Showing posts tagged as "iran"

Showing posts tagged iran

8 Jul
Iran’s Supreme Leader calls for more enrichment capacity | Michelle Moghtader and Fredrik Dahl
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Tuesday Iran would need to significantly increase its uranium enrichment capacity, underlining a gap in positions between Tehran and world powers as they hold talks aimed at clinching a nuclear accord.
Iran and six major powers - the United States, Russia, France, Germany, China and Britain - have less than two weeks to bridge wide differences on the future scope of Iran’s enrichment program and other issues if they are to meet a self-imposed July 20 deadline for a deal.
They resumed talks in Vienna last week and their negotiators continued meetings in the Austrian capital on Tuesday; but there was no immediate sign of any substantive progress.
FULL ARTICLE (Reuters)
Photo: Aslan Media/flickr

Iran’s Supreme Leader calls for more enrichment capacity | Michelle Moghtader and Fredrik Dahl

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Tuesday Iran would need to significantly increase its uranium enrichment capacity, underlining a gap in positions between Tehran and world powers as they hold talks aimed at clinching a nuclear accord.

Iran and six major powers - the United States, Russia, France, Germany, China and Britain - have less than two weeks to bridge wide differences on the future scope of Iran’s enrichment program and other issues if they are to meet a self-imposed July 20 deadline for a deal.

They resumed talks in Vienna last week and their negotiators continued meetings in the Austrian capital on Tuesday; but there was no immediate sign of any substantive progress.

FULL ARTICLE (Reuters)

Photo: Aslan Media/flickr

3 Jul
Amid push for Iran nuclear deal, 2 sides maneuver to shift any blame | Paul Richter
Six world powers and Iran began a three-week push Wednesday to complete a deal aimed at stopping Tehran from building a nuclear bomb, but they also started positioning themselves to deflect blame if negotiations collapse.
With the talks in Vienna gridlocked since mid-May, senior Iranian and U.S. officials have stepped up claims that they made every effort to reach a compromise while the other side pressed unrealistic demands that made an agreement impossible.
After Secretary of State John F. Kerry wrote an op-ed article urging Iran to make new concessions, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif put out a YouTube video Wednesday in which he said the West pursued “a game of chicken in an attempt to extract last-minute concessions.”
FULL ARTICLE (L.A. Times)
Photo: European External Action Service/flickr

Amid push for Iran nuclear deal, 2 sides maneuver to shift any blame | Paul Richter

Six world powers and Iran began a three-week push Wednesday to complete a deal aimed at stopping Tehran from building a nuclear bomb, but they also started positioning themselves to deflect blame if negotiations collapse.

With the talks in Vienna gridlocked since mid-May, senior Iranian and U.S. officials have stepped up claims that they made every effort to reach a compromise while the other side pressed unrealistic demands that made an agreement impossible.

After Secretary of State John F. Kerry wrote an op-ed article urging Iran to make new concessions, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif put out a YouTube video Wednesday in which he said the West pursued “a game of chicken in an attempt to extract last-minute concessions.”

FULL ARTICLE (L.A. Times)

Photo: European External Action Service/flickr

20 Jun
False Dilemmas in the Iran Talks | Ali Vaez
Despite some stumbles, the Iran nuclear talks resuming in Vienna this week may yet yield an accord that could end the prolonged crisis. But the promise of success could turn into colossal failure, particularly if both sides cling to equally dubious preoccupations over “breakout time” and “irreversible sanctions relief.”
The nuclear talks have a “very real chance,” as President Obama put it, of yielding a deal. This is mostly because last year the parties finally got beyond the faux obstacle of Iran’s claim of its “right to enrichment.” For nearly a decade, diplomatic forays to resolve the Iranian crisis went nowhere. Tehran, in a hair-splitting interpretation, claimed that the right to enrichment is enshrined in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), to which it is a party. The West countered that there was no such right—and even if there were, Iran had forfeited it by violating its obligations.
The disagreement was a chimera. There is no resolution to it in the NPT. The legalistic quarrel cloaked the real issue: the geostrategic rivalry between Iran and the West.
The parties eventually acknowledged this, after years of mutual escalation that only brought them closer to conflict, not to their objectives. Both reconceptualized the issue. Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif announced last fall, “We see no need for [Iran’s right to enrichment] to be recognized as ‘a right,’ because this right is inalienable.” The West, in turn, implicitly recognized that no agreement is possible unless it allows Iran to retain some enrichment capability.
Thus, the conceptual obstacle, apparently insurmountable, was bypassed. The landmark interim agreement signed last November halted the prolonged race of sanctions against centrifuges. It also created breathing space for tackling longer-term concerns, including Iran’s future uranium-enrichment capacity and sanctions relief.
But now that the parties are negotiating a comprehensive agreement, they have trapped themselves in a new debate—again an artificial one. The P5+1 is obsessed with the concept of “breakout time,” the time required to enrich enough uranium to weapons grade for one bomb. To lengthen it, the group is trying to define Iran’s “practical needs” for enriched uranium as minimally as possible. By contrast, Iran, having invested enormous resources and pride in its enrichment program, is trying to define those needs in maximal terms.
The negotiations will not get far debating over “needs,” which are ultimately a matter of interpretation. By the same token, breakout calculations are rough and purely theoretical guesstimates. They ignore time-consuming preparatory steps, inevitable technical glitches, the unpredictable weaponization process, the strategic and military illogic of breaking out with a single untested weapon, and the many convolutions of political decision making. Reducing a complex process to a one-dimensional race against time distorts reality, and overlooks competing interests and the natural tendency to avoid risk—including the nonnegligible risk of being caught.
In any conceivable final agreement, rigorous monitoring mechanisms would significantly increase the chance of immediately detecting any attempt to reconfirm how centrifuges are interconnected—a necessary step for enriching to weapons grade and the first in a breakout. Under the eyes of the UN nuclear watchdog, any such venture would have to be brazen and thus constitute the kind of infringement likely to expedite and, to some extent, legitimize a firm response.
Defining a tolerable breakout limit is thus less a technical exercise than a political judgment; as a metric, it is an unrealistic basis for a durable agreement and sound policy.
Iran, meanwhile, is committed to a different yet equally unhelpful idea: the reversibility of sanctions relief. Arguing that suspending (as opposed to lifting) U.S. sanctions would leave Tehran vulnerable to congressional activism or changing political winds in Washington, it is willing to discuss only measures that would permanently lift sanctions. In reality, however, no measures can be permanent, as Congress can reimpose sanctions at will. Nor are Iran’s nuclear concessions any more irreversible, given the country’s now-indigenous know-how.
It might be too late to eliminate these unhelpful concepts, as they have become mainstream. What is needed, rather, is a compromise that satisfies both sides’ irreducible, bottom-line requirements: for Iran, a meaningful enrichment program, continued scientific advancement and tangible sanctions relief; for the P5+1, a firewall between Iran’s civilian and potential military nuclear capabilities, airtight monitoring mechanisms, and sufficient time and Iranian cooperation to establish the exclusively peaceful nature of the country’s nuclear program. Such a solution would enable both parties to sell the deal at home and would serve as a springboard to a different kind of relationship.
The only way to clinch this elusive deal is for both sides to acknowledge the price the other has paid for accumulating its leverage. The P5+1 must come to terms with the fact that it will not be able to diminish Iran’s enrichment program to irrelevance. Similarly, Iran should understand that sanctions will not dissipate overnight. Otherwise, what appears as an opportunity will turn out to be a mirage.
Ali Vaez is the International Crisis Group’s Senior Analyst for Iran.
ORIGINAL ARTICLE (The National Interest)
Photo: UN Geneva/flickr

False Dilemmas in the Iran Talks | Ali Vaez

Despite some stumbles, the Iran nuclear talks resuming in Vienna this week may yet yield an accord that could end the prolonged crisis. But the promise of success could turn into colossal failure, particularly if both sides cling to equally dubious preoccupations over “breakout time” and “irreversible sanctions relief.”

The nuclear talks have a “very real chance,” as President Obama put it, of yielding a deal. This is mostly because last year the parties finally got beyond the faux obstacle of Iran’s claim of its “right to enrichment.” For nearly a decade, diplomatic forays to resolve the Iranian crisis went nowhere. Tehran, in a hair-splitting interpretation, claimed that the right to enrichment is enshrined in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), to which it is a party. The West countered that there was no such right—and even if there were, Iran had forfeited it by violating its obligations.

The disagreement was a chimera. There is no resolution to it in the NPT. The legalistic quarrel cloaked the real issue: the geostrategic rivalry between Iran and the West.

The parties eventually acknowledged this, after years of mutual escalation that only brought them closer to conflict, not to their objectives. Both reconceptualized the issue. Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif announced last fall, “We see no need for [Iran’s right to enrichment] to be recognized as ‘a right,’ because this right is inalienable.” The West, in turn, implicitly recognized that no agreement is possible unless it allows Iran to retain some enrichment capability.

Thus, the conceptual obstacle, apparently insurmountable, was bypassed. The landmark interim agreement signed last November halted the prolonged race of sanctions against centrifuges. It also created breathing space for tackling longer-term concerns, including Iran’s future uranium-enrichment capacity and sanctions relief.

But now that the parties are negotiating a comprehensive agreement, they have trapped themselves in a new debate—again an artificial one. The P5+1 is obsessed with the concept of “breakout time,” the time required to enrich enough uranium to weapons grade for one bomb. To lengthen it, the group is trying to define Iran’s “practical needs” for enriched uranium as minimally as possible. By contrast, Iran, having invested enormous resources and pride in its enrichment program, is trying to define those needs in maximal terms.

The negotiations will not get far debating over “needs,” which are ultimately a matter of interpretation. By the same token, breakout calculations are rough and purely theoretical guesstimates. They ignore time-consuming preparatory steps, inevitable technical glitches, the unpredictable weaponization process, the strategic and military illogic of breaking out with a single untested weapon, and the many convolutions of political decision making. Reducing a complex process to a one-dimensional race against time distorts reality, and overlooks competing interests and the natural tendency to avoid risk—including the nonnegligible risk of being caught.

In any conceivable final agreement, rigorous monitoring mechanisms would significantly increase the chance of immediately detecting any attempt to reconfirm how centrifuges are interconnected—a necessary step for enriching to weapons grade and the first in a breakout. Under the eyes of the UN nuclear watchdog, any such venture would have to be brazen and thus constitute the kind of infringement likely to expedite and, to some extent, legitimize a firm response.

Defining a tolerable breakout limit is thus less a technical exercise than a political judgment; as a metric, it is an unrealistic basis for a durable agreement and sound policy.

Iran, meanwhile, is committed to a different yet equally unhelpful idea: the reversibility of sanctions relief. Arguing that suspending (as opposed to lifting) U.S. sanctions would leave Tehran vulnerable to congressional activism or changing political winds in Washington, it is willing to discuss only measures that would permanently lift sanctions. In reality, however, no measures can be permanent, as Congress can reimpose sanctions at will. Nor are Iran’s nuclear concessions any more irreversible, given the country’s now-indigenous know-how.

It might be too late to eliminate these unhelpful concepts, as they have become mainstream. What is needed, rather, is a compromise that satisfies both sides’ irreducible, bottom-line requirements: for Iran, a meaningful enrichment program, continued scientific advancement and tangible sanctions relief; for the P5+1, a firewall between Iran’s civilian and potential military nuclear capabilities, airtight monitoring mechanisms, and sufficient time and Iranian cooperation to establish the exclusively peaceful nature of the country’s nuclear program. Such a solution would enable both parties to sell the deal at home and would serve as a springboard to a different kind of relationship.

The only way to clinch this elusive deal is for both sides to acknowledge the price the other has paid for accumulating its leverage. The P5+1 must come to terms with the fact that it will not be able to diminish Iran’s enrichment program to irrelevance. Similarly, Iran should understand that sanctions will not dissipate overnight. Otherwise, what appears as an opportunity will turn out to be a mirage.

Ali Vaez is the International Crisis Group’s Senior Analyst for Iran.

ORIGINAL ARTICLE (The National Interest)

Photo: UN Geneva/flickr

18 Jun
Iranian Intervention in Iraq Would Be Risky | Aryn Baker
As U.S. President Barack Obama considers his limited options in Iraq, the United States is considering holding talks with Iran later this week on how to counter the militant threat. Both the U.S. and Iran have said they will provide qualified military support to the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, should he request it, a turn of events that could suddenly see the two foes fighting on the same side. But while such an alignment might improve the relationship between the U.S. and Iran going forward, Iranian military assistance in Iraq carries substantial risks. Done improperly, it could inflame sectarian tensions or even start an all-out war in the region.
The rapid advance of the Sunni militant group, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), into Iraq’s Sunni-dominated north was a result partly of local dissatisfaction with the Shi’ite-dominated central government in Baghdad. Iraq’s Sunni minority, which had ruled Iraq for decades until the fall of the Sunni dictator President Saddam Hussein in 2003, still seethes with resentment over what they see as their loss of power and dignity. Many dismiss Maliki as an Iranian stooge, set in place to advance Shi’ite interests in the name of a greater Iranian plot to extend Iran’s influence across the region. “Iranian troops operating in Iraq will confirm everything the Sunnis have always suspected, that the Maliki regime is an extension of Iranian power. So it will become a self-fulfilling dynamic,” warns Peter Harling, Middle East Project Director of the International Crisis Group.
FULL ARTICLE (TIME)
Photo: World Economic Forum/flickr

Iranian Intervention in Iraq Would Be Risky | Aryn Baker

As U.S. President Barack Obama considers his limited options in Iraq, the United States is considering holding talks with Iran later this week on how to counter the militant threat. Both the U.S. and Iran have said they will provide qualified military support to the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, should he request it, a turn of events that could suddenly see the two foes fighting on the same side. But while such an alignment might improve the relationship between the U.S. and Iran going forward, Iranian military assistance in Iraq carries substantial risks. Done improperly, it could inflame sectarian tensions or even start an all-out war in the region.

The rapid advance of the Sunni militant group, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), into Iraq’s Sunni-dominated north was a result partly of local dissatisfaction with the Shi’ite-dominated central government in Baghdad. Iraq’s Sunni minority, which had ruled Iraq for decades until the fall of the Sunni dictator President Saddam Hussein in 2003, still seethes with resentment over what they see as their loss of power and dignity. Many dismiss Maliki as an Iranian stooge, set in place to advance Shi’ite interests in the name of a greater Iranian plot to extend Iran’s influence across the region. “Iranian troops operating in Iraq will confirm everything the Sunnis have always suspected, that the Maliki regime is an extension of Iranian power. So it will become a self-fulfilling dynamic,” warns Peter Harling, Middle East Project Director of the International Crisis Group.

FULL ARTICLE (TIME)

Photo: World Economic Forum/flickr

27 May

Senior Analyst Ali Vaez looks at the way forward in the nuclear negotiations between Iran and the P5+1.

Senior Analyst Ali Vaez explains the real power behind sanctions.

Senior Analyst Ali Vaez explains the recent progress in nuclear negotiations between Iran and the P5+1.

7 May

Ever wonder what it’s like to work for Crisis Group?

In this video, travel with Crisis Group analysts as they investigate conflicts in the field and offer creative solutions.

14 Apr
Iran’s Leaders Still Touting Nuclear Progress | Jay Solomon 
A senior cleric delivering a nationally televised sermon urged a crowd that included former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the head of Iran’s nuclear energy organization to observe sexual piety, aid the poor and support Iran’s development of nuclear power.
"This technology is progressing our nation," Ayatollah Imami Kashani said at weekly Friday prayers at the University of Tehran. "Our enemies are against such progress."
The sermon, like other speeches and television appearances by senior leaders recently, offered few signs the government is conditioning Iranians for any major limitations on nuclear work. But in talks Iran is pursuing with world powers, U.S. and European officials are aiming to significantly scale back Iran’s nuclear capabilities to guard against development of nuclear weapons—something Tehran denies that it seeks.
FULL ARTICLE (Wall Street Journal)
Photo: AslanMedia/flickr

Iran’s Leaders Still Touting Nuclear Progress | Jay Solomon 

A senior cleric delivering a nationally televised sermon urged a crowd that included former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the head of Iran’s nuclear energy organization to observe sexual piety, aid the poor and support Iran’s development of nuclear power.

"This technology is progressing our nation," Ayatollah Imami Kashani said at weekly Friday prayers at the University of Tehran. "Our enemies are against such progress."

The sermon, like other speeches and television appearances by senior leaders recently, offered few signs the government is conditioning Iranians for any major limitations on nuclear work. But in talks Iran is pursuing with world powers, U.S. and European officials are aiming to significantly scale back Iran’s nuclear capabilities to guard against development of nuclear weapons—something Tehran denies that it seeks.

FULL ARTICLE (Wall Street Journal)

Photo: AslanMedia/flickr

11 Apr
Negotiators at halfway point, move to drafting phase of Iran deal talks | Laura Rozen
Iran and six world powers have advanced through the first phase of comprehensive nuclear talks and are preparing to shift into the next phase of drafting a final deal accord starting at the next meeting in May, negotiators said in Vienna Wednesday.
“We have now held substantive and detailed discussions covering all the issues which will need to be part of a Comprehensive Agreement,” European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said in a joint statement with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif at the conclusion of the third round of talks in Vienna Wednesday.
“A lot of intensive work will be required to overcome the differences which naturally still exist at this stage in the process,” Ashton said, in a statement subsequently delivered by Zarif in Persian.
FULL ARTICLE (Al-Monitor)
Photo: Örlygur Hnefill/Flickr

Negotiators at halfway point, move to drafting phase of Iran deal talks | Laura Rozen

Iran and six world powers have advanced through the first phase of comprehensive nuclear talks and are preparing to shift into the next phase of drafting a final deal accord starting at the next meeting in May, negotiators said in Vienna Wednesday.

“We have now held substantive and detailed discussions covering all the issues which will need to be part of a Comprehensive Agreement,” European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said in a joint statement with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif at the conclusion of the third round of talks in Vienna Wednesday.

“A lot of intensive work will be required to overcome the differences which naturally still exist at this stage in the process,” Ashton said, in a statement subsequently delivered by Zarif in Persian.

FULL ARTICLE (Al-Monitor)

Photo: Örlygur Hnefill/Flickr