Iran update: number 120


  • Solana delivers revised P5+1 incentives package to Tehran – Iran will consider it
  • Bush pushes European allies for further sanctions
  • Obama offers security guarantee to Israel vis-à-vis Iran
  • Growing segments of Israeli political class support Iran strike

Prior to the media announcement from Gordon Brown of deeper sanctions, Javier Solana, High Representative for the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), traveled to Tehran on June 13th for talks with Iran’s top nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili. Solana presented Jalili with a revised version of the incentives package he proposed to Iran on behalf of the P5+1 nations in June 2006. The updated incentives package is said to offer a path to the normalization of trade and diplomatic relations between Iran and the West-including potential WTO membership in the future, assistance in the development of a civilian nuclear program under the guidelines of the NPT, and technological assistance to modernize Iran’s economy and educational system. Negotiation around the package, however, depends upon Iran’s prior cessation of its uranium enrichment, a condition which Iran’s Ambassador to the IAEA, Ali-Asghar Soltaniyeh, referred to as “illegal” and out of the question. Given such rhetoric it may not have been a surprise that President Bush was premature in condemning Iran’s rejection of the offer, though there are also strong suggestions from some commentators that he and other leaders were not being wholly honest in the offer.

Nevertheless, Foreign Minister Mottaki and Saeed Jalili gave a much more positive response to the package than European diplomats were expecting. They did, though, also request a response from the Europeans to their own offer made on 13 May and reported in the last BASIC update, which called for a broader negotiation and proposed an international enrichment consortium within Iran. The Europeans also delivered a ‘freeze-for-freeze’ offer over the weekend as a first step – no more centrifuges for no more sanctions. Iran will have one month to decide whether it will accept or decline the revised package.

US President Bush made his final trip to Europe from June 10th to 16th, visiting Slovenia, Germany, Italy, France and the United Kingdom. One of the primary objectives of Bush’s “farewell tour” was to gain support for the administration’s hard line on Iran from America’s European allies. During his visit, Bush argued for additional sanctions to isolate Iran from the international community and emphasized the need for multilateral opposition to Iran’s nuclear program. Bush secured support from the key premiers he visited. French President Sarkozy made a curious comment of the Iranians that was perhaps more revealing than he meant: “If they have nothing to hide, they should show it.” UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown, standing alongside President Bush on June 16th, announced new British sanctions targeting Bank Melli, Iran’s largest bank, and the Iranian gas and oil sectors, and hinted that the rest of Europe planned to follow suit. Later that day in Luxembourg, the leaders of the nations of the European Union agreed on the need for further sanctions against Iran, including the freezing of Bank Melli’s assets in Europe, but delayed the decision to implement the new sanctions until Iran responds to the revised P5+1 incentives package. Despite pressure from Britain, there are signs of resistance within Europe to stronger sanctions at a time when oil prices are rising and consumers hostile to political moves that have a significant economic cost. As a result of the threat, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was reported to have ordered the wiring of $75 billion of Iran’s assets in Europe back to Tehran for investment in Asian financial institutions, though this was denied by the head of Bank Mellat.

In a June 4th speech before an audience at the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), presumptive US Democratic Party nominee Barrack Obama offered strong guarantees to Israel’s security in the context of Iran’s nuclear program. Obama stated that “[t]here is no greater threat to Israel-or to the peace and stability of the [Middle East]-than Iran.” While Obama stressed the need to engage Iran in aggressive diplomacy-without preconditions to negotiations-he refused to take the option of a military intervention off the table. Obama asserted that “[he] will do everything in [his] power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon”. While the speech drew praise from Israeli politicians and the American Jewish community, it provoked harsh criticism from the Iranian government and media, and disappointment from many who were hoping for a shift away from military threats. A Senate Finance Committee voted on June 18 to impose stronger unilateral trade and financial sanctions against Iran.

Iran’s refusal to cease uranium enrichment, in light of international pressure, has provoked reactions across the parties in the Knesset, Israel’s parliament. Some moderates are starting to suggest that a military strike against Iran may be a strategically viable option. Former Defense Minister, and current Transportation Minister, Shaul Mofaz recently referred to military operation against Iran as “unavoidable”. There is widespread concern among Israeli politicians that the window of opportunity to gain American support for such an option is quickly closing as the Bush administration’s term expires. While Bush has repeatedly said that “all options are on the table,” the hawks perceive Barrack Obama as “soft” on Iran and do not believe that John McCain would launch a military operation during his first year in office. Noting past Israeli strikes against Iraqi and Syrian reactors, most military analysts speculate that an operation against Iran may occur through similar means. Israel has attempted to purchase the cutting-edge, 5th generation American F-22 Raptor stealth fighters for just such purposes, and Iran has acquired S-300 air defense missile systems from Russia to repel such attacks. US officials sought to highlight a recent Israeli military exercise involving more than 100 F15-I and F16-I fighter-bombers as a challenge to Iran, and this led to warnings from Russia to Israel and the US to stick to international law.

Stories and links

Iran pledges to continue enrichment, but stay in nuclear treaty, Ria Novosti, June 18

Europeans impose new sanctions on Iran, NTI Newswire, June 16

Japan calls for strong G8 message against nuclear programs of Iran, N Korea, Forbes, June 16

Iran rejects six-nation proposal, by Thomas Erdbrink and Robin Wright, Washington Post, June 15

Berlusconi offers Bush help with Iran nuclear issue, Tehran Times, June 14

EU’s Solana delivers incentive package to Iran, Lebanon Wire, June 14

Former UN weapons inspector Hans Blix rips US approach on Iran’s nuclear program, International Herald Tribune, June 12

Push for Berlin to cut Iran ties, The Age, June 12

Bush warns ‘all options’ open on Iran, AFP, June 11

Bush, EU threaten new sanctions against Iran, by Dan Eggen, Washington Post, June 10

US open to more talks with Iran on Iraq, by Adrian Croft, Reuters, June 10

Senate: Iranian intel concealed from CIA, DIA, by Pamela Hess, AP, June 5

Rice calls dialogue with Iran pointless, by Helene Cooper and Isabel Kershner, New York Times, June 4

Top US senator stresses “no alternative” to Iran diplomacy, Islamic Republic News Agency, June 4

McCain unaware of Obama’s Iran Divestment Bill, by Chris Good, The Hill, June 4

McCain Urges Broader Iran Sanctions, Criticizes Obama, by Hans Nichols, Bloomberg, June 2

Comments, editorial and analysis

Attacking Iran: The last resort, by David Isenberg, Asia Times, June 19

NYT exposes fraud of “generous offer” to Iran, by Robert Naiman, Huffington Post, June 17

To war or not to war with Iran: that is the temptation, by Ismail Salami, Press TV, June 9

Will Congress heed McClellan’s Iran warning?, by Robert Naiman, Huffington Post, June 6

Soft on Iran?, by Joe Miller, Newsweek, June 5

A new tack toward Tehran, by Andrew Grotto, Center for American Progress, May 28

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