Belfer Iran Brief—Cuts to Iran's uranium stockpile on schedule and other news

Belfer Iran BriefThe UN’s nuclear watchdog confirms Iran is adhering to the terms of the interim agreement, the United States denies a visa to a senior Iranian diplomat, and more in this week’s digest of Iran news for April 12-18, 2014.

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By Andrew Wojtanik

Highlights

  • IAEA is expected to issue a report next week certifying that Iran has diluted or converted to oxide nearly 75 percent of its 20% enriched uranium.
  • Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif claimed he was “optimistic” a nuclear deal could be reached, while Ayatollah Khamenei outlined six Iranian “red lines” for the negotiations.
  • White House announced it will not issue a visa to Hamid Aboutalebi, Iran’s nominee for Ambassador to the UN, over his ties to the 1979 hostage crisis.

Diplomacy and nuclear issue

  • IAEA is expected to issue a report next week certifying that Iran has diluted or converted to oxide nearly 75 percent of its 20% enriched uranium. (Reuters, 4/17)
  • Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif remarked that he was “optimistic” that Iran could reach a nuclear deal with the P5+1 in the next three months. (Reuters, 4/16)
    • Zarif: “The domestic audience will be satisfied if we have a good deal. Of course some people will never be satisfied, but that is fine because we have a pluralistic society.”
      IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano on Norwegian television
      April 8, 2014 - IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano appears on Norwegian television to discuss nuclear negotiations with Iran. (Conleth Brady/IAEA, via Flickr)
  • In remarks last week, Ayatollah Khamenei laid out six “red lines” for the nuclear negotiations: (1) scientific progress should not halt or slow down; (2) R&D must continue; (3) nuclear achievements cannot be bargained away; (4) negotiators must vigilantly defend nuclear achievements; (5) negotiators should not be bullied; and (6) the IAEA should normalize relations with Iran. (USIP, 4/16)
  • Iranian nuclear chief Ali Akbar Salehi: “To meet the annual fuel needs of the Bushehr plant, we must have 50,000 first generation centrifuges in order to be able to produce 30 tons of nuclear fuel a year.” (AP, 4/14) Note: Salehi’s calculation ignores a deal with Russia in which Moscow has agreed to fulfill Iran’s fuel needs for a 10-year period.
  • Iranian Defense Minister Gen. Hossein Dehghan suggested that “Iran’s missiles are not up for discussion under any circumstances.” (AP, 4/16)

Sanctions and Iran’s economy

  • President Hassan Rouhani: “Today we already see the sanctions unraveling…We will witness the sanctions shattering in the coming months.” (Reuters, 4/15)
  • United States announced that it had released the latest installment of unfrozen oil revenues to Iran, in accordance with the interim agreement. This tranche is worth $450M. (al-Monitor, 4/17)
    • Iranian deputy foreign minister Majid Takht-Ravanchi denied claims that Iran was having trouble accessing these unfrozen oil revenues.  (Reuters, 4/16)

Iranian domestic politics

  • No significant developments.

US-Iran relations

  • White House announced it will not issue a visa to Hamid Aboutalebi, Iran’s nominee for Ambassador to the UN, over his ties to the 1979 hostage crisis. (BBC, 4/11)
    • Iranian Mission to the UN: “The denial of visa to a representative of a U.N. Member-State is in contravention of the principles of international law and the United Nations Charter.” (NYT, 4/15) Note: As former White House legal adviser John Bellinger III explains, “Although the U.N. and other countries have occasionally criticized the U.S. for refusing to grant visas to individuals to come to the U.N., it is not clear that other countries will want to make an issue over the denial of a visa to Aboutalebi, who played at least some role, even if small, in the most egregious violation of diplomatic law and the security of diplomatic personnel in modern times.”
  • According to his lawyer, ex-Marine Amir Hekmati, detained by Iran since 2011, was secretly given a 10-year jail sentence in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison. (NYT, 4/11)
  • Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns, who coordinated back-channel discussions with Iran last year, announced plans to retire from the Foreign Service. (NYT, 4/11)

Geopolitics and Iran

  • Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev visited Tehran, where he and President Rouhani announced a deal to jointly build a hydroelectric plant and reached a framework for addressing disputes in the Caspian Sea. (al-Monitor, 4/11) Note: Iranian-Azerbaijani relations have gradually deteriorated over the past several years. Azerbaijan has arrested several Iranians who were allegedly plotting attacks in the country and has strengthened military ties with Israel.

Israel

  • No significant developments.

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

  • No significant developments.

Uncertain or dubious claims

  • Mysterious corporate airplane reportedly belonging to the Bank of Utah was spotted at Tehran’s Mehrabad airport, potentially in violation of U.S. Department of Commerce guidelines regulating corporate travel to Iran. (NYT, 4/17)

 

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