Archive for November, 2009

“Outgoing ElBaradei toughens language, urges Iran to accept nuclear deal”

“Outgoing ElBaradei toughens language, urges Iran to accept nuclear deal”
November 25-27, 2009
     Analysts point out that IAEA head Mohamed ElBaradei has toughened his language on Iran and may have “lost [his] patience” as he reaches the end of his term (Agence France-Presse). At his final IAEA meeting as Director General, ElBaradei declared that discussions with Iran on “outstanding issues” had reached a “dead end” and criticized Iran’s delayed declaration of the Fordow (Qom) facility. ElBaradei also expressed disappointment over Iran’s negative response to the uranium export deal [previously covered here], calling the deal a “unique opportunity” that “should be seized” (IAEA).
     In an interview, ElBaradei states that the West is unlikely to accept Iran’s demand for a simultaneous nuclear fuel swap but argues against sanctions and pressure. ElBaradei calls resolutions censuring Iran, such as the most recent P5+1-sponsored resolution passed by the IAEA Board of Governors [see the resolution here], “expressions of frustration” that will likely invite defiance rather than cooperation. On the Fordow site, ElBaradei suggests that the small size of the facility indicates it may be part of a network of covert sites (Reuters).
     Prior to the resolution’s passing, Iran’s IAEA ambassador Ali Asghar Soltanieh declared that the resolution would reduce Iran’s cooperation with the IAEA “to the minimum we are legally obliged” (Agence France-Presse (2)).
Agence France-Presse | IAEA | Reuters | Agence France-Presse (2)

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“Military option continues to provide Israel leverage against Iran, US”

“Military option continues to provide Israel leverage against Iran, US”
November 23 & 24, 2009
     Steven Simons asses the likelihood of an Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities, concluding that Israel, while wary of the possibility of war with Iran and strained ties with the US, can and will act if it perceives an imminent existential threat from a nuclear Iran. Simons argues that an Israeli attack would harm US interests and urges the US to remain engaged in multilateral efforts to pressure and contain Iran while providing Israel reassurances, rather than warnings, regarding the durability of their “special relationship” (Council on Foreign Relations).
     Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad recently stated that the US and Israel “don’t even think about [attacking Iran],” claiming that neither has the “courage” (Uskowi on Iran). On Sunday, Iran started a 5-day defense exercise involving the Revolutionary Guard and covering an area a third the size of Iran (Global Security Newswire). Due to the delayed delivery of Russia’s S-300 antiaircraft missiles [previously covered here], Iranian Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi told reporters Iran plans to design and produce indigenous air-defense missiles (Associated Press).
Council on Foreign Relations | Uskowi on Iran | Global Security Newswire | Associated Press

“Nuclear debate in Iran could mean progress despite West’s growing impatience”

“Nuclear debate in Iran could mean progress despite West’s growing impatience”
November 24 & 25, 2009
     Outlining Iran’s contradictory signals on the uranium export deal proposed in October [previously covered here], Carol Choksy and Jamsheed Choksy argue that the heated and public debate among Iran’s leaders is a sign of progress on the nuclear issue. Pointing out that other international nuclear agreements, such as SALT and the NPT, required years of negotiation, the writers argue that Iran (unlike Russia) is a “novice” in nuclear negotiations and that the P5+1 and IAEA should pursue “patient engagement” (Foreign Policy).
     Most recently, Iran’s Foreign Ministry indicated that Iran was not opposed to exporting its LEU as long as Western powers provided “100% guarantees” of receiving refined fuel. However, Iran’s suggestion of a simultaneous fuel swap on Iranian soil may be a “non-starter” for the West (Reuters).
Foreign Policy | Reuters

“Brazil takes political risk in welcoming Ahmadinejad amid growing nuclear tension”

“Brazil takes political risk in welcoming Ahmadinejad amid growing nuclear tension”
November 23 & 24, 2009
     Taylor Barnes writes that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s visit to Brazil, which included a “prolonged embrace” with President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, is part of Brazil’s ongoing push to play a strong role in Middle East diplomacy [previously covered here], noting that the visit comes as Western powers look to increase pressure on Iran (Christian Science Monitor). Analysts say Ahmadinejad stands to gain more international legitimacy through strong ties with Silva, who has defended Iran’s nuclear program and stated that “there’s no point in leaving Iran isolated,” than with more controversial South American leaders like Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez (Associated Press, Christian Science Monitor (2)).
     However, critics argue that the visit weakens, rather than enhances, Brazil’s international role (Los Angeles Times). Ahmadinejad’s visit was met with protests of “almost a thousand” in Rio over the weekend. Jose Serra, a leading contender in Brazil’s presidential race next year, wrote in an op-ed that “the visit symbolizes the denial of everything that Brazil stands for” (Reuters). US House representatives also criticized the visit, warning Silva that “expanding ties with Ahmadinejad is not the way” to join the UN Security Council and “be a world leader” (CNS News).
     The visit included the signing of 13 new cooperation agreements (Fars News Agency).
Christian Science Monitor | Associated Press | Christian Science Monitor (2) | Los Angeles Times | Reuters | CNS News | Fars News Agency

“Expectations low for new EU president, foreign policy chief”

“Expectations low for new EU president, foreign policy chief”
November 21 & 22, 2009
     The appointment of Herman Van Rompuy and Catherine Ashton as the EU’s new president and foreign policy chief, respectively, has been greeted with skepticism and criticism among Western analysts. Marco Incerti argues that Ashton, who will head a new diplomatic body of several thousands and represent the EU’s foreign interests, lacks the experience and international networks to have an effect on issues such as Iran’s nuclear program and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (Associated Press). Carsten Volkery writes that while Ashton has a reputation as a “tough negotiator”, expectations for the new EU leaders are so low they can only be exceeded (Spiegel).
     Outlining more of the critical reaction among European analysts, Annie Lowrey believes the selection of the “comically obscure” pair means non-EU powers will continue favoring their bilateral relationships with individual European states, which would allow the UK, France and Germany to maintain more autonomy as the Lisbon Treaty comes into effect (Foreign Policy).
Associated Press | Spiegel | Foreign Policy

“Egyptian nuclear leadership – time to realign?”

“Egyptian nuclear leadership – time to realign?”
November 19, 2009
     Kimberly Misher urges Egypt to renew its regional leadership at next year’s NPT Review Conference to promote the implementation of the 1995 Resolution on the Middle East. Arguing that stalemate in the NPT regime is hurting Egypt’s desire for a united Arab position, Misher writes that as chair of the New Agenda Coalition and the Non-Aligned Movement at the conference, Egypt should tone down its “principled” positions, such as its “impractical” stance on Israel’s nuclear status, and be more willing to work with the US. In turn, Misher urges the US to negotiate toward a middle ground on Egypt’s demands, arguing that the NPT provides the best means for preventing proliferation by Iran and other states.
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

“Saudi Arabia, Egypt hope peace process, arms will counter Iran’s influence”

“Saudi Arabia, Egypt hope peace process, arms will counter Iran’s influence”
November 10-19, 2009
     Ahead of French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s visit to Saudi Arabia, Michael Slackman writes that Saudi Arabia and Egypt are losing their regional influence to Iran partly due to the failure of the US to convince Israel to freeze its building of settlements. Slackman writes that while Riyadh is stressing Arab unity, specifically by drawing Syria away from Iran and in support of the peace process, Cairo believes a lack of progress on the peace process will continue to undermine the regional influence of America’s two closest Arab allies. Riyadh’s strategy may involve allowing Damascus to assert political control of Lebanon (New York Times).
     Riyadh is reportedly hoping that France will be able to help reinvigorate the peace process after a “disappointing” US effort. Sarkozy and Saudi officials also discussed potential arms deals and peaceful nuclear cooperation (BBC). Iran’s rising influence is continuing to drive arms procurements among the Arab states [previously covered here] (United Press International).
New York Times | BBC | United Press International