- P5+1 met on January 22 to discuss Iran but disagreement within the group set to hinder progress.
- US diplomacy against Iran
- Iran making new disclosures about nuclear programme to IAEA.
- Iran receives third shipment of nuclear fuel from Russia and plans to significantly expand nuclear programme.
The P5+1 (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany) met on Tuesday to discuss Iran’s nuclear programme and future actions by the UN Security Council. The US is pushing for a further set on sanctions against Iran but is meeting varying degrees of resistance from other members of the P-6, with the strongest resistance coming from Russia and China.
The European States (Germany, France and the UK) appear to advocate delaying any decision for a few weeks, while IAEA Director-General Mohammed El Baradei works with the Iranians to clear up ambiguities over their past programme. If IAEA efforts fail to bring early results there may be more credible ground for stronger sanctions. The cautious European approach may partly be down to the recent US intelligence report that said Iran has stopped its nuclear programme in 2003; the German foreign minister said: “Recently we have seen new estimates on the status of research and development work (in Iran),” he said. “In this connection it is of course important what the (U.S. National Intelligence Estimate) has expressed.”
Ahead of the talks, a US delegation visited China in an attempt to persuade the Chinese to support the proposed (third) round of sanctions. Iranian officials, also visiting China, appeared confident that the Chinese will rebuff such efforts. China’s foreign policy chief Tang Jiaxuan, appeared to endorse this view, emphasizing the need for further negotiations, especially in the light of the US National Intelligence Estimate that suggests there is less urgency than suggested by the White House.
Reports of President Bush’s high-profile visit to the Middle East last week majored on his attempts to persuade Arab governments of the need to unite against Iran. In a speech in Abu Dhabi on he said, “Iran’s actions threaten the security of nations everywhere.” Such efforts appeared to have fallen on deaf ears, partly because of the belief that Iran presents minimal threat and involves important economic relationships, and partly because the popular view on the street is more anti-American than anti-Iranian. US Defense Secretary Robert Gates appeared to undermine his President’s attempts when he said, “I don’t see the Iranians in the near term as a direct military threat to the United States”.
Mohamed ElBaradei has completed a two day trip to Tehran where he met with both President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. He urged Iran to make new disclosures about its nuclear programme to clear up the inconsistencies and ambiguities that had led to the confrontation in the first place. According to the IAEA, Iran has agreed to clear up remaining questions about its nuclear programme, including any military-related work, within four weeks. A report by the IAEA on Iran’s nuclear programme, which was originally to be submitted in December, has been postponed until March in light of these talks.
Russia is to deliver a third nuclear fuel shipment to Iran’s Bushehr nuclear plant on the 25th January. Eight batches totaling 82 tons of fuel are due by late February, monitored by the IAEA. Security Council members claim that these deliveries clearly demonstrate that Iran has no need to enrich its own fuel. However, Iran maintains that it has the right to develop its own domestic fuel production, and that historical and recent obstruction of supply demonstrates only too clearly the need.
Stories and links
‘Bush urges unity against Iran’ NY Times, 14th Jan
‘Israel says Iran’s nuclear program has military nature’ Rian, 17th Jan
‘Iran defiant after Israeli missile test’ Reuters, 17th Jan
‘Iranian President Ahmadinejad accuses Bush of inciting confrontation during Mideast trip’ IHT, 17th Jan
comments, editorials and analysis
‘The fallout from the Iran nukes disclosure’ Time, 3rd Dec
‘Iran begins new nuclear disclosures’ NTI.org, 8th Jan