Germany’s largest telecom provider, Deutsche Telekom, is looking to introduce a “national routing” service which would keep German internet traffic out of the hands of foreign spies.
The former state-owned communications giant outlined the plans at a secret meeting in the Economy Ministry, business weekly Wirtschaftswoche reported.
Currently, email data is exchanged between users worldwide via international Internet exchange points; physical structures through which Internet service providers (ISPs) exchange Internet traffic between their networks.
The company hopes to hammer out an agreement with other national Internet providers which would guarantee that “while being transported from the sender to the receiver in Germany… no single byte leaves Germany,” Thomas Kremer, a board member of Telekom’s data privacy, legal affairs and compliance, told the magazine.
To put the plan into effect, Deutsche Telekom must secure the support of all its competitors, including Telefonica and Vodafone.
While Vodafone and Telefonica are currently mulling the initiative, another competitor – Internet service provider QSC – has questioned the efficacy of the plan, saying it was not possible to determine with certainty whether data is being routed nationally or internationally.
“In a next step, this initiative could be expanded to the Schengen area,” the spokesman said, referring to the group of 26 European countries – excluding Britain – that have removed border controls for participating countries.
Deutsche Telekom first began leading the charge for to protect its users’ privacy from foreign intelligence agencies in August when they rolled out ‘Email Made in Germany’, an encrypted email service that only uses German servers to process and store all domestic email traffic.
The move followed revelations that the US National Security Agency (NSA) collects 500 million pieces of phone and email metadata from Germany each month — more than in any other EU country.
“Germans are deeply unsettled by the latest reports on the potential interception of communication data,” said Rene Obermann, head of Deutsche Telekom.
“Now, they can bank on the fact that their personal data online is as secure as it possibly can be.”
Experts do not believe the move will stop governments from getting their hands on information, although it might complicate efforts to do so.
“Of course the NSA could still break in if they wanted to, but the mass encryption of emails would make it harder and more expensive for them to do so,” Sandro Gaycken, a professor of cyber security at Berlin’s Free University, said when the idea was first proposed.
- To Dodge US Spies, Germany Might Keep All Its Internet Traffic on Local Servers (motherboard.vice.com)
Josh Moyo · September 27, 2013
As debate over the merits of “stop and frisk” policing continues, a new YouTube video has added fuel to the fire by revealing the disturbing tactics of two Philadelphia officers.
Titled “Police unlawful harassment and racial profiling,” the video is dated Sept. 27 and shows two pedestrians being stopped by police officers after saying “hi” to a third, unseen individual on the street.
“You don’t say ‘Hi’ to strangers,”one officer, identified as Philip Nace by the Philadelphia Daily News, said as he confronts the two pedestrians and pushes one against the car. The other individual is recording the scene on his smartphone as it unfolds.
After Nace tells the man to put his phone away because he’s “under investigation,” the phone is set down but continues to record.
“Investigation of what? I was walking,” the man said, to which the officer replies, “That’s not what I saw … if you keep running your mouth I’ll split your wig open.”
The two go back and forth, with the man asking Nace why he’d been stopped, and Nace offering that he doesn’t know what information the police have on them.
“Are you accusing me of robbing somebody?” the pedestrian asks.
“I didn’t accuse you of anything,” Nace said.“I said we could’ve got a call, that somebody wearing the clothes you’re wearing just robbed somebody. That’s why we stopped you. Is that wrong of us?”
When asked if he’s permitted to grab pedestrians in this manner, Nace replies,“I’ll grab you any way I got to… Why don’t you shut up? Everyone thinks they’re a [expletive] lawyer and they don’t know jack [expletive].”
At one point, the officers attempt to justify their actions by claiming the two pedestrians were jaywalking. Nace also accuses the two pedestrians of “weakening the country” by “freeloading.”
The race of the two pedestrians is not clear in the video, but “stop and frisk” tactics are increasingly coming under fire as demeaning, and for unfairly targeting minorities without sufficient cause.
“This is exactly what the city of Philadelphia says its cops don’t do,” Mary Catherine Roper, senior staff attorney for the state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, told the Daily News. “The only way we stop it from happening is if the police department acknowledges that it does happen and takes steps to root it out.”
In August, a federal judge ruled New York City’s “stop and frisk” policy unconstitutional on the grounds that it is a form of racial profiling.
Meanwhile, a new study released in September revealed that “stop and frisk” tactics are causing a large proportion of the public to mistrust the police. The lack of faith can become so severe that even those who are victimized become reluctant to report crimes.
Lawmakers in Oakland intend to spend millions of dollars awarded to the California city in a federal grant to a police dragnet that promises to examine surveillance footage, riling critics who assert the intention of the grant was to stop terrorism.
When the new program debuts in approximately one year police will be able to track drivers as they travel through tolls, scan license plates with the roughly 3,000 surveillance cameras placed throughout the city, and monitor social media platforms to learn about crimes before they occur.
The Oakland program, officially referred to as the Domain Awareness Center, according to the New York Times, comes at a time when police departments across the US are using federal money to launch similar surveillance efforts modeled after the New York Police Department. The NYPD, which operates within New York City as well as far outside, has used federal grants to build a massive surveillance network capable of linking cameras and license plate readers to criminal and suspected terrorist databases.
The Domain Awareness Center also plans to plant gunshot detection sensors through Oakland, which is consistently ranked among the most dangerous cities in the US. Forbes magazine reported that violent crime affects 1,683 of every 100,000 residents in the city, making it the third most dangerous city in America with a population between 100,000 and 499,000 in 2013.
The Oakland City Council voted unanimously on July 31 to adopt the plan to build the surveillance center, which officials have said will be staffed 24 hours a day. Lawmakers voted at the same meeting to ban hammers and spray paint cans at protests in fear that the items will be used as weapons. Waiting outside, protesters admonished council members with chants of “Shame! Shame! Shame!”
“The Domain Awareness Center is the guard tower which will watch over every person in the city of Oakland,” shouted demonstrator Mark Raymond, as quoted by the San Francisco Chronicle. “This program is an attempt to criminalize and imprison all people who live and pass through Oakland.”
All told, the surveillance center’s costs are expected to total $10.2 million in federal grants, and while legislators said they were cognizant of residents’ security while drafting the bill some representatives were shouted down.
“We have tried our best to find the sweet spot where are going to take advantage of the tools that we have at hand to make our city safe… We have done everything we can to safeguard privacy,” said councilwoman Libby Schaaf before she was cut off by jeers and one protester who suggested she “go home to your mansion and kill yourself.”
Schaaf did admit that, while police have traditionally needed just a small evidence sample to arrest a suspect, the new center will have the capability to “paint a pretty detailed picture of someone’s personal life, someone who may be innocent.”
Oakland was awarded a federal grant to ramp up security near the Port of Oakland, a thriving cargo center that is one of the busiest in the US. The 19-mile waterfront is the fifth-busiest container port in the US, with 1,800 ships arriving every year, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. Over $14 billion in goods were exported from the bustling hub in 2012.
To protect the port, and watch civilians throughout the region, Oakland signed a contract with Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) to build the Domain Awareness Center. The company, which earns most of its $12 million in annual revenue from military contracts, also worked with the NYPD but later paid $500 million to avoid a federal prosecution for receiving illegal kickbacks.
The Times reported that this project is not the first time Oakland has sought to develop such technology. A city audit viewed by the paper revealed that lawmakers spent nearly $2 million in 2012 alone on police tools that did not work or could not be used for a variety of reasons.
Linda Lye, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, said this project might work as intended, but that mere intention already creates a scary problem.
“What they did is approve a vast surveillance center without understanding the implications,” she said earlier this year. “The privacy policies would be drafted only after the center is built. At that point, what opportunity will there be for to determine if the safeguards are sufficient?”
There had been some buzz a while back when Digital Music News published an entire iTunes Radio contract, which was targeted at smaller indie labels, showing how Apple got to throw its weight around, presenting terms that were very much in Apple’s favor over the labels if they wanted to participate in iTunes Radio. However, while it took a few months, Apple’s lawyers finally spotted this and they have apparently made a copyright claim to get the contract taken down. I wonder how the small group of indie musicians who always fight for stronger copyrights feel about Apple using copyright to take down rather important information that they should know concerning the sort of deal Apple offers them….
While this may be possibly legal under the law, it demonstrates how the law can be used in ways that really have absolutely nothing to do with copyright’s purpose. Apple didn’t need copyright’s incentives to create this contract. There is no market for the contract itself. The purpose in flexing the copyright claim here is one thing and one thing only: censorship. As law professor Eric Goldman explained:
“It’s not out of legal bounds to do this. It’s just kind of a jerk move. We all know what’s happening here. Apple doesn’t care about protecting the copyright of contracts. It’s using copyright to try and suppress information that it doesn’t want made public.”
That said, I question whether or not this really is a legit takedown. While Apple can claim a copyright on the contract, it seems that DMN has a really strong fair use claim. The purpose was for reporting (a key purpose that supports fair use). The publication was in the public interest. The type of work is a “contract” for which copyright tends to mean very little. Finally, there’s no “market” for the contract itself, and thus the impact on the market or the value of the copyright in the item is nothing. The only factor that weighs against it is the fact that the entire contract was used — but as we’ve pointed out many times in the past, plenty of cases have been deemed fair use where the “entire work” has been used. This seems like a perfectly strong fair use case, though it might not be worth the legal cost to fight Apple over this, given the company’s historical willingness to go absolutely bonkers against publications it doesn’t like.
There are times you just shake your head and wonder who the NSA top officials think they’re kidding with their statements. Take, for example, some recent comments from the NSA’s number two guy in charge, Chris Inglis, the Deputy Director, who gave an interview to the BBC where he tried to paint the NSA as not being quite as bad as everyone says, but admitted that there could be more transparency. That’s all the usual stuff, but the following tidbit caught my eye:
The job of the NSA, Mr Inglis said, was to exploit networks to collect intelligence in cyberspace and to defend certain networks – but not carry out destructive acts.
“NSA had a responsibility from way back, from our earliest days, to both break codes and make codes,” he said. “We have a responsibility to do intelligence in a space we once called the telecommunications arena – now cyberspace – and the responsibility to make codes or to defend signals communications of interest.
“That’s different than what most people conceive as offence or attack in this space.”
That task of destructive cyber attack, if ordered, lies with the US military’s rapidly expanding Cyber Command.
Except, as we’ve noted more than a few times, US Cyber Command is the NSA. It’s run by Keith Alexander, the director of the NSA, and it’s housed in the same place as the NSA. For all intents and purposes, US Cyber Command is the NSA, and Alexander has no problem at all swapping hats depending on what’s most convenient. He regularly tries to talk about “protecting the network” when it suits him, ignoring that the same efforts he’s looking at (greater access to corporate networks) would also make it much easier for the NSA and US Cyber Command to launch offensive attacks — which Snowden’s leaks proved the NSA did hundreds of times.
Pretending the two are different, and that the NSA only focuses on “breaking codes and making codes” is yet another bogus claim from an NSA official, adding to a very long list.
- US Cyber Command: Documents Reveal Pentagon Launching Covert Cyber Attacks (dissidentvoice.org)
More than two and a half years on, Israel’s purported neutrality in the Syrian conflict and the United State’s fanfare rhetoric urging a “regime change” in Damascus were abruptly cut short to unveil that the Israeli factor has been all throughout the conflict the main concern of both countries.
All their media and political focus on “democracy versus dictatorship” and on the intervention of the international community on the basis of a “responsibility to protect” to avert the exacerbating “humanitarian crisis” in Syria was merely a focus intended to divert the attention of the world public opinion away from their real goal, i.e. to safeguard the security of Israel.
Their “Plan A” was to enforce a change in the Syrian regime as their “big prize” and replace it by another less threatening and more willing to strike a “peace deal” with Israel and in case of failure, which is the case as developed now, their “Plan B” was to pursue a “lesser prize” by disarming Syria of its chemical weapons to deprive it of its strategic defensive deterrence against the Israeli overwhelming arsenal of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction. Their “Plan A” proved a failure, but their “Plan B” was a success.
However, the fact that the Syrian humanitarian crisis continues unabated with the raging non-stop fighting while the United States is gradually coming to terms with Syria’s major allies in Russia and Iran as a prelude to recognizing the “legitimacy” of the status quo in Syria is a fact that shutters whatever remains of U.S. credibility in the conflict.
President Barak Obama, addressing the UN General Assembly on last September 24, had this justification: “Let us remember that this is not a zero-sum endeavor. We are no longer in a Cold War. There’s no Great Game to be won, nor does America have any interest in Syria beyond the well-being of its people, the stability of its neighbors, the elimination of chemical weapons, and ensuring it does not become a safe-haven for terrorists. I welcome the influence of all nations that can help bring about a peaceful resolution.”
This U-turn shift by the U.S. dispels any remaining doubts that the U.S. ever cared about the Syrian people and what Obama called their “well being.”
The U.S. pronounced commitment to a “political solution” through co-sponsoring with Russia the convening of a “Geneva – 2” conference is compromised by its purported inability to unite even the “opposition” that was created and sponsored by the U.S. itself and the “friends of Syria” it leads and to rein in the continued fueling of the armed conflict with arms, money and logistics by its regional Turkish and Gulf Arabs allies, which undermines any political solution and render the very convening of a “Geneva – 2” conference a guess of anybody.
Meanwhile, Israel’s neutrality was shuttered by none other than its President Shimon Peres.
Speaking at the 40th commemoration of some three thousand Israeli soldiers who were killed in the 1973 war with Syria and Egypt, Peres revealed unarguably that his state has been the major beneficiary of the Syrian conflict.
Peres said: “Today” the Syrian President Basher al-Assad “is punished for his refusal to compromise” with Israel and “the Syrian people pay for it.”
When it became stark clear by the latest developments that there will be no “regime change” in Syria nor there will be a post- Assad “Day After” and that the U.S. major guarantor of Israel’s survival has made, or is about to make, a “U-turn” in its policy vis-à-vis the Syrian conflict to exclude the military solution as “unacceptable,” in the words of Secretary of State John Kerry on this October 6, Israel got impatient and could not hide anymore the Israeli factor in the conflict.
On last September 17, major news wires headlined their reports, “In public shift, Israel calls for Assad’s fall,” citing a report published by the Israeli daily the Jerusalem Post, which quoted Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, as saying: “We always wanted Bashar Assad to go, we always preferred the bad guys who weren’t backed by Iran to the bad guys who were backed by Iran.”
“The greatest danger to Israel is by the strategic arc that extends from Tehran, to Damascus to Beirut. And we saw the Assad regime as the keystone in that arc,” Oren added.
And that’s really the crux of the Syrian conflict: Dismantling this “arc” has been all throughout the conflict the pronounced strategy of the U.S.-led so-called “Friends of Syria,” who are themselves the friends of Israel.
The goal of this strategy has been all throughout the conflict to change the regime of what Oren called the Syrian “keystone in that arc,” which is supported by a pro-Iran government in Iraq as well as by the Palestinian liberation movements resisting the more than sixty decades of Israeli military occupation, or otherwise to deplete Syria’s resources, infrastructure and power until it has no choice other than the option of yielding unconditionally to the Israeli terms and conditions of what Peres called a “compromise” with Israel as a precondition for the return of the Israeli-occupied Syrian Golan Heights.
Syria the Odd Number
This strategic goal was smoke-screened by portraying the conflict first as one of a popular uprising turned into an armed rebellion against a dictatorship, then as a sectarian “civil war,” third as a proxy war in an Arab-Iranian and a Sunni-Shiite historical divide, fourth as a battle ground of conflicting regional and international geopolitics, but the Israeli factor has been all throughout the core of the conflict.
Otherwise why should the U.S.-led “Friends of Syria & Israel” care about the ruling regime in a country that is not abundant in oil and gas, the “free” flow of which was repeatedly pronounced a “vital” interest of the United States, or one of what Obama in his UN speech called his country’s “core interests;” the security of Israel is another “vital” or “core” interest, which, in his words, “The United States of America is prepared to use all elements of our power, including military force, to secure.”
The end of the Cold War opened a “window of opportunities” to build on the Egyptian – Israel peace treaty, according to a study by the University of Oslo in 1997. A peace agreement was signed between the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and the Hebrew state in 1993 followed by an Israeli-Jordanian peace treaty the year after. During its invasion of Lebanon in 1982 Israel tried unsuccessfully to impose on the country a similar treaty had it not been for the Syrian “influence,” which aborted and prevented any such development ever since.
Syria remains the odd number in the Arab peace — making belt around Israel; no comprehensive peace is possible without Syria; Damascus holds the key even to the survival of the Palestinian, Jordanian and Egyptian peace accords with Israel. Syria will not hand over this key without the withdrawal of the Israeli Occupation Forces from Syrian and other Arab lands and a “just” solution of the “Palestinian question.”
This has been a Syrian national strategy long before the Pan-Arab Baath party and the al-Assad dynasty came to power.
Therefore, the U.S. and Israeli “Plan A” will remain on both countries’ agendas, pending more forthcoming geopolitical environment.
Nicola Nasser can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Israeli High Court is set to rule on the forced expulsion of all of the residents of the village of Khirbat Zanuta, southwest of Hebron in the southern West Bank on Monday.
Villagers in Khirbat Zanuta (image by ACRI)
The decision comes five years after the initial order was made by the court to demolish the village. That decision was put on hold when an appeal was filed on behalf of the villagers by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel.
According to the Association for Civil Rights in Israel,
“Last year, a Jewish expansionist organization named Regavim succeeded in reviving the case by filing an amicus-curia request; soon thereafter, the state submitted its full response to the petition. In April 2012, the Civil Administration issued additional demolition orders for new structures in the village, including several cisterns (ACRI is arguing that objections to the new orders should be joined to the original petition, but the Civil Administration disagrees). The Supreme Court heard additional arguments on July 30, 2012. During the hearing, the justices delivered harsh criticism of the State for its intent to demolish the village without suggesting a solution for its residents.”
But the decision on Monday is expected to result in the forced expulsion of all of the village’s inhabitants, who have lived on the land of their ancestors for as long as they can remember. They consider themselves stewards of the ancient archaeological site on which they live and tend their sheep, and have prevented any looting or destruction of artifacts on the site.
The Zionist organization Regavim that managed to revive the demolition order on the village had a quick response time from the court. The Israeli daily Ha’aretz reports that the organization has a “cozy relationship with the authorities”, according to its Director Bezalel Smotrich, who told the settler website Hakol Hayehudi on July 31, 2012, “Another parameter of the success of Regavim’s activities is the treatment by authorities in the establishment. Among the ranks in the field and in a lot of departments of the Interior Ministry, Israel Land Administration, the Justice Ministry and more, they view Regavim as a positive factor that is coming to their aid to steel them against the pressure they receive from the left. Most of them are good people, idealistic people… happy for the counter-pressure we exercise after years in which they absorbed so much heat in the form of pressure and letters from left-wing organizations.”
The inhabitants of Khirbat Zanuta are shepherds, who have traditionally lived in caves and structures around the cave entrances. The village is located in what Israel calls ‘Area C’, a designation created under the Oslo Accords in 1993 for land that was to temporarily remain under Israeli civil administration control, but should have been transitioned to Palestinian rule within five years. That never happened, and all of the areas designated as ‘Area C’ in 1993 remain under full Israeli control today – most of the 500,000 Israeli settlers that have taken over land in the West Bank in the twenty years since that designation have moved into ‘Area C’.
According to the Association for Civil Rights in Israel,
“The case of Zanuta is demonstrative of the Israeli government’s planning policy as it relates to the Palestinians in Area C, in which actions as severe as the destruction of basic humanitarian structures are justified by an absurd Catch 22 that penalizes residents for failing to apply for a permit they could never have been granted. If these demolition orders are carried out, the residents of Zanuta will be stripped of their most basic humanitarian rights: shelter, water, and livelihood, not to mention dignity, culture, and way of life. As an occupying power in Area C, Israel is bound by international law to protect the indigenous community. The case exemplifies a policy of demolishing buildings in Palestinian villages that removes indigenous peoples from their lands in absolute violation of the international law which protects them.”
The Palestinian Ministry Of Detainees issued a press release revealing that Israel is currently holding captive 5200 Palestinians in 17 prisons, detention camps, and interrogation facilities.
It said that this year witnessed a sharp escalation in arrests as the soldiers kidnapped 2450 Palestinians, including 476 children and 49 women since the beginning of the year.
It said that the army kidnapped at least 600 Palestinian security and police officers, and that the number of Hamas affiliated detainees is 1,100, and 365 detainees who are members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), while the rest are members of different factions.
The Ministry stated that Israel is currently holding captive 13 democratically elected legislators, and that the Israeli military kidnapped a total of 60 legislators and ministers (46% of the members of the Palestinian Legislative Council). Among the detained legislators are Marwan Barghouthi, Ahmad Saadat and Hassan Yousef.
Furthermore, the illegitimate Israeli policy of Administrative Detention without charges remains a systematic Israeli strategy despite repeated and extended hunger strikes by Administrative Detainees held under those arbitrary orders under “secret files” that neither the detainees nor their lawyers have access to.
There are currently 150 Palestinians held under arbitrary Administrative Detention orders, while 23,000 Palestinians have been held under these orders since the year 2000.
Currently, detainee Akram Al-Faseesy, from Ithna town, near the southern West Bank city of Hebron, is ongoing with his hunger strike that started on September 29, 2013.
Palestinian detainees held under Administrative Detention orders started on October 10 a series of protests against their illegal detention, this includes returning meals, boycotting Israeli military courts, and a number of open-ended hungers strikes.
As for children and women currently held by Israel, the Ministry said that there are 250 children and 13 women who are still imprisoned, and that Israel soldiers kidnapped approximately 9500 children since the year 2000.
There are 520 Palestinian detainees who are serving a minimum of one life term; this includes detainee Abdullah Barghouthi who was sentenced to 67 life-terms and additional 250 years. He was taken prisoner on March 5, 2003.
The number of detainees who have been imprisoned since before the establishment of the Palestinian Authority in 1994 is 78 detainees, 68 of them have been imprisoned since more than 20 years, and 24 have been imprisoned since more than 25 years.
In its report, the Ministry said that Israel is ongoing with its illegitimate policy of depriving the ailing detainees from the urgently needed and specialized medical care, especially since there are currently 1,400 sick detainees, including 25 suffering with different types of cancer.
Dozens of detainees have been shot and injured, suffering from various conditions including paralysis, and detainees who suffer from heart, kidneys and liver conditions, while others suffer from diabetes, eye diseases and conditions, Tuberculosis, in addition to other conditions.
The Ministry further stated that there are a number of detainees who are dying and are not receiving the needed extensive and specialized medical attention.
The oldest detainee held by Israel is Fuad Shobaky, 83 years of age, followed by Omar Akkawy, 64. The number of detainees who died in prison, either due to torture, or due to being shot by the soldiers during and after their arrest currently stands at 204.
The latest casualties among the detainees are Maisara Abu Hamdiyya, 63, who died on April 2nd 2013, and Arafat Jaradat, 20, who died on February 22, 2013.
Abu Hamdiyya suffered a fourth stage Carcinoma in his lung lymphatic, liver and spine, throat cancer extending to his vocal cords, and brain tumor.
Despite the seriousness of his condition, the Israeli Prison Administration did not grant Abu Hamdiyya the needed specialized and urgent medical treatment, until it was too late.
Detainee Arafat Jaradat, died at the Mejeddo Israeli prison, seven days after his arrest, he was a healthy young man from Sa’ir town in Hebron, and was tortured to death by Israeli interrogators.
The Ministry said that the detainees are suffering from abuse and various violations and attacks carried out against them, especially since Israel violated an agreement reached with the detainees in May of last year following an extended hunger strike.
Seventeen of the detainees who were released under the Shalit prisoner swap agreement have been rearrested and imprisoned; three of the released detainees are still not allowed back home, while dozens of detainees are still held in solitary confinement in violation of the swap agreement.
Other violations include denying the detainees the right to education, provocative searches, including strip search of the detainees and their visiting families, collective punishment, medical negligence, and denying the ailing detainees the right to healthy meals that include dietary restrictions.
- Jewish Terrorist State has killed on average 2 Palestinians A DAY for the last 10 years (uprootedpalestinians.wordpress.com)
As we move toward a new round of nuclear talks in Geneva this week between Iran and the P5+1, it is important to look soberly at each side’s approach to renewed nuclear diplomacy and what that implies about the prospects for real diplomatic progress.
On the Iranian side, the public diplomacy carried out by President Hassan Rohani and Foreign Minister Javad Zarif during their visits to New York for the United Nations General Assembly—along with Zarif’s meeting with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and the other P5+1 foreign ministers and Rohani’s fifteen-minute phone conversation with President Obama—was exceptional. Moreover, conversations with Iranian officials in New York during Rohani and Zarif’s visits there and in Tehran during the first week of October suggest that the Iranian side will come to the Geneva talks proactively prepared with proposals for resolving the nuclear issue within a finite period.
It is far less clear, however, that the Obama administration is prepared to do anything of real seriousness and substance to facilitate diplomatic progress. American elites—including Obama administration policymakers—are still talking about “productive diplomacy” with Iran primarily in terms of extracting major concessions from the Islamic Republic.
On the nuclear issue, for example, President Rohani and Dr. Zarif have articulated a model for resolving the nuclear issue whereby the United States and the West would recognize Iran’s nuclear rights in exchange for greater transparency surrounding Iran’s nuclear activities (e.g., the Islamic Republic could ratify and implement the Additional Protocol to the NPT and accept stricter notification requirements regarding new nuclear initiatives). But Obama administration officials and many pundits are arguing, in effect, that “transparency is not enough.”
–They are arguing that Washington must become, in effect, the co-manager of Iran’s nuclear program, determining which Iranian nuclear facilities must be closed and which might be allowed to remain opening, determining not how many additional centrifuges Iran might be allowed to install in the future but how many centrifuges it must dismantle to satisfy the United States and Israel.
–And, as we have pointed out for many months (and which American pundits themselves are now finally noticing), Obama will face enormous and largely self-inflicted legal difficulties in lifting or modifying U.S. sanctions to encourage and support diplomatic progress on the nuclear issue. During Obama’s presidency, many U.S. sanctions that started out as executive order sanctions have been written into law, with conditions for their removal that go well beyond progress on the nuclear issue. These conditions include requirements that Tehran cut its ties to groups like Hizballah, that the United States foolishly designates as terrorist organizations, and effectively transform the Islamic Republic into a secular liberal republic.
And, of course, notwithstanding the Obama administration’s self-inflicted debacle over its declared intention to attack the Syrian government following the use of chemical weapons in Syria on August 21, the United States continues to insist—as Obama himself declared in his UN General Assembly address—that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad must leave office before any political process aimed at resolving the Syrian conflict can unfold.
America’s Middle East policy, it seems, remains stuck in fantasy land.