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I salute the Arms Control Association … for its keen vision of the goals ahead and for its many efforts to identify and to promote practical measures that are so vitally needed to achieve them. -

– Amb. Nobuyasu Abe
Former UN Undersecretary General for Disarmament Affairs
January 28, 2004
Iran

Bush, Congress Wield Proliferation Sanctions

Miles E. Taylor

The Bush administration in July sanctioned nine companies for suspected involvement with Iran’s missile and unconventional weapons programs, and President George W. Bush Aug. 5 signed a short-term extension of an expiring 1996 sanctions law directed at Iran. At the same time, the Senate stepped up pressure on North Korea by voting to add it to a nonproliferation law that allows the president to sanction foreigners who supply weapons technology to countries of proliferation concern, such as Iran and Syria.

Of the nine sanctions announced by the administration, two were authorized by executive order, and seven were imposed under the Iran-Syria Nonproliferation Act.

Sanam Industrial Group and Ya Mahdi Industries Group, both based in Iran, were cited July 18 by the Department of the Treasury for alleged involvement in missile proliferation. That move was part of an ongoing effort by the Treasury Department to freeze the assets of organizations and individuals accused of being involved in supporting the spread of weapons of mass destruction. Twenty-five other entities were sanctioned June 2005 for financially contributing to or supporting proliferation activities. (See ACT, September 2005.)

The Iranian companies were said to be involved with the Aerospace Industries Organization (AIO), a subsidiary of the Iranian Ministry of Defense & Armed Forces Logistics. Last year, in issuing the executive order, Bush deemed the AIO a proliferation concern for its role in managing and coordinating Iran’s missile program.

The Treasury Department will now be able to freeze any financial assets being held in the United States by the designated companies and will prohibit U.S. businesses and individuals from working with them.

“As long as Iran’s nuclear ambitions continue to threaten the international community, the United States will use its authorities to target Iran’s efforts to sell and acquire items used to develop weapons of mass destruction and the missiles capable of carrying them,” Stuart Levey, the Treasury Department’s undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said in a July 18 statement.

Effective July 28, the Department of State sanctioned seven additional firms under a separate measure, the Iran-Syria Nonproliferation Act, for assisting Iran with its weapons programs. The move, which included penalties against two Indian companies, was announced shortly after the House voted July 26 to support a nuclear cooperation agreement with India.

The Indian companies, Prachi Poly Products Ltd. and Balaji Amines Ltd., are chemical manufacturers.

Also listed in the injunction are two Russian companies, the state-owned arms trading company Rosoboronexport and aircraft maker Sukhoi; two North Korean companies, Korean Mining and Industrial Development Corp. and Korea Pugang Trading Corp.; and one Cuban organization, the Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology.

The sanctions will be in place for two years and will forbid U.S. government agencies from assisting or buying goods from the companies. The penalties will also block the sale of some military equipment, services, and technologies to the organizations and their subsidiaries.

The seven companies are the latest in a string of dozens of entities that have been punished for their assistance to Iran’s weapons programs under the Iran-Syria Nonproliferation Act. The Senate voted July 25 to expand that law to include North Korea, following a series of missile tests by Pyongyang earlier in the month.

If passed by both houses of Congress, the revised law would allow the president to sanction foreigners who transfer goods and technologies to North Korea that contribute to their ability to produce missile and nuclear weapons.

“ North Korea’s recent missile launches illustrate the threat this regime poses to the American people, the people of the region, and peace and stability in East Asia,” bill sponsor Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) said in a July 25 statement.

Congress also took action on other sanctions measures.

With the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act set to expire Aug. 5, lawmakers agreed on a short-term extension until Sept. 29 so they could try to reach agreement on a new measure after the August congressional recess. The 1996 law calls for sanctions on foreign entities that invest in Iran’s and Libya’s energy sectors, a policy that lawmakers largely hope to maintain in a bid to curb Iran’s nuclear program.

In April, the House passed a measure intended to tighten those sanctions on Iran, but the Senate narrowly defeated a similar measure in June after the Bush administration said it would harm relations with countries, including U.S. allies, needed as part of its diplomatic strategy to counter Tehran. (See ACT, July/August 2006.)

 

Iran Rejects Security Council Demand

Paul Kerr

After more than two months, Iran responded Aug. 22 to a package of incentives and disincentives offered by China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States to convince Tehran to end its gas centrifuge-based uranium-enrichment program. Although Iran indicated that it wants to negotiate a solution to resolve international concerns about the program, it did not agree to the UN Security Council’s demand that it suspend work on enrichment by Aug. 31.

Enrichment can produce low-enriched uranium, used for fuel in civil nuclear reactors, as well as highly enriched uranium, which can be used as fissile material in nuclear weapons.

Iran’s response means that the country could face Security Council sanctions. That body July 31 adopted Resolution 1696, calling on Tehran to take several steps to ease concerns about its nuclear program. Fourteen countries voted in favor of the resolution; Qatar voted against it.

The resolution expresses the council’s intention to adopt “appropriate measures” under the UN Charter’s Chapter VII, Article 41, if Iran has not complied with the Security Council’s demands. Article 41 describes measures short of military force that can be employed “to give effect” to Security Council decisions.

To judge Iran’s compliance, the resolution requests that International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei submit a report by Aug. 31 to the IAEA Board of Governors and the UN Security Council on whether Iran has met the suspension requirements and undertaken other measures described in a February IAEA Board of Governors resolution. Such measures include, for example, Iran’s full cooperation with the agency’s investigation of its nuclear programs. (See ACT, March 2006.)

Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns said in an Aug. 21 interview with National Public Radio that in September the council would adopt a resolution “with sanctions” if Iran did not comply with the Security Council’s demands.

Such a move could face some resistance. Veto-wielding Security Council members China and Russia have resisted the idea of imposing sanctions.

The resolution underlines that the council must undertake “further decisions…should such additional measures be necessary.” The text also invokes Chapter VII, Article 40 of the UN Charter. According to that article, the council may first “call upon the parties concerned to comply with such provisional measures as it deems necessary or desirable” before deciding to implement punitive measures.

U.S. officials have indicated that if the Security Council fails to impose penalties, Washington will attempt to persuade other countries to impose unilateral sanctions on Iran.

Meanwhile, Tehran does not appear to be slowing down its programs. Indeed, some Iranian officials have suggested that Iran might undertake new nuclear projects, some of which could well increase international suspicions regarding Tehran’s proclaimed peaceful nuclear intentions.

The Offer

The package contains several proposals for providing Iran with nuclear energy, including multilateral ventures to provide a light-water nuclear power reactor, part ownership of a Russian enrichment facility, and a five-year “buffer stock” of enriched uranium stored under IAEA supervision. (See ACT, July/August 2006.)

Furthermore, marking a shift from previous opposition to any Iranian domestic centrifuge facilities, the proposal states that a final agreement would include a provision for reviewing the program’s suspension and permitting Iran to have an enrichment facility on its own territory. However, it appears unlikely that such permission will be granted any time soon.

The proposal also includes measures for economic cooperation and technology transfers to Iran, such as support for the country’s accession to the World Trade Organization and the modernization of Tehran’s telecommunications infrastructure.

The package also vaguely addresses security issues, saying that the parties would “support a new conference to promote dialogue and cooperation on regional security issues.”

In addition to the incentives, the proposal requires Iran to suspend its enrichment-related activities for the duration of negotiations. Iran had suspended its enrichment program in late 2004 before beginning negotiations with France, Germany, and the United Kingdom. Those negotiations ended when Iran took several steps to renew enrichment-related activities, beginning in August 2005. (See ACT, September 2005.)

The package also calls on Iran to cooperate with the IAEA investigation and resume implementing an additional protocol to its IAEA safeguards agreement.

Additional protocols provide the agency with increased authority to detect clandestine nuclear programs, including by inspections of facilities that have not been declared to the IAEA. They supplement mandatory IAEA safeguards agreements, which are required under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). Iran has signed but not ratified its additional protocol. Tehran had been implementing the agreement but stopped doing so in February.

The Security Council Takes Action

However, Iran failed to meet the six countries’ demand for an early July agreement to suspend its enrichment activities. In response, their foreign ministers adopted a statement July 12 expressing “profound disappointment” with Iran’s decision and stating that discussions of the matter within the Security Council would resume. (See ACT, June 2006.)

The permanent members of the Security Council and Germany presented their joint incentives package to the Iranian government June 6, after failing to overcome divisions that stymied earlier attempts to craft a Security Council resolution.

The council adopted Resolution 1696 following a debate among the five permanent members. Most of the discussions reportedly centered around the precise wording that the resolution would use to make Iran’s obligations mandatory, as well as an appropriate date for Tehran to comply.

The United States, France, and the United Kingdom favored a resolution that would threaten Iran with punitive measures. But China and Russia favored an approach that would set a more moderate pace for possible Security Council action.

Beijing and Moscow have expressed skepticism about the efficacy of sanctions and have also been reluctant to invoke Chapter VII for fear that it could provide a pretext for military action against Iran. (See ACT, May 2006.)

China’s UN ambassador, Wang Guangya, stated July 31 that the purpose of the resolution was to bolster the role of the IAEA rather than punish Iran. His Russian counterpart, Vitaly Churkin, emphasized during comments to reporters July 19 that Moscow wished to be patient with Tehran.

The final resolution, which was the first to address the Iranian nuclear issue, came about three months after a nonbinding March Security Council presidential statement called on Iran to take the steps outlined in the February IAEA resolution. (See ACT, April 2006.)

The Security Council resolution endorses the June package and “encourages” Iran to enter into negotiations with the relevant countries. It also states that Iran will not face punitive council action if it complies with the resolution.

In addition to the requirements outlined for Iran’s nuclear program, the resolution says that states should act to prevent the transfer of technology that could contribute to Iran’s enrichment or ballistic missile programs.

Iran’s Response

Ali Larijani, secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council and Iran’s lead nuclear negotiator, gave Tehran’s response to the ambassador from each country, except for the United States. The Swiss government gave the response to Washington.

Javier Solana, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, described Iran’s response Aug. 22 as “extensive,” requiring a “detailed and careful analysis.”

Iran reportedly did not agree to suspend its enrichment activities, a response consistent with past statements from Tehran. Larijani, however, said Aug. 22 that Iran was willing to begin negotiations on all aspects of the proposal.

The details of the response have not been made public, but some Iranian statements have hinted at Tehran’s answer.

For example, Iranian officials have publicly complained that the proposal contains ambiguities that need to be resolved. For example, Vice President Gholamreza Aghazadeh, who also heads Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, said that Iran wants more detail about the package’s provisions for supplying Iran with nuclear reactors and fuel, an Iranian newspaper reported Aug. 16.

Furthermore, Mohammad Saidi, deputy head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, told the semi-official Mehr News Agency Aug. 22 that the package does not mention Article IV of the NPT. This omission, he said, raises doubts about Iran’s international interlocutors’ commitment to respect its right under the treaty to peaceful nuclear endeavors, as well as help with nuclear technology and fuel.

Additionally, Larijani indicated that Iran had questions about the proposal’s security provisions, the official Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) reported Aug. 24.

Larijani also said in an Aug. 26 television interview that, despite a proposal to establish a “fuel bank,” which would provide Iran with a guaranteed supply of nuclear fuel, Iran still needs to be able to enrich its own uranium as a hedge against possible future supply disruptions. (See ACT, June 2006.)

Iran’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Mohammad Javad Zarif, voiced doubts in an opinion piece published by CNN Aug. 14 that the other parties would allow Iran to enrich uranium, arguing that the resolution is “aimed at imposing pressure on Iran to abandon” the program.

Moreover, Saidi said that Iran would re-examine a proposal included in the June package that would allow Iran to own part of an enrichment facility located in Russia. (See ACT, November 2005.) He claimed that the Security Council resolution necessitated such reconsideration, but he did not elaborate.

Mohsen Rezai, secretary of Iran’s Expediency Council, indicated that Iran’s response was designed to neutralize the push for sanctions, the semi-official Islamic Students News Agency reported Aug. 28. But at least some of Iran’s interlocutors found Iran’s answer lacking.

An Aug. 23 Department of State press release said that Washington would review Iran’s offer but added that Tehran’s answer “falls short of the conditions set by the Security Council.” Burns accused the Iranians of “trying to delay…so that they [can] continue their nuclear research.”

France and Germany also expressed dissatisfaction with Iran’s response, with French Foreign Minster Philippe Douste-Blazy describing Iran’s response as “not satisfactory,” Agence France Presse reported Aug. 29.

Iran Looks to the Future

Larijani said that the UN deadline is not “the end of diplomacy,” adding that “it may be possible to move forward with this package, on another occasion, with another proposal.” But he noted that “[t]his type of diplomacy may not be appropriate at that time. The form will need to be changed.”

Larijani also warned that Iran would “reduce IAEA inspections” if the international community attempts to “deprive” Iran of its enrichment program. IAEA inspections are one tool that the agency uses to monitor NPT states-parties’ compliance with their safeguards agreements. He also said, however, that Iran does not currently intend to withdraw from the NPT.

Asked about the possibility of a U.S. military “confrontation,” Larijani replied that such an attack was unlikely, asserting that the United States “will run into problems.”

Larijani said that Iran “will endure” any UN-imposed sanctions rather than end its enrichment program. He also implied that Iran might cut off oil supplies to Europe if such sanctions are imposed.

New Nuclear Programs?

Despite the controversy, Saidi suggested in an Aug. 22 interview with the semi-official Fars News Agency that Iran might undertake new nuclear projects.

For example, Saidi said that the country intends to conduct research on more-advanced centrifuges, stating that “ Iran does not restrict itself to first-, second-, or third-generation machinery.”

If these claims are true, such research would likely cause more tensions with the UN. The IAEA is investigating whether Iran has conducted secret research on more-advanced P-2 centrifuges. Iran is known currently to utilize a relatively primitive model called the P-1. (See ACT, July/August 2006.)

Saidi also indicated that Iran may build nuclear power reactors moderated by heavy water, a move that could also raise concerns. The IAEA has already called on Iran to “reconsider” its construction of a heavy-water research reactor. The agency is concerned that Iran may use the reactor to produce plutonium, which can also be used as fissile material in nuclear weapons.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad launched the operation of a heavy-water production plant that has been under construction, IRNA reported Aug. 26.

 

UN Security Council Resolution 1696 on Iran

The UN Security Council July 31 approved Resolution 1696 demanding that Iran suspend all of its enrichment-related and reprocessing activities within one month as well as undertake several confidence-building measures outlined in a February International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board of Governors resolution.

The Security Council resolution makes mandatory Iran’s compliance, stating that the council is “acting under Article 40 of Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations.” Chapter VII of the UN Charter empowers the council to take actions “to maintain or restore international peace and security.”

Still, the resolution indicates that the council would have to take additional steps before taking further action, short of military force, against Tehran should it fail to comply.

According to Article 40, the Security Council may first “call upon the parties concerned to comply with such provisional measures as it deems necessary or desirable” before deciding to implement punitive measures permitted by the UN Charter, such as economic sanctions or military action. According to Article 41, the council “may decide what measures not involving the use of armed force are to be employed to give effect to its decisions.” Such measures may include economic sanctions.

Further indicating that the Security Council will not automatically adopt punitive measures, the resolution “underlines” that the council must undertake “further decisions…should such additional measures be necessary.”

Specifically, the resolution states that the Security Council:

1. Calls upon Iran without further delay to take the steps required by the IAEA Board of Governors in its resolution GOV/2006/14, which are essential to build confidence in the exclusively peaceful purpose of its nuclear programme and to resolve outstanding questions,

2. Demands, in this context, that Iran shall suspend all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities, including research and development, to be verified by the IAEA,

3. Expresses the conviction that such suspension as well as full, verified Iranian compliance with the requirements set out by the IAEA Board of Governors, would contribute to a diplomatic, negotiated solution that guarantees Iran’s nuclear programme is for exclusively peaceful purposes, underlines the willingness of the international community to work positively for such a solution, encourages Iran, in conforming to the above provisions, to re-engage with the international community and with the IAEA, and stresses that such engagement will be beneficial to Iran,

4. Endorses, in this regard, the proposals of China, France, Germany, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom and the United States, with the support of the European Union’s High Representative, for a long-term comprehensive arrangement which would allow for the development of 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 (S/2006/521),

5. Calls upon all States, in accordance with their national legal authorities and legislation and consistent with international law, to exercise vigilance and prevent the transfer of any items, materials, goods and technology that could contribute to Iran’s enrichment-related and reprocessing activities and ballistic missile programmes,

6. Expresses its determination to reinforce the authority of the IAEA process, strongly supports the role of the IAEA Board of Governors, commends and encourages the Director General of the IAEA and its Secretariat for their ongoing professional and impartial efforts to resolve all remaining outstanding issues in Iran within the framework of the Agency, underlines the necessity of the IAEA continuing its work to clarify all outstanding issues relating to Iran’s nuclear programme, and calls upon Iran to act in accordance with the provisions of the Additional Protocol and to implement without delay all transparency measures as the IAEA may request in support of its ongoing investigations,

7. Requests by 31 August a report from the Director General of the IAEA primarily on whether Iran has established full and sustained suspension of all activities mentioned in this resolution, as well as on the process of Iranian compliance with all the steps required by the IAEA Board and with the above provisions of this resolution, to the IAEA Board of Governors and in parallel to the Security Council for its consideration,

8. Expresses its intention, in the event that Iran has not by that date complied with this resolution, then to adopt appropriate measures under Article 41 of Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations to persuade Iran to comply with this resolution and the requirements of the IAEA, and underlines that further decisions will be required should such additional measures be necessary,

9. Confirms that such additional measures will not be necessary in the event that Iran complies with this resolution,

10. Decides to remain seized of the matter.

 

Arms Control Association Posts Iranian Nuclear Proposals

Sections:

Body: 

For Immediate Release: August 15, 2006

Press Contact: Paul Kerr, (202) 463-8270 x102

(Washington, D.C.): The independent, nonpartisan Arms Control Association has posted on its web site five Iranian proposals to resolve international concerns about Iran’s nuclear program. These documents, some of which have not been published previously, provide new insights into Iran’s negotiating positions and objectives during the past three years.

“These documents describe the extent to which Iran was willing to compromise on its nuclear program,” said Paul Kerr, the Association’s nonproliferation research analyst. He added, “They also illustrate the particular issues of importance to Tehran.”

Following the 2002 exposure of clandestine Iranian nuclear facilities, Tehran sent Washington a proposal the following spring aimed at reducing hostility and easing suspicions between the two governments. But, according to press reports, the Bush administration dismissed the offer, which is now available on the Association’s Web site.

Although France, Germany, and the United Kingdom persuaded Iran to suspend work on its gas-centrifuge-based uranium-enrichment program in October 2003, their subsequent diplomatic efforts foundered, partly because Tehran continued work on some aspects of the program. Iran says it wants to enrich uranium for use as fuel in nuclear power reactors, but the enrichment process can also be used to produce highly enriched uranium for nuclear weapons.

Negotiations with the three European countries received a boost in November 2004 when Iran agreed to implement a more stringent uranium enrichment suspension. In the talks that followed, Iran presented four proposals that not only addressed Iran’s nuclear program, but also covered other important subjects such as regional security issues, economic cooperation, and Tehran’s support for terrorist organizations. These proposals also are available on the Association’s Web site.

In August 2005, Tehran broke its suspension after rejecting a European proposal that called on Iran to cease its enrichment program in return for a range of security, technical, and economic incentives. Tehran is now considering a revised proposal, which the Europeans presented this past June. That proposal is also supported by China, Russia, and the United States.

All of the proposals discussed above, as well as other information on Iran’s nuclear program, are available at the Association’s Iran country resource page at: http://www.armscontrol.org/country/iran/.

# # #

The Arms Control Association is an independent, nonprofit membership organization dedicated to promoting public understanding of and support for effective arms control policies.

 

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U.S. Sanctions Five Companies for Iran Trade

Wade Boese

The United States June 13 cited one U.S. and four Chinese companies as allegedly assisting Iranian ballistic missile programs. Any entities doing business with these designated companies risk having their U.S. assets frozen.

The recent moves flow from Executive Order 13382 that targets entities financially contributing to or supporting proliferation activities. (See ACT, September 2005.) This recent group of five companies brings the total number of entities identified by the U.S. government under the order to 25. The amount of assets frozen in connection with these designations is undisclosed.

The Chinese companies named June 13 by the Department of the Treasury were Beijing Alite Technologies Co., LIMMT Economic and Trade Co., China Great Wall Industry Corp., and the China National Precision Machinery Import/Export Corp. The penalized U.S. company, G. W. Aerospace, Inc. of Torrance, California, is a subsidiary of the China Great Wall Industry Corp.

“The companies targeted today have supplied Iran’s military and Iranian proliferators with missile-related and dual-use components,” stated Undersecretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Stuart Levey in a June 13 Treasury Department press release. Dual-use goods are items that can be used both for civilian and military purposes.

The Bush administration has previously penalized all of the Chinese companies. Prior to the latest penalties, they had collectively accumulated eight sanctions since 2001. Altogether, the Bush administration has sanctioned 33 Chinese entities for proliferation activities under U.S. law and executive orders, but these firms are the first to be punished under Executive Order 13382.

As it typically does, China protested the U.S. sanctions. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Jiang Yu told reporters June 15 that Beijing “does not allow any [corporation] or individual to engage in or support proliferation activities.” She said Washington had failed “to provide any convincing evidence” of wrongdoing and blasted the sanctions as “groundless and extremely irresponsible.”

 

Senate Backs Bush's Iran Approach

Miles A. Pomper

The Senate June 15 gave a unanimous blessing to President George W. Bush’s diplomatic approach toward Iran. At the same time, lawmakers more narrowly beat back a measure that would have tightened sanctions aimed at curbing progress in Tehran’s nuclear program.

During debate on the fiscal year 2007 defense authorization bill, the Senate on a 99-0 vote backed a nonbinding “Sense of the Senate” amendment by Sen. Joseph Biden (D-Del.), the ranking member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The legislation endorsed Bush’s diplomatic opening to Iran, including his offer of direct talks if Iran suspends its uranium-enrichment program. (See ACT, June 2006.)

That followed a 54-45 vote against an amendment by Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) that would have increased sanctions against Iran and those states and companies helping it. Santorum said the legislation was needed to ensure that “companies have to make a choice whether they want to do business with Iran or whether they want to do business with the United States.” The House overwhelmingly passed similar legislation in April. (See ACT, May 2006.)

The defeat followed an intervention by the Department of State, which said the measure would harm relations with countries needed as part of its diplomatic strategy. The United States has joined with China, France, Germany, Russia, and the United Kingdom to try to fashion a series of carrots and sticks to coax Iran to suspend its enrichment program and negotiate measures that would ensure that its nuclear program is peaceful.

“This amendment would shift international attention away from Iran’s nuclear activities and create a rift between the U.S. and our closest international partners,” Jeffrey Bergner, assistant secretary of state for legislative affairs, wrote in a June 15 letter to Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John Warner (R-Va.).

Santorum’s amendment failed even though the measure was largely identical to legislation Santorum had introduced earlier this year, which had collected 61 co-sponsors, far more support than needed for passage in the 100-seat chamber.

Some of those who had supported the legislation but opposed the amendment said they did not want to interfere with Bush’s diplomatic initiative. Sen. Gordon Smith (R-Ore.), a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, said in a statement that he remained a “strong supporter” of the legislation “but considering President Bush’s current diplomatic efforts, today’s venue and timing were not right to reauthorize it.”

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who is a co-sponsor of the Santorum bill, said he voted against Santorum’s amendment to the defense bill because of its call to take $100 million intended for current military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and use it for pro-democracy efforts in Iran.

McCain, Smith, and several other expected Santorum supporters also cited procedural reasons for their vote. They said that the Pennsylvania lawmaker should not have attached it to the defense bill. Rather, they said the measure should first have been considered by the Senate Foreign Relations and Banking Committees. Supporters remain confident that the measure will pass after consideration by those panels.

But, Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns in June 22 testimony before the Senate Banking Committee endorsed alternative legislation which would simply extend the Iran-related sanctions of the earlier law for another five years. The Iran and Libya Sanctions Act of 1996, which was revised in 2001 and is set to expire in August. (See ACT, September 2001.)

 

IAEA Iran Investigation Makes Little Headway

Paul Kerr

A June 8 report from International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei to the agency’s Board of Governors indicates that Iran has continued to defy a March UN Security Council presidential statement urging Tehran to resolve concerns about its nuclear activities.

ElBaradei told the board June 12 that the agency “has not made much progress in resolving” outstanding questions regarding Iran’s nuclear programs. He called on Iran to “provide the cooperation needed to resolve these issues.” (See ACT, June 2006.)

Iran told IAEA officials in April that it would provide a timetable for cooperating with the agency. But ElBaradei reported that Tehran has not done so.

The Security Council urged Iran to take a series of steps, such as cooperating fully with the nearly four-year-old IAEA investigation of its nuclear activities and suspending its gas centrifuge-based uranium-enrichment program and construction of a heavy-water reactor. Tehran suspended the enrichment program beginning in November 2004 prior to negotiations with France, Germany, and the United Kingdom regarding Tehran’s nuclear program. Those negotiations ended when Iran restarted its uranium-conversion facility in August 2005. The country resumed work on its centrifuge program in January.

Gas centrifuges enrich uranium by spinning uranium hexafluoride gas at very high speeds in order to increase the concentration of the uranium-235 isotope. They can produce both low-enriched uranium, which can be used in nuclear reactors, and highly enriched uranium (HEU), which can be used in certain types of nuclear reactors and as fissile material in nuclear weapons. Iran has a pilot centrifuge facility and is constructing a larger commercial facility.

Uranium-conversion facilities convert lightly processed uranium ore into several compounds, including uranium hexafluoride.

According to the June report, Iran has continued to test centrifuges at its pilot facility. For example, Iran began feeding uranium hexafluoride into its 164-centrifuge cascade June 6. Iran had previously tested the cascade in March and April and produced small quantities of uranium enriched to less than 5 percent uranium-235. Iran is also “continuing its installation work” on two other 164-centrifuge cascades, the report says. Additionally, Tehran on June 6 began to produce more uranium hexafluoride, the report says. Iran produced approximately 118 metric tons of the material during its last conversion “campaign,” which took place between August 2005 and April.

Asked about the purity of Iran’s uranium hexafluoride, sources close to the IAEA told Arms Control Today June 7 that, based on the large amount of feedstock Iran has produced, the agency assumes that the material is “of reasonable quality.” Uranium hexafluoride with high levels of contaminants can damage centrifuges when used as feedstock.

Despite this progress, a Department of State official told Arms Control Today June 16 that Tehran “is not that far along” in mastering the enrichment process. Iran would need to run a cascade “for many months” with its own centrifuges and feedstock in order to prove its enrichment skills, the official said.

Iran’s first test of its 164-centrifuge cascade in March only lasted about two weeks, according to the official. Moreover, Washington believes that most of Iran’s centrifuges and feedstock originated from Pakistan and China, respectively.

HEU Investigation Continues

The IAEA also is continuing to investigate the origins of “a small number” of HEU particles found in Iran. Agency inspectors took samples in January from equipment located at a “technical university,” ElBaradei reported.

The particles raise the possibility that Iran may have either imported or produced undeclared enriched uranium. Tehran has only admitted to enriching uranium to very low levels.

The report also says that Iran told the agency May 16 that “the equipment had not been acquired for or used in the field of nuclear activities,” adding that government officials were “investigating how such particles might have been found in the equipment.”

The equipment was purchased by a physics research center located at the Lavizan-Shian site. The research center’s role in Iran’s nuclear program has been a matter of concern because the center had been connected to the country’s Ministry of Defense.

However, Iran “probably” did not produce the uranium, the State Department official said, explaining that the isotopic composition of the recently discovered particles appears similar to other HEU particles that agency inspectors previously found at other sites in Iran. Those particles originated from imported enrichment-related equipment.

The report does not specify the enrichment level of the newly discovered particles, but the HEU particles previously found in Iran were not weapons-grade.

The official argued that the discovery is “still pretty damning” because it shows that the research center was more involved in Iran’s centrifuge program than Tehran had previously admitted.

ElBaradei also reported that environmental samples taken from other dual-use equipment acquired “show no indication of the presence of particles of nuclear material.”

Iran has still not responded to IAEA requests for further clarifications of and access to “other equipment and materials” connected to the research center. The IAEA also wants to interview a former head of the center, but Iran has not yet made the official available. These requests “have taken on added importance in light of the [sampling] results,” the report says.

The sources close to the IAEA said that the agency needs to collect many more environmental samples because the current sample size is insufficient for the agency to draw conclusions regarding the material’s composition and origin.

Other Issues

The report states that Tehran has provided the IAEA with additional information about its plutonium-separation experiments, which is “currently being assessed.”

The IAEA also continues to investigate other possible Iranian nuclear weapons-related projects, such as tests related to high explosives and a possible missile re-entry-vehicle design. The United States has provided the IAEA with intelligence that originated from an Iranian laptop computer. But sources close to the IAEA said that the agency also is using other information in its investigation. They did not elaborate. (See ACT, March 2006.)

Iran has provided no additional information regarding other outstanding issues, such as Tehran’s past efforts to obtain centrifuge materials and equipment, according to ElBaradei’s report.

 

U.S., Allies Await Iran's Response to Nuclear Offer

Paul Kerr

On June 6, six countries, including the United States, offered a new package of incentives and disincentives to Iran designed to persuade it to end its gas centrifuge-based uranium-enrichment program. As the month ended, Tehran was still studying the offer despite pressure from the other countries for a response. Iranian officials have indicated that Tehran will respond before the end of August.

China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States had agreed on the proposal during a June 1 meeting, one day after Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announced that the United States would participate directly in the negotiations. (See ACT, June 2006.)

The proposal marks the latest effort to induce Tehran to forswear uranium enrichment. Low-enriched uranium can be used in nuclear reactors, while highly enriched uranium (HEU) can also be used as fissile material in nuclear weapons. According to a June 21 joint statement issued after a U.S.-European Union summit, the proposal offers Iran the chance to reach a “negotiated agreement based on cooperation” but states that “further steps” would be taken in the Security Council if the country refuses to cooperate.

The offer came as International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei issued a report June 8 showing that Iran has still not complied with a nonbinding Security Council presidential statement adopted in March. That statement urged Tehran to take several steps, including suspending its enrichment program and increasing its cooperation with an IAEA investigation of its nuclear activities.

Iran suspended its enrichment program in late 2004 before beginning negotiations with France, Germany, and the United Kingdom designed to resolve international concerns about it. Those negotiations ended when Iran took several steps to renew enrichment-related activities beginning in August 2005.

First Things First

Describing the proposal to Arms Control Today, a Department of State official said the package of incentives is “negotiable,” but the conditions for resuming negotiations are not.

According to the proposal, Iran must take three steps before negotiations can begin. It must cooperate fully with the IAEA investigation, resume implementing the additional protocol to its agency safeguards agreement, and suspend “all enrichment-related” activities. The suspension would continue for the duration of the talks.

Additional protocols provide the agency with increased authority to detect clandestine nuclear programs, including by inspections of facilities that have not been declared to the IAEA. They supplement mandatory IAEA safeguards agreements, which are required under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. Iran has signed but not ratified its additional protocol. Tehran had been implementing the agreement but stopped doing so in February.

Iranian officials have indicated that Tehran is willing to cooperate with the IAEA investigation and implement its additional protocol. The suspension demand, however, will likely continue to be a sticking point.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hamidreza Asefi argued that the negotiations should proceed without “precondition,” the official Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) reported June 25. Iran has balked at suspending its research on centrifuges, although it has expressed a willingness to suspend industrial-scale enrichment. Iran has a pilot centrifuge facility and is constructing a larger commercial facility. Gas centrifuges enrich uranium by spinning uranium hexafluoride gas at very high speeds in order to increase the concentration of the uranium-235 isotope.

According to the State Department official, Iran will not be permitted to operate its centrifuge facility, manufacture centrifuge components, or assemble centrifuges. However, it will be allowed to convert lightly processed uranium ore into uranium hexafluoride at the facility.

The official acknowledged that China and Russia may support a compromise proposal that would permit Iran to operate a very small number of centrifuges. German Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung also expressed similar sentiments in a June 28 interview with Reuters in which he said that Iran should be able to enrich uranium under appropriate “monitoring mechanisms.” To what extent this reflects the official position of the German government or the thinking of the five other countries is unclear.

The two sides have also jockeyed over an appropriate response date.

Rice said June 2 that Iran should respond within “weeks and not months,” but Tehran is still formulating its response. Asefi said June 25 that “several committees” are studying the proposal, IRNA reported. Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki stated the previous day that Tehran has some “ questions” about the proposal but added that the offer had some “positive aspects” and that a “positive atmosphere has been created” for negotiations.

The six countries have warned Iran against dragging its feet. On June 29, foreign ministers from the Group of Eight (G-8), which includes five of the six countries as well as Canada, Italy, and Japan, called on Tehran to respond to the offer by July 5, when Javier Solana, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, is slated to meet in Europe with Ali Larijani, Iran’s lead nuclear negotiator.

“We are disappointed in the absence of an official Iranian response to this positive proposal,” the G-8 members said in a statement. “We expect to hear a clear and substantive Iranian response” in the July 5 meeting, they said. China’s Foreign Ministry also urged Iran to respond “as soon as possible” to the proposal.

Washington believes that Tehran is delaying its response in order to buy time for further enrichment research, the official said, adding that Iran has likely not yet mastered the enrichment process.

Elaborating on the importance of the suspension, the official argued that allowing Iran’s enrichment research to continue could also improve Tehran’s negotiating position. Iranian officials have stated that such technical progress can be a source of bargaining leverage.

Asefi denied that Iran was stalling for time, explaining that “ Iran does not wish to make a rush decision.”

The suspension also is important because the international community “can judge very quickly” whether Tehran is complying, the official said, explaining that the other steps will take longer to implement.

According to the proposal, the six countries would adopt “proportionate measures if Iran refuses to negotiate.” These could include freezing the assets of certain Iranian officials and financial institutions, imposing embargos on weapons and gasoline trade, and suspending technical cooperation with the IAEA.

The Security Council would adopt resolutions to implement these measures “where appropriate,” the proposal says.

Washington believes that it has assurances from Moscow and Beijing that those governments will support “more vigorous” council action if Iran does not comply, the State Department official said. Whether this is truly the case is unclear. Both Beijing and Moscow continue to show a reluctance to support punitive Security Council action. The six countries began to finalize the offer in May after the five permanent members of the Security Council failed earlier in the month to agree on the text of a legally binding draft resolution on Iran’s nuclear program.

Proposal Details

All the countries involved have refused to disclose details about the offer, but administration officials, press reports, and leaked drafts of the proposal have described many of its elements. The proposal includes offers for joint nuclear and conventional energy projects, economic cooperation, and technology transfers to Iran.

Cautioning that the process of determining Tehran’s compliance with any final agreement “will take years,” the State Department official said that there is not a specific timetable for implementing any final agreement. But “incentives will begin to accrue” as the negotiations progress, the official said, adding that implementing some incentives, such as discussions about a proposed EU-Iranian conventional energy partnership, could begin in the near term.

Nuclear Cooperation

The proposal contains several provisions for providing Iran with nuclear energy, including multilateral ventures to provide a light-water nuclear power reactor, part ownership of a Russian enrichment facility, and a five-year “buffer stock” of enriched uranium stored under IAEA supervision.

Although Tehran has previously expressed interest in multilateral fuel-supply schemes, it has insisted on having a domestic enrichment capability as a hedge against possible supply disruptions.

The United States and the other parties have opposed any Iranian domestic centrifuge facilities. But they have now agreed that a final agreement would include a provision for reviewing the program’s suspension and permitting Iran to have a uranium-enrichment facility on its own territory.

This recent compromise appears to have limited significance. Both the IAEA Board of Governors and the Security Council would have to agree that “international confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature” of Iran’s nuclear program has been restored, the proposal says. Requiring Security Council approval would, in effect, allow Washington to veto any future Iranian centrifuge facility.

The State Department official said that Iran would not be able to have its own enrichment facility for “many years.”

This provision may not satisfy Tehran, which has complained that Western countries, particularly the United States, have persistently opposed Iran’s acquisition of nuclear technology.

The new proposal appears designed to address some of Iran’s other stated concerns about past European nuclear cooperation offers.

For instance, Iran rejected an August 2005 proposal from the Europeans, complaining that it required Tehran to make short-term concrete concessions in return for vague promises of future rewards.

The new package contains some incentives similar to those described in that offer, but the language committing the six countries to participate is more concrete. For example, the August proposal says that the Europeans would “support” Iran’s acquisition of light-water reactors. But the new proposal’s language is more detailed and includes what appears to be a more-binding commitment.

Addressing another Iranian concern, the proposal says that if Iran complies with the resolution, the Security Council will “suspend discussion” of the nuclear program and will instead leave the matter to the IAEA board. Tehran prefers that the matter be handled by the agency because it lacks the Security Council’s authority to impose wide-ranging demands and penalties.

According to press reports and the State Department official, the United States would provide agricultural and telecommunications technology to Iran, as well as remove U.S. restrictions on aircraft manufacturers exporting civil aircraft to the country.

The administration agreed in March 2005 to allow export licenses for spare parts for Iranian civilian aircraft. (See ACT, April 2005.)

Whether and to what extent the package addresses security issues is unclear. A draft version contained a provision for a multilateral dialogue on regional security issues, but at least part of that provision has been removed, the State Department official said.

State Department spokesperson Sean McCormack told reporters June 6 that “ U.S. participation in security guarantees” is “not on the table.”

The United States has offered to discuss Iraqi security issues with Iran, but the two countries have still not agreed to such talks. (See ACT, April 2006.)

New U.S. Policy?

The European countries involved in the talks had been pressuring the United States to talk directly with Iran, arguing that U.S. participation in the talks would be a powerful incentive for Iran to negotiate, the State Department official said.

German Foreign Minister Frank Walter Steinmeier told Der Spiegel June 21 that “ Washington’s participation substantially increases the value of the offer to negotiate, because specific American elements can now be incorporated.”

But whether the Bush administration is willing to negotiate a solution to the nuclear issue with the current Iranian regime remains unclear.

Iranian officials have continued to express doubt about the Bush administration’s sincerity. Larijani said June 25 that Washington is still intent on “overthrowing Iran’s government,” citing the administration’s recent efforts to increase support for democracy promotion in Iran, IRNA reported.

Indeed, the Bush administration continues to support leadership change in Tehran and has continued to criticize Iran’s behavior on non-nuclear issues, such as its support for terrorist organizations and its poor human rights record.

Nevertheless, the administration “recognizes that this is the regime we have to work with,” the State Department official said. Although some officials previously advocated regime change in Tehran, that is no longer the case, the official said.

The official acknowledged, however, that some U.S. officials view support for the negotiations as a mere “tactical” move designed to garner Russian and Chinese support for punitive Security Council actions.

The United States has still not said whether Tehran’s compliance with the council’s requests would satisfy Washington’s concerns about the country’s nuclear program. Rice stated May 31, however, that the United States would “actively support” any Iranian benefits that are part of a final agreement. None of the other countries involved in the discussions support overthrowing the Iranian government.

Although Rice has said repeatedly that the United States is not considering a “grand bargain” with Tehran that would address Washington’s other concerns, Bush’s national security adviser Stephen Hadley suggested June 22 that Washington might be open to future discussions on such matters. Tehran’s acceptance of the terms for negotiation “would be a good starting point,” he said.

 

U.S. Offers Iran Direct Talks

Paul Kerr

The five permanent members of the UN Security Council, along with Germany, are continuing their efforts to craft a new package of incentives and disincentives designed to persuade Iran to end its gas centrifuge-based uranium-enrichment program. Meanwhile, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announced a significant U.S. policy shift May 31 by dangling the prospect of direct talks before Tehran.

In late May, China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States resumed their efforts to devise an offer after the Security Council failed earlier in the month to agree on the text of a legally binding draft resolution on Iran’s nuclear program. France and the United Kingdom introduced the draft resolution after International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei reported in late April that Iran had failed to heed a nonbinding March presidential statement from the council. That statement had urged Iran to take several steps, including resuming a suspension of its enrichment program and increasing its cooperation with an agency investigation of Iran’s nuclear activities. (See ACT, April 2006.)

But the European resolution met resistance from Russia and China because it would have invoked Chapter VII of the UN Charter, which allows the Security Council to take punitive action, such as imposing sanctions or using military force, “to maintain or restore international peace and security.”

Moscow and Beijing have expressed skepticism about the efficacy of sanctions and have also been resistant to invoke Chapter VII, fearing that it could give Washington a pretext to take military action against Iran. (See ACT, May 2006.)

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said May 16 that “neither Russia nor China will be able to support” a Security Council resolution “that would contain a pretext for coercive, let alone military, measures,” the Interfax news agency reported. But John Bolton, U.S. permanent representative to the United Nations, downplayed such fears while speaking to reporters May 5, saying that Chapter VII was merely being used because it is required to make Iran’s compliance with the resolution mandatory. Washington is willing to consider other formulations that would make the resolution’s demands legally binding without invoking Chapter VII, Bolton added.

Bolton also said that the United States would like the Security Council to adopt a unanimous resolution but added that Washington does not want “unanimity at any price.” He suggested that the United States might seek a vote on a resolution, even if Russia or China were to object.

Bolton also reiterated that Washington might take action outside the council by undertaking measures with other like-minded countries to constrain Iran’s nuclear ambitions. For example, the Bush administration is seeking to persuade institutions in Europe, Japan, and the Persian Gulf to halt financial transactions with Iranian entities. (See ACT, May 2006.)

Whether Tehran’s compliance with the Security Council’s requests would satisfy Washington remains unclear. Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Robert Joseph would not directly respond when asked during a May 18 interview with Arms Control Today if such compliance would be sufficient to address U.S. concerns about Iran’s nuclear program. He did say that a re-suspension of Iran’s enrichment program was a sina qua non.

Iran has a pilot centrifuge facility and is constructing a larger commercial facility. Tehran has told the IAEA that the pilot and commercial facilities will eventually contain approximately 1,000 and 50,000 centrifuges, respectively. Gas centrifuges enrich uranium by spinning uranium hexafluoride gas at very high speeds in order to increase the concentration of the uranium-235 isotope. Iran also has a conversion facility for turning lightly processed uranium ore into uranium hexafluoride.

Iran suspended the program in late 2004 before beginning negotiations with France, Germany, and the United Kingdom designed to resolve international concerns about its enrichment program. Those negotiations ended when Iran restarted its uranium-conversion facility last August. (See ACT, September 2005.)

Proposal Discussions

Since the early May setback, diplomats representing the permanent Security Council members and Germany have been circulating drafts of the European proposal in an attempt to reach a consensus, a European diplomat familiar with the discussions told Arms Control Today May 26. The Europeans are trying to unify the Security Council around the proposal by persuading Washington to support an offer of incentives to Iran and by convincing Moscow and Beijing to support the threat of Security Council sanctions.

The idea, the diplomat said, is to present Iran with “a stark choice:” give up its enrichment program and gain the benefits of integration into the international community or keep the program and “suffer the consequences.” The Europeans have been trying to present Iran with such a choice since beginning talks with Tehran in 2003.

The proposal’s incentives reportedly would include a multilateral consortium to provide Iran with a light-water nuclear reactor for energy production, as well as a guaranteed supply of nuclear fuel. Similar but less-detailed incentives were contained in an August 2005 proposal that Tehran rejected at the time. (See ACT, September 2005.)

The European diplomat said that there is “nothing particularly new” about the incentives but argued that “explicit endorsement” of the proposal by Washington, Moscow, and Beijing would constitute “one key difference” between this proposal and the one offered in 2005.

The proposal, when finalized, may also address the issue of Iran’s security. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said in recent interviews that Washington has not been asked to provide “security assurances” to Iran. But the European diplomat said that the proposal may include the initiation of a “regional dialogue” regarding security issues in the Persian Gulf region, adding that the matter is “still under discussion.”

The proposal’s disincentives will reportedly include an embargo on exports of arms and refined petroleum products to Iran, as well as sanctions designed to target the Iranian leadership, such as a travel ban on Iranian officials and the freezing of certain Iranian assets. (See ACT, April 2006.)

The European diplomat also indicated that if Iran complies with the resolution, the Security Council will agree not to take up the nuclear issue and will instead leave the matter to the IAEA.

Iranian officials have repeatedly called for such an arrangement as Tehran is wary of the Security Council’s power to impose wide-ranging demands and penalties—power that considerably exceeds the IAEA’s authority. For example, a senior Iranian diplomat told Arms Control Today in April that Tehran is concerned that the Security Council may give IAEA inspectors unlimited authority to investigate possible nuclear-related activities in its defense facilities. Washington could use such inspections to gather military intelligence, the diplomat said, citing UN weapons inspectors’ espionage activities in Iraq during the 1990s.

Iran has allowed the IAEA to visit some defense-related facilities. (See ACT, March 2006.)

Getting to Yes?

Iran’s former chief nuclear negotiator, Hassan Rowhani, indicated in a letter posted on Time magazine’s website May 10 that Iran is willing to alleviate the international community’s concerns about its nuclear program by, for example, “invest[ing] the time and effort necessary to receive the IAEA clean bill of health.” The IAEA still has a series of outstanding questions regarding Iran’s nuclear activities.

Rowhani, a representative of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Iran’s National Security Council, listed several other steps that Tehran would be willing to take, most of which have been articulated in past Iranian proposals. These include negotiating with “the IAEA and states concerned about the scope and timing of its industrial-scale uranium enrichment,” including setting verifiable limits on the production of centrifuge feedstock; and negotiating an agreement with the IAEA regarding the “continuous presence of inspectors in Iran.”

Nevertheless, it appears the two sides will have difficulty finding common ground. The Europeans will initially ask Iran to suspend work at its conversion and centrifuge facilities as a precondition for beginning negotiations, although they may ultimately agree to allow Tehran to continue conversion, the European diplomat said.

Such a compromise appears unlikely to be reciprocated, however. Iranian officials have repeatedly indicated that Iran will not stop work on its centrifuge facility.

The Europeans are not expected to offer to allow Iran to operate a pilot centrifuge facility for research purposes, although the diplomat acknowledged that the idea has been discussed. Iranian officials have said repeatedly that Iran will not forswear enrichment on its own territory.

Agence France Presse reported May 25 that, according to ElBaradei, Iranian officials have said that Tehran had “agreed in principle that for a number of years” Iran’s nuclear fuel production “should be part of an international consortium outside of Iran.” The issue of Iran’s enrichment research was “still being discussed,” he added.

In addition to proposing Iranian participation in a Russian enrichment facility, the draft European proposal would guarantee a nuclear fuel supply for Tehran by providing for a five-year enriched uranium reserve under IAEA supervision. Iran has previously expressed interest in multilateral fuel-supply schemes but has so far insisted on having a domestic enrichment capability as a hedge against possible supply disruptions.

Iranian officials, however, have said that Iran would accept limits on the number of centrifuges in its pilot facility. For example, the Iranian diplomat indicated that Tehran would have been willing in March to limit the number of centrifuges to between 164 and 500. A former European diplomat who maintains contact with Iranian officials said in a May 22 interview that, according to an Iranian official “directly involved” in the matter, Khamenei agreed in the spring of 2005 that Iran would accept a limit of 164 centrifuges.

Iran is currently operating a 164-centrifuge cascade in its pilot facility and is building two others.

But Gary Samore, a former Clinton administration National Security Council aide who maintains contact with Tehran, told Arms Control Today May 17 that Iran is determined to have an industrial-scale enrichment capability and does not want a constraint on its enrichment facilities. According to Samore, Iranian officials say privately that they want to have a “breakout capability” for developing nuclear weapons. Interestingly, the Iranian diplomat who spoke with Arms Control Today also suggested that there are some officials in Tehran who may want Iran to have a nuclear weapons option.

A former senior intelligence official offered another view. Former National Intelligence Officer for the Near East and South Asia Paul Pillar told Arms Control Today May 22 that, in his judgment, Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapons program but is not on an “irreversible course.” Pillar cautioned that such assessments are only judgments, noting that U.S. intelligence about Iran’s nuclear programs is limited.

Iranian officials have also told ElBaradei that if the negotiations resume, Tehran is willing to resume implementing its additional protocol to its IAEA safeguards agreement—another of the Security Council’s demands. Additional protocols provide the agency with increased authority to detect clandestine nuclear programs, including by inspecting facilities that have not been declared to the IAEA. They supplement mandatory IAEA safeguards agreements, which are required under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

Iran has signed but not ratified its additional protocol. Tehran had been implementing the agreement but stopped doing so in February.

Will Washington Talk to Tehran?

In recent months, calls for direct talks between Washington and Tehran have increased, particularly from members of the U.S. foreign policy establishment. Among others, advocates for such talks include one-time Bush administration officials such as former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and former Department of State Policy Planning Director Richard Haass; Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) and committee member Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.); former national security advisers Brent Scowcroft and Henry Kissinger, who was also secretary of state under President Richard Nixon; and William Perry, who was secretary of defense during the Clinton administration. In remarks to the European Parliament on May 30, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, also suggested that Washington participate in direct talks.

Previously, the Bush administration had responded coolly to such suggestions. But White House Press Secretary Tony Snow implied a shift during a May 24 press briefing, telling reporters that Washington might be willing to talk if Tehran agreed to suspend its enrichment activities.

Rice was more explicit in May 31 remarks to the press, saying that “as soon as Iran fully and verifiably suspends its enrichment and reprocessing activities, the United States will come to the table with our EU-3 colleagues and meet with Iran’s representatives.” She said similar remarks had been delivered directly to Iranian diplomats.

She also endorsed the elements of the proposed European package of incentives and disincentives, adding that “the Iranian regime can decide on one of two fundamentally different futures for its people and for its relationship with the international community.”

However, while Rice said that President George W. Bush “wants a new and positive relationship between the American people and the people of Iran” including enhanced trade and investment, “the nuclear issue is not the only obstacle standing in the way of improved relations.” In particular, she cited Iran’s alleged support for terrorism and “violence in Iraq,” as well as claims that Tehran has interfered (through terrorist proxies) in Lebanon.

Some nongovernmental experts have argued that a lengthy May 8 letter to Bush from Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was an attempt at a diplomatic opening, although the letter did not directly address the nuclear standoff. State Department officials have also confirmed that Iran had recently sought direct talks.

Iran has made overtures to speak to Washington in the past. In the spring of 2003, Iran sent the United States a detailed proposal for negotiations to resolve several bilateral issues. For example, Iran offered to sign an additional protocol and end its opposition to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, according to a copy obtained by Arms Control Today.

The United States and Iran have previously said that, in principle, they are willing to discuss Iraqi security issues, but no such talks have taken place.

 

IAEA Raises New Questions on Iran Program

Paul Kerr

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) continues to investigate questions about Iran’s nuclear file, specifically Tehran’s incomplete and inconsistent accounting of its uranium-enrichment and plutonium-separation activities. But an April 28 report from agency Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei also says that Tehran’s February decision to decrease inspectors’ access to its nuclear-related facilities is impeding the agency’s ability to investigate and monitor Iran’s nuclear programs.

ElBaradei said “gaps remain” in the agency’s knowledge of “the scope and content” of Iran’s enrichment program. Consequently, the IAEA is “unable to make progress in its efforts to provide assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran.”

ElBaradei also indicated that Tehran has continued work on its nuclear programs in defiance of a March UN Security Council presidential statement. That nonbinding measure urged Tehran to resolve concerns about its nuclear activities and suspend work on its uranium-enrichment program. Instead, Tehran has announced additional progress on the program.

Tehran has indicated that it might comply with some of the Security Council’s requests. The IAEA received a letter from Iran April 27 stating that the country is “prepared to resolve the remaining outstanding issues in accordance with the international laws and norms.” Iran also pledged to provide a timetable for compliance within the “next three weeks,” the letter added. However, as of May 23, Tehran did not appear to have done so.

Iran’s offer also appears to have been conditional. The letter said Tehran would comply, “provided that Iran’s nuclear dossier will remain, in full, in the framework of the IAEA and under its safeguards.”

Since ElBaradei issued his report to the Security Council and the IAEA Board of Governors, the five permanent Security Council members, as well as Germany, have been attempting to devise a response to Iran’s lack of cooperation.

Investigation Continues; Iran’s Cooperation Lags

The March presidential statement instructed ElBaradei to report within 30 days on Tehran’s progress in complying with a February IAEA board resolution. That resolution had called on Iran to take a series of steps, such as fully cooperating with the IAEA investigation and resuming suspension of its gas centrifuge-based uranium-enrichment program. (See ACT, March 2006.)

Iran had agreed to suspend the program in November 2004 as part of an agreement governing its negotiations with France, Germany, and the United Kingdom. Those negotiations ended when Iran restarted its uranium-conversion facility in August 2005. The country resumed work on its centrifuge program in January.

Gas centrifuges enrich uranium by spinning uranium hexafluoride gas at very high speeds in order to increase the concentration of the uranium-235 isotope. They can produce both low-enriched uranium, which can be used in nuclear reactors, and highly enriched uranium (HEU), which can be used in certain types of nuclear reactors and as fissile material in nuclear weapons. Uranium-conversion facilities convert lightly processed uranium ore into several compounds, including uranium hexafluoride.

Iran notified the agency April 13 that it had enriched uranium to 3.6 percent uranium-235, ElBaradei’s report says, adding that subsequent samples taken by the IAEA “tend to confirm” Tehran’s claim. Vice President Gholamreza Aghazadeh, who also heads Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, said subsequently that Iran had produced uranium containing 4.8 percent uranium-235, the semi-official Islamic Students News Agency (ISNA) reported May 2. (See ACT, May 2006.)

Iran used uranium hexafluoride imported from China for its initial enrichment tests but has since used indigenously produced feedstock, an unnamed Iranian official told ISNA May 19. Iran has produced 110 tons of the material since September 2005, ElBaradei reported.

Tehran has had difficulty producing uranium hexafluoride of sufficient purity, but sources told Arms Control Today in March that the country’s conversion capabilities appear to be improving. Uranium hexafluoride with high levels of contaminants can corrode centrifuges when used as feedstock.

The presidential statement also called on Iran to reconsider its construction of a heavy-water reactor, but Tehran is continuing work on the project. The IAEA is concerned that it may use the reactor under construction to produce plutonium, which can be used as fissile material in nuclear weapons.

Additionally, the statement said that Iran should ratify its additional protocol to its IAEA safeguards agreement and resume acting in accordance with the protocol in the meantime. Tehran has signed the protocol, which augments the IAEA’s authority to investigate possible clandestine nuclear programs, but has not ratified it.

IAEA safeguards agreements, which are required under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), allow the agency to monitor NPT states-parties’ declared civilian nuclear activities to ensure they are not diverted to military purposes. Iran has continued to abide by its safeguards agreement.

Tehran had been implementing its additional protocol, even though it was not in force. It ended this cooperation in February. Iran began in January to scale back IAEA monitoring at centrifuge-related facilities.

ElBaradei reported that “ Iran’s decision to cease implementing” the protocol means that the IAEA’s ability to investigate and monitor Tehran’s nuclear programs “will be further limited.”

Iran Has Issues

Despite Iran’s diminished cooperation, ElBaradei’s report does contain some new information about Tehran’s nuclear activities.

Uranium Enrichment

The IAEA is investigating the origins of newly discovered HEU particles that investigators believe may indicate previously undisclosed Iranian enrichment research. According to press reports, IAEA inspectors found HEU particles on equipment purchased by a physics research center located at the Lavizan-Shian site. Asked about these reports, a diplomatic source in Vienna close to the IAEA told Arms Control Today May 12 that there is “something there.”

The research center’s role in Iran’s nuclear program has been a matter of concern because the center had been connected to the Iranian Ministry of Defense.

IAEA officials in January first asked to take environmental samples from “high vacuum equipment” purchased by a former head of the research center. ElBaradei’s report does not say how the agency learned of the equipment, but past IAEA reports suggest that Iran did not provide the information. Such equipment can be used in centrifuge operations.

The amount and origin of uranium-235 contained in the newly discovered HEU is unclear. Some HEU particles previously found in Iran were enriched to 36 percent uranium-235 and others to 54 percent uranium-235. HEU used as fissile material typically contains approximately 90 percent uranium-235. Past IAEA test results had indicated that the HEU particles came from imported centrifuge components.

The origin of the enriched uranium particles has long been a matter of interest because their presence suggests that Tehran may have either imported or produced undeclared enriched uranium. The country has only admitted to enriching uranium to very low levels.

The IAEA also is analyzing environmental samples taken from other dual-use equipment acquired by the research center at Lavizan-Shian.

ElBaradei reported that despite Iran’s promises to provide “further clarifications” regarding these procurement activities, the IAEA has not yet received the relevant information. “Further access to the procured equipment is necessary for environmental sampling,” he added.

Iran has also not provided any additional information about its efforts to obtain centrifuge materials and equipment, ElBaradei reported. The IAEA believes that Tehran may be withholding relevant documentation about those efforts. The agency is also concerned that Iran may have conducted undisclosed work on its P-1 and P-2 centrifuge programs.

Arguing that these issues were not covered by its safeguards agreement, Iranian officials would not discuss the matter during February and April meetings with the IAEA.

The agency has also asked Iran to “clarify” reports suggesting that the country has conducted research on more-advanced P-2 centrifuges. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad reportedly said in April that Iran has conducted such research, but Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hamidreza Asefi subsequently denied it was doing so.

Iran told the IAEA that it has not conducted work on the P-2 centrifuge program since 2003.

Plutonium

The IAEA has also not yet resolved inconsistencies in Iran’s accounts of its plutonium-separation experiments. ElBaradei’s February report had indicated that the IAEA found evidence suggesting that Tehran produced plutonium that it had not disclosed to the agency.

Iran has provided additional information in an attempt to clarify the matter. Most recently, an April 17 letter “reaffirmed [ Tehran’s] previous explanations of the inconsistencies,” according to ElBaradei’s report. No further detail was disclosed.

ElBaradei said the IAEA “cannot exclude the possibility” that Iran has failed to disclose relevant plutonium production to the agency.

 

NEWS ANALYSIS: Behind Iran's Diplomatic Behavior

Paul Kerr

Ever since the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) uncovered Iran’s previously covert nuclear activities in 2003, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom (later backed by the United States) have attempted to persuade Iran to give up its uranium-enrichment program through a carrot-and-stick approach. This has combined the threat of punitive UN Security Council actions with the promise that Tehran would receive economic and political benefits if it complied with the West’s demands.

An examination of the Iranian leadership’s public statements and negotiating behavior, along with interviews with Iranian officials, indicate that this approach has successfully encouraged some Iranian compromises. The West has extracted some concessions from Tehran by exploiting the regime’s fears of the economic and political risks associated with further international isolation.

But during the past 10 months, Tehran has become more recalcitrant, a trend that has coincided with the diminished clout of Iranian officials more supportive of international engagement and the rise of those more inclined to advocate aggressive negotiating tactics. These domestic political changes occurred as an altered geopolitical landscape arguably decreased the credibility of Security Council threats.

If current trends continue, the international community may well be hard-pressed to persuade Iran’s policymakers that the risks of pursuing a uranium-enrichment exceed the rewards.

A Tangled Nuclear History

Iran and Isolation

Since the current Islamic regime came to power in 1979, the relationship between Tehran and the West has been characterized by mutual distrust and antagonism.

This distrust has interfered with Iran’s efforts to obtain nuclear technology. For example, France refused to provide enriched uranium to Iran after the revolution despite the fact that Tehran still held a substantial interest in the French Eurodif uranium-enrichment plant. (See ACT, January/February 2006.)

Mistrust from this episode apparently continues to animate Iranian diplomacy. A senior Iranian diplomat told Arms Control Today in April that the Eurodif venture, as well as other past Western efforts to constrain its nuclear program, have led the regime to believe that it cannot trust foreign nuclear fuel suppliers.

Moreover, Iranian officials claim that Iran obtained its enrichment technology from a clandestine procurement network because the United States had persuaded other countries to refrain from selling such technology to Iran.[1]

Nonetheless, in the decade leading up to the nuclear crisis, Iran’s relations with the West, particularly western Europe, had been improving. These ties were bolstered because Iran’s previous president, Mohammad Khatami, was perceived as a relative moderate with his call for a “dialogue among civilizations.” Some powerful Iranian politicians, as well as a large segment of the Iranian population, clearly supported the continuation of this trend, which was threatened by the 2003 revelations of Iran’s secret uranium-enrichment and related facilities.

Nuclear Crisis Hits

During the months following the initial public revelations of Iran’s nuclear programs, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom were able to use Tehran’s fear of international isolation to induce its cooperation.

Shortly after the IAEA began its investigation of Iran’s nuclear activities, the three European countries offered, in exchange for several Iranian concessions, to begin negotiations with Iran aimed at resolving concerns regarding its nuclear programs. In addition, the Europeans threatened to support the Bush administration’s efforts to persuade the IAEA Board of Governors to refer Iran to the UN Security Council if Tehran refused to cooperate.[2]

Iran agreed in October 2003 to suspend its uranium-enrichment activities, ratify an additional protocol to its IAEA safeguards agreement, and cooperate with the agency’s investigation of its nuclear activities.[3]

Then-secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council Hassan Rowhani, who was in charge of Tehran’s nuclear diplomacy, said that at the time Iran feared the United States intended to push the council to adopt resolutions similar to those directed at Iraq prior to the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. Washington wanted UN inspectors to be “given unrestricted access to [relevant] installations, facilities and individuals,” he wrote in a July 2005 report to then-President Khatami, adding that “Iran’s refusal to abide by such resolutions” would have resulted in “subsequent threats followed by military action.” Tehran also believed that the U.S. agenda extended beyond the nuclear issue. Rowhani told a group of senior Iranian officials in 2004 that the “Americans intend to use the lever of the UN Security Council to solve all of their problems with us,” such as Iran’s support for terrorist organizations.

Within months of its agreement with its European interlocutors, Iran began to test the limits of Western diplomatic resolve by chipping away at its promised suspension of its uranium-enrichment activity. The Europeans again threatened to refer the matter to the Security Council. Once more, Tehran yielded, agreeing in November 2004 to adhere to a broader suspension while the two sides negotiated an agreement that was to provide “objective guarantees” that Iran’s nuclear program would be used “exclusively for peaceful purposes.”

Rowhani indicated that Tehran was influenced by unified international opposition to its enrichment program, arguing that if any of the “powerful countries” had supported the program, Iran “would have had an easier time” proceeding.

During its subsequent discussions with the Europeans, Iran presented several compromise proposals, including a January 2005 paper describing Iran’s willingness to negotiate about a range of issues, such as terrorism and Persian Gulf regional security.

Iran later offered to implement several measures intended to provide assurances of its peaceful nuclear intentions, although Tehran consistently signaled its intention to restart its conversion facility to produce uranium hexafluoride feedstock for centrifuges.

A March 2005 proposal described several mechanisms designed to limit the enrichment program’s proliferation potential. These included limiting the initial operation of the Natanz enrichment facility to 3,000 centrifuges, limiting the uranium-235 content of the enriched uranium, and “allowing continuous on-site presence of IAEA inspectors” at Iran’s centrifuge and conversion facilities.[4] Gas centrifuges enrich uranium by spinning uranium hexafluoride gas at very high speeds in order to increase the concentration of the uranium-235 isotope.

Iran offered further compromises in subsequent proposals, although all of them would have allowed for some uranium-enrichment activity, which was steadfastly opposed by the Europeans and the United States. For example, Iran offered in April to allow IAEA monitoring at its uranium-conversion facility, to begin at an earlier time than previously offered. 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.[5]

However, the talks ended in August 2005 after Iran rejected a proposal from the Europeans that offered Iran an array of economic, technical, and security incentives, as well as an assured supply of nuclear fuel, in return for giving up its enrichment facilities. Tehran also broke the November 2004 agreement by restarting its uranium-conversion facility.

These actions took place as Iran’s new president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, took office after having been elected in June.

The senior Iranian diplomat said in April that the proposal was “insulting” and showed the Europeans to be unreliable negotiating partners. Stating that the Europeans had not seriously considered Iran’s compromise offers, he pointed out that the European proposal would have required Tehran to give up its enrichment program, a demand that was not an explicit part of the November 2004 agreement. Iran has also complained that the Europeans’ offer required Iran to make short-term concrete concessions in return for vague promises of future rewards.

The diplomat also criticized the United States, arguing that Washington “cast a long shadow” over the talks. U.S. pressure to maintain a hard-line stance dissuaded the Europeans from compromising with Iran, he said.

Although Iranian officials emphasized at the time that these decisions were made by consensus, Rowhani said in a speech in April that he had disagreed with this decision. Had the Europeans responded to Iran’s proposals earlier, he said, the two sides could have reached an agreement.

After the Dog Catches the Car: Security Council Diplomacy

Although both sides have repeatedly expressed their willingness to negotiate, Iran has not been willing to suspend its centrifuge program, the Europeans’ condition for resuming negotiations. The IAEA board finally referred Iran to the Security Council in February. (See ACT, March 2006.) The council issued a nonbinding statement in March that called on Iran to suspend its uranium-enrichment program and resume negotiations with the Europeans. So far, Iran has refused to do so.

Both sides believe that aggressive negotiating tactics have been successful in extracting concessions. Each faction also has reason to believe that time is on its side. Iran continues to say that it wants to resume negotiations, but it is not clear whether and to what extent Iran is truly prepared to compromise.

However, some Iranian officials are concerned that Iran’s intransigence has come at a cost and has put Iran in diplomatic jeopardy. In a letter to Time magazine published May 10, Rowhani expressed concern that the Security Council could impose sanctions and “even use of force” on Tehran. In a speech the previous month, he argued that the Ahmadinejad government’s more aggressive approach had yielded “some success” but at “a heavy price,” citing the growing international consensus against Iran’s enrichment program.

View From Tehran: Things Are Looking Up

Nevertheless, three trends suggest that Iran will continue to take a tough line. First, Iran likely perceives itself still to be in a relatively strong bargaining position. Second, Tehran is skeptical that its attempts at compromise will be rewarded. Third, Iran’s internal political dynamics appear to be moving away from, rather than toward, compromise.

It is widely believed that Iran’s bargaining position has improved since 2003. For example, the continued insurgency in Iraq may have decreased the United States’ ability to initiate military action against Iran. The increase in oil prices during the past year has likely reduced the Security Council’s willingness to impose sanctions on Iraqi oil exports and increased Tehran’s ability to withstand sanctions in other areas.

Additionally, Tehran has continued to make progress on its enrichment program, providing the regime with another potential source of bargaining leverage. Since last fall, Iran has resumed work at its pilot centrifuge facility, produced enriched uranium, and continued to produce uranium hexafluoride.

A May 18 statement from official Iranian radio claimed that Iran’s technical progress has already enabled Iran to extract concessions from its European negotiating partners. Prior to August 2005, the Europeans had insisted that Iran would have to give up its uranium-conversion facility as part of any final agreement. The Europeans, however, have backed off that demand since Iran restarted the facility. (See ACT, December 2005.)

Iranian officials have previously argued that Iran should use its technological achievements as bargaining leverage. Rowhani asserted in 2004 that the international community typically puts “pressure on a country that is standing on the threshold” of being able to enrich uranium. But if that country developed the technology, he said, “it would be very difficult, if not impossible, to continue the pressure.”

Iran’s Suspicions

Ever since President George W. Bush labeled Iran as part of the “axis of evil” in his 2002 State of the Union address, his administration has made clear its desire to see the clerical regime replaced. Washington also has continued to articulate its differences with Tehran on a range of non-nuclear issues and recently boosted its support for the democratic opposition in Iran.

Therefore, Iran continues to suspect the United States of using the nuclear issue as a pretext for increasing international pressure on the regime.

Indeed, Tehran fears that Washington will view any Iranian nuclear compromises as a sign of weakness and an opportunity to extract additional concessions. For this reason, Iran has balked at taking even temporary steps, such as a renewed suspension of its enrichment program, the Iranian diplomat said.

Additionally, the threat of Security Council action may now be dissuading Iran from undertaking IAEA-requested confidence-building measures that go beyond the government’s safeguards obligations, the diplomat added. Tehran has complied with some of these measures but is wary of participating in what Iran views as a potentially open-ended process that could lead to punitive Security Council actions similar to those taken against Iraq.

The Correct Negotiating Partner

Bush administration officials, such as national security adviser Stephen Hadley, have indicated that the international community can exploit differences within the Iranian leadership by maintaining pressure on Tehran. But such a strategy could prove difficult to execute.

On one hand, there are divisions within the Iranian leadership regarding the regime’s diplomatic tactics. Indeed, both Rowhani’s 2005 report and 2004 speech describe intense debates about diplomatic strategies and tactics. It seems clear that some Iranian leaders perceive international isolation more costly than do others.

However, pro-engagement Iranian officials have already been “discredited” by the Europeans’ rejection of Tehran’s 2005 offers, Farideh Farhi, an expert in Iranian politics, told Arms Control Today May 23. The Iranian diplomat concurred. This rejection demonstrated to more hard-line Iranian officials that compromise was ineffective and only signaled weakness, he said.

 


ENDNOTES

1. This claim was contained in Rowhani’s July 2005 report. For example, China decided in 1997 under U.S. pressure to cancel its agreement to supply Iran with a uranium-conversion facility. The United States also persuaded Russia during the 1990s to cancel a proposed sale of uranium-enrichment technology to Iran. Interestingly, the CIA in 1997 assessed that Iran was “responding to Western counterproliferation efforts by relying more on legitimate commercial firms as procurement fronts and by developing more convoluted procurement networks.”

2. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards agreements, which are required under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), allow the agency to monitor NPT states-parties’ declared civilian nuclear activities to ensure they are not diverted to military purposes. Under the IAEA statute, the agency Board of Governors is required to notify the Security Council if a member state is found in noncompliance with its safeguards agreement.

3. Additional protocols provide the agency with increased authority to detect clandestine nuclear programs, including by inspecting facilities that have not been declared to the IAEA. Iran has signed but not ratified its protocol. However, Iran still implemented the agreement pending ratification. Iran stopped adhering to the agreement in February. (See ACT, May 2006.)

4. Iran has a pilot centrifuge facility at Natanz and is constructing a much larger commercial facility at the same site. Tehran has said that the pilot and commercial facilities will eventually contain approximately 1,000 and 50,000 centrifuges, respectively.

5. Rowhani’s letter, a copy of which was obtained by Arms Control Today, stated that “[n]egotiations for the full scale operation” of the centrifuge facility “would continue on the premise that it would be synchronized with the fuel requirements” of a European or Russian-supplied nuclear reactor—a period of approximately 10 years, the Iranian diplomat said.

 

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