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Would Ahmadinejad Welcome an Attack on Iran?

“Bomb Iran!” Few words cause more apprehension among Iranians and Iranian Americans than those two put together. Yet attacking Iran is always among the list of suggestions for how to deal with Iran’s nuclear program.

Whether Iran is pursuing peaceful nuclear energy or a weapon is, however, actually becoming irrelevant.  The international community is rallying around the most recent IAEA report, which criticized Iran’s lack of cooperation with the Agency, to lambaste Iran’s continuing nuclear work.

This is exactly what Ahmadinejad was hoping for.

The world’s breathless reporting on Iran’s nuclear program takes the focus off of human rights abuses and the domestic unrest, and ratchets up the possibility of a future confrontation.  And Ahmadinejad is never happier than when he’s in a clash of civilizations with the West.

A recent war game conducted at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy demonstrated that an Israeli-US pre-emptive strike against Iran’s nuclear sites could delay an Iranian bomb for a few years. That said, according to one participant:

There would be almost no incentive for Iran not to respond with force…It was interesting to see how useful it was for Tehran to push the limits. The Tehran regime was also able to crush its domestic political opposition.”

One has to wonder why Iran recently made the decision to move nearly all of its stockpile of enriched uranium to an above-ground facility with wholly inadequate defense against an airstrike.  Could it be that Tehran would actually invite an Israeli attack?

A former Deputy Director General of the IAEA thinks so:

Very recent signals from Tehran indicates that the Ahmadine-jad faction – it seems with the blessing of the Supreme Leader – would welcome a limited Israeli attack on a nuclear facility – for sheer internal political reasons, in order to strengthen the govern-ment and to silence the opposition.

If an attack were to occur, it would do little to actually end the nuclear program in Iran. Rather, it would almost guarantee the end of a legitimate opposition movement inside Iran.

Continuing the nuclear program.  Crushing the Green Movement.  And being able to play the victim on a global stage?  That’s a dream come true for Ahmadinejad.

  • 14 December 2009
  • Posted By Jamal Abdi
  • 1 Comments
  • Congress, Events in DC, Events in Iran, Iran Election 2009

Will Congress Undo Obama’s Diplomacy?

Cross-posted from the HuffingtonPost:

The 111th Congress is barreling forward in a last minute race to enact what may prove to be one of the most damaging American foreign policy decision for years to come before adjourning for the holidays. It is a decision that may isolate us from our closest allies and biggest trading partners, pose momentous new challenges for our efforts in Afghanistan, Iraq and the greater Middle East, undermine the Iranian people’s struggle for democracy, and once again place the United States on the grave path towards military confrontation. But if you think Congress is engaging in the type of spirited debate that such a strategically significant policy deserves, think again.

  • 4 December 2009
  • Posted By Bardia Mehrabian
  • 2 Comments
  • Diplomacy, Iran Election 2009, Iranian Youth, Sanctions

Ahmadinejad – Not an Economist

The immediate aftermath of the 2009 Iranian election brought heated debate about whether the election was stolen or not. Six months on, while the general consensus is that it was a questionable vote, the debate has since morphed into a question of whether or not Mahmoud Amadinejad enjoys majority support.

Analysts in the past posited the idea of “two Irans” – akin to our own “two Americas” during our recent electoral cycle – where big city “urbanites” (usually associated with elite or privileged classes of Iranian society) were the predominant supporters of Mousavi and the “Green Wave”, pitted against rural (poorer) demographics that sided with Ahmadinejad. However, a recent polling article reveals that the Iranian regime may be losing the backing of some of its rural base.

Study Reveals Ahmadinejad Supporters in Rural Areas No Longer Back Him

…The two post-election polls showed that 39 percent of the youth and 23 percent of the older age group who had voted for Ahmadinejad now regretted their vote. The stated reasons for this: the raping, killing, and torture of young men and women who had participated in demonstrations after the June elections and the realization that Ahmadinejad was to blame for the economic situation.

…32 percent of the entire population live in such rural and small urban areas.

One young rural Mousavi supporter paints the picture of the growing frustration with Ahmadinejad and the regime in the rural and small town areas of Iran:

“Look, I am not educated and I don’t understand politics the way [an informed individual does]. This village has a population I think of around 8,000. My guess is Ahmadinejad got 50 percent of the votes. He is not as loved in the provinces, or at least here, as much as city folk think he is. I personally know three-hundred people from amongst friends, family, and acquaintances who voted for Moussavi. Now they say in our entire village only 43 people voted for him. Do they take me for a fool?”

Thus it seems that the government’s claims that the opposition is confined only to North Tehran’s urban elite may not actually be true. 

  • 30 November 2009
  • Posted By NIAC
  • 0 Comments
  • Diplomacy, Sanctions, US-Iran War

Washington Can Give An Israeli Attack On Iran The Red Light

Cross-posted from the Huffington Post:

Only a few weeks after US-Iran diplomacy began in earnest, it seems to be heading towards a premature ending. Rather than tensions reduction, the world has witnessed the opposite. Iran is refusing to accept a fuel swap deal brokered by the IAEA, the IAEA has passed a resolution rebuking Iran, and Tehran has responded by approving a plan to build ten more nuclear facilities.

With the potential end of at least this phase of diplomacy, fears of a disastrous Israeli attack on Iran are on the rise once more. But contrary to Washington’s official line, America is capable of preventing Israel from initiating a war that would further destabilize the Middle East.

  • 10 November 2009
  • Posted By Matt Sugrue
  • 2 Comments
  • Diplomacy, Nuclear file

Deal or No Deal, Talks Must Continue

The rigmarole surrounding the supposed failure of negotiations with Iran is causing the media and government to lose sight of what is really important: talking with Iran. Talking is, in and of itself, a confidence building measure. It allows for the growth of familiarity between the parties, and, therefore, greater confidence that the other side will honor any agreements. At this early stage, negotiations with Iran should be viewed as means to that end.

Negotiation is the ongoing process of discussion. A failure of negotiations, as they currently exist with Iran, would only really happen when the talking stops.  What is currently happening between the U.S. and Iran is a failure to compromise–it’s frustrating, seems like a deadlock, and feels like we’re banging our head against a brick wall.  But it’s not a failure. Further rounds of talks will beget further confidence from both sides, and toward that end even the stalemate over the Vienna proposal is not necessarily a cause for alarm.

The possibility of Iran gaining nuclear weapons in the future must be dealt with in a serious matter. But there is time before Iran will be able to construct a working nuclear weapon.

The US & Iran: Between Human Rights, Diplomacy & Sanctions

The National Iranian American Council is pleased to announce we will be having a policy conference on Wednesday, November 4, 2009 in Dirksen Senate Office Building G-50.

The conference will run from 9 AM to 12.30 PM and will feature two panels; the first will assess the human rights and political situation in Iran and the second will assess President Obama’s diplomacy.

For more information, please visit www.niacouncil.org/nov4. To RSVP, please send an email with your name, title and organization (if any) to rsvp at niacouncil.org.

  • 29 October 2009
  • Posted By Patrick Disney
  • 3 Comments
  • Diplomacy, Events in Iran, Nuclear file, Sanctions

Confidence is key

Confidence

Hillary Mann Leverett–fresh off her dynamite appearance alongside Trita at the J Street Conference’s Iran panel–has an article in today’s Foreign Policy magazine online in which she argues that the delay over Iran’s decision to ship its uranium stockpile out of the country stems from the inherent mistrust that has plagued US-Iran relations for decades.  This, more than any internal political divisions in the post-election atmosphere, accounts for the IRI’s waffling back and forth over the proposal.

If the Iranian leadership believes that the United States is interested in a fundamental realignment of U.S.-Iranian relations and is prepared to live with the Islamic Republic as it stands, a consensus in favor of the reactor fuel deal could be forged in Tehran. …But I am skeptical that the United States has provided the security guarantees that would be needed to assuage Iranian concerns about Washington’s ultimate intentions.

Iran’s official response to the proposed nuclear deal is expected today (the LA Times notes Ahmadinejad’s speech this morning which skirts the issue somewhat but may be intended to soften the ground for Iran’s official acceptance of the deal), but like always it will be incredibly difficult to get a straight “yes” or “no” answer out of Tehran.  Most likely the response will involve some sort of a request for an amendment to the deal.

But this decision won’t be made in a vacuum–and here is where Hillary’s point is incredibly important.  The atmosphere between Iran and the West is rife with mistrust.  Recent diplomatic progress has helped rebuild some of that confidence, but both sides are still incredibly wary of the other.  This is why we’ve been so nervous about recent Congressional actions to approve tough sanctions this week.

In the already toxic atmosphere, the last thing the US needs to do is insert yet more doubt in our willingness to negotiate in good faith.  Sanctioning Iran while the talks are teetering on the edge of progress will send the signal to Iran that it doesn’t matter what concessions they make at the negotiating table–Congress will punish them anyway. Thus, they have no incentive to make concessions in the first place, since they’ll end up getting hurt either way.

That’s a recipe for talks to break down.

We can only hope that Tehran is tuning out the background noise coming from the US Congress long enough to accept the proposal.  Rebuilding trust after thirty years is going to take some leaps of faith–and they’ll most likely get harder before things get easier.

***

{PS I’d also like to note that Hillary Mann Leverett and Flynt Leverett–both renowned Iran experts–have started a fantastic new blog called The Race for Iran.  They have tons of great material up already, so click the link, bookmark it, and take a look!}

  • 26 October 2009
  • Posted By Matt Sugrue
  • 0 Comments
  • Diplomacy, Nuclear file

The Path to Transparency Runs Through Engagement

“Assembling nuclear weapons is not as easy as building furniture from IKEA,” said Greg Thielmann of the Arms Control Association (ACA) at a press briefing held October 22. The briefing, on the future of Iran-U.S. negotiations, consisted of a panel of three experts, who drew a direct line from U.S. engagement with Iran to greater information and transparency regarding Iran’s nuclear program. In the panelists’ view, the most important thing the West stands to gain in the short term from engagement with Iran is new and valuable information about Iran’s activities. 

Ambassador James Dobbins of the RAND Corporation said that “engagement is a virtue in its own right,” since it is only through engagement that the United States is able to collect information about the state of Iran’s nuclear weapons program. As more information is gathered, it will allow the Intelligence Community to make more accurate assessments regarding Iran’s nuclear capabilities and intentions. Thielmann, a Senior Fellow at the ACA, said that achieving transparency on sites like Natanz and Qom should be the primary focus of the P5+1 countries.

Paul Pillar, a professor at Georgetown University’s Center for Peace and Security Studies, said that greater information was necessary for understanding Iran’s nuclear weapons program. He noted that understanding the country’s nuclear intentions was a “matter of degrees… [and] not an either or” call. As a result, increased access to nuclear sites like Natanz and Qom will allow intelligence analysts to make more accurate assessments about the state and progress of Iranian nuclear and ballistic missile activities, as well as whether or not Iran is on a trajectory toward an illicit program.

As Thielmann indicated, the United States has time to engage in an extended dialogue with Iran. Taking issue with recent media conclusions, they stated that Iran is not months away from building a nuclear weapon but years. The negotiations that have already taken place in Geneva and Vienna should, therefore, be viewed as only the beginning in a long process of engagement. Pillar said that the United States is “nowhere near the end” of negotiations with Iran, and that the “gloom and doom” so prevalent in Washington about Iran is misplaced.

  • 21 October 2009
  • Posted By Matt Sugrue
  • 1 Comments
  • Diplomacy, Nuclear file, Sanctions

The “Japan Option” and Nuclear Negotiations

When discussing nuclear weapons programs, the “Japan Option” refers to a country putting its nuclear weapons program in a holding pattern. For example, Japan has the equipment and expertise to develop a nuclear weapon within eighteen months, but has never tested such a weapon. Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for International Affairs, Mark Medish published an op-ed in the New York Times today in which he suggests the “Japan Option” as a viable end-game solution for talks with Iran.

This is not to suggest that Iran is currently pursuing nuclear weapons, since the findings of the 2007 NIE have yet to be overturned. It is, however, an acknowledgment of the realpolitik fact that at least some segments of the Iranian government would certainly like to possess a nuclear weapon. The benefit of the “Japan Option” would be that those groups in Iran that desire a nuclear weapon will be provided the security of knowing that such a weapon is easily within their grasp. At the same time, Iran’s Arab neighbors, the United States, Israel and Europe will be provided with “inspections, surveillance and early warning.” 

As Medish points out, the big sticking point to achieving the negotiated settlement along the lines of the “Japan Option” is that,

To achieve such a framework would require at least minimal trust between Iran and the West, and also Russia, Israel and the Arab states. A good context would be engaging Iran across a wider frontier of regional security issues.

The trouble is that trust is awfully low between the United States and Iran. Who will move first?

Due to serious domestic fissures, the Iranians may not have the confidence to move in this direction. In a sense, no Iranian leader wants to be a Gorbachev, presiding over regime collapse. All want to be a Putin presiding over consolidation.

As with most international problems, the current issue of Iran’s nuclear program boils down to a lack of trust and fear of being perceived of as weak. If proposed the United States would do well to a settlement that was modeled along the lines of the “Japan Option.” Doing so would not be “appeasement” or “giving in.” Instead, it would be a clearheaded effort to get right to the heart of the matter: some factions of Iran’s government want nuclear weapons, and most of the rest of the world does not want them to achieve that goal.

A negotiated settlement along the lines of the “Japan Option” would be a very good compromise. While it would certainly upset groups within all the governments involved, it would also provide each side with safety nets. Such an agreement would go a long way towards appeasing those groups in Iran that desire a nuclear weapon, and, at the same time, it would provide Iran’s neighbors with a sense of security. Finally, a “Japan Option”-style agreement would also allow the United States to begin engaging Iran more forcefully over its deplorable human rights record.

  • 8 October 2009
  • Posted By Matt Sugrue
  • 0 Comments
  • Diplomacy, Events in Iran, Nuclear file, Sanctions

Leave the NIE Alone

ICvWSJ

The Wall Street Journal published an opinion piece today that criticizes continued reliance on the U.S. Intelligence Community’s National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) of 2007, which stated that in 2003 Iran suspended its nuclear weapons program. The article’s author points out that the NIE defined “nuclear weapons program…[as] weapon design and weaponization work and . . . uranium enrichment-related work” rather than Iran’s “declared” nuclear facilities.”

The author argues that the NIE was misleading, since U.S. intelligence knew about Iran’s Qom facility at the time. The logic follows that Iran was working towards uranium enrichment, and, therefore, its nuclear weapons program was still active. Of course this thinking is flawed.

The NIE definition of nuclear weapons program has three parts: weapon design, weaponization work and uranium enrichment-related work. Simply enriching uranium does not equal a nuclear weapons program. The United Arab Emirates is planning on developing a facility to generate nuclear power, but this does not mean they are automatically working towards developing an atomic weapon. Brazil and Japan even have active enrichment programs, but you don’t hear anyone talk about the looming Brazilian nuclear weapon.  It seems reasonable to assume that the real indicators of an active nuclear weapons program is actually enriching uranium to weapons grade levels and designing the weapons parameters.

In addition, the fact that the I.C. knew about the Qom facility in 2007 does not mean that the NIE was faulty. We often make the mistake of believing that our spies know everything about everyone; unfortunately it’s not that easy.  While the I.C. did amazing work to discover the facility at an early stage, it was not clear what exactly the site was being constructed for.  (Remember that no nuclear materials had been introduced, even by the time the facility was revealed to the public).  We still don’t know exactly when the decision was made to convert the facility from its original purpose (some type of tunnel complex, possibly for a munitions depot) to an enrichment site.

The Wall Street Journal piece is representative of a recurring problem in numerous recent articles that have covered Iran’s nuclear program. The U.S. Intelligence Community’s yearly budget is $75 billion, and out of that massive budget came an NIE that stated Iran had halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003. However, articles continue to appear that argue against the NIE report, and yet those articles fail to deliver any new evidence to support their claims.

It is always good to question government, and make sure government officials are held accountable. At some point, however, it begins to appear unreasonable when good intelligence is repeatedly questioned.  Are we really supposed to believe that the Wall Street Journal editorial board knows more than the US Intelligence Community?

Sign the Petition

 

7,350 signatures

Tell Google: Stop playing Persian Gulf name games!

May 14, 2012
Larry Page
Chief Executive Officer
Google Inc.
1600 Amphitheatre Parkway
Mountain View, California 94043

Dear Mr. Page:

It has come to our attention that Google has begun omitting the title of the Persian Gulf from its Google Maps application. This is a disconcerting development given the undisputed historic and geographic precedent of the name Persian Gulf, and the more recent history of opening up the name to political, ethnic, and territorial disputes. However unintentionally, in adopting this practice, Google is participating in a dangerous effort to foment tensions and ethnic divisions in the Middle East by politicizing the region’s geographic nomenclature. Members of the Iranian-American community are overwhelmingly opposed to such efforts, particularly at a time when regional tensions already have been pushed to the brink and threaten to spill over into conflict. As the largest grassroots organization in the Iranian-American community, the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) calls on Google to not allow its products to become propaganda tools and to immediately reinstate the historically accurate, apolitical title of “Persian Gulf” in all of its informational products, including Google Maps.

Historically, the name “Persian Gulf” is undisputed. The Greek geographer and astronomer Ptolemy referencing in his writings the “Aquarius Persico.” The Romans referred to the "Mare Persicum." The Arabs historically call the body of water, "Bahr al-Farsia." The legal precedent of this nomenclature is also indisputable, with both the United Nations and the United States Board of Geographic Names confirming the sole legitimacy of the term “Persian Gulf.” Agreement on this matter has also been codified by the signatures of all six bordering Arab countries on United Nations directives declaring this body of water to be the Persian Gulf.

But in the past century, and particularly at times of escalating tensions, there have been efforts to exploit the name of the Persian Gulf as a political tool to foment ethnic division. From colonial interests to Arab interests to Iranian interests, the opening of debate regarding the name of the Persian Gulf has been a recent phenomenon that has been exploited for political gain by all sides. Google should not enable these politicized efforts.

In the 1930s, British adviser to Bahrain Sir Charles Belgrave proposed to rename the Persian Gulf, “Arabian Gulf,” a proposal that was rejected by the British Colonial and Foreign offices. Two decades later, the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company resurrected the term during its dispute with Mohammad Mossadegh, the Iranian Prime Minister whose battle with British oil interests would end in a U.S.-sponsored coup d'état that continues to haunt U.S.-Iran relations. In the 1960s, the title “Arabian Gulf” became central to propaganda efforts during the Pan-Arabism era aimed at exploiting ethnic divisions in the region to unite Arabs against non-Arabs, namely Iranians and Israelis. The term was later employed by Saddam Hussein to justify his aims at territorial expansion. Osama Bin Laden even adopted the phrase in an attempt to rally Arab populations by emphasizing ethnic rivalries in the Middle East.

We have serious concerns that Google is now playing into these efforts of geographic politicization. Unfortunately, this is not the first time Google has stirred controversy on this topic. In 2008, Google Earth began including the term “Arabian Gulf” in addition to Persian Gulf as the name for the body of water. NIAC and others called on you then to stop using this ethnically divisive propaganda term, but to no avail. Instead of following the example of organizations like the National Geographic Society, which in 2004 used term “Arabian Gulf” in its maps but recognized the error and corrected it, Google has apparently decided to allow its informational products to become politicized.

Google should rectify this situation and immediately include the proper name for the Persian Gulf in Google Maps and all of its informational products. The exclusion of the title of the Persian Gulf diminishes your applications as informational tools, and raises questions about the integrity and accuracy of information provided by Google.

We strongly urge you to stay true to Google’s mission – “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful” – without distorting or politicizing that information. We look forward to an explanation from you regarding the recent removal of the Persian Gulf name from Google Maps and call on you to immediately correct this mistake.

Sincerely,

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