Archive for the 'Iran-US 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
“UN sanctions passed without unanimity for first time”

The UN Security Council passed a fourth round of sanctions against Iran with 12 votes in favor, 2 against by Turkey and Brazil, and 1 abstention by Lebanon. No UNSC member had voted against any of the previous 3 sanctions. The US called the sanctions the “toughest” imposed on Iran, but Iranian leaders said their nuclear program would continue (Christian Science Monitor). AFP lists the new Iranian entities and individuals targeted by the sanctions (AFP).
Despite US claims of a diplomatic victory, analysts are calling the sanctions “remarkably weak” (Race for Iran) and “ineffective (Foreign Policy), and James M. Lindsay argues that division within the UNSC makes tougher sanctions in the future unlikely (Council on Foreign Relations).

“US, Iran avoid rejecting nuclear fuel swap deal”
Despite earlier warnings that new UN sanctions would derail talks on the proposed nuclear fuel swap, Iran has indicated would continue its cooperation with Turkey and Brazil (Today’s Zaman). Unnamed diplomats had previously stated that the Vienna Group (US, Russia and France) had rejected the fuel swap proposal (AP), but US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told reports the US is prepared to meet with Iran to discuss the Iran-Turkey-Brazil agreement (Today’s Zaman).

“Iran sidesteps sanctions with shell companies, key alliances”
Jo Becker outlines some of Iran’s tactics for circumventing sanctions by using networks of shell companies (New York Times). Thomas Erdbrink and Colum Lynch write that Iran has also succeeded in building alliances with states such as Turkey, Brazil, India and Japan, though Karim Sadjadpour argues that these states will not jeopardize their relationship with the US for Iran (Washington Post).
The US has appointed a new Special Advisor for Nonproliferation and Arms Control to oversee the implementation of all UN sanctions against Iran and North Korea (US Department of State).

“Iran threatens to downgrade relations with IAEA”
As the IAEA convened a quarterly Board of Governors meeting with Iran on the agenda, Iran’s parliament announced it will draft a bill to reduce relations with the agency (The National). IAEA head Yukiya Amano recently described Iran as a “special case” for the agency (AFP).
Mark Hibbs outlines the agenda of the Board of Governors meeting (Carnegie Endowment).

“Iran one year after Ahmadinejad’s reelection”
Foreign Policy magazine provides special coverage on Iran one year after the controversial reelection of President Ahmadinejad. A series of articles assesses the Western media’s coverage of Iran’s domestic politics and the significance of the Green Movement (Foreign Policy). Meanwhile, Abbas Milani, Gary Sick, Karim Sadjadpour and Steve Inskeep discuss the impact of last year’s elections (Carnegie Endowment).
Saturday marks the one-year anniversary of the elections, but opposition leaders Mir Hussein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi have called off planned protests due to safety concerns (New York Times).
Trita Parsi argues that international pressure on Iran is helping the government sideline the domestic opposition (Bloomberg).

Weekly roundup

Articles and reports from the past week
“Sanctions rock Iran-Russia relations but not contracts”
Iran and Russia are clashing in one of their “worst rows” since the Cold War after President Ahmadinejad sharply criticized Russia for supporting UN sanctions, leading Moscow to accuse Ahmadinejad of “political demagoguery” (Reuters).
Russian officials have indicated that their support for additional UN sanctions will not interfere with existing contracts for the Bushehr nuclear power plant and the S-300 defense systems. However, some analysts argue that Iran-Russia relations are deteriorating and the investments are mainly aimed to demonstrate Russia’s independent foreign policy (Christian Science Monitor).

“Rise of regional powers challenges Western order”
Last week’s Iran-Turkey-Brazil agreement is being seen as a high-profile example of the rise of middle-sized powers pursuing interests that contradict those of traditional powers. James Traub argues that the US and other Western powers may have to promote the “democratization” of international institutions in order to avoid clashes of interest with rising powers (Foreign Policy). Emile Hokayem writes that while the West must recognize these rising powers, Turkey and Brazil must also help bear the security and political costs of maintaining Middle East stability (The National).
Today’s Zaman interviews several academics who believe Turkey’s active regional policy will continue even after the current Justice and Development Party loses power (Today’s Zaman).

“Is Iran reaching out to US?”
The US remains sharply critical of the Iran-Turkey-Brazil deal, while Iran threatens to withdraw from the deal if UN sanctions are imposed. However, Scott Peterson suggests that Iran may be signalling its wish to resolve tensions with the US over its nuclear program and avoid sanctions (Christian Science Monitor).
Iran officially notified the IAEA of the deal earlier this week.

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
“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

Additional articles and reports from the past week
“Iran attempting to revive nuclear fuel swap deal”
Iran is lobbying UNSC member states in a bid to avoid sanctions and reopen talks on the nuclear fuel swap deal (Washington Post, PressTV). The US has cautiously stated its interest in sincere talks brokered by the IAEA (Reuters). Turkey continues to declare its strong interest in reviving the fuel swap deal (AFP). Some US analysts argue that the US should allow the fuel swap to take place on Iranian territory (FAS (1)(2)).
The renewed efforts come amid other Iranian overtures, including an agreement “in principle” to allow IAEA inspectors more access to its Natanz site (Reuters), as well as a letter sent by President Ahmadinejad to President Obama in March (PressTV). However, Iran also announced that the location for a new nuclear site has been decided (Reuters).

“Gates memo raises concerns over drift toward containment policy”
The New York Times reports on a secret January memo by US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates warning that the US does not have an effective long-term policy for stopping Iran’s nuclear program (New York Times). The White House has criticized the Times’ characterization of the unseen memo, but many US analysts agree that with targeted sanctions and diplomacy unlikely to change Iran’s nuclear policies, Washington may ultimately be forced to pursue a policy of containment (Washington Post).
Laura Rozen suggests the memo may have been leaked in an attempt to steer the US away from containment and toward a harder line (Politico).

Israel debates unilateral Iran attack (Wall Street Journal)
The Wall Street Journal reports that Israeli leaders, concerned that the US is willing to accept a nuclear-armed Iran, are debating options for a preemptive military strike against Iran without US approval.

“Kissinger, Shultz favor US-Russia cooperation on anti-Iran missile defense”
In separate interviews, former US diplomats Henry Kissinger and George Shultz suggest that US-Russian collaboration on missile defenses against Iran could help resolve disputes over missile defense and the Iranian nuclear issue (Christian Science Monitor (1)(2)).
Both Kissinger and Shultz are part of the so-called “Gang of Four”, a group of influential former US diplomats calling for global nuclear disarmament.