Archive Page 2

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.

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

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.

“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).