Nuclear Issue

  • 2021-01-28

    The net result of Iran’s uranium metal factory would be to turn 20 percent enriched UF6 into another form that is not suitable for enrichment. That is a commendable nonproliferation goal. When the IAEA totals Iran’s inventories of LEU and different forms of material—such as UF6 or fuel compounds—the 20 percent material no longer in enrichable form should be inventoried as material no longer appropriate for a weapons program. However, there are a few other footnotes about Iran’s production of uranium metal that are concerning. Iran could gain industrial knowledge of how to make weapons metal that could be useful in the future. A first-generation uranium nuclear weapon uses about 12 kilograms of weapons-grade metal, according to open sources. That is a very small amount especially if one weapon per year is a goal. It can be done in a small industrial laboratory, not a factory. On the other hand, natural uranium—and depleted uranium—can be used in armor-penetrating conventional bullets. These bullets are deadly and effective in conventional engagements between tank armies,. The quantities needed for a military campaign are in the tens or hundreds of tons, as the US has demonstrated in places such as Kuwait and Kosovo. This requires a factory, but the material is not enriched at all and, thus, is completely different from a nuclear weapons program. Iran’s growing stockpile of 20 percent UF6 is far less worrisome when it is converted to a form not suitable for further enrichment. This is a nonproliferation victory.

  • 2021-01-27

    In the coming weeks, TRANSITION 2021 memos by Washington Institute for Near East Policy will address the broad issues facing the Biden administration in the West Asia region. These range from the region’s strategic position in the context of Great Power competition, Iran’s nuclear program, and how to most effectively elevate human rights and democracy in West Asia. Arab-Israel normalization diplomacy, Red Sea security as well as challenges and opportunities in northwest Africa will be addressed. In advance of the event, the think tank’s comments on the Islamic Republic of Iran is worth deliberating. “Less for less” to get “more for more” Dennis Ross, a former special assistant to President Barack Obama, provides an approach to reengaging Iran in nuclear diplomacy to preserve what he calls U.S. negotiating leverage and strengthen American alliances in Europe and across West Asia. He proposes an alternative “less for less” approach toward Iran for the U.S. to get “more for more”. 

  • 2021-01-27

    Dr. Ravanchi is Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations and his country’s highest-ranking diplomat in the United States. He helped negotiate the 2015 nuclear agreement, from which former President Donald Trump withdrew the United States in 2018, and which President Biden has said he wants to rejoin. Iran is now in violation of some terms of the agreement but has said there is a window to revive the deal.

  • 2021-01-22

    A host of former Iranian deputy foreign ministers and ambassadors have issued a statement on Iran’s expectations of new US President Joe Biden.The full text of the statement follows.

  • 2021-01-21

    Russia’s Permanent Representative to the International Organizations in Vienna Mikhail Ulyanov said the US return to the Iran nuclear deal should not be coupled with any preconditions under the new administration of Joe Biden.Answering to a question about the potential timeframe of the US return to the Iran nuclear deal, during a televised interview with Rossiya’24 news channel on Wednesday, Ulyanov replied, "I’d say that we all urgently need that the first signs of normalization will appear in February, since under the law recently passed by Iran’s Majlis (parliament), unless progress is made, as early as on February 21 Tehran is to terminate the appliance of the Additional Protocol and the Safeguards Agreement it signed with the IAEA (the International Atomic Energy Agency), and that will dramatically reduce the chances of inspecting the state of affairs in Iran’s nuclear program."  Ulyanov recalled that Iran would hold the presidential election in June. Therefore, "the window of opportunity is very narrow," the Russian envoy to Vienna added

  • 2021-01-21

    The Biden administration must resist pressure from members of Congress and others who are urging an unconditional return to the JCPOA. Even the deal’s fervent supporters need to recognize that its fundamental assumptions—that Iran had abandoned its quest for a military nuclear option and would moderate its behavior—have been thoroughly disproved. At the same time, America must consult its Middle East allies about what they think a better deal would look like. Such a deal would verifiably and permanently remove Iran’s ability to develop nuclear weapons. This means not merely mothballing the nuclear infrastructure, but eliminating it. It means empowering international inspectors with unlimited and immediate access to any suspect enrichment or weaponization site. It means maintaining economic and diplomatic pressure on the regime until it truly comes clean about its undeclared nuclear activities and ceases to develop missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads. A better deal will deny Iran the ability to commit the violations it is now committing with impunity. […] The JCPOA is also incompatible with President Biden’s long-standing commitment to Israel’s security. At a 2015 gathering celebrating Israel’s independence, then–Vice President Biden said: “Israel is absolutely essential—absolutely essential—[for the] security of Jews around the world … Imagine what it would say about humanity and the future of the 21st century if Israel were not sustained, vibrant and free.” Reviving the JCPOA will endanger that vision, ensuring the emergence of a nuclear Iran or a desperate war to stop it. Biden is a proven friend who has shared Israel’s hopes and fears. He must prevent that nightmare.

  • 2021-01-21

    One of the early priorities of the new Biden administration has to be rejoining the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), and they can expect to encounter stiff resistance from the Iran hawks that have been working overtime to destroy the agreement for the last five and a half years. Hard-liners have already fired off two salvos with an article in The Atlantic and an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal this week. The first is supposed to be a “case against the nuclear deal,” but it might as well be titled “the case against diplomacy with Iran.” Michael Oren and Yossi Klein Halevi misrepresent what the JCPOA does, exaggerate the benefits that Iran is supposed to get (but has never actually received), and cling to an absurd maximalist demand of “zero enrichment” that Iran would never accept. It is very much the same tedious and disingenuous argument that we have heard before, and we can expect to hear it repeated many more times in the coming months. […] Assuming the other parties to the deal reciprocate by holding up their end of the bargain, Iran will ratify in 2023 the IAEA’s Additional Protocol, which allows short-notice inspections of undeclared facilities in Iran and which it is now voluntarily implementing. To date, no country on earth has developed nuclear weapons under the watchful eyes of the IAEA’s inspectors who are empowered by the access that the Additional Protocol affords them.

  • 2021-01-19

    Although reviving the agreement is certainly still possible, it won’t be easy. The two sides will need to overcome nine hurdles to make it happen. […] Despite these hurdles, Biden should nevertheless seek a reentry into the deal. Only a clean and full implementation by all parties can save the world’s most comprehensive nuclear agreement, contain rising US-Iran tensions, and open the path toward more confidence building measures. That path should include, upon Biden’s issuing an executive order to rejoin the JCPOA, the creation of a working committee of parties to the agreement tasked with ensuring full compliance by all signatories, and a forum, organized by the UN secretary general, in which Iran and the Gulf countries can discuss a new structure for improving security and cooperation in the region.

  • 2021-01-19

    Of all the pressing issues in the volatile Middle East, the most pressing for the Biden administration will be Iran’s controversial nuclear program. Joe Biden pledged to rejoin the landmark nuclear deal negotiated between Iran and the six major world powers in 2015. “If Iran returns to strict compliance with the nuclear deal, the United States would rejoin the agreement as a starting point for follow-on negotiations,” he wrote in an op-ed for CNN in September 2020. But rejoining the nuclear agreement will not be easy. The Islamic Republic continued to comply with its obligations for more than a year after President Donald Trump abandoned it in May 2018. In July 2019, Tehran began breaching the agreement. Iran’s breaches had been largely incremental and calibrated until the assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, a top nuclear scientist, on November 27.

  • 2021-01-15

    The era of U.S. “maximum pressure” may be drawing to an end. At this juncture lies promise as well as peril: reviving U.S.-Iran diplomatic engagement on the JCPOA’s original basis could restore the agreement’s considerable non-proliferation benefits, revive contacts that withered under the Trump administration, and offer at least the prospect of discussing issues outside the nuclear file in a constructive rather than adversarial manner. For either side to subject such diplomacy to leverage-focused one-upmanship and additional demands would be a recipe for deadlock that is as predictable as it is avoidable. Instead, Iran should return to full compliance with its JCPOA commitments in exchange for a swift U.S. re-entry into the deal and lifting of Trump-era sanctions imposed in contravention of the accord. Such concerted forward movement should guide the two sides toward a clean revival of the existing JCPOA framework. But there are risks: in Iran’s case, failure to reasonably engage with the Biden administration could sap what international sympathy it has won as the aggrieved party following the Trump administration’s withdrawal from the agreement. Were Iran to proceed with further nuclear provocations, it might find itself seen by not just the U.S. but also the E3 as the unreasonable party. For Washington and the P4+1, with Iran’s June presidential polls looming, it is vital to deliver the financial dividends that Tehran, with some justification, sees as the unrealised return for its own nuclear commitments and JCPOA compliance prior to U.S. “maximum pressure”. Rouhani’s departure may not prove fatal to diplomacy, but there is no reason not to seize the opportunity between now and then to make as much progress as possible.

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