Iran Update: Number 142

  • Head of Iran’s nuclear organization says Tehran still open to fuel swap
  • Iran hails new centrifuge
  • United States focuses on Iranian nuclear program’s weapons potential
  • Iranian President assails U.S. President over Nuclear Posture Review
  • International divisions over sanctions continue
  • Iran holds international conference on nuclear weapons and nuclear energy
  • Khatami prevented from visiting Hiroshima

Head of Iran’s nuclear organization says Tehran still open to fuel swap

During an extensive CBS interview on 13 April, the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, Ali Akbar Salehi, said that Iran remains open to a fuel swap for the Tehran Research Reactor (TRR) but continued to insist that the exchange take place on Iranian territory. The original proposal, put forward in October 2009, required Iran to export most of its enriched uranium in one batch for further enrichment and fabrication, and then returned to Iran months or up to a year later. The TRR is used primarily for medical research.

Salehi confirmed that Iran is now willing to accept a limit on its own indigenous enrichment to low-enriched levels, and to export low-enriched uranium in one batch, rather than in installments. However, the fuel swap needed to happen on Iranian soil. He announced a day after the interview that Iran had produced its first significant batch, around 5kg, of fuel enriched to levels sufficient for the TRR (just under 20% U235), adding that about 1.5kg per month would be required to run the reactor (though its fuel also requires fabrication).

Iran hails new centrifuge

Iran has unveiled a new “third-generation” centrifuge which is to enrich uranium six-times faster than current fuel-production centrifuges based upon a primitive design of Pakistani origin, the P1. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad hailed the achievement claiming that “today in the field of nuclear energy we have reached the point that no power can impede the progress of the Iranian nation and its full and peaceful use of the clean energy.” However, the new centrifuge has not undergone complete testing, so it was uncertain as to when the new model would be used for production purposes. President Ahmadinejad was reported on 19 April to have approved sites for the construction of new enrichment plants.

United States focuses on Iranian nuclear program’s weapons potential

In reference to Iran’s overall enrichment efforts, Vice Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. James Cartwright said during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing that Iran could have enough highly-enriched uranium to make a single nuclear device within a year, but it would probably take “another two to three, potentially out to five years” before it could manufacture a deliverable nuclear weapon.

The New York Times reported on 18 April that U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates had sent a secret memo to U.S. National Security Advisor Gen. James Jones regarding concerns over the need for more U.S. preparations as Iran progresses with its nuclear capabilities—that the Administration had no credible plan that could prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon capability. In particular, the January memo apparently recommends that the Administration consider more fully how the United States should manage the security situation if Iran reaches the point of having everything in place for manufacturing a nuclear weapon.

Iranian President assails U.S. President over Nuclear Posture Review

The Obama Administration released the 2010 Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) on 6 April. The review concluded that the United States would not use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states that are members of, and in compliance with, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. President Barack Obama noted the policy as putting pressure on certain countries, claiming that “those nations that fail to meet their obligations will therefore find themselves more isolated, and will recognize that the pursuit of nuclear weapons will not make them more secure.” U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates elaborated on the NPR’s conclusions during a press conference the same day, “[T]he NPR has a very strong message for both Iran and North Korea, because whether it’s in declaratory policy or in other elements of the NPR, we essentially carve out states like Iran and North Korea that are not in compliance with [the] NPT. And basically, all options are on the table when it comes to countries in that category, along with non-state actors who might acquire nuclear weapons.”

In response, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad declared in a televised speech on 7 April, ”American materialist politicians, whenever they are beaten by logic, immediately resort to their weapons like cowboys. Mr. Obama, you are a newcomer (to politics). Wait until your sweat dries and get some experience. Be careful not to read just any paper put in front of you or repeat any statement recommended.” Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, labelled Obama’s language as “disgraceful,” saying that the Iranian armed forces should prepare to defend the country against any external threats. In response to the Leader’s call, Iranian Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi, has vowed, “Americans have said they will use all options against Iran, we announce that we will use all options to defend ourselves.” Moreover, The New York Times reported on 11 April that 220 Iranian MPs have asked the government to file a formal complaint with the United Nations against the United States citing what it calls President Obama’s threat to use a “nuclear attack” against it.

International divisions over sanctions continue

The permanent five members of the U.N. Security Council: China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, and also Germany (known as the P5+1) held discussions on 14 April over a fourth round of U.N.-backed sanctions against Iran. Within this group China has been the strongest opponent, but has agreed to participate in drafting a U.N. resolution that would exclude penalizing Iran’s energy sector. Iran’s trade in oil and gasoline is highly significant to China, though oil imports appear to have dropped dramatically in recent months (Iranian oil imports dropped 40 percent in January and February 2010 over monthly average in 2009). According to Guo Xiangang, vice president of the China Institute of International Studies, “China can accept something a bit harsher (than past sanctions on Iran), but not too harsh. It will remain principally a symbolic warning to Iran.”

Russia seemed more open to another round of sanctions, but President Dmitry Medvedev, speaking in Washington, reiterated Russia’s concerns that the sanctions not be “paralyzing, crippling,” or create humanitarian crises. Russia also still seemed open to completing the transfer of the S-300 air defense systems to Iran, despite U.S. pressure to cancel the deal, as they could deter an Israeli or U.S. air attack.

Meanwhile, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and German Chancellor Angela Merkel together reaffirmed their countries’ support for tougher sanctions. On the sidelines of the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, Chancellor Merkel claimed “time is pressing,” and French President Nicolas Sarkozy suggested that a P5+1 failure to sanction Iran in the near future could lead to an Israeli attack on Iran.

In contrast, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said at the Nuclear Security Summit that Turkey wanted further diplomacy, was skeptical about sanctions and wanted to see more details on the P5+1 sanctions plan. Prior to his official visit to France, Turkish Prime Minster, Tayyip Erdogan, in an interview with the French newspaper Le Figaro, expressed his doubts over the effectiveness of sanctions in persuading Iran to terminate its nuclear activities. He claimed that “those who took the decision to apply (previous sanctions) were the first to violate them. The French, the Germans, the English, the Americans and the Chinese. They are all involved and still manage to indirectly send their products to Iran.” He cited Turkey’s long strategic partnership with Iran as the main reason behind reluctance to back sanctions, but he said he shares the same goal —denuclearization—and that Turkey is willing to play a mediatory role in order to put an end to the Iranian nuclear standoff. Turkey is currently a member of the U.N. Security Council.

Brazil (another rotating member of the U.N. Security Council) and India also oppose President Obama’s call for new sanctions and support continued dialogue. They claim that more penalties will not change Iran’s present course. Indeed, Brazilian foreign minister, Celso Amorim, argued that more sanctions could “radicalize” the country. He said that Iran will not stop enriching uranium, which “is not banned by any treaty.” President Lula da Silva went further saying that the Iranian leadership’s quest to join the nuclear club is “understandable” because of the threats posed by Israel and Pakistan. Amorim rejected the idea that Brazil has been backing Iran’s bid to join the nuclear club, however, asserting that his country had asked Iran to cooperate with inspectors. Indian Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, also opposed more sanctions against Iran claiming that such measures will harm the poor and are unlikely to persuade leaders in Tehran to terminate nuclear activities.

Iran holds international conference on nuclear weapons and nuclear energy

The Iranian government invited 24 foreign and deputy foreign ministers, and also representatives from international and non-governmental organizations, to participate in a two-day nuclear disarmament conference titled, “Nuclear Energy For All, Nuclear Weapons For No-one,” which was held in Tehran on 16-17 April. The conference took place only a few days after the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, D.C.—to which Iran was not invited. Several Iranian news agencies were quick to try to draw comparisons between the two. In a message to the conference, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said using atomic weapons was religiously prohibited, and labelled the United States the world’s “only atomic criminal.”

There appeared disagreement, or mixed messages, between government officials on the relevance of the NPT. Iran’s top nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, called for the promotion of the NPT and non-proliferation norms globally suggesting that “in order to achieve disarmament and non-proliferation, we must promote the NPT and prevent powers from exerting their influence on the International Atomic Energy Agency.” President Ahmadinejad and the Foreign Ministry spokesman, Ramin Mehmanparast, however, claimed that “the present structure of the Non-Proliferation Treaty lacks the required capability and power to confront those countries which possess nuclear weapons” and that countries that threaten to use nuclear weapons “should be stripped of their membership to the IAEA.” As such, Ahmadinejad called for the launch of an independent international supervision committee to oversee global nuclear disarmament.

Iranian Foreign Minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, used the conference to express Iranian support for nuclear power in Gulf Cooperation Council countries and willingness to cooperate with them in the field of nuclear technology. Moreover, both Syrian Foreign Minister, Walid al-Muallem, and the Secretary General of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, used the opportunity to single out Israel’s nuclear capability as the main cause of regional instability and drive for nuclearization, claiming that a nuclear weapons-free zone in the region is a possibility if Israel signs the NPT.

Several delegates, including BASIC’s own Executive Director Paul Ingram, were prevented from attending the conference by the international disruption to air travel caused by volcanic ash. A paper based on his planned presentation will be published on the BASIC website on 20 April.

Khatami prevented from visiting Hiroshima

An aide to former President Mohammad Khatami (a supporter of opposition leader Mousavi) said that Iranian security officials had barred him from travelling on 15 April to Hiroshima, Japan for a nuclear disarmament conference. Other reports suggested Khatami was not “banned,” but had been advised by government officials not to leave Iran.

Nima Khorrami Assl, Chris Lindborg, Paul Ingram with additions from Nicholas Meros, BASIC

Stories and Links

IRI to talk with UNSC members on fuel swap
IRIB, 19 April 2010

Iran seeks IAEA suspension of US
Ettelaat, 19 April 2010

Gates Says U.S. Lacks a Policy to Thwart Iran
David E. Sanger and Thom Shanker, The New York Times
17 April 2010

Iran wants IAEA, NPT uncompromised
Ettelaat, 18 April 2010,

Iran: NPT Incapable of Confronting N. Armed States
18 April 2010

Syrian FM Views Israel’s N. Arsenal as Main Threat
to Middle East Peace

Fars News Agency, 17 April 2010

OIC Chief Urges Israel to Join NPT
Fars News Agency, 17 April 2010

Iran Holds Own Nuclear Conference As New UN
Sanctions Loom

Kyle James, Deutsche Welle, 16 April 2010,,5470164,00.html?

Officials say Iran could have nuclear weapon in 3-5 years
Warren P. Strobel, McClatchy Newspapers, 14 April 2010

India does not favour Iran sanctions
Times of India, 14 April 2010

Indonesia ‘a suitable verifier’ in Iranian case
Jakarta Post, 14 April, 2010

Sinopec ships rare gasoline cargo Spore-Iran—trade
Reuters, 14 April 2010

Sarkozy warns of Israel-Iran war
Jerusalem Post, 13 April 2010

Turkish PM won’t back Iran sanctions
CNN, 13 April 2010

China to work with US on Iran sanctions
The Guardian, 13 April 2010

Merkel Says Time Pressing for Decision on More Iran
Sanctions Business Week, 12 April 2010

Lula Defends Iran Before Nuclear Security Summit
Americas Quarterly, 12 April 2010

Medvedev against sanctions targeting Iran oil trade
AFP, 12 April 2010

Obama’s remarks are disgraceful: Leader
Tehran Times, 12 April 2010

Iranian Anger Rises over Obama’s Revised Nuclear Policy
The New York Times, 11 April 2010

Tehran’s Unveiling Of New Air Defense System Seen As
Warning To The West

Los Angeles Times, 11 April 2010 2010/04/

Iran Producing New Anti-Aircraft Missile
AFP, 11 April 2010

Iran will use all options to defend itself: minister
Tehran Times, 10 April 2010

Iran Hails New Achievements in Its Nuclear Program
Xinhuanet, 10 April 2010

Iran Unveils ‘Faster’ Uranium Centrifuges
BBC, 9 April 2010

Iran Says Nuclear Fuel Swap Still on the Table
The New York Times, 7 April 2010
/AP-ML Iran.html?scp=6&sq=iran&st=cse

Iran Ridicules Obama’s ”cowboy” Nuclear Strategy
The New York Times, 7 April 2010

Iran Not to Give up Enriching Uranium: Brazil FM
CRI, 7 April 2010

Turkey Opposes Sanctions against Iran
The New York Times, 6 April 2010

Iran could radicalize with UN sanctions-Brazil
Reuters, 6 April 2010

Iran Ready for Negotiations, Says Spokesman
VOA, 6 April 2010

U.S. says Iran should ‘look in mirror’ on Disarmament Conference
AFP, 5 April 2010

U.S. fears Iran could use powerboat as a weapon;
U.S. thinks Tehran owns feared boat

The Washington Post, 5 April 2010

Iranian firm got parts to enrich uranium: report
AFP via France 24, 3 April 2010

Report: Iran Firm Got Parts to Enrich Uranium
CBS, 2 April, 2010

Obama urges China to back Iran nuclear sanctions
The Guardian, 2 April 2010

China agrees to start talks on Iran sanctions
, 1 April 2010

UK, Germany give strong backing to Iran sanctions
Reuters, 1 April 2010

Comments, Editorials and Analysis

Iran Disarmament Summit Affects US Policy
Anoush Maleki, Iran Review, 18 April 2010,

Can the Obama Administration Take a Deal with Iran on the TRR?
Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett, blog entry on
The Race for Iran, 15 April 2010

Obama Makes Progress on Nuke Security, Less So on Iran
Tony Karon, Time, 14 April 2010,8599,

Obama’s conscience must lead on Iran
Stefan Simanowitz, The Guardian, 14 April 2010

The Obama administration’s realistic Iran options
Hooman Majid, Politico, 13 April 2010

Obama’s nuclear wizardry and the Iran factor
Steve Clemons, Politico, 13 April 2010

U.S. seeks China’s support on Iran
Josh Gerstein & Laura Rozen, Politico, 13 April 2010

Iran’s new centrifuge: What do we know about it?
David Albright and Jacqueline Shire, and Paul Brannan,
Institute for Science and International Security, 13 April 2010

CBS News Interview with Ali Akbar Salehi, Chief of Iran’s
Atomic Energy Organization

CBS News, 13 April 2010

What about Iran and North Korea?
Paul Wolfowitz, The Wall Street Journal, 13 April 2010

The Obama administration’s realistic Iran options
Hooman Majid, Politico, 13 April 2010

Obama’s nuclear wizardry and the Iran factor
Steve Clemons, Politico, 13 April 2010

U.S. seeks China’s support on Iran
Josh Gerstein & Laura Rozen, Politico, 13 April 2010

“Unveiling” Iran’s new centrifuge
Geoffrey Forden, Arms Control Wonk, 13 April 2010

Iran miffed by US’s nuclear posture
Kaveh L. Afrasiabi, Asia Times, 10 April 2010

Time to Confront the Tehran-Caracas Axis
Roger F. Noriega, The Wall Street Journal, 9 April 2010

Twenty percent solution: Say “Yes” to Iran
Ivan Oelrich, Ivanka Barzashka, FAS Strategic Security Blog
9 April 2010

Iran: Obama Pours Fuel on the Fire
Michael Rubin, Hudson New York Briefing Council
8 April 2010

Could Israel bomb Iran?
Antonin Gregoire, iLoubnan, 8 April 2010

Medvedev sets Moscow’s limits on sanctions against Iran
Julian Borger, The Guardian, 8 April 2010

Could Israel bomb Iran?
Antonin Gregoire, iLoubnan, 8 April, 2010

Medvedev sets Moscow’s limits on sanctions against Iran
Julian Borger, The Guardian, 8 April 2010

Time to engage Iran
Graham Usher, Al Ahram, 8-14 April 2010

Obama’s Nuclear Strategy Intended as a Message
David E. Sanger and Thom Shanker, The New York
, 6 April 2010

Don’t do deals with Iran: US to India, Pakistan
The Times of India, 2 April 2010

Iran Sanctions Are Failing. What’s Next?
Danielle Pletka, Wall Street Journal, 31 March 2010

Iran’s Nuclear Program: What Is Known and Unknown
James Phillips, The Heritage Foundation, 26 March 2010

Nuclear Prevention and Red Lines: The Case of Iran
Pierre Goldschmidt, Carnegie Endowment for
International Peace, 22-23 March 2010

The Economics of Influencing Iran
Suzanne Maloney, The Brookings Institution, 22 March 2010

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