Archive for the 'Iran's Nuclear Technical Developments' 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).

Weekly roundup

Articles and reports from the past week
“Brazil reduces involvement in Iranian nuclear negotiations”

In an interview, Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim states that Brazil will no longer be proactively engaged in negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program, saying Brazil “got [its] fingers burned” over the Tehran Declaration. Brazil argues that its deal with Iran met conditions outlined in a letter from President Barack Obama (Financial Times).
The Economist criticizes President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s “Tehran adventure” as a naive move that has only served to raise tensions with the US (Economist). However, in an extensive overview of the nuclear fuel swap deal, Mark Fitzpatrick argues that the deal could be beneficial if Iran were to export its LEU and stop enriching to 20% (Survival).

“Iran responds to sanctions with more uranium enrichment”
Iran has denied visas to two members of a larger IAEA inspection team, while IAEO head Ali Akbar Salehi claimed that Iran has produced 17 kg of 20% enriched uranium and is capable of producing 5 kg per month. An ISIS analysis suggests that Salehi’s recent announcement of plans to build 4 new research reactors is unrealistic and may be an effort to create a pretext for continuing production of 20% enriched uranium (ISIS).
Tony Karon argues that Iran is outmanuevering the West by creating new bargaining chips of its own in response to international pressure and sanctions (The National). Robert Haddick writes that Iran, having studied how Iraq resisted UN pressure over WMDs for over a decade, will likely continue a strategy of dodging inspections and creating strategic uncertainty (Foreign Policy).

“Iran-Israel rhetoric raises concerns over escalation”
Scott Peterson examines the risk of escalating rhetoric between Israel and Iran leading to war (Christian Science Monitor). Earlier this week, Israel launched a new military spy satellite, increasing its number of spy satellites to four (Al Jazeera).

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
“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).

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
“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.