The Middle East Channel

World powers demand access to suspected Iranian nuclear sites

World powers demand access to suspected Iranian nuclear sites

The permanent members of the United Nations Security Council — Britain, China, France, Russia, and the United States — plus Germany issued a statement demanding that International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA) inspectors have access to "all relevant sites," that are suspected of nuclear weapons development, especially the Parchin military complex. Parchin came up in the nuclear watchdog’s report released last November as a site where Iran is suspected to have constructed a large containment vessel designed for explosives testing which could set off a nuclear weapon. The world powers have just recently agreed to hold negotiations with Iran, but said, "We call on Iran to enter, without pre-conditions, into a sustained process of serious dialogue, which will produce concrete results." Turkey’s foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, said the talks would take place in Istanbul in the beginning of April.


The Syrian opposition has rejected a call by United Nations and Arab League envoy Kofi Annan for dialogue with the regime of Bashar al-Assad. Annan, who is scheduled to arrive in Damascus on Saturday, said he would push for a ceasefire and an end to hostilities, but continued by saying that "ultimately the solution lies in a political settlement." The remarks sparked anger from the head of the Syrian National Council, Burhan Ghalioun, who said, "These kinds of comments are disappointing and do not give a lot of hope for people in Syria being massacred every day." Meanwhile, U.N. Humanitarian chief Valerie Amos was the first senior international official allowed into Homs since the month-long bombardment of the city. She described the devastation by saying, "Part of Homs is completely destroyed and I am concerned to know what happened to the people who live in that part of the city." Syrian Red Crescent workers were also given access to Homs after repeatedly being denied entrance, but said they entered the Bab Amr neighborhood and found it empty of its residents. Meanwhile, tanks were reported in Homs today, killing four people and preventing opposition protesters from taking to the street to mark the anniversary of a government crackdown on Kurdish unrest in 2004 during which 30 people were killed.


Arguments & Analysis

‘Iraq’s federalism quandary’ (Joost Hiltermann, Sean Kane, & Raad Alkadiri, National Interest)

"The incentives generated by the 2005 constitution force Baghdad and Erbil to make a strategic choice. Under the charter’s most radical option, Kurdistan would establish some form of self-sufficient autarky. This would be a poor outcome for all involved. The KRG would need to raise capital for export pipelines, persuade hostile neighbors to accept Kurdish hydrocarbon exports and rely on its own comparatively meager revenues to fund its regional administration. In Baghdad, preoccupation with Arab-Kurdish tensions would stunt development of the state. In addition, with Erbil continuing to block constitutional changes, Baghdad could one day be gutted by new autonomy movements in oil-rich Basra or gas-rich Anbar. In contrast, by isolating and containing the dispute between Baghdad and Erbil, an asymmetrical model would reinforce Iraqi unity and free the rest of the country to choose alternative governance arrangements on their own merits. This could at least provide a framework to consider the grievances of provincial leaders and perhaps defuse the potentially grave crisis sparked by angered Sunnis’ symbolic declarations of autonomy."

‘The perils of piecemeal intervention’ (Jonathan Tepperman, New York Times)

"What we do know is that Syria is a deeply divided country, with a minority-based government presiding over mutually hostile religious groups (Sunnis, Alawites, Christians, Druse) and ethnicities (Arabs, Kurds). Add more gunpowder to the mix and you have a recipe for an ugly intercommunal war. Such a conflict would dwarf the turmoil seen so far, send refugees flooding across Syria’s borders and draw in outside powers. Creating safe havens for fleeing civilians might sound like a better idea, since these would be more clearly defensive. But in practice they could prove just as problematic. Without major outside support, such sanctuaries would risk being overrun by hostile forces, as they were in Bosnia in 1995. And with full protection, they could become bases of operations for rebels fighting outside the safe zones, again expanding the war. Neither of these options, moreover, would address the central question: Who should rule Syria and how?"

‘Should Israel accept a nuclear ban?’ (Room for Debate, New York Times)

Micah Zenko

But Israel will not eliminate its nuclear weapons program simply in order to reduce regional tensions or pave the way for a broader Middle East peace. Israeli officials have said off the record that they would only acknowledge their nuclear program and discuss constraints after a sustained end to regional hostilities and reciprocal limitations on its neighbors’ W.M.D. programs.

Zeev Maoz: 

Israel could use its nuclear weapons as a bargaining chip that would help the nation define the terms of the regional security regime. It could supplement the "land for peace" principle with the "nukes for security" principle. Israel’s military strategy has been daring and creative, while its peace strategy has been hesitant and reactive. It is time Israeli diplomacy caught up to its military ingenuity.

–Tom Kutsch & Mary Casey