What Happened in Baghdad

On the radar: How the Baghdad talks almost collapsed; New IAEA Iran Report; Breakdown over sanctions; Iran posturing ahead of Moscow; Marketing, not strategy, made triad; Safer, fewer, leaner; and Iran’s accidental HEU.

Date May 29, 2012 | Edited by Benjamin Loehrke

Behind the scenes - The Baghdad talks between the P5+1 and Iran featured some important developments, with the Iranians agreeing to discuss specific proposals. However, the talks almost collapsed at the end of day 2 because of disagreement between the P5+1 members - some of whom sought a harder line toward Iran in the group’s final statement.

--In the end, the P5+1 and Iran agreed to hold talks next month. Iran proposed three venues for talks: Astana, Beijing or Moscow. “It took only five minutes for all the diplomats to settle on Moscow. Laura Rozen has the backstory in Al Monitor. http://bit.ly/JKJkI4

ISIS on New IAEA Report - The IAEA released a its latest report on Iran. ISIS sums up the key findings: Iran’s monthly production of 3.5% LEU increased significantly; testing of advanced centrifuge production-scale cascades at Natanz remains troubled; and IR-1 performance is improving but remains below par. Full ISIS report here. (pdf) http://bit.ly/KpxMYQ

IAEA Iran Report - Read the full IAEA report here. “Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement and relevant provisions of Security Council resolutions in the Islamic Republic of Iran” (pdf) http://bit.ly/L0YYKW

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Pressure problems - Reports from the Baghdad talks indicate that Iran said it was willing to make a concession on ending enrichment of uranium to 20% in return for a concession (sanctions relief) from the P5+1. However, it appears that the P5+1 never budged on sanctions before the talks ended without major breakthrough.

--"This silence [on sanctions], on top of the overall inflexibility of what they are hearing from their interlocutors, gives the Iranians ample reason to question the good faith of the other side and—especially amid all the talk about regime change and going to war—to wonder if, no matter what they do, all they can expect to face is pressure and more pressure," writes Paul Pillar at The National Interest. http://bit.ly/LBZxxm

Posturing for Moscow - “We have no reason to retreat from producing the 20 percent, because we need 20 percent uranium just as much to meet our needs,” said Iran’s nuclear chief Fereydoon Abbasi yesterday. Abbasi also announced Iran’s intention to start building two nuclear power plants in 2013. Thomas Erdbrink of the NYT has the story. http://nyti.ms/KCnAuj

Lessons in bureaucratic politics - “The real reason the [nuclear] triad exists is that the Air Force, having failed to either prevent or control the proliferation of ballistic missile submarines by the early 1970s, coined the term ‘triad’ as part of a marketing effort to protect their bombers,” write Benjamin Friedman and Christopher Preble in The Washington Examiner.

--Given the decreasing importance of nuclear weapons for U.S. national security, Friedman and Preble argue that it’s time to scrap the triad and pocket the budget savings from trimming the nuclear arsenal. http://bit.ly/JM2bxT

What to cut -”If Republicans and Democrats in Congress are keen on cutting budgets and taming deficits, ending gluttonous spending on an obese nuclear arsenal is basic,” writes Lance Dickie of the Seattle Times.

--Dickie argues that the new Global Zero report, chaired by Gen. James Cartwright, offers a possible path toward greater security with fewer weapons and leaner budgets. http://bit.ly/KCf52k

Looking toward Moscow - As the P5+1 prep for talks with Iran next month in Moscow, Ploughshares Fund’s Philip Yun offers four things to keep in mind. “Moving Away from War with Iran” in The San Francisco Chronicle. http://bit.ly/N5iKXl

Malware on Iranian computers - “Meet ‘Flame,’ the Massive Spy Malware Infiltrating Iranian Computers” Kim Zetter at Threat Level has the story. http://bit.ly/KDYKuw

Over-enrichment - The IAEA recently found traces of 27% enriched uranium (technically HEU) at Iran’s fordo facility. This was most likely an operator mistake. Slowly feeding UF6 gas into spinning centrifuges can result in a phenomenon where the first small amounts of feed gas get enriched above the target percentage before the rest of the feed gas blends it down to the target level. Joshua Pollack at Arms Control Wonk goes into the wonky science of it. http://bit.ly/KZGazk