Iranian Nuclear: From 13-Year Standoff To 11th-Hour Deal

A timeline of a standoff that long seemed destined to continue, or worse.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif on June 30
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif on June 30
Quentin Sedillo

PARIS â€" Iran and the major world powers have reached an agreement on the Iranian nuclear program, putting an end to 21 months of negotiations that included this final round of more than 17 days of fierce talks in Vienna. Truth be told, the diplomatic standoff has been plaguing international relations for more than 12 years. Here is a brief timeline of the Iranian nuclear standoff:

2002 â€" Short-lived trust

After 23 years of delays, the first unit of the Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant, in southwestern Iran, begins operating. But with this first step forward toward legality, Iran takes two steps back. On Sept. 12 of the same year, two other nuclear facilities are discovered in Natanz and Arak, after revelations from regime opponent Alireza Jafarzadeh. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reports the presence of enriched uranium in Natanz, and Iran is immediately suspected of working toward the production of nuclear weapons.

2003 â€" Outlined concessions

If for France, Germany and the UK, Iran is undoubtedly two-faced, let it be said that the agreement in force back then did not explicitly require Tehran to inform the IAEA of its projects. So this time, the European trio takes matters into its own hands and demands that Iran comply with the additional clauses of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which includes unannounced visits from the agency.

Iran agrees in October 2003 and signs the treaty in December. The following year, Iran even announces that it would stop enriching uranium, though it is technically permitted within the rules established by the NPT.

2005 - A troublemaker arrives

Enter Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Two months after his election in June 2005, the new president breaks the deal. The unpredictable leader declares shamelessly to the United Nations that Iran simply "has the right to develop a civil nuclear power program." And though he never mentions the possibility of building an atomic weapon at the time, the threat is veiled. Despite Western bans and U.S. calls for sanctions, Iran produces 3.5% enriched uranium, suitable for nuclear fission. In 2006, Ahmadinejad declares that "Iran has joined the group of countries with nuclear technology."

2006 â€" Quagmire and sanctions

Faced with Iran rushing in headlong, the IAEA sees no alternative but to hand over the dossier to the United Nations, which tries to find a way out with some form of compromise. The permanent members of the Security Council suggest providing financial assistance for the construction of light water reactors in exchange for an immediate halt to uranium enrichment. Iran refuses outright.

Faced with a dead end, the West has no choice but to punish Tehran. And so begins a worrying escalation â€" where with every sanction, Ahmadinejad retorts with a new provocation. In 2007, the Iranian president announces that the country boasts some 3,000 centrifuges and is therefore able to produce the dreaded nuclear bomb. Though increasingly isolated, and despite its banks being boycotted by the majority of world economies, Tehran carries on unabated.

2011 â€" Scary escalation

In late 2010, Iran is in possession of 20% enriched uranium, and reveals the presence of a secret new facility based in Fordu. For the U.S. and Israel, the atomic bomb is no longer a possibility â€" it's a reality. And though Ahmadinejad denies owning a operational warhead, a military intervention is now contemplated.

On Nov. 29, 2011, the black sheep of the United Nations announces the creation of 10 new uranium enrichment facilities. At the UN, the atmosphere is electric, with all members aware that a fateful spark to a potentially global conflict is at hand.

2013 â€" Cooling off

Ahmadinejad, though refusing to bow to what he calls the "Americano-Zionists," still has to abide by his country's laws. As his second term expires, he is succeeded by Hassan Rouhani, a more moderate, more diplomatic figure â€" and above all, a former Iranian nuclear negotiator from 2003 to 2005. From the outset, Rouhani calls for “serious and substantive” negotiations. "Iran is not a threat," he tells the United Nations.

On Sept. 27, 2013, Rouhani speaks by phone with U.S. President Barack Obama, the first act of its kind since the Islamic Revolution and American hostage-taking of 1979. Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, meanwhile, takes a step forward too, announcing he is "not opposed" to a resumption of dialogue. The following month, negotiations begin in Geneva between the permanent members of the UN Security Council and a cordial, yet unwavering Iran. The major sticking point remains uranium enrichment, which Rouhani won't agree to stop.

2015 â€" Epilogue?

If some positions remain firm, Iran was ready to show its goodwill in exchange for a rapid repeal of the embargo. The obstacles that had blocked the road until the final hours were more form than substance. It is normal to doubt the reliability of a long-untrustworthy Iran. But one can also hope to receive a pledge of good faith from a country keen to revive its economy and willing to break with its eternal image of a pariah.

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Art installation "Greetings From Giza" by French artist and photographer JR faces the pyramids of Giza in Egypt

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 你好*

Welcome to Tuesday, where violence erupts after Sudan's military coup, Australia finally gets onboard with climate change goals, and Harrison Ford stars in Raiders of the Lost Credit Card. From Bogota, we also see what the capture of drug kingpin Otoniel means for Colombia, a country long stained by cocaine trafficking.

[*Nĭhǎo - Mandarin Chinese]


Saving the planet is really a question of dopamine

The elite of the ecologically minded are set to descend on Glasgow next week for the Cop 26 conference on climate change. But beyond debating policy prescriptions, French daily Les Echos explores the role our own brains have on making the right choices for the planet:

Almost every week, a new scientific study alerts us to the degradation of the environment. And yet, we continue not to change anything fundamental in our systems of production and habits of consumption. Are we all suffering from blindness, or poisoned by denial?

In his popular books Le Bug humain (The Human Bug) and Où est le sens? (Where is the Sense?), Sébastien Bohler, a journalist in neuroscience and psychology, provides a much more rational explanation: The mechanism responsible for our propensity to destroy our natural environment is in fact a small, very deep and very primitive structure of our brain called the striatum.

This regulator of human motivation seems to have been programmed to favor behaviors that ensure the survival of the species.

Since the dawn of humanity, gathering information about our environment, feeding ourselves, ensuring the transmission of our genes through sexual intercourse and asserting our social status have all been rewarded with a shot of dopamine, the "pleasure hormone."

Nothing has changed since then; except that, in our society of excess, there is no limit to the satisfaction of these needs. This leads to the overconsumption of food and addictions to everything from sex to social media — which together account for much of the world's destructive agricultural and energy practices.

No matter how much we realize that this is leading to our downfall, we can't help but relapse because we are prisoners of the dopamine pump in the striatum, which cannot be switched off.

According to Bohler, the only way out is to encourage the emergence of new values of sobriety, altruism and slowness. If adopted, these more sustainable notions could be recognized by the striatum as new sources of dopamine reward. But there's the challenge of promoting inspiring stories that infuse them with value.

Take the photo-collage exhibition "J'agis ici... et je m'y colle" ("I'm taking action here... and I'm sticking to it"), a collection of life-size portraits of residents committed to the energy transition, displayed on the walls of the French coastal city of La Rochelle.

Backed by the French National Center for Street Arts, photographer Martin Charpentier may be employing artistic techniques, but he's also tinkering with neuroscience in the process.

Stefano Lupieri / Les Echos


• Sudan in chaos following military coup: After Sudan's military seized power from the transitional government, defiant anti-coup protesters have returned to the streets of the capital city Khartoum, for a second consecutive day. At least seven people have been killed and 140 injured. Coup leader General Al-Burhan has announced a state of emergency across the country, while the military cut off access to the internet and closed roads, bridges, and Khartoum's airport. Washington condemned the coup and suspended aid, and the U.N. Security Council was expected to discuss Sudan behind closed doors later today.

• Egypt lifts state of emergency in force since 2017: Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, announced the end of a four-year-old state of emergency, undoing powers that had given the government sweeping authority to quash protests, make arrests, search people's homes without warrants, and control everyday life in the most populous Arab country.

• Platforms take down Bolsonaro video linking vaccine and AIDS: Facebook, Instagram and YouTube have removed an anti-vaccine video from their respective platforms posted by Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro. Beyond blocking the video, in which Bolsonaro falsely linked the COVID-19 vaccine with developing AIDS, YouTube went further and suspended the far-right leader for a week.

• COVID update: The U.S. will launch a new travel system on November 8, imposing new vaccine requirements for most foreign national travellers and lifting severe travel restrictions over China, India and much of Europe. Meanwhile, authorities in northern China are reimposing lockdown, and other emergency measures as COVID-19 infections spread to 11 provinces.

• Australia pledges net zero emissions by 2050: As one of the world's largest emitters of greenhouse gases per capita and a major exporter of fossil fuels such as coal, Australia has finally committed to becoming carbon-neutral by 2050. This is a target already adopted by most nations heading to next week's COP26 international climate conference, but that Australia had so far refused to pledge.

• Japanese princess loses royal status over wedding: Japan's Princess Mako married her boyfriend Kei Komuro, giving up her royal status. Under Japanese law, female imperial family members lose their status upon marriage to a "commoner" although male members do not.

Raiders of the Lost Credit Card: A tourist returned the credit card of American actor Harrison Ford, who had lost it in Sicily while shooting scenes for the latest Indiana Jones movie.


"Out of control," titles German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung, reporting on the release of a series of articles by a consortium of 17 U.S. news outlets, called the "Facebook Papers," that reinforce whistleblower Frances Haugen's claims that the social media giant is prioritizing profits over the well being of its users and society.


$1.01 trillion

After striking a deal to sell 100,000 electric vehicles to car rental firm Hertz, Elon Musk's Tesla has joined Apple, Microsoft, Amazon and Google's Alphabet in the club of companies that have reached a $1 trillion valuation.


What the capture of a drug kingpin means for Colombia

While the capture of Otoniel, Colombia's most wanted drug trafficker, made global headlines, Bogotá daily El Espectador writes about the significance of the news for a country that has battled narcotrafficking for decades.

👮 The arrest of the Colombian mobster Dairo Antonio Úsuga David, a.k.a. "Otoniel," is a victory for Colombian intelligence, law-and-order forces and the broader fight against crime. Details of the eight-year-long pursuit of the head of the Gulf Clan, of the tireless and meticulous work, testify to the capabilities that the police and army have managed to develop in the fight against the narco-trafficking that has long been a stain on Colombia.

🇨🇴🇲🇽 Otoniel is responsible for a criminal organization with more than 3,800 members and influence on 12 departments and 128 districts in Colombia (though data from the Bogotá-based Peace and Reconciliation Foundation counts 211 districts). The Gulf Clan sends half the drugs going out of Colombia, and is the main exporter to Mexico. Its ties to the Mexican cartel chief Joaquín "el Chapo" Guzmán are well-documented — and Otoniel had aspired to fill the power vacuum left by Guzmán's capture.

⚖️ Some have observed that the ensuing power vacuum will engender more violence, which is true. But we are, in any case, far from eliminating drug trafficking in Colombia or cutting its tentacles across public life. That shows the limitations of the hard-line response to drugs, when we have seen it is not enough. Still, it is essential in any fight against crime for the state to show its operational capabilities. The message is clear: not even drug overlords are above the law in Colombia.

➡️


"I love Mako. I would like to spend my one life with the person I love."

— Kei Komuro said during a news conference after his wedding with Japan's Princess Mako, the niece of the current emperor and the sister of the likely future sovereign. The princess lost her royal status as a result of her marriage with Komuro, a "commoner."


An art installation "Greetings From Giza" by French artist and photographer JR faces the pyramids of Giza in Egypt, as part of the 2021 exhibition "'Forever Is Now," the first international art exhibition to take place there — Photo: Balkis Press/Abaca/ZUMA

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

Send all commoner and royal well wishes to Mako and Kei — and let us know what the news looks like from your corner of the world!

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