Tomorrow night begins Pesach. (tonight)
A quintessential moment in the Jewish year, providing a powerful perspective: The Almighty heard the cry of the Children of Israel, who were suffering bitter slavery in Egypt. And He brought us out. Not an agent, but the Almighty. “Us” because we are commanded to consider ourselves as having been rescued then.
In that rescue, that Exodus from Egypt, we became a nation – ultimately brought to Mt. Sinai to receive the law, which instructs us to this day. And then brought to the land. It is of one piece.
Let us not forget the lessons of seder night. And may those lessons transcend what is going on in the world today.
To all who celebrate, Chag Pesach Kasher V’Sameach.
After days of tortuous dragging out of negotiations with Iran, a “sort-of” conclusion has been announced. The advent of the holiday makes it impossible for me to comment at length on what is currently going on. Details will be forthcoming in my postings next week, after time spent with family and when I have returned to a “normal” writing schedule. Here I wish to simply review fairly quickly.
There is no signed agreement. There is only a “framework” – the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action – that will require much working out of specifics by the end of June.
Obama tonight called the agreement “historic” – if finalized it “would cut off every path” to Iran’s development of a nuclear weapon, and would include the toughest inspections “ever negotiated…If Iran cheats, the world will know it. If we see something suspicious, we will inspect it.”
Give us a break! Only those eager to be taken in, only those who are so hungry for this issue to be put to rest, would believe this. Unfortunately, this describes a good number of people. Remember that Iran has a history of cheating, of moving ahead in secrecy on nuclear development.
The US speaks about re-imposing sanctions immediately if Iran were found cheating. But this is a dubious proposition, as Russia and China are likely to balk, so that Iran would be able to cheat AND have sanctions relief.
According to Jeffry Lewis, nuclear proliferation expert, “These treaties never really have an enforcement mechanism, which is, from a legal perspective, kind of weird and kind of a bummer, but totally understandable in a world of states that jealously guard their sovereignty.” (Emphasis added)
No enforcement mechanism? This means Iran must be trusted to keep the deal?
Obama has the unmitigated gall to say there is no daylight between Israel and the US with regard to the security of Israel. This deal, he claims, is the best way to protect Israel. He’s slick – attempting to sideline Netanyahu as an aggressive individual who prefers tough sanctions or even a military attack to this splendid deal that solves everything.
Israeli officials say they will continue to fight this agreement until its date for being finalized in June.
They referred to the framework as “a capitulation to Iranian dictates.” Speaking on condition of anonymity, they called it “a bad framework that will lead to a bad and dangerous agreement.” If finalized, it would make the world “far more dangerous.”
The agreement, they maintained, constitutes “international legitimization of Iran’s nuclear program” whose “only purpose is to build nuclear weapons.” (Emphasis added)
We have yet to hear from members of Congress – but we will.
I note, as well, that all Western negotiating partners are not on board with the same enthusiasm that Obama exudes.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and President Francois Hollande welcomed the “framework” but expressed the opinion that there was much work to do to before there could be an acceptable deal.
I share this, from Omri Ceren of The Israel Project (emphasis added):
“[Iranian Foreign Minister] Zarif just finished his speech…some of what Zarif revealed has already generated controversy. There was a lot of braggadocio in the speech: no closing of facilities, R&D will continue on Iran’s scientific schedule, enrichment will continue, the heavy water at Arak will be modernized, etc.
“Perhaps most relevant to people who have been following the day-to-day in Lausanne, is that Zarif confirmed the U.S. has completely caved on the Fordow concession that the AP blew open on Thursday. Recall that Fordow is the underground bunker, built into the side of a mountain, which the Iranians emptied and made into an illicit enrichment facility. The assumption had always been that the Iranians would have to close it under any reasonable deal.
“President Obama was saying as late as 2012: ‘We know they don’t need to have an underground, fortified facility like Fordo in order to have a peaceful program’…
“The Iranians simply said no…So the Americans caved and said that they could keep it open as a research facility, but they had to remove all the centrifuges for storage…there was a lot of talk of Iranian flexibility when they accepted it…Then this week, it emerged that in fact the Iranians would be allowed to keep centrifuges spinning inside the mountain.
“But instead of spinning uranium, the centrifuges would be spinning germanium or similar non-nuclear elements. Centrifuges spin isotopes into lighter and heavier elements, thereby enriching’ the material. That’s what they do. In fact that’s all they do. The administration has gone all-in on a talking point can be defeated by a Google search for ‘centrifuges enrich germanium’…
“This isn’t a minor point. The concession has the potential to gut the whole deal.”
“[It] allows…centrifuge R&D beyond the reach of the West- since the process is the exact same process, Iran will have a hardened facility where it will be able to research and develop N-generation centrifuges. Zarif bragged from the stage in Lausanne that Iranian R&D on centrifuges will continue…the development of advanced centrifuges would give the Iranians a leg up if they decide to break out, and will put them instantly within a screw’s turn of a nuke when the deal expires.
“[It] leaves Iranian nuclear infrastructure running beyond the reach of the West – if the Iranians kick out inspectors and dare the world to respond, the West will have zero way to intervene…”
A bit of clarification here, regarding the Fordow site and the enrichment of germanium:
“…the centrifuges could only be used to enrich germanium, zinc, and other non-fissile materials. But the centrifuges are identical in design to those used for uranium enrichment, and can quickly be retooled for uranium enrichment.
“Critics are concerned that Fordow could be used to perfect advanced uranium enrichment centrifuges using uranium stand-ins and in a location secure from outside attack.”
And in closing, this additional information just in from Omri Ceren:
“The issue of sequencing sanctions relief – how, when, and to what extent sanctions will be lifted in exchange for Iranian compliance – was one of the key sticking points over the last week…
“Achieving an understanding on sanctions would have to be counted as a major achievement, and it’s already being claimed as such. But there’s something wrong here. I haven’t figured out what it is yet, but I’m pretty sure I don’t like it…
“The EU/Iran joint statement says sanctions will be terminated ‘simultaneously’ with Iran implementing its obligations…
“The White House factsheet says sanctions will be suspended ‘after’ Iran has taken ‘all’ of its nuclear-related steps…
“Zarif is already saying the White House is lying about how sanctions will be lifted… (emphasis added)
“The last time Zarif accused the Obama administration of lying on a factsheet was after the JPOA was announced, in the context of granting a ‘right to enrich.’ He was 100% right and the Americans were 100% wrong.
“It’s not clear what the actual sanctions deal is, but it’s worrying that there are already differences…If the Iranians are right, then the White House is again misleading journalists and lawmakers about the actual scope of their concessions.”