Nikahang Kowsar on "time" and the Supreme Leader after the Baghdad nuclear talks
See also Iran Analysis: 4 Lessons of The Baghdad Nuclear Talks...And What's Next br>
Iran Document: Statement By EU's Catherine Ashton After Baghdad Talks br>
The Latest from Iran (24 May): Day 2 of the Nuclear Talks in Baghdad
2015 GMT: Co-operation (and It's With the US) Watch. An American company, Lawrenceville Plasma Physics, Islamic Azad University have agreed to collaborate on joint design of a nuclear fusion machine that "would be affordable to construct in industrializing nations".
LPP claimed in a written statement that the project qualifies for an official US Treasury Department exemption from sanctions for "collaborati[on] with academics and research institutions on the...creation and enhancement of written publications".
1803 GMT: Nuclear Watch. Journalist Scott Peterson has a telling follow-up quote from an Iranian diplomat who was speaking with him throughout the Baghdad talks, "I think [they were] a complete failure, in terms of content. The more they talk, the worse it gets."
Peterson's description makes clear that a tough opening proposal by the 5+1 Powers did not include a reference to easing of sanctions or a recognition of the level of enrichment that would be acceptable inside Iran.
1737 GMT: Surveillance Watch. The US Department of Commerce is reportedly investigating Chinese telecommunications equipment maker ZTE Corp for selling embargoed computer products to Iran.
Reuters reported in March and April that ZTE had signed contracts to ship millions of dollars worth of hardware and software, from some of America's best-known tech firms, to Telecommunication Co of Iran, the country's largest telecom carrier.
Investigators already have met with representatives of ZTE. A spokesman for ZTE, based in Shenzhen, China, declined to comment.
The U.S. product makers, including Microsoft Corp, IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Oracle, and Dell, have all said they were not aware of the Iranian contracts. The Commerce Department official said there is no evidence the American companies were complicit in the transactions. However, sources indicate some of the U.S. companies have received subpoenas requesting information about their dealings with ZTE and a Chinese trading company, Beijing 8-Star International Co, which also was a party to the Iranian contracts.
1624 GMT: Nuclear Spin Watch. Earlier today (1240 GMT) we traced with scepticism a headline claim, fed by unnamed "diplomats" to the Associated Press, that Iran had enriched uranium to 27%, thus moving closer to capability for nuclear weapons. We noted both the timing, coming just after the Baghdad talks, and the lack of support for the assertion from the International Atomic Energy Agency, even though it had supposedly found the devious Iranian behaviour.
Now Barbara Slavin adds another reason to damp down the furour:
A report today by the Associated Press that nuclear inspectors have found traces of uranium enriched beyond 20 percent at Iran’s Fordow enrichment plant appears to reflect changes in the design of centrifuge cascades rather than a deliberate Iranian effort to get closer to weapons-grade uranium.
Slavin also notes the latest numbers from the IAEA: Iran has 6197 kilogrammes of low-enriched uranium and 145.6 kilogrammes at the higher 20% level. Of the 20% uranium, 45.6 kilogrammes was produced at Fordoo.
We are in the political and diplomatic equivalent of the game of "chicken", in which "two drivers drive towards each other on a collision course: one must swerve, or both may die in the crash".
Do the US and Europe let up on the accelerator on pressure? Does the Islamic Republic turn away? Or are both sides willing to risk the crash, because "if one driver swerves and the other does not, the one who swerved will be called a chicken"?
Looks like we already have an answer, at least to the first question. And that answer is "No".
Far from drawing the lesson that the hard-line on sanctions --- i.e., not to breathe a word about easing them --- might have brought the Baghdad talks close to breakdown, "a senior American diplomat" is pushing a different conclusion. He argues the discussions proved that the threat of tough economic measures will bring Iran on its knees to a settlement:
Maximum pressure is not yet being felt in Iran....[New sanctions, such as the European Union's 1 July cut-off of Iranian oil imports, will] increase leverage on the negotiation as it proceeds forward.
The Iranians don’t like it. They hope and would rather we not put additional sanctions on. Indeed they are not at all pleased that soon after Istanbul [the first set of talks, in mid-April], the President [Barack Obama] signed a new executive order [sanctioning Iran for supplying technical assistance to Syria to repress dissidents]. We heard about that.
1341 GMT: Your Tehran Friday Prayers Update. No surprise about Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami's theme today, as he talks tough about the Baghdad nuclear talks: “Iran is saying something logical which is possessing peaceful nuclear energy is the right of every nation, particularly the Iranian one and this (Iranian) nation will not give up its right [to enrichment of uranium].”
Khatami continued, “The Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei has also said that we are not seeking to build atomic bombs. What else do you want? It is you who must build confidence. I speak on behalf of the Iranian nation that they will not be held to ransom."
1335 GMT: Oil Watch. Minister of Oil Rustam Qassemi and the head of the Basij militia, Mohammad Reza Naqdi have signed a deal to share oil income tween the Revolutionary Guards' and Basij's engineering outlets, Khatam al-Anbia and Khatam al-Ousia.
1315 GMT: Revolutionary Guards are Watching. Revolutionary Guards commander Ebrahim Jabbari has declared that "enemy subversives" want to hit the Revolution. He said "insulting Imams" started in the reformist era, represented by former President Mohammad Khatami, who is "a traitor" and "should apologise".
Jabbari continued that detained opposition figure Mir Hossein Mousavi is anti-Revolution and that former President Hashemi Rafsanjani is "a low person".
Alamolhoda's statement follows the recent declarations by clerics and politicians that rapper Shahin Najafi should be executed for his "insult" to the 10th Shi'a Imam in his song "Naqi" about the political and social problems in the Islamic Republic.
1240 GMT: Leak of the Day. A day after the conclusion of the Baghdad nuclear talks, unnamed "diplomats" have told the Associated Press that the International Atomic Energy Agency found evidence at the Fordoo plant of uranium enriched up to 27%.
If true, this goes beyond Iran's recent declaration of capability to enrich to 20%, although it is far short of the more than 90% purity needed for nuclear weapons.
The timing of the revelation is curious, not only because of the proximity to the inconclusive Baghdad talks but also because IAEA head Yukiya Amano said Tuesday, after a trip to Tehran, that the Agency and Iran were close to an agreement on a protocol for inspections of nuclear facilities.
The IAEA would not comment on the allegation.
1202 GMT: Fighting Over the Revolutionary Guards. Mojtaba Zolnour, the former representative of the Supreme Leaders to the Revolutionary Guards, has hit back at the allegation of MP Ali Motahari that the Guards intervened in this spring's Parliamentary elections.
Zolnour said that Motahari's claims associate him with the deviancy of foreign media like CNN and the BBC. He added that Motahari "should not play with the principles of his father", Ayatollah Ali Motahari, renowned for his role in the Islamic Revolution.
1145 GMT: Foreign Affairs (Syrian Front). In a show of support for the Damascus regime, Fars highlights the invitation extended by President Ahmadinejad to his Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad to attend the 16th summit of the heads of state of the Non-Aligned Movement, to be held in Tehran in late August.
1025 GMT: Parliament Watch. It looks like the Revolutionary Guards have given a loud endorsement to Gholam Ali Haddad Adel --- former Speaker of Parliament and member of the Supreme Leader's inner circle --- as the next Speaker.
Fars, linked to the Guards, posted an interview with Haddad Adel this week, with its reporter calling the 7th Majlis, which Haddad Adel supervised, "one of the best". Haddad Adel agreed, saying that he was proud of the fact that there were no fistfights in the assembly.
Haddad Adel, whose daughter is married to Ayatollah Khamenei's son Mojtaba, said his goal was to coordinate the Parliament with the guidance and wishes of the Supreme Leader. The Majlis would support efforts for national production, the theme that Khamenei has chosen for this Iranian year.
Haddad Adel is challenging current Speaker Ali Larijani for the post.
0910 GMT: Nuclear Watch. And now Washington's post-Baghdad reassurance to West Jerusalem:
The United States' top negotiator in Iran nuclear talks is visiting Israel to consult on regional issues, the U.S. State Department said Friday.
Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman will "reaffirm our unshakeable commitment to Israel's security," according to a department statement.
0752 GMT: Nuclear Watch. More spin from Press TV this morning, notably the declaration of lead Iran negotiator Saeed Jalili that Tehran is still insisting on the right to enrich uranium to 20% on its soil.
There is also the (misleading) headline that it is Tehran's proposals which hold the high ground: "Iran Offer for P5+1 Under Study", as well as a denial that the Iranian delegation met US counterparts for bilateral talks at any point during the Baghdad negotiations.
Iran's top negotiator Saeed Jalili said the disturbing situation in Bahrain was among the topics of the talks between him and representatives of the six world powers in Baghdad, explaining that the negotiations included cooperation in nuclear and non-nuclear areas.
"Security of waters, campaign against narcotics and Bahrain were among the topics which went under discussion in the Baghdad talks, in addition to nuclear issues," Jalili told reporters...."Iran raised its views about democracy in Bahrain and the other side offered some proposals which included countering sea piracy and security of waters and campaign against illicit drugs".
If Tehran did include Bahrain in its package, it's safe to say that the 5+1 Powers would have turned this aside as a central point for negotiation. And while issues such as anti-drug and anti-piracy measures do offer ground for agreement, the US and Europe will be cautious: in part discussions, such as talks in Istanbul in January 2011, they have been seen as attempted diversions to avoid the tough negotiation on Iran's nuclear programme.
0730 GMT: Nuclear Watch. We have now posted an analysis, "4 Lessons of The Baghdad Nuclear Talks...And What's Next", with the assessment: "There can no repeat of Baghdad next month, no rescue with yet another agreement to talk elsewhere in a few weeks' time. Iran does not have that time."
Despite that conclusion, Iran's media is upbeat. Press TV, far from a fan of the British Government in the past, hands over its headline space to London: "British Foreign Secretary William Hague has said the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany (the P5+1) are ready to take concrete steps to build confidence." Fars proclaims, "From Baghdad to Moscow: Opportunity to Strengthen Diplomacy and Iran". And IRNA trumpets, "Germany is Ready to Provide Assistance for Iran's Nuclear Energy".
0520 GMT: The headline from the two-day nuclear talks in Baghdad between Iran and the 5+1 Powers (US, Britain, France, Germany, Russia, and China) is that the two sides will keep talking. The next round will be in Moscow on 18-19 June.
1. Ashton tipped off the large gap between the 5+1 Powers and Iran on approach and proposals. The US and Europe effectively said, "We will only talk easing of sanctions after you give us what we want on your uranium enrichment." Iran said at the same time, "Ease the sanctions and then we will consider giving you what you want."
2. This gap was so wide that the Iranians were on the point of walking away from the talks on Wednesday night. Ashton's emergency session with Iran's Saeed Jalili --- almost two hours --- plus intervention from China and Russia probably averted that breakdown.
3. Moscow as a location for the next talks is a concession to Iran for continuing to talk. So is the date --- the discussions come two weeks before the European Union is scheduled to ban imports of Iranian oil.
4. But Moscow is now "make or break". Either the US and Europe find enough to reverse the 1 July ban on Iranian oil, or the negotiations will break down with Iran's declaration that the West will accept nothing less than its capitulation.