Iran Nuke Deal Enables The Détente

November 25, 2013

Iran nuclear programmeThe world powers – U.S., France, Germany, Britain, China and Russia – reached an agreement with Iranian leaders early Sunday (24th Nov. 2013) in Geneva to curb Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for a gradual easing of economic sanctions. President Obama said the tentative pact will “cut off Iran’s most likely paths to a bomb…While today’s announcement is just a first step, it achieves a great deal,” Mr. Obama said. “For the first time in nearly a decade, we have halted the progress of the Iranian nuclear program, and key parts of the program will be rolled back.

Iran has committed to halting certain levels of enrichment, and neutralizing part of its stockpile. Iran cannot use its next-generation centrifuges—which are used for enriching uranium.” Mr. Obama said the U.S. and its partners will not proceed with new sanctions that would scuttle the deal. (Source e.g. The Washington Times ) In return for Iran agreeing to increased international inspections of its facilities, the U.S. and its partners will suspend sanctions on gold and precious metals, Iran’s auto sector, and Iran’s petrochemical exports, potentially providing Iran about $1.5 billion in revenue.

The subsequent economic crisis in Iran discredited the policies of former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, changed the thinking of the supreme leader and ultimately led to the electoral victory of President Hassan Rouhani. Previous international negotiators entered talks with Iran at a disadvantage because Iran had no need for negotiations. This has changed because Iran needs a negotiated deal as well, and it cannot get sanctions relief without international cooperation. This transformation in the negotiations dynamic made the deal now possible.

From other side Washington was hoping during the Arab Spring that at some point in Iran there would be an uprising that would overthrow the regime. The 2009 uprising, never really a threat to the regime, was seen as a rehearsal (see e.g IRAN – revolution postponed and Iran – no Revolution but potential for Change anyway). U.S was expecting Arab Spring to yield more liberal regimes. That didn’t happen. Egypt has not evolved, Syria has devolved into civil war, Bahrain has seen Saudi Arabia repress its uprising, and Libya has found itself on the brink of chaos. Not a single liberal democratic regime emerged. It became clear that there would be no uprising in Iran, and even if there were, the results would not likely benefit the United States.

Iran nuclear sites

Iran nuclear sites

Key Elements of Iran Nuke Deal

According US State Department fact sheet on Iran nuclear deal the key elements of Iran nuke deal are following:

Iran has committed to halt enrichment above 5%:

  • Halt all enrichment above 5% and dismantle the technical connections required to enrich above 5%.

Iran has committed to neutralize its stockpile of near-20% uranium:

  • Dilute below 5% or convert to a form not suitable for further enrichment its entire stockpile of near-20% enriched uranium before the end of the initial phase.

Iran has committed to halt progress on its enrichment capacity:

  • Not install additional centrifuges of any type.
  • Not install or use any next-generation centrifuges to enrich uranium.
  • Leave inoperable roughly half of installed centrifuges at Natanz and three-quarters of installed centrifuges at Fordow, so they cannot be used to enrich uranium.
  • Limit its centrifuge production to those needed to replace damaged machines, so Iran cannot use the six months to stockpile centrifuges.
  • Not construct additional enrichment facilities.

Iran has committed to halt progress on the growth of its 3.5% stockpile:

  • Not increase its stockpile of 3.5% low enriched uranium, so that the amount is not greater at the end of the six months than it is at the beginning, and any newly enriched 3.5% enriched uranium is converted into oxide.

Iran has committed to no further advances of its activities at Arak and to halt progress on its plutonium track. Iran has committed to:

  • Not commission the Arak reactor.
  • Not fuel the Arak reactor.
  • Halt the production of fuel for the Arak reactor.
  • No additional testing of fuel for the Arak reactor.
  • Not install any additional reactor components at Arak.
  • Not transfer fuel and heavy water to the reactor site.
  • Not construct a facility capable of reprocessing. Without reprocessing, Iran cannot separate plutonium from spent fuel.

Unprecedented transparency and intrusive monitoring of Iran’s nuclear program

Iran has committed to:

  • Provide daily access by IAEA inspectors at Natanz and Fordow. This daily access will permit inspectors to review surveillance camera footage to ensure comprehensive monitoring. This access will provide even greater transparency into enrichment at these sites and shorten detection time for any non-compliance.
  • Provide IAEA access to centrifuge assembly facilities.
  • Provide IAEA access to centrifuge rotor component production and storage facilities.
  • Provide IAEA access to uranium mines and mills.
  • Provide long-sought design information for the Arak reactor. This will provide critical insight into the reactor that has not previously been available.
  • Provide more frequent inspector access to the Arak reactor.
  • Provide certain key data and information called for in the Additional Protocol to Iran’s IAEA Safeguards Agreement and Modified Code 3.1.

Limited, Temporary, Reversible Relief

In return for these steps, the P5+1 is to provide limited, temporary, targeted, and reversible relief while maintaining the vast bulk of our sanctions, including the oil, finance, and banking sanctions architecture. If Iran fails to meet its commitments, we will revoke the relief. Specifically the P5+1 has committed to:

  • Not impose new nuclear-related sanctions for six months, if Iran abides by its commitments under this deal, to the extent permissible within their political systems.
  • Suspend certain sanctions on gold and precious metals, Iran’s auto sector, and Iran’s petrochemical exports, potentially providing Iran approximately $1.5 billion in revenue.
  • License safety-related repairs and inspections inside Iran for certain Iranian airlines.
  • Allow purchases of Iranian oil to remain at their currently significantly reduced levels — levels that are 60% less than two years ago. $4.2 billion from these sales will be allowed to be transferred in installments if, and as, Iran fulfills its commitments.
  • Allow $400 million in governmental tuition assistance to be transferred from restricted Iranian funds directly to recognized educational institutions in third countries to defray the tuition costs of Iranian students.

Putting Limited Relief in Perspective

In total, the approximately $7 billion in relief is a fraction of the costs that Iran will continue to incur during this first phase under the sanctions that will remain in place. The vast majority of Iran’s approximately $100 billion in foreign exchange holdings are inaccessible or restricted by sanctions.

In the next six months, Iran’s crude oil sales cannot increase. Oil sanctions alone will result in approximately $30 billion in lost revenues to Iran

The western powers have cut Iran’s oil sales from 2.5 million barrels per day (bpd) in early 2012 to 1 million bpd today, denying Iran the ability to sell almost 1.5 million bpd.

Secret talks paved the way

The negotiations started in Geneva on Nov. 2013 but as usual secret talks paved the way for the historic deal since March 2013. Some of the points comprising the interim agreement reached between Iran and the six powers were based on these secret talks between the U.S. and Tehran, integrated by the Americans into the official document. The existence of the secret channel between Iran and the United States was revealed publicly for the first time only on Sunday by the Associated Press and by blogger Laura Rozen on the Al-Monitor news website. The two reports appeared simultaneously, right after Iran and world powers signed an agreement in Geneva. The discussions were kept hidden even from America’s closest friends, including its negotiating partners and Israel, until two months ago, and that may explain how the nuclear accord appeared to come together so quickly after years of stalemate and fierce hostility between Iran and the West. However the Israeli government learned of the secret negotiations sometime near the beginning of the summer through intelligence it managed to obtain.

The talks were held in the Middle Eastern nation of Oman and elsewhere with only a tight circle of people in the know, the AP learned. Since March, Deputy Secretary of State William Burns and Jake Sullivan, Vice President Joe Biden’s top foreign policy adviser, have met at least five times with Iranian officials. The last four clandestine meetings, held since Iran’s reform-minded President Hasan Rouhani was inaugurated in August, produced much of the agreement later formally hammered out in negotiations in Geneva.

Meanwhile Le Figaro reported that the U.S. is already conducting secret bilateral talks with Iran on a number of topics.Among other things, the sides are discussing Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, and accelerating trade relations between Tehran and Washington immediately after the signing of the interim agreement in Geneva, according to the French newspaper. A reliable source in the Gulf revealed these details to a senior correspondent for the newspaper, Georges Malbrunot who specializes in the Middle East. The source said that the contacts between U.S. and Iranians began on the day following the U.N. General Assembly in late September following a telephone conversation between President Obama and his Iranian counterpart Rouhani. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif stayed in the U.S. for an additional ten days following the U.N. General Assembly, along with 75 colleagues from President Rouhani’s entourage — businessmen, industrialists and representatives of the Iranian gas and oil sector, who met with representatives of American oil companies Chevron and Exxon. (Source e.g: Report: Secret US-Iran talks laid the groundwork for deal )

IAEA reports Iran nuclear activity slowed not reduced

Iran now self-sufficient in uranium ore

Iran now self-sufficient in uranium ore

The latest quarterly report on Iran’s nuclear activities was issued on 14th Nov. 2013 by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). It noted a slowdown, but no reduction in Tehran’s nuclear activity.

The report was the IAEA’s first meaningful assessment since Iran’s President Rouhani took office. It comes as representatives from the P5+1 powers (US, UK, China, Russia, France and Germany) and Iranian officials prepare to meet again next week to further consider an interim agreement over Iran’s nuclear programme.

The IAEA report found that during the past three months, four advanced centrifuges had been added at the central Natanz plant, in comparison to 1,861 during the previous three-month period. The report concludes activity has been “more or less frozen” at the Arak heavy water plant, where it is feared plutonium is being developed which could speed up nuclear activity. However, Iran’s stockpile of 20 per-cent enriched uranium, considered just a short step away from weapons-grade material, has increased by five per cent to 196kg since August. Despite the slight increase, this is still below the 240kg mark specified last year by Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as his “red line” which may precipitate action against Iran’s nuclear facilities. ( Source Bicom )

Israeli reactions

From Israel’s perspective, the accord is a strategic defeat for the West, since it legitimizes Iran’s status as a nuclear threshold state. The Iranians, says Jerusalem, are giving up nothing, while getting sanctions relief. The Iranian commitment not to enrich uranium to 20 percent for the next six months is no Iranian concession since the Iranians have already been careful not to cross Netanyahu’s red line of 220 kilos of such uranium. The Iranian commitment not to operate the heavy water reactor in Arak for the next six months is similarly “a joke,” Israel says, since Iran anyway can’t do so. The reactor is still under construction, and will be so for at least another 12 months. Israel’s security cabinet took earlier the unusual step of releasing a public statement, which affirmed Israel’s support for a diplomatic solution to Iran’s nuclear development, should Tehran comply with four measures: cease all nuclear enrichment, remove all stockpiles of enriched uranium, dismantle the Qom and Natanz facilities and stop work at the Arak heavy water reactor.

PM Netanyahu and Iran red lineIsrael’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a forum of Jewish community leaders in Moscow before deal that Iran “must not have nuclear weapons. And I promise you that they will not have nuclear weapons.” He added, “The Iranians deny our past and repeat their commitment to wipe the State of Israel off the map,” citing comments made this week by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei who described Israel as a “rabid dog” and its leaders inhuman. US Secretary of State John Kerry called Khamenei’s comments “inflammatory and unnecessary.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed deep skepticism that Iran would abandon its nuclear ambitions. “What was achieved last night in Geneva is not a historic agreement; it is a historic mistake …Today the world has become a much more dangerous place because the most dangerous regime in the world has taken a significant step toward attaining the most dangerous weapon in the world.” (Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu)

Despite this irate response from the Prime Minister’s Office to the agreement signed in Geneva between Iran and six world powers, the deal might not be really a bad one even from an Israeli perspective. Geneva deal places serious restrictions on Iran and provides the West with valuable information on its nuclear program. Israeli President Shimon Peres gave a more measured response, saying time would tell whether the agreement was effective. Leftist Meretz Chairwoman Zahava Gal-On delivered the only positive Israeli response so far to the nuclear deal, saying her colleagues’ attack on the deal missed the fact that the agreement was intended to slow down Iran’s fast track to a nuclear bomb. After Iran nuke deal in Israel the Likud leadership anticipates a diplomatic and political crisis next spring. If Netanyahu wants to run again he will have to become even more extreme and speed toward Obama on a collision course. It might be that Geneva ended Netanyahu’s era. In a new reality, Israel might need new leadership.

Follow-ups

Saudi Arabia, Iran’s regional rival, at times opposed Islamist radicals (in Saudi Arabia) and supported them elsewhere (in Syria or Iraq). The American relationship with Saudi Arabia, resting heavily on oil, had changed. The United States had plenty of oil now and the Saudis’ complex strategies simply no longer matched American interests.

The Iran nuke deal is only – sure core one – part of story. The deal but especially the secret U.S.-Iran talks before the deal may have also big geopolitical affect. When the nuclear issue is out from agenda and the sanctions removed, then matters such as controlling Sunni extremists, investment in Iran and maintaining the regional balance of power would all be on the table.

Iran missilesOn the other side Gulf States fear not only Iran’s nuclear programme, but Iran being allowed to continue with its hegemonic ambitions, even being emboldened by the deal, and that they will be left alone to deal with it. Already regional states are reaching out to other international actors aside from the United States: Egypt talking with Russia about a major arms deal; Turkey considering China for a major air defence system; Saudi Arabia developing ties with France and Pakistan about their own nuclear weapon, Israel with France and Russia about cooperation in energy sector. This is a strong expression of deep disappointment with the US and its regional approach.

Challenges

  • Arak plutonium reactor: Arak need to be followed closely. Before the French intervention during the last round of talks, the Arak clause was problematic, proposing that Iran could not commission the facility but could continue construction in the next six months. One idea is that it will be converted into a light water reactor from a heavy water plant, this is something else.
  • The Iranian narrative, that they have the ‘right’ to enrichment, has become an issue of their national pride. As a result, any deal will probably allow a degree of enrichment, but round the clock inspections by the IAEA will be essential to manage this.
  • One key challenge is that the P5+1 powers should agree among themselves on a clearly defined endgame to the talks after an interim accord of six months.

The bottom line

(the P5+1 agreement) puts time on the clock.” (John Kerry)

Israel, the US and the major EU powers share the assessment that Iran’s programme is intended to give it the capacity to build nuclear weapons at its time of choosing. Now the Iran nuke deal concludes an interim accord as a prelude to a more comprehensive agreement. It would require Iran to freeze aspects of its nuclear programme for six months, in return for limited concessions on sanctions. Despite hard words one should remember that Iranian foreign policy has been extremely measured. Its one major war, which it fought against Iraq in the 1980s, was not initiated by Iran. Already some months ago Russia and U.S. managed to deal with Syria’s WMDs restoring trust to the great Middle East. Based on this history and the new deal with Iran I think that the détente has took a remarkable step forwards.

Iran nuclear sites

Iran nuclear sites

Some of my previous articles related to nuclear Iran:

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Instead Iran The Saudis Can Be The Next Nuclear Power

November 10, 2013

WMD logoWhile Iran nuke talks heat up in Geneva (Nov. 2013) and demolition of Syria’s CW stockpiles has already started one question related to WMD has kept out from headlines namely intelligence reporting that nuclear weapons made in Pakistan on behalf of Saudi Arabia are now sitting ready for delivery to Saudi Arabia. While the world has worried about the nuclear program of Iran – and possible Israeli air-strike to stop it – a new nuclear power can be reality in few weeks.

Saudi authorities have invested heavily in Pakistan’s nuclear program and now it seems that Saudi Arabia is joining to the nuclear club sooner than Iran as according BBC Newsnight Riyadh has already bought nuclear weapons in Pakistan made on behalf of Saudi Arabia and are now sitting ready for delivery.

Saudi-Paki nuke cooperation

What’s interesting is that no major news network in the USA has featured this story since the BBC broke it 3 days ago. I watch NBC, BBC, and FOX news programming every weekday, and the BBC is the only network saying this, and only online – BBC America is NOT carrying this story on cable.” (A view in social media)

Pakistan presumably has reached a secret deal to provide Saudi Arabia with nuclear weapons if Iran, which the world powers suspect is working on a nuclear programme, develops a nuke bomb. Pakistan declared itself as a nuclear armed state in 1998 with its first test. It has never signed up non-proliferation agreements and has an expanding arsenal, with some estimates saying it has as many as 110 nuclear weapons with enough fissile material for more than 200.

Saudi-Paki cooperation mapIn general it is not widely known that Saudi Arabia has a nuclear weapons program. From an official and public standpoint, Saudi Arabia has been an opponent of nuclear weapons in the Middle East, having signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Saudi Arabia has denied manufacturing the nuclear weapons under its peaceful civilian nuclear program, the country has allegedly allotted financial funds for its nuclear program, and as well received scientific assistance from various counties, including United States and Pakistan. (Read more e.g. in Wiki)

It is true that Saudi Arabia has not been producing nukes on their own soil; howeverSaudi authorities are a sole financier of Pakistan’s own integrated atomic bomb project since 1974. In March 2006, the German magazine Cicero reported that Saudi Arabia had since 2003 received assistance from Pakistan to acquire nuclear missiles and warheads. Satellite photos allegedly reveal an underground city and nuclear silos with Ghauri rockets in Al-Sulaiyil, south of the capital Riyadh. Pakistan has denied aiding Saudi Arabia in any nuclear ambitions. Western intelligence sources have told The Guardian that the Saudi monarchy has paid for up to 60% of the Pakistan’s atomic bomb projects and in return has the option to buy five to six nuclear warheads off the shelf.

Saudi desire for bomb

In 1987 it was reported that Saudi Arabia secretly purchased between 50 and 60 Chinese-made CSS-2 intermediate-range ballistic missiles equipped with a high explosive warhead, which have a range of 2,800 km with a payload of either 2,150 or 2,500 kg together with between 10 and 15 transport vehicle systems. These CSS-2 ballistic missiles are relatively useless as conventional weapons; they are too inaccurate, but if one load them up with a nuclear warhead it won’t really matter how accurate those things are.

CSS-2 ballistic missiles for Saudi Arabia

CSS-2 ballistic missiles

According Wikipedia long time Saudi support of the Iraqi nuclear weapons program during the Saddam Hussein regime was implemented with $5 billion on the condition that successful nuclear technology and possibly even nuclear weapons would be transferred to Saudi Arabia . In 2011, Prince Turki al-Faisal, who has served as the Saudi intelligence chief and as ambassador to the United States has suggested that the kingdom might consider producing nuclear weapons if it found itself between the atomic arsenals of Iran and Israel. In 2012, it was confirmed that Saudi Arabia would launch its own nuclear weapons program immediately if Iran successfully developed nuclear weapons. In such an eventuality, Saudi Arabia would start work on a new ballistic missile platform, purchase nuclear warheads from overseas and aim to source uranium to develop weapons-grade material.

And now in November 2013, a variety of sources told BBC Newsnight that Saudi Arabia had invested in Pakistani nuclear weapons projects and believes it could obtain nuclear bombs at will. Earlier in the year (2013), a senior NATO decision maker told Mark Urban, a senior diplomatic and defense editor, that he had seen intelligence reporting that nuclear weapons made in Pakistan on behalf of Saudi Arabia are now sitting ready for delivery. In October 2013, Amos Yadlin, a former head of Israeli military intelligence, told a conference in Sweden that if Iran got the bomb, “the Saudis will not wait one month. They already paid for the bomb, they will go to Pakistan and bring what they need to bring.”

Ready facilities

Saudi Arabia has a ballistic missile facility near the town of Al-Watah. For example defence publisher Jane’s revealed the existence of Saudi Arabia’s third and undisclosed intermediate-range ballistic missile site – a new CSS-2 missile base with its launch rails aimed at Israel and Iran about 200 km southwest of Riyadh.

Ballistic missile base in Saudi Arabia near the town of Al-Watah

Photo credit: IHS/DigitalGlobe

Conclusion

The key conclusion is that Saudi authorities have invested heavily in Pakistan’s nuclear program and at any time can get from Islamabad nuclear weapons. Even this is not widely reported it not surprise either. The Saudis have been sending the Americans many signals of their going ahead with their nuclear weapons plan. Since 2009, according to the BBC, when King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia warned visiting US special envoy to the Middle East Dennis Ross that once Iran crossed the threshold, “we will get nuclear weapons,”. Saudi Arabia and Pakistan have longstanding ties and the Kingdom has financed a range of infrastructure projects, mosques and defence contracts. Saudi Arabia and Pakistan have longstanding ties and the Kingdom has financed a range of infrastructure projects, mosques and defence contracts.

The key point is that a new nuclear power can be reality in few weeks. Saudi Arabia has new ballistic missile facility, it has missiles and assumed deal with Pakistan to bring nuclear warheads to those missiles. It could also be possible that Saudis could import ready Pakistani Shaheen II missiles. An alternative might also be for Pakistan to offer Saudi Arabia protection under its “nuclear umbrella”.

Some of my previous articles related to nuclear Iran:

 The Shaheen II missile during a military parade in Islamabad.

Possible export to Saudi Arabia? The Shaheen II missile during a military parade in Islamabad. Photograph: Aziz Haidari/Reuters


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