Iran Update No. 166

  • United States and Iran claim willingness to negotiate, but on what terms?
  • E3+3 (P5+1) talks end with an agreement for future talks
  • IAEA meets with Iran; new Agency report indicates Iran installing new centrifuges but curbing stockpiles of sensitive fissile material
  • U.S. expands sanctions on Iran, but Israel urges for even tighter measures
  • Concerns over the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline
  • In advance of Obama's visit to Israel, report indicates Iran to deliver non-nuclear weapons pledge
  • U.S. Director of Intelligence: Iran has not decided to build nuclear weapons
  • More stories and links
  • Editorials, analyses & reports


United States and Iran claim willingness to negotiate, but on what terms?:

Following the statements from U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi at the Munich Security Conference on February 2nd and 3rd respectively, indicating that bi-laterals could be on the table, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad acknowledged on February 10th that sanctions were taking a toll on Iran, and announced that if sanctions were relaxed he would enter talks with the United States himself. Three days later, Iran’s Supreme Leader made a speech in Tehran which expressed pessimism towards the chances that bilaterals with the United States would amount to much.  He said clearly that Iran has no intention to negotiate under pressure, nor do they want to have negotiations for the sake of negotiations. While Joe Biden’s speech on February 2nd put the ‘ball in Iran’s court,’ the Supreme Leader had quickly hit it back to the United States to prove that they are willing to undertake negotiations in good faith and show ‘goodwill’ towards Iran. Continuing this back and forth rhetoric, in his State of the Union Address on February 12th, President Obama encouraged the leaders of Iran to recognize it is time for a diplomatic solution, and that they faced a united coalition demanding they meet their obligations.

E3+3 (P5+5) talks end with an agreement for future talks:

E3+3 (P5+1) talks in Almaty, Kazakhstan on February 26th and 27th seemed to end on a higher note than had been anticipated after negotiations were curbed for eight months. Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said that there would be a “swift solution” if the E3+3 group came with "balanced initiatives" and acknowledged Iran’s nuclear rights, but many did not expect this to happen. Nevertheless, the talks were deemed as some of the most positive amongst the group of seven states.  Proposals are now being considered and all parties have agreed to hold two more meetings. The E3+3 group presented to Iranian negotiators a revised international proposal which allows for the curbing (rather than cessation) of 20% enrichment; suspending (rather than shutting down) enrichment activities at Fordow; increasing nuclear safeguards, transparency and IAEA inspections; and allowing Iran to keep (rather than ship out of the country) some of its 20% enriched fuel for medical purposes. The proposal also offered some limited relief on sanctions and permission to resume its gold and precious metals trade, some international banking, and petroleum trade.

Iran officials stated that this round of talks was a positive step, and that Western demands were more realistic. Chief Iranian negotiator, Saeed Jalili, called the meeting positive and a “turning point.”  Iranian Foreign Minister, Ali Akbar Salehi said that prospects for resolving the conflict over Iran’s nuclear program were improved following initial signs of “good faith” in Almaty. Western diplomats, however, were less enthusiastic stating no real negotiations had begun. A senior American official deemed the meeting “useful” but emphasized the importance of concrete results. Both sides agreed to additional meetings over the next two months. Experts will meet in Istanbul on March 18th, and direct negotiations will resume in Almaty on April 5-6th.

IAEA meets with Iran; new Agency report indicates Iran installing new centrifuges but curbing stockpiles of sensitive fissile material:

Amidst speculation that the IAEA and Iran were close to a deal on access to the Parchin military base, they met on 13th February for talks. Spokesmen from the Iranian Foreign Ministry announced that they would only grant IAEA inspectors access to the base if Iran’s right to a nuclear program was acknowledged and the Agency inspectors were subsequently not granted access.  Herman Nackaerts, deputy director of the IAEA said discussions could not finalize an agreement that would “facilitate the resolution of outstanding issues regarding possible military dimensions of Iran's nuclear program.” The subsequent IAEA report, leaked to the press on February 21st, indicated that satellite imagery shows “extensive activities” and significant developments to the base since the IAEA’s Director General’s report in November 2012. 

The IAEA report also revealed that the country began installing advanced second generation centrifuges at Iran’s main enrichment plant, Natanz, which could significantly speed up Iran’s enrichment capabilities and increase the accumulation of 20 percent low-enriched uranium. Around 180 IR-2m centrifuges and empty centrifuge casings have been installed, but they are not yet operational. Iranian media reported that Iran is building 3,000 advanced uranium enrichment centrifuges. 

Also according to the IAEA report, Iran has converted 40 percent of its stockpile of 20 percent enriched uranium into an oxide form that can be used to make fuel for a research reactor in Tehran, and is also inaccessible for military purposes.  This recent capping of stockpiles by Iran has delayed the time Iran will reach a notional “red line” level of 20% enriched uranium (530 pounds) outlined by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the United Nations last June.

U.S. expands sanctions on Iran, but Israel urges for even tighter measures:

In early February, U.S. sanctions on Iran came into effect under the terms of a bill passed by Congress six months prior. They block Iran from repatriating oil payments; any money Iran makes from the sale of oil to nine countries with American waivers must now be credited in an account to those countries. Financial institutions that break these rules risk being cut off from the American financial institution. The International Energy Agency reported that even with the sanctions, Iranian oil shipments in the past month advanced 13 percent.

Netanyahu warned that Iran's new centrifuges for uranium enrichment would cut the time needed to produce a nuclear bomb by a third and urged the world powers to put even more pressure on Iran by upgrading sanctions. A U.S. official attempted to reassure Israel ahead of Obama's trip next month, reiterating America’s commitment to avoiding a nuclear Iran.

Concerns over Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline:

Iran and Pakistan have been developing their plans for a pipeline that will carry natural gas from Iran to an energy-starved Pakistan. In a press conference on March 11th held on the border of the two countries, Presidents Ahmadinejad and Zardari shook hands announcing in a joint statement that, “the completion of the pipeline in is in the interests of peace, security and progress of the two countries” further noting that, “it will consolidate the economic, political and security ties in the two nations.”

Talks on the pipeline have been ongoing since 1994 when it was envisaged to be a tripartite program between Iran, Pakistan and India. Dubbed the “peace pipeline”, India pulled out of the project in 2009 in partial return for U.S. sponsorship for their membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group.

The project between the two countries has encountered much criticism for underlining the sanctions regime. Victoria Nuland, US State Department spokesperson stated, “If a deal is finalized for a proposed Iran-Pakistan pipeline, it would raise serious concerns under the Iran Sanctions Act. We’ve made this absolutely clear to our Pakistani counterparts”. Addressing U.S. concerns directly, President Ahmadinejad said that the pipeline “has nothing to do with nuclear energy”, adding “you can’t make an atomic bomb with natural gas”. The United States must fear that this deal sets an unwelcome precedent for other countries around the world to break from the sanctions regime.

In advance of Obama’s visit to Israel, report indicates Iran to deliver non-nuclear weapons pledge:

Iranian officials are reported to be planning a formal declaration at the United Nations that Iran will never build nuclear weapons. This report precedes President Obama’s trip to Israel later this month, which is anticipated to focus on repairing personal ties with the Israeli Prime Minister, and showing that Washington is committed to curbing Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Meanwhile, Ehud Barak, Israel’s Defense Minister, recently claimed that the challenge of the Iranian nuclear issue will only get worse if it is not dealt with soon: “Iran remains the central challenge this year, and it is possible we’ll see the direction determined by the end of the year.”

US Director of Intelligence: Iran has not decided to build nuclear weapons

On March 12th, U.S. National Intelligence Director, James Clapper countered claims that Iran has decided to build a nuclear weapon, in front of a U.S. Senate panel on an annual report on global security threats. Iran’s advanced technical expertise gives it the capability to produce nuclear weapons, but Clapper stated: “We do not know if Iran will eventually decide to build nuclear weapons.”  Clapper also stated that sanctions have had a major impact on the country’s economy, but they have not changed the Iranian leadership’s approach on nuclear weapons. The National Intelligence report indicated that Iran’s “nuclear decision-making is guided by a cost-benefit approach, which offers the international community opportunities to influence Tehran. Iranian leaders undoubtedly consider Iran’s security, prestige and influence, as well as the international political and security environment, when making decisions about its nuclear program.

With Contributions from Victoria Godfrey, Helen Martin, & Rachel Staley, BASIC

Stories and Links:

U.S.-Iran Bilaterals

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says Iran ready for nuclear talks with US, The Guardian, February 10, 2013

He said, he said: Iran offers mixed signals on nuclear talks with the West, International Business Times, February 7, 2013

There’s ‘diplomatic path’ with Iran, insists John Kerry, Telegraph, February 26, 2013

Biden: U.S. Prepared to hold direct talks with Iran only if regime ‘is serious,’ Hareetz, February 2, 2013


P5+1 (E3+3)

Iran: Nuclear Talks are ‘opportunity’ for West, Haaretz, February 19, 2013

Iran nuclear crisis: New talks open in Kazakhstan, BBC, February 26, 2013

Skepticism Abounds as Six World Powers Resume Nuclear Talks with Iran, New York TImes, February 26, 2013

Iran talks begin, with little hope for a deal, Joby Warrick and Jason Rezaian, Washington Post, Februrary 26, 2013

Iran Nuclear Talks End Without Progress, Al Jazeera, February 27, 2013

Iran Nuclear Crisis: Jalil says takes positive step,  BBC news, February 27, 2013

Iran, World powers agree to new nuclear talks in Istanbul, Almaty, Lara Rozen, The Back Channel, February 27, 2013

Iran and Six Nations Agree to Continue Nuclear Talks, Steven Erlanger, New York Times, February 27, 2013

Iran’s Leader Condemns West for Not Making nuclear Concessions, Reuters, March 7, 2013

Iran's Salehi Says West Shows Good Faith on Nuclear Talks, Ladane Nasseri, Bloomberg, March 10, 2013,



US envoy reassures Israel on Iran before Obama visit, Jerusalem Post, February 12, 2013

New Iran centrifuges could shorten path to atomic bomb - Netanyahu, Reuters UK, February 11, 2013

‘Iran pushing major nuclear expansion’, Jerusalem Post, February 14, 2013

Israel unlikely to attack Iran before summer, senior officials say, Amos Harel, Hareetz, February 12, 2013


Iran Enrichment

Iran Converts Enriched Uranium to Reactor Fuel Report Says, Allen Cowell, New York Times, February 12, 2013,

Iran soothes nuclear tensions by resuming uranium conversion,
The Guardian, February 12, 2013,

Iran says it has begun updating uranium centrifuges, Reuters, February 13, 2013

Iran upgrades uranium enrichment machines, James Blitz and Monavar Khalaj, Financial Times, February 13, 2013

UN inspectors see new centrifuges at Iran nuclear site - diplomat, Reuters, February 14, 2013

Iran Installing New Natanz Centrifuges, say IAEA, BBC, February 21, 2013

Iran Move to Speed Up Nuclear Program Troubles West, Frederik Dahl, Reuters, February 21, 2013

Iran Says 3,000 Centrifuges Being Built, New York Times, March 3, 2013


Parchin visit - IAEA talks

Iran raises prospects of allowing UN nuclear inspectors to visit suspected military site, Washington Post, February 12, 2013

Iran says it will agree to inspection of Parachin base if nuclear ‘rights’ are honoured, Haaretz, February 12, 2013

Nuclear Watchdog Says No Deal Reached With Iran, Alan Cowell, New York Times, February 14, 2013

Iran rejects UN cheif’s “biased” nulcear views, Press TV, Februrary 18, 2013

UN Nuclear Chief Presses Iran on Access to Military Base, Frederick Dahl, Reuters, March 4, 2013

IAEA demands Iran nuclear access to Parchin Site, BBC News, March 4, 2013



US expands sanctions on Iran, targeting oil and Media, BBC, Feburary 6, 2013

Iran scolds world powers over gold sanctions “offer”, Reuters, February 18, 2013

Iran dismisses west offer to ease sanctions, Jerusalem Post, February 18 , 2013


Iran-North Korea

Iran calls for end to nuclear arms after North Korean test, Reuters, February 12, 2013



Iran will never shut down Furdow nuclear plant, Reuters, February 17, 2013


Pakistan-Iran Pipeline

Pakistan-Iran gas pipeline defies US, BBC, 11 March 2013

Pakistan and Iran inaugurate controversial gas pipeline, Telegraph, 11 March 2013

Pakistan tests US will with Iran pipeline, Kaveh L. Afrasiabi, Asia Times Online, 13 March 2013


US Intelligence Report

‘Iran can’t covertly produce atomic bomb’- US Intelligence Chief, Russia Today, March 12, 2013

US intelligence: Iran decision on nuclear weapon matter of ‘political will’, Laura Rozen, Al-Monitor, March 12, 2013


Iran Non-Nuclear Pledge

Iran question likely to be answered in 2013: Barak,  Space Daily, March 11, 2013

Iran will promise UN not to seek nuclear bomb, semi-official agency reports, Haaretz, March 12, 2013


Obama in Israel

Obama’s Visit to Israel Is All About Iran, Alon Pinkas, Al-Monitor Israel Pulse, March 8, 2013


Editorials, Analyses, and Reports:

-Consequences of a nuclear Iran, Jeffrey T. Kuhner, The Washington Times, February 8, 2013


-Iran could reach key-point for nuclear bomb by mid-2014, Reuters,  January 14, 2013


-Gallup:  Iranians Continue Strong Support for nuclear program, Fars News Agency, February 9, 2013

-US Carrot and Stick Policy on Tehran doomed to fail,
PressTV, February 7, 2013


-Is Iran a Bigger Threat than Israel?, Massimo Calabresi, Time, February 12, 2013


-Why the Iran threat assesment may be easing - for now, Scott Peterson, Christian Science Monitor, February 13, 2013

-Pressure builds in Iran Nuclear Standoff,
James Blitz, Financial Times, February 17, 2013


-Breakthrough at Iran nuclear talks depends on Western strategy, Tehran Times, February 17, 2013


-Understanding Iran’s Negotiating Style, Dina Esfandiary, Lobe Log, February 21, 2013


-ISIS Analysis of IAEA Iran Safeguards Report, David Albright, Christina Walrond, Andrea Stricker, and Robert Avagyan, February 21, 2013


Limited Partnership, Jeffrey Lewis, Foreign Policy, February 22, 2013


-Analysis: Power struggle, not nuclear deal, priority for Iranian elite, Marrcus George, Reuters, February 22, 2013


-Iran nuclear talks in Kazakhstan go into second day, Julian Borger, The Guardian, February 26, 2013

-Iran nuclear talks: Will hints of sanctions relief yield progress?
Scott Peterson, Christian Science
Monitor, February 26, 2013


-Iran nuclear plan: the two paths to making a nuclear weapon, Mark Fitzpatrick, Telegraph, February 26, 2013


-The P5+1’s Price Isn’t Right, Dina Esfandiary and Harry White, The Diplomat, February 27, 2013


-Almaty Negotiations: Result of Iran- US War of Strategic Calculations, Madhi Mohammadi, Iran Review, March 7, 2013


-Will ‘Almaty 2’ Talks in April Win Breakthrough on Iran?, Seyed Hossein Mousavian, Al-Monitor, March 7, 2013


-The 2013 DNI on Iran’s Nuclear Program, Jasmin Ramsey, Lobe Log, March 13, 2013


-Worldwide Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Community, Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, James R. Clapper, Director of National Intelligence, March 12, 2013


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