Eye on Iran: Iran Agrees to Inspection of Secret Military Site, Report Says

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NYT: "An Iranian news agency said on Tuesday that Tehran would permit inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations' nuclear supervisory body, to visit a secret military complex to which they have been denied access. If confirmed, the offer would represent another twist in an increasingly confrontational relationship with the United States at a time when Israel is displaying increased readiness to launch a military strike at Iran's nuclear facilities, saying they are being used to prepare a nuclear weapons capability. With sanctions tightening around Iran's oil and banking sectors, Tehran's representative at the I.A.E.A. at its headquarters in Vienna, said in a statement on Tuesday that Iran will permit the nuclear agency's inspectors to visit the secret Parchin military complex, southeast of the Iranian capital, in what was termed a goodwill gesture, the ISNA news agency said, according to The Associated Press." http://t.uani.com/zzmc8d

WSJ: "U.S. officials said they believed pressure has eased on Israel to attack Iran, after meetings Monday between American and Israeli leaders and tougher talk from the U.S. that moved it closer to Israel's approach. Israeli officials, meanwhile, said that President Barack Obama's public and private acknowledgment of the Jewish state's sovereign right to defend itself was a crucial gain as the two countries seek to deter Tehran. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also praised Mr. Obama's stated willingness in recent days to use U.S. military might to counter Iran... The two allies remained at odds over clearly outlining the 'red lines' which Tehran must not cross in developing its nuclear program, they said. Mr. Netanyahu and some of Israel's staunchest supporters in Congress have pressed the Obama administration to draw a red line at Iran's acquisition of a nuclear 'capability,' a loosely defined benchmark that many Western diplomats believe Tehran has already crossed. Such a policy could fuel calls for an imminent attack on Iran." http://t.uani.com/wWhn9N

NYT: "With Israel warning of a possible military strike on Iran's nuclear facilities, President Obama urged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House on Monday to give diplomacy and economic sanctions a chance to work before resorting to military action. The meeting, held in a charged atmosphere of election-year politics and a deepening confrontation with Tehran, was nevertheless 'friendly, straightforward, and serious,' a White House official said. But it did not resolve basic differences between the two leaders over how to deal with the Iranian threat. Mr. Netanyahu, the official said, reiterated that Israel had not made a decision on striking Iran, but he expressed deep skepticism that international pressure would persuade Iran's leaders to forsake the development of nuclear weapons." http://t.uani.com/x17bfS

Nuclear Program & Sanctions   

WashPost:"International sanctions on Iran are starting to pinch, and Tehran is scrambling to hang on to buyers for its crude oil exports. In January, China, South Korea and Singapore sharply cut their oil purchases from Iran. Last month, Shipping Corp. of India canceled an Iranian shipment because its European insurers refused to provide coverage for the tanker, according to Lloyd's List. And Japanese oil refiners have asked for clauses to be added to oil-purchase contracts so they can back out if they can't obtain tanker insurance. 'Iran is scrambling to find buyers, but other countries are also scrambling to diversify away from what they see as risky supply,' said Richard Meade, editor of Lloyd's List... For the moment, however, Iran is profiting from rising tensions, which have driven oil prices up. Moreover, it isn't clear whether the volume of Iran's oil exports has been reduced yet. Although exports through mid-February were lower than last year's average, fluctuations aren't unusual." http://t.uani.com/yHnYRT

USA Today: "Iranians say they are feeling the pinch of sanctions in the price of meat and other daily essentials, but in spite of growing popular anger toward the government, analysts believe little will change. 'My family - my mom and my two sisters - never asked me for anything before,' said Abbas Bakhtiari a musician based in Paris, whose family is in Iran. 'This is the first time they asked me to help them to pay their bills, and I'm talking about people who didn't have financial difficulties.' ... If Western governments are counting on economic deprivation to bring radical change in Iran, analysts say they are likely to be disappointed. 'History shows that sanctions do not yield regime change - this is particularly true for states that emerged out of revolutions,' said Middle East analyst Arshin Adib-Moghaddam of the University of London's School of Oriental and African Studies." http://t.uani.com/zGJ5dD

AP: "The top U.S. commander in the Middle East will warn Congress on Tuesday against efforts to scale back the Navy's presence in the embattled region, saying threats from Iran and elsewhere will require more ships and maritime missile defense capabilities... 'The stacked Iranian threats ... of ballistic missiles, long-range rockets, mines, small boats, cruise missiles and submarines demand stronger naval presence and capability to protect vital sea lines of communication,' Mattis said." http://t.uani.com/yyo4qO

Reuters: "Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi on Tuesday repeated a warning that Beijing is opposed to Iran possessing nuclear weapons, but defended Tehran's right to peaceful nuclear power. Yang, speaking at a news conference held as part of China's annual parliamentary session, reiterated that China opposed unilateral sanctions on Iran, against a backdrop of ratcheting international tensions over Tehran's nuclear activities." http://t.uani.com/wVjlnK

Human Rights

WSJ: "The Iranian Supreme Court's decision to overturn a death sentence for a former American Marine signaled an effort to ease tensions with the West-or else use him as a political pawn, analysts said Monday. Amir Mirzaei Hekmati, a 28-year-old American of Iranian heritage who has been in detention since August, will face a retrial in a separate court, the judiciary said. Mr. Hekmati was the first American to face execution in Iran in the 33-year history of the Islamic Republic... Analysts said Iran's judicial process was opaque but that Mr. Hekmati appeared to be a political pawn in the standoff with the West over the country's nuclear program. Iran, the analysts say, could use Mr. Hekmati's case as leverage in negotiations over economic sanctions. It could also push for a back-room deal to exchange Mr. Hekmati for Iranian nationals now jailed in the U.S." http://t.uani.com/x4roTc

Domestic Politics

Reuters: "Iran will hold run-off elections for 65 parliamentary seats, state media said on Monday, after loyalists to the paramount clerical leader won a dominating majority at the expense of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The widespread defeat of Ahmadinejad's allies in the 290-seat assembly is expected to reduce the president to a lame duck for the rest of his second and final term, and increase Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's influence in the country's 2013 presidential election... With all ballot boxes counted, Khamenei acolytes were expected to occupy more than three-quarters of the 290 seats in the Majlis (parliament), according to a list published by the interior ministry on Sunday. But state television said 130 candidates were going to compete in run-offs next month for 65 seats in 33 constituencies." http://t.uani.com/zoA3VR

Foreign Affairs

Reuters: "Around a gold-draped hall in Saudi Arabia, Gulf envoys listened to their host denounce the Syrian regime as an enemy of its people and the region. What they really heard were fresh salvos in the Arab Spring's wider war: Saudi leaders and their Gulf partners hoping to deal crippling blows to Iran's footholds in the Middle East. On multiple fronts, the current Arab upheavals present an opportunity for the Gulf states to bolster their influence, consolidate power and possibly leave regional rival Iran without its critical alliances that flow through Damascus... Collapse of President Bashar Assad's rule would likely end Iran's cozy ties with Syria and potentially redraw the Mideast's pathways of influence. Instead of the so-called Shiite crescent -- from Iran through Iraq and onto Bashar's regime led by Shiite offshoot Alawites -- a new corridor of allies could be forged from Saudi Arabia, through Jordan and into Syria." http://t.uani.com/x0bwoP

Opinion & Analysis

NYT Editorial Board: "President Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel share responsibility for the strains in their relationship. But there should be no doubt about Mr. Obama's commitment to Israel's security. When he warns that an Israeli attack on Iran could backfire, and that 'there is still a window' for diplomacy, he is speaking for American and Israeli interests. Iran's nuclear appetites are undeniable, as is its malign intent toward Israel, toward America, toward its Arab neighbors and its own people. Israel's threats of unilateral action have finally focused the world's attention on the danger. Still, there must be no illusions about what it would take to seriously damage Iran's nuclear complex, the high costs and the limited returns. This would not be a 'surgical' strike like the Israeli attack in 1981 that destroyed Iraq's Osirak reactor, or the 2007 Israeli strike on an unfinished reactor in Syria. Iran has multiple facilities, and the crucial ones are buried or 'hardened.' Pentagon analysts estimate that even a sustained Israeli air campaign would set back the program by only a few years, drive it further underground and possibly unleash a wider war. It would also cast the Iranian government as the victim in the eyes of an otherwise alienated Iranian public. It would tear apart the international coalition and undermine an increasingly tough sanctions regime, making it even easier for Iran to rebuild its program. Israelis have every right to be fearful and frustrated. For too long the world ignored Iran's misdeeds and shrugged off Israel's alarms... We don't know if there is any mix of sanctions and diplomacy that can persuade the mullahs to abandon their nuclear ambitions. American officials are right not to overpromise. Iran is feeling the bite from stiff restrictions on its banking system, and the pressure and pain should rise significantly in coming months as the European Union imposes an embargo on Iranian oil imports. Tehran's recent offer to return to the negotiations is almost certainly another feint, but must be tested. What if sanctions and diplomacy are not enough? Mr. Obama has long said that all options are on the table. In recent days his language has become more pointed - urged on, undoubtedly, by Israel's threats to act alone. The United States military is far more capable of doing serious damage to Iran's facilities than the Israeli military, but the cost would still be high, with many of the same dangers and uncertainties. Mr. Obama is right that military action should only be the last resort, but Israel should not doubt this president's mettle. Neither should Iran." http://t.uani.com/wB06Xa

David Albright, Paul Brannan, Andrea Stricker, Christina Walrond, and Houston Wood in ISIS: "Without past negotiated outcomes, international pressure, sanctions, and intelligence operations, Iran would likely have nuclear weapons by now. Iran has proven vulnerable to international pressure. It now faces several inhibitions against building nuclear weapons, not least of which is fear of a military strike by Israel and perhaps others if it 'breaks ou' by egregiously violating its commitments under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and moves to produce highly enriched uranium (HEU) for nuclear weapons. However, threats of pre-emptive military strikes alone have been unproductive in extending this inhibition against building nuclear weapons. Instead, these threats have led Iran to better protect its nuclear facilities and activities and allowed it to make false comparisons to the case of Iraq, undermining support in much of the world for increasing pressure internationally out of fear that pressure would lead to a preventive attack. Iran is already capable of making weapon-grade uranium and a crude nuclear explosive device. Nonetheless, Iran is unlikely to break out in 2012, in large part because it will remain deterred from doing so and limited in its options for quickly making enough weapon-grade uranium. Iran continues to be subject to a complex set of international actions that constrain its nuclear options. Faced with the difficulties and risks of military options and the marginal benefits of negotiations during the last several years, an alternative third option, born out of frustration and slow, patient work, has developed. It builds on United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions that delegitimize certain aspects of Iran's nuclear programs. However, it goes beyond these efforts by increasing the chance of detecting secret nuclear activities and heightening barriers against Iran achieving its nuclear objectives. Its goal is to create and implement measures to delay, thwart, and deter Iran's acquisition of nuclear capabilities. This strategy is having some significant successes, including delaying Iran's ability to make nuclear weapons and creating significant deterrence against it building nuclear weapons today. Absent a meaningful negotiated settlement, which remains the best way to resolve the nuclear crisis with Iran, its longer-term prognosis is difficult to predict without broader application." http://t.uani.com/w888pD  

Anthony Cordesman in CNN: "We may have to use force against Iran. It may provoke clashes or a conflict in the Gulf, or it may refuse any realistic diplomatic solution to its growing capabilities to produce nuclear weapons. If there is anything we should have learned from 10 years of two wars, however, it is that the cautions that senior officers like Admiral Mullen and General Dempsey have given about the risks of war are all too accurate. War is the perfect recipe for unpredictable and uncontrollable events, and the primary law of war is the law of unintended consequences. We do not need another economic crisis triggered by the shock of a massive rise in oil prices or what in the worst case could be several weeks in which the Gulf could not export oil through the Strait of Hormuz. We do need a slow battle of attrition in the Gulf, and we need to be truly careful about what Iran might do if Israel or the U.S. launches a preventive attack. Iran's options are scarcely good for Iran. It would almost certainly end in escalating its way into even more trouble, but it could hurt us, our Arab allies, Israel, and the world economy a great deal in the process... At the same time, the risks and pressures that could lead to the use of force are growing. U.S. and Iranian competition over Iran's nuclear programs has spilled over into the entire Middle East, and the world, and is nearing the crisis point. Given the importance of the Gulf in global energy security, Iran's goals of becoming a regional power, and socio-political instability in the Middle East, military competition between the U.S. and Iran will either force some form of negotiation or continue to intensify to the point where some form of conflict becomes more and more likely. If it does, there are no good options. The choice moves toward preventive strikes of kind where the consequences are at best unpredictable, or containment and living what could be a steadily growing regional nuclear arms race... The best, lasting solution to Iran's nuclear and missile programs is some form of negotiated political solution, and one driven by compromise and a 'carrot and stick' approach. Such an approach would consist of offering Iran economic and other incentives to shelve its nuclear program, not simply penalizing it for continuing efforts at weaponization and refusing to comply with the IAEA. The risk is all too obvious, however, that the present situation will remain intractable. Negotiations between the U.S., Iran, and other states during the last decade have collapsed time and again due to the refusal of both sides to accept the basic demands of the other... This is why the best current option is a 'waiting option' that relies on diplomacy, sanctions, and the offer of incentives. It too is filled with risks that will increase on both a short- and long-term basis. It is, however, currently the least bad of a range of bad options, and it does give time sanction to work, dialogue to have an impact, and for the Iranian regime to change its position." http://t.uani.com/zZ6Pz7