Archive for the 'Iran-China Relations' Category

Weekly roundup

Articles and reports from the past week
“IAEA report could undermine fuel swap deal”

ISIS provides a close analysis of the IAEA’s latest Iran report, which describes increased LEU production and advanced centrifuge development and calls for Iranian cooperation to resolve outstanding issues (ISIS). Iran’s atomic energy chief Ali Akbar Salehi disputed the report’s findings that Iran was engaging in pyroprocessing (a process that can be used to purify uranium metal for nuclear warheads) and had removed relevant equipment (AFP).
The IAEA’s finding that Iran has over 2,400 kg of LEU could weaken support for the nuclear fuel swap deal, which would require Iran to export only 1,200 kg (Today’s Zaman).

“Leaked letter suggests US open to nuclear fuel swap deal”
In a leaked letter to Brazil’s President Lula da Silva, US President Obama criticizes Iran for undermining confidence-building efforts but offers a “potentionally important compromise” that closely resembles the Iran-Turkey-Brazil deal, leading some analysts to criticize Washington’s cold reaction to the deal (Politico).
Turkey and Brazil are continuing to push the Vienna Group to accept the nuclear fuel swap deal (Reuters), and a group of prominent US analysts and former diplomats at the National Iranian American Council urged Western powers to accept the fuel swap deal (NIAC).

“Sanctions drive weakened by Israel flotilla raid, fuel swap deal”
Barbara Slavin writes that Israel’s raid of a flotilla of aid ships is complicating US efforts toward UN sanctions against Iran (IPS). Gareth Porter adds that the Iran-Turkey-Brazil fuel swap deal is creating division among UNSC members over strong sanctions (IPS). Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stated that the resolution excludes “paralyzing sanctions” and takes Russian and Chinese economic inerests into account (AFP).
Howard LaFranchi writes that the latest IAEA report could bolster sanctions efforts (Christian Science Monitor).

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Weekly roundup

Articles and reports from the past week
“Iran-Turkey-Brazil agreement aims to revive fuel swap deal”

The tripartite agreement signed by Iran, Brazil and Turkey could revive the nuclear fuel swap deal but leaves specific arrangements to be negotiated at a later date. Analysts point out that since the original October agreement, Iran has already enriched its uranium to 20% and is estimated to have increased its LEU stockpile to around 2,300 kg (ISIS, Carnegie Endowment). Iran has also announced that it will continue enriching uranium to 20% despite the new agreement (Guardian). However, some analysts believe that Iranian leaders are now more united in their support for the fuel swap (Council on Foreign Relations).

“US dismisses new agreement, announces draft sanctions”
Washington quickly responded to the tripartite agreement by presenting a draft UN sanctions resolution against Iran. The US response is being seen as a sharp blow to the efforts of Turkey and Brazil (Washington Post, Gary’s Choices) and has also generated criticism at the ongoing NPT Review Conference (Guardian, Acronym Institute).
The draft resolution is being backed by all P5 members, and some analysts say the provisions have been watered down to gain Russian and Chinese support (Washington Institute for Near East Policy). Iran has stated it could cancel the fuel swap deal if new sanctions are imposed (Reuters).

“Iran deal a high-profile opportunity and risk for Turky, Brazil”
The tripartite agreement is the result of extensive diplomatic efforts by Brazil and Turkey, with the leaders of both states personally visiting Tehran to finalize the deal. Both states are members of the UNSC and are opposing the new sanctions push.
Brazil’s expanding international presence in Africa and the Middle East is being attributed to its long-term aim to establish itself as a representative of developing countries and promote a more equitable world order (Council on Foreign Relations). Turkey is also pursuing an aggressive diplomatic policy to establish itself as a major regional player (Christian Science Monitor, RIA Novosti), but skeptics believe Iran is simply using Turkey and Brazil in a bid to avoid sanctions (Washington Institute for Near East Policy).

Weekly roundup

Articles and reports from the past week
“Iran unveils new centrifuges; US predicts bomb capacity in 2-5 years”
Iran’s new third-generation centrifuges have six times the separation capacity of previous centrifuges and can handle higher quantities of uranium, according to AEOI head Ali Akbar Salehi (Press TV). ISIS provides an outline of available information and key remaining questions on the new centrifuges (ISIS).
US military officials testified to the senate that Iran could produce enough weapons-grade fuel for at least one bomb in 1 year and manufacture a workable nuclear bomb in 2 to 5 years, though there is no evidence that Iran’s leaders have decided to do so (New York Times).

“Turkey, Brazil step up efforts during US nuclear security summit”
At the sidelines of the US Nuclear Security Summit, the heads of state of Turkey and Brazil urged US President Obama to pursue an Iran strategy based on diplomacy rather than sanctions. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu is visiting Brazil ahead of President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s visit to Tehran next month (Today’s Zaman). Davutoglu stated that the nuclear fuel swap deal could still be revived (Reuters).

Iran: US using ‘nuclear blackmail’ (CBS News)
Iranian leaders are criticizing the US for indicating that nuclear weapons could be used against Iran. CBS News provides a copy of Iran’s letter to UN leaders accusing the US of engaging in “nuclear blackmail” with its new Nuclear Posture Review and comments made by top US officials.

“Parliament blocks full subsidy cuts, limits own regulatory authority”
President Ahmadinejad has agreed to facilitate the Iranian parliament’s decision to cut subsidies by $20 million. Ahmadinejad had previously been pushing for a $40-million cut to subsidies on gasoline and other basic goods (Press TV).
In a separate decision, the parliament delegated the role of regulating the powerful Guardian Council, Assembly of Experts, Supreme National Council and Expediency Council to the Supreme Council of Revising Laws. Nazila Fathi describes the move as another step demonstrating the power of officials appointed by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei over elected representatives (New York Times).

“China remains cautious on sanctions”
Despite headlines (1, 2) suggesting that China is now supporting sanctions against Iran, Chinese officials have agreed only to participate in discussions while maintaining that sanctions will not resolve the nuclear issue. The US has offered China support to secure alternative energy suppliers (Agence France-Presse). The P5+1 held their third meeting on sanctions on Thursday, emphasizing a “dual-track” strategy of diplomatic engagement and pressure through sanctions (Associated Press).

Iran reaches out to Saudi Arabia (Asharq Al-Awsat)
Asharq Al-Awsat reports that Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki is reaching out to Saudi Prince Saud al-Faisal to discuss regional issues, possibly including Iran’s nuclear program.

Weekly roundup

Articles and reports from the past week
“US seeks momentum with NPR, START ahead of NPT Review Conference”
The new US Nuclear Posture Review, the first to be fully unclassified, makes the following declarations:

“The fundamental role of U.S. nuclear weapons, which will continue as long as nuclear weapons exist, is to deter nuclear attack on the United States, our allies, and partners.”

“[T]he United States will not use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapons states that are party to the NPT and in compliance with their nuclear non-proliferation obligations”

Although the NPR declares Iran to be in “non-compliance with non-proliferation norms”, key questions remain over how to determine “compliance with…non-proliferation obligations” and Iran’s nuclear status, and the nature of the non-“fundamental” purposes of US nuclear weapons are unspecified (Examiner, Guardian).
However, some analysts argue the NPR and the newly signed START follow-on treaty give the US momentum and political credibility ahead of this month’s US Nuclear Security Summit and the May NPT Review Conference (Council on Foreign Relations).

“P5+1 press ahead with sanctions meeting”
The UN ambassadors of the P5+1 states met to discuss UNSC sanctions against Iran (BBC). China, while reiterating its call for continued dialogue, has confirmed it will participate in relevant discussions (Associated Press). Russian President Medvedev stated that he had “outlined [Russia’s] limits on sanctions” in discussions with US President Obama, and any new sanctions are expected to target Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (Guardian).
Iran restated its willingness to negotiate a nuclear fuel swap on Iranian territory (Reuters).

“Israel reaffirms nuclear policy amid growing attention to undeclared arsenal”
Israel has reaffirmed its policy of deliberate ambiguity over its undeclared nuclear arsenal (Global Security Newswire). The comments came as Israel moves ahead with plans to develop new civilian nuclear reactors despite challenges in finding international partners due to its status outside the NPT (ISN).
Prime Minister Netanyahu has reversed his decision to attend the US Nuclear Security Summit reportedly after learning Egypt and Turkey would call on Israel to sign the NPT, though US commentators believe the real reason is tensions with the US over settlements in East Jerusalem (Politico).

Can the CIA sabotage Iran’s nuclear project? (Agence France-Presse)
Dan De Luce writes that Iranian nuclear scientist Shahram Amiri’s defection has renewed speculation over CIA efforts to sabotage Iran’s nuclear efforts, though it remains unclear how much intelligence Amiri can provide. Covert US efforts have involved drawing human resources out of Iran and introducing faulty components into Iran’s nuclear supply chain.

“Khamenei supports Ahmadinejad’s campaign for more subsidy cuts”
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has voiced his support for President Ahmadinejad’s continued campaign to cut $40 billion in state subsidies on gasoline and other basic goods (New York Times). The parliament approved a $20-billion cut in January. The cuts could reduce Iran’s vulnerability to international sanctions on gasoline imports, though officials continue to insist that sanctions would be ineffective (Associated Press).

Weekly roundup

Articles and reports from the past week
“US media hyping Iranian nuclear threat”
Scott Lucas strongly criticizes a recent New York Times report claiming that Western intelligence agencies believe Iran is planning two new nuclear sites. The same edition of the Times also features an article on the possibility of an Israeli strike on Iran, and Lucus criticizes the juxtaposition as “dangerous journalism” designed to gain support for military action against Iran (Enduring America).
Glenn Greenwald criticizes Fox News coverage of an unclassified US intelligence report. The intelligence report states that Iran expanded its nuclear infrastructure in 2009 and is “keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons…if a decision is made to do so”, but Fox claims the report concludes Iran is working toward a nuclear weapon (Salon).

“Questioning Turkey’s ability to mediate Iran issue”
The National reports that Turkish officials are becoming frustrated with Iran’s inability to offer solutions to resolve the nuclear issue (The National). Zaman suggests that, due to traditional rivalry and Turkey’s close relations with Arab states, it is not clear whether Iran trusts Turkey enough to act as a mediator (Zaman).
David Kenner writes that Turkey, despite its strong rhetoric of independence in regional issues, is more a “developing power caught between two stronger poles” and will ultimately side with its Western allies if pressed (Foreign Policy).

“US and Iran courting China ahead of sanctions vote”
The New York Times outlines recent tensions and thaws in US-China relations, including China’s move toward supporting UN sanctions against Iran (New York Times). While US President Obama spoke with Chinese President Hu Jintao for an hour to discuss ties, Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili visited Beijing to speak against sanctions and call for continued international negotiations (Wall Street Journal).

Iran nuclear scientist defects to US in CIA ‘intelligence coup’ (ABC News)
ABC News reports that Iranian nuclear scientist Shahram Amiri, who disappeared last year, defected to the US in an “intelligence coup” for the CIA. Iran had accused the US of abducting Amiri, while the US denied any involvement [previously covered here].

IAEA Chief: Iran sanctions will make life hard for agency (German Press Agency)
In an interview, IAEA chief Yukiya Amano stated that sanctions against Iran would make the efforts of nuclear inspectors more difficult in the short term. Amano added that Iran had yet to provide an adequate response regarding several outstanding issues.

Weekly roundup

Articles and reports from the past week
“Economic challenges, subsidy-cut legislation threaten more domestic unrest”
President Ahmadinejad suggested a referendum to pass subsidy cuts that have been blocked by parliament. The cuts are raising concern over increased inflation and domestic unrest (Daily Star).
Jahangir Amuzegar outlines Iran’s economic difficulties, arguing that worsening conditions will add stress to domestic political turmoil (Carnegie Endowment).
Related post: “Growing economic concerns add to Tehran’s troubles”

“Sanctions watered down in face of continued difficulties”
David E. Sanger outlines some of the challenges faced by the US in pushing for additional UN sanctions against Iran, concluding that each successive round of sanctions becomes more difficult to pursue (New York Times).
In light of expected Chinese and Russian opposition, US and European officials have reportedly softened their proposals, dropping an attempt to ban trade of refined petroleum products (Los Angeles Times). European officials are denying reports that the UK and Germany are urging the US to soften the potential UN resolution on Iran (Politico).
Persia House reports that Iran has been “hoarding” gasoline ahead of potential sanctions (Persia House).

“China and Russia pressed Iran to accept U.N. deal”
The New York Times reports that Russia and China unsuccessfully urged Iran to accept the proposed nuclear fuel swap deal earlier this month, indicating that the two UNSC permanent members may be feeling pressure as Western efforts toward additional sanctions continue (New York Times).
Despite its declared opposition to sanctions, China joined a conference call of senior foreign ministry officials from the P5+1 states to discuss the proposed UN resolution (Reuters).

“Defining a containment strategy for a nuclear-armed Iran”
Mark Heinrich writes that some Western analysts are looking toward defining a “Cold War-style” containment strategy to deal with a nuclear-armed Iran. Such a strategy would work to prevent Iran from starting a conventional war, transferring nuclear information or materials to others, and support militant attacks abroad (Reuters).
See also “After Iran Gets the Bomb” by James M. Lindsay and Ray Takeyh (Foreign Affairs).

“Israel faces increased criticism over recent foreign policy”
Juan Cole argues that Israel’s controversial decision to expand settlements in East Jerusalem is hindering US and Israeli efforts to push for strong sanctions against Iran (Informed Comment). Orly Halpern argues that Israel is undermining its own security and international standing with its recent actions, including its continued exaggeration of the Iranian threat (Middle East Channel).

Weekly roundup

Articles and reports from the past week
“Pipeline deal with Pakistan part of Iran’s strong push in gas sector”
Iran signed an agreement with Pakistan for a $7.6-billion pipeline connecting the South Pars gas field with Pakistan’s Baluchistan and Sindh provinces (Reuters). Last week, Iran’s Bank Mellat issued a first installment of 1 billion Eurobonds to fund development of the South Pars gas field, and officials announced Iran would spend $1.6 billion on development projects in the gas sector this year (Daily Star).

“Angarsk nuclear fuel bank initiative moving ahead”
The IAEA is moving toward creating an international nuclear fuel bank for the UAE and other emerging nuclear states with 120 tons of LEU from Russia (The National). Russian officials have announced their intention to provide the first batch of LEU by the end of 2010 (RIA Novosti), and India stated its interest in participating as a donor country (RIA Novosti (2)).
Developing nations have opposed fuel bank initiatives in the past, citing concern over their rights to independently develop the nuclear fuel cycle.

“China expanding oil options beyond Iran”
Vivienne Walt writes that a drop in Chinese oil imports from Iran from 500,000 bbl. per day to 250,000 bbl. per day between January 2009 and January 2010 indicates Beijing is looking for alternative sources of oil (Time).
During a visit by British Foreign Minister David Miliband, Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi indicated that China remained opposed to sanctions (Reuters).

“Iran offers nuclear fuel exchange” (The National)
Ali Akbar Salehi, head of the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization, announced that Iran is prepared to accept a single exchange of 1,200 kg of its LEU for nuclear fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor. The exchange, however, would be on Iranian soil, a condition that Western powers have previously rejected.

“AQ Khan documents claim Pakistan directly involved in Iran’s nuclear program”
The Washington Post reports on an 11-page document written by nuclear scientist AQ Khan detailing Pakistan’s role in providing nuclear know-how and centrifuge parts (Washington Post).
Simon Henderson, the source of the documents, wrote about his relationship with Khan last year (The Times). ISIS has criticized Khan’s information as “self-serving” and inaccurate (ISIS).