Iran and Nuclear Weapons

Iran and Nuclear Weapoms




Howard Adelman


As we examine the fallout from the “paused” negotiations on nuclear production facilities in Iran and the trading blame, by Kerry of Iran and of Iran on divisions among the six (Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China and US) negotiation teams, largely reported as between the US and France, today, I received the report of the findings of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on Iran’s nuclear program. Recently, I also received David Albright submission in early October to the US Senate Committee  on Foreign Relations. To understand in part both the progress and the pause in the negotiations, it is helpful to read both reports. My own take on the two reports follow. The reports themselves can be accessed as follows:

1. IAEA Safeguards Report on Iran

2. “Reversing Iran’s Nuclear Program: Understanding Iran’s Nuclear Program and Technically Assessing Negotiating Positions”

Three days ago, Iran and the IAEA signed the long awaited Joint Statement Framework for Cooperation; the technical talks over the last two years in Vienna and Tehran have been critical to facilitating or blocking the current political negotiations and the breakthrough on this agreement is a necessary prerequisite to the successful resumption of the political talks. I myself had believed that the pause in the international negotiations was about Iran getting the go-ahead from the ayatollah leaders to make the final compromises. Given this agreement, it seems likely that go ahead had already been received and that the technical agreement was necessary to show a full readiness at transparency.

My own summary of the two reports based on three issues: 1) transparency 2) Iran’s preparations for ready convertibility to enable the production of nuclear weapons; and 3) ability to produce weapon’s grade enriched uranium, concludes:

1) There is no problem with what is NOW taking place at either the underground plants at the Natanz or Fordan sites in terms of transparency and in terms of any further increase in weapons production capability since no additional centrifuges have been installed and the ones there have not been fed uranium hexafluoride, but the capability of those two plants had already been enhanced to enable Iran up until very recently to produce significant quantities of material from its almost 20,000 gas centrifuges and, further, Iran continued its enrichment programs at those facilities even while under IAEA monitoring; nevertheless, the IAEA verified that what Iran disclosed was accurate;

2) Re Esfahan uranium conversion and fuel fabrication, in terms of material, Iran had increased its stockpile of enriched almost 20% uranium hexafluoride to 196kg from its small accumulation previously and has a very large stockpile of both its uranium in hexafluoride and oxide form that can be readily converted into weapons grade uranium and the verification procedures confirmed the accuracy of Iran’s reports; more worrisome, on 5 November Iran resumed its conversion process that it had stopped earlier;

3) the gap between the decision to go ahead and the breakout point is down to 4-6 weeks;

4) the stockpile is coming very close to Israel’s pre-announced red line of a maximum stockpile of 240 kg when such a stockpile could trigger an Israeli military response, and, given the shortening time line, therefore increasing the likelihood of a military response;

5) When the Arak reactor is completed (for example, the control room machinery, the refueling mechanism and the reactor pumps have not yet been installed), all necessary for a heavy water reactor more suited to the production of weapons grade uranium that any material needed for peaceful uses, the goal Iran claims to be pursuing (President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif have repeatedly reiterated that Iran’s facilities are only designed for peaceful purposes and Iran has no intention of developing the capability of building a bomb – President Hassan Rouhani NBC Nightly News interview 18 September 2013: “We have never pursued or sought a nuclear bomb. We are not going to do so. We are solely seeking peaceful nuclear technology.”), Iran will be in a position to produce enough weapon’s grade uranium (WGU) to rapidly produce enriched uranium for an as yet modest weapons program probably by the middle of next year, perhaps accounting for Netanyahu’s repeated hysterical protests about the negotiations; further, Iran already has enough heavy water for the operation of the plant;

6) There is a real problem of transparency at the Arak reactor but there is no evidence that the Arak reactor is in production yet.

7) Iran had continued to resist pressure to provide design and facility progress reports to the IAEA on the Arak Heavy Water reactor, a very serious concern since Arak can directly produce plutonium, but in this recently signed agreement, has agreed to verification procedures, including providing full information on the Gehine mine in Bandar Abbas, the new heavy water production plant, any new research reactors, full information on 16 designated sites for possible construction of nuclear production facilities and on enrichment efforts;

8) I have not seen sufficient evidence to draw any conclusions about Iran’s progress in its deliverable capabilities;

9) We do not know what we do not know – whether Iran is secretly building facilities elsewhere;

10) Most bothersome, Iran has as yet refused to sign the additional protocol to the agreement re undeclared nuclear material and activities.

Summary: Iran has not made any decision to produce nuclear weapons but is coming closer to having a capacity to develop such weapons quickly once a decision is made. However, it might be taken that this full transparency agreement indicates that Iran is ready to make another significant at least pause in its momentum towards nuclear capability even further than the decision made in 2003. So both Kerry and and Zarif may be correct that a deal is very near. A lot depends on the few outstanding issues, including the signing of the additional protocol.

My own belief now is that if the negotiations are concluded, Iran will keep to the deal, and is not simply play acting to act behind the backs of the international community at least for the next several years until its economy substantially recovers and during that time, Iran’s pledges can be tested as the sanctions are gradually lifted, namely:

1. FULL transparency, especially re Arak;

2. No further enrichment and subject to inspection;

3. Placing enriched uranium to almost 20% in escrow (How much? when? and where?)

4. Dismantling of some cascades of centrifuges;

But as in any arms agreement, there is clearly a risk, most specifically for Israel. Further, if Iran proves to be continuing on a path of deception and obfuscation, the momentum of the sanctions and the will to take and public moral  authority for military action will have been lost.   

Corrections, comments and feedback very welcome.


“Crisis in The Congo: Uncovering the Truth” A Comment.21.05.13

“Crisis in The Congo: Uncovering the Truth” A Comment                                   21.05.13


Howard Adelman

I took the weekend off to open the cottage. When I opened my email this morning, Roberta Morris, a former PhD student of mine who has been working in film in California, emailed me in response to my blog on Dan Gertler, and presumably the parts referring to his role in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Roberta asked if I would comment on the DRC knowing that I had written extensively on both Rwanda and the DRC. She had just returned from a one-man show on “Heart of Darkness” by Actors’ Gang Theater (Tim Robbins’ company) and a screening of “Crisis In The Congo: Uncovering The Truth” released by Friends of the Congo. She had been asked and was considering committing her organization to sponsoring screenings far and wide, but wanted my input on the situation in the Congo and my views of this video. My comments follow. Though I started writing on Harper and Ford this morning, I set that material aside to comment on the film.


The plight of the people of the Congo remains dire. The Congolese people have been subjected to enormous miscarriages of justices at least since King Leopold of Belgium received a trusteeship over the territory in 1885 and treated the country as a resource for building his own personal fortune on the backs of the Congolese. Adam Hochschild, author of the very moving and upsetting, King Leopold’s Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa and who is interviewed in the film, depicts the colonization and exploitation of the Congo’s resources. The film is correct that the DRC is rich in an enormous variety for minerals, some both necessary to modern cell phones (coltan) and available uniquely in the Congo. The DRC has been exploited for over a century for its wealth. The Congolese people have not benefitted from that wealth but, instead, have suffered as the victims of that exploitation time and time again.


In the film, Dedy Mbepongo Bilamba, a Congolese author commented two years ago on the UN Mapping Report primarily to assert that reports without any follow up action are inadequate. Action must follow. Secondly, he insisted that focusing on “half of truth is lying”.  I will have more to say on the UN Mapping Report within this blog but for now I want to concentrate on the film. The documentary has two major theses in addition to the claim of exploitation of the Congo which I believe is indisputable. First, the agents primarily held responsible are Western powers, primarily the USA, UK and France but certainly also Belgium. Canadian mining companies are also charged with responsibility. There is no mention of the role of Israelis. More directly, the so-called proxies of the United States, Rwanda and Uganda, have provided the military muscle for these exploitive Western imperial powers. Secondly, the motivation for the involvement is the mineral wealth of the DRC. These two theses hold half the truth, and if half the truth is lying, then the film lies. For the mineral resources were used primarily to finance the conflict, to enrich locals, to repay loans for and also the purchase of additional military equipment. If the film distorts, it is a terrible shame because the injustices brought against the Congolese, the war crimes and crimes against humanity need to be emphasized and broadly disseminated.


Is that simple story of the agents responsible correct? Is the account of the motivations of external actors accurate and adequate? I think not. In the Cold War rivalry between the USA and the USSR, the USA through the CIA opposed Patrice Lumumba, can be held responsible in part for his assassination and can be charged with installing their own selected candidate, Joseph Desire Mobutu, as President of the country that he renamed Zaire. However, this is only part of the truth. The film in its timeline states that from 1965 to 1997 “The United States installed and maintained Joseph Desire Mobutu in power for over thirty years in spite of a number of attempts by the Congolese people to overthrow him.” There were few serious efforts to overthrow Mobutu. More importantly, as Dan Fahey himself noted in the film, contradicting the film’s own claim, the USA, followed subsequently by other Western powers, abandoned Mobutu at the end of the Cold War in 1989 and did not support Mobutu from 1990 until his overthrow in 1997. The humanitarian crises has many intersecting causes and involves many diverse agents, including competing aims by the countries named. As Fahey has written in his studies of the current situation, comments not included in the film:


Over the second half of 2012 and the early months of 2013, Mambasa territory in Province Orientale, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, has been the scene of escalating violence that is a consequence of brutal gangs running illegal poaching and mining operations coming into conflict with militarized conservation forces. Local politicians, prosecutors, conservationists, former militiamen and civilians tell the story of a devastating conflict driven by armed groups backed by powerful figures in the Congolese army. The violence in Mambasa territory “involved murder, rape, torture, beheading, setting people on fire, cannibalism, kidnapping, sexual slavery, pillaging, arson, threatened assassinations, and the killing of animals.” The principal perpetrators are in a newly formed militia known as Mai Mai Morgan, led by an elephant poacher called Paul Sadala. They are driven, they say, by a desire to protect the land from conservation efforts that give locals limited land use rights and access to resources; however they have committed astonishingly brutal attacks. They are supported, according to the UN Group of Experts and others, by a powerful Congolese army general in the region.


Local military forces and acquisitive ambitions of locals are and have been involved. Further, the divisions are often along ethnic lines so, except as an abstraction, it is difficult to speak of a Congolese people as if there is an identifiable group with a common purpose. In the advertisements for the film, the copy states that, “Analysts in the film examine whether U.S. corporate and government policies that support strongmen and prioritize profit over the people have contributed to and exacerbated the tragic instability in the heart of Africa.” In fact, the film has no analysis. Individuals testify that US corporate and government policies are primarily responsible for the support of strongmen in the interests of profits, but this is not a conclusion drawn from any analysis. It is simply a repeatedly expressed opinion. Is the assertion correct? Partially! But insofar as the film claims to uncover the truth by exploring “the role that the United States and its allies, Rwanda and Uganda, have played in triggering the greatest humanitarian crisis at the dawn of the 21st century,” it has more untruth than truth.


Let’s begin with the two claims made in the film abut the Rwanda genocide itself. One claim is made by Gregory Stanton after he notes that Hilary Clinton stated that she had one regret with respect to the Clinton presidency, that nothing was done to stop the Rwandan genocide. Stanton goes further and makes two further accusations: 1) Bill Clinton and Madeleine Albright knew about the genocide; 2) they did everything to prevent the UN from doing anything to stop the genocide. The first is universally accepted as true but only three weeks after the systematic genocide started on 6 April 1994. In the first three weeks, there is no evidence that Clinton, or anyone else high in the administration, took any serious note about Rwanda so why would they know? The filmmakers or Robert Stanton could have read the writings of or interviewed Michael Barnett who is a professor in the political science department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. They could also have read Holly Burkhalter, Director of Human Rights Watch, who published a reasonably balanced account of the failures of the Clinton administration with respect to the Rwandan genocide. (“The Question of Genocide: The Clinton Administration and Rwanda,” World Policy Journal) My file of US confidential emails undermines Stanton’s exaggerations.  (On April 15, the US advocated withdrawal of UNAMIR from Rwanda “for their safety” and because it could not fulfill its mandate.) Though we strongly criticized the American position, we did not misinterpret American motives or intentions.


During the 1993-1994 year, Barnett spent the year as an exchange government bureaucrat at the United Nations. Barnett was assigned to the Rwandan desk – where else would you put a famous political science theorist but on what was considered the least relevant political desk? He, as he admits in his analysis of his own actions and motives, participated in the decision to keep the US uninvolved in Rwanda when the crisis began to unfold. The explanation was that America had no geo-political interests in Rwanda. Further, as Barnett and as I and Astri Suhrke separately documented, the US did not have to force Boutros Boutros Ghali, then the Secretary General of the United Nations, or Kofi Annan, a subsequent Secretary-General and then in charge of Peacekeeping at the UN, to stay out of Rwanda. The UN had followed that path systematically on their own, though certainly reinforced by the position of the Clinton administration to stay out of wars in Africa, a position itself reified by the Mogadishu syndrome and the disaster in Somalia the previous year. When the Clinton administration did find out and agreed to a peacekeeping force, the American military petty bureaucracy effectively sabotaged the efforts to supply the UN with armoured personnel carriers in a timely fashion. To say the least, Clinton did not do everything he could have to prevent stopping the genocide. He was just sufficiently neglectful to have made the USA complicit as a bystander.


Is this a nuance without a substantial difference? Not at all! There is a major difference between the irresponsibility of bystanders, the responsibility of backers of genocidaires and the responsibility of the genocidaires themselves. Further, analysis requires attending to differences and not silly simplifications. There were many agents involved at different levels of responsibility. Some of the agents included the Rwandan Catholic Church – as distinct in this case from the papal nuncio who was one of the exceptional persons who kept warning about the immanence of a massive humanitarian slaughter. See for example, one of the experts on the Rwandan genocide, Tom Lanagan, a colleague of Michael Barnett who has written extensively on the role of the church and has a new book forthcoming on the subject. However, by and large, experts are interviewed who, by and large, reinforce the view that the crises in the DRC is a fallout from the Rwandan genocide and responsibility can be attributed primarily to Rwanda and Uganda as proxies of the USA. Another scholar who could have been used to complicate the picture would have been Scott Straus who has also studied the area and written extensively on it. There are many others.


However, there are a minority of scholars and many ideologues who have assiduously worked to shift the blame for the genocide in Rwanda at least significantly onto the RPF, the Rwandan Patriotic Front that invaded Rwanda in 1990. Alan Stam followed the lead of Alan Cooperman, an excellent scholar, and stood against the dominant voices who tended to view Paul Kagame through rose coloured glasses. Stam has upped the critical ante against Paul Kagame. Not only has he joined the genocidaire chorus in suggesting elements of Kagame’s RPF set off the genocide by downing Habyarimana’s plane but he insisted that the RPF not only could have stopped the genocide but deliberately decided not to. This is another half truth that amounts to a lie.


Allan Stam has done an excellent scholarly job of tracing and mapping in detail the movements of the RPF troops and claims that Paul Kagame could have moved much faster and saved Tutsis but failed to do so. Further, he claims that the RPF represented a foreign force invading Rwanda. The latter claim should make one suspicious abut his interpretation of his mapping exercise. For it is like calling the PLO working first out of Jordan and then out of Lebanon a foreign force invading Palestine.


The RPF was made up of Tutsis who had escaped or been expelled from Rwanda when the Hutu overthrew the Tutsi monarchy thirty years earlier. They had not been allowed to acquire citizenship elsewhere. Even after serving Museveni in his overthrow of the regime in Uganda, the Ugandan parliament refused to allow them to gain citizenship in Uganda. They were not a foreign army but refugees from Rwanda who adopted military means to insist on their return and overthrow the Habyarimana regime, a common behaviour pattern among stateless refugees. 


Secondly, could the RPF have saved many more lives by advancing much more quickly? In my own interviews with American military experts and with Paul Kagame himself, it seems clear that he made a choice. He was a very cautious military strategist. His use of pincer movements by a better disciplined but inferior army in both manpower and armaments to defeat a stronger foe is taught in military schools. It requires proceeding from two sides but allowing an escape route for the fleeing soldiers and then keeping them off balance and preventing their regrouping for a counter-attack.


Stam makes much of the fact in his scholarship that Kagame then paused on a crucial line for three weeks when he could have advanced much quicker. The implication was that the pause was responsible for allowing the interahamwe to execute their genocide with impunity. What Stam leaves out was the extended negotiations with the French to prevent a French-RPF clash so that when Operation Tourquoise launched by the French takes place, the two armies would not come into conflict. Further, Stam also leaves out the failure of the French themselves to go beyond the main roads and go into the surrounding hills to save Tutsis who were being slaughtered. Finally, Stam makes much of the claim about both the indefiniteness of the numbers killed while disabusing anyone that only Tutsis were killed. That is a red herring. For the leading scholars on the Rwandan genocide refer to Tutsi and moderate Hutu who were slaughtered in the genocide. 


I believe Kagame should have moved quickly to save innocent civilians. Kagame is a hard nosed military man, however, was unwilling to risk his army and the military progress he made to save civilians. That does not make him complicit in their killing and certainly does not lend weight to the charge that Kagame welcomed the genocide of Tutsi to provide a moral cover for his won dictatorial regime.

That was 1994. What about the operations in 1996-1997 with respect to the invasion of Zaire? After the genocide, the defeated FAR (the former army of Rwanda) and their families along with the interahamwe militias fled primarily into Zaire. They took up residency in and control of the refugee camps. As The Democratic Republic of the Congo 1993-2003 UN Mapping Report noted,

After moving into North and South Kivu in July 1994, the ex-FAR/Interahamwe used the refugee camps along the Rwanda and Burundi borders as bases and training camps. Using the decades-old strategic alliance with President Mobutu and the widespread corruption within the FAZ to their advantage, the ex-FAR bought back or recovered the military equipment confiscated on their arrival in Zaire and resumed war against the army of the Front patriotique rwandais, which was now the national army of Rwanda, the Armée patriotique rwandaise (APR). (para. 191)


The ex-FAR used that control of the camps to milk the international system by enhancing by 25% the number of claimed refugees in the camps and then selling the extra rations on the black market in order to buy more ammunition and some additional arms. They used the camps to launch raids into Rwanda. When these efforts were futile or were defeated, they turned against the indigenous Tutsi in Zaire, the Banyamulenge, and launched a second genocide. This crucial information is missing from the film.  As everyone familiar with Rwanda at the time or through subsequent scholarship knows, Paul Kagame repeatedly warned the international community that if they did not intervene to prevent the ex-FAR and interahamwe from raiding Rwanda and from their new killing spree within Zaire, he would take action. The international community stood by, kept feeding and taking care of the genocidaires along with the other 600,000 plus civilian Hutu refugees from Rwanda. In November of 1996, Rwanda and Uganda launched a full scale invasion against the refugee camps, destroyed them and sent the ex-FAR and interahamwe and their families fleeing east while the greatest part of the civilian refugee population that had been held hostage by the genocidaires walked home back to Rwanda.


Laurent-Désiré Kabila had been an old colleague of Lumumba’s and had survived over the decades as a smuggler and self-promoter. Museveni of Uganda knew him and persuaded Paul Kagame to use him as the spokesperson for the invading force to provide a smokescreen that the invaders were Zairean rebels when the most were “volunteers” from the Rwandan and Uganda armies. Kabila promoted himself gradually from spokesperson to the leader of the rebellion. Without the detail, this account is in line with the story of the film. There are, however, several major differences. The United States did not back the invasion of Zaire. Secondly, the three parties – Rwanda, Uganda and Kabila – quickly fell out. When Kabila wanted to go beyond the overthrow of the camps and attack Kisingani, the Ugandans and Rwandese governments said no. He paused and was lucky. The Zairean army fled before he got there so he conquered Kisingani anyway and then went on the long march to capture Kinshasha and set himself up as the dictator. By this time he was not only at odds with both Uganda and Rwanda but those two countries also fell out. In the meantime a new exploitive regime had been installed in Zaire, now renamed the Democratic   Republic of the Congo.


Other than the absence of any significant role of the United States in either promoting or stopping the invasion, and the disagreements among the allies, the main difference in this account is in the numbers killed. At the time, based on the inflated numbers in the camps, assertions were made that 600,000 men, women and children had been killed by the Rwanda-Uganda invasion. (Stam at least kept his figure down to a more credible 150,000.) The 600,000 was a ghost number. The death toll was horrendous, with numerous massacres of groups of civilian refugees, many killed deliberately by army units and others killed for revenge by Mayi-Mayi and Tutsi who had earlier been victims of the Hutu, and others murdered by the ex-FAR as documented at length in The Democratic Republic of the Congo 1993-2003 UN Mapping Report, but no where near the hundreds of thousands claimed at the time.


The repeated figure of six million killed in the DRC to echo the Holocaust figure includes all those who died as a result of  both the first and the second Congo War based on what the expected population might have been starting with inflated figures and then inflated the numbers killed further in this way to claim there was a second genocide perpetrated by the proxies of America, particularly Paul Kagame, who was already held to be responsible for allowing the Tutsi to be slaughtered in Rwanda and was now accused of slaughtering hundreds of thousands of Congolese in another far worse genocide. The Rwandan and Ugandan forces can be accused of crimes against humanity and war crimes, and there were a significant number of civilian slaughters, but there is no evidence that an attempt was made to exterminate the Rwandan Hutu otherwise why were over 600,000 encouraged and allowed to march back to Rwanda and reclaim their homes? In fact, 13,000 were flown back to Rwanda on 22 May 1997 from MbandakaAirport.


I could go on. I just find it a double horror to see humanitarian crises and crimes hijacked by ideologues and propagandists. This film does precisely that. Though Friends of the Congo have been a leading organization opposing the exploitation of the wealth of the Congo and the imposition of another dictatorship in that country, and though the organization has been strident in unveiling the role of both Rwanda and Uganda in that exploitation, it has also, as in this film, done so through distortion of the historical record and by a simplistic and neo-marxist interpretation of what occurred, ignoring in particular the deep geographic divide between east and west and the deepened ethnic divisions that have coincided with the long wars. They have also ignored dissident scholarly voices that do not line up with their simplistic message that the invasion of the Congo was organized by the United States and the UK using their proxies, Rwanda and Uganda. They have also exploited the Holocaust by repeatedly asserting that six million have died since 1996.  


As advertised, “Crisis in the Congo: Uncovering The Truth explores the role that the United States and its allies, Rwanda and Uganda, have played in triggering the greatest humanitarian crisis at the dawn of the 21st century. The film is a short version of a feature length production to be released in the near future. It locates the Congo crisis in a historical, social and political context. It unveils analysis and prescriptions by leading experts, practitioners, activists and intellectuals that are not normally available to the general public. The film is a call to conscience and action.” Unfortunately, because of the lack of analysis, the distortion in the presentation and its utter failure to place the conflict in an adequate historical, social and political context, calls to conscience and action will be largely ignored, not to say that they would not be if a more objective and more penetrating documentary had been produced. This is just another way of exploiting the Congo.

Syrian Update.13.05.13

Syrian Update                                                                                                 13.05.13




Howard Adelman


After two years of hearing that the situation in Syria cannot get any worse with its protracted violence resulting in over 70,000 killed and over a million refugees, divisive identity politics, state failure and proxy warfare, the situation continues to deteriorate. Are we finally on the verge of a breakthrough on the Syrian front? Tony Burman in the Saturday Toronto Daily Star wrote a column insisting that Syria was now facing a “fateful fork in the road”. Clearly, if it is a fork in the road, it is one not only for Syria, but for Israel, Turkey, Iran, Hezbollah, Russia and the United States as well as many others. The conflict may be centred in Syria but the repercussions go far beyond Syria`s borders. There are a whole series of events that point to a dramatic shift in the Syrian situation. They include the following:

  • Israel`s recent airstrikes, its third in recent weeks after four decades of non-violence on the Syrian-Israeli front, against a military research facility at Jamraya, Syria and against stockpiles of Syrian missiles at a Republican Guard base and Iranian long-range missile storehouses evidently destined for Hezbollah that caused massive explosions in Damascus and killed dozens of elite troops near the Presidential Palace. Syria responded that the attack constituted a “declaration of war” and Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah`s leader, subsequently announced that Syria would now supply Hezbollah with “unique weapons that it had never had before” while, in response, President Obama defended and justified the Israeli attacks;
  • The proven impotence of Syria to respond militarily to the attacks in spite of Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad`s insistence that Syria would “not allow this to be repeated” and “would respond immediately to any Israeli attack” though Israel did take the precaution of deploying two of its Iron Dome missile defense batteries on its northern border and closed civilian flights to the northern Israeli city of Haifa;
  • Jordan appears to be at a dangerous precipice itself as it tries to stay out of the Syrian conflict while bearing the crushing weight of a half million Syrian refugees instigating Jordan’s representative to the United Nations, Prince Zayd bin Ra’ad, to warn the U.N. Security Council of the strains on Jordan’s economy, social services, water resources, and political stability to the breaking point in a country beset by a severe economic recession with debts comparable to Ireland and Iceland;
  • If the humanitarian and economic crisis were not severe enough, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad accused Jordan of arming and training rebels and sending them back to fight the Syrian army and threatened to visit Jordan with the “fire” of the Syrian war;
  • U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry, after a visit with President Putting of Russia, announcing an urgent convening of an international conference on Syria hopefully before the end of May that would preserve the “sovereignty and territorial integrity” of Syria, an announcement which Lakhdar Brahimi, the UN and Arab League Envoy to Syria who keeps threatening to resign, greeted as the first hopeful sign in two years;
  • Prime Minister David Cameron also meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin and President Barack Obama on the international conference on Syria to be held in Britain;
  • The announcement of the new international conference was immediately followed Israel publicly warning that Russia planned to sell US$900 million worth of S-300 missile batteries to Syria which would significantly raise the stakes in the Middle East arms race;
  • The immediately preceding escalation of the Syrian civil war by the resort of the Syrian government to the use of chemical weapons, specifically sarin, in Daraya, five miles outside of Damascus, on 25 April (and previously in Aleppo and Homs) sending a clear message from the Bashar al-Assad regime that they will resort to the ultimate military measure to save the regime and Damascus from the encroachment of the rebels, though Carla Del Ponte head of the United Nations Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria suggested opposition fighters were possibly responsible for the use of the chemical weapons (there was “strong, concrete suspicions but not yet incontrovertible proof”), a suggestion quickly dismissed by the USA;
  • The escalation was also marked by a much greater and expansionary role for the Iranian expeditionary training mission using Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Ground Forces, Quds Force, intelligence services and law enforcement forces directly in the ground fight in Syria, significantly reinforcing Assad`s fighting ability on the ground and allowing Assad to reverse some of the rebel gains;
  • Within the Syrian opposition, there has been an increase in the role of Islamists, most significantly, al Nasra, so that backing the rebels may inadvertently result in backing of another Islamist regime in the region;
  • The escalation of the American sanctions against not only the Assad regime but against Iran by cutting Syria off from the diesel supplied by Venezuela`s state-oil company, PdVSA, by ensuring that the shipments cannot be insured in a similar pattern used to stop the resupply of repaired helicopters by Russia to Syria on the Merchant Vessel Alaed under the sanctions strategy of`”no insurance, no supply line” and the prevention of the use of Iraqi air space to resupply Syria;
  • At the same time, the Alawites are preparing for a possible defeat in Damascus by shoring up their strength in the Alawite coastal region by securing the ground route by retaking the strategically located Homs and ethnically cleansing the area of Sunnis as indicated by the recent slaughters in Baniyas and Baida (According to the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, government military forces in coordination with pro-regime militias attacked Baida, a predominantly Sunni coastal town, killing over a hundred, including many women and children);
  • The heating up of rhetoric by liberal hawks on supplying the Syrian opposition with lethal weaponry – they have now joined the conservative hawks in urging a more activist military role for the United States – with significant leaks that the Obama regime is on the verge of or on an “upward trajectory” toward providing “assistance that has a direct military purpose” or, at the very least, implementing a no-fly zone to cut of resupplies to Damascus by air as well as protect rebels on the ground from attacks by helicopter gunships;
  • The arousal of liberal doves (e.g. Zbigniew Brzesinski, Fareed Zakaria, Marc Lynch) opposed to such intervention lest the U.S. become more directly involved in conflict with Iran and, in turn, with Russia while making the situation in Syria even worse while still supporting America`s role as the largest humanitarian aid provider to Syrians ($400 million) as well as doubling its nonlethal aid to the opposition to $250 million;
  • In the meanwhile, American public opinion is not only divided but internally conflicted with a PEW poll at the end on April indicating 45 percent of respondents in favor, while 31 percent said they were opposed to taking military action against the Assad regime if it were proven that it was responsible for using chemical weapons while a New York Times/CBS poll at the same time found that 62 percent of Americans do not believe the United States has a “responsibility” to intervene in Syria;
  • The sideshow but significant efforts of the Syrian rebel Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade to ensure that they are part of the political process by abducting four more Filipino UN peacekeeping forces on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights “for their own safety“.


Given all of these developments, I expect the United States to continue to rely primarily on diplomacy, but with a greatly enhanced urgency and by reaching out to Russia,  combined with escalated economic sanctions to push towards a regime change by peaceful means and avoiding becoming directly involved militarily in Syria as the least worst option America faces.   

Back Door Channels: The Price of Peace – Part III: The Camp David Peace Agreement.08.05.03

Back Door Channels: The Price of Peace 08.05.13
Part III: The Camp David Peace Agreement


Howard Adelman

The Camp David Accords were not even signed when disputes arose over the interpretation. As well there were regrets over the terms. Jimmy Carter understood why Begin would not agree to a permanent freeze on settlements, but he regretted not pushing Begin to agree to a one year freeze. Further, he believed that Israel had agreed to a freeze on settlements for the duration of the autonomy negotiations and publicly said so. Begin insisted that he had agreed to only three months. Before the official signing of the Accords on the morning of 17 September he delivered a letter confirming that he had agreed to only a three month freeze. Carter believed that Begin had just misunderstood. But Carter claimed that the error was critical; because of the dispute and the impression of the Israelis changing the terms, Hussein refused to come on board with Egypt and join the peace agreement.

As it turned out, Begin was right and Carter was wrong. When the dispute arose, Begin called Aharon Barak and, since Barak had taken notes, asked what those notes said. Barak opened his notes and told Begin, “three months.” Further, Barak called Carter and told him what his notes said. Yet for twenty five years after, Carter kept insisting that the agreement was for the duration of the negotiations and that Begin had misunderstood, but Carter had nothing on paper to prove it. The argument over what was agreed upon set a bad tone and left a long shadow. Jimmy Carter: “Well, there I disagree with him. Because I was present and my strong belief in my written notes that say that Begin agreed to freeze the settlements during the autonomy talks. And the schedule for the autonomy talks was very clearly expressed. And Cy Vance agreed with me. But it was just a few days after that that Begin then announced, in my opinion, contrary to what he had said, ‘only three months’.”

However, President Sadat, who had no love for Begin, in spite of their severe differences, and had agreed between them to delete the clause to which they had previously concurred on supporting an undivided Jerusalem as both too sensitive at this stage and too premature, told the US Congress, “so what’s wrong about three months? I don’t think Begin would have gone back on his word.”

But the critical defining evidence came from Bill Quandt who was sitting outside the room when Cy Vance came out and said to Bill that we have a three month commitment from Begin. Quandt wrote it down in his notes and told Carter. The issue is not simply that the same stubbornness that made Jimmy Carter so effective in pulling off a deal was the same trait that made him blind to his own faults and culpability. It took him twenty-five years to acknowledge that he, not Begin, had misunderstood. However, he remained convinced then and became more convinced over the years that settlements were the single obstacle to resolving the issue in the Mideast and convinced many others of this myth about the peace process. The settlements are and have been a problem. But they are not the most important problem and certainly not the single obstacle preventing peace. The refugee issue has always been more important. And Jerusalem has been the most important obstacle. It is not just me saying that. Carter’s own ambassador to Egypt, Hermann Eilts, confronted Carter on this directly, not that it had any noticeable effect.

Carter had mediator’s remorse and had developed a vested interest in a particular solution and not just the process. He correctly accused Begin of having a “strong case of buyer’s remorse after Camp David” without recognizing his own. Most significantly, Begin’s feelings about the deal affected the leeway he gave Moshe Dayan and undercut his relationship with Ezer Weizman — if that relationship had not already been destroyed by the way Begin conducted the negotiations at Camp David. As Leon Charney, the main figure in the back channel discussions, interpreted the situation, Ezer Weizman, the crown prince of the Likud Party, resigned because he was very angry at Begin for being so sorry about the agreement that he felt pressured to sign. Weizman was also under the fallacious belief that he could take over the party.

So the Camp David Accords came at great cost. Sadat’s team refused to back him. Begin refused to back himself and cut the legs from under both Dayan and Weizman. Carter backed himself fully even if it meant he misinterpreted the agreement and contributed to the distrust and then blamed others for why King Hussein did not join the parade even though King Hussein explicitly told Harold Saunders that he supported the deal, wanted to make peace but could not do so publicly because he was not in a position to deliver without costing him his throne; the timing was just not propitious for him. Meanwhile, the Saudis reassured Carter that they supported the deal while they publicly condemned Sadat for unilaterally making such enormous concessions.

In retrospect, the shock was that a Camp David Accord was signed at all given what we now know and given Jimmy Carter’s serious flaws as a mediator. His strengths had to make up for those flaws because he helped pull off the even more difficult task of translating those Accords into a full peace agreement without the benefit of Ezer Weizman, with serious divisions among the Egyptians, with a castrated Moshe Dayan and an even more determined and stubborn Menachem Begin. None of this was conveyed, or perhaps could have been conveyed in the movie.

What could have been told was how Begin conceded to first allowing the Knesset to decide whether to endorse the agreement and then to return all of the Sinai and dismantle the settlements, thereby removing the final obstacle to the peace agreement. This left both the legacy of an historic breakthrough that deservedly won both Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat the Nobel Peace Prize and also the reinforced mistaken belief of Jimmy Carter and many others that if the settlements could be withdrawn, peace would follow.

It just ain’t true. Carter and others have continued to blame Israel as the main and, if not for the Arab terrorists, the sole obstacle to peace. This was the theme of his noon hour speech on the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Camp David Accords. “Its key early provisions of the Road Map to Peace (which is in line with the Camp David Peace Agreement), however – a good number of them – have been rejected by the Israeli Cabinet. There were 14 caveats that have been promulgated by the present Israeli Cabinet that subvert some of the major portions of the “Road Map to Peace.” For Carter, peace depends on two and only two things: “One is that Israel refrains from retaining in the occupied Palestinian territories or the West Bank and Gaza the multiple settlements that have to be defended militarily and connected with a web of relatively uncrossable highways.” Second, “\he Palestinian national authority and all Arab nations must acknowledge the sovereignty and the territorial integrity of Israel and its right to live in peace and must exert their combined effort to control and to prevent any further acts of terrorism or violence by any Palestinian group against the people in Israel.” One has to wonder how such a naïve man could have accomplished what he did even while acknowledging he did very little else with his presidency.

This blog is no place to review the extrapolations of his own mediating style to general principles set forth in Carter’s book, Talking Peace, or my strong disagreements with them. Some mediators are Machiavellian and not dedicated to truth as Carter has always been – even when he sometimes does not recognize what the truth is – but that does not invalidate that one style may be appropriate to some negotiations and a second to another. Secondly, Carter argued that the mediator has to be regarded as fair. Carter has never been fair. Understandably, he liked Sadat and disliked Begin. He agreed with Sadat and disagreed with Begin. Nevertheless, in spite of his obvious biases, the peace treaty that Israel and Egypt signed on 26 March 26 1979 reflected the Camp David Accords of 17 September 1978. This suggests that fairness in a mediator may not be a prerequisite to some peace negotiations.

Further, Jimmy Carter’s unfairness has only increased since then. In his book with the outlandish title, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, the term ‘apartheid’ – by his own account and lack of evidence – is preposterously unfair to Israel. Carter never even tries to establish that Israel’s motives have been racist. The book is a polemic with no effort to even be objective and truthful. He claims that Israel did not offer a deal to the Palestinians at Taba that met their latest demands, in spite of President Bill Clinton’s testimony that this was precisely what happened. At the twenty-fifth anniversary forum, Elyakim Rubinstein, who was at Camp David with Clinton as well as at Camp David with Carter, confronted Carter on this Big Lie, of course, without naming it as such because Rubinstein is after all a diplomat and I am a philosopher dedicated to clarity and distinctness.

Carter was not balanced or fair. Carter did not tell the truth to both sides – not because he was dishonest, but because he often did not recognize the truth. Carter insists that the mediator must understand the issues as well, but Carter did not and never has. Finally, Carter insisted that the final key to a successful negotiation is that both sides must see themselves as winners. That is also not correct both historically in this case and as a general principle. Both sides, historically, thought they lost a great deal. And that fear on the part of the Israelis reared its ugly head when, in September 2011, the new Egyptian Prime Minister, Essam Sharaf, suggested that the Camp David Peace Agreement could be (and should be?) revised.
Further, psychological research has established repeatedly that one need not believe one came out on top in a successful negotiation but one must believe that the other party lost as much if not more than you did. Carter was a success as a negotiator in this case in spite of himself. As Bill Quandt worded it: “This conflict needs more than a facilitator. It needs somebody on the outside who can be a catalyst, who can be a prod, who can be a friend, who can be a guarantor, and a real nag. Carter was all of that even though he was not just, was not honest with himself, nor objective, nor truly knowledgeable or even recognized how much both sides gave up and lost. Nevertheless, the agreement by and large remains an outstanding success.

One sign of that success was in one area where it failed. The Camp David Peace Agreement required that the United Nations provide a peacekeeping force. A Soviet threatened veto prevented that possibility. If this contingency took place, the United States promised to use its best efforts to create a multinational force. After Israel and Egypt agreed to a protocol change in the agreement, on August 1981 America set up an alternative Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) to be operational at the end of April 1982, the scheduled date for the Israeli withdrawal.

Bill Quandt not only spoke truth to power, not only understood mediation much better than Carter, but also, in contrast to both Jimmy Carter and Zbigniew Brzezinski, did not mouth platitudes such as building on the road map. Quandt advised, “Don’t try to revive the road map…The problem with the road map was both sides were very tentatively committed to it, and the Americans weren’t very serious about it either…Secondly, it did not have a clear destination…the parties are looking by now at the details…They’re looking at actually what would happen in Jerusalem. What would happen on refugees, what would happen on borders, what would happen on security? How can these things be worked out? The generalities are not where the problems lie so much today.” Today was 2003. But those words are as applicable ten years later. Bill Clinton had the deal. That has the details. Refine it, shine it up and try to get both parties to sign on.

Easier said than done!

Back Door Channels: The Price of Peace-Part II: The Camp David Accords.07.05.13

Back Door Channels: The Price of Peace 07.05.13
Part II: The Camp David Accords


Howard Adelman

When I was in the Jerusalem Theatre at the historic moment of Sadat`s visit to Jerusalem when Sadat, Begin and Peres made speeches, I was overwhelmed with how articulate, witty, warm and forthcoming Sadat had been. Peres was also his usual serious political self clearly open to peace and welcoming to Sadat. Begin was the grouch. It was as if Sadat had not said anything and had not taken the bold step of coming to Jerusalem. Begin told Sadat about the Jews as victims of the Holocaust, as if Sadat was a school child. The second note Begin struck was on the Jewish historic right to Palestine and Jerusalem. Begin could have been giving a speech to Irgun followers in 1946. The session was filmed at the time, but there are no clips from the Jerusalem theatre included in the documentary, Back Door Channels: The Price of Peace.

I tried to indicate in my last blog what an amazing military and political leader Sadat had been. My own sense is that the film failed to convey the enormity of his role. As a military leader, he rivals Churchill for he had to remake a demoralized and dysfunctional military organization, depoliticize it and give it a sense of purpose and pride. He succeeded. In this blog I want to focus on Jimmy Carter. For he does deserve great credit for both initiating the Camp David talks and for personally mediating between two very opposite personalities, one of whom Carter detested. How did he do it? What does the documentary contribute to help us understand how the Camp David Accords were concluded? What happened in the thirteen days of negotiations at Camp David that allowed President Anwar el-Sadat of Egypt and Prime Minister Menachem Begin of Israel to sign an accord on 17 September 1978 at the White House to agree to end the state of war between Egypt and Israel? How do you pull off a peace accord when one of the leaders, Menachem Begin, is contemptuous of both Sadat and Carter and where Sadat despises and Carter comes to hate Begin?

One form of credit must be given to all three leaders – all three were very courteous gentlemen, even when they were separated by bitter differences. More specifically, Jimmy Carter was a true southern gentleman. He may often not hear what is really being said and somehow manage to convert what his said into his own predilections, but he was always the ultimate in consideration in ensuring that others had and were enabled to voice their views no matter how he weighed those views.

One might have expected that back door channels would be irrelevant now that direct talks between the leaders of the two states had been initiated. In fact, Leon Charney, an American lawyer who became an agent for Ezer Weizman’s book, not only played a small role in feeding information to Weizman that Sadat was sincere in wanting to make a peace deal based on return of the Sinai to Egypt, but during the Camp David discussions he served as the conduit between Ezer Weizman and Robert Lipshutz who had been close to Jimmy Carter for many years, had served as the treasurer in Jimmy Carter’s presidential campaign and then served as counsel to President Jimmy Carter from 1977 to 1979. That back channel was critical in overcoming personality blockages as well as figuring out how to get around roadblocks, such as the insistence that all land be returned to Egypt in exchange for peace and that provision be made for a settlement on the Palestinian issue.

As background, hinted at but not detailed in the documentary, Wolf Blitzer when he was a reporter for The Jerusalem Post contacted Robert Lifshutz and told him that there was a predominant narrative about Lipshutz circulating in Israel that Lipshutz was anti-Israel and even anti-Jewish even though Lipshutz was Jewish. Blitzer introduced Lipshutz to Leon Cheney who was close to Ezer Weizman. The film is particularly strong on the back channel developed from Carter to Lipshutz to Cheney to Weizman and from Lipshutz to Stuart Eizenstat who played the most important role in the senior White House staff in communicating to the Jewish community leadership in American and through them back to Begin. The back channels helped break down problems and determine what was possible and what was impossible. Strengthened by the information he received, especially on Begin’s views, Carter was able to come up with proposals that Ezer Weizman could sell Begin on directly. However, by focusing almost exclusively on the role of the back channel, the whole sense of perspective is lost.

Further, although this was a back channel that worked superbly, the same back channel was unsuccessful when it was used to deal with the American hostages held by Iran. Leon Charney got word from Austrian Prime Minister, Kreisky, that, because Kreisky had a close relationship with Yasser Arafat, that channel could be useful in negotiating the release of the hostages. After all, Khomeini had given the American embassy in Tehran for the Palestinians. Charney contacted Lipshutz, who was by then no longer White House Counsel, who told Jimmy Carter. Carter arranged to have Charney and Lipshutz fly to Vienna to see what could be done. Charney flew to Israel to get the Israelis on board and Charney fed back to the White House that, “Provided you keep us well informed, we want to cooperate and help you get the hostages out.”

That back channel opening failed because the Carter White House thought that utilization of that back channel would have amounted de facto recognition of the PLO. In my estimation, this was an error by the White House and could possibly have allowed Carter to win a second term. Cy Vance had convinced Carter that the risk was not worth it when the whole point of back channels is that you can take such risks because Carter could deny everything. The film, in this case, missed an opportunity to show the importance three critical elements: 1. personal long term trust; 2. intimate contact; and 3. sidetracking spoilers to make back channel diplomacy effective. The second was only present in small part and the third aspect was lacking.

There is another source that somehow was not used in the film. On the 25th anniversary of the signing of the Camp David Accords, a year after Jimmy Carter was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, on 17 September 2003, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars held a forum chaired by Lee Hamilton from the Woodrow Wilson Center on the topic that, though it did not include Lipshtiz, did include many of the participants including, President Jimmy Cater, Vice-President, Walter Mondale, William Quandt, the member of the U.S. National Security Council who was the best informed of the Americans on Middle East issues, Elyakim Rubinstein who had been the assistant director of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Zbigniew Brzezinski U.S. National Security Adviser to the President, Aharon Barak then Israeli Attorney General and subsequently Chief Justice on the Supreme Court of Israel, Harold Saunders U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs, Hamilton Jordan U.S. Chief of Staff to the President, Jody Powell U.S. Press Secretary to the President, Samuel Lewis U.S. Ambassador to Israel, Hermann Eilts U.S. Ambassador to Egypt, Osama el-Baz Foreign Policy Adviser to the President of Egypt and, representing the back channel, Leon Charney, who, as was his custom, rarely spoke. Rosalyn Carter was also present for it was she who planted the idea in Jimmy’s head of inviting Begin and Sadat to meet at Camp David and was both present and active in the whole process. Osama el-Baz, Sadat’s adviser could not be there because he was at the time actively involved on behalf of President Mubarak in dealing with the Palestinian resort to violence, but he appeared on a video hook-up.

In that forum, Carter recalled the meetings after the historic visit of Sadat to Jerusalem between Sadat and Begin at Ismailia and between representatives of the two sides at Leeds in Great Britain that ended not only in failure but in acrimony, hostility and bitterness between the two leaders, though the wide-ranging discussions did allow the Americans to grasp the opportunities for compromise and define the pitfalls so important in allowing the Americans to write the first draft of the Camp David Agreement that was forged immediately after Leeds and produced at a strategic moment at Camp David. The film omits this context.

Sadat had his ambitious agenda. Carter had a modest one of simply setting an agenda for a fuller peace process and conference. Begin was amenable to Carter’s modest goal. As the film shows, the attempt to get Sadat and Begin to talk directly was a complete failure. The two ended their first discussions in a shouting match. Carter began a process of shuttle diplomacy within the confines of Camp David. When faced with failure on the 11th day, Ezer had pressed for another try and Aharon Barak became the key to writing a compromise to which both Begin and Sadat could agree on the settlement issue.

Barak was clear that Camp David would “never, never be possible without the involvement, the care, and the dedication of President Carter.” But Barak also threw a few sly and gentle digs at Carter, complimenting him for his mastery of detail, but also referring to his arguments with Carter over detailed wording when Carter was neither a legal specialist not an expert on the Middle East. This is not in the film. Second, though alluded to in the film, an important difference is that the Egyptians were split but led by a forcible personality who believed primarily in attitude and commitment. The Israelis believed in detailed preparation and, in that regard, Carter personally, in contrast to the American delegation, was ill-equipped. The Israelis had a peace plan and a solution for the Palestinians based on autonomy that was in accord with the Egyptian position. The Israelis came with draft agreements and fallback positions. They also had a detailed knowledge of the position of the Egyptians. Carter came with a genial smile and very deep convictions.

Critical to these negotiations, and absent in many, was trust in the integrity of the negotiators and honesty on each side quite aside from differences in interests and principles. Since the film emphasizes the back channels rather than the direct discussions and the roles those played in advancing the direct channels, these factors are underplayed in the film. But the back channels could not have been successful without first having that trust. If the back channels were only used to get around the enormous distrust between Begin and Sadat, they would have proven insufficient. What Carter, Sadat and a good part of the Israeli negotiating team brought was persistence combined with the creative imaginations of both Sadat’s and Aharon Barak.

What happened is that the real negotiations took place between Barak and el-Baz and then both the front channels and back channels used to sell the deal to Begin. When I was involved with the negotiations on the refugee issue when Canada gavelled the talks, I was told by our Canadian ambassador who led the talks that I would never succeed as a diplomat because I had been taught through my philosophical training to use clear and distinct ideas. A diplomat had to master the art of creative ambiguity. Barak and el-Baz were masters at that craft. Carter was trained as an engineer and was not facile with equivocation. Barak and el-Baz formulated ambiguous wording at a level of abstraction just sufficient to obscure their differences, but not so abstract as to be meaningless. But Carter was patient, indefatigable, dedicated and had a strong sense of mission that, whenever the negotiations flagged, managed to give them a new spurt of energy. Barak and el-Baz not only negotiated, they engaged in dialogue, told stories, explained background. Back channels are of little help in the hard slugging of negotiations themselves or providing the necessary dialogue that allows negotiations to be fruitful.

Carter deserves enormous praise. But he was often misguided – such as in his initial stress on the Geneva route. The U.S Ambassador to Egypt, Hermann Eilts, erred in this regard in giving credit to Jimmy Carter`s letter to Sadat urging a bold step as a key to the Jerusalem visit when historical documents seem to sustain a story line that Sadat went to Jerusalem in spite of American policies on the peace process. Eilts claimed correctly that when Jimmy Carter became president, he shifted from a stress on a step-by-step approach that had characterized the previous administration to a comprehensive approach. Eits believed even twenty-five years later that this shift had an enormous impact. I, and I believe most historians, would argue that the impact was negative for any comprehensive approach at that time was doomed to failure. The Geneva effort was a dead end.

It may be true that Carter gave up the comprehensive approach only when Assad of Syria did not agree to take part even when Carter supported Assad`s call for a united Arab delegation. Carter`s letter to Sadat encouraging a bold step was not even a catalyst in Sadat`s initiative. Sadat had already been on that route. Jimmy Carter`s accession to Assad`s push for a united Arab delegation only accelerated Sadat`s efforts. As the American ambassador to Syria said, President Sadat did not want to mortgage Egypt’s foreign policy to the lowest common denominator. Sadat decided to move ahead separately. Carter`s answer to this interpretation is revealing because he claimed that America was bound by United Nations resolution that called for an international conference to be headed by the United States and the Soviet Union. Carter simply evaded the question and narrated the details of his many efforts to get Assad aboard before, in fact, conceding, that Assad was inflexible. Carter conceded that his administration `by default` placed our eggs in the Sadat-Begin basket.

Even given that the timing was propitious for an agreement, and even given the extra assistance provided by the back channel, Carter does deserves enormous credit for his commitment and voracious persistence backed up, as Samuel Lewis has remarked, by an unusually united Defence, State, and Intelligence departmental coherence that matched the Israeli briefs in its detail. As Sam Lewis has said, “without that daily concentration of the president driving a process to a conclusion as quickly as possible, you’re not likely to get there, because something is going to blow it out of the water.” Persistence was needed. Timeliness was a prerequisite. So was detailed preparation and coherence. The Americans provided all four. Further, even if both Begin and Sadat were strong leaders, Begin was hard to negotiate with for the best of diplomats.

Because of the focus on the back channel in the film which only dealt with a few issues that were blocked where behind the scenes maneuvering could help, look at the long road the negotiators had to travel in thirteen days. Menachem Begin, who had dedicated his life to a deep belief in the greater Israel, at a minimum, an Israel between the Jordan and the Mediterranean Sea, had to agree to subscribe to UN Resolution 242 requiring Israel to withdraw from occupied territories. Begin had to subscribe to the principle that territories could not be acquired by force, and, in the case of Egypt, the withdrawal from all of the Sinai captured in the Six Day War. He had to agree to withdraw security forces to defined enclaves. The Israelis had to give up their advanced defence positions, including three airfields. Begin had to set the precedent of giving up 14 settlements, including the large infrastructure that had been developed at Sharm el Sheikh and Yamit (the latter with over 3000 settlers). Sadat had to agree to the part of its territory being returned to be demilitarized – a problem later for securing the Sinai from Palestinian terrorists and militant Bedouin as well as leading to the creation of the tunnel economy into Gaza. Sadat had to swallow the humiliation of having a foreign peace force on Egyptian territory and to limit how close his own troops and military, including artillery and tanks, could come to the Israeli border.
Of course, the greatest effort in creative ambiguity was over the surrender of the settlements as Begin had vowed never to return a Jewish settlement. Aharon Barak`s skills were really tested. This was the issue in which the back channel efforts were so effective in allowing Begin, a man of great principle, to keep his vow, by allowing the Knesset and not himself to agree to surrender the fourteen settlements. Without this final concession, the Camp David talks would have ended in failure. Begin got his way in agreeing to full autonomy for the Palestinian Arabs as a people but not a nation but without full self-governing authority over their own land which, for him, only the Palestinian Jews were entitled to have. Unfortunately, the film does not have and cannot take the time to convey the enormity of this leap for a leader of Begin`s ilk.

This was the biggest issue on which Sadat had to compromise. Neither the Americans nor the Israelis recognized his sincere belief in trying to advance this issue for they thought, given their realist assumptions, that he was negotiating simply to provide cover for himself. But he was a firm, both for his own political survival as for the success of the peace talks, in his belief that progress on the Palestinian front had to be in tandem with peace on the Egyptian-Israeli front. Both the Americans and the Israelis let him hang naked and exposed on this issue because the Palestinians were not part of the compromise. With his own contribution, the Israelis and the Americans had boxed Sadat into a suicidal cul-de-sac where he was forced to negotiate on behalf of the Palestinians who were not present and for whom he could never be a legitimate negotiator, but unless he negotiated on their behalf, there never could be an Israeli-Egyptian peace agreement. That compromise alone would turn Sadat into an enemy for those who believed that no Muslim was entitled to cede Muslim territory to Jews.

Further, the peace negotiations had to overcome other obstacles that belonged to neither Sadat nor Begin. Jimmy Carter had then and continued to have a commitment to the principle that all settlement activity by the Israelis was illegal. This was the case even in his interpretations of the discussions twenty-five years later. Elyakim Rubinstein, who was a mandarin and not a party ideologue, had to remind Carter diplomatically that this was his belief and not that of every American administration as he mistakenly insisted. Further, in agreeing to Camp David, Israelis were agreeing to a new base line but for Palestinians who were not part of the agreement, Camp David was an extreme of surrender and not a starting point. Israelis were signing a deal on the issue of Palestinians without a Palestinian quid pro quo.

Finally, contrary to the advice of the Americans, both the Israelis and Egyptians insisted on a deadline for converting the Accords into a full agreement. As we shall see in our discussion of the path from the Camp David Accords to the Camp David Agreement, that deadline initially allowed for wasted time and later became an obstacle itself to an agreement. The film was unable to provide any sense of the dilemmas deadlines pose between their ostensible purpose in preventing endless discussion and their contribution to making discussions endless.

NEXT: The Camp David Peace Agreement

Iran’s nuclear program



Howard Adelman

I am going to have lunch today with an Israeli expert on Iran. From my collected files on the subject, I prepared the following notes in preparation. I suspect that he will focus more on the geo-politics of the region and Iran’s alliances with the Assad regime. Hezbollah and Hamas, but I have focused on Iran’s nuclear program — the technological developments that will put Iran in a position to produce weapons grade enriched uranium and the diplomatic, economic sanctions and sabotage efforts to prevent this from happening. The UN economic sanctions are applicable to “a person engaged in activities that directly or indirectly facilitate, support, provide funding for, contribute to, or could contribute to, Iran’s proliferation-sensitive nuclear activities, or to Iran’s activities related to the development of chemical, biological or nuclear weapons of mass destruction or delivery systems for such weapons, including when the person is an entity, a senior official of the entity.”

As many will recall, in September of last year, at the height of the presidential election campaign, Barack Obama rebuffed Benjamin Netanyahu’s efforts to get the United States to announce a red line that if Iran crossed, the USA would resort to the use of military means to destroy Iran’s nuclear program. Last week, on 7 March, Obama reiterated that he is working the diplomatic channel to resolve the dispute over Iran’s nuclear program, but other options remain on the table. Obama promised to issue a clear and direct challenge to Iran during his forthcoming Middle East trip. Clearly, the Iran file is critical to foreign affairs generally, to Israel’s security and as a bargaining chip between the USA and Israel to gain traction on the Israel-Palestine file.

I hope you find the notes helpful. Excuse the absence of quotes; these are notes and not meant for publication. A map prepared by BBC (…rid-middle-east-17115643) may also be helpful for orientation but I was unable to reproduce it in this version of the blog.

1. Technological Developments

Though the issue is discussed under Iran’s nuclear weapons program, Iran does not yet have such a program. However, Iran has a uranium enrichment program that seems designed to produce enough enriched uranium to produce nuclear weapons. A full program would involve making the bomb as well as the delivery system for such a bomb. Iran has demonstrably had a rocket program development that could be used for such purposes. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has also identified that Iran is developing a nuclear payload for a missile relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device. However, most of what is labelled as a nuclear arms program is more accurately discussed as a weapons-grade uranium enrichment program.

On the latter program, the information comes largely from IAEA. Even the information on the Parchin military facility comes largely from IAEA though IAEA has not been permitted to inspect that facility just outside Tehran. According to Associated Press reports last week, two diplomats told AP that satellite images show trucks and earth-moving vehicles indicating that crews were trying to clean up traces from possibly testing a small neutron trigger, a so-called neutron initiator, used to set off a nuclear explosion.

In 2000, according to IAEA, Iran constructed at Parchin a large explosives containment vessel to conduct hydrodynamic experiments which are strong indicators of possible nuclear weapon development, but its location was only identified in March 2011. Since the Agency’s first request for access to this location in January 2012, satellite imagery showed that extensive activities and resultant changes have taken place – reinstatement of wall panels and exhaust piping, alterations to the roofs of the chamber building, dismantlement and reconstruction of the annex, construction of one small building at the same place where a building of similar size had previously been demolished, spreading, levelling and compacting of another layer of material over a large area – but Iran never granted the Agency access to the site in spite of repeated requests. If the Agency does gain access in the near future, its ability to conduct effective verification will have been seriously undermined.

It should be noted that, under the Non-Proliferation Treaty, there is a loophole; Iran is not obliged to allow IAEA inspectors to inspect its military areas. Ali Asghar Soltani, Iran’s envoy to the IAEA, has insisted that his country does not rule out inspections of such sites, but insists on imposing conditions, including ‘receiving a clean bill of health’ and not permitting follow-up visits. In addition to IAEA reports, information has also come from intelligence leaked deliberately by Israel and the USA as well as satellite imagery.

David Albright of the Institute for Science and International Security on 7 March 2013 made the following claims:

· Though the U.N Security Council resolutions sanction goods that Iran could use in its gas centrifuge program, Iran has made strenuous efforts through Jahan Tech Rooyan Pars Company (sanctioned by the Government of Canada[1]) to purchase 100,000 ceramic ring magnets for the IR-1 gas centrifuge (and not for loudspeakers or other double use purposes).

IR-1 Enquiry Match
Inner diameter Exact to all four digits given
Thickness Exact to all four digits given
Outer diameter mn.op mn.qr Exact to two digits, differ slightly in digits op and qr

· The dimensions of the magnets being sought make clear that their use would be for upgrading the centrifuges.

· 5,000 centrifuges were installed last year for a total of 15,800 centrifuges, 2,000 at the deeply buried Fordo enrichment site

· Early in 2012, 6,000 empty IR-1 centrifuge outer casings were installed at the Natanz Fuel Enrichment Plant

· As of early 2013, over 3,000 IR-1 centrifuge rotor assemblies were installed in the above outer casings, 2,255 in the last three months

What can one conclude? Only a tautology – Iran has rapidly expanded the number of installed IR-1 centrifuges. However, Iran is not prohibited by international agreement from building nuclear plants for peaceful energy production, so upgrading and expanding its centrifuges are not in themselves problems.

On 21 February 2013, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) released its latest report on the implementation of NPT safeguards in Iran and the status of Iran’s compliance with Security Council resolutions. In addition to documenting that almost all of the cascades at Fordo near the holy city of Qom are now vacuum tested and likely ready for enrichment, there has been a substantial increase in the number of installed IR-1 centrifuges at the Natanz Fuel Enrichment Plant (FEP) at a faster rate than expected. New IR-2m advanced centrifuges are now being installed at Natanz.

Nevertheless the number of cascades producing near 20 percent low enriched uranium (LEU) needed for weapons grade uranium has remained constant and Iran has not yet reached the threshold where it can have produced enough 20 percent low enriched uranium hexafluoride for one nuclear weapon, if further enriched to weapon-grade. 250 kilograms of near 20 percent low enriched uranium hexafluoride is needed for one nuclear weapon. Iran now has about 167 kilograms. The IAEA also determined that Iran continues to convert near 20 percent LEU hexafluoride to oxide form. Iran itself said that between 2 December 2012, when it resumed conversion activities, and 11 February 2013, 28.3 kg of UF6 were enriched up to 20% U-235 and 12 kg of uranium were produced in the form of U3 bringing the total amount of UF6 enriched up to 20% U-235 which had been fed into the conversion process to 111 kg and the total amount of uranium in the form of U3 which had been produced to 50 kg. The difference between the figures supplied by Iran and those of independent experts is minor and suggests that Iran is already two-thirds of the way to having enough enriched uranium for an atomic weapon.

Iran has continued construction of the IR-40 Arak reactor that is already far more than a medical isotope production reactor and could be used to produce plutonium for nuclear weapons in violation of UNSC resolutions. It is expected to commence operations in the first quarter of 2014. Iran has not provided the IAEA with an updated DIQ for the IR-40 Reactor since 2006. The lack of up-to-date information had an adverse impact on the Agency’s ability to effectively verify the design of the facility and to implement an effective safeguards approach.

2. Sabotage Counter-measures

In late 2007, the malware Stuxnet was used at the Natanz Fuel Enrichment Plant (FEP) in late 2007 to attack a cascade of 164 IR-1 centrifuges at a time that Iran was setting up and operating its first module of about 2,952 IR-1 centrifuges. The malware takes over the monitoring without the knowledge of the operator and closed the valves of six of 18 cascades in one module, or about 110 centrifuges. (See ISIS, "Basic Attack Strategy of Stuxnet 0.5", 28 February 2013). The most likely valves closed were the three fast acting valves on the three thin pipes for feed, product, and waste (or tails) that pass through the top cap of an IR-1 centrifuge.

The three fast-acting electronically-controlled valves are part of an emergency response system of the cascade aimed at protecting the remaining centrifuges in the cascade from the effects of a crashing centrifuge. If a centrifuge crashes, or there is an imminent risk of one crashing, the computer monitoring system closes the valves of the affected centrifuge rapidly, effectively isolating it. The kinetic energy of a rotating centrifuge is huge. Because this energy is converted mainly into heat, a crashing centrifuge produces a large pulse of hot uranium hexafluoride gas and other gases that must be contained. Otherwise, this pulse travels down the cascade, taking out additional centrifuges in its path. Thus, the emergency system is designed to act within milliseconds in the event of an anticipated crash and isolate the centrifuge from the cascade.

The Natanz cascade emergency response system appears to rely principally on a vibration sensor, an accelerometer, on each centrifuge. Many pressure transducers are also in each cascade to measure pressure, but the most important sensor to detect crashing appears to be the accelerometer. This sensor sends a shut-off signal to the computer monitoring system if the vibration level exceeds a certain, dangerous value. An increase in the feed rate by four to five times would likely cause an increase in the wall pressure to near or above the condensation point of uranium hexafluoride. Any condensation could cause the centrifuge to crash. The initial attack was subsequently replaced by a strategy directed at the frequency converters, causing the rotors to speed up to the point of rotor material failure — suggesting a plan to destroy more centrifuges than this initial attack strategy.

What was the result? Starting in late 2008 and continuing into early 2009, the average enrichment output decreased sharply, before rising again. This could imply many centrifuges crashing but not being reflected in the total number of enriching centrifuges stated by the IAEA in its reports. The damage from the second attack strategy was more systematic, destroying most of the centrifuges in each cascade. Iranians would remove many centrifuges at one time; the IAEA would record this removal. In the end, the crashed centrifuges did not affect the average enrichment output although it likely slowed down the rate of acceleration of the program.

The rumours of a successful sabotage or an accidental series of explosions at the Fordo Fuel Enrichment Plant near the Iranian city of Qom in January were proven to be highly unlikely based on an analysis of satellite imagery. (See David Albright, Robert Avagyan and Andrea Stricker, Day after Alleged Sabotage at Fordo: Hardly the Expected Emergency Response, ISIS, 30 January 2013)

3. Diplomacy

After several days after the resumption of diplomatic talks this month between Iran and the U.N. Security Council’s permanent five members, the United States, Britain, France, China, and Russia, plus Germany (Pf+1), diplomats emerged and, unusually, expressed cautious optimism. In the effort to stop Iran from enriching uranium to 20 percent, technical experts will meet in Istanbul later this week on 18 March and the diplomatic discussions will resume in Almaty, Kazakhstan on 5-6 April to discuss putting in place confidence-building measures, specifically the P5 +1 offer to reduce some sanctions on Iran in exchange for Iran scaling back its nuclear program and shutting down Iran’s underground Fordo enrichment plant. Iran’s foreign minister expressed confidence that an agreement could be reached and Jalili, Iran’s chief negotiator, claimed the Almaty meeting could be a "turning point".

4. Sanctions

As diplomatic talks continue, the U.S. is upping the ante as U.S. lawmakers plan to table a bill tomorrow on 13 March to expand sanctions that already bar habitual commercial relations, choke off Tehran’s principal source of currency from the export of oil, and deny insurance, thwarting Iran’s ability to transport goods. The sanctions are crippling Iran’s economy, but are they undermining support for the regime?

Even though the US has been leading this program, it is a UN program to implement Security Council resolutions on the Islamic Republic of Iran (Iran) based on the Agreement between Iran and the Agency for the Application of Safeguards in Connection with the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (INFCIRC/214), which entered into force on 15 May 1974. Between 2003 and 2013, the Security Council passed 12 resolutions directed at Iran. For example, resolution 1929 (2010) affirmed that Iran shall, without further delay, take the steps required by the Board in GOV/2006/14 and GOV/2009/82 to cooperate fully with the IAEA on all outstanding issues, particularly those which give rise to concerns about the possible military dimensions of the Iranian nuclear programme and that Iran shall, without delay, comply fully and without qualification with its Safeguards. Iran is required to implement its binding obligations to establish international confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear programme.

The Secretariat repeatedly reported that it has not been possible to reach agreement with Iran on the structured approach or to begin substantive work on the outstanding issues, including those related to possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear programme. Certain of the activities being undertaken by Iran at some of the facilities are contrary to the relevant resolutions of the Board of Governors of IAEA and the Security Council. Iran has not suspended its enrichment related activities. Iran has stated that the purpose of enriching UF6 up to 5% U-235 is the production of fuel for its nuclear facilities and that the purpose of enriching UF6 up to 20% U-235 is the manufacture of fuel for research reactors.


Yesterday it was reported that German and Turkish security forces broke up a network trying to obtain uranium refinement parts for Iran’s upgraded Arak reactor which satellite imagery showed has been operational for at least two weeks. Iran has not provided the necessary cooperation. IAEA is unable to provide credible assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran, and, therefore, to allow anyone to conclude that all nuclear material in Iran is for peaceful activities. The Director General was unable to report any progress on the clarification of outstanding issues, including those relating to possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear program. The Washington Post on 6 March 2013 quoted a senior U.S. envoy accusing Iran of "deception, defiance and delay". As The Wall Street Journal stated yesterday, we are nearing the crucial turning point on the nuclear talks with Iran. Unless the talks yield substantial results soon, the military option will be the only one left on the table. Last week French President Francois Hollande at a meeting with President Shimon Peres of Israel said a nuclear-armed Iran was a threat not only to Israel, but to the whole world. However, at five minutes to midnight, he was still calling just for increased diplomatic efforts by the international community to resolve the standoff with Tehran over its unchecked uranium enrichment.


Obama6 – Open Economic War

Obama6: Open Economic War – The Loss of a Uniting Metanarrative 06.02.13


Howard Adelman

I call it “war” deliberately. For Obama has come to recognize that the enemy has to and can be defeated; the Republican Party has intimidated its moderates too much so that they cannot be won over. The question is whether he recognizes that the Republicans can only be divided and turned against itself as part of victory strategy. The defeat may require dissemblance and continuation of the rhetoric of willingness to work with the other side. But the recognition has to be clear and unequivocal that the other side represents a dead end not simply as a negotiating partner but for America.

First it is important to establish why the economic republicans have adapted the same strategies as die hard ideological socialists did in the 1940s who backed themselves into a losing corner. The Republicans are the British socialists of the 1940s. The left was only saved by the abandonment of socialism and the adoption of social democracy as it went to bed with capitalism and with globalization. They had to adopt austerism to save themselves and Britain. The Americans do not have to become austerists. If they do it is only at their peril.

My last blog on Tony Judt included a brief summary of his depiction in The Memory Chalet of the austerity Britain introduced after WWII in order to allow Britain to pay the enormous debt the country had built up in fighting the war. Clement Atlee was the iconic expression of that austerity. As Michael Marrus noted in his excellent discussion of the book, Tony Judt was nostalgic for a period in which the total society, the whole community, shared in an austerian belief. That belief trumped individual desires. Even the Churchill household practiced austerity. Austerity united rather than divided the country for six years after the war. (See, for example, David Kyaston (2008) Austerity Britain: 1945-1951) Atlee had to adopt austerity and surrender British leadership to the Americans in order to bond with the British conservatives in a common metanarrative. That option is no longer possible for the Republican Party today. It was possible under George W. Bush. It is not possible under Barack Obama. The weak Obama supporters who merely concede that Obama is OK and still think that, though the republicans act crazy, they are still owed respect and recognition as His Presidency’s loyal opposition, simply refuse to recognize the reality of total war.

For the Department of History at the University of British Columbia, David James Gossen wrote “Winston Churchill’s The Second World War: Metanarrative, Markets, and the Politics of Memory” (Courtesy National Library of Canada) in 2001 as his a PhD thesis on Winston Churchill’s memoir on WWII amplified by the British press. The thesis focused on the intersection of memory and history and focused on how Churchill’s memoirs not only provided historians with insights into the character, motives and influence of political leaders, but Churchill’s narrative of legitimation also provided the political discourse of the immediate postwar period with a metanarrative that linked the recent past and the emerging professional historiography. Those memoires not only helped to shape how history was recollected but influenced history itself. It was a message of sacrifice in the present as a result of the war against past totalitarian regimes for a common noble cause, the greatest battle of all against the formidable forces of Eastern European communism. The whole community was enlisted in saving the nation through national unity and redemption by means of that sacrifice, a message that carried right though the entire Cold War and allowed Britain and America to be united as partners in a common battle as Britain was forced to surrender its position as lead partner to the Americans.

The proto-pop postwar artists in Britain were, on the other hand, not committed to sacrifice but preoccupied with the pleasures (and miseries) of everyday life. In this period of austerity, they were invading every home with popular culture and consumerism, initially through magazines and later through television that brought the brightness, variety and affluence of America into a colour-starved bleak and drab austere Britain. The seeds were being planted of a new consumer culture built on the American model through America’s fifth column of pop-artists and the new technologies of mass communication.

The undercutting of its own program of austerism was facilitated by the Labour Party in Britain that had given up any belief in common ownership and had capitulated to capitalism. The Labour Party was just that, no longer a socialist party. It was left with only ad hoc responses to crises and no coherent platform or even long range policies. The one uniting idea was to deal with the pre-eminent social question, the need to counteract two twin evils – poverty and unemployment – largely through palliative measures. Rather than confronting capitalism, the Labour Party believed that increasing the minimum wage would help capitalism since healthy workers would lose far fewer days to illness. Further, between the mechanism of regulating financial institutions and banks and ensuring that surplus wealth served the common good, a new society would arise from the wreckage of the old. Thus, the principle that the nation’s industry undermined by individual profiteering was to be re-organized on the basis of Common Ownership in Sydney Webb’s 1918 manifesto of social democracy, Labour and the New Social, was abandoned, but the rest of the manifesto which reinforced and allowed capitalism to survive and thrive was alive and not only kicking but had become he preeminent belief on the Left.

The shift from socialism to social democracy that had been emerging over the previous quarter century was consolidated in the postwar years and crystallized in the rise to supremacy of Keynesianism, in counter-cyclical principles of state debt, in the rhetoric of giving primacy of place to the reduction of unemployment while abandoning the goal of full employment as the most important domestic goal, and the construction of a safety net that would allow the working class to become a prosperous class of home owners and consumers. Along with those measures went efforts to counteract the barriers to trade that had grown up in the autarkic policies of the 1930s and to dredge the channels of exchange that had become choked and congested in that period. Progressive and mutual reduction of tariffs became the new mantra of international trade. Bretton Woods as developed by the leadership of the Canadian economist and future governor of the Bank of Canada, Louis Rasminsky, was endorsed.

For the new ruling Labour Party had crashed into the wall of the debt crisis. For with the defeat of Japan, America’s financing of Britain through Lend-Lease ended. Lend-Lease had allowed Britain to pay 60% of the cost of its trade deficit. How was Britain to pay for the imports of the new consumer society that was emerging when its manufacturing capacity had been so depleted that it could scarcely afford to produce quality products or pay for imported ones? Britain had to gradually surrender its regime of preferential tariffs, much to the benefit of freeing Canada from its mother’s apron strings, but with the loss of the privileges of the Sterling area that would gradually disintegrate under the weight and power of the rising American economic and military power and its new ideology.

Globalization was off and running with the foundations of the World Trade Organization and the International Monetary Fund. The institutions for international welfare capitalism were being put in place by the Americans and British Labour had to accede to them to survive. In return, Britain only had to repay the US $650 million for Lend-Lease and received an additional fifty year loan of $3.5billion at 2% over fifty years. America had saved Britain financially as well as militarily in exchange for sacrificing its socialist soul and buying into globalization. The myth of the market regulated by American dominated international institutions would now reign supreme. Britain also had to agree to allow the British pound to float and be freely converted into American dollars, the most important concession that necessitated the adoption of austerism as the new secular religion of Britain. The radical drop in buying power and the replacement of the British pound by the American dollar as the premier international currency and the loss of sterling as a world currency had to be paid for by the sacrifice of each and every British citizen. Keynes had to sell Britain to the Americans and to abandon the goal of full employment in order to make Keynsianism the foundation of the new international economic order. Efficiency not greater equality was to be the new Zeus ruling over all the other gods.

CF. Jim Tomlinson (1997) Democratic socialism and economic policy: The Atlee years 1945-1951 on which I have relied so much for a great part of the above analysis. See also his latest book co-authored with Carlo Morelli and Valerie Wright published last year: The Decline of Jute: Managing Industrial Decline. It offers an analysis of a single industry in Dundee (Winston Churchill had represented Dundee in Parliament) and tracks the economic, social and economic forces at work in the decades after WWII and the devastating impact of globalization that Atlee, to save Britain, had to buy into. The book provides a template for how manufacturing in the West, not just in Britain, was hollowed out and how it affected the new working middle class. Rather than offering a critique of the original sell-out and its subsequent effects as a bargain with the devil, the book is a positive credit card to those who managed the process so well by forcing the industry (both employers and workers) to consolidate and modernize with the goal of saving the community, at least up until the Thatcher years (1979-1990) and the policies the neo-cons of Britain put in place as doppelgangers to the American Reagonites when markets became totally unfettered, welfare capitalism was undermined on the alter of the new idol that had been elevated, “free markets”. The jute industry was allowed to totally evaporate in the 1990s and cooperative capitalism was sacrificed. But the real victims were the poor and the marginalized as the well-being of the working middle class also declined.

In the immediate Post War period, socialists and conservatives were joined in homage to that fundamental myth (in Britain, and I suggest, through variations in that metanarrative, in other western nation states as well) whatever divisions separated the contending right and left on specific disagreements over state policy. If that metanarrative helped link the past to the developing present and immediate future, the competitive Marxist metanarrative was much more prophetic in the long run. After all, in the metanarrative described above, it was the nation state that was redeemed while in the Marxist adumbration of the future, globalization increasingly subsumed the state beneath the constant and cascading need of capitalism to expand over the whole globe. In the left-right metanarrative of the west, it is not technology or communications that powers this redemption but self-sacrifice and service to the higher cause of the nation. Though the Canadians, Harold Innis and Marshall McLuhan, were initially outliers to this western myth that united left and right, both Innis and McLuhan shared with Marx the prescient vision that technology and communications served to pull everyone in the world into a common “civilization” as they moved from rural areas into mega-cities. The process entailed progressive political centralization. However, the message of Marxism had to be delivered by capitalism and not through a Leninist political totalitarian elite.

The result was the paradox that capitalism became the means to defeat communism to achieve the Marxist vision, but at the sacrifice of the supremacy of the nation to which so much blood, sweat and tears had been sacrificed for its redemption. As I will try to show in a subsequent blog, the economic and community conservatives are united in upholding the myth of the absolute supremacy of the nation-state. This obsolete metanarrative that unites the economic and the cultural conservatives is made possible by the economic conservatives allowing the worship of the supremacy of the market to slip into the status of a lesser god before the divine right of America. It is also made possible because the community conservatives need the state and raise it onto the highest pedestal to achieve their social agenda as they fight a rear-guard battle against creeping social globalization. So while the power of a metanarrative built around the nations unites the right, the power of the western metanarrative was lost as a uniting force between the left and the right before the pounding forces of capitalism. The metanarrative saved capitalism and that capitalism eventually consumed the metanarrative as a binding force.

Paul Krugman in an op-ed piece in The New York Times (“Looking for Mister Goodpin”, 31, 01, 2013) began with a discussion of prioritizing the unemployment issue versus reducing the debt by practicing austerity. He noted that the austerians (the economic conservatives in the Republican Party in the USA and more generally economic conservatives around the globe) advocated that austerity would “both avert crisis and lead to prosperity”. Krugman challenged them to offer just one case anywhere where austerity had worked. They have spent years, he asserted, looking for Mr. Goodpain with no luck.

In Krugman’s account, in 2010, Alan Reynolds of the Cato Institute and Jean-Claude Trichet of the European Central Bank in March of 2010 offered Ireland as an example of emerging success. At the time, Ireland’s unemployment rate was 13.3 percent. Last month, three years after the austerian pied piper played that tune, the unemployment rate was 14.6 percent. As a result of the policy of austerity, Britain is entering its triple-dip recession even though Britain at the beginning of this application of the austerian dogma had no need to practice austerity; it could still borrow at historically very low interest rates. Latvia, another country offered up on the altar to the god of austerity, has a current unemployment rate of 14%. In contrast to these states, Iceland, which was possibly one of the worst basket cases as a result of its overwhelming banking crisis, ignored the austerians and took another route and has today almost fully recovered. As Krugman concludes, “the doctrine that has dominated elite economic discourse for the past three years is wrong on all fronts. Not only have we been ruled by fear of nonexistent threats, we’ve been promised rewards that haven’t arrived and never will.”

Richard Longworth sent me a summary of Paul Krugman’s recent address to The Chicago Council on Global Affairs attended by 2000 people. It had the same message. So does Krugman’s current book End This Depression Now! Austerity efforts combined with other bad polices, such as the premature expansion of risk taking and the continuing lax regulations especially with respect to the financial sector, need to be introduced to avoid the even more dire political consequences that face the world if the policies of the economic conservatives are not abandoned and strenuous efforts to reduce unemployment are not urgently adopted to get unemployment in the USA down to 6%.

The issue is not that a fundamental division over economic policy and how to manage the economy divides Republicans and the Democrats, for that is a given now. The issue is that the two parties no longer share a larger metanarrative with the end of the Cold War. Bill Clinton succeeded as a moderate Republican president in democratic clothes, and, as I will try to show in a subsequent blog, as a hip Black leader, while George W. Bush dragged the country into the doldrums by trying to substitute Islamo-fascists for the old communist bugbear to keep the dead but not yet buried metanarrative alive. By combining those efforts with a neo-imperialist expansionist policy while pushing the payment for his military policies onto future generations, George W. Bush hawked the future of America to pawnbrokers, but principally the rising new economic power, China, just as Britain had to fight WWII by going into deep debt to America.

The first decade of the twenty-first century witnessed the emerging positions of two implacable parties without an overarching metanarrative to unite them. Just as the pro- and anti-slavery, states rights and the increasing power of a centralized state, divided America into two solitudes in the 1860s, now differences over economic doctrine reified into two warring camps but without a common myth of a more fundamental union. Anyone who expected cooperation and compromise between these warring factions had to be naive. The principles of social democracy, of counter-cyclical debt, of attacking unemployment without aspiring to full employment, of regulating and enhancing capitalism rather than replacing it, of a globalised and regulated international economic order, had already proven itself over and over, but those forces had to continually fight the myths of the absolute supremacy of the market place, the absolute supremacy of a military culture represented by the gun lobby, the absolute freedom of the individual who was independent of the need of the state to borrow and tax to build the necessary infrastructure. And they were myths with no basis in fact or reality and immune to falsification through analysis.

This was no longer merely a battle for voters between two rival sets of options but had morphed into an existential battle between the belief system that had been set in place in 1945 that brought America into its position as not simply the leader of the free world but as the leader of the whole world. Those who now held obsolete and dysfunctional myths were in the same position as those who believed in states’ rights and slavery in the 1850s. George W. Bush had the chance to do for the American right what Clement Atlee did on the British left in the 1950s. Atlee sold out the ideology of socialism on the best terms possible and forged a common metanarrative with the Tories that allowed the sell out of his party to social democracy and the supremacy of capitalism to take place. It permitted the sell out of Britain to the supremacy of the United States and the future of globalization.

George W. Bush did not do it. And Barack Obama, who built a reputation as a mediator and conciliator, is cast in the roll of having to defeat the dragon from without that George W. Bush failed to defeat from within. Romney offered a last hurrah for those who would economically unite the economic neo-cons and the community conservatives. When he claimed that Obama “takes his political inspiration from Europe, and from the socialist democrats in Europe,” he was not only correct but signalled Obama’s “otherness” and suggested that Obama’s liberalism is in conflict with a uniquely American strain of individualism. “The Republicans continue to insist on the ‘Atlas Shrugged’ fantasy of the solitary entrepreneurial genius who creates jobs and wealth with no assistance at all from government or society.”

Tomorrow: How the economic neo-cons stay potent as spoilers and dangerous through their alliance with the community conservatives.

[tags economic conservatives, Obama, Presdident, USA, politics]