What happened? Iran made major concessions. It was excessive demands by the U.S. and its allies that prevented the comprehensive agreement from materializing.
The original Geneva interim agreement expired last July, but both sides agreed to extend the deadline for reaching a comprehensive agreement to Nov. 24. Now, a new deadline of June 30, 2015 has been set. Both sides said that much progress was made, but some difficult issues have remained unresolved.
The agreement would have created an entirely new dynamic for the war-torn Middle East. It would have ushered in a new era of cooperation between two old nemeses, Iran and the United States, to defeat their common enemy, the Islamic State.
Given the historic significance of the agreement, why is it that a breakthrough was not achieved?
Iran’s Major Concessions
Several complex issues that had seemed unresolvable have actually been hammered out, but only because Iran was willing to negotiate with a spirit of compromise, of give and take.
Abbas Araghchi, Iran’s deputy foreign minister and a principal negotiator, has emphasized repeatedly and emphatically, “Iran would not agree to close any of its nuclear facility.” Iran has agreed to convert the site to a nuclear research facility, representing a major concession.
A second concession involved the IR-40 heavy water nuclear reactor, under construction in Arak, 155 miles southwest of Tehran. When completed, it will replace Tehran Research Reactor, an almost 50-year-old reactor that produces medical isotopes for close to 1 million Iranian patients every year.
The West had demanded that Iran convert the IR-40 to a light-water reactor, due to the concerns that if the reactor, when it comes online, will produce plutonium that can be used to make nuclear weapons. But, Iran refused to go along because, first and foremost, all the work on the reactor has been done by the Iranian experts and thus the reactor is a source of national pride. Iran has already spent billions of dollars to design and begin constructing the reactor, but the West was not willing to share the cost of the reactor conversion to a light-water one.
On its own initiative, Iran has agreed to modify the design of the reactor so that it will produce much smaller amounts of plutonium. Iran also agreed not to build any reprocessing facility for separating the plutonium from the rest of the nuclear waste. This was again a major concession.
The fourth major concession made by Iran is related to the issue of inspection of Iran’s nuclear facilities by the IAEA. Although Iran had lived up to its obligations under its original Safeguards Agreement with the agency signed in 1974, the IAEA under its Director-General Yukiya Amano, who has completely politicized the agency that has contributed to the complexities of reaching the comprehensive agreement, has been insisting that Iran implement the provisions of the Additional Protocol of the SG Agreement, which Iran signed in 2003 and, without ratification by its parliament, implemented voluntarily until February 2006.
Iran set aside the Additional Protocol after the European Union reneged on its promises made to Iran in the Sa’dabad Declaration of October 2003 and the Paris Agreement of November 2004. Iran and the IAEA reached an agreement in November 2013, according to which Iran allows much more frequent and intrusive inspection of its nuclear facilities, way beyond its legal obligations under its SG Agreement. Since then, the IAEA has repeatedly confirmed that Iran has lived up to its obligations.
The U.S. Excessive Demands
Three of the remaining issues concern the number of centrifuges that Iran gets to keep over the duration of the agreement, the duration of the comprehensive agreement and the mechanism by which the crippling economic sanctions imposed on Iran by the U.S. and its allies would be lifted.
In fact, agreeing to limit the number of its centrifuges for the duration of the agreement is yet another significant, but unacknowledged, concession by Iran, a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Iran’s SG Agreement with the IAEA
The issue of the number of centrifuges, NoC, is also mostly superficial. ………http://www.huffingtonpost.com/muhammad-sahimi/iran-nuclear-talks-fail_b_6219646.html?utm_hp_ref=worldPosted: 11/25/2014
The Diplomatic Effort, and What a Final Agreement Might Look Like, NYT By DAVID E. SANGERNOV. 21, 2014 VIENNA — Everything about the nuclear negotiations with Iran, now approaching a crucial moment, is complex: the international politics, the implications for the Middle East, and the science of how to prevent a nuclear energy project from turning into a nuclear weapons program. Here are answers to questions about the lead up to the diplomatic effort and what a comprehensive agreement might look like……….
Q. What are the possible outcomes from negotiations?
A. One possibility is no deal at all, a complete collapse of negotiations that have been going on now for more than a year. But that would not be in anyone’s interest. Congress would most likely impose new sanctions and if the current temporary agreement, reached last year to give some time and space for these negotiations, is allowed to expire, Iran could resume producing a type of fuel that could be rapidly converted for weapons use.
So the most likely outcome is either a final agreement, some kind of muddled agreement in principle with the details to be worked out later or another extension in the talks.
Q. What has to happen in order to reach an agreement?
A. For any agreement to work, there needs to be three deals: One between the West and Iran, one between Mr. Obama and a skeptical Congress and one between the Iranian negotiators and Ayatollah Khamenei. The dynamics of the last two are murky. Mr. Obama wants to suspend sanctions bit by bit, as the Iranians deliver on their part of the deal, meaning Congress might not vote on this for years. That angers many Republicans, and even some Democrats, who say they want a vote. An even bigger mystery: Who makes the final decision in Iran? Presumably, it’s Ayatollah Khamenei’s call, but the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, the elite of Iran’s military, will most likely have a big voice, too.
Q. What is the calculation for Iran?
A. The Iranians have a fundamental choice to make: Is the nuclear program worth it? Most ordinary Iranians tell pollsters that they support a civilian nuclear program in Iran, and very much want the West to show the kind of respect to the country that it shows to other nations with nuclear technology. And they say Iran has no interest in nuclear weapons, just what Ayatollah Khamenei has said, including a fatwa or legal opinion declaring that the country should never possess them. Iran has a young population, and it yearns for Western travel, Western education and Western respect. An end to sanctions would be a sign of a new era.
But inside the Iranian military, and among the clerics, Iran’s nuclear program is both an insurance policy and a symbol of the nation’s identity as a revolutionary state in a long struggle with the United States and its allies. Iranian leaders have periodically observed that since North Korea tested its nuclear devices, no one has dared push it to the brink. And it did not escape their notice that a decade after Libya gave up its entire nuclear program, its leader, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, was ousted an then killed by a combination of a national uprising and a European, Arab and American bombing campaign.
In the end, these negotiations are not only about nuclear capability, but also national pride and mutual reassurance. Iran does not want to be treated as an outlier, but rather as a great regional power. The international community needs the confidence that if the Iranians raced for a bomb, it would have plenty of notice and time to react. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/22/world/middleeast/iran-nuclear-difficulties-in-reaching-agreement.html?_r=0
Failure to reach a nuclear deal will drive Iran into Russia’s arms, Ft.com November 20, 2014 Ariane TabatabaiIt is vital a comprehensive deal on Iran’s nuclear programme is reached, writes Ariane Tabatabai
This isolation has left Tehran no option but to turn to Moscow. And, as relations between the US and Russia have deteriorated, the Middle Eastern state has the scope to become an evermore decisive and divisive factor.
Failure to reach a comprehensive deal on Iran’s nuclear programme, and to lay the path for more normal economic and political relations with the world, would propel Tehran into Moscow’s arms. It would foster an even more powerful Russian-Iranian axis. This would be worrying for opponents of a deal on Capitol Hill, most of whom also do not want Russian influence to grow. By blocking the way to a deal, they could facilitate and accelerate what they want to prevent.
The writer is an associate with the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/af14ed0c-6e57-11e4-afe5-00144feabdc0.html#axzz3Jm01599t
Globally, nuclear power is set to face increasing challenges due to its inability to compete with other energy sources in pricing. Another factor is how to manage the rising volumes of spent nuclear fuel in the absence of permanent disposal facilities. ……. nuclear power is in no position to lead the world out of the fossil fuel age.
“…….Westinghouse, GE and Areva also wish to shift the primary liability for any accident to the Indian taxpayer so that they have no downside risk but only profits to reap. If a Fukushima-type catastrophe were to strike India, it would seriously damage the Indian economy. A recent Osaka City University study has put Japan’s Fukushima-disaster bill at a whopping $105 billion.
To Dr. Singh’s discomfiture, three factors put a break on his reactor-import plans — the exorbitant price of French- and U.S.-origin reactors, the accident-liability issue, and grass-roots opposition to the planned multi-reactor complexes. Continue reading
For U.S. and Russia, Isolation Can Lead to Nuclear Catastrophe NYT, NOVEMBER 15, 2014, Siegfried S. Hecker is a research professor and senior fellow in the department of management science and engineering at Stanford University. He was director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory from 1986 to 1997, and is completing a book with Russian colleagues on U.S.-Russian nuclear cooperation.
Moscow’s announcement that no new joint Russian – U.S. projects to secure nuclear materials in Russia are “envisioned” in 2015 came as no surprise. Over the past 10 years the Russian government has systematically terminated most cooperative threat reduction projects initiated after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Nuclear cooperation was born of necessity because the political chaos and economic hardship endangered Soviet nuclear assets, those in Russia and other former Soviet states……..
Cooperative threat reduction was highly successful. Nothing really terrible happened in the Russian nuclear complex since the Soviet collapse. Threat reduction was not only cooperative, but it was highly collaborative. Hundreds of Russian and American nuclear weapons scientists and engineers worked hand in hand in each other’s facilities to vastly improve Russian practices and technologies to help them better secure and safeguard their enormous stocks of weapons-grade nuclear materials. They collaborated on how to ensure the safety and security of nuclear weapons in transport, storage and disassembly. They collaborated on how to strengthen nonproliferation and export control regimes and to prevent nuclear terrorism………
Moscow is willing to collaborate in science and nuclear energy technologies, but is terminating bilateral security cooperation. Washington wants to continue the latter, but in response to the Ukraine crisis, is isolating Russia from broader scientific and nuclear energy cooperation. The combined actions will diminish safety and security, as well as threaten nuclear cooperation in other key areas of common interest, such as countering nuclear terrorism and preventing nuclear proliferation.
My Russian colleagues and I believe that in nuclear matters, collaboration is essential, whereas isolation can lead to catastrophes. It is important for both Moscow and Washington to heed this message.http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2014/11/14/standing-up-to-aggression-or-ensuring-nuclear-security/for-us-and-russia-isolation-can-lead-to-nuclear-catastrophe
After Two Decades Of Cooperation, Russia May Pull The Plug On Nuclear Security Contracts With The US, Business Insider 15 Nov 14 PIERRE BIENAIMÉ In the years following the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russia’s former American rival has spent billions helping Moscow secure a sprawling network of nuclear infrastructure, in the interest of lowering the odds that weaponised uranium might fall in the hands of extremists or rogue states.
Now Russia may be planning to wind down those joint efforts, the New York Times reported. Sergey V. Kirienko, the head of Russia’s state nuclear company, told US Energy Secretary that no new contracts aimed at nuclear security for 2015 were envisioned “under current circumstances” — a concise reference to the ratcheting tensions between Russia and the West since its annexation of Crimea in March………http://www.businessinsider.com.au/russia-may-stop-cooperating-with-the-us-2014-11/
USA pressure forces Auzstralia’s climate denialist PM to make one tiny concession on Climate Change, at the G20
Government resists calls for climate change to be listed as a major agenda item, but agrees to include in final communique Australia has reluctantly conceded that climate change can be included in a single brief paragraph of the G20 leaders’ communique after heavy lobbying by the US and European nations.
The government had resisted any discussion of climate at the Brisbane meeting on the grounds that the G20 is primarily an economic forum, but other nations argued leaders’ agreements at meetings like the G20 are crucial to build momentum towards a successful international deal at the United Nations conference on climate change in Paris next year.
The final wording of the leaders’ statement after the meeting is still being finalised but it is believed to simply recommit to addressing climate change through UN processes.
The outcome – and Australia’s resistance – have been attacked by the leading climate economist Lord Nicholas Stern, who has written for Guardian Australia that the latest “synthesis” report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) should be “high on the agenda” for the G20 meeting.
“The G20 is the most effective forum for the discussion of the growth story of the future, the transition to the low-carbon economy. Yet the local politics of a country of less than 25 million is being allowed to prevent essential strategic discussions of an issue that is of fundamental importance to the prosperity and well-being of the world’s population of 7 billion people,” he writes.
Australia has agreed the G20 should discuss climate-related issues as part of its deliberations on energy efficiency, but this also appears to be wrapped up in a general commitment that countries consider taking action in the future on some of a long list of areas where energy efficiency improvements might be made……
In a special “message” about the G20 release on Sunday, Tony Abbott also did not mention climate change……..
US president Barack Obama’s international adviser, Caroline Atkinson, has insisted publicly that leaders around the table at the G20 will raise climate change. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/nov/02/g20-australia-makes-token-concession-on-climate-change-after-us-lobbying
NUCLEAR OPTIONS: WHAT EXPLAINS U.S.-CHINA COOPERATION ON THORIUM? Georgetown Public Policy Review MATTHEW STRABONE NOVEMBER 6, 2014
Cabinet still not briefed over nuclear agreements — Radebe, Business Day Live BY PAUL VECCHIATTO, 07 NOVEMBER 2014, THE Cabinet, the government’s highest decision-making body, has not been briefed on the nuclear framework agreements signed with France and the Russian Federation……..Business Day, Sunday Times and the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution will together make an application under the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) requesting evidence of a record of decision to forge ahead with nuclear power plants.
The application will also request information on the protocols and processes followed prior to the signing of the agreements as well as for documentation on any affordability study into the commissioning of nuclear power plants.
An earlier PAIA application by the Sunday Times to the Presidency, Parliament and the Department of Energy for access to the framework agreement SA signed with Russia two months ago, was refused this week by the Department of Energy. The department said the release of the agreements would compromise the delicate negotiations that SA was holding with other countries.
The department said the agreements contained sensitive scientific and commercial information.
The Sunday Times now has 60 days to lodge an appeal on its first application with the department in order to change its decision.
The opaqueness of the decision to build nuclear reactors has caused consternation among observers, the suspicion being that the government has already struck a secret deal with the Russian Federation.
It is believed that the Cabinet has not made a formal decision to procure nuclear power stations, yet Department of Energy officials have insisted on several occasions “that a procurement will take place”.
Director of the council, Lawson Naidoo, said clarity was needed on the decision-making process to establish whether proper governance was followed. “I don’t understand how an international agreement can be signed (by the minister) without the approval of Cabinet. How does a minister get the authority to sign without the approval of Cabinet?”…….http://www.bdlive.co.za/business/energy/2014/11/07/cabinet-still-not-briefed-over-nuclear-agreements–radebe
- Under the current International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) rules and regulations, the maximum level of transparency for nuclear activities would be secured by the implementation of its three arrangements: the Safeguard Agreement, Subsidiary Arrangement Code 3.1 and the Additional Protocol. The world powers negotiating with Iran have a clear understanding that Iran is ready to commit to all three arrangements in a final comprehensive agreement.
- Iran would be cooperative in capping its level of enrichment at 5% for the duration of the final agreement to assure non-diversion toward weaponization. The fissile uranium in nuclear weapons contains enrichment to 85% or more.
- To ensure that Iran’s enrichment activities do not lead to a bomb, Tehran would be willing to synchronize the number of centrifuges or their productivity to its practical needs and convert the product to oxide for a number of years. Iran’s major practical need is to provide fuel for the Bushehr plant in 2021, when its fuel-supply contract with Russia terminates. Practically, out of the current 22,000 centrifuges, Iran would need around 9,000 to 10,000 to provide enough fuel annually for the four fuel elements (out of a total 54 fuel elements) for Bushehr that Russia is contractually required to supply.
- Regarding the heavy water facility at Arak, Iran would be cooperative in placing greater monitoring measures and modifying the reactor to reduce the annual enriched plutonium production capacity of 8-10 kilograms (18-22 pounds) to less than 0.8 kilograms (1.7 pounds). Furthermore, the 0.8kg of material will be 78% fissile, which is too low for the production of nuclear weapons, and the timeline for redesigning and building the reactor will require another five to six years.
- Secularizing the supreme leader’s fatwa banning the production and stockpiling of nuclear and all other weapons of mass destruction would be a strong objective guarantee. Once the fatwa is secularized and operationalized, violation would be a criminal matter for the courts to pursue and punishable by law. Iran’s history makes it hard to dismiss the fatwa. After all, despite an estimated 100,000 deaths from Iraqi use of chemical weapons against Iran, it was a fatwa issued by the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini that kept Tehran from retaliating during the Iran-Iraq war.
- Iran has paid a high price for its nuclear program, having endured a barrage of draconian multilateral and unilateral sanctions to date. The sanctions imposed against Iran are far beyond those imposed on North Korea, which does possess nuclear weapons. The fact is that Iran has already paid the price for making a bomb, but neither wants nor has one, a clear indicator of its steadfastness on nonproliferation and the peaceful use of nuclear technology.
- If anyone were going to have made the decision to build nuclear weapons, it would have been former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Yet, during his eight years in the presidency, the IAEA found no evidence of an Iranian nuclear program geared toward weaponization, and his administration sought to normalize bilateral relations with the United States more than all his predecessors.
I am confident that Iran, the United States and the world powers genuinely seek to reach a deal and that there is no reason to extend the deadline beyond late November. The best strategy is to pursue a broad engagement with Iran to ensure that the decision to pursue a nuclear breakout will never come about. Iran and the United States are already tacitly and indirectly cooperating in the fight against the Islamic State (IS). A nuclear agreement would be a great boost to mutual trust and provide greater options for dealing not only with IS and the Syrian regime but also Afghanistan and Iraq — where both Washington and Tehran support the new governments in Kabul and Baghdad. Rather than focusing onenrichment capacity, Washington should weigh its capacity for relations with Iran. http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/11/iran-nuclear-enrichment-uranium-iaea-fatwa-sanctions.html?utm_source=Al-Monitor+Newsletter+%5BEnglish%5D&utm_campaign=a39e197e64-November_5_2014&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_28264b27a0-a39e197e64-93115393##ixzz3IKFLTdR3
The cost of failed negotiations should also be borne in mind. …….http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/nov/05/time-for-nuclear-deal-with-iran-now
Russia told U.S. it will not attend 2016 nuclear security summit WASHINGTON/MOSCOW Wed Nov 5, 2014 (Reuters) – Russia has told the United States that it will not attend a 2016 nuclear security summit, the State Department said on Wednesday, in the latest sign of frosty ties between Washington and Moscow.
Explaining why it would stay away, Moscow said it doubted the value of the summit, which is to be held in Chicago in 2016, and believed the views of states which disagreed with the event’s organizers would be ignored.
The bi-annual summit aims to improve nuclear security around the world and, in the past, has involved more than 50 countries including China, France, Germany and Britain……….http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/11/05/us-nuclear-security-usa-russia-idUSKBN0IP24K20141105
Russia boycotts nuclear meeting By GEORGE JAHN and DEB RIECHMANN 3 Nov 14
VIENNA (AP) — Russia has failed to show up at meeting planning the 2016 Nuclear Security Summit, U.S and European officials said Monday, in a potentially serious blow to efforts by President Barack Obama to cement his legacy as leaving the world safer from nuclear terrorism than when he took office.
The officials said it was not immediately clear whether Russia’s absence meant that Moscow meant to boycott the summit itself or if it was a temporary show of displeasure over Washington’s harsh condemnation of Moscow’s role in Ukraine unrest and its lead in orchestrating Western sanctions and other punitive measures in response.
But even if short-term,, Russia’s no-show is significant. Only three or four planning meetings are scheduled before the spring of 2016, when the summit is tentatively set to open. With Russia a key global player — and one of the world’s five formally recognized nuclear powers — its input is crucial to setting an agenda.
The U.S. president initiated a string of summits in 2010 aimed at preventing terrorists from getting their hands on weapons-grade nuclear material. Since then, the number of countries that have enough material to build a nuclear weapon has fallen from 39 to 25. http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/apnewsbreak-russia-boycotts-nuclear-meeting-26666344
Iranians Hope for Nuclear Deal With West to Kick-Start Economy, NYT By THOMAS ERDBRINK OCT. 28, 2014 For more than a year, President Hassan Rouhani has been dangling the prospect of a bright economic future before the middle classes that elected him, promising to complete a deal with the West to limit Iran’s nuclear program and end the sanctions hobbling the Iranian economy.
While the deadline of Nov. 24 is fast approaching, it is far from clear whether the two camps will agree on a pact. What seems certain, analysts say, is that with oil prices falling seemingly daily — and projected to drop even further — the oil-dependent government of Iran faces growing pressure to settle the nuclear standoff.
Iranian officials will never admit that either sanctions or low oil prices have any effect on their bargaining position in the nuclear talks. Yet, for a country that by some estimates needs an oil price of more than $140 a barrel to balance its budget, the roughly 25 percent drop in oil prices to around $80 a barrel since last summer has to be deeply concerning.
The precipitous decline could force the government to cut back popular benefits, like subsidies for gasoline and utilities and the $12 monthly cash benefit that Iranians have come to consider a birthright. And it could have even broader effects, possibly sending the economy into recession and pressuring the country’s currency……..
In Plan A — Mr. Rouhani’s vision — a nuclear deal would lead to the lifting of all sanctions, and the Iranian economy would become a tempting paradise for foreign investors……….http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/29/world/middleeast/iranians-hope-for-nuclear-deal-with-west-to-kick-start-economy.html?_r=0
U.S. Said to Join Russia in Blocking Nuclear Safety Moves, Bloomberg By Jonathan Tirone Oct 23, 2014 The U.S. and Russia are joining forces to block a European plan to raise the protection of nuclear reactors against natural disasters after the meltdowns at Japan’s Fukushima Dai-Ichi power plant, diplomats say.
Envoys from both countries are trying to derail a Swiss-led initiative that would force nuclear operators to invest more on safety, undermining attempts to harmonize global safety regulation, according to eight European and U.S. diplomats who attended meetings in Vienna last week. All asked not to be named in line with rules kept by the Convention on Nuclear Safety, the legal body overseeing the talks……….
The U.S.-Russia collaboration reflects a nuclear-safety convention whose secrecy is laid bare in documents obtained by Bloomberg News under a Freedom of Information Act request.
It also underscores the high stakes for an industry trying to bounce back after the Fukushima accident. European attempts to impose higher safety standards would make nuclear power more costly just as plant operators come under price pressure from cheaper natural gas………
U.S. regulators aren’t requiring the same stringent modifications, according to Edwin Lyman of the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Union of Concerned Scientists, an advocacy group. European utilities pay as much as five times more to fit out plants to withstand earthquakes and floods as a result, he said………..
While nuclear meltdowns are considered cross-border incidents because of the radioactive fallout that can result, no international authority exists to compel countries to adopt safety standards. Instead, regulators from around the world routinely review each other’s practices to figure out which works best. Laggards face peer criticism that can make them look bad in forums like the convention.
At the convention’s 2008 meeting — the last before Fukushima — Japan was criticized by peers for being slow to overhaul a reporting system that had been caught using “falsified inspection data,” the documents show. Participants also urged Japan, then the world’s third-largest nuclear-power generator, to review how safe its reactors were against earthquakes……..http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-10-23/u-s-said-to-join-russia-in-blocking-nuclear-safety-moves.html
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