Iran dominates nuclear arms summit

Discussion in 'West Asia & Africa' started by LETHALFORCE, May 5, 2010.

  1. LETHALFORCE

    LETHALFORCE Moderator Moderator

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    http://english.aljazeera.net/news/americas/2010/05/2010541621950827.html


    Iran dominates nuclear arms summit



    Iran has taken centre stage at the opening of a month-long debate at the United Nations on how to stop the spread of nuclear weapons.

    UN Security Council powers met on Tuesday to discuss ways to punish Tehran as a final document detailing ways to achieve goals of checking the spread of nuclear weapons was being drafted.

    Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president, set a defiant tone at the opening of the conference reviewing the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) in New York on Monday, saying the US "has never respected any of its commitments" on nuclear weapons.

    He said Washington had offered not "a single credible proof" to back claims that his country was developing nuclear weapons.

    Iran insists it is enriching uranium for purposes of devloping nuclear energy for civilian use, but the West suspects it is seeking to develop a nuclear bomb.

    Al Jazeera's Kristen Saloomey in New York said: "We've seen sympathies for comments from Mahmoud Ahmadinejad from countries who themselves are pursuing nuclear technology for peaceful purposes and want to develop their nuclear reactors."
    in depth

    But she added that the US, which released previously classified statistics on the size of its nuclear arsenal as Ahmadinejad delivered his speech, had been praised for the move.

    The defence department said the US has 5,113 nuclear warheads in its stockpile.

    US officials have said they will be looking to isolate Iran and to produce an unofficial document calling for stricter enforcement of the NPT, which requires signatories to abandon nuclear weapons.

    The document could be signed by the overwhelming majority of signatory countries, but because it requires a consensus of all parties - including Iran - it would be highly unlikely to censure Tehran and could block consensus, analysts said.

    Our correspondent said the "document ... calls on Israel to sign up and join the NPT. Israel is widely believed to have nuclear weapons but has not confirmed or denied their existence".

    "By signing up to the NPT, they would be required to do that. Of course, other countries as well are being asked to do that - India and Pakistan are also nuclear states who have not joined the NPT," she said.

    Tit-for-tat

    Ahmadinejad, who accused the US of not only using nuclear weapons but also threatening to use them, drew sharp criticism from Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state.

    She told delegates Iran was "flouting the rules" of the nonproliferation treaty with its suspect uranium enrichment programme.
    In video


    'Better way' on Iran urged

    "I hope that we can reach agreement in the Security Council on tough new sanctions," Clinton told reporters.

    "I believe that is the only way to catch Iran's attention."

    The NPT is formally reviewed every five years at a meeting of all 189 treaty members - all the world's nations except India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea, all of which either have confirmed or are believed to have nuclear weapons.

    Tehran has refused to abandon its enrichment programme and now faces the prospect of UN-backed sanctions as a result of its defiance in the face of international pressure.

    Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, said over the weekend that more progress needs to be made in disarmament efforts.

    Those efforts have been boosted by new pledges from the US and Russia in recent months.

    Ban also said Iran's and North Korea's nuclear programmes were "of serious concern to global efforts to curb nuclear proliferation".
     
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  3. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

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    China in the catbird seat on Iran

    By Peter Lee

    There were two major nuclear non-proliferation conferences in April, one in Washington and one in Tehran. China attended both.

    The Barack Obama administration was highly gratified that Chinese President Hu Jintao attended the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington. But China also sent an assistant foreign minister to the Tehran International Conference on Disarmament and Non-Proliferation, where he pleased his hosts by reiterating a call for continued negotiation and diplomacy to resolve the Iran nuclear crisis.

    After months of anxiety and uncertainty China finds itself in the catbird seat - and in a position to profit if President Obama's nuclear diplomacy succeeds or, as appears more likely, it fails. To a certain extent, both China and Israel have a shared interest




    in forestalling a win-win resolution of the Iran nuclear crisis.

    If the 30-year-old enmity between Washington and Tehran persists, Israel gets to preserve its special relationship as America's embattled and indispensable ally in the Middle East - and China can continue to enjoy its privileged position as Iran's only genuine superpower friend.

    All China needs to do is balance its endorsement of Obama's ambitions for a world free of nuclear weapons with nuanced support of Iran's interests and the principle of multilateralism. China's current position on Iran comes close to recapitulating its strategy to establish itself as the key intermediary with an isolated North Korea, albeit on a bigger, more remote, and much riskier stage.

    China has been able to accomplish this with considerable subtlety, even as the Obama administration has seen its bold outreach to the Muslim world deteriorate into an Israel-driven exercise in geopolitical kabuki. In late May, the Chinese leadership decided it did not want to exacerbate its fraught relations with the United States - already frayed over climate change, currency, and Google - for the dubious cause of the Iranian nuclear program.

    In exchange for a public US reaffirmation of the one-China policy, which Beijing will find useful as it confronts a new generation of opponents in Tibet and Taiwan (and a private undertaking not to designate China as a currency manipulator for the time being), China agreed to participate in the Nuclear Security Summit and join the current round of Iranian sanction-writing at the UN Security Council.

    An Iranian emissary immediately jetted to Beijing for discussions.

    Judging from subsequent developments, the upshot was that Iran got the message that it would have to rely on its good works and not just the shield of a Chinese veto threat to avoid UN sanctions. In a subsequent charm offensive, Iranian representatives reasserted their allegiance to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), emphasized their willingness to negotiate, and attempted to resuscitate the moribund project to fuel the Tehran research reactor with Western assistance.

    Complicating efforts to present him as a defiant pariah, Iran's President Mahmud Ahmadinejad spoke at the 2010 NPT Revision Conference in New York on May 3, calling for the fulfillment of the NPT's largely unmet promise of disarmament by the main nuclear powers.

    Beyond the core group of anti-Iran hardliners, these efforts may have had more impact than the Obama administration is willing to admit.

    Faced with Tehran's continual offers to negotiate the terms of the exchange of its low-enriched-uranium for fuel plates fabricated in France for the Tehran Research Reactor, the Western declaration that the Iranians have offered "nothing new" is starting to sound a little threadbare. [1]

    The hardliners may be forced to invoke the dreaded Western "impatience" - that dishonest emotion most famously deployed to short-circuit the unproductive inspections inside Iraq and jump-start the disastrous 2003 invasion - in order to rush sanctions through the UN Security Council and enable the harsher follow-on national sanctions that will permanently preempt the negotiation track.

    Little wonder that French President Nicolas Sarkozy - the most enthusiastic member of the anti-Iran axis - used his trip to China to declare that the time for sanctions was, basically, now.

    "The whole question is to examine at what point the absence of constructive dialogue must lead to sanctions in order to enhance constructive dialogue. Everyone is convinced that moment is approaching," said Sarkozy. [2]
    Until now, Iran's most effective tactic has been to attack the Obama policy at its most vulnerable point: Israel.

    Israel's sizable undeclared arsenal of nuclear warheads has always been an irritant in America's Middle Eastern diplomacy and its efforts to block Iran's nuclear program. The double standards dilemma has been most acute for President Obama, who designed his geopolitical strategy (and collected a Nobel Peace Prize) around the idea of reducing the threat of nuclear weapons through a combination of enhanced nuclear security, vigorous non-proliferation, and great-power nuclear disarmament under US leadership - anchored by universal adherence to the NPT.

    From an NPT perspective, Israel doesn't compare favorably to Iran.

    Iran is a signatory to the NPT and an active, if unhappy and not particularly candid, participant in the IAEA safeguards program. Its current inventory of nuclear material amounts to less than 2 tons of radioactive dirt, 11 pounds (4.99 kilograms) of uranium enriched to just below the 20% threshold (equivalent to less than three pounds of highly enriched uranium if fully enriched), and 0 pounds of bomb-grade material.

    Israel is not a signatory to the NPT. It joined the IAEA, but does not participate in any safeguards program, apparently regarding its membership primarily as a useful opportunity to pitch negative intelligence concerning Islamic nuclear ambitions over the Intelligence Directorate's transom. It maintains an undeclared arsenal of at least 100 warheads - perhaps as many as 400. [3]

    To build this arsenal, Israel evaded export controls, allegedly diverting heavy water supplied by Norway for peaceful uses to its weapons program and illegally obtaining hundreds of US krytons (high speed switches). [4]

    And Israel has proliferated. It provided technical assistance to the apartheid regime of South Africa that resulted in the construction of six nuclear warheads that could be dropped on South Africa's many regional antagonists. It was alleged but never officially confirmed that the Israeli government had also agreed to supply six specially fitted ballistic missiles to carry the warheads, and that South Africa's sole nuclear test was a joint South African/Israeli affair. [5]

    Perhaps recalling its own experience, as late as May 2009 Israel contemptuously asserted that the NPT "has failed to prevent any country that wanted to from obtaining nuclear weapons". [6]

    In 2009, Obama apparently hoped to square the circle by managing rapprochement with Iran through public and secret outreach and progress on fueling the Tehran research reactor, and subsequently placing pressure on Israel to enter into the global non-proliferation regime.

    Israel received its public wake-up call in May 2009, when Assistant US Secretary of State Rose Gottemoeller called on Israel by name to join the NPT while neglecting the obligatory condemnation of Iran. In September 2009, the waning days of Mohamed ElBaradei's tenure as IAEA director general, Israel's critics at the IAEA were finally able to push through a resolution calling on Israel to join the NPT and enter into a safeguards agreement.

    Thanks to a fortuitous combination of Iran's domestic political and leadership crisis, US paranoia, and its own assiduous lobbying, the Tehran research reactor deal foundered and Israel was able to reverse the political tide by early 2010.

    Obama was forced to divert his attention from Iran diplomacy to appease pro-Israel critics in the public sphere, congress, his own party, and even his own administration by repeatedly affirming the special character of the US-Israeli relationship while absorbing high profile insults such as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's refusal to attend the Nuclear Security Summit. At present, the promise of meaningful outreach to the Islamic world mediated by reliable allies such as Egypt seems unlikely to be honored in the breach. Egypt is expected to insist at the May 2010 NPT conference that negotiations including Israel begin to make the Middle East into a nuclear-weapons free zone. As Haaretz reports, the Western powers are willing to support the conference - as long as there are no negotiations and nothing happens:

    One Western envoy said Egypt's insistence on a conference with a negotiating mandate was the main "sticking point," while another expressed the hope that Egypt would compromise during intensive negotiations on the issue in the coming weeks. One Western diplomat said the Israelis were "understandably reluctant" to take part, even if the conference's outcome would be merely symbolic. [7]
    A measure of Obama's difficulties can also be seen in the release



    of the long-gestating Nuclear Posture Review on April 10. Intended to serve as the blueprint for the president's post-nuclear weapons world, the document bullet-pointed US doctrine for the use of nuclear weapons, with this new and memorable addition:

    The 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 nonproliferation obligations. [8]
    The anonymous author of this clause - which reads suspiciously as it was tacked on at the last minute - wins no points for style or logic.

    Since the overall doctrine permits use of nuclear weapons "only ... in extreme circumstances to defend the vital interests of the United States or its allies and partners", the final clause - with the bizarre permissive for "threatening" - looks like a carve-out, reserving the right to mete out additional nuclear punishment to nations that don't meet US standards of NPT good citizenship.

    Elsewhere in the document Iran and North Korea are specifically called out as targets under this policy. But not Israel, Pakistan, or India, three nations that have nuclear weapons today but are not members of the NPT. This leaves the perhaps inadvertent impression that the safest course for a prospective nuclear weapons state is to run away from the NPT as fast as its proliferating legs will carry it.

    China was quick to pounce.

    On April 22, Xu Guangyu, a retired PLA general who frequently presents the modern, rational face of the Chinese military to the Western media, published a description of China's nuclear doctrine in Liberation Daily entitled "Deterrence Not Threats". [9]

    As Xu spun the article in a follow-up phone call with Reuters [10], the piece was intended to reassure the United States, India, and Japan that China's relatively modest nuclear arsenal was designed purely to serve as a deterrent, to be used only in a second strike in the event of a nuclear attack against China.

    All well and good, but the title of the article itself indicated that China was also needling the United States on the contradictions inherent in its pursuit of a universal NPT regime but selective sanctions against Iran and North Korea only.

    In contrast to the US NPR, Xu described China's nuclear posture as no-first-use under any circumstances and, instead of a carve-out, added a reaffirmation that stood in marked contrast to the US declaration of its right to threaten refractory non-nuclear NPT states:

    "China ... unconditionally promises that it will not use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against any non-nuclear state or region."
    Meanwhile, barely a day goes by without China calling for continued negotiations and diplomacy to resolve the Iran crisis, thereby burnishing its credentials as the champion protecting the developing world against selective US nuclear enforcement and making the sanctions job more difficult.

    It remains to be seen if Iran's fractured leadership can summon the political will to make the concessions at this critical time that could defang the sanctions drive: suspend enrichment and accept the one year lag between shipping out its uranium and receiving the fuel plates for the Tehran research reactor back from France.

    Even if they do, it is an open question as to whether the Obama administration could summon the political will to accept Iranian concessions, instead of pursuing the policy apparently supported by Israel and France: going ahead with sanctions that can only be removed after the satisfactory completion of unlimited adversarial inspections.

    On one level, the arguments are about very little.

    Obama and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates have no appetite for a third land war in Asia. There is also little advantage for Iran in defying the West and occupying the center of the US nuclear bull's eye for the sake of its nascent nuclear weapons capability. As for Israel, as the Indian precedent demonstrates, the United States and its allies are perfectly happy to negotiate and impose exceptions for friendly nuclear powers on the non-proliferation regime.

    Presumably Israel would find little to be ashamed of and much to be proud of if portions of its nuclear industry were revealed to the gaze of the IAEA. One suspects that Israel is less concerned with the privacy of its nukes than the unwelcome possibility that it might have to treat Iran as a legitimate rival in the competition for America's attention and support in the Middle East.

    Nevertheless, to date Israel has been successful in its adamant refusal to smooth the way for Obama's Iran diplomacy by publicly entertaining the possibility of Israeli participation in the non-proliferation regime. Defense Minister Ehud Barak marked the conclusion of the Nuclear Security Summit - at which Israel was represented only by a minor government functionary instead of a head of state - by declaring, "To our friends and our allies we say 'there is no room to pressure Israel into signing the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty'." [11]

    Indeed, the sequence originally envisioned by the Obama administration appears to have been reversed.

    It looks as if the price for Israel's participation in the non-proliferation regime - perhaps signing the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty or joining the Fissile Material Cut Off initiative, if not immediately adhering to the NPT/IAEA safeguards regime - is "crippling sanctions" against Iran up front. Perhaps the sanctions should be properly understood as "crippling" because they would cripple US-Iran rapprochement rather than the Iranian nuclear program.

    If the sanctions process rolls on to its logical conclusion of unproductive confrontation, China can look forward to serving as Iran's primary superpower ally - and benefit as Obama's attempt to provide renewed American leadership in the Middle East dissolves into the old division and rancor instead.

    At the same time Beijing can present itself to Washington as a supporter of the new US nuclear security doctrine and mediator in the festering Iran mess - with the threat that it can abate its enthusiasm if US China-bashing gets out of hand.

    That's called being in the catbird seat.

    Notes
    1. Iran wants to reopen talks about a nuclear fuel swap, Guardian, April 20, 2010.
    2. Sarkozy stresses Iran sanctions, Aljazeera.net, April 28, 2010.
    3. Nuclear Weapons, Federation of American Scientists.
    4. Nuclear Weapons Program, Federation of American Scientists.
    5. Nuclear Weapons Program, Federation of American Scientists.
    6. 'Making Israel sign nuclear treaty won't be miracle cure for world ills', Haaretz.com, May 7, 2009.
    7. Egypt seeks UN pressure on Israel over nuclear arms, Haaretz.com, April 20, 2010.
    8. Nuclear Posture Review Report, US Department of Defense, April 2010
    9. http://news.mod.gov.cn/headlines/2010-04/20/content_4148091.htm (in Chinese)
    10. China military paper spells out nuclear arms stance, Reuters, April 22, 2010.
    11. Israel Still Not Prepared to Join NPT, Global Security Newswire, April 15, 2010.
     
  4. Yusuf

    Yusuf GUARDIAN Administrator

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    What i have read so far and what Ajad has said in the conference, i think Iran leads the score card. America has been put on the back foot. Hillary Clintons response for me was just not convincing.
     
  5. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

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    U.S. Is Pushing to Deter a Mideast Nuclear Race


    [​IMG]

    The opening Monday of a monthlong United Nations conference to strengthen the main treaty meant to halt the spread of nuclear arms is likely to be dominated by Iran’s president denouncing the West and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton warning that if Tehran gets the bomb, the rest of the Middle East will soon followBut far less visibly, the Obama administration has been mounting a country-by-country campaign to go beyond the treaty and ensure that Iran’s push toward atomic mastery does not ignite a regional nuclear arms race. In recent months, diplomats have been holding meetings in Washington and shuttling to the Middle East in pursuit of agreements that will let countries develop nuclear power while relinquishing the right to make atomic fuel that could be turned into bombs.

    Since the 189 signatories of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty last gathered in New York five years ago, many of the world’s oil-rich nations have begun thinking about or ordering nuclear power plants, arguing that the reserves that made them rich will not last forever. But the United States worries that their fear of an Iranian bomb could lead them to use the same nuclear-fuel technology to develop weapons of their own.

    The American strategy, begun during the Bush administration, is to pre-empt that possibility. “We think that’s the right formula for the Middle East,” Ellen Tauscher, undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, said in an interview on Friday.

    Late last year, the Obama administration closed the first deal, with the United Arab Emirates, which is preparing to build a $20 billion reactor complex on its Persian Gulf coast. Diplomats are negotiating similar agreements with Jordan and Bahrain and have the outlines of a deal with Saudi Arabia.

    Most everyone, including President Obama’s aides, agrees that the United Nations conference will not fix the glaring weaknesses in the nonproliferation treaty, which have let Iran move to the edge of a nuclear-weapons capability. Rewriting the treaty is “harder than changing the U.S. Constitution,” Gary Samore, Mr. Obama’s top adviser on nuclear arms, said last week.

    Instead, the administration is trying to entice Middle Eastern states out of enriching uranium for reactor fuel and later scavenging spent fuel for plutonium, a step known as reprocessing. Both are allowed by the treaty, and both can become clandestine means of making atom-bomb fuel. Instead, the countries would buy the fuel from international suppliers, reducing the chance of conversion to bomb-grade material.

    “The less enrichment and reprocessing the better,” Ms. Tauscher said.

    David A. Kay, a nuclear specialist who led the fruitless search for unconventional arms in Iraq, applauded the strategy. “It’s an attempt to close up the holes in the N.P.T.,” he said in an interview. “Equally, if not more so, it’s an attempt to isolate the Iranians.”

    Iran and some other nations at the United Nations conference, including Egypt, have a different agenda: to force the region’s one nuclear-weapons state, Israel, to acknowledge its atomic arsenal and sign on to the nonproliferation treaty.

    Egypt has championed a proposal to make the Middle East a zone free of nuclear arms, a goal that the Obama administration says it supports, but only in the context of a broader regional peace.

    Egypt, which has announced plans for several nuclear power reactors, is pressing for a conference on the nuclear-free zone next year. Its president, Hosni Mubarak, has spoken out bluntly about the alternatives, implying that his country might feel the need to develop nuclear weapons. “We don’t want nuclear arms in the area, but we are obligated to defense ourselves,” he said in 2007 after discussing the Iranian nuclear program with Israel’s prime minister then, Ehud Olmert. “We will have to have the appropriate weapons.”

    Today, of the world’s 430 operating nuclear power reactors, none are in the Middle East. One reason is that the area’s oil reserves led many countries to consider nuclear power superfluous. But there is another reason: when countries began to build reactors, suspicions ran so high that they usually got bombed.

    In 1981, Israeli jets bombed an Iraqi reactor at Osirak. Twenty-six years later, in September 2007, they destroyed a reactor secretly under construction in Syria.

    In both cases, Israel feared the purpose of the reactors was to produce plutonium that could fuel bombs.

    But Israel was not alone. During the Iran-Iraq war in the mid-1980s, Saddam Hussein repeatedly ordered the bombing of an Iranian reactor project at Bushehr. Later, Iraq also fired missiles at a reactor that Israel built in the 1950s at Dimona to make plutonium for warheads. The Iraqi missiles missed. Only now is Iran preparing to switch on a reactor at Bushehr. Under an agreement worked out during the Bush administration, Russia is providing the fuel, and all the spent fuel is to be shipped back to Russia. Few believe Bushehr will provide Iran a path to a bomb, as long as the deal with Russia remains in force. But beyond Bushehr, the history of Iran’s nuclear program underscores the weaknesses of the nonproliferation treaty. It also explains the rationale behind the American effort to persuade countries to renounce the making of atomic fuel.

    While the treaty puts no limits on the making of atomic fuel, it requires countries to forswear all military goals and submit to a range of international inspections. Cheating, though, has proved difficult to detect and almost impossible to punish. What has provoked demands for Iran to halt enrichment — along with three rounds of United Nations sanctions and the threat of another — is its history of deception and continuing refusal to answer central questions about its nuclear program.

    Iran is enriching uranium at two plants at Natanz, is building a third near the city of Qum and has announced its intention to build 10 more. Iran says it needs them to fuel 20 future reactors.

    It would be far cheaper, though, for Iran to buy the fuel on open markets. Iran has also admitted to experiments in reprocessing and scavenging plutonium. Its intent, it says, is not to make weapons but to acquire radioisotopes for nuclear medicine.

    For these and other reasons, many of Iran’s Arab neighbors, along with Israel and the West, believe that its true goal is having a weapons ability. And so to many analysts, the growing interest among Persian Gulf nations for nuclear programs reflects a desire for a military edge.

    Still, there is another motivating factor: the economics of oil.

    When prices are high, gulf countries would prefer to sell their oil at great profit rather than burn it for power. A study done by the International Atomic Energy Agency and a group of gulf states concluded that nuclear power made sense for the region when the price of oil exceeded $50 a barrel. Today it is above $80, and with the world economy gradually recovering, many expect it to go higher.

    Every country in the region except Lebanon is planning to build nuclear reactors or has declared an interest in doing so.

    This year, Turkey signed deals with Russia and South Korea for preliminary studies of a complex on the Black Sea and another on the Mediterranean, with total power of up to 10,000 megawatts — equal to 10 large reactors.

    Last month Jordan announced a competition between three bidders for a 1,100-megawatt reactor. And Saudi Arabia announced the establishment of an atomic city, named after the king, to promote nuclear power.

    The gulf nation furthest down the atomic road — and the one that the United States calls the “gold standard” for nonproliferation — is the United Arab Emirates.

    In April 2008, the Emirates signed a tentative agreement with the Bush administration to give up enrichment and reprocessing in exchange for access to the global market in nuclear technologies. A year later, the Emirates signed an accord that gave the International Atomic Energy Agency the right to search nuclear-related facilities throughout the country. Iran has withdrawn its agreement to the same accord.

    The Obama White House endorsed the Bush administration accord and sent it to Congress, which approved it last summer. On Dec. 17, the Emirates and the United States signed an agreement that made it legal to sell advanced nuclear technology to the country.

    Ten days later, the Emirates awarded a South Korean company the contract to build four 1,400-megawatt reactors — quite large by industry standards. They are to begin making power between 2017 and 2020.

    The reactors are to be hardened against military and terrorist strikes. The Emirates has said nothing publicly, though, about whether it plans to set up antiaircraft or antimissile batteries, as Israel has done around its Dimona reactor and Iran around Bushehr.

    The Obama administration has been taking its case to academics and other Middle East specialists. In January, Ms. Tauscher spoke at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. And in March, the deputy energy secretary, Daniel B. Poneman, told the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, “As countries in the Middle East look at developing civil nuclear programs, the United States can promote the highest standards for safety, security and nonproliferation.”
     
  6. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

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    Barack Obama to hold off on CTBT ratification for now: Official


    UNITED NATIONS: US President Barack Obama will hold off sending the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) to the US Senate for ratification until after it takes up the recently signed START arms control treaty, a top US official said Wednesday.

    "The Obama administration's priority is to get the START treaty ratified," under secretary of state Ellen Tauscher told a press conference on the sidelines of a UN conference.

    "That will take us through the legislative year," Tauscher said, adding that Obama will send the CTBT to the Senate "when the political conditions are right."

    Both treaties need to be ratified by the Senate by a two-thirds majority and the Obama administration could struggle to get the necessary votes.

    The new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty was signed on April 8 and provides for major cutbacks in both the US and Russian nuclear arsenals.

    The CTBT, which bans nuclear blasts for military or civilian purposes, was signed in 1996 by 71 states, including the five main nuclear weapon states: Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States.

    A total of 182 countries have signed the CTBT, including 151 that have also ratified it.

    North Korea, India and Pakistan have not signed the CTBT and all three have carried out nuclear tests since 1996.

    Another six countries -- the United States, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, China and Egypt -- have signed but not yet ratified the pact.

    The CTBT cannot come into force until it is ratified by the required 44 states that had nuclear research or power facilities when it was adopted in 1996. Only 35 have done so.

    Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa announced Tuesday at the UN conference on the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) that his country would soon ratify the CTBT.

    "We hope that our decision... will be a positive incentive for other states to follow suit," he told reporters.
     
  7. nandu

    nandu Senior Member Senior Member

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    Nuclear watchdog urges united int'l pressure on Iran

    VIENNA (Reuters) - The head of the U.N. atomic watchdog called for concerted international pressure on Tehran which still refuses to clear up doubts about its nuclear programme and cooperate fully with watchdog IAEA's inspections.

    International Atomic Energy Agency chief Yukiya Amano said his agency was unable to rule out that Iran's nuclear work was being diverted for military purposes, as feared by the West.

    It was not clear if Amano was referring to more diplomacy, sanctions or both but his call comes as major powers are discussing a possible fourth round of sanctions on Iran over its refusal to halt uranium enrichment and cooperate with the IAEA.

    "Without a policy change on the part of Iran, we cannot do our work effectively. Policy change is needed," he said in an interview with McClatchy Newspapers.

    "The IAEA is not designed primarily to change the policy of member states. In this area, influence, persuasion by interested countries is needed. There is a role to be played by the United Nations." A "synergy of effort by (the) IAEA, the United Nations and interested countries" is needed, Amano said.

    In a separate interview with The Washington Post, Amano said Iran must answer the IAEA's questions about Western intelligence indicating that it may have worked on developing a nuclear-armed missile. Iran says its atomic work is for peaceful uses only.

    "If the concerns are removed, that will be very nice. If not, we need to ask for measures to remedy the situation."

    Western diplomats credit Amano with taking a blunter, tougher line on Iran than his predecessor Mohamed ElBaradei. Amano says his approach is "factual", Iran accuses him of bias.

    Amano told the Washington Post that Iran had still not allowed his inspectors better access to a site where it started enriching uranium to higher levels in February.

    "If this continues for a long time, we may have a problem ... the arrangement is not proper as of today," he said.

    Amano gave the interviews in New York where he is attending a conference taking stock of the 1970 Non-Proliferation Treaty.

    At the meeting on Wednesday the United States, Russia, Britain, France and China voiced support for making the Middle East a nuclear weapons-free zone, which would ultimately force Israel to scrap any atomic arms it has.

    The move reflected U.S. concern to win Arab backing for Iran sanctions by offering a concession over its ally Israel, but Washington says the zone cannot be actually established yet.

    Amano also touched on the Israel theme in a letter to foreign ministries of the IAEA's 151 member states on April 7.

    The letter, seen by Reuters, asks for views on how to implement an IAEA resolution which voices concern about "Israeli nuclear capabilities" and urges it to join the NPT. Amano said he would report his findings at IAEA meetings later this year.

    Israel, like India, Pakistan and North Korea, is outside the NPT and is widely assumed to have an atomic arsenal, though it has never confirmed or denied it.

    "This is an unusual move by Amano but I don't think it should be seen as him pressing Israel ahead of the conference," a Western diplomat said. "(He) seems to want to open a discussion with all member states, not just a few of them."

    http://in.reuters.com/article/worldNews/idINIndia-48277820100506?sp=true
     
  8. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

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    Cool G-15 heads take the heat​

    By Kaveh L Afrasiabi

    TEHRAN - Cavalcades for eight presidents and more than a dozen foreign ministers may raise tensions among Tehran's drivers, yet their presence in the city for a Group of 15 summit throws cold water on the West's sizzling criticism of Iran.

    The summit is both politically and globally timely as the United States and its Western allies do their best to isolate Iran at the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) review conference in New York (May 3-28). They are counting on serious divisions within the 118-nation Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) as a prelude to applying more pressure at the meeting of the ''Iran Six'' nations next month over the nuclear standoff with Tehran, with a view to applying more sanctions on the country over its nuclear-enrichment program.

    That India, Brazil, Argentina, Indonesia and Nigeria will be represented at the highest level at the May 15-17 conference will likely boost Iran's bargaining position at the ongoing discussions in New York, where the NAM, led by Egypt, has already focused the spotlight on Israel's nuclear program. The Tehran meeting also provides a chance to gather momentum against a Western "sanctions strategy" that discourages foreign direct investment (FDI) in Iran, in light of initiatives aimed at bolstering "south-south" direct investment.

    "This summit focuses on improving south-south cooperation, addressing global inequities and assessing the impact of global economic recovery on developing nations," says a professor of political science at Tehran University.

    Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva's attendance may mean that Iran and Brazil are "getting closer on the nuclear fuel deal", according to the professor. Both countries have been talking about the possibility of Brazil assisting with the a Tehran nuclear reactor that provides radioisotopes for hundreds of Iranian hospitals.

    Aside from the nuclear issue, the measure of a successful summit for Iran would be the extent to which it culminates in greater capital inflows from other G-15 countries, such as India, Brazil, Venezuela and Malaysia, many of whom act as both recipients as well as sources of FDI.

    Iran's foreign economic policy under President Mahmud Ahmadinejad has already brought tangible dividends in terms of greater investment by G-15 countries. Investments by Indian companies OVL, Oil India and IOC in the development of the Farsi oil and gas blocks as well as the South Pars Gas field in Iran are cases in point.

    Tata Steel has invested in steel plants, while Indian public-sector companies like Rites and Ircon helped develop the Chahbahar container terminal project in southwest Iran. Among other countries, Venezuela has also invested some $760 million in Iran's South Part oil fields and $700 million in a joint petrochemical project in Assaluyeh.

    Still, despite tangible evidence of progress in Iran's "south-south" cooperation, Tehran's overall trade with partners in the G-15 bloc stands at about 6% of its global trade, with India its biggest trading partner. Last year, Iran's imports from the G-15 comprised about 11% of the nation's total imports. Tehran's relations with the governments of the G-15 nations vary, in light of its relatively small trade with Algeria, Jamaica, Nigeria and Senegal, compared with growing ties to Brazil, Malaysia and a few others.


    The trans-regional G-15 [1] plays a pivotal role in offsetting Western cultural and economic hegemony and in many ways ensures the viability of non-aligned countries in the post-Cold War era - much like the smaller D-8 group. Five members of the largely Islamic D-8 (Iran, Indonesia, Egypt, Malaysia and Nigeria) are also in the G-15.

    Having held the G-15 presidency since 2006, Iran passes on the mantle to Sri Lanka this week. This may present a unique opportunity for Sri Lanka, whose "globalized" economy depends heavily on exports to countries such as the US and the United Kingdom, to bolster its position through the expansion of south-south trade and investment.

    Since 2008, the global financial crisis has led to drops in Sri Lanka's exports and inflows of remittances, FDI and foreign aid. The nation's export earnings declined 15% in 2009 compared with the previous year, while remittances were down 6%, according to a recent G-15 working paper. One of Sri Lanka's economic steps, fitting nicely with its G-15 agenda, has been its engagement in swap arrangements (rupees for other currencies) with friendly central banks; these and Sri Lanka's large expatriate labor force will benefit from its G-15 role, should this translate in greater economic ties with other member nations, including Iran.

    The Tehran summit is likely to repeat previous calls for restructuring of international financial institutions and a more equitable representation of developing countries in those institutions.

    Furthermore, in line with the G-15's initial agenda to serve as a "dialogue partner" with the Group of 20 nations, the Tehran summit is also likely to address the issue of food security and, perhaps, mobilize billions of dollars for a food bank to assist developing countries. Improving water resources has also been a priority and there is talk of a "water fund".

    In discussing the G-15 summit, Tehran dailies are abuzz about addressing egregious inequities in world trade and the importance of easier access of the global market to the goods and services of the developing world.

    The developed world may not necessarily like the message from the Tehran summit, yet for the majority of the world's population inhabiting the developing world bemoaning the Western world's domination of airwaves, news of this summit is music to their ears.

    Note
    1. The Group of 15 was established at the ninth Non-Aligned Movement summit meeting in Belgrade, Yugoslavia in September 1989. It was set up to foster cooperation and provide input for other international groups, such as the World Trade Organization and the Group of Eight rich industrialized nations. It is composed of countries from North America, South America, Africa and Asia with a common goal of enhanced growth and prosperity. The G-15 focuses on cooperation among developing countries in the areas of investment, trade and technology. The membership of the G-15 has expanded to 18 countries, but the name has remained unchanged. The members are Jamaica, Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Peru, Venezuela, Algeria, Egypt, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, Zimbabwe, India, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, Sri Lanka. Iran accepted the presidency of the G-15 in 2006.
     
  9. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

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    China plays lap-dog in sanctions ploy

    By Peter Lee

    China's plan to survive and thrive amid the Barack Obama administration's Iran sanctions drive appears to be on track - albeit with more than a little public diplomatic cost and humiliation.

    China's tactics have the potential to weaken sanctions at the national as well as the United Nations level. Therefore, Beijing may still earn the grudging gratitude of Iran - and even the United States, whose push to extend sanctions it has agreed to support.
    When the sanctions drive was threatened by the fuel swap agreement between Iran, Turkey and Brazil (hereinafter the ITB swap) China gritted its teeth and, instead of supporting this dramatic and apparently genuine exercise in developing-world diplomacy, undercut it by acquiescing to Washington's rushed riposte: the announcement that a draft sanctions resolution



    approved by the "Iran Six" would be circulated to the Security Council.

    To observers who expected China to champion the rights and interests of nations outside the Western bloc, it was not a pretty picture. The resolution announcement incensed Brazil and Turkey, two natural allies in China's plans for a new, post-US world order.

    Iran's reaction to China's actions has been muted, even though Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki was reportedly thunderstruck when a Reuters correspondent told him about the resolution announcement on May 19 in Dushanbe, Tajikistan.

    Within China, indignant netizens employed salty language to excoriate China's capitulation to the United States - and its wordy, parsing efforts to justify the government's actions.

    One aggrieved commenter wrote: "'So, you want to live like a whore and then have a ceremonial arch erected to commemorate your chastity! Don't think the Chinese people don't understand what's going on!''

    As China's Foreign Ministry reached out to Turkey and Brazil to praise the fuel swap deal and repair China's standing in the developing world, two complementary editorials in China's influential Global Times - one in English for a Western audience and one in Chinese for everybody else. These laid out Beijing's case and labored to salvage China's public image as an independent and principled world power.

    At the same time it was made clear that China was not going to attempt to exploit the ITB swap announcement in order to embarrass the United States and decouple from the sanctions drive.

    In fact, the editorials laid out a position comforting to the United States: that more than the fuel swap agreement was needed if Iran wished to avoid sanctions.

    The English-language editorial stated:
    Should Iran really make up its mind to break the long impasse, more substantive steps are needed before the rest of the world can be more convinced.

    Implementing the fuel-swap deal is certainly one option for Tehran to assure the world of the sole peaceful purpose of its nuclear program.

    There are more feasible options available. Iran's claims of trustworthiness will be more persuasive if greater transparency is given to its nuclear program.

    Tehran would be shortsighted and unwise if it merely manipulated the fuel-swap deal as a tactic to stave off more UN-led sanctions.

    ... it is the choices up to Iran that can make peace a reality in the region. [1]
    The Chinese-language editorial, while criticizing US intransigence, stated:
    Iran has not made sufficient efforts for foreigners to believe her.

    In principle, the agreement announced two days before ... is a good thing. But it is not enough to remove the suspicion ... additional actions are necessary ... If Iran wants to break this deadlock, it has to take concrete actions and prove to the world that none of its activities have anything to do with nuclear weapons. [2]
    The Western media profess to believe that Chinese support was extorted by threats to come down hard on China on the issues of currency valuation and the Cheonan, the South Korean warship which Seoul claims was sunk by a North Korean torpedo.

    However, it appears that the situation leading up to the sanctions resolution announcement on May 18 was quite the opposite.

    The Obama administration, desperate to keep the ITB swap deal from derailing the sanctions push, was forced to finalize its negotiations with Russia and China in conditions that can charitably be described as adverse.

    Russia and China were in the position to make demands - and they did, as the New York Times reported:
    Among the many compromises that the United States accepted to get China and Russia to back new sanctions against Iran was an agreement to limit any reference to the bank - or Iran's entire energy sector, for that matter - to the introductory paragraphs rather than the sanctions themselves, according to American officials and other diplomats, yielding a weaker resolution than the United States would have liked.

    The standoff between Washington and Beijing over what economic measures to include in the final resolution consumed the last 10 days of the negotiations, diplomats said. [3]
    Now, UN sanctions appear inevitable - thanks to China.

    However, China would harbor no illusions that the UN draft resolution would be the last word on sanctions.

    China's support of UN sanctions are best understood in the context of the real sanctions - national and EU sanctions to be imposed on Iran's allies and trading partners after the UN sanctions pass.

    It has not escaped the notice of China nor Iran that the US media routinely state that negotiations with Russia and China have diluted the UN resolution to the point of meaninglessness, and only follow-on sanctions can achieve the desired results.

    Since the UN sanctions are universally regarded as a necessary precondition to national sanctions, it would appear counterintuitive for China to surrender its leverage over UN sanctions by spurning the ITB swap - which provided adequate pretext for slow-walking the UN sanctions process - and, in the Global Times editorial, even placing additional, seemingly unmeetable demands on Iran beyond the swap as a condition for halting sanctions.

    Beijing's cooperation, including an acknowledgement that the sanctions vote would occur within three weeks - even under favorable negotiating conditions when it could conceivably have demanded that the UN sanctions process wait on the outcome of the ITB swap - implies that Beijing and Washington achieved an understanding concerning US national sanctions as well.

    Immediately following the announcement of the UN draft, Global Times printed a long, self-justifying background piece by "a knowledgeable party at China's UN Mission in New York".

    At a time when one would think China would be at pains to describe the draft as something forced on it by the United States, the unnamed source goes out of his or her way to describe the weeks of intensive negotiations and 20 bilateral meetings between the US and Chinese representatives that culminated in the draft resolution which it endorsed, with the unequivocal statement: "we have no objections to the draft".

    The source lays out the principles underlying China's agreement to the sanctions process, with the apparent intention that these painstakingly-negotiated conditions should be binding on the US as well as China.

    These should be understood as a signal that China is asserting that the US must observe these principles not only for the drafting of the UN sanctions but in the execution of American national sanctions.

    The key economic points, as described in the Global Times backgrounder:
    China's important interests are maintained. China's important interests are ... in the matters of Iran's energy, trade, and financial sectors. China believes that normal economics and trade should not be punished because of the Iran question nor should those countries that maintain normal, legal economic relations with Iran be punished ... Through negotiations, this point was satisfied, doing a relatively good job of upholding China's ... important interests. [4]
    These remarks - and the remarkably forthright support for the American sanctions position reflected in the Global Times editorials - can therefore be construed as Beijing's public affirmation of the deal China made with the Obama administration to keep national sanctions in check.

    As noted above, at China's insistence, references to Iran's financial and energy sectors were banished to the beginning of the draft resolution, instead of being referenced in the articles outlining actual sanctions - thereby removing the potential justification that harsher US national sanctions were necessary in order to implement the UN security council resolution mandate.

    For its part, the US engaged in spinning of its own to avoid the impression that it had given away the store during the rushed weekend negotiation.

    On the issue of Russia's key military sale to Iran - the S300 anti-aircraft battery that is supposed to give Israel conniptions - the US told its sources that the sale would be banned. The Russians went public with a statement that they could sell it.

    As for the concessions to China, US sources took pains to assert that the Iranian finance and energy sector was still fair game:
    That is enough to pursue companies dealing with either the banks or the energy sector, American officials said. Whenever the negotiations stalled, Ambassador Susan E Rice, the American envoy, warned the Chinese that any measures passed by Congress in the absence of a United Nations resolution would likely have much greater consequences for Chinese banks and its trade relations with the United States, one United Nations diplomat said. [5]
    However, a close parsing of this paragraph seems to indicate that China actually did get what it wanted: Beijing's interests will be targeted if - and only if - China doesn't back the UN sanctions resolution.

    Once the Security Council resolution is out of the way, US national sanctions are coming, as a matter of domestic political necessity and, perhaps, the Obama administration's attempt to entice Israel into the faltering non-proliferation regime by isolating and incapacitating Iran.

    Maximum US national sanctions go far beyond the UN - by design.

    Pounding on Iran and supporting Israel are a matter of great importance in the US Congress.

    A bipartisan Iran sanctions bill - HR 2194: Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act of 2009 - represents the latest iteration in the so far futile pursuit by congress of the sanctions holy grail - a shut down of every global loophole that lets Iran fund its energy development, export oil, and import gasoline.

    The bill has been passed by overwhelming majorities in both houses in slightly different forms and is now in the hands of a conference committee that will produce the final bill for Obama's signature.

    Whether or not the bill includes an explicit exemption for "cooperating countries" (aka China and Russia) as requested by the White House and absolutely detested by pro-Israel and anti-administration hardliners, Obama will have the final discretion in determining what sanctions to apply, and to whom.

    And it appears that it will be very difficult for Obama to sanction China after Beijing's full-throated and politically costly support for UN sanctions.

    That in turn may render moot the vaunted US sanctions against countries and companies involved in Iran's energy sector and supplying gasoline.

    If US companies are sanctioned and China is not - and, under the draft UN sanctions resolution, presumably the maximum that China will accept, Beijing has no obligation to engage in energy and finance sector sanctions - Iran will suffer minimal disruption, China will accrue the maximum benefits, and American companies will be the losers.

    If the United States threatens to unleash Stuart Levey, the US under secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, and Treasury hounds on Chinese banks doing business with Iran, the Obama administration can expect, if not open defiance, a rapidly increasing interest by Beijing in developing-world diplomatic initiatives to defuse the Iran crisis that undercuts the rickety sanctions edifice.

    If, on the other hand, the Obama administration and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates are less interested in pursuing dead-end sanctions than they are in creating the geopolitical space to continue negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program, China's resistance may provide a welcome excuse for moderating the sanctions regime and preventing a slide into confrontation.

    In any case, China, by coming - and staying - on board the sanctions bandwagon on its own terms, makes it much more likely that national as well as UN sanctions will be less stringent than Iran's most ferocious adversaries hope.

    This background is perhaps the best explanation of why Iran's public criticism of China's participation in the UN sanctions resolution exercise has been virtually non-existent.

    China on the inside of the sanctions regime is a much more effective bulwark against aggressive, disruptive sanctions than it could be standing alone with Iran against the US-led campaign.
     
  10. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

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    Sleepwalking with Iran

    Posted By Stephen M. Walt Wednesday, May 26, 2010 - 12:32 PM Share

    I can't figure out who is actually directing U.S. policy toward Iran, but what's striking (and depressing) about it is how utterly unimaginative it seems to be. Ever since last year's presidential election, the United States has been stuck with a policy that might be termed "Bush-lite." We continue to ramp up sanctions that most people know won't work, and we take steps that are likely to reinforce Iranian suspicions and strengthen the clerical regime's hold on power.

    To succeed, a foreign-policy initiative needs to have a clear and achievable objective. The strategy also needs to be internally consistent, so that certain policy steps don't undermine others. The latter requirement is especially important when you are trying to unwind a "spiral" of exaggerated hostility, which is the problem we face with Iran. Given the deep-seated animosity on both sides, any sign of inconsistency on our part will be viewed in the worst possible light by Iran. Indeed, a combination of friendly and threatening gestures may be worse than the latter alone because tentative acts of accommodation will be seen as a trick and will reinforce the idea that the other side is irredeemably deceitful and can never be trusted.

    Unfortunately, the Obama administration's approach to Iran is neither feasible nor consistent. To begin with, our objective -- to persuade Iran to end all nuclear enrichment -- simply isn't achievable. Both the current government and the leaders of the opposition Green Movement are strongly committed to controlling the full nuclear fuel cycle, and the United States will never get the other major powers to impose the sort of "crippling sanctions" it has been seeking for years now. It's not gonna happen folks, or at least not anytime soon.

    We might be able to convince Iran not to develop actual nuclear weapons -- which its leaders claim they don't want to do and have said would be contrary to Islam. I don't know if they really believe this or if an agreement along these lines is possible. I do know that we haven't explored that possibility in any serious way. Instead, the Obama administration has been chasing an impossible dream.

    Furthermore, the U.S. approach to Tehran is deeply inconsistent. Obama has made a big play of extending an "open hand" to Tehran, and he reacted in a fairly measured way to the crackdown on the Greens last summer. But at the same time, the administration has been ratcheting up sanctions and engaging in very public attempt to strengthen security ties in the Gulf region. And earlier this week, we learned that Centcom commander General David Petraeus has authorized more extensive special operations in a number of countries in the region, almost certainly including covert activities in Iran.

    Just imagine how this looks to the Iranian government. They may be paranoid, but sometimes paranoids have real (and powerful) enemies, and we are doing our best to look like one. How would we feel if some other country announced that it was infiltrating special operations forces into the United States, in order to gather intelligence, collect targeting information, or maybe even build networks of disgruntled Americans who wanted to overthrow our government or maybe just sabotage a few government installations? We'd definitely view it as a threat or even an act of war, and we'd certainly react harshly against whomever we thought was responsible. So when you wonder why oil- and gas-rich Iran might be interested in some sort of nuclear deterrent (even if only a latent capability), think about what you'd do if you were in their shoes.

    Third, when Turkey and Brazil launched an independent effort to resurrect the earlier deal for a swap for some of Iran's stockpile of low-enriched uranium, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton rushed to condemn it and hastily announced a watered-down set of new sanctions. As I said last week, the Turkey-Brazil deal had real limitations and was at best a small first step toward restarting more serious talks. But trashing it as we did merely conveys that we aren't interested in genuine negotiations, and probably ticked off Turkey and Brazil to no good purpose. The smarter play would have been to welcome the deal cautiously but highlight its limitations, and let the onus for any subsequent failure fall on Iran instead of us.

    Why is U.S. policy stuck in this particular rut? In part because this is a hard problem; one doesn't unwind three decades of mutual suspicion by making a speech or two or sending a friendly holiday greeting, and sometimes success requires a lot of perseverance. But I think there are two other problems at work.

    The first is the mindset that seems to have taken hold in the Obama administration. As near as I can tell, they believe Iran is dead set on acquiring nuclear weapons and that Iran will lie and cheat and prevaricate long enough to get across the nuclear threshold. Given that assumption, there isn't much point in trying to negotiate any sort of "grand bargain" between Iran and the West, and especially not one that left them with an enrichment capability (even one under strict IAEA safeguards). This view may be correct, but if it is, then our effort to ratchet up sanctions is futile and just makes it more likely that other Iranians will blame us for their sufferings. Here I am in rare (if only partial) agreement with Tom Friedman: Maybe our focus ought to shift from our current obsession with Iran's nuclear program and focus on human rights issues instead (though it is harder for Washington to do that without looking pretty darn hypocritical).

    A second explanation is some combination of inside-the-Beltway groupthink and ordinary bureaucratic conservatism. For anyone currently working in Washington, a hard line on Iran and defending our longstanding policy of confrontation is a very safe position to support. No one will accuse you of being a naive appeaser; you'll have plenty of bureaucratic allies, and you'll retain your reputation as a tough and reliable defender of U.S. interests.

    By contrast, any government official who proposed taking the threat of force off the table, who publicly admitted that sanctions wouldn't work, who acknowledged that we probably can't stop Iran from getting the bomb if it really wants to, or who recommended a much more far-reaching effort at finding common ground would be taking a significant career risk. And you'd be virtually certain to get smeared by unrepentent neocons and other hawks who favor the use of military force. So there's little incentive for insiders to contemplate -- let alone propose -- a different approach to this issue, even though our current policy is looking more and more like the failed policies of the previous administration.

    Although I obviously can't be certain, I don't think there will be an open war with Iran. I think that enough influential people realize just how much trouble this would cause us and that they will continue to resist calls for "kinetic action." (Of course, I also thought that about Iraq back in 2001, and look what happened there.) But U.S.-Iranian relations aren't going to improve much either, and we'll end up devoting more time and effort to this problem than it deserves. But who cares? It's not as if the United States has any other problems on its foreign-policy agenda, right?
     
  11. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

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    Secretary Clinton's cold shoulder on the Iranian fuel-swap deal

    Posted By Alastair Crooke Wednesday, May 26, 2010 - 5:53 PM Share

    This week saw Iran formally submit its fuel-swap proposal, brokered by Turkey and Brazil last week, to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Yet it is important to recall the curt response of U.S. Secretary Hillary Clinton to the initiative to resolve the Iranian nuclear standoff and the far-reaching repercussions it is likely to have in the region. Indeed, just one week before the Turkish-Brazilian initiative, U.S. officials reiterated that the fuel-swap proposal for the Tehran Research Reactor (TRR) -- a confidence-building initiative that was designed to open the way to Iranian negotiations with the West on a range of issues -- was still on the table and that its terms could not be altered. The 20 percent enriched uranium that would be returned to Iran was earmarked to fuel a fully safeguarded reactor which produces isotopes for the treatment primarily of cancer. Previously, Iran purchased the necessary fuel on the open market.

    Now, as Iran moved to accept the terms "that was still on the table," Clinton responded that this was not enough. She raised the bar on negotiations with a new precondition to talks and asserted it in a tone that was intended as a slap in the face for Brazil and Turkey. U.S. officials belittled the new initiative as naive and to hammer home the point, brought forward a new draft sanctions resolution to the Security Council. An affronted Turkish foreign minister was adamant that Clinton had been briefed on his initiative from the start. In retrospect, it is clear that the United States simply had gambled on Ahmet Davutoglu's "certain" failure.

    The Turkish-Brazilian fuel-swap agreement, however, was no small achievement. Iran has experienced a history of canceled or delayed projects, and of access to the nuclear infrastructure to which it was entitled denied (e.g., Iran's $1 billion investment in an Eurodif uranium enrichment facility in France). For Iran to have acceded to the Turkish-Brazilian plan was a tremendous leap of faith for Iran and a tribute to the Turkish and Brazilian style of diplomacy.

    What Iran did in negotiations with Turkey and Brazil was to accept the main elements of the original proposal mediated by Mohamed ElBaradei, the then director of the IAEA: Iran agreed to transfer of all 1,200 kilos of low-enriched uranium (LEU) out of Iran within one month. In exchange, Iran was to receive 20 percent enriched TRR fuel, one year later. In response, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley commented: "... the United States continues to have concerns about the arrangement. The joint declaration does not address the core concerns of the international community. Iran remains in defiance of five U.N. Security Council resolutions, including its unwillingness to suspend enrichment operations." Shortly thereafter, Crowley added that "public statements today suggest that the TRR deal is unrelated to its [Iran's] ongoing enrichment activity. In fact, they are integrally linked."

    This strongly implies that the problem with the Brazil-Turkey-Iran uranium swap is that the agreement does not provide for Iran to suspend its enrichment activities: that the TRR refueling swap is "integrally linked" (i.e., conditional on the suspension of enrichment).

    This "linkage" never was a part of the earlier proposal and constitutes a new condition. The original swap agreement, tentatively accepted in October 2009 by Iran, included no such linkage. If it had, Iran would never have accepted it. This first proposal too was conceived as a confidence-building measure. In fact, the lack of linkage was the very reason that Iran tentatively accepted the October offer, for it was widely interpreted as a tacit U.S. acknowledgment of Iran's right to enrich uranium as per the provisions of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). It was, after all, LEU produced at Natanz that was to be swapped for new fuel cells, and there was no provision in the agreement that Iran was required to cease such enrichment.

    Now, according to Crowley, the refueling of the research reactor was "integrally linked" with the suspension of enrichment activities. Near the end of the State Department transcript, when he was being pressed about whether the United States would be willing to sit down with Iran to discuss the swap, Crowley says: "Iran has to come forward ultimately and indicate that it is willing per U.N. Security Council resolutions to suspend its enrichment program while we work with Iran on how it can pursue its fundamental right to civilian nuclear energy."

    In other words, the United States is insisting that Iran must agree to suspend enrichment before talks can begin. From the Iranian perspective, the Islamic Republic has traveled this route (of suspension) before: It agreed to suspend enrichment for two and a half years in response to a demand by the EU-3, but this gesture led nowhere (the EU-3 demanded permanent suspension, rather than attempt to safeguard Iranian low enrichment).

    Their gesture of temporary suspension came to be viewed as an error by the Iranians: The EU-3 pocketed the temporary suspension and saw the purpose of negotiations to be no more than to ensure its permanence. Iranians however had little confidence in the European "guarantees" of alternative fuel supplies, over which the West would maintain control, nor in their "security" assurances from which the United States deliberately stood aloof.

    Although the new U.S. and EU-3 U.N. sanctions resolution has been watered down in response to Chinese and Russian demands, its language has been carefully worded to allow France, Britain, and Germany to build a more "crippling" superstructure of voluntary sanctions on the loose U.N. framework -- for a new "coalition of the willing" of European states.

    The consequences of the U.S. move to deride others' efforts and to cut direct to sanctions procedures without exploring the Turkish "opening" is likely to be far reaching:

    The Turkish-Brazilian diplomatic success will be seen throughout the Middle East to demonstrate that it is possible, contrary to most Western commentary, to engage with Iran diplomatically. The dismissive, curt U.S. response has already swayed sentiment and will foster suspicion of U.S. and its allies' ultimate intentions toward Iran. It is now less likely that the Untied States and its European allies in the Security Council will succeed in achieving an Security Council consensus vote on their sanctions draft: What will the United States and its allies, including Israel, do next? More coercive action?
    The shadow of suspicion cast will also extend to President Barack Obama's wider nuclear ambitions. Clinton's response implies that the five nuclear weapons-holding states are intent on unilateral change to the terms of the NPT. The attempt to close the so-called "loophole" of the non-weapons states' right to enrich represents a major breach of the original pillars and understandings of the treaty. Other states, such as Brazil, are likely to contest this pre-emption of one of the basic pillars underlying the NPT, while weapons-states continue to maintain huge stockpiles of weapons, in conflict with the NPT disarmament pillar.
    Secretary Clinton's cold shower may seem to have closed the avenue to any subsequent U.S. diplomatic engagement with Iran, but Iran's low-key response suggests that Iran can observe the deteriorating situation in Iraq and Afghanistan, and wonders whether America may yet have to eat humble pie -- and seek Iranian help.
     
  12. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

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    Iran and Russia Exchange Acerbic Barbs on Sanctions


    MOSCOW — Russia and Iran publicly traded barbs on Wednesday, showing strains in their longstanding alliance because of Moscow’s support for a new set of American-backed sanctions over the Iranian nuclear programDuring a televised speech in Iran, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad lashed out at his Russian counterparts, who last week agreed, along with the other permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, on the draft language for the proposed new sanctions, which would punish Iranian financial institutions and countries that offer Iran nuclear-related technology.

    “We do not like to see our neighbor supporting those who have shown animosity to us for 30 years,” Mr. Ahmadinejad said in the speech broadcast from the southern city of Kerman. “This is not acceptable for the Iranian nation. I hope they will pay attention and take corrective action.”

    “If I were in the place of Russian officials, I would adopt a more careful stance,” he said.

    The comments came a day after Iran’s ambassador to Moscow said he hoped Russia would dissuade the other Council members from imposing sanctions, and warned that Russia risked manipulation by the United States.

    “Russia should not think that short-term cooperation with the United States is in its interest,” said the ambassador, Mahmoud-Reza Sajjadi. “The green light the United States is showing Russia will not last long.”

    A top Kremlin aide said Wednesday that Russia was guided by its own long-term interests, and that “our position can be neither pro-American, nor pro-Iranian.”

    The aide, Sergei Prikhodko, went on to say that Russia rejected extremism and unpredictability in the global arena, and that “those who speak on behalf of the fraternal people of Iran” should not forget this.

    “No one has ever managed to save his authority by making use of political demagoguery,” Mr. Prikhodko said in remarks carried by Interfax, a Russian news agency. “And I am sure that the thousand-year-long history of Iran itself proves that.”

    Russia has historically opposed sanctions against Iran, which it considers an important regional ally. That position began to shift late last year when Iranian leaders rejected a United Nations-brokered uranium enrichment plan, which Russia had helped draft, to defuse the standoff over Iran’s nuclear program.

    With the threat of sanctions looming, Iran revived elements of the proposed compromise, striking a deal with Brazil and Turkey this month to send parts of its stockpile of enriched uranium abroad for further processing.

    But that new agreement is also causing friction, particularly between the United States and Brazil. Angry at Washington’s dismissal of the deal, Brazilian officials on Wednesday provided a full copy of the three-page letter President Obama sent to President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of Brazil in April, arguing that it laid the groundwork for the agreement they reached in Tehran.

    “There continues to be some puzzlement” among Brazilian officials about why American official would reject the deal now, a senior Brazilian official said. “The letter came from the highest authority and was very clear.”

    In the letter, Mr. Obama wrote that an agreement by Iran to transfer about 2,600 pounds of low-enriched uranium out of the country “would build confidence and reduce regional tensions by substantially reducing Iran’s” uranium stockpile. But he also made clear that the United States would continue to pursue sanctions while leaving the “door open to engagement with Iran.”

    Susan E. Rice, the American ambassador to the United Nations, said the letter from Mr. Obama to Mr. da Silva should not be taken in isolation. “No one document or discussion captures the totality of the discussion and their mutual understanding,” she said.

    A number of countries led by the United States suspect that Iran has been enriching uranium because it wants nuclear weapons. The Security Council has repeatedly told Iran to halt the enrichment. The Iranians have ignored the demand, saying they are within their rights to enrich uranium to relatively low levels for use in reactors.

    Last week, Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, offered cautious support for a draft Security Council resolution that would impose a fourth set of sanctions on Iran. But he emphasized that the draft needed approval from the council’s nonpermanent members, and he encouraged Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to consider Tehran’s newest proposal to enrich uranium in Turkey.

    Tension has also been building between Moscow and Tehran over a proposed sale of S-300 antiaircraft missiles to Tehran, a contract that Russia has suspended but not canceled. Washington has pressed Moscow not to deliver the weapons, which could help Iran shoot down American or Israeli warplanes should either try to bomb its nuclear facilities.

    Alexei Barrionuevo contributed reporting from Rio de Janeiro.
     
  13. Pintu

    Pintu New Member

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    http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5iijfYgMUu7W_-ZKg8BjH5QNTww5QD9G20TA00

    IAEA report reduces chances of Iran fuel swap deal

    By GEORGE JAHN (AP) – 20 hours ago

    VIENNA — Iran has amassed more than two tons of enriched uranium, the U.N. atomic agency said Monday in a report that heightened Western concerns about the country developing the ability to produce a nuclear weapon.

    Two tons of uranium would be enough for two nuclear warheads, although Iran says it does not want weapons and is only pursuing civilian nuclear energy.

    The U.S. and the four other permanent U.N. Security Council members — Russia, China, Britain and France — have tentatively backed a draft fourth set of U.N. sanctions against Iran over its refusal to stop enriching uranium.

    Separately, the International Atomic Energy Agency — the U.N. nuclear watchdog — said Syria continues to stonewall agency reports to follow up on U.S. assertions that a facility destroyed three years ago by Israeli warplanes was a secretly built reactor meant to produce plutonium.

    "Syria has not cooperated with the agency since June 2008" on most aspects of its investigation, according to the IAEA's Syria report. But it noted that Syria has admitted to small-scale nuclear experiments that it had previously not owned up to.

    Syria denies allegations it was being helped by Iran and North Korea in developing a covert program.

    But diplomats familiar with the Syria probe told The Associated Press of a visit to Syria in January by a high-ranking Iranian nuclear delegation led by Mahdi Kaniki, a deputy to Ali Akhbar Salehi, an Iranian deputy president and head of his country's nuclear program. The two diplomats asked for anonymity because their information was confidential.

    For seven months, Iran refused to accept a deal brokered by the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency that foresaw Iran exporting 2,640 pounds (1,200 kilograms) of low-enriched uranium to Russia and France to be turned into fuel for Tehran's research reactor.

    The West backed that offer because it would have committed Iran to exporting most of the enriched uranium it had produced and left it with less than the 2,200 pounds (1,000 kilograms) of material needed to produce enough weapons-grade uranium for a bomb.

    Iran rejected the offer then but now says it is ready to ship out the same amount of material and has enlisted the backing of Turkey and Brazil in trying to reach a compromise and derail the new sanctions push.

    Iran insists it has no interest in nuclear weapons. But its refusal to stop enrichment — which can create both nuclear fuel and warhead material — and its stonewalling of IAEA efforts to investigate suspicions it is interested in developing such arms have increased international worry.

    The restricted International Atomic Energy Agency report said that the IAEA "remains concerned about the possible existence in Iran of past or current undisclosed nuclear related activities, involving military related organizations, including activities related to the development of a nuclear payload for a missile."

    On enrichment, the report made available to the AP shortly after release to the U.N. Security Council and the IAEA's 35-nation board said Iran had now enriched 2,427 kilograms to just over three percent level.

    That means shipping out 2,640 pounds (1,200 kilograms) now would still leave Iran with more than enough material to make a nuclear weapon. That makes the deal unattractive to the U.S and its allies

    The report confirmed that Iran continues a separate program of small-scale enrichment of uranium, using 3.5 percent feedstock and enriching to near 20 percent — another hurdle for the West. Iran could produce weapons grade uranium much more quickly from the 20 percent level, making the separate program another hurdle to any fuel swap deal.

    The U.S. and its allies view Tehran's insistence on continuing higher enrichment even as it offers to accept the swap deal with suspicion since it originally said it had to enrich to 20 percent as the first step in making fuel for the Tehran research reactor.

    The IAEA also said that equipment had been removed from a laboratory it was investigating, confirming a report last week to the AP from diplomats familiar with the issue.

    At issue is pyroprocessing, a procedure that can be used to purify uranium metal used in nuclear warheads.

    In January, Iran told the agency that it had carried out pyroprocessing experiments, prompting a request from the nuclear agency for more information — but then backtracked in March and denied conducting such activities.

    IAEA experts last month revisited the site — the Jabr Ibn Jayan Multipurpose Research Laboratory in Tehran — only to establish "that the electrochemical cell had been removed" from the unit used in the experiments, said the report.
     

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