Proliferation Press

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

Posts Tagged ‘Iran’

Dawn’s Iran Editorial Falls (Worrisomely) Flat

Posted by K.E. White on July 5, 2010

The Dawn, a leading Pakistani newspaper, offers a troublingly subtle critic of American policy towards Iran.

The Dawn comes out against the recent-round of U.S. sanction against Iran.  Instead it asks the U.S. to accept its limited “moral basis”:

There is no doubt Tehran has pursued policies that often appear unnecessarily confrontational. But the US-led bloc has not helped matters by failing to realise the reasons behind Iran’s hard line. The truth is that, while the western powers follow Iran’s nuclear programme with a microscope, patronising Israel, the Middle East’s only nuclear power, continues to be the basic principle of their policy. This has robbed western diplomacy of a moral basis for going tough on Iran.

One question:  Just how would Dawn propose America reclaim the moral high-ground? On that mark, the editorial falls (worrisomely) flat.

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Catching Up on the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Conference & Other News

Posted by K.E. White on May 21, 2010

The Guardian’s Julian Borger offers excellent coverage of the ongoing NPT conference—which this entry will attempt to encapsulate.  The conference aims to wrangle out a Middle East nuclear free zone agreement.  But Iran (along with Brazil and Turkey) have derailed progress, after reaching their own nuclear accord. The reaction of the five nuclear powers was not pretty, with all P-5 members signaling support for new sanctions against Iran.

The result?  A monkey wrench has been thrown into the conference.

Two additional notes:

-The Times offers this analysis of the nuclear agreement between Iran, Brazil and Turkey.

-The Turkish foreign minister discusses his country’s recently brokered nuclear deal at ForeignPolicy.com

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Iran’s Nuclear Deal Skips Over the West, Russia and China

Posted by K.E. White on May 17, 2010

Today brings news of a “surprise nuclear deal” between Iran, Turkey and Brazil.  (Watch MSNBC’s solid coverage from Tehran here.)  Under the admittedly hazy details, Iran has agreed to ship its enriched uranium to Turkey.  Note the absence of Western powers, Russia and China from the talks.

The Western response?  Well, Wesley Clark—interviewed on MSNBC’s The Daily Rundown—welcomed other countries doing some diplomatic heavy-lifting, but cautioned viewers that few details of the deal are currently known.

In any case, the coming days will undoubtedly shed light on the inner workings of these (potentially momentous) tripartite talks.

Coincidently, Stephen Walt offers this blog on Turkey’s diplomatic evolution—and gives some advice to U.S. policy makers.

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Will A New Round of Iran Sanctions Have Any Bite?

Posted by K.E. White on April 5, 2010

At Contentions Jennifer Rubin reviews a WSJ article that points out the weakness of current sanctions on Iran.  Specifically the article notes that assets totaling only $43 million have been blocked to the Iranian regime.

But U.S. enforcement is not the problem with the Iranian sanctions.  Instead the problem remains that other countries, significantly Russia and China, do not seize Iranian assets.

Now Rubin is correct to note this grave weakness within the sanctions regime.  But there is a flip side.  While Iran can evade sanctions by going outside the United States or the EU member-states, getting Russia and China to agree to even mild sanctions would have an immediate and profound effect.

So in short, this is all posturing for possible deal-making between P-5 members and Iran.  With reports showing China and Russia possibly on board for sanctions, Iran must be feeling some squeeze.

While Rubin may not consider this enough to deter Iran, she doesn’t really offer another way forward.  And in any case, it only seems fair to size up any new sanctions when they are released.

In related news, Iran remains open to a ‘nuclear swap’ deal—but demands any such swap take place on Iranian territory.  And anyway, maybe the Obama administration has already accepted that Iran will possess nuclear weapons.

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Proliferation News Blurb: America’s Iranian Strategy and A Critical View of U.S. Pakistan Relations

Posted by K.E. White on March 26, 2010

Politico and Foreign Policy offer must-read articles relating to American foreign policy.

Politico offers this editorial from Britain’s U.S. ambassador Nigel Sheinwald.  Sheinwald points out to positive factors in the U.S.-Iranian bargaining positions:  1) Since Obama’s election, international suspicion has shifted from U.S. motivations to Iran’s secretive ambitions, 2)  develops in Iraq have strengthened America’s bargaining hand (at least from its 2006 low point), 3)  that Iran’s internal strife has diplomatically isolated the nation.

But can economic sanctions—and not a more aggressive option—deter Iran from the bomb?  From Sheinwald’s article:

Third, economic pressures are increasing, as a result of years of mismanagement and the sanctions. The statistics are significant. Inflation is close to 20 percent. Iran’s oil production and exports both fell by 10 percent last year. Iran’s banks are feeling the heat of the sanctions, with huge reductions in foreign currency transfers.

All this has driven up the cost of imports by 25 percent. Iranian bazaaris — an important political class that allied with the clerics to bring down the shah — are bearing much of the cost.

We must not, of course, be complacent. Tehran remains defiant. But its discomfort is increasing.

In international relations, there are rarely overnight solutions to complex problems. But our long-term strategy of trying to alter fundamentally the cost-benefit equation for Iran remains the right approach. We still have time to increase the pressure — including the early adoption of sanctions — and bring Tehran to the negotiating table. The key — for all of us — is to use this time smartly.

One critique:  Sheinwald conveniently overlooks India and Pakistan’s nuclear trajectories.

And Foreign Policy offers a critical look at U.S.-Pakistan relations from a Pakastani journalist.  The main point:  Pakistan’s regime still fails its citizens.

From Huma Imtiaz’s article:

At the end of the day, even if the United States promises the moon (which it won’t), and even if the Pakistani government comes back empty handed, or laden with promises, the situation in Pakistan will remain the same. Even with a lull in recent terror attacks, Pakistanis are braced every single day for the worst to happen. The current electricity shortfall in the country is now at 5,000 megawatts, meaning electricity cuts off from anywhere between 4 – 12 hours a day. Prime Minister Gilani is promising the world to Pakistanis at the moment, saying the delegation will discuss everything from power plants to Afia Siddiqui’s case. The media wing of Pakistan’s army — the Inter Services Public Relations — sends daily dispatches reporting such events as: “X number of militants was killed in army operations in the tribal areas,” in an attempt to show that all is well in the country.

While this dialogue between the U.S. administration and the Pakistani government will surely continue, one wonders if all that is promised will be delivered. And with Pakistan’s current government’s record being so dismal on everything from implementing constitutional reforms to infrastructure development, it is highly likely that the Pakistan-U.S. talks will remain just that: talk.

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Deterring Iran from The Nuclear Option

Posted by K.E. White on March 23, 2010

Leonard S. Spector, of the Center for Nonproliferation Studies, writes on how to deter Iran’s nuclear ambition.  His verdict?  Not too optimistic for the Obama Administration.  Without offering a clear pathway to rallying international support, hopes for deterring Iran seem to rest with Iran:  either through Iranian internal difficulties or nuclear over-reach.

From Spector’s article Can Iran’s Accelerating Nuclear Program Be Stopped?

What are the goals of the Iranian government? With each passing month a nuclear arsenal must look more attainable and the government’s hold on power more certain, notwithstanding the uproar over last June’s elections. It is hard to imagine that Tehran will curb its nuclear ambitions short of acquiring nuclear weapons. Recent political support from Brazil, Lebanon, and Venezuela, all wary of Western pressure, may make Iran more confident it can weather any sanctions regime the United States and its allies can bring to bear.

The Obama Administration is attempting to implement a set of powerful new sanctions to pressure Tehran to comply with Security Council requirements. The first step is to command Iran’s attention by placing what its leaders value at risk. The Administration has indicated it will target enterprises run by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, said to be leading the country’s nuclear program, and possibly the Iranian central bank. Sanctions that hit too hard, however, risk injuring the Iranian economy as a whole, potentially causing a backlash that could shore up support for the Ahmadinejad government and its apparent aspirations for a nuclear-armed Iran. Russian and Chinese support for an effective sanctions regime could also be undermined.

To stop a runaway nuclear program, the international community needs to push the brake pedal with both feet. As committed as the Obama Administration may be to this endeavor, without broader international support, it is difficult to be sanguine about its chances for success.

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TNR Explains Why China and Russia Don’t Mind Iranian Nukes

Posted by K.E. White on February 10, 2010

Matthew Kroenig’s TNR article reads like a review of ‘Confessions of Frustrated, Lonely Superpower’. Yes, a strategic goal to limit American influence undoubtedly plays a part in Chinese and Russian foreign policy. But one shouldn’t discount simple realism.

An Iranian bomb, then, won’t disadvantage China or Russia. In fact, it might even help them. Neither country has hidden its desire to hem in America’s unilateral ability to project power, and a nuclear-armed Iran would certainly mean a more constrained U.S. military in the Middle East. Indeed, at times during the 1980s and 1990s, Beijing and Moscow aided Tehran with important aspects of its nuclear program. While we don’t have detailed information on the motives behind the assistance, we do know that governments don’t export sensitive nuclear technologies for economic reasons alone. Rather, as I show in my forthcoming book, they generally do so in an attempt to hinder their enemies. For example, France helped Israel acquire the bomb in the late 1950s and early 1960s in order to balance against Nasser’s Egypt, and China provided nuclear aid to Pakistan in the 1980s to impose strategic costs on its longtime rival India. It is likely that China and Russia’s nuclear assistance to Iran was partly intended as a counterweight to American power in the Middle East. Although these countries no longer actively aid Iran’s nuclear program, they may still secretly welcome its development.

If any country fails to understand the strategic consequences of a nuclear Iran, then, it is not Russia or China, but the United States. Disproportionately threatened by proliferation, American officials will struggle to convince others to join their fight against the spread of nuclear weapons. They must prepare to live with a nuclear-armed Iran, or, if they cannot do that, they must stop Tehran’s nuclear program themselves.

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Kuperman’s NYTimes Iran Editorial: “Air strikes are the only plausible option”

Posted by K.E. White on December 26, 2009

Alan J. Kuperman, Director of UT of Austin’s Nuclear Proliferation Prevention Program, makes the case for U.S. airstrikes against Iran. Three main points form his position: 1) the proposed nuclear transfer deal failed to halt Iran’s nuclear program and both sides knew it; 2) America should pounce now; and 3) that the Iranian reaction both inside and outside Iran may prove less dire than many predict.

Kuperman, boasting a unique and impressive academic and professional resume, deserves out attention—even if his editorial imposes a fair too neat narrative behind American and Iranian motivations. (Be sure to check out Kuperman’s other published works through his biography)

From Kuperman’s NYTimes editorial:

…Iran is far more likely to engage in “salami slicing” — a series of violations each too small to provoke retaliation, but that together will give it a nuclear arsenal. For example, while Iran permits international inspections at its declared enrichment plant at Natanz, it ignores United Nations demands that it close the plant, where it gains the expertise needed to produce weapons-grade uranium at other secret facilities like the nascent one recently uncovered near Qom.

In sum, the proposal would not have averted proliferation in the short run, because that risk always was low, but instead would have fostered it in the long run — a classic example of domestic politics undermining national security.

But there are three compelling reasons that the United States itself should carry out the bombings. First, the Pentagon’s weapons are better than Israel’s at destroying buried facilities. Second, unlike Israel’s relatively small air force, the United States military can discourage Iranian retaliation by threatening to expand the bombing campaign. (Yes, Israel could implicitly threaten nuclear counter-retaliation, but Iran might not perceive that as credible.) Finally, because the American military has global reach, air strikes against Iran would be a strong warning to other would-be proliferators.

Negotiation to prevent nuclear proliferation is always preferable to military action. But in the face of failed diplomacy, eschewing force is tantamount to appeasement. We have reached the point where air strikes are the only plausible option with any prospect of preventing Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons. Postponing military action merely provides Iran a window to expand, disperse and harden its nuclear facilities against attack. The sooner the United States takes action, the better.

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Morning News Round-Up

Posted by K.E. White on December 23, 2009

Well, I’ll just underline the reason to be alarmist. If the rest of the world sees that North Korea can keep its nuclear weapons, they see that Iran is capable of defying United States and getting nuclear weapons, they see Hugo Chavez still completely unplugged and growing closer and closer to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s Iran — let’s not forget Venezuela has its own uranium deposits — then the lesson, I think, for would-be proliferators around the world is clear. You can get nuclear weapons, and the United States and others will not act to stop you.

And if those constraints don’t have any force, then I think we’re going to see a lot more countries with nuclear weapons, and I think that raises the risk of global instability by an enormous factor.

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Sizing Up Ahmadinejad’s Post-Crackdown Global Standing

Posted by K.E. White on July 15, 2009

Can Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad be the leading Western critic after Iran’s brutal post-election crackdown?

The Christian Science Monitor’s Liam Stack explores the issue in light of Ahmadinejad’s attendace at this week’s Non-Aligned Movement sumit in Eygpt.

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