N. Korea Increasing Uranium Production and Weapons Stockpiles For Iran?

A central plank of the Obama administration’s case for the nuclear deal just concluded by the P5+1 powers is that the agreement closes off “all pathways” by which the Iranian regime could acquire a nuclear capability, at least for the coming decade.

That, however, simply isn’t true. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), as the new nuclear bargain is officially called, only addresses the overt means by which Iran might go nuclear. A covert path to the bomb, entailing the procurement of materiel from foreign suppliers, still remains open to Iran, if it chooses to take that route.  If it does, the Islamic Republic will invariably look to Asia. That’s because over the past three decades, Iran and the Stalinist regime of the Kim dynasty in North Korea have erected a formidable alliance—the centerpiece of which is cooperation on nuclear and ballistic-missile capabilities.

As long ago as 1985, the two countries had already launched cooperative missile development, with Iran helping to underwrite North Korea’s production of 300-kilometer-range Scud-B missiles. Their interaction expanded in the 1990s, when Iran and North Korea began joint development of Iran’s Shahab medium-range missile, which is closely based on North Korea’s own nuclear-capable No Dong. More details here.

Recent Imagery Suggests Increased Uranium Production in North Korea, Probably for Expanding Nuclear Weapons Stockpile and Reactor Fuel



North Korea is expanding its capacity to mine and mill natural uranium. Recent commercial satellite imagery shows that, over the past year, Pyongyang has begun to refurbish a major mill located near Pyongsan that turns uranium ore into yellowcake.[1] The renovation suggests that North Korea is preparing to expand the production of uranium from a nearby mine.

The question is: What will North Korea do with this uranium? One possibility is that North Korea will enrich the uranium to expand its stockpile of nuclear weapons. Another is that Pyongyang plans to produce fuel for the Experimental Light Water Reactor under construction at its Yongbon nuclear scientific research facility as well as future light-water reactors based on that model.

A major challenge in estimating the size of North Korea’s nuclear weapons stockpile is uncertainty about whether Pyongyang has additional centrifuge facilities for enriching uranium. While such facilities may be hard to detect, the expansion of mining and milling near Pyongsan may allow observers to estimate the size of North Korea’s enrichment infrastructure based on its demand for uranium. Closer scrutiny of North Korea’s uranium resources, including its other declared mines and mills as well as suspected sites, may help arrive at more accurate estimates of this key capability.

North Korea’s Uranium Infrastructure

While wonks have turned their pointy heads toward North Korea’s nuclear reactors, reprocessing facility and enrichment capabilities, all of these capabilities depend on a supply of natural uranium. Uranium, whether natural or enriched, is the essential fuel for nuclear reactors that produce plutonium and can also be enriched to produce nuclear weapons.

The North Koreans like to brag about how much uranium they have. One North Korean publication described the DPRK’s uranium resources as “infinite.” And poor Andrea Berger, a non-proliferation expert at the Royal United Services Institute in London, even got a lecture on the subject from a North Korean official.

As it turns out, though, North Korea’s uranium resources are probably paltry, which means that we may be able to locate and monitor a relatively small number of sites. That, in turn could help us get a better grip on the North’s ability to produce reactor fuel and bombs. Thanks to the collapse of the Soviet Union, scholars now have access to internal Soviet and Warsaw Pact documents describing North Korea’s efforts to seek assistance in developing its uranium resources.

North Korea asked the Soviet Union for help in the field of the uranium prospecting as early as 1948. The request is described in an internal Soviet memo, translated by the Wilson Center’s North Korea International Documentation Project, which suggests such prospecting be postponed.[2] North Korea kept bugging the Soviets, though. By the early 1960s, the Soviets had completed a survey, but concluded North Korean uranium deposits were too poor for exploitation. Two Soviet specialists told their Ambassador in Pyongyang: “Korean uranium ore is not rich and is very scarce. The mining and processing of such ore will be extremely expensive for the Koreans.”[3] As it turns out, the North Koreans didn’t care that the uranium was extremely expensive. If you wonder whether Kim Il Sung wanted a bomb or not, his abiding interest in a domestic source of uranium at any cost is a hint.

The memos also include technical information. One memo, reporting on a 1979 North Korean effort to acquire uranium mining equipment from Czechoslovakia (hey, remember Czechoslovakia?) states: “[T]he DPRK has two important uranium quarries. In one of these two places, the uranium content of the ore is 0.26 percent, while in the other it is 0.086 percent.”[4] Based on other information released by the Soviet Union, it appears these mines are near Pakchon and Pyongsan, with Pyongsan likely having the higher quality ore.[5] In 1985, the North Koreans were still pressing the Soviets to speed up prospecting for new sources of ore.

In 1992, the DPRK declared, as part of its Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), two uranium mines (the Wolbisan Uranium Mine and the Pyongsan Uranium Mine) and two mills for concentration (the Pakchon Uranium Concentrate Pilot Plant and the Pyongsan Uranium Concentrate Plant). While there are naturally questions about whether this declaration was complete, the claim of two uranium mines appears consistent with the Soviet surveys.

The IAEA also released videos of Hans Blix, the former Swedish Foreign Minister and then the head of the international organization, visiting both mills. I was able to use the videos to locate both mills and, as best I can tell, the location of these sites was not in the public domain until now:

  • Pakchon Uranium Concentrate Pilot Plant (39°42’34.73″N, 125°34’8.57″E)
  • Pyongsan Uranium Concentrate Plant (38°19’4.56″N, 126°25’57.43″E)

Figure 1. North Korea’s Uranium Concentrate Plants.

Image: Google Earth.

Figure 2. Overview of the Pyongsan Uranium Mine and Uranium Concentration Plant.

Image includes material Pleiades © CNES 2015. Distribution Airbus DS / Spot Image, all rights reserved. For media licensing options, please contact thirtyeightnorth@gmail.com.

Pyongsan Uranium Mine and Mill

Pyongsan is believed to the most important uranium mine and mill in North Korea. (The other mill, near Pakchon, was described as a pilot facility.) Commercial satellite imagery from Digital Globe and Airbus Defense and Space show the layout of the mine and mill that turns uranium ore into yellowcake. The mine is connected to the mill by a conveyor belt that brings uranium ore into the mill for processing. The various structures within the mill are connected to one another allowing the uranium to be processed in stages (see figure 2 for schematic of a typical mill). Finally, the mill is connected to a large pond where tailings are dumped.

Figure 3. Schematic of a typical mill.

Photo: Energy Information Administration.

While North Korea has operated the facility intermittently over the past decade, new spoil and tailings appeared sometime between 2006-2011, suggesting that the North resumed uranium mining and milling during that period after what appears to have been a lull of many years. This uranium may have been fabricated into new fuel rods for the 5 MWe gas graphite reactor. North Korea had only 2,500 fresh fuel rods for this reactor—less than a third of a full load. (North Korea also had 12,000 rods that had been fabricated for the never completed 50 MWth reactor, which could be converted into reactor fuel.) The uranium might also have been converted into uranium hexafluoride (UF6) that could be enriched to build nuclear weapons, either at the enrichment plant that the North constructed and revealed to Americans visiting Yongbyon in 2010 or at a covert site. Based on the size of the spoil pile and the tailings, it may be possible to make a rough estimate of how much uranium was recovered, but this estimate would be very approximate. However, North Korea seems to be mining more uranium to meet what may be increasing needs for fuel or bombs.

Many more details here with satellite imagery.


Pyongyang appears to be modernizing a key facility associated with the production of uranium yellowcake. This suggests that North Korea intends to mine and mill a significant amount of uranium that could serve as fuel for expanding its nuclear weapons stockpile, as well as for providing fuel for future light-water reactors that may be in the planning phase. Mapping and monitoring North Korea’s infrastructure for producing uranium can help estimate the size of North Korea’s uranium enrichment program which is otherwise shrouded in secrecy.

Obama Prematurely Removed Trade Restrictions with Iran

It must have been some waivers that government officials signed that allowed renewed trade with Iran despite no trade under the Bush Administration and in most cases going back to the Carter administration.

Full details on lifted sanctions with Iran is found here.

The exception for the waiver appears to be under the guise of ‘humanitarian reasons’. So exactly how would Marlboro/Philip Morris or Coca Cola exactly be allowed for humanitarian reasons? I don’t know either but read on….the story gets worse.

U.S. Boosts Trade to Iran, Despite Sanctions


The Standard Chartered affair has laid bare a transatlantic rift between the U.S. and Europe over Iran sanctions.

U.K.-listed bank Standard Chartered agreed Tuesday to pay a $340 million sum to a New York regulator to settle allegations it broke U.S. money-laundering laws in handling Iranian customers’ transactions.

The allegations, which were made public by the New York state Department of Financial Services last week, led some U.K. political figures to accuse the regulator of seeking to undermine London as a financial center.

Now there are more grumblings this side of the pond as European companies realize they suffer more from recent Iran restrictions than their U.S. counterparts–and that such advantage may stem in part from better corporate access to decision-makers in Washington than in Brussels.

The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday morning that U.S. exports to Iran were increasing despite mounting enmity between both sides, while European Union exports to Tehran were falling.

Oral-B mouth wash, made by Procter & Gamble Co. of Cincinnati, Ohio, is still on display at local corner shops in Iran—the company confirms it still sells to Iran legally. Coca-Cola Co.’s Coke soft drink is sold in cafes and supermarkets. The Atlanta-based multinational says its syrup is still being legally exported to Iran and bottled by Khoshgovar Co., whose commercial manager Valid Nejati confirmed the information. “There have been no issues” with receiving payments, a Coca-Cola spokesman said.

To be sure, the penalties enforced against European banks for breaching sanctions on Iran were not focused on trade in foodstuffs, as a U.S Treasury official points out.

But European companies say their banks are increasingly refusing to handle letters of credit because they fear they could run into trouble in the U.S. because financial sanctions there have become so complex.

By contrast, the growth of U.S. sales to Iran largely stems from a decision in October to replace the previous cumbersome approval process with a blanket license for non-sanctioned food items, says Michael Burton, a Washington-based sanctions lawyer at Arent Fox.

While some European cereal traders say they can’t find banks to issue letters of credit for Iran, the U.S. this year restarted wheat exports to the Islamic Republic after a two-year gap.

As of last year, the vast majority of U.S. goods were medical preparations or equipment—31%– , pulpwood and woodpulp—25% and agricultural goods and food–17%

But U.S. permits even extend to goods such as cigarettes, though they are not covered by the blanket license and are subject to more stringent control than foodstuffs.

In April, Philip Morris International Inc. obtained a specific licence from the U.S. Treasury, “to sell cigarettes to customers for import into Iran,” a spokesman for the company said, although it has yet to make use of the authorization.

But expect no miracle to explain why Iranians may be allowed to buy Marlboros but not drive the new Peugeot in the future. To put it simply: when it comes to pleading its case with decision-makers, Corporate America does it better.

Mr. Burton also said U.S. companies benefit from well established channels in Washington to plead for sanctions exemptions, while their European peers, “don’t have the same mechanism to lobby the EU bureaucracy.”

For instance, Washington-based lobby group USA*Engage has successfully campaigned for the extension of a humanitarian exemption for food, agricultural products and medical goods from Iran sanctions.

Richard Sawaya, the director of USA* Engage, said “we have been in perpetual conversation with lawmakers and the Treasury,” on keeping the exemption. The primary aim of USA*Engage is humanitarian, but it can also benefit U.S. companies, Mr. Sawaya said, adding its focusis not limited to Iran.

USA*Engage is an offshoot of the Washington-based National Foreign Trade Council, whose board includes Procter & Gamble. More reading here.

*** Don’t go away yet…now due to the Iran deal concluded, the United States is on the hook to help Iran sell its oil.

Washington, 7 August (Argus) — The US administration is taking steps to ensure that Tehran’s oil customers can continue to purchase Iranian crude during an interim period before a nuclear agreement can be fully implemented and sanctions lifted.

The US Treasury and State departments late today issued guidance for how they will handle Iranian oil and petrochemical exports in the wake of a 14 July agreement the US and its P5 + 1 negotiating partners reached with Tehran. That accord swaps sanctions relief for nuclear concessions.

During the nuclear negotiations, Iran’s oil exports have been limited to 1mn-1.1mn b/d, down from 2.5mn b/d before the sanctions were imposed in 2012. Six countries — China, India, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Turkey — buy oil from Iran.

Under US law, President Barack Obama is authorized to impose sanctions on banks in countries that refuse to reduce their purchases of Iranian oil significantly. The US is pledging not to impose sanctions on financial institutions in those countries. And the US will not target non-US companies that help facilitate those purchases.

Obama on 5 August questioned the feasibility of trying to cut Beijing off from the US financial system, since the Chinese “happen to be major purchasers of our debt.” He warned such an effort “could trigger severe disruptions in our economy” and raise questions about the dollar’s role as the world’s reserve currency.

The US also will allow 14 companies to export petrochemicals from Iran. US administration officials estimate it will take six to nine months before compliance with the nuclear provisions can be assured and sanctions can be lifted.

The Republican-controlled Congress is scheduled to vote by 17 September on a resolution of disapproval to demonstrate their unhappiness with the nuclear agreement. That measure is likely to pass, prompting President Barack Obama to veto the resolution. Obama will need 34 Democrats in the Senate or a third of the House of Representatives to sustain his veto.

But Obama is suffering Democratic defections. Yesterday, New York senator Charles Schumer, who in 2017 is expected to become the Democrats’ new leader in the Senate, said yesterday he will oppose the deal.

Iran produced 2.88mn b/d in July, up from 2.85mn b/d in June, making it Opec’s third largest oil producer. Iranian officials have said repeatedly their oil sector needs $150bn-$200bn in new investment. US officials estimate


Shin Bet’s Latest Hamas Captive Reveals the Plan

Jerusalem Post: A Hamas fighter and tunnel digger has given his interrogators in Israel a bevy of intelligence about the group’s recent tunnel construction, planned attacks on Israel, battlefield strategy, and military cooperation with Iran, the Shin Bet General Security Service said Tuesday, after news of the operative’s arrest was made public.

The fighter, Ibrahim Adal Shahada Sha’ar, a 21-year-old native of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, was arrested by the Shin Bet and the Israel Police last month at Erez Crossing on the Israel border, after he arrived at the installation to submit an application to enter Israel. An official with the Shin Bet said that Sha’ar’s application to enter was for “personal or humanitarian reasons” and that officers at the crossing knew who he was and arrested him on the spot.

The Shin Bet on Tuesday said Sha’ar gave up to his interrogators a trove of intelligence relating to Hamas operations in Gaza and in Rafah in particular, including about their plans to use tunnels along the border to carry out attacks on Israel, like they did with brutal effectiveness during last summer’s Operation Protective Edge.

The Shin Bet said Sha’ar also gave details about Hamas battlefield strategy, the make-up and capabilities of their “elite” infantry unit, as well as the anti-aircraft and surveillance capabilities of the Hamas armed wing.

Sha’ar himself took part in a series of battlefield tasks during last summer’s war, the Shin Bet said, including field logistics, and transporting fighters and firearms on the battlefield. He also admitted to laying an anti-tank IED on one occasion.

The Rafah native had allegedly been spending recent months working on tunnel construction, during which he learned of tunnels heading for the Kerem Shalom crossing on the Israel border, potentially for use in an infiltration attack. Under questioning he also gave up the location of digging sites, tunnel openings, and the routes of tunnels currently under construction in the Gaza Strip. He also reportedly told his interrogators that a road recently built by Hamas along the Gaza border with Israel is meant in part to be used for attacks on Israel, during which vehicles will use the road to charge across the border.

He also reportedly gave details on his observations about the military cooperation between Hamas and Iran. The Shin Bet said he described how they transfer money to the organization and supply firearms and electronics, including devices meant for jamming radio frequencies, meant to be used to take down Israeli drones flying over Gaza. He also observed how they attempted to train Hamas fighters in the use of hang gliders for attacks on Israel.

On July 31st, Sha’ar was indicted at the Beersheba District Court on charges of membership in an illegal organization, attempted murder, and contact with a foreign agent, and taking part in illegal military training.

***  Then we need to go back to John Kerry’s testimony before Congress, where his answers turn out to be thin on substance and essentially false and uninformed.

Iran Funding Hamas Preparations for War


When asked repeatedly by Republicans about Iran’s repeated threats to destroy Israel during Congressional testimony about the Iran nuclear deal, Secretary of State John Kerry sighed and looked at his questioners the way an exasperated teacher regards dumb students. Yes, he admitted, they say that but he explained patiently, he’s seen no evidence of them planning anything to put that into effect. Kerry repeated that answer, though no doubt without the look of disdain on his face, to The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg saying “I haven’t seen anything that says to me” that their “ideological confrontation with Israel at this moment” [my emphasis] will “translate into active steps.” For all intents and purposes, President Obama says the same thing when he dismisses threats to Israel from Iran’s Supreme Leader Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei even if he just published a book outlining his plans.

But, as Israel’s Shin Bet intelligence agency made public today, Iran is taking active steps toward war with Israel. The Israelis revealed that information obtained from a prisoner as well as from other sources showed that Iran is taking an active role in allowing Hamas to rebuild its military infrastructure as well as terror tunnels aimed at facilitating murder and kidnapping. Though the administration pretends that its negotiations with Iran are proof that the Islamist regime is moderating, evidence on the ground shows that its role as the world’s leading state sponsor of terror is unchanged. So, too, is its role in aiding the ongoing war on Israel’s existence.

As Haaretz reports:

During his interrogation, [Hamas operative Ibrahim] Sha’er also told of the links between Iran and Hamas, under which Iran has transferred military support into the Gaza Strip to strengthen the organization. The Iranians provide funds, advanced weaponry and electronic equipment such as equipment for disrupting radio communications to bring down Israeli unmanned aerial vehicles over Gaza, Sha’er told the Shin Bet. Iran has also trained Gaza fighters in the use of hang gliders for the purpose of penetrating into Israel, he said.

Perhaps to Obama and Kerry, these efforts should be considered minor annoyances to Israel. After all, what possible impact can terror attacks or giving Hamas the ability to wage and sustain a new war against Israel have to do with Israel’s existence? The Israeli military is strong and presumably is capable of dealing with anything that Hamas can come up with. Perhaps, the same is true of Hezbollah, which even Kerry admitted to Goldberg, had 80,000 rockets pointed at Israel.

The point is that Iran using its wealth and military know-how to build up Hezbollah (which operates as an Iranian surrogate, even sending its fighters into Syria to bolster Iran’s ally Bashar Assad) and now Hamas isn’t a mere detail to be swept under the rug. Nor is it tangential to the main thrust of Iranian foreign policy, as Khamenei’s new book makes plain.

Moreover, despite the administration’s blind faith in a shift in Iran’s policies once the nuclear deal is put into effect, there’s no evidence that the flood of cash into Tehran’s coffers will do anything but encourage it to continue its efforts to have its terrorist auxiliaries wage war on Israel.

To the contrary, once the deal sneaks through Congress and Obama begins the process of suspending sanctions by executive order and the Europeans begin a Tehran gold rush, the incentive to regard violations of any of the understandings as too minor to provoke a break will be too great. Kerry may speak of snapping back sanctions, but it’s clear the will to do so on the part of the West will be lacking.

That means that not only will Iran spend the next decade preparing for building its own bomb. It will also spend that time employing its wealth in its struggle for regional hegemony, a key part of which is its surrogate war on Israel. Once the deal expires, Hamas and Hezbollah won’t just be increasingly annoying Israel with deadly terror funded by Iran. They’ll then have a nuclear umbrella. At best, Israel — and moderate Arab states — will live under a terrible threat. The worst-case scenario is too awful to contemplate.

That means that contrary to Kerry’s belief about Iran having no plans in place to eliminate Israel, the entire process that will unfold from the deal is part and parcel of just such a plan. The only difference is that unlike past efforts, what will follow will happen while it has become America’s diplomatic and business partner. That is more than enough reason for anyone who cares about U.S. security, its interests in the Middle East and Israel’s survival, to rethink the deal.


Obama Chose Kerry Over Hillary to Begin Iran Talks

The opening salvo was much earlier, yet in earnest, the talks with Iran began in 2011 and it appears, Obama’s campaign team were tooling the talks to perhaps be part of his re-election campaign. It was already decided that Hillary was out and Kerry was in as Secretary of State.

Pathetic when we need to find some back-end truths from Iran, a terror nation. Read on readers, this is a fascinating summary with clear citations and annotations.

Iranian Senior Officials Disclose Confidential Details From Nuclear Negotiations: Already In 2011 We Received Letter From U.S. Administration Recognizing Iran’s Right To Enrich Uranium

By MEMRI: Iranian officials recently began to reveal details from the nuclear negotiations with the U.S. since their early stages. Their statements indicate that the U.S. initiated secret negotiations with Iran not after President Hassan Rohani, of the pragmatic camp, was elected in 2013, but rather in 2011-2012, in the era of radical president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.[1] The disclosures also indicate that, already at that time, Iran received from the U.S. administration a letter recognizing its right to enrich uranium on its own soil. Hossein Sheikh Al-Islam, an advisor to the Majlis speaker, specified that the letter had come from John Kerry, then a senator and head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Iranian vice president and top negotiator Ali Akbar Salehi said that Kerry, while still a senator, had been appointed by President Obama to handle the nuclear contacts with Iran.

The following are initial details from these disclosures; a full translation is pending.   

Khamenei: Bilateral Talks Began In 2011, Were Based On U.S. Recognition Of Nuclear Iran

In a speech he delivered on June 23, 2015, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said that the American administration had initiated the nuclear talks with Iran during Ahmadinejad’s term in office, based on a U.S. recognition of a nuclear Iran: “The issue of negotiating with the Americans is related to the term of the previous [Ahmadinejad] government, and to the dispatching of a mediator to Tehran to request talks. At the time, a respected regional figure came to me as a mediator [referring to Omani Sultan Qaboos] and explicitly said that U.S. President [Obama] had asked him to come to Tehran and present an American request for negotiations. The Americans told this mediator: ‘We want to solve the nuclear issue and lift sanctions within six months, while recognizing Iran as a nuclear power.’ I told that mediator that I did not trust the Americans and their words, but after he insisted, I agreed to reexamine this topic, and negotiations began.”[2]

Hossein Sheikh Al-Islam: Kerry Sent Iran A Letter Via Oman Recognizing Iran’s Enrichment Rights

In an interview with the Tasnim news agency on July 7, 2015, Hossein Sheikh Al-Islam, an advisor to Majlis Speaker Ali Larijani, said that John Kerry had relayed a letter to Tehran recognizing Iran’s enrichment rights: “We came to the [secret] negotiations [with the U.S.] after Kerry wrote a letter and sent it to us via Oman, stating that America officially recognizes Iran’s rights regarding the [nuclear fuel] enrichment cycle. Then there were two meetings in Oman between the [Iranian and U.S.] deputy foreign ministers, and after those, Sultan Qaboos was dispatched by Obama to Khamenei with Kerry’s letter. Khamenei told him: ‘I don’t trust them.’ Sultan Qaboos said: ‘Trust them one more time.’ On this basis the negotiations began, and not on the basis of sanctions, as they [the Americans] claim in their propaganda.”[3]

Salehi: Obama Appointed Senator Kerry To Handle The Nuclear Dossier Vis-à-vis Iran; Later He Was Appointed Secretary Of   State

Iranian Vice President Ali Akbar Salehi and head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, who was restored to the nuclear negotiation team this year, served as Iran’s foreign minister in 2010-2013. In interviews he has given on Iranian media since April 2014, he too claimed that the Americans initiated the secret talks with Iran in 2011-2012, and stressed his role in jumpstarting the process from the Iranian side. In a comprehensive interview with the daily Iran on August 4, 2015, he elaborated on the secret contacts initiated by the Americans. The following are excerpts from the interview:

Interviewer: “Why was Oman chosen as a mediator [in the contacts with the U.S.]?”

Salehi: “We have very good relations with Oman. When [Supreme Leader] Khamenei recently mentioned ‘a respected regional figure,’ he was obviously referring to the Omani leader. Oman is also respected by the West, and it had mediated between America and Iran on several previous occasions, for instance in the affair of the American mountain climbers who were arrested in Iran [in 2009]… When [Iranian deputy Foreign Minister] Qashqavi was there [in Oman], an Omani official gave him a letter in which he announced that the Americans were willing to hold negotiations with Iran and that they were very interested in solving the challenging [crisis] between Tehran and Washington. We [Iranians] were willing to help facilitate the process, and it looked like a good opportunity had come up. The 2012 U.S. elections had not yet started back then, but Obama had already launched his reelection campaign. The Omani message came just as [Obama and Romney] were starting their race in the U.S. elections, but there was still time before the elections [themselves]. At that stage I did not take the letter seriously.”

Interviewer: “Why didn’t you take it seriously? Because it was delivered by a mid-level Omani official?”

Salehi: “Yes. This fact concerned us, because the letter was hand-written and back then I was not familiar with that official. After a while, Mr. Souri, who was the CEO of an Iranian shipping [company], visited Oman to promote various shipping interests and talk with Omani officials.”

Interviewer: “This was how long after the delivery of the letter?”

Salehi: “He came to me about a month or two after the first letter was delivered, and said to me: ‘Mr. Salehi, I visited Oman to promote shipping interests, and an Omani official conveyed to me that the Americans were willing to enter secret bilateral negotiations on the nuclear dossier.’ It was clear that they wanted to launch negotiations…”

“The Omani official whose message Souri was relaying was one Isma’il, who had just been appointed an advisor to the Omani leader and who still holds a position in the Omani foreign ministry. He had good relations with the Americans, and Omani officials trusted him [too]. I said to Souri: ‘We are not at all certain to what extent the Americans are serious, but I’ll give you a note. Go tell them that these are our demands. Deliver [the note] during your next visit to Oman.’ On a piece of paper I wrote down four clearly-stated points, one of which was [the demand for] official recognition of the right to enrich uranium. I thought that, if the Americans were sincere in their proposal, they had to accept these four demands of ours. Mr. Souri delivered this short letter to the mediator, stressing that this was the list of Iran’s demands, [and that], if the Americans wanted to resolve the issue, they were welcome to do so [on our terms], otherwise addressing the White House proposals to Iran would be pointless and unjustified.

“All the demands presented in this letter were related to the nuclear challenge. [They were] issues we had always come up against, like the closing of the nuclear dossier, official recognition of [the right to] enrichment, and resolving the issue of Iran’s past activities under the PMD [possible military dimensions] heading. After receiving the letter, the Americans said, ‘We are definitely and sincerely willing, and we can resolve the issues that Iran mentioned.'”

Interviewer: “With whom did the Americans hold contacts?”

Salehi: “They were in contact with Omani officials, including the relevant figure in the Omani administration. He was a friend of U.S. Secretary of State [John Kerry]. Back then Kerry was not yet secretary of state, he acted as head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. In any case, we received from the Americans a positive response and message. We came to the conclusion that we could prepare [to take] further steps on this issue.  That’s why I asked the Omanis to relay to Iran an official letter that I could present to the officials in Iran. I assessed we had a good opportunity and that we could take advantage of it… They did so, and I presented the official letter that was received to the regime officials and went to the [Supreme] Leader to detail to him the process that had been conducted…

Interviewer: “What was the American position in the first meetings that took place between Iran and the P5+1 during Rohani’s presidency?”

Salehi: “After Rohani’s government began working [in August 2013] – this was during Obama’s second term in office – a new [round of] negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 was launched. By this time, Kerry was no longer a senator but had been appointed secretary of state. [But even] before this, when he was still senator, he had already been appointed by Obama to handle the nuclear dossier [vis-à-vis Iran] and later [in December 2012] he was appointed secretary of state. Before this, the Omani mediator, who was in close touch with Kerry, told us that Kerry would soon be appointed secretary of state. In the period of the secret negotiations with the Americans in Oman, there was a more convenient atmosphere for obtaining concessions from the Americans.  After the advent of the Rohani government and the American administration [i.e., after the start of Obama’s second term in office], and with Kerry as secretary of state, the Americans expressed a more forceful position. They no longer displayed the same eagerness to advance the negotiations. Their position became more rigid and the threshold of their demands higher. But the situation on the Iranian side changed too, since a very professional team was placed in charge of the negotiations with the P5+1…”[4]

‘Nuclear Iran’ Website: Three Rounds Of Talks With The U.S. Took Place Before Iran’s 2013 Elections

The “Nuclear Iran” website, which is affiliated with Iran’s former nuclear negotiation team and which supports the ideological camp, reported on April 20, 2014 that “Two additional conditions, out of the four conditions [set out by Khamenei], were that foreign minister [Salehi] himself not take part in the talks, and that the negotiations yield tangible results at an early [stage]. The policy for these negotiations was set out by a committee of three figures, [all of them] senior government officials, though Ahmadinejad himself did not have much of a role in it. The main strategy in these negotiations was [handing] America an ultimatum and exposing its insincerity and untrustworthiness. Before the 2013 presidential elections, three rounds of talks took place in Oman, and at these talks the Americans officially recognized Iran’s [right] to enrich [uranium]…”[5]



[1] This is in contrast to what was implied by U.S. President Obama on July 14, 2015, when he announced the nuclear deal with Iran in a speech that began with the words “After two years of negotiations…” Whitehouse.gov, July 14, 2015.

[2] Leader.ir, June 23, 2015. Ahmad Khorshidi, a relative of Ahmadinejad’s, told the website Entekhab in 2014 that negotiations between Tehran and Washington did not start during President Rohani’s term. He said that during the Ahmadinejad period, there were three rounds of talks between the sides, which were also attended by then-foreign minister Ali Akbar Salehi. Entekhab.ir, June 11, 2014.

[3] Tasnim (Iran), July 7, 2015.

[4] Iran (Iran), August 4, 2015.

[5] Irannuc.ir, April 20, 2014.

Putin Officially Stakes Exclusive Claim to the Artic

Without even so much as a whimper from anyone in Washington DC, Putin made his final submission to the United Nations in writing claiming expanded sovereignty of Russia for the Artic.

This was tried before by Russia and it was denied in 2001.

The question is why is the United Nations the final approval authority for such a claim under which the matter is governed by the Law of the Seas?

Obama’s feeble position on the Artic

In May 2013, President Obama published the National Strategy for the Arctic Region, defining the desired end state as an Arctic Region stable and free of conflict, where nations act responsibly in a spirit of trust and cooperation, and where economic and energy resources are developed in a sustainable manner. In November 2013, the Secretary of Defense published the Department of Defense Arctic Strategy, identifying two supporting objectives to the National Strategy:

• Ensure security, support safety, and promote defense cooperation;
• Prepare for a wide range of challenges and contingencies.

In support of National and Department of Defense aims, the Navy will pursue the following strategic objectives:

• Ensure United States Arctic sovereignty and provide homeland defense;
• Provide ready naval forces to respond to crisis and contingencies;
• Preserve freedom of the seas; and
• Promote partnerships within the United States Government and with international allies and partners.

Full detail here.

Russia’s Application Summary to the United Nations


The Russian Federation signed 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (“Convention”) on 10 December 1982 (then the USSR) and ratified it on 26 February 1997. The Convention entered into force for the Russian Federation on 11 April 1997. In accordance with Article 77 of the Convention, the Russian Federation proceeds from the fact that the rights of the coastal state over the continental shelf exist ipso facto and ab initio.

This Submission of the Russian Federation, which is made on the basis of Article 76.8 of the Convention, is a partial revised submission and covers the part of the Arctic Ocean region. The area under consideration was included in the first Submission of the Russian Federation (made on 10 December 2001) in respect of the extended continental shelf, which was considered at the 11th session of the Commission from 24 to 28 June 2002.

Recommendations relating to the Arctic Ocean adopted at that session of the Commission (L. Recommendations / D. Summary of recommendations. Central Arctic Ocean) say: 154/166. The Commission recommends that the Russian Federation make a revised submission in respect

of its extended continental shelf in the Central Arctic Ocean based on the findings contained in these recommendations.

155/167. The Commission recommends that the Russian Federation follow the scientific and technical advice contained in its Scientific and Technical Guidelines, and as indicated in the various sections of these Recommendations of the Commission.

156/168. The Commission recommends that according to the materials provided in the submission the Lomonosov Ridge cannot be considered a submarine elevation under the Convention.

157/169. The Commission recommends that, according to the current state of scientific knowledge, the Alpha-Mendeleev Ridge Complex cannot be considered a submarine elevation under the Convention.

Guided by the provisions of the Rules of Procedure and the STG, and also taking into account the practice of the Commission, the Russian Federation reserves the right to introduce amendments and additions to this partial revised Submission that can be based on new or additional research data and may provide changes to the presented OLCS line of the Russian Federation.


This partial revised Submission of the Russian Federation for establishment of the OLCS in the Arctic Ocean is made to include in the extended continental shelf of the Russian Federation, in accordance with article 76 of the Convention, the seabed and its subsoil in the central Arctic Ocean which is natural prolongation of the Russian land territory.

The basis for the extension of rights to the extended continental shelf in the Arctic Ocean is the identity of the submitted areas to the continental shelf, as well as the OLCS position under Article 76 of the Convention at a distance of more than 200 nautical miles from the baselines from which the breadth of the territorial sea is measured. In the case of the Russian Federation, this distance coincides with the boundary of the Russian exclusive economic zone. Paragraph 1 of Article 3 of the Federal Act “On the Exclusive Economic Zone of the Russian Federation”(No. 191, dated December 17, 1998) states that:


The outer limit of the exclusive economic zone is established at a distance of 200 nautical miles from the baselines from which the breadth of the territorial sea is measured, unless otherwise is stipulated by the international treaties of the Russian Federation.

Requirements of Paragraph 1 of Article 75 of the Convention provide that:

Subject to this Part, the outer limit lines of the exclusive economic zone and the lines of delimitation drawn in accordance with article 74 shall be shown on charts of a scale or scales adequate for ascertaining their position. Where appropriate, such limit lines or delimitation lines may be substituted by a list of geographical coordinates of points, specifying the geodetic datum.

The line of the Russian exclusive economic zone is shown on the chart of Central Arctic Basin (admiralty No. 91115), publication of the Department of Navigation and Oceanography of the Russian Ministry of Defense in 2014.

The list of straight baseline points was approved by Decree of the USSR Council of Ministers of 15 January 1985 and published in the book “Maritime Legislation of the Russian Federation” (1994) by the Main Department of Navigation and Oceanography (admiralty No. 9055). An English translation of the said list has been officially handed over to the UN Secretary General and placed on the UN website (see List of straight baseline points 4450 “RUS_1985_Declaration”).

The List contains coordinates of the straight baseline endpoints. The position of the normal baselines adjoining the straight baselines in this document is recorded with the text: onwards along the low-water line up to the base point …. No.”.

The area of the seabed of the Arctic ocean (Fig. 1), considered in this revised partial submission and relevant to the OLCS determination of the Russian Federation under article 76 of the Convention, covers the geomorphological continental shelf of the Russian Arctic marginal seas, part of the Eurasian basin (Nansen basin and Amundsen, the Gakkel ridgeThe Arctic Ocean seabed area considered in this partial revised Submission that for establishment of the OLCS of the Russian Federation under Article 76 of the Convention includes the geomorphological shelf of the Russian Arctic marginal seas, part of the Eurasian Basin (the Nansen, Amundsen basins and the Gakkel Ridge), and the Central Amerasian Basin consisting of the Makarov Basin and Complex of the Central Arctic Submarine Elevations, which includes the Lomonosov Ridge, Podvodnikov Basin, Mendeleev-Alpha Rise, Mendeleev and Chukchi basins, and Chukchi Plateau.

Partial revised Submission of the Russian Federation on the establishment of the OLCS in the Arctic Ocean proceeds from the scientific understanding that the constituent parts of the Complex of the Central Arctic Submarine Elevations, namely the Lomonosov Ridge, Mendeleev-Alpha Rise, and Chukchi Plateau, and separating them the Podvodnikov and Chukchi Basins have the continental origin and belong to submarine elevations that are natural components of the continental margin under paragraph 6 of Article 76 of the Convention, which are not subject to distance limit of 350 nautical miles from the baselines.

The submitted OLCS line under Article 76 of the Convention in accordance with this partial revised Submission is shown on the schematic map included in the Executive Summary (Fig. 1). A more detailed description of the claimed OLCS is given below in the corresponding section of the Executive Summary.

In accordance with Paragraphs 3.2.1 and 3.2.3 of the STG, all distances in the partial revised Submission of the Russian Federation for establishment of the OLCS in the Arctic Ocean are given in nautical miles (M) or metres (m).

Many more details and the full Russian document is found here.