Friday, August 31, 2007

SSP Warning: Debate on CNBC

Sorry for the shameless self-promotion, but here is the video clip of my appearance on CNBC's "On the Money" last night, debating former CIA Director James Woolsey on Iran divestment movement.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

ISIS Calls New IAEA-Iran Agreement 'Flawed'

David Albright and Jacqueline Shire at the Institute for Science and International Security have published a new report calling the Agreement between the International Atomic Energy Agency and Iran on outstanding issues "flawed in important ways."

Among criticisms of the Agreement outlined in the new report are:
"The agreement states that aside from the issues identified in the document, there are 'no other remaining issues and ambiguities regarding Iran's past nuclear program and activities.' This is a sweeping statement that sets an unfortunate precedent regarding Iran's past nuclear activities, about which little is known in important areas. The document also refers to closing files, suggesting that IAEA or member states could be blocked from raising the issue again, even if significant new information emerged. The idea of 'closing files' violates fundamental safeguards principles.

"The agreement does not specify that Iran would provide the IAEA access to key people, facilities, and documents that are needed to verify Iranian answers to the IAEA's questions. Previous IAEA reports have noted the need for access to specific people and places . Without verification, Iranian answers cannot be accepted as truthful, given the many times Iran has misled IAEA inspectors.

"It also does not mention the matter of Iran's adherence to the Additional Protocol, without which it is all but impossible for the IAEA to ensure that Iran does not have undeclared nuclear materials and facilities, or verify Iran's statements under this agreement."

Click here to download the full report.

AEI Backs off Support for Congressional Sanctions Resolutions

Danille Pletka of the American Enterprise Institute has an Op-Ed in today's Washington Post regarding the many sanctions bills pending in Congress. AEI has been leading the divestment and sanctions effort on Iran, publishing lists of companies doing business inside Iran. However, Pletka's opinion piece backs away from supporting the pending Congressional resolutions that would strengthen unilateral sanctions against Iran.

She concludes:
"As Congress watches the international community crawl toward a consensus, slapping down European firms that irresponsibly continue to underwrite Iran's energy sector will be tempting. To be sure, Europe could do much more. But the European Union has come a great distance since the 1990s, and with each month, Europeans are doing more to withdraw support from the Iranian economy.
A more appropriate focus of congressional action would be Russian arms and nuclear sales to Iran and growing Chinese investment in Iran's energy sector. Closing loopholes that permit U.S. firms to do business with Tehran through subsidiaries would also show admirable consistency."

It appears that AEI has come under pressure from some of its financially contributing and board members who have business stakes in companies that would be affected by the Congressional resolutions.

Iran's Agreement with the IAEA

Click here to download the pdf version.

Information Circular INFCIRC/71 1

Date: 27 August 2007

General DistributionOriginal: English

Communication dated 27 August 2007 from the Permanent Mission of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the Agency concerning the text of the "Understandings of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the IAEA on the Modalities of Resolution of the Outstanding Issues."

The Secretariat has received a Note Verbale dated 27 August 2007 from the Permanent Mission of the Islamic Republic of Iran, attaching the text of the “Understandings of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the IAEA on the Modalities of Resolution of the Outstanding Issues.” The Note Verbale and, as requested therein, the attached document are herewith attached for information.


Permanent Mission ofISLAMIC REPUBLIC OF IRAN to the International Atomic Energy Agency(IAEA) Heinestr. 19/1/1 A-1020 Vienna/AustriaPhone: (0043-1) 214 09 71 Fax: (0043-1) 114 09 73 E-mail: PM. No. 083/2007 27 August 2007

The Permanent Mission of Islamic Republic of Iran to the International Atomic Energy Agency presents its compliments to the Agency's Secretariat and has the honor to request the text of the "Understandings of Islamic Republic of Iran and the IAEA on the Modalities of Resolution of the Outstanding Issues- to be circulated among the Member States and publish it as an INFCIRC document and make it available to the public through the IAEA website.

The Permanent Mission of Islamic Republic of Iran to the International Atomic Energy Agency avails itself of this opportunity to renew to the Agency's Secretariat the assurances of its highest consideration.

Office of External Relations and Policy Co-ordination

Attn: Mr. Vilmos CSERVENY Director, IAEA, P.O. Box 100,A-1400 Vienna


Understandings of The Islamic Republic of Iran and the IAEA on the Modalities of Resolution of the Outstanding Issues Tehran
21 August 2007

Pursuant to the negotiations between H.E. Dr. Larijani, I. R. of Iran's Secretary of Supreme National Security Council and H.E. Dr. ElBaradei, Director General of the IAEA, in Vienna; following the initiative and good will of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the agreement made, a high ranking delegation consisting of the directors of technical, legal and political departments of the IAEA, paid a visit to Tehran from 11 to 12 July 2007 during which “Understandings of The Islamic Republic of Iran and the IAEA on the Modalities of Resolution of the Outstanding Issues, Tehran 12 July 2007” were prepared.

A second meeting took place in Vienna on 24 July 2007 followed by a further meeting in Iran from 20 to 21 August 2007. The Agency's delegation had the opportunity to have meetings with H.E. Dr. Larijani during both visits to Tehran. Following these three consecutive meetings, both Parties reached the following understandings:

I. Latest Developments:

Based on the modalities agreed upon on 12 July 2007, the following decisions were made:

1. Present Issues:

A. Enrichment Programme

The Agency and Iran agreed to cooperate in preparing the safeguards approach for the Natanz Fuel Enrichment Plant in accordance with Iran's Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement. The draft text of the safeguards approach paper, and the facility attachment of IRN- were provided to Iran on 23 July 2007. The safeguards approach and the facility attachment were discussed during technical meetings in Iran between the Agency and the AEOI from 6 to 8 August 2007. Further discussions will be held with the aim of finalizing the facility attachment by the end of September 2007.

B. Heavy Water Research Reactor in Arak

Iran agreed with the Agency's request to visit the heavy water research reactor (IR40) site in Arak. A successful visit took place on 30 July 2007.

C. Designation of new inspectors

On 12 July 2007, Iran accepted the designation of five additional inspectors.

D. Issue of multiple entry visas

On 12 July 2007, Iran agreed to issue one year multiple entry visas for 14 inspectors and staff of the Agency.

2. Past Outstanding Issues:

A. Plutonium Experiments

In order to conclude and close the file of the issue of plutonium (Pu), the Agency provided Iran with the remaining questions on 23 July 2007. During a meeting in Iran between representatives of the Agency and Iran, Iran provided clarifications to the Agency that helped to explain the remaining questions. In addition, on 7 August 2007, Iran sent a letter to the Agency providing additional clarifications to some of the questions.

On 20 August 2007 the Agency stated that earlier statements made by Iran are consistent with the Agency.s findings, and thus this matter is resolved. This will be communicated officially by the Agency to Iran through a letter.

B. Issue of P1-P2

Based on agreed modalities of 12 July 2007, Iran and the Agency agreed the following procedural steps to resolve the P1-P2 issue. The proposed timeline assumes that the Agency announces the closure of the Pu-experiments outstanding issue by 31 August 2007, and its subsequent reporting in the Director General.s report to the September 2007 Board of Governors.

The Agency will provide all remaining questions on this issue by 31 August 2007. Iran and the Agency will have discussions in Iran on 24-25 September 2007 to clarify the questions provided. This will be followed up by a further meeting in mid-October 2007 to further clarify the written answers provided. The Agency's target date for the closure of this issue is November 2007.

C. Source of Contamination

Based on the agreed modalities on 12 July 2007 and given the Agency's findings which tend, on balance, to support Iran's statement about the foreign origin of the observed HEU contamination, the only remaining outstanding issue on contamination is the contamination found at a Technical University in Tehran.

Iran and the Agency agreed on the following procedural steps to address this issue, starting once the P1-P2 issue is concluded and the file is closed. The Agency will again provide Iran with the remaining questions regarding the contamination found at a Technical University in Tehran by 15 September 2007. After 2 weeks of the closure of the P1-P2 issue Iran and the Agency will have discussions in Iran on this issue.

D. U Metal Document

Upon the request of the Agency, Iran agreed to cooperate with the Agency in facilitating the comparison of the relevant sections of the document. Iran is presently reviewing the proposals already made during the first meeting on 12 July 2007. After taking this step by Iran, the Agency undertakes to close this issue.

II. Modalities of Resolution of other Outstanding Issues

A. Po210

Based on agreed modalities of 12 July 2007, Iran agreed to deal with this issue, once all the above mentioned issues are concluded and their files are closed. Iran and the Agency agreed upon the following procedural steps: regarding this issue, the Agency will provide Iran in writing with all its remaining questions by 15 September 2007. After 2 weeks from conclusion and closure of the issues of the source of contamination and U-metal, reflected in the Director General's report to the Board of Governors, Iran and the Agency will have discussions in Iran where Iran will provide explanations on the Po2 10.B.

Ghachine Mine

Based on agreed modalities of 12 July 2007, Iran agreed to deal with this issue, once the issue of Po210 is concluded and its file is closed. Iran and the Agency agreed upon the following procedural steps: regarding this issue, the Agency will provide Iran in writing with all its remaining questions by 15 September 2007. After 2 weeks from conclusion and closure of the issue of Po2 10, reflected in the Director General's report to the Board of Governors, Iran and the Agency will have discussions in Iran where Iran will provide explanations to the Agency about Ghachine Mine.

III. Alleged Studies

Iran reiterated that it considers the following alleged studies as politically motivated and baseless allegations. The Agency will however provide Iran with access to the documentation it has in its possession regarding: the Green Salt Project, the high explosive testing and the missile re-entry vehicle.As a sign of good will and cooperation with the Agency, upon receiving all related documents, Iran will review and inform the Agency of its assessment.

IV. General Understandings

1. These modalities cover all remaining issues and the Agency confirmed that there are no other remaining issues and ambiguities regarding Iran's past nuclear program and activities.

2. The Agency agreed to provide Iran with all remaining questions according to the above work plan. This means that after receiving the questions, no other questions are left. Iran will provide the Agency with the required clarifications and information.

3. The Agency's delegation is of the view that the agreement on the above issues shall further promote the efficiency of the implementation of safeguards in Iran and its ability to conclude the exclusive peaceful nature of the Iran's nuclear activities.

4. The Agency has been able to verify the non-diversion of the declared nuclear materials at the enrichment facilities in Iran and has therefore concluded that it remains in peaceful use.

5. The Agency and Iran agreed that after the implementation of the above work plan and the agreed modalities for resolving the outstanding issues, the implementation of safeguards in Iran will be conducted in a routine manner.

Monday, August 27, 2007

IAEA DG ElBaradei Criticizes US Arms Deal

In an interview for the Austrian Profil Magazine (German language) published today, IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei criticized US moves to sell arms to Gulf Cooperation Council Countries, including Saudi Arabia and ramping up military aid to Egypt and Israel. ElBaradei said the strategy was not helpful to security in the Middle East and the money would be better spent on regional development projects.

Iran News Clips, August 27, 2007

“Iran slow to markedly expand atom work,” Reuters, August 26, 2007
Iran seems to have made little progress towards enriching uranium in significant amounts this summer but it is unclear whether technical problems or fear of stiffer U.N. sanctions lie behind the slowdown, diplomats say. "It could be technical, it could be political, it could be both. We need to understand the reasons," said a senior diplomat familiar with International Atomic Energy Agency inspections at the Islamic Republic's underground Natanz enrichment complex. "But they are apparently still far away from (producing nuclear fuel in usable quantities)," he said ahead of a detailed IAEA report on Iran due on Wednesday and which six world powers will scrutinise to guide any further moves on sanctions.
Straight to the source.

“Governor of Iran’s Central Bank Resigns,” New York Times, August 26, 2007
The head of the Central Bank of Iran resigned Sunday, bringing the number of key economic figures who have left President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s cabinet to three this month. A government spokesman, Gholamhossein Elham, announced the resignation of the bank’s governor, Ebrahim Sheibani, after weeks of rumors that he had resigned over his differences with Mr. Ahmadinejad. The resignation came after the departures this month of the minister of oil, Kazem Vaziri-Hamaneh, and the minister of industry, Alireza Tahmasebi. Mr. Sheibani had reportedly opposed Mr. Ahmadinejad’s unexpected intervention to lower interest rates to 12 percent from 15 and 17 percent.
Straight to the source.

“France's Sarkozy raises prospect of Iran airstrikes,” Reuters, August 27, 2007
French President Nicolas Sarkozy said on Monday a diplomatic push by the world's powers to rein in Tehran's nuclear programme was the only alternative to "an Iranian bomb or the bombing of Iran". Sarkozy said a nuclear-armed Iran would be unacceptable and that major powers should continue their policy of incrementally increasing sanctions against Tehran while being open to talks if Iran suspended nuclear activities. "This initiative is the only one that can enable us to escape an alternative that I say is catastrophic: the Iranian bomb or the bombing of Iran," he said, adding that it was the worst crisis currently facing the world.
Straight to the source.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Iran News Clips, August 24, 2007

“An intensifying US campaign against Iran,” Christian Science Monitor, August 24, 2007
Somalia, 1993: During the darkest days of the American military intervention, when US troops were taking casualties from drug-addled gunmen wearing flip-flops, US officials pointed to a familiar nemesis. It was Iran, warned Madeleine Albright, then-US envoy to the United Nations, that had forged a "tactical alliance" with a Somali warlord and "terrorists" in Sudan. Intelligence sources for the first time spoke of smuggled Iranian weapons. In Mogadishu, journalists were told that Iranian agents were training Somalis to make car bombs. But no proof was ever presented. US charges against Iran's role in Iraq are mounting. But analysts say that a history of unsubstantiated US claims against Iran should serve as a cautionary tale. The lesson to be drawn is not that Iran is guiltless in Iraq, they say, but one of restraint as a familiar drumbeat sounds.
Straight to the Source

“Draft Report Logs Bleak Outlook for Iran,” Associated Press, August 24, 2007
A draft intelligence report on Iran suggests a change in the Tehran regime appears unlikely any time soon despite growing public anger over the country's economic woes, U.S. officials said Thursday. The report also anticipates little progress in getting Iran to halt its nuclear program or stop supporting militant groups in the region, officials familiar with the draft said on condition of anonymity because the report has not been released.
The latest in a series of reports from the nation's 16 intelligence agencies, the new National Intelligence Estimate on Iran is nearly complete and could be shared with President Bush and other policymakers within weeks, said the officials. One said it is expected to be completed as soon as next week.
Straight to the Source

See also this article by former CIA agent Ray McGovern on the National Intelligence Estimate.

“Exporting Instability,” by William Hartung, The Nation, September 10, 2007
Under the guise of promoting a "security dialogue" in the Persian Gulf, the Bush Administration has proposed $63 billion in arms transfers to the Middle East over the next ten years. Why pour more weapons into the region now? The principal rationale appears to be to send a message to Iran that it must bend to US pressure to end its nuclear program, stop the flow of Iranian weapons to Iraqi insurgents and cease its support for Hamas and Hezbollah. Otherwise, the argument goes, not only will Tehran face the prospect of US military action but it will also be surrounded by neighbors armed with top-of-the-line US weaponry. The arms package will be seen as even more provocative by Iran in light of the latest move in the Bush Administration's campaign to turn up the pressure on the regime: the recent decision to label its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist organization.
Straight to the Source

Thursday, August 23, 2007

News Clips, August 23, 2007

“Iran announces new 2,000-pound ‘smart’ bomb,” International Herald Tribune, August 23, 2007
Iran has developed a new 900-kilogram (2,000-pound) "smart" bomb, state-run television reported Thursday, the latest in a recent series of announcements heralding new weapons systems. The guided bomb, named Qased or Messenger, can be deployed by Iran's aging U.S.-made F-4 and F-5 fighter jets and will be officially unveiled next week, said the broadcast quoting a Defense Ministry statement. Iran often announces new weapons for its arsenal, but the United States maintains that while the Islamic Republic has made some strides, many of these statements are exaggerations.
Straight to the Source

“Legal Questions Remain for Freed Scholar in Iran,” New York Times, August 23, 2007
Haleh Esfandiari, the Iranian-American scholar freed on bail after three months in prison, is waiting for Iranian judicial officials to inform her whether the travel ban against her will be lifted and a new passport issued to allow her to return to the United States, her husband and her lawyer said Wednesday. In addition, a judge told the wife of Kian Tajbakhsh, who is also in jail in Iran and who like Ms. Esfandiari has dual nationality, that her husband would not be released from Evin Prison for at least another 10 to 15 days. “He promised me for the first time that my husband will be home for the last month of my pregnancy,” said Bahar Malek, Mr. Tajbakhsh’s wife, noting that she is nearly eight months pregnant.
Straight to the Source

“Fox Is Pushing For Iran War, Senator Says,” New York Sun, August 23, 2007
Senator Sanders of Vermont is backing a campaign to warn Americans that Fox News is using jingoistic programming to push the nation into a military attack on Iran. Mr. Sanders, a self-described socialist who caucuses with the Democrats, joined with a liberal filmmaker yesterday to denounce the popular cable channel for leading a drumbeat in favor of a military strike against Tehran. "The leader of that effort is Fox News, which, in many ways, is a propaganda machine," Mr. Sanders said during a conference call with reporters and bloggers. He said the network was echoing "increased rumblings" from President Bush and Vice President Cheney about the prospect of an attack on Iran. "We have got to put pressure on the mass media not to play the same craven role that they played in Iraq, where they essentially collapsed and became a megaphone for Bush's policies," the senator said.
Straight to the Source

“How to challenge Iran's militancy without using arms,” Op-Ed in Christian Science Monitory by Marc Gopin and Rep. Gregory Meeks, August 23, 2007
In a recent poll by Terror Free Tomorrow, a nonprofit research group that develops strategies to counter terrorism, 70 percent of Iranians thought that normal relations with the West should be a high priority, but only 29 percent thought nuclear energy should be, and an astonishing 61 percent disapproved of Ahmadinejad's government. The internal vulnerabilities of Iran's ruling circles make this a perfect time to extend an olive branch to the people of Iran with a diplomatic initiative that involves economic incentives and development opportunities for the poor, the middle class, and the reformers. Multilateralism is a must if we want this to happen, because Europe, Russia, Japan, and others maintain good relations with Iran's business sector, the kind necessary in order to provide socioeconomic development assistance. If the Revolutionary Guard and the president block these gestures then "it is on their heads," and we will likely see them increasingly marginalized.
Straight to the Source

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Progress on Nuclear Talks

There were several articles today regarding progress made in talks between the IAEA and Iran. Both parties said after two days of meetings in Tehran that they had made progress in talks about Iran's offer of more transparancy aimed at defusing concerns over the nuclear program. They also said they had agreed to a timeline on answering outstanding questions.

IAEA deputy director Olli Heinonen said they had "an agreed working plan and a timeline for implementation." He also said the talks were "good, constructive."

Meanwhile, the US criticized the agreement and urged the UN and allies to implement more sanctions on Iran.

Here are three articles: Reuters/ AP/ AFP

Potential for a US Strike on Iran?

I have received numerous emails regarding Bob Baer’s article in Time magazine that was published on August 18th asking my take on whether a strike will happen in the next six months and if recent Bush administration moves are signaling a move towards military confrontation.

The opening to the article is key:
"Officials I talk to in Washington vote for a hit on the IRGC [Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps], maybe within the next six months. And they think that as long as we have bombers and missiles in the air, we will hit Iran's nuclear facilities. An awe and shock campaign, lite, if you will. But frankly they're guessing; after Iraq the White House trusts no one, especially the bureaucracy."

First of all, it might be a good time to point out that numerous experts, even with reputable backgrounds, have been predicting a US attack on Iran in the next six months for the last couple of years. It hasn’t happened yet, which of course is a good thing and I don’t want it to happen.

I do believe that, yes, there elements in the Administration, particularly Vice President Cheney and his advisors, who are pushing for war. There are also others in the Administration, such as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who have been pushing for the “change in regime behavior”/"diplomacy" route.

The IRGC are both a political and military force in Iran and its members are embedded in the country’s political and economic structure. It is not clear who controls the force, though they are under the nominal control of the Supreme Leader. They act as self-appointed guardians of the revolution and they are likely to undermine any proponents of reform and moderation inside Iran. They also are likely to undermine proponents of engagement with the US or the West.

Neither the military nor the Bush administration has provided any substantiated evidence regarding its claims of IRGC’s involvement in Iraq. More than anything else, the possible move to label the IRGC as a terrorist organization has more to do with political showmanship and satisfying target audiences, such as Members of Congress who have been pushing for strengthened unilateral sanctions. But, the potential move will only undermine US security interests rather than enhance them, including hampering talks with Iran over Iraq security. Also, the potential designation of the IRGC on the terrorist list will really bring more of a backlash for Iranian citizens.

A hit on Iran’s nuclear sites would also not be in the strategic interest of the US. While a US military attack on Iran’s nuclear sites may temporarily push back the country’s program, but it would also strengthen the hand of hardliners in Iran who are pushing for nuclear weapons and rally the Iranian people around the flag.

Indeed, it is clear that the Bush administration’s present course of increased saber rattling is disconcerting and will only undermine efforts towards rapprochement with Iran. We need to do everything we can to demonstrate there are viable alternatives and that diplomacy has not been exhausted. We should also exercise caution in overhyping any potential US strike but without underestimating forces that wish to initiate it.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Bail Posted for Haleh Esfandiari

News reports abound that Haleh Esfandiari will be released from Evin prison where she has been held for over 100 days. According to the most recent CNN report, Prof. Esfandiari's mother posted bail for her, a reported three billion Iranian rials (around $320,000). It is still unclear exactly what being released on bail means for her.

The Iranian government has not made any comment on Prof. Esfandiari's release nor any comment regarding the three other Iranian American dual nationals who are still being detained - Kian Tajbakhsh, Ali Shakeri and Parnaz Azima.

UPDATE: Haleh Esfandiari is now at home with her family in Tehran. Her lawyer, Nobel Peace Prize Winner Shirin Ebadi, says that Prof. Esfandiari is legally allowed to leave the country.

Iran's ISNA news agency has also suggested Kian Tajbakhsh might also be freed on bail in coming days, but has not given details.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Giuliani on Iran Policy

Below is an excerpt from "Toward a Realistic Peace" by Rudolph Giuliani from Foreign Affairs, September/October 2007. The excerpt outlines Guiliani's policy on Iran. The full article can be read here.

"To achieve a realistic peace, some of what we need to do can and must be accomplished through our own efforts. But much more requires international cooperation, and cooperation requires diplomacy.

"In recent years, diplomacy has received a bad name, because of two opposing perspectives. One side denigrates diplomacy because it believes that negotiation is inseparable from accommodation and almost indistinguishable from surrender. The other seemingly believes that diplomacy can solve nearly all problems, even those involving people dedicated to our destruction. When such efforts fail, as they inevitably do, diplomacy itself is blamed, rather than the flawed approach that led to their failure.

"America has been most successful as a world leader when it has used strength and diplomacy hand in hand. To achieve a realistic peace, U.S. diplomacy must be tightly linked to our other strengths: military, economic, and moral. Whom we choose to talk to is as important as what we say. Diplomacy should never be a tool that our enemies can manipulate to their advantage. Holding serious talks may be advisable even with our adversaries, but not with those bent on our destruction or those who cannot deliver on their agreements.

"Iran is a case in point. The Islamic Republic has been determined to attack the international system throughout its entire existence: it took U.S. diplomats hostage in 1979 and seized British sailors in 2007 and during the decades in between supported terrorism and murder. But Tehran invokes the protections of the international system when doing so suits it, hiding behind the principle of sovereignty to stave off the consequences of its actions. This is not to say that talks with Iran cannot possibly work. They could -- but only if we came to the table in a position of strength, knowing what we wanted.

"The next U.S. president should take inspiration from Ronald Reagan's actions during his summit with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in Reykjavík in 1986: he was open to the possibility of negotiations but ready to walk away if talking went nowhere. The lesson is never talk for the sake of talking and never accept a bad deal for the sake of making a deal. Those with whom we negotiate -- whether ally or adversary -- must know that America has other options. The theocrats ruling Iran need to understand that we can wield the stick as well as the carrot, by undermining popular support for their regime, damaging the Iranian economy, weakening Iran's military, and, should all else fail, destroying its nuclear infrastructure."

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Presidential Candidates on Negotiating with Iran

Council for a Livable World today released responses to seven critical questions on national security issues that were posed to all declared presidential candidates from both parties. Joseph Biden, Hillary Clinton, Christopher Dodd, John Edwards, Barack Obama, and Bill Richardson responded to the Council’s questionnaire. Their responses exhibited noteworthy unity while differing on some important details.

The seven questions were on reducing nuclear weapons stockpiles, new nuclear weapons, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, Iraq, space weapons, nuclear non-proliferation, and negotiating with Iran and North Korea. Click here to view the entire resource.

Question #7 asked Candidates about direct negotiations with Iran and North Korea:

Do you support or oppose direct negotiations with Iran and North Korea that would include incentives for Iran not to build nuclear weapons and North Korea to eliminate verifiably its nuclear weapons program?

The candidates all endorsed negotiations with Iran and North Korea and demonstrated an awareness of the value and importance of diplomacy and international engagement in solving some of the toughest nuclear non-proliferation problems.

Biden, Clinton, Edwards, and Richardson all made clear that negotiations are required to achieve a successful outcome and are a necessary part of leadership, not some sort of capitulation or concession.

Biden said that direct talks “could add to, not take away from” the Six-Party talks with North Korea and EU-3 talks with Iran.

Clinton referred to her engagement strategy as “robust diplomacy” and contrasted it with the “cowboy diplomacy of the Bush-Cheney administration.”

Edwards called for cooperating “with other great powers to isolate Iran and to offer Iran economic incentives.” On North Korea, Edwards said that “We must engage the country directly, through the Six Party framework, placing economic and political incentives on the table.”

Obama was the only candidate to explicitly state that he “will not take the military option off the table” in confronting these threats, but he reiterated that “our first measure must be sustained, direct, and aggressive diplomacy.”

Richardson mentioned that “no nation has ever been forced to renounce nuclear weapons,” but rather that “many nations have been convinced to renounce them.” He explained that “meaningful sanctions accompanied by positive incentives and security guarantees” were the right approach. Richardson also cited his personal experience in negotiating with troublesome regimes, adding that “When the North Koreans want to re-engage the U.S., they call me, because they trust me.”

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Haleh Imprisoned for 100th Day

This is from a Wilson Center press release:

"Today marks the 100th day of imprisonment for Dr. Haleh Esfandiari, director of the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Middle East Program. Esfandiari has been incarcerated in Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison in Tehran, Iran since May 8, on allegations of endangering Iranian national security.

'We are extremely dismayed about Haleh’s situation, and our concerns about her health and mental well-being have only increased as weeks of captivity have stretched into months,' said Sharon McCarter, communications director of the Woodrow Wilson Center. 'A renowned scholar and a tireless advocate for greater dialogue between Iran and the United States, Haleh has committed no crimes. The Iranian Judiciary has said that the investigation of Haleh and Kian Tajbakhsh is complete. Our plea to the Iranian government remains simple: Let Haleh go. She has done nothing wrong. We ask for Haleh’s safe return to her family immediately, as well as the release and safe return of all of the detained Iranian-Americans.'"

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Senator Specter on Engaging Iran and Parliamentary Exchanges

On August 1, 2007, Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA) delivered a lengthy statement on the Senate floor regarding US policy in Iraq, including his view that the US should engage both Iran and Syria. His remarks included discussion of his support for two amendments to HR 1585, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008 (debate on the bill was suspended in the Senate in July). The two amendments in question are S.Amdt. 2208, introduced by Senators Warner (R-VA) and Lugar (R-IN), and S.Amdt. 2063, introduced by Senators Salazar (D-CO) and Alexander (R-TN).

Senator Specter stated:

“…Both the Warner-Lugar and Salazar-Alexander proposals address the issue of diplomacy in the region. I have consistently urged the administration to work with Iraq's neighbors, including Iran and Syria, in order to develop cooperative stabilization efforts. To that end, I have met with President Bashar Assad of Syria. I have met with Iran's Ambassadors to the United Nations, Seyed Muhammed Hadi Nejad Hosseinian and Muhammad Javad Zarif, on four occasions in New York and Washington, DC. Additionally, I was the only Member of Congress to attend the September 2006 address by former President Khatami at the National Cathedral. [Ed. Note: This is an untrue statement. I personally spoke with Rep. Wayne Gilchrest (R-MD) at the National Cathedral event.]

“During my meetings with Iranian officials, I developed a proposal for an exchange of visits by Members of Congress to Iran and Iranian parliamentarians to the United States to try to open dialogue between our two countries. In January 2004, my efforts to foster such a dialogue were successful. There was a tentative agreement for U.S. Members of Congress to meet with Iranian parliamentarians in Geneva. Regrettably, this parliamentary exchange never came to fruition.

“In an effort to jumpstart this exchange, on May 3, 2007, I sent a letter, with support from Senators Biden, Hagel and Dodd and Representatives Lantos, English, Moran, Gilchrest and Meeks, to the Speaker of Iran's Parliament suggesting we convene a meeting of U.S. and Iranian parliamentarians.

“I have amplified my strong belief that dialogue with nations such as Iran and Syria is necessary in an extensive Senate speech on June 16, 2006 and most recently in an essay 'Dialogue With Adversaries' published in the winter edition of The Washington Quarterly. While we can't be sure that dialogue will succeed, we can be sure that without dialogue there will be failure.

“I am not alone in calling for enhanced dialogue with U.S. adversaries. Of the many suggestions gleaned from the Baker-Hamilton commission, one passage crystallizes their conclusion: ‘Our most important recommendations call for new and enhanced diplomatic and political efforts in Iraq and the region, and a change in the primary mission of U.S. forces in Iraq that will enable the United States to begin to move its combat forces out of Iraq responsibly. We believe that these two recommendations are equally important and reinforce one another.’

“However, the President's plan places a disproportionate emphasis on military force while neglecting the needed diplomacy and political efforts.

“Having served in the Senate for 26 years, holding the chairmanship of the Intelligence Committee and senior positions on the Appropriations subcommittees on Defense and Foreign Operations, I am aware of what challenges nations like Iran and Syria pose to the United States. A world in which Iran seeks nuclear weapons and supports terrorist groups such as Hezbollah is not a safe world. A world in which Syria provides refuge for Hamas and Hezbollah and permits its territory to be used as a conduit for terrorism is counterproductive to peace and stability. I expressed my views on the danger the connectivity between Iran, Syria and Hezbollah poses to peace and security in an August 2, 2006, floor statement.

“Today, however, Americans are not dying from nuclear weapons or from direct attacks by Hamas and Hezbollah. Many are dying policing a civil conflict.

“President Assad, during our December 2006 meeting in Damascus, suggested that a conference with regional players and the United States would be beneficial to addressing the issues confronting Iraq. On January 22, 2007, I conveyed this proposal and my support for it to Secretary Rice in a meeting in her office at the State Department. One month later, on February 27, 2007, during her testimony before the Senate Appropriations Committee, Secretary Rice announced such a proposal…

“Very little has happened to effectuate that ‘new diplomatic initiative.’ The Iraq Study Group clearly states: ‘Given the ability of Iran and Syria to influence events within Iraq and their interest in avoiding chaos in Iraq, the United States should try to engage them constructively.’

“It would have been my hope that these types of meetings would have occurred frequently in the intervening months. However, I am pleased that the President has recently indicated a commitment to ramp up diplomatic efforts in the region.”

Air Force General Advocates Bombing Iran's Oil Refineries

In a new article for Defense News, Air Force Major General Charles Dunlap writes that the next phase of the counterinsurgency in Iraq should be bombing Iran's oil refineries, in retaliation for Iran's support of Iraqi guerrillas.

(pictured left: Iran's oil refinery at the Gulf Port of Bandar-Abbas.)

According to excerpt of the article published on the Danger Room:

"What does every war-fighting effort require? Fuel. In this instance, Iran has real vulnerabilities that the 'overwhelming application of the air instrument' can exploit.

Specifically, despite huge reserves of crude oil, Iran nevertheless must import about half of its gasoline, largely because of a shortage of domestic refinery capacity. Targeting what refinery capacity Iran possesses could directly and concretely erode its ability to support Iraqi insurgents.

Oil refineries are ideal targets for air and missile attack. They are large, relatively 'soft' facilities that are difficult for even the most modern air defense to protect. At the same time, they represent wholly lawful targets generally subject to attack with a minimal risk of collateral damage.

Besides reducing the fuel available to support insurgent activities in Iraq, the further cutback in refinery capacity could influence Iranian leadership, as the nation has already seen civil disturbances as a result of gasoline rationing.

Another indirect benefit of destroying refining capacity: Billions of dollars otherwise available to support Iraqi insurgents would have to be diverted by the Iranians to import additional gasoline supplies."

Thursday, August 09, 2007

The Onion on US-Iran Relations

I couldn't help but share this piece from The Onion on this very hot August afternoon when a good laugh is needed. It would be funnier if the conclusion of the article weren't so true.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Another Sanctions Bill Anyone?

Apparently there are not enough sanctions bills already being considered by Congress. On Friday, August 3, Rep. Darrell E. Issa (R-CA) introduced H.R. 3390, to impose sanctions on Iran and on other countries for assisting Iran in developing a nuclear program, and for other purposes. The bill was referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs in addition to the Committees on Financial Services, Ways and Means, Oversight and Government Reform and Intelligence.

I will post the bill when it is available. In the meantime, here is an interesting post from Jim Lobe regarding pressure on the American Enterprise Institute by members of its Board for supporting sanctions and divestment.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Gulf Arms Deal Poorly Veiled Attempt to Mask American Policy Disaster

The proposed US arms deal to the Gulf Cooperation Council countries – Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman – is a poorly veiled attempt to mask the disaster of American policy in the region that has boosted Iran and weakened popular support for Arab regimes. At the announcement of the deals, US officials acknowledged that the common goal of the military aid packages and arms sales is to strengthen pro-Western countries against Iran as it seeks to extend its power in the region. Citing the Iranian threat as the main rationale for this deal is a convenient approach for the Administration to receive Israeli and Congressional acquiescence for selling the significant new military technology, meanwhile bolstering profits for US defense contractors.

The proposed US arms deal with the Gulf Cooperation Council Countries, as well as the new military aid packages to Egypt and Israel would have disastrous consequences in Iran. After the fall of Sadam Hussein, Iran became the most conventionally superior force in the Gulf region. Iran currently spends around $4 billion on its military forces each year. The proposed arms deal would provide such a huge inflow of arms into the region that it could tip the balance in Tehran in favor of those who want to pursue nuclear weapons. They will argue that the only way for Iran to survive is to have a nuclear deterrent.

The reality is that the proposed arms deal to the Gulf Cooperation Council Countries may not produce much real military capability for many years, if at all. Iran’s military capability improvements thus far have focused on unguided rocketry, guided anti-ship missiles, coastal warfare and perhaps mines. It is essentially a capability to deter a US attack on Iran. If the US were to attack Iran, it could respond by using its force to significantly raise the costs of shipping in the Gulf and cut off oil exports from countries in the region. If the US does want to attack Iran in the future, it would need to significantly ramp up the forces of allies in the Gulf to quickly neutralize any Iranian response. Thus, the proposed arms deal is not so much “defensive” as it is strategically offensive, but it will take many more deals to ramp up the capabilities required.

The arms sales will only undermine true dialogue and diplomacy. Rather than ratcheting up tensions through arms sales in the region as has been US policy for the last two decades, the US should devote its resources to sustained dialogue with Iran on the range of issues at the core of tensions between the two countries. And instead of rewarding Saudi Arabia with a massive arms contract, the US should negotiate with the country to stop its sponsorship of terrorism in Iraq.

There is still time to prevent the arms deal as it must still go through Congress. Several House members, including Nadler (D-NY), Weiner (D-NY), Engel (D-NY) Woolsey (D-CA), Lee (D-CA) and Ferguson (R-NY) have announced their intention to try to block the sale. Congress can block major arms sales by passing a joint resolution of disapproval that the President has to sign.

Statement of Bush Administration Policy on H.R. 2347

After the House passed H.R. 2347, it was sent to the Senate, where it is currently sitting on hold in the Banking Committee.

Here is the Bush administration's Statement of Policy on H.R. 2347. It argues that the bill would undermine US efforts to maintain international unity on intensifying pressure on the Iranian regime.

According to the Statement, "Increasing American unilateral sanctions targeted at United States allies and diplomatic partners would shift focus away from Iran's unacceptable behavior and onto differences between the US and its partners, and would impair the Adminsitration's ability to employ effective multilateral approaches, including multilateral sanctions. This is essential because we believe US unilateral sanctions alone will not suffice and will harm the coalition."

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

House Passes HR 957

On July 31, 2007, the House passed HR 957 by a vote of 415-11. The bill adds to the list of those that can be sanctioned for making investments that increase Iran's ability to develop it petroleum resources. The Ways and Means and Financial Services Committees spent a lot of time on this bill and below is a useful summary of changes prepared by Financial Services.


(1) Section 2 would only apply prospectively (so that contracts that were entered into legally would not be made illegal) but would also apply to companies that have already acquired companies that do business with Iran if that company expands its contracts, a new contract is entered into, or a contract is automatically rolled over which otherwise could have been cancelled. (See “Exception,” beginning on page 3, Line 15).

(2) Under section 2, which keys off of two executive orders and the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, W&M wanted to make sure that the waiver authority in the two executive orders and the IEEPA were preserved with regard to this section. What we learned is that there are no waivers under the E.O’s in question. Rather, the President reserves the right to issue licenses through the Treasury Department to allow the transaction in question. That is the form the waiver takes; so if an entity acquires a company and wishes to continue doing business with Iran, it would apply for a licenses, Treasury would issue it, and then the business could continue without any penalties against the company. That is, in effect, a waiver of penalties against the company.

So the construction clause on Page 4, Line 5 preserves this right of the President to issues licenses with regard to a particular companies activities, which is tantamount to a waiver because in such cases, no civil penalties would apply.,

(3) Under definitions on page 4, the definition of “parent company” was (1) an entity is a “parent company” of another entity if it owns, directly or indirectly, more than 50 percent of the equity interest in that other entity and is a United States person.”

We pointed out that depending on the type of shares held, an entity could hold less than 50% of the shares of a particular entity and still be “controlling” the entity, depending on how the other shares are listed and what voting rights are attached. The inverse is also true (i.e., one could hold more than 50% of the equity shares and not be “controlling.” So a change was made: see page 4, lines 15-17.

(4) Under section 1 of the bill as reported, the definition of “petroleum resources” was expanded to “petroleum by-products” and “liquefied natural gas.”
Petroleum by-products seemed unnecessarily broad, so we asked for it to be changed to “petroleum refining capacity.” See page 2, line 18.

(5) Under section 1 of the bill, “export credit agencies” is specifically added under the list of entities under which sanctions may be imposed under Iran Sanction Act. Chairman Frank’s concern was that a sanction against a foreign credit agency could be construed to attach to the entire government of a specific credit export agency and not just to the export credit agency itself. Ms. Ros-Lehtinen strongly opposed making this clarification/ distinction in the text of the bill (and the bill’s report was already written), but she, at the last minute, did finally agree to the construction language in page 2, Line 20, which provides some clarification.

House Passes HR 2347

On July 31, 2007, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 2347, The Iran Sanctions Enabling Act, by a vote of 408-6, despite opposition from the Secretaries of State and Treasury.

The bill will establish a federal list of companies that have direct investments in Iran’s energy sector and remove specific legal barriers to enable mutual fund and corporate pension fund managers to cut ties with these listed companies if they choose to do so. The bill also provides federal authority for state and local governments that choose to divest their public pension funds and calls on the U.S. government to list companies with more than $20 million invested in Iran's energy sector.

Linking the Sudan and Iran divestment bills, Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), H.R. 2347’s sponsor, said, “I am disappointed by the Bush administration's opposition to both of these bills, and I am pleased that the House has passed them with well above the number of votes that would be necessary to override any vetoes.”

Under the bill, private sector and state and local government money managers who decide to divest from companies on the list would be protected from lawsuits. The bill could affect large public pension funds and several states, including California, Florida and Ohio have already introduced divestment legislation.

The Congressional Research Service recently found more than $100 billion in energy investments in Iran since 1999 by foreign firms like France's Total, Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Italy's ENI and Japan's Inpex Holdings Inc.