Archive for the 'Iran-Israel Relations' Category

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).

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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

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.

“Iran, US compete to set nuclear agenda ahead of NPT Review Conference”

“Iran, US compete to set nuclear agenda ahead of NPT Review Conference”
April 13-19, 2010
     Iran’s 2-day nuclear conference, titled “Nuclear energy for all, nuclear weapons for no one”, was attended by representatives of 56 countries, which exceeded the 47 countries represented in last week’s US Nuclear Security Summit but included fewer senior officials (Telegraph). President Ahmadinejad called for a new international nuclear agency to counterbalance the IAEA and argued that nuclear weapon states (NWS) should be suspended from the IAEA and its board of governors (Al Jazeera), while Supreme Leader Khamenei sharply criticized the US and Israel (PressTV). The IAEA is not listed among the conference’s participants and has not released any official statements, although Director Yukiya Amano was invited to attend (The National).
     Julian Borger describes last week’s nuclear conferences in the US and Tehran as “qualifying rounds” ahead of next month’s NPT Review Conference, where Iran will likely attempt to deflect attention from its own nuclear program to the failure of the NWS to disarm and Israel’s non-NPT status (Guardian). Barbara Slavin suggests that the US Nuclear Posture Review, which indicates that nuclear force may be used against Iran, has given Iran a “public relations tool” to try and focus global attention on US nuclear policy (Foreign Policy).
Telegraph | Al Jazeera | PressTV | The National | Guardian | Foreign Policy

“US mulls over how to link Palestinian, Iranian issues”

“US mulls over how to link Palestinian, Iranian issues”
April 7-11, 2010
     David Ignatius reports that the Obama administration is considering a more aggressive approach to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian issue as a means of gaining regional support against Iran (Washington Post). In response, Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett write that the proposed approach will fail and argue that Arab allies of the US will remain uninterested in a regional confrontation while Syria and Lebanon’s Hezbollah will not compromise their relations with Iran. The Leveretts argue that while the Palestinian and Iranian issues are linked, US-Iranian rapprochement must come before Arab-Israeli peace (Race for Iran).
     Ray Takeyh agrees that the Arab states are unwilling to confront Iran but offers a different critique of the proposed policy, arguing instead that the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and the Iranian nuclear issue should be decoupled. Takeyh believes US pressure on Israel over the Palestinian issue would weaken the perceived strength of the US-Israeli alliance, diminishing the credibility of Israeli military threats and leading Iran to harden its nuclear stance (Washington Post (2)).
Washington Post | Race for Iran | Washington Post (2)

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
“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).