After more than three decades of tension and distrust, a new President and his charm offensive have caused hopes for better relations. But skepticism remains… about what Iran’s intentions are – and how other actors like Syria and Israel could play a role.
Bill Martel, professor at the Fletcher School at Tufts University. His most recent book is called "Victory in War"
After thirty years of no new nuclear construction, two projects are underway in the south, as some argue this carbon-emission free energy source is vital due to climate change. But concerns over safety issues remain, as well as new challenges from a booming natural gas industry. We explore the problems and prospects of nuclear energy with a New York Times reporter who has been following the debate over nuclear.
Energy is big business and a big issue inextricably linked to politics. Rising gas prices and huge natural gas and oil finds in the U.S. thrust energy into the 2012 presidential arena, but little was said about nuclear power—which supplies about a fifth of America’s power. Although some environmentalists are now advocating for nukes, the question of how to safely isolate existing waste has been plaguing the industry and government for decades.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan meets Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Tehran, Iran, in March. Relations between the two countries have deteriorated over Iran's continued support of the Syrian regime.
Iran's suspect nuclear program will again be in the spotlight this weekend when negotiators from Iran and six international powers meet in Istanbul.
Iran was reluctant to have Turkey host the meeting, reflecting Iran's growing unhappiness with Turkish foreign policy moves, especially its call for regime change in Syria, Iran's key ally in the Arab world.
Analyst and columnist Yavuz Baydar says Turkey has stuck its neck out for Iran in the past, defending what it calls Iran's peaceful nuclear energy program and even voting against U.N. sanctions on Iran two years ago.
For the first time in more than a year, diplomats from Iran will meet with representatives from the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council — U.S., Britain, France, Russia and China — plus Germany.
The meeting, to be held in Istanbul this weekend, will focus on Iran's controversial nuclear program.
When similar talks have taken place in the past, Iranian officials tended to use the sessions to complain about the ways the U.S. and the West have treated Iran badly, and little actual negotiating got done.
A North Korean soldier stands guard in front of the Unha-3 (Milky Way 3) rocket on a launchpad at the West Sea Satellite Launch Site, during a guided media tour by North Korean authorities northwest of Pyongyang on April 8.
Credit Kim Kwang Hon / AP
Mosaics of the two late North Korean leaders — Kim Jong Il (right) and Kim Il Sung, the country's founder — are unveiled Monday during celebrations marking the 100th anniversary of Kim Il Sung's birth, in Pyongyang, North Korea.
Credit Pedro Ugarte / AFP/Getty Images
North Koreans in Pyongyang rehearse for the commemoration of the 100th anniversary of Kim Il Sung's birth on April 15.
As North Korea gears up to launch a long-range rocket, political changes are afoot, too: Pyongyang has consolidated its succession process, giving a new title to its new leader, Kim Jong Un, who came to power in December after his father's death.
The rocket launch, which could come as early as Thursday in North Korea, has been condemned by the international community as being in violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions. So why now?
Iranians wait to enter a currency exchange shop in Tehran on Jan. 3. The Iranian rial fell to a record low against the dollar in early January after President Obama signed a bill imposing fresh sanctions on the country's central bank.
Credit Raheb Homavandi / Reuters/Landov
A customer buys Iranian gold coins at a currency exchange office in Tehran. The loss in the rial's value has led Iranians to take their money out of the country — even by speedboat across the Persian Gulf.
In recent weeks and days, the divisions over how to deal with Iran and its nuclear program have sharpened. The only undisputed fact is that Iran is developing a nuclear energy program, but after that things get murky.
Israel and some European countries believe Iran is moving toward a nuclear weapons program, but U.S. intelligence agencies disagree. Israel argues that a nuclear-armed Iran poses an existential threat, and there's much speculation in the media about a possible Israeli attack on Iran's nuclear sites.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the American Israel Public Affairs Committee's annual policy conference on Monday in Washington, D.C. He said he would never let his "people live in the shadow of annihilation."
In several hours of talks, President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seemed to have different timelines and red lines on the issue of Iran's nuclear program: Obama said he prefers diplomacy and pressure; the Israeli leader made clear his country reserves the right to attack pre-emptively, saying Israel must remain master of its fate.
The director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Yukiya Amano, says Iran has not provided answers to a number of questions about its nuclear program. Amano spoke at a news conference after meeting with the board of governors of the IAEA at its headquarters in Vienna.
Credit Kamran Jebreili / AP
In Iranian parliamentary elections, candidates aligned with the country's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, captured the vast major of the seats, according to media reports. Here, Iranians are shown standing in line to vote last Friday in the city of Qom, south of the capital Tehran.
The troubled relationship between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency doesn't appear to be getting any better.
Back in February, senior agency delegations traveled twice to Iran to clarify its concerns about possible nuclear weapons work.
And on Monday, the head of the IAEA, Yukiya Amano, said Iran is not providing the necessary cooperation that would allow the agency to give credible assurances that Iran's nuclear work is entirely peaceful.
North Korea's military fires missiles during a drill in this undated photo released Oct. 6, 2010, by the Korean Central News Agency. North Korea has agreed to stop nuclear activities and allow inspections, while the U.S. says it will provide food aid to the country.
Credit KNS / AFP/Getty Images
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (center) inspects army units at an undisclosed location in this photo released by the Korean Central News Agency on Monday.
North Korea has agreed to suspend uranium enrichment and missile tests, and the U.S. says it will provide food aid. The agreement should set the stage for a new round of nuclear disarmament talks. But analysts caution this is a small first step.
U.S. State Department officials returned from three days of talks in Beijing with a deal meant to improve the atmosphere for a resumption of so-called six-party nuclear disarmament talks. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton outlined the deal in Congress on Wednesday.
It was one of the more surreal photo ops this week: Iran's president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, live on Iranian TV, visiting a nuclear reactor. Ahmadinejad trumpeted his country's nuclear progress, but denied, once again, that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons.
In Washington, officials weren't buying it.
They rushed to repeat the official U.S. line — a line President Obama himself is fond of delivering.
"Let there be no doubt: America is determined to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, and I will take no options off the table to achieve that goal," he said.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (right) listens to a nuclear expert during a tour of the Tehran Research Reactor on Wednesday. Iran announced that for the first time it has produced the fuel plates that power that reactor.