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.
It’s obvious that many of the happenings I write about, rather than being discrete events, are snapshots of a continuing situation. And so, I must return to these continuing situations repeatedly.
It is only a couple of days since I wrote about Obama’s horrific policies regarding Iran. I said then that every time I indicate that the situation has deteriorated, it proceeds to get even worse. And hello! Here we are again.
With regard to the negotiations, I had last written about the need for Iran to reveal all past nuclear military activity. This was being insisted upon by the IAEA, for base-lining the Iranian nuclear program was a critical prerequisite to any verification scheme. As recently as April 8, John Kerry stated definitively that there would be no final deal without this Iranian disclosure.
This Kerry statement was in response to news that the Obama administration was restructuring the demand because Iran was balking. What the WSJ had reported was that 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, and makes it enormously unlikely that the Iranians would ever be forthcoming with anything. The “snapback” that Obama refers to so blithely is a farce.
That’s the recent history of the situation.
And here we have the latest:
Yesterday, Kerry addressed the State Department press corps by teleconference. Michael Gordon of the NY Times raised a question about whether issues concerning atomic work by Iran’s military would “need to be fully resolved before sanctions are eased or released or removed or suspended on Iran as part of that agreement.”
Kerry’s response, in part (my emphasis added):
“Michael, the possible military dimensions, frankly, gets distorted a little bit in some of the discussion, in that we’re not fixated on Iran specifically accounting for what they did at one point in time or another. We know what they did. We have no doubt. We have absolute knowledge with respect to the certain military activities they were engaged in.
“What we’re concerned about is going forward….”
Credit: Alex Wong/Getty
WHAT? “We know what they did. We have no doubt. We have absolute knowledge…” “Absolute,” yet, not just ordinary knowledge. Talk about overplaying your hand.
You do not have to have a doctorate in political science to know this cannot be. For if the US had absolute knowledge of what Iran has been doing regarding military nuclear development until now, why would there have been all those discussions about getting Iran to reveal information? How is it that this spring IAEA Director Yukiya Amano declared that Iran was withholding key information and that thus, his agency was “not in a position…to conclude that all nuclear material in Iran is in peaceful activities”?
Onmi Ceren of The Israel Project believes this line by Kerry was rather inevitable. Once the US government caved on their promise to secure information on what Iran has been doing before easing sanctions, this was the next logical step: See, we don’t have to get the Iranians to reveal pertinent military data, we can ease sanctions, because we already have all the information we need.
My friends, this is not simply a distortion of the facts or a creative reinterpretation of the situation. This is out and out falsehood. The secretary of state has offered a lie to the American people on an issue of critical importance.
Ceren catalogues some of the information about Iran that is not known:
 how far Iran got on testing nuclear detonators
 whether Iran maintains the infrastructure to do further tests and build on that work
 whether Iran diverted nuclear material, including enriched material, for past or future clandestine purposes
 what nuclear assets and knowledge Iran acquired from North Korea and is keeping on the shelf
 same about nuclear assets and knowledge acquired from Russia
 how Iran skirted inspectors in the past and whether they could repeat those tricks in the future
 what the Iranians managed to destroy when it literally paved over the Parchin site where it did nuclear work
And this is just a partial list.
The question then is whether the American people will sit still for this. Will you?
I would suggest that a hue and cry go up – and that everyone who is incensed and frightened give voice to this fact in all the ways I regularly talk about: letters to the editor, talkbacks on the Internet, postings on websites and FB pages and discussion lines, etc.
But here I also suggest something else to American citizens: Contact your Senators and Congresspersons.
Express your outrage and your concern in a brief and polite message.
Of course some of your Senators and Congresspersons are already solidly in opposition to Obama’s plans. But it does not hurt for them to hear from you anyway: thank them for their positions and ask them to stand strong for the sake of the country and the world.
Other Senators and Congresspersons may be on the edge – not quite prepared to stand against Obama, but not happy about his policies. They, most of all, need to hear from you.
I would guess that there are likely some Senators and Congresspersons who have been minimally supportive of Obama (or reluctant to buck him, at any rate), but are now thoroughly enraged by the position Kerry has just embraced. As Ceren writes: “It’s a collapse of the administration’s core promise to lawmakers on any deal…The administration told Congress to hold off pressuring Iran by declaring they were going to bring home a deal in which the Iranians capitulated on PMDs [possible military dimensions]. They failed. Now they’re claiming it never mattered anyway.”
But don’t rely on the likelihood that they are furious – contact them anyway.
For your Congresspersons:
For your Senators:
And please, suggest to others that they do the same.
Then let me return here to the matter of the Druze community in Syria that is endangered by islamists – primarily the Nusra Front, which is loosely connected to al-Qaeda.
It is anything but a simple situation. Yesterday Nusra Front launched an attack on the village of Hader, home to 25,000 Druze who have until now been loyal to Assad. Hader is right on the other side of Mt. Hermon, across from the Israeli Druze village of Majd al-Shams.
For an interval of time following the attack, matters were said to have calmed down. But that was fleeting. The latest report, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, is that Hader has been surrounded by rebel forces.
Alarmed Israeli Druze are demonstrating in large numbers, and have raised some $2 million to purchase weapons so that their cousins in Syria can defend themselves. Additionally, MK Ayoub Kara (Likud) is seeking permission for Israeli Druze to cross the border to lend humanitarian assistance in Hader. Israeli law forbids Israeli citizens from entering enemy territory. There has been talk of an IDF hospital for Druze to be set up at the border, but there seem to be some doubts about the viability of this.
Israel has sent a message to Nusra Front via the Free Syria Army, warning them to leave the Druze alone. Chief of General Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot said yesterday that the IDF would act to protect refugees [read Druze refugees] fleeing to the area near the Israeli border from being slaughtered. He is obviously not eager, however, to see hundreds of thousands of Syrian Druze flock to the border and attempt to cross into Israel.
While the focus at the moment is on the Druze, implications of the movement of Nusra Front into the Syrian Golan area are even larger: There is concern that this group may be seeking to take Hader as a first step in moving to control the Golan region of Syria immediately adjacent to Israel. Israel has, until now, scrupulously avoided direct military involvement in Syria (other than launching a missile or mortar into Syria in response to munitions shot into Israel). That there is now concern about the situation at the highest levels of the IDF is clear; matters may well be shifting.
There have been press reports in the last couple of days regarding indirect talks between Hamas and Israel – via European contacts or Arab states (with Qatar said to be involved). It is all too vague at present to be able to make definitive sense of what is going on (or not going on). The rumor mill is working over-time.
One of the things that has been suggested is that a long-term (five or ten year) “truce” is being discussed I felt a fleeting alarm, on reading these reports, lest this appeal to some Israeli decision makers.
One analysis had it that the dynamic between Israel and Hamas is shifting because of the presence in Gaza of more radical jihadi movements. I think that may be so. And then, with the great concern about what’s going to be happening in the north, it might seem to make sense to take the possibility of conflict in the south out of the defense equation for an extended period. I could imagine some thinking this way.
Whatever the case, whatever the perceived benefits, I say unequivocally that it is a very bad idea. For what is being referred to as a “truce,” is in the Muslim ideology, in Arabic, a hudna. This is a contracted period of calm, agreed to by the Muslim party, which is suffering a disadvantage in terms of strength. The goal is not permanent peace, but rather the ability to buy enough time to garner additional strength. This harkens back to Mohammad. At the end of the hudna, the Muslim party attacks.
A quick look at some of the possible parameters of a “truce,” as they are being discussed. What Hamas wants is opening of crossings and easing of the sea blockade, as well as reconstruction (which means bringing in construction materials that can be diverted for rocket development or bunkers to store rockets). They would also demand that there be no Israeli fly-overs above Gaza. Israel, at least one source suggested, would require absolute quiet – no “drizzle” of rockets.
The catch is obvious: Hamas would have to refrain from launching rockets (would appear “peaceful”), but would find ways to smuggle in rockets and rocket parts via the open seaways and to continue to manufacture rockets and train troops. In fact, I have not read anything that suggests that as part of a truce Hamas would be required to stop establishing a stockpile of weapons. Even now Hamas is preparing for eventual war. At the end of five or ten years, they would be ever so much better equipped to hit Israel. They have the patience to wait.
A very bad idea.
At any rate, Hamas leader Khalil al-Hayya denies that there is a truce being discussed. It’s just a “distraction” he says. Let’s hope so.
While we are on the subject of Hamas, I share additional news – also lacking in firm details and actually providing a bit of comedy relief:
Abbas has announced the dissolution of the Fatah-Hamas unity government that had been established last year. He accepted the resignation of unity government prime minister Rami Hamdallah and told him to form a new government, likely to consist of politicians and not technocrats.
There are reports that this was in part because Abbas was miffed about Hamas-Israel meetings.
“’Hamas rejects any one-sided change in the government without the agreement of all parties,’ Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri told AFP.
“’No one told us anything about any decision to change and no one consulted with us about any change in the unity government. Fatah acted on its own in all regards.’”
Wait? If Fatah decides to quit the unity government, do they need Hamas’s permission to do so?
We’re on a roll, so now consider this:
Tonight begins the holy Muslim month of Ramadan, during which time observant Muslims fast from sunup to sundown. Israel is making a number of “gestures” for this month. Including making it easier for Muslims to travel to the Temple Mount, in order to pray at the Al-Aqsa mosque.
Officials of the Palestinian Authority are having second thoughts about this however: “top officials in the Palestinian Authority have been calling for PA Arabs to boycott the Al-Aqsa Mosque – for fear that Arabs will spend money while they are there, enhancing the Israeli economy.”
This is in the spirit of BDS, obviously. But if they want to stay away, that is very fine with us. They are going to have a final meeting on this matter, and my guess is that in the end they will encourage people to go. But talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face. How crazy it all is.
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.”
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.”