Iran update: number 117

Summary

  • IAEA seeks explanation of documents that show nuclear warhead design.
  • Diplomatic engagement with Iran: P5, Germany and the EU meet in Shanghai; IAEA encourages Iran to re-enter negotiations; Iran to extend a solution; the secret US- Iranian talks facilities by Thomas Pickering.
  • Angus Reid Poll: Iranians want nuclear energy not nuclear weapons
  • Analysis of Iran's application for full membership of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization

The IAEA's deputy director Olli Heinonen started two days of talks with Iran's deputy security chief Javad Vaeedi, in Tehran on April 21st. The talks are an IAEA effort to get answers to some of the most contentious, outstanding issues about Iran's previous nuclear plans. Earlier this year, Heinonen presented documents to an IAEA board meeting that indicated links in Iran between projects to process uranium, test explosives and modify a missile cone in a way suitable for a nuclear warhead. The Institute for Science and International Security has released unofficial notes made by an unidentified diplomat present at Mr. Heinonen's presentation, which can be viewed here. To date, Iran has said that the documents Mr. Heinonen presented were forgeries and has not responded further to his allegations. The meeting takes place amid hostile outbursts on both sides: Iranian hardliners, such as newspaper editor Hossein Shariatmadari, denounced Iran's government for hosting Heinonen saying the trip was part of a "joint US-Israeli trick" aimed at hurting Iran. US Defense Secretary Gates said, on the eve of the talks, that Iran was "hell-bent" on getting a nuclear weapon.

On April 16th, officials from the UN Security Council permanent-member States, Germany and the EU met in Shanghai to discuss offering Iran a more detailed incentives package based upon the June 2006 offer in return for cessation of all Iranian nuclear activity. A Chinese official said that they "had reached agreement on some major parts" but did not elaborate further. The 2006 offer included civil nuclear cooperation and wider trade in civil aircraft, energy, high technology and agriculture. It seems unlikely that Iran will accept any minor modifications to the 2006 package, which they have already rejected, because their nuclear enrichment programme has progressed further. One Iranian official said that the package would have to be "a bit stronger" than in 2006 before it could be considered.

In the wake of the Shanghai meeting, IAEA director Mohammed Elbaradei encouraged Iran to resume direct talks with the P5+1. Elbaradei spoke of the urgent need for the international community to reach agreement: "We can inspect the past and the present, we cannot inspect the future. We cannot inspect intentions... I call on Iran not to speed up the process because we need first to have an agreement with the international community."

Diplomacy is taking place away from the Shanghai meeting table too. Iranian Foreign Minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, said on Sunday 13th that Iran would soon unveil proposals with "a new orientation" to help end international and other problems but did not elaborate further.

One Shanghai-meeting participant, former senior US diplomat Thomas Pickering said a group of former American diplomats and experts had been meeting with Iranian academics and policy advisers "in a lot of different places, although not in the US or Iran". Pickering advocates a compromise proposal, similar to that proposed by Sir John Thomson of MIT, under which an international consortium would run enrichment on Iranian soil to ensure the nuclear fuel is not diverted for military purposes. Iran has said it was open to such a consortium on its territory.

An Angus Reid poll has shown that only 20% of Iranians surveyed in February of this year felt Iran should have nuclear weapons, 66% felt Iran should have a full and domestic fuel cycle as part of their nuclear energy program, but should not develop nuclear weapons. The survey assessed Iranian and US attitudes towards many aspects of Iran's nuclear programme.

Iran has applied for full-membership of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, an intergovernmental security organization focused on central Asia led by Russia and China, which allows for economic, political and military cooperation between member states. Iran's nuclear status appears to be the deciding factor in their quest for full membership. Iran is currently an observer member of the SCO; full membership may lead to deepening ties with China and Russia. Indications are that China and Russia may decline, or defer the application because of Iran's nuclear programme. They have supported three rounds of sanctions against Iran and as BASIC reported in a previous Iran update, Beijing has supplied the IAEA with information about Iran's nuclear program.

Janes Defence Group believes it has located the secret facility from which Iran's experimental rocket was launched on 4 February, using satellite imagery. Analysts suspect that the rocket launched was only a single stage, liquid-fueled rocket, with lower specifications that those claimed by the Iranians at the time.

 

Stories and Links

Clinton, Obama tackle Iran issue in debate, Yahoo, April 16
http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20080417/pl_nm/
usa_politics_democrats_iran_dc_1

Clinton says US could "totally obliterate" Iran, NY Times, April 22
http://www.nytimes.com/reuters/washington/politics-usa-politics-iran.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=clinton+iran&st=nyt&oref=slogin

Iran sanctions having impact: Treasury official, Yahoo, April 17
http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20080417/pl_nm/usa_iran_treasury_dc_1

How Iranians Are Avoiding Sanctions, Financial Times, April 14
Link here

Japan freezes assets tied to Iran's nuclear programme, Bloomberg, April 22
http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601101&sid=afhIVhJDYoZU&refer=japan

"Skepticism in Order "on claims of nuclear progress, RFERL, April 9
http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2008/04/5e3e8940-9403-4d14-9f36-e6f65790eed9.html

 

Comments, editorial and analysis

The Rise and impact of Iran's Neo-Cons, Stanley Foundation, April '08
http://www.stanleyfoundation.org/resources.cfm?id=290%20

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