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The Race for Iran

India’s Siddharth Varadarajan Dissects the IAEA Resolution on Iran

Our colleague, Siddharth Varadarajan, strategic affairs columnist for India’s The Hindu, published a fantastic column on Sunday analyzing the backdrop for and implications of last week’s resolution on Iran from the International Atomic Energy Agency’s Board of Governors. We will be offering our own thoughts on the resolution shortly, but want to give Siddharth’s piece the widest possible circulation.


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What Will the P5+1’s Next Move Be?

The Islamic Republic of Iran announced that it will build 10 new uranium enrichment sites in an effort to expand its nuclear program.

The West’s reaction so far has been limited to a renewed call for sanctions.

We’ll see whether the P5+1 can muster the creativity and persistence to reach a comprehensive, game-changing deal with the Iranians. Giving up the “zero enrichment” illusion would be a good start.

— Ben Katcher



Kayhan Barzegar , an Iranian scholar and foreign policy analyst currently at the Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, recently published an op ed, “A Middle Way, Best Solution to the Nuclear Crisis”, in Iran Review.  It deserves the widest possible notice.  Barzegar offers an extremely insightful analysis of Iranian perspectives on the Baradei proposal for refueling the Tehran Research Reactor, going well beyond the “Iran has rejected a very reasonable proposal” and “Iran can’t make up its mind” boilerplate that passes for analysis in most Western commentary on the issue.

We strongly agree with Barzegar’s point that Iranian reactions to the Baradei proposal are inevitably colored by the ongoing insistence of the United States, Britain, and France (along with Israel) on “zero enrichment” as the only acceptable outcome from nuclear negotiations with Tehran.  While some Western hardliners express concern that the Baradei proposal implicitly accepts the reality of enrichment in Iran—thereby undermining “zero enrichment” as a Western negotiating position—many Iranian elites worry the proposal would set a precedent that any enriched uranium produced in the Islamic Republic should be sent abroad.  From this latter perspective, acceptance of the Baradei proposal as originally advanced would put Iran on a “slippery slope” to zero enrichment in nuclear negotiations with the P-5+1.

This certainly helps to explain Iran’s counter-proposal, advanced by Foreign Minister Mottaki last week, that Iranian low-enriched uranium (LEU) would need to be swapped for new fuel up front, inside Iran.  France—in the person of Foreign Minister Kouchner—has already declared Mottaki’s counter-proposal an effective rejection of the Baradei plan.  But that result will only confirm Iranian suspicions that the United States and its partners were all along out to leverage Iran toward zero enrichment.  And it could give Tehran an “excuse” to enrich some portion of its LEU stockpile to 20 percent—hardly a great moment in Western nonproliferation policy.

We wish all our readers a Happy Thanksgiving.  We will take Thursday off, but will be back after the holiday with, among other items, our promised analysis of Israeli views on proposals for a nuclear weapons free zone in the Middle East.

–Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett


Russia and Sanctions

The New Republic‘s Michael Crowley suggests that Russia may be becoming more amenable to supporting sanctions against Iran – if the Islamic Republic cannot reach a deal with the P5+1 over its nuclear program.

Crowley argues that Russia’s decision to delay the shipment of an anti-missile defense system coupled with its announcement that the Bushehr nuclear plant won’t be operational by the end of this year suggest that Russia may be inclined to take a harder line against Iran, and may be open to sanctions.

Last week, Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett explained why Russia is extremely unlikely to go along with anything approaching “crippling” sanctions.

And even if Russia were to go along with sanctions, Crowley’s article does not address the fact that even “crippling” sanctions are unlikely to produce the kind of capitulations on Iran’s nuclear program that the Obama administration appears to be seeking.

— Ben Katcher


Iran Takes Next Step Toward WTO


Iran sent WTO members a memorandum outlining its trade policies, in an effort to build momentum toward its WTO accession.

While minor, Iran’s move underscores the immense economic opportunities that the United States could offer Iran, if it were to engage in comprehensive strategic negotiations with the Islamic Republic.

It’s difficult to pursue “bigger carrots” when negotiations are limited to the nuclear issue.

— Ben Katcher