Archive for the 'Iran-EU Relations' Category

Weekly roundup

Articles and reports from the past week
“Calibrating the dual-track approach of sanctions and diplomacy”

With the EU and the US passing additional sanctions against Iran, George Perkovich calls sanctions “the least bad option” in the absence of a military option. Perkovich adds that while the EU and the US increase international pressure, “outside actors” should create opportunities for cooperation with Iran (Carnegie Endowment). However, Ray Takeyh criticizes this “dual-track” approach, arguing that Iran will be less likely to cede its “nuclear trump card” amidst the growing imbalance of conventional power. Takeyh believes internal reform through the Green Movement is necessary for constructive nuclear dialogue (Herald Tribune).

“Ahmadinejad sets conditions for negotiations”
President Ahmadinejad announced Iran’s conditions for international negotiations, which he said would not take place before the end of August. Ahmadinejad called on the P5+1 to clarify their positions on Israel’s nuclear program, their committments under the NPT, and whether they seek friendship or emnity with Iran (Reuters). However, Iran’s delay on talks does not apply to Turkey and Brazil, and Ahmadinejad described the fuel swap deal as a potential means of engagement. Turkey and Russia have stated their interest in pursuing the fuel swap deal (Christian Science Monitor), and the G8 stated that they “welcome and commend” the diplomatic efforts of Brazil and Turkey (MOFA).

“US unable to divide Syria and Iran”
The Wall Street Journal reports that Iran has supplied Syria with a sophisticated radar system that could provide early warning of any Israeli air attack. Both countries deny the report, which could complicate the US’s strategy of engaging Syria (Wall Street Journal). Nicholas Blanford reviews some of the potential factors behind the US’s inability to draw Syria away from Iran, including Washington’s prioritization of other issues, Israel’s lack of enthusiasm for peace talks with Syria, closer ties between Syria and Hezbollah, and the shift in Turkey’s Israel policy (Christian Science Monitor).

“Saudi Arabia seeks assurance on US policy on Iran”
Saudi King Abdullah met with US President Obama on Tuesday amidst growing differences of opinion regarding Iran and other regional issues. According to analysts, Riyadh believes sanctions will be ineffective but has no alternative solutions (AFP). Simon Henderson argues that Riyadh does not believe the US can stop Iran’s nuclear efforts, leading the kingdom to pursue its own nuclear energy program. Henderson adds that Riyadh also hopes to put some distance in its relationship with Washington to gain more regional credibility among Sunni states (Foreign Policy).

“Tracing history and future of Iran’s nuclear program”
Der Spiegel provides a detailed 2-part overview of Iran’s nuclear program (Der Spiegel), while Joseph Cirincione and Elise Connor look at the remaining steps Iran will have to take to develop a nuclear weapon (Foreign Policy).

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Weekly roundup

Articles and reports from the past week
“New reports of Saudi-Israeli military cooperation against Iran”

The Times reports that Saudi Arabia has agreed to allow Israel to use its airspace in an attack on Iran, conducting tests to disengage its air defenses against Israeli jets (Times). Israel and Saudi Arabia have both denied the reports (Asharq Alawsat, Haaretz).
Similar reports have surfaced before, including the summer of last year (Times, Huffington Post).

“Looking for next steps after UN sanctions”
Amid widespread criticism over the efficacy of sanctions, Matthew Levitt counters that the new UN sanctions were precisely targeted and pave the way for additional US and European sanctions (Foreign Policy). The US and the EU already imposed new sanctions this week (Reuters, AP).
However, the Wall Street Journal reports that Germany increased its exports to Iran in the first quarter, pointing out that enforcement remains a key challenge (Wall Street Journal). David Sanger writes that the US, facing expectations that the latest sanctions will fail to stop Iran’s nuclear program, is also implementing strategies involving military containment and the luring away of Iran’s nuclear experts (New York Times).

“Russia keeps options open on S-300 sale”
An unnamed Russian source claims Russia is freezing a contract to sell S-300 air defense missiles to Iran based on the stipulations of the latest UN sanctions (AFP). However, the Foreign Ministry and other officials have indicated that the sanctions will not affect the contract (RIA Novosti, RT). Oliver Bloom details how the sanctions would not specifically prohibit the sale of the S-300 and only call for “vigilance and restraint” over the transfer of arms (CSIS).
Russia’s failure to deliver the system since the contract was first disclosed in 2007 has been a point of friction with Iran (Reuters). Russia is now offering the S-300 system to Turkey as well (RIA Novosti).

“Vienna Group, Iran send cautious signals on fuel swap”
President Ahmadinejad indicated Tehran’s willingness to pursue nuclear negotiations with major powers but promised that conditions for such talks would be announced soon (AFP). US officials also stated that the nuclear fuel swap deal could be the basis for negotiations, and Laura Rozen points out that the Vienna Group’s list of concerns regarding the Tehran Declaration could be interpreted as a “position paper” for potential future talks (Politico).
Meanwhile, Iran’s parliament called on the government to continue enriching uranium to 20% in response to “the bullying countries” (AFP).

“Green Movement unable to truly challenge state”
The one-year anniversary of last year’s controversial reelection of President Ahmadinejad was marked by “sporadic but minor clashes” in Tehran after opposition leaders cancelled protests (Al Jazeera). With the government appearing to be stable after surviving its internal instability, Juan Cole analyzes the Green Movement’s limitations and argues that the US should engage with the current regime in direct negotiations (Informed Comment).
Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett accuse Western journalists of overestimating the Green Movement’s strength (Foreign Policy). However, Karim Sadjadpour argues that the government has been delegitimized and faces stark economic challenges, and the Green Movement represents a long-term effort toward civil rights (Carnegie Endowment).

Weekly roundup

Articles and reports from the past week
“Turkey, Brazil step up mediation efforts ahead of visits to Tehran”

Turkey is hoping to host a meeting between Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili and EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton. Both parties have expressed interest. Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and Brazilian President Lula da Silva will visit Tehran this week (Daily Star, Zaman).
Paulo Sotero argues that despite domestic opposition, da Silva is risking Brazil’s international reputation to build his own personal legacy ahead of the end of his presidential term (Foreign Policy).

“Iran’s ballistic missile capabilities: a net assessment”
A new IISS assessment of Iran’s ballistic missile capabilities concludes that Iran would likely need at least 4 years to deploy missiles capable of targeting Western Europe and more than a decade to target the US east coast (Reuters). The authors also argue that the missile program is not suited to conventional, biological or chemical warfare (Guardian).
A US Department of Defense assessment last month stated that with sufficient foreign assistance, Iran could develop and test an ICBM capable of reaching the US by 2015 (Department of Defense). Yousaf Butt argues that US strategy focusing on missile defense systems is not only ineffective but “dangerous and destabilizing” (Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists).

Iran nuclear standoff persists after dinner meeting, U.S. says (Global Security Newswire)
US officials state that last week’s dinner attended by diplomats from Iran and the UNSC states did not resolve tensions and shows that Iran is concerned about new UN sanctions .

Weekly roundup

Articles and reports from the past week
“Companies feeling more pressure to cut Iran ties”

The New York Times reports that US efforts to pressure Western companies to isolate Iran are extending beyond banks and financial institutions and causing major manufacturers and service providers to reduce or end affiliations with Iran (New York Times). However, Simone Dinah Hartmann strongly criticizes Austria for cultivating its business ties with Iran and increasing exports by 6% in 2009, accusing Vienna of “appeasement” (Wall Street Journal).
Iran has passed new tax exemptions for foreign investment in its capital markets and raised its cap on foreign ownership of Iranian companies from 10% to 20% (Reuters, PressTV), and officials claim the Revolutionary Guard Corps has the technological know-how to replace foreign firms on major energy projects (Associated Press).

“Despite hard talk, Russia seeks to maintain Iran ties”
Foreign companies withdrawing from Iran include Russian’s Lukoil, which was involved in a major oil development project named Anaran, but Russian firms with fewer US ties, such as Gazprom, remain engaged in other development projects (Mianeh).
A Xinhua analysis argues that Russia is hardening its stance against Iran to facilitate improving ties with the US but remains unlikely to substantially cut ties with Iran (Xinhua). However, Iranian daily Tehran-e Emrooz speculates that Russia is now attempting to persuade Turkey to adopt an anti-Iran stance and support international sanctions (MEMRI).

Iranian economy’s biggest vulnerability: Iran (Middle East Channel)
Patrick Barry provides a detailed outline of systematic weaknesses in Iran’s economic infrastructure, arguing that the US should refrain from imposing sanctions and allow Iran’s economy to deteriorate of its own accord. Barry adds that Iran’s plan to achieve self-sufficiency in gasoline in 2 or 3 years will nullify the effects of sanctions targeting gasoline imports.

Iran strikes secret nuclear mining deal with Zimbabwe (Daily Telegraph)
The Telegraph reports that Iran has signed a secret deal with Zimbabwe to obtain access to the latter’s uranium deposits in exchange for supplying oil.

Iran’s opposition urges protests on anniversary of disputed election (The National)
Leaders of Iran’s opposition Green Movement are calling reformist groups to file official requests to hold rallies on June 12, the anniversary of last year’s controversial election.

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

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).

“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