Redline’s Year in Review

As the second part of our alcohol free first birthday celebrations, we’ve gone all nostalgic and decided to take a look back at the Year That Was, 2013-2014: the good times, the bad times, the space cat times. Here we go…

Things really got moving on June, 2013, when Hassan Rouhani was resoundingly elected as the Islamic Republic’s seventh President.

Election girl

It was an upset victory for the moderate cleric: a victory that many pundits ascribed to Rouhani having secured the long-ignored ‘Persian hottie’ vote.

Rouhani and Ahmadinejad

Pretty soon everyone had forgotten about that guy on the left, whose presidency had after all been more or less entirely uncontroversial and without incident.

But it wasn’t quite a simple transition from the ridiculous to the sublime. The Revolution’s old military hardliners continued to pursue a series of clandestine projects that were at odds with the worldly, peaceful image of their new president.

That’s why it wasn’t altogether surprising when in August, Jane’s Defence Weekly revealed the existence of this:

Shahrud Space

It was a new rocket motor test stand out in the Iranian desert, and was ideally suited for testing big motors for long-range ballistic missiles. ICBMs, anyone?

Meanwhile, Rouhani’s impact on Iran’s international affairs was looking positive.

Rouhani and Zarif

He hired the suave, competent Javad Zarif (محمدجواد ظریف خوانساری) to head Iran’s nuclear negotiation portfolio, and fired Saeed Jalili, (سعید جلیلی) a man for whom three hours of meetings was too long to go without taking a sick day.

Not unsurprisingly, the replacement of Jalili - a sure contender for the title of World’s Worst Nuclear Negotiator™ - paid off. Iran started getting stuff done.

Amano and Salehi agreement

On 11 November, the head of Iran’s nuclear agency, Ali Akbar Salehi, signed an agreement with the IAEA to provide the international agency with access to a series of nuclear fuel cycle facilities. Iran also promised to explain one of the vexing elements of its past weaponisation activities.

And even more surprisingly, on 23 November, Iran signed a broad agreement with the permanent five members of the Security Council (plus Germany, just because) to limit aspects of its nuclear programme in exchange for minor sanctions relief.

We even witnessed the first public handshake between a cabinet-level American official and an Iranian foreign minister since 1980.

Kerry and Zarif

Hey, is that Angelina Jolie?

World peace seemed in danger of breaking out. By December last year, we were all ready to shut down this blog and turn Redline HQ into an artisan craft brewery.

Artisanal beer

But deep down, we knew something wasn’t quite resolved. Iran’s uranium enrichment and heavy water reactor programmes were being cut back, sure - but many of the other lines of activity necessary to produce nuclear weapons were still trundling along.

Iran’s missile programme was one. The Iran Space Agency (سازمان فضایی ایران) continued to lob into the atmosphere ballistic missiles dressed up as space launch vehicles, and even their simian payloads started cottoning onto the fact that something wasn’t right. Monkeys that in 2012 were enthusiastically promoting their one-way trips as crucial precursors to manned space flight…

Space monkey one

…in 2013, just weren’t able to fake it anymore.

Space monkey two

But diplomacy had centre stage. And on January 20, 2014, the long-awaited implementation of the Joint Plan of Action agreed between Iran and the P5+1 began.

Centrifuge guy

Iran called a guy who turned off some of the centrifuges at Natanz.

Breaking Bad

And in return got some fat stacks.

But with that agreement only temporary, there was more to do on the negotiation front.

When nuclear dealmaking turned out to be more difficult than some had anticipated, attention returned to some of the more notorious proponents of a nuclear-armed Iran. We finally got a glimpse of the elusive Mohsen Fakhrizadeh (محسن فخری زاده), the long-time ringmaster of covert nuclear research undertaken by Iran’s Ministry of Defence.

Fakhrizadeh Wall Street Journal

The Wall Street Journal theatrically announced the publication of “the first photograph” of Fakhrizadeh. (We’ll be charitable and overlook the fact that Redline and others had actually done exactly that many months earlier.

Fakhrizadeh New York Times

And in June, Fakhrizadeh even got his own lengthy New York Times profile, complete with a quote from an Iranian nuclear negotiator that Fakhrizadeh was too “busy dodging assassins” to attend talks in Vienna.

With friends like that, huh?

It was about then that everyone went World Cup crazy,, including Iran’s president.

World Cup

#tracksuit #lonesome #stillthecoolestiranianpresident

And to round off on 20 July - with Redline already putting up the decorations - the negotiators agreed a four-month extension to their efforts. Can the West and Iran come together and cross the finish line of a nuclear agreement, despite the drag-chute effect of some that your humble servant Redline has highlighted?

And thus concluded the year, leaving us with hits, memories, and all too many unanswered questions. Will 2014 bring Iran closer to nuclear weapons? Will the West and Iran get together and roll (over) a joint (plan of action)? Will Mohsen Fakhrizadeh finally get the greenlight - or perhaps he will make the cover of Time magazine? Will his SPND organisation even see out the year?

Stay tuned.

Sideshow Bob

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