May 18, 2010
Number 05/10 #05
Readers will have heard in the media about Iran’s nuclear “deal” with Turkey and Brazil, which apparently meets some of the goals of a deal Iran backed out of last October which would have removed Iran’s low-enriched uranium from the country in exchange for nuclear fuel. This Update features reactions to and analysis of the new agreement.
First up is the New York Times’ look at the sceptical reactions to the agreement coming from Washington, Europe and Moscow, and the reasons for them. The article makes it clear that this is seen as a clever manoeuvre by Teheran to put off sanctions, noting further that while in October, the deal would have removed enough uranium from Iran to prevent the building of nuclear weapons, this new deal will not. Most importantly, the article makes clear that the deal does not address the key issue that the sanctions are intended to deal with – Iran’s continued enrichment of uranium in violation of security council resolutions. For more detail on the sceptical reactions and the reasons for them, CLICK HERE. Haaretz has some further reaction from Israel, as well as some experts, here.
Next up, the Washington Post editorialises on this deal, arguing it must be rejected and if Iran does not agree to suspend enrichment, sanctions must go forward. The paper points out that the deal actually does nothing to stop Iran’s nuclear program – and does not even remove a bomb’s worth of uranium from the country. They point out that the Iranian regime may be seeking to delay sanctions because major Green opposition’s demonstrations are expected on the June 12 anniversary of last year’s controversial election. For the paper’s complete argument, CLICK HERE.
Finally, Iran commentator and author Emmanuele Ottolenghi looks at some of the fine print in the deal, especially the questions it leaves unanswered. These include, who is to supply the fuel rods the deal promises Iran – certainly not Turkey, which does not have the capability. Also, does the proposed “swapping” in the deal mean that Iran gets twice as much fuel as in the original agreement, as the agreement appears to imply? Ottolenghi concludes that the deal is not designed to be serious, but will nonetheless likely split those opposing Iran’s nuclear program, and will delay sanctions by some months. For his full take, CLICK HERE. More on how the agreement is seen in Iranian perceptions as creaing a “new world order” dominated by Iran comes from the Middle East Media Research Institute.
Readers may also be interested in:
- The heart-breaking story of Farzad Kamangar, a Kurdish teacher executed on Sunday in Iran on baseless “terrorism” charges.
- Tony Badran discusses some new revelations about Iranian subversion in Kuwait and other Gulf states, and what they say about hopes of “containing” Iran.
- Barry Rubin on the Obama Administration’s failure to take action over the increasing and acknowledged Iran-al-Qaeda alliance.
- American analyst Dr. Jonathan Schanzer has some advice about how Washington should administer future Iran sanctions.
- Hamas demolishes dozens of houses built without permits in Gaza – an action that always leads to condemnation when Israel does it.
- Hamas’ latest message for kids – a bear who encourages kids to sing ” When we grow up, we will become martyrs…When we get martyred we will go to Paradise.”
- Meanwhile, Palestinian Authority TV demands that all Israeli Jews go back to “their original homeland” in Europe or Ethiopia.
- A Muslim-American doctor describes her encounter with Itamar Marcus of Palestinian Media Watch, and how she was affected by the incitement he showed her.
By DAVID E. SANGER and MICHAEL SLACKMAN
New York Times, May 17, 2010
WASHINGTON — The United States, Europe and Russia responded with extreme skepticism to Iran’s announcement on Monday that it had reached an agreement to ship roughly half of its nuclear fuel to Turkey, saying they would continue to press for new sanctions against Tehran.
Nonetheless, officials from several countries said that the deal, negotiated with the leaders of Turkey and Brazil, was a deftly timed attempt to throw the sanctions effort off track.
The terms were similar to those of an accord made with the West last October that fell apart when Iran backtracked. Since then, Iran has added considerably to its stockpile of low-enriched uranium, meaning that it would keep on Iranian territory about half of its current supply — or about enough fuel for one nuclear weapon if it chose to make one. The earlier deal was attractive to Washington because it would have deprived Tehran of enough known fuel to make a weapon, leaving breathing space for negotiations.
Rejecting the new deal, however, could make President Obama appear to be blocking a potential compromise. And the deal shows how Brazil and Turkey, which for their own economic interests oppose sanctions, may derail a fragile international consensus to increase pressure on Iran.
The sanctions are aimed primarily at an issue that the deal does not address: Iran’s refusal to halt further enrichment, as the United Nations Security Council has demanded for four years, or to answer international inspectors’ questions about evidence suggesting research into possible weapons designs and related experiments. The inspectors have also been blocked from visiting many suspect facilities and laboratories, and from interviewing key scientists and engineers.
The deal agreed to Monday in Tehran calls for Iran to ship 2,640 pounds of low-enriched uranium to Turkey, where it would be stored for one year. In exchange, Iran would have the right to receive about 265 pounds of uranium enriched to 20 percent by other countries for use in a reactor that makes isotopes for treating Iranian cancer patients.
But the White House noted that even while striking the deal, Iran insisted on Monday that it would continue its new effort to enrich fuel at a higher level, taking it closer to bomb-grade material. “While it would be a positive step for Iran to transfer low-enriched uranium off of its soil as it agreed to do last October, Iran said today that it would continue its 20 percent enrichment, which is a direct violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions,” Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, said in a statement.
Mr. Gibbs made clear that the administration would continue to press forward with sanctions until, as he said, Iran demonstrates “through deeds — and not simply words — its willingness to live up to international obligations or face consequences, including sanctions.”
A senior administration official who has been deeply involved in the Iran standoff said the agreement announced Monday “is not a solution for the core of the Iranian enrichment program.”
Sergei B. Ivanov, the deputy prime minister of Russia, was similarly skeptical at a lunchtime speech in Washington. He said he expected the sanctions resolution to “be voted in the near future,” and said that the new Iranian accord should not be “closely linked” to the sanctions effort. “Iran should absolutely open up” to inspectors, he said. That statement was significant because Russia had been reluctant to join sanctions several months ago. China, which has also been hesitant, issued no statement.
White House officials were clearly angered at the leaders of Turkey and Brazil, whom Mr. Obama had met personally in Washington during last month’s Nuclear Security Summit to urge them to be careful not to give the Iranians a pretext to avoid complying with United Nations demands. Mr. Obama followed up those meetings with detailed letters in the last week of April outlining specific concerns, a senior administration official said. But those letters appeared to have limited influence on the outcome.
Turkey’s ambassador to the United States, Namik Tan, described the agreement as a “confidence-building measure,” and said he was disappointed in the Obama administration’s reaction. “I would have expected a more encouraging statement,” he said.
“We don’t believe in sanctions, and I don’t believe anybody can challenge us, and certainly not the United States,” Mr. Tan said. “They don’t work.”
Iranian officials applauded the deal as a breakthrough, with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad saying at a news conference in Tehran that the agreement would be “to the benefit of all nations who want to live freely and independently.“
Iranian officials said they would send a letter confirming the deal to the International Atomic Energy Agency of the United Nations within a week.
“This shows that Iran is not pursuing nuclear weapons, but rather peaceful nuclear technology,” said Ramin Mehmanparast, the Foreign Ministry spokesman, in a televised news conference. “Such interactions must replace a confrontational approach.”
Diplomats in Vienna said the atomic agency had not been formally notified about the deal, but added that Tehran’s agreement to a swap outside its own territory was potentially significant.
Yet many analysts suggested that the deal was meant to transfer blame for the conflict to the West, while derailing sanctions that had appeared possible within weeks.
“Iran has a history of forging a deal and then going back on it,” said Emad Gad, an expert in international relations at the Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies in Cairo. “It lets the situation get really tense and then reaches an agreement.”
There appear to be reasons to be skeptical. In Tehran, the Foreign Ministry spokesman told a person attending the news conference that Iran would not, for example, suspend its program to enrich uranium to 20 percent — closer to weapons grade.
Iran has said that its nuclear program is peaceful, while the West has charged that it is aimed at building weapons.
As international pressure for new sanctions grows, Iran is preparing for the June 12 anniversary of last year’s disputed presidential election, which led to months of protests and conflict.
The earlier agreement fell apart under political pressure in Iran when nearly every political faction criticized it as compromising Iran’s right to nuclear energy. Then and now, Iran’s negotiating team argued that the deal was in the nation’s interest because it effectively confirmed Iran’s right to enrich uranium.
If successful, the agreement would enhance and underscore the continued rise of Turkey and Brazil as global forces. Ferai Tinc, a political analyst writing in the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet, said, “Ankara was neither a full supporter of Iran nor an advocate of violence and sanctions against it, but stood strongly for promoting a diplomatic resolution.“
David E. Sanger reported from Washington, and Michael Slackman from Cairo.
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Washington Post, Tuesday, May 18, 2010
THE DEAL struck Monday by Iran with Brazil and Turkey will do nothing to restrain Tehran’s nuclear program. It could, however, derail the Obama administration’s effort to focus international pressure on Iran and buy the regime more time to enrich uranium and defeat its domestic opposition. In other words, it could be a major diplomatic coup for the regime of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, which has skillfully exploited the eagerness of the Brazilian and Turkish leaders to prove themselves as global players.
The memorandum signed by the three governments outlines an exchange that superficially resembles one proposed by the United States, France and Russia in October. Iran would give up 1,200 kilograms of the uranium it has enriched in exchange for 120 kilograms of fuel rods it could use in a medical research reactor. But the differences are crucial. The October deal would have left Iran without “breakout capacity,” or enough enriched uranium to produce a bomb with further processing. In this one, Iran will retain a bomb’s worth of material.
Moreover, Iranian officials are saying they will continue enriching uranium, including to the higher threshold needed for the research reactor. The agreement also gives Iran the right to take back the uranium it ships to Turkey at any time if it decides that the provisions of the deal “are not respected.” That includes a declaration of Iran’s right to enrichment — in contradiction of multiple U.N. Security Council resolutions — and to “cooperation including nuclear power plant and nuclear research reactor construction.”
The deal arrives just as the Security Council was about to begin considering a new sanctions resolution, which was to be followed by tougher measures by the European Union. As Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad hoped, Brazilian and Turkish officials on Monday declared that their bargain rendered further discussion of sanctions moot. The timing is crucial in more than one way: Iran is approaching the June 12 anniversary of last year’s disputed presidential election, and the regime is intent on preventing a resurgence of the opposition Green Movement. Avoiding sanctions for even a few more weeks could help Mr. Khamenei and Mr. Ahmadinejad entrench their extremist rule.
The Obama administration and its allies will have to work skillfully to deflect this challenge. The White House issued a properly skeptical statement saying that the proposed swap must be “conveyed clearly and authoritatively” to the International Atomic Energy Agency by Iran “before it can be considered by the international community.”
It’s possible that Tehran will retreat even from the terms it offered Brazil and Turkey — in which case those countries should be obliged to support U.N. sanctions. Even if Tehran sticks to what was announced, the plan should be unacceptable to the United States. At a minimum, Iran should be required to end its higher-level enrichment of uranium if the swap is to take place. And if it does not agree to discuss the implementation of U.N. resolutions barring enrichment, the sanctions in the Security Council must go forward.
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Commentary “Contentions” 05.17.2010 – 11:53 AM
One unanswered question about the nuclear-swap deal: who provides the 120 kilograms of 20 percent enriched uranium fuel rods to Iran? Because that is what swapping means — Iran gives Turkey 1,200 kilograms; the 1,200 kilograms sit in Turkey under IAEA, Iranian, and Turkish supervision for a month and then either they are swapped or they return home. Under the original agreement, there was no swapping — Iran would transfer 1,200 kilograms, Russia and France would reprocess them, and the resulting product (20 percent enriched fuel rods) would then return to Iran.
By negotiating a swap with Turkey, Iran adds a step to the process — 1,200 kilograms go to Turkey. They are swapped with 120 kilograms of 20 percent enriched uranium fuel rods; the 1,200 kilograms go to Russia and France to be reprocessed and then they return to Iran.
You can see this as a bazaar trick to get a discount — for the same price, now Iran gets 240 kilograms of fuel rods instead of 120. Or you can see it as an exchange of hostages — you take our fuel, we take yours.
Still, the question remains unanswered — who supplies 120 kilograms to Iran within a month of delivery?
Turkey? Brazil? The original Vienna group of France, Russia, and the United States?
And while we are at it: who ensures the safety of the nuclear material once it reaches Turkish territory? Turkey is not known to have the facilities to do so.
So let me make a guess. The deal goes nowhere. It falls through. But for a good six to eight weeks, the Iranians are the good guys, the ball is in the West’s court, the sanctions’ effort in New York loses steam, Turkey and Brazil vote against any sanctions’ resolution, and Moscow urges France and the United States to consider the swap deal as a good bridging proposal to “build upon.”
That’s the beauty of the deal negotiated by Turkey and Brazil. It puts the West into a corner for two reasons: first, because it allows Iran to break its isolation — with Turkey and Brazil now having negotiated a deal independently of the U.S., the Security Council, the IAEA, or the P5+1, it’s the U.S. and the EU that look isolated.
And second, because now President Obama, President Sarkozy, and President Medvedev (or Prime Minister Putin, who knows?) — the original promoters of the transfer deal from last October — will have to say whether they are prepared to go the extra mile and do what Iran demands in exchange for transferring its uranium to Turkey — something they were not prepared to do back in October. My guess is that Russia will go one way, France and the U.S. the opposite way. So here’s the master stroke: in one fell swoop, Iran managed to create a rift inside the UN Security Council and the Vienna Group at the same time.
Give Iran credit then – it has just gained another few months.