Archive for February, 2010

Weekly roundup

Additional articles and reports from the past week
“Iran is regional power even without nukes” (Haaretz)
Zvi Bar’el writes that the West should recognize Iran’s role as a regional power and focus its energies away from sanctions and toward engaging Iran as a partner in the “international club of decision makers”.

“A demand from Tehran” (Guardian)
The Guardian has obtained Iran’s letter to the IAEA stating that any nuclear fuel swap must be conducted through a simultaneous exchange within Iranian territory. The West is unlikely to accept these conditions.

“Syria affirms ties to Iran despite US calls” (Associated Press, Syria Comment)
Despite recent diplomatic overtures from the US, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad stood alongside President Ahmadinejad and spoke against US efforts to draw Syria away from Iran. Joshua Landis believes the US “overplayed its hand”, though Syria perceives the US position in the Middle East to be weak.

“What Europe can do to secure a deal with Iran”
Matthew Levitt urges the EU to help gain multilateral consensus for sanctions against Iran and to pursue measures to deny Iran access to key technologies (Europe’s World). Fiorello Provera, vice-chairman of the European Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs, argues the EU must also “stand with Iran’s civil society” and demonstrate its commitment to human rights by hanging a poster of Neda Agha Soltan in the parliament building in Brussels (Today’s Zaman).

“Tokyo enrichment proposal goes public during Larijani visit”

“Tokyo enrichment proposal goes public during Larijani visit”
February 24-26, 2010
     With Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani visiting Tokyo, the Nikkei business daily reported on Japan’s proposal to conduct uranium enrichment on Japanese soil. The proposal was made with US approval to Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili in December, and Larijani has indicated Tehran will study the deal. The Japanese government has neither confirmed nor denied the report, which does not cite sources (Nikkei, AFP). Nikkei also reports that US Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg is scheduled to meet with Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada in Tokyo on March 4 to discuss the Iranian nuclear issue (Nikkei).
     Iran also allowed Japanese media to tour its Isfahan plant, an unusual move likely aimed at gaining Japanese support for its nuclear program (Yomiuri Shimbun, Japan Times).
Nikkei (Feb. 24, evening edition) | AFP | Nikkei (Japanese source) | Yomiuri Shimbun (Feb. 25, morning edition) | Japan Times

“Enrichment efforts leave LEU stockpile vulnerable to airstrike”

“Enrichment efforts leave LEU stockpile vulnerable to airstrike”
February 18-23, 2010
     The IAEA’s strongly worded quarterly safeguards report on Iran revealed that Iran has transferred approximately 1,950 kg of LEU, over 90% of its known stockpile, from the Natanz Fuel Enrichment Plant to the aboveground Pilot Fuel Enrichment Plant. While the use of only a single cascade indicates a slow enrichment process, this amount could be used to produce almost 200 kg of 19.75% LEU, greatly exceeding ISIS’ estimate of 9.2-18.4 kg required per year to operate the Tehran Research Reactor (ISIS).
     Julian Borger calls the large transfer “provocative and risky”, as Iran’s LEU stockpile is now vulnerable to a potential airstrike. Some British analysts speculate that Tehran may be deliberately inviting an Israeli airstrike, while David Albright suggests the bulk transfer was the quickest way to conduct enrichment. Tehran may also be attempting to pressure the West by signaling its intention to enrich its LEU to 20%, which would bring Tehran significantly closer to weapons-grade uranium (Guardian).
     On Monday, Iran announced its intention to start building two new uranium enrichment facilities as early as this year (Associated Press). Meanwhile, Israel introduced a new fleet of Heron TP unmanned aerial vehicles capable of carrying out military missions as far as the Persian Gulf and Iran (New York Times).
ISIS | Guardian | Associated Press | New York Times

Weekly roundup

Additional articles and reports from the past week
“IAEA Iran report” (IAEA)
The latest IAEA report on Iran cites growing concern over possible “past and current” military nuclear activities. A BBC report argues that the stronger language of the report indicates a tougher approach under new IAEA head Yukiya Amano.

“The Iran nuclear issue: the view from Beijing” (International Crisis Group)
International Crisis Group argues that despite China’s strategic and economic interests in maintaining strong ties with Iran, China prioritizes its relations with the US and will favor a “delay-and-weaken” strategy over blocking UN sanctions, especially if there is unanimous support among UNSC members.

“Consensus emerges on Iran’s centrifuges” (Arms Control Wonk)
Joshua Pollack outlines an emerging consensus in Western estimates of Iran’s centrifuge capabilities.

“Why chuckles greeted Hillary’s Gulf tour” (Daily Star)
Rami G. Khouri writes that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s warnings of an Iranian threat were plagued by a lack of credibility among Arab states.

“Will engaging Syria deal a ‘blow to Iran’? Not likely” (Syria Comment)
Joshua Landis argues against the claim that Washington’s recent diplomatic engagement of Damascus will deprive Tehran of a key ally.

“Mullahs, guards, and bonyads: an exploration of Iranian leadership dynamics” (RAND)
RAND Corporation provides an extensive overview of Iran’s formal and informal power structures. The report argues that US policymakers should deal with the existing government in Iran rather than attempt to exploit the country’s complex domestic politics.

“Tokyo hoping to mediate between key partners Washington, Tehran”

“Tokyo hoping to mediate between key partners Washington, Tehran”
February 1-18, 2010
     Earlier this month, Laura Rozen reported that Japan and Iran have been holding high-level talks on a possible Japanese role in hosting a nuclear fuel swap. With Japan’s behind-the-scenes efforts proving unsuccessful, the US is pushing for Japanese support in a UNSC vote for sanctions (Politico). In December, Japan’s ambassador to Iran Akio Shirota told Iranian MP Alaeddin Boroujerdi that Japan is ready to expand bilateral cooperation in various fields, including nuclear energy, while in Tokyo, Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada urged Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili to cooperate with the US. Last month, Shirota invited Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani to visit Tokyo.
     In an op-ed on Thursday, former Japanese diplomat Yoshiki Mine argues that Japan, with its experience using nuclear energy, should help Iran take measures to gain the trust of other global actors over its nuclear program. Mine writes that Japan, as the largest importer of Iranian oil and a state positioned “outside the framework of mutual mistrust” between Iran and the West, can make Iran understand the need to cooperate with IAEA inspectors. Mine argues that such Japan-Iran cooperation should involve discussions at the Cabinet level focusing exclusively on the nuclear issue (Mainichi Shimbun).
Politico | Mainichi Shimbun (Feb. 18, morning edition)

“Critics doubtful of effectiveness, neutrality of Turkish mediation”

“Critics doubtful of effectiveness, neutrality of Turkish mediation”
February 11-17, 2010
     Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu visited Tehran on Tuesday in an effort to salvage the nuclear fuel swap deal. Hooshang Amirahmadi believes Ankara is the only stakeholder positioned to provide mediations in US-Iran relations, while William Lucas argues that Ankara is in a “no-lose” situation in terms of its credibility with both Tehran and Washington (Today’s Zaman).
     Semih Idiz disagrees, writing that Ankara risks isolation among its Western allies with its close ties to Tehran and expected abstention from any UNSC votes on sanctions. Idiz accuses Ankara of being an “advocate” of Tehran rather than a neutral broker and believes that deadlock on the fuel swap deal is limiting Ankara’s role to that of a messenger, rather than an effective mediator and consultant, between the West and Iran (Hurriyet).
     Turkey has been facing steady criticism for what some see as a shift toward an anti-Western “Islamist” foreign policy. Iran has indicated its willingness to conduct a fuel swap in Turkey, though it earlier rejected the need for third-party mediation on the nuclear issue.
Today’s Zaman | Hurriyet

“How a nuclear Iran fits in the grand strategies of the US, China and Russia”

“How a nuclear Iran fits in the grand strategies of the US, China and Russia”
February 9-16, 2010
     The US continues to indicate its move toward a harder line against Iran, with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warning that Iran is moving toward a “military dictatorship” and claiming that Russia has agreed to support sanctions. John Vinocur believes Russia has timed its policy shift to take advantage of the Obama administration’s vulnerability on the Iranian nuclear issue and the unconcluded START treaty. Citing Russia’s newly released military doctrine (I, II, III), Vinocur speculates that Russia’s quid pro quo for cooperation on Iran involves restrictions on NATO expansion and US military defenses in Europe (New York Times).
     US Vice President Joseph Biden stated that he also expects China’s cooperation on sanctions, but Matthew Kroenig believes China and Russia see a nuclear Iran as a potential strategic asset for constraining US power in the Middle East. Kroenig argues that Chinese and Russian concern with the need to compensate for their own lack of power projection ability outweighs their economic interests in Iran or concern over nuclear proliferation. According to Kroenig, the US’ primary concern regarding proliferation is not preventing nuclear terrorism or nuclear war but maintaining its freedom to threaten or use force abroad (The New Republic).
New York Times | The New Republic

Additional link: “Military Doctrine and the Principles of State Nuclear Deterrence Policy to 2020” (original Russian version) (Kremlin)