Iran: U.S.-Israeli Relations

Iran Again – CONTINUED: Final Part: U.S.-Israeli Relations

by

Howard Adelman

Several weeks ago, Samantha Power in her testimony before the Senate Foreign Operations Committee insisted that the U.S. would continue to work closely with Israel at the UN but could no longer be counted on to prevent resolutions targeting Israel to be defeated. In fact, she went further. The U.S. could not be counted on NOT to help advance such resolutions. Essentially, the U.S. might support a resolution on the Palestine-Israel peace process that would set deadlines and establish markers in working towards a final settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in order to get the negotiations back on track.  As U.S. Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman warned: if the new Israeli government does not demonstrate its commitment to the two-state solution, the U.S. will have a difficult time halting international initiatives on the Palestinian issue at the United Nations. Since then, tit for tat followed. Netanyahu rejected Kerry’s request to visit Israel to discuss the negotiations with the Palestinians immediately after the Israeli national Elections took place.

Netanyahu’s statements leading up to election day suggesting the two-state solution was dead, and his formation of the most right-wing government Israel has ever had, put in doubt his support of a two-state solution and, hence, America’s unquestioning support for Israel in the international arena. Bibi had renounced his intentions to establish a Palestinian state as no longer relevant given recent events in the Middle East and in light of the security reality in the region. Even more unequivocally, in the dying days of the election he said that that if he becomes prime minister once again, a Palestinian state would not be created.

Hence the American reaction. U.S. support would continue, but it would henceforth be questioned. As Wendy Sherman said, “If the new Israeli government is seen to be stepping back from its commitment to a two-state solution that will make our job in the international arena much tougher… it will be harder for us to prevent internationalizing the conflict.” After the election, Netanyahu attempted to backtrack on those statements when he said once again that he supported a two-state solution, but only if circumstances changed. However, he did not go nearly far enough in moving the U.S. away from signalling its reformulated policy.

France, which had been relatively hawkish on the Iran nuclear negotiations, was leading the initiative to internationalize the Israeli-Palestinian dispute and to prepare and pass a new Security Council resolution that would both delineate the principles of determining borders (1967 borders modified by territorial exchanges) and recognize the Palestinian authority as the governing body over those territories. Israel would no longer be able to declare the territories are in dispute. Thus, Bibi’s efforts to push regime change in Tehran de facto when linked with his withdrawal of efforts to end the status quo in the West Bank became mutually reinforcing positions that triggered the shift in policy underway in the White House, especially when matched by a corresponding effort of Iran to tone down its radical rhetoric. Iran wearing a moderate face mask combined with the resurrection of Bibi’s ostensible support for the continuation of the occupation and effective support for a Greater Israel worked in tandem to undermine America’s previous position.

After all, in Obama’s 2009 Cairo speech, he had pledged not to turn America’s back “on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity and a state of their own,” a pledge that could not be honoured if the new Bibi government remained true to its pre-election pledges and shunted sideward the pursuit of a two-state solution. Bibi might claim that he was ending the settlement freeze because his pledge on the freeze was made in tandem with the American pledge to work to increase pressure on Iran through the use of increased sanctions; when America lifted the sanctions, the new Israeli government felt free to end the settlement freeze. So the Israeli government and Washington were sending signals across each other’s bows that changes in policy were underway.

Other moves in America by Netanyahu’s allies in Congress can be viewed in terms of American Executive Power and the Israeli government traveling in ships going in opposite directions. They pause briefly to wave, professing to be mutually supportive, and follow with threats. At the same time, Bibi’s allies in Congress launched their own attacks on the White House from the rear.

The American Senate in mid-April amended the Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015. The bill was the most ambitious effort ever in continuing efforts to open trade. U.S. negotiations with the Asia-Pacific and the EU were advertised as an opportunity to set high standards and open markets with nearly 1 billion consumers, covering nearly two-thirds of global GDP, and 65% of global trade. Services negotiations cover about 50% of global GDP, as well, and over 70% of global services trade. But the Act included a sneaker. As an example, Section 2(b) 9 reads:

Localization Barriers to Trade: The principal negotiating objective regarding localization barriers to trade, set out in subparagraph 2(b)(9), is to eliminate and prevent measures that require U.S. producers and service providers to locate facilities, intellectual property, or other assets in a country as a market access or investment condition, including indigenous innovation measures.

These and other clauses counter the efforts of BDS to boycott goods made in the settlements; the Act de facto defined the West Bank and Israel as part of the same legal territory, thereby setting in motion the U.S. recognizing a one-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

In another sign of a radical shift by the new extreme right-wing government in Israel, Yinon Migal has acted as the flag waver. He is a newly minted member of the Knesset in Bennett’s Jewish Home Party. He accused a former director of the Israeli Foreign Ministry, Alon Liel, of being guilty of treason for advocating the two-state solution.  For in doing so, Liel was accused of ceding territory to a prospective sovereign state that does not now exist. Violating section 97 (d) of the penal code provides that any action to remove any area from the sovereignty of the State or to place it under the sovereignty of a foreign state with the intention to bring that about is liable to the death penalty or to life imprisonment. This is but another sign of the new extremism in Israel in contention with a more aggressive dovish approach from the White House.

Netanyahu’s partisanship and heightened rhetoric on the Iran nuclear prospective agreement combined with his backpedalling on the two-state solution have not brought about a collision between Washington and Tel Aviv. It has brought about a situation in which both countries are beginning to work at odds pursuing radically opposite agendas. The framework deal, if confirmed by a completed deal – very far from certain itself – has altered both the balance of power in the region and the previously balanced relationship between Washington and Tel Aviv. Such a divergence will limit America’s ability to ensure that Israel can retain its nuclear deterrent without international supervision. It may also modify America’s willingness, indeed eagerness, to fund advances in Israeli missile technology and defensive capabilities.

The rhetoric from both sides insists that nothing fundamental has changed in Israeli-American relations. This is but smoke and mirrors to hide fundamental shifts already underway. For, in the view of the current American administration, the best response to Iran’s efforts is to make the deal because, if a military solution is eventually required, America will be in a better position to deliver a response than without a deal. As Netanyahu becomes more and more irrelevant on the terms of the deal to be made by the target date of 30 June and, in his impotence, becoming increasingly hysterical rather than rational, he loses even more credibility with the White House.

Bibi’s only hope to salvaging the Israeli-American tight bond is if the framework agreement falls apart over the issue of the timing of the lifting of sanctions and/or over veto proof anti-deal legislation passed in Congress. For what Netanyahu most fears is not simply that a final deal will come to fruition in spite of the difficulties still faced, but that the deal will hold and Iran will stick to its terms. Then Bibi will be truly in deep sh…  with America and with the Israeli voters as well for he will be unable to cry wolf when dealing with Iran or avoid dealing with the serious economic disparities within Israel unless saved by Kahlon.

The reality is that the P5+1 and Iran have struck a reasonably good deal, one that is far from perfect and which still faces many hurdles before and if it is finalized. But, as CIA Director John Brennan concluded, “I, for one, am pleasantly surprised that the Iranians have agreed to so much here.” I too was equally surprised. The framework agreement was both far more detailed than expected and provided more concessions by the Iranians than most observers expected. Natanz will – again if the deal comes to fruition – be the only nuclear enrichment facility. Its degree of enrichment will be strictly restricted and monitored. Fordow will be converted to a research facility. Arak will not be able to produce plutonium. The high speed centrifuges will be mothballed and even the number of slow centrifuges will be kept to 5,000 in operation, not quite the 3,000 that Israel wanted, but far better than the 19,000 available. The stock of highly enriched uranium will be gone and even the stockpile of low enriched uranium will be dramatically reduced.

The real problem for Netanyahu is that Israel will now face a much strengthened conventional foe but without any longer having the almost unquestioning support of its patron. The scenario that Netanyahu most feared is about to descend on Israel unless the deal with Iran can be sabotaged before it is completed.

And there is some potential. There are many issues to be resolved. There is not only the problem of defining when sanctions will be lifted. There is, for example, the issue of the form in which the minimally enriched uranium is to be stored. Most of the uranium enriched to almost 20% has been reduced to well below 5% and no longer exists in hexafluoride form. However, a residue (228 kg.) of enriched uranium to almost 20% continues to exit: 43 kg in oxide powder; 60 kg, that has not been irradiated slated to be used for the Tehran Research Reactor and, therefore, still available for easy conversion and further enrichment to nuclear level fuel; the remainder of the 228 kg remaining as scrap, waste or is in the process of being decommissioned.

How will the P5+1 and Iran deal with this issue since Iran is only to retain very limited amounts of uranium enriched above 3.67% sufficient for research purposes? The devil is indeed in the details. And these details are being negotiated as I write. Some will inevitably become crisis points in the discussions. Past track records suggest that solutions will be found. But perhaps not. Perhaps events will intervene and alter the tone of the negotiations. Perhaps personal animosities or spoilers will disrupt the discussions. These types of negotiations are perilous at the best of times. The Perils of Pauline look tame beside them. There will be no cakewalk to 30 June for everyone knows that if Iran retains even 50 kg. of medium enriched uranium to almost 20%, enough highly enriched uranium could be available in 8 rather than 12 months to make a nuclear weapon.

The most hawkish government in Israeli history will be trumpeting such obstacles as efforts of Iran to undercut a bad deal and make it even worse. Further, on the Palestinian front, Obama will be berated for handing over to the Palestinian Authority the internationalized right of Palestinians to govern themselves while the same authority allegedly refuses to grant Jews that right, while that authority works at delegitimizing Israel in an effort to kill the state of Israel by a thousand slices. It will not matter that these charges bear only a slight resemblance to reality. Yet those same extreme hawkish Israeli voices will agree with Bibi’s left critics that Israel will have to develop new strategies “to cope with our deteriorating relations with the U.S.” (Caroline Glick), a matter made urgent by the excellent possibility that Hilary Clinton may be the next president in a world far more volatile and lethal than when her husband was president.

What is the advice on how to cope? Not abandoning Israeli policies and strategies but reducing dependence of the U.S. Further, Bibi’s efforts to bypass the President and go directly to the American people must be enhanced. In other words, more of the same tactics, even accelerating such tactics, though it was precisely these tactics that led to the debacle in the first place.

But that will not be how Bibi’s supporters of his undiplomatic diplomacy will portray Israeli actions. Rather than pinning the tail on Israel, they will try to pin responsibility for the deterioration on Obama for ensuring that Iran becomes a member of the nuclear club. The accusation will be tossed about as if it were an established truth rather than a piece of ugly propaganda with little basis in fact or analysis. Instead, the accusers will insist that Obama administration officials in a rogue regime have led the U.S. to abandon its policy of denying Iran the right or ability to acquire nuclear weapons. Instead, the White House will be portrayed as accommodating Iran’s quest to become a nuclear power, a charge so discrepant with actual facts as to make one wonder if such hysterics are real or simply the mouthings of a mad person, mad in the opposite way to the idealistic Madwoman of Chaillot, but both nevertheless totally detached from reality.

Instead, Israel will be urged to ignore the deal and go its own way militarily and strike Iran. This is the self-destructive logical conclusion of the folly of hyping Masada as a historic noble action instead of what actually happened as can best be determined by the historical record. When myth becomes the foundation of policy, self-destructive strategies are advocated. Israel will also be urged to abandon the Oslo agreement and once more take full control over the West Bank or, as the imperial Israeli hawks insist on calling the territory, Judea and Samaria. Hamas and the Israeli right will be united in their pursuit of a single-state solution, differing only on which party will control that state.

Do not expect these hysterical voices to die down. Rather they will now be propagated through megaphones while on the ground Israeli-U.S. relations will be further weakened and while Israel will be egged on to supersede one self-destructive policy with another one even more self-destructive.

This is the result of trading whispers for rants, analysis for inflammatory rhetoric and informed deliberation with deformed and virtually surrealistic portraits of the world that are figments of nightmares rather than bearing any significant correspondence with reality.

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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.

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

Mark Greif and The Partisan Review

Mark Greif and The Partisan Review

by

Howard Adelman

This is an open letter to my son, Jeremy Adelman, and a response to the article he sent me by Mark Greif’s on the history of The Partisan Review in particular and, more generally, both the character and role of the public intellectual as the phenomenon emerged over the last eighty years. (See “What’s Wrong With Public Intellectuals,” Chronicle of Higher Education, 13 February 2015 – http://chronicle.com/article/Whats-Wrong-With-Public/189921/)

Granted I came on board as a minor activist and quasi-public intellectual after the heyday of The Partisan Review in 1955 “when it started to lose energy.” omentary in America had taken its place as the premium read, when The New Left Review was read for thought even more distant from the mainstream, and just before The New York Review of Books began publishing. But in my university days, The Partisan Review was still a major reference for discussion, though, in Canada, we also had Canadian Forum and, in the sixties, This Magazine and Our Generation as nationalist reference points.

Quite aside from his relative youth, as well as from my age and spatial location, I am bound to have a different take on Greif’s interpretation of intellectual history in the mid-twentieth century and how that history reflects on the present. Further my comments, of necessity, will not be about his observations about The Partisan Review and whether it was “impossibly good” and retained “a taut momentum for a score of years.” Rather, they will be about Greif’s analysis and conclusions about the significance and role of pubic intellectuals, about the historical conditions that brought them into being and influenced their outlook, and about how their ideas impacted upon history and how that history was transformed by the world of ideas.

In light of your current book project, Greif’s statement that, “we don’t have convincing speculative histories or insightful accountings of the qualitative effects on ideas,” is a propos. I do not think Greif’s efforts provide an adequate sketch of the interaction between historical causes and conditions and how they affect and are affected by the world of ideas. But, at least, it is a stimulating and well-written try.

As Canadians, we had a much more modest view of the role of the public intellectual. In my recollection, we were not elitists at all. We did not adopt “a slightly superior pose.” Perhaps we were not entitled. Though we batted around and wrestled with ideas and conundrums, only a very few postured as sophisticates. Nor did we believe our work in the public sphere had the same exactitude and precision of scholars like C.B. Macpherson. Northrop Frye or even Marshall McLuhan. On the other hand, neither were we dumbing down. We were merely engaged in public life with the intellectual tools endowed by our university education. And we highly respected people like Bob Fulford, who, without such an endowment, brought into the public sphere a superior intellect, acuity of insight and rigour of argument that we all, and I mean all, admired.

Fulford never stood in opposition to the university nor did we. However, we were critical of the staid silo mentality that the professions – including the humanity and social science professions – had found for themselves. We sought university as well as public reform so that the university should become more engaged in society. This was not the same in the United States where the universities were much more diverse and many of its great public universities had a century earlier defined themselves as oriented to and focused upon problems within society rather than addressing society as a mass in need of uplifting. Thus, even though only 3% of the population in Canada at the time went to university, we were in the process of championing the university to be open to more of the population. Thus, whereas Greif saw the opposition to the university as a myth compared to the reality – the vast majority of these public intellectuals were not only products of the university, but employees of such institutions – I do not believe we were ever caught up in such a mythology. We always appreciated what the university had done for us while retaining a very critical posture.

Not all of us. Dimitri Roussopoulos in Montreal stridently stayed out of any university position. Though he attended university in Montreal and London, where he came under the influence of Bertrand Russell, I do not know if he ever got a degree. Our Generation that he founded in 1961 was a rare journal founded by the new left instead of inheriting an old left tradition. However, perhaps because it lacked that inherited historical rigour, it never emerged as having anywhere near the quality, profundity and influence of its American competitors.

Dimitri made a career of founding one movement after another, and usually taking full credit for their initiation in true anarchist trope and in contrast to the fellowship that founded the CCF and its successor, the NDP. He was a conspiratorial type and adopted a conspiratorial mien and we never knew where his funding came from for all his activities and travel. While he took sole credit for organizing the big protest in Ottawa in 1964 against Bomarc missiles in Canada, he never gave credit to the Toronto chapter that raised two-thirds of the funds to transport and feed people on that march. So there were those who defined themselves as other, and such people, such as Rick Waern, would achieve control in such institutions as Rochdale, and with their anarchism help drive them into the ground. All in all, however, these were as peripheral as the activists who stayed away from any involvement in universities as in the U.S. But we Canadians did not have the mythology that surrounded the memory of public intellectuals in the U.S.

Further, I cannot ever recall us having a sense of an uneducated mass that needed us. We knew that we were read by relatively few. And, further, the public had many other sources to influence them. We were just a very minor faction hoping to have some influence. It is not that such elitist posturing before and towards the masses could not be found. They were plentiful. The most important in Canada was perhaps the National Film Board. John Grierson, its English founder in partnership with Prime Minister Mackenzie King, was a socialist elitist who believed in agitprop, who believed in using film as propaganda to make us all aware we are Canadians while all along celebrating the common man in films like Coaltown. And he brought his message to the common man in a way none of us could aspire to – through the quality of the filmmaking, through the outreach programs to schools and communities. The message was not a sophisticated one. It totally lacked critique and was ridden though with racism and class consciousness. It was the epitome of Fabian socialism totally at odds with the view of “the equalizing power of the Great Depression” that Mark Greif describes.

How different two decades make! We were born in the later years of the Great Depression, but our lived experience was of the prosperity and enormous growth after the war. We were not levelers so much as strivers eager to stay near the top as the high tide increased everyone’s income and lifted us all. Though our family was left behind, it was seen as the fault of an irresponsible father not of a failed capitalist system. Though communism was an integral part of our milieu – Gerry Bain was a communist, David Berger was a Bundist and socialist, others in our class were conservatives (Donsky) or Liberals (Cheskes) or Labour Zionists (Ricky Rappaport) or religious (Judy Ochs). Though the class was intensely political in many varied ways, it was taken as part of our family heritage rather than as a matter of fundamental difference. So we went on the marches organized by the United Jewish People’s Order (UJPO) to protest the execution of the Rosenbergs in the mistaken belief that they had been framed by anti-Semites even though most of us were not communists.

There was another major difference. Greif writes: “first-generation Jewish founders linked up with young American intellectuals, like Dwight Macdonald and Mary McCarthy, educated at Yale or Vassar, who brought in money and connections to keep the magazine afloat; PR, was launched by this combined demographic.” Though we came into the intellectual period of our lives fifteen years later, I do not believe we had any sense of a union of a WASP establishment linked with Jewish intellectuals. Rather, our predecessors like David Lewis, a Rhodes scholar and other Jewish socialists, linked up with Methodists from the British and Scottish working class movements to create a real political and public socialist party, the CCF, with such greats as Stanley Knowles and Tommy Douglas who followed the path set by Woodsworth and Coldwell and such public intellectuals as Frank Underhill and Frank Scott.

So we had a direct political entry for our activism. And Canada was a relatively small place with less than the population of New York at the time. Further, though we were not immune from its contagion, we did not go through the McCarthyism of America. Our member of parliament was J.B. (Joseph Baruch) Salsberg, a communist, and the only result was that when we undertook military duty as militias at school between 1950 and 1955, we were not allowed uniforms or guns. Premier Frost of Ontario, a small-town conservative from Lindsay, Ontario, and J.B. Salsberg remained friends throughout their lives.

Thus, America may have had the Partisan Review, but Canada had the Regina Manifesto advocating public ownership, universal healthcare, en route to eradicating capitalism. I could become involved in co-operative housing with the support of the state, for we never conceived of our activities as “revolutionary”. Another public issue peculiar to Canada dominated our lives – the English-French issue. While CBC and the NFB stayed one with two different branches, even when the NFB moved from Ottawa to Montreal, we pioneered in the development of two parallel systems. I led the Ontario delegation at the national meeting of the Combined Universities Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CUCND) supporting developing two cooperative but different institutions working to stop nuclear testing.

I always remember how angry Dimitri Roussopoulos, the national head based in Montreal, was with me. He charged me with betrayal. But as I explained my position, when we sit around a long table as delegates from across Canada and listen to speakers who cannot speak French stating how much they do for their French colleagues in Quebec in ensuring everything was translated into French, when all the French-Canadian delegates could speak English and did not require the translation services, the arrogance and patronizing attitude of English Canadians even on the left stared us in the face.

So we had political outlets for our activism that got us out of our academic and intellectual silos. The most important in my period was the doctors’ strike in Saskatchewan when your uncle Al, and a small coterie of our close friends graduating from medical school, went out to Saskatchewan as strikebreakers and founded community medical clinics that helped break the strike.

I believe another major difference in Canada was the relationship with Europe. I think Greif is correct in characterizing Europe in the thirties as still centering the world of ideas. As he wrote, “War which pitched Europe into New Yorkers’ laps; the bulk of established European Jewish, leftist, or simply antifascist scholars and artists were on American shores, as refugees in the orbit of New York or Hollywood.” Canada received only a dribble, in part a relic of the anti-Semitic Canadian immigration policy of, “None Is Too Many.” But we did get some. They made the Pontifical Institute for Mediaeval Studies at the University of Toronto the most advanced centre of its kind in the world. Etienne Gilson, who helped found it ten years before the war broke out, was a major attraction. The Institute attracted Catholic and non-Catholic scholars from all over the world. Emil Fackenheim, a Jewish refugee from Germany interned in Canada, encouraged Gregory Baum, another German-Jewish internee, to attend. Gregory converted to Catholicism and became a leading light in the reform movement in the Catholic Church. Emil himself moved from the rabbinate in Hamilton to becoming a philosophy professor at the University of Toronto. So we had far fewer Jewish refugees and they followed a radically different trajectory.

Greif’s main thesis, however, is not about these intellectuals on the left as it is about the public they addressed. The New York intellectual scene had become Americanized. Public intellectuals then spoke to an American public. During the thirties to the sixties, the Canadian intellectual scene also became nationalized (in Québec it became provincialized.) But Canadians never saw themselves as the intellectual centre of the universe as heirs to Europe’s tradition. We just became marginal to the American centre, both participating in it and resisting its magnetic attraction and strong bear hug.

A much more important difference is that the mainstream of pubic intellectuals did not enter into the history of schismatics inherited from the Trotskyites. This was true whether the organization was the CUCND, SUPA or Praxis. The latter was the activist research centre on democracy we established in the seventies that the RCMP broke into and burned, after first sending our files to the editor of The Sun newspaper. It exemplified a Canadian trope. We not only tried to include all leftists. Canadian organizations tried to reach across the political spectrum and be inclusive rather than self-identified leftist organizations.

That also illustrated one of the fundamental paradoxes of the history of Canadian public intellectuals. We were always beholden to the state – whether it was for the mortgage provided to Rochdale College or the support the Canadian government gave to our small publishers – House of Anansi, New Press, Coach House Press, and even Demitri Roussopolus’ Black Rose Press. At the same time, the most iconic institution of the Canadian state, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, had become an organization that made the political shifty characters in the Watergate scandal. How naïve we were in how out-of-control the Mounties would become. But however bad, they never harnessed the power or role as saboteurs of dissent as the FBI, as much as the Mounties tried to emulate their American cousins. So we never lived under a dark cloud with theirs of McCarthyism and instead inherited some of America’s best who headed north to escape the underhanded methods of the American intelligence agencies.

Both American and Canadian public intellectual life, however, shared in a development that was more important than all the others: “vocational integration in which formerly independent literary arts (fiction, poetry, even cultural criticism) came to be taught as for-credit courses and degree-granting programs.” Writers, critics and activists did not have to remain outside the university to follow their muse. Though many did, like Margaret Atwood, others found a secure position in the university from which to pursue their critical and aesthetic vocations.

But one difference remained. Greif wrote re his experience with the journal N+1 that he founded. Speaking of the graduate students and young assistant professors he sought to write for the journal, “When these brilliant people contemplated writing for the ‘public,’ it seemed they merrily left difficulty at home, leapt into colloquial language with both feet, added unnatural (and frankly unfunny) jokes, talked about TV, took on a tone chummy and unctuous. They dumbed down, in short—even with the most innocent intentions. The public, even the ‘general reader,’ seemed to mean someone less adept, ingenious, and critical than themselves. Writing for the public awakened the slang of mass media. The public signified fun, frothy, friendly.” In my terms, they may not have sold out to an establishment elite; they did sell out to populism, which has a much deeper strain in the American social fabric than in Canada. Our Prairie and Québecois populism was of a very different order, far less dumbed down and much more committed to the rising tide of intellectual resources and helping raise the public with that rising tide rather than via a chummy camaraderie.

The part of the story I found missing in Greif’s peace was the role public intellectuals, both in the U.S. and Canada, perform in citizens forging a common understanding of who they are – heroic winners, I believe, in Americana, and beautiful losers in the Canadian intellectual ferment. We have no illusions that the public needs us and without us would bumble and stumble. Canadian public intellectuals are simply adjuncts in the process of social change, not strident explorers marking a new path, even though Innis, McPherson, Frye and McLuhan did precisely that. Our mission was not to convert the masses to our way, as John Grierson believed, but to interact and learn as well as teach so that we all became better as a result of the exercise.

In our quest for social justice, Canadian academics and intellectuals, with some clear exceptions, have, and I believe most of us, would not view themselves as the repository of truth and virtue to be shared with the plebs and the bourgeoisie equally, We are just workers tolling in intellectual fields and do not see our task as facing off against them on farms or in factories. We do not see ourselves as marshalling our resources “against the pseudo-public culture of insipid media and dumbed-down ‘big ideas,’ and call that world what it is: stupid.” That is Greif’s most stupid idea.

So the lesson I take from Greif’s piece and my reflections upon it is not, “to participate in making ‘the public’ more brilliant, more skeptical, more disobedient, more capable of self-defense, and more dangerous again—dangerous to elites, and dangerous to stability; when it comes to education, dangerous to the idea that universities should be for the rich, rather than the public, and hostile to the creeping sense that American universities should be for the global rich rather than the local or nationally bounded polity.”

That would not be Canadian.

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

The Washington-Israel Brouhaha

The Washington-Israel Brouhaha

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

by

Howard Adelman

A brouhahah is building up steam as we approach Benjamin Netanyahu’s scheduled 3rd of March address to both houses of Congress in response to the 21 January invitation of U.S. House of Representatives Majority Leader, John Boehner (with the concurrence of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell but NOT the Democrats in either the House or Senate, who were not informed about the invitation). Bibi is scheduled to address Capitol Hill in a joint session of Congress on the subject of Iran. Boehner did not coordinate the visit with the White House in an alleged breach of protocol. On the basis of separation of powers, Boehner denied any protocol breach. Ron Dermer, the Israeli ambassador, argued that proper protocol required Boehner to inform the White House, not Israel, and that is why he did not raise the issue with John Kerry in their two-hour meeting; that, he argued, would be truly “inappropriate.”

However, he said nothing about the accusation that he set in motion a precedent in inviting a foreign leader to interfere in American decision-making or in making Israel a partisan issue for the first time. As the debate over the invitation continues in Washington, the focus of the debate is really in Jerusalem over, in the first place, the impact of this dispute with Obama on the Israeli election, the impact of the dispute on Jerusalem-White House relations, the impact on relations with the American Jewish diaspora, which remains largely liberal but generally loyal, even if somewhat critical, of recent right-wing leaders in Israel, and, on a much deeper level, the extent to which Iran poses an existential threat for Israel, and, correspondingly, the way the Washington-Tehran nuclear negotiations will impact on Iran as a threat to Israel.

A parallel and seemingly unrelated imbroglio is taking place over the mysterious death of Alberto Nisman on 18 January in his Buenos Aires apartment. Nisman was the prosecutor who had been investigating the 1994 bombing of the Jewish center in Buenos Aires, which left 85 people dead. At first reported as a suicide, that belief was undermined with the passing of each day. Iran is involved because Iran had not only been accused of orchestrating the bombing, but of seducing the current Argentinian government into a trade pact that entailed setting up a Truth Commission on the 1994 bombing, but doing so, not to uncover the truth, but to shunt it aside as well as the Interpol arrest warrants for those Iranians viewed as responsible for the attack. Iran is the lynch pin between the two controversies.

The impetus for the first controversy above is a deep division over President Barack Obama’s policy of engagement with Tehran and the negotiations over Iran’s capacity to build nuclear weapons. Bibi is being invited to undercut Obama’s Iran initiative and, explicitly, criticize the President’s major strategic initiative. Trying to go over the head of the president to influence U.S. foreign policy is a no-no for many, even those who do not support Obama’s outreach to Iran. Would you not be furious if you worked in the White House and once again be willing to depict Bibi as “chickenshit”? The Republicans have been determined to introduce and pass new sanctions on Iran. In his State of the Union address in January, Obama promised to veto the proposed Congressional sanctions legislation. One day after Obama’s State of the Union address, Boehmer issued the invitation to Bibi. Among the anti-Iran pieces of legislation being forged in Congress is at least one that is intended to be veto-proof in instigating further promised sanctions if Washington cannot reach an agreement with Tehran before the end of June. So the Bibi-Obama dispute is merely a proxy for the conflict over the negotiations with Iran.

This is the first of a four-part series of blogs dealing with the Washington-Jerusalem-Buenos Aries-Tehran quadrangle. It will focus on the U.S.-Israeli axis and be centered in Jerusalem. I will discuss the Iran-Argentina axis centered in Buenos Aries next followed by the seemingly unrelated Argentinian-Israeli axis. I will end with the Tehran-Washington axis focused specifically on the nuclear negotiations that will be used to resolve the conundrums raised in the previous three analyses.

Iran ———2———–Argentina

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-4-                                   -3-

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U.S ———-1———–Israel

A central issue in Washington is how Bibi’s visit and how the Republican initiative will affect the ongoing nuclear negotiations with Iran, though Obama offered as his reason for his unwillingness to meet with Netanyahu the proximity of the impending Israeli elections scheduled for 17 March. For Boehner, “There’s a message that the American people need to hear and I think he (Netanyahu) is the perfect person to deliver it…The threat of radical Islamic terrorism is a real threat. The threat of Iran to the region and the rest of the world is a real threat and I believe the American people are interested in hearing this.”

But that is not the primary issue for Israelis. In the opening to his blog yesterday morning, Rabbi Dow Marmur posed the question in a way that gave his position away. “Iran does indeed constitute a major threat to the existence of Israel. Both the pronouncements of many of its leaders and the actions of its stooges Hezbollah and Hamas point to it. It’s, therefore, not surprising that Prime Minister Netanyahu should want to alert the world to that danger and, at the same time, rightly stress that Israel is by no means the only country at risk from Iran. But a much greater threat than Iran is a rupture in the relationship between the United States of America and the State of Israel.” (my italics)

If Iran is only a major threat, then the relationship between Jerusalem and the White House ranks higher than depicting that existential threat. Further, a deep breach with Washington is “the much greater threat” for it could lead to a rupture in U.S.-Israeli relations. Of course, liberals and Democrats see the acceptance of the invitation as prioritizing Netanyahu’s domestic political interests over Israel’s relationship with the United States. Most Democrats, even Nancy Pelosi, will not boycott the speech lest they undercut even in a small way their domestic supporters, but their resentment will remain palpable.

Dow omitted, probably because he rations his words in his blogs, the consequences on Jewish diaspora-Israeli relations, for, as the Israeli consul generals in the U.S. all warned the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem, fierce negative reactions can be expected to the speech from U.S. Jewish communities and many Israeli allies, including even right-wing Republicans who may agree with Bibi’s take on Iran, but are upset about the intervention of a foreign political leader in American debates over policy.

Israel has been warned of this danger by the U.S. Ambassador to Israel, by many American Jews, including 7 Jewish members of Congress, and by other Israelis. On the one hand, it is totally apparent that the Iran engagement by the White House is the central plank in Obama’s foreign policy during his second term. In the fading hope that Netanyahu will change his mind about visiting Washington, Ron Dermer, the Israeli ambassador in Washington, and the casino tycoon, Sheldon Adelson, are painted as the two evil masterminds “misleading” Netanyahu. (Dow’s words) This is only slightly different than Tom Friedman’s portrait of the four horseman of the apocalypse – Boehner, Bibi, Dermer and Adelson – as equally insensitive and mindblind, though not villainous. “Netanyahu; his ambassador; the pro-Israel lobby Aipac; Sheldon Adelson, the huge donor to Bibi and the G.O.P.; and Boehner all live in their own self-contained bubble.” Dow Marmur reduced Natenyahu’s status in service to his own hopes.

This portrait is consistent with American public opinion that 59% of voters expect little from the Republican-dominated Congress. Dow, by contrast, paints Netanyahu as a patsy in the hands of the partnership of an Israeli diplomat and an American tycoon. Netanyahu is not only a patsy, but a cynic willing to sell his country’s future relations with Washington down the drain just to win an election: “not losing the election may be more important to him than the future of the country and the wellbeing of its citizens.” As Nancy Pelosi suggested, the exploitation of congress as a political tool for Israeli domestic politics is scandalous. This interpretation is consistent with Michael Oren’s, Israel’s former ambassador to Washington and no bleeding-heart liberal. Thus, Dow can only fall back on his old bromide of “hope” to save the situation.

But what if Bibi’s effort is his last hurrah, his final effort to sabotage the American-Iranian nuclear negotiations that he deeply believes will endanger the future of Israel? It may be an exercise in courage – or, perhaps, rashness – in his willingness to face the stormy blowback from his decision to come and refusal to back off. Such an approach is consistent with an ambition to win the next election on 17 March because he also believes he is the only one with the talent, experience and commitment to ensure Israel’s survival in the face of its greatest danger. He needs desperately to outshine his rivals on the right. One does not have to agree with either Netanyahu’s self-appraisal or his depiction of the danger facing Israel to suggest his actions may not be that of a cynic. His position may be incorrect, but it does reverberate with many Israelis who share his fear of Tehran. Further, this self-portrayal, sincere I believe, may have the added value of distracting voters from his inadequacies as a Prime Minister.

I contend that the issue of Netanyahu’s visit is ultimately a distraction and side issue, hence the choice of the word “brouhaha” instead of “imbroglio.” It is a failure to analyze the American-Iranian nuclear negotiations correctly. For the Iranians and the White House are another duo married at the hip, with Iran determined not to provoke further sanctions from Washington while tamping down on any domestic opposition while Obama needs a deal, with Iran as his own (and only???) foreign policy legacy. If the Republicans torpedo the negotiations, then both Iran and Obama may fail, but both can blame Congress for that failure. And Netanyahu will rejoice in a victory that will be pyrrhic, since Israel will have to endure a very deep rupture with Washington. This is the gospel according to my rabbi and my dear friend.

In fact, the rupture is only really with the Obama administration. The schism has been very deep for a long time. The central issue, which Dow did not raise, is whether Bibi’s intention is to torpedo the deal (which is what I will suggest) or whether Bibi is merely trying to stiffen Obama’s spine so that the White House maintains a tough line in the negotiations. Dow’s analysis is incorrect because the diagnosis is inadequate. I will follow a circuitous route to establish that beginning with the characterization of Iran and its historic involvement in Argentina and the deep-seated anti-Semitism of the ayatollahs.

Let me make my position clear up front rather than forcing you to wait for the conclusion to know where I stand.

  1. Netanyahu may be a pragmatist, but he is not a cynic in this case; he sincerely believes that Iran is and will remain an existential threat to Israel; he sincerely believes that a negotiated nuclear deal is only of use to Iran as a mask for its strategic plans and intentions in the Middle East.
  2. Given that conviction, which runs contrary to the analyses of a great many current and retired major Israeli intelligence and military officers, any effort to disrupt the process, however much it may appear as irresponsible and disrespectful (Herzog’s depiction) of the American president, if not churlish, inappropriate, reckless and dangerous, is worth it no matter how much it ruffles the feathers of the White House.
  3. The relationship with the White House is a brouhaha rather than an imbroglio, a subtle but important distinction suggesting a temporary deepening of the rift between Netanyahu and Obama rather than a deep fissure between the American polity and Israel because of Israeli interference in American affairs; The issue, though certainly more serious, is more akin to disputes over Israeli-sponsored junkets for rabid gay-bashing evangelical Christians and democratic supporters of Israel. Though I agree that it would be preferable on a number of grounds that Netanyahu NOT go to Washington, I do not believe one whit in the thesis that Netanyahu’s initiative will seriously jeopardize U.S. long term support, goodwill and readiness to stand by Israel. As Nancy Pelosi herself said, all members of Congress place ties with Israel above any political differences of opinion, based on the two countries’ mutual respect for democratic values and the national security interests of the two. More specifically, the U.S. will continue in its efforts to stymie Palestinian initiatives at the UN and the ICC.
  4. There are many other countries with a deep interest in the outcome of the nuclear negotiations with Iran, not just Israel and Saudi Arabia, but the European states – Britain, France, Germany and Russia – that have been sponsors of the negotiations, but, for very different reasons, even countries like China, another sponsor, which has a strategic interest in Middle East stability as it strives to develop a 21st century Maritime Silk Road conjoined with a Silk Road economic belt in the region to create an economic corridor across Eurasia as a main objective in its One Belt, One Road strategy.
  5. Though initially I not only supported the effort of a breakout with Iran and thought there was more than a 50/50 chance the negotiations could succeed, now I am very dubious that a positive agreement will result. This will not be because of Republican sabotage but because the differences between Iran and the U.S. over the terms of the deal run too deep.

In summary, the term “brouhaha” is rooted in the French brouhaha, a corruption of Hebrew בָּרוּךְ הַבָּא; barúkh habá, “blessed is he who comes,” a greeting of welcome in Israel. A brouhaha is welcome rather than an imbroglio because it is only a state of social agitation in which a relatively minor incident has grown out of all proportion and articulated in a hysterical fashion. It is not a very difficult and possibly irresolvable imbroglio. The controversy and fuss will eventually prove to have been a tempest in a teapot, but a cover for the very serious issue that underlies it.

And it is to that very serious issue I must now turn, even if it is by a very circuitous route.

Lebanon: The UN El Jiyeh Oil Spill Resolution

Lebanon: The UN El Jiyeh Oil Spill Resolution

by

Howard Adelman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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