Netanyahu’s Address to Congress

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Address to Congress

by

Howard Adelman

I have now heard Bibi’s 3 March speech once and read it three times. It is a brilliant speech, superbly crafted and delivered with the right balance of concision and pauses, but fundamentally flawed in its logic and selective use of evidence. Since when did logic convince anyone of anything? But perhaps facts will. Besides, convincing is beside the point. The speech was not intended to persuade anyone of anything. This was grandstanding in the grand manner with conviction, passion and organized superbly. And the speech builds to a marvelous crescendo.

The speech is organized in seven parts:

Part I:    A reaffirmation of the firm and eternal ties between the U.S. and Israel

Part II:   A depiction of Iran as run by an unwavering Satan

Part III:  A Prolegomena to Nuclear Negotiations

Part IV:  An Analysis of those Negotiations

Part V:   A Summary of the Bottom Line

Part VI:  A Proposed Alternative

Part VII: An Emotional Postscript.

This blog will analyze the first three parts.

Part I – Israel and the U.S.

Bibi began by insisting his speech was above politics. Though it gave him unprecedented exposure two weeks before Israelis go the polls, I believe him. I do not think he came to Washington to boost his electoral chances at home. First, if that was his motive, the anticipated repercussions of his visible breech with Obama would play negatively back home among middle road voters whom he needed to woo at the same time as his standing up to the White House would swell the chests of his own ardent supporters. The risk was a mug’s game.

At the same time, he did not come to Washington to sew divisions within the Democratic Party and went out of his way, not only to celebrate the links between Israel and U.S., but to laud Obama’s consistent support for Israel, overt support, such as strengthening security cooperation and intelligence sharing and opposing anti-Israel resolutions at the U.N., less widely known support such as Obama’s response to Bibi’s request for urgent aid in the face of the 2010 raging Carmel forest fire, vital assistance in 2011 when Israel’s embassy in Cairo was under siege, and in 2014 when Obama supported more missile interceptors during the Gaza summer operation in the conflict with Hamas. Bibi also alluded to much more covert cooperation which might never be known because those efforts touch on some of the most sensitive and strategic issues that arise between an American president and an Israeli prime minister. Bibi recognized, however, that such praise could never overcome the deep schisms his speech to Congress and open challenge to the White House Iranian policy had brought about.

So why did he come? The content and structure of the speech point to its purpose. The next section on Iran signaled the purpose: it was his obligation to address the issue before the American public, the Israeli public and the world public. There could be no better place than the American Congress.

Part II – Iran

For Bibi, Iran’s quest for nuclear weapons, as is well known, poses an existential threat not only to Israel, but to Jews everywhere. This could not be clearer than his link of contemporary Iran with ancient Persia, the link with Purim and the threat of the Jew-hater, Haman. As Bibi said, “Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, spews the oldest hatred, the oldest hatred of anti-Semitism with the newest technology. He tweets that Israel must be annihilated.” I have been unable to determine, as some have contended, that these interpretations are based on a twisted translation of what he really said. However, as Abraham H. Foxman, the Anti-Defamation League’s National Director noted in June 2013, Khamenei in a Facebook posting on the eve of Iran’s 14 June presidential elections, featured a classic anti-Semitic picture portraying Jews, in particular, AIPAC, as controlling the United States government. A year ago on 14 March Nowruz, the Persian New Year, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei insisted that the historical reality of the Holocaust is “unknown”; he questioned whether it “actually did happen.”

Netanyahu then linked the Iranian leader’s support for anti-Semitism with the views of his terrorist satraps. Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah leader, is quoted as stating, “If all the Jews gather in Israel, it will save us the trouble of chasing them down around the world.” Bibi could also have cited other quotes, such as the following two just as often attributed to Nasrallah. “They [Jews] are a cancer which is liable to spread at any moment.” (This was originally on an Israeli government website http://tinyurl.com/99hyz but I have been unable to recover it.) There is another quote from Amal Saad-Ghorayeb’s Hizbu’llah: Politics and Religion, “If we searched the entire world for a person more cowardly, despicable, weak and feeble in psyche, mind, ideology and religion, we would not find anyone like the Jew. Notice, we do not say the Israeli.” (fn. 20, ch. 8) Saad-Ghorayeb subsequently admitted the quote was erroneous, though it was also included in her PhD thesis; she admits she should have properly checked it.

Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on your politics, the other two statements also cannot be authentically attributed to Nasrallah as much as I personally disapprove of his politics. The one Bibi cited was traced back to an article by Badih Chayban in Beirut’s English-language Daily Star on 23 October 2002, but the paper’s editor would not vouch for its accuracy or that of his former reporter. He even insisted that Chayban had never interviewed Nasrallah or anyone else. No other news source cited these quotes in their reports on Nasrallah, but Bibi is correct that Israel is surrounded by Iranian satraps in Gaza, Lebanon and the Golan with Syria in the background slaughtering its own citizens. Further, other Iranian proxies are seizing power in Iraq and Yemen.

I believe his assessment that “Iran’s regime poses a grave threat, not only to Israel, but also to the peace of the entire world,” is also accurate and that Iran is run by “religious zealots” through a “dark and brutal dictatorship” dedicated to exporting “the revolution throughout the world.” Though uttered in part as flattery to his hosts, Netanyahu is also correct in contrasting Iran with America and its promise of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Further, Iran has certainly targeted Americans in the past. Since U.S. diplomats were held hostage in Tehran. Iranians were behind the killing of American marines in Beirut and the killing of American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. In July 2011, The Wall Street Journal reported that Iranians had been arming anti-American militants in both theatres of war, a report confirmed by U.S. State Department officials. Finally, Netanyahu was correct that Iranian officials were behind the plot to assassinate the Saudi Arabian ambassador, Adel Al-Jubeir, with a bomb in a restaurant in Washington. Attorney General Eric Holder confirmed that the plan was “conceived, sponsored and was directed from Iran” by a faction of the Iranian government.

With a 90% accuracy rate in his examples unusual for Bibi must we “all stand together to stop Iran’s march of conquest?” Sure! That is what the P5+1 are doing. Netanyahu’s Israel is the outlier, not America. The question is how one stands against Iran and with what tools? The key question is what has this all to do with the nuclear negotiations? In the next section, Bibi set the stage for the nuclear negotiations.

Part III:  A Prolegomena to Nuclear Negotiations

Netanyahu first had to demonize Iran further. Did he do so by returning to his more normal pattern of hyperbole and distortion lest he suddenly earn a reputation for veracity and be declared a credible witness as a result of the first one-third of his address to Congress? Netanyahu declared that, “two years ago, we were told to give President Rouhani and Foreign Minister Zarif a chance to bring change and moderation to Iran.” Who claimed that? Rouhani had run on a platform of moderation. He openly campaigned on re-opening a dialogue with the U.S. The nuclear negotiations were not intended to make Iran moderate, but resulted from Iran’s declared commitment to follow a path of moderation. Netanyahu had deliberately reversed the causal order.

Further, the Obama regime had not seen its objective as making Iran a moderate regime. The White House had three goals. First, to be the first American administration since the end of the Cold War to prevent a new nuclear power from emerging; second, to prevent a nuclear conflict in the Middle East; third, to establish a different relationship between America and Iran.

Was Rouhani sincere in his professed outreach? In his speech immediately after his inauguration he promised a government of righteousness, honesty and trustworthiness and a rejection of extremism and declared, “The people voted for moderation…the people want to live better, to have dignity, and enjoy a stable life. They want to recapture their deserving position among nations.” Rouhani called for better relations with the world and the end of international sanctions. “The only path to interact with Iran is through negotiations on equal grounds, reciprocal trust-building, mutual respect and reducing hostilities.”

The central issue was whether to continue coercive diplomacy by upping the ante and increasing the pressure on an Iran already suffering from accelerating inflation and a weakened currency resulting from the sanctions already in place, or whether to use those pressures to initiate a program of constructive engagement based on Rohani’s offer to improve relations by making the nuclear program more transparent and improve relations with Western nations. Ronald Reagan had tried coercive diplomacy with Pakistan and vowed that country would not acquire nuclear weapons; he failed. Bill Clinton did the same with North Korea that now has probably accumulated one hundred nuclear bombs. Most saw such efforts as futile and incapable of preventing a country from acquiring nuclear weapons. Further, experts on Iran decried America’s failure to offer inducements and encouragement to the previous moderate president, Mohammad Khatami, and pointed to America’s failure to take advantage of a historic, but time-sensitive, opportunity.

But that is not how Netanyahu framed the debate. Instead, the regime of the ayatollahs was and remains a monolithic monstrosity. Rouhani’s insistence on emphasizing “economic priorities, detente with the West, enhanced relations with Iran’s neighbors, new nuclear diplomacy, respect for guilds and syndicates in Iran, an inclusive non-factional government of ‘moderation and consensus’, and political tolerance,” was for Netanyahu a sham. Rouhani was a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

How do you find out? Bibi argued that you do so by checking whether Rouhani’s regime had become more moderate in treating its own citizens. How did the new government rate? For Netanyahu, terribly. “Rouhani’s government hangs gays, persecutes Christians, jails journalists and executes even more prisoners than before.” It is not clear why Bibi left the persecution of Bahá’is off his list. The conclusion was clearly drawn from Benjamin Weinthal’s report for the Foundation for Defense of Democracies on Rouhani’s first hundred days. The report did point to the prosecution of Christians for drinking communion wine during a religious service, the arrest of “homosexuals and devil worshippers,” the continued persecution of embattled practitioners of the Bahá’i faith, and the uptick in executions in the Islamic Republic since the presidential elections, The report offered no evidence of any moderation by the Rouhani government.

But that report was for the first hundred days. What about later? In January 2014, a UN report stated that Iran continued to imprison Christians for their faith and designated house churches and evangelical Christians as “threats to national security.” At least 49 Christians were among 307 religious minorities being held in Iranian jails as of January 2014. The UN report berated Iran for its hostility to Jews, Bahá’is, Zoroastrians and Dervish Muslims as well, though, as reported in a recent blog of mine, the Iranian government recently launched a charm and money contribution campaign for the remnant of 4,000 Jews remaining in Iran. What the report also said was that Rouhani had not proven capable yet of controlling the hard-liners.

Those hard-liners explicitly reject a deal, as much to protect their positions and their perks as out of extreme ideological positions. A deal once concluded would enable the moderates to consolidate their power.

Is the execution rate in Iran an appropriate measure of moderation? I believe it is a measure of the strength of the deep state in Iran. China is often cited for its high execution rate, but it is not counted for accurate records are unavailable. China probably executes thousands per year, more than the rest of the world put together. Yet Israel is actively seeking to enhance trade with China. In 2013, based on official records, of 778 executions around the world, Iran and Iraq were jointly responsible for 538 of them, 369 in Iran, 55 more than in 2012. Activists insist that the figure is much higher and that the actual number of executions was more than twice that number. In 2014, using both official and unofficial sources, the Iran Human Rights Centre reported that the numbers executed were slightly up again to a total of 721, the vast majority for drug trafficking, but a significant minority for murder and a smaller number for rape and armed robbery. One person was executed for sodomy and a second for kidnapping. Four – Ghalamreza Khosravi, Omid Pin, Imam Galavi and Hashem Shabaninejad – were executed for Moharebeh, “waging war against God and the state.”

In any case, is Iran’s treatment of religious minorities and gays, is its execution rate, the litmus test of Iran’s greater moderation in the effort to produce nuclear weapons? Bibi, as if anticipating such a question, shifted to four foreign policy issues: Iran’s support for terrorism, Iran’s continued anti-American practices, Iranian ideology and Islamic State. With respect to the first, support for terrorism, Bibi pointed to Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif who had laid a wreath at the grave of Imad Mughniyeh (al-Hajj Radwan), head of Hezbollah military intelligence and a possible successor to Nasrallah as head of Hezbollah. Mughniyeh was behind the Beirut barracks bombing and the two 1983 U.S. embassy bombings. He was also indicted in Argentina for his alleged role in the 1992 Israeli embassy attack in Buenos Aires. U.S. officials accused Mughniyeh of killing more United States citizens than any other militant prior to Osama bin Laden.

Yet Zarif was photographed laying a wreath at the grave of Mughniyeh on 14 January 2014 just days after negotiations based on the Joint Plan of Action commenced to move Iran towards a strictly peaceful use of its nuclear facilities. Netanyahu was wise to choose that incident for it was widely viewed as sending a negative signal of Iranian intentions. Caitlin Hayden, spokeswoman for the White House National Security Council, condemned the action. “The inhumane violence that Moughniyeh perpetrated – and that Lebanese Hezbollah continues to perpetrate in the region with Iran’s financial and material support – has had profoundly destabilizing and deadly effects for Lebanon and the region.”

Clearly, Bibi had chosen a symbolic support for terrorism that touched Americans rather than a concrete incident illustrating continuing Iranian support for terrorism. For example, Netanyahu could have cited an event that took place two months later when the Israeli navy intercepted a freighter loaded with dozens of Syrian-made M-302 rockets evidently bound for Hamas in Gaza, rockets capable of hitting any target in Israel. They were hidden under bags of concrete. But then Zarif in turn could have cited Reagan’s support for Saddam Hussein’s terrorist regime and its war against Iran, for Reagan had provided Iraq with aerial photographs of Iranian troop movements upon which Iraq blasted shells of mustard gas. There were fifty thousand casualties, including thousands of deaths, many more on balance than the Americans had suffered from state-sponsored terrorism.

While portraying Zarif as a supporter of terrorism, Netanyahu deliberately ignored a number of signs and signals communicated by Zarif of a change in Iranian policy. Robin Wright in his portrait of Zarif in the 26 May 2014 issue of The New Yorker called “The Adversary: Is Iran’s nuclear negotiator, Javad Zarif, for real?” opens with a very revealing story. Zarif, after coming into office and opening a new twitter account, sent out his second tweet. It wished Jews all around the world a “Happy Rosh Hashanah.” What a contrast this was with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who had challenged Israel’s right to exist, urged Jews to return to the countries they came from, and questioned the occurrence of the Holocaust. Suspecting something phony, Christine Pelosi, daughter of Democratic Minority House leader, Nancy Pelosi, sent a tweet. “Thanks. The New Year would be even sweeter if you would end Iran’s Holocaust denial, sir.” Christine Pelosi’s husband is Jewish and their daughter attends a Jewish preschool. Zarif responded: “Iran never denied it. The man who was perceived to be denying it is now gone. Happy New Year.” Subsequently in the Iranian parliament, Zarif came close to being censured for insisting that the Holocaust was a “horrifying tragedy.”

Thus commenced the new opening and dialogue between Americans and Iranians, easier since Zarif, like Netanyahu, spent years living in the U.S. and his two children are American citizens based on their place of birth. On 26 September, Zarif met John Kerry at the UN to discuss resuming negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program. President Rouhani, in New York for the General Assembly, spoke the next day for fifteen minutes on the phone to President Obama, the first conversation between Iranian and American leaders since the Shah’s ouster in 1979.

Netanyahu’s appeal to American sensibilities was his main reason for emphasizing the references to America as “The Great Satan” and calling for “Death to America.” What was left out is that when Zarif took his walk with Kerry for fifteen minutes in Europe in mid-January, Zarif was hauled before Parliament in Iran to explain why he was becoming intimate with America, “The Great Stan,” and then was interrogated to determine whether or not he was giving in to America’s great demands and endless sabotage of the talks. But citing such facts would detract from Netanhayu’s pitch that the leadership of Iran is a monolith. Further, it might bring attention to the fact that Zarif overtly eschews depicting America in that way.

As Ben Rhodes, Obama’s White House spokesman said, “There is a constituency that now has some degree of power in the Iranian system, that really wants to climb out of this isolation, and is willing to do things that they didn’t previously do…We don’t know how far this can go—both on the nuclear issue and on the broader relationship…They’ve got to decide whether we’re the Great Satan or whether we are their ticket into the community of nations.”

Netanyahu had two more cards to play before he got to the heart of the matter, the nuclear negotiations – ideology and the Islamic State card. He claimed that the Iranian regime was deeply rooted in militant Islam and hence inherently anti-American. Though Iranian ideology is indeed rooted deeply in Islamism, it is also blended in with nationalism, nativism and non-membership in any bloc but its own, especially the American-led Western bloc and the Eastern bloc. Moreover, in spite of George W. Bush’s insistence that Iran was part of the axis of evil, in 2002 74% of Iranians favoured resumption of relations with the U.S. However, ideology did dictate that punishment be meted out to the pollsters. Abbas Abdi and Hossein Ali Qazian were sentenced to jail for eight and nine years respectively for “publishing nonscientific research.” As George W. Bush in a rare case of insight and clarity said, “The people of Iran want the same freedoms, human rights, and opportunities as people around the world. Their government should listen to their hopes. In the last two Iranian presidential elections and in nearly a dozen parliamentary and local elections, the vast majority of the Iranian people voted for political and economic reform. Yet their voices are not being listened to by the unelected people who are the real rulers of Iran.”

Ideology does play a harsh repressive role, but there are other competing forces and voices within the Iranian spectrum that percolate to the top. Under President Mohammad Khatemi, errors by both sides sabotaged the efforts for “a dialogue of civilizations” The reality is, in fact, that America has won the battle for the hearts and minds of the Iranian people, not the dictatorial ayatollahs and zealots. The issue is how to take advantage of that fact.

What about Netanyahu’s use of the Islamic State card? “The battle between Iran and ISIS doesn’t turn Iran into a friend of America [condescending and insulting]. Iran and ISIS are competing for the crown of militant Islam. One calls itself the Islamic Republic. The other calls itself the Islamic State. Both want to impose a militant Islamic empire first on the region and then on the entire world. They just disagree among themselves who will be the ruler of that empire. In this deadly game of thrones, there’s no place for America or for Israel, no peace for Christians, Jews or Muslims who don’t share the Islamist medieval creed, no rights for women, no freedom for anyone. So when it comes to Iran and ISIS, the enemy of your enemy is your enemy.”

Impressive phrasing but false reasoning. If Americans and Iranians can forge an implicit cooperative arrangement to defeat the far more extremist Islamic State, that will have repercussions within Iran. Netanyahu’s reasoning is that, “Iran could soon be armed with intercontinental ballistic missiles and nuclear bombs.” Intercontinental missiles, possibly. But under a negotiated regime, no nuclear bombs. And even without such a regime, Iran, as Mossad reported to the Israeli government, is a lot further from a nuclear bomb than some politicians would lead us to believe. Bibi may indeed be right that, “the greatest danger facing our world is the marriage of militant Islam with nuclear weapons.” But the issue is whether coercive diplomacy or constructive engagement is the best route to prevent such an outcome. In the past, coercive diplomacy has had a record of failure. Can constructive engagement succeed?

Thus far I have analyzed the first half of Netanyahu’s address to the U.S. Congress in which Netanyahu set the stage for his critique of the negotiations and the impending agreement. Basically, he insisted that America and Israel were true partners through thick and thin. At the same time he insisted that Iran was an implacable foe of America as well as Israel whether so-called moderates were in power or whether extremists were. In the second half, Netanyahu addressed the negotiations directly.

Part IV The Nuclear Negotiations

Netanyahu began this direct attack on the negotiations with his most general and fundamental criticism. The greatest danger facing our world is the marriage of militant Islam with nuclear weapons. For Netanyahu, that is exactly what could happen if the deal now being negotiated is accepted by Iran. He did not say “would” or suggest he had even more infallible power than a pope because he had the ability to predict the future. And he is correct. That “could” happen. But what is the likelihood of that result if there is a deal versus if there is no deal (or, as he finally suggested before he ended his speech, if there is a better deal than the one probably on the table). Instead of offering the pros and cons of either scenario or the third one he eventually brought up, Bibi slipped from “could” to “would”.

Netanyahu in his next assertion suggested that an Islamist state possessing nuclear arms would result from the negotiations. As he said, the deal will all but guarantee that Iran gets those weapons, lots of them. What is the basis of this prediction? Perhaps that almost certain outcome is built into the deal. Netanyahu argues that the deal contains two basic provisions. Netanyahu calls them “concessions” even though they are not concessions in terms of the 13 November 2013 Joint Plan of Action which envisioned Iran retaining a capacity to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes. The question is how many are sufficient for the peaceful use of nuclear weapons.

Netanyahu declared that the major concession would leave Iran with a vast nuclear infrastructure. What is a vast infrastructure? Vast is an equivocal adjective. By vast, does Bibi mean great in size, very large in numbers, covering a great expanse of territory or consisting in a great variety and type of centrifuges with different speeds and intensities. Or perhaps he means a combination of some or all of them. The last seems unlikely since there are only three types, basically two older models and one modern high speed type of gas centrifuge though there are new models under development such as Australia’s laser being put into a commercial test in the U.S. Similarly, since, excluding the Tehran research reactor, nuclear production is located at Fordow, Arak and Natanz so Netanyahu could not be referring to a vast expanse of territory. He must have been referring to the central issue, the number of centrifuges.

Netanyahu had been correct in claiming that not a single nuclear facility would be demolished. Thousands of centrifuges would continue to be used to enrich uranium. Thousands more would be temporarily disconnected, but not destroyed. But the question was whether those disconnected and those not yet commissioned would pose a danger. To assert this would was an explicit insult to the IAEA and the P5+1 negotiators and the technical staff.

From 2008 to 2013 when the Joint Plan of Action was signed, Iran roughly tripled the number of centrifuges it had, from 6,000 to 19,000, 9,000 of them operating. In speeches, the ayatollah leadership had articulated an ambition to have 50,000 in operation. Fifty thousand might be considered a vast number for Iran. Nineteen thousand was considered too large a number by P5+1 during the negotiations throughout 2014. The goal, seemingly achieved, was to push Iran back to 6,500 centrifuges. About half would be of the advanced high-speed variety. Was that number considered “vast”? Not according to the IAEA, the international agency monitoring the capacities of various countries to produce enriched uranium under the international non-proliferation treaty.

Netanyahu had now come to one central issue. He was clearly engaged in extraordinary hyperbole. Further, he was late in the game. All along, he had pushed for a zero sum game – NO centrifuges for Iran. In his Congress speech, he seemed to have modified his position to argue that Iran would still be left with too many under the agreement. Making this argument in a politically divisive climate and a context of hyperbolic statements and without any detailed arguments to back up his claim, an argument that might have been put forth as a reasonable position about a year ago, especially if backed up by data and analysis, now came across as desperation by an individual with an inflated vision of himself and backed into a corner.

Though he had been correct in asserting that simply disconnecting a few pipes, as he seemed to suggest, would be an inadequate step, it would be hard to find anyone who disagreed with such an assertion. The real question was whether the de-commissioned and unused centrifuges would be stored in a safe manner and at a location where they could not be easily put back into production.

Though he made his claim, it had virtually no credibility in terms of known facts, but he made the claim as if it were a fact. And he was applauded for it. Why? Because leading Republicans make the same wild assertions that Bibi just echoed. Then he stretched the truth even further and engaged in an outright lie when he claimed that Iran’s nuclear program would be left largely intact. The program’s goals of 50,000 centrifuges had been stopped in its tracks. The actual number of centrifuges that would be left in an operating capacity would have been rolled back to 6,500.

The conclusion of every single expert, including Israeli ones, was not the one Netanyahu had made that Iran’s break-out time would be very short – even shorter by Israeli calculations – but would be about a year, sufficient time to make enough highly enriched fuel of 90% for one nuclear device. Perhaps one year was too short to allow the reports of inspectors to filter through the capitals of various states and to put measures in place to counteract an Iranian effort. But attend to the issue. Don’t distort accepted conclusions to score invalid points.

Then Netanyahu made a concession. “True, certain restrictions would be imposed on Iran’s nuclear program and Iran’s adherence to those restrictions would be supervised by international inspectors.” But he made it just to undermine the argument. “But here’s the problem. You see, inspectors document violations; they don’t stop them. Inspectors knew when North Korea broke to the bomb, but that didn’t stop anything. North Korea turned off the cameras, kicked out the inspectors. Within a few years, it got the bomb.”

Unfortunately, any reasonable historical understanding of how North Korea acquired nuclear weapons is precisely the opposite of the one Netanyahu suggested. What was the history of North Korean‘s nuclear program? In 2003, NK opted out of the Non-Proliferation Treaty and kicked out international inspectors. By 2006, NK announced that it had conducted its first underground explosion. In 2007, NK confirmed it had nuclear weapons. In 2009, Korea was confirmed as a member of the small club of nations in possession of nuclear weapons. The break-out period between removal of inspectors and acquisition of a nuclear device had been 3-4 years and was six years before NK became a nuclear menace. The separation enrichment process needed to carry out this program was carried out first in 2003 after the inspectors were kicked out and then again in 2005.

To get just a glimpse of what had happened it is necessary to go back another decade before the inspectors were forced to leave. In 1994, NK’s reprocessing had been frozen a year after NK threatened to withdraw from the NPT. Under threat of air strikes against its reactors, and in return for an American promise to supply light water reactors and the requisite fuel, NK stopped its enrichment program. The latter condition was never fulfilled – whether because of NK subversion of the arrangements or an American change of mind under George W. Bush. The result – a tough line, no inspectors and the development of nuclear weapons. It was not inspections conjoined with constructive engagement that led to NK acquiring nuclear weapons. Rather it was the absence of inspections and constructive engagement the produced that result.

When NK and the U.S. agreed to a framework agreement back in 1994 when it was estimated that NK already had a capacity to make one or two bombs per year, The Agreed Framework signed by the United States and North Korea signed on 21 October 1994 in Geneva agreed that:

  • North Korea would freeze its existing nuclear program and agree to enhanced international Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards.
  • Both sides would cooperate to replace the D.P.R.K.’s graphite-moderated reactors for related facilities with light-water (LWR) power plants.
  • Both countries would move toward full normalization of political and economic relations.
  • Both sides will work together for peace and security on a nuclear-free Korean peninsula.
  • And that both sides would work to strengthen the international nuclear non-proliferation regime.

The framework agreement and the inspections worked for nine years. When NK broke out of the agreement, the U.S. was busy with a war in Iraq based on a lie that Iraq had acquired weapons of mass destruction, but George W. Bush did not bomb NK’s facilities when he could and perhaps should have. Netanyahu’s argument was that Iran had followed the North Korean path. “Like North Korea, Iran, too, has defied international inspectors. It’s done that on at least three separate occasions – 2005, 2006, 2010. Like North Korea, Iran broke the locks, shut off the cameras.”  The lesson most observers would take is that coercive diplomacy does not work. Constructive diplomacy does. When it fails, the problem is not inspectors who are being cheated. The problem was that coercive diplomacy when needed was applied to the wrong country.

What about the second major “concession” which so bothered Netanyahu – the expiry of any deal in only ten years? Notice, Netanyahu was no longer insisting that the amount of low enriched uranium that Iran was allowed to retain was the problem. Nor was he insisting any longer that the issue was that the deal had a sunset clause. He now argued that the sunset clause came too fast. But he no sooner mentioned that issue than he totally misconstrued it. “What will happen when Iran’s nuclear capabilities are virtually unrestricted and all the sanctions will have been lifted, Iran would then be free to build a huge nuclear capacity that could result in a more dangerous Iran, a Middle east littered with many, many nuclear bombs?”

However, no one has ever suggested that Iran’s capabilities would be totally unrestricted. They would continue to be restricted by the NPT. Inspections would continue. What was suggested was that if Iran had kept its part of the deal, sanctions would not just be waived but cancelled altogether. Further, Iran would be allowed to acquire and install another 3,500 centrifuges. .Rather than an unrestricted regime following a restricted one, restrictions would continue, but the terms eased to those in conformity with the obligations and rights of any UN member operating according to the NPT.

Further, if Iran, like NK, decided to break the agreement after ten years, the situation would not be that, “When we get down that road, we’ll face a far dangerous Iran, a Middle East littered with nuclear bombs and a countdown to a potential nuclear nightmare.” Utter balderdash! Iran in 2015 is far less dangerous vis-a-vis nuclear weapons than in 2013. In 2025 it will be far less dangerous still. If Iran decides to follow the lead of NK and make a break towards a nuclear bomb, Iran would have a harder time then. Deterrence might then fail as it did for NK in 2003 when the U.S. lost its credibility in its commitment to restricting weapons of mass destruction because there were none in Iraq, and then proved incapable of using force against NK when it was fully justified to do so.

John Kerry, whom Netanyahu referred to as his friend – if Netanyahu is a friend of Kerry’s, Kerry needs no enemies – did NOT say that Iran could legitimately possess a massive nuclear capacity at the end of ten years. Iran would be enabled to acquire a larger capacity. Look at Netanyahu’s choice of adjectives: “vast”, “massive”. These are both distortions and fear mongering. They are not accurate attempts to engage in a difficult debate over options. Netanyahu’s “friend,” John Kerry, actually said that he questioned the judgment of Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu over his stance on Iran’s nuclear program. The Israeli PM “may not be correct,”, Mr Kerry said after attending the latest Iran nuclear talks in Geneva after reacting to a speech in which Mr Netanyahu had said the U.S. and others were “accepting that Iran will gradually, within a few years, develop capabilities to produce material for many nuclear weapons”. Mr Kerry told senators President Obama had made it clear that the policy was not to let Iran get nuclear weapons.

Netanyahu does not always distort and exaggerate when he comes to the analysis of the negotiations. After all, Iran’s Intercontinental Ballistic Missile program is indeed not part of the deal, and Iran refuses to even put it on the negotiating table. Iran could indeed in ten years have the means to deliver that nuclear arsenal to reach the far corners of the earth, including to every part of the United States. But Iran’s missiles were never intended to be part of the deal as is clear in the JPA. The issue in dispute is not over missiles, but over the research to produce a warhead that could carry a nuclear weapon. Further, Iran is free to conduct research to improve the rate at which it can produce enriched uranium.

Part V: The Bottom Line

Why would anyone make this deal? Because, according to Bibi, they hope that Iran will change for the better in the coming years, or they believe that the alternative to this deal is worse. The latter is certainly true and so is the former for a minority in the Obama administration. Further, I agree with Netanyahu that Iran’s radical regime supporting terrorism, seeking regional power status and continuing its aspiration to have Israel disappear from the Middle East will continue. Whether it grows, decreases or remains the same, it is not the deal that will wet its appetite. Rather, the deal will enhance Iran’s opportunities when it neither has the expense nor the propensity to turn itself into a pariah with a nuclear energy program. The deal will diminish not enhance the possibility of a nuclear arms race in the Middle East.

Part VI: A Realistic Alternative

Netanyahu then offered two alternatives. The first was a non-starter – linkage of the restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program to restrictions on Iran’s support for terrorism and constraining Iran’s political ambitions, including becoming a regional power and aspiring to eliminate Israel from the Middle East. This had been his repeated position. The second alternative was one Alan Dershowitz latched onto as the core issue in the deal – extending the sunset clause. I suspect this would be a deal breaker, but I am not sure. In any case, making it a deal breaker depends on accepting Netanyahu’s assessment of the results of not doing so – a runaway Iran seeking to acquire nuclear weapons after the ten years, a proposition based on false logic and little evidence. Put forth in a reasonable way, backed up with facts and analyses and argued one year earlier, then this would have been a reasonable position to take. As a last minute switch, it could only be properly viewed as a parlour trick as much as Dershowitz was entranced by it. But then Dershowitz is a litigation lawyer with an expertise in parlour tricks before a jury.

While the lack of a deal might lead to a Middle East nuclear arms race, the presence of a deal will not propel a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. The absence of one has a high probability of doing just that. Insisting on depriving Iran of even a peaceful use of a nuclear program is far more likely to set off such a race than the arriving at a restrictive agreement.

Without thousands of centrifuges, tons of enriched uranium or heavy water facilities, Iran can’t make nuclear weapons. True. But Iran already has them. The issue is not total deprivation but managed constraint. False aspirations, not an agreement, will produce a far worse scenario. Unfortunately, the audience applauded Netanyahu’s absurd and illogical claim. But that merely set the stage for the final session of open cheerleading until each sentence uttered elicited standing applause until the members of Congress had been subjected to the enormous strain of standing up and sitting down while they clapped for 27 times in total.

Robert Frost was cited as offering the road less traveled by to applause, even though constructive diplomacy is the road less traveled by, one which tends to be more successful. Elie Wiesel sitting beside Netanyahu’s wife for a photo-op was pointed to as standing for “Never Again” when “Never Again” had nothing to do with the nuclear negotiation. Nevertheless, there was another standing ovation. When Netanyahu played the Zionist as well as Holocaust card, he put forth the oft repeated but false thesis of a revived national state that would and could guarantee a refuge for Jews under threat, ignoring totally that Jews in Israel were most under threat. Again applause. For Netanyahu and his ilk, Israel is not the result of justified self-determination of a people in its historic homeland, but was created in the aftermath of a holocaust and world guilt when there is absolutely no historical evidence that the Holocaust had anything to do with the world community recognizing Jewish collective rights.

Each card played – the Frost one of choices, the anti-appeasement card, the Holocaust and the Zionist cards – each elicited after each part was uttered standing room applause. After those cards were dropped on the platform, Netanyahu returned to the American one identifying America and Israel. This elicited the most applause, even more than the Biblical card when Netanyahu pointed to a portrait of Moses leading his people to the Promised Land.

Netanyahu came to Washington to lead a cheer-leading session, not to weigh evidence and argue logically with empirical backing to critique the negotiations. So he could ignore the position Mohammad Javad Zarif took in the May/June issue of Foreign Affairs, namely that, “Iran has no interest in nuclear weapons and is convinced that such weapons would not enhance its security. Iran does not have the means to engage in nuclear deterrence—directly or through proxies—against its adversaries. Furthermore, the Iranian government believes that even a perception that Iran is seeking nuclear weapons is detrimental to the country’s security and to its regional role, since attempts by Iran to gain strategic superiority in the Persian Gulf would inevitably provoke responses that would diminish Iran’s conventional military advantage.”

It is too bad. An opportunity to enhance a rational debate on a most fundamental issue was squandered.

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The Threat of a Non-Military Nuclear Iran

The Threat of a Non-Military Nuclear Iran

by

Howard Adelman

In anticipation of and preparation for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech before the joint special session of Congress, I want to make it clear that, like Bibi, I also regard Iran after a deal is signed as more dangerous than before, but for radically different reasons than he does or, for that matter, than the opinions of two columnists, David Brooks of The New York Times or Caroline Glick of The Jerusalem Post, whose columns I have attached to this blog for comparison.

Iran without nuclear weapons may be far more dangerous than an Iran attempting to produce nuclear weapons. The following are the reasons:

  1. Enormous sums can be saved by Iran from what is ultimately a useless program with only symbolic value since nuclear arms are only useful if they are never used.
  2. Those sums saved can be used to invest even more funds in conventional arms.
  3. Iran already has a formidable navy currently on sea trials and showing the flag in Asia.
  4. Iran has a formidable missile arsenal and recently tested a new missile in a naval drill.
  5. To a considerable extent, Iran has become self-sufficient in its military needs, producing mortars, tanks, torpedoes, jet fighters and light submarines.
  6. In making a deal with the P5+1, Iran drove a huge wedge between Israel and the U.S.
  7. The extremists in Iran, who alienate so many countries from Iran, will have suffered an enormous strategic defeat which will in turn strengthen the current Iranian regime both domestically and internationally.
  8. In being allowed to keep one-third of its centrifuges and some of its uranium in a significantly reduced purity, Saudi Arabia has been moved to distrust its reliance upon America and to open up the possibility of a rapprochement with Iran.
  9. Benjamin Netanyahu’s strident opposition to the nuclear negotiations of the P5+1 has isolated Israel in a central plank of its foreign policy from it natural allies in an absolutely unprecedented way, not only from Europe but from the United States.
  10. The political elite in Israel is more divided than ever before on foreign policy, not simply between the left and the right, between Herzog/Livni versus the Likud and its partners, but between the intelligence services – Mossad, the military and Shin Bet – and the government also in an absolutely unprecedented situation.
  11. A former head of Israel’s foreign intelligence service, Mossad, Meir Dagan, who stepped down as chief even before the notorious Mossad October 2012 memo showing how the intelligence services did not believe that Iran was on the threshold of becoming a nuclear power, has been accusing the prime minister of endangering the country’s security with his stance on the Iranian nuclear programme.
  12. In the one area in which left and right are united, opposition to even a de-nuclearized Iran that has not been defanged from its support of terrorism and its rise as a regional power, Netanyahu’s main rival for the premiership has shot himself in the foot, for in supporting Netanyahu on this quest, though not Bibi’s appeal to a divided America and Netanyahu’s willingness to shimmy up to the Republicans, he is as divided from the Obama policy as Netanyahu has been, but then comes across as weak-kneed and hypocritical, unwilling to stand up for what he truly believes. (See Isaac Herzog’s recent Op-Ed in the New York Times, “Dividing the U.S. on Israel”.)
  13. Issac Herzog’s insistence on linking the ogre of a nuclear Iran with Iran as an existential threat to Israel, fails to recognize how a de-nuclearized Iran is an even greater threat to Israel in good part because of how both he and Netanyahu, in very different ways, have mishandled the issue; with the political leadership in Israel and the U.S. both divided, and only united in being misguided, Iran is enormously strengthened.
  14. Turkey is falling apart politically, Syria has deconstructed and Iraq may be recovering, but it has a very long and very difficult road ahead, so Iran is left without any formidable rivals.
  15. In the meanwhile, Israeli voters, in the lead up to the March election, are distracted from the core issues of the economy, social justice, the Palestinians and the real threat of a denuclearized but more powerful enemy, Iran, so that the alleged “mudslinging” has damaged the opposition even more than Netanyahu.

Let me clarify this argument by taking on two very respected columnists clearly opposed to my position though also critical of Netanyahu, but each of them for very different reasons. Let me take up the points made by David Brooks of The New York Times first.

    1. Iran has been driven by ideology, not pragmatism.
    2. I agree, but ideology and pragmatism need not be polar opposites; the current regime is driven by a more pragmatic ideology than the previous one.
    3. Current American foreign policy is governed by the principle that prudent statecraft can trump megalomania.
    4. Though also a gamble and a risk, I believe that current American foreign policy is based on the principle that prudent statecraft is a better option than either war or economic containment through sanctions, for however powerful the latter has been in bringing Iran to the negotiating table, those sanctions would not have prevented Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons; a de-nuclearized more pragmatic megalomaniacal-led enemy is much to be preferred to an imprudent  ideologically driven nuclear-armed megalomaniacal-led Iran.
    5. The Obama regime is betting that Iran can evolve into a fundamentally normal regime which prioritizes economics over ideology and religion.
    6. Some members of the Obama administration, though significant but still a minority, believe that this is a likely outcome; most members are more skeptical, but still believe a) the risk is worth taking, and b) the downside is better than any of the alternatives.
    7. The Iran nuclear negotiations are not just about centrifuges; they are about the future of the Middle East.
    8. The Iran nuclear negotiations are and have been since the Joint Plan of Action was signed in November 2013, just about centrifuges (and enriched uranium and the ability to produce plutonium) and are not about the future of the Middle East; this may be a mistake or clever diplomacy, but whichever, it is best not to mischaracterize the negotiations.
    9. Obama seeks to wean Iran away from the radicalism of the revolution and bind it into the international economic and diplomatic system.
    10. Correct.
    11. By reaching an agreement on nukes and lifting the sanctions, Iran would re-emerge as America’s natural partner in the region.
    12. By reaching an agreement on nukes and lifting the sanctions, Iran could re-emerge as one of America’s partners in the region. (There is no such entity as a “natural” partner, especially in the Middle East, and that includes Israel, a point which Israelis do well not to forget.)
    13. Once tamed, Iran would abandon its support for terrorists and terrorist regimes.
    14. A faint hope, but a possibility.
    15. Obama has made a series of stunning sacrifices in order to get a nuclear agreement with Iran.
    16. Obama has made a number of concessions (hardly accurately depicted as sacrifices), as promised in the JPA, in return for Iran giving up its nuclear weapons program.
    17. In 2012, the president vowed that he would not permit Iran to maintain a nuclear program.
    18. In his debate with Mitt Romney, Obama said that, “As long as I’m president of the United States, Iran will not get a nuclear weapon.” Not program, weapon. Obama has so often been misquoted on this promise that in a Google search, the misinterpretation and misquote pops up more frequently than the actual words, but noticeably without quotation marks.
    19. If reports of the proposed nuclear deal with Iran are correct, Obama has abandoned this non-nuclear Iran policy.
    20. Since it never was his policy to de-nuclearize Iran altogether, it is not one he could have abandoned. Further, the negotiations and the deal made did not constitute an abandoning of a denuclearized Iran, even if one makes the mistake of assuming there was one; for the JPA did that.
    21. The deal will not make any restrictions on Iran’s missile program.
    22. It was not intended to accomplish this – see the JPA. This is the real gamble in the JPA.
  1. Monitoring and enforcement will rely on an inspection regime that has been good, but leaky.
  2. The inspection regime was totally inadequate prior to the JPA. Since then, except for any inspection of Iran’s missile program at Parchin, it has been revolutionized and greatly improved, though not yet perfect.
  3. The United States has offended its erstwhile allies, like Israel, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.
  4. True.
  5. Iran’s leaders really believe what they say, that they are as apocalyptically motivated, paranoid and dogmatically anti-American as their pronouncements suggest they are, and, hence, will be as destabilizing and hegemonically inclined as all its recent actions suggest.
  6. I would bet on it. That is precisely why a de-nuclearized weapons regime is preferable to one with nuclear weapons or the potential to produce nuclear weapons within months.
  7. Do we really want a nuclear-capable Iran in the midst of all that?
  8. Wrong question. Do we really want a nuclear-weapons capable Iran in the midst of all that?

In the case of Caroline Glick, rants are usually not worthy of comment, but since she makes David Brooks look like the epitome of accuracy and moderation, I will make only a few points.

  1. Glick portrays Netanyahu as having behaved like a pragmatist in many of his policies but she evaluates this as a betrayal of the principles of a vision of a Greater Israel, whereas I interpret his latest moves as intended to secure his right wing base in the face of rivals and as a reversion to his strong right wing propensities and evaluate the turn as a betrayal of his pragmatic side.
  2. Glick portrays Obama as having “delegitimized Israel’s very existence” whereas I view Obama as ardently opposed to a vision of a Greater Israel but very determined to protect and secure Israel’s actual existence and security.
  3. Glick accuses Obama of embracing the jihadist lie that Israel’s existence is the product of post-Holocaust European guilt, but, unfortunately, jihadists have no monopoly on this false portrayal. Rather it is the dominant, though incorrect view of mainstream historians and Israeli and Western education.
  4. The thesis is not false because Israel is a product of 4,000 years of Jewish history, a factor that played a part in the resurrection of modern Israel, but, as I have argued many times before, there is NO evidence that countries that supported the re-establishment of the Israeli state did so because of any guilt over the Holocaust, which was barely discussed in the immediate period after WWII in the context of Israel, but were in good part motivated by the need to resettle the 200,000 remnant of Jewish refugees that no country wanted.
  5. Senior Obama administration officials have never threatened that Israel will become illegitimate if it refuses to surrender to Palestinian demands, but have insisted that hostility to Israel, including the extreme form that seeks to delegitimize Israel, will increase unless Israel accommodates (not surrender s to) Palestinian legitimate claims. I am even more skeptical, because I think the hostile forces will persist and even grow even if Israel makes a deal based on a two-state solution with the Palestinians. Accommodation of the Palestinians should be supported because it is both just and prudent even if it does not ward off increasing hostility towards Israel.
  6.  Obama did not try to coerce Israel into making a ceasefire agreement with Hamas (see my series of blogs on the Gaza War), never demanded the free flow of goods into Gaza, and did not cut off traffic to Ben Gurion Airport “under specious and grossly prejudicial terms in an open act of economic warfare against Israel;” the misguided action was taken for only a few days independently by the Federal Aviation Board for security reasons.
  7. Obama did not launch an arms embargo against Israel during the Gaza War. Almost all the citations supporting such as thesis are Glick’s own previous columns. Obama did, at the end of the war, make clear to Israel that the U.S. could review its arms exports to Israel and that America’s support was not unconditional irrespective of how Israel behaved.
  8. Obama has not repeatedly tried to slash funding for Israel’s Iron Dome but on 4 August 2014 signed an emergency aid bill providing $225 million in emergency aid to Israel for its Iron Dome system.
  9. Glick celebrates a reborn Netanyahu with his obstinate, unbending, and unaccommodating stance against a nuclear deal with Iran while I deplore it.
  10. Netanyahu has never wavered from his position that he would never accept an Iran armed with nuclear weapons. But neither has Obama. To repeat, the issue is whether opposition to Iran’s nuclear weapons program should be linked with Iran’s missile program, its support for terrorism, its status as a rising regional power and its objective of exterminating Israel.

I think I have said enough. Since one cannot argue with pundits who pontificate but ignore any evidence that might falsify their assertions, and write in a mode that marries heroism with victimhood. I have had to close my eyes and ears to her repetitive columns. One reads Glick only to long for the erroneous but at least cool and rational Brooks.

APPENDIX

  1. David Brooks of The New York Times

Converting the Ayatollahs

February 27, 2015

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/27/opinion/david-brooks-converting-the-ayatollahs.html?partner=rssnyt&emc=rss

Over the past centuries, Western diplomats have continually projected pragmatism onto their ideological opponents. They have often assumed that our enemies are driven by the same sort of national interest calculations that motivate most regimes. They have assumed that economic interests would trump ideology and religion — that prudent calculation and statecraft would trump megalomania.

They assumed that the world leaders before 1914 would not be stupid enough to allow nationalist passion to plunge them into a World War; that Hitler would not be crazy enough to start a second one; that Islamic radicals could not really want to send their region back into the 12th century; that Sunnis and Shiites would never let their sectarian feud turn into a cataclysmic confrontation in places like Iraq.

The Obama administration is making a similar projection today. It is betting that Iran can turn into a fundamentally normal regime, which can be counted upon to put G.D.P. over ideology and religion and do the pragmatic thing.

The Iran nuclear negotiations are not just about centrifuges; they are about the future of the Middle East. Through a series of statements over the last few years, President Obama has made it reasonably clear how he envisions that future.

He seeks to wean Iran away from the radicalism of the revolution and bind it into the international economic and diplomatic system. By reaching an agreement on nukes and lifting the sanctions, Iran would re-emerge as America’s natural partner in the region. It has an educated middle class that is interested in prosperity and is not terribly anti-American. Global integration would strengthen Iranian moderates and reinforce democratic tendencies.

Once enmeshed in the global system, Iran would work to tame Hezbollah and Hamas and would cooperate to find solutions in Gaza, Iraq and Syria. There would be a more stable balance of power between the major powers. In exchange for good global citizenship, Iran would be richer and more influential.

To pursue this détente, Obama has to have a nuclear agreement. He has made a series of stunning sacrifices in order to get it. In 2012, the president vowed that he would not permit Iran to maintain a nuclear program. Six United Nations Security Council resolutions buttressed that principle. But, if reports of the proposed deal are correct, Obama has abandoned this policy.

Under the reported framework, Iran would have thousands of centrifuges. All restrictions on its nuclear program would be temporary and would be phased out over a decade or so. According to some reports, there will be no limits on Iran’s ballistic missiles, no resolution of Iran’s weaponizing activities. Monitoring and enforcement would rely on an inspection regime that has been good, but leaky.

Meanwhile, the United States has offended its erstwhile allies, like Israel, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, without being sure that Iran is really willing to supplement them. There is a chance that Iran’s regional rivals would feel the need to have their own nuclear programs and we would descend into a spiral of proliferation.

All of this might be defensible if Iran is really willing to switch teams, if religion and ideology played no role in the regime’s thinking. But it could be that Iran has been willing to be an international pariah for the past generation for a reason. It could be that Iran finances terrorist groups and destabilizes regimes like Yemen’s and Morocco’s for a reason. It could be that Iran’s leaders really believe what they say. It could be that Iranian leaders are as apocalyptically motivated, paranoid and dogmatically anti-American as their pronouncements suggest they are. It could be that Iran will be as destabilizing and hegemonically inclined as all its recent actions suggest. Iran may be especially radical if the whole region gets further inflamed by Sunni-Shia rivalry or descends into greater and greater Islamic State-style fanaticism.

Do we really want a nuclear-capable Iran in the midst of all that?

If the Iranian leaders believe what they say, then United States policy should be exactly the opposite of the one now being pursued. Instead of embracing and enriching Iran, sanctions should be toughened to further isolate and weaken it. Instead of accepting a nuclear capacity, eliminating that capacity should be restored as the centerpiece of American policy. Instead of a condominium with Iran that offends traditional allies like Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Israel, the U.S. should build a regional strategy around strengthening relations with those historic pillars.

It’s hard to know what’s going on in the souls of Iran’s leadership class, but a giant bet is being placed on one interpretation. March could be a ruinous month for the Middle East. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel could weaken U.S.-Israeli relations, especially on the Democratic left. The world might accept an Iranian nuclear capacity. Efforts designed to palliate a rogue regime may end up enriching and emboldening it.

  1. Caroline Glick of The Jerusalem Post

In Israel’s hour of need Friday, February 27, 2015 It is hard to get your arms around the stubborn determination of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu today. For most of the nine years he has served as Israel’s leader, first from 1996 to 1999 and now since 2009, Netanyahu shied away from confrontations or buckled under pressure. He signed deals with the Palestinians he knew the Palestinians would never uphold in the hopes of winning the support of hostile US administrations and a fair shake from the pathologically hateful Israeli media. In recent years he released terrorist murderers from prison. He abrogated Jewish property rights in Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria. He agreed to support the establishment of a Palestinian state west of the Jordan River. He agreed to keep giving the Palestinians of Gaza free electricity while they waged war against Israel. He did all of these things in a bid to accommodate US President Barack Obama and win over the media, while keeping the leftist parties in his coalitions happy. For his part, for the past six years Obama has undermined Israel’s national security. He has publicly humiliated Netanyahu repeatedly. He has delegitimized Israel’s very existence, embracing the jihadist lie that Israel’s existence is the product of post-Holocaust European guilt rather than 4,000 years of Jewish history. He and his representatives have given a backwind to the forces that seek to wage economic warfare against Israel, repeatedly indicating that the application of economic sanctions against Israel – illegal under the World Trade Organization treaties – are a natural response to Israel’s unwillingness to bow to every Palestinian demand. The same goes for the movement to deny the legitimacy of Israel’s very existence. Senior administration officials have threatened that Israel will become illegitimate if it refuses to surrender to Palestinian demands. Last summer, Obama openly colluded with Hamas’s terrorist war against Israel. He tried to coerce Israel into accepting ceasefire terms that would have amounted to an unconditional surrender to Hamas’s demands for open borders and the free flow of funds to the terrorist group. He enacted a partial arms embargo on Israel in the midst of war. He cut off air traffic to Ben-Gurion International Airport under specious and grossly prejudicial terms in an open act of economic warfare against Israel. And yet, despite Obama’s scandalous treatment of Israel, Netanyahu has continued to paper over differences in public and thank Obama for the little his has done on Israel’s behalf. He always makes a point of thanking Obama for agreeing to Congress’s demand to continue funding the Iron Dome missile defense system (although Obama has sought repeatedly to slash funding for the project). Obama’s policies that are hostile to Israel are not limited to his unconditional support for the Palestinians in their campaign against Israel. Obama shocked the entire Israeli defense community when he supported the overthrow of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, despite Mubarak’s dependability as a US ally in the war on Islamist terrorism, and as the guardian of both Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel and the safety and freedom of maritime traffic in the Suez Canal. Obama supported Mubarak’s overthrow despite the fact that the only political force in Egypt capable of replacing him was the Muslim Brotherhood, which seeks the destruction of Israel and is the ideological home and spawning ground of jihadist terrorist groups, including al-Qaida and Hamas. Obama then supported the Muslim Brotherhood’s regime even as then-president Mohamed Morsi took concrete steps to transform Egypt into an Islamist, jihadist state and end Egypt’s peace with Israel. Israelis were united in our opposition to Obama’s behavior. But Netanyahu said nothing publicly in criticism of Obama’s destructive, dangerous policy. He held his tongue in the hopes of winning Obama over through quiet diplomacy. He held his tongue, because he believed that the damage Obama was causing Israel was not irreversible in most cases. And it was better to maintain the guise of good relations, in the hopes of actually achieving them, than to expose the fractures in US-Israel ties caused by Obama’s enormous hostility toward Israel and by his strategic myopia that endangered both Israel and the US’s other regional allies. And yet, today Netanyahu, the serial accommodator, is putting everything on the line. He will not accommodate. He will not be bullied. He will not be threatened, even as all the powers that have grown used to bringing him to his knees – the Obama administration, the American Jewish Left, the Israeli media, and the Labor party grow ever more shrill and threatening in their attacks against him. As he has made clear in daily statements, Netanyahu is convinced that we have reached a juncture in our relations with the Obama administration where accommodation is no longer possible. Obama’s one policy that Netanyahu has never acquiesced to either publicly or privately is his policy of accommodating Iran. Since Obama’s earliest days in office, Netanyahu has warned openly and behind closed doors that Obama’s plan to forge a nuclear deal with Iran is dangerous. And as the years have passed, and the lengths Obama is willing to go to appease Iran’s nuclear ambitions have been left their marks on the region, Netanyahu’s warnings have grown stronger and more urgent. Netanyahu has been clear since his first tenure in office in the 1990s, that Iran’s nuclear program – as well as its ballistic missile program – constitutes a threat to Israel’s very existence. He has never wavered from his position that Israel cannot accept an Iran armed with nuclear weapons. Until Obama entered office, and to an ever escalating degree until his reelection in 2012, preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons has been such an obvious imperative among both Israelis and Americans that Netanyahu’s forthright rejection of any nuclear deal in which Iran would be permitted to maintain the components of its nuclear program was uncontroversial. In some Israeli circles, his trenchant opposition to Iran’s acquisition of nuclear capabilities was the object of derision, with critics insisting that he was standing strong on something uncontroversial while buckling on issues like negotiations with the Palestinians, where he should have stood strong. But now we are seeing that far from being an opportunist, Netanyahu is a leader of historical dimensions. For the past two years, in the interest of reaching a deal, Obama has enabled Iran to take over Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen. For the first time since 1974, due to Obama’s policies, the Golan Heights is an active front in the war against Israel, with Iranian military personnel commanding Syrian and Hezbollah forces along the border. Iran’s single-minded dedication to its goal of becoming a regional hegemon and its commitment to its ultimate goal of destroying the US is being enabled by Obama’s policies of accommodation. An Iran in possession of a nuclear arsenal is an Iran that can not only destroy Israel with just one or two warheads. It can make it impossible for Israel to respond to conventional aggression carried out by terrorist forces and others operating under an Iranian nuclear umbrella. Whereas Israel can survive Obama on the Palestinian front by stalling, waiting him out and placating him where possible, and can even survive his support for Hamas by making common cause with the Egyptian military and the government of President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi, the damage Obama’s intended deal with Iran will cause Israel will be irreversible. The moment that Obama grants Iran a path to a nuclear arsenal – and the terms of the agreement that Obama has offered Iran grant Iran an unimpeded path to nuclear power – a future US administration will be hard-pressed to put the genie back in the bottle. For his efforts to prevent irreparable harm to Israel Netanyahu is being subjected to the most brutal and vicious attacks any Israeli leader has ever been subjected to by an American administration and its political allies. They are being assisted in their efforts by a shameless Israeli opposition that is willing to endanger the future of the country in order to seize political power. Every day brings another serving of abuse. Wednesday National Security Adviser Susan Rice accused Netanyahu of destroying US relations with Israel. Secretary of State John Kerry effectively called him a serial alarmist, liar, and warmonger. For its part, the Congressional Black Caucus reportedly intends to sabotage Netanyahu’s address before the joint houses of Congress by walking out in the middle, thus symbolically accusing of racism the leader of the Middle East’s only liberal democracy, and the leader of the most persecuted people in human history. Radical leftist representatives who happen to be Jewish, like Jan Schakowsky of suburban Chicago and Steve Cohen of Memphis, are joining Netanyahu’s boycotters in order to give the patina of Jewish legitimacy to an administration whose central foreign policy threatens the viability of the Jewish state. As for Netanyahu’s domestic opponents, their behavior is simply inexcusable. In Israel’s hour of peril, just weeks before Obama intends to conclude his nuclear deal with the mullahs that will endanger Israel’s existence, Labor leader Yitzhak Herzog insists that his primary duty is to defeat Netanyahu. And as far as Iran is concerned, he acts as a free loader ad a spoiler. Either he believes that Netanyahu will succeed in his mission to derail the deal with or without his support, or he doesn’t care. But Herzog’s rejection of Netanyahu’s entreaties that he join him in Washington next week, and his persistent attacks on Netanyahu for refusing accommodate that which cannot be accommodated shows that he is both an opportunist and utterly unworthy of a leadership role in this country. Netanyahu is not coming to Washington next Tuesday to warn Congress against Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran, because he seeks a fight with Obama. Netanyahu has devoted the last six years to avoiding a fight with Obama, often at great cost to Israel’s national security and to his own political position. Netanyahu is coming to Washington next week because Obama has left him no choice. And all decent people of good will should support him, and those who do not, and those who are silent, should be called out for their treachery and cowardice.

[h1]

Consequences of an Iranian Nuclear Deal on U.S.-Israel Relations

Consequences of an Iranian Nuclear Deal on U.S.-Israel Relations

by

Howard Adelman

Whoa! Halt! Hold your horses. John Kerry seemed eager this week to damp down speculation that a nuclear deal with Iran was almost completed. Kerry insisted that a deal was not imminent. There were still significant gaps. But in Geneva this past weekend, the U.S. energy chiefs joined the talks, including U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, The head of the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) and a former foreign minister, Ali Akbar Salehi, also joined the Iran nuclear negotiations on 21 February, clear signs that the differences had boiled down to a crucial few but very important issues requiring high level intervention. It helps that Salehi was educated at MIT.t was on that image believe the total number of the centrifuges had been settled and are to be reduced from 19,000 to 6,500. Perhaps the mixture of the original R-1 centrifuges and the more advanced centrifuges still had to be settled, but the information I have is that this issue had also been determined at about 50% of each kind. There were minor issues, such as the inventory and use of the tailings, but neither of these required a high level of input from either side. Another major issue was whether IAEA would be allowed full inspection of the Parchin facility to deal with the issue of militarization of nuclear weapons, but Salehi and Moniz were not the right senior personnel to sort out this issue. I, therefore, concluded that the restrictions on the production of plutonium at the Arak reactor had not yet been finalized. This was both a very technical as well as high level political issue. The two sides might also have been in contention over the period of limitation on the number of centrifuges. If the period was to be ten years, how many additional centrifuges after the termination of that restrictive period? 3,500 as rumoured and these over a further five or ten years?

However important the outstanding items, the parties were within striking distance of a deal. There were also the issues of the waiving or lifting of sanctions which Secretary of State, John Kerry, and the Iranian foreign affairs minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, were trying to finalize. Kerry did not want to lose leverage and bargaining power with the suggestion that such a deal was imminent for that alone might have undercut the momentum. And it had become important, if possible, to make the deal before Netanyahu’s scheduled 3 March speech before both houses of Congress to take the wind totally out of his sails. That tight deadline was the real challenge now. For Iran now had the tremendous incentive of seeing the widening gulf between the U.S. and Israel increased and reified. A rare accomplishment for an avowed enemy of both the U.S. and Israel.

Netanyahu, Ya’alon and Bennett were all in a panic mode. What if the major security issue for the right, the bogeyman of a nuclear Iran, was suddenly removed as a major issue in the Israeli elections? All three had run on a platform of the prime importance of security. Netanyahu was still considered best positioned to defend Israel. However, if the security issue was cut down to size, most Israeli voters preferred the Zionist unity group led by Herzog and Livni to take care of the important domestic social and economic issues. The rumours of an impending deal did not mean that Israel was no longer threatened by Iran. Iran would remain a supporter of terrorism. Iran would grow as a regional power. But the removal of the nuclear option suddenly revealed Netanyahu to be an emperor without any clothes. For it was he that had done the most to cast Iran as a nuclear enemy and not as the country most determined to wipe Israel off the map. As he repeatedly stated, “there is no doubt that the greatest challenge to our security is the attempt by Iran to arm itself with nuclear weapons.” Well if Iran no longer can produce nuclear weapons, what happens to the major thrust of Israeli foreign policy? It was on that image of Iran as a nuclear threat to the whole world and not just to Israel that Netanyahu had placed his total bet. Once removed, the absence of the image of Iran as a nuclear military power left him not only naked but hoisted with his own petard.

But the problem is made far worse by Netanyahu repeatedly reinforcing his own self portrait as a person not only in hyperbole but in outright lies. He kept insisting that the impending nuclear agreement with Iran “leaves Iran the ability to produce the necessary material for a nuclear bomb within a few months and afterwards, to produce dozens of nuclear bombs.” Utter nonsense! The agreement not only prevents such a possibility, but the release of the Mossad memo as well as the reports of the IAEA clearly show both that Iran was still far from being within a few months of producing a bomb and, perhaps, even more importantly, Netanyahu had been informed of this by his own highly respected intelligence agency. Netanyahu’s shrill rhetoric has not only undermined his own credibility, it has seriously damaged Israel’s. What is even far worse, his entire failed effort to paint Iran as this huge nuclear threat has strengthened Iran, and distracted genuine criticism from Iran as a supporter of terrorism, as a rising and dangerous military power in the Middle East and, most importantly, as Israel’s main enemy as Iran has not retracted its goal of eliminating Israel. For Israel, Netanyahu’s policies could not have resulted in a more perverse result.

Netanyahu, by placing all his efforts at demonization of Iran by the nuclear imagery, had, in effect, damaged Israel. That image would now boomerang back on his own small country as the only nation in the Middle East with a nuclear arsenal. Netanyahu’s portraiture of Iran would henceforth harm the country that he led, not Iran. The effort to brand Iran as a threatening nuclear power now would turn against Israel as the sole nuclear power in the Middle East, but one without the rationale of a competing nuclear threat. The number and size of Iran’s nuclear production facilities were to be fully transparent as would its dedication solely to peaceful purposes for all to see. And Iran had never been shown to have engaged in underground testing even before the Joint Plan of Action (JPA) of November 2013. Israel’s own intelligence agency, Mossad, had informed the political leadership in Israel that Iran had no operational plan, only research, on how to weaponize its nuclear arsenal.

That Mossad report was probably even more damaging than even the prospective nuclear deal with Iran. For all the claims of the right that Iran was on the verge of becoming a nuclear power had been revealed as so much malarkey. Israel’s own intelligence service had said as much. The misused expression “on the verge” had been used to obscure and mislead, for Iran evidently had no capacity to become a nuclear power within a year let alone 3-6 months. Rather, the petard intended to blow a significant hole in Iran’s foreign and military policy had rebounded against Israel. Successive revelations within only one week had revealed the Israeli right wing leadership as tricksters if not outright liars. What they had said no longer would be perceived as coming from thinking or even sincere belief, but as emanating from their own rear ends.

A worst case scenario had developed, not of Iran emerging as a nuclear power, but of the portrait of Iran as a nuclear power self-destructing. The destruction of that image had blown a huge breach in the unity of the most powerful nation on earth with Israel. Israel had been literally hoisted upon its own petard.  Rouhani could now playfully ruminate like Hamlet: “tis the sport to have the engineer Hoist with his owne petar.” Engineers in the sixteenth century were the constructors of military devices. That device was now blowing up, not only in the faces of the right wing leadership in Israel, but in the face of the plotting and scheming of the Republican leadership in the United States. We have yet to see how badly wounded the twin messengers of doom, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, will be as they try to flee as fast as possible from the explosion, but since they will almost surely dodge and dart in their retreat, they may not be as badly hurt as if they simply retreat backwards from the backblast in the most direct route possible. Yet Obama may smirk and think to himself how most sweet it is when two craft headed towards you are forced to veer off course and end up crashing into one another.

Unfortunately, Israel will be the real victim as its relations with the United States will suffer enormously. The withholding of strategic intelligence from Israel will be the least of Israel’s worries. With the sidelining of Iran as a nuclear bogeyman, the search for a final resolution of the Israel-Palestine conflict may return to the limelight. Even if the United States does not go so far as reversing itself in its opposition to a Middle East Nuclear Weapon Free Zone (MENWFZ), the White House in future may be expected to adopt some if not almost all of the following new initiatives even as it continues to reiterate that the U.S. remains committed to Israel’s genuine security requirements and the right to defend itself.

  1. Prioritizing the creation of two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security
  2. Denounce many of the myriad of efforts by Israel to develop a one-state future for the territory between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean with Palestinians only having “autonomy”
  3. Cease expending diplomatic capital to protect Israel from international actions against Israeli policies with which the U.S. disagrees
  4. Explicitly begin depicting any expansion of West Bank settlements outside of the areas already agreed to be traded when a two state solution is agreed upon as not simply “illegitimate” but as “illegal” and a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention
  5. Abstain from, or even support, a UN Security Council Resolution condemning Israeli settlement expansion
  6. Support a UN Security Council resolution setting forth a framework for a two-state final status agreement that include a basic set of principles
  7. If not 4 above, the U.S. may independently put forth a framework for a final status agreement including fundamental principles as the basis for such an agreement
  8. Provide indirect and even overt support for the Arab Peace Initiative and explore and move towards recognizing the Palestinian Authority as the government of an independent state
  9. Provide a myriad of indirect forms of support for the “peace” parties in Israel
  10. Move to deny tax-exempt status to American organizations that use tax-deductible funds to support west bank settlements.

Israel is now on the most dangerous swamp since the end of the Six Day War. Netanyahu, the man most Israelis believe was best equipped to defend Israel’s security interests, has emerged as the leader who has most endangered those interests. The Israeli ship of state is now surrounded by shoals and needs a highly skilled captain to avoid crashing on the rocks. If Netanyahu is re-elected, as seems likely, the danger will increase enormously. Iran will remain as Israel’s most threatening enemy with a leader least capable of countering the threat.

I’m in Mourning

I’m in Mourning

by

Howard Adelman

Here you are rejoicing. Two days have passed and you have not had to feel guilty for not reading Howard’s blog. While you are grinning from ear-to-ear, I am in mourning. Not only have I lost my old computer and now have to type on the backup that, luckily, I had purchased in Victoria, but I keep making errors with my two-fingered typing. Though this is a Dell laptop like my previous one, the delete is in a different place so when I hit what I think is the delete key, the cursor goes to the end of the line. When I try to type “ee”, I type “rr” so feel comes out as frrl. When I do type delete in the new location, a period appears. And this computer skips in a different way than my last one. So this paragraph took five minutes rather than two minutes to type. Is there anything worse than clumsy fingers being soaked by tears falling on them as you try to write a blog?

And now I have to retype the second paragraph because I pressed the wrong key and the paragraph was deleted. You already know that I lost the blog I wrote for the day before yesterday. What you do not know was that the blog contained what I believe was the most significant analysis I had done on the Iranian nuclear negotiations. You also do not know that I also lost the blog I wrote yesterday, not as important as the previous one, but a blog that I felt very proud about as well. Worst of all, I lost all the research materials I had collected in one file for my next series of blogs on Libya. I had not backed up any of these files yet on my other computer. You not only do not know about these losses, but what happened and why I think it happened.

Yesterday, Nancy drove me several towns away (a drive of about 30 minutes) to our local computer repair shop. Then drove me back to the computer shop. Then back again. We left at 9:30 a.m. We did not get back home until almost five. What had happened? On Tuesday morning, as I told you, as I was completing that morning’s blog, it disappeared from my screen. What actually happened was that some strange material suddenly appeared on my screen. I thought it was a pop-up ad and, without looking at it closely, deleted it. The deletion then wiped out all my open files – the research file for the next day’s blog, the back-up research material for the blog I was writing and the blog itself.

I spent a good part of Tuesday searching for that file to no avail. I am computer challenged, but not terribly so. I have lost material before and somehow I usually find it after an intensive search for an hour or two. I could not find the missing material this time and shifted to re-creating the research file on the anticipated effects of a signed nuclear deal with Iran on Israel-U.S. relations for the next day’s blog. It was far easier re-assembling that material than recollecting the material I had used for that day’s blog that had disappeared. It dealt with the analysis of material revealed on Monday of a highly secret Mossad report dated October 2012 to the Israeli government on the status of the Iranian nuclear program. The hardest material to re-create would be the one page detailed summary I had prepared of the contents of that report. In any case, I was hoping I would still find my missing blog.

Tuesday evening, lo and behold, and to my chagrin and Nancy saying, “I told you so,” my blog reappeared. It, as well as numerous other autosave documents from the last few weeks, suddenly were there on my screen. And I cannot tell you whether it was the result of something I did or this was simply manna from heaven delivered by the collective memory of the computer cloud in our contemporary heaven. But there it was. Not the final version, but probably the version from about fifteen minutes before I lost the document. So a quick read and a half an hour of work and the blog was ready for sending out in the morning. I actually tried to send it out Tuesday evening, but I was not able to connect to the internet and decided to leave it overnight and try to send it out on Wednesday morning. The material that had re-appeared also included the appendix which contained my analysis of the Mossad 2012 report. I had saved that in a separate file. So I had the full blog.

I also had the material for Wednesday morning’s blog and the material I had reassembled that day with a great deal of overlap, but with some additional material as well. I would get up the next (yesterday) morning, send out the blog from the day before and then write my blog for that day.

It was not to be. When I awoke, I could still not connect to the internet. So I wrote that morning’s blog and waited until Nancy or one of our guests woke up to help me get on the internet. I finished the second blog, everyone woke up, but no one was able to help me get connected. My computer (the old one) showed that I was connected, but I was unable to upload Firefox or Xplorenet and send out my blogs. The blogs were there on the computer, but I could not share them in the usual way.

That is when we decided to take the computer to the hospital. We got to the computer store and the proprietor opened up the computer and tried to connect me to the internet. The material was there in front of him to send out, but somehow the computer would not allow him to make a connection. He said he would have to back up my files and reconfigure the system. He asked if I had saved my files. I said I had. He asked permission to close the files, a procedure necessary for his backing up my files and figuring out why I was not connecting to the internet. I said, “Sure.” Big mistake! I should have copied the opened files first before closing them, but you know what they say about hindsight.

After spending time shopping for gifts to bring back to Toronto, going to the bank and having lunch, we returned to the computer store. He said that the computer was not ready. He would need a few more hours. We came back later and again he said it was not ready. The long and the short of it in the end was that he said he had been unable to either fix my computer or even backup my files. He had never seen anything like it. He asked if I had smashed the computer on the floor or against a wall. I assured him that I had not.

He said that he would have to get hold of a much more powerful system to try to access and back up my files. He would also have to order a new hard drive. Not only was my software system a mess, but the hard drive would now be useless. He asked me to phone him and he would let me know when he would have the far more powerful machine and when he could get a new hard drive delivered. He said that alone would cost about 2,000 pesos. But he was frank. He was very doubtful if he would ever be able to back up my files from my destroyed hard drive and software systems. As much as I insisted, he refused to charge me for the time he had spent on my machine.

On the return home through the mountain highway, I was not the best of company. In my head, I replayed what had happened over the last 60 hours. I tried to recall what had happened when my blog disappeared from my screen. On one side, I had the purloined Mossad material. On the other half of the screen – at home I work much more efficiently with the equivalent of seven screens – was my blog on which I was working. When I sent out the message that there would be no blog that day, I received several notes commiserating with me. But I also received a note from a former graduate student of mine in Calgary who wrote, “It must be the work of the Israeli-American intelligence hacking community.” I, of course, thought he was joking.

I thought again. I knew something about Israel’s skills in computer sabotage. After all, they had penetrated the computer systems of the Iranian nuclear program on at least three different occasions, one time with a devastating effect on cascades of their centrifuges. What if malware had been built into their intelligence report so that if anyone who was unauthorized accessed the secret material, their computer would become infected and their software system destroyed. After all, the computer store guy had said that he had never seen anything like it. Perhaps Mossad had destroyed my computer.

I also wondered why there were no detailed reports in the media on this purloined material dubbed “The Spy Cables” since I had found the one document that I had read to be quite sensational. After all, this reported leak of hundreds of secret intelligence papers from agencies all over the world, not only offered “a glimpse into the murky world of espionage,” it also provided a check list to compare public political claims with the information their own intelligence services were providing. The cable that interested me was relayed to South Africa’s State Security Agency (SSA) shortly after the September 2012 address in which Netanyahu had displayed a cartoonish diagram of a bomb with a fuse, marked with a 70 percent line and another “red line” at 90 percent as described in the Al Jazeera news story on Monday headlined, “Mossad contradicted Netanyahu on Iranian nuclear programme.” Perhaps the material was bogus. But even that would merit a major story. Besides, on reading the document, it seemed to be totally consistent with what I had read in IAEA reports as well as with the style of another Mossad report I had read years ago. Al Jazeera wrote:

Less than a month after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s 2012 warning to the UN General Assembly that Iran was 70 percent of the way to completing its ‘plans to build a nuclear weapon,’”, Israel’s intelligence service believed that Iran was “not performing the activity necessary to produce weapons”…A secret cable obtained by Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit reveals that Mossad sent a top-secret cable to South Africa on October 22, 2012, that laid out a “bottom line” assessment of Iran’s nuclear work. It appears to contradict the picture painted by Netanyahu of Tehran racing towards acquisition of a nuclear bomb.

Writing that Iran had not begun the work needed to build any kind of nuclear weapon, the Mossad cable said the Islamic Republic’s scientists are “working to close gaps in areas that appear legitimate such as enrichment reactors”. Such activities, however, “will reduce the time required to produce weapons from the time the instruction is actually given”. That view tracks with the 2012 US National Intelligence estimate, which found no evidence that Iran had thus far taken a decision to use its nuclear infrastructure to build a weapon, or that it had revived efforts to research warhead design that the US said had been shelved in 2003. Netanyahu had told the UN General Assembly that, “by next spring, by most at next summer at current enrichment rates, [Iran] will have finished the medium enrichment and move on to the final stage,” to enrich uranium to weapons grade.

Perhaps the absence of detailed follow-up stories was a result of those media agencies having their computers discombobulated as mine had been. So when I thought of trying to access once again the one document from the reams of intelligence material from the U.S., Russia, South Africa, Israel, Britain, etc. that Al Jazeera had obtained and shared with The Guardian on Monday, I had second thoughts. I had read only a very tiny portion of the material – that which dealt with the Mossad’s October 2012 report on the Iranian nuclear program. It was a sepia-coloured document that I found hard to read, but did manage and made detailed noted which I digested and summarized. In my blog, I had reprinted the internet address to find the material again. That was lost, but I could get it back by following the same route I had on Monday. But what if I found it, accessed the material with the same result – an infected computer with a destroyed software system? I decided I could not take a chance at this time. I would have to tell you what the sensational parts of the report contained from my memory, but if anyone cares to access the material and test whether my memory is accurate, the Al Jazeera story will provide the leads to the actual document.

  1. The report said that although Iran had conducted research on weaponizing nuclear material, no program was underway, nor had a program even been designed, to create a weaponized missile for delivering a nuclear explosive.
  2. The Arak plutonium reactor would not be ready for operation until mid-2014 and even then no plutonium-based nuclear weapon could be created until a necessary complementary plant was built to decommission nuclear material.
  3. Even if Iran had everything in place, it would only be able to produce one plutonium bomb per year.
  4. Mossad intelligence had been excellent since its reports on the amount of both 20% enriched and 5% enriched nuclear material, as well as on the numbers of active and passive centrifuges (10,000 + 9,000) and their types (first generation and advanced) were totally consistent with what IAEA found in its 2014 inspections.
  5. Most importantly, in October 2012, it was unlikely that Iran would be able to make a nuclear device for several years.
  6. There was no evidence to indicate that Iran was trying to upgrade its uranium stock beyond a 20% enrichment level needed for a nuclear device.
  7. Nevertheless, the pattern of Iranian behaviour remained suspicious with respect to an ultimate aim of making and owning nuclear weapons.
  8. The report was silent on Iran’s support for terrorism, its search to become a regional power and its determination to exterminate Israel.

The bottom line – Iran’s immanent emergence as a nuclear power had been grossly overstated.

With the release of this report as well as the leaked contents of the immanent negotiated deal on Iran’s nuclear program, Netanyahu, Ya’alon and Bennett panicked. They held a joint press conference to reiterate their fears of Iran as a nuclear threat and a threat to the whole world. What they said was grossly misleading even though most individual sentences or clauses were not specifically false. I showed how the statements were not lies – it depended, for example, on what was meant to be “on the verge.” But they were very far from the truth. Tomorrow, I will analyze their statements and suggest the reasons for their panic and the implications of the fallout on American-Israeli relations, especially on the legitimate fears of Iran’s rise even if it never becomes a nuclear power in the next 10-15 years. The evidence seems to be that Israel had held onto the position of Iran as a nuclear power as a way to rally the world to Israel’s side in trying to prevent Iran emerging as a power at all, even a non-nuclear one.

Had Netanyahu gambled and lost? What are the consequences?

Tomorrow: The Consequences of an Iranian Nuclear Deal on U.S.-Israel Relations

The First Six Months of Compliance with the JPA

The First Six Months of Compliance with the JPA

by

Howard Adelman

To reiterate for the umpteenth time, the point of the JPA negotiations from the very start was not to eliminate Iran’s nuclear program, but to establish a set of provisions and verification measures to protect American and allied national security interests by limiting (not eliminating) Iran’s nuclear programs. Extensive verification measures were to be put in place intended to eliminate the risk of Iran breaking out with an ability to produce nuclear weapons at its declared and/or covert nuclear sites without being detected in a timely manner. The issue of timeliness was defined as sufficient time to permit U.S. and international responses that would prevent Iran succeeding. As clarified in the last blog, this entailed instituting very intrusive verification procedures to detect the construction and operation of secret gas centrifuge plants in Iran’s nuclear program to ensure that Iran’s actions conform to the agreements it made as interim confidence-building measures before a more comprehensive program can be put in place. For the best summaries of the monitoring of the progress of the negotiations, see the series of reports of the Institute for Science and International Security in Washington (ISIS). Better yet, read the IAEA reports themselves. This blog is based on those reports.

Fordow is a nuclear enrichment plant constructed in secret at a time when Iran was obligated to report its construction to the IAEA and not only did not, but repeatedly and blatantly lied about it, absolutely denying such a development. That alone required any verification process to be very robust. The plant is buried deep under a mountain near the Iranian holy city of Qom. The only purpose of the plant is to produce military-grade nuclear materials, though Iran argues the grade of nuclear material is required for its research reactor. In September 2009, its existence was publicly revealed by President Obama. The end goal of the negotiations had to be closing this site. If Iran wanted to continue producing nuclear material for peaceful purposes, it did not need a plant under a mountain resistant even to bunker bomb attacks, though the access tunnels, ventilation equipment and electronic supply would not be immune. The interim goal was to halt Iran’s progress in its tracks and to cut through Iran’s duplicitous and contradictory reporting on its activities to the IAEA between 2009 and 2013.

The truth: at Fordow, Iran had installed almost 2,800 first generation IR-1 centrifuges in two halls each designed to hold 8 cascades of 174 centrifuges per cascade = 1,392 centrifuges x 2 = 2784 centrifuges of which 696 were operational. According to the IAEA, 4 cascades of 174 centrifuges (696) in two tandem sets to produce near 20 percent low enriched uranium the only real purpose of which was nuclear weaponry. In the JPA, at Fordow:

  • there will be no further enrichment over 5% at 4 cascades now enriching uranium
  • enrichment capacity will not be increased
  • Iran will not feed UF6 into the other 12 non-operative state cascades
  • There will be no further interconnections made between cascades
  • Any replacements of existing centrifuges will be of centrifuges of the same type.

To ensure the above, Iran agreed not only to stop making 20% enriched uranium, not only to install no further advanced centrifuges at Fordow, but also to disconnect the piping of cascades not in operation, maintain those centrifuges in a non-operative state and only enrich uranium up to 5% in the 4 operating cascades. In the end, Iran would have to actually remove about 15,000 of its centrifuges after the JPA was signed according to the Washington Post.

Note that in the JPA interim agreement, Iran could continue enrichment at its R&D Natanz Pilot Fuel Enrichment Plant and even develop more advanced centrifuges, but these developments would be monitored to ensure conformity with IAEA safeguards. In spite of this provision, by February 2014, even Israel’s senior security officials in the IDF and Mossad had begun to consider whether Iran was sincere in following a new tack and that, possibly, this was not just a new phase in past deceptive practices. At the renewable energy meeting in Abu Dhabi on 18-19 January, Israeli Water and Energy Minister Silvan Shalom listened intently to Iran’s minister of energy. More significantly, at the Munich Security Conference on 2 February, Israel Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon sat in the front row of a panel discussion that included Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

What was happening with Iran’s agreement to convert its existing 20% enriched uranium, 50% as working stock of 20% oxide for fabrication of fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor (TRR) while the other 50% had to be diluted to no more than 5% low enriched uranium (LEU) hexafluoride? If the 20% enriched oxide is reconverted to a fluoride form and then further enriched to weapon-grade level (90% U235), this would be enough to make a 25 kg bomb. Recall that Little Boy dropped on Hiroshima was a 15 kiloton bomb and Far Boy dropped on Nagasaki was a 21 kiloton bomb, not 25 kg. Nevertheless, if Iran is truly committed to the use of nuclear energy only for peaceful purposes, it does not need 20% enriched nuclear material.

Why do I go into all this detail? Why not jump to much more recent reports, or even more, to the latest AIAE Report on Iran’s compliance with the JPA? There are several reasons. First, I want to establish my credibility; I have read all the reports. Second, I want to try to see if there is a pattern in Iran’s compliance and non-compliance, for both are at work. Third, I want to demonstrate that, as far as possible, I have tried to be fair in appraising Iran’s compliance with the terms of the JPA. On the other hand, I do not want to burden readers with a morass of details. So after this initial review of the first six months and my conclusions about a pattern, in Monday’s blog I will jump to the very recent report of the IAEA that I received yesterday to assess whether in fact my perceptions of a pattern are correct.

As a result of last February’s IAEA report, one clear sign of progress was that Iran agreed that it would put on hold any plans to build additional centrifuge plants, more specifically, the plans for the third centrifuge plant that AIAE had revealed. On the other hand, trust was not enhanced in Iran’s intentions when commitments come only after new discoveries by the IAEA. There is a clear perception that there is a continuing failure to provide full disclosure, though certainly a great deal that IAEA did not know previously has been disclosed. Hence, IAEA determined to place a priority on gaining access to a full range of information that it did not have last February and that it would need to assess Iran’s compliance and even perhaps its intentions.

One area of critical importance was Iran’s research and development program mentioned above. Unfortunately, for many observers of this process, the JPA did not adequately address this issue and, by omission, Iran was permitted to undertake research to improve the quality of its centrifuges. This is understandable in a way since better centrifuges are also needed for the peaceful use of nuclear energy. Iran may not develop new types of centrifuges using uranium hexafluoride at its Natanz Pilot Fuel Enrichment Plant, but it can undertake research to improve the performance of existing centrifuges. The dilemma is that, given the goals of the JPA to limit the breakout period to at least a year, significant improvements in the performance of Iran’s existing centrifuges could significantly reduce that timeframe. Yet there is no provision in the JPA to limit the possibility. So the negotiators are working on using the transparency clauses to ensure Iran reveals its improvements.

The issue of a breakthrough with laser enrichment is instructive. In 2010, Iran announced that it had significantly improved performance through a laser enrichment program. The JPA in the technical annexes provided seven practical methods for monitoring this possibility of accelerating the breakout period. Iran was required to implement them by 15 May 2014. As we shall see, Iran did comply with these additional “technical” requirements, including the requirement that Iran provide full relevant information on the Lashkar Ab’ad Laser Research Centre and to allow inspection visits.

Reduction in suspicion of Iran is not helped when, at the time the JPA was signed and immediately thereafter, all work on construction and improvements at the Parchin military site seemed to be at a standstill, but the February satellite photos revealed that new activity was taking place at the site and Iran had not informed IAEA that this was taking place. In the meanwhile, Ira’s Foreign Minister, Javad Zarif, was performing the role of the eternal optimist on the international stage signaling that a comprehensive deal was doable in the next 4-5 months.

What was becoming clear was that two intersecting issues were clear. First, there had to be strict limits on the number of centrifuges Iran could have. Second, as and if their productive capacity improved, those numbers had to be reduced. As the quality of the enrichment program improves, the number of centrifuges in operation had to decrease. Otherwise there was no way of being secure about a breakout period that seemed reasonable at the time of any deal.

The other complementary issue was the amount and quality of nuclear material that Iran had already in hand. The 20 February 2014 IAEA report was promising because IAEA could, by then, provide a reasonably accurate picture of the total volume of 20% enriched uranium that Iran had on hand, especially since the JPA had agreed that 50% of that material could be retained in the form of oxide. The problem, as everyone recognized, was that this process could be reversed for the nuclear material retained in oxide form using its existing technological knowhow and equipment. Only two steps were needed: 1) converting it back into a hexafluoride form, and 2) then enrich it to a grade suitable for nuclear weapons. So the negotiators had to make this process impossible. The question was not only whether, at the end of six months, Iran had converted all or almost all of its stock of 20% enriched uranium equally into the two forms provided in the JPA, but how to ensure 135-175 kg of 20% enriched uranium now in oxide form could and would not be reconverted back into hexafluoride form.

The 20 March 2014 IAEA report was very positive. Iran had made progress on a number of fronts in complying with the terms of the JPA:

  • No new enriched U-235 to 20%
  • No expanded conversion capacity
  • Degraded 74.6 kg of 20% enriched U-235 to no more than 5%
  • 7 kg of 20% enriched U-235 had been converted to the oxide form
  • No efforts had been made to reconvert U-235
  • Iran had provided information on the continued construction of the Enriched Uranium Production Plant (EUPP) that was to be used to degrade 20% enriched U-235, but the work had not completed
  • No processing at the Tehran Research Reactor (TRR)
  • Iran had complied with the terms of the Safeguard Agreement
  • Iran had provided information on the uranium mine at Gchine
  • Daily access had been provided to both Natanz and Fordow
  • Inspection via managed access had been allowed to the centrifuge assembly workshop, the centrifuge rotor production workshop and to storage facilities.

Perhaps Zarif had been right to be optimistic. Though Olli Heinonen, the Senior Fellow at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs and former Deputy Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, also seemed optimistic, he reminded everyone that a great deal of confirmation work remained to be done and the results of inspections still had to be completed. Even the delay in meeting targets for conversion of 20% enriched UF6 to 5% enriched UF6 as uranium oxide was explicable in terms of plant construction delays.

Nevertheless, the negotiations were haunted by a number of unresolved issues. Iran has been suspiciously intransigent about the Parchin facility where Digital Globe imagery dated 25 April 2014 shows signs of renewed external activity there, a critical observation since this is where Iran’s nuclear weapons development program takes place. Iran had promised to clear up crucial questions about its past nuclear military production, but has not yet complied. What, in fact, has Iran done towards producing nuclear weapons?

Nevertheless, the IAEA May 2014 report remained optimistic since enrichment to almost 20% had ceased, 100kg of 20% enriched had been converted to less than 5% and its stock of hexafluoride was approaching zero, no new centrifuges were installed at Natanz and Fordow, and Iran complied with the practical measures insisted on by IAEA. What also becomes clear, the restrictions in examining the military dimension of Iran’s program were a mistake as, without such information, it is impossible to calculate with any degree of accuracy Iran’s break out time frame. Knowing this, IAEA promised to report back on that dimension of the nuclear issue.

Ironically, problems were emerging on the provisions for removing sanctions:

Sunday:           Sanctions and the Implementation of Relief

Monday:          The 20 February 2015 IAEA Report

Tuesday          My Overall Assessment of the Nuclear Negotiations

Wednesday    Libya

The Joint Plan of Action: P5+1 and Iran

  1. The Joint Plan of Action: P5+1 and Iran

Part IV: The Washington-Jerusalem-Buenos Aries-Tehran Quadrangle

by

Howard Adelman

In the ongoing dispute between the White House and the Israeli government over the invitation to Netanyahu to address a joint session of Congress on the Iran nuclear negotiations, we supposedly learned that Netanyahu would no longer be updated on the progress of those negotiations. The explanation: fear that Netanyahu will use the information for political needs. But that is not all. In addition, Obama’s National Security Advisor was said to be cutting off all contact with the Israeli National Security Council. If true, a brouhaha would now have become an imbroglio, for the dispute now would directly affect the security of Israel. Obama appeared to have declared diplomatic war against Israel, showing, perhaps for the first time since he has been president, that he too can play hardball.

In what sense could informing Netanyahu on the status of the talks allow Bibi to use that information for political purposes since he has always used information for political purposes? That was the whole point of promising to keep Jerusalem updated – as a quid pro quo to getting Israel to step down from plans to bomb the Fordow reactor and other nuclear installations in Iran. Was Obama trying to provoke Israel into using the bombing card?

When Wendy Sherman, Under Secretary of State in charge of the nuclear talks with Iran, was reported as announcing that she ceased briefing and updating Israel on the talks, were there any reports that she offered evidence that Netanyahu was using the material she supplied inappropriately to advance his own political prospects within Israel? When Susan Rice, Obama’s National Security Advisor, purportedly announced that she was cutting off all contacts with the Israeli National Security Council, and its chief, Yossi Cohen, she allegedly claimed that Israel was turning a U.S. national security issue into a political issue within the U.S. to interfere in U.S. domestic politics. But if the White House had responded in this way, Obama’s office would have been responsible for turning a minor diplomatic misstep and, in my mind, inadvisable visit, into a major security issue.

In other words, Netanyahu was being portrayed as having committed a double boo-boo and the revenge by the White House had reportedly come down swiftly and heavily. One reaction: what is Israel supposed to do when it feels the progress of the negotiations is undermining the understandings between the U.S. and Israel on the quid pro quo? Go quietly into the night?

Netanyahu’s office, however, kept its cool about the latest purported revelations as it has over the invitation to address Congress. In the latter case, Israel simply slipped out the information that Netanyahu had indeed followed protocol and informed the White House about the invitation before he accepted. (If the Oval Office only learned about the invitation from Netanyahu, their intelligence on gathering information on what is going on in Congress must be dreadful.) If Obama’s White House had indeed responded to Netanyahu’s plan to speak to a joint sitting of Congress as reported, a really serious breach in protocol would have taken place, now by the White House, for Obama’s office could have let Netanyahu know that if he accepted the invitation from the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the White House would come out with full guns blazing.

Was this only the opening salvo? Something seemed fishy. First, the alleged White House reaction was so disproportionate to the alleged offense. Second, such a response would not have been self-serving as it would have alienated much of the Jewish base who support the Democrats which would then rally on behalf of Israel – not Netanyahu – because such a response would have gone far too far. Third, Netanyahu, who is a street brawler, did not respond and return diplomatic artillery fire. His office only stated that, “The relations between the two nations are deep” and that Yossi Cohen will leave for Washington next week to take part in a conference when he will meet with Sherman and Rice, totally contrary to the report that Rice would no longer meet with Cohen.

I thought the invitation to Netanyahu was only a brouhaha, but if the report had been accurate, the tension between Netanyahu and the White House would certainly no longer be just that. Personal animosity would have risen to fever pitch and threatened the deep relations between the two countries. I had thought the acceptance of the invitation to address Congress was inadvisable, but I did not think that Obama would suddenly raise the stakes and plant a minefield for Israel around the Iran negotiations.

Are the negotiations going so badly that Obama wants to blame Israel for torpedoing them and then justify why the U.S. will not support Israel in seeking increased sanctions or even diplomatically supporting Israel in dealing with the existential threat of a nuclear-armed Iran? Is there time to step back from the breach? Certainly John Boehner, Speaker of the House of Representatives, had issued the invitation without keeping the White House in the loop. I suspect that may have been unprecedented, not only in relations between the White House and Congress, but in the war between the Republicans and the Obama administration thus far. And clearly John Boehner has not yet bought into the compromise of a Netanyahu meeting with Congress that is a private briefing. As Boehner said, “It’s an important message that the American people need to hear.”

If the story on the White House cutting off briefings on the progress of the talks and cutting off contacts between Israel’s National Security Agency and Washington’s had been accurate, what was taking place was not only an all-out diplomatic war between Israel and the White House, but an all-out-war between the Republicans and the White House over the most important foreign policy initiative of Obama’s second term. Obama needed that like he needed a hole-in-the-head.

Before the purported huge increase in temperature in the war of words between the White House and Netanyahu, a few House of Representative democrats had tried to cool things down by asking Boehner to postpone Netanyahu’s planned speech to Congress. Representatives Keith Ellison, Steve Cohen and Maxine Waters were collecting signatures to that effect when the White House salvo allegedly went off. The petition said that, “as members of Congress who support Israel, we share concern that it appears that you are using a foreign leader as a political tool against the president.” 13 Democrat representatives indicated that they did not intend to attend the speech in addition to Vice President Joe Biden. Was the White House now undercutting the counter-attack of the Democrats in Congress by alienating a significant portion of their constituency by an unprecedented breach in the relations between the U.S. administration and Netanyahu?

As you have almost certainly learned, the Monday story in the Hebrew press has since been reported as erroneous. If so, some Haaretz reporter will have to pay a high price. The White House and the State Department both categorically denied the report that it had significantly upped the ante well beyond its clearly signaled displeasure at Netanyahu coming to Washington to address Congress in March. In fact, the day before the report appeared, White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough explicitly repudiated all reports of a widening rift between the Obama administration and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. On NBC’s Meet the Press, he repeated the well-worn mantra: “Our relationship with Israel is many-faceted, deep and abiding…focused on a shared series of threats, but also, on a shared series of values that one particular instance is not going to inform overwhelmingly.” Inform overwhelmingly?

So why tell a story about what turns out to be a non-story? Because it may not just be a non-story. It may have been a false leak, a way of warning Netanyahu without actually starting a full-scale diplomatic wary? Because it is important to differentiate between diplomatic artillery fire using live ammunition, artillery fire using simunition (non-lethal ammunition used in target practice and simulated war games) from a fireworks display. This may not have been a lethal salvo in a diplomatic war. But it may not just have been fireworks. Obama may have been using simunition. Further, it is important to learn the Talmudic practice of analysis based on the principle of, “On the one hand…then on the other hand.” For it is too easy to select one of the hands and presume that is the story. All hands must be analyzed and the purpose of each assessed to reveal a larger picture.

The gap between Netanyahu and Obama is deep enough. The rift between the Democrats and the Republicans in contrast to a time when politicians previously sought bipartisan support for foreign policy initiatives need not be expanded into a wide and much deeper chasm. Were the Republicans merely up to their customary obstreperous shenanigans or had Obama made so many compromises in dealing with Iran that both Israeli and U.S. vital security interests had been compromised?

There was a substantive issue that needed to be explicated. According to the Obama administration, the negotiations managed, thus far, to extract enormous concessions from Iran in the first round, a position, incidentally, echoed in Tehran by Iranian domestic critics who insist that Iran gave up too much. On the other hand, the Republican threat to pass new sanctions legislation has accelerated the tortoise-paced style of the negotiations, enough so that the White House is now leaking reports of major progress — that 80% of the differences have been resolved and a positive outcome can be expected by the March deadline. The new Senate de facto deadline had made Obama’s plan for an interim agreement on principles with a follow-up comprehensive agreement by 30 June a chimera.

That plan already had run up against the declared policies of the Iranian government. Iranian leaders have repeatedly insisted that the next stage must not be an interim deal, but must be a comprehensive one. Both sides have insisted that no agreement is better than a bad agreement. But that insistence is totally beside the point and window dressing since any agreement once made will be presented as a win-win for both sides and, hence, a good agreement. The more important procedural difference is that Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who will have the final say in Iran, has insisted that he would oppose an interim agreement based on “general principles in one step, then get to specifics.” He had informed Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, his chief negotiator, that he would only endorse a comprehensive agreement based on the corollary to the November interim agreement “to build on a current momentum in order to complete these negotiations within the shortest possible time, up to four months, and if necessary to use the remaining time until the end of June to finalize any possible remaining technical and drafting work.” He would not tolerate the Sword of Damocles and the prospect of renewed sanctions hanging over the government of Iran.

Thus, both sides are now working on concluding a substantive agreement before the end of March that may include some items that still need to be resolved before the end of June. Whatever is agreed, if an agreement is reached, will not be presented as an interim agreement, but as a final one with only a few loose ends left to be tied.

However, before I get into what we know about the essential terms of the deal, it is important to understand the terms of the Joint Plan of Action (JPA) and its shortcomings. The JPA set out to provide a negotiating framework to allow Iran and the P5+1 to reach a mutually-agreed long-term comprehensive solution that would ensure Iran’s nuclear program would be exclusively peaceful. Since few countries trusted Iran to abide by its agreements given its previous behavior, the terms would have to meet two almost irreconcilable goals: putting practices in place that would prevent a nuclear breakout using Iran’s supposedly peaceful nuclear program. Secondly, it would have to satisfy the Ayatollahs that such limitations did not compromise Iran’s supposed plans for the peaceful use of its nuclear technology even if one did not buy into Iran’s protestations all along that “under no circumstances would Iran ever seek or develop any nuclear weapons.” Its very enrichment program of U-235 could have no other purpose than use in nuclear weapons.

The initial framework agreement in itself provoked consternation in both Israel and a significant part of the Washington security establishment. First of all, not only was there no statement that the negotiations were intended to place boundaries on Iran’s quest to become a regional power – a quest which the White House had not only acceded to but has since endorsed – but there was nothing in the statement of purpose to address the problem of Iran’s continuing drive to perfect its international missile delivery system. Instead, the purpose of the negotiations as set forth was to arrive at a comprehensive solution that, “would enable Iran to fully enjoy its right to nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.”

The two omissions and this positive formulation of goals in terms of protecting Iran’s rights, not ensuring its obligations, were sufficient to produce apoplexy in critics. However, the proposition ensuring Iran’s rights to a peaceful use of nuclear power was followed by a subsequent sentence that read, “Iran reaffirms that under no circumstances will Iran ever seek or develop any nuclear weapons.” Note the difference. The agreement will ensure that Iran can use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. The JPA does not then say that the agreement is intended to ensure that Iran can never use its nuclear capacity to produce nuclear weapons. Only that Iran affirms that intention. But Iran can affirm that it has changed its mind. The opening paragraph of intentions in the JPA could not have been more alarming for Israel, even without citing Iran’s past practices of deceit and even without the issue of Iran as a regional power and its development of missile technology.

There is clearly a Machiavellian way to read Iran’s assurance that, “under no circumstances will Iran ever seek or develop any nuclear weapons.” For, as stated above, the statement did not say that the agreement was intended to accomplish that goal, but that Iran affirmed that it had no intention to ever seek or develop such weapons. But Iran had always insisted on that, even as it secretly pursued a program that could only be for the production of nuclear weapons. What did Iran’s avowal mean? Was it not just posturing, lying for the sake of what Iran saw as a greater good – the extermination of Israel, a goal embraced by both so-called moderates and extremists in Tehran? Why would Israel not be frightened by such a formulation?

If in past agreements, the Iranian regime had agreed precisely to such a formulation and had broken every agreement heretofore, why repeat the process? The answer was that this time the deal would be comprehensive with respect at least to nuclear issues, and no piece of the puzzle would be agreed to until the whole puzzle was resolved. Plans for either an interim framework agreement or even a comprehensive agreement with loose ends to be subsequently cleaned up already breached that requirement. Both the transparency requirements and the limitations placed on the program would be practical. That was more than a non sequitur; the wording implied that past agreements had been impractical. In retrospect and in one sense, everyone could agree to that since, because of Iran’s non-compliance, the clauses had not achieved their stated purposes. Nevertheless, the wording clearly implied that the problem was not that Iran deliberately flouted the terms to which it had agreed, but that the terms themselves were flawed.

Anyone critical of Iran’s intentions and the integrity of its promises would be bound to be upset before finishing the first paragraph. Further, if one suspected the Obama administration of naiveté even if you were not among the nutty right who believe that Obama is a stooge to advance Islam in the world, the sensitive antennae had to go off. The opening paragraph was clearly designed only to protect the so-called moderates within Iran and not protect the believers in diplomacy and engagement in Washington from their hawkish critics. What about the agreement on a step-by-step implementation program? That seemed to contradict the need for comprehensive agreement and, presumably, implementation, before sanctions were lifted. What if the whole step-by-step process was only being used by Iran to escape as many of the existing sanctions as possible, let alone any new threatened ones, while pursuing its “peaceful” development of a nuclear capacity?

After all, the core problem was dual use. Once the enrichment capacity was in place, gearing up to produce sufficient military grade nuclear material was only a matter of time, not of capacity or skills or knowledge. Whistles were blowing. Sirens were wailing. Alarm bells were clanging. Critics were being wakened to a call to arms. And we have only read the first paragraph. After all, critics argued, when has anyone ever threatened Iran’s capacity to develop a peaceful use of nuclear energy? This was always a fictional posture of the Iranian regime. And the opening paragraph of the JPA bought into that narrative without mentioning explicitly that the intention of the agreement, not Iran’s testimony, was to ensure that a cluster of practices guarantee that Iran was permanently incapable of developing nuclear weapons. But we already know that the goal had been revised from that. It was now simply to ensure that Iran could not achieve breakout within a year.

One last point needs to be reiterated. As one of my Canadian Foreign Affairs friends assured me bluntly, and undiplomatically, I would never make a diplomat for I did not understand that the goal of diplomacy was not clear and distinct thinking, but obfuscation and equivocation. My scholastic nitpicking of the first paragraph of the JPA, I could hear him say, was beside the point. More precisely, the equivocal manner of surrendering to the other side was the point. The preamble was designed to allow one side to win rhetorical brownie points when the meat of an agreement belonged to the actual practices. What is given away in the general introductory portion of an agreement is retrieved in spades in the very specific substantive clauses.

The JPA required Iran to comply in good faith with all its previous commitments as near-term measures to be monitored by a Joint Commission made up of Britain, France and the U.S. as well as Europe + China, Russia and Germany (E3/EU+3). A key is that IAEA was tasked with verification of actions by Iran. In the first six months after the agreement was signed in November 2013, Iran was required to fulfill a number of specific requirements that IAEA would have to be able to verify.

Was IAEA up to the task? Did Iran comply with those terms?

Tomorrow: Verification of the Substantive Clauses of the JPA

The Build-Up to the Washington-Tehran Nuclear Negotiations

  1. The Build-Up to the Washington-Tehran Nuclear Negotiations

Part IV: The Washington-Jerusalem-Buenos Aries-Tehran Quadrangle

by

Howard Adelman

Where has Howard been going with this series? The trajectory has been simple if somewhat roundabout. I began with the brouhaha over Netanyahu’s planned visit to Washington to address a joint sitting of both houses of Congress, a visit that was against the explicit preferences of the Obama administration. My thesis was simple. I argued that Netanyahu openly risked a further breach with Obama because he deeply believed that the Washington-Tehran negotiations were more than just misguided, but were leading the West into a terrible cul-de-sac.

I wanted to convince my fellow liberals that this was not a deep division between Israel and America, but that the response to the planned visit was a manifestation of the deep divisions between Israel and the Obama administration over the Iran talks. Netanyahu was not coming to Washington either to poke Obama in the eye OR to advance his election prospects in the coming Israeli elections. This cynical interpretation of Netanyahu’s motives mischaracterized the serious issues at stake. Further, the risks of going to Washington against the wishes of the U.S. President were more likely to jeopardize his election chances than enhance them.

To give some foundation to an alternative Republican and Israeli right-wing view of Iran, I took a side journey via the fracas in Buenos Aries over the investigations into the 1994 blowing-up of the Jewish cultural centre by Iranian agents and the charges that the present Argentinian administration was undercutting that investigation via a side deal with Iran. Those charges came to a head on Friday when the federal prosecutor in Argentina, Gerardo Pollicita, formally requested that charges be brought against Argentina’s current President, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, for obstructing an investigation into the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish centre in Buenos Aires. This is unprecedented. Though I hope the backgrounder on Argentinian fascism and anti-Semitism helped provide some depth of understanding to the issue, my main angle was to document the Buenos Aries-Tehran connection and focus on the treachery of even the so-called moderates in the Iranian government. I did not discuss my suspicions that either the Argentinian intelligence service or, more likely, Iranian agents, were responsible for the death of thee prosecutor, Albero Nisman.

Iran will certainly manipulate and negotiate, but this regime, except, ironically, when the extremists have been in power, has always been able to hide behind lies. Yet the Prophet taught: “Be honest because honesty leads to goodness, and goodness leads to Paradise. Beware of falsehood because it leads to immorality, and immorality leads to Hell.” Surah 40:28 of the Quran reads, “Truly Allah guides not one who transgresses and lies.” However, for the conciliation among and between people and peoples, lying is preferable to telling the truth, especially when it is in service of the good. The Prophet says: “He is not a false person who (through he lies) settles conciliation among people, supports good or says what is good.” Lying is NOT even the exception in Islamic, let alone Iranian, foreign policy, but a norm. The great statesman, Anwar Sadat, was a master of deceit in service of the good, and good did finally emerge from the 1973 Yom Kippur War when Egypt finally agreed to a peace with Israel. But if the Other is the embodiment of evil, lying is not only permitted but encouraged, for The Good requires extermination of a disease. And it is the end point, the telos, that determines the worthiness of a lie.

In contrast to Islam which incorporates lying into diplomacy, Machiavellianism is an outlier to Christian teaching. However, it is a central element in Western foreign policy. Even Machiavelli, who was no Machiavellian but a humanist, believed that, although religion served a useful purpose in providing social order, the rules of morality were disposable when security was at stake. If the moral universe taught by Christianity was allowed to trump all other principles, then Christians would become passive and impotent allowing evil men to rule the world. In Islam, by contrast, lying becomes a virtue not a necessary prerequisite for survival as much as it may harm your chances for entry into heaven. Allah may prohibit lying, but his Prophet taught that there were exceptions. When the powerful Jewish tribal leader, Kaab Ibn al-Ashrf of the tribe of Banu al-Nudair was aligning with his enemy, Mohammed had a spy infiltrate his entourage, win his trust and assassinate him. A practice integral to the foreign policy of all countries is religiously sanctioned in Islamic ones. In that sense, Islam is less hypocritical than Christianity. Allah may not sanction lying, but if the intention is lofty, it is the intention in your heart that counts.

In Judaism, when the shofar is blown on Rosh Hashanah and at the end of the Day of Atonement (or when Joshua fought the battle of Jericho to make the walls come tumbling down), one of the four sounds made is tekiah. It is a plain deep bass sound with an abrupt ending, often interpreted to be the base line of the Jewish character – blunt and to the point. It is the sound that also stands for forgiveness for your debts. The almost identical Arabic word, Al-Takeyya, in Islam refers to the right to be deceptive in signing any accord when the intention is to serve the higher interests of Allah. Al-Takeyya means to prevent or guard against. The principle of Al-Takeyya conveys the understanding that Muslims are permitted to lie as a preventive measure against anticipated harm to one’s self or fellow Muslims.

In the above sense, it is at the very least understandable that Netanyahu and the Republicans fear a treacherous Iran, and that belief might have a deep rational foundation. It is also why Obama can be excused for being so Machiavellian – though he is not very good at it – in trying to cut a deal that will avoid having to go to the Senate for approval as long as possible. (See Michael Doran’s Republican-oriented but astute and excellent analysis of the U.S.-Iran negotiations – http://dev.mosaicmagazine.com/author/michael-doran/; Doran is a senior fellow of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution, a former deputy assistant secretary of defense and a former senior director of the National Security Council. For his more general critique of Obama’s Middle East policies, see: http://mosaicmagazine.com/observation/2014/07/the-new-middle-east-war/)

All this must be seen in my own continuing analysis of the nuclear negotiations between the P5+1 and Iran in which I both tried to dispense with some of the misrepresentation of the negotiations by its critics while retaining a supportive but skeptical appreciation of the process itself. My last blog was published on my wordpress website, howardadelman.com, on 21 November 2014 entitled, “Iran: Three Days Before the Nuclear Negotiations Deadline.” That was my latest attempt to keep readers informed in an attempt to provide a balanced interpretation of those negotiations. After summarizing the build-up to the current negotiations, the agreements thus far, the current status, the divisions facing both sides, the significance of the negotiations and agreements reached, and current prospects, I will return to Netanyahu’s coming visit and the deep split within Washington over the negotiations.

There is absolutely no debate over the importance of these negotiations for the Obama administration. The discussions are, by far, the most important foreign policy initiative of his second term. Ben Rhodes, Obama’s deputy national-security adviser for strategic communication, said that the nuclear negotiations with Iran are “probably the biggest thing President Obama will do in his second term on foreign policy.” Though the process began much earlier, the negotiations are underway at a time when Obama has been in his weakest position in relationship to Congress where the Republicans now hold a majority in both houses. On the other hand, Obama has nothing to lose. He does not face re-election. But his weak position vis-à-vis Congress also restricts what can emerge out of the negotiations.

For both Tehran and Washington recognize that the Obama administration cannot deliver on the possibility of permanently lifting sanctions, but will only be able to offer a series of six month waivers. This has a double effect – it weakens what the administration can extract from Tehran at the same time as it frees Washington up in making an agreement without Senate approval. The Arab Spring, the military withdrawal from Iraq and, ironically, in the wake of the latter, the explosive rise of Islamic State that has led to a covert cooperation between Washington and Tehran to confront this menace, have all facilitated holding negotiations and the progress thus far, without even taking into consideration the economic pressures the sanctions have posed for Iran, especially difficult in a time of rapid and extreme declines in oil prices.

Two other regional changes have also been helpful. John Kerry’s tremendous efforts to push forth an Israeli-Palestinian deal tanked, and tanked badly. Since the administration blamed Netanyahu’s stubbornness more than the immobility from the side of the Palestinian Authority, the Obama administration felt far freer in its opening to Iran. Second, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia consistently and persistently urged the United States to attack Iran to destroy its nuclear program. Abdullah felt so frustrated with Washington that he opened his own diplomatic track to Tehran and last March issued an unprecedented invitation to Foreign Minister of Iran, Mohammad Javad Zarif, to visit Saudi Arabia. These two major rivals in the Middle East, these two leading heirs of the Sunni and Shi’a branches of Islam respectively, these two countries so deeply buried in a cold war, these two who are in such opposite corners vis-à-vis Assad’s regime in Syria, suddenly took a totally unexpected approach to the rivalry with Iran, not because Saudi Arabia had suddenly fallen in love with Iran, but because it had lost all trust in the ability of America to back it in its conflict with its main rival.

Further, Saudi Arabia was staring at an Iran that, with its proxies, Hezbollah in Lebanon, Assad holding on in Syria, the Shiites now dominant in Iraq, and Bahrain and Yemen also under Iranian influence, Saudi Arabia’s oil fields were surrounded. King Abdullah is now dead. Defence Minister Prince Salman, who was named as Abdullah’s successor back in June of 2012 after the death of Salman’s two older brothers, was also named Deputy Prime Minister while continuing to hold the defence portfolio. Previously, he had been the orchestrator of the new policy. He is now king.

The Obama administration chose to revive diplomacy rather than war. This fits in with its efforts to wind down military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Obama administration also embraced diplomacy because, as it analyzed the situation, sanctions may have had a devastating effect on Iran, but these were considered insufficient to bring Iran to its knees. All they could do was bring Iran to the negotiating table. As well, the sanctions were interpreted as having a perverse effect, reinforcing Iranian resistance while, at the same time, undercutting the so-called moderates now in positions of power.

Let’s review the essential elements and backstory in Obama’s negotiating strategy with Iran.

  1. The strategy is not just about containing Iran’s nuclear ambitions; it envisions reinstating Iran, the sponsor of terrorist regimes like Hezbollah and Hamas, the backbone of the repressive Assad regime, and the Shi’ite spoiler in Iraq – not to speak of Bahrain and Yemen – back into the international system of nation-states as a full participating member instead of enhancing its international isolation.
  2. Obama not only aims to accept Iran back into the community of nation-states as a full member, but he would recognize it as a regional power: “They have a path to break through that isolation and they should seize it,” because “if they do, there’s incredible talent and resources and sophistication…inside of Iran, and it would be a very successful regional power.”
  3. The policy was intended as a resurrection of the “grand bargain” that Iran purportedly offered the U.S. at the beginning of the 21st century but which George W. Bush had dismissed out of hand.
  4. This was even part of a much larger strategic vision that intended to bury Henry Kissinger’s policies of a global balance of power and replace it with a positive sum game with very decentralized loci of power – incidentally, precisely the phrase repeated in the Ayatollah’s guideline for the negotiations. In Obama’s address to the United Nations General Assembly in September 2009, he said, “our destiny is shared, power is no longer a zero-sum game. No one nation can or should try to dominate another nation…No balance of power among nations will hold.”
  5. The policy had excellent bi-partisan credentials since it was the fourth plank of the 2006 strategic plan of the Iraq Study Group’s chaired by Howard Baker and Congressman Lee Hamilton in which withdrawal from Iraq, reinforcing the troops in Afghanistan, and reinvigorating the Israeli-Palestinian peace process were the first three planks.
  6. In this new world of multi-centred strategic blocs, Iran would become a significant player in eradicating the real danger of radical Islamicists.
  7. In inflating the Islamicists, the repressive policies of the Ayatollahs in Iran against the Bahá’is and the dissidents of the June 2009 Green Movement could be ignored even as Obama acknowledged and offered verbal recognition to their insistence on rights.
  8. Just when Obama was offering his invitation and open hand instead of a clenched fist, Tehran began to operationalize its secret underground uranium enrichment facility at Fordow, the Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant (FFEP) near Qom, after it was revealed to the IAEA by Iran on 21 September 2009, but that information was only released after it was discovered and documented by Western intelligence services, based, in part, on information from Israel’s Mossad, which had installed a listening device in the Fordow plant, a device discovered after the September 2012 explosion in the plant; Iran’s failure to inform IAEA was in blatant violations of its obligations under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) and its 2003 agreement with IAEA;
  9. In 2009, Iran told the IAEA that the 16 cascades of 3,000 centrifuges were to be run to enrich U-235 up to 5%; instead, they were operating to enrich U-235 to 20% bomb-grade nuclear fuel. Further, though required to give 180 day advance warning to IAEA in September 2011 of implementing the upgrading, they starting the upgrading in three months in December of 2011.
  10. As a result of the 2009 betrayal, Obama introduced the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act (CISADA) as the foundation for an escalating program of sanctions against Iran to pressure Iran to enter into negotiations.
  11. In July 2009, Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal reiterated its belief to Hilary Clinton, then Secretary of State, that negotiations with Iran will not lead to a dismantling of its military nuclear program and that the only way to deal with Iran was “to cut off the head of the snake,” a position later repeated directly to Obama by King Abdullah.
  12. In March 2010, in a culmination of disputes between Israel and Washington, bad blood between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel clotted over discussions on Israeli settlements when Obama abandoned a private meeting with Netanyahu and left him stewing while Obama joined his family for dinner.
  13. In 2011, Ehud Barak, Israel’s Defense Minister, informed the U.S. as well as the world that Iran was approaching a “zone of immunity” making its nuclear program impervious to Israeli military attack and time was short before Israel would have to strike.
  14. In 2012, Obama, feeling betrayed again by Iran, not only Iran’s nuclear program, but over its support for the Assad regime in Turkey, blew up and threatened appropriate aggressive retaliation, echoed both by France and Israel.
  15. The U.S. reassured Israel that it was committed to preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons capability and, at the same time, increased its military and intelligence cooperation with Israel.
  16. At the same time, Obama reached out to Tehran by refusing to arm the rebels in Syria seeking to bring down Iran’s satrap, Assad; this, in turn, lead to secret bilateral meetings between Jake Sullivan, Hilary Clinton’s director of policy planning, and Iranian foreign affairs and defence officials in the Ahmadinejad regime.
  17. November 2012, Obama is reelected.
  18. In 2013, many Track II and backchannel meetings with Iran were held.
  19. In April 2013 in the meeting of the P5+1 with Iran in Almaty, Kazakhstan, the basis of the deal to enter negotiations was put in place: sanctions relief in return for Iran degrading its 20% enriched nuclear bomb grade U-235 to 5%, while allowing more uranium to be enriched to 5%, instead of, as UNSC sanctions required, ceasing all processing and enrichment of U-235.
  20. Critics lambasted Obama for not insisting on a cessation of all enrichment processes.
  21. Washington was convinced that its carrot and economic stick approach helped facilitate the election in Iran of “moderates” led by Hassan Rouhani in Iran in June 2013.
  22. When Khamenei offered Obama his hand and a promise to negotiate, though opposed by both Israel and Saudi Arabia, Obama withdrew the military threat and acquiesced in more moderate sanctions; Obama accepted Tehran’s offer to degrade or, alternatively, transfer the 20% enriched uranium to Russia. Israel regarded itself as betrayed by the policy turn to engagement without Iran agreeing in advance to dismantle its nuclear capabilities as allegedly promised to Israel.
  23. As Israel held off from bombing Fordow and other nuclear production sites in Iran, the U.S. reassured Israel that sanctions would not be lifted until Iran’s nuclear capability was dismantled.
  24. CISADA proves even more effective than anyone had thought and Iran was quickly in dire economic difficulty.
  25. In November of 2013, the five permanent members of the Security Council, P5 +1 (Germany), agreed on a Joint Plan of Action in dealing with Iran.
  26. Senate hawks, mostly Republican and Democratic, and Obama Democratic doves, had very different goals in the ensuing negotiation; the first wanted to use Iran’s weakened position to force Iran’s hands into the fire to accept the need to dismantle its facilities, while the Democratic doves were willing simply to accept a lower degree of enrichment, leaving Iran with its core production facilities intact, in an effort to keep Iran’s breakout time at over a year instead of the three months that many believe Iran had achieved.

Tomorrow: The Joint Plan of Action: Terms and Results

he Iranian Involvement in Blowing Up the Jewish Centre in Buenos Aries

The Iranian Involvement in Blowing Up the Jewish Centre in Buenos Aries

Part III: The Washington-Jerusalem-Buenos Aries-Tehran Quadrangle

by

Howard Adelman

This week, Iran marked the anniversary of its 11 February 1979 Islamic Revolution that ousted the U.S.-backed Shah Reza Pahlavi. Massive rallies, especially in Tehran, were held. As usual, and in spite of the ongoing nuclear negotiations with the U.S. and secret cooperation in the fight against Islamic State, the rallies were accompanied by anti-American displays as well as the customary anti-Israel chants and banners. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, addressing the crowds, promised to “spare no effort” to protect the Islamic Republic’s rights as it negotiates. “The sanctions have not forced Iran to enter the talks, but the impracticality of the all-out pressures on Iran and the significant advancements in Iran’s peaceful nuclear program made the United States come to the negotiation table.” That is the way the narrative runs in the topsy-turvy Alice in Wonderland world of Iran.

The 1979 change was more of a coup than a revolution with a group of religious fascists succeeding a more secular clique of secular fascists, though, in contrast to his father, Reza Shah Pahlavi, Shah Pahlavi, the son, was Western-oriented and not a Germanophile. Reza Shah Pahlavi seized power in 1925 in what was then called Persia. When Adolph Hitler seized power in 1933 in Germany, the Shah was obsessed with Hitler’s concept of racial purity and an Aryan master race. In 1935, Pahlavi changed the name of the country to Iran, in Farsi, Land of Aryans, to emphasize the connection between Nazi Germany and the Indo-Persian lineage. When war began in 1939, the mufti of Jerusalem served as middle man to trade Iranian oil while organizing active Islamic participation in the murder of Jews in the Mideast and Eastern Europe, mostly Croatia. Hitler, in turn, supported a Pan-Arab state and Arab rule over Palestine.

If Buenos Aries was a centre of Nazi activities in the Americas during WWII, Tehran served the same role in the Middle East as it teemed with Gestapo agents planning the 1941 pro-Nazi coup in Baghdad as the German ambassador to Iraq, Dr. Fritz Gobba, supported both anti-British and anti-Semitic Iraqi movements and organizations. On 31 March 1940, the pro-Nazi, Rashid Ali al-Gaylani from the party of National Brotherhood, became Prime Minister of Iraq. In July, with a letter of introduction from the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Muhammad Amin al-Husayni, then living in Tehran, Gaylani sent his justice minister to meet with Franz von Papen in Greece and win support from Nazi Germany. However, the regent, Emir Abdul Ilah, who stood in for Ghazi’s four-year-old son, King Faisal II since Ghazi’s accidental death in 1939, removed him from office at the end of January 1941. Two months later, one year after he had assumed his role of PM, on 1 April 1941, Gaylani overthrew the regent.

Gaylani instigated a siege of the British Habbaniya airbase. The siege was fought off by British Air Vice-Marshal H.G. Smart and the Iraqi revolt was put down with British reinforcements from India, the 20th Indian Infantry Brigade, and troops under the leadership of Brigadier J.J. Kingstone with a mixture of regular troops, Jordanian forces led by Lieutenant-General Sir John Bagot Glubb, better known as Glubb Pasha, and a Jewish volunteer corps from Palestine after this odd military aggregation raced across 600 m of desert to reach Iran. When the latter reinforcements arrived on 30 May, Gaylani fled to Tehran. There, he was hosted by the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem.

On Friday 30 May, an imam, Jani al-Gaylani, roused the worshippers with a firebrand anti-British and anti-Semitic sermon. By Saturday, the mobs that had formed saw they could make no headway against the armed forces of the British. Red hands were painted on Jewish homes and shops. On Sunday 1 June 1941, a Nazi-inspired pogrom in Baghdad, The Farhud, targeted the city’s Jewish minority with the mob screaming, “Cutal al yehud,” “slaughter the Jews.” Why the British ambassador, Kinahan Cornwallis, ordered the British troops to stand down, contrary to an explicit order from Winston Churchill to secure the city, has never been adequately explained. In the ensuing two days of rioting, 180 Jews were killed and many hundreds wounded. The death toll would have been much higher if Muslim friends and neighbours had not stepped forward to either protect or hide Jews. 900 Jewish homes were burned to the ground and many Jewish-owned shops were looted and trashed. Finally, later in the day, on 2 June, Baghdad police backed by British troops dispersed the rioters, killing about 400 in the process.

The anti-Semitism that Hitler had successfully helped export to Iraq persisted however. It made life unbearable for the Jewish community after WWII. There were frequent arrests on false charges of spying and public hangings of prominent Jews – that of Shafiq Ades, a prominent Jewish businessman in Basra being the most notable. Though the coup had failed, the anti-Semitism had continued and expanded underground. By 1950, almost all of the 150,000 Jews of Iraq, a 2500-year-old community, left, mostly for Israel after having been forced to abandon all their property. They constituted the militant base of the Likud party in Israel.

After the failed Iraq coup, the mufti of Jerusalem in his venomous anti-Semitism broadcasts from Tehran openly advocated cutting off all oil supplies from Iran to Britain. In October 1941, British, Russian and other Allied forces invaded Iran, deposed the pro-Nazi Shah and replaced him with his Western-oriented son, Mohammad Reza. The mufti skipped off to Berlin from where he continued to rant against Jews and advocate a pan-Arab and pan-Islamic alliance with the Nazi regime and a Middle East purified of Jews. In the bazaars of Tehran’s markets, merchants could no longer celebrate Adolph Hitler, but Iranian volunteers continued to be recruited to serve in the Waffen SS divisions in Bosnia and Croatia.

For thirty-eight years, during the second Pahlavi monarchy, Iranian Jews enjoyed a virtual golden age in Iran. Not only did they enjoy an unprecedented level of cultural and religious autonomy but they prospered economically as well. But when the worship of Cyrus the Great was traded in for Mohammed and puritanical adherence to Islamic values and dogmas, there was no need for Jews to be affected by this anymore than Christian reversion to fundamentalism need target Jews. Theoretically, the turn could go either way.

Not in Iran. Jews had benefitted greatly under the Shah and had been protected by him. Further, they had been leading voices in the embrace of modernism to which Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini was much more opposed than to Jews per se. Jews were also leading figures in the culture of America in the eighties. In conspiratorial world views, some force had to be behind what Khomeini regarded as the diabolical turn in the world. The explanation was to be found in the confluence of a fundamental metaphysical construction of the world rooted in Persian Zoroastrianism going well back before Cyrus the Great where the world was governed by two opposed forces, Spenta Mainyu (progressive mentality) and Angra Mainyu (destructive mentality) under one God (Ahura Mazda, Illuminating Wisdom). Filtered through selective Shia Islamic beliefs and the Nazi heritage of anti-Semitism, Zionism was stamped as the Angra Mainyu, the evil force that had seeped into human minds. Within this Manichean world view, credit for the focus on Zionism and anti-Semitism can not only go to the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, but also the success of Zionism in the Middle East so that even Egypt embraced Israel in a peace agreement in 1979. Zionism became the Leviathan behind all the “horrific” changes in the world.

This is how Khomeini opens his book Al-Hukumah Al-Islamiyyah (Islamic Governance) that he wrote while he was still in exile in Paris. “Since its inception, the Islamic movement has been afflicted with the Jews ‘who’ established anti-Islamic propaganda and joined in various stratagems, and as you can see, this activity continues down to our present day.” The Jews of the Banú Qurayza were exterminated by the Prophet Muhammad because they corrupted Islam. Unlike the anti-Semitism of Nazism, the Jews were not genetically evil. If kept in their place, as the 25,000 Jews who remained in Iran were, they were not a problem. As long as the Jews and the Chief Rabbi of Iran, then Yedidia Shofet, recognized this, as long as Zionism did not contaminate the Iranian Jewish community, Jews could be tolerated. But if Islam allows itself to be infected and weakened by the Jewish Zionist virus, Iran and Islam will be destroyed.

How do you keep from being infected? By Shia purity, by avoiding contact with the impurity of unbelievers, by making sure that both your body and your mind are not contaminated. Don’t buy food from infidels. Don’t read books by unbelievers. Don’t allow Jews to rise above their inherent inferior status. In other words, do not allow the prime source of impurity, chizhaye napak, infect your souls, the virulent infection exemplified by the Bahá’i who were ruthlessly persecuted in Iran almost immediately upon Khomeini’s return. Even more despicable were the Christians, though, for Khomeini, almost nothing could be worse than the disease of Zionism and infected Muslims like the Bahá’i.

Within ten years, by 1989, anti-Semitism in this form of anti-Zionism had become commonplace. “For their transgression, cursed were the unbelievers of the Children of Israel.” And the military and intelligence services were ordered to develop a combat strategy both to prevent the infection from spreading and to destroy the disease to make sure not only that Iran remain immune from the infection, but to protect all other Muslims. For Khomeini was a modern globalist. Khaybar was the Jewish oasis besieged and conquered by the Prophet. Khaybar became the archetype of victory over the Iraqi Sunnis in the Iran-Iraq war and, subsequently, the basis for combating worldwide Zionism in all its forms as evidenced by The Protocols of the Elders of Zion widely available in Iran.

Clearly, the struggle with Israel was not just a struggle between two emerging nationalities, one Jewish and one Palestinian. Nor was it a dispute over territory and settlements in the West Bank. It was a Manichean dispute between Good (Shi’ite Islam as interpreted by Ayatollah Khomeini) and Jews and Zionism. The very survival of Islam was at stake. The struggle against Zionism was an existential struggle.

It is in that context that the work on nuclear plants and the bombing of both the Israeli embassy and the Jewish community centre must be understood within the first fifteen years of the 1979 revolution. What do we believe we know about Iran’s involvement in the bombing of the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aries in 1992 and the Jewish community centre in Buenos Aries in 1994?

  • Iranian intelligence planned both operations
  • The Iranian Supreme Council for National Security approved both plans
  • The plans of both operations followed the same trajectory
  • The plans were developed by Iran’s VEVAK, known as Vijeh, intelligence agency
  • The plans for the 1994 bombing were approved in August 1993 by the Iranian Supreme National Security Council with the Iranian spiritual leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in the chair
  • Others in attendance included President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani (1989-1997), Ali Fallahian, Minister of Intelligence, Muhamed Hijazi, intelligence and security adviser to Khamenei, and Ali Akbar Velayati, Foreign Minister.

Rafsanjani was the de facto commander-in-chief of the Iranian military during the Iraq-Iran War and thought to be the richest person in Iran. He has a reputation as a pragmatic centrist and is often portrayed as a softie, but since he was in charge of the assassination in Europe of the regime’s opponents as well as domestic dissidents and Bahá’is, since he refused to lift Khomeini’s fatwa against Salman Rushdie, this is a very questionable presumption. More to the point, for our purposes, Rafsanjani strongly supported Iran’s nuclear program while insisting it was only for peaceful purposes, which, in part, helped him earn a reputation within Iran as the only Iranian with both the guile and clout to negotiate a deal with the West acceptable to Iran. Rafsanjani was very careful with his words and is often quoted about Jews as saying, “We have no problems with Jews and highly respect Judaism as a holy religion,” but that was fully consistent with Khomeini’s version of anti-Semitism.

The other members of the Iranian clique that decided to bomb the Israeli embassy and the Jewish cultural centre in Buenos Aries were of the same ilk. Ali Fallahian presented himself as an economic reform candidate, advocated ending the uranium enrichment program and was in favour of outreach to the West – the latter prospect having a particular inducement for him since he was wanted by Interpol for the AMIA bombing, by the German justice system for the murder of four Kurdish-Iranian opposition leaders, including Sadegh Sharafkandi, in the Mykonos restaurant assassinations, and by the Swiss courts which -indicted him for sending his agents to Geneva to assassinate Kazem Rajavi. Within Iran, he was the organizer of the 1998 “Chain Murders” allegedly by Saeed Emami, a deputy minister of intelligence. Saeed, widely rumoured to be Jewish, which might partly explain his role as an early Iranian Holocaust denier. He was indicted as a co-conspirator in the AMIA bombings. Arrested for the 1998 Chain Massacres; in prison, Emami purportedly tried to commit suicide on 16 June 1999 and died three days later. I believe, like many others assassinated by the Iranian intelligence service, he himself was murdered because he knew too much.

Hasin Baro, a member of Hezbollah, implemented the bombing of AMIA. Much of the information comes from Mossad, Abolghasem Mesbahi, a former VEVAK agent, from Interpol, from the investigations and charges of German and Swiss departments of justice, and mostly from the Argentinian investigations. Recently, the pattern was repeated in Uruguay where 32-year-old Iranian diplomat Ahmed Sabatgold left Uruguay because the Uruguayan intelligence services had evidence that he was involved in plans to blow up a building housing Israel’s new embassy in Montevideo. These boys were more akin to Mafia mobsters than religious clerics.

Why was AMIA targeted? For two reasons. First, in revenge for Argentina reneging on the Iran-Argentina dealings over Argentinian nuclear expertise and supplies. Secondly, because, for both the Argentinian and Iranian intelligence services, Jews were expendable.

Enough is known about Argentinian-Iranian nuclear negotiations to offer a reasonable portrait of motivation. Argentina did not have nuclear weapons. But it had a covert nuclear weapons program as well as an overt peaceful one. Argentina had refused to accede to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and did not sign the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America (the Tlatelolco Treaty). From 1983 until the early 1990s, Argentina also had missile development underway, the Cóndor II program.

However, all of this became moot when Argentina and Brazil negotiated a comprehensive safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and on 24 March 1993, ratified the Treaty of Tlatelolco. What to do with all the expertise, equipment and end enriched uranium? The nuclear program, which had been supposedly mothballed with the return of democracy on 10 December 1983, was not the only one that was being scrapped. Under U.S. pressure, President Menem had also cancelled the Cóndor 2 missile program.

The Military Intelligence of the Islamic Republic of Iran, VEVAK, which, because of the shared roots of both the Iranian and Argentinian intelligence programs in anti-Semitism, came shopping. Just as Juan Perón had run a two-track program, favouring and protecting Nazis while, at the same time granting Jews full rights as citizens, the two track program now became vertical rather than horizontal, with a subterranean negotiations over nuclear and missile technology and an overt renunciation of nuclear weapons. While President Raúl Alfonsin put the missile and nuclear weapons programs on a shelf, it also became a commodity to trade with Iran for oil and cash, the cash intended to line the pockets of the negotiators, including Carlos Saúl Menem who had been elected President in 1989. The once covert nuclear program and the recently cancelled missile program had become a covert trading package even though Menem had appointed many Jews to his cabinet and released the files about Argentina’s coddling of Nazis under Juan Perón. Nevertheless, if there was a personal profit to be made, nuclear and missile knowledge and materials were offered up to the Khomeini regime. Only the mechanisms for transfers remained to be worked out.

But Menem undercut his own intelligence negotiations with Iran and cancelled the deal. Why is uncertain. Fear of U.S. retaliation, the threat to make the bribes he received public? I do not know. What we do know is that Iran was furious at Argentina for cancelling the covert oil and cash deal for knowledge and materials. It is not known if this rage was also motivated because Menem had already benefited with the deposit of his bribes in Menem’s bank account in Switzerland. Whether or not suggested to Iran as expendable targets by Argentinian intelligence agents, the plot first to bomb the Israeli embassy followed with a bombing of the Jewish community centre was hatched. To what degree the Argentinian intelligence service or some of its agents were involved, is not known, at least not by me. What is known is that Iran was surprised at the reaction to the AMIA bombing since Iranian intelligence knew that the vast majority of Argentinians held the belief that Jews were only interested in money and half of Argentinians believed Jews used the Holocaust to promote their own advantage.

3,000 of the 15,000 to 30,000 disappeared had been Jews even though Jews only made up one per cent of the Argentinian population. Soon more Jews as well as non-Jews would be sacrificed on the twin pillars of aborted international diplomacy and anti-Semitism, both compounded by corruption. Nisman’s later revelations of Iranian-Argentinian arrangements to cancel the inquiry onto the bombings in return for oil seemed to be of the same ilk.

Sunday: The Washington Corn

IRAN: Three Days Before the Nuclear Negotiations Deadline

IRAN: Three Days Before the Nuclear Negotiations Deadline

by

Howard Adelman

This blog is intended to clarify what to look for if a deal is signed on Monday and if no deal is in place, explain where the remaining gaps are and what the continuing discussions will be about.

The Israeli Intelligence Service (Mossad – HaMossad leModiʿin uleTafkidim Meyuḥadim) yesterday indicated that there will be no deal signed by the 24 November deadline, though Mossad also let it be known that a deal is much closer to a conclusion than it was in July, the original deadline. Britain has been promoting an extension rumoured to be until March. France has been promoting a harder line in the talks. Obama via John Kerry is in Vienna for the last minute negotiations letting it be known that there is a 50% chance of the talks being concluded. Neither the US nor Iran are willing to consider an extension at this time, though there remain significant gaps between Iran and the P5+1 (UN Permanent Members of the Security Council + Germany). Marzieh Afkham, the Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman, went out of his way two days ago to scotch all rumours that Iran is considering an extension to the talks. But whether a comprehensive (unlikely) or a framework agreement is concluded, there will, of necessity, be continuing talks which will be both substantive and about implementation.

What is the problem? There is no one problem. There are many. Some of them impact on other countries than Iran. For example, if Iran signed a deal on Monday, Russia’s and Saudi Arabia’s share of oil exports would be threatened as Iran sought, according to Iranian Oil Minister, Bijan Zanganeh, to double its exports as soon as the sanctions regime is lifted. Russia as part of the P5 has no incentive to quickly conclude a deal.
The interim agreement signed by all parties provided for the release of Iran’s locked up funds. This week alone, India announced the release of US$400 million of frozen oil money largely by Mangalore Refinery and Petrochemicals Ltd. and Essar Oil. A few other sanctions provisions were lifted. On the one hand, this eased the pressure on Iran. On the other hand, until the controls on oil exports and on financial dealings with Iran’s Central Bank are lifted, Iran remains under considerable pressure.

One central debate was whether the agreement would or would not include the military plans for delivering nuclear weapons, that is, the nuclear weapon delivery systems that are integral of the nuclear enrichment program. Thus, the first and foremost issue in the deal with Iran is over what can be negotiated. Iran interpreted the agreement as applying only to its nuclear enrichment program and Iran’s capabilities for making a nuclear weapon, but none of its other military initiatives. So leading spokesmen in the Iranian government have accused the US of wanting everything under a nuclear deal. For example, General Mohammad Ali Jafari, Head of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, has said all along that negotiations are about the nuclear program and nothing else, at the same time as he defended a nuclear deal with the P5+1 as long as it is consistent with Iranian values.

Iran has insisted that its nuclear program is intended for peaceful purposes in order to reduce Iran’s dependence on oil. Iranian conservatives have argued that the USA is not simply interested in a nuclear deal but has two other major goals – first, hegemony in the region for which the US wants intelligence on the Iranian military, and, second, an overthrow of the Iranian values in place since the Revolution, using a human rights agenda to accomplish that end. Iran’s objectives, on the other hand, are far more modest and, as they argue, consistent – the removal of the sanctions. They presumably mean “all” the sanctions, though Iran has not indicated whether the removal can be staged over time or exactly how they are to be removed. Ali Shakhani, Supreme National Security Council Secretary, insisted that the negotiations have no point unless they are about total removal of the sanctions, a point reiterated by Ibrahim Aghamohammadi, a member of the parliamentary National Security and Foreign Policy Committee.

However, none of the close observers of the negotiations expect a deal that will provide for immediate removal of all the sanctions, if only because the sanctions endorsed by the US Congress in 2011 embraced many additional issues on top of the nuclear program – abuse of human rights being a major one. However, the sanctions on Iranian oil exports and on financial transactions with the Central Bank have had a crippling effect on the Iranian economy. One possibility is to separate the UN sanctions regime from the much larger American sanctions regime, and then further separate sanctions against the Central Bank from the sanctions on oil exports. But this is a possibility that Iran has been unequivocal in declaring as unacceptable. Removal of all sanctions or no deal. However, is a deal possible if it removes all sanctions over time and dependent on performance? Iranian spokesmen insist not, and very certainly not if the conditions include anything else in addition to the nuclear enrichment program.

Behind all the grandstanding and effectively using the media to negotiate outside the meeting room in Vienna, Iran has a credibility problem. Though it has followed through on the vast majority of agreements included in the interim Iran/P5+1 Plan of Action, Iran still falls short in specific areas. This allows critics of the negotiations to insist that Iran is cheating. For example, for the first time Iran recently began feeding uranium hexafluoride gas (UF6) into the IR5 centrifuge at the Pilot Fuel Enrichment Plant at Natanz leading the P5+1 to charge Iran with violating its commitment to freeze its centrifuge activities at Natanz. When the US raised the issue with Iran. Iran responded by pledging to halt feeding the centrifuge while, at the same time, denying that feeding the centrifuge was a violation of the interim agreement. Whether or not total cessation of feeding the centrifuge may or may not have taken place deliberately, the effort was a clandestine one. Why did Iran not report on its resumption to the IAEA? Further, whether or not the freeze included the Natanz centrifuges, the resumption of this activity seemed to be in clear violation of the principle of a freeze on uranium enrichment.

Another possible source of difference between the two sides may be over the nature of a verifiable procurement channel so that Iran could continue its nuclear role but not its nuclear weapons ambitions. I had thought this problem had been resolved through the use of Russia. I think this is true with respect to nuclear materials. But there remain serious obstacles concerning equipment. For the agreement to work, Iran must be allowed to import items relevant to its peaceful use of nuclear energy, but not goods or equipment related to a nuclear weapons program. Since it is very difficult to monitor such a corridor, particularly since so much of the monitored material will be dual-use, one of the most difficult objectives in the agreement will be to create a monitoring architecture that can do the best possible job to prevent arousing the suspicions of the P5+1 or, on the other end, making the Iranians resentful that the monitoring system is interfering with Iran’s sovereign rights. One option may be to arrive at a second agreement three days hence and require the monitoring architecture – including control, licensing, approval, intelligence, inspection, detection, verification, investigation, disruption and penalty mechanisms – to be thrashed out by a subsequent deadline. Alternatively, the agreement could be signed with a ban on importing dual- use materials until a period of further confidence-building had passed, a more likely scenario, for without the monitoring architecture, the agreement is worthless.

The above is particularly important since Iran has all along been determined to isolate its military technological developments from its nuclear enrichment program and President Hassan Rouhani has openly boasted about Iran’s intentions and record in breaching sanctions in this area. Given this record and that pledge, how does the international community prevent an increasingly illicit, secret and sophisticated sanctions-busting regime from impacting on Iranian trade in illegal dual-use imports for the nuclear industry, not so much for the uranium imports, which will be in excess supply for many years to come in Iran, but other raw materials, replacement equipment and spare parts for illegal dual-use imports for the nuclear weapons industry – such as vacuum pumps, pressure traducers, lasers and frequency converters?

This clearly implies that all sanctions cannot be lifted, but the well-developed UN and western sanctions regime should continue to enforce import controls in this area. This is a particularly important item in a potential agreement since, as nations enter into lucrative trading arrangements with Iran in a post-agreement era, there will inevitably be a growing temptation to be more and more forgiving and to look aside or ease up on attention to bans as these economic relations develop. This is particularly important since China, as one of the P5, already has a reputation for weak export controls. How then will the agreement provide for minimizing and managing procurement risks in the monitoring architecture? How long will the monitoring regime have to be in place?

By Tuesday, we will be in a better position to know.

Iran

IRAN

by

Howard Adelman

I try to review the situation in the Middle East once a year so that I can update myself more systematically than through passive reading. Anyone else is invited both to read and respond to what I write. Admittedly, my perspective looks at the countries of the Middle East from an Israeli perspective, which in itself causes some distortion. But any perspective does.

I begin with Iran because the possible threat of Iran becoming a nuclear power is, by far, Israel’s foremost foreign policy concern. Further, the division between the United States and Israel over the West Bank and East Jerusalem pales in significance compared to the differences the two allies have over negotiations with Iran. As everyone knows, Israel has been very critical of the Obama administration’s negotiations with Iran over the nuclear issue. The deadline for a deal is only a week away (24 November) and part of the guesswork is whether that deadline will be extended once again.

However, that deadline has become more significant and more pressing since the recent midterm Republican sweep in the US congressional elections. On the one hand, there are those who urge Obama to get the deal signed before it can be vetoed by the Senate. Already Senators Mark Kirk and Robert Menendez are threatening to target Iran’s oil industry with new sanctions unless the agreement includes ironclad conditions that will prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power. Iran remaining a threshold nuclear power, even if the period for achieving the production of a bomb is extended to a year, is insufficient for these strong opponents of the Iran negotiations. At the same time, there are others who urge Obama to demonstrate clearly that he intends to work closely with Congress using the Iran portfolio as an example.

Obama’s problem is that many members of both Houses, including many democrats, believe that this administration has already given away the store and is willing to allow Iran to become a threshold nuclear power, and with far too short a timeline. The Obama administration has insisted that Iran’s timeline for making a nuclear bomb will be at least one year. Critics who claim to know the terms of the deal in the making insist that it is only six months. This is certainly the view of the Israeli government and even of members of the Knesset from the Labour opposition. The two extremes – a military attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities versus a hands off approach to Iran’s nuclear program – are both off the table for the present. What is at stake is the degree of conciliation the US is willing to concede to Iran. Further, the deal appears to depend on Congress passing legislation to lift the sanctions or whether the Iranians are willing to accept a Presidential executive order to “suspend” the sanctions in stages, which seems the best that the White House can deliver at this time.

The Iranian government has its own pressures. On the one hand, the new government clearly wants the economic sanctions lifted. On the other hand, demands for a total stop to their nuclear enrichment program crosses a red line that they refuse to pass. Last month, and without telling his allies, particularly Israel and Saudi Arabia, President Obama sent a letter to Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, suggesting re-establishing diplomatic relations as well as cooperating on combating the extremist Sunni jihadists in ISIS. A week ago, the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, Ali Shamkhani, confirmed that Obama had indeed sent not only this letter, but several others in the past, and that the Supreme Leader has responded to Obama’s overtures.

Many suspect that Khamenei is angling for another extension of the talks, partly in the belief that Obama has become a lame-duck president and partly because he believes he has already won on two key principles: 1) ensuring the right of Iran to enrich uranium and 2) preventing any inspections of the military aspects of its nuclear program. Some in America in favour of the negotiations also support an extension since they believe that falling oil prices, the threat of even more sanctions and new instances of sabotage of the nuclear program will together eventually bring Iran to its knees.
Though the contents of either Obama’s overtures or the Iranian response were not revealed, Shamkhani did assert that the American public positions were inconsistent with what the Americans said in private while the Iranian public and private positions were perfectly congruent, that a red line for Iran excluded visits of the International Atomic Energy Commission to military as distinct from nuclear sites, that the key regulations of any agreement should only be in conformity with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. He reiterated Iran’s frequent charge that American foreign policy was created and controlled by Israel. Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Aragchi, the top Iranian official tasked with the day-to-day negotiations, openly declared that the Supreme Leader was fully in support of the negotiations that had taken place. Since the nuclear issue was under the Supreme Leader’s control, it was unlikely that the negotiations could have proceeded at all without his approval.

While the formal leader of Iran’s nuclear negotiating team, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, has kept a lid on any leaks, last Friday’s prayer leader, Ayatollah Movahedi Kermani, took the same position as that of the White House, insisting that no deal is better than a deal forced upon Iran by American aggression. Further, Fars News editor Seyed Yasser Jabraeili in Tehran, often used as a spokesperson for the Supreme Leader, indicated that the terms of the nuclear part of the deal had been agreed and only the timing of lifting of sanctions remained. Jabraeili also indicated that Iran was wary of Obama’s ability to bypass Congress and conclude the deal through executive order since the Iranians were well aware that Congressional approval was required to lift the sanctions.

The issue seemed to be whether the Iranians would be satisfied with just a “suspension” of sanctions and not their authorized removal by Congress. A permanent rollback of the nuclear enrichment program only for a temporary relief from sanctions was certainly unacceptable, at least to the conservatives in Iran. However, the latest sign that the more radical Iranians are still under siege and in retreat was the confirmation by the Iranian Supreme Court of the disbarment for five years of the former all-powerful Tehran prosecutor, Saeed Mortazavi, who was held responsible for the torture and death while in prison of three dissidents in 2009.

With the tremendous recent growth of ISIS and with increasing clandestine cooperation between the US and Iran on this portfolio, the Iranian government is being pulled in two very opposite directions – towards a deal with the Americans propelled by the latter issue, and for the potential of reversing their tentative steps towards moderation given the resurrection of the status of the Republican Guard in government eyes as the martyrdom of their young child soldiers fighting and dying in the struggle with the radical Jihadist ISIS sect fills the pages of Iranian newspapers.

How then do you square the circle? If one side insists on absolute guarantees that Iran will not and cannot become a nuclear power while the other side insists on retaining its enrichment program in some form as a matter both of national pride and a key strategic concern so that the program can be rekindled in a relatively short time to enable Iran to build nuclear weapons, then the only possible deal approaches the goal of minimizing the prospect of Iran quickly moving to become a nuclear power without absolute guarantees while inducing Iran to move closer to the West by significantly removing the harsh sting of the sanctions. This is the crux of the debate – not absolutes, though there are also absolutists on both sides of the issue.

White House scuttlebutt has suggested that rapprochement with Iran is to the Obama’s last two years in office what Obamacare was in his first two years. However, given Congressional control over the purse strings, in particular, over the lifting of sanctions, the White House will have to be quite ingenious in structuring the deal to avoid a rejection of any Iranian deal by Congress. The very idea of congressional avoidance enhances fears by Senators, particularly Republicans, that Obama will sell Israel down the Potomac and make a mushy deal with the mullahs of Iran. For in Obamaspeak, America will extend a hand if its Middle Eastern enemies unclench their fists. For Obama’s opponents, the signs have been clear for years by significant omissions on the Iranian file – the structure of the nuclear negotiations to exclude delivery systems and the failure to link the negotiations with issues of domestic civil rights.

The White House hand was strengthened by two developments in Israel: 1) the failure to conclude a deal with Abbas when Kerry was mediating, and 2) Netanyahu’s risk adversity and the failure to bomb the Iranian nuclear facilities 2-3 years ago when such a military attack had some chance of success, though many inside the military-intelligence services in Israel were skeptical. Of course, Obama’s extremist opponents insist that this is what Obama intended all along – to sell out Israel for a deal with Iran which effectively leaves Iran with de facto control over Lebanon, Syria, Gaza and, most importantly, Iraq, as well as the ability to acquire a bomb 6 months to a year after the sanctions are lifted. That means that the nuclear negotiations are not a single track effort. They have significant repercussions for the region including the stabilization of Iraq, the advancement of peace in Syria, strengthened support for Afghanistan in transition, and, dearest of all to Israel, keeping the Lebanese border with Israel quiet.

This is not helped with the Europeans being in total disarray. France, under a socialist president, has taken a hard line on negotiations with Iran while the rest of Europe are biting at the bit to resume economic relations on a significant level with Iran. Russia, which at this time does not need new completion for the sale of its oil, is cynically working to extend the negotiations and delay any early lifting of sanctions. Amidst all this squabbling, Obama is accused of being in league with the devil if he is not Satan himself, for embracing a long term adversary, undercutting long term allies, Saudi Arabia as well as Israel, and abandoning any hope for those suffering persecution from the mullahs, such as women and the Baha’is.

Even if one avoids this satanic caricature, even supporters of Obama agree that, given the stalemate on the Palestinian-Israeli front, Obama still has two full years to establish his legacy in foreign policy by doing an end run around Israel and concluding a deal with Iran. And there’s the bind! For if the deal is too generous to Iran, there will be an uproar in America and not just in Congress. If the deal is too severe, there is no possibility Iran will sign on. So what are the signs that a deal is possible or impossible, and what are the implications if such a formula can be devised? And what can Israel do to ensure that such a deal is not concluded, or, if concluded, it will truly serve Israel’s interest by de facto ensuring that Iran’s nuclear program is dead?

I suggest that there is nothing Israel can do to ensure that a deal can be made which ensures that Iran will not and cannot build a bomb. For the only issue in the negotiations is the time it would take for Iran to restart its enrichment program to produce a high enough grade of nuclear material to make a small number of nuclear bombs. However, Israel can be a spoiler. First, it can do so by exposing the hypocrisy of Obama’s supporters on this issue domestically in America and in the continent of Europe. For Netanyahu is clearly correct when he denounced the Europeans for giving Iran a pass when it sent a boatload of long-range missiles to Gaza on the Klos-C which, fortunately, the Israeli navy intercepted.

The most instructive indicators have not been the postures that either Netanyahu or Obama have adopted, but the actual behaviour and words of the respective parties in the negotiations. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported that Iran has almost completed its decommissioning of 20% enriched uranium, but still possesses enough necessary to build one bomb. On the other hand, critics have charged that the Iranian nuclear program has been recently enriching its uranium to 8% instead of the benchmark 5% established in the de-enrichment program.

The most authoritative source on the progress of the negotiations has been ISIS (not the radical Sunni Jihadist group but the Institute for Science and International Security) and its 7 November analysis of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguard report. (http://isis-online.org/uploads/isis-reports/documents/ISIS_Analysis_IAEA_Report_7Nov2014-Final.pdf) ISIS concluded that:
1. There has been no progress on controlling or limiting Iran’s ability to militarily deliver weapons; there has only been progress on limitations on the nuclear enrichment program itself (this explains why White House leaks have suggested that the agreement with Iran will only deal with controlling the nuclear enrichment program);
2. Activities at Parchin have undermined the ability of the IAEA to conduct inspections;
3. The Iranians have not fed its new much more advanced IR-5 centrifuges with UF6;
4. Iran has increased its stock of 3.5% LEU at a significant rate, but the rate of production of this low enriched uranium has not increased from 2012 and 2013 levels and, most significantly, Iran has kept its agreement with the P5+1 to cease production of 19.75% enriched uranium;
5. The number of 90IR centrifuge cascades have remained constant;
6. Under the Joint Plan of Action, Iran agreed to halt installation of any additional centrifuges and to forgo enrichment in any of its new advanced carbon fiber-based centrifuges (IR-2m), though it would continue the normal rate of such installations; thus far, none of these have been fed with natural uranium hexafluoride;
7. By 19 October, 4,118 kg of uranium hexafluoride had been reduced to 3% enrichment;
8. A further 4,174 kg. of natural UF6 has been used to produce 553 UO2;
9. 1,506 kg. of UF6 enriched up to 5% U-235 have been included in the conversion process;
10. Numbers 7&8 rates are lower than 2013 or 2012 rates of conversion;
11. Though Iran significantly reduced its 20% LEU oxide needed to produce weapons grade uranium, and 25% of the LEU oxide (17.1 kg) has been decommissioned, enough stocks remain to produce one nuclear weapon;
12. More significantly, 39 kg. of the near 20% LEU is already available to the Tehran Research Reactor 17%, or another 18kg of that 20% LEU has been irradiated.

In summary, there can be no expectations that Iran will limit its developments of the military hardware to deliver nuclear weapons. On the other hand, Iran, with minor exceptions, has been true to its word that it would comply with IAEA guidelines. However, even as it has conformed to serious reductions in both its stockpiles of 19.75% enriched fuel and the number and capacity of its centrifuges in operation, Iran still retains enough fuel to make one nuclear weapon and the capacity to gear up to full production of the required uranium in a matter of a year and perhaps even six months.

I suspect now that there may be a deal, that Obama will only suspend sanctions and not formally reverse them, that Iran will continue its military developments independent of international oversight, and that, although Iran will have significantly reduced its ability to make nuclear weapons, it will remain a threshold nuclear power, but one where the time taken to become one will have been extended by as much as an additional nine months and the continuing presence of IAEA inspectors will further limit Iran accelerating such a program.

Hardliners, and even some open to negotiations with Iran, will denounce such a deal. Those who believe in strengthening the moderate camp in Iran and encouraging Iranian engagement with the West will defend such a deal while remaining aware that it has significant risks.