The Middle East Channel

IAEA reports Iran has doubled enrichment capacity

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) distributed a report to member states on Friday saying Iran has doubled its enrichment capacity at the Fordow nuclear facility. According to the report, the number of centrifuges has increased from 1,065 in May to 2,140, however the new centrifuges are not yet operating. Additionally, the U.N. nuclear watchdog ...


The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) distributed a report to member states on Friday saying Iran has doubled its enrichment capacity at the Fordow nuclear facility. According to the report, the number of centrifuges has increased from 1,065 in May to 2,140, however the new centrifuges are not yet operating. Additionally, the U.N. nuclear watchdog said its inspection of the Parchin nuclear site was "severely hampered" by what it suspected to be a clean-up process as seen in satellite images. Iran maintains that its nuclear development program is merely for peaceful energy providing purposes, however the IAEA believes the degree of enrichment surpasses civilian needs and that Iran is seeking to develop weapons grade uranium enrichment. Despite Iran’s efforts, experts say the country is failing to make significant accomplishments. According to Middle East analyst at the Eurasia Group, "the real game-changer, the advanced centrifuge program, still seems to be failing." Regardless the IAEA report has heightened concerns that sanctions on Iran are not deterring its nuclear development, particularly raising fears for Israel that Iran will be able to produce nuclear weapons in a location out of reach for an Israeli strike.


The United Nations Security Council held a special session Thursday to discuss the sharp jump in the severity of the conflict in Syria. The Syrian forces have increasing been relying on indiscriminate air strikes to counter the opposition elevating humanitarian aid needed by civilians, particularly the high flow of refugees. Turkey, already housing over 80,000 Syrian refugees, called for the establishment of "safe zones" inside Syria. Britain and France said they were open to safe zones, however the idea has met resistance due to the military intervention that would be necessary to secure these area. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said France has worked with Turkey to identify regions in the north and south of Syria that remained out of the Assad regime’s control. He said "Maybe in these liberated zones Syrians who want to flee the regime will find refuge which in turn makes it less necessary to cross the border." Meanwhile, the Syrian opposition attacked a security building in Aleppo on Friday. Fighting also broke out in Saif al-Dawla, Salahedinne, and Hanono.


  • U.S. freelance journalist Austin Tice, who has been reporting from Syria since May and has not been heard from in two weeks, is believed to be in Syrian government custody.
  • U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced that no one would be prosecuted for the CIA’s brutal interrogations that caused the deaths of an Afghani and Iraqi prisoner. 

Arguments & Analysis

NAM Summit Turnaround’ (The Jerusalem Post)

"Thursday’s session was a particularly vivid example of how the NAM summit has not only failed to advance Iranian interests, it has become a stage for Iran bashing.

President Mohamed Morsy, who was making the first visit of an Egyptian head-of-state to Iran in more than three decades, called to intervene against what he called the "oppressive" Syrian regime. The Syrian delegation walked out in protest. The mullahs were put on the defensive.

This was a blow to Tehran on two levels: First, it was a direct attack on the Islamic Republic, a prominent supporter of the Assad regime. Morsy all but said outright that Sunni Arab nations should join forces to depose Assad. And since Assad is being supported by Iran, Morsy’s statements were tantamount to a declaration of war against Iran. It was abundantly clear that at least with regard to Syria, Sunni interests in the region deviate sharply from those of Iran’s Shi’ite rulers.

This was a bold move on Morsy’s part and it transformed the NAM summit into a forum for lambasting, not lauding, Iran."

Where were the mistakes made in Turkey’s Syrian policy?’ (Sedat Ergin, Hurriyet Daily News)

"Let’s go to the very beginning. The ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government, much before the Arab Spring was seen on the horizon, had headed for very close and intimate cooperation with the Bashar al-Assad administration in Syria. This policy had reached, in the year 2009, such an advanced level that joint Cabinet meetings were held between the two countries and mutual visa restrictions were lifted. Also, the affectionate relations between the Erdogan and al-Assad families somewhat warmed up the climate between the two countries.

Interestingly, during this period, the AK Party government immediately opposed the United States’ efforts to put the brakes on its cooperation with the al-Assad regime – on the grounds that it supported terror – as part of an effort to get it to act more cautiously toward Damascus. Ankara argued that the reform process in Syria could only be accomplished by supporting and strengthening the hand of Bashar al-Assad against the system he took over from his father. To that end, the domestic oppressive practices of Syria were disregarded, as well as the United Nations reports on the role of Damascus in the assassination of Lebanon Prime Minister Rafic al-Hariri in 2005.

The policy of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, which can be summarizes as, "Let’s give Bashar a chance; let’s try to win him over," was based on the assumption that al-Assad would just as well change the security-centered system and that the development of economic cooperation would contribute to it. When viewed from a retrospective perspective today, we can say that when this calculation was made, credit was given to al-Assad to an extent that he did not deserve."

Reform, round two‘ (Claire Spencer, Prospect)

"In short, the arrival of democracy, however imperfect, has not been sufficient to wrest financial and economic power from those who are used to holding it. In Tunisia, the much-needed redistribution of resources from the relatively affluent coastal areas to the under-invested interior provinces (where the uprisings of 2011 began) shows only limited signs of taking place. In Egypt, divisions persist between the urban rich and poor; between city dwellers and rural subsistence farmers; between the public and private sectors; between large conglomerates and very small (but few medium-sized) enterprises; between Copts and Muslims. The Islamists  (Salafists and the Muslim Brotherhood) are themselves internally divided and, even with the majority of the electorate behind them, have failed to find a consensus over economic policy with the military leadership that still controls Egypt’s affairs. It is not that the Muslim Brotherhood, now heading the interim government, is against the private sector or market reforms-quite the opposite. It is the marketplace for political control over and interference in the economy (above all that of the army) that needs to be straightened out first.

This raises the question of whether a more participatory politics since 2011 has opened the way for more participatory economic systems. There is a real possibility that the failure of the new, and not-so-new, leaderships of the region to come to grips with economic reform will undermine the political gains of the Arab Spring."

‘Obama should arm Syrian rebels’ (Chris Coons, USA Today)

"As Syria approaches a turning point in the uprising against President Bashar Assad’s repressive regime, it is time for the U.S. to engage with rebel leaders directly and materially to encourage an outcome that brings peace to Syria, stabilizes the region and promotes American values.

Recent developments – including the defections of the former prime minister, several diplomats and generals; the resignation of United Nations special envoy Kofi Annan; and the increasingly horrific attacks on civilians ordered by Assad – paint a picture of a desperate regime that has lost all legitimacy and is clinging to control of a country on the precipice of change. If the U.S. fails now to take a more decisive role in shaping Syria’s future, it risks a post-Assad Syria transforming into an anti-American haven for jihadist threats to the West and our regional allies."

By Mary Casey

 Twitter: @casey_mary

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