U.S. stockpiles powerful bunker-buster bombs in case Iran nuclear talks fail


As diplomats rush to reach an agreement to curb Iran’s nuclear program, the U.S. military is stockpiling conventional bombs so powerful that strategists say they could cripple Tehran’s most heavily fortified nuclear complexes, including one deep underground.

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AP Exclusive: Iran would get nuclear help in proposed deal


VIENNA (AP) – Western powers are offering Tehran high-tech reactors under a proposed nuclear agreement, a confidential document says, but a defiant speech by Iran’s supreme leader less than a week before a negotiating deadline casts doubt on whether he’s willing to make the necessary concessions to seal a deal.

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Iran Nuclear Talks: Clearing the Final Hurdles


Reza Marashi

Security, Middle East

“Standing in the way of victory are two key issues, both of which are resolvable.”

As officials from Iran and the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany (P5+1) negotiate around the clock in Vienna, the self-imposed June 30 deadline steadily approaches to seal a comprehensive nuclear deal. The Obama and Rouhani administrations should be commended: The amount of progress made in the past eighteen months is greater than the preceding decade combined. The two sides are now on the cusp of a historic deal that will be one of the greatest foreign policy achievements in recent memory.

Standing in the way of victory are two key issues, both of which are resolvable: Sanctions relief, and inspections and verification.

Finding the right formula for sanctions relief will likely be the most challenging issue in Vienna. If Washington offers sanctions relief that does not provide practical value for Tehran, it will correspondingly diminish the practical value for Iranian decision-makers to uphold their end of the bargain. Iran gave more than it received in the interim nuclear deal, and is looking to collect on that investment. The P5+1 believes it must maintain the architecture of sanctions to ensure Iranian compliance. Splitting the difference will require compromise on two fronts: Multilateral sanctions and unilateral sanctions.

Multilateral sanctions written into United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions target not only Iran’s nuclear program, but also issues such as arms procurement and export, human rights, and terrorism. One potential way forward is terminating UNSC sanctions in their current form, and introducing a new UNSC resolution that codifies a final nuclear deal. Re-writing previous resolutions will enable the two sides to split the difference: Iran gets nuclear-related sanctions removed and a clean procurement channel for its verifiably peaceful nuclear program, while the P5+1 maintains its sanctions on other aforementioned contentious issues.

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Endgames with Iran


Iran and the United States did battle this weekend, as twelve thousand spectators packed Tehran’s Azadi Stadium, on Friday and again on Sunday, to watch the two nations face off in World League volleyball. Iranians are avid sports fans, especially when the United States is involved. The Americans are the defending world champions. “The U.S.A. is currently the best team in the world,” the Iranian coach, Slobodan Kovač, told a news conference before the game on Friday. “Those who think we can defeat the U.S.A. do not have a good understanding of volleyball.”

See the rest of the story at newyorker.com

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Here’s how the US could totally botch the ‘new opening with Iran’


Vladimir Putin Obama

If a nuclear deal is reached after ongoing negotiations between the West and Iran, there might be a “new opening” in Iran — but it’s unclear whether the US or Russia will benefit more.

That depends on whether the West truly engages with Iran beyond the deal to fundamentally change its relationship with Tehran, Paul N. Schwartz, a nonresident senior associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, says in a new paper.

“The trick for the West will be to exploit the new opening with Iran to move beyond the nuclear dialogue and to engage Iran in ways that provide it with incentives to integrate more closely with the West,” he writes.

“By exploiting this opening to increase trade with Iran and by encouraging large-scale Western investment in its economy, the West would give Iran a much greater stake in maintaining good relations.”

The result would be “positive incentives for Iran to moderate its behavior in the Middle East.”

Otherwise, Russia will take full advantage.

“While several issues remain open, what’s increasingly clear is that, unless the accord ultimately leads to a fundamental transformation in Iran’s relationship with the West, Russia is likely to emerge as a key beneficiary of the process,” Schwartz writes.

And notably, Schwartz doesn’t believe that more trade and investment alone will be enough for the West to “turn Iran’s behavior around.”

“More will be required to truly transform the relationship between Iran and the West, because all of the current geopolitical incentives in the Middle East tend toward continuing conflict with Iran,” he writes.

“Iran’s objectives in the region conflict directly with both Western interests and those of key Western allies in the region, especially Saudi Arabia and Israel. Resolving these conflicts will require committed dialog, restraint on all sides, and real compromises, all of which will be exceedingly difficult to achieve.”

RTR45ZNKAnd if the West chooses to not engage with Iran, Russia stands to really benefit in political and economic influence in the Middle East. Some analysts suggest that Russia would gain more from this partnership than Iran would, which means Russia’s incentive to jump on this opportunity is even greater.

Moscow and Tehran would mutually benefit from some increased trade: We’ve already seen some Iran-Russia deals such as more nuclear bases, the possibility that the S-300 will finally be delivered, and the oil-for-goods deal. But Moscow is also hoping that once the sanctions are lifted, it can resume arms transfers — Iran needs the modern weapons.

Mehdi Sanayee, Iran’s current ambassador to Russia, recently noted that the two states plan to pump up bilateral trade from the current $5 billion to $70 billion a year in the near future, according to Schwartz.

“Even if this target appears exceedingly ambitious, it is indicative of where the two parties would like to take their trading relationship going forward,” he writes.

russia iran

Furthermore, Moscow appears to be afraid of the West integrating with Iran as it believes that better Washington-Tehran relations will invariably weaken its position on the global stage.

As Russian Middle East expert Georgy Mirsky told The Washington Post:

A few years back, I heard one of our diplomats say: ‘A pro-American Iran is more dangerous for us than a nuclear Iran.’ … If you look at this as a zero-sum game, Iran getting closer to the West is a weakening of the Russian position.

And for this it is necessary to bring a preventative blow, before the implementation of this nuclear agreement, to show Iran that we are the most reliable partner and the only great power you can rely on.

It’s notable, however, that Schwartz doesn’t write that the West should pursue relations with Iran to hurt Russia. Rather, he argues that it’s to “turn Iran’s behavior around.”

In any case, it’ll be interesting to watch the next moves by Washington and Tehran — as well as Moscow — after any nuclear deal.

SEE ALSO: Russia risks losing the 2018 World Cup … and that would actually be a good thing

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Obama: No military solution to Iran’s nuclear program


JERUSALEM (AP) – U.S President Barack Obama reached out to a skeptical Israeli public in an interview aired Monday saying that only an agreement, not military action, can prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.

Obama said “I can, I think, demonstrate, not based on any hope but on facts and …

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Saudi FM warns Tehran: We won’t stand still over Iran’s intervention in region



On visit to Egypt, Adel Al-Jubeir calls on Iran to “stop supporting terrorism.”

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WorldViews: Iran complains to the U.N. that Israel wants to nuke it


Iran’s envoy to the United Nations sent a letter to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, as well as the Security Council, protesting recent remarks made by Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon, who invoked the United States’ dropping of atomic bombs on Japan during World War II when responding to a question of how to deal with Iran at a conference in Tel Aviv this month.Read full article >>




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Iranian leader bashes nuclear inspections


Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, on Wednesday poured cold water on the assertion that international inspectors will be allowed to monitor its nuclear program as part of international negotiations.“We will never yield to pressure. ……

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The Geopolitics of the Iran Nuclear Deal


Ilan Goldenberg, Robert D. Kaplan

Politics, Middle East

The United States and its partners must employ both intense pressure and intense engagement to set the terms for a new relationship with Iran.

As the United States and Iran near an historic nuclear agreement there is an intense debate about whether a deal represents capitulation to Iranian interests in the Middle East or an opportunity to help stabilize the region. If the United States and its partners learn the lessons of previous nuclear negotiations with Iran, and pursue a tightly coordinated strategy in the region, there is a potential over the next few years to ameliorate the conflict-ridden Middle East. For the deal itself is only half the challenge: the other half is to craft a geopolitical framework following the deal that constrains Iranian ambitions.

Since early 2009, President Barack Obama pursued a strategy of engagement and pressure with Iran with regards to the nuclear program, consistently offering to negotiate but also applying increasing economic and diplomatic pressure. But Iran refused to comply.

This approach failed to yield a change in Iranian behavior as long as the Iranian leadership believed that while international sanctions were a nuisance, they did not present a genuine threat. That changed with the application of tough energy and financial sanctions that, starting in 2012, took half of Iran’s oil exports off the market.

As the danger to the Islamic Republic’s survival increased the more pragmatic Hassan Rouhani was elected president in 2013. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei—the final decision-maker in Tehran and a man highly skeptical of the West—gave Rouhani the space to negotiate a nuclear agreement that would obtain sanctions relief in exchange for limits on the program that Khamenei would never have accepted only two years earlier.

When the Supreme Leader changed his mind, there needed to be a channel through which this new attitude could be communicated. The Obama administration’s outreach from 2009-2012 meant that at the critical moment—when Iran became open to an agreement—the United States and Iran were able to pursue secret talks. The talks were facilitated by Oman: an understated and dependable U. S. ally that, nevertheless, enjoys good relations with Iran. Without both vigorous diplomatic outreach and economic pressure, the historic nuclear agreement that the United States and Iran are on the verge of signing would never have come to pass.

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