders with a video message describing US-Israel ties as “much more than a strategic alliance” (Haaretz). Uzi Rubin argues that Israel’s defense ties with the US have remained consistently strong regardless of any difficulties in diplomatic ties (Xinhua).
Reuters | Press TV | BBC | Haaretz | Xinhua

“Impact of Iran bombing on LEU agreement unclear after first day of talks”

“Impact of Iran bombing on LEU agreement unclear after first day of talks”
October 19-21, 2009
     IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei called the first day of talks between Iran, the IAEA, and Russia, France and the US “constructive” despite Iran’s refusal to negotiate with France on the proposed uranium export agreement [previously covered here]. Julian Borger points out that while an agreement between Iran and Russia remains in the works, Tehran’s push to limit both the amount and time spent outside Iran of the exported LEU would undermine the US and French intent of the proposed agreement (Guardian). Massimo Calabresi reports that the US has been negotiating the agreement with the other parties since June after learning through the IAEA that Iran required nuclear fuel for a research reactor. The US has pressed Russia to ensure that the source of the uranium for the agreement come from Iran’s stockpile (Time).
     Ahead of the talks, Iranian leaders accused the US, Britain and Pakistan of being involved in two suicide bombings near the Pakistani border that killed 7 IRGC commanders and over 30 others. The terrorist group Jundallah, which has reportedly received US support, claimed responsibility (New York Times). Kaveh L. Afrasiabi writes that strong suspicion in Tehran of US, British and Israeli complicity in the attacks could undermine recent confidence-building efforts and lead President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to take a harder line against the US (Asia Times Online).
Guardian | Time | New York Times | Asia Times Online