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Iranian Basij paramilitary forces take part in a rally marking al-Quds (Jerusalem) Day near a Shahab-3 missile (background) on a street in Tehran, on Apr. 29. AFP via Getty Images

A decade ago, then-Israeli defense minister Ehud Barak would regularly come to Washington and hold high-level meetings with senior officials in the Obama administration. Iran’s nuclear program was the central focus of those meetings, and I recall his frequent admonition: “You say there is time to deal with it, but I fear we will be told this until we are told, ‘it is too late and there is nothing to be done but live with it.’” I was one of those in the U.S. government reassuring him that we would not let this happen.

However, with Rafael Grossi, director of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), now saying the Iranian nuclear program “is galloping ahead”, I fear that Barak’s words may have been prophetic.…  Seguir leyendo »

Rafael Grossi, the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, holds a press conference at the agency's headquarters in Vienna, on March 1, 2021. JOE KLAMAR/AFP via Getty Images

“Grossi is still the main obstacle to the finalization” of a nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers, proclaimed Nour News, an outlet frequently used by Iran’s supreme leader for unofficial commentary. Rafael Grossi, the director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), may in fact be the last man standing against a shorter, weaker version of the 2015 nuclear deal that would irreparably harm the nuclear nonproliferation regime. Despite imminent pressure from all sides, including Washington, Grossi is refusing to close his agency’s probe into Tehran’s suspect atomic activities to pave the way for the accord’s revival.

Iran demands the permanent closure of the IAEA’s four-year-old investigation before a new deal can unfold, aiming to keep its nuclear weapons work hidden from the prying eyes of inspectors.…  Seguir leyendo »

Desde la revolución que destronó al Sha Reza Palehevi en 1979, Irán es el único país del mundo dirigido por clérigos (si no tenemos en cuenta el Vaticano, que es un estado sui generis), donde religión y política están intrínsecamente unidos. El Presidente actual, elegido en 2021, Ibrahim Raisi lo es, así como el veterano, Líder Supremo de la revolución, Ali Khamenei. El código civil y el código penal de la era anterior, que eran laicos, fueron sustituidos por la sharia o ley islàmica.

Irán es un país con una gran historia, mayoritariamente chií al 90 por ciento, que aspira a a ser la potencia chií líder en el mundo.…  Seguir leyendo »

An Iranian man looks at exchange rates in Tehran on June 15. ATTA KENARE/AFP via Getty Images

The Iran nuclear deal recently marked its seventh anniversary—but it may well turn out to be its last. Despite a year of negotiations in Vienna, which nearly delivered an agreement on how the United States and Iran would return to full compliance with the nuclear deal, the process is now on the verge of collapse.

All parties to the deal share blame, and they all stand to lose. For the West, there will be a dramatic setback for nonproliferation efforts in the Middle East. The failure of the nuclear deal also risks military escalation in a region playing a crucial role during the global energy crisis triggered by Russia’s war in Ukraine.…  Seguir leyendo »

Missiles near Tehran, September 2010. Morteza Nikoubazl / Reuters

Last month, Iran’s nuclear program entered dangerous new territory: Tehran now possesses enough highly enriched uranium for a nuclear bomb. That material, enriched to 60 percent, would need to be further enriched to roughly 90 percent—so-called weapons-grade uranium—before it could be used in a nuclear weapon. But that process, known as “breakout”, will now take just weeks due to Iran’s advances since 2019, when Tehran began casting off the constraints of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal following the U.S. withdrawal from the agreement. Although this action alone would not give Iran a bomb, it is the most important step in building one.…  Seguir leyendo »

Since last April, the U.S. has been engaged in indirect negotiations with Iran on restoring the 2015 deal limiting Tehran's nuclear program known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA. If these talks succeed, or should they fail, the impact will reverberate across a range of issues beyond the nonproliferation file over which Washington and Tehran are at odds.

When the Trump administration withdrew from the JCPOA in 2018, it laid out 12 demands addressing various aspects of Iranian policy it wanted Tehran to change. Of the concerns it identified, three directly dealt with the nuclear program, and one addressed bilateral issues—namely, the release of U.S.…  Seguir leyendo »

The first day of Iran nuclear talks in Vienna, Austria, on 29 November 2021. Photo by EU Vienna Delegation/Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images.

The Iran nuclear negotiations in Vienna, aimed at resurrecting the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) after President Trump’s 2018 withdrawal, have entered their eighth round. After a number of delays and disagreements, the US, UK, France, Germany, Russia and China (known as the P5+1) and Iran, led by the new Raisi administration, finally appear to be making progress at the technical level. This is partly due to Russia and China helping to steer Iran back to what had already been agreed and partly because the so-called Plan B scenarios remain so unappealing to all parties.

The JCPOA is a hugely complex, 154-page technical agreement.…  Seguir leyendo »

L’installation d’enrichissement atomique de la centrale de Natanz, à 300 kilomètres de Téhéran. Archives AFP

Tous les problèmes dans les affaires internationales n’ont pas de solutions que les parties concernées sont prêtes à poursuivre dans le temps et de la manière nécessaires pour réussir. Le problème du nucléaire iranien avait trouvé une solution via l’Accord de Vienne (JCPOA) de 2015. Il n’était pas parfait, mais il avait permis de stabiliser la situation en empêchant l’Iran d’avoir des armes nucléaires, jusqu’à ce qu’il soit mis à terre par le président Donald Trump et ses partisans en mai 2018. Désormais, l’ombre d’une crise nucléaire pointe de nouveau à l’horizon avec peu d’espoir d’issue.

Pour comprendre pourquoi la crise semble politiquement impossible à résoudre, il faut considérer les perspectives des trois antagonistes.…  Seguir leyendo »

En 1977, Yigael Yadin, el entonces viceprimer ministro de Israel, preguntó al Presidente egipcio Anwar el-Sadat, que se encontraba en su histórica visita a Jerusalén, por qué el ejército egipcio no había invadido los pasos del Sinaí en la Guerra de Yom Kippur de 1973. “¿No ha escuchado que ustedes los israelíes cuentan con armas nucleares?, fue la respuesta.

Por supuesto que se rumoreaba que Israel poseía capacidades nucleares. Hasta el día de hoy, el país nunca ha confirmado oficialmente la existencia de un programa nuclear. Sin embargo, este secreto tan mal guardado ha determinado por largo tiempo el panorama político de la región, y disuadido a los enemigos de Israel.…  Seguir leyendo »

Having spent a couple decades in and around failing Arab-Israeli negotiations, I know a negotiation that's in serious trouble when I see one. The Iran nuclear negotiations that resumed this week in Vienna after a suspension of almost five months are a case in point.

Indeed, right now, probably neither the Biden administration nor Iran's Supreme Leader believes a mutually acceptable agreement is feasible. And it's not so certain that one of the parties -- Iran, which seems to be using the talks as cover to ramp up its nuclear program -- believes that an accord is even desirable right now.…  Seguir leyendo »

Las negociaciones entre Irán y Estados Unidos sobre las actividades nucleares iraníes van a reanudarse el 29 de noviembre. Pero si bien muchos recibirán con beneplácito este desarrollo, deberían tener en mente que las conversaciones probablemente no tengan éxito. Y si lo tienen, ningún acuerdo resolverá la presión de Irán por una primacía regional –o por armas nucleares.

Primero, algo de historia. En 2015, Irán y Estados Unidos, junto con China, Francia, Alemania, Rusia, la Unión Europea y el Reino Unido, celebraron el Plan de Acción Integral Conjunto (PAIC), un acuerdo que redujo las reservas de uranio de Irán, el nivel hasta donde podía enriquecer su uranio y la cantidad de centrífugas que podía operar.…  Seguir leyendo »

Iran: Push to Revive the Nuclear Deal, but Prepare for Worse Outcomes

The future of the Iran nuclear deal remains uncertain and the new Iranian president has stalled the already slow negotiations. In this excerpt from the Watch List 2021 – Autumn Update, Crisis Group urges the EU and its member states to support the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action’s (JCPOA) full restoration, encourage efforts for regional dialogue and prepare contingency plans in case of a breakdown with Tehran.

The fate of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the 2015 deal placing limitations on Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief, looms large in the country’s relations with Europe. The three European parties to the accord – European Union (EU) member states France and Germany, as well as the UK – have helped keep it alive, if not exactly thriving, since the U.S.…  Seguir leyendo »

Iranian President Rouhani in April visiting the exhibition of nuclear achievements. Credit: Official website of the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran. https://president.ir/en/120598.

On July 6, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported that Iran was moving ahead with manufacturing “uranium metal enriched to 20 percent U-235 [uranium’s most fissile isotope],” the latest in a series of steps violating Iran’s commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). While Tehran maintains that there is little for the international community to be concerned about—its ambassador to the IAEA pointed to benefits for producing radiopharmaceutical treatments—European and US officials are not convinced. The production of enriched uranium metal, which can be used in the core of nuclear weapons, could have serious nonproliferation implications and adds a complication to already-laborious negotiations in Vienna aimed at restoring the JCPOA.…  Seguir leyendo »

A woman holds her hand to her chest next to a pin bearing the image of Ebrahim Raisi, Iran’s newly elected president, at a rally June 19 in Tehran celebrating his victory. (Atta Kenare/AFP/Getty Images)

Judiciary chief Ebrahim Raisi has been voted Iran’s next president in an election that had historically low turnout. Raisi is a hard-liner, closely aligned with Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s anti-Western views.

When Raisi takes office in August, he will chart a different course in foreign and domestic policy than President Hassan Rouhani, a relative moderate who aimed to expand Iran’s engagement with the world.

No issue will be more important or sensitive than the 2015 nuclear agreement, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Since April, the United States, Iran and other parties have been negotiating a path to reviving the deal, which imposed limits on Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for relief from economic sanctions.…  Seguir leyendo »

Iranians drive past a missile during a rally marking the 42nd anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, at Azadi (Freedom) Square in Tehran, on Feb. 10. (Ebrahim Noroozi/AP)

There is a common misperception that those of us who opposed the Iran nuclear deal are simply opposed to diplomacy with Iran.

Nothing could be further from the truth. In more than 25 years in Congress, we have consistently supported diplomacy backed by sanctions, with the objective of ending Iran’s dangerous nuclear plans and curbing its regional aggression. That is why we believe there is an opportunity for President Biden to think beyond the mere restoration of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the deal that the Obama administration, its European partners, China and Russia reached with Iran in 2015.…  Seguir leyendo »

Police officers stand guard outside the Grand Hotel in Vienna on Tuesday as Iran nuclear talks resumed there this week. (Thomas Kronsteiner/Getty Images)

President Biden and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani both have clear reasons for wanting to return to full compliance of the 2015 nuclear deal as quickly as possible. But the one that should matter most to the world — the fact that it was working — is currently moot.

Iran’s internal dynamics are shifting rapidly, and that must be taken into consideration as the Biden administration attempts to revive the agreement that President Donald Trump abandoned in 2018. As someone who has believed, and continues to believe, in the value of diplomatic engagement to resolve the complex geopolitical issues with Iran, in this instance, I think it’s time to slow down.…  Seguir leyendo »

Cuando la política exterior de un país se deja arrastrar por corrientes emotivas y sucumbe a tentaciones efectistas, la diplomacia suele quedar relegada a un segundo plano. Ocurrió en EE. UU. tras los atentados del 11-S y, más recientemente, durante el estridente mandato de Donald Trump. El mejor ejemplo tal vez sea el acuerdo nuclear con Irán, que se gestó en 2015 tras años de arduas negociaciones, solo para que Trump lo desechase entre aspavientos como parte de su estrategia de “presión máxima” contra Teherán. Dicha estrategia, arrogante y miope, se ha saldado con un rotundo fracaso, que ahora debemos reconducir contra reloj en las conversaciones que se han puesto en marcha en Viena.…  Seguir leyendo »

European Union Delegation members from the parties to the Iran nuclear deal. (AFP/Getty Images)

A week after an explosion destroyed the power system in Iran’s Natanz nuclear enrichment facility, Iranian officials identified an Iranian suspect in an attack widely attributed to Israel. Iranian TV footage appeared to show centrifuges in operation, amid claims that “work that had been disrupted will be back on track”.

The true extent of the damage remains unclear — a midweek report by one Iranian official noted “several thousand” affected centrifuges. U.S. intelligence sources estimated repairs could take Iran nine months.

How will this attack affect Iran’s commitment and capacity to expand its nuclear program? And how will the attack influence the likelihood that the United States and Iran can reach an agreement on resuscitating the Iran deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action — or JCPOA, for short?…  Seguir leyendo »

The Clock Is Ticking for Biden on Iran

Since early April, Iranian officials have been meeting in Vienna with British, Chinese, French, German and Russian counterparts, the remaining members of the 2015 nuclear deal that the United States abandoned in 2018. The United States is participating indirectly, with European diplomats going back and forth between the Iranians and the U.S. diplomats, led by President Biden’s special envoy, Robert Malley.

On Thursday these negotiations resumed, despite the uncertainty caused by Sunday’s sabotage of Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility, which Iran blamed on Israel. Publicly, Israel denied being behind the attack. But American and Israeli intelligence officials have described it as “a classified Israeli operation”, and Tehran has retaliated by increasing its nuclear enrichment levels threefold.…  Seguir leyendo »

A view of the Natanz uranium enrichment facility, 155 miles south of Tehran, in a satellite image taken last week. (Maxar Technologies via Reuters)

Congratulations — presumably — are due to Israeli intelligence for a devastating fire at Iran’s Natanz uranium enrichment facility over the weekend. Details are scarce, with the New York Times reporting that the site was hit by an apparent explosion and The Post citing an Israeli media report that it was a cyberattack.

So it goes in Israel’s shadow war against Iran’s nuclear program. Recent attacks attributed to Israel included the assassination of Iran’s top nuclear scientist last fall and a mysterious series of explosions that struck various sites in Iran, including a major missile facility, last summer. The most successful attack of all was the Stuxnet virus — part of a joint U.S.-Israeli…  Seguir leyendo »