Iran’s President Pledges to Face Down Forces Opposing a Nuclear Deal, NYT, By THOMAS ERDBRINK DEC. 15, 2014 TEHRAN — Risking his political standing, Iran’s president stressed on Monday that he was determined to cinch a nuclear deal and prepared to take on the conservative forces who would prefer not to see an agreement with the West, even if that means continued economic sanctions on Iran.
“Some people may not like to see the sanctions lifted,” the president, Hassan Rouhani, said as Iranian negotiators and their United States counterparts resumed talks in Geneva. “Their numbers are few, and they want to muddy the waters.”
A deadline for those talks was extended by seven months after the parties failed to conclude a deal in November. Mr. Rouhani is continuing to maintain that a deal will be concluded. His foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, said last month that an agreement could be reached in a matter of “weeks.”
Both men have tied their political future to the deal, analysts say. Despite the setbacks in the talks, Mr. Rouhani stays on message on what he says isIran’s bright future……..http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/16/world/middleeast/irans-president-pledges-to-face-down-forces-opposing-a-nuclear-deal.html?_r=0
Anticipating Nuclear Deal and End to Sanctions, Iran Awaits a Business Boom, NYT By THOMAS ERDBRINK DEC. 12, 2014 “……….it is almost an article of faith in business circles that the latest extension is only the postponement of an inevitable thaw between Iran and the rest of the world…………
“The world needs this deal, we need this deal,” Ms. Moghimi said. “It will happen.”
Both moderates and conservatives have expressed concerns about the unchecked rise in expectations, among the public as well as elite business classes, that a deal will be cinched. They have been warning that the enthusiasm could turn to bitter disappointment if the negotiations, set to resume in Geneva next week, should fail, possibly touching off unrest or what some clerics call “another sedition,” a reference to the revolt that followed disputed presidential elections in 2009…….
The wave of optimism began with the election of a moderate president, Hassan Rouhani, who promised to mend Iran’s ties with the world. Mr. Rouhani continues to encourage that thinking, saying just last week that the “nuclear issue would be brought to its destination.” His foreign minister and chief nuclear negotiator, Mohammad Javad Zarif, promised after the most recent extension that a nuclear deal can happen “within weeks.”
The heightened expectations are not solely to be found among Iranians. The flow of foreign delegations to Iran continues at a steady pace, bringing eager businessmen who in conferences laud Iran’s unique geographical position, its stability and largely untapped market of middle-class consumers………http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/13/world/middleeast/anticipating-nuclear-deal-and-end-to-sanctions-iran-awaits-a-business-boom.html
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
Russia steps up nuclear plans in Iran as talks near deadline By Josh Levs, November 11, 2014 (CNN) — Russia has announced plans to build new nuclear reactors in Iran — a move with international repercussions as a deadline looms.
The country will construct up to eight new reactors for the “peaceful use of atomic energy” in Iran, Russian state news agency Ria-Novosti reported Tuesday.
The announcement came less than two weeks before Iran’s negotiations with Western powers over its nuclear activities are set to expire……..http://edition.cnn.com/2014/11/11/world/meast/iran-russia-nuclear/
- 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
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
Iran acts to comply with interim nuclear deal with powers: IAEA Yahoo News, By Fredrik Dahl VIENNA (Reuters) 20 Oct 14 – Iran is taking further action to comply with an interim nuclear agreement with six world powers, a monthly U.N. atomic agency report showed, a finding the West may see as positive ahead of a November deadline for clinching a long-term deal.
The report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), seen by Reuters, made clear that Iran is meeting its commitments under the temporary deal, as it and major powers seek to negotiate a final settlement of a decade-old nuclear dispute.
It said Iran had diluted more than 4,100 kg of uranium enriched to a fissile concentration of up to 2 percent down to the level of natural uranium. This was one of the additional steps Iran agreed to undertake when the six-month accord that took effect early this year was extended by four months in July……..http://news.yahoo.com/iran-acts-meet-terms-extended-nuclear-deal-powers-163649048.html
A deal that offers Iran a nuclear power industry not exceeding its needs and ambitions, and the rest of the world reassurance through intrusive inspections, would do more than bring Iran in from the cold. It would inaugurate a new relationship between the Islamic Republic and the west that could keep together a region that is, in every other particular, coming apart.
Iran nuclear talks: why Tehran must be brought in from the cold
A deal with Iran is vital for the stability of the wider Middle East. The opportunity must be grasped Christopher de Bellaigue The Guardian, Friday 3 October 2014 In Iran a few weeks ago I travelled with my 11-year-old son from Tehran to the ancient fire temple at Takht-e Soleymān, not far from the Iraqi border. At no time during our journey – part of which was made in a clean, comfortable, Chinese-made train – did we feel anything but safe. Our only exposure to violence was in the provincial town of Zanjan, famous for its knife production, where a salesman dry-shaved his own forearm in demonstration of his wares.
No one in their right mind would undertake a comparable journey nowadays inside the borders of any of Iran’s war-torn neighbours: Iraq, Afghanistan, or, a bit further afield, Syria. Iran is the exception along the Middle East’s strategic, resource-rich central belt, a functioning nation state where the central authorities enjoy a monopoly of force, the infrastructure works and the people are overwhelmingly literate and unarmed. Perhaps most significant of all, as capo di tutti capi of the Shia world – wielding clout over its co-religionists in Iraq and Lebanon as well as propping up Bashar al-Assad with military assistance and subsidised oil – Iran could have a vital role in restoring stability throughout Mesopotamia and the Levant.
I say “could” because there is no guarantee that the Iranians will be invited to assume the role that common sense assigns them. It’s one of the perversities of modern politics that the west does not have a decent working relationship with the most important country in the Middle East…….. Continue reading
Report: ISIS plots to seize Iran’s nuclear secrets http://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2014/10/05/ISIS-plots-to-seize-Iran-s-nuclear-secrets-.htmlAl Arabiya News Sunday, 5 October 2014
The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militant group is planning on seizing Tehran’s nuclear secrets and urging its fighters to plan for war with Iran, UK weekly newspaper The Sunday Times reported.
The group urged its members to help them reach their ambitions in a manifesto which was allegedly written by Abdullah Ahmed al-Meshedani, a member of the group’s highly secretive six-man war cabinet.
In the document, which has been examined by western security officials – who believe it to be authentic – Meshedani wrote that ISIS is aims to get hold of nuclear weapons with the help of Russia, to whom it will offer access to gas fields it controls in Iraq’s Anbar province in return for the Kremlin to give up “Iran and its nuclear program and hands over its secrets.”
The manifesto said that Moscow would also have to abandon support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and back the Gulf States against Iran. The document also includes 70 different plans to launch a new campaign of ethnic cleansing aimed at consolidating the new “Islamic Caliphate,” stripping Shiite Iran of “all its power” and destroying the Shiite authorities in Iraq.
ISIS considers Shiite Muslims as traitors and accuses them of “perverting” Islam in the same manifesto, which called for the assassination of Iranian diplomats, businessmen and teachers as well as Iraqi military chiefs, Shiite officials and Iranian-backed militias fighting for the Iraqi government.
The document, which is believed to be a policy manifesto prepared for senior members of ISIS, was supposedly obtained in March by an Iraqi special forces unit during a raid on the home of an ISIS commander.
Iran seeks give and take on militants, nuclear program BY PARISA HAFEZI AND LOUIS CHARBONNEAU UNITED NATIONS Sun Sep 21, 2014 (Reuters) – Iran is ready to work with the United States and its allies to stop Islamic State militants, but would like to see more flexibility on Iran’s uranium enrichment program, senior Iranian officials told Reuters.
The comments from the officials, who asked not to be named, highlight how difficult it may be for the Western powers to keep the nuclear negotiations separate from other regional conflicts. Iran wields influence in the Syrian civil war and on the Iraqi government, which is fighting the advance of Islamic State fighters.
Iran has sent mixed signals about its willingness to cooperate on defeating Islamic State (IS), a hardline Sunni Islamist group that has seized large swaths of territory across Syria and Iraq and is blamed for a wave of sectarian violence, beheadings and massacres of civilians.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said recently that he vetoed a U.S. overture to the Islamic Republic to work together on defeating IS, but U.S. officials said there was no such offer. In public, both Washington and Tehran have ruled out cooperating militarily in tackling the IS threat.
But in private, Iranian officials have voiced a willingness to work with the United States on IS, though not necessarily on the battlefield. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Friday that Iran has a role to play in defeating Islamic State, indicating the U.S. position may also be shifting………http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/09/21/us-iran-nuclear-exclusive-idUSKBN0HG03T20140921
Iran moving to comply with extended nuclear deal with powers-IAEA BY FREDRIK DAHL VIENNA Fri Sep 19, 2014, (Reuters) - Iran is taking further action to comply with the terms of an extended interim agreement with six world powers over its disputed atomic activities, a U.N. nuclear watchdog report obtained by Reuters on Friday showed.
The findings in a monthly update by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) – though no major surprise – may be seen as positive by the West as negotiations resumed in New York this week on ending the decade-old nuclear stand-off.
The IAEA document made clear that Iran is continuing to meet its commitments under the preliminary accord that it reached with the United States, France, Germany, Britain, China andRussia late last year and that took effect in January.
In addition, as agreed when the deal was extended by four months in July, it is using some of its higher-grade enriched uranium in oxide form to produce fuel – a step that experts say would make it more difficult to use the material for any bombs……..http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/09/19/us-iran-nuclear-iaea-idUSKBN0HE1R820140919
Iran, 6 Powers Seek to Unblock Nuclear Talks, abc news, UNITED NATIONS — Sep 19, 2014, By GEORGE JAHN Associated Press With little more than two months to deadline, Iran and six world powers on Friday launched a fresh effort at narrowing stubborn differences on what nuclear concessions Tehran must agree to in exchange for full sanctions relief.
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