Iran update: number 123


  • Iran misses supposed imposed deadline to respond to P5+1 updated incentives package
  • Solana receives letter from Tehran, P5+1 reported to have deemed it an “unacceptable” response
  • Israeli officials visit Washington, urge harsh stance on Iranian nuclear program
  • Iran announces test of new anti-ship missile
  • Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) supports Iran’s right to peaceful atomic power (but not to call for lifting of sanctions)
  • Ahmadinejad claims Iran has 6,000 centrifuges
  • Questions regarding Azeri customs and Russian shipments to Bushehr facility

Iran missed the claimed informal deadline of August 2 to respond to the updated incentives package presented in June to the country’s top nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili by European Union Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) High Representative Javier Solana. The move follows a statement by Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on July 30 that Iran will continue to pursue its enrichment of uranium for “peaceful nuclear energy.” While Western officials criticized the lack of response from Iran and spoke of new sanctions, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki denied that any such deadline had been set. “The language of deadline-setting is not understandable to us. We gave them our response within a month as we said we would, now they have to reply to us,” said Mottaki. Vitaly Churkin, Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations, also said that no deadline was agreed upon.

Jalili and Solana spoke by telephone on August 4, with no clear results apparent from their conversation. The next day, a letter from Tehran was delivered to Solana’s office. The P5+1 countries met on August 6 to discuss the letter. The United States and France quickly rejected the Iranian letter (reported to have been two paragraphs long), with officials stating that it does not provide “a clear response” to the freeze-for-freeze option and contained no new information on the Iranian position. As a result the P5+1 countries were reported by a US official to have discussed the possibility of levying additional sanctions on Iran.

Senior Israeli officials visited Washington on July 28 for high-level talks on security issues, including the Iranian nuclear program. The trip follows July visits by Lieutenant General Gabi Ashkenazi, Chief of the IDF’s General Staff, to the United States and Admiral Michael Mullen, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, to Israel. The visiting Israeli officials were Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, and Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz (who recently spoke of the inevitability of an Israeli strike against Iran).

In a meeting with US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Barak urged his American counterpart to “keep all options on the table” with Iran and pushed for the strengthening of sanctions against Tehran. Barak also received a commitment from the United States to connect Israel into the planned US global BMD system and a pledge of logistical support to help the Israelis improve their own missile defenses. Speaking on CNN’s Late Edition on Sunday, August 3-after the passing of the supposed Saturday deadline set by the P5+1-Livni said, “It is clear that Iran does not pay attention to talks. And this is a clear message to the international community to continue with real and effective sanctions.” With the announcement of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s resignation, Livni, Mofaz, and Barak are all expected to be candidates for the prime ministership. Hardline opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu is another possible candidate for the position.

General Mohammad Ali Jafari, the commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, announced on August 4 that Iran had tested a new anti-ship missile. Jafari said that the missile had a range of up to 300 km (186 miles) from Iran’s coast and was developed with homegrown technology. “Given the equipment our armed forces have, an indefinite blockade of the Strait of Hormuz would be very easy,” Jafari contended. In recent weeks, Iranian military commanders and politicians have made threats to blockade the Strait of Hormuz, triggering reactions from the West.

The Tehran Times reports that American political analyst George Friedman believes that global crude oil prices could exceed $300 a barrel in the event of a confrontation between the United States and/or Israel and Iran, which would be “cataclysmic to the global economy and stock markets.” Meanwhile, Sheikh Mohammed Sabah al-Salem al-Sabah, the Kuwaiti Foreign Minister, spoke out against Iranian threats to blockade the Strait, arguing that this would be a “punishment” for the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states. Sheikh Mohammed also discouraged military action against Iran.

On July 30, the 115 states present at a Tehran-based Ministerial Conference of the 118-member Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) endorsed Iran’s right to peaceful atomic energy. Iranian officials asserted that the meeting disproved claims by Western nations that the international community disapproved of the country’s nuclear program. At the beginning of the conference, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told the attending delegates that “[t]he major powers are on a descending course. The extent of their influence drops day by day. They are approaching the end of their era.” The statement of the NAM is a bittersweet victory for Iran, however, as Tehran had wanted the group to demand an end to United Nations sanctions against Iran, and the NAM’s support was for an Iranian nuclear program, not explicitly a full domestic nuclear fuel cycle. Only Cuba, Venezuela, and Belarus expressed support for the proposal to end sanctions.

Ahmadinejad announced on July 26 that “Islamic Iran today possesses 6,000 centrifuges.” This is twice the number of operational centrifuges that Iran claimed it had in November 2007. Ahmadinejad also said that the P5+1 countries had instructed Iran not to add centrifuges beyond the 6,000 in their freeze-for-freeze offer, rather than to suspend uranium enrichment altogether. Iran is reported to have begun the development of the IR-3 in April. The IR-3 is a more advanced subcritical centrifuge, designed to increase the efficiency of Iran’s uranium enrichment program. In the past, Iranian officials have stated that the Islamic Republic intends to have a peaceful uranium enrichment program with over 50,000 operational centrifuges.

In related news, Majid Faizullai, the spokesman for the Iranian Embassy in Azerbaijan, rejected allegations that in April Azeri authorities had delayed the shipment of Russian heat insulators bound for Iran’s Bushehr facility. Customs authorities claim to have confiscated the materials for a month because they did not receive information on the cargo from Russia in a “timely and appropriate manner.” Recently, there have been reports of another such incident in which Azeri authorities seized Russian cargo destined for Bushehr, but Azerbaijan’s State Customs Committee was quick to deny the charges.

Stories and links

US, China, Russia agree to seek more Iran sanctions, by Patrick Donahue and Janine Zacharia, Bloomberg, 06/08 a78FGb.ZhbuQ&refer=home

‘Freeze-for-freeze’ package ignored as Iran stalls for time on nuclear demands, by Andrew Black, The Guardian, 06/08

EU exports to Iran rising despite sanctions, Reuters UK, 06/08

Mofaz: Iran is the root of all evil, threat to world peace, by Mazal Mualem, Haaretz, 06/08

Iran heartened by India’s nuclear vote, by Kaveh Afrasiabi, Asia Times, 05/08

Iran wants diplomacy to resolve nuclear stand-off, The Scotsman, 03/08

Oil prices spike as Iran N-row returns to haunt market, Daily Times, 03/08 story_3-8-2008_pg5_23

Syria committed to helping settle Iran’s nuclear issue, Xinhua, 03/08

Bahrain to G5+1: Cooperate with Iran, Press TV, 02/08

MFA expresses disappointment on the signing of German-Iranian gas production contract, Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 31/07 2008/MFA+expresses+disappointment+at+the+signing+of+a+gas+ production+contract+between+Germany+and+Iran+31.htm

Iran says nonproliferation system unfairly favors nuclear powers, RIA Novosti, 29/07

Iranian hackers attempt to silence peace message from American Jews, by Martin Barillas, The Cutting Edge, 28/07 17&pagename=News

Iran’s S-300 Delivery debated as Israel delays pre-emptive strike allowing diplomatic progress a chance, by Edwin Black, The Cutting Edge, 28/07 20&pagename=Security

FM asks NAM to back Iran’s bid for Security Council seat, Mehr News Agency, 27/07

Mystery explosions point to Iran’s secret arms shipments to terrorists, by Con Coughlin, Telegraph, 25/07 25/do2503.xml

US warns Iran time running out for nuclear deal, by Sonja Pace, Voice of America News, 25/07

Iran hopeful for substantial negotiations on N. issue, FARS News Agency, 25/07

European Union says it won’t support military action against Iran, The Canadian Press, 22/07 ZN5JpCcFUP8oO-6wbVUxg

Comments, Editorial and Analysis

The Iranian chess game continues, by William Beeman, Foreign Policy in Focus, 06/08

While diplomats dither, Iran builds nukes, by John Bolton, The Wall Street Journal via AEI, 05/08

How to deal with Iran’s nuclear programme, by Andrew Grotto, The Guardian, 04/08

In sight: an amicable endgame in Iran, Jonathan Laing, Barron’s, 04/08 googlenews_barrons

It is time for US-Iran détente, by Muqtedar Khan, Aljazeera Magazine, 03/08

US-Israel talks on Iran ‘legitimize war’, CBN News, 28/07

US reaching out to Iranians, Voice of America News, 26/07

Iran’s possible bargain hunt, by Kamal Nazer Yasin, ISN Security Watch, 25/07

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