Tuesday, October 24, 2006

ElBaradei Confirms Assembly of Second 164-cascade machine

International Atomic Energy Agency Director Mohamed ElBaradei confirmed yesterday what other diplomats were already leaking to the media: Iranian technicians have pieced together a second line, or cascade, of 164 centrifuges and are days away from using the cascade to enrich uranium. "It's in place and ready to go," ElBaradei said in a brief interview yesterday.

European officials suggested that this is another political move by the Iranians to show defiance while the UN Security Council debates sanctions against the country.

It would take many years for Iran to produce any bomb-grade uranium using the one 164-cascade machine it currrently is operating.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Security Council Likely to Debate Iran Sanctions This Week

The UN Security Council is expected to start full deliberations on sanctions later this week.

On Saturday, October 21, 2006, Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Manouchehr Mottaki, offered to hold new discussions with the West during which his government would explain its nuclear ambitions. "Dialogue is the best way to reach an understanding. We are ready to hold talks about the reason for enrichment."

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammed Ali Hosseini warned Sunday, October 22, 2006 that his country would not remain passive if the West imposes sanctions against it over its disputed nuclear program, but he also did not say how the country would respond. According to Hosseini, "Sanctions will have an impact on both sides and will have regional and international repercussions. If they choose sanctions we will decide accordingly."

But at a press conference on Monday, October 23, 2006, in response to a question about whether the nuclear issue is managed, decided or supervised by other groups in Iran, Supreme National Security Council Secretary Ali Larijani stressed that he is the only one in charge of the nuclear issue of his country. Larijani also commented on the recent round of talks with EU Foreign Policy Chief Javier Solana. According to Larijani, he presented a "proper answer and formula" to assure the west that the country may never divert from its present peaceful nuclear activities. He also said, "We agreed that 5+1 present a definition for Iran's nuclear activities which should include enrichment of uranium and nuclear fuel production. To assure the other side that we may not divert from peaceful to military intentions, we told them that an international consortium could be formed to enrich uranium for Iran."

Meanwhile, a new AP wire article quotes diplomats speaking on condition of anonymity as saying that Iranian nuclear experts have started up a second pilot enrichment facility. While the 164 centrifuges were not producing enriched uranium, even the decision to "dry test" them showed Iran's defiance of the Security Council.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Impending Sanctions Resolution?

On October 18, 2006, Iran warned that a United Nations Security Council resolution imposing sanctions against the country would wreck any possibility for a compromise to resolve the standoff over its nuclear program. While Ali Larijani said that continuing talks with EU foreign policy Chief Javier Solana is “still possible,” he warned that “in the case that a new resolution is passed by the Security Council, we will not be in the current point to resume possible talks.” Larijani also said, “Resorting to arm-twisting through the Security Council would be considered a security threat to Iran and will change (Iran's) behavior.”

Javier Solana said he spoke to Larijani on Monday but “the situation hasn't changed,” meaning Iran will not agree to suspending its nuclear enrichment program as a precondition for talks on its nuclear program with the US, EU, Russia and China. European Union foreign ministers said after a meeting on Tuesday that they have no choice but to back diplomatic talks at the United Nations about sanctions on Iran.

France said that a sanctions resolution will likely be circulated at the Security Council by the end of this week. Support for sanctions is growing among leading members after weeks of talks between the European Union and Iran failed to persuade Tehran to suspend uranium enrichment and start broader negotiations over its nuclear ambitions. The U.N. Security Council resolution will likely include limited sanctions and try to keep the door open to future talks. It remains unclear, however, whether any sanctions resolution will have the backing of Russia and China, and, even if they do back the resolution, whether they will adhere to it.

Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was in Moscow on Wednesday, October 18, 2006 to appeal to Russia to use its clout to end the standoff with Iran over its nuclear program, but he received no public reassurance from Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Baker Report May Call for Talks with Iran

Rumors abound today that the new report to be released by the Iraq Study Group weeks after the November 7 election will include a recommendation for the US to talk directly both to Iran and Syria. The notion of “talking” to “evil” will definitely seem like a far-fetched idea to the Bush administration, but clearly existing policies are not working on a number of issues that relate to Iran – from Iran’s support for sectarian violence in Iraq, to its nuclear program to its support for terrorist organizations such as .

The Iraq Study Group is being chaired by long-time Bush family friend and former Secretary of State James Baker and co-chaired by former Democratic Rep. Lee Hamilton. Hamilton stressed though that the recommendations have not yet been written.

Baker, who has a long history of trying to help the Bush family out of tight spots, has signaled that he believes a change in course is necessary in Iraq. If that is true, then this is the perfect face-saving opportunity for the Administration to not only change course in Iraq, but also in regards to its policies toward Iran.

CACNP Briefing on U.S. Policy Options Towards Iran

On Tuesday, October 17, 2006, the Center for Arms Control and Nonproliferation sponsored a Senate briefing on US Policy Options for Iran featuring Dr. Ted Galen Carpenter of Cato Institute and Dr. Trita Parsi of the National Iranian American Council. The following is a summary of the presentations and the question and answer period.

Dr. Carpenter began his presentation questioning why Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons? After all, weaponization is dangerous, contributes to the security dilemma, could trigger a regional arms race, and will put Iran on the United States’ bad side.

He offered that one reason Iran is pursuing a nuclear program is for prestige. Countries that go nuclear are more respected. India and Pakistan have gained far more international respect since their 1998 nuclear weapon tests. Iran is a proud civilization with a rich cultural heritage and they believe they have a natural right to nuclear power.

A second reason is possibly because of regional security concerns. Iran seeks to deter potential opponents, especially those that already have nuclear weapons like India, Pakistan, Russia, and Israel. Iran resides in what even Israel has dubbed a “rough neighborhood” and wants to protect itself. Iran aspires to be a regional hegemon and bully surrounding states. Nuclear weapons will help them do this.

The most salient reason is Iran’s concerns about the U.S. Nuclear weapons are desired to deter American attempts at regime change. The lesson Iran takes from the American invasion of Iraq is that nuclear weapons are the only way to prevent an American invasion. North Korea further illustrates this precedent.

How can the international community prevent a nuclear Iran? What are the options? Dr. Carpenter outlined six options, which are detailed in his new policy analysis, "Iran’s Nuclear Program: America’s Policy Options."

1. Negotiations by the EU3

A report was released on October 17, 2006 announcing that the EU3 had completed its work. In other words, this approach has completely failed.

2. UN Security Council Sanctions

Any sanctions will be relatively mild at first. They will undoubtedly be weaker than the sanctions imposed on North Korea for their nuclear test. And, China and Russia oppose strict sanctions on Iran.

Dr. Carpenter doesn’t expect multilateral sanctions to be effective. The reason is that multilateral sanctions are historically plagued by defections. Potential defectors include Russia, China, India, and Japan. The only time multilateral sanctions worked historically was against the apartheid regime in South Africa. Sanctions typically sound better than they actually work.

3. Regime change through subversion

The favored approach of American Neoconservatives, regime change through subversion is the same policy they endorsed against Iraq 6-7 years ago. Many Iranians would resent regime change. They have good memories and remember the American coup against Mohammed Mosaddegh in 1953 which led to the re-installment of the Shah Reza Pahlavi.

4. American aerial strikes against Iranian nuclear facilities

This is the second favorite approach of American Neoconservatives. Many mistakenly believe that the U.S. is too tied down in Iraq to carry out a successful military strike against Iran. While our ground forces may be overextended, our Navy and Air Force would have no problem carrying out this operation.

Dr. Carpenter believes this would be a terrible mistake because: 1) we don’t know where all the Iranian nuclear facilities are; 2) collateral damage would be huge because many of the facilities are located near population centers; and 3) we will only delay Iran’s nuclear weapons program, not eliminate it.

5. Deterrence

Dr. Carpenter believes this should always be the U.S. default option when it comes to nascent nuclear states.

Some mistakenly suggest that the Iranian mullahs are suicidal and undeterrable, but people used to same the same thing about Joseph Stalin and Mao Zedong. The Johnson and Nixon administrations actually contemplated preventive military strikes against Chinese nuclear facilities in the 1960’s but ultimately decided against them. There is no evidence indicating that Iranian political leaders are undeterrable. After all, how many of them are going out on suicide missions?

6. “The Grand Bargain”

This is Dr. Carpenter’s favored approach and would be a drastic change in policy of both governments.

The U.S. should offer Iran: 1) a security guarantee and 2) to normalize relations. Iran, in exchange, should agree to immediate, unobstructed, rigorous, on-demand inspections of all of its nuclear facilities.

Dr. Carpenter believes this plan has no downside. It would smoke out the Iranian regime once and for all to discover if they really do just want peaceful nuclear power or if their goal is indeed nuclear weapons. If the Iranians reject this offer, they clearly are only interested in nuclear weapons. If they accept, they simply want nuclear power.

Dr. Trita Parsi began his remarks by noting that the U.S. lacks a coherent strategy towards Iran. All we have is a set of tactics. We lack a geopolitical approach and instead favor an ideological approach. Furthermore, U.S. policy over the past 15 years has pushed Iran into the sphere of influence of Russia and China, both countries that will undoubtedly be the next strategic great power competitors of the U.S.

Iran wants a global ally and most importantly, it wants to be allied with the U.S. This is due in large part because the other options (the EU, Russia and China) are less attractive global allies.

We should keep in mind that many of Iran’s political elites today were educated in the U.S. and they are still sending their children to the U.S. to be educated when they can. Because of U.S. sanctions and stricter restrictions since 9/11, more Iranian students are going to Russia and China to be educated. This means that future Iranian leaders are being influenced by these countries.

Iran has tried to mend fences with the U.S. in the past. Iran doesn’t have any friendly neighbors. Russia has historically been unfriendly and has captured Iranian territory in the past. Europe is suffering through a cultural crisis and has proven itself incompatible with Middle Eastern immigrants.

The U.S. approach towards China has been to not contain it. Since it’s so big, we must work with it and especially cooperate economically. What American policymakers fail to realize is that Iran is the China of the Middle East. Iran has 70 million people while its neighbors have 10-20 million.

Under President Clinton, we envisioned a “New Middle East.” The weakest link of this vision was the Middle East Peace Process. A main component of U.S. strategy during the Clinton administration was to contain Iran through isolation and confrontation. President Clinton intensified the conflict with Iran, namely through the Iran Libya Sanctions Act of 1996. But even when the U.S. was at its military peak in the 1990’s, we still couldn’t contain Iran. Secretary Rice going to the Middle East and telling the Arab countries that Iran is a threat resembles the isolation policy pursued by Clinton.

The war in Iraq has weakened the U.S. but strengthened Iran. Meanwhile, Iran has increased its relations with the EU, Russia and China.

Democratization in Iran is more likely to take place when tensions between the U.S. and Iran are not as high.

We must engage in direct talks with Iran on a variety of issues as soon as possible. We could win important concessions if we don’t demand any preconditions to these talks. While dialogues may not succeed, the absence of any dialogue will guarantee failure. We need to talk to Iran precisely because it is a country that doesn’t have an inherent strategic interest to weaponize. We can influence that decision if we adopt a different approach.

Question and Answer

1. Why would Iran be prepared to accept a grand bargain?

Dr. Carpenter: A grand bargain would be a huge carrot for Iran. We should ignore human rights initially because they are too contentious but everything else should be on the table.

Dr. Parsi: How will we know that Iran won’t accept a grand bargain if we don’t try? We haven’t even tried yet.

2. How have European-Iranian relations developed recently?

Dr. Parsi: Even though they have declined recently over the nuclear issue, they are still better now than they were in the early 1990’s.

3. Why did the “pistachios and carpets” deal fail with Iran previously?

Dr. Parsi: The rejection of this deal was a huge mistake by the Iranians

4. Don’t questions about internal Iranian regime dynamics—the dynamics that torpedoed the “pistachios and carpets” deal—still exist?

Dr. Parsi: Yes, but the dynamics are still more favorable for a grand bargain than they were during previous times.

5. Are we too distracted by North Korea and Iraq? If negotiations drag on, will the U.S. have the patience for it?

Dr. Carpenter: If we have to choose between DPRK and Iran, we must choose Iran. Negotiations with North Korea can be outsourced to Japan, South Korea, and China. With Iran, however, the U.S. must spearhead any diplomatic effort. The longer we wait to engage in direct talks, the closer Iran gets to a nuclear weapons capability. And as North Korea has demonstrated, once a country weaponizes, it is usually too late.

Dr. Parsi: The absence of direct talks has enabled Iran’s nuclear program.

6. What if the grand bargain fails? What then?

Dr. Carpenter: Deterrence will become the only feasible option. We will have to get used to a nuclear Iran. It is very alarming that there are two nascent nuclear states that the U.S. doesn’t have an ongoing relationship with.

Dr. Parsi: A grand bargain implies that everything is on the table, not necessarily that the bargain will be achieved quickly or without prolonged effort.

7. What are the threats Iran faces in the Middle East?

Dr. Carpenter: Iran has a historically rocky relationship with Russia. It also faces nuclear threats from Russia, China, India, Pakistan, and Israel.

Dr. Parsi: Iran actually believes nuclear weapons are useful for deterring the U.S., not other regional actors. They have alternative methods for deterring Israel, primarily through Hezbollah and Hamas. Dr. Parsi believes that Iran actually seeks only to become a latent nuclear power, meaning it can weaponize quickly if confronted with a serious threat. After all, if Iran gets the bomb it will spark a regional arms race (probably including Saudi Arabia and Egypt) that will undermine Iran’s comparative advantage if it remained simply a latent nuclear power.

8. How can Iran not see nuclear weapons as a potential deterrent to Israel?

Dr. Parsi: Iran only became alarmed by Israeli nuclear weapons 4-5 years ago. Prior to that, Iran consider Israel a political threat more than a military threat.

9. What does the acquisition of nuclear weapons by North Korea and Iran mean to the NPT and international nonproliferation regime?

Dr. Carpenter: The NPT isn’t dead, but it’s definitely on life support. It had a good run—four decades—but no policy lasts forever. Japan and South Korea are already calling for nuclear weapons in response to the recent test by North Korea. In ten years, we may have around twelve members of the nuclear club.

Dr. Parsi: This is exactly why talks are so important with Iran. We can’t let Iran go the nuclear route. The nonproliferation regime is likely to collapse if we don’t intervene. We need to talk to Iran precisely because it is a country that doesn’t have an inherent strategic interest to weaponize. We can influence that decision if we adopt a different approach.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Ahmadinejad Will Declare 'National Celebration Day' If Sanctions Imposed

On October 11, 2006, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said that he would declare "a national celebration day" when the possible sanctions were imposed on the Islamic Republic, the Iranian state-run television reported. "The day when sanctions are imposed on Iran by our enemies would be a national celebration day for the Iranian nation," Ahmadinejad was quoted as saying in a speech to a large crowd in Tehran's south town of Robat Karim. "We have achieved nuclear technology under sanctions," he stressed, showing a insensibility to the possible sanctions by international community.

In his speech, he also said sanctions placed on Iran for the last 27 years have made the country only progress further. "They have warned us that if we do not suspend enrichment, they will impose sanctions on Iran. But they must know that when they sanctioned us 27 years ago, they actually gifted progress to us. If they hadn't sanctioned us, we wouldn't have grown self-sufficient. And now they must know that if they impose sanctions on us, we will certainly make further progress. Sanctions make us self-reliant," Ahmadinejad said.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

House Report to National Defense Authorization Act Section on Iran

The House Report (H. Rept. 109-452) to the National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2007 (H.R. 5122) was published on May 5, 2006 and includes a fairly substantive section on Iran requiring a report from the Department of Defense which describes "the range of U.S. military options, including possible scenarios in which the use of U.S. military force may be appropriate and any limits or obstacles to using such force." Below is the full section.


The committee notes that the Islamic Republic of Iran currently poses a serious threat to the security of the United States, as well as to the peace and stability of the international community by continuing dangerous nuclear activities, including development of uranium enrichment capabilities; violating the human rights of the Iranian people; supporting terrorists; calling for the destruction of the State of Israel; creating instability in Iraq; and undermining the spread of freedom and democracy in the Middle East.

Given these circumstances, the committee directs the Secretary of Defense to provide to the Senate Committee on Armed Services and the House Committee on Armed Services, by January 31, 2007, a classified report encompassing the present period through 2016, which describes the Department of Defense's (DOD) strategy for addressing current and foreseeable Iranian threats to U.S. security and international security. The report shall describe the range of U.S. military options, including possible scenarios in which the use of U.S. military force may be appropriate and any limits or obstacles to using such force. The report shall also specifically address Iran's nuclear activities; support for terrorists; influence in the Middle East region, particularly Iraq; and any broader destabilizing ambitions of the Iranian regime.

To supplement this report, the committee directs the Secretary of Defense to provide regular, timely briefings to the Senate Committee on Armed Services and the House Committee on Armed Services which include detailed political-military assessments of existing and emerging threats posed by Iran to the security of the United States and the peace and stability of the international community, and DOD plans to address such threats. The briefings shall include, as appropriate, coordination of the Department with the Department of State or other relevant government agencies; alternative intelligence analyses from these agencies; the status of negotiations with Iran regarding its nuclear activities and involvement in Iraq; and the impact of Iran's nuclear activities, support for terrorists, and influence in Iraq and the Middle East, on the security of the United States and the peace and stability of the international community.

Finally, in the event the U.S. participates in direct talks with Iran on the subject of Iraq, the committee urges the appropriate U.S. officials to address in any such talks the need for Iran to stop the flow of any Iranian-supplied explosives to Iraq, withdraw any presence of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps in Iraq, and end Iranian financial support to insurgent groups in Iraq.

Iran Responds to North Korea's Nuclear Weapon Test

In response to North Korea’s announcement of a nuclear weapon test on October 9, 2006, Iran’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini was quoted on state-run television as responding:

“Iran’s position is clear and Iran on principle believes in a world free of nuclear weapons. Iran is hopeful that negotiations on North Korea’s nuclear activities can go ahead in the interest of both North Korea and the international community.”

Don't Expect a lot of Transparancy on State Department Iran Grants

Wall Street Journal
Washington Wire
October 6, 2006, p. 4

ANONYMOUS: State Department will award more than 20 grants of as much as $1.5 million for Iran-related democracy and human-rights work, most of it outside Iran. Since U.S. fears Iranian meddling, "don't expect a lot of transparency" on who gets awards, a State official says.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Tehran Responds to the Iran Freedom Support Act

On October 1, Iranian officials and state-run radio dismissed the US Iran Freedom Support Act that was passed by the Senate at about 1:30 am on September 30, 2006 and signed into law by President George W. Bush later that day. The law will impose sanctions on entities that help Iran develop its petroleum resources or provide goods or services for the country’s weapons program. The bill also provides funding for “democracy promotion.” Iranian officials contended the measure threatens US interests, not Iran.

The sanctions will cause the U.S. to become more isolated and “cannot weaken the will of a great nation (Iran), which has achieved its independence and progress by relying on its national and religious values,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini, according to the official Islamic Republic News Agency.

General Barry McCaffrey Calls for US Ambassadors in Iran and Syria

General Barry McCaffrey (U.S. Army-Ret.), infantry division commander in the first Gulf War, and currently adjunct professor at the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, was on the Diane Rehm Show on October 4 speaking about Iraq. During his interview, he addressed the need for the US to talk with Iran if we want to address the ongoing quagmire in Iraq.

“We have to go talk to the Iranians, the Syrians. We have to put ambassadors in those countries. We have to take a new look at this right after the election. I personally believe both of them are going in the wrong direction right now, but we can achieve our goals if we come up with a better way of thinking about it.”

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

New National Intelligence Estimate on Iran Underway

Although there is already a new National Intelligence Estimate underway, before leaving for their elections campaigning recess, Congress passed new measures to hold the administration accountable for Iran policy. Section 1213 of the Defense Authorization bill requires the President to provide Congress with a report on his strategy regarding Iran, and the Director of National Intelligence to submit to the Congress an updated and comprehensive national intelligence estimate on Iran no later than 90 days after the enactment of the bill. Section 1213 also requires the President to submit to Congress a report on the administration’s objectives on US policy on Iran and the strategy for achieving those objectives.



(1) SUBMITTAL REQUIRED. The Director of NationalIntelligence shall submit to Congress an updated,comprehensive National Intelligence Estimate on Iran.Such National Intelligence Estimate shall be submittedas soon as practicable, but not later than the end ofthe 90-day period beginning on the date of theenactment of this Act.

(2) NOTICE REGARDING SUBMITTAL. If before the end ofthe 90-day period specified in paragraph (1) theDirector determines that the National IntelligenceEstimate required by that paragraph cannot besubmitted by the end of the period as required by thatparagraph, the Director shall (before the end of thatperiod) submit to the Congress a report settingforth:

(A) the reasons why the National Intelligence Estimatecannot be submitted by the end of such 90-day period; and

(B) an estimated date for the submittal of theNational Intelligence Estimate.

(3) FORM. The National Intelligence Estimate underparagraph (1) shall be submitted in classified form. Consistent with the protection of intelligencemethods, an unclassified summary of the key judgmentsof the National Intelligence Estimate should besubmitted.


As soon as is practicable, butnot later than 90 days after the date of the enactmentof this Act, the President shall submit to Congress areport on:

(A) the objectives of United States policy on Iran; and

(B) the strategy for achieving those objectives.

(2) FORM. The report under paragraph (1) shall besubmitted in unclassified form with a classifiedannex, as appropriate;

(3) ELEMENTS. The report submitted under paragraph(1) shall:

(A) address the role of diplomacy, incentives,sanctions, other punitive measures and incentives, andother programs and activities relating to Iran forwhich funds are provided by Congress; and

(B) summarize United States contingency planningregarding the range of possible United States militaryactions in support of United States policy objectiveswith respect to Iran.