Archive for the 'Iran-Saudi Arabia 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).

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
“Iran unveils new centrifuges; US predicts bomb capacity in 2-5 years”
Iran’s new third-generation centrifuges have six times the separation capacity of previous centrifuges and can handle higher quantities of uranium, according to AEOI head Ali Akbar Salehi (Press TV). ISIS provides an outline of available information and key remaining questions on the new centrifuges (ISIS).
US military officials testified to the senate that Iran could produce enough weapons-grade fuel for at least one bomb in 1 year and manufacture a workable nuclear bomb in 2 to 5 years, though there is no evidence that Iran’s leaders have decided to do so (New York Times).

“Turkey, Brazil step up efforts during US nuclear security summit”
At the sidelines of the US Nuclear Security Summit, the heads of state of Turkey and Brazil urged US President Obama to pursue an Iran strategy based on diplomacy rather than sanctions. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu is visiting Brazil ahead of President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s visit to Tehran next month (Today’s Zaman). Davutoglu stated that the nuclear fuel swap deal could still be revived (Reuters).

Iran: US using ‘nuclear blackmail’ (CBS News)
Iranian leaders are criticizing the US for indicating that nuclear weapons could be used against Iran. CBS News provides a copy of Iran’s letter to UN leaders accusing the US of engaging in “nuclear blackmail” with its new Nuclear Posture Review and comments made by top US officials.

“Parliament blocks full subsidy cuts, limits own regulatory authority”
President Ahmadinejad has agreed to facilitate the Iranian parliament’s decision to cut subsidies by $20 million. Ahmadinejad had previously been pushing for a $40-million cut to subsidies on gasoline and other basic goods (Press TV).
In a separate decision, the parliament delegated the role of regulating the powerful Guardian Council, Assembly of Experts, Supreme National Council and Expediency Council to the Supreme Council of Revising Laws. Nazila Fathi describes the move as another step demonstrating the power of officials appointed by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei over elected representatives (New York Times).

“China remains cautious on sanctions”
Despite headlines (1, 2) suggesting that China is now supporting sanctions against Iran, Chinese officials have agreed only to participate in discussions while maintaining that sanctions will not resolve the nuclear issue. The US has offered China support to secure alternative energy suppliers (Agence France-Presse). The P5+1 held their third meeting on sanctions on Thursday, emphasizing a “dual-track” strategy of diplomatic engagement and pressure through sanctions (Associated Press).

Iran reaches out to Saudi Arabia (Asharq Al-Awsat)
Asharq Al-Awsat reports that Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki is reaching out to Saudi Prince Saud al-Faisal to discuss regional issues, possibly including Iran’s nuclear program.

“Months on, missing Iranian nuclear scientist still a sensitive issue”

“Months on, missing Iranian nuclear scientist still a sensitive issue”
December 8-10, 2009
     Iran is continuing to accuse the US of abducting Shahram Amiri, a nuclear scientist who disappeared earlier this year while on the Hajj in Saudi Arabia. This was the first time Iran confirmed that Amiri was a nuclear scientist (Agence France-Presse). Amiri was included in a list of 11 Iranian nationals that Iran claims are being held in captivity by the US (Mehr News, Agence France-Presse (2)). Riyadh “deplored” the accusations and claimed that an “intensive” search had been conducted, while the US stated they had no information on the scientist’s whereabouts (BBC).
     Iran’s earlier sensitivity to the nature of Amiri’s occupation, along with the revelation of the Qom facility months after his disappearance, raised speculation that Amiri may have provided the West with intelligence on Iran’s nuclear program. Other reports indicated that Amiri had defected to the West.
Agence France-Presse | Mehr News | Agence France-Presse (2) | BBC

*Update: The Telegraph, citing French intelligence sources, reports that Amiri briefed IAEA inspectors before they visited the Qom facility (The Telegraph).

“Saudi Arabia, Egypt hope peace process, arms will counter Iran’s influence”

“Saudi Arabia, Egypt hope peace process, arms will counter Iran’s influence”
November 10-19, 2009
     Ahead of French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s visit to Saudi Arabia, Michael Slackman writes that Saudi Arabia and Egypt are losing their regional influence to Iran partly due to the failure of the US to convince Israel to freeze its building of settlements. Slackman writes that while Riyadh is stressing Arab unity, specifically by drawing Syria away from Iran and in support of the peace process, Cairo believes a lack of progress on the peace process will continue to undermine the regional influence of America’s two closest Arab allies. Riyadh’s strategy may involve allowing Damascus to assert political control of Lebanon (New York Times).
     Riyadh is reportedly hoping that France will be able to help reinvigorate the peace process after a “disappointing” US effort. Sarkozy and Saudi officials also discussed potential arms deals and peaceful nuclear cooperation (BBC). Iran’s rising influence is continuing to drive arms procurements among the Arab states [previously covered here] (United Press International).
New York Times | BBC | United Press International

“Saudi Arabia taking larger role in pressuring Iran”

“Saudi Arabia taking larger role in pressuring Iran”
October 1-7, 2009
     Saudi Arabia is reportedly close to signing a deal worth $4-7 billion to purchase Russia’s S-400 missile defense system under the condition that Russia does not sell its S-300 system to Iran. Analysts believe the deal is part of a wider effort by Saudi Arabia to diversify its list of arms suppliers (United Press International, Agence France-Presse). In an overview of Iran’s attempts to purchase Russia’s S-300 system [previously covered here], Christian Caryl argues that Russia will not want to lose its position as the leading arms supplier to Iran, adding that China has reportedly offered Iran a “cheaper knockoff” of the Russian S-300 (Foreign Policy). The GCC is hoping to use economic incentives to persuade Russia and China to isolate Iran [previously reported here].
     Iranian website Asr-e Iran reports that the US is urging Saudi Arabia to increase its oil production to lower prices and pressure China to agree to sanctions against Iran (MEMRI). However, in an earlier analysis, Simon Henderson argues that Riyadh is satisfied with current oil prices and concerned that sharp price fluctuations could undermine global economic recovery, while the state-owned Saudi Aramco oil company will protect its monopoly on exploration and production against Chinese investors (Washington Institute for Near East Policy).
United Press International | Agence France-Presse | Foreign Policy | MEMRI | Washington Institue for Near East Policy

“Syria continues Westward shift as US works to curb Iran’s regional influence”

“Syria continues Westward shift as US works to curb Iran’s regional influence”
September 27-October 6, 2009
     Syria is set to welcome Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah later this week as the two states work to overcome tensions over Damascus’ close ties with Iran and Hezbollah and alleged involvement in the 2005 assassination of Lebanese leader Rafik Hariri. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad visited Saudi Arabia in late September (Daily Star). Paul Salem describes Abdullah’s visit as a “graduation ceremony” for Syria in its efforts to shift away from Iran and improve ties with Saudi Arabia, the US, European states and Turkey (The National).
     With Syria’s Deputy Foreign Minister Fayssal Mekdad visiting Washington in the same week as the P5+1 talks with Iran, Mark Landler writes that Damascus and Tehran are each concerned that the other will strike a diplomatic deal with Washington first. Rapprochement with Syria, along with talks with Iran and Israeli-Palestinian peace, is a key component of Washington’s Middle East policy (New York Times). Joshua Landis believes Israel’s refusal to concede its settlements in Palestine and pursue a two-state solution is the main impediment to US efforts to reestablish ties with Syria and curb Iran’s regional influence. Landis argues that Israeli occupation of the Golan Heights and military superiority in the region will keep US-Syria rapprochement “limited” and allow Tehran to justify its nuclear aspirations (Syria Comment).
     Chris Phillips points out that Turkey’s important role in rehabilitating Syria’s image in the West is allowing Turkey to elevate its influence among Arab and NATO states while increasing Syria’s political and economic dependence on Turkey (The Guardian).
Daily Star | The National | New York Times | Syria Comment | The Guardian

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