Tag Archives: Tehran

Iran: MPs propose bill to enrich uranium up to 60%

By REUTERS

 

Hardline MPs submit bill for higher uranium enrichment; not clear whether or when parliament will discuss the bill.

Uranium-processing site in Isfahan

Uranium-processing site in Isfahan Photo: Reuters

ANKARA – Iran’s hardline lawmakers are seeking to increase uranium enrichment under the country’s nuclear program to a level that can produce bomb-grade material, a state-run website said on Wednesday.

The bill could bring Tehran into direct conflict with the major powers that reached an interim agreement with Iran in Geneva last month, requiring Tehran to suspend its enrichment of higher grade uranium.

However, Iran’s most powerful authority Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has so far backed the accord.

The hardliners, irked by the foreign policy shift since moderate President Hasan Rouhani was elected in June, oppose the Geneva deal.

The bill introduced on Wednesday, “if approved, will oblige the government to … enrich uranium to 60 percent level in order to provide fuel for submarine engines if the sanctions are tightened and Iran’s nuclear rights are ignored (by major powers),” said hardline lawmaker Mehdi Mousavinejad, according to the English language Press TV website.

It was not immediately clear whether or when the parliament might discuss the bill but the official IRNA news agency said it was introduced by some 100 lawmakers and had been tagged with a “double urgency” status, meaning it could be discussed in parliament within a week.

“The bill is aimed at giving an upper hand to our government and the negotiating team … It will allow the government to continue our nuclear program if the Geneva deal fails,” IRNA quoted Hossein Taghavi Hosseini, spokesman for parliament’s National Security and Foreign Affairs committee, as saying.

DISSUADING FURTHER SANCTIONS

The November 24 accord is meant to give the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain, Germany and Iran a period of six months to negotiate a final settlement of the decade-old standoff, easing worries over a new war in the Middle East.

“Iran’s parliament lacks power and particularly after Rouhani’s election win, the hardline lawmakers do not have the upper hand,” a senior western diplomat in Tehran said.

“Iran’s Supreme Leader backs the deal and ultimately, lawmakers have to follow his path.”

The Iranian government would have no choice but to obey such a bill if passed by parliament. But diplomats and analysts believe Iran could be using parliament as a bargaining tool in the talks.

“This draft bill has been prepared in reaction to America’s hostile measures,” Mousavinejad told the official IRNA news agency on Tuesday.

Despite opposition by President Barack Obama’s administration, 26 US senators introduced legislation on Thursday to impose new sanctions on Iran if the country breaks the Geneva interim deal.

The proposed legislation would require reductions in Iran’s petroleum production and apply new penalties to Iran’s engineering, mining and construction industries if Iran violated the interim agreement or if negotiators failed to reach a final comprehensive deal.

Washington earlier this month also blacklisted 19 more Iranian companies and individuals under sanctions aimed at Iran’s nuclear program.

Iran rejects Western fears that its nuclear work has any military intentions and says it needs nuclear power for electricity generation and medical research.

Nuclear experts and sanctions specialists from the seven countries will meet again after Christmas to figure out how the deal goes into effect, obliging Iran to fulfil its obligations and Western governments to ease some economic sanctions in return.

Iran Knows Where It’s Going. Does Kerry?

 

@tobincommentary 

Secretary of State John Kerry’s cheerleaders in the foreign-policy establishment and the mainstream media continue to write of his nuclear deal with Iran as if it were an unalloyed success. Having defended the agreement on the premise that the choice was between recognizing the legitimacy of Iran’s nuclear program and war, Kerry’s supporters have treated criticism as tantamount to a rejection of peace. The decision to tacitly recognize Iran’s “right” to enrich uranium and keep their nuclear facilities may have only made the threat more potent in the long run. But the willingness of the Iranians to sign any agreement seems to have engendered a sense that what the administration has done is to essentially take worries about conflict with Tehran off the table. But a look at what they’re saying about the agreement in Iran reminds us that whatever it is that Kerry did in Geneva, it did not alter Iran’s long-term goals and what they think the deal means for the future of their program and sanctions.

As the Times of Israel reports, the same foreign minister that Kerry has been dealing with told students in Tehran yesterday that the so-called freeze of enrichment that Iran agreed to can be reversed in a flash:

“The structure of our nuclear program has been maintained and the 20 percent enrichment can be resumed in less than 24 hours,” Mohammad Javad Zarif told a gathering of Iranian students in Tehran.

He added that “the structure of the sanctions and the antagonistic atmosphere created by the West against Iran is falling apart,” according to the semi-official Fars news agency.

Javad Zarif is right. Though Kerry and administration apologists defend the deal because it prevents Iran from enriching uranium at weapons grade levels, all it would take is a snap of Supreme Leader Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s fingers to turn up the dials on the centrifuges that President Obama and Kerry have decided they can keep.

 

Optimists about the deal are also ignoring the dynamic between the two sides since the deal was signed on November 24. The agreement has not gone into effect because it is such a complicated mess that it requires follow-up negotiations to implement it. This is considered a mere detail to be cleared up by those extolling the accord, but it is actually a crucial reason why Iran thinks it is still in control of the conflict. By continuing their normal diplomatic practice of prevarication during the negotiations about implementation (as evidenced by their walk-out from those talks in Vienna last week), Iran hopes to delay and confuse an Obama administration that seems more interested in creating an opening for a game-changing détente with Iran than in spiking their nuclear ambitions.

But as Javad Zarif indicated, not only is the restriction on enrichment above five percent essentially meaningless in terms of its ability to prevent or lengthen the period of an Iranian “breakout” to nuclear capability, Tehran also thinks Kerry’s loosening of sanctions means that the West’s campaign of economic restrictions is doomed. As much as Kerry has been at pains to argue the contrary opinion, it’s hard to argue with the Iranian’s logic.

The whole point of the sanctions had been to persuade the Iranians to give up their nuclear dreams. But now that Kerry has signaled that Tehran will keep its nuclear program even after a final agreement, the implicit threat of the use of force should Iran balk is effectively off the table. Under those circumstances its difficult to imagine Washington’s European partners will be any more enthusiastic about enforcing the existing sanctions, let alone toughening them during follow-up negotiations.

More to the point, the Iranians seemed to have made their point about what they consider the spirit of Geneva. By arguing against an effort to toughen sanctions against Iran proposed by a bipartisan congressional coalition, both Obama and Kerry have said any further pressure on Tehran would “break faith” with their diplomatic partners. That gives the Iranians the power to brand any effort by the United States, including the enforcement of existing sanctions, as a reason for breaking off negotiations. This will allow them to drag out the preliminaries as well as anything that follows the six-month period when the two sides will supposedly be working on a final agreement.

The point is, Iran no longer thinks, if it ever did, that the U.S. has the will to stop them. And having gotten the administration to agree to the maintenance of their nuclear infrastructure, it is only a matter of time before they get their bomb, whether by evading agreements or stonewalling their implementation. As Javad Zarif’s statement and others coming out of Tehran demonstrate, they know where they’re going. The question is, does Kerry?

 

Obama’s Iran nuke deal quietly collapses

Less than a month after it was hailed as “a great diplomatic coup,” the so-called Geneva accord to halt Iran’s nuclear ambitions seems to have come unstuck.

The official narrative in Tehran is that Iran signed nothing. “There is no treaty and no pact,” says Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham, “only a statement of intent.”

Originally, Iran’s official media had presented the accord as a treaty (qarardad) but it now refers to a “letter of agreement” (tavafoq nameh).

The initial narrative claimed that the P5+1 group of nations that negotiated the deal with Iran had recognized the Islamic Republic’s right to enrich uranium and agreed to start lifting sanctions over a six-month period. In exchange, Iran would slow its uranium enrichment and postpone for six months the installation of equipment for producing plutonium, an alternate route to making a bomb. A later narrative claimed that the accord wasn’t automatic and that the two sides had appointed experts to decide the details (“modalities”) and fix a timetable.

On Sunday, an editorial in the daily Kayhan, published by the office of “Supreme Guide” Ali Khameini, claimed that the “six month” period of the accord was meaningless and that a final agreement might “even take 20 years to negotiate.”

It was, therefore, no surprise that Iran decided to withdraw its experts from talks in Geneva to establish exactly how to implement the accord. “Now we have to talk about reviving the talks on modalities,” says Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi.

Translated into plain language, the new Iranian narrative is that talks about implementing an accord that is not legally binding have collapsed and that, in the words of the head of the Iranian Atomic Energy Agency, Ali-Akbar Salehi, there is no change in the rhythm and tempo of Iran’s nuclear project. “Our centrifuges are working full capacity,” Salehi said last Thursday.

Having claimed that he had halted Iran’s nuclear project, Secretary of State John Kerry might want to reconsider. He and his European colleagues, like many of their predecessors, may have fallen for the diplomatic version of the Three Card Monte played by the mullahs since they seized power in 1979.

Khomeinist diplomacy has never aimed at reaching agreement with anyone. Instead, the regime regards negotiations as just another weapon in the jihad (holy struggle) for ensuring the triumph of “true Islam” across the globe.

The regime can’t conceive of give-and-take and compromise even with Muslim nations, let alone a bunch of “Infidel” powers. If unable to impose its will on others, the regime will try to buy time through endless negotiations.

In Three Card Monte, suckers stay in the game in the hope of getting it right next time. A similar hope ensures outsiders’ participation in Khomeinist diplomacy’s version of the trick.

Thus Tehran has been in negotiations with Russia and three other littoral states over sharing the resources of the Caspian Sea since 1992. Talks with Iraq over implementing Resolution 598 of the UN Security Council and reopening the Shatt al-Arab border estuary have been going on since 2004. Other talks over sharing water resources have been going on with Afghanistan since 2003; talks over joint exploitation of gas resources with Qatar have been going on for 25 years.

And for more than 30 years, Iran and the United States have been negotiating the settlement of mutual claims in accordance with the Algiers accord of 1980.

The series of nuclear negotiations that started in 1993 resumed with the European Union in 2002 and have already taken four years in their current format, which opened in 2009.

The tactic of delay has several advantages for the mullahs.

First, hopes of a negotiated solution make it more difficult for anyone to advocate military action to thwart Tehran’s ambitions. As long as talks are going on, “all other options”, the cliché favored by President Obama, remain off the table.

Endless talks also force Iran’s adversaries are forced to sacrifice policy to process. Under the Geneva deal, for example, the US and its European partners not only set the military option aside, but also undertake not to impose additional sanctions. Instead of hiring expensive lobbyists in Washington, the mullahs can use Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Kerry to lobby Congress on their behalf.

The mullahs have reaped other benefits from their three-card trick. The perception that the crisis is cooling down has already halted the Islamic Republic’s economic free fall. The national currency, the rial, lost 80 percent of its value over four years, but now appears to have stabilized.

The mullahs also use the prospect of normalization, especially with the United States, to divert attention from their increasingly repressive rule. While Iranians are bombarded with talk of President Hassan Rouhani’s “diplomatic miracle,” an average of 10 people are executed in Iran every day.

Here is how Khamenei’s daily mouthpiece put it Sunday: “If our centrifuges do not continue to turn, no other wheel shall turn for our dignity, independence, power and security.”

The message from Tehran to Washington is clear: You talk, we act.