National Security Network

Iran: Isolated and Under Pressure

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Report 14 September 2011

Iran Iran diplomacy UNGA United Nations United Nations General Assembly

When Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad arrives in New York next week to address the UN General Assembly, he will do so with little power at home and as one of the last remaining authoritarian figures in the region. International pressure continues to mount against Iran as questions about its nuclear program go unanswered and its internal crackdown persists. Iran is clearly feeling this pressure. In recent days, Iran has signaled that it may be open to discussing nuclear issues that it had previously refused to address and has launched an all-out "charm offensive" against additional pressure and isolation.

Ahmadinejad returns to New York weaker and with less regional sway. Geneive Abdo noted yesterday at an event hosted by NSN and the Project on Middle East Democracy that with Mubarak and other Arab authoritarians off the stage, Ahmadinejad comes to New York as "one of the last authoritarian figures still standing." Abdo continued, "And what I think is important to realize about whatever he says at the UN is that he himself, as a political leader, has been marginalized in Iran. The regime has completely isolated him and his political faction, and they're making preparations so that his faction is not allowed to win any seats or is even allowed to run in the upcoming on parliamentary elections, which will be in March.  So, I guess, in the context of the Middle East - of Middle East relationships - I think it's important to remember that Ahmadinejad has been marginalized and also it's important to remember that as president, he never had very much power." [Geneive Abdo via NSN-POMED, 9/12/11]

Iran's regional standing continues to drop. Arab public opinion expert Dr. James Zogby reports, "There has been a steady erosion of Iran's favorability rating over the last five years, and today they're as low as they are in large measure because Iran is seen in its own right instead of being seen as the counterpoint to American policy... If you look at Iran and you ask questions - ‘what do you think about Iran's behavior in Bahrain?' or ‘what do you think about Iran's involvement in Iraq?' or ‘what do you think about Iran's behavior in Lebanon?' -- people began to focus on Iran in just its own right, what it's doing. Henceforth, Iran's favorable ratings are very low, and its favorable ratings are low because its behavior in the region is viewed as interference and counterproductive." [James Zogby via NSN-POMED, 9/12/11]

Technical delays persist for Iran's nuclear program. Charles Ferguson and Ali Vaez of the Federation of American Scientists explain that, "Despite its public boastful rhetoric, Iran still seems to be struggling with operating its centrifuges. The pace of Iranian uranium refinement has not increased since the last report in May. In fact, the declining performance of IR-1 machines, which bear the brunt of Iran's enrichment program, reveals just how slowly progress is coming for Iran. Five years after Ahmadinejad promised to deploy a new generation of indigenous centrifuges, Iran has yet to set up a complete cascade of the new devices... Tehran's exaggerated nuclear bluster plays into the hands of Washington hawks who play up the Iranian threat. This American drum-beating in turn puts Iran on the defensive, increasing domestic Iranian support for nuclear development. Hence, the vicious cycle continues and the international diplomatic impasse over Iran's program persists. The maximalist policies of both sides, from Iran's zero-compromise fundamentalism to America's zero-enrichment dogmatism, have created a serious dilemma. But the actual science of Iran's nuclear program, as revealed by this latest IAEA report, looks far milder than what either side is portraying." [Ferguson and Vaez, 9/13/11]

Iran responds to the pressure and global isolation. As the AP reports in an exclusive: "As word of [a possible referral to the UN Security Council] ripples through the IAEA, Iran has embarked on what appears to be a counteroffensive meant to blunt the Western-led efforts for new referral and possible new sanctions. Tehran earlier this month invited a senior IAEA team to tour previously restricted nuclear sites, including a reactor under construction that will produce plutonium once finished. It has also signaled it is ready to discuss some of the nuclear weapons allegations against it. And it says it is willing to lift previous restrictions on IAEA monitoring of its nuclear program and place it under ‘full control' of the agency for five years if U.N. sanctions are lifted." [AP, 9/13/11]

What We're Reading

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Commentary of the Day

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