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April 19, 2015 / 30 Nisan, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Iran’

Obama’s Deal with Iran Ushers in New Age of Middle East Insecurity

Saturday, April 4th, 2015

Back in 2010, I interviewed Gerard Araud, who is now the French ambassador in Washington, while he was still serving as France’s envoy to the United Nations in New York. We talked at length about Iran, and this was the first thing he told me:

The Iranian nuclear program has no civilian explanation whatsoever. You don’t start a civilian nuclear program by enriching uranium. It’s like if you buy the gas before the car.

Iran and the P5+1 (U.S., U.K., France, Russia, China and Germany) world powers last week announced that a framework deal on Iran’s nuclear program has been reached.

In the days prior, as I watched the Iran nuclear negotiations in the Swiss city of Lausanne slide past an agreed deadline of midnight on March 31 into, appropriately, April Fools’ Day, it struck me that nothing had changed since Araud—who remains a trenchant critic of American concessions to Iran—uttered those words five years ago.

The Iranian nuclear program was never about the civilian use of nuclear energy. It was, and remains, geared towards the production of a nuclear weapon—hence all the lies and deceit practiced by the Iranian regime over more than a decade, and hence the succession of U.N. Security Council resolutions and anxious International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reports underlining how Iran’s nuclear activities do not comport with those associated with a civilian program.

In fact, the glaring unresolved issues that held up the negotiations in Lausanne reflect this fundamental state of affairs, reinforcing the perception that the Obama administration will concede on almost anything in order to secure a deal. Iran hasn’t disclosed the possible military dimensions (PMDs) of its program, and will have even less incentive to do so if sanctions relief is offered regardless.

At the same time, Iran has been told that it can continue operating centrifuges at its underground Fordow facility, thus enabling it to further master the enrichment process. And as for their stockpile of enriched uranium, which the Iranians were supposed to be shipping to their Russian allies for safeguarding, well, apparently they won’t be doing that either.

At best, then, what we have here is a weak deal. The main goal is to carry on talking, as it has been since the Joint Plan of Action (JPOA) was agreed between Iran and the five members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany—the P5+1—in Geneva in November 2013. As the former George W. Bush administration official Michael Doran, arguably the most insightful Iran analyst in the United States, told me last year:

The interim deal is for six months and can be rolled over by mutual consent for another six months and another six months, interminably. The Iranians are very good negotiators, so they will work to string this along for as long as possible.

Because it’s a weak deal, there will inevitably be contradictory interpretations of what has been agreed. The overriding point, though, is that the Iranian regime will enjoy a great deal of leeway, thereby gravely hampering any attempts at verification by outside agencies like the IAEA.

Speaking on a conference call organized this week by The Israel Project, Olli Heinonen, a former IAEA deputy director-general, observed, “You need to know how far [the Iranians] got, which are the important institutions and capabilities so that you pick the right things for the monitoring…By far the best starting point is to have a complete disclosure.”

If the pressure of biting sanctions and the threat of military action didn’t persuade the Iranians of the need for transparency, then a deal that allows them to maintain their nuclear infrastructure with little international oversight will be regarded in Tehran as a strategic victory.

El-Sisi: Egypt Will Keep Bab-el-Mandeb Open

Saturday, April 4th, 2015

Egyptian President abdel El-Sisi said on Saturday that Egypt will ensure that the El-Mandab strait remains open for traffic, stating, “El-Mandab strait is Egyptian and Arab national security,” according to an Al Ahram report.

Iranian supported Houthi rebels are trying to take over Yemen.

If Iran blocks the El-Mandab strait it would directly and disastrously affect Egypt’s Suez Canal traffic, which is Egypt’s main sources of income.

The Bab-el-Mandeb is a strait located between Yemen on the Arabian Peninsula, and Djibouti and Eritrea in the Horn of Africa. It connects the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden. It is sometimes called the Mandab Strait. The Bab-el-Mandeb acts as a strategic link between the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, via the Red Sea and the Suez Canal. In 2006, an estimated 3.3 million barrels (520,000 m3) of oil passed through the strait per day, out of a world total of about 43 million barrels per day (6,800,000 m3/d) moved by tankers, according to Wikipedia.

Since the Saudi led intervention in Yemen began, Egypt has sent air and sea support to the region, but no ground troops as of yet. Sending ground troops has not been ruled out, if needed.

El-Sisi vowed to support the Arab Gulf countries, “Our benefit is in the security and stability of the Arab countries, and the whole world if possible… We will not let down our brotherly Gulf countries.”

Iran Deal: US and Allies are the Junior Varsity (Little League?)

Friday, April 3rd, 2015

They can’t even coordinate their public descriptions of what the deal entails, that’s how bad it is.

The sort of, kind of nuclear agreement between the P5+1 and Iran makes concrete the previous understanding that U.S. President Barack Obama has been dead wrong about almost every major terrorist threat he has encountered: Al Qaeda is not, as he intoned, “decimated”; ISIS is not a “junior varsity” terrorist network; and Iran is not a partner with whom the west can successfully negotiate.

It looks like the U.S. is the captain of the junior varsity team. And Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu will not sugarcoat his assessment.

This “agreement” which is not a deal, is not even the framework of a deal, is, ultimately, an attempt by the Obama administration to rack up at least one foreign policy “achievement” during its tenure.

But that “achievement” confuses an end date to a series of discussions with the attainment of even the modest goals this administration claimed it would reach.

What follows are key details which have been released about the “agreement” reached between the U.S.-dominated allies known as the P5+1 (the junior varsity) and Iran, regarding the latter nation’s nuclear program.

A quick perusal makes clear the U.S. administration’s insistence that  diplomacy would safely ensure Iran would not become a threshold nuclear power was exactly what its critics claimed: a hollow gesture which rewarded Iran with its goal of more time to continue in pursuit of achieving that status. What’s more, the deal which the parties are currently hurtling towards will not only permit but will actually legitimize Iran in its achievement of that status.

CENTRIFUGES

Iran currently has 9,000 operational centrifuges (that is the generally accepted number). The U.S. claims that, under the terms of the new deal, about 3,000 fewer Iranian centrifuges will be operational during the next 10 years, while 5,060 centrifuges will continue enriching uranium during that period.

The U.S. also claims that Iran will not use “advanced” centrifuge models for 10 years, and any development will be in accordance with P5+1 oversight. The Iranians say nuts to that, and will continue doing research and development on advanced centrifuges during the duration of the 10 year period.

Fordow, the uranium enrichment plant built in an underground bunker, will be used for “peaceful purposes.” The U.S. claims that Iran will move two-thirds of its centrifuges out of this facility and will not enrich uranium there for at least 15 years.

In other words, even according to the U.S. version of the facts, and even were one to believe that Iran will strictly adhere to its obligations under this “pre-deal,” Iran gets to continue enriching uranium, thousands of centrifuges will continue spinning, and the underground bunker will have operational centrifuges during the term of the deal.

CURRENTLY ENRICHED URANIUM

The U.S. claims that Iran’s acurrently enriched uranium will be reduced. That is already a three-step default by the allies. Initially, all enriched uranium was to be destroyed. As the result of negotiations the Iranians had allegedly agreed to instead move its already enriched uranium to Russia, where it was to be converted for non-military use.

Instead, the U.S. is reduced to bragging about a mere “reduction” in Iran’s already enriched uranium. And we don’t know what is meant by “reduction” or “neutralization” – another term used in the U.S. fact sheet.

According to a former CIA analyst, “If Iran’s enriched-uranium stockpile remains in the country,” and if it is only converted to powder form, which the Obama administration had previously – erroneously – claimed meant it would be neutralized, “Iran will retain the capability to make about eight or more nuclear weapons in about three months.”  Maybe little league rather than junior varsity players more accurately describes Secretary of State John Kerry and his negotiating team.

Obama and Netanyahu’s Different Versions of Same Phone Call on Iran

Friday, April 3rd, 2015

The White House and the office of the Prime Minister issued two statements on a phone call between President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu after the “key parameters” of a deal with Iran were announced, and it is difficult to believe they were referring to the same conversation.

President Obama called Prime Minister Netanyahu after the fuzzy agreement, as reported here, was announced, and according to the White House, Obama said:

The President emphasized that, while nothing is agreed until everything is, the framework represents significant progress towards a lasting, comprehensive solution that cuts off all of Iran’s pathways to a bomb and verifiably ensures the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program going forward.

He underscored that progress on the nuclear issue in no way diminishes our concerns with respect to Iran’s sponsorship of terrorism and threats towards Israel and emphasized that the United States remains steadfast in our commitment to the security of Israel.

The readout of the call also referred to Netanyahu’s re-election, saying that Obama told the Prime Minister “that he has directed his national security team to increase consultations with the new Israeli government about how we can further strengthen our long-term security cooperation with Israel and remain vigilant in countering Iran’s threats.”

The White House did not refer at all to what the Netanyahu had to say, a clear message that he cares about what Israel thinks about the deal as much as he cares what Congress thinks.

The difference is that he has to deal with Congress, which can ditch the agreement, if it wants.

Obama did not want to tell anyone what Netanyahu said in the conversation because it would work against public opinion that the president wants to beat back Congressional opposition.

The office of the Prime Minister said of the phone call:

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to US President Barack Obama this evening and expressed Israel’s strong opposition to the framework agreement with Iran which poses a grave danger to Israel, the region and the world.

Netanyahu said, ‘A deal based on this framework would threaten the survival of Israel. Just two days ago, Iran said that the destruction of Israel is non-negotiable, and in these fateful days Iran is accelerating the arming of its terror proxies to attack Israel.

This deal would legitimize Iran’s nuclear program, bolster Iran’s economy, and increase Iran’s aggression and terror throughout the Middle East and beyond.

Such a deal would not block Iran’s path to the bomb.  It would pave it.’

Iran Deal – First Thoughts

Thursday, April 2nd, 2015

Well, there’s no deal, but there is a framework. And what are those secret clauses anyway?

If Iran cheats, the world will know it. And then what?

Personally, I’m wondering how exactly sanctions are going to “snap back” when it’s discovered that Iran is cheating, and US companies are heavily invested in Iran. Just not happening.

Also, quite scary to officially learn that Iran is only 2 to 3 months away from a bomb – I think that’s even less time than Netanyahu thought. Who knows, maybe they have one already, and just have to assemble it.

So the bottom line is, Iran gets to keep their nuke program at a lower setting, and modernize parts of it into modern research facilities with world approval.

They get a massive investment of dollars over the coming years as sanctions get dropped to never be restored again, no matter what Iran violates.

And Iran gets to continue to aggressively take over the Middle East, but this time with more money.

While President Obama is sure we can trust Iran because of some imaginary, non-existent Iranian fatwa against nuclear weapons (a fatwa that allowed the Iranians to get within 2-3 months of having nuclear breakout capability).

Can anyone say “bad deal”?

Iran and P5+1 Agree to ‘Key Parameters’ with Unknown Clauses [video]

Thursday, April 2nd, 2015

Iran and the P5+1 powers announced Thursday afternoon they have reached an understanding of “key parameters” for a final agreement that will remove sanctions on Iran and would require it to allow verified inspections of its nuclear program.

Secretary of State John Kerry admitted that “many technical details” must be ironed out.

President Barack Obama called it a “good deal” that will keep Iran from getting its hands on weapons grade plutonium and would require enriched uranium to be shipped out of Iran.

He said the arrangement is better than “bombing Iran and starting a new war in the Middle East” and would only set back Iran’s nuclear program for a few years. Kerry said that the nuclear facility at Natanz is the only plant that will continue to operate and where the uranium is low grade.

No other enrichment material will remain, and the Fordo nuclear plant will be converted to a “research and development “center.

Kerry also said that the heavy water reactor will be converted so that it cannot be used for the development of a nuclear weapon.

Iran is required to ship all enrich uranium out of the country, and it is committed not to build any more heavy water reactors for at least 15 years.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif announced, “Our decision today will be the base for the start of drafting the Joint the Plan of Action (the final deal) which should end by the July 1 deadline.”

He said all sanctions will be lifted, but Kerry stated that this will happen in stages until a final agreement is made by midnight June 30.

One of the most interesting parts of the “key parameters” is that  some clauses may not be made public except to governments and Congress.

The key elements are inspections and access to Iran’s nuclear facilities, to which Kerry said Iran has agreed.

President Obama said in his remarks after the announcement of “key parameters” that he is maintained to the security of Israel and that he will not allow Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon.

Iran will reduce the number of its centrifuges to around 6.000, including 5,000 at Natanz for industrial-scale enrichment and 1,000 at Fordo, but not for enrichment.

The kicker is Zarif’s statement that not everyone will understand the “key parameters” the same way. Fars News Agency reported::

He [Zarif] cautioned that the seven nation’s party to the nuclear talks might present today’s agreement in different ways as they see fit.

The same Foreign Minister Zarif said earlier today that “no agreement will be announced today,” a sure sign that something would indeed be announced, even it is called “key parameters.”

But Obama reassured the American people that although the emerging deal will not remove distrust between Iran and the United States, Iran is committed to using its nuclear program for peaceful purposes.

How does he know?

Because the Islamic Republic has supposedly issued a religious fatwa forbidding nuclear weapons.

The Washington Post reported a year and a half ago on whether the there is such fatwa or it is simply a statement:

Even if one believes the fatwa exists — and will not later be reversed — it clearly appears to have evolved over time. U.S. officials should be careful about saying the fatwa prohibits the development of nuclear weapons, as that is not especially clear anymore.

President Obama covered all the bases in his remarks at the White House,. He said he has spoken with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Saudi Arabia and is looking forward to a lively debate” with Congress.

Iran Toys with Obama and Vows ‘No Agreement Today’

Thursday, April 2nd, 2015

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Tehran declared Thursday “no agreement will be signed today and the six world powers are not due to sign any agreement today” despite P5+1 comments that a deal “is close but elusive.”

Zarif added there might be a joint statement by midnight “if everything goes well.”

Iran has made mincemeat of President Barack Obama’s threat to “walk away” from the negotiations if a framework agreement was night signed by midnight March 31. In the end, the president phoned U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Energy Earnest Moniz to tell them to hang in there if there were signs of progress.

Obama sounded tough in the American media, which said that the president told his representatives in Lausanne to tell Iran they indeed would “walk way” and leave sanctions in place, figuring that threat might make Iran a bit more flexible.

Iran is not that stupid not to figure that Obama would try to play games as Tehran is not twisting him around its little nuclear finger.

The truth was in a statement attributed to an official and reported by The York Times. He said:

They were turning our own deadline against us to see if we would give ground.

Perhaps one day, President Obama will give the orders to Kerry and Moniz to pack their bags and go home, and then maybe Iran will compromise. Or maybe it won’t.

In either case, Iran is making the West sweat it out and lose lots of political points back home, especially in Washington.

If Obama and the other nations in the P5+1 are giving Iran more time to put up or shut up, they won’t look so incredibly naïve if not ignorant, but Iran has a few points in its favor.

The talks have been extended for two days, and if Zarif’s statement of “no agreement” today comes true, the negotiations will drag on into Friday, if not longer.

You don’t have to read Zarif’s lips to understand his mind. He stated loud and clear Thursday:

We have always stated that there could be only ONE agreement which could go into effect at the end of the talks on July 1 if everything goes well.

The capital letters in the word “ONE” were published by the Iranian regime’s Fars News Agency.

Of course, he is playing games. There is nothing he would love more than a framework agreement that is so ambiguous that Iran can put Kerry and his Western partners through the wringer again in June, somewhere around a minute before midnight of a final agreement.

Zarif toyed with everyone with fantastic double talk:

[All issues] more or less resolved, but of course this does not mean that all issues that are to be touched in the final agreement have been specified. We are supposed to reach consensus and the delegations will start working on the text in the near future.

Things might grow difficult when drafting starts; now we believe that problems have almost been resolved.

After assuring everyone that progress is being made, he made out the West to be the real obstacle to a framework agreement, saying that “progress in talks depends on political will, and there has always been a problem with the political will of the opposite party.”

Iran also is playing to the hilt its advantage of conducting task with several delegations. Fars reported, “He [Zarif] said negotiations have become more complicated since several delegations are now meeting each other for bilateral and multilateral talks to discuss ‘their concerns, viewpoints and probably different approaches from both legal and political views.”

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/iran-toys-with-obama-and-vows-no-agreement-today/2015/04/02/

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