IAEA announces inspections deal with Iran ahead of Baghdad talks

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) announced it has reached a deal to allow the U.N. nuclear watchdog to investigate Iran’s nuclear development program. IAEA head Yukiya Amano said that there are still some conflicts, but "the decision was made to conclude and sign the agreement." According to the parameters of the deal, the IAEA ...

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International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Yukiya Amano (C) speaks to the press on May 22, 2012 upon his arrival from Teheran at the Schwechat Airport , some 25 kms east of Vienna. Amano said on May 22 that the IAEA would soon sign an accord with Iran aimed at trying to resolve disputes over its nuclear drive. AFP PHOTO/ DIETER NAGL (Photo credit should read DIETER NAGL/AFP/GettyImages)

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) announced it has reached a deal to allow the U.N. nuclear watchdog to investigate Iran's nuclear development program. IAEA head Yukiya Amano said that there are still some conflicts, but "the decision was made to conclude and sign the agreement." According to the parameters of the deal, the IAEA will be allowed to conduct an investigation into suspected military applications of the nuclear program that Iran maintains is strictly for peaceful purposes. This is the first time since 2007 that Iran has agreed to wider inspections of its nuclear sites. The deal has come a day ahead of a second round of talks in Baghdad between Iran and six world powers, including the United States, Britain, Russia, China, France, and Germany. Skeptics are concerned Iran's agreement with the IAEA is merely a strategy to gain better positioning going into the Baghdad negotiations. Meanwhile, the U.S. Senate approved new sanctions mainly targeting Iran's Revolutionary Guard, thereby increasing pressure on Tehran to end its nuclear program.

Syria

A power struggle is widening within the Syrian opposition. The main opposition group, the Syrian National Council, announced that it will appoint a new head in the upcoming days after Burhan Ghalioun stepped down. He was accused of monopolizing power. One possible candidate for leadership might be George Sabra, an ally of top dissident Riad al-Turk. Or, the Islamists may enter a candidate. Meanwhile, an estimated five people were killed at a Damascus restaurant. At least 20 people have been killed in fighting between Syrian forces and opposition fighters in southern and central Syria recently. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said Syria is at a "pivotal moment" and he warns of an impending civil war. Herve Ladsous, U.N. Undersecretary General for Peacekeeping Operations, said "There is a third party involved in the Syrian equation" alluding to Islamist extremists, but failing to name any particular group.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) announced it has reached a deal to allow the U.N. nuclear watchdog to investigate Iran’s nuclear development program. IAEA head Yukiya Amano said that there are still some conflicts, but "the decision was made to conclude and sign the agreement." According to the parameters of the deal, the IAEA will be allowed to conduct an investigation into suspected military applications of the nuclear program that Iran maintains is strictly for peaceful purposes. This is the first time since 2007 that Iran has agreed to wider inspections of its nuclear sites. The deal has come a day ahead of a second round of talks in Baghdad between Iran and six world powers, including the United States, Britain, Russia, China, France, and Germany. Skeptics are concerned Iran’s agreement with the IAEA is merely a strategy to gain better positioning going into the Baghdad negotiations. Meanwhile, the U.S. Senate approved new sanctions mainly targeting Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, thereby increasing pressure on Tehran to end its nuclear program.

Syria

A power struggle is widening within the Syrian opposition. The main opposition group, the Syrian National Council, announced that it will appoint a new head in the upcoming days after Burhan Ghalioun stepped down. He was accused of monopolizing power. One possible candidate for leadership might be George Sabra, an ally of top dissident Riad al-Turk. Or, the Islamists may enter a candidate. Meanwhile, an estimated five people were killed at a Damascus restaurant. At least 20 people have been killed in fighting between Syrian forces and opposition fighters in southern and central Syria recently. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said Syria is at a "pivotal moment" and he warns of an impending civil war. Herve Ladsous, U.N. Undersecretary General for Peacekeeping Operations, said "There is a third party involved in the Syrian equation" alluding to Islamist extremists, but failing to name any particular group.

Headlines  

  • Yemen marked the 22nd anniversary of its unification, despite Monday’s bombing. Al Qaeda took credit for the bombing and said it aimed to avenge the U.S.-backed offensive against the militant group.
  • Shadi Mawlawi, an Islamist whose arrest sparked clashes last week in northern Lebanon between fighters for and against the Syrian regime, was released on bail Tuesday.
  • Iraq is seeking to buy drones from the United States or China to protect its oil facilities.

Arguments and Analysis 

‘Saudi Arabia and the New US War in Yemen’ (Hugh Eakin, New York Review of Books Blog)

"The United States is quietly being drawn into an escalating conflict in Yemen. Following the discovery earlier this month of a new bomb plot aimed at American airliners, the US government has been aiming drones at alleged members of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) at an unprecedented rate. Last week, US and Yemeni officials revealed that US special operations forces are on the ground in Yemen and that more may be on the way. Meanwhile AQAP, the Yemen-based organization now regarded by some officials as one of the principal terrorist threats to the United States, has stepped up attacks around the country, including a suicide bombing in Sanaa, the Yemeni capital, on Monday, that killed at least sixty people. The new conflict may be as much about Saudi Arabia, the longtime US ally and Yemen’s northern neighbor, as it is about Yemen. To its continuing embarrassment, Saudi Arabia has long been known as the country that produced Osama bin Laden and fifteen of the nineteen September 11 hijackers. In recent years, the Saudi government has done much to reverse that image, in part by dramatically beefing up its own counterterrorism credentials and by becoming one of Washington’s key backers in the war against Al Qaeda. And yet, as I learned during a visit to Riyadh and other Saudi cities this month, it has struggled to contain another reality: that many members of AQAP are Saudi nationals who have relocated to Yemen, where they have been able to operate in relative freedom."

‘Engaging Russia on Iran’ (Robert W. Merry, The National Interest)

"What these realities signify is that America’s relationship with Russia may be more important than ever, given the grave danger of war with Iran, the delicacy of the nuclear talks, and the prospect Russia could become, at least potentially, a U.S. partner in these highly complex negotiations. And yet the relations between the two nations are abysmal, as reflected in Putin’s recent decision to reverse earlier plans to attend the Group of Eight summit at Camp David. It’s telling that he plans a state visit to China before any trip to the United States…Thus, the question facing Obama is what he would give up on these other fronts-and what kind of negotiating atmospherics he might be willing to create-in order to "reset the reset" and get Russian cooperation in the P5+1. In a policy document signed hours after his inauguration as president, Putin said that, in its relations with the United States, Russia wants "equality, non-interference in internal affairs and respect for one another’s interests." Obama could respond by signaling privately that his government won’t carp on Russia’s internal matters, as it did during the recent political campaign, and by offering guarantees that the missile-defense system being built in Europe, ostensibly to protect the Continent from Iran, won’t be used against Russia."

‘Ethiopian Empowerment’ (The Jerusalem Post)

"Exacerbating the situation is the feeling among many Ethiopians that the government has adopted a patronizing attitude toward the community. For instance, last week’s cabinet decision to renew the 2008 five-year plan was met with stiff opposition by numerous Ethiopian leaders, principally because they felt that they were not made a part of the planning process and their meetings with Netanyahu and other government officials before the relaunching of the program were solely pro forma. The prime minister’s appearance at this year’s memorial ceremony was an important gesture. But if the government truly wants to reach out it should taken more concrete steps. The Ethiopian community has many talented, educated and articulate leaders. They should be incorporated into the decision-making and planning stages as full partners. If the plan succeeds, they will share in the success. And if results fail to meet expectations they will share the responsibility for making the necessary improvements."

–By Jennifer Parker and Mary Casey 

<p>Mary Casey-Baker is the editor of Foreign Policy’s Middle East Daily Brief, as well as the assistant director of public affairs at the Project on Middle East Political Science and assistant editor of The Monkey Cage blog for the Washington Post. </p> Twitter: @casey_mary

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