US-Russia Strain over Iran’s Role in Syria
Russia and Iran, strong allies of Syria, allege the US has sent weapons and troops into Syria to assist opposition forces (NYT 6/13). The claims were denied and countered by US accusations that Russia supplies Syrian opposition groups with helicopter gunships, an allegation denied by the Russian government (NYT). Secretary Clinton spoke to the deteriorating situation in Syria, saying, “’We believe that the situation is spiraling toward civil war’” (Philadelphia Inquirer 6/14). Alluding presumably to the US, Salehi criticized American policy saying, “’They say they want to prevent massacres but at the same time send weapons — these are double standards’” (NYT 6/13).
Lead -up to Talks
Saeed Jalili, Iranian negotiator to the P5+1 talks has announced Iran would not compromise on its right to enrich uranium in a speech to the Iranian parliament that was broadcast throughout the country (WSJ 6/13). The broadcast suggested a “hardening” of the Iranian stance going into negotiations in Moscow (WSJ). Dr. Charles G. Cogan of Harvard’s Kennedy School criticizes the high levels of distrust between the US and Iran approaching talks in a recent op-ed, saying that, “there is very little chance under present circumstances of the above solution being realized,” and that perhaps an intermediary would be necessary for productive discourse to take place (Huffington Post 6/13).
UK and Iranian foreign ministers met in Kabul for the first time since the storming of the UK embassy in Tehran last year to discuss the upcoming talks in Moscow (Reuters 6/14). The storming of the embassy and the disintegration of relations thereafter was acknowledged during the meeting (Reuters).
Coping with Sanctions
Japanese legislation set to pass the lower Japanese legislative house on Friday would provide government guarantees on insurance for Iranian crude cargoes (Reuters 6/14). Japan has lowered oil imports to comply with US sanctions, but it will be the first country to have endorsed insurance for Iranian crude cargoes, despite EU sanctions (Reuters).
Rostam Ghazemi, Iran’s oil minister, continues to deny sanctions are squeezing the Iranian economy, saying the “oil embargo will ‘not have any negative impact on Iran’”, even as Ghazemi meets with other OPEC leaders in Vienna today to argue for a tightening of OPEC’s production ceiling and higher oil prices (AP 6/14; Bloomberg 6/14).
Peres Visits Washington
President Obama bestowed the nation’s highest civilian honor- the Presidential Medal of Freedom- on visiting Israeli President Shimon Peres during a ceremony, calling him the “essence of Israel” (Washington Post 6/13). Peres said to the President, “Clearly, we support you and your policy” (Washington Post 6/13; Yahoo News 6/14).
Analysis: Give Obama Elbow Room on Iran: Trita Parsi, NYT
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Two central factors are driving Washington’s negotiation strategy at this point. The first is Congressional obstructionism and President Obama’s limited room to maneuver in an election year. The second is outsize expectations about what the current sanctions against Iran can achieve. Both must be abandoned if talks are to succeed. Mr. Obama needs a continuing diplomatic process to calm the oil markets because of the coming election. Yet, precisely because of the election, he has limited ability to offer the Iranians relief from sanctions in return for nuclear concessions. Congress is actively seeking to make a deal on the nuclear issue impossible by imposing unfeasible red lines, setting unachievable objectives — and depriving the executive branch of the freedom to bargain. (NYT 6/13/12)