Belfer Iran Brief—Negotiations in New York and other news

Belfer Iran BriefTechnical experts from Iran and the P5+1 met to discuss next steps in New York, President Rouhani’s government faced growing resistance to a nuclear deal at home, and more in this week’s edition of the Belfer Iran Brief for May 3-9, 2014.

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By Andrew Wojtanik 

Highlights

  • P5+1 and Iran are expected to begin drafting a comprehensive nuclear agreement at meetings in Vienna next week.
  • Monitors from the IAEA visited a uranium mine and milling plant in Iran and received technical information on Iran’s past use of detonator technology.
  • A former director of Israeli’s atomic energy agency accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of striking “terrible, unnecessary fear into the hearts of the Israeli public” over Iran’s nuclear program.

Diplomacy and nuclear issue

  • P5+1 and Iran met for two days of technical nuclear talks in New York. Negotiators described the discussions as “useful.” (Reuters, 5/8)
  • P5+1 and Iranian political directors will meet next Tuesday, May 13 in Vienna. (Reuters, 5/6)
    • Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov: “As a result of this round, we should at least get some elements of the agreed text and elements of the common text.”
      Abbas Araghchi
      May 14, 2013 - Abbas Araghchi speaks during a press conference in Tehran. (ATTA KENARE/AFP/Getty Images) 
  • Iranian nuclear negotiator Abbas Araghchi: “There are spoilers everywhere who don’t want an agreement, there are dark forces who don’t like this process … I don’t want to use the word ‘warmongers.’ But these people want continuing tension, a continuing crisis in our region. They don't want the sanctions on Iran to end. They don’t want Iran to be a major player in this region, although in fact it already is.” (Guardian, 5/6) Note: This statement could be directed at a number of different players, including Israel, Saudi Arabia, and hardliners in the United States and Iran.
  • IAEA monitors visited the Saghand uranium mine and Ardakan uranium milling plant in Iran. (Reuters, 5/7)
    • Iran has also reportedly agreed to allow the IAEA to regularly monitor activities at the Arak heavy-water reactor. (Reuters, 5/7)
  • Iran has reportedly briefed the IAEA on past activities involving Exploding Bridge Wire detonators. IAEA followed up with a request for more clarifications. (Reuters, 5/9) ATW: Iran agreed in February to provide information on detonators, but not on other equipment that was potentially used in nuclear weapons research.

Sanctions and Iran’s economy

  • Iran’s deputy oil minister claimed that Iran continues to export around 1.2 million barrels per day of crude oil. (WSJ, 5/7) Note: The Obama administration has asserted that the interim agreement will limit Iran’s average daily oil sales to 1 million barrels per day over the course of the agreement.
  • House Armed Services Committee passed a non-binding amendment to an annual defense bill calling on the Obama administration not to lift sanctions unless Iran: ceases all enrichment; dismantles all nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons technology; dismantles ballistic missile technology; and halts support for international terrorism. (al-Monitor, 5/8)

Iranian domestic politics

  • Iranian opponents of the interim nuclear deal held a conference named “We’re Worried” on Saturday, May 3. (al-Monitor, 5/5)
    • Protesters rallied outside former US Embassy compound in Tehran in opposition to interim agreement. (AEI, 5/3)
  • Foreign Minister Javad Zarif was summoned before the Iranian parliament to defend remarks he made in February condemning the Holocaust. (AP, 5/6)

US-Iran relations

  • President Rouhani: “The [West] should pursue the path of logic, dialogue, and negotiations, because they do not have any other rational choice.” (AEI, 5/7)
  • Iran banned access to WhatsApp, an online messaging application, because it was bought by Jewish American and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerburg. (Fox News, 5/4)

Geopolitics and Iran

  • Iranian Defense Minister Hossein Dehqan visited Beijing for meetings intended to deepen Iran’s defense ties with China. (Reuters, 5/5)

Israel

  • U.S. National Security Adviser Susan Rice visited Israel, where she discussed Iran’s nuclear program with a number of Israeli officials. (Haaretz, 5/7)
    • Netanyahu: “A bad deal will enable [Iran] to preserve [a nuclear] capability. It would be better not to reach an agreement at all than to reach a bad agreement.”
  • Brig. Gen. Uzi Eilam, former head of the Israeli Atomic Energy Commission, criticized Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for striking “terrible, unnecessary fear into the hearts of the Israeli public” over Iran’s nuclear program. (Ynet, 5/8)
    • “Netanyahu is using the Iranian threat to achieve a variety of political objectives.”
    • “The Iranian nuclear program will only be operational in another 10 years. Even so, I am not sure that Iran wants the bomb.”

“Red lines,” “points of no return,” and military strikes

  • IRGC Naval Commander Ali Fadavi: Iran has been “making and sinking replicas of US destroyers, frigates and warships for many years. We practice the same drills on replica aircraft carriers because sinking and destroying US warships has, is and will be on our agenda.” (BBC, 5/6) Note: The New York Times reported in March that Iran was constructing a replica of an American aircraft carrier potentially with the intent of destroying it for propaganda value.
    • “Today the Americans and the entire world know that one of our operational goals is destroying US Navy Forces.” (AEI, 5/6)

Uncertain or dubious claims

  • No significant developments.

 

Andrew Wojtanik is a research assistant at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.