Iran update: number 136


  • Tumultuous Iran elections leave future of P-5+1talks unclear
  • Iran’s nuclear chief resigns
  • IAEA chiefs on Tehran’s nuclear goals
  • Clinton, Gates on US policy toward Iran; Clinton’s remarks
    on “defense umbrella” worry Israeli leaders
  • Iran and Russia conduct joint military exercises


Turmoil after contested Iranian presidential elections
changes calculus for engagement

Weeks of protests, government suppression, and controversy
following the contested presidential election in June have
left analysts and officials wondering if Tehran will reply
to the invitation to join the P5+1 talks over Iran’s nuclear
program. The turmoil has increased Iran’s isolation, which
may make it more difficult
for increased engagement and diplomacy. Although U.S.
and many European
leaders have criticized the repressive actions of the Iranian
government in the weeks following the election, they
have stressed
their commitment to diplomatic engagement.
Many experts
are suggesting that leaders should wait until “the dust
clears” before making intense efforts to reengage with
Iran, while some suggest the they should forge ahead with
whoever the official figurehead of Iran is at the moment.

Recent news of power struggles within the ruling elite suggest
the dust has yet to settle. President Ahmadinejad’s choice
of Vice-President, close friend and confident Esfandier Rahim
Mashaie, was reported
to have been over-ruled by Supreme Leader Khamenei on July
18, and Ahmadinejad to have responded by sacking his intelligence
minister, Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Eje, on July 25, angering
the vast majority
of MPs.


Iranian nuclear chief resigns

The Iranian government announced
on July 16 that Gholam Reza Aghazadeh, said to be a close
associate of opposition candidate Mir Hossein Moussavi, resigned
as the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI).
Manouchehr Mottaki, Iran’s Foreign Minister, claimed that
Aghazadeh’s resignation would not alter Iran’s nuclear program
or policy. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has appointed
Ali Akbar Salehi, former Iranian envoy to the IAEA, to be
his replacement at AEOI. Salehi, who holds a Ph.D. in Nuclear
Physics from M.I.T., issued a statement encouraging
mutual trust between Iran and the West, and imploring the
West to accept that Iran’s nuclear program is for peaceful
purposes and that no further investigation is necessary. According
to a spokesman
for AEOI, the Bushehr nuclear power plant will be fully online
in the fall of 2009.


IAEA chiefs on Tehran’s nuclear goals

Outgoing IAEA director-general, Mohamed ElBaradei, said
that Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapons capability as an “insurance
policy” to cope with threats that it sees coming from within
the region and the United States. But the director-general-elect,
Japan’s Yukia Amano, has said that although Iran is required
to implement
UN Security Council resolutions, they have not demonstrated
any concrete signs
that they are developing weapons. Ali Asgar Soltanieh, Iran’s
envoy to the IAEA, has refuted
earlier claims
that Tehran was limiting IAEA access to nuclear sites.


G8 on Iran

Leaders at the G8 Summit in L’Aquila, Italy issued a joint
on July 10 which reiterated their commitment to a diplomatic
solution with Iran, and strongly encouraged Tehran to comply
with U.N. Security Council resolutions and to cooperate with
the IAEA. Iran’s foreign minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, announced
the following day that Tehran was preparing a political package
on a range of issues, including Iran’s nuclear program.


Clinton, Gates on US policy toward Iran; Clinton’s remarks
on “defense umbrella” worry Israeli leaders

In her speech
before the Council on Foreign Relations, Secretary Clinton
outlined her “smart power” foreign policy outlook,
which includes diplomatic discussions with Iran. Despite the
recent events in Iran, Clinton said that the United States
is still willing to engage and noted that “refusing to
deal with the Islamic Republic has not succeeded in altering
the Iranian march toward a nuclear weapon, reducing Iranian
support for terror, or improving Iran’s treatment of its citizens.”
But Clinton also warned that “the time for action is
now. The opportunity will not remain open indefinitely.”

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates reinforced this position,
“Our hope still remains that Iran will respond to the
president’s outstretched hand in a positive and constructive
way, but we’ll see”; American proposals are “not
open-ended.” Statements
from US officials have implied that US President Barack
Obama hopes to have a response from Tehran over whether it
will re-engage in talks about its nuclear program by the end
of September, when the U.N. General Assembly reconvenes.

During her trip to Thailand for the ASEAN conference, Clinton
also warned
Iran that if they pursue their nuclear program, the United
States may extend a “defense
” over its allies in the Middle East. She
added “… it’s unlikely that Iran will be any stronger
or safer, because they won’t be able to intimidate and dominate,
as they apparently believe they can, once they have a nuclear
weapon.” Such comments may have been meant to reassure
US allies in the Middle East, but the Israeli response was
negative. Israel’s minister of intelligence and atomic energy,
Dan Meridor, suggested
that the United States had already accepted a nuclear-armed
Iran. In a later statement, Clinton clarified that she was
simply reminding Iran that pursuing nuclear weapons would
lead to a nuclear arms race in the Middle East.

In a more recent statement made while on NBC’s “Meet
the Press,” Clinton addressed
Iranian leaders directly: “You have a right to pursue
the peaceful use of civil, nuclear power. You do not have
a right to obtain a nuclear weapon. You do not have the right
to have the full enrichment and reprocessing cycle under your
control.” A day after the warnings, Iran foreign ministry
spokesman Hassan Ghashghavi stated
that “Nuclear weapons have no place in our defense structure,”
but that Iran is a signatory to the NPT and has a right to
peaceful nuclear energy activities, including all stages of
the fuel cycle.


Iran and Russia conduct joint military exercises

On July 29, Russia and Iran held their first
joint naval exercises – search-and-rescue and environmental
clean-up – involving roughly thirty ships and two helicopters
in the Caspian Sea. Some analysts interpreted this new military
cooperation as revealing stronger Iranian-Russian relations,
making it more difficult for the United States to persuade
Russia to join their efforts to tighten sanctions. According
to Azeri news
, officials from Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan,
under the auspices of the International Maritime Organization,
are observing the exercises in the Caspian Sea.

Michael Pucci and Anna Tomaskovic-Devey, BASIC


Stories and links

Armenian governor says Iran offered nuclear fuel
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, July 30, 2009

Iran turmoil takes new twist as hardliners fall out
Reuters, July 28, 2009

Russia says no Iran sanctions for START deal

Reuters, July 14, 2009

In possible Iran signal, Israeli boats cross Suez
Matt Friedman, Associated Press via The Boston Globe,
July 14, 2009

Western leaders skeptical as Iran offers olive branch
on nuclear

Peter Beaumont, Guardian, July 12, 2009

Brown hails ‘strong’ G8 Iran line
BBC News, July 9, 2009

US military chief warns of rising nuclear threat

Yochi H Dreazen, Wall Street Journal, July 8,

Iran’s nuclear ambitions not democratic credentials occupy

Ian Black, Guardian, July 8, 2009

Top US military officer sees ‘narrow window’ to stop
Iran’s nuclear program

Al Pessin, Voice of America, July 7, 2009

Despite crisis, policy on Iran is engagement

David E Sanger, New York Times, July 5, 2009

Saudis give nod to Israeli raid on Iran
Uzi Mahnaimi and Sarah Baxter, Sunday Times, July
5, 2009

No sign Iran seeks nuclear arms: new IAEA head

Sylvia Westall, Reuters, July 3, 2009

UN’s Amano says Iran ‘under obligation’ to suspend nuclear

Jonathan Tirone,, July 3, 2009

Europe weighs pulling envoys from Tehran
Alan Cowell and Stephen Castle, New York Times,
July 1, 2009

Sanctions on Iran: will Europe act?
John Vinocur, New York Times, June 29, 2009

Election row hits Iran nuclear talks
Paul Reynolds, BBC News, June 29, 2009

Iran wants nuclear weapon technology, IAEA chief says

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, June 17, 2009

plans to move top Iran expert to White House

Mark Lander, The New York Times, June 15, 2009


Comments, editorials, and analysis

Russia and Iran join hands

Kaveh L Afrasiabi, Asia Times Online, July 30, 2009

Clinton’s nuclear talking points
The Cable, Foreign Policy, July 29, 2009

The Need for Strategic Patience on Iran
Robert Dreyfuss, The Dreyfuss Report, The Nation, July
29, 2009

It’s Crunch Time for Israel on Iran
John Bolton, The Wall Street Journal, July 28, 2009

Wisely Do Nothing

Fareed Zakaria, The Washington Post, July 28, 2009

Nuclear Iran wouldn’t pose existential threat to Israel

Gabi Sheffer, Haaretz, July 24, 2009

US Juggles Two Iran Timetables
Gerald F Seib, The Wall Street Journal, July 21, 2009

Iran’s crisis has nuclear fallout
Meir Javedanfar, The Guardian, July 19, 2009

Hitting Tehran Where It Hurts

Mark Dubowitz, The Wall Street Journal, July 13, 2009

10 Weeks
Editorial, The New York Times, July 10, 2009

Misconceptions about Iran’s Nuclear Program
David Albright and Jacqueline Shire, ISIS Nuclear Iran, July
8, 2009

What if Iran Got the Bomb?
Robert Farley, Foreign Policy, July 7, 2009

Time for an Israeli Strike?

John R. Bolton, The Washington Post, July 2, 2009

Iran: Looking Forward
Hugh Gusterson, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists,
June 30, 2009

Iran Uprising Changes Nuclear Calculus
Joe Cirincione, Huffington Post, June 17, 2009

What ‘Engagement’ With Iran and North Korea Means

David Sanger, The New York Times, June 16, 2009

Will Russia Back the US on Iran’s Nuclear Program?
Massimo Calabresi, Time Magazine, June 10, 2009,8599,1904436,00.html

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