Friday, September 29, 2006

New ISIS Report Outlines Iran's NPT Violations

The Institute for Science and International Security released a new report on September 29, 2006 outlining Iran’s Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) violations and other outstanding issues related to the country’s nuclear program.

Iranian officials continually underplay or deny charges in International Atomic Energy Agency resolutions that have found Iran in violation of the NPT and its related safeguards agreement. In addition to outlining unresolved issues over Iran’s nuclear program, the ISIS report identifies these specific NPT violations:

According to the IAEA, Iran failed to declare the following major activities:

  • Uranium Imports: Iran failed to report that it had purchased natural uranium (1,000 kg of UF6, 400 kg of UF4, and 400 kg of UO2) from China in 1991, and its subsequent transfer for further processing. Iran acknowledged the imports in February 2003.
  • Uranium conversion: Iran did not inform the IAEA of its use of the imported uranium in tests of its uranium conversion processes, including “uranium dissolution, purification using pulse columns, and the production of uranium metal, and the associated production and loss of nuclear material.” Iran acknowledged this failure in February 2003.
  • Uranium enrichment: Iran failed to report that it had used 1.9 kg of the imported UF6 to test P1 centrifuges at the Kalaye Electric Company centrifuge workshop in 1999 and 2002. In its October 2003 declaration to the IAEA, Iran first admitted to introducing UF6 into a centrifuge in 1999, and into as many as 19 centrifuges in 2002. Iran also failed to declare the associated production of enriched and depleted uranium.
  • Hidden Sites: Iran did not declare to the IAEA the existence of a pilot enrichment facility at the Kalaye Electric Company Workshop, and laser enrichment plants at the Tehran Nuclear Research center and at Lashkar Ab’ad. Because experiments at these sites involved the use of nuclear material in equipment, Iran was obligated to report them to the IAEA.
  • Laser Isotope Enrichment Experiments: Iran failed to report that in 1993 it imported 50 kg of natural uranium metal, and that it used 8 kg of this for atomic vapor laser isotope separation (AVLIS) experiments at Tehran Nuclear Research Center between 1999 to 2000, and 22 kg of the metal for AVLIS experiments at Lashkar Ab’ad between 2002 to 2003. These activities were ultimately acknowledged in an October 2003 declaration.
  • Plutonium Experiments: Iran did not report to the IAEA that it had produced uranium dioxide (UO2) targets, irradiated them in the Tehran Research Reactor, and then separated the plutonium from the irradiated targets. Iran also failed to report the production and transfer of waste associated with these activities and that it had stored unprocessed irradiated targets at the Tehran Nuclear Research Center. In later meetings with the IAEA, Iran said that it conducted the plutonium separation experiments between 1988 and 1993 using shielded glove boxes at the Tehran Nuclear Research Center.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

House Passes Iran Freedom Support Act

I reported before that on July 27, 2006, the US House of Representatives approved by voice vote to extend the Iran Libya Sanctions Act of 1996 (ILSA). ILSA was set to expire on August 5, 2006. H.R. 5877, the bill introduced by House International Relations Committee member Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and Chairman Henry J. Hyde (R-IL), provided a simple extension of ILSA until September 29, 2006. The Senate also approved the short-term extension before they went to summer recess.

During the House floor debate on H.R. 5877, Rep. Ros-Lehtinen said an extension of the original ILSA would give the House and Senate “the additional time to finalize the text of the Iran Freedom Support Act.” Well, that time has come.

On September 28, 2006, the US House of Representatives passed by voice vote a watered down version Iran Freedom Support Act by voice vote. The bill, H.R. 6198, is a watered down version of the original Iran Freedom Support Act, H.R. 282.

H.R. 6198 still waits Senate approval and it is expected to come up on September 29, before the Senate leaves for election campaigning in the month of October and before the ILSA extension expires.

During the House floor debate on H.R. 6198, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said, "It would be a critical mistake to allow a regime with a track record as bloody and as dangerous as Iran to obtain nuclear weapons. Enough with the carrots. It's time for the stick."

Meanwhile, critics questioned the need for unilateral action when the United States was pushing for a multinational approach to Iran's alleged nuclear program. "It is, if you will, a cruise missile aimed at a difficult diplomatic effort just as they are reaching their most sensitive point," said Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore. "The timing for this legislation could not be worse."

At a minimum, the timing of this legislation would disrupt on-going negotiations to resolve the confrontation with Iran. This week, European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana and Chief Iranian nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani held talks in Berlin. Set to continue next week, these talks could produce substantive results and show promising signs of success, according to both sides. Javier Solana said of the talks “have been progressing,” and Ali Larijani said the two sides came to “some positive conclusions.” Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice also said the US is waiting the outcome of these discussions.

New Reuters/Zogby Poll: Americans Favor Diplomacy on Iran

According to a new Reuters/Zogby poll released on September 28, 2006, a majority of Americans want the United States to increase diplomatic efforts over Iran's nuclear ambitions, while 70 percent oppose the use of US troops to thwart Iran.

Asked the best course of action for the United States in dealing with Iran's nuclear ambitions, 45 percent said Washington should join with allies to increase diplomatic efforts and another 17 percent said the United States should step up diplomacy on its own.

One in four respondents, 26 percent, said they supported the use of U.S. ground troops in Iran, while 70 percent opposed it. Nine percent favored air strikes on selected military targets in Iran.

The Reuters/Zogby poll found 42 percent supported a strike on Iranian facilities if carried out by the Israeli military, with 47 percent opposed.

The national poll of 1,000 likely voters, conducted on September 22-25, has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.2 percentage points.

I’ve also blogged other polls here.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Pentagon’s Iran Directorate: ‘US broadcasts into Iran aren’t tough enough’

The Pentagon’s Iran Directorate, created in March 2006, “has drafted a report charging that US international broadcasts into Iran aren't tough enough on the Islamic regime,” further indication that some in the Bush administration are pushing for a more confrontational policy toward Iran. According to McClatchy Newspapers, which obtained a copy of the report this week, “the report appears to be a gambit by some officials in Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's office and elsewhere to gain sway over television and radio broadcasts into Iran, one of the few direct tools the United States has to reach the Iranian people.”

The report was written by Ladan Archin, a regime change proponent who formerly studied with Paul Wolfowitz when he was dean of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. Archin now serves as the Country Director in the Near East and South Asia Department of the Department of Defense responsible for Iran. The report was prepared for an inter-agency committee on policy toward Iran called the Iran Steering Group, which is co-chaired by the National Security Council and the State Department.

But, US broadcasting officials and others who've read the report say its contentions are riddled with errors. The report’s accusations of Radio Farda and Voice of America’s Persian TV include:

  • the stations take a soft line toward Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's regime and don’t give adequate time to government critics;
  • the stations consistently fail to maintain a balance by inviting informed guests who represent another perspective on the same issue; and
  • "neither station is a primary source of news for Iranians."
In February 2006, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announced a major initiative to “promote democracy” in Iran, including $50 million to increase Farsi-language television broadcasts. The announcement set off a furious bureaucratic battle for control of the funds and the initiative.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

World Opinion Does Not Favor Military Attacks on Iran

According to a new 25-nation poll, world opinion does not favor aggressive international measures to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons. The poll was conducted for BBC World Service, including the USA, the UK and Iraq.

On average across the 25 countries polled, only 17 percent believe that “Iran is producing nuclear fuel strictly for energy needs,” while 60 percent assume that “Iran is also trying to develop nuclear weapons.” This view is held by a majority in 19 of the countries and is especially widespread among Americans (83%), South Koreans (76%), Italians (74%), and Brazilians (72%). In just three countries do more than one in three believe that Iran is only pursuing nuclear energy—Iraq (38%), Egypt (38%), and Indonesia (35%). But even among these countries, substantially more believe that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons—Iraq (60%), Egypt (54%), Indonesia (47%).

Majorities in every country polled also say they would be concerned “if Iran were to develop nuclear weapons.” On average 72 percent say they would be concerned and just 17 percent say they would not. In only two countries do the number saying that they are not concerned rise above one in three—Indonesia (40%) and Iraq (34%).

However, overall only 43 percent say they are ‘very concerned’ and in only nine countries does this represent a majority. These include the US (72%, very concerned), Great Britain (67%), Australia (67%), Italy (65%), Israel (64%), Canada (63%), Brazil (57%), Germany (57%), and Poland (52%). Consistent with this lack of intensity in concern, even if Iran continues to produce nuclear fuel, very few people favor the UN Security Council authorizing “a military strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities.” On average only 11 percent favor such strikes and in no country is this more than one in three. The highest levels of support were found in Iraq (34%), Israel (30%), and the US (21%).

Even the idea of imposing economic sanctions garners only modest support – on average it is supported by 30%. The most popular approach is using ‘only diplomatic efforts’ – on average this is supported by 39%. Combining the two assertive forms of dealing with Iran—military strikes and economic sanctions--in only five countries does a majority favor the UN Security Council authorizing either of these. These are the US (military strikes 21%, sanctions 45%), Iraq (military strikes 34%, sanctions 29%), Israel (military strikes 30%, sanctions 32%), Canada (military strikes 13%, sanctions 39%), and Australia (military strikes 8%, sanctions 44%). On average, 41 percent favor either of these assertive approaches.

These previous polls are also interesting:

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Pastor Strangelove, Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Preach About Bombing Iran

This goes a little bit out of the realm of my usual posts, but it was just too disturbing not to share. I heard from an office colleague about some pastor going around saying we should bomb Iran and of course, my curiosity was peaked. Ironically, that the same day, John Hagee did an interview with Terry Gross on NPR. Well, here is just a brief background on him I found…there is plenty for fodder. I am worried about what he is saying, particularly because he does have a pretty big following, plus the ear of the White House.

John Hagee is the founder and senior pastor of Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, a non-denominational evangelical church with more than 18,000 active members. He also founder of Christians United for Israel and believes Armageddon is coming soon (and his job is to help usher it in). His most recent book is Jerusalem Countdown: A Warning to the World. While claiming to reach 99 million homes through his television show, he argues that the United States must join Israel in a pre-emptive military strike against Iran to fulfill God’s plan for both Israel and the West, which according to him was prophesized in the Book of Esther. An exposé of Pastor Strangelove can be found here.

Hagee was interviewed in March 2006 by Human Events Online, a conservative weekly. When asked whether the US should be an aggressor against Iran, Hagee said it “would be shameful for America, with all its military might, to allow Israel to fight our fight!” He goes on to say, “Iran is a threat to western civilization ... not just to Israel. Iran with nuclear weapons will be the world's worst nightmare. America and Europe will be blackmailed to bow to the Islamofacist agenda. The attack on 9/11 proved Islamics have the will to kill us, they are now searching for the power to kill us ... nuclear power.”

He also believes that the Bible prophesizes that Russia will unite with Islamist nations to destroy Israel. In his Human Events interview he says, “Several years ago, former Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, sat in my office and told me that when he was Prime Minister he gave to America's intelligence community photographic proof that Russian scientist were helping the Iranians develop medium range missiles that had the ability to reach Europe and Jerusalem. Russia has been developing its relationships with the Islamic nations. I believe that relationship will develop in the future into Russia providing military leadership for radical Islamic forces against Israel. Russia's payoff is the oil from the Persian Gulf giving it the ability to become a super-power again. The Islamic payoff is the control of Jerusalem.”

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Administration Supports Reauthorizing the Iran Libya Sanctions Act

Nicholas Burns, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on September 19, 2006. Click here to access his prepared testimony. Below are some highlights related to US policy options for sanctions on Iran:

"There was an 'experts' level meeting in London on September 14 to review the technical details of the elements we want to include in a sanctions resolution. Secretary Rice and I will pursue this discussion of sanctions at the UN General assembly in New York this week and next."

"Representative for the European Union Javier Solana is discussing with Iranian officials a last-minute attempt to convince Tehran to accept the conditions of suspension and agree to negotiations. We support his effort but we will push for the imposition of sanctions if these talks do not produce a satisfactory outcome. The international community is waiting for Iran to give an unequivocal reply to our offer to negotiate."

"In confronting the challenges posed by Iran, the Administration supports legislation that would reauthorize the current ILSA [Iran Libya Sanctions Act] statute for an additional five years. A bill to this effect has been introduced in the Senate: S. 2657."

"I would like to say a word about H.R. 282 [Iran Freedom Support Act], which was passed by the House of Representatives and is pending before this Committee, and S. 333, also before this Committee. The provisions that freeze current restrictions, set specific deadlines for decision-making, that restrict certain waiver authorities, and – in HR 282—that call for divestment of assets and prohibitions on assistance, would narrow the President’s flexibility in the implementation of Iran sanctions and strain relations with allies whose cooperation is crucial to our efforts to change Iran’s behavior. These bills would effectively penalize most severely the very allies critical to maintaining our international coalition against Iran."

"Our message to Tehran remains clear: abandon the quest for nuclear weapons, and establish a full and verifiable suspension of all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities. If you can do so, the U.S. and others will begin negotiations. If you cannot, you will face sanctions."

US and Israeli Intelligence Claims

In an interview with NPR’s Robert Siegel on September 1, 2006, Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte responded to questions regarding Iran’s nuclear program. Most Significantly, Negroponte reaffirmed his estimate from last year that Iran is five to ten years away from having a nuclear weapon. Negroponte also discussed Israel’s assessment of Iran’s nuclear program and why it is that in their estimate Iran is only two years away, even the US and Israel share intelligence.

Tzipi Livni, Israel’s Foreign Minister was on CNN’s Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer on September 17, 2006 also discussing Iran’s nuclear program. Livni claims that Iran is only a few months away from mastering enrichment. Livni also said he thinks this is the time for sanctions.

Key portions of both these interviews follow. Thanks to Paul Kerr from Arms Control Wonk for pointing them out.

NPR Interview with DNI John Negroponte:

MR. SIEGEL: ...According to U.S. intelligence agencies, how soon will Iran have a nuclear weapon given its present program? Well, Negroponte says the US made its estimate a year ago.

AMB. NEGROPONTE: These are estimates. These are judgments. They’re not hard and cold simple facts. But our best estimate at the time, and it continues to be the judgment of the Intelligence Community, is that sometime beginning in the next decade, perhaps out to the middle of the next decade would be a good time frame, a good estimate of when they might have such a capability.

MR. SIEGEL: Sometime between four and 10 years from now you would assume they could achieve a nuclear weapon.

AMB. NEGROPONTE: Five to 10 years from now.

MR. SIEGEL: The International Atomic Energy Agency reported on its inspections this week. They reported on rather little progress by the Iranians. Does that conform to U.S. intelligence or does it in any way alter your estimate?

AMB. NEGROPONTE: This is a judgment that was formed over a period of time based on all sources of intelligence that we have, and I think those basic pieces remain in place today, both the determination to acquire such a capability, and the efforts that are under way to achieve that. Now mind you . and this was why I was careful to say at the outset that these are estimates and judgments, because you don’t know what you don’t know. And Iran is by definition, from the point of view of the Intelligence Community, a hard target. They engage in denial and deception. They don’t want us to necessarily know everything that they’re doing. So we don’t, for example, know whether there’s a secret military program and to what extent that program has made progress.

On Israel:

MR. SIEGEL: When Americans hear of, or read of, say, an Israeli estimate that the Iranians are two years away from a nuclear weapon, do you think the Israelis are just making different inferences from the same evidence you see.


MR. SIEGEL: or they know differently?

AMB. NEGROPONTE: No, I don’t . I think that we basically operate from the same knowledge base. We also happen to consult with the Israelis quite closely. We have intelligence-sharing arrangements, procedures.

I think that sometimes what the Israelis will do. and I think that perhaps because it’s a more existential issue for them, they will give you the worst-case assessment.

We would agree that perhaps an equally valid assessment would be the same one that we put forward.

MR. SIEGEL: But you’re talking about differences in assessment and analysis of information.


MR. SIEGEL: not differences in information?

AMB. NEGROPONTE: That . I would say that, yes. I think that’s fair.

Blitzer Interview with Israeli FM Tzipi Livni:

BLITZER: How much time do you believe the international community has before Iran crosses into an area of no return, in effect has a nuclear bomb?

LIVNI: The crucial moment is not the day of the bomb. The crucial moment is the day in which Iran will master the enrichment, the knowledge of enrichment.

BLITZER: And how long is that?

LIVNI: A few months from now.

BLITZER: What does that mean, a few months?

LIVNI: A few months, I mean…

BLITZER: Six months?

LIVNI: No, I don’t know for sure, because it takes time and this something that they have to try, in doing so…

BLITZER: Because other Israelis have said that would be the point of no return.

LIVNI: I don’t want to use the words “point of no return,” because the Iranians are using it against the international community. They are trying to send a message that it’s too late; you can stop your attempts because it’s too late.

It’s not too late. They have a few more months. And it is crucial because this is in the interests of the international community. The world cannot afford a nuclear Iran. It’s not only a threat to Israel. The recent understanding, also, of moderate Arab states is that Iran is a threat to the region. And I believe that this is time for sanctions.

BLITZER: Is this the biggest threat facing Israel?

LIVNI: Well, unfortunately, even though Israel was established about 60 years ago, it is still fighting for its existence.

And we just saw what the threats from Hezbollah, which is the long arm, the proxy of Iran in the region, and we have the Hamas and the terrorist organizations, and the global terrorism, and the Palestinians, and Iran.

So should I choose between the threats? I don't think so.

To the People of Iran from President Bush: Sounds like Regime Change in Your Future

Speaking at the opening of the 61st United Nations General Assembly on September 19, 2006, President George W. Bush focused his speech on the war on terrorism and extremism and democracy in the Middle East. Bush countered criticisms that US bringing democracy to the Middle East has destabilized the region. He said this criticism “overlooks the fact that the Middle East was stable to begin with.”

Directing comments to the People of Iran, Bush said:

"To the people of Iran: The United States respects you; we your country. We admire your rich history, your vibrant culture, and your many contributions to civilization. You deserve an opportunity to determine your own future, an economy that rewards your intelligence and your talents, and a society that allows you to fulfill your tremendous potential. The greatest obstacle to this future is that your rulers have chosen to deny you liberty and to use your nation's resources to fund terrorism, and fuel extremism, and pursue nuclear weapons. The United Nations has passed a clear resolution requiring that the regime in Tehran meet its international obligations. Iran must abandon its nuclear weapons ambitions. Despite what the regime tells you, we have no objection to Iran's pursuit of a truly peaceful nuclear power program. We're working toward a diplomatic solution to this crisis. And as we do, we look to the day when you can live in freedom -- and America and Iran can be good friends and close partners in the cause of peace."

And to the people of Syria, President Bush says: Don't continue to let your government turn your country into a tool of Iran.

Voices from Iran

The Foreign Policy Centre, based in London, recently published its latest publication, Voices from Iran, in Parliament. Based on a series of interviews with civil society actors in Iran, this publication seeks to showcase the spectrum of opinion amongst Iranians on the direction their country is taking. This new report argues that human rights, democracy and civil liberties in Iran must not be sidelined during the discussions on Iran's nuclear ambitions.

The report seeks to flesh out the spectrum of opinion amongst Iranians and draws upon interviews with opinion formers as diverse as a feminist, a government official, a human rights activist and a young entrepreneur. “Like a Persian hall of mirrors, the diplomatic strategies of the neoconservatives in America, are reflected by the neoconservatives in Iran. The risks of engagement are real but a good case can be made that the risks of not engaging with Iran are greater – sanctions and isolation have not brought any positive change; vile human rights abuses continue and the reformist forces in Iran are weak. The US hard line provides Iranian hardliners with a perfect alibi for their own failures.” The report concludes that, whatever the style of debate, and however tense the discussions may be, engagement is the only means to avert a military conflict.

France Not in Favor of Sanctions

In what may be a split from the Bush adminsitration, French President Jacques Chirac said on September 18, 2006 that he is “never in favor of sanctions” and suggested that the United States and other nations could begin talks with Iran on its nuclear program before Iran formally suspends its nuclear activities. In a 45-minute interview on European radio, Chirac appeared to upend the diplomatic drive and signaled a widening breach on Iran between the United States and European partners, reminiscent of the debate over the Iraq invasion four years ago. He also noted in his interview that the difficulties in Iraq showed he had been right to oppose that war in the first place.

In an apparent reference to setting up an agenda for talks with Iran, Chirac said: “I believe that on the one hand that Iran and the six countries must first establish a schedule for negotiation, then must embark on negotiations. And during these negotiations, I suggest that on the one hand the six give up on referring the matter to the Security Council and that Iran should give up the enrichment of uranium for the duration of the negotiations.”

European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana and Iranian nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani have been continuing discussions to find a face-saving solution for all sides that would allow diplomacy to proceed. One of the formulas under discussion would have the European Union countries begin the talks, and then the United States would join them once Iran suspended its programs.

Meanwhile, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said on September 19 that all parties involved in the Iran nuclear issue should maintain diplomatic negotiations and dialogue, and promote a peaceful resolution. He said all sides should make the most of the opportunity provided by the negotiations between the European Union and Iran, which were making progress. Qin also called for all parties to show patience and calm, and maintain the momentum of diplomatic negotiations and dialogues.

Negroponte Responds to Questions on Fleitz Report

During a Sunday Morning Stakeout, Sam Husseini asked John Negroponte: “Ambassador, why did your office approve the Fleitz Report on Iran's nuclear program, even though according to the IAEA, the report contained ‘erroneous, misleading, and unsubstantiated information’ about Iran's nuclear program?”

Negroponte responded: “We did not...of course, as you know, that report was written by a staff member of the House Intelligence Committee, we did not originate it, and we weren't commenting so much on the content, as we were…we dealt with it from a declassifcation point of view, what could be published in an unclassified format, so I wouldn't associate us one way or another, we didn't comment one way or another on the conclusions that were drawn by that report.”

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Talking Heads

Speaking at press conference in Senegal on his way to the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) summit in Cuba before heading to the annual gathering of the United Nations, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on September 14 that Iran was open to “new conditions” on the subject of his country’s nuclear program. “We are in favor of dialogue and negotiation and we believe that we can resolve the problems in a context of dialogue and of justice together,” he said, “I am announcing that we are available, we are ready for new conditions.” He declined, however, to say whether Iran was prepared to suspend uranium enrichment.

Back in Tehran, foreign ministry spokesperson Mohammad-Ali Hosseini said the US is “poisoning” the course of nuclear negotiations. “The US intends to poison the course of the negotiations through constant antagonism, although Iran has constantly stressed negotiations for realizing its nuclear rights," he said.

Meanwhile, a meeting between European Union foreign policy head Javier Solana and Iranian negotiator Ali Larijani set for September 14 was postponed, apparently because more work is needed before formal negotiations can begin. EU diplomats had said they would discuss a tentative offer by Larijani last weekend to consider temporarily halting enrichment of uranium. Solana's spokeswoman did say that senior aides to Solana and Larijani met in Geneva on Thursday.

While US Secretary of State Condaleezza Rice said that the canceling of the meeting demonstrated that Iran would likely not meet international demands to halt uranium enrichment, she also kept open the possibility of halting efforts at the UN Security Council to enact sanctions, provided of course that Iran complied with the demands. On a visit to Germany, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao commented that world powers should be careful about imposing sanctions on Iran because they could be counter-productive. Indeed, in comments to the press on September 14, French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said, “If there were to be, on the part of one or two members of the Security Council, an absence of dialogue and a rise, on one side or the other, in the will for confrontation, the international community would split. If the international community were to split, Iran would continue.”

The US should be careful not to conflate the interests of other countries, particularly when it comes to pressing for sanctions on Iran. The more the US talks about sanctions, the more other countries that have a stake in Iran will become involved. One need only to look, for example, to the split in the European countries on how to proceed: the Spanish foreign minister has asserted that “for the moment, we should keep talking” and the Italian foreign minister has stated his support for “a real negotiation offer” by the EU.

Cooking Intelligence Again

UN inspectors investigating Iran's nuclear program sent a letter to the Bush administration and to House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-Michigan) on September 13 regarding a recent House committee report on Iran's capabilities. The letter called parts of the document "outrageous and dishonest" and offered evidence to refute its central claims. The report, Recognizing Iran as a Strategic Threat: An Intelligence Challenge for the United States, was written by Frederick Fleitz, a former CIA officer and John Bolton’s former Chief of Staff and henchman at the State Department.

The letter sent by officials of the International Atomic Energy Agency and was signed by Vilmos Cserveny, the IAEA's director for external affairs and a former Hungarian ambassador. The letter said that the report contained some "erroneous, misleading and unsubstantiated statements." After no WMD were found in Iraq, the IAEA has been under criticism from the White House for taking a cautious approach on Iran. The letter sent on September 13 is the first time the IAEA has publicly disputed US allegations about the agency’s Iran investigation.

Below are a few of the five major errors in the House Intelligence report pointed out in the letter:

  • The IAEA called the report’s assertions that Iran is producing weapons-grade uranium at its facility in the town of Natanz "incorrect," noting that weapons-grade uranium is enriched to a level of 90 percent or more. Iran has enriched uranium to 3.5 percent under IAEA monitoring.
  • Among the allegations in the report is that IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei removed a senior inspector from the Iran investigation because he raised "concerns about Iranian deception regarding its nuclear program." The IAEA said the inspector has not been removed.
  • The report also suggested that IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei had an "unstated" policy that prevented inspectors from telling the truth about Iran's program. The letter called the assertion particularly "outrageous and dishonest," according to the IAEA letter.

Here is the full letter made available by the Washington Post.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Revelations of Iran's Confidential Response

Iran’s confidential response to the P5+1 (Britain, China, France, Russia, US + Germany) offer on August 22, 2006 was made public by David Albright for the first time on September 11, 2006.

According to the document, “The Islamic Republic of Iran does not intend to reject the whole issue unilaterally, and is ready to provide an opportunity for both sides to share their viewpoints on this issue and try to convince each other and reach a mutual understanding.” It also warns that if the UN Security Council deliberations on imposing sanctions on Iran continue, “the positions expressed in this response would be void and the Islamic Republic would choose a different course of action.”

While Iran’s proposal suggests that ending enrichment should not be a prerequisite to negotiations, as demanded by the United States and other countries, it does offer to temporarily suspend enrichment. On page eleven, the document states, “The remaining issue is suspension of Iran’s dossier in the Security Council during the negotiation period by the other party, and suspension of enrichment activities by Iran through negotiations. I.R. Iran essentially agrees with consideration of some principles and conditions for further assurances of productive negotiations and considers that as a correct step.”

On September 13, Dr. Jalil Roshandel opined on the significance of Iran’s offer to suspend enrichment:

  • Tehran’s offer to suspend enrichment for a defined period is a concession born out of a trend towards moderation among Iran’s conservatives.
  • This trend can reverse itself if Washington decides to push for sanctions at the Security Council.
  • At this junction, when Iran has offered temporary suspension of its enrichment activities, support for talks rather than sanctions is more likely to lead to a much-needed breakthrough.

Iran’s response to the P5+1 also mentions that the country might be willing to adhere to the Additional Protocol. The response states that the country “would facilitate the necessary working conditions for IAEA’s inspections for clarification of the ambiguities, would provide the utmost cooperation for expedition of its work, and if deemed necessary, would consider voluntary steps towards implementation of the Additional Protocol, given the provision of the legal conditions.” But again, this offer is preconditioned on the International Atomic Energy Agency Board of Governors suspending discussion of Iran’s nuclear program until a “final report” is presented by the IAEA Director General.

Among other significant elements, the proposal calls for “simultaneous mutual confidence-building” that would include a commitment by the foreign governments “to seriously follow up the fulfillment of a nuclear free zone in the Middle East, particularly the commitment to disarm [Israel] from weapons of mass destruction and in particular nuclear arms.”

Meanwhile, after much internal debate, the European Union countries (Britain, France and Germany) finally reached consensus on their approach. After some successful private talks last weekend with Iran, the country allegedly offered to suspend enrichment for up to two months. The EU3 and Iran are set to resume talks with Iran on September 14. There is much speculation that EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana will try to pin down Iranian negotiator Ali Larijani on the offer to suspend enrichment.

As for the rest of the UN Security Council, on September 12, Russia and China refused to endorse US-backed tough language to move to sanctions quickly, favoring continued negotiations instead. In a slight softening of position, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice signaled this week that a temporary suspension of Iran's nuclear programs might be enough to pave the way for the first direct negotiations involving the US and Iran in more than a quarter of a century.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Pushing for Diplomacy with Iran

Lt. Gen. Robert Gard and National Iranian American Council President Trita Parsi spoke at a Congressional briefing sponsored by Center for Arms Control and Nonproliferation, Women’s Action for New Directions and Friends Committee on National Legislation on September 8 to urge a new approach to the ongoing confrontation with Iran over its nuclear program. Both speakers agreed that there is no such thing as a military solution to resolve Iran’s nuclear program.

Gen. Gard, who serves as the Senior Military Fellow at the Center for Arms Control and Nonproliferation, pointed out that even Ronald Reagan, the paradigmatic conservative and unabashed hardliner, was willing to negotiate with the “Evil Empire” in order to achieve the historic START treaty. “Sometimes leadership requires working with people we just don’t like,” he said. Gen. Gard recently spearheaded a letter signed by retired generals and admirals and former diplomats calling on the Bush administration to "engage immediately in direct talks with the government of Iran without preconditions to help resolve the current crisis in the Middle East and settle differences over the Iranian nuclear program."

Dr. Parsi revealed that Iran’s response to the P5+1 proposal on August 22 included a guarantee that Tehran will not quit the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). “If you can’t quit the NPT, you can’t weaponize,” he noted. He also said that Iran’s response included an agreement to suspend enrichment as long as talks continue, but that suspension should be tied to the progress of negotiations. Dr. Parsi explained that the lack of talks to date have given the Iranians time to proceed with their nuclear program and had negotiations worked three years ago, we would not be in the situation we’re in today.

Both speakers viewed the rejected May 2003 Iranian nuclear proposal as a “missed opportunity” that contributed to the ousting of former President Mohammad Khatami and led to the ascension of a more hard-line president.

Dr. Parsi concluded the session by saying that there is generally a pro-US population in Iran and most have a very positive view of the United States. Because the US has not meddled in Iran for the past 17 years, it has accumulated quite a bit of soft power in the country. “We don’t need to win the hearts and minds of the Iranian people, we just can’t afford to lose them,” Dr. Parsi said, “The threat of a US attack over the past year is causing a loss of this view.”

Travis Sharp, the Center for Arms Control and Nonproliferation 2006 Herbert Scoville Jr. Peace Fellow, contributed to this report.

Khatami Calls for Dialogue

While hundreds of protestors stood across the street chanting slogans, former Iranian President Sayed Mohammed Khatami delivered a speech aimed at promoting dialogue, tolerance, understanding and peace inside the Washington National Cathedral on September 7, 2006. Mr. Khatami is the most senior Iranian official to tour the US since 1979 Iran hostage crisis.

The event was sponsored by Center for Global Justice and Reconciliation at Washington National Cathedral. The Center's director, Canon John Peterson, said he hopes for greater dialogue between the Abrahamic religions – Judaism, Christianity and Islam. According to Peterson, "Even if a dialogue is not possible at this moment between our nations, certainly it is our hope that there would be more understanding between our faith communities.”

In his scholarly and theological speech, Mr. Khatami issued a call for leaders in both the West and the Islamic world to launch a historic dialogue. He said:

“For true inter-civilizational dialogue to materialize, the East should no longer be the 'object’ of understanding in the West…, but it must be recognized as a partner in dialogue and communication. The East, too, must differentiate between the political manifestations of the West such as colonialism and western rationale [and scientific thinking]; and while relying upon its distinguished moral heritage must prepare the psychological grounds for such a dialogue. Both sides must agree to fairly and impartially re-evaluate and critique modernism and tradition and open the path to a better tomorrow, and to rescue life from the claws of warmongers and violence-seekers and ostentatious leaders.”
In a press conference at the National Cathedral prior to his speech, Mr. Khatami also said Iran is prepared to discuss the suspension – both the timing and the scope – of its uranium enrichment in negotiations. According to Mr. Khatami, "I believe the best recourse (is) to talk and negotiate over these issues. The use of force, and the threat of use of force, and language of threat has never produced a resolution to this conflict and (such) conflicts." He also said China, France and Russia are now willing to negotiate without preconditions.

Rev. John Bryson Chane, Bishop of Washington, concluded the evening by saying it is critical that politicians and religious leaders tone their rhetoric down and stop using words to denigrate and demonize other cultures. He said that the demonization of other cultures must be ended if real dialogue and engagement are to occur. Too often religion is used as a weapon of choice against other nations and cultures with whom we do not agree. Rev. Chane said that diplomacy and statesmanship alone can no longer resolve today’s problems and the three Abrahamic faiths have a great role to play in initiating dialogue and in the peace process.

Mr. Khatami served as President of Iran for two terms, from August 2, 1997 to August 2, 2005. He became known as Iran’s first reformist president, though he has received criticism for not doing enough. It was under Mr. Khatami’s administration that Iran sent the US a letter through Swiss diplomatic intermediaries offering a “grand bargain” which included overtures to engage in a broad dialogue with the US on full cooperation on nuclear programs, acceptance of Israel and the termination of Iranian support for Palestinian militant groups.

Lt. Gen. Robert Gard on Bush's Terrorism Speech

This week, Lt. General Robert Gard, Senior Military Fellow at the Center for Arms Control and Nonproliferation, responded to President Bush’s speeches regarding the war on terror. General Gard said:

"The President's remarks reflect the Administration's apparently belated realization that the American people see the occupation of Iraq as a disastrous distraction that has made America less safe and diverted attention away from efforts to combat Al Qaeda and other terrorist networks. In addition, the Administration's refusal to negotiate with Iran is a signal that the President may be on the verge of making the same mistake in that country as he made in Iraq.

Ironically, the foreign policy of the Administration that pledged to make us safer after the tragedy of September 11 has resulted in an increase in the number of victims of terrorist attacks worldwide as well as the number of nuclear powers. With North Korea and Pakistan going nuclear on President Bush's watch, a new nuclear arms race has become more likely.

Platitudes are not planning. I urge the President to reconsider this disastrous foreign policy and seek a solution that is worthy of the trust of American troops and the American people."

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Interview with Research and Technology Deputy at the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization

The following are excerpts from an interesting interview with Mohammad Ghannadi Maragheh, Research and Technology Deputy at the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization. In the interview, he reveals details about Iran’s nuclear program. The interview aired on Channel 2 of Iranian TV on August 26, 2006 and was translated by the Middle East Media Research Institute. To view the clip, click here. Special thanks to Stephen Young and Ed Lyman of the Union of Concerned Scientists for sending along.

Thursday, September 7, 2006 MEMRI: Iranian Atomic Energy Official Reveals Nuclear Project Details Special Dispatch - Iran
No. 1284

Interviewer: "I wanted to know what is the link between the Arak heavy-water reactor and what we now have at Natanz. Or perhaps these are two separate processes?"

Mohammad Ghannadi Maragheh: "Obviously, these are two completely separate processes. What happens in the enrichment process is intended primarily for light-water power plants, and for light-water research reactors. What we have in Arak is heavy water, which is used for heavy-water reactors and CANDU reactors. Since our future plans do not include the production of plutonium. In fact, we have no plans to separate uranium and plutonium for the purpose of fission. We are interested only in the radio-isotopes. We don't care which project will be the first to yield results - whether it is a heavy-water or light-water reactor. Canada has many heavy-water reactors. India has many heavy-water reactors - heavy-water research reactors. One country uses them to produce radio-isotopes, while the other uses them to produce weapons. It's up to the country."

Interviewer: "Does plutonium separation require a different technology? A complementary technology?"

Mohammad Ghannadi Maragheh: "Yes. As I told you, when uranium fission occurs, plutonium and other fission materials are formed next to it, right? The important point is that if any country wants to use the plutonium, it needs a very complex technology in order to reprocess the nuclear reactor fuel. This is not in our plans at the moment. As a matter of fact, we... If any country wants to use its plutonium - whether for weapons or for the production of energy - it must have a reprocessing plan to separate these three materials. This is a very complex technology. Since we want to use our reactor solely for the production of radio-medicine and radio-isotopes, we will not reprocess the fuel we use in it. Even if we wanted to do such a thing in the Bushehr nuclear power plant, the spent fuel is supposed to be returned to the country of origin [i.e. Russia]."


"A country that pursues the production of radio-medicine and radio-isotopes can use any kind of reactor, whether heavy-water or light-water."

Interviewer: "We are supposed to produce nuclear fuel as well, right? We say we want to supply the fuel to the Bushehr power plant, and to other power plants that we want to build. Right? Does this mean we must also have the complementary procedure of reprocessing?"

Mohammad Ghannadi Maragheh: "No, there is no need for it. In the program of the Islamic Republic of Iran, energy production... Many countries do not reprocess [the fuel] Germany, for example..."

Interviewer: "So how do they supply their own fuel?"

Mohammad Ghannadi Maragheh: "It's not a problem. They use uranium ore, not processed uranium. Some countries, such as China, Russia, France, and England, use processed uranium and plutonium - especially France. But our country will not do so. It will use only uranium ore. Many countries do this - Germany, Sweden, and America."

Interviewer: "There is no reprocessing at Natanz?"

Mohammad Ghannadi Maragheh: "No. Only [uranium] 235 separation is conducted at Natanz."

Interviewer: "In other words, enrichment..."

Mohammad Ghannadi Maragheh: "Enrichment is one matter, and the reprocessing of spent fuel is another. These two processes are separate. In enrichment, uranium 235 isotopes are separated. As for the process, much has been said about it - about the centrifuges, the way they operate, and their mechanism..."


Interviewer: "So on what do they base their claims that Iran is moving towards making bombs?"

Mohammad Ghannadi Maragheh: "They say we can produce the raw materials [for bombs]."

Interviewer: "So they are saying we can begin reprocessing..."

Mohammad Ghannadi Maragheh: "We are not going into the reprocessing, but they say that if we produce plutonium, the construction of the [reprocessing] facilities would not be so complex, and that we have the capability of doing it. The important thing is that the plutonium produced in research reactors is purer."

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

The Economics of Iran’s Energy Independence

On September 1, 2006, John Fleck reported in the Albuquerque Journal about the National Laboratories’ role in providing intelligence on Iran’s nuclear program. According to Fleck:

"While Iranian leaders say the program is peaceful, many in the international community fear it is aimed at building nuclear weapons.

So the question before the labs was this: Does Iran’s claim to be pursuing nuclear energy rather than bombs make economic sense?

The answer, according to a report by Los Alamos National Laboratory expert Jeff Bedell and colleagues at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, was a resounding 'no.'"

The sponsoring agency hasn’t been named, and its only appearance in the public record is a short description published last spring on a State Department Web site and a footnote in an unclassified report from the House Intelligence Committee.

Jeffrey Lewis has posted a copy of the report entitled “The Economics of Energy Independence” on his blog Arms Control Wonk.

According to the report:

"Iran has pursued an ambitious nuclear program with the declared goal of long-term energy independence. While this is a worthwhile and generally accepted national planning objective, it is clear that Iran’s nuclear program as now structured will not achieve this goal, and in fact may delay it by diverting capital and other resources from projects that would address pressing current energy sector problems and contribute to ultimate energy independence for Iran."

The report also found:

"Iran’s estimated uranium reserves are not commensurate with its declared program of reactor development, and would not in their most optimistic variants allow for life-cycle operation of these reactors. In what we consider the most likely set of scenarios, Iran’s uranium reserves would be exhausted before the seven-reactor construction program was even completed."

Iran-EU Nuclear Talks Postponed

According to Iranian envoys, talks between Iran and the European Union 3 (Britain, France, Germany) over Tehran's nuclear program have been postponed for several days. They are now likely to take place after top United Nations Security Council members meet on September 7, 2006 to discuss the deadlock over Iran. The US is pushing for sanctions against Tehran, claiming it wants to develop nuclear weapons. According to a Kremlin official, hitting Iran now with sanctions over its nuclear work could drive it “away from the civilized world,” in a hint of strong Russian opposition to punitive steps backed by the US. China has said that it still wants major world powers to negotiate with Iran even after it ignored a 31 August deadline, set by the UN Security Council, to stop uranium enrichment.

On September 6, German Chancellor Angela Merkel called on the international community to remain unified in trying to persuade Iran to stop its nuclear program, but reiterated that she saw no military solution. Speaking before parliament, Merkel also said Tehran's response to the P5+1 package of incentives was "not satisfactory."

As the five-year anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks approaches, the Bush administration is spotlighting an explicit terror threat: the danger that Iran could someday supply terrorists with nuclear weapons. The possibility of weapons of mass destruction falling into terrorist hands was central to both a new terror-fighting strategy the White House issued yesterday, and to a speech Mr. Bush delivered. In both cases, the White House is arguing that the reason to worry about terrorists wielding such weapons is the prospect that Iran, with its oil wealth and potential nuclear capability, might cooperate with them.

Meanwhile, on the eve of his first trip to Washington, former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami warned that US military action in the Middle East has backfired, producing greater terrorism, imperiling the future of Iraq and damaging America's long-term interests. He also predicted that the danger of even greater instability in the region will ultimately prevent the United States from launching military strikes against Iran over disputes about its nuclear intentions. According to Khatami, although an attack on Iran would create “great damage,” “prudence and wisdom” are likely to prevail because of the incalculable “detriment and damage” it would cause to both the region and the United States.

I will be attending Khatami’s speech at the National Cathedral in Washington on September 7 and will report on it more.