Tag Archives: iranian nuclear program

#Iran: Rouhani’s most interesting speech to date

4 Jan
Hassan_Rouhani

Hassan Rouhani

Why?  

Most importantly because in his speech today, President Rouhani asked for or as the Financial Times put it, “threatened” to hold a referendum in Iran.

The Iranian president stated that Iran’s constitution allows such referendums for important issues such as economic, political, cultural and social related matters. Although he didn’t specifically say for which issue he wants a referendum, I think its safe to assume that he was talking about the nuclear program. This is right now the most important decision for the nezam or the system of the Islamic Republic to make.

So why would Rouhani call for a referendum?

Most probably because he is confident that the people would back his nuclear strategy, which is assumed to be more flexible than that of the supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei and the hardliners around him.

Why propose a referendum now?

Here we are looking at two possibilities:

1 –  Rouhani is engaged in a behind the scenes tug of war with the hardliners regarding nuclear talks, and he believes that in a referendum the people would back him, thus tipping the balance in his favor.

2- give Ayatollah Khamenei a ladder to climb down from his current nuclear position. When it comes to face-saving, a referendum would provide the perfect excuse for the supreme leader. Ayatollah Khamenei could say that he didn’t want to compromise with the Americans, but as the people demanded otherwise, he had no other choice but to listen, “as he has always done” or so he could claim.

In the same speech today Rouhani also attacked monopolistic powers in Iran (in other words the Revolutionary Guards).

What next? – short-term

The Revolutionary Guards and the hardliners are not going to sit still. Rouhani should expect retaliation from them, perhaps in the parliamenet. They could dismiss yet another one of his minister.

What next? – long-term

Difficult to say. But if Rouhani feels confident enough to challenge the IRGC and the hardliners to a referendum, then it seems he is not as passive as some believed he was going to be (regarding the nuclear program). It also seems that the people could live with what the hardliners call “a bad deal”.

Why would #Iran agree to ship its enriched uranium to #Russia?

3 Jan

Tonight it was revealed that:

Iran and the United States have tentatively agreed on a formula that Washington hopes will reduce Tehran’s ability to make nuclear arms by committing it to ship to Russia much of the material needed for such weapons, diplomats say.

The mentioned “material” is enriched uranium, produced by Iran.

This will mean that should there be a final nuclear accord with Iran, majority of its enriched uranium would be shipped to Russia. Consequently there will not be any sufficient amount of enriched uranium at one time in Iran which would enable it to make a nuclear weapon, if and when it decides to do so.

The other reason is that Iran needs to convert its enriched uranium to fuel for its Russian made nuclear reactors.

Why would Iran agree to take such a step?

One reason could be to allay fears that it wants to make nuclear weapons.

But another important reason is because Russian reactors in most cases only take Russian made nuclear fuel. Thats how they are designed. In fact using non Russian fuel for Russian made reactors could:

“trigger a nuclear accident”.

The Russians gave this warning to the Ukrainians after the latter reached a deal to buy US made nuclear fuel for its Soviet era nuclear reactors.

So this is something Iran would have had to do anyway. But the argument could also be made that allaying western fears regarding a bomb is a major part of Iran’s motivation, because if Iran didn’t want to allay such fears, it could have agreed to ship out the enriched uranium in smaller batches to Russia. This would have given Iran the option to have enough enriched uranium on its soil to make a weapon, if and when it decided to do so. In fact this is one of the reasons why the US and Russia rejected the 2010 Turkey – Brazil brokered deal for Iran’s nuclear program.

The news tonight is one small step forward. Lets not get too excited. There have been too many false starts. Its not over until Kerry and Zarif sing.

Iranians, Israelis could live with ‘bad’ nuclear deal

14 Oct kham-netan

The Israeli and Iranian publics can live with what their leaders each consider a “bad” nuclear deal.

My latest article explains:

http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/10/iran-israel-nuclear-talks-public.html

Getting Israel’s threat perception regarding Iran right

13 May

As part of his 8th of May recent article for the National Interest, Trita Parsi , the head of the National Iranian – American Council describes what he believes Israel sees as “the real threat from Iran”: i.e a possible rapprochement between Tehran and Washington. Describing what this would entail, Parsi quotes Bar Ilan Professor Gerald Steinberg who states “The Great Satan will make up with Iran and forget about Israel,”.

Yes, there are some Israelis who are worried about the U.S reducing some of its support for Israel in order to “reach a deal with Iran over issues in the Middle East and the Caspian sea” as Parsi describes. But to say “Therein, of course, lay “the” real threat from Iran (with an emphasis on the) is an inaccurate assessment of facts on the ground in Israel.

The reason being that other important events have taken place in Israel which have had a far more profound impact on Israel’s threat perception regarding Iran. Events which Mr Parsi’s analysis does not take into consideration.

As Parsi correctly points out in the article, the Israeli government reached out to Iran in the late 90s and early 2000s, but it was turned down. Israel in fact did more than what he describes, as I described in my piece for Al Monitor entitled “Was Ariel Sharon Israel’s Secret Channel to Iran?”.

However the article in the National Interest stops there. It does not mention what happened after Iran’s rejection of Israel’s overtures.

Iran soon started supporting one of the biggest campaigns to kill Israeli civilians, carried out by Hamas in the second intifada. During that campaign 649 Israeli civilians were deliberately targeted in civilian buses and Cafes. The victims included pregnant mothers, and many children. Iran, as well as Saudi Arabia were the two biggest financial sponsors of Hamas. So much so that in his 2003 faxed “grand bargain” to the US, the Iranian supreme leader tried to use Iran’s influence over Hamas as leverage.

Meanwhile the Iranian regime was continuing to work on a nuclear weapon until 2003, as confirmed by the NIE in 2007.

To many Israelis, the Iranian regime not only called for the death of Israelis through “death to Israel” chants, it also paid Hamas to do it. Meanwhile as the killings were going on, it was working on a nuclear weapon. Iran had even tried to buy a nuclear weapon from Pakistan. Not to mention the Iranian regime (not the current government)’s denial of the holocaust which Ahmadinejad started and Khamenei is now continuing as well as calls for Israel to be wiped off.

To any politician, and not just Israeli politicians, such actions and threats from another country are far more real and important than what Parsi purports to be “the real threat” which Iran poses to Israel.

The argument could also be made as to whether there is any real chance that the U.S would reduce some of its support for Israel specifically for the purpose of reaching a deal with Iran in the Persian Gulf and the Caspian Sea. Would that be domestically feasible or realistic in the U.S? According to Gallup’s latest poll, 72 percent of Americans have a favorable view of Israel, while only 9% have a favorable view of Iran. This is in addition to the strong support for Israel in Capitol Hill whereas Iran has almost no support. These would make such a decision very costly for any U.S politician.

In #Iran Wednesday is National Nuclear Technology day

6 Apr

After entering office in August 2005, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad declared the 20th day in the month of Farvardin (9th of April) as “National Nuclear Technology day”.

During his 8 years in office, he used this day to declare and celebrate new advancement in Iran’s nuclear program.

For example during the 2008 National Nuclear Technology day celebrations, Ahmadinejad declared that “Iran was ready to install some 6,000 new centrifuges at the nuclear facility in the central province of Natanz”.

This coming National Nuclear Technology day (this Wednesday) will be the first since he left office.

According to the Tehran based “Khabar on line”, this year there won’t be any government officials who will be attending this ceremony, which is scheduled to take place in the city of Esfahan.

The most important official who will attend will be Saeed Jalili, who is the supreme leader’s representative in the Supreme National Security Council. He is not an elected official, nor is he part of the government.

His attendance shows that although this day was celebrated after Ahmadinejad came to office, it is one which the Supreme Leader identifies with and wants to continue.

Therefore there is every chance that despite the report in Khabar online, members of the government end up attending the event.

The conservative press such as 598.ir which is already calling for Iran to walk out of the nuclear talks because of a recent dispute with the EU over the issue of human rights is likely to use this occasion to attack Rouhani.

Iran’s president has many enemies inside the Iranian regime, and they will use every opportunity to attack him. Even though his government has handled the nuclear program with far more expedience in less than one year, than Ahmadinejad’s government did in 8.

Robert Gates is also against new Iran sanctions

27 Jan

There are those in the US Congress who want to impose additional sanctions against Iran.

I am against such an idea. Iran has promised to implement the Geneva nuclear deal and we see that it has already started implementing its obligations. Punishing Iran for taking positive steps will push them away from moderation in the negotiations. Why would someone want to cooperate if they are punished for it?

Imposing new sanctions now will also say to the Iranians that the P5+1 is not an honest partner. After all, according to the new deal signed between the two, the P5+1 has promised not to impose new sanctions during the interim agreement. A deal is a deal. It’s equally bad when and if the US breaks it, as it is if Iran breaks it.

Don’t get me wrong, sanctions have been very successful in changing the Iranian regime’s nuclear stance. But now that they seem to be bearing fruit, we should give an opportunity for Iran and the P5+1 to show that they are both sincere and are willing to follow their promises with action. If Iran does not deliver then it would justify tougher sanctions.

Obama is also against new sanctions being passed at this moment. He wants to give diplomacy a chance. This morning his position was supported by two senators in a New York Times op-ed.

And now former US Defence Secretary Robert Gates has joined them. Gates is a very respected man in the US Defence establishment. He is the only secretary of defence to serve under two consecutive presidents who represented opposing parties as he served under both Bush and Obama.  His words are worth listening to.

#Iran in 2014

26 Dec

In 2014, to foresee Iran’s behavior at the nuclear negotiations, we must look at domestic politics.
My latest article explains:
http://www.thejc.com/news/israel-news/114255/to-predict-nuclear-talks-watch-iran%E2%80%99s-domestic-politics-closely

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