ANALYSIS: Iran stays one step ahead

Race for sanctions on Iran speeds up

The next Iran report by the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is due in early March, and even though Tehran has fully cooperated and there is no evidence of military diversion from its peaceful nuclear activities, the United Nations is about to impose severe new sanctions on Iran, deemed “punitive” by a US government spokesperson.

According to Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki, the proposed third round of sanctions is really about “escaping answers to world public opinion” because the US and its allies “are worried about the agency report”. Mottaki has hinted at compromise and Iran’s willingness to show greater flexibility in nuclear negotiations, by calling on the US to “couch whatever it has to say in the Five plus One framework”. This refers to the US, Britain, France, Russia and China plus Germany, which have been debating Iran’s case. [complete article]

White House criticizes envoy over Iran

White House officials expressed anger on Tuesday about an appearance in which the United States ambassador to the United Nations, Zalmay Khalilzad, sat beside the Iranian foreign minister at a panel of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Saturday.

The United States does not have diplomatic relations with Iran, and the Bush administration has limited its official high-level dealings with Iran to discussions about Iraq, primarily in Baghdad. Administration officials said that Mr. Khalilzad’s appearance beside Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki in Davos at a panel on Iranian foreign policy surprised senior Bush administration officials, who became aware that Mr. Khalilzad had appeared with Mr. Mottaki only when a video of the discussion appeared on YouTube on Tuesday. [complete article]

A China base in Iran?

In the aftermath of President George W Bush’s recent tour of the Persian Gulf, coinciding with a similar trip by France’s President Nicolas Sarkozy, culminating in a deal with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for a small French base, Iran’s security calculus has changed. It has almost reached the point of Tehran considering the option of reciprocating the perceived excess Western intrusion into its vicinity by allowing a military base for China at one of Iran’s Persian Gulf ports or on one of its islands. [complete article]

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