Tag Archives: iran nuclear program

Iran nuclear talks snag: could be related to domestic politics

13 Dec

Iran’s Parliament (The Majles)

According to Reuters, talks between Iran and the P5+1 have hit a snag.

The reason is believed to be the Iranian regime’s unhappiness with the US adding new companies and individuals to its list of sanction evaders.

Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi sees these additions as “new sanctions”. According to his statement published on Fars news (and reprinted in Reuters):

“We are evaluating the situation and Iran will react accordingly to the new sanctions imposed on 19 companies and individuals. It is against the spirit of the Geneva deal.”

Fact: these are not “new sanctions” as Mr Araqchi states. These companies and individuals were punished as part of existing sanctions. And the US is not breaking the Geneva agreement by continuing with the existing sanctions.

Its very possible that the Iranian side is doing this because the Rouhani administration is coming under increasing pressure at home from those in the Conservative camp who oppose the Geneva deal. With this latest maneuver, the Rouhani administration could be trying to earn some street cred among the hardliners, who are becoming increasingly vociferous.

John Kerry has reason to be thankful. This latest move by Tehran will hurt those in Washington and Jerusalem who accuse the Obama administration of being “desperate”, “naive” and “falling over itself to sign a deal with the Iranians no matter what”.

The reaction by the Iranian team can be used as clear evidence that the US is serious about maintaining existing sanctions, regardless of whether Iran’s leaders like it or not.

Netanyahu is wrong on Iran deal

28 Nov

Why I believe the Geneva deal with Iran is a good for Israel, as an interim deal


International implications of the #Iran nuclear deal

26 Nov

Numerous questions have been asked about the implications of the recent Geneva deal for the international community and for Iran’s nuclear program.

I tried to answer them in this interview


On US – Israel relations: a victory for Rouhani

8 Nov

Relations between the Obama administration and Netanyahu are about to get worse. Much worse. 


First is the peace process with the Palestinians. It seems that the Obama administration is seriously angry at the recent decision by the Netanyahu government to build 1700 new homes in the settlements. Kerry’s comments showed this yesterday when he warned that unless we reach a deal, a 3rd intifadah could erupt. This has angered officials inside Netanyahu’s office. Their response was:

Israel, said one official, would not “give in to the intimidation tactics” of the secretary, and would not compromise on its vital security needs.

Then there are differences over Iran.

It is my strong belief that the tensions and serious differences between Obama and Netanyahu over the settlements is influencing their dealings and relations with regards to Iran. Judging by his statements today, Netanyahu feels he is being pushed by Obama on the Palestinian issue, so he is pushing back on the Iran file. And he will continue to push back by getting his allies in the Congress to pass new sanctions against Iran, thus scuppering a possible nuclear deal between the P5+1 and Iran.

The Likud and the Democrats have historically had a tenuous relationship. Bill Clinton and Netanyahu had a very difficult and at times bad relationship. Obama and Netanyahu have had a tough relationship. Their frayed relations could be about to hit its lowest point. 

It seems that Rouhani has just scored his first big foreign policy win. I am sure he is hoping that Israel builds more settlement homes. They seem to be doing wonders for Iran’s plans and wishes to drive a wedge between the US and Israel.  

Iran – One month from the bomb?

25 Oct

According to the latest finding of the ISIS, as mentioned in CNN:

Iran may need only a month to produce enough weapons-grade uranium for a nuclear bomb, a U.S.-based antiproliferation group says in a new assessment of Tehran’s enrichment program.

I am not going into the details of if Iran can or will actually do this, because my colleague Shashnak Joshi has done a great job explaining what this all means in the same CNN piece.

But the point I would like to add is: this is why its important that as part of a final deal, the number and types of centrifuges to stay on Iranian soil should be limited.


Because one of the things which is causing concern is the sheer number of centrifuges (10,200 operating). The other is the new advanced type of centrifuges (believed to be 1000) which Iran has installed. Their large number and the fact that the new advanced centrifuges could produce more enriched uranium at a shorter time means the distance between decision and bomb could be shorter, if Khamenei decides to make a bomb. According to Israeli intelligence assessments, he has still not done that.

We would want to increase that distance.

And limiting the number and type of centrifuges on Iranian soil as part of a final agreement would help do that.

We are a long way from reaching such a deal. For now the onus is on Khamenei.

Iran: moving the nuclear file?

31 Jul

In Iran, when it comes to the nuclear program, its the supreme leader who has the final word.  

One level below him is the Supreme National Security Council (SNSC). This link provides some basic information about this body (among other important political bodies in Iran).

In terms of managing nuclear negotiations, the responsibility is that of the SNSC.

However there are reports emerging from Iran that recommendations are being made to Rouhani by his advisers that the responsibility for the nuclear file is transferred from the SNSC to the president.

As Al Monitor’s Iran Pulse reported on July 16th, this was first mentioned in mid July in Asseman Weekly, a publication close to Rafsanjani. This news was published again today by the conservative Jahan News.

One way of interpreting its repeated appearance is that these recommendations have momentum behind them.

The reason which Jahan News says that Rouhani’s advisers are recommending this move is because it would enable the presidential office to make the necessary coordination between the Ministry of Defense, Intelligence, the Foreign Ministry as well as Iran’s Atomic Organization.

But the SNSC could do that and has been doing that for years by chairing meetings where representatives of the aforementioned ministries, together with the president and chiefs of the armed forces are all present. So what would be so different this time?

There are several possibilities.

One is that by requesting such a move, Rouhani is trying to increase his power base. Having the nuclear file will undoubtedly give him more domestic influence. This is something which Ahmadinejad did not have. In fact towards the end of his presidency he admitted that he had not been involved in nuclear decision making for a while.

The other interpretation is that when it comes to future strategies for the nuclear program especially regarding negotiations with the West, Rouhani wants to weaken the influence of military bodies such as the Army and the IRGC who have seats on the SNSC.

Or to put simply, to de-militarize the management of the nuclear file and instead allow experienced foreign policy technocrats such as Javad Zarif to manage this issue.

This could actually be a positive development for the West and for those wishing to find a negotiated settlement for Iran’s nuclear program.

Iran, the West and the NPT

27 Apr

Professor Mohammad Marandi

The Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) is a sensitive issue in the Middle East, especially when it comes to Iran and Israel.

Israel is not a signatory of the NPT, which means that its sites are not under inspection by the UN’s nuclear arm, the IAEA. Its the job of the latter to ensure that the countries who are members of the NPT adhere to the rules and commitments made to the treaty.

Iran however is a member of the NPT. After more than  10 years of inspections the IAEA has still not given a full clean bill of health to Iran’s nuclear program. Although it has not said that Iran’s nuclear program is definitely for military purposes, at the same time, it has also said that it can’t be sure that its for civilian purposes only. It has a number of outstanding questions which Iran has still not answered, such as reports of research on a nuclear trigger. This is one of the reasons why the IAEA chief Yukiya Amano recently:

Indicated his suspicion that Iran might be pressing ahead with nuclear activity applicable to development of weapons.

The recent TV debate on Russia Today is an interesting watch.

It includes Professor Mohammad Marandi who is seen as the unofficial mouthpiece of the regime. He is an expert in English Literature at Tehran University and his analysis of the situation provides a useful insight as to how the Iranian regime sees the situation. If some are wondering why the West has had to impose tough sanctions in order to ensure that the regime takes the nuclear talks seriously, listening to Professor Marandi could provide you with at least one of the reasons.