30 August 2015

Sunday Reads

  • Does atheism have to be anti-religious? (BBC)
  • Pakistan hate, Indian disdain. (FP)
  • 1965 War: Shastri blasted US & UN for support to Pakistan. (New IE)
  • In Rajasthan desert, education for girl child blooms. (BS)

Also, glimpse at some of the world's exclusive cars.

23 August 2015

Sunday Reads

  • Albert Einstein on the secret to learning anything. (Brain Pickings)
  • What students post online can get them suspended. (Bloomberg)
  • The age of the tragic selfie. (BBC)

17 August 2015

The Explainer: Highlights of Iranian Nuke Deal

Last month I wrote two Explainers on Iran: one was on the Iranian Polity and the second one was on Sanctions and their Impact.

I know this has come pretty late. 

This third installment focuses on the finer details of the nuclear deal, which is officially called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

(1) How will Iran’s uranium enrichment capacity be reduced? 
Currently, Iran has 19000 gas centrifuges. Under the JCPOA, the number of centrifuges will be reduced to 6,104, almost all of which will be based on old technology that was current in the 1950s.
Also, Iran, for the first 15 years of the JCPOA, cannot enrich uranium beyond 3.67% purity, low-enriched uranium (LEU) of the kind used in nuclear power stations. It is important to remember that for uranium to be considered weapons-grade, it has to be enriched to about 90% U-235.

(2) What about the enriched Uranium stockpile that Iran already possesses? 
As of now, Iran possesses a stockpile of 7,500 kg of Low Enriched Uranium (LEU). Under the JCPOA, it will be reduced by a massive 96% to 300 kg; this is expected to be achieved either by diluting the uranium or by shipping it out of the country.

(3) Can Iran pursue nuclear R&D and enrichment in the future?
Yes, but there will stringent restrictions on the research and development that Tehran could carry out on advanced centrifuges. These conditions are designed to stop Iran from suddenly upgrading its enrichment capacity after the first 10 years of the agreement. Also, under the JCPOA, Tehran would be able to test, albeit on a small scale, experimental new centrifuges.

(4) What does the JCPOA say about the nuclear plants at Arak and
Located near Iran’s holiest town of Qom, the Fordow plant, under the JCPOA, will be used only for non-military research. In addition, no weapons-related material will be allowed to be carried out at this plant. As is the case with most stipulations under the deal, these restrictions at Fordow will last for 15 years.

The Arak heavy water reactor was one of the major sticky points in framing the JCPOA. Under the deal, Iran would remove the reactor core and fill it with concrete. Under international supervision, the reactor would be redesigned so that it produces much less plutonium, if any, and all its spent fuel would be shipped out of the country.

Also, while Iran will not be allowed to construct any new heavy water plant in the next 15 years, it will also not be allowed to build a reprocessing plant or even carry out research on reprocessing – indefinitely.

(5) Will IAEA inspections be allowed?
Yes, the inspectors from the IAEA will be granted full access to all of Iran’s declared nuclear sites. Under the JCPOA, the IAEA inspectors will get more teeth as they will be able to visit non-declared sites where they think nuclear work might be going on. If IAEA inspectors make request for such access, then a commission (made up of IAEA members) will be set up to evaluate whether the inspectors’ access requests are justified; all decisions will be taken by majority vote. 

(6) Does the JCPOA allow investigation into Iran’s past nuclear activities?
Yes. Under the JCPOA, Iran and the IAEA agreed to a ‘road map’ by which the former will provide access to (nuclear) facilities and people (nuclear researchers) suspected of involvement in past nuclear experimental work, including weapons and warhead design, though mostly before 2004. Most importantly, the IAEA would have to certify Tehran’s cooperation with the inquiry before the country benefits from sanctions relief.

(7) When will Iran get relief from economic sanctions? 
In case, Iran fulfils its side of the conditions (steps listed above), the United States and the European Union (EU) will provide guarantees that financial and economic sanctions can be lifted.

The EU will lift its oil embargo and banking sanctions while allowing Iran to participate in the Swift electronic banking system, which facilitates all international monetary transactions.

The U.S. will issue presidential waivers, by the current president, which will suspend the operation of American economic (including trade and financial) sanctions.

Further, the UN can remove the sanctions in the following manner: the JCPOA will be made inserted into a UN Security Council resolution, which will override the six earlier sanctions resolutions imposed on Iran over its nuclear programme. However, the JCPOA will take effect only after 90 days, as the parties involved need to fulfil domestic legal formalities.

There is one major thing to remember: while the economic sanctions will be lifted soon, an arms embargo against Iran will remain in place for five years while a ban on the transfer of missile technology would stay for eight years.

09 August 2015

Sunday Reads

  • Power doctrine of Ajit Doval is better than empty Gandhi-giri. (First Post)
  • Saudi Arabia is flexing its muscles. (BBC)
  • It's clear that the US should not have bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki. (Quartz)
  • Egyptian President's canal extravaganza. (FP)

02 August 2015

Sunday Reads

  • Pakistan's continuing war against Indian civilization. (New IE)
  • 20 years of mobile phone in India. (ET)
  • Five myths about the atomic bomb. (WaPo)