The Middle East Channel

IAEA inspectors arrive in Tehran in effort to revive nuclear talks

A team of five United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors arrived in Tehran a day after Iran cut off oil exports to Britain and France. A spokesman from Iran's Oil Ministry, Ali Reza Nikad-Rahbar, said the move was part of punitive measures that will be employed against "hostile" European countries that have complied with sanctions. European countries make up about 18 percent of imports of Iranian crude oil, and have collectively agreed to an oil embargo set to begin in the summer. The trip for the team of U.N. inspectors has been the second in a month during efforts to revive talks that collapsed in Istanbul a year ago. They come at a time of heightened tensions over concerns that Iran's nuclear program, which the country maintains is for peaceful purposes, is instead aimed at nuclear weapons development. Last week, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad made an appearance on state television announcing progress in the program, increasing the amount of centrifuges and inserting nationally made fuel rods. Meanwhile, the United States has initiated escalating sanctions and not ruled out a military strike on Iran if concerns over the nuclear program are not allayed. Iran's Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said "In these negotiations we are looking for a way out of Iran's current nuclear issues so that both sides win."

Headlines  

  • Iranian warships docked at a Syrian port reportedly for joint maritime training. Meanwhile, two judicial officials were assassinated in the northwestern province of Idlib.
  • A suicide bomber killed 18 Iraqi police officers and recruits and injured 27 outside a Baghdad police academy.
  • After having initially denied support, declining economic conditions have forced the Egyptian transitional government to accept an IMF loan.
  • A bomb exploded at a polling station in Yemen's port city of Aden a day before presidential elections are slated to officially transfer power from Ali Abdullah Saleh to Vice President Hadi.
  • There was low turnout for the February 20 movement's anniversary marking Morocco's uprising which spurred constitutional reform and advanced elections.

Arguments & Analysis

'Fighting to remain relevant? The PKK in 2012' (Franco Galdini, Open Democracy)

"As the revolutionary upheavals are set to continue well into 2012, the question of future alternatives emerging in the Kurdish mainstream, especially from the youth, becomes crucial. In other words, if both the traditional (armed) and new (political) axes of the struggle are increasingly perceived as either irrelevant or too weak, respectively, to enforce a change of policy by the Turkish state, the possibility of a Kurdish (youth-led) movement taking matters in their own hands on the recent example of several countries around the region becomes very real." 

'Muslim Brothers and Egypt's economy' (Mohamed El Dahshan, The Daily Star)

"How the Brotherhood's budget turns out depends on how parliamentary alliances coalesce. Existing tensions between liberal and Islamist parties will be replaced by common interests; the Brotherhood will find good allies in economic policy in smaller pro-market parties across the aisle. The end result will be a stumbling, learn-as-you-go pragmatic pro-market economic policy with a strong welfare component. Deregulation will slow. Relations with international donors won't change. In the end, the Brotherhood's economic policy may represent little change from the past two decades, as Egypt's economic policy maintained massive subsidization while conducting, or at least promising, pro-business reforms."

'Empty talk on Tahrir Square' (Tim Sebastian, New York Times)

"Parliament's unwillingness to confront the generals is understandable. After all, they still have higher than 80 percent approval ratings across the country -- and they're still making the key decisions. But it does mean that the new politicians' first days at school risk being defined by what they won't do, rather than what they will. A recent survey of the assembly's political parties, conducted by Amnesty International, found, for instance, a depressingly patchy response to the question of women's rights and very little appetite to campaign for female equality. More alarming, though, is the re-emergence of fear. Once again, I was told, Egyptians are starting to look over their shoulder to see who might be listening, to be careful what they say on the phone, to begin considering all over again who they can and cannot trust. "The intelligence services are extremely active," says a well-known commentator."

--Tom Kutsch & Mary Casey

AFP/Getty images

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