The Deep Foundation for the Iran Nuclear Deal

The Deep Foundation for the Iran Nuclear Deal


Howard Adelman

Instead of waiting until the end, let me sum up the main conclusions I arrived at from studying the history of the Iran and P5+1 negotiations leading up to the 2013 Framework and Joint Plan of Action deals. That way the reader can keep them in mind as he or she reads this potted history and sees if they would draw the same conclusions, most of which are not controversial. Or else they may also not want to bother reading the rest at all.

  1. A deal between parties needs willing parties on both sides. Between 2000-2008, the allied side lacked a committed U.S. partner. Between 2005-2012, Iran was an unwilling partner. The deal came together (and rather quickly) in 2013 because both sides were ready to make a deal.
  2. The allies could have obtained better terms that included non-nuclear items, such as ending Iran’s support for Hamas and Hezbollah, if they had negotiated in 2003.
  3. Once Iran went full speed ahead on its nuclear program and invested so much in it, the only deal available was a restriction on Iran’s capacity to build nuclear weapons.
  4. The total elimination of Iran’s right to have a peaceful nuclear enrichment program was never on the table.
  5. Netanyahu was opposed to making a deal with Iran no matter what the terms of the deal were.

Professor Toope in his discussion of the Iran nuclear deal on Yom Kippur did not have time to spell out the background to the deal; he concentrated on the analysis of the terms. In my last blog, I referred only to one item in that background, the 11 November 2013 Framework for Cooperation Agreement (FCA) with IAEA and the 24 November 2013 Joint Plan of Action Agreement (JPAA) with the P5+1 that put in place the foundations for the detailed negotiations.

The deeper foundation was that Iran under the Shah had signed the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) in 1970 making any Iranian nuclear program subject to International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspection. In 1987, Iran began to use the black market to acquire the capacity to enrich uranium by purchasing the technical details on how to build a P-1 centrifuge from the Pakistani nuclear scientist, Abdul Qadeer Khan, the father of the atomic bomb in Pakistan and the greatest scourge ever in the business of nuclear proliferation.

Back in December 1975, after three years on the job, Khan left his position with the Physical Dynamic Research Laboratory (FDO) in The Netherlands, a subcontractor in the uranium enrichment consortium, with copied blueprints for centrifuges and the list of suppliers needed to build one for Pakistan, a goal achieved by 1978. However, because of the USSR’s war in Afghanistan, no sanctions were imposed on Pakistan lest Pakistan be pushed into the Soviet embrace. By the 1980s, Pakistan was able to produce enough highly enriched uranium for a nuclear weapon.

Soon after, Khan began supplying the Iranian Ruhollah Khomeini regime. (Khomeini was the founder of the Iranian revolution who ruled from 1979-1989 as distinct from the current Ali Khamenei Supreme Leader who succeeded him.) Iran received both blueprints and a list of suppliers. Khan’s clandestine activities spread to North Korea, Syria and Libya through the nineties. The Pakistan authorities, if not aware of his nefarious activities before the turn of the millennium, a highly dubious proposition, finally forced Khan into retirement in 2001 and put him under arrest in 2004. He was convicted but pardoned the very next day by President Pervez Musharraf and only held under “house arrest” until 2009.

The whole surreptitious trade in nuclear materials, centrifuges and centrifuge components came into the open when Libya renounced production of nuclear weapons in 2003 and Colonel Qaddafi turned all of this valuable intelligence over to the CIA, ending once and for all any credible claim that Iran, and of course Pakistan, were not involved in illegal transfers of nuclear technology. George W. Bush had gone after the one country, Iraq, that for one reason or another had declined Khan’s offers to provide nuclear technology to it. The result of the huge American mistake: the effective destruction of Iraq and eventual turning of most parts, except for the Kurdish area, either into a satrap of Iran or control by ISIS.

The 2003-2004 revelations set off an international effort to rein Iran in, possibly less from the fear of Iran as a nuclear power than the fear that Israel, with U.S. backing given Bush’s record, would bomb Iran and expand the sphere of instability in the Middle East beyond Iraq. (Arab Spring was not yet on the horizon.) The effort was accelerated with the election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the wild man of Iranian politics, as President in 2005 with 62% of ballots cast. In his previous position as mayor of Tehran and as President, he was both a hardliner and irrational. It was under his watch that the UN became increasingly aggressive with a sanctions regime put in place until the election of a “reformer,” Hassan Rouhani, on 15 June 2013. Within the next six months, on 11 November 2013, the Framework for Cooperation Agreement (FCA) and, on 24 November 2013, the Joint Plan of Action, were both signed. The two will be discussed in subsequent blogs.

This set of blogs is intended to sum up the foundation of the Iran nuclear deal, depict and evaluate its terms and the role and motives of various agents for the part played leading to the agreement on the terms. For example, did Netanyahu really believe the deal was a bad one and, if so, why? Was he justified? Or was he whipping up fear for domestic purposes to ensure he would remain in power? Or was he using Iran’s nuclear enrichment program as a wedge issue to keep Iran, a real conventional threat to Israel, ostracized and isolated? What effect did Netanyahu’s opposition have on the terms of the deal, on Israel’s relationship with the U.S., and on the security of Israel itself?

Before Ahmadinejad assumed office, Iran was the last signatory to the non-proliferation treaty to accept the obligation of providing the IAEA will all plans related to nuclear activities. The then President of Iran, using high level officials in President Mohammad Khatami’s government of Iran (1997-2005), set up a back diplomatic channel that promised not only full transparency into the Iranian nuclear program, but cessation of support for Hezbollah and Hamas. The proposal was purportedly endorsed by Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The Bush administration ignored the offer.

Key European governments – France, Germany and the UK – did not. Together with the Iranian government, they along with Iran jointly issued the Tehran Declaration that would be recycled as the foundation for the FCA in 2013, but stripped of its non-nuclear provisions. Iran had agreed to the following:

  • Pledged full cooperation with the IAEA
  • Promised to sign and implement the Additional Protocol on disclosure of any plans as a voluntary, confidence-building measure
  • Agreed to suspend its enrichment and reprocessing activities during the course of the negotiations.

In return, the EU-3 agreed to:

  • recognize Iran’s rights to develop a nuclear program for peaceful purposes
  • discuss ways Iran could provide “satisfactory assurances” with respect to its nuclear power program
  • provide Iran with easier access to modern nuclear technology as long as Iran was in compliance with its signed obligations.

As a result, Iran signed the Additional Protocol on 18 December 2003 and set out to file the required reports with the IAEA as well as allow access to IAEA inspectors. The backlash within Iran, in part based on wild distortions of the Tehran Declaration, is viewed as one of the catalysts for Ahmadinejad’s resounding victory in the 2005 elections and the subsequent suspension of Iran’s agreement to abide by the Additional Protocol to the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Iran also reneged on the promise to allow unfettered access to Iran’s nuclear program. Instead, Iran accelerated its nuclear program, though, given Iran’s pattern of deceit as revealed in the IAEA Report of 15 November 2004, many contend this began even before Ahmadinejad took power. But, as will be seen in the next blog, the real acceleration started in the latter half of 2008.

Iran tried to blame its resorting to surreptitious activities on the American obstreperous barricades to Iran developing a nuclear program for peaceful purposes. The IAEA 2004 Report was agnostic on whether Iran was developing its technology for the military use of nuclear weapons, for the IAEA found no evidence that the previous undeclared activities were geared to developing a nuclear weapons program. On the other hand, neither could the IAEA vouch for the exclusively peaceful nature of the program.

In 2004, Iran voluntarily suspended its uranium enrichment program, but refused to agree to a permanent termination. Under pressure from the U.S., the EU could not agree to a partial limitation with the only condition, the enrichment could not be diverted for military purposes. It is not clear whether the failure of the EU to recognize Iran’s right to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes helped elect Ahmadinejad as President in June 2005 in an election largely fought on domestic issues – corruption and renewal. During the first few months of Ahmadinejad assuming the presidency, there was a flurry of events:

  • In August 2005, Iran removed the seals on its uranium enrichment facilities at Isfahan
  • Germany responded and refused to either export any more nuclear equipment to Iran or even refund monies already on deposit
  • The IAEA reported that bomb-grade uranium found on inspected materials in Iran came from imported parts from Pakistan
  • In September 2005, the EU rejected Ahmadinejad’s offer at the UN that Iran’s enrichment program be managed by an international consortium and the Paris Agreement was dead
  • In February 2006, the IAEA in a 27-3 vote reported Iran’s non-compliance to the Security Council
  • In 2006, the Bush administration in Washington insisted that Iran could have no enrichment program whatsoever;
  • After that there were no substantive further negotiations until Ahmadinejad left office.

Even though U.S. intelligence at the end of 2006 declared that there was no evidence that Iran had a military nuclear program, that year was a turning point. It began with the reference of Iran to the Security Council to require Iran to suspend its enrichment program, cease construction of the Arak heavy water reactor (necessary for the production of plutonium) and fully cooperate with the IAEA. Iran signalled a willingness to cooperate but, at the same time, announced its initial success in enriching uranium to 3.5% at Natanz. In June, the first iteration of what would become the 2013 Framework agreement was proposed by some permanent members of the Security Council plus Germany.

On 31 July, the UNSC adopted Res. 1696 demanding Iran suspend its enrichment program altogether. Though rejected, Iran responded with an offer to negotiate. At the same time, a new tunnel entrance was constructed at the Estfahan uranium enrichment facility and construction resumed at the Natanz conversion facility. By the end of the year, the UNSC passed Res. 1737 imposing sanctions on Iran for the first time even though American intelligence had concluded there was no evidence Iran had a nuclear weapons program. Countries were prohibited from transferring sensitive and nuclear-related technology to Iran. The assets of ten Iranian organizations and twelve individuals were frozen.

These resolutions were passed under the authority of Article 41 of Chapter VII of the UN Charter permitting the exercise of UNSC authority even though a peace threat had not been determined. However, unlike article 42, which does require a peace threat determination, there was no binding enforcement obligation under article 41. The sanctions only became effective because of the power and positions of the P5+1 and their willingness to impose sanctions. The failure to establish an actual threat to the peace sewed a fatal flaw in the long term effectiveness of the sanctions, especially if the P5+1 lost their united front. In that case, even if the U.S. had the power alone to make the sanctions quite effective, without a solid legal and even moral authority, the sanctions regime was being built on straw.

While emphasizing the importance of political and diplomatic efforts to ensure that Iran’s nuclear programme was exclusively for peaceful purposes, three months later in March 2007, Res. 1747 was passed under Article 41 of the Charter. The resolution elaborated on the implementation of the sanctions Res. 1737 and introduced broader sanctions and targets in paragraphs 5 and 7:

Para 5: Decides that Iran shall not supply, sell or transfer directly or indirectly from its territory or by its nationals or using its flag vessels or aircraft any arms or related materiel, and that all States shall prohibit the procurement of such items from Iran by their nationals, or using their flag vessels or aircraft, and whether or not originating in the territory of Iran.

Para 7: Calls upon all States and international financial institutions not to enter into new commitments for grants, financial assistance, and concessional loans, to the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran, except for humanitarian and developmental purposes.

Under this pressure, Iran agreed on a “work plan” in late August,but there was no substantive progress in the ongoing negotiations. In December, the U.S. publicly declassified and released a summary of the National Intelligence Estimate Report on Iran’s nuclear program, concluding that the intelligence community judged “with high confidence” that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in the fall of 2003 and, further, declared that the program had not resumed as of mid-2007. Breakout time was then considered to be three years.

In March 2008, UNSC Res. 1803 was passed broadening the sanctions and the targets even further, but also offering to freeze further sanctions in return for Iran halting its enrichment program. In February 2009, Iran announced that it had successfully carried out its first satellite launch. Barack Obama was then President of the U.S. and he agreed that henceforth the U.S. would participate fully in the P5+1 talks with Iran without Iran agreeing to meet demands first. However, this seemed to have no influence on the Iranian election in which incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was declared the winner, even though there was some evidence and many claims that the election had been rigged.  In the period of unrest and protests, diplomatic efforts were suspended. The suspension of back channel talks was reinforced when France, the U.K. and the U.S. jointly revealed that Iran had been constructing a secret, second uranium-enrichment facility at Fordow near the holy city of Qom.

New proposals nevertheless followed – a fuel swap with respect to the enriched uranium. In the interim, in 2010 Iran began enriching uranium to almost 20% instead of trading its 3.5% enriched uranium for 19.5% enriched uranium for Iran’s research program.  However, in May Iran agreed to a specific version of the fuel swap agreement, but that was vetoed by France, Russia and the U.S. Instead, the UNSC adopted UNSC Res. 1929 on 9 June 2010 again expanding the sanctions that now placed an arms embargo on Iran and prohibited ballistic missile testing. Seizure of shipments to Iran was authorized. On 24 June 2010, the U.S. Congress adopted the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act (CISAD) aimed at firms investing in Iran’s energy sector and companies which sell refined petroleum to Iran. The sanctions were not set to expire until 2016. Two days later, the EU imposed even broader sanctions aimed not only at energy and trade, but at financial services and more extensive asset freezes.

During this period, Israel had not been sitting still. In 2005, the Jewish state defined the Iranian nuclear program as an existential threat. Israel was widely believed to be behind the Stuxnet computer virus that disrupted Iran’s nuclear enrichment program at Nantaz in September 2010.  Israeli decision-makers began to consider whether and when to order a military attack against Iran’s nuclear facilities. As rumours grew that such an attack might be imminent, the P5+1, fearing enormous economic, political regional and global security repercussions, upped the pace and efforts at reaching a deal with Iran. However, between 2010 and 2012 the negotiations with Iran produced no substantive results. In the interim in 2011, Iran’s Bushehr nuclear plant began operating and achieved a sustained nuclear reaction. Further, Iran announced its intention to increase the amount of 19.5% enriched uranium it produced. This was all documented in the IAEA 8 November 2011 Report. That document also included further information on Iran’s deceptive practices even before 2004.

Then the final turn of the screw. As part of the National Defense Authorization Act, Congress passed legislation allowing the U.S. to sanction foreign banks if they process transactions with the Central Bank of Iran. The EU slapped a ban on the import of Iranian oil and prevented insurance companies from indemnifying tankers carrying Iranian oil. Negotiations, though protracted, began in earnest and at a deeper level through 2012 with more substantive exchanges of proposals and, on another level, crucial technical meetings. However, there was still no substantive movement on key issues.

At the United Nations on 27 September 2012, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu drew a red-line: if Iran amassed enough (250 kilos) uranium enriched to 20 percent. Without saying so, the red line implied that Israel would then launch an air attack against Iran’s nuclear facilities. (See the U.S. Government analysis of that threat: Initially this did not seem to deter Iran as, according to the IAEA November report, more centrifuges were installed at Natanz and Iran completed installation of the 2,800 centrifuges for Fordow. However, Iran kept constant the number of cascades producing 20 percent enriched uranium. The P5+1 talks with Iran still went nowhere until Hassan Rouhani, a former nuclear negotiator, was elected president of Iran on 14 June 2013.

With that, especially after Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif at the UN in September 2013 presented a new proposal to the Americans and President Barack Obama had a telephone conversation with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, talks then moved very rapidly towards the conclusion of the November 2013 Framework for Cooperation Agreement (FCA) and the Joint Plan of Action in response to the demonstrably new candor from Iran.

Next: The Terms of the Framework for Cooperation Agreement (FCA)


Lebanon: The UN El Jiyeh Oil Spill Resolution

Lebanon: The UN El Jiyeh Oil Spill Resolution


Howard Adelman

[Note: 1 metric tonne of fuel oil = approx. 7 barrels = almost 318 gallons.]

This morning I will continue to examine the Palestinian-Israeli conflict through my annual regional survey of the Middle East, now focused on Lebanon. I will also continue to focus on the conflict through an environmental lens. This is not merely because of the angle I took on Jordan and the story of the recent oil spill in Israel because of a fractured oil pipeline. Last Friday (19 December 2014) the UN General Assembly voted to request that Israel “promptly” pay $856.4 million (often rounded off to $850 million) in damages, as a result of the oil spill caused when, on 13 and 15 July 2006, the Israeli Air Force (IAF) launched two air strikes which targeted and destroyed the oil storage tanks near the El Jiyeh electric power plant 30 km. south of Beirut which resulted in the burning of 55,000 tons of heavy fuel oil and the spill of 10,000-15,000 tons (up to 5 million gallons) into the eastern Mediterranean, polluting Lebanon’s shoreline for 170 km, two-thirds of Lebanon’s coastline. (Some UN resolutions claimed the damage covered the entire Lebanese coastline, in which case it would, inevitably, have included the Israeli coast, which it did not.) The incident is generally referred to as the Jiyeh Oil Spill (JOS).

Of the 46 environmental impacts, nine included littoral pollution, impact on marine biodiversity (especially rocky biogenic reefs and Palm Islands Nature Reserve where 100 oiled birds were observed), air pollution from El-Jiyeh fire, marine sediment impact from sunken oil, soil pollution from deposited contaminants of fuel burning at El-Jiyeh, 2), impact on seawater quality from the oil spill and the soil impact at El-Jiyeh site affecting plants and ecosystem from fuel burning. Rocks were covered in black sludge right up until the southern part of Syria killing fish and endangering the habitat of endangered species such as marine loggerhead turtles (Caretta caretta) and green turtles (Chelonya mydas).

Initial reports on the extent and depth of the damage were hyperbolic and UN resolutions continued that tone even though the United Nations Environmental Program revised its initial estimates and minimized the long-term damage. For example, it reported that the sediment from sunken oil was not nearly as bad as originally feared and left no significant long-lasting impact. Similarly, seawater quality was not degraded significantly or for very long. Further, the UNEP report stated that routine stress from untreated sewage, boating and other activities had damaged the Lebanese marine environment far more than the oil spill.

There have been a series of eight UN General Assembly resolutions previously dealing with this oil spill, the first two, a resolution adopted by the Second Committee of the UN, 22 November 2006 and a resolution adopted by the General Assembly on 20 December 2006, and the latest previous one, res. 68/206 on 20 December 2013. They are all very similar except this one designated a dollar figure.

Various UN and international agencies have been apprised and become involved on the issue, including the United Nations (FAO), the World Conservation Union (IUCN), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the World Bank, and UNEP/Mediterranean Action Plan/Regional Marine Pollution Emergency Response Centre for the Mediterranean Sea (REMPEC) in addition to the Lebanese government. Under various rubrics, such as environmental protection, biodiversity, sustainable economic development, human health protection, fisheries protection, reservation of tourism and various other so-called relevant general themes, resolutions along the same lines have been introduced and passed by the UN since 2006. But the almost billion dollar figure seemed to catch enormous attention.

If you google “Jiyeh oil spill”, the reports of the UN decision assessing Israel for over $850 million in damages will be reflected in citations from almost every media outlet in the world. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of stories this past week. Although the issue has come up in the United Nations General Assembly many times before, never has it been so widely reported, most often with little context, especially about the 2006 war between Hezbollah and Israel. Even though the resolution is non-binding, and even though it is recorded as a “request”, even though the UN General Assembly has no authority to levy fines or costs from an environmental disaster, the usual impression is that the United Nations voted overwhelmingly to find Israel guilty of the oil spill and responsible for all costs connected with it. Clearly, the figure of almost a billion dollar assessment caught the attention of the media.

Israel has not been held liable for the deaths of 1,200 Lebanese during that war. But it is being held financially responsible for an environmental disaster. A 2007 Secretary General’s Report on the oil spill reported that the damage caused was $729 million although the original damage claimed by Lebanon, including clean-up costs and damage to the Lebanese economy, was $203 million. The latest costs have been corrected to allow for inflation, but do not include interest on the total monies claimed. Further, these are only the alleged costs to Lebanon. For example, expenditures by Japan and Norway, which participated in the clean-up, cost $1.8 million. The Canadian International Development Agency spent $35,587 in a follow-up survey.

These costs do not include the outlays incurred by other international agencies and other countries and NGOs that helped with the cleanup, including Israel that cooperated with the United Nations Environmental Program. However, in the 2014 resolution, the Secretary-General was asked to conduct further studies to quantify environmental damage sustained by neighbouring countries (e,g, Syria, Turkey and even Cyprus presumably), ensuring the issue will come before the UN General Assembly next year.

Routinely, Israel, the United States, Canada and Australia vote against the resolution along with shifting numbers of Micronesian states. Mr. Mally, the US delegate in 2006, put the American position clearly, a position which has been repeated ever since. After expressing the American delegation’s condolences to the people of Lebanon for the tragic loss of Industry Minister Mr. Pierre Gemayel and the United States support for the Lebanese people’s desire to live in peace, the U.S. registered its criticisms for the “one-sided and unbalanced language and placed demands on one party to the conflict while failing to acknowledge the role of those responsible for initiating the hostilities in Lebanon in the summer of 2006. It was Hizbollah that had provoked the conflict with its incursion into Israel on 12 July. That fact was not acknowledged in the draft resolution.” The U.S. regretted “the pollution of the shores of Lebanon…However, the Committee had important responsibilities and should not be used to advance one-sided and unbalanced views. In particular, it was inappropriate for the Committee to take a position on Israel’s responsibilities to compensate Lebanon for damage caused during the course of an armed conflict.”

Canada opposed the resolution because it argued, and has always argued, that the UN General Assembly was an inappropriate place to take up a matter of legal and financial liability.

Israel insisted that the issue was politically motivated and no consideration was given to the context of the war, the initial attacks by Hezbollah, the kidnapping of Israeli soldiers, the fires caused in northern Israel by Hezbollah that caused massive environmental damage. Certainly there was no consideration for Israel’s statement in its defence by Ilan Fluss, the Israeli delegate who called the resolution

a blatant attempt to politicize an issue of environmental concern and paint Israel, once again, as the unjust aggressor. It joined the litany of one-sided resolutions that flowed out of the General Assembly each year. The Committee must not allow politicization to infiltrate its work, as it distracted attention from issues of substance and relevance. The draft resolution omitted a crucial detail relating to the context of the events described. It did not mention the entire reason for the conflict — namely, that on 12 July 2006 Hizbollah terrorists had crossed an internationally recognized border into Israel and kidnapped and killed Israeli soldiers. Had the Government of Lebanon exercised its sovereignty and fulfilled the conditions demanded of it by Security Council resolution 1559 (2004), the conflict would not have occurred. But the Government of Lebanon had been derelict in its duty and irresponsibly allowed the growth of a ‘state within a state’, and now the peoples and land of Lebanon and Israel were paying the price.

In response to Hizbollah’s attack, Israel had done what any other country would have done: defend and protect the lives of its citizens and eliminate the impending threat. As 4,000 Katyusha rockets had rained down on Israeli towns and citizens, it had been Israel’s moral duty to defend its people. The obligation of a responsible Government was first and foremost to its citizenry. The same could not be said for the Government of Lebanon, which had ignored its people and its land and allowed terrorists to hijack both.

That was not to say that there was no reason for concern regarding the environmental health and vitality of Lebanon’s coast. Professional agencies — including United Nations bodies such as the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) — were assessing and addressing the situation on the ground, in ways that would accomplish far more than the draft resolution. Moreover, if the sponsors were earnest in their desire to address the development ramifications of the conflict, they would have mentioned the more than half a million trees and 52,000 dunams of forest that had burnt down in Israel as a result of fires caused by Hizbollah rockets; the 25 Israeli cement and asbestos buildings that had been damaged, polluting an area of 20,000 square metres; or the direct hit by a Katyusha rocket on a sludge-thickening plant in Tzafat. The omission of reference to those environmental catastrophes in Israel proved that the draft resolution was an act of political demonization. Israel urged those Member States that believed in authentically addressing the challenges and responsibilities of the Committee to distance themselves from yet another act of partisan politicking. That was not the way to deal responsibly with matters requiring genuine attention.

Almost all other countries supported the resolution with very few abstentions and, also, very few speeches, none of which addressed the complaints of the countries that voted against. Though the dollar figure helped garner the headlines, the resolution was clearly about politics, for the Prime Minister of Lebanon used the occasion to welcome the action and to call on the UN to force Israel to stop violating Lebanese territory and to retreat from the Shebaa Farms, a small strip of disputed land at the intersection of the Lebanese-Syrian border and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, the strategically located Kfarshouba Hills, once the home of the second largest village in south Lebanon on the borders of Israel and Syria in the Golan Heights, now largely destroyed. The village has been repeatedly attacked by Israeli forces in 1967, 1970, 1972, 1982, 2006. In May 2000, following the Israeli army withdrawal from Lebanon, the UN certified that Israel has withdrawn fully from all Lebanese territory.

The third area the Prime Minister of Lebanon complained about was the north part of the Ghajar village. Bibi, backed up by an Israeli cabinet decision, promised to hand the control over the area to UNIFIL on condition that the Lebanese Army protect the vicinity north of the village, while UNIFIL would be deployed in the village itself to deal both with Israel’s security concerns and the disputed claims over the territory between Lebanon and Syria. Ghajar was under full Syrian control before the 1967 war, including the northern part that Israel is being asked to return to Lebanon.

Contrast this political performance with Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikat’s response to the indictment by a US-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon on the 2005 assassination of former Premier Rafiq Harari, along with 20 others in a massive car bombing, that named four members of the Lebanese resistance movement of Hezbollah. The Lebanese Prime Minister then insisted that the evidence was not conclusive and that, “Every individual is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.” He went further by showing Israeli unmanned video footage and played recorded messages of alleged “fifth columnists” to claim that Israel was responsible for the attack, even though no motive was even suggested why Israel might want to kill an enemy of Hezbollah.

Tomorrow: The El Jiyeh Oil Spill: Legal, Financial and Political Fairness




Howard Adelman

I do not normally dedicate blogs. After yesterday, it may become a habit. This one, however, is doubly dedicated, and to two people who are still alive. First, I dedicate this blog to my son, Daniel, who, as a very committed environmentalist, has taught me a great deal about the dangers of oil spills in particular, particularly with respect to the Canadian Gateway and Keystone pipeline proposals, and climate change in general. Secondly, I dedicate this blog to my colleague at York University, Professor Stuart Schoenfeld ( if you want the same information), whom I last saw with his wife, Joan, when we were visiting Frank Lloyd Wright’s Martin House in Buffalo a few years back. Stuart is a member of IPCRI, the Israel Palestine Centre for Research and Information, and regularly shares with me (electronically) stories of environmental threats as well as areas of cooperation in the Middle East, but particularly between Israel and Jordan and between Israel and the Palestinians. (Website “Environment and Climate in the Middle East” – I just want to reassure him that I am grateful and still read his missives. This blog, and the one tomorrow on the UN General Assembly decision on Friday to hold Israel responsible for the oil spill on the Lebanon Coast in 2006, are intended to serve as proof.

In a recent blog, I reported that Jordan will be joining the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) on the first of January. In that role, Jordan has circulated a resolution to be passed by the UNSC sidelining the USA in the Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations and calling for an end to Israeli occupation, withdrawal of military troops from the West Bank by 2017, and the conclusion of a peace treaty within a year based on the 4 June 1967 borders, with equitable, limited and agreed land swaps, a just outcome for the Palestinian refugees, and Jerusalem as the shared capital of both Israel and Palestine. Israel, including key leaders in the opposition, have rejected the proposal outright. Israel has promised to work for its defeat, though, at this time, it looks like the resolution may win the 9 votes needed to pass. The U.S. has promised to veto the resolution. Yet Jordan boasts that it is closer to the Obama administration, the government and even the Republican dominated Congress than Israel.

I promised to answer the question of why Jordan would make such a boast. Even though Jordan’s initiative strengthens the rightwing in Israel by confirming that Israel lacks a serious partner with which to negotiate a peace agreement, Dow Marmur in his blog speculated that the reason Jordan sponsored the resolution in the UNSC is because Jordan, as well as the PLO and Egypt, prefer the status quo to an independent Palestine in which there is a good possibility that Hamas could come to power. I will be offering my own answer to my question and Dow’s speculation, though in a roundabout way.

Amman, the capital of Jordan, is gorgeous, with buildings constructed out of the same Jerusalem stone as those in the city from which that stone gets its name. The people are exceptionally hospitable. Even in a very poor house in a Palestinian refugee camp, a mother with her children swarming around her will offer me tea and even a sweet if she has any. Yet with all that hospitality and generosity, Jordan is the archetype of a state and an administration walking a tightrope. I do not mean this merely as a metaphor. Jordan is a tightrope. Jordan is a string of urban areas running north to south along the eastern border of the West Bank and Israel – Irbun, Ajloun, Jerash, Zarqua, Salt, Amman, Madaba along the top half bordering the West Bank that I referred to in my blog yesterday, and Karak, Petra and Aqaba parallel to the border with Israel on the southern portion of that string of cities. Jordan is more akin to Canada in that sense, but on a north-south rather than an east-west urban axis.

Except, while Canada stretches enormously from sea to sea to sea – from the Atlantic Ocean in the east, the Arctic Ocean on the north and the Pacific Ocean in the west – Jordan is virtually landlocked. Further, Jordan has a scarcity of water. There is more fresh water that I can see from my cottage in Georgian Bay, Ontario, than Jordan, Palestine and Israel possess all together. However, Jordan, unfortunately, does not have the responsibility of Canada, or even its not so-secret “partner”, Israel, in preserving coastline, and managing the competition between the tourist/development industry and the environmental ministry as the latter resists the efforts of the former in its efforts to convert pristine coastline at the northern end of Palmahim beach into a large resort on the Mediterranean rather than a nature reserve. Jordan can only wish that it had such problems.

Nevertheless, Jordan has led the world in a number of areas, especially in developing norms to deal with migrating human populations. Further, in the specific problem of peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians, it did set two precedents in the building blocks towards a two-state solution. First, in the face of rising Palestinian nationalism, in 1988, the King of Jordan, a country of a core 35,480 square kilometres, gave up any claims to the West Bank, the almost 6,000 square kilometres of territory that Jordan had conquered and then annexed following the 1948 war, an annexation that few other countries recognized, but which hardly any countries protested – in stark contrast to Israel’s “occupation”. Secondly, in 1966, Jordan engaged in a trade of territory with another country. In 1966, it alleviated its almost total landlocked character slightly by trading territory with Saudi Arabia on its east and extending its shoreline along the Gulf of Aqaba to 16 miles so that Aqaba could extend its port and recreational facilities.

If Canada is currently a relatively politically inconsequential actor on the world stage, Jordan is a very understated and under-rated one. Jordan’s achievements in receiving and integrating refugees is unparalleled. In the last three months, Jordan has received over 10,000 refugees from Iraq fleeing the advance of the Islamic State (IS) as well as sectarian violence in Baghdad and Basra. Recall that many of the half million Iraqi refugees that fled in 2003 remained in Jordan. Of the 3.2 million Syrian refugees registered with UNHCR, over 620,000 registered refugees have found a safe haven in Jordan, though just last week Jordan had to suspend the free health care services offered to those refugees in state-run hospitals because of a financial crisis. In fact, taking into consideration the estimated almost 800,000 unregistered Syrian refugees in Jordan as well as the registered refugees, the total of Syrian refugees alone in Jordan is probably over 1.4 million. And that is in a country with a citizen population of only six million! Compare that with the Canadian government’s cut off of health services for refugees who did not number 2% of that total and posed very little pressure on the economics of health in Canada. And my country cannot even manage to take in the 1,300 Syrian refugees it promised, 0.1% of Jordan’s intake, in a country with a population of 35 million rather than just over six million.

Even before the arrival of the 1.4 million Syrian refugees from the current civil war in Syria and the influx of refugees from Iraq, over 50% of its population consists of Palestinians who fled what became Israel in its war with the Arab states in 1948, as well as those who fled when Israel captured the West Bank in 1967. It is estimated that, of Jordan’s over six million naturalized population, 3.25 million are Palestinians. Unlike any other Arab country, the Palestinian refugees have almost all been given citizenship. And this in a country with few natural resources. Even Israel’s natural water shortage seems minor compared to that of Jordan.
But water is a basis for a relatively unknown area of extensive cooperation between Israel and Jordan. I first learned of this partnership when, as a producer and host of the TV program Israel Today, we did a full hour show out of Eilat on the coordination between Israel and Jordan on the preservation of turtles in the Gulf of Aqaba/Eilat. The cooperation on water and the environment is far more extensive and deeper (no pun intended) than the relatively minor issue of turtles.

In Sunday’s edition of Haaretz, in an article on water shortage in the Middle East that, through yet another lens in its repeated theme of fostering Israel as the economic and technological saviour of the region and, therefore, the key agent for ensuring security, prosperity and peace, the newspaper reported both that the journal Climatic Change, published a study claiming that a drought was responsible for the collapse of the Assyrian Empire 2,700 years ago, and that current estimates that 634 million people living in the Middle East by 2050 (double the current population) will be faced with even greater water shortages and a decline in precipitation. Israel’s advanced technology, desalination and water recycling, that have helped Israel to become a kind of regional water superpower, could play a role in the salvation of the Middle East from the current and worsening water crisis. After all, although the average amount of precipitation in Israel is 1.2 billion cubic meters, Israelis consume 2.2 billion cubic meters of fresh water, a shortage made up by technology, water conservation, desalination and recycling. Israel recycles an amazing 87% of its water, whereas the second most successful political jurisdiction recycles only 25% and the third most successful only 10%.

Since 1994, Jordan has stored water from winter rains and the rise in levels of the Yarmouk River in Israel’s Sea of Galilee. Israel then pumps the water back to Jordan in the summer. Water preservation is crucial to Jordan’s survival. Water agreements, that were part of that 1994 peace treaty between Israel and Jordan, provided that Israel would provide Jordan with an additional 55 million cubic meters of water per year. For food security, Jordan needs to practice the highest degree of water preservation and re-cycling. In the Arab countries in the region, annual renewable water resources per capita are less than 850 cubic metres (the world average is approximately 6,000 cubic metres), with Jordan ranking as the world’s second water-poorest country with water per capita 88% below the international poverty line of 1,000 cubic metres per capita, a need aggravated enormously by the huge influx of refugees and the fact that, at present, the agricultural sector utilizes 85% of total water withdrawals in contrast to the maximum 40% recommended by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization in Rome.

Israel and Jordan cooperate, not only on water conservation, but on water waste and theft. With some remote imagery by the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) incorporating some Israeli technology, the Jordanian water authority discovered “stolen” water. An illegal 1.5 km pipe in Amman was siphoning off water into a storage pool on a farm guarded by fierce dogs behind Middle East University. The water was being re-sold to other farmers. In Amman, where inhabitants receive water twice every two weeks, that situation could be alleviated if 50% of the water that leaks or is stolen from the water distribution system could be halted.

Israel and Jordan not only share a vital resource, water, and a common interest is wise management of that resource, but they effectively share the same air and, in some sense, land. When five million litres of oil from the Eilat-Ashkelon pipeline leaked in southern Israel near the Jordanian border into the Arava nature reserve after a vehicle, being used in the construction of the new international airport to be shared between Israel and Jordan, crashed into and broke a section of the 245 kilometre Ashkelon Eilat crude oil pipeline on Wednesday evening on the 4th of December, Highway 90 was closed as was the town of Be’er Ora, 20 km. north of Eilat. Ironically, on the same day, a convention opened in Tel Aviv to implement Israel’s national plan for developing oil alternatives for transportation, the Eilat-Eilot Green Energy Conference. That meeting was intended also to celebrate the implementation of a plan to have the whole southern area up to the Dead Sea fully solar-powered by 2016, a plan somewhat at odds with the licensing of a Canadian company, Transeuro Energy Corporation, to develop the Hamzah Oil Field in Al Azraq.

In response to the smell from the Israeli oil pipeline leak, and the memory of the explosion of a gas well in Eilat two weeks earlier, panicked residents of Aqaba swamped the emergency rooms of Prince Hashem Bin Abdullah Military Hospital and the Islamic Hospital by citizens suffering from shortness of breath and an increased heartbeat. The panic was not medically justified, but it was understandable given the noxious smell of rotten eggs given off as a result of the oil spill that increased the hydrogen sulfide in the air above the acceptable level of 30 parts per billion (ppb) to 80 ppb and instead of the normal 1-2 ppb in Aqaba. Jordanians also feared that the gas would explode and, initially, that the oil would contaminate the Wadi Rum nature reserve north of Aqaba where a reintroduction and release program by the Jordanian EAD environmental agency of the endangered Nubian Ibex – 30 males and 70 females – had just begun.

I have not heard whether the heavy rainfall that took place a few days later allowed oil to seep deep into the aquifers and into the Gulf of Eilat and the Red Sea endangering the coasts and the coral reefs. I suspect not since the truism, “No news is good news,” applies, especially to the environment. The rapid response of the Israeli Environmental agency, and the proximity of Neot Hovav, formerly Ramat Hovav, 12 km south of Beersheba as Israel’s main hazardous waste disposal facility, probably enabled the spill to be controlled quickly.

In Jordan, fear of another kind sits immediately under the skin. Syria occupies its northern border. There is the constant dread that the Syrian War will spill over into Jordan, especially since a shortage of water in Syria from the 2006-2009 drought is viewed as a precipitating cause of that civil war. There is fear that Jordan will follow the path of its neighbours in the Arab Spring and, in the quest for greater democracy and more liberties, Jordanians might seek to overthrow King Abdullah II and turn Jordan into a failed state. There is the fear that now permeates the whole Middle East that radical Islamicists and jihadists, like Islamic State (IS), will cross the border from Iraq and Syria, infiltrate and create havoc in Jordan or, as in Syria, gain control of a crucial water source just as IS took control of the Tabqa Dam there in February 2013. There is the fear that radical Palestinians will seek to turn Jordan into part of the state of Palestine and a base from which to conquer the West Bank and even hope to defeat Israel, as the PLO once tried to do before Black September in 1970. There is even the fear that the strict form of Islam, Wahhabism, practiced in Saudi Arabia, will cross over its eastern border, particularly given past historical tensions between Jordan and Saudi Arabia. After all, the Saudis displaced the Hashemites from Hejaz after WWI and the Hashemites received Jordan as a consolation prize from the British Empire. Saudi Arabia has always been, to a small degree, wary of Jordan.

During the Persian Gulf War, Jordan and Saudi Arabia were at loggerheads. After all, Jordan, given its great financial dependency on trade with Iraq and, along with the PLO, obtaining oil from Iraq at a discount, was one of the very few polities to back Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait. After Iraq’s defeat by George H. W. Bush, Jordan was in dismal straits as both Jordanians and other Palestinians fled back to Jordan when they were evicted by Kuwait following Iraq’s defeat. Trade with Iraq had fallen to zero. This turned into a double whammy, since the previously large flow of remittances also dried up. By 1996, Abdullah, when he was still a prince, made the required trip to Saudi Arabia in contrition. In 2014, Jordan is now fronting the Arab League, dominated by Saudi Arabia, in sponsoring its Israeli-Palestinian peace proposal.

Given its borders, one has to understand the insecurities of the Jordanians. The only border which feels relatively secure is its border with Israel. Since all of Jordan’s major rivers are in the west running into the Rift Valley of the Middle East, environmental cooperation with Israel is not only a good idea, it is imperative. Further, Israel has the same border insecurities as Jordan, but in spades – from the Hezbollah-Lebanon border on the north, an increasingly radicalized Islamic State deployed along the border with Syria on the north-east where there is a rising possibility of Israel intervening in the Syrian conflict following an alliance between the rebel Yarmouk Martyrs Brigades and IS, and the Hamas self-destructive madness in Gaza to the south; once again Hamas is trying to rearm and improve its missile capabilities while regaining its support from Iran only to have Israel respond to a one-off rocket attack from Gaza by bombing Gaza’s cement factory. Thus, cooperation between Israel and Jordan is not only imperative on the environment, so too is it on the political front.

Tom Friedman had described John Kerry’s peace initiative, while it was underway, as the last train to catch if peace was to be achieved, otherwise the train would run over both parties and turn into a wreck leaving the two-state solution dead on the tracks. In this past Friday’s NYT, Friedman saw one last hope – in the cooperation between Israeli, Jordanian and Palestinian environmentalists as a model for preventing the political atmosphere as well as the environmental one becoming more toxic. Friedman wrote about the water crisis in Gaza; Gaza’s one hydro generating plant was severely damaged in the recent Fifty Day Gaza War so desalination has been greatly reduced. Israel seems the only source to provide the electric power needed to run the desalinization plant if it is repaired. The Gaza aquifers are becoming so brackish that the water is becoming undrinkable, a situation not helped by the propensities of Gazans to dig their own private wells. Untreated waste travels up the coast to Ashkelon so that Israelis get a slight taste of living in a waste management dump. In providing answers to those shared problems, interdependence and trust, Friedman argued, are fostered.

I agree with Friedman’s argument. The Arab Forum for Environment and Development (AFED) meeting in Amman in November highlighted the issue of food insecurity faced by Arab states (they import over 50% of their food needs). With increased aridity, limited cultivable land, scarce water resources and population growth, as well as the compounding effects of climate change, the situation can only get worse.
Jordan is no slouch when it comes to the environment. Amman has been named by the Rockefeller Foundation as one of the 100 Resilient Cities (100RC) declared ready to respond to the social, economic and physical shocks and stresses anticipated in this century. As both urbanization and globalization both grow apace, as anyone visiting Mexico City would have to notice, we are confronted by climate change, natural and man-made disasters, super-typhoons and category 5 hurricanes, booming populations and waning potable water, droughts and floods. Gaza last month suffered record-breaking floods, especially around Sheikh Radwan storm water lagoon, that forced the evacuation of homes and the closure of 63 schools. With very little of the aid promised reaching those needing to re-build, the situation is exacerbated by the 100,000 Gazans still homeless after the end of the Gaza War earlier this year.

As for droughts, Jordan, Israel and Palestine all face a future of a steady increase in temperatures of 1.5 to 2.5 degrees Celsius, more dry spells, as well as very much heavier rains and longer dry periods with a net drop in precipitation and an increase in evaporation, with the northern forests and freshwater ecosystems in the Jordan Rift Valley being the most vulnerable. The future until 2050 looks even worse as the region faces a rise in sea levels, extreme rainfall producing runoff and flooding, alternating with even more extreme droughts connected to rises in sea surface temperatures and carbon dioxide concentrations. Add to this, increased economic inequalities and increasing irregular migration flows, a decaying and inadequate infrastructure and hyper-expensive health care, then solutions have to be found collectively and in large urban areas, not in sand swept marginal farms from which an astronaut cowboy will emerge to save the world as in Interstellar.

Thus, the main issue is not about where to draw the borders that divide, but how to unite to save the space and water both societies share, how to have the three states of Israel, Palestine and Jordan share one homeland. If they cannot share the environment, they will never be able to share Jerusalem.

To return to our original question, why did Jordan boast that it had better access than Israel, not only to the Obama administration and the American government, but to the Republican-dominated Congress? Is there any validity in Rabbi Marmur’s speculation that Jordan and the PLO have a vested interest in the status quo and prefer an administration of the right in Israel with whom they cannot make peace rather than a government of the left when the resistance to making a peace agreement will shift back to them?

I have a simple answer to the Jordan access issue which I will document in more detail, hopefully, later this week.

In the interim, I suggest the answer to both questions is “Yes!” For though Bibi Netanyahu may be a Republican in disguise, he sometimes pisses even American right-wingers off. In contrast, Jordan, even when it introduces a UN resolution that the USA promises to veto, coordinates and explains its policies in detail to the Americans. Jordan has close connections and has fully informed both the Obama administration and Congress that the proposed resolution in the UNSC is a feint. The Obama administration understands basketball. It understands that the path to a peace agreement will not be a straight line and that an agreement coming from the right might have more resilience than one coming from the left. After Kerry’s year-long immersion in the negotiations, it is clear that even if the centre-left in Israel comes to power in March, there will be no peace agreement. As there was not when Meridor and Barak made their generous offers to the Palestinians. But the Arab League must be kept on side.

Science, Information and Democracy

Science, Information and Democracy 

An empirical case analysis as background for my talk: “A Philosopher Reflects on Governance in Canada: Is Democracy in Decline?” to be presented to the noon hour series for Senior Fellows at Massey College on September 23rd.


Howard Adelman



Following interviews with the science journalist, Véronique Morin, the Webster McConnell Fellow in Journalism at Massey College this year, this blog surveys the various efforts of the Harper government to limit the output of scientific data, particularly that related to environmental issues, and access to data. The government redacts much of the data given out after delay, delay and delay. The article concludes that this is part of an even larger operation to undermine the professionalism of the civil service and its critical role in ensuring a strong and responsive democracy. 


Véronique Morin is the Webster McConnell Fellow in Journalism at Massey College this year who works the science beat, with an emphasis on research, for a science magazine program, Le Code Chastenay, on Télé-Québec. She had the idea and undertook the research for the documentary, Time Bombs, which exposed the horrific use by government officials of 40 ordinary soldiers in order to study the effects of the use of atomic bombs on the military in combat. The bombs were sometimes as much as four times more powerful than the bomb used on Hiroshima and at times the soldiers were only half a mile from the explosion. The soldiers were not told that they were being used as guinea pigs. They obeyed because they were members of the Queen’s Own Rifles and saw themselves as serving Queen and Country in following orders. Of course, the soldiers later developed cancer in extraordinary proportions and this fact was kept a secret from them initially and from the Canadian public. Even worse, some of their children were born with deformities or handicaps. Time Bombs follows the Atomic Veterans in their quest for recognition from the Government. The documentary won a Gold Ribbon award from the Canadian Association of Broadcasters, and a Best Documentary award from the New York International Independent Film and Video festival. Excerpts can be seen on

“Why did we go there?” the veterans ask. Why won’t the government acknowledge what was done to these veterans in Operation Plumbbob when Jim Huntley, the only veteran still in good health, confronts the politicians as the quest for justice is juxtaposed with never-before-screened film records of American nuclear tests involving soldiers. I asked Véronique why the officials in 1957 sent them since they knew by then the effects of atomic radiation. She thought they were driven by a combination of scientific curiousity and a desire to be part of the Big Boys Club with America and Great Britain.

Linked with my last topic on indigenous peoples, Véronique organized a panel of science journalists on “Science coverage of indigenous people” who are confronted with very high rates of diabetes, obesity and exceptional rates of suicide, particularly among the youth. How should science reporters deal with these issues when indigenous people may not share the epistemological assumptions of modern scientific inquiry? How does one reconcile journalistic integrity with scientific objectivity and cultural sensitivity? Véronique, a former President of the Canadian Science Writers Association, was also a key catalyst behind moves to investigate the Canadian government muzzling of government scientists. 

The Harper Government and Access to Scientific Information

I was out of touch with the media when scientists demonstrated last summer on Parliament Hill decrying the “Death of Evidence” and asserting “no science, no evidence, no truth, no democracy”. I had also missed the early April news that The University of Victoria Environmental Law Center and non-partisan Democracy Watch had requested that Canada’s Information Commissioner conduct a probe into “systematic efforts by the government of Canada to obstruct the right of the media — and through them, the Canadian public — to timely access to government scientists.” Calvin Sandborn, the legal director from the University of Victoria’s Law Centre noted that, “the topics that require the highest level of ministerial control are topics related to the tar sands, climate change, polar bears, caribou and the oil and gas industry.”( (Science News “Canada to probe ‘muzzling’ of scientists,” 2 April 2013)

A press release said that Canada’s Information Minister, Suzanne Legualt, announced an investigation into six government departments over the so-called muzzling of government scientists. In actuality, Madame Legault simply confirmed that the decision to investigate fell within the mandate of Canada’s information commissioner for the federal Access to Information Act requires the Office of the Information Commissioner to investigate “any matter related to obtaining or requesting access to records” from federal institutions. Gary Goodyear, Minister of State for Science and Technology, boasted that, “Environment Canada participated in more than 1,300 media interviews, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada issued nearly 1,000 scientific publications, and Natural Resources Canada published nearly 500 studies.” This, of course, said nothing about whether scientists were or were not muzzled. 

The Canadian Commission for UNESCO has also taken up the issue. It is ironic that in the same year those 40 soldiers were sent on a mission to be exposed to deadly radiation in 1957, both the Canada Council and the Canadian Commission for UNESCO within the Canada Council were founded following a petition of 16 national cultural organizations in Toronto in December 1945 and the inclusion of that proposal in the mandate of the Royal Commission on National Development in the Arts co-chaired by Vincent Massey. This explains the irony of a Commission within the Canada Council investigating the issue of access to government scientists.

Section 2 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms explicitly protects freedom of expression. According to rulings of Canadian courts, governments can restrict a person’s freedom of opinion and expression only for important overriding purposes. There are three tests of such seriousness: 1) is the override rationally connected to the purpose it is intended to achieve; 2) is the impairment as little as possible? 3) do the beneficial effects of any restriction outweigh the deleterious effects? The pattern of muzzling government scientists passes none of these tests and seriously undermines the three underlying values of freedom of expression: participation in social and democratic decision-making, attainment of truth, and individual self-fulfillment.

The initial probe is restricted to the following departments:

·                 Environment Canada

·                 Department of Fisheries and Oceans

·                 Natural Resources Canada

·                 National Research Council of Canada

·                 Canadian Food Inspection Agency

·                 Department of National Defence

·                 The Treasury Board Secretariat


The evidence of muzzling contained in the over one hundred pages of appendices to the 26-page joint petition and complaint filed on February 20th seems overwhelming. For a summary see Carol Linnit’s May 2013 article, “Harper attack on science: No science, no evidence, no truth, no democracy,” in Academic Matters: The Journal of Higher Education. Not only have government scientists been muzzled, but important research programs and mechanisms for collecting information, such as the Long Form Census, have been cancelled. Sometimes, as Linnit wrote, the suppression is ludicrous as when Mark Tushingham was prohibited from attending the launch of his own novel exploring a future world destroyed by global warming. Federal scientists in the Department of Fisheries and Oceans are required to obtain high level permission to meet with the media to discuss peer-reviewed research.


The greatest repression is connected with environmental research:

  • The Harper government new rules on media contact led to an 80% reduction in department engagement on issues of climate change
  • In 2008, the position of National Science Adviser was eliminated
  • Scott Dallimore of Natural Resources Canada required the permission of Natural Resources Minister, Christian Paradis, to comment on his research on a northern Canadian flood 13,000 years ago
  • Postmedia journalist Margaret Munro was denied access to information or government personnel regarding Canada’s radiation detectors (She subsequently won an honourable mention from the World Press Freedom Award for her story on muzzling scientists; the Canadian Science Writers Association as a collective won the 14th annual Press Freedom Award for their work on exposing government restrictions on federal scientists and deliberate delaying tactics.)
  • Scientists in Environmental Canada were not permitted to discuss their paper published in Geophysical Research on the projected estimate of a 2 degree celcius rise in global temperatures
  • David Tarasick of Environmental Canada was not permitted to discuss his research on the ozone layer over the Arctic
  • Environmental Canada research scientists were not permitted to discuss the petroleum-based pollutants in snowfall near the Alberta tar sands except if their comments were restricted to scripted statements provided to them
  • Media liaison personnel had to accompany all government scientists at the International Polar Year Conference in Montreal
  • The Department of Fisheries and Oceans in 2013 announced a policy that all scientific research undertaken by the department was confidential unless released by high level officials in the department
  • In August 2011, 700 Environmental Canada positions were eliminated in the name of fiscal restraint
  • By February 2012, the number of light detection and ranging stations to monitor ozone loss and fossil fuel pollution had been reduced from ten to five
  • Funding for the Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmosphere Studies was not renewed in 2012 forcing the closure in Nunavut of PEARL, the Polar Environment Aerospace Research Laboratory
  • Funding for the National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy was cut in 2013 and it was restricted from making its information publicly available
  • Peter Ross, Canada’s only marine animal toxicologist, along with 1,074 other Department of Fisheries and Ocean employees, lost his job
  • The Harper government cut $3 million from the Experimental Lakes Area in an effort to shut down this natural laboratory for studying the effects of industrial and chemical pollutants on waterways and aquatic life

Year after year, the Harper government has received a failing grade from Canadian Journalists for Free Expression for policies which deliberately delay and prevent access to information. Canada was ranked 40th out of 89 countries in last year’s Global Right to Information Rating. Further, as Véronique made clear, the attack on evidence and on access to information goes far beyond environmental or even natural science issues. In my own areas of expertise, library resources and policy units have been closed down in departments like immigration and foreign affairs. The effort is not merely to protect and defend policies promoting resource development in the face of environmental criticism, but to make policy independent of any science-based foundation whether applied to incarceration of more people or with respect to immigration and refugee policy. Stephen Harper may have been the smartest kid in his high school class, but he has led a government dead set again evidence-based policies and in favour of policies which have a populist appeal.

Populism is not democracy. Democracy is not equivalent to politicians claiming to express the will of the people. Democracy depends on the protection of minorities (in contrast to the policies of the minority government in Quebec). Democracy depends on free expression and access to and dissemination of accurate information so that civil society can be as well-informed as possible. Importantly, good governance depends on incorporating those values in developing an independent mandarin professional class of civil servants who can advise government on various options based on the best knowledge available to them. A mandarin class is not the antithesis of democracy but a requisite condition of its highest democratic aspirations.  The public interest is not and cannot be equated with private interests even as the worthy goal is pursued of preventing ostensible efforts at protecting the public interest from being used to squelch and restrict entrepreneurial efforts needlessly. When civil servants to keep their positions or rise in the hierarchy simply become toadies to the party in power and lose their independence, then the professionalism of a mandarin class is undermined and democracy is weakened.

Civil servants with impressive reservoirs of technical expertise are prerequisites for both formulating and implementing policies decided by government. That does not mean that the delegation going downwards can be badly executed or that the civil servants may not overreach and undermine the government’s ability to make decisions or that governments often will ignore sound advice and the knowledge based on experience and studies at their peril even when a quality mandarin class is available to them. However, the basic premise in a quality democracy is that mandarins propose but do not decide and mandarins execute but do not simply obey blindly. This premise has stood the test of time. Regimes which ignore this lesson out of conspiracy theories that the mandarin class is simply an ideological tool of an opposition party or the simplistic mantra that elected officials and not unelected civil servants must make policy in a democracy simply misrepresent how representative democracies work. They do not work by converting mandarins into lackeys trotted out for elected representatives to hide behind when convenient or kept behind the curtain when it is politically expedient.

Mandarins have the following responsibilities with respect to a democratically elected government:

·         To prepare professional quality options to facilitate rational decisions

·         To facilitate access to government from a wide variety of competing interest groups

·         To especially accommodate disadvantaged groups in the process thereby strengthening goals of social justice and equality

·         To insulate as much as possible the process of decision-making by those with exploitive, manipulative and/or repressive agendas by fostering broad participation and dialogue.

Accurate information and acute analyses that are widely disseminated are crucial to the process of fostering evidence-based discourse, the very foundation of the democratic cause and the foundations for an informed public.

Tamar and Leviathan.09.04.13

Tamar and Leviathan 09.04.13


Howard Adelman

Renewable Energy

Israel was once a significant leader in the production and use of alternative energies, particularly solar energy. Just see the ubiquitous solar powered water heaters on the roofs of Israeli apartment buildings. The first prototype rooftop solar water heater was developed by Levi Yissar who launched the NerYah Company in 1953. However, only with the energy crisis of the 1970s and the passage of a law by the Knesset mandating solar thermal systems did solar energy become integral parts of 85% of Israeli households. 3% of Israeli energy consumption once came from renewable energy. Israel became the world leader in the use of solar energy on a per capita basis. At the end of 2012, the Eilat-Eilot Renewable Energy Conference featured Israeli-developed (as well as other country sources) renewable energy technologies.

However, on the outskirts of Kibbutz Ma’aleh Gilboa stands one of the few wind turbines in Israel. It has been there since 1996. Aside from a few isolated periods of activity, the turbine has generally been inactive. There is another environmental factor mitigating against the use of wind energy in Israel. Israel is the flight path for a billion bird flights migrating from Europe to Africa and back again. Unfortunately, unlike planes, windmills cannot fly around those flocks. An Israeli Zoologist at Tel Aviv University, Yossi Leshem, invented a system to track migrating birds resulting in a 76 percent drop in collisions as both military and civilian aircraft, with a two hour advanced warning, re-plan their flight paths to avoid the flocks.

Nevertheless, Israel is committed to developing renewable energy. Much to the surprise of the Israeli cabinet, President Shimon Peres pledged that Israel would reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent by 2020 at the UN Conference on Climate Change in Copenhagen in December 2009. That commitment was retroactively endorsed by the Environmental Protection Ministry. An emissions reduction plan was developed. By 2014 Israel planned to produce 5 percent of its electricity from renewable energy and 10% by 2020. By the end of 2012, less that 1/2 percent of energy needs was in fact produced by renewable sources. The target remains as illusive as Middle East. The real developments in renewable energy have been in technological innovation. For example, Power-Mod solar tents have been developed for victims of war and natural disasters.


Significant parts of the oil industry that had been state owned have been privatized since 1988 – Paz Oil, Naptha Israel Petroleum, the refineries at Ashdod and Haifa. I will deal with the significance of that privatization in my blog on Tycoons and Privatization. Petroleum & Energy Infrastructures, a state monopoly in the energy field, imports, exports, stores, as well as transports and supplies petroleum products through its wholly owned subsidiary, Oil Products Pipeline (OPP).

The big story, however, is the immanent end of Israel’s dependence on external sources for fossil fuels belying Israeli Golda Meir’s famous crack that Moses led the children of Israel for forty years wandering the desert to search for the only place in the Middle East without oil. Israel used to rely on expensive sources through long-term contracts – Mexico, Norway and the UK (oil), Australia, Columbia and South Africa (coal). This has radically changed. Though most people now know about Israel’s huge offshore gas fields (the Tamar field came on stream at the end of March), many will be surprised to learn that Israel has the 3rd largest deposit of oil shale in the world covering 245 square kilometres in the Valley of Elah in the Shfela Basin in Israeli’s Adullam region near Beit Shemesh 1000 ft. below ground where a chalk layer 600 feet thick provides an impermeable barrier between the oil shale and the water aquifier.

According to Dr. Yuval Bartov, chief geologist for Israel Energy Initiatives (IEI), Prof. Carol Parish, of the Chemistry Department, University of Richmond in Virginia (17 December 2012) and Dr. Scott Nguyen, 250 billion barrels is a very prudent figure for the find. (…/99429) By way of comparison, Saudi Arabia has 260 billion barrels in proven reserves. Further, Israel is a technological leader in the means of accessing oil from shale and has devised a technology that will actually produce water instead of using it up to access the oil. On 24 December 2012, the Israel Supreme Court denied a petition to prevent the start of a pilot oil shale extraction project by Israel Energy Initiatives (IEI). The first drop of oil from shale is expected this year and the test phase for production is slated to begin in 2014. By 2020, IEI expects to produce 50,000 barrels per day.


The Israel Electric Corporation (IEC), a state owned firm (99.85%), operates generating stations and sub-stations as well as transmission and distribution networks and is very similar to Ontario Hydro. Israel is in the process of radically transforming its electricity production from coal to gas fired units. By the end of 2010, 40% of electrical production came from gas-fuelled power stations. By 2020, plans call for 80%. Further, Israel is planning to export electricity to Europe through an underwater cable via Cyprus and Greece to link up to the European electrical grid. As in other areas of energy, Israelis are leaders in technological innovation such as smart energy management, the use of smart grids to manage electrical usage by electrical companies. Bar Ilan scientists have developed and are now producing nano-scale superconductors to facilitate faster and more powerful electronic devices.


In 2009, Israeli imports of energy products amounted to over 5% of its GDP per year when enormous reserves of off-shore gas were discovered. Because of environmental interests, costs, resource diversification and a modest discovery of a 33 BCM small natural offshore gas field off Ashkelon, over the previous decade gas usage went from virtually nothing to 4.2 billion cubic metres (BCM) per year by 2009 by means of liquefied natural gas (LNG), the newly built Arish-Ashkelon pipeline from Egypt and the Ashkelon offshore field. The Israel Electric Corporation had already been charged with developing gas-driven power plants, creating a natural gas distribution grid and an LNG import terminal so the huge gas discovery seemed propitious since so much of the infrastructure was already in place. Within five years, use was expected to double that of 2009 to 8.1 billion cubic metres (BCM) by 2014.

Tamar, the offshore field 90 km. west of Haifa that began production at the end of last month, has proven reserves of 188 BCM and an anticipated 10 trillion cubic feet, came on stream in 2013. Four other fields are due to be developed over the next few years: Dalit (700BCM); Leviathan 18 trillion cubic feet; Dolphin (81.3 BCM); Tanin (1.2-1.3 trillion cubic feet). Tamar will supply Israeli needs for the next two decades while supplies from Leviathan will be exported. Even if use quadruples over the next two decades, Israel has enough gas reserves to last two centuries while also engaging in the export of gas.

The Shaul Tzemach Committee released a final report in August of 2012 which recommended placing no reserves on exports from sources with only 25BGM or less, permitting 75% of reserves between between 25-100 BCMs, 60% of reserves between 100-200 BCMs and 50% of reserves greater than 200 BCMs.

Self-sufficiency is a security issue as well since blowing up the Arish-Ashkelon pipeline a dozen times disrupted fossil fuel gas supplies to Israel. This supply source was subsequently suspended. Israel is now assured of security in both supply and infrastructure. Israel has a major initiative to expand its energy port facilities with additional sea-to-shore inlets, natural gas intake, the construction of a LNG plant and creating more and better handling facilities, expand its storage facilities by constructing strategic reservoirs and storage units, connecting the offshore reserves to the national distribution system and increasing the capacity, reach and security of that internal distribution system that will in turn facilitate the further development of industry.

Last year, the Israeli government decided to follow Alberta’s lead and set up a sovereign wealth fund with royalties to invest in education and defence as well as set up a capital fund with domestic and overseas investments.


Massive infrastructure investment for pipelines, liquified natural gas plants and new oil exporting outlets are underway on both the Mediterranean and Red Sea, the latter for oil and gas exports to India and China. In addition to getting rid of the need to use Israeli shekels to pay for imported energy, in addition to a large capital inflow of investment for oil shale, gas and infrastructure development, in addition to the savings in foreign currency as Israel dispenses with its reliance on foreign sources of energy and shifts to self-reliance, in addition to large increases in job opportunities at well paid positions, the coal-fired electricity plants will be phased out much sooner and replaced by clean-burning gas fossil fuel.

As well, Israel will for the first time have energy security. As a downside, Israel will not likely be developing its renewable energy at nearly the rates planned. On the other hand, the large savings in subsidies will also benefit the economy since currently a kilowatt of gas-produced electricity costs 20 agorot (about 5 cents) versus 55 agorot for solar-produced energy without taking into account the indirect subsidies for gas production. Add to these savings the increase in investment and the offsets of energy imports, GDP will be boosted and the economy will also expand because of spillover effects from the demand for domestically-manufactured equipment and increased high-wage employment. The budget deficit will be eliminated and there will be a positive balance of payments assured well beyond its current balance surpluses from its value-added economy as exported gas is expected to bring in $3billion in 2017.

International Disputes

The gas and oil deposits offshore have created inter-state disputes. Though Israel has settled with Cyprus, the disputes with Turkey and Lebanon are ongoing with the Lebanese dispute the most serious. The latter is akin to the Beaufort Sea dispute between Canada and the U.S. An international law of the sea ruling on that dispute would predict the outcome of the Israeli-Lebanon dispute. The U.S. claims a border equidistant from the land border while Canada claims that the maritime border should simply be an extension of the land border. In parallel, Israel’s position is the same the American one while Lebanon takes the Canadian position. Precedent seems to favour an equidistant ruling.

There is one possible side effect on the peace front. As Israel’s need to protect its fossil fuel sources grow, as well as the export market that will be necessary to make the exploitation of those fields economically viable, peace with the Palestinians may become more imperative.

Tamar and Leviathan.09.04.13.doc