In my book, no issue in the news takes precedence over the negotiations with Iran. I feel as if I keep repeating myself, and yet I must, because each time after I’ve written that the situation has deteriorated vis-à-vis the negotiations, it gets worse still.
I am, quite frankly, confounded, that the American Congress (see below) and the American electorate and major European leaders are not extremely alarmed about what’s coming down the road with Obama’s handling of those negotiations. Sufficiently alarmed to want to take definitive action to stop the downward track of the talks. The analogy here truly is a run-away locomotive hurtling down a steep incline.
Are they oblivious to the deeper implications of what’s happening? Do they consider themselves impotent to make a difference? Do they know there’s a problem but imagine it won’t affect them? Are they too focused on immediate issues and private concerns to see the big picture? Whatever the case – and yes, I know the various “takes” – it’s a deeply deeply worrisome situation, as we head to the deadline for completing those negotiations.
I will qualify what I’ve just written, in one respect, by noting that there are indeed those in Congress who are strongly opposed to what Obama is doing. That’s why the Corker Bill requiring Congressional review of any Iranian deal has been passed. However, as I understand it, should the president veto legislation overturning the deal, that veto would likely stand, because it is doubtful that there would be a Congressional super-majority sufficient to over-ride the veto. This suggests that a substantial number of people in Congress are not yet clear on the dangers of what is going on, or choose to ignore them.
Time after time, the Obama administration has caved on demands it had placed on the Iranians. Whenever Iranian leadership balks, the Americans find a way to back off, while rationalizing the reason for doing so.
The latest issue – a very key issue – involves the requirement, insisted upon by the IAEA, that Iran must reveal all past nuclear military activity. As recently as April 8, John Kerry, in an interview with Judy Woodruff of Newshour, stated definitively that there would be no final deal without this Iranian disclosure:
As Omri Ceren of The Israel Project explains (emphasis added):
“Getting Iran to come clean about the atomic work done by its military is…about base-lining the Iranian nuclear program as a critical prerequisite to any verification scheme. Without full, prior disclosure the last arguments that the administration has for the deal – that it will verifiably keep Iran a year away from a bomb – can’t be sustained.
The IAEA needs to know all of the atomic work that the Iranian military has conducted – uranium mining, centrifuge construction, enrichment, etc. – so that inspectors can verify they’ve stopped doing those activities and given up those assets. Otherwise there is no way to verify the Iranians are meeting its obligations.”
Ceren cites David Albright and Bruno Tertrais – respectively of the Institute for Science and International Security and Fondation pour la recherche stratégique – on this:
“It is critical to know whether the Islamic Republic had a nuclear-weapons program in the past, how far the work on warheads advanced and whether it continues. Without clear answers to these questions, outsiders will be unable to determine how fast the Iranian regime could construct either a crude nuclear-test device or a deliverable weapon if it chose to renege on an agreement.”
Back in March, the WSJ ran a piece saying that the Obama administration was caving on this. As Ceren describes it:
The West was prepared to “frontload sanctions relief and insist the Iranians come clean some time later lest they face snapback.” This means removing sanctions before the Iranians have provided the required information, The only mechanism then for getting the Iranians to comply would be the threat of re-instating sanctions: “a transparent way of papering over a total collapse.”
It was in response to this WSJ charge that Kerry offered his April 8th denial.
The whole notion of a “snapback” of sanctions is a highly dubious proposition – once sanctions, which took years to put into place, have been lifted, it would be extremely difficult to reinstate them. If the sanctions that are still in place now (some have already been eased) are not sufficient to coerce Iran into providing required data, the dubious threat that lifted sanctions would be reinstated is likely to have zero effect on the Iranians. The mullahs would consider themselves “home free.”
Iranian President Rouhani said on TV on Saturday that he would not accept a UN inspections regime that jeopardized state secrets.
“Iran will absolutely not allow its national secrets to fall into the hands of foreigners through the Additional Protocol or any other means.”
That’s the heart of the problem right there, is it not: Iran’s state secrets.
Last Thursday, Bradley Klapper, writing for the Associated Press (AP) indicated that (emphasis added):
“World powers are prepared to accept a nuclear agreement with Iran that doesn’t immediately answer questions about past atomic weapons work, U.S. and Western officials said. Washington has said such concerns must be resolved in any final deal.
“After a November 2013 interim accord, the Obama administration said a comprehensive solution ‘would include resolution of questions concerning the possible military dimension of Iran’s nuclear program.’
“But those questions won’t be answered by the June 30 deadline for a final deal, officials said, echoing an assessment by the U.N. nuclear agency’s top official earlier this week. Nevertheless, the officials said an accord remains possible. One senior Western official on Thursday described diplomats as ‘more likely to get a deal than not’ over the next three weeks.
You have the picture, my friends. I will return to it as I see necessary.
Yesterday, Prime Minister Netanyahu, joined by Minister Yuval Steinitz, who is his point man on Iran, issued a statement criticizing the current situation:
“To our regret, the reports that are coming in from the world powers attest to an acceleration of concessions by them in the face of Iranian stubbornness,”
Credit: Ohad Swigenberg
”Steinitz, who was in Washington last week to discuss the Iran diplomacy, said the world powers – the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany – were considering a stop-gap whereby inspections would be decided on ‘by committee.’
“Such an arrangement might offer reassurance on paper, but in reality it would give Iran time to cover up illegal nuclear activity or even relocate it off-site,” he told Reuters.”
Ah, our government must be an unending thorn in the side for Obama and his flunkies. I’m not aware of officials from other countries as forthright as this.
Then there is former head of Mossad, Shabtai Shavit, who spoke at the Herzliya Conference the other day. Also forthright: The Iranians, he said, are using the fact that Obama wants a deal with Iran to be part of his legacy to pressure him for more and more concessions.
“Their patience is much greater than the patience of western negotiators. They will exhaust the Americans, they will squeeze them.”
I’ve written before about the Druze community in Syria, which is now threatened by the jihadists who are moving in. What I addressed then was the possibility that those Druze just over the border in the Syrian Golan might flee into Israel.
But the number of Druze adjacent to the Israeli border near Mt. Hermon is relatively small – perhaps 25,000, while many times that number of Druze live in other areas – primarily in the highlands of Jabal al-Druse, in Suwayda province in the southeast of Syria. In the early part of the 20th century, there was an autonomous Druze region there and there are those who dream of such autonomy again. And there are others in the north, close to Turkey.
What is certain is that all the Druze of Syria are currently at risk. There have been rallies on their behalf held by Druze in Israel, and appeals by Druze leaders such as Sheikh Moafaq Tarif, pictured with the prime minister below. Israel does not foresee the possibility of absorbing all the Druze into northern Israel, and is exceedingly reluctant to enter into direct battle in Syria to protect them.
However, as one Israel source cited by the Times of Israel said:
“…as a people that experienced the Holocaust, we have no intention of ignoring the possibility of a mass genocide of the Druze minority.” Walla cited a senior Israeli military official, briefing reporters, who said “Israel would not stand idle if it sees a massacre.”
Israel has put out appeals in a variety of quarters – to the US (via Chief of Staff General Martin Dempsey when he visited in Israel last week), the Red Cross, etc. – for greater assistance to the Druze community.
Additionally, what is being discussed in Jerusalem is the possibility of establishing a safe zone for the Druze directly over the border in the Golan. Some sources say a decision on this has not been made yet, others – such as Walla – reports that it has.
The possibility of a Kurdish state is not simply an idle dream, but, rather, moves closer to reality with the current unrest in the region. The Kurds have been working towards this goal, with considerable infrastructure and organization in place, for a long time.
I note that right now the Kurds are on the offensive in Syria:
The promise of a strong Kurdish presence in the region is good news for Israel. See “Kurdistan: More Like Israel, Less Like Iraq”:
More to following very soon…