Archive for January, 2010

“Tensions high between trading partners Iran and Germany”

“Tensions high between trading partners Iran and Germany”
January 21-28, 2010
     Germany is denying Iranian claims that two German diplomats were detained for involvement in protests in December. Meanwhile, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said sanctions would be “the next step” for resolving the nuclear issue, even without the support of China and Russia, and German engineering giant Siemens announced it would not seek new contracts with Iran, though existing contracts will be fulfilled (New York Times).
     The Wall Street Journal hopes Germany, Iran’s largest European export partner, is ready to “do its part” in isolating Iran, pointing to recent controversies over German technology that may have been used in the Iranian regime’s domestic crackdown. The Journal points out that Italy is also now supporting sanctions after a scathing report on Italy’s commercial ties with Iran (Wall Street Journal).
     Reuters reports that German exports to Iran declined but less steeply than to other countries, and other German firms are still pursuing trade with Iran, particularly in the gas sector (Reuters). Last week, Iranian newspapers reported that an unnamed German firm had entered a $1.44-billion deal for gas-related technologies and know-how, though Iranian energy officials later denied the report (Tehran Times, AFP).
New York Times | Wall Street Journal | Reuters | Tehran Times | AFP

Read more about Germany’s trade ties with Iran under “Iran-Germany Relations

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“Iran’s negotiating tactics alienating key partner”

“Iran’s negotiating tactics alienating key partner”
January 21-26, 2010
     With Iran having officially rejected key elements of the proposed uranium export deal, some analysts see a weakening of Iran-Russia ties. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called for a sober P5+1 response but expressed “regret” over Iran’s decision, and Russian officials are reportedly “exasperated” with Iran’s tactics and are open to the option of additional sanctions (Reuters). US Ambassador to Russia John Beyrle claims that Washington and Moscow are closer than ever in their positions on the Iranian nuclear issue (Xinhua), and on Monday, Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili postponed a 3-day trip to Russia to see President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin (AFP).
     Vladimir Yevseyev believes prospects are dim for Iran-Russia relations, which began cooling after the contested June election and the subsequent revelation of the secret Qom (Fordow) facility. Yevseyev writes that despite Moscow’s desire to increase bilateral military technical cooperation, Tehran has undermined the crucial uranium export deal and indicated its mistrust of Moscow by insisting that its LEU be exported to Turkey (Eurasia Review).
Reuters | Xinhua | AFP | Eurasia Review

Related posts:
“Washington, Tehran both keeping door open for nuclear fuel deal”

“Western blame for deadlock on sanctions shifting from Russia to China”

“Western blame for deadlock on sanctions shifting from Russia to China”
January 18 & 19, 2010
     As China faces sharp criticism for opposing additional sanctions on Iran, Frank O’Donnell argues that US flexibility on space arms control could convince China to support tougher measures against Iran. O’Donnell believes China may prioritize the establishment of regulations on the military uses of outer space over its current strategic and economic interests related to Iran (ISN Security Watch). Other diplomats suggest Beijing’s position may reflect anger over US arms sales to Taiwan. China also has strong economic ties with Iran, especially in the energy and arms sectors.
     Since last weekend’s P5+1 meeting on Iran, Western criticism has focused almost entirely on China and less on Russia, another member of the group often accused of undermining efforts against Iran. China sent a “mid-ranking” diplomat to the meeting and stressed the need for “dialogue and consultations,” and Western diplomats said the P5+1 had a share commitment to a “dual track” approach of dialogue and sanctions (Reuters). British Foreign Secretary David Milliband hinted at possible financial sanctions and denied any rift between China and the other members (Reuters (2)).
ISN Security Watch | Reuters | Reuters (2)

“Growing economic concerns add to Tehran’s troubles”

“Growing economic concerns add to Tehran’s troubles”
January 13-17, 2009
     While the P5+1 continue early talks on sanctions against Iran, the Iranian government has approved President Ahmadinejad’s 5-year plan to cut energy and food subsidies worth an estimated $100 million per year. Critics fear the plan, which is set to begin in the next three months, will worsen Iran’s high inflation rate and fuel further social unrest (The National), but reductions in gasoline consumption could also dampen the effects of sanctions (Reuters). Despite Ahmadinejad’s pledge that the plan will eliminate unemployment and poverty in three years, Nader Uskowi calls the new law a “sharp turn to the right” for the populist president (Uskowi on Iran).
     Iran’s economy also saw a 96% decrease in annual foreign investments in the period from March 2008 to March 2009 (Tehran Times). The government has announced it has received $20-billion worth of proposals for investments in Iran’s oil and gas sectors, but Iranian officials believe the gas sector alone needs around $85 billion in investments over 10 years to maintain its export capacity (Press TV).
The National | Reuters | Uskowi on Iran | Tehran Times | Press TV

Related post:
“Tehran hopes risky subsidy cuts will target middle class, neutralize sanctions”

“Green Movement uses language of reform but sparks hopes for revolution”

“Green Movement uses language of reform but sparks hopes for revolution”
December 31, 2009-January 14, 2010
     Iran’s Green Movement received a small boost as a long-serving Iranian diplomat in Norway resigned in protest over the government’s violent crackdown on domestic opposition (Los Angeles Times). Analysts such as Ray Takeyh believe the Islamic Republic is a “transient phenomenon” that can no longer appease or eliminate the opposition. Citing US President Ronald Reagan’s strong approach to the Soviet Union, Takeyh urges the US to challenge the legitimacy of the Iranian regime while pursuing a nuclear deal (Washington Post).
     However, Hooman Majd writes that the opposition is not a revolution but a civil rights movement and that only a minority hope to overthrow the current regime. Majd argues that Mir-Hossein Mousavi is the established leader of the opposition and believes a compromise between the Green Movement and the government could be reached in 2010. Majd also suggests that the Revolutionary Guards could consider replacing Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in order to protect the regime (Foreign Policy).
     In a recent statement in which he declares his willingness to die for the opposition movement, Mousavi calls for government accountability, free and fair elections, the release of political prisoners, freedom of the press and of association, and free access to media (BBC). A separate Green Movement manifesto issued by five prominent reformists living outside Iran adds explicit demands for the resignation of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the holding of new presidential elections (Christian Science Monitor).
Los Angeles Times | Washington Post | Foreign Policy | BBC | Christian Science Monitor

“Authenticity of leaked ‘nuclear trigger’ document debated”

“Authenticity of leaked ‘nuclear trigger’ document debated”
December 29-January 7, 2010
     Gareth Porter writes that the Iranian “nuclear trigger” document published last month by The Times are not authentic. According to former CIA officer Philip Giraldi, US intelligence has judged the document is a forgery. Porter adds that the documents published by The Times lack security markings and that some nuclear organizations have been misidentified (Asia Times). Times columnist Oliver Kamm explains that the published copy was a “retyped version of the relevant parts”, though the copy is described as a “document in full” in the original article (The Times).
     In a technical overview of the “nuclear trigger” document, ISIS (which assessed the document for the original Times article) writes that The Times’ source removed headings from the document to protect intelligence-sensitive information. Based on discussions with officials from unnamed governments, ISIS believes the source was “unlikely” to provide forged or tampered documents but encourages continued efforts by the IAEA and others to assess the document’s authenticity (ISIS).
     The debate has involved personal attacks, with Porter accusing The Times and other publications owned by Rupert Murdoch of having an “aggressively pro-Israeli slant” (IPS News), while Kamm dismisses Porter and Giraldi as fringe “apologists” for Iran who question the history of the Holocaust (The Times).
Asia Times | ISIS | IPS News | The Times

“Washington, Tehran both keeping door open for nuclear fuel deal”

“Washington, Tehran both keeping door open for nuclear fuel deal”
December 29-January 11, 2010
     A report by Laura Rozen indicates that neither the US nor Iran has given up on the uranium export deal, and one unnamed US source describes the question of whether the LEU will be exported in one or multiple batches as “just a logistical issue.” Rozen writes that Iran’s counterproposal to send its LEU to Turkey could lead to an agreement, potentially “in the very near future” (Politico). Tehran has also named Brazil and Japan among potential sites for the fuel swap and has stated it will enrich the uranium domestically unless its counterproposal is accepted within one month (Tehran Times).
     Washington is drawing discussion away from the need for harsh measures, such as gasoline sanctions or military action, and highlighting recent disruptions in Iran’s regime stability and nuclear program. One official states Iran will not be able to develop nuclear weapons for at least 18 months (Gary’s Choices, New York Times). US officials say that new sanctions will aim to force Tehran to the negotiating table, saying that “[s]anctions would not be an alternative to engagement.” The domestic unrest in Iran has raised US concerns about not harming Iranian citizens, and officials stress that sanctions would only target Iran’s leaders, particularly the Revolutionary Guards (Washington Post).
Politico | Tehran Times | Gary’s Choices | New York Times | Washington Post