Monthly Archives: August 2006

Iran Ear Candy

For your information/listening pleasure:

George Perkovich, Barbara Slavin, and Ray Takeyh “shared their expertise on NPR the other day”:

Also, check out “this podcast”: on “Carah Ong’s blog”: of Trita Parsi and Jim Walsh talking to reporters.

Carry on.

Gerson’s Iran Insights

Last week, Steve Clemons “posted”: about an Aspen conference of foreign policy luminaries who discussed solutions to the Iran nuclear issue. I’ll be interested to learn what they came up with.

Anyway, Steve wrote that

bq. …the single most important consensus that did seem to emerge from the discussion is that at some point in the not too distant future, President Bush will be handed a bleak, binary choice: either to authorize and launch an attack against Iran’s nuclear capacity and assets or to acquiesce.

One would hope that Bush’s FoPo team would be a bit more astute than that, but former speechwriter Michael Gerson “wrote something the other day”: which suggests otherwise. Obviously, whether Gerson’s piece reflects administration thinking is anyone’s guess.

I hope not, because Gerson displays a staggering degree of ignorance. I particularly like this sentence:

“Iran’s destabilizing nuclear ambitions are not a guarded secret; they are an announced strategy.”


Observe the rest of Gerson’s Iran musings:

Behind all the chaos and death in Lebanon and northern Israel, Iran is the main cause of worry in the West Wing†the crisis with the highest stakes. Its government shows every sign of grand regional ambitions, pulling together an anti-American alliance composed of Syria, terrorist groups like Hizbullah and Hamas, and proxies in Iraq and Afghanistan. And despite other disagreements, all the factions in Iran†conservative, ultraconservative and “let’s usher in the apocalypse” fanatics†seem united in a nuclear nationalism.

Some commentators say that America is too exhausted to confront this threat. But presidential decisions on national security are not primarily made by the divination of public sentiments; they are made by the determination of national interests. And the low blood-sugar level of pundits counts not at all. Here the choice is not easy, but it is simple: can America (and other nations) accept a nuclear Iran?

In foreign-policy circles, it is sometimes claimed that past nuclear proliferation†say, to India or Pakistan†has been less destabilizing than predicted. In the case of Iran, this is wishful thinking. A nuclear Iran would mean a nuclear Middle East, as traditional rivals like Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Turkey feel pressured to join the club, giving every regional conflict nuclear overtones. A nuclear Iran would also give terrorist groups something they have previously lacked and desperately want: a great-power sponsor. Over time, this is the surest way to put catastrophic technology into the hands of a murderous few. *All options have dangers and drawbacks. But inaction might bring the harshest verdict of history: they knew much, and they did nothing.*

The war in Iraq, without doubt, complicates our approach to Iran. It has stretched the Army and lowered our reservoir of credibility on WMD intelligence. *But Iran’s destabilizing nuclear ambitions are not a guarded secret; they are an announced strategy. If the lesson drawn from Iraq is that the world is too unknowable and complicated for America to act in its interests, we will pay a terrible price down the road.*

As these events unfold, our country will need a better way of doing business, a new compact between citizens and their government. Americans have every right to expect competence and honesty about risks and mistakes and failures. *Yet Americans, in turn, must understand that in a war where deception is the weapon and goal of the enemy, every mistake is not a lie; every failure is not a conspiracy. And the worst failure would be a timid foreign policy that allows terrible threats to emerge.*

There are still many steps of diplomacy, engagement and sanctions between today and a decision about military conflict with Iran†and there may yet be a peaceful solution. But in this diplomatic dance, America should not mirror the infinite patience of Europe. *There must be someone in the world capable of drawing a line†someone who says, “This much and no further.” At some point, those who decide on aggression must pay a price, or aggression will be universal. If American “cowboy diplomacy” did not exist, it would be necessary to invent it.*

In other words, nothing anyone outside the White House thinks matters. We _know_ Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons, despite anything approaching certainty on the question. History will later vindicate us, regardless of how bad we F-up now. It’s not our fault that Europeans are wusses.

Sound familiar?

The cap’s coming off the glue, doctor’s orders be damned…


Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has recently started his “own blog”: There’s a link to the English-language site. [“RFE/RL via Payvand News”:].

FYI, Ahmadinejad’s 60 Minutes interview, which aired last night, can be found “here.”:

Kim Jong-il has had “his own blog”: for a while and seems to have resumed updating it.

Iran, P5+1 Proposal Documents

ACA has posted “some documents”: describing proposals made by Iran, the E3, and the P5+1. As far as I know, some have never been made public before. [Such as “this one,”: “this one,”: and “this one.”:]

I referenced some of them in “this June _ACT_ article.”:

The documents contain quite a bit of interesting material. For example, check out the end of this July 2005 letter from Hassan Rowhani to the E3 foreign ministers. Essentially, Rowhani proposed a suspension of industrial-scale enrichment at Iran’s Natanz facility for about a decade:

bq. Negotiations for full scale operation of Natanz would continue on the premise that it would be synchronized with the fuel requirements of your light water reactor or those offered by Russia.

I wrote the following about that letter, based on the text and a description of Iran’s position provided by an Iranian diplomat:

bq. A July 2005 letter from Rowhani to the Europeans indicated that Iran would agree to operate a lower number of centrifuges during the Natanz facility’s initial operation. The letter also said that Iran would suspend industrial-scale enrichment at Natanz for approximately 10 years. [footnote is “here”:]

Also noteworthy is the scope of Iran’s “January 2005 proposal.”: It deals with a variety of issues, such as regional security, terrorism, and proliferation. It’s actually more detailed than “Iran’s Spring 2003 proposal”:, which Jeffrey “blogged about.”: I don’t think anyone can doubt the importance of security concerns to Iran after reading the more recent proposal.

Have a good weekend. I’m just gonna go find a cash machine…

Department of Ass-Clownery

I recently ran across “this December article”:
from La Repubblica which contains an interesting piece of information RE: the Iraq/Niger/uranium thing. [Translation and original link via the “Leftcoaster.”:]

Members of the “Iraq really was uranium shopping” crowd, “such as Christopher Hitchens,”: frequently argue
(yes, present tense) that Niger has nothing else that Iraq would want. Therefore, these geniuses deduce, there was no other plausible reason for Iraqi officials to visit that country.

[Check out “more evidence”: of Hitchens’ penchant for being both obnoxious and spectacularly wrong on this subject.]

Enter former senior French intelligence official Alain Chouet, who
told La Repubblica that

bq. With a deep knowledge of Niger and of all the issues connected to yellowcake. My men stayed in Africa for a couple of weeks and, once back, they told me a very simple thing: ‘the American information on uranium is all bullshit’. When I read their report, I did not doubt their work nor, if you let me say so, my mind. I know Niger well but I can say that I have known Baghdad and Saddam even better. And I know that if Saddam had wanted to purchase yellowcake (which he already owned in great quantities) from Niger he would have never asked an Ambassador to open negotiations. Saddam did not trust anybody in his Foreign Office. He certainly didn’t trust his ambassadors around the world. For such a task he would have sent one of his sons. On the other hand, *we knew the reason of the journey of Iraqi Ambassador to the Holy See, Wissam Al Zahawie. He had to identify an African country ready to accept the storage of the regime’s hazardous toxic waste, in exchange for money. In fact Namibia, which had been used as a dumping ground by Iraq, had told Baghdad they couldn’t go on contaminating their soil.* I told the CIA the results of our mission in Niger. The Americans seemed very disappointed for what they had to hear. [_emphasis mine_]


Iran and India

Next time you hear someone claim that the Iranians haven’t raised the US-India nuclear deal in discussions about its nuclear program, remember this…

Iran’s Ambassador to the UN Javad Zarif, stated 31 July:

“Iran’s right to enrich uranium is recognized under the NPT. And upholding the rights of States parties to international regimes is as essential as ensuring respect for their obligations. These regimes, including the NPT, are sustained by a balance between rights and obligations. Threats will not sustain the NPT or other international regimes. Ensuring that members can draw rightful benefits from membership and non-members are not rewarded for their intransigence does.


This goes so far that when it suits the US, even the acquisition of nuclear weapons for non- NPT members becomes “legitimate” to quote the US Ambassador.

Text of P5+1 Offer to Iran

I imagine this has made the rounds, but “Iran Focus has a copy:”:

Text is below:


Our goal is to develop relations and cooperation with Iran based on mutual respect and the establishment of international confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear programme. We propose a fresh start in negotiations of a comprehensive agreement with Iran. Such an agreement would be deposited with the IAEA and endorsed in a Security Council resolution.

To create the right conditions for negotiations:

We will:

– reaffirm Iran’s right to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes in conformity with its NPT obligations, and in this context reaffirm their support for the development by Iran of a civil nuclear energy programme;
– commit to actively support the building of new light water reactors in Iran through international joint projects, in accordance with the IAEA Statute and the NPT;
– agree to suspend discussion of Iran’s nuclear programme at the Security Council on resumption of negotiations.

Iran will:

– commit to addressing all the outstanding concerns of the IAEA through full cooperation with the IAEA;
– suspend all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities to be verified by the IAEA, as requested by the IAEA Board of Governors and the UN Security Council, and commit to continue this during these negotiations; and
– resume implementation of the Additional Protocol.



We will take the following steps:

Iran’s Rights to Nuclear Energy

– reaffirm Iran’s inalienable right to nuclear energy for peaceful purposes without discrimination and in conformity with Articles I and II of the NPT, and co-operate with Iran in the development by Iran of a civil nuclear power programme.

– negotiate and implement a Euratom/Iran nuclear cooperation agreement.

Light Water Reactors:

– actively support the building of new light water power reactors in Iran through international joint projects, in accordance with the IAEA Statute and the NPT, using state-of-the art technology, including by authorising the transfer of necessary goods and the provision of advanced technology to make its power reactors safe against earthquakes.

– provide co-operation with the management of spent nuclear fuel and radioactive waste through appropriate arrangements.

Research & Development in Nuclear Energy

– provide a substantive package of research and development co-operation, including possible provision of light water research reactors, notably in the fields of radioisotope production, basic research and nuclear applications in medicine and agriculture.

Fuel Guarantees

– give legally binding, multi-layered fuel assurances to Iran, based on:
• participation as a partner in an international facility in Russia to provide enrichment services for a reliable supply of fuel to Iran’s nuclear reactors. Subject to negotiations, such a facility could enrich all the UF6 produced in Iran.
• establishment on commercial terms of a buffer stock to hold a reserve of up to 5 years’ supply of nuclear fuel dedicated to Iran, with participation and under supervision of the IAEA.
• development of a standing multilateral mechanism for reliable access to nuclear fuel with the IAEA based on ideas to be considered at the next Board of Governors.

Review of Moratorium

The long-term agreement would, with regard to common efforts to build international confidence, include a clause for review of the agreement in all its aspects, to follow:

– confirmation by the IAEA that all outstanding issues and concerns reported by the IAEA, including those activities which could have a military nuclear dimension, have been resolved; and

– confirmation that there are no undeclared nuclear activities or materials in Iran and that international confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran’s civil nuclear programme has been restored.


Regional Security Co-operation

Support for a new conference to promote dialogue and cooperation on regional security issues.

International Trade & Investment

Improving Iran’s access to the international economy, markets and capital, through practical support for full integration into international structures, including the WTO, and to create the framework for increased direct investment in Iran and trade with Iran (including a Trade and Economic Cooperation Agreement with EU). Steps would be taken to improve access to key goods and technology.

Civil Aviation

Civil aviation cooperation, including the possible removal of restrictions on US and European manufacturers, from exporting civil aircraft to Iran, thereby widening the prospect of Iran renewing its fleet of civil airlines.

Energy Partnership

Establishment of a long-term energy partnership between Iran and the EU and other willing partners, with concrete and practical applications.

Telecommunications Infrastructure

Support for the modernisation of Iran’s telecommunication infrastructure and advanced internet provision, including by possible removal of relevant Us and other export restrictions.

High Technology Co-operation

Co-operation in fields of high technology and other areas to be agreed.


Support for agricultural development in Iran, including possible access to US and European agricultural products, technology and farm equipment.

Der Spiegel ElBaradei Interview

The “interview”:,1518,428788,00.html is short, but covers a fair amount of ground.

Here’s what he said about Iran:

SPIEGEL: Iran is Hezbollah’s main source of funding. Many Middle East experts believe that Tehran’s mullah-led regime is behind the current escalation, hoping to use the situation to deflect attention from its nuclear program.

ElBaradei: I don’t know, but one thing is certain: Iran is an important regional power. And like it or not, it will be difficult to find a solution without entering into a dialogue with Tehran.

SPIEGEL: This is precisely what US President Bush wants to avoid.

ElBaradei: That is a problem. One cannot always negotiate through middlemen. This makes it all the more significant that the United States has decided to join in nuclear talks with Tehran. It’s an important breakthrough.

SPIEGEL: Most of the world is dismayed over Iran’s delaying tactics in the dispute over its nuclear program. You also stated, in January, that you were losing patience with Tehran.

ElBaradei: That’s true.

SPIEGEL: It’s now July, and Tehran is still showing no willingness to cooperate. The international community is getting impatient waiting for a response to the offer that was drafted by the five nuclear powers and Germany. It includes both political and economic incentives, such as supplying Tehran with a light-water reactor. In return, Tehran is being asked to stop its uranium enrichment activities, one of the key conditions for building a nuclear bomb.

ElBaradei: It’s a good offer, and I expect an answer soon. The Iranians tell me that they need a few more weeks to take a close look at everything. Last week’s announcement from Tehran — that they are “seriously considering” the package and that they view it as a positive approach to finding a diplomatic solution is encouraging…

SPIEGEL: …or just the usual cat-and-mouse game…

ElBaradei: …but there is mutual mistrust between Iran and the West. It will take time to get past this.

SPIEGEL: But it was the Iranian regime that clearly lied and deceived the West in recent years when it came to its nuclear program. Doesn’t Tehran have to accept the offer without conditions and stop its uranium enrichment activities?

ElBaradei: There is no other choice. To our knowledge, however, the Iranians have not accelerated their nuclear research program, which would be a sign of their developing a nuclear program for military use. There are apparently competing political directions in Tehran. And there are many shades of gray.

SPIEGEL: Is the threat of UN sanctions effective?

ElBaradei: We must be patient. A few weeks won’t make a difference. The issue is not Iran’s nuclear program, but regional security.

SPIEGEL: You sound optimistic. But isn’t it likely that Tehran will insist on uranium enrichment and respond to the offer with an unacceptable counteroffer?

ElBaradei: It would be fatal if the Iranians were to miss this great opportunity. It would lead to a spiral of escalation. Sanctions would be unavoidable but wouldn’t eliminate the problem, and if the situation deteriorates, we risk losing our last inspection opportunities.

SPIEGEL: Tehran recently complained about your chief inspector for Iran, Chris Charlier, a Belgian. Is there anything to reports in the press that you removed him from his position in response to Iranian pressure?

ElBaradei: That isn’t quite the way it was. Our statutes give any state being monitored by the International Atomic Energy Authority (IAEA) the right to reject an inspector who is not to their liking. It’s the same thing in diplomacy, where a state can reject a proposed ambassador as a persona non grata.

SPIEGEL: So he was suspended at the request of the mullah regime?

ElBaradei: No, he continues to work in a key position relating to the Iran issue. But he will not be traveling to Tehran until further notice. We have 200 inspectors who can conduct inspections in Iran. Individual employees aren’t the issue.

The issue is getting the job done. I will denounce the policy the minute we are no longer able to do so in Iran.

SPIEGEL: Are you worried that Tehran will terminate the agreements and expel the IAEA?

ElBaradei: This threat has been mentioned.

SPIEGEL: There have not been any UN inspectors in North Korea since the end of 2002. Does Pyongyang pose a more dramatic threat to humanity?

ElBaradei: Most specialists and intelligence experts, including the Americans, believe that Iran is still five to ten years away from building nuclear weapons. In this respect, North Korea is much further along than Iran. Indeed, a nightmare scenario has already developed in North Korea.

Unfortunately, he also called the US-India nuclear goat rodeo a “win-win situation.”

“Here’s an open letter”: to ElBaradei expressing an alternate viewpoint.

Khan Network: Steve Coll in New Yorker

As far as I can tell, the _New Yorker_ hasn’t posted Steve Coll’s piece on the Khan network yet, but they have a Q&A transcript on their website “that’s worth checking out.”:

This excerpt about the time frame for an Iranian nuclear weapon is interesting:

Q: The question of how fast can’t be answered definitively, but could you give us a sense of the estimates and how reliable you think they are?

A: John Negroponte, the director of National Intelligence, has said, in his most recent public assessment, that the American intelligence community believes that Iran may acquire a nuclear capacity some time in the next decade, meaning from 2010 or 2011 onward. From my reporting, I gather that in private briefings the Bush Administration’s intelligence analysts focus on a five-to-seven-year window, although they emphasize that there’s a fair amount of uncertainty about this estimate. I think the one assertion that the intelligence community seems comfortable with is that it’s not this year or next year and probably not the year after that. However, the more that is discovered about Iran’s research, the more some analysts wonder whether Iran might be able to move faster than the official forecast indicates.