Why Israel, Gulf states are wary of Iran nuclear talks

(CNN) – TOlli Heinonen, the former deputy director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency recently asserted that Iran having passed the “point of no return” in its nuclear weapons program could within two weeks have the ability to enrich enough missile-grade uranium to build a bomb.
Yet U.S.-led direct negotiations with Iran broke down in Geneva while the potential remains for the unraveling of sanctions. Israel wants Iran’s enrichment of uranium set back by 12 months along with the dismantling of numerous centrifuges. The U.S., however, is willing to set it back by five months. Israel fears the problem with the U.S. timeline is if Iran kicks out inspectors, Washington would not have sufficient time to gear up militarily.

At Geneva, Iran opposed suspending work on its plutonium-producing reactor at Arak and downgrade its stockpile of higher-enriched uranium. Israel notes that recently Iran has planned for 34 new nuclear sites to be constructed along the country’s Persian Gulf and Caspian coasts. Alaeddin Boroujerdi, the head of the Iranian parliament’s foreign affairs committee recently asserted that Iran will never agree to dismantle the Fordow uranium enrichment facility. Ilan Berman, the Vice President of the American Foreign Policy Center notes that this was a key concession that officials in the U.S. and Europe had expected Iran to make.

GCC countries such as Saudi Arabia and UAE have been able to push back against U.S.-led negotiations with Iran by allowing countries like France to curry favor with them. Thus it is possible that France scuttled the deal on offer in Geneva in order to win energy and military contracts in Saudi Arabia and the UAE at the U.S.’s expense. France has also increased defence ties with Israel. For these reasons there is little chance that Israel and Saudi Arabia will not lobby to derail P5+1 talks when they reconvene in November 20.

Read Full Article: CNN

Barak Seener is the CEO of Strategic Intelligentia and a former Middle East Fellow at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI). He is on Twitter at @BarakSeener.

Give the IAEA Teeth

(The National Interest) – The Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) does not currently provide the sufficient tools to counter the rising threats of nuclear proliferation. The progress of rogue states such as Iran and North Korea toward becoming established nuclear states has prompted great concern that other countries may proceed in the same manner, and develop their own nuclear programs. Reports convened by the IAEA, UN and the U.S. Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) have all expressed concern over the prospect of increased proliferation. The NPR report states: The reports from the IAEA and UN gave a similar outlook toward the possible spread of technologies allowing states to produce nuclear-weapons materials. Though the issue of nuclear proliferation is of vital importance to policy makers, the NPT won’t be able to deal with the rising risk of nonproliferation.

President Obama has noted that the NPT is “starting to fray around the edges over the last several years,” and has consequently expressed a commitment to revamp the U.S.’s nuclear strategy, though he has affirmed his faith in the Treaty. But his goodwill won’t resolve the main problem—namely, that the necessary mechanisms to verify the development of nuclear materials in other countries, let alone to enforce the provisions of the NPT, have not been implemented. Because of the bureaucratic nature of the IAEA, this issue will most likely not be successfully and adequately addressed during the May NPT Review Conference. So far, all statements from the IAEA criticizing the noncompliance of various regimes have been half-hearted and effectively inadequate, showing its shortcomings in addressing rule breakers.

The purpose of the May meeting is to assess “how well the provisions of the NPT have been implemented and for charting a course forward.” The Carnegie Endowment’s Deepti Choubey, has noted that previous preparatory conferences have failed both to provide such assessments and discuss substantive issues, instead only managing to approve the agenda. These conferences do provide the framework for progress, though obstacles to success remain. For example, during the 2008 preparatory meetings, the participating parties’ inability to reach a consensus created a deadlock, which prevented summaries from being attached to the formal report of the conference. Similar institutional defects will probably prevent the success of this year’s conference.

Read Full Article: The National Interest

Barak Seener is the CEO of Strategic Intelligentia and a former Middle East Fellow at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI). He is on Twitter at @BarakSeener.

Can the IAEA Be Saved?

(InFocus) – When the International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA) was established in 1957, it was largely a technically-oriented body focused on the peaceful uses of atomic energy in accordance with U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s vision of “Atoms for Peace.” The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), signed 11 years later in 1968, was designed to enforce this vision of peace. However, the system has been beset with flaws from its inception. It was based on the notion that all states would be honest about their nuclear programs, and their intentions. Accordingly, there are no enforcement provisions.

The IAEA has, over time, lost sight of its original mission. Rather than performing technical studies to assess the nuclear capacity of states and leaving the political considerations to the United Nations Security Council, the IAEA has strayed into the business of international politics. In this capacity, it has too often apologized for proliferators rather than hindering their illicit actions.

The Paradox of the NPT

The NPT, which is essentially the IAEA’s mandate, has made headlines of late. Faced with the challenge of thwarting Iranian attempts to harness nuclear energy for weapons, U.S. President Barack Obama has underscored the importance of the NPT’s three pillars: non-proliferation, disarmament, and the right to civilian nuclear activities.

These pillars, however, are not always easy to reconcile. Several of the President’s recent speeches underscore this. For example, in his Prague speech, on April 5, 2009, Obama declared that the international community must support his vision of a world without nuclear weapons. Yet, Obama also stated that, “as long as these [nuclear] weapons exist, the United States will maintain a safe, secure, and effective arsenal to deter any adversary, and guarantee that defense to our allies.” So much for disarmament.

Then, in a speech from Cairo two months later, Obama stated, “No single nation should pick and choose which nation holds nuclear weapons.” This seems to undercut the notion that the U.S. has the right to impose economic sanctions against offending states. So much for non-proliferation

Finally, Obama has repeatedly underscored the right of any state to develop nuclear power for civilian purposes. Yet, the IAEA lacks the ability to ensure that these programs are strictly for civilian use.

Read Full Article: InFocus

Barak Seener is the CEO of Strategic Intelligentia and a former Middle East Fellow at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI). He is on Twitter at @BarakSeener.