Iran War Weekly – February 11, 2013

From Frank Brodhead’s Iran War Weekly:

After a long slumber, diplomacy about Iran’s nuclear program has awakened. Yet none of the factors that stymied agreement in the past has significantly changed. The United States still couples diplomacy with its “all options are on the table” bravado, a stance that precludes a climate conducive to negotiations. And the United States still refuses to recognize Iran’s right to enrich uranium under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty or to consider lifting or suspending economic sanctions in exchange for concessions by Iran. Moreover, the window for negotiations, which was closed during the US election campaign, will soon close again, perhaps as soon as March, as Iran prepares for its own presidential election.

There are now three arenas of negotiations. One arena is that of the P5+1 (the five permanent members of the Security Council, plus Germany), who will meet with their Iranian counterparts in Kazakhstan on February 26. This set of negotiations was broken off at the June meeting in Moscow in disarray. It is in this arena that the suspension of parts of Iran’s nuclear program, and the lifting of UN Security Council sanctions against Iran, will be negotiated.

A second set of talks – direct talks between the United States and Iran – was proposed by Vice President Biden last week at a security conference in Munich. Bi-lateral talks have been off the agenda, but many analysts think that only by talking about a broad range of issues, and not just Iran’s nuclear program, can relations between the two countries be improved. However, Iran’s Supreme Leader rejected such talks on the ground that the United States’ coercive actions against Iran (sanctions, cyberwar, assassinations) and threats to use military force make negotiations impossible. But, as former diplomat Peter Bergen notes in an essay linked below, the Supreme Leader’s statements make clear that bi-lateral talks would be welcome if the United States would cease its aggression.

A third arena for negotiations is that between the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Iran. The front-burner issue here is the (imo unfounded) allegations by the IAEA that Iran experimented with military applications of uranium a decade ago. The focus of the IAEA demands is access to Iran’s military base at Parchin. It is unlikely that Iran will accede to the IAEA demands re: Parchin unless they become part of a larger agreement in the P5+1 arena.

With negotiations between the disputing parties seemingly going nowhere, the main centers of action are in the debates about UN, US, and EU economic sanctions against Iran. As described in articles linked below, it is evident that the sanctions are causing serious distress to many Iranians, but it is also clear that the sanctions have had, and are unlikely to have, any impact on Iran’s negotiating positions about its nuclear program. As this becomes recognized among the US policy-making elite, the question arises: Will sanctions be maintained indefinitely, will new diplomatic offers be forthcoming, or will military action against Iran become more attractive?

In addition to some good/useful articles about each of the three negotiating arenas, I’ve linked below a set of essays on sanctions, on internal developments within Iran, and of course on recent developments in Syria. I also recommend the essays by Hossein Mousavian and Trita Parsi on negotiating opportunities; the Arms Control Association “briefing book” on Iran’s nuclear program; and Gareth Porter’s essay on the new developments in the terrorist attack on Israeli tourists in Bulgaria, now “linked” to Hezbollah and indirectly to Iran.

Read the rest at

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