Archive for the 'Regional Implications' 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).

“How a nuclear Iran fits in the grand strategies of the US, China and Russia”

“How a nuclear Iran fits in the grand strategies of the US, China and Russia”
February 9-16, 2010
     The US continues to indicate its move toward a harder line against Iran, with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warning that Iran is moving toward a “military dictatorship” and claiming that Russia has agreed to support sanctions. John Vinocur believes Russia has timed its policy shift to take advantage of the Obama administration’s vulnerability on the Iranian nuclear issue and the unconcluded START treaty. Citing Russia’s newly released military doctrine (I, II, III), Vinocur speculates that Russia’s quid pro quo for cooperation on Iran involves restrictions on NATO expansion and US military defenses in Europe (New York Times).
     US Vice President Joseph Biden stated that he also expects China’s cooperation on sanctions, but Matthew Kroenig believes China and Russia see a nuclear Iran as a potential strategic asset for constraining US power in the Middle East. Kroenig argues that Chinese and Russian concern with the need to compensate for their own lack of power projection ability outweighs their economic interests in Iran or concern over nuclear proliferation. According to Kroenig, the US’ primary concern regarding proliferation is not preventing nuclear terrorism or nuclear war but maintaining its freedom to threaten or use force abroad (The New Republic).
New York Times | The New Republic

Additional link: “Military Doctrine and the Principles of State Nuclear Deterrence Policy to 2020” (original Russian version) (Kremlin)

“Iran launches new missile as US expands Gulf missile defense”

“Iran launches new missile as US expands Gulf missile defense”
January 31-February 3, 2010
     Iran’s successful launch of the Kavoshgar-3 rocket (The National) comes amid growing tension with the US, which recently deployed new missile defense systems in the Persian Gulf. New land-based Patriot installations in Kuwait, Qatar, the UAE and Bahrain are designed to intercept short-range missiles, while Aegis cruisers will defend against medium-range missiles. Unnamed US officials say the purpose of the new systems is to deter Iran, reassure Arab states, and persuade Israel to hold off on military action against Iran (New York Times).
     While US officials argue the Arab states willingly accepted the defense systems due to increasing concern over Iran’s influence, Tehran countered that it has friendly relations with its neighbors and that the new defenses were aimed to create “a sense of Iran phobia” (Reuters, Al Jazeera). Meanwhile, a US test of a long-range missile defense system ended in failure. The target missile was designed to mimic a potential strike from Iran or North Korea (Reuters (2), Global Security Newswire).
The National | New York Times | Reuters | Al Jazeera | Reuters (2) | Global Security Newswire

“Pakistan a potential missing link for sanctions, military action against Iran”

“Pakistan a potential missing link for sanctions, military action against Iran”
December 15, 2009
     As Western leaders continue to warn Iran of potential sanctions, Irfan Husain writes that any new sanctions would place an “intolerable burden” on tense Iran-Pakistan relations. Husain argues that sanctions would require Islamabad, already concerned with threats from Afghanistan and India, to secure its long and porous Iranian border to stop illegal sanctions-busting trade, a move that would trigger domestic opposition from smugglers and supporters of Iran. Adding that Islamabad relies on Iranian support in confronting India, Husain argues that the US should not expect to be able to use Pakistani territory in the event of a military campaign against Iran.
Daily Star

“Iranian navy focuses on asymmetric tactics in Gulf, Hormuz area”

“Iranian navy focuses on asymmetric tactics in Gulf, Hormuz area”
November 23, 2009
     A report by the US Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) stresses the importance of Iran’s ability to block the Strait of Hormuz and cut off almost 30% of the world’s oil supply. The report outlines the history, strategies and capabilities of the Islamic Republic of Iran Navy, which is mainly equipped with older and larger vessels, and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy, which is more politically powerful and focuses on smaller vessels to maneuver within the Persian Gulf area. The report concludes that Iran’s naval strategy is based on access denial and asymmetric warfare aimed at deterring attacks and damaging the political will of its stronger enemies (Office of Naval Intelligence).
     A previous analysis by Stratfor argued that Iran’s “real nuclear option” was its capacity to lay mines in the Strait of Hormuz (Stratfor). The ONI report states that Iran, which likely has at least 2,000 mines, first implemented its asymmetric naval doctrine in the Iran-Iraq War, when it limited foreign shipping to a narrow lane in the Persian Gulf and mined sea-lanes away from its own coast.
Office of Naval Intelligence | Stratfor