Until the end there was doubt that this would actually happen. But it happened. Heaven help us now. The fools who were negotiating in Vienna have reached an agreement. And look how happy they appear, after the crushing damage they have fomented. (Of course Zarif of Iran, who is laughing the hardest, would be ecstatically happy.)
I share here some basics of the agreement, as described by Omri Ceren of The Israel Project (with my bolded emphasis added):
(1) The Iranian nuclear program will be placed under international sponsorship for R&D – A few weeks ago the AP leaked parts of an annex confirming that a major power would be working with the Iranians to develop next-generation centrifuge technology at the Fordow underground military enrichment bunker. Technically the work won’t be on nuclear material, but the AP noted that “isotope production uses the same technology as enrichment and can be quickly re-engineered to enriching uranium.” The administration had once promised Congress that Iran would be forced to dismantle its centrifuge program. The Iranians refused, so the administration conceded that the Iranians would be allowed to keep their existing centrifuges. Now the international community will be actively sponsoring the development of Iranian nuclear technology. And since the work will be overseen by a great power, it will be off-limits to the kind of sabotage that has kept the Iranian nuclear program in check until now.
(2) The sanctions regime will be shredded – the AP revealed at the beginning of June that the vast majority of the domestic U.S. sanctions regime will be dismantled. The Lausanne factsheet – which played a key role in dampening Congressional criticism to American concessions – had explicitly stated “U.S. sanctions on Iran for terrorism, human rights abuses, and ballistic missiles will remain in place under the deal.” That turns out to have been false. Instead the administration will redefine non-nuclear sanctions as nuclear, so that it can lift them…
(3) The U.S. collapsed on the arms embargo – Just a week ago Dempsey told the Senate Armed Services Committee that “under no circumstances should we relieve pressure on Iran relative to ballistic missile capabilities and arms trafficking.” Now multiple outlets have confirmed that the embargo on conventional weapons will be lifted no later than 5 years from now, and that the embargo on ballistic missiles will expire in 8 years. No one in the region is going to wait for those embargoes to expire: they’ll rush to build up their stockpiles in anticipation of the sunset.
(4) The U.S. collapsed on anytime-anywhere inspections – The IAEA will get to request access to sensitive sites, the Iranians will get to say no, and then there will be an arbitration board that includes Iran as a member. This concession is particularly damaging politically and substantively because the administration long ago went all-in on verification. The original goal of the talks was to make the Iranians take physical actions that would prevent them from going nuclear if they wanted to: dismantling centrifuges, shuttering facilities, etc. The Iranians said no to those demands, and the Americans backed off. The fallback position relied 100% on verification: yes the Iranians would be physically able to cheat, the argument went, but the cheating would be detected because of an anytime-anywhere inspection regime. That is not what the Americans are bringing home.
Last night, Ceren, who was in Vienna, was interviewed on Voice of Israel. He referred to the deal as a “staggering, staggering failure of US diplomacy, and a staggering failure of US leadership.”
You can see more on the deal as a Western catastrophe in the op-ed by Times of Israel editor David Horovitz:
President Obama’s speech today, celebrating the end of the deal, is so filled with lies and misrepresentations it is difficult to know where to begin:
“…the United States, together with our international partners, has achieved something that decades of animosity has not: a comprehensive long-term deal with Iran that will prevent it from obtaining a nuclear weapon.
“This deal demonstrates that American diplomacy can bring about real and meaningful change, change that makes our country and the world safer and more secure…
“Today, because America negotiated from a position of strength and principle, we have stopped the spread of nuclear weapons in this region. Because of this deal, the international community will be able to verify that the Islamic Republic of Iran will not develop a nuclear weapon.
“This deal meets every single one of the bottom lines that we established when we achieved a framework this spring. Every pathway to a nuclear weapon is cut off…”
If you have been tracking the breathtaking concessions made by the US, either via my posts or elsewhere, you can identify the whoppers for yourself. But let me take one very obvious example here: He says, “we have stopped the spread of nuclear weapons in this region [the Middle East]. Quite the contrary is the case.
As the Jewish Policy Center explains:
“We have not. Far from providing for better arms control, the deal will encourage Sunni powers in the region, including Saudi Arabia and Egypt, to reconsider their own nuclear programs, shredding the international non-proliferation protocol. The region will become increasingly unstable.”
Prime Minister Netanyahu calls the deal a “stunning historical mistake.”
Credit: Hadas Parush/Flash90
In his statement today, he said (emphasis added):
“The world is a much more dangerous place today than it was yesterday.
“The leading international powers have bet our collective future on a deal with the foremost sponsor of international terrorism. They’ve gambled that in ten years’ time, Iran’s terrorist regime will change while removing any incentive for it to do so. In fact, the deal gives Iran every incentive not to change.
“In the coming decade, the deal will reward Iran, the terrorist regime in Tehran, with hundreds of billions of dollars. This cash bonanza will fuel Iran’s terrorism worldwide, its aggression in the region and its efforts to destroy Israel, which are ongoing.
“Amazingly, this bad deal does not require Iran to cease its aggressive behavior in any way…
“In addition to filling Iran’s terror war chest, this deal repeats the mistakes made with North Korea.
“There too we were assured that inspections and verifications would prevent a rogue regime from developing nuclear weapons.
“And we all know how that ended.
“The bottom line of this very bad deal is exactly what Iran’s President Rouhani said today: ‘The international community is removing the sanctions and Iran is keeping its nuclear program.’
“By not dismantling Iran’s nuclear program, in a decade this deal will give an unreformed, unrepentant and far richer terrorist regime the capacity to produce many nuclear bombs, in fact an entire nuclear arsenal with the means to deliver it.”
“Israel is not bound by this deal with Iran and Israel is not bound by this deal with Iran because Iran continues to seek our destruction.
“We will always defend ourselves.”
The Security Cabinet has met and unanimously voted to reject the terms of the agreement, and stands by Israel’s right to defend herself.
And here we come to one essential aspect of what will now follow. There is a great deal of discussion regarding whether Israel can hit Iran, and whether Israel will opt to do so.
There are those who say declarations by Israel’s leaders are just bluff. I’m not sure that is true (see below), but those who call these words “bluff” are missing a very essential point: If Iran knows Israel is watching, and Iran is not sure if Israel is bluffing, the situation has a certain inhibiting effect on Iran’s behavior. This has already been demonstrated.
But in any event, as I said, we do not know that Israel is bluffing.
Military analyst Yaakov Lappin says that Israel will continue to develop means for attacking Iran, as long as Iran remains a threat: the military option is not off the table. However, it is only an attempt by Iran to break through to nuclear capability that would trigger an attack.
An attempt by Iran to break through remains a possibility because, historically, Iran cheats, and now the monitoring is sorely insufficient.
See this video of an interview of Naftali Bennett by BBC. He makes the point exceedingly well of how insufficient monitoring will be under the agreement:
A statement by MK Tzahi Hanegbi (Likud), Chair of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, reinforces the view presented by Lappin: Israel’s ability to attack is independent, he says. [I.e., no one controls us.] We won’t attack if they don’t cheat. “And we know that this entire program is based on fraud and deceit that the world is now accepting.”
Netanyahu has been saying that he never promised he could stop this agreement, as the Western leaders were determined to go forward with it.
What he has promised, he says, and that promise stands, is not to let Iran go nuclear. Lappin’s analysis gives teeth to this commitment. The capability of hitting Iran’s nuclear facilities is one Israel has no intention of forfeiting, Lappin says.
What I find more than a bit astounding is that in spite of widespread understanding in many quarters that the Iranian deal is badly flawed and dangerous, in all the world, Prime Minister Netanyahu is the only head of state who is speaking out forcefully.
In this, I believe he merits our whole-hearted support.
There are others, such as heads of the Sunni Arab states, who are truly horrified. But they are opting for a deafening silence.
The next focus of attention is Washington DC and Congress – which has 60 days now to review the deal. The president has already said he will veto a negative vote. We knew this going in.
Israel has plans to speak with Congressional leaders and to bring the case for rejection of the deal to the American people. The hope is that the deal can be stopped.
According to some sources, Obama, for his part, now plans a charm offensive: he will invite Netanyahu to the White House, offer arms, etc., in an attempt to sway Netanyahu to accept the deal without campaigning against. Make it worth Israel’s while, that is.
I do not expect this will work.
I’ve even read commentary that suggests that Netanyahu might secure guarantees from the US that if Iran attacked Israel, the U.S. would provide defense. Trust the U.S. to defend us? Get real.
I will return to this diplomatic situation, as it plays out, several times over, I am certain.
For days, I have delayed writing because the situation regarding negotiations with Iran has been so much in flux. I was waiting, waiting, for some outcome or closure. My own feeling for some time has been that there is the possibility that there will be no deal, as the Iranians in the end might balk at signing.
No deal would be the best we might hope for now. Great damage has already been done. But at least this way, Obama’s insanity would be exposed and he wouldn’t be able to claim “victory.” And then, if/when Israel were to attack Iran, there would be no charge that an agreement that would have brought “peace” had been sabotaged.
In truth, the Iranians pretty much have what they want already – insofar as much sanction relief has been provided upfront, European nations are clamoring to trade, and the international community has conceded the Iranian “right” to operate centrifuges. Why mess things up by signing an agreement that calls for inspections, however limited, or other controls?
The problem, of course, is that, while Iran hasn’t come to terms with signing, neither have the mullahs said negotiations were at an end. They have been willing to play the game, on and on and on, all the while advancing their nuclear agenda.
While the American administration – in spite of Kerry’s feeble claims that he wouldn’t stay at the table forever – has been reluctant to be identified as the party that called an end to proceedings. Then, of course, the Iranians would charge that it was the US that was refusing to cooperate on a deal.
Thus have the negotiations gone past one deadline after another. I came to refer to this process, in my own head, as “faux negotiations.” These are not legitimate negotiations, for there is no real give-and-take.
This is how journalist Daniel Greenfield described the situation in “Obama’s Infinite Nuclear Deadlines for Iran” (emphasis added):
“’We are certainly not going to sit at the negotiating table forever,’ John Kerry said. That was last year around the time of the final deadline which had been extended from July 2014.
“’New ideas surfaced’ in the final days, he claimed and ‘we would be fools to walk away.’ That’s also the theme of every sucker caught in a rigged card game, MLM scheme and Nigerian prince letter scam.
“Smart people walk away after getting cheated. Only fools stay.
“The final deadline was extended to March. White House spokesman Josh Earnest said in March that, ‘I think it’s fair to say that we’ve reached our limit, right now, in as far as the conversations have been going on for more than a year.’
“The March deadline was extended until the end of June.
“Earnest said earnestly that the Obama Squad was ready to walk away even before June 30. An official claimed, ‘No one is talking about a long-term extension. No one.’
“The Iranians had a good laugh and sent the US negotiators out to fetch them some coffee and smokes.
“…But Kerry was almost coherent compared to European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini who stated that, ‘We are continuing to negotiate for the next couple of days. This does not mean we are extending our deadline.’
“When you don’t treat a deadline as final, that means it’s being extended. A deadline that isn’t kept, isn’t a deadline. It’s an ex-deadline pining for the peaceful Iranian fjords.
“But Federica explained that the deadlines weren’t being extended, they were being ‘interpreted… in a flexible way.’ A flexible deadline is a good metaphor for the Obama negotiating posture.
“If the negotiators can’t even make one of many deadlines stick, who really believes they’ll stand their ground on nuclear inspections or sanctions snapback?…
“…Obama’s people have admitted that they will negotiate until doomsday. And doomsday is likely to be the date that Iran detonates its first bomb.
“…The deadline concession officially puts Iran in the driver’s seat.”
And so… yesterday it was announced that a deal was very imminent and would likely be announced on Monday. (Monday midnight – tonight – is the latest deadline.) Hearts sank, stomachs clenched, at this possibility.
But here it is, Monday evening, and still no deal. AP, reporting this afternoon, says a deal is still elusive (emphasis added):
“Disputes over attempts to probe Tehran’s alleged work on nuclear weapons unexpectedly persisted at Iran nuclear talks on Monday, diplomats said, threatening plans to wrap up a deal by midnight…
“The diplomats said two other issues still needed final agreement — Iran’s demand for a lifting of a U.N. arms embargo and its insistence that any U.N. Security Council resolution approving the nuclear deal be written in a way that stops describing Iran’s nuclear activities as illegal…”
The UN arms embargo has to do with conventional weaponry and impinges directly on Iranian plans for hegemony in the region. But it has implications even beyond this. As Andrew Bowen writes, in “Give the Mullahs Ballistic Missiles?” (emphasis added):
“Ending an arms embargo on Iran will only destabilize the Middle East and threaten U.S. national security…
“Advocates of this policy have three main arguments.
“First, that the U.S. shouldn’t get preoccupied by this small snag…
“Second, Washington’s concessions on the embargo aren’t a big deal because these negotiations are focused on Iran’s nuclear program…
Finally, there’s a claim that Iran simply needs advanced weapons to help defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria….
“Matthew McInnis, a Resident Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and a former senior expert on Iran at the CENTCOM, argues, ‘these are all red herrings. They distract from Iran’s real threat to U.S. national security interests: an unfettered Iranian armed forces’…
“It is one of the great ironies with this potential deal that in trying to constrain Iran’s nuclear program for ten to 15 years, we may actually help create an Iranian military that puts the lives of American sailors, soldiers, and airmen at serious risk.”
Omri Ceren’s observations on this:
“…it just doesn’t seem possible that the Americans can give ground on this. What’s the sales pitch to Congress going to be? ‘Not only are we giving Iran $150 billion to bolster its military, but we’re also lifting arms restrictions to make it easier for them to buy next-generation cruise missiles they’ll use against the U.S. military and our allies.’
“…yes of course lifting the arms embargo would detonate American national security…
“…If Kerry agrees to drop the arms embargo, it’s difficult to see Congress accepting the agreement. If Kerry gets the Iranians to give up on the demand, Congress will want to know what he had to trade away to do it.”
But (see below), Khameini is saying all his red lines have to be met, if there is to be an agreement. If the Americans cannot accept it, is this a genuine sticking point? Or, if they do, the kiss of death in Congress?
Whatever the case, it is imperative that all Americans be aware of what is going on here, and hold Congress accountable.
Perhaps by midnight tonight there will be a deal. But do not count on it. There is talk of extending negotiations into Tuesday. In fact, there are reports that hotel rooms have been booked again in Vienna by the US delegation.
While Iranian media outlet PressTV cites Iran’s nuclear negotiator Abbas Araqchi (emphasis added):
“…certain issues still remain. As long as these issues are not settled, one cannot say we have reached an agreement. I cannot promise that the issues will be resolved by tonight or tomorrow night.”
If there is a deal, it will be the stuff of nightmares, beyond horrific.
Yesterday we saw photos of the overwhelming crowds in the streets of Tehran, waiting to celebrate the agreement. Horrendous.
Hey folks, if the Iranians are that pleased, something is very very wrong.
According to the semi-official news agency Fars, the anticipated agreement complies with all the “red lines” set out by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei.
Khamenei had put forth these “red lines” last month, in talks with Iranian president Rouhani.
Providing a somewhat different take, a Khamenei advisor, going by the name Velayati, has tweeted that: “Any deal in Vienna will be provisional, subject to approval by ‘Supreme Guide.’”
Also a signal of something very wrong is the readiness of the Obama administration to continue negotiations even as Khamenei calls for a continuing struggle with the US – which he refers to as an “arrogant power” – regardless of what deal is signed.
Last Friday, in Tehran, “Al Quds Day” was observed by crowds of tens of thousands shouting, “Down with America,” “Death to Israel.”
Not even the specter of a burning American flag prompted Obama or Kerry to protest, or gave them pause regarding the wisdom of the negotiations.
Prime Minister Netanyahu has made it clear again and again that Israel will not be bound by a bad deal with Iran. Yesterday at the weekly Cabinet meeting, he showed a video of President Clinton, in which he praised a nuclear deal with North Korea, which would make the world safer. We all know how that turned out.
In an interview with The Times of Israel yesterday, Dr. Dore Gold, who is currently serving as Director-General of the Foreign Ministry, let it be known that (emphasis added):
“Israel won’t be shy about making its views on the Iran deal heard on Capitol Hill…While Israel needs to express its concerns with civility, he stressed, the government is gearing up to firmly advocate its position in discussions with all the relevant players in the US government. ‘We’ll do it respectfully, but we have to tell the truth,’ he said.”
Reports The Times:
“According to other Israeli diplomats, never before has a Foreign Ministry director-general been as close to the prime minister as Gold is to Benjamin Netanyahu, who also happens to be serving as interim foreign minister. Unlike his predecessors, Gold, who immigrated to Israel in 1980, can pick up the phone and call Netanyahu at any time. It is quite clearly Gold, rather than Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely, who is calling the shots in Israel’s diplomacy, these diplomats say, acting as Netanyahu’s trusted emissary.”
“’The story of Iran’s nuclear capability is not over,” said Gold, the author of a 2009 book on the Iranian regime’s bid for the bomb.
“…he hailed Netanyahu, whom he has advised since the mid-90s, as the courageous defender of the entire region, single-handedly bearing the burden of opposition to a deal that all Sunni states loathe but don’t dare to publicly criticize.
“’They can afford a strategy of silence when there is one player in the region who is defending not just itself but the entire Middle East,’ Gold said. ‘When Prime Minister Netanyahu stands up and attacks Iran, he’s not just defending Israel. He’s defending Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan and all the other Sunni countries.’”
Gold’s role here is important not only because of his close relationship with Netanyahu. It is also because he carries a certain prestige as an academic, author and diplomat.
Credit: Flash 90
In truth, we do not yet know how this will play out.
There is a colossal danger to the world coming down the road: A nuclear Iran. It’s scary as hell because of the radical jihadist intentions of the Iranian mullahs.
Right now the president of the United States and the Congress of the United States are at odds regarding how to respond to Iran. Currently there is a “Joint Plan of Action” (JPOA) in place – an agreement between Iran and P5 + 1 (US, UK, France, China, Russia and Germany – those nations in negotiations with Iran). This is a temporary agreement, scheduled to end on June 30, 2015 (having been extended from its prior expiration date of November 24, 2014).
JPOA outlines restrictions placed on Iran, and sanctions relief provided to Iran, for the course of negotiations regarding final understandings on Iran’s nuclear status. It is theoretically the case that all negotiations are to be completed by that June deadline.
Obama, in his State of the Union address, pledged to veto any legislation that imposes sanctions on Iran – a statement which is a direct challenge to the Congress. The president claims that such sanctions would be destructive to negotiations. What he has done is to misrepresent the position of Congress – for the legislation that is being advanced calls for additional sanctions ONLY IF and ONLY AFTER negotiations had failed.
The bill – sponsored by Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) – has bi-partisan support. In fact, it was Menendez, ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who has voiced the most vociferous criticism of the administration position. Addressing administration officials in the course of a hearing on Iran, he said:
“I have to be honest with you, the more I hear from the administration…The more it sounds like talking points coming out of Tehran. And it heeds to the Iranian narrative of victimhood, when they are the ones with original sin: an illicit nuclear weapons program over the course of twenty years that they are unwilling to come clean on. I don’t know why we feel compelled to make their case…They get to cheat in a series of ways, and we get to worry about their ‘perceptions.’”
You can see him making this statement in a video here:
Against the background of this Congressional frustration with Obama, Speaker of the House Boehner invited Prime Minister Netanyahu to address a joint session of Congress.
Why Netanyahu? It’s obvious. He is the world leader, bar none, when it comes to speaking out on the dangers of a nuclear Iran and the importance of sanctions. What an honor, that the Congress wants to hear what he has to say on the matter. Israel is not a minor league player here. How significant, that he should speak out.
But do commentators notice any of this? Nahh…
In the US, the charge is that Boehner is “using” Netanyahu to “get back at” Obama. Here, the criticism is that Bibi is “using” Boehner to help him get re-elected (as he will get a boost in the elections from this talk before Congress). What a furor has ensued.
In the course of all of these charges and counter-charges, forgotten is the possibility that Netanyahu might help keep Congress strong – perhaps even strong enough to over-ride a veto. Overlooked is the fact that stopping Iran is the ikar – the heart of the matter.
The left here in Israel is accusing Bibi of “destroying” our relationship with Washington. However, “Washington” also includes the Congress.
What is more, I have noticed that already the Obama administration is backtracking on this matter: The US has an “unshakable” alliance with Israel, the White House has declared. And on Meet the Press today, Chief of Staff Denis McDonough said that:
”Our relationship with Israel is many-faceted, deep and abiding. It’s focused on a shared series of threats, but also on a shared series of values that one particular instance is not going to overwhelm.”
Well now… Can we please go back to talking about Iran and sanctions?
From Omri Ceren of The Israel Project, I offer the following information:
IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano spoke on Friday at the University of Indonesia. His talk included this statement (emphasis in the original):
“As far as Iran is concerned, the Agency is able to verify the non-diversion of nuclear material declared to us by Iran under its Safeguards Agreement. But we are not in a position to provide credible assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran, and therefore to conclude that all nuclear material in Iran is in peaceful activities.”
The Obama administration has made two basic arguments about the success of the JPOA interim agreement.
The first is that Iran’s program has been “halted” and its nuclear stockpile “reduced.” But this simply is not the case. The JPOA allows Iran to enrich to 3.5% purity, which is about 60% of the effort needed to get to weapons-grade levels, provided the new material is stored as oxide. They’ve used the last year to create at least one bomb’s worth of enriched uranium and will use the rest of the extension to enrich enough for another one.
The second claim is that the JPOA provides “unprecedented” access/insight/monitoring/inspections into Iran’s nuclear facilities. But the statement above from the IAEA Director General makes it clear that this is not the case.
On January 15, 2015, Iranian president Rouhani announced that Iran was building two new reactors. The State Department clarified that this is not prohibited by any Security Council resolutions, and is not in violation of the JPOA agreement.
Clarified Omri Ceren:
The JPOA was supposed to freeze the Iranian program to prevent them from improving their position as talks proceeded. It failed. Instead the Iranians spent the last year building up their nuclear program – and their leverage – across all areas.
Fervently do I wish that those who claim to be serious thinkers on the issues would get as excised over the dangers of Iran and the damage that Obama is doing to his own nation, Israel, and the world, as they do over imagined political intrigues.
Much more to come.
I close here with Caroline Glick’s latest piece on this issue, “Iran, Obama, Boehner, and Netanyahu.”
“The role of an Israeli leader is to adopt the policies that protect Israel, even when they are unpopular at the White House. Far from being ostracized for those policies, such an Israeli leader will be supported, respected, and relied upon by those who share with him a concern for what truly matters.”