Archive for the 'Iran-Syria 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).

“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

Additional articles and reports from the past week
“Iran is regional power even without nukes” (Haaretz)
Zvi Bar’el writes that the West should recognize Iran’s role as a regional power and focus its energies away from sanctions and toward engaging Iran as a partner in the “international club of decision makers”.

“A demand from Tehran” (Guardian)
The Guardian has obtained Iran’s letter to the IAEA stating that any nuclear fuel swap must be conducted through a simultaneous exchange within Iranian territory. The West is unlikely to accept these conditions.

“Syria affirms ties to Iran despite US calls” (Associated Press, Syria Comment)
Despite recent diplomatic overtures from the US, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad stood alongside President Ahmadinejad and spoke against US efforts to draw Syria away from Iran. Joshua Landis believes the US “overplayed its hand”, though Syria perceives the US position in the Middle East to be weak.

“What Europe can do to secure a deal with Iran”
Matthew Levitt urges the EU to help gain multilateral consensus for sanctions against Iran and to pursue measures to deny Iran access to key technologies (Europe’s World). Fiorello Provera, vice-chairman of the European Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs, argues the EU must also “stand with Iran’s civil society” and demonstrate its commitment to human rights by hanging a poster of Neda Agha Soltan in the parliament building in Brussels (Today’s Zaman).

Weekly roundup

Additional articles and reports from the past week
“IAEA Iran report” (IAEA)
The latest IAEA report on Iran cites growing concern over possible “past and current” military nuclear activities. A BBC report argues that the stronger language of the report indicates a tougher approach under new IAEA head Yukiya Amano.

“The Iran nuclear issue: the view from Beijing” (International Crisis Group)
International Crisis Group argues that despite China’s strategic and economic interests in maintaining strong ties with Iran, China prioritizes its relations with the US and will favor a “delay-and-weaken” strategy over blocking UN sanctions, especially if there is unanimous support among UNSC members.

“Consensus emerges on Iran’s centrifuges” (Arms Control Wonk)
Joshua Pollack outlines an emerging consensus in Western estimates of Iran’s centrifuge capabilities.

“Why chuckles greeted Hillary’s Gulf tour” (Daily Star)
Rami G. Khouri writes that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s warnings of an Iranian threat were plagued by a lack of credibility among Arab states.

“Will engaging Syria deal a ‘blow to Iran’? Not likely” (Syria Comment)
Joshua Landis argues against the claim that Washington’s recent diplomatic engagement of Damascus will deprive Tehran of a key ally.

“Mullahs, guards, and bonyads: an exploration of Iranian leadership dynamics” (RAND)
RAND Corporation provides an extensive overview of Iran’s formal and informal power structures. The report argues that US policymakers should deal with the existing government in Iran rather than attempt to exploit the country’s complex domestic politics.

“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

“Germany ’embarrassed’ over Iranian arms shipments to Syria”

“Germany ’embarrassed’ over Iranian arms shipments to Syria”
October 12-14, 2009
     Spiegel reports that US soldiers discovered containers of ammunition on a German ship traveling from Iran to Syria in what one unnamed German diplomat calls an “embarrassing affair” for Berlin. The US claims the shipment violated UNSC Resolution 1747 forbidding all arms shipments into and out of Iran, and investigators reportedly believe the ammunition was headed to Hezbollah or the Syrian army. Spiegel describes the incident as “potentially damaging to trans-Atlantic relations” (Spiegel). Berlin has often been criticized for its strong trade ties with Tehran [previously covered here and here].
     Amos Harel quotes an unnamed senior Israeli military source who says weapons are being smuggled to Hezbollah on a weekly basis in a system in which “Iran pays, Syria smuggles and Hezbollah receives.” The source cites a lack of international pressure on Syria to break off ties with Iran or cease its smuggling activities. Harel writes that Hezbollah’s arms buildup is part of an ongoing “secret war” between the West, Egypt and Israel against Iran and its allies (Haarez).
Spiegel | Haaretz

“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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“Syrian-Saudi summit, US ‘power play’ efforts aim to isolate Iran”