Iran Brief—Nuclear investigation “not an endless process” and other news

The IAEA director general urged Iran to fulfill its transparency obligations, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei criticized U.S.’s strategy against ISIS, and more in this week’s edition of the Belfer Iran Brief, covering September 9—September 15.

By Henry Rome

Highlights:

  • IAEA said its investigation is “not an endless process,” as Iran pledged to complete transparency measures.
  • Two-thirds of Iranian youth use the internet and 70% said they use software to evade government’s censorship of sites, according to a new poll.
  • Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei said he rejected U.S. appeals for assistance against ISIS, telling reporters: “I opposed it and said we will not cooperate with the Americans in this regard since they have a corrupt intention and stained hands.”

Diplomacy and nuclear issue

  • IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano addressed Iran’s failure to meet several transparency milestones, saying “this is not an endless process.” He predicted that if Iran cooperated with the IAEA investigation, conclusions could be made in 15 months or less. But Amano added that IAEA would publish findings regardless, allowing member nations to draw their own conclusions. (Reuters, 9/15;AP, 9/15)
    • Reza Najafi, Iran’s ambassador to IAEA, rejected assertions that “deadlock” exists between Iran and IAEA over nuclear program and said “we are ready to complete” additional measures. (Reuters, 9/9)
    • Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi, one of Iran’s nuclear negotiators, said a “difficult road” lies ahead during negotiations. (AFP, 9/11)
    • Iranian negotiators are slated to meet with E.U. representatives on Wednesday in New York. (Press TV, 9/14)
  • A recent Iranian exhibition of nuclear components said to be sabotaged “reveals the importance of non-Western countries, such as China, as key locations for Iran’s dual-use procurement.” (King’s College London, 9/4; also see related report by Institute for Science and International Security, 9/10).
    • Additionally, “exhibition of allegedly sabotaged equipment has highlighted Iran’s long-known preference for European and US-origin dual-use controlled goods, such as vacuum pumps and pressure transducers.”
  • Iran’s atomic energy organization announced plans to construct two additional nuclear power plants in Bushehr. Iran said it was in final negotiations with the Russians on construction, which could begin in the next six months. (Press TV, 9/15; Fars News, 9/15)

Sanctions and Iran’s economy

  • Iran is expanding its capability to store crude oil on land, which could free up oil tankers to broaden oil trade. (Reuters, 9/11)
  • Russian officials visited Iran to pledge increased economic ties between the two countries. Iran’s Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh said: “God willing, we will quickly increase the level of relations up to more than 10 times.” (AP, 9/9)

Iranian domestic politics

Two girls use Facebook in a Tehran coffee shop
October 13, 2013 – Two girls use Facebook in a north Tehran coffee shop. A recent survey found that two thirds of Iranian youth use the internet. (Kaveh Kazemi/Getty Images)
  • Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei was discharged from a Tehran hospital after prostate surgery. (Press TV, 9/15)
  • A new United Nations report criticized President Hassan Rouhani for failing to live up to promises to improve human rights, including religious freedom and freedom of expression. Iran rejected the accuracy of the report. (Reuters, 9/12)
  • Two-thirds of Iranian youth use internet and 70% said they use software to evade government’s censorship of sites. (Tehran Times, 9/9)
    • When asked for their biggest worries, 30% indicated financial concerns and another 30% selected unemployment.
  • Iran is fielding Khalij Fars (Persian Gulf) anti-ship ballistic missile system to “operational units.” With reported range of 300 km, “it is capable of threatening maritime activity throughout the Persian Gulf and Strait of Hormuz,” according to a Pentagon report. (Jane’s 360, 9/8)
  • Iran’s Culture Ministry reportedly has shut down several conservative news sites critical of Rouhani. (Al-Monitor, 9/10)

US-Iran relations

  • Henry Kissinger, on heels of the release of his new book, told NPR “I consider Iran a bigger problem than ISIS. ISIS is a group of adventurers with a very aggressive ideology. But they have to conquer more and more territory before they can became a geo-strategic, permanent reality. I think a conflict with ISIS — important as it is — is more manageable than a confrontation with Iran.” (NPR, 9/6)
  • See “Geopolitics and Iran.”

Geopolitics and Iran

  • Khamenei said Iran rejected U.S. requests to coordinate actions against ISIS. He said that Secretary of State John Kerry and Undersecretary for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman both requested Iranian assistance.
    • Khamenei, quoted in state media: “I opposed it and said we will not cooperate with the Americans in this regard since they have a corrupt intention and stained hands. And how could we have cooperation with the Americans under such conditions?” (Fars News, 9/15)
    • Neither Iran nor Syria were invited to Paris conference regarding ISIS.
    • Kerry said he would not rule out non-military cooperation with Iran, but later added, “We are not coordinating with Iran. Period….I’m not going to get into a back and forth.” (AP, 9/15; Reuters 9/15)
    • Iranian border guards arrested three people from Afghanistan and Pakistan suspected of attempting to transit Iran to join ISIS. (AP, 9/9)
    • ISIS’ advance has derailed planned completion of natural gas pipeline between Iran and Iraq. (AP, 9/10)
  • Revolutionary Guard forces repelled attack from militants based in Pakistan, who sought to seize base near Saravan, Iran. (Press TV, 9/9)
  • Rouhani congratulated Iraq on selection of new Prime Minister, Haider al-Abadi. (Tehran Times, 9/10)

Israel

  • Israeli defense minister Moshe Ya’alon visited Azerbaijan to meet with senior officials and support Israeli defense companies participating in Azeri exhibition. (Globes, 9/10; Times of Israel, 9/10) Note: It was the first visit by an Israeli defense minister to Azerbaijan, an Israeli ally.
    • Israeli drone shot down by Revolutionary Guard in August may have originated in Azerbaijan, Iran said. Meanwhile, Iran requested that IAEA condemn Israel’s alleged drone surveillance. (Press TV, 9/10)

Source: Henry Rome is a research assistant at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.

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