Varying reports on Iran’s nuclear capabilities show that it plans to install improved equipment at its primary uranium enrichment plant at Natanz. The addition of as many as 3,000 centrifuges could improve Iran’s capability to accelerate enrichment.
Israeli intelligence has delayed their expectations of a nuclear armed Iran to 2015 or 2016 at the latest. While the intelligence officials note the hindrance caused by accidents at the nuclear facilities, they believe the Iranian regime is consciously slowing its progression due to international pressure lead by the United States.
The Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi has said his country is open to the proposed multilateral nuclear negotiations on February 25th in Kazakhstan. However, no clear commitment has been given by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who is the deciding factor in Iran’s nuclear progression. Vice President Biden has also offered bilateral talks when the Ayatollah is “serious” about negotiations.
Kerry and Hagel Respond
New Secretary of State Kerry has promised to follow the Obama administration’s policy of preventing Iran from achieving a nuclear weapon. Secretary of Defense Appointee Senator Hagel has also said he will follow this strategy and that prevention is his policy, not containment.
Another Nuclear Test?
International concern remains over the lingering possibility of a third North Korean nuclear test. Reports indicate that the test may occur as early as this week before the lunar New Year on Feb. 10th or on the birthday of the late Kim Jong-Il on Feb. 16th. North Korea has covered the entrance to its nuclear facility at Punggye-ri in an attempt to hinder outside surveillance.
South Korean Naval Drill
On Monday, South Korea and the United States launched a naval exercise which includes the USS San Francisco, a nuclear submarine. The drill comes at the same time as concern increases about a third North Korean nuclear test. The North Korean regime has been retaliatory since it has suffered from increased sanctions by the international community after its December missile launch.
Resetting the Reset?
Engagement with Russia may be less of a priority in the second term Obama administration, the New York Times reports. Increasing tensions over the past year and the path forward for U.S.-Russia relations will likely be up for discussion when Vice President Joe Biden met with Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov at the Munich Security Conference this weekend.