Top of the Agenda: Iran Intentions Still Unclear Ahead of P5+1 Meeting
The head of the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization, Fereydoon Abbasi, on Monday hinted at the potential for a modest concession intended to partially assuage Western concerns regarding the regime's uranium enrichment program (NYT). Abbasi indicated Tehran was prepared to enrich uranium to 20 percent purity "just to meet its own needs." The announcement comes ahead of a planned resumption of nuclear talks between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5+1. However, in a somewhat contradictory statement, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said the country would not accept preconditions for the discussions. Analysts say the remarks reflect the debate within the Iranian power structure on how to handle the talks. Western governments had no immediate response.
In Foreign Policy, CFR's Steven A. Cook discusses claims that Iran's development of a nuclear weapon would drive proliferation throughout the region. "There are very good reasons for the international community to meet the challenge that Iran represents, but Middle Eastern nuclear dominoes are not one of them," he says. "While Iran is closer to home for the Saudis, the security situation in the Persian Gulf is not as severe as the one along the 1,800-mile Indo-Pakistani border."
Upcoming negotiations are shadowed by Iran's increasing uranium enrichment capabilities. Four nonproliferation experts provide a path for resolving the intensifying nuclear dispute. All agree on the need to address immediate proliferation risks, including halting Iran's accumulation of 20 percent enriched uranium.
This CFR interactive Crisis Guide traces Iran's history, its evolution as an Islamic republic, and its controversial nuclear program. It also offers an expert overview of the main policy options for dealing with Iran.
Syria Peace Deal Likely to Crumble
The UN-backed peace accord in Syria looks likely to fall apart after a government request for opposition groups to end attacks and disarm was quickly rejected. Assad regime officials claimed the pledge to withdraw forces from cities by Tuesday had been misconstrued and was now contingent on receiving written guarantees the opposition would end resistance (LATimes).
EGYPT: Ousted leader Hosni Mubarak's former vice president and spy chief Omar Suleiman (AP) will have the backing of Egypt's ruling generals and the state media's powerful propaganda machine in his effort to become president, according to officials with first-hand knowledge.
North Korea Prepares Launch of Controversial Rocket
North Korea has readied the launch of a rocket capable of striking the continental United States. Pyongyang claims the rocket (Reuters), which is set to fire this week, is only carrying a weather satellite, but officials in Seoul and Washington assert the launch is a ballistic missile test.
CFR's Leslie H. Gelb argues that the world is distracted, and North Korea, South Korea, and the United States are stumbling once again toward a nuclear confrontation.
CHINA: China has established a rare earth association in order to streamline the development of the vital resource. As the producer of 95 percent of the world's supply, Beijing has faced Western criticism for its export restrictions on rare earth metals (BBC).
Zardari Meets With Singh
Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari arrived in India Sunday to meet with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the first high-level state visit (LAT) between the wary neighbors in seven years. Both sides hailed the meeting as a sign of easing tensions along one of the world's most dangerous borders, but there were no breakthroughs announced.
AFGHANISTAN: U.S and Afghan officials struck a deal that would provide Kabul greater supervision over controversial night raids (WSJ). Analysts say the "breakthrough" lays the groundwork for a long-term partnership accord next month.
Dozens Killed in Nigeria Car Bomb
A car bomb blasted a busy road in Kaduna, Nigeria, killing at least thirty-eight people in a massive explosion. The bomber, who is suspected of ties to the Islamist group Boko Haram (AP), appears to have been targeting churches holding Easter services.
While widening violence by Nigeria's Islamist group Boko Haram has caused concerns about its possible links to international terrorist groups, some experts argue it's best to focus on addressing the crippling poverty, political corruption, and police abuses that are at the root of the violence.
MALI: Mali's President Amadou Toumani Toure resigned on Sunday, clearing a path for the junta that removed him in a coup to fulfill its commitment to reestablish civilian rule (Reuters) and hand over authority to the president of the National Assembly.
Rousseff's Broad Agenda for Washington Visit
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff's first official visit to Washington Monday is expected to cover a range of issues, including trade, education, and foreign policy, but the overall focus is boosting ties between the two biggest nations (BBC) in the Americas.
ARGENTINA: The British government is seeking repayment of a $71 million loan made to Argentina in 1979--money that was eventually used to help fund the invasion of the Falkland Islands (FT).
UK to Push EU on Emissions
The UK is expected to press for deeper reductions in the EU's carbon emissions targets at a summit in Denmark next week. UK officials will propose a 30 percent cut in greenhouse gas emissions (FT) from the levels in 1990, up from the current target of 20 percent.
SOUTH OSSETIA: Leonid Tibilov, a former KGB chief, won the runoff presidential election in Georgia's breakaway province of South Ossetia (AP). Tensions between Georgia and South Ossetia launched the August 2008 war, in which Russian forces overran the Georgian military in five days of battle.