No New Dawn Likely in US-Iran Relations

Obama phoning Rouhani

President Barack Obama talks with President Hassan Rouhani of Iran during a phone call in the Oval Office, Sept. 27, 2013. Photo: The White House.

Iran has a new president, Hassan Rouhani. He speaks eloquently about wanting a rapprochement with the West and of a desire to refrain from developing a nuclear weapons programme. The Obama administration has responded by opening the first serious high level diplomatic engagement with Iran since 1979. The two leaders have even spoken by phone. But, the odds are that this is a waste of time despite Rohani’s insistence that the environment for negotiations is ‘quite different‘ from that of the past.

Any official representative of the Iranian regime cannot be trusted. The regime has frequently used brinkmanship tactics over the nuclear issue for its own benefit. This takes the familiar form of Iran coming to the table when it feels the squeeze of negative attention and/or sanctions. After a period of ‘diplomacy’ Iran then retreats from the talks and goes back to the business of being a pariah state. Meanwhile, an unbroken pursuit of attaining mastery over the nuclear cycle goes on. The goal always has been for Iran to have a nuclear option due to its precarious regional situation in which it is under threat from all directions, including internal. This pattern has repeated itself so often in the last decade that there is no reason to believe Rouhani this time. » More

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India and the Nuclear Grey Zone

Agni-II missile

Agni-II missile. Photo: Antônio Milena/Wikimedia Commons.

India’s status as a military power is underlined by its possession of nuclear weapons. Nevertheless, India’s nuclear weapons program is not permitted under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), and New Delhi has elected to remain outside of the formal non-proliferation regime. This ambiguous position has become increasingly accepted by members of the regime, but it represents a challenge for global non-proliferation, because there is no incentive for the country to engage in disarmament or to stem proliferation while this status quo continues. Moreover, India’s place as an accepted nuclear weapons state outside of nuclear regulatory frameworks could significantly impact global non-proliferation efforts. » More

Coercive Sanctions and Military Threats Push Iran Closer to the Nuclear Threshold

The former US embassy in Tehran

The former US embassy in Tehran. Photo: Örlygur Hnefill/flickr.

Iran’s nuclear activities are being portrayed in an alarmist and irrational way in the United States, and political rhetoric only pushes Iran closer to creating a nuclear weapon, said David Cortright, Director of Policy Studies at the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies and an expert on nuclear dangers and sanctions.

The international community needs to do everything possible to prevent Iran from gaining nuclear weapons capability, said Mr. Cortright in a phone interview with the Global Observatory, cautioning that “…it’s a very dangerous game, because the very act of threatening military action against Iran is likely to eventually motivate them to go ahead and build the bomb.” » More

Iran in 2013: the Year of Not Living so Dangerously?

President of Iran Addresses General Assembly

President of Iran addresses UNGA. Photo: United Nations Photo/flickr.

Despite eight months of negotiations with the E3+3, Iran remains committed to its highly-controversial nuclear program. Talks over the past year followed a similar pattern to previous discussions, with the E3+3 failing in its attempts to establish the true nature of Tehran’s ambitions. Negotiations were also conducted against the backdrop of growing political unrest across the Middle East and the prospect of an Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear facilities. Yet despite continued frustration and the growing threat of conflict, 2013 might turn out to be the year in which negotiations take a turn for the better.

In terms of improving dialogue with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Iran appears determined to pick up where it left off in December 2012. Despite failing to agree upon a framework for the future inspection of Iranian nuclear facilities, both sides will resume talks on February 12th. Back in August, the IAEA also reported that Iran’s stockpile of 20% enriched uranium had remained unchanged since May, when Tehran converted supplies for medical purposes.

Another source of inspiration may come from the re-election of Barack Obama. In remarks made shortly after his victory, the U.S. President reiterated the importance of negotiating with Iran. Along with promises to push for the resumption of direct dialogue with Tehran, Obama also openly suggested that Iran might be able to maintain a low-scale nuclear program on condition that it provides credible evidence that it is being used for peaceful purposes. » More

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Global Zero at Ground Zero

Nuclear bomb explosion (montage)

Nuclear bomb explosion (montage). Image: Madison Guy/flicker.

MADRID – Since its launch in December 2008, Global Zero, the vision of a world without nuclear weapons, has run up against some formidable challenges. One is related to the readiness of the two major nuclear powers, Russia and the United States, to move from the stockpile reductions to which they agreed in the New START treaty to complete elimination of their nuclear arsenals. Others concern smaller nuclear powers’ willingness to go along, and whether reliable inspection, verification, and enforcement systems can be put in place.

But these issues are not the real problem. Although Russia and the US possess roughly 90% of the world’s nuclear warheads, their nuclear capabilities are less of a threat than is the danger of proliferation. It is this fear of a fast-growing number of nuclear-armed states, not the fine balancing of the US and Russian nuclear arsenals, that the case for Global Zero must address. Indeed, addressing the underlying security concerns that fuel nuclear competition in regional trouble spots is more important to the credibility of Global Zero’s goal of “a world without nuclear weapons” than is encouraging exemplary behavior by the two major nuclear powers.

After all, North Korea, India, Pakistan, Iran, and Israel might not be particularly impressed by a reduction in the US and Russian nuclear-weapons stockpiles from gross overkill to merely mild overkill. There is a stark lack of synchrony between the (admittedly qualified) improvement in the two major nuclear powers’ bilateral relations and conditions in volatile regions around the world. » More

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