Proliferation Press

A webpage devoted to tracking and analyzing current events related to the proliferation of WMD/CBRN.

Archive for the ‘Iran’ Category

Gulf Nations Offer Iran A Sweetheart Deal, But US Options Remain Grim

Posted by K.E. White on November 1, 2007

Six Gulf nations—Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates—have proposed supplying Iran with uranium. This proposal, very similar to an earlier, rejected Russian offer, could end Western worries over Iran’s nuclear program.

But will Iran accept the deal?

From BBC News:

Gulf states are willing to set up a body to provide enriched uranium to Iran, Saudi Arabia‘s foreign minister is reported to have said.

Prince Saud al-Faisal told the Middle East Economic Digest (MEED) the plan could defuse Tehran’s stand-off with the West over its nuclear programme.

The prince was quoted as saying that Iran was considering the Gulf states’ offer, but the US was not involved.

The BBC’s Paul Reynolds says it is doubtful the plan will go anywhere.

Such a deal would fall in line with other Gulf nations aspirations for nuclear energy. From AFP:

Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Libya and Yemen as well as the six GCC states have all said that they want to pursue peaceful nuclear projects.

Faisal told MEED he believed the new plant “should be in a neutral country — Switzerland, for instance.”

“Any plant in the Middle East that needs enriched uranium would get its quota. I don’t think other Arab states would refuse. In fact, since the decision of the GCC to enter into this industry, the other Arab countries have expressed a desire to be part of the proposal.”

Mil Arcega illustrates the policy conundrum American officials face in dealing with Iran, regardless of whether or not they agree with the White House’s current saber-rattling approach:

Some Republicans say the tough talk is necessary. But Republican Congressman Christopher Shays says economic sanctions against Iran’s military and its banking institutions need to be tempered by open dialogue. “It is time for us to start talking with Iran, diplomat to diplomat, politician to politician, and person to person.”

The White House says it has exhausted diplomatic efforts and last week imposed sweeping economic sanctions — targeting Iran’s banking institutions and the country’s elite military branch. The sanctions are meant to hamper Iran’s ability to conduct business internationally and reduce the influence of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, which U.S. officials accuse of providing weapons to Iraqi militants.

But Karim Sadjapour, a Middle East expert with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, says U.S. actions could backfire unless the U.S. can convince Iranians that abandoning its nuclear program will bring peace and stability to the region. “Increasingly, Iranians look next door and they say if the choice is between what we see in Iraq — democracy and carnage — and what we have now, which is authoritarianism and security, we will choose the latter.”

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Posted in America, deal, Iran, Karim Sadjapour, Middle East Economic Digest, Nuclear, Prince Saud al-Faisal, United States | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Putin’s Nuclear Proposal To Iran

Posted by K.E. White on October 18, 2007

Why were Putin and Ahmadinejad smiling so much? 

Could it have been owing to a break through on Iran’s nuclear program? 

The Associated Press reports on this nuclear speculation:

Russian President Vladimir Putin made an unspecified proposal about Iran’s nuclear program at a private meeting with the country’s supreme leader during a brief trip to Tehran, Iran’s state news agency said Wednesday.

Russian officials could not immediately be reached to verify the report and the Iranian news agency provided no details on what Putin had proposed.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the final say on all government matters, said Iran will give Putin’s proposal serious thought before giving a response, the news agency said.

“We will ponder your words and proposal,” IRNA quoted Khamenei as saying.

But before getting excited, remember that Russia has tried this before. CNN.com reports on a 2005 Putin proposal that Iran shot down

Moscow had offered to enrich uranium in Russia for nuclear fuel and have it sent to Iran. The offer was backed by the United States and by Britain, France, and Germany, which have tried to negotiate a solution to the Iranian issue.

Posted in Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran, Nuclear, nuclear proposal, Putin | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

IAEA-White House Split Over Iran

Posted by K.E. White on October 3, 2007

Proliferation Press blogged earlier on the split between the White House and ElBaradei over Iran. A September 29th Associated Press article by George Jahn probes the same topic.

What is the source of the White House-IAEA divide? Is it a debate over IAEA authority of IAEA, or the Bush White House silencing dissident voices on Iran?

The AP article presents the views of IAEA Director General ElBaradei, the White House, UN inspector David Albright, and CAP fellow Joseph Cirincione:

“It is not only the core of my mandate to clarify Iran’s nuclear history — it is a central Security Council demand,” he told The Associated Press in comments e-mailed Friday defending his work plan and indirectly countering U.S. criticism that key IAEA members should have been consulted on it first.

“I continue, publicly and privately, to urge Iran to suspend,” he added, countering arguments that he is giving short shrift to Security Council demands. “I continue to call for a ‘double time out,’ which is actually the very same concept laid out in Security Council resolution: If you suspend enrichment, we will suspend sanctions.”

But discontent remains, said a senior U.S. official who spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to express his views to the media.

“It’s frustrating that he is assisting the Iranians in delaying tactics and helping them do what they want to do,” he said.

David Albright, a former U.N. nuclear inspector, also was critical, saying that “because of the political sensitivity of the issue the board should have been consulted.”

“I think what the U.S. is objecting to is that ElBaradei is trying to use the IAEA to do international diplomacy,” he said. “ElBaradei doesn’t have that mandate.”

Suggesting the cooperation plan is flawed, Albright said that by embracing it, ElBaradei was “fitting the facts on the ground” to try to prevent armed conflict over Iran in a similarly selective way that the Bush administration did to justify the invasion of Iraq.

But Joseph Cirincione, director for nuclear policy at the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank, said those critical of ElBaradei “should take a deep, hard look at their own role and record for the war in Iraq.

“We have an American government seemingly itching to go to war, and we find that those who are proposing negotiations and inspections instead of war are themselves coming under attack,” he said.

Posted in Bush administration, David Albright, ElBaradei, George Jahn, IAEA, Iran, Joseph Cirincione, White House | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Security Council Iran Resolution Marked for November

Posted by K.E. White on October 3, 2007

Expect a new Security Council resolution on Iran in November, after reports from the IAEA and the European Union.

From the Voice of America:

Six major powers – Germany, France, the United Kingdom, China, Russia, and the United States – have agreed to continue discussions on the text of a new United Nations Security Council resolution concerning Iran’s pursuit of a nuclear weapons capability. Since December 2006, the Security Council has unanimously adopted two resolutions imposing sanctions on Iran for failing to suspend all uranium enrichment-related and reprocessing activities. Highly enriched uranium can be used to make nuclear weapons.

The P-5 plus one countries agreed to postpone until November adopting new sanctions on Iran, pending reports from the International Atomic Energy Agency, or I.A.E.A, and Javier Solano, the European Union High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy. Mohamed ElBaradei, the Director General of the I.A.E.A., will report on whether Iran has complied fully with its recent agreement to resolve all questions concerning its nuclear activities, especially its P-1 and P-2 centrifuge programs.

Posted in Iran, Security Council | Leave a Comment »

Monday Afternoon Tea: TNR on the Israeli Strike, and Norman Podhoretz’s Worldview Courtesy of Politico

Posted by K.E. White on September 24, 2007

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud OlmertSummary: The New Republic’s Dennis Dennis Ross gives an excellent explanation of what brought about and what effect was wrought from Israel’s Syrian strike. Meanwhile, Politico’s David Paul Kuhn brings focus to Neo-con patriarch Norman Podhoretz.Syrian leader Bashar al Assad

Ross argues that Israel’s Syrian strike reinforces Israel’s deterrent capability and is a response to Syria’s arms build-up (and–of course–a possible message to Iran). Ross endorses Israel’s move, considering it a stroke of hard-power precision—getting the desired results, without fanning a great conflict.

Ross delves into Israel’s penchant for secrecy, but misses the critical issue: What will be Syria’s next move? Is Syria as isolated as we think? And could Arab silence on Israel’s strike be another blow their fragile legitimacy at home?

Meanwhile, Kuhn reveals two aspects of meeting Norman Podhoretz held with George W. Bush and Karl Rove: 1) that he urged them to strike Iran and 2) they seemed to admit that negotiations with Iran were pointless.

Norman PodhoretzKuhn also fleshes out Podhoretz’s Middle East position: that the war in Iraq is necessary for American security, and is part of a greater conflict between Western liberalism and Islamofascism (a Podhoretzian turn of phrase).

Segment of interest: Podhoretz stands by his prediction that the Bush administration will strike Iran. Is this all part of a well constructed bluff on the part of the administration to alter Iranian calculus? Could Bush be simply building the best bargaining position possible for the next President?

Check out this Campus Progress biography for more on Podhoretz’s monumental contribution to the neoconservative movement–from an opposing viewpoint.

Posted in Bashar al Assad, Ehud Olmert, Iran, Israel, New Republic, Norman Podhoretz, Politico, Syria | Leave a Comment »

Cat’s Out of the Bag: Sources Confirm Israel’s Syrian Air Raid Sought Out Suspected Nuclear Site

Posted by K.E. White on September 21, 2007

Condensed form: The Israel air-force struck a suspected Syrian nuclear site thought to be constructed with North Korean aid earlier this month.

Thought of the day: Times have changed at the White House. Regime change in North Korea has morphed to quiet, but firm diplomacy in regards to North Korea. (Read Bush’s muted response to questions yesterday.) But does it signify a change of heart or merely differing priorities, with the White House squarely focused on Iran?

From WaPo:

Israel’s decision to attack Syria on Sept. 6, bombing a suspected nuclear site set up in apparent collaboration with North Korea, came after Israel shared intelligence with President Bush this summer indicating that North Korean nuclear personnel were in Syria, U.S. government sources said.

The Bush administration has not commented on the Israeli raid or the underlying intelligence. Although the administration was deeply troubled by Israel’s assertion that North Korea was assisting the nuclear ambitions of a country closely linked with Iran, sources said, the White House opted against an immediate response because of concerns it would undermine long-running negotiations aimed at persuading North Korea to abandon its nuclear program.

Ultimately, however, the United States is believed to have provided Israel with some corroboration of the original intelligence before Israel proceeded with the raid, which hit the Syrian facility in the dead of night to minimize possible casualties, the sources said.

The target of Israel’s attack was said to be in northern Syria, near the Turkish border. A Middle East expert who interviewed one of the pilots involved said they operated under such strict operational security that the airmen flying air cover for the attack aircraft did not know the details of the mission. The pilots who conducted the attack were briefed only after they were in the air, he said. Syrian authorities said there were no casualties.

Posted in air strike, Bush, Iran, Israel, North Korea, Nuclear, September 6, Syria, White House | Leave a Comment »

Rice Criticizes IAEA Iranian Plan: “The IAEA is not in the business of diplomacy.”

Posted by K.E. White on September 19, 2007

Guess not everyone guess with the NYTimes that the ElBaradei is an “indispensable” figure. Today Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice took aim at the IAEA–and indirectly its chief Mohamed ElBaradei. From Reuters:

“The diplomatic track can work but it has to work both with a set of incentives and a set of teeth,” she said.

The United States has criticized a deal International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief Mohamed ElBaradei has made with Iran to answer long-standing questions about its nuclear activities.

Washington and its European allies argue the IAEA moves divert attention from U.N. Security Council demands that Iran suspend uranium enrichment and grant broader inspections.

Rice, who in June accused ElBaradei of “muddying the message” to Iran, voiced strong irritation with the IAEA chief, without naming him.

“The IAEA is not in the business of diplomacy. The IAEA is a technical agency that has a board of governors of which the United States is a member,” Rice told reporters traveling with her to Israel and the Palestinian Territories.

“It is not up to anybody to diminish or to begin to cut back on the obligations that the Iranians have been ordered to take.”

Now this brings up an interesting question. What is the role of the IAEA? Rice argues the the IAEA should not be crafting independent deals with countries it wishes to inspect. Rather, according to Rice, the IAEA should step back: leaving the decision of whether inspections occur to international diplomacy, with the IAEA then merely implementing the inspections will occur.

This does run into a problem, though. What happens when a nation of focus—Iran—is not having formal talks with the United States? Suddenly intermediaries like the European Union or the IAEA become necessary.

And at a time when American credibility is at an all time low, it’s hardly surprising to see the IAEA’s stock go up—especially with ElBaradei’s notorious and exceptionally long stint as IAEA director general.

Posted in Condoleezza Rice, IAEA, Iran, Mohamed ElBaradei, United States | 3 Comments »

What Was Behind Israel’s Strike on Syria?

Posted by K.E. White on September 19, 2007

Putting aside conspiracy theories and Bolton’s North Korea twist aside, the Christian Science Monitor explores possible reasons behind the air-strike

The article in condensed form: 

1)      Israel reaffirming its deterrence capability—one that took a big hit in last summer’s Lebanon operation

2)      Warning signal to Iran: a military strike on Syria provoked muted international reaction. Would international reaction to an Iranian air strike be the same?

3)      Off that rift, proof of the durability of relations between Israel and Turkey, and other moderate Muslim nations in the Middle East

4)      The forerunner to a European-US air-strike on Iran, which can be inferred from the El Baradei-Western split over Iranian diplomacy

 Read this for more information on Israel’s air-strike capabilities

Posted in Christian Science Monitor, IAEA, Iran, Israel, Syria | 1 Comment »

NYTimes Shines Light on IAEA Head ElBaradei, But What About the US-India Nuclear Deal?

Posted by K.E. White on September 17, 2007

Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy, snagged the The New York Times front page—well at least the front page of their morning on-line edition.

The piece is part diplomatic update and even-handed psychological portrait of the IAEA director general. The piece shows ElBaradei as industrious and ambitious, tasked with the perhaps impossible situation of mediating the Iranian nuclear crisis.

The article is a good read, but its attempt to caste a general narrative to ElBaradei’s career is a bit madding owing to one glaring exception: ElBaradei’s approval of the US-India nuclear deal.

The discussing ElBaradei’s unprecedented third terms at the IAEA, Elaine Sciolino and William J. Broad leave out a critical wrinkle in the IAEA Chief’s career. What does it mean that the IAEA is supporting what critics consider an unfair nuclear give-away to India?

Also what did America extract from ElBaradei for his third term? Perhaps nothing—but perhaps it was endorsing the US-Indian nuclear deal—or merely coming out in force with his approval.

One other addition may have added some flavor to the piece: ElBaradei storming out of an IAEA board of governors meeting. Why the temper tantrum? Anger over the EU not fully supporting his Iranian nuclear time-table, the very diplomatic nugget the article is trying to elucidate.

Posted in Elaine Sciolino, ElBaradei, IAEA, Iran, New York Times, Nuclear Deal, U.S. India Nuclear Deal, William J. Broad | Leave a Comment »

‘These Boots Were Made For Walking…’ ElBaradei Walks Out During EU Speech During IAEA Meeting

Posted by K.E. White on September 11, 2007

IAEA head ElBaradei acted anything but diplomatic during an EU speech at the IAEA Board of Governors meeting today. After hearing an EU speech that seemed to undermine his new plan for resolving the Iranian nuclear crisis, he walked out.  The IAEA Board of Governors reviews the nuclear watch dog’s performance. The group, comprised of representatives of thirty-five member, meets five times a year to make recommendations chief operating body: the General Conference.

This rare expression of disapproval highlights the continuing tensions between IAEA member-nations in how to deal with Iran. While the United States and Europe (as represented by the EU) are pushing for continued sanctions on Iran if this new deal isn’t acted out immediately. But other IAEA members, particularly Cuba, want more of a carrot approach: insisting that if Iran abides the agreement, current sanctions will be lifted. 

Below is a section from an AFP press clip. The report views the incident as evidence of an acrimonious split between Western countries wanting heavier pressure on Iran, and members of the Nonaligned Powers wanting a peaceful, and less hard-line response to Iran:

UN nuclear chief Mohamed ElBaradei walked out on an afternoon session Tuesday of his IAEA to protest an EU speech which did not fully support his deal for new inspections in Iran, diplomats told AFP.

“He walked out because the EU did not support the Secretariat,” a diplomat who was at the meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s 35-nation board of governors said.

The timetable, in a report ElBaradei submitted to the board on Monday, is to resolve outstanding questions in the agency’s over four-year-old investigation of Iran on US charges that Tehran is using a civilian energy program to hide the development of nuclear weapons.

The speech focused on Iran’s lack of cooperation, including its refusal to provide early design information on new nuclear facilities, and called repeatedly on Iran to suspend uranium enrichment.

After walking out, ElBaradei stayed away until the session was adjourned at its regular time until Wednesday. The Portuguese speech was followed by speeches from Canada and Norway.

This International News Herald report gives more insight into this high-level diplomatic feuding. It shows, in detail, the two takes on Iran at the IAEA:

The statement said the EU has “taken note” of those efforts — the most noncommittal of diplomatic terms that falls substantially short of approval. A diplomat who spoke to the AP on condition anonymity because she was not authorized to divulge proceedings at the closed meeting, said ElBaradei subsequently left the conference, apparently to show his disapproval of the EU’s lukewarm approach.

In contrast, a nonaligned statement delivered by the Cuban ambassador cited the pact under which Iran is cooperating with the IAEA as saying Iran will be treated “in a routine manner” if it holds to the agreement and fully answers all questions posed by the agency.

That would mean an end both to U.N. sanctions and the threat of new ones for Iran’s refusal to end uranium enrichment — a position strongly opposed by the United States and most other Western countries.

The International News Herald goes on to show how this fight over diplomatic interpretation went in a pro-US direction, provoking the ire of Nonaligned IAEA member-nations.  

Nonaligned nations on Tuesday rejected “interference” in attempts to close the file on Iran’s past nuclear activities — an allusion to U.S. concerns about the International Atomic Energy Agency’s newest Tehran probe. But Europe sided with Washington.

Norma Miguelina Goicochea Estenoz of Cuba also expressed support for the work of the agency and its head, Mohamed ElBaradei, in her separate capacity as head of the agency’s nonaligned board members.

Her statements outside the agency’s 35-nation board meeting reflected the main dispute at the gathering: whether a pact committing Iran to cooperate with an agency probe of past nuclear activities will blunt attempts to pressure Tehran to scrap uranium enrichment — technology that could be used to make a bomb.

Washington and its allies fear too much emphasis on the pact and its successes could weaken efforts to impose new U.N. Security Council sanctions should Tehran continue defying the council and expand uranium enrichment. They also feel the text of the pact is flawed, imposing limitations on what the agency can look into and giving Tehran wiggle room to back out if those conditions are not met.

But Cuba and the majority of the other nonaligned nations, which make up about a third of the board, insist the pact, agreed to last month, represents a potential breakthrough in more than four years of diplomatic maneuvering meant to reduce any nuclear threat from Iran.

Posted in Cuba, Diplomacy, ElBaradei, EU, European Union, General Conference, IAEA, IAEA Board of Governors, Iran, Nuclear | Leave a Comment »