NEW Transcript: Obama and Sarkozy Statements on Iran Nuclear Programme
NEW Iran: Obama's "Get-Tough" Move for Engagement
Iran: Rafsanjani, Ahmadinejad, and the Multi-Sided Chess Match
Latest Video: Full Speech of Ahmadinejad at UN General Assembly
Iran: English Text of Letters between Mousavi and Montazeri (13 and 22 September)
1835 GMT: Report that Azar Mansouri, deputy head of the Islamic Iran Participation Front, has been arrested after an interview with Norooz.
1735 GMT: Is Iran's "Secret Nuclear Plant" Legal? The quick soundbite for Time from its interview with President Ahmadinejad is ""This does not mean we must inform Mr. Obama's administration of every facility that we have."
However, Ahmadinejad may have a point, one which is relevant to the current case. Iran notified the IAEA on Monday that it was constructing a new pilot enrichment plant. If Tehran has not put nuclear material into this facility, Iran is in compliance with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty's Comprehensive Full Scope Safeguards Agreement, which requires it to a six-month notification period before nuclear material is put in the facility. (Iran withdrew from the more Subsidiary Agreement 3.1, which requires more detailed and timely notification, after the International Atomic Energy Agency referred Iran's nuclear program to the U.N. Security Council.
So the case to prosecute Iran under the Non-Proliferation Treaty is not clear-cut. Of course, the US can and will rely upon the U.N. Security Council resolutions demanding that Iran cease all enrichment. Whether other countries (China, Russia) take the same line remains to be seen.
1730 GMT: President Ahmadinejad may have backed out of an encounter with the New York media, but he did give a one-on-one video interview to Time magazine. We've posted in a separate entry.
1700 GMT: President Ahmadinejad has replaced his New York press conference with an interview with Press TV.
1500 GMT: We've just posted Chris Emery's shrewd analysis of the politics of the US revelation of the "secret nuclear plant" and the Obama statement: "This high-profile initiative by Obama was designed to get movement on engagement."
1425 GMT: Amidst the continuing chatter on the Obama statement --- no additional information, just the theme of "He was Really Tough" --- news services drop in this interesting twist "Ahmadinejad cancels his 5 pm EST (2100 GMT) speech in NYC [New York City]".
1245 GMT: The Obama Line. The President has just made his statement on the Iran "secret nuclear plant". The message? This demonstrates Iran's "continuing unwillingness" to meets its "international obligations" on development of nuclear capability. This showed the "urgency" of resolution at talks with Iran on 1 October in Geneva.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy has backed this up by saying "everything must be put on the table", and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has proclaimed this "the most urgent problem" of today.
This feels more and more like a scripted play. The "West" has known for some time that Iran was constructing a second uranium enrichment plant but had not announced this to the International Atomic Energy Agency. Tehran figured out that the US had learned of the plant and was preparing a big setpiece, ahead of the 1 October talks, to reveal the Iranian duplicity. So Iran went to the IAEA on Monday to put its plans above-board. This, however, was not going to deflect the US-UK-France scheme to put Iran on the defensive in advance of the first direct discussions between Washington and Tehran.
1220 GMT: By the way, there was a Friday Prayer address today. After the drama of recent weeks, this one, by hard-line Government supporter and head of the Guardian Council Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, went almost unnoticed.
Nothing much new here. Jannati talks about triumph over "the enemy" through the political, military, and regional power of Iran and invokes the Holy Defense of the 1980-1988 war against Iraq. Like the Supreme Leader, he portrayed the demonstrations of Qods Day and Eid-ul-Fitr as Iranian support for the world's oppressed, and he condemned the tragedy of the assassination of the Kurdestan member of the Assembly of Experts.
1210 GMT: And Here's You Obama Administration Line. A "senior Administration source" uses one of the reliable channels (i.e. will put out the message as presented, will not look behind or beyond it), ABC's Jake Tapper: "[Obama] to express 'great and increasing doubts about the strictly peaceful nature' of Iran's nuclear program"
1200 GMT: NBC's Ann Curry nails the politics on the "secret nuclear plant" story, and she only needs 1 Tweet to do it: "Remember the US and Iran about to negotiate. The West has an interest in increasing the pressure now."
1145 GMT: The Iran State Line. Press TV, in an article posted this morning, does not address the "secret nuclear plant" story but refers to French and British allegations of an Iranian nuclear progamme, made during the exchanges at the United Nations this week, as "totally baseless and untrue". The Iranian UN mission added that remarks by French President Nicolas Sarkozy were a "futile attempt aimed to cover up [French] non-compliance with its international disarmament obligations".
1050 GMT: So the story of Iran's "secret nuclear plant" (which isn't secret, since Tehran informed the International Atomic Agency of the construction of the uranium enrichment facility on Monday) is going to dominate the news cycle, as every US and many international outlets rush lemming-like to the tale and President Obama makes a statement at 1230 GMT.
If only someone takes a step back to note this comment from CNN's Fareed Zakaria, made after President Ahmadinejad's UN speech: "Ahmadinejad has been on a campaign over the last few weeks to change the subject. His great fear was that he would come to New York and the subject would be the Iranian regime and his massive repression of the Iranian democracy movement, the street protests, all the allegations being made by Iranians of what is happening in Iran --- rape, torture, abuse. What he wanted to do was to talk about anything but that."
0900 GMT: Ahmadinejad's Useful US Idiots. I was going to write the following analysis for Saturday, but events prompt me to offer a preview:
Ahmadinejad was on verge of major mis-step by playing New York trip as sign that all now resolved at home. 'West', however, played into his hands by raising Iran (and Ahmadinejad) to iconic threat on nuke issue. And Netanyahu gives kiss of death to opposition by praising their supposed aim of regime change. So the President gets to do his aggressive defend-Iran thing, getting more legitimacy out of West than he has many of his own people.
Five minutes after jotting this down, I read the Administration's latest strategic masterpiece in The New York Times, courtesy of David Sanger (who seems to have no recognition that he is a messenger-boy);
President Obama and the leaders of Britain and France will accuse Iran Friday of building a secret underground plant to manufacture nuclear fuel, saying it has hidden the covert operation for years from international weapons inspectors, according to senior administration officials.
Well done, guys. Instead of keeping your mouths shut and letting Ahmadinejad return to political complications at home, you've given him the ideal platform to pose as defender of Iranian sovereignty. And watch how your PR stick, wielded just before talks with Iran on 1 October, is turned into a stick by the President, his allies, and his supportive State media to bash "foreign-directed" reformists and the Green movement at home.
0650 GMT: Catching up, indeed. Even though the EA roadtrip was less than 72 hours, there appears to be a month's worth of incidents to consider. Forget the Ahmadinejad sideshow in New York; the events in and around the Assembly of Experts offer a plethora of possibilities. We've attempted an analysis,
"Rafsanjani, Ahmadinejad, and the Multi-Sided Chess Match", this morning.
Of course, state media features Ayatollah Khamenei's address to the Assembly of Experts, but it also keeps playing up President Ahmadinejad's defiance of the "West", from his warning against sanctions to his explanation that "Down with the US" refers to the "ugly behavior" of the American Government.