Nuclear talks with Iran tipped to resume; Iran's Ahmadinejad is facing domestic challenges; US is reasserting itself in Asia as China and neighbours bicker; North Korea rearranges Communist Party in anticipation of succession by Kim Jong-Il's son; UN accuses Israel of war crimes; Obama announces US aid revamp; and more

Top of the Agenda: UN Powers Willing to Resume Iran Talks

 

UN powers, including the United States, said they were ready to resume talks with Iran (FT) on its nuclear program after Tehran indicated its leaders were willing to work toward a diplomatic solution on the issue. Renewed talks would include discussing a nuclear fuel swap proposal, but diplomats stressed this would also require additional action by Iran to prove its nuclear ambitions remained peaceful. U.S. and European officials said they remained skeptical (WSJ) of Tehran's willingness to negotiate an agreement to end or limit their nuclear program, given Iran's increased production of nuclear fuel in recent months and its granting limited access to inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency. The impact of UN, U.S., and EU sanctions enacted against Iran since June may explain the Iranians' willingness to talk. The U.S. decision to entertain Tehran's overtures indicates its desire to convince the international community Iran can still be contained. Critics of the administration, including Israel, say continued diplomacy merely buys Iran time. The White House lauded Russia's decision to bar its shipment of S-300 missiles to Iran (NYT), which Tehran wanted to deter airstrikes against its nuclear facilities.

Analysis:

In the New Republic, Reuel Marc Gerecht says Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's loquacity in his speech at the UN indicates his and Iranian supreme leader Ali Khamenei's belief that they have the upper hand, and "they're probably not wrong."

In the Wall Street Journal, Bret Stephens says Ahmadinejad's granting a meeting to journalists in New York indicated the "feeling of self-importance" that access to him cultivated and noted his ability to mock "us in a way we scarcely had the wit to recognize."

In the Christian Science Monitor, Alastair Crooke says Iran's recent activation of the Bushehr nuclear reactor makes it a nuclear state, meaning it's "no longer realistic for the West to propose to negotiate with Iran while applying coercive sanctions as if it were a pre-nuclear state."

Ahmadinejad is facing domestic challenges from an angry public, an assertive legislature, and conflicts with Khamenei, says expert Kaveh Ehsani.

Background:

This Backgrounder examines Iran's nuclear program.

 

PACIFIC RIM: China Regional Disputes Boost U.S. Influence

 

Rising frictions between China and its neighbors in recent weeks over security issues give the United States an opportunity to reassert its regional influence (NYT). U.S. President Barack Obama is expected to meet with Southeast Asian leaders Friday and reaffirm that the United States is willing to help them peacefully settle the South China Sea territorial disputes with China.

The escalating dispute between Beijing and Tokyo about Japan's detention of a Chinese fishing boat captain is a challenge for Washington and raises concerns about Chinese maritime activities in the Asia Pacific, says CFR's Sheila Smith.

North Korea: North Korea announced a reshuffling of three senior officials (KoreaTimes) just days before a crucial ruling Communist Party meeting that is expected to outline a succession plan for leader Kim Jong-Il to his youngest son, Jong-Un.

In this Analysis Brief, experts say the power transition in North Korea is unlikely to herald reforms, and urge efforts to engage with the regime.

 

ELSEWHERE:

- UN Panel Accuses Israel of War Crimes
- Obama Announced U.S. Aid Revamp

This is an excerpt of the CFR.org Daily News Brief. The full version is available on CFR.org

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