Archive for the 'Iran-UK Relations' Category

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).

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“Iran declares revelation of new enrichment site a ‘winning hand’”

“Iran declares revelation of new enrichment site a ‘winning hand’”
September 25-27, 2009
     Last week’s revelation of a second Iranian uranium-enrichment facility in Qom has “changed everybody’s calculations,” according to Gary Sick. Sick writes that this development strengthens the negotiating hand of the P5+1 not only by making the threat of new sanctions credible but also by creating uncertainty on the Iranian side over how much information is known to Western intelligence. However, Sick warns that sanctions alone will not convince Tehran to abandon its nuclear program and argues that the P5+1 will have to offer substantive incentives, such as a conditional removal of sanctions, to avoid further escalation of tensions that could lead to war (Daily Beast). Juan Cole warns analysts to “beware the hype” over the Qom facility, arguing that Iran’s secrecy is neither new nor necessarily illegal in this case, though he shares suspicions that the new site is technically unsuitable for peaceful uranium enrichment (Informed Comment).
     Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and other officials have defended the legality of the site, declaring that IAEA inspectors would be allowed access, and are describing the revelations as a victory for Iran as they have taken the West by surprise and foiled military threats by developing multiple nuclear facilities (The National). However, Julian Borger and Patrick Wintour report that Iran disclosed their development of a “pilot-scale enrichment plant” to the IAEA only after learning it had been discovered by Western intelligence (The Guardian), and James Acton argues that Iran has indeed violated its obligations under the IAEA’s modified Code 3.1 (which Iran accepted in 2003 before suspending) to declare new nuclear sites before construction (Carnegie Endowment).
     ISIS has obtained satellite imagery of two possible locations of the newly declared facility (ISIS).
Daily Beast | Informed Comment | The National | The Guardian | Carnegie Endowment | ISIS

“P5+1 accept Iran proposal; battle begins over agenda for October talks”

“P5+1 accept Iran proposal; battle begins over agenda for October talks”
September 10-14, 2009
     In its proposal for negotiations submitted to the P5+1 nations, Iran calls for talks on promoting the universality of the NPT and establishing an “equitable oversight function” for the IAEA to enable civilian uses of nuclear energy. While the proposal calls for “complete [nuclear] disarmament” and the prevention of nuclear proliferation, it does not refer directly to the Iranian nuclear issue. The proposal also mentions fostering peace and democracy in unstable regions, citing the “fundamental rights” of the Palestinians as a specific example, as well as reforming the UNSC and fighting terrorism and organized crime (ProPublica).
     In an interview, Samareh Hashemi, a close aide to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, compares the proposals to US President Barack Obama’s calls for complete nuclear disarmament and states that Iran hopes to establish a “new regime to prevent nuclear weapons worldwide.” Hashemi argues that the US position on the Iranian nuclear issue is being dictated by Israel and calls for the UNSC structure to be changed (Washington Post).
     The US said the proposal was “not really responsive” to concerns over Iran’s nuclear program, while Russia stated that the proposal deserved a unified response and repeated its opposition to sanctions (Agence France-Presse, Haaretz). The US accepted the offer for talks and insisted that the Iranian nuclear program would be on the agenda, and Iran has suggested the issue could be discussed if conditions are “ripe” (Al Jazeera). The talks are scheduled to start in October (Reuters).
ProPublica | Washington Post | Agence France-Presse | Haaretz | Al Jazeera | Reuters

“IAEA report could convince Russia, China to support sanctions”

“IAEA report could convince Russia, China to support sanctions”
August 29-31, 2009
     The P5+1 nations will hold high-level talks in Germany on Wednesday to discuss Iran’s nuclear program (Reuters) ahead of a ministerial meeting scheduled for later this month. Louis Charbonneau writes that the IAEA’s latest Iran report [previously covered here] will be central to Western efforts to convince Russia and China to approve a fourth round of UN sanctions against Iran. Some Western analysts are skeptical that Russia and China will change their positions despite the IAEA’s critical report, but French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner stated that he believes the sanctions will be accepted (Reuters (2)).
     In an analysis emphasizing instances of Iranian cooperation cited by the IAEA report, Howard LaFranchi writes that the report could complicate efforts to implement more sanctions. LaFranchi suggests that Iran may be hoping that its increased cooperation with IAEA inspectors at the Natanz enrichment site will prevent China and Russia from supporting sanctions. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has stated that if the UN is unable to pass new sanctions, a “coalition of the willing” could do so without a UNSC decision (Christian Science Monitor).
Reuters | Reuters (2) | Christian Science Monitor

“EU states lack coherent strategy for nuclear talks, increased sanctions”

“EU states lack coherent strategy for nuclear talks, increased sanctions”
June 26-29, 2009
     Although the EU has criticized the Iranian government for its repression of protestors, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana stated that the EU would “like very much” to restart multilateral talks on the nuclear issue (Associated Press). Timothy Heritage believes the EU and US will withhold any threats of sanctions until direct discussions and may avoid implementing any new strategies for the nuclear issue until Tehran achieves more domestic stability. Heritage adds that the EU’s limited options for sanctions, which could target Iran’s oil and gas sectors, face reluctance from European exporters and would not provide a strong starting point for engagement with Iran (Reuters).
     However, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi indicated to reporters that G8 leaders would work toward adopting new sanctions at a summit next week (Reuters (2)). Bronwen Maddox suggests that efforts by Germany, Iran’s largest EU trading partner, to decrease economic ties with Iran may eventually allow Britain and France to implement harsher EU sanctions (The Australian). John Vinocur counters that French officials have refused to endorse sanctions, with Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner stating that sanctions unfairly affect the poor, and that business interests in Germany are strongly opposing any decrease in trade with Iran (New York Times).
Associated Press | Reuters | Reuters (2) | The Australian | New York Times

“Tehran’s targeting of UK may indicate willingness to engage US”

“Tehran’s targeting of UK may indicate willingness to engage US”
June 23 & 24, 2009
     Gregory Katz declares that Britain has replaced the US as Iran’s “great Satan” as Tehran considers downgrading relations with its former colonial ruler. Both nations have recently expelled one another’s diplomats, and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei called Britain the “most evil” of foreign powers in a recent speech. According to Katz’s report, efforts by the BBC Persian Service to circumvent Iranian censorship and the British embassy’s decision to treat injured demonstrators have raised suspicions in Iran that Britain is actively supporting the protests (Associated Press).
     David Roberts believes that the targeting of Britain is Iran’s “first gesture” toward possible détente with the US should the election controversy subside and the US remain willing to engage diplomatically (Gulf Blog). Scott Peterson cites an unnamed analyst who argues that while President Ahmadinejad is “enthusiastic” about renewing ties with the US, recent remarks by President Obama condemning violence against protestors may affect Khamenei’s decision to pursue rapprochement. Analysts disagree whether Khamenei’s endorsement of Ahmadinejad signals an intention to engage the US with a strong negotiator or a sharp rejection of US overtures (Christian Science Monitor).
     Patrick Clawson argues that the protests have strengthened Khamenei’s view that the West is determined to overthrow the current regime and that the nuclear issue is only another pretext for such efforts. Michael Singh adds that Tehran’s handling of the election controversy and “reselection” of Ahmadinejad indicates the regime’s insecurity and unwillingness to engage with the US. Singh believes Iran is moving toward a military dictatorship and states that the growing power of the Revolutionary Guards may further insulate Tehran from international pressure (Washington Institute for Near East Policy).
Associated Press | Gulf Blog | Christian Science Monitor | Washington Institute for Near East Policy

“EU criticism could signal tougher approach on Iran nuclear issue”

“EU criticism could signal tougher approach on Iran nuclear issue”
June 15 & 16, 2009
     While the US has been relatively cautious in its response to Iran’s disputed election and subsequent protests, France, Germany and Britain are leading the EU in criticizing Tehran for its repression of demonstrators and are calling for the election results to be reexamined. Daniel Rackowski is quoted as saying that because the US is expected to take charge of future multilateral talks with Iran, the EU now has more leeway to be critical of Tehran (Reuters). UK Foreign Minister David Miliband expressed concern over the effects of the election controversy on nuclear talks and urged Tehran to respond to calls for negotiations (Financial Times).
     Adam Cohen calls the response “stronger than usual” relative to the EU’s traditional role of mediating between Iran and the US. An unnamed EU official speculates that the EU may take a tougher approach against Iran on the nuclear issue, adding that while sanctions are not yet on the table, possible policy responses could be discussed if Tehran continues its crackdown on protestors (Wall Street Journal). Iranian officials have criticized the US and the EU for questioning Iran’s elections (ISNA, Fars News Agency).
Reuters | Financial Times | Wall Street Journal | ISNA | Fars News Agency