UPDATE: Bloomberg has an interesting article about two former British officials who say that excess demands on Iran are putting the nuclear talks at risk. This of course was the same as in the past when excess demands were deliberately made in order to kill off any chance of a peaceful resolution — the Obama administration even went as far as to pull the rug out from under its own allies Turkey and Brazil after they had had gotten a Yes from Iran, causing the miffed Turks/Brazilians to expose a letter Obama had written endorsing the same terms of the deal just weeks earlier. No further proof is necessary to show that the US was never really honest about these talks and had no intention of allowing them to work out.
In reviewing the history of the nuclear talks thus far, with the many extensions past arbitrarily-set deadlines, I can’t help but think that any actual negotiations still going on are really about jostling for the advantageous moral high ground from which to take pot-shots at the other once the talks are finally declared dead.
I’m reminded of the many zombie movies that were quite popular a couple of years ago in which the hero delivers the final blows to the walking dead, and usually in spectacular and cathartic fashion. I wonder if the talks now aren’t really simply about which side will be left to deliver the coup de grace to a diplomatic process that is by now effectively dead, if not still-born — knowing that the side that does so will not be treated as a hero as in the zombie movies but will instead stand accused of “backing away” from a peaceful resolution or “breaking” the negotiations, never mind that the entire idea of the talks was – to put it politely – very optimistic (if not a set-up) from the start since it was always quite apparent that the key issue — relief from sanctions — was never really on the table due to domestic political restraints on the US side. In all these talks about how many centrifuges Iran will be “allowed” to keep (by what legal authority are any limits imposed anyway? An ad hoc rewriting of the NPT for Iran?) it is simply taken for granted that in exchange the sanctions could be removed should a deal be reached — however, realistically, this was never going to happen because the President is simply not in a position to undo sanctions imposed by Congress, and there’s no hope in hell of Congress voting away sanctions thanks to the influence-peddling of the pro-Israeli lobby there.
The striking similarity to the previous Paris Agreement negotiations cannot be ignored. The EU side (apparently unbeknownst to the negotiators themselves, according to Peter Oborne’s book) had already agreed with the US to not respect Iran’s right to enrichment, regardless of what they had been telling the Iranian side, and instead the negotiators, hamstrung by the US refusal to recognize Iran’s right to enrichment, were reduced to simply trying to drag out the Iranian enrichment suspension as long as possible, and then to ultimately blame the Iranians for “breaking” the agreement when inevitably and quite predictably, the Iranians put an end to the charade and restarted enrichment. It was always just a political ploy, and a deliberately deceitful one at that. Of course, the media and our creators of “conventional wisdom” have since tried to rewrite history by shoving the “empty box in pretty wrapping” analogy of the EU offer to Iran down the memory hole, in favor of a manufactured narrative according to which the restarting of enrichment is attributed to the election of Ahmadinejad — though in fact the suspension of enrichment was ended before Ahmadinejad took office — and I similarly expect that should the Iranian side declare the current talks dead and restart what it had suspended, we’ll be presented with a similar manufactured narratives.
But the real-life impact will be significant and severe. For one thing the Rohani government will stand accused of once again having set back Iran’s nuclear program by self-imposing limits prior reaching a deal, and with nothing to show for it at the end of the day. I don’t follow domestic Iranian politics closely but I assume that these consequences will reverberate throughout the entire Reformist faction. The lessons to the Iranian side for this affair will not be soon forgotten. There’s still a fundamental political reality that cannot be overcome by bargaining over technical issues such as the number of centrifuges, etc. and until that political issue — the fundamental recognition by the US of Iran — is resolved, there will be no workable deal. If and when there are other talks, I’m pretty sure that the Iranian side will not start out making compromises in the hopes that a display of good faith will necessarily beget good faith.
And to think, all of this could have been avoided years ago, for example had the US not prevented Iran from simply buying the fuel for the TRR as usual, under international safeguards, not waved away the many compromise offers since then, nor used the “Iranian nuclear threat” as a pretext for imposing regime change in Iran as it had with “Iraqi WMDs.” The actual result of those policies, it should be noted, was to bring Iran closer to “weapons capability.”
Of course a number of complicit and bought-off analysts will claim that a deal could have been worked out had the Iranians just agreed to yet more reductions in their centrifuges, but that’s nonsense. Iran has every legal right under the NPT to have as many centrifuges it desires, and this is not only NOT a violation of the NPT, the demands that Iran give up enrichment are themselves a violation of the NPT. The “Iranian nuclear threat” is and always has been only pretext, just as “WMDs in Iraq” was just a pretext. No amount of Iranian nuclear compromises will resolve this dispute as long as Israel has the influence it has over US foreign policy. Even Henry Kissenger had to assure the Shah a number of years ago that the influence of the Lobby could be controlled — and even he was wrong.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry has condemned the US administration’s new round of sanctions against Iranian individuals and firms, saying they contravene an interim accord reached last year between Iran and six powers.
“The move is in complete contrast with the current process of resolution of [Iran’s] nuclear issue,” Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham said on Saturday.
On Friday, the US imposed sanctions on over 25 Iranian individuals and companies, including shipping firms, oil companies, airlines and six banks.
“The Islamic Republic of Iran rejects any one-sided and unacceptable interpretations of the Geneva [nuclear] deal by the US and strongly believes that the imposed sanctions are against the US commitments in the deal,” Afkham said.
She noted that the sanctions will have “negative and unconstructive impacts” on the process of the nuclear talks between Iran and the six powers, saying, the recent sanctions will question the “seriousness, honesty and goodwill” of Washington and other negotiating states.
The spokeswoman stated that the new US sanctions cast doubt on the negotiating parties’ “commitment to a possible final deal” that requires the lifting of all “illegal and illegitimate” sanctions against Tehran.
“While the Islamic Republic of Iran has taken confidence-building steps in compliance with its commitment to the deal…and it has been reflected in numerous reports issued by the International Atomic Energy Agency, Tehran expects reciprocal actions from the US and other member states of the P5+1,” Afkham added.
Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council – Russia, China, France, Britain and the US — plus Germany are in talks to reach a final agreement aimed at resolving the standoff over Tehran’s civilian nuclear work.
The two sides signed a historic interim deal in Geneva last November. The agreement entered into force on January 20 and expired six months later. In July, Tehran and the six states agreed to extend their discussions until November 24 in a bid to work out a final accord.
And the United States Government is Helping
There is a group of Jewish American billionaires who are apparently doing their best to make sure that negotiations with Iran go nowhere in the mistaken belief that they are doing what is best for Israel. And they would also appear to be assisted in their efforts by the White House, which is at the same time claiming that it wants the talks to be successful. The odd relationship is currently playing out in a Manhattan courtroom where the Justice Department is seeking to quash a lawsuit that it fears might expose the extent to which the government has hypocritically played fast and loose with classified information while simultaneously sending journalists and whistleblowers to jail over allegations that they have done the same.
The power and wealth of the anti-Iran groups as well as their unrivaled access to the United States government means that a policy of détente with Iran, which would be a no brainer based on both American and Iranian interests, only proceeds by fits and starts with the US Congress and much of the media lined up solidly to stop the effort. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and its affiliated educational foundation, which have focused on the “Iranian threat” over the past three years, have a combined budget of more than $90 million while AIPAC’s spin-off the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP) has $8.7 million.
The American Enterprise Institute’s (AEI) efforts are more diversified but uniformly hawkish when it comes to the Middle East. It has a budget of $45 million. Identified multi-million dollar donor/supporters of AIPAC, AEI, and WINEP include Sheldon Adelson of Las Vegas Sands, Paul Singer of Elliot Management hedge fund and Bernard Marcus of Home Depot.
Other right wing think tanks including Heritage and Hudson in Washington also support unrelenting pressure directed against Iran. Even the more centrist Brookings Institute is hard core when it comes to Middle Eastern politics by virtue of its Saban Institute funded by Israeli-American billionaire Haim Saban. And then there are the mainstream Jewish organizations to include the Anti Defamation League, the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations and the American Jewish Congress, all of which have vast resources and unparalleled access to the White House, Congress and the media.
All the pro-Israel anti-Iran groups engage in pressure tactics on Capitol Hill and have been effective in dominating the political debate. Of thirty-six outside witnesses brought in to testify at seven Senate hearings on Iran since 2012 only one might be characterized as sensitive to Iranian concerns. The enormous lobbying effort enables the anti-Iran groups to define the actual policies, move their drafts of legislation through congress, and eventually see their bills pass with overwhelming majorities in both the House and Senate. It is democracy in action if one accepts that popular rule ought to be guided by money and pressure groups rather than by national interests.
Less well known is United Against Nuclear Iran, which has a budget just shy of $2 million. UANI is involved in the New York lawsuit. The group, which has somehow obtained a 501[c]3 “educational” tax status that inter alia allows it to conceal its donors, has offices in Rockefeller Center in New York City. It is active on Capitol Hill providing “expert testimony” on Iran for congressional committees, to include “help” in drafting legislation. At a July Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Iran all three outside witnesses were from UANI. It is also active in the media but is perhaps best known for its “name and shame” initiatives in which it exposes companies that it claims are doing business with Tehran in violation of US sanctions.
UANI is being sued by a Greek billionaire Victor Restis whom it had outed in 2013. Restis, claiming the exposure was fraudulent and carried out to damage his business, has filed suit demanding that UANI and billionaire Thomas Kaplan turn over documents and details of relationships regarding UANI donors who it is claimed are linked to the case. Kaplan, a New York City resident, made his initial fortune on energy exploration and development. More recently he has been involved in commodities trading in precious metals. His wife Daphne is Israeli and his involvement in various Jewish philanthropies both in the US and in Israel have invited comparison with controversial deceased commodities trader Marc Rich, who reportedly worked closely with the Israeli government on a number of projects.
The Justice department would like to the see the UANI lawsuit go away as it is aware that what is being described as “law enforcement” documents would include both privileged and classified Treasury Department work product relating to individuals and companies that it has investigated for sanctions busting. Passing either intelligence related or law enforcement documents to a private organization is illegal but the Justice Department’s only apparent concern is that the activity might be exposed. There is no indication that it would go after UANI for having acquired the information and it perhaps should be presumed that the source of the leak is the Treasury Department itself.
Who or what provided the documents to a private advocacy group that is also a tax exempt foundation supported by prominent businessmen with interests in the Middle East is consequently not completely clear but Restis is assuming that the truth will out if he can get hold of the evidence. The lawsuit claims that UANI intimidates its targets by defaming their business practices as well as by demanding both examination of their books and an audit carried out by one of its own accountants followed by review from an “independent counsel.”
Kaplan is named in the suit as he appears to be the gray eminence behind UANI. He once boasted “we’ve (UANI) done more to bring Iran to heel than any other private sector initiative.” Kaplan also employs as a director or officer in six of his companies the Executive Director of UANI Mark Wallace and reportedly arranged the awarding of the Executive Director position at Harvard’s Belfer Center to its President Gary Samore.
Kaplan is a business competitor to Restis, whose lawyers are apparently seeking to demonstrate two things: first, that the US government has been feeding sometimes only partially vetted information to UANI to help in its “name and shame” program and second, that UANI is itself supported by partisan business interests like Kaplan as well as by foreign sources, which apparently is meant to imply Israel. Or even the Israeli intelligence service Mossad. Meir Dagan, former head of Mossad, is on the UANI advisory board, which also includes ex-Senator Joseph Lieberman and former Senior Diplomat Dennis Ross, both of whom have frequently been accused of favoring Israeli interests and both of whom might well have easy access to US government generated information.
And then there is the Muhadedin-e-Khalq, the Iranian terrorist group that has assassinated at least six Americans and is now assisting the Israeli government in killing Iranian scientists, a prima facie definition of what constitutes terrorism. The group was on the State Department terrorist list from 1997 until 2012, when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton de-listed it in response to demands coming from friends of Israel in Congress as well as from a large group of ex government officials, many of whom were paid large honoraria by the group to serve as advocates. The paid American shills included former CIA Directors James Woolsey and Porter Goss, New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, former Vermont Governor Howard Dean, former Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation Louis Freeh and former United Nations Ambassador John Bolton. The promoters of MEK in congress and elsewhere claimed to be primarily motivated by MEK’s being an enemy of the current regime in Tehran, though its virulent anti-Americanism and terrorist history make it a somewhat unlikely poster child for the “Iranian resistance.”
Supporters of MEK also ignore the fact that the group is run like a cult, routinely executes internal dissidents, and has virtually no political support within Iran. But such are the ways of the corrupt Washington punditocracy, lionizing an organization that it should be shunning. MEK’s political arm is located in Paris and it has long been assumed that it is funded by the Israeli government and by at least some of the same gaggle of billionaires, possibly including their Israeli counterparts, who support the anti-Iranian agenda in the United States.
Iranian negotiators have accepted that their country should have only limited uranium enrichment capabilities coupled with a rigorous inspection regime but the talks in Geneva drag on and on as the United States continues to hesitate, raising new objections regularly in spite of claims that it operates in good faith and seeks a settlement. That an agreement is within reach is undoubtedly true and it would even be good for Israel as it would remove the regional nuclear option while making much less likely another pointless and devastating war. But the men who write the checks do not see it that way and, unfortunately, they are the ones who all too often both pay the piper and call the tune.
The NY Times reports a blockbuster story about the anti-Iran lobby group, United Against a Nuclear Iran. It’s an especially perfidious group supporting regime change, though it couches its approach in terms of opposing Iran’ nuclear program. Curiously, this is precisely the same way Israel’s far-right government disguises its own support for the violent overthrow of the Iranian government. Knowing that such a plan is not supported by the west including the Obama administration, they believe that they can paint Iran as enough of a threat to the world through it’s alleged plans to create nuclear weapons, that this will get them half-way to regime change.
UANI specializes in “outing” companies which allegedly violate UN sanctions against Iran. The Times article revealed that the companies are usually approached by an Israeli “fixer” with close ties to the Mossad. He’s Rami Ungar, owner of an Israeli company, Ray Shipping, who’s worth $500-million.
Ungar gives them an opportunity to renounce their supposed trade with Iran. Sometimes they’re extorted for a donation to UANI as well. Though the article doesn’t mention it, I’m certain that the Mossad intermediary probes for companies that will serve Israel’s interests in its fight against Iran. Companies doing business with Iran who are willing to become Mossad assets are worth their weight in gold, since the Iranians trust them and Israel can use such trust to sabotage whatever aspect of the Iranian military or commercial interests the sanctions-buster participates in.
What brought much of this to light is a lawsuit brought by one of the ship owners who was targeted by UANI. Instead of rolling over and playing dead, Victor Restis decided to sue UANI to find out what was going on inside the bowels of this organization. Restis, who denies all charges against him made by UANI, decided to take the battle to UANI. He’s demanding to see internal documents that would show who conveyed information to the group about him, what the information said, and how it was collected. His suit also implies that the Mossad directly funds UANI, another explosive charge.
What’s especially odd about the case is that the U.S. Justice Department has threatened to intervene in the case on behalf of UANI. Clearly, the real reason they’re willing to take such an unusual step is that they’re trying to protect the Mossad. It would not only embarrass our Israeli ally[sic], it might expose the covert methods and work product of Israeli intelligence. It might allow Iran to find out what Mossad knows about it and how.
This is so unseemly because the Obama administration is protecting a foreign spy agency which aggressively steals U.S. secrets when possible. We are also protecting the Mossad as it attempts to manipulate U.S. public opinion in a witch hunt against Iran, which is a country with whom we’re trying to negotiate a rapprochement. Here is how the U.S. explained its “interest” in the case:
Government lawyers said they had a “good faith basis to believe that certain information” would jeopardize law enforcement investigations, reveal investigative techniques or identify confidential sources if released.
If we take this literally, it means the U.S. government has been in cahoots with the Mossad in this campaign against Iranian commerce. Even if it means something less than that, it certainly means that we’re protecting the Mossad as one of our “confidential sources.” The other possible interpretation is that the U.S. is investigating UANI or the Mossad for their collusion together, though the article doesn’t point in that direction at all.
UANI, though it claims to be a bi-partisan group above the political fray, is heavily laden with neocon, Bush-era personnel and board members. It’s full of U.S. intelligence officials and diplomats known as especially friendly to Israel, including Dennis Ross. Meir Dagan is also listed as an advisor. UANI appears little more than an extension of Israeli intelligence based in the U.S.
Hillary Mann Leverett on the Iran Nuclear Talks
Earlier this week, Hillary appeared on CCTV’s The Heat to discuss the Iran nuclear talks; click on video above or see here. In her segment, she focused on what really drives the divide between Tehran and the Western members of the P5+1 (the United States, Britain, and France) over Iranian enrichment—namely, the clash between the Islamic Republic’s commitment to strategic independence and Western powers’ determination that Tehran must accept their directives regarding implementation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and the dynamics of Middle Eastern power politics. As Hillary notes,
“There has been progress on some significant issues—but this fundamental issue about enrichment is critically important. It gets to not just the number of centrifuges…The issue is really a question of independence.
Iran is fiercely devoted to its independence. That’s what the Islamic Revolution was all about—for Iran to be independent of foreign powers—and it wants this civilian nuclear program as part of its program for independence. So it needs to not dismantle any of its current infrastructure—which includes about 10,000 operating centrifuges—and to increase it, to a have full-fledged civilian nuclear power program.
The United States wants just the opposite. The United States has finally come around, after more than ten years of pounding its fist on the table, to admitting that maybe Iran could have a symbolic program—but that Iran needs to remain dependent on other countries…Not only does this go against the very principles of the revolution in Iran, for independence, but, in fact, Iran tried that. They bought fuel from Argentina, until the United States got angry and forced Argentina to cut it off. And they were part of a project called Eurodif, where Iran bought ten percent of that project, and then they were cut off.
So that’s the fundamental divide—whether to keep Iran dependent on the international community, or to allow them to be independent. That is going to be a very difficult bridge to cross…It’s not a matter of time; it’s a matter of mentality.”
Of course, official Washington’s hegemonic mentality—and its accompanying pretensions—are increasingly at odds with the actual distribution of power in an evolving international order. In part, this reflects the declining utility of America’s military might; to paraphrase a line from that timeless study in the exercise of power (and classic Hollywood blockbuster film), The Godfather, “the United States doesn’t even have that kind of muscle anymore—and can’t really use that much of what it still has.” As Hillary elaborates, that’s an important reason the United States is negotiating, however reluctantly, with Iran:
“It’s interesting that President Obama has refrained…since January of this year, from saying that all options are on the table, for two reasons. One, I think, in terms of allowing the negotiations to go forward, is to take the military option off the table as an offensive rhetorical device against the Iranians.
But part of this is real. This is something that, from all my trips to Iran, I understood. The Supreme Leader there, security and political analysts there, realized a few years ago that after America’s failed interventions in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and Syria, we don’t have the military option on the table, and that gives room for negotiations.
So, even though I’m not optimistic there’s going to be a deal, a comprehensive deal either today or in four months (the new deadline), I do think that there’s enough incentive on both sides to continue negotiations for a very long time. And you may see in September, when the United Nations convenes in New York, you may see not only continued intensive negotiations of high-level officials, but potentially even a President Obama-President Rohani meeting—not to actually seal the deal, but to inject enough momentum to keep things going past the November congressional elections and continue to kick this can down the road.”
Hillary is similarly skeptical about the prospects for a unilateral Israeli attack against Iran:
“Even though a tragically high number of Palestinians have been killed in this current conflict [in Gaza], there is a bit of exposure of the emperor wearing no clothes, that the Israelis are not able to defeat HAMAS in Gaza. And the Iranians certainly see the Israelis having no clothes, that they don’t have the technical capability to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities. With that, there is, again, more time for negotiations.”
Beyond the purely military dimension of America’s relative decline, the rising influence of non-Western powers—China, Russia, and, in the Middle East itself, Iran—has also helped push the United States into multilateral nuclear talks with the Islamic Republic. As Hillary explains, that’s an important reason the P5+1 is negotiating with Iran:
“The world has changed in the past ten years. Ten years ago, when the United States would say that the U.S., Israel, France, and Britain were ‘the international community,’ nobody really made that much noise. Today, they do. So today, the United States has to take the views of, particularly, Russia and China very squarely into account. They have to be at the table, and they have to buy into what the political and security order is going to look like in the Middle East—not just how many centrifuges Iran is going to have. That’s why we have the negotiations.”
Yet, even though it has been pushed into multilateral nuclear negotiations with Iran, the United States continues to take hegemonically assertive positions in the talks. Take Washington’s positions on the duration of a prospective final agreement, the number of centrifuges Iran should be “allowed” to operate under a final agreement, and limiting Iran’s alleged “breakout” capability. As Hillary describes,
“The United States wants at least a ten-year, and they’re gunning really for a twenty-year deal. That has nothing to do with proliferation. That has to do with their wanting to outwait the Supreme Leader, the Supreme Leader’s life…so that the Islamic Republic has, in their view, a prospect of collapsing into a more pro-American political order.
The Iranians are not buying into that…they’re focused more on what their practical needs are, based on when they have contracts or prospective contracts for nuclear plants, when they need the fuel, and how much fuel they need.
That gets into the number of centrifuges—and, again, this is where the Supreme Leader has spoken about numbers that are much greater than the Americans are willing to consider at this point. But he’s focused on what are the practical needs—the practical needs as told to him by the head of Iran’s atomic energy agency, who (guess what) has his Ph.D. from MIT here in the United States, and who knows what he’s doing.
So [the Iranians] are really talking about a practical needs-based approach, based on a sovereign country pursuing a technical, practical program. The United States is focused on power and influence, and on maintaining a pro-American political and security order in the Middle East…
The so-called ‘breakout issue’ is also a lot of smoke and mirrors. Again, it’s aimed at limiting Iran’s domestic, indigenous, sovereign capacity to pursue this program.
If the United States and its so-called partners were really interested in proliferation, they would accept the Iranian deal, which is to convert all—not some, but all—their enriched uranium into oxide, into powder to make into fuel. All of it. You’d solve the proliferation issue overnight, but the United States isn’t interested in that…We’re interested in constraining capacity, to constrain Iran’s power—its rising power, particularly in the Middle East—at a very volatile time for the United States.”
Hillary goes on to discuss the strategic imperative for the United States to pursue “Nixon-to-China”-style rapprochement with the Islamic Republic—and, in the process, “to change America’s strategy from one of dominance and hegemony in the Middle East to one that is a balance of power, that recognizes and deals with all the critical powers as they are, not as we would like to transform the Middle East.”
–Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett
The U.S. Department of Justice has drawn attention to itself for helping an organization opposed to Iran maintain secrecy of its records, which are caught up in a defamation lawsuit filed against the group.
United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) was founded six years ago and is operated by and gets advice from a who’s who list of American and foreign politicos, including former U.S. Senator Joseph Lieberman; Frances Townsend, the former homeland security adviser to President George W. Bush; Dennis Ross, a former Middle East adviser to both Republican and Democratic presidents; plus former intelligence chiefs from Israel, Germany and Britain.
Victor Restis, a Greek shipping magnate accused by UANI of violating sanctions by doing business with Iran, filed a defamation suit against the group. Restis’ lawyers have sought to compel UANI to release information about its donors and other details.
But the Justice Department stepped in and asked a federal judge to block the request, claiming the records contain sensitive information that the government considers important. Federal attorneys insisted “that certain information” would jeopardize law enforcement investigations, expose investigative techniques or identify confidential sources if released, according to The New York Times.
U.S. District Judge Edgardo Ramos in New York City granted the government’s request, while also describing the U.S. government’s involvement as “very curious.” The Justice Department has until July 31 to claim law enforcement privilege and keep the information from being disclosed permanently. In the meantime, each side has hurled charges and countercharges at the other.
“I am particularly concerned,” Ramos said in April, “that the defendants are able to utilize certain information in its public statements, and then not have to answer to their actions on the basis of a privilege.”
The claim of privilege puts the Justice Department in a conundrum. Federal intelligence agencies are not supposed to work with outside agencies to influence U.S. public opinion. But if UANI hasn’t been working with the government, what information could it have that would be so sensitive? We might find out on Thursday.
While negotiators from Iran, the United States and the rest of the P5+1 will not meet their July 20 target for a comprehensive nuclear agreement, it is clear they won’t walk away from the table in a huff. So, as the parties prepare to continue the process, what has America learned from negotiating with Iran, and what does it still need to learn to close a final deal?
One thing Washington has learned is that the Islamic Republic is deeply committed to protecting Iran’s independence. Thirty-five years ago, Iran’s current political order was born of a revolution promising Iranians to end subordination of their country’s foreign policy to the dictates of outside powers—especially the United States. Since then, the Islamic Republic has worked hard to keep that promise—for example, by defending Iran against a U.S.-backed, eight-year war of aggression by Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and fending off a steady stream of U.S. and Israeli covert attacks, economic warfare and threats of overt military action.
On nuclear matters, the Islamic Republic’s commitment to protecting Iranian independence focuses on the proposition that Iran has a sovereign right, recognized in the 1968 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), to enrich uranium indigenously under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards. The Islamic Republic terminated the purely weapons-related aspects of the U.S.-supplied nuclear program it inherited from the last shah, going so far as to reconfigure the Tehran Research Reactor—which, when transferred by the United States in the 1960s, only ran on fuel enriched to weapons-grade levels (over 90 percent)—to use fuel enriched to just below 20 percent.
But the Islamic Republic has also been determined to develop a range of civil nuclear capabilities, including indigenous enrichment for peaceful purposes. It won’t surrender Iran’s right to do so—even in the face of massive U.S. and Western pressure and sanctions. Beyond sovereignty and practical needs, Iranian policy makers judge that appeasing Washington on the issue will simply lead to more aggressive U.S. demands and pressure on other disputes.
America may have begun to recognize that respecting Iranian independence is key to diplomatic progress. For over a decade, Washington has insisted—contrary to how the vast majority of states read the NPT and to America’s own publicly stated view during the Treaty’s early years—that Iran has no right to enrich. Even today, while Secretary of State John Kerry acknowledges Iran’s right to a “peaceful nuclear program,” the United States refuses to acknowledge that this includes a right to safeguarded enrichment.
However, when Washington has moved, in practical ways, to accept safeguarded Iranian enrichment, Tehran has responded positively. In the Joint Plan of Action agreed last November, America and its British and French partners dropped their longstanding demands that Iran cease all enrichment-related activities before substantial diplomatic progress would be possible. Furthermore, the United States and the rest of the P5+1 agreed that a final deal would encompass an Iranian enrichment program. In return, Tehran made multiple commitments to diminish what America and its Western partners portray as the proliferation risks of Iran’s nuclear activities. These confidence-building measures—which, the IAEA reports, Iran has scrupulously implemented—include stopping enrichment at the near-20 percent level needed for TRR fuel, converting part of its near-20 percent stockpile to oxide form and diluting fissile-isotope purity in the rest, freezing its centrifuge infrastructure and accepting IAEA monitoring well beyond NPT requirements.
While U.S. officials have started to grasp the importance of respecting Iran’s independence, they have yet to draw this insight’s full implications—the main reason a final deal isn’t at hand.
America and its Western partners continue demanding that Iran dismantle most of its safeguarded centrifuge infrastructure—a demand with no basis in the NPT or any other legal instrument and which contributes nothing to Western powers’ purported nonproliferation goals. Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif has made clear that, in a final deal, Iran could agree to cap temporarily the scope and level of its enrichment activities and to operate its centrifuges in ways rendering alleged scenarios of rapid “breakout” implausible (e.g., no stockpiling of low-enriched uranium).
Unfortunately, Western demands for dismantlement appear grounded in a determination that Tehran must “surrender” in a final deal—to forego sustainable indigenous enrichment capabilities and instead rely on foreign fuel suppliers (especially Russia). If Western powers insist that Iran compromise its sovereign rights, there will be no final deal, no matter how long talks are extended.
The United States also still needs to learn—however incomprehensible this may seem to some—that the Islamic Republic is, in fact, a legitimate order for the overwhelming majority of Iranians living inside their country.
Besides restoring Iranian independence, the revolution that produced the Islamic Republic promised Iranians to replace externally imposed autocracy with an indigenously created system, grounded in participatory Islamist governance. For thirty-five years, this is what the Islamic Republic has offered Iranians the chance to build. With all its flaws, the Islamic Republic has delivered for its people in important ways, including impressive (and progressive) developmental outcomes in poverty alleviation, educational access, health-care delivery, scientific and technological advancement, and improving the status of women—despite decades of war, threats of war, and intensifying sanctions.
Still, many American elites persist in depicting the Islamic Republic as a system so despised by its own people as to be chronically in danger of overthrow—a fantasy that has driven Western enthusiasm and not-so-tacit support for regime change in Iran. Beyond its falsity, this misapprehension of reality continues to warp the Western approach to nuclear diplomacy with Tehran. Beyond dictating the “acceptable” scope of Iran’s indigenous capabilities, Western powers want the limits on Iran’s nuclear activities in a final deal to apply for well over a decade. Conversations with Western officials indicate that this demand—also with no basis in the NPT or any other legal instrument—is motivated by assessments that the Islamic Republic will not last for more than ten years. By insisting on a more-than-ten-year term, Western powers are calculating that, when a final deal expires, Iran will have a political order less committed to strategic independence.
This is both foolhardy and reckless. The Islamic Republic is not about to disappear—and no truly legitimate Iranian government will compromise what the vast majority of Iranians see as their nation’s sovereign rights.
When the United States fully understands that, the nuclear issue will almost resolve itself.
WASHINGTON — As the negotiations on the Iranian nuclear programme approach the July 20 deadline, both U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif have signaled through their carefully worded statements that they are now moving toward agreement on the two most crucial issues in the talks: the level of Iranian enrichment capability to be allowed and the duration of the agreement.
Their statements after two days of meetings Sunday and Monday suggest that both Kerry and Zarif now see a basis for an agreement that would freeze Iran’s enrichment capacity at somewhere around its present level of 10,000 operational centrifuges for a period of years.
They also indicated that the two sides have not yet agreed on how many years the agreement would last, but that the bargaining on that question has already begun.
The tone and content of Kerry’s statements in particular contrasts sharply with remarks by a senior U.S. official shortly before Kerry’s arrival in Vienna on July 12, which accused Iran of failing to move from “unworkable and inadequate positions that would not in fact assure us that their programme is exclusively peaceful.”
Zarif’s comments to New York Times correspondent David E. Sanger suggested movement toward an accord on the two key issues of the level of enrichment capacity and the duration of the agreement.
“I can try to work out an agreement where we would maintain our current levels,” Zarif was quoted as saying.
The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday that a diplomat involved in the talks had said Iran had proposed freezing the number of centrifuges at 9, 400 – roughly the same number that have actually been operating.
Iran has another 9,000 centrifuges that were installed but never hooked up or operated, suggesting that Iran intended to trade them off for concessions from the P5+1 in eventual negotiations even before Hassan Rouhani became president last year.
The Times story reported that Zarif also “signaled that he had some room to negotiate on how long the freeze would last because Iran has an agreement with Russia to provide fuel for its Bushehr nuclear plant for the next seven years.”
“We want to produce only what we need,” Zarif said. “Since our reactor doesn’t need fuel for another seven years we don’t have to kill ourselves for it. We have time.”
Zarif’s latitude for negotiating on the expiration date may be wider than has been assumed because Iran is pursuing a possible deal with Russia on cooperation in fuel fabrication, according to a document on Iran’s nuclear energy needs recently released by the government.
Such an agreement could eliminate the need to begin replacing Russian fuel immediately after the expiration of the present contract.
In his press conference Tuesday, Kerry refused to address the question of specific numbers of centrifuges discussed with Zariff. Nevertheless, he said, “We have made it crystal clear that the 19,000 that are currently part of their programme is too many.”
By referring to the 19,000 figure rather than to the 10,000 operative centrifuges, Kerry was leaving the door open to a deal that would cut half of Iran’s total centrifuge capacity.
As recently as June, Obama administration officials were leaking to the press a demand that Iran would have to accept a cut in the number of centrifuges to between 2,000 and 4,000.
The rationale for that demand was that Iran’s existing level of centrifuges would allow it the capability to achieve a “breakout” to sufficient weapons-grade uranium to build a single nuclear weapon in only two to three months, and that Washington was insisting on lengthening that “breakout timeline” to six to 12 months.
But the administration is well aware that another way to achieve that objective is to reduce Iran’s low enriched uranium stockpile to close to zero.
Zarif explained to the Times correspondent the Iranian proposal, which was part of the negotiating draft, to guarantee that no breakout capability would exist even with the current level of Iranian enrichment.
Sanger reported that Zarif had “combined his proposal of a freeze with an offer to take the nuclear fuel produced by its 9,000 or so working centrifuges and convert it to an oxide form, a way station to being made into nuclear fuel rods.”
Zarif reportedly said Iran would “guarantee, during the agreement, not to build the facility needed to convert the oxide back into a gas, the step that would have to precede any effort to enrich it to 90 percent purity, which is what is generally considered bomb-grade.”
The foreign minister claimed that his proposal would lengthen the “breakout timeline” to more than a year, according to Sanger. As described by Zarif to IPS in early June, the plan is designed to assure that no low enriched uranium would be available for weapons-grade enrichment for the duration of the agreement.
Sanger reported that American officials are “doubtful” that it would accomplish that objective but offered no explanation and did not quote any official. That suggests that Sanger was relying on what U.S. officials had said about the “breakout” issue before the Kerry-Zarif negotiations.
Kerry did not address the issue of duration of the agreement in his press conference remarks. But a U.S. official was quoted in a July 12 Reuters story as declining to give a specific number but as saying that the United States wanted it to be “in the double digits”.
In earlier briefings for the news media, U.S. officials had indicated that the United States wanted the agreement to last 20 years.
Before the Kerry-Zarif meetings, the senior U.S official briefing journalists July 12 had criticised Ali Khamenei’s July 7 speech referring to Iran’s need for the equivalent of 190,000 first generation centrifuges. The official had said that the number would be “far beyond their current programme” and that the U.S. had said the existing capacity needed to be cut instead.
That suggested that Iran was insisting on getting approval for that increased capacity in the agreement.
In his news conference, however, Kerry clearly suggested that Khamenei’s citation of the 190,000 figure is not a deal-breaker. “[I]t reflects a long-term perception of what they currently have in their minds with respect to nuclear plants to provide power,” Kerry said. “[I]t was framed what way, I believe, in the speech,” he added.
Kerry was implying that Khamenei’s vision of industrial scale enrichment would not fall within the time frame of the agreement, presumably on the basis of his talks with Zarif.
That answer suggests that Kerry is now considering an Iranian proposal on the duration of the agreement that would put off the beginning of Iran’s buildup to industrial level enrichment to a point close to or within the “double digit” period of years demanded by the United States.
Once the difference between the proposed duration of the two sides has been reduced to a very few years, both sides may well conclude that the difference is not important enough to sacrifice the advantages of reaching agreement.
The Obama administration is still assessing whether to request an extension of the talks beyond Sunday’s deadline, but it may not take long to wrap up an agreement once the decision to reach compromise on the two key issues is made.
When Sanger of the Times asked Zarif whether agreement could be reached by the July 20 deadline, the foreign minister replied, “We can do that by this evening.”
The neoconservative movement, which is generally perceived as a radical (rather than “conservative”) Republican right, is, in reality, an intellectual movement born in the late 1960s in the pages of the monthly magazine Commentary, a media arm of the American Jewish Committee, which had replaced the Contemporary Jewish Record in 1945. The Forward, the oldest American Jewish weekly, wrote in a January 6th, 2006 article signed Gal Beckerman: “If there is an intellectual movement in America to whose invention Jews can lay sole claim, neoconservatism is it. It’s a thought one imagines most American Jews, overwhelmingly liberal, will find horrifying. And yet it is a fact that as a political philosophy, neoconservatism was born among the children of Jewish immigrants and is now largely the intellectual domain of those immigrants’ grandchildren”. The neoconservative apologist Murray Friedman explains that Jewish dominance within his movement by the inherent benevolence of Judaism, “the idea that Jews have been put on earth to make it a better, perhaps even a holy, place” (The Neoconservative Revolution: Jewish Intellectuals and the Shaping of Public Policy, 2006).
Just as we speak of the “Christian Right” as a political force in the United States, we could also therefore speak of the neoconservatives as representing the “Jewish Right”. However, this characterization is problematic for three reasons. First, the neoconservatives are a relatively small group, although they have acquired considerable authority on and within Jewish representative organizations, including the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. In 2003, journalist Thomas Friedman of the New York Times counted twenty-five members saying, “if you had exiled them to a desert island a year and half ago, the Iraq war would not have happened”. The neoconservatives compensate for their small number by multiplying their Committees, Projects, and other think tanks, which certainly give them a kind of ubiquity.
Second, the neoconservatives of the first generation mostly came from the left, even the extreme Trotskyist left for some such as Irving Kristol, one of the main editors of Commentary. During the late 1960s the Commentary editorial staff begins to break with the liberal, pacifist left, which they suddenly find decadent. Norman Podhoretz, editor of Commentary from 1960 until his retirement in 1995, was a militant anti-Vietnam dissenter until 1967, but then in the 70s became a fervent advocate of an increased defense budget, bringing the journal along in his wake. In the 1980s, he opposed the policy of détente in his book The Present Danger: in the 1990s, he calls for the invasion of Iraq, and then again in the early 2000s. In 2007, while his son John Podhoretz was taking over as editor of Commentary, he asserted once again the urgency of a U.S. military attack, this time against Iran.
Third, unlike evangelical Christians who openly proclaim their unifying religious principles, neoconservatives do not display their Judaism. Whether they’d been Marxists or not, they appear mostly non-religious. It is well-know that their major influence is the philosophy of Leo Stauss, so much so that they are sometimes referred to as “the straussians”; Norman Podhoretz and his son John, Irving Kristol and his son William, Donald Kagan and his son Robert, Paul Wolfowitz, Adam Shulsky, to name just a few, all expressed their debt to Strauss. Leo Strauss, born to a family of German Orthodox Jews, was both pupil and collaborator of political theorist Carl Schmitt, himself a specialist of Thomas Hobbes and advocate of a “political theology” by which the State must appropriate the attributes of God. Schmitt was an admirer of Mussolini, and the legal counsel of the Third Reich. After the Reichstag fire in February 1933, it was Schmitt who provided the legal framework that justified the suspension of citizen rights and the establishment of the dictatorship. It was also Schmitt, in 1934, who personally obtained from the Rockefeller Foundation a grant for Leo Strauss to study Thomas Hobbes in London and Paris, and then finally end up teaching in Chicago.
The thinking of Leo Strauss is difficult to capture, and certainly beyond the purview of this work. Moreover, Strauss is often elliptic because he believes that Truth is harmful to the common man and the social order and should be reserved for superior minds. For this reason, Strauss rarely speaks in his own name, but rather expressed himself as a commentator on classical authors, in whom he discovers many of his own thoughts. Moreover, much like his disciples Allan Bloom (The Closing of the American Mind, 1988) and Samuel Huntington, he is careful to clothe his most radical ideas in ostensibly humanist principles. Despite the apparent difficulty, three basic ideas can easily be extracted from his political philosophy, no different from Schmitt. First, nations derive their strength from their myths, which are necessary for government and governance. Second, national myths have no necessary relationship with historical reality: they are socio-cultural constructions that the State has a duty to disseminate. Third, to be effective, any national myth must be based on a clear distinction between good and evil; it derives its cohesive strength from the hatred of an enemy nation. As recognized by Abram Shulsky and Gary Schmitt in an article “Leo Strauss and the World of Intelligence” (1999), for Strauss, “deception is the norm in political life” – the rule they applied to fabricating the lie of weapons of mass destruction by Saddam Hussein when working inside the Office of Special Plans.
In his maturity, Strauss was a great admirer of Machiavelli, who he believes he understood better than anyone. In his Thoughts on Machiavelli, he parts from the intellectual trend of trying to rehabilitate the author of The Prince against the popular opinion regarding his work as immoral. Strauss recognizes the absolute immorality of Machiavelli, which he sees as the source of his revolutionary genius, “We are in sympathy with the simple opinion about Machiavelli, not only because it is wholesome, but above all because a failure to take that opinion seriously prevents one from doing justice to what is truly admirable in Machiavelli; the intrepidity of his thought, the grandeur of his vision, and the graceful subtlety of his speech”. The thought of Machiavelli is so radical and pure, says Strauss, that its ultimate implications could not be spelled out: “Machiavelli does not go to the end of the road; the last part of the road must be travelled by the reader who understands what is omitted by the writer”. Strauss is the guide who can help his neoconservative students do that, for “to discover from [Strauss’] writings what he regarded as the truth is hard; it is not impossible”. This truth that Machiavelli and Strauss share is not a blinding light, but rather a black hole that only the philosopher can contemplate without turning into a beast: there is no afterlife, and neither good nor evil; therefore the ruling elite shaping the destiny of their nation need not worry about the salvation of their own souls. Hence Machiavelli, according to Strauss, is the perfect patriot.
Neoconservatism is essentially a modern Jewish version of Machiavelli’s political strategy. What characterizes the neoconservative movement is therefore not as much Judaism as a religious tradition, but rather Judaism as a political project, i.e. Zionism, by Machiavellian means. Note that, in an article in the Jewish World Review on June 7th, 1999, the neoconservative Michael Ledeen defends the thesis that Machiavelli was a crypto-Jew, as were at the time thousands of families nominally converted to Catholicism under threat of expulsion or death. “Listen to his political philosophy, and you will hear the Jewish music”, wrote Ledeen, citing in particular Machiavelli’s contempt for the nonviolent ethics of Jesus and his admiration for the pragmatism of Moses, who was able to kill countless men in the interests of enforcing his new law.
Obviously, if Zionism is synonymous with patriotism in Israel, it cannot be an acceptable label in American politics, where it would mean loyalty to a foreign power. This is why the neoconservatives do not represent themselves as Zionists on the American scene. Yet they do not hide it all together either. Elliott Abrams, Deputy National Security Adviser in the administration of Bush’s son, wrote in his book Faith or Fear (1997): “Outside the land of Israel, there can be no doubt that Jews, faithful to the covenant between God and Abraham, are to stand apart from the nation in which they live. It is the very nature of being Jewish to be apart — except in Israel — from the rest of the population”. It is hard to come up with a better definition of Zionism, the corollary of which is the apartheid practiced against non-Jewish peoples in Palestine, defended in the same year by Douglas Feith in his “Reflections on Liberalism, Democracy and Zionism”, pronounced in Jerusalem, defending the right of Israel to be an “ethnic nation”: “there is a place in the world for non-ethnic nations and there is a place for ethnic nations”.
If one is entitled to consider the neoconservatives as Zionists, it is especially in noting that their foreign policy choices have always coincided perfectly with the interests of Israel (as they see it). Israel’s interest has always been understood as dependent on two things: the immigration of Eastern Jews and the financial support of the Jews of the West (American and, to a lesser extent, European). Until 1967, the national interest pushed Israel toward the Soviet Union, while the support of American Jews remained quiet. The socialist and collectivist orientation of the Labor Party in power naturally inclined them in this direction, but Israel’s good relations with the USSR were primarily due to the fact that the mass immigration of Jews was only possible through the good will of the Kremlin. During the three years following the end of the British mandate on Palestine (1948), which had hitherto limited Jewish immigration out of consideration for the Arab population, two hundred thousand Polish Jewish refugees in the USSR were allowed to settle in Palestine, with others coming from Romania, Hungary and Bulgaria.
The Six Day War was a decisive turning point: in 1967, Moscow protested against Israel’s annexation of new territories, broke diplomatic relations with Tel Aviv and stopped the emigration of its Jewish citizens, which had accelerated in the previous month. It is from this date that Commentary became, in the words of Benjamin Balint, “the contentious magazine that transformed the Jewish left into the neoconservative right”. The neoconservatives realized that, from that point, Israel’s survival – and its territorial expansion – depended on the support and protection of another super-power, the U.S. military, and concomitantly that their need for Jewish immigrants could only be fulfilled by the fall of communism. These two objectives converged in the deepening of military power of the United States. This is why Irving Kristol engaged the American Jewish Congress in 1973 to fight George McGovern’s proposal to reduce the military budget by 30%: “this is to drive a knife into the heart of Israel. [...] Jews don’t like a big military budget, but it is now an interest of the Jews to have a large and powerful military establishment in the United States. [...] American Jews who care about the survival of the state of Israel have to say, no, we don’t want to cut the military budget, it is important to keep that military budget big, so that we can defend Israel”. We now understand better what reality Kristol was referring to, when he famously defined a neoconservative as “a liberal who has been mugged by reality”.
In the late 60s, the neoconservatives support the militarist fringe of the Democratic Party, headed by Senator Henry Scoop Jackson, a supporter of the Vietnam War who challenged McGovern in the 1972 primaries. Richard Perle, parliamentary assistant to Jackson, wrote the Jackson-Vanik amendment, which made food aid to the Soviet Union conditional upon the free emigration of Jews. It is also within the office of Scoop Jackson that an alliance between the neoconservatives and the Rumsfeld-Cheney tandem will be forged, before Rumsfeld and Cheney took advantage of the Watergate scandal to join the Republican camp and infiltrate the White House. Perle placed his protégés Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Pipes in Team B, whose report was published in Commentary. During the Carter period, neoconservatives allied with evangelical Christians, viscerally anti-communist and generally well disposed towards Israel, the foundation of which they see as a divine miracle foreshadowing the return of Christ. The contribution of the neoconservatives to the Reagan victory allowed them to work within the government to strengthen the alliance between the United States and Israel; in 1981, the two countries signed their first military pact, then embarked on several shared operations, some legal and others not so, as evidenced by the network of arms trafficking and paramilitary operations embedded within the Iran-Contra affair. Anti-communism and Zionism had become so linked in their common cause, that in 1982, in his book The Real Anti-Semitism in America, the director of the Anti-Defamation League Nathan Perlmutter could turn the pacifism of the “peacemakers of Vietnam vintage, [the] transmuters of swords into plowshares”, into a new form of anti-Semitism.
With the end of the Cold War, the national interest of Israel changed once again. Their primary objective became not the fall of communism, but rather the weakening of Israel’s enemies. Thus the neoconservatives underwent their second conversion, from anti-communism to Islamophobia, and created new think tanks such as the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP) led by Richard Perle, the Middle East Forum led by Daniel Pipes (son of Richard), the Center for Security Policy (CSP) founded by Frank Gaffney, and the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI). President George H.W. Bush, however, cultivated friendships with Saudi Arabia and was not exactly a friend of Israel; he resisted in September of 1991 against an unprecedented pro-Israel lobbying campaign that called for $10 billion to help Jews immigrate from the former Soviet Union to Israel. He complained in a televised press conference on September 12th that “one thousand Jewish lobbyists are on Capitol Hill against little old me”, thereby causing Tom Dine, the Executive Director of AIPAC, to exclaim that “September 12, 1991, is a day that will live in infamy”. Bush also resisted the neoconservatives’ advice to invade Iraq after Operation Desert Storm. Finally, Bush’s Secretary of State James Baker was too receptive to Arab proposals throughout the Madrid Conference in November 1991; the neoconservatives, as a result, sabotaged Bush’s chances for a second term and supported Democrat Bill Clinton. After eight years of Clinton, they finally completed their victory by having Bush’s son George W. elected and forcing him into the second Iraq war.
During Clinton’s two terms, while the Madrid agreements were buried by the Oslo Accords negotiated directly with an overwhelmed Yasser Arafat, neoconservatives prepared their return with Rumsfeld and Cheney, and threw all their weight behind their ultimate think tank, the Project for the New American Century (PNAC). William Kristol, son of Irving, also founded in 1995 a new magazine, The Weekly Standard, that immediately became the dominant voice of the neoconservatives thanks to funding from the pro-Israeli Rupert Murdoch. In 1997, it would be the first publication to call for a new war against Saddam Hussein. During the Clinton years, neoconservatives, although consulted by the White House, were not part of it. And so it is relevant to mention that, during this same time, the FBI was investigating an Israeli mole in the White House, who was allegedly using the code name “Mega” and enjoying privileged access to the Security Council. According to the investigator Gordon Thomas, quoted by the New York Post on March 5th1998, the FBI investigation was stopped when “Israel blackmailed President Clinton with private recordings of his steamy conversations with Monica Lewinsky”.
Speeches and mirrors
The 2007 book by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, shocked the American public by exposing the considerable influence of pro-Israel groups, the oldest of which being the Zionist Organization of America, and the most influential since the 70s, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). The authors demonstrate that “the Lobby” has been the major force driving the United States into the Iraq war and, more generally, into a foreign policy that lacks coherence and morality in the Middle East. The authors’ thesis is yet incomplete because they leave absent the complementary role played from within State by the neoconservatives, who form the other arm of the pliers now holding the American foreign policy.
“We, the Jewish people control America, and the Americans know it”, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said to minister of Foreign Affairs Shimon Peres on October 3, 2001, according to Israeli radio Kol Yisrael. His successor Benjamin Netanyahu proved it on May 24, 2011 by receiving 29 standing ovation by the American Congress, including at each of those sentences: “in Judea and Samaria, the Jewish people are not foreign occupiers” ; “No distortion of history could deny the 4,000-year-old bond between the Jewish people and the Jewish land” ; “Israel will not return to the indefensible boundaries of 1967” ; “Jerusalem must never again be divided. Jerusalem must remain the united capital of Israel”.
These two forces — the crypto-Zionists infiltrated in the government and the pro-Israel lobby — sometimes act in criminal conspiracy, as illustrated by the charge against Larry Franklin in 2005, who, as a member of the Office of Special Plans working under Douglas Feith, passed classified defense documents to two AIPAC officials, Steven Rosen and Keith Weissman, who in turn transmitted them to a senior official in Israel. Franklin was sentenced to thirteen years in prison (later reduced to ten years of house-arrest), while Rosen and Weissman were acquitted. Most neoconservatives are active members of the second most powerful lobby pro-Israel, the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA), of which Dick Cheney and Ahmed Chalabi are also members, among others responsible for instigating the Iraq invasion. JINSA was founded in 1976 by American army officers, intellectuals, and politicians, with one of its stated aims “to inform the American defense and foreign affairs community about the important role Israel can and does play in bolstering democratic interests in the Mediterranean and the Middle East”. Colin Powell, according to his biographer Karen DeYoung, privately rallied against this “separate little government” composed of “Wolfowitz, Libby, Feith, and Feith’s ‘Gestapo Office’”, which he also called “the JINSA crowd”.
In 2011, Powell’s former Chief of Staff Lawrence Wilkerson openly denounced the duplicity of neoconservatives such as David Wurmser and Douglas Feith, whom he considered like “card-carrying members of the Likud party. […] I often wondered if their primary allegiance was to their own country or to Israel. That was the thing that troubled me, because there was so much that they said and did that looked like it was more reflective of Israel’s interest than our own”. In fact, a significant number of neoconservatives are Israeli citizens, have family in Israel or have resided there themselves. Some are openly close to Likud, the nationalist party in power in Israel, and several have even been official advisors to Netanyahu; many are regularly praised for their work on behalf of Israel by the Israeli press. Paul Wolfowitz, for example, was nominated “Man of the Year” by the pro-Likud Jerusalem Post in 2003, and « the most hawkishly pro-Israel voice in the Administration » by the American Jewish daily newspaper The Forward.
The duplicity of the neoconservatives is brought to light by a document revealed in 2008 by authors such as James Petras and Stephen Sniegoski (see bibliography); it is a 1996 report by the Israeli think tank Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies, entitled “A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm”, sent to the new Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. The team responsible for the report was led by Richard Perle, and included Douglas Feith, David Wurmser and his wife Meyrav Wurmser. Perle personally gave the report to Netanyahu on July 8th, 1996. The same year, the authors signed the founding manifesto of PNAC in the U.S., and four years later, they would be positioned in key posts of the U.S. military and U.S. foreign policy. As its title suggests, the report Clean Break invites Netanyahu to break with the Oslo Accords of 1993, which committed Israel to the return of the territories it occupied since 1967 and to retract illegal settlements. The new Prime minister should instead “engage every possible energy on rebuilding Zionism” and reaffirm Israel’s right over the West Bank and the Gaza Strip: “Our claim to the land — to which we have clung for hope for 2,000 years — is legitimate and noble. […] Only the unconditional acceptance by Arabs of our rights, especially in their territorial dimension, ‘peace for peace,’ is a solid basis for the future”. The authors of Clean Break therefore encourage Netanyahu to adopt a politics of territorial annexation, not only contrary to the official position of the United States and the United Nations, but also contrary to public commitments made by Israel. Even though he signed the “roadmap” intended to lead to an independent Palestinian State in September 1999, and maintained his position at the Camp David summit in July 2000, Netanyahu followed the advice of Clean Break and secretly worked to sabotage the process. During a private interview filmed without his knowledge in 2001, he bragged how he undercut the peace process: “I’m going to interpret the accords in such a way that would allow me to put an end to this galloping forward to the ’67 borders”. He also said: “I know what America is. America is a thing you can move very easily, move it in the right direction. They won’t get in our way.”
The recommendations to the Israeli government to sabotage the peace process in Palestine are presented by the authors of Clean Break as part of a larger plan to allow Israel to “shape its strategic environment”, by “removing Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq”, weakening Syria and Lebanon, and finally Iran. When Perle, Feith and Wurmser moved to key positions in the U.S. government, they arranged for the United States to implement the program themselves, without Israel having to pay a single drop of blood. If there are differences between the Clean Break report written for the Israeli government in 1996 and the report Rebuilding America’s Defenses written by the same authors for the U.S. government in 2000, it is not in the program itself, but rather the argued reasons. First, Clean Break does not have Iraq as a threat, but as the weakest of the enemies of Israel, the least dangerous and the easiest to break. In a follow-up to Clean Break, entitled Coping with Crumbling States: A Western and Israeli Balance of Power Strategy for the Levant, Wurmser emphasizes the fragility of Middle East States, particularly Iraq: “the residual unity of the nation is an illusion projected by extreme repression of the state”. Thus the same action of first overthrowing Saddam is recommended to Israel and the United States, but for opposite reasons. The weakness of Iraq, which is the reason for Israel, does not constitute a valid reason for the United States; and so it was therefore necessary to present Iraq to the Americans as a mortal threat to their country. Netanyahu himself authored an article in the Wall Street Journal in September 2002, under the title “The Case for Toppling Saddam”, describing Saddam as “a dictator who is rapidly expanding his arsenal of biological and chemical weapons, who has used these weapons of mass destruction against his subjects and his neighbors, and who is feverishly trying to acquire nuclear weapons”. Nothing of such a threat, however, is mentioned in Israeli internal documents, which also make no mention of any further connection between Iraq and Al-Qaeda, nor even Al-Qaeda in general. The perspective on Iraq in Clean Break was the realistic one, while the motives given America were pure propaganda: by the time American troops moved into Iraq, the country had been ruined by a decade of economic sanctions that had not only rendered its army powerless, but also destroyed its once exemplary education and health care systems, taking the lives, according to UNICEF, of half a million children.
The second fundamental difference between the strategy recommended for Israelis and the propaganda sold to the Americans: while the second highlights both the security interest of the United States, and the noble ideal to spread democracy in the Middle East, the first ignores these two themes. The changes proposed by the Clean Break authors are not expected to bring any benefit to the Arab world. Instead, the goal is clearly to weaken Israel’s enemies by sharpening ethnic, religious and territorial disputes between countries and within each country. After the fall of Saddam, foreseen in Coping with Crumbling States, Iraq would be “ripped apart by the politics of warlords, tribes, clans, sects, and key families”, for the benefit of Israel. Furthermore, it is not democracy that Clean Break recommended for Iraq, but rather restoring a pro-Western monarchy. Such an outcome would obviously be unacceptable to the Americans, but when Lewis Paul Bremer, as head of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) in 2003, brought about the destruction of the military and civilian infrastructure in the name of “de-Bathification”, it was viewed as a success from the eyes of the Likud. Better still, by dissolving the army, Bremer indirectly created a disorganized pool of resistance of some 400,000 angry soldiers, ensuring chaos for a few years. Daniel Pipes had the gall to write, three years after the invasion of Iraq: “the benefits of eliminating Saddam’s rule must not be forgotten in the distress of not creating a successful new Iraq. Fixing Iraq is neither the coalition’s responsibility nor its burden”. And besides, he adds, “when Sunni terrorists target Shiites and vice-versa, non-Muslims are less likely to be hurt. Civil war in Iraq, in short, would be a humanitarian tragedy but not a strategic one” (New York Sun, February 28, 2006). Under Bremer’s leadership, 9 billion dollars disappeared in fraud, corruption and embezzlement, according to a report by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction Stuart Bowen, published January 30th, 2005.
In 2001, Lewis Paul Bremer was the chairman of the National Commission on Terrorism who appeared on NBC two hours after the “collapse” of the Twin Towers, to calmly explain that “Bin Laden […] has to be a prime suspect” and that “there are at least two States, Iran and Iraq, which should at least remain on the list as essential suspects”. When the reporter from NBC drew a predictable parallel between the attack and Pearl Harbor, Bremer confirmed: “It is the day that will change our lives. It is the day when the war that the terrorists declared on the US [...] has been brought home to the U.S.”
The difference between the neocons’ Israeli and American discourses finds its explanation in the Israeli document itself, which recommends Netanyahu present Israeli strategy “in language familiar to the Americans by tapping into themes of American administrations during the cold war which apply well to Israel”; the Netanyahu government should “promote Western values and traditions. Such an approach […] will be well received in the United States”. The references to moral values are thus nothing more than tactics to mobilize the United States. Finally, while the authors of the Israeli report stressed the importance of winning the sympathy and support of the United States, they also declare that their strategy will ultimately free Israel from American pressure and influence: “such self-reliance will grant Israel greater freedom of action and remove a significant lever of [United States] pressure used against it in the past”.
Passing off a threat against Israel as though it were a threat against the United States is a trick to which Netanyahu had no need to be converted; he has been employing it since the 1980s to rally Americans alongside Israel in the “international war on terrorism”, a concept which he can claim to have invented in his books International Terrorism: Challenge and Response (1982) and Terrorism: How the West can Win (1986). In their book An End to Evil (2003), Richard Perle and David Frum likewise work to embed the fears of Israelis into the minds of Americans; for example, they ardently urge Americans to “end this evil before it kills again and on a genocidal scale. There is no middle way for Americans: It is victory or holocaust”. It is, however, impossible for anyone to be consistently hypocritical, and it happens eventually that neoconservatives recklessly open their thoughts to the public. This is what happened to Philip Zelikow, Counselor to Condoleezza Rice and Executive Director of the Commission on September 11, when, speaking about the Iraqi threat during a conference at the University of Virginia September 10, 2002, he let slip: “Why would Iraq attack America or use nuclear weapons against us? I’ll tell you what I think the real threat is and actually has been since 1990: it’s the threat against Israel. And this is the threat that dare not speak its name, because the Europeans don’t care deeply about that threat, I will tell you frankly. And the American government doesn’t want to lean too hard on it rhetorically, because it is not a popular sell”. That’s really it in a nutshell: the United States must be led to make war with the enemies of Israel, and in order to that, Americans must be convinced that Israel’s enemies are America’s enemies.
In addition, it is necessary that the Americans believe that these enemies hate their country for what it claims to represent (i.e. democracy, freedom, etc.), not because of its support for Israel. The signatories of the PNAC letter to President Bush on April 3rd, 2002 (including William Kristol, Richard Perle, Daniel Pipes, Norman Podhoretz, Robert Kagan, and James Woolsey) go as far as claiming that the Arab world hates Israel because it is a friend of the United States, rather than the reverse: “No one should doubt that the United States and Israel share a common enemy. We are both targets of what you have correctly called an “Axis of Evil.” Israel is targeted in part because it is our friend, and in part because it is an island of liberal, democratic principles — American principles — in a sea of tyranny, intolerance, and hatred”. It is a well-known fact that America had no enemies in the Middle East before its covenant with Israel in the late 60s. On September 21st, 2001, the New York Post published an editorial by Netanyahu propagating the same historical falsification: “Today we are all Americans. […] For the bin Laden’s of the world, Israel is merely a sideshow. America is the target”. Three days later The New Republic responded with a headline on behalf of the Americans: “We are all Israelis now”. The post-9/11 propaganda has created a relationship fused by emotion. Wrongly, Americans have understood September 11th as an expression of hatred towards them from the Arab world and have thus experienced immediate sympathy for Israel, an emotional link neoconservatives exploit without limit; Paul Wolfowitz declared April 11th, 2002: “Since September 11th, we Americans have one thing more in common with Israelis. On that day America was attacked by suicide bombers. At that moment every American understood what it was like to live in Jerusalem, or Netanya or Haifa. And since September 11th, Americans now know why we must fight and win the war on terrorism”.
Questioned on September 11 about the event of the day by James Bennet for the New York Times, Netanyahu let go: “It’s very good […] it will generate immediate sympathy. […], strengthen the bond between our two peoples”. He confirmed it 8 years later, at Bar-Ilan University: “We are benefiting from one thing, and that is the attack on the Twin Towers and Pentagon, and the American struggle in Iraq”, adding that these events “swung American public opinion in our favor”. (Ma’ariv, April 17, 2008).
One of the goals is to encourage Americans to view the oppression of the Palestinians as part of the fight against Islamic terrorism. As Robert Jensen said in the documentary Peace, Propaganda and the Promised Land by Sut Jhally et Bathsheba Ratzkoff (2004): “Since the Sept 11th attack on the US, Israel’s PR strategy has been to frame all Palestinian action, violent or not, as terrorism. To the extent that they can do that, they’ve repackaged an illegal military occupation as part of America’s war on terror”. On December 4th, 2004, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon justified his brutality against the people of Gaza by claiming that Al-Qaeda had established a base there; but then on December 6th, the head of Palestinian Security Rashid Abu Shbak revealed in a press conference telephone banking traces proving that the secret services of Israel had themselves tried to create fake Al-Qaeda cells in the Gaza Strip, hoping to recruit Palestinians under the name of bin Laden. The recruits had received money and (defective) weapons and, after five months of indoctrination, were instructed to claim a future attack in Israel on behalf of “the Al-Qaeda group of Gaza”. Israeli services had intended, it seems, to mount an attack (whether real or false) against their own people and do so under the name of Al-Qaeda, in order to justify retaliation against Palestine.
In April 2003, a report titled Israeli Communications Priorities 2003, commissioned to the communications agency Luntz Research Companies & The Israel Project, by the Wexler Foundation, a Zionist organization specializing in cultural exchanges, offers linguistic recommendations to “to integrate and leverage history and communications for the benefit of Israel” with the American public. The document recommends, for example, to speak frequently of “Saddam Hussein” which are “the two words that tie Israel to America”, and “two of the most hated words in the English language right now”. “For a year — a SOLID YEAR — you should be invoking the name of Saddam Hussein and how Israel was always behind American effort to rid the world of this ruthless dictator and liberate their people”. The report also repeatedly suggests that a parallel between Saddam Hussein and Yasser Arafat needs to be established. By an ultimate sophistication, Michael Ledeen disputes in his book The War Against the Terror Masters (2003) the common idea that peace in Palestine is the condition for peace in the Middle East; the opposite, he claims, is true: “If we destroy the terror masters in Baghdad, Damascus, Tehran, and Riyadh, we might have a chance of brokering a durable peace [in Palestine]”.
The road to World War IV
Iraq was first on the list. Since the first Gulf war, neocons have been demonizing Saddam Hussein’s regime. David Wurmser, for example, published in 1999, after other islamophobic books, Tyranny’s Ally: America’s Failure to Defeat Saddam Hussein. In 2000, the American Enterprise Institute published Study of Revenge: Saddam Hussein’s Unfinished War Against America, whose author, Laurie Mylroie, expresses her debt to Scooter Libby, David Wurmser, John Bolton, Michael Ledeen, and above all Paul Wolfowitz and his wife Clare Wolfowitz, also member of AEI. Mylroie goes as far as accusing Saddam Hussein of being the mastermind of anti-American terrorism, blaming him (without proofs) for the 1993 bombing of the WTC, for the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, and for the attack against the USS Cole in Yemen in 2000. What threatens the United States, according to her, is “an undercover war of terrorism, waged by Saddam Hussein,” itself “a phase in a conflict that began in August 1990, when Iraq invaded Kuwait, and that has not ended”. Richard Perle described this book as “splendid and wholly convincing”.
Neoconservatives lost no time in exploiting against Iraq the trauma of 9/11 after creating it. As soon as September 19th , Richard Perle invited to join in a Defense Policy Board meeting neocons Paul Wolfowitz and Bernard Lewis (inventor before Huntington of the self-fulfilling prophecy of the “Clash of Civilizations”), but neither Colin Powell nor Condoleezza Rice. The assembly agreed to overthrow Saddam Hussein as soon as the initial phase of the Afghanistan war is over. In a letter to President Bush written under the letterhead of PNAC, they reminded President Bush of his historical mission: “even if evidence does not link Iraq directly to the attack, any strategy aiming at the eradication of terrorism and its sponsors must include a determined effort to remove Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq. Failure to undertake such an effort will constitute an early and perhaps decisive surrender in the war on international terrorism”. The argument of a link between Saddam and Al-Qaeda is here toned down and, in the summer of 2002, Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair will simply evoke “broad linkages”. Perle, however, kept claiming, against all evidence, that supposed 9/11 terrorist Mohamed Atta had met with Iraqi diplomat Ahmed Khalil Ibrahim Samir in Prague in 1999. On September 8th, 2002 in Milan, Perle even made up a scoop for the Italian newspaper Il Sole : “Mohammed Atta met Saddam Hussein in Baghdad prior to September 11. We have proof of that”.
Rumors of a link between Saddam and Al Qaeda were finally traded for a more elaborate casus belli : Saddam’s Weapons of Mass Destruction. To force this new lie onto the American State Department and public opinion, Cheney et Rumsfeld renewed their winning strategy of Team B, consisting in overtaking the CIA through a parallel team of pseudo-experts, to produce the terrifying report they needed: this will be the Office of Special Plans (OSP), established within the Near East and South Asia (NESA) [Center for Strategic Studies] of the Pentagon, under the control of neocons William Luti, Abram Shulsky, Douglas Feith, and Paul Wolfowitz. Lieutenant Colonel Karen Kwiatkowski, who worked for NESA at that time, testified in 2004 of the incompetence of OSP members, whom she saw “usurp measured and carefully considered assessments, and through suppression and distortion of intelligence analysis promulgate what were in fact falsehoods to both Congress and the executive office of the president. [...] This was creatively produced propaganda”.
On February 5th, 2003, Secretary of State Colin Powell engages his reputation in convincing the General Assembly of the United Nations that Saddam Hussein’s WMDs pose a threat to the world. He will later regret his speech, calling it “a blot on my record”, and claiming to have been deceived himself.
Just as some neoconservatives see the failure of U.S. forces in Iraq as a pretext to threaten Iran, others find the failure to recover Saddam’s “weapons of mass destruction” a pretext to accuse Syria. In 2003, they passed on the ridiculous allegations of Ariel Sharon, who said that Iraq had secretly transferred their WMDs to Syria, along with their nuclear scientists. On November 11th, 2003, Congress passed the Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act, imposing economic sanctions intended “to halt Syrian support for terrorism, end its occupation of Lebanon, [and] stop its development of weapons of mass destruction”. The aggression against Syria didn’t begin until 2011, under the guise of a civil war, but it had been premeditated since at least February 2000, when David Wurmser, in an article for the American Enterprise Institute entitled “Let’s Defeat Syria, Not Appease It” was calling for a conflict through which “Syria will slowly bleed to death”.
Since September 2001, Iran has also been placed in the cross-hairs of the neoconservatives. They seem to echo the sentiments of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who, in the London Times on November 2nd, 2002 called Iran the “center of world terror” and called for threats against Iran “the day after the U.S. invades Iraq”. The failure of U.S. troops to silence the resistance in Iraq forced the postponement of the attack on Iran. But Daniel Pipes took the bad news in good spirits, cheerfully stating in the New York Sun (February 28th, 2006) that the Iraqi civil war will invite “Syrian and Iranian participation, hastening the possibility of an American confrontation with those two states”. In spring 2008, President Bush publicly took up this new neoconservative chorus: “The regime of Teheran has a choice to make. […] If Iran makes the wrong choice, America will act to protect our interests and our troops and our Iraqi partners”. We should remember that in May 2003, through the Swiss ambassador in Tehran, the Iranian government sent to Washington a proposal known as the “Grand Bargain”, which, in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions against Iran, promised cooperation with the United States to stabilize Iraq and to establish there a secular democracy, and was prepared to make further concessions, including peace with Israel. Bush and Cheney, however, prevented Powell from responding positively to the gesture. And therefore, summarized his Chief of Staff Lawrence Wilkerson: “the secret cabal got what it wanted: no negotiations with Tehran”.
In parallel to this kind of diplomatic obstinacy, false pretenses of war have been regularly created. We know from Gwenyth Todd, advisor on the Middle East linked to the U.S. Navy Fifth Fleet stationed in the Persian Gulf, that after being barely appointed commander of the fleet in 2007, Vice Admiral Kevin Cosgriff ordered his aircraft carriers and other ships into aggressive maneuvers in order to strike panic into the Iranians, hoping for a shot fired that would allow them to engage in war for which the pro-Israel lobby was eagerly waiting. Cosgriff wanted to “put a virtual armada, unannounced, on Iran’s doorstep”, without even informing Washington, according to the Washington Post, August 21st, 2012. On January 6th, 2008, the Pentagon announced that Iranian boats fired on American ships USS Hooper and USS Port Royal on patrol in the Strait of Hormuz, while broadcasting threatening messages such as: “I am coming to you”, and “you will explode after two minutes”. The television showed one of the Iranian boats dumping small white objects into the water, presenting the situation as one of hostility, as though the white objects were mines. Referring to this exceptionally “provocative and dramatic” incident, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen expressed concern about “the threat posed by Iran”, including “the threat of mining those straits”, and affirmed his willingness to use “deadly force” if necessary. In reality, the situation presented by the media and Mullen was completely untrue. The Iranian boats that patrolled the area and often passed American ships on a daily basis, had issued no threat whatsoever. Vice Admiral Cosgriff admitted that American crews had, in fact, noted that there was nothing to worry about, since the Iranian boats carried “neither anti-ship missiles nor torpedoes”. Nor did the threatening radio messages come from these vessels: “We don’t know for sure where they came from”, admitted the spokesman for the Fifth Fleet Lydia Robertson.
The 2009 Iranian elections and the ensuing protests in Tehran presented an occasion for a new tactic of psychological warfare, this time using Internet-based social networks and relayed by the American media. Within a few days, the death of a young woman that took place during the protests was appropriated as a horrifying symbol of the kind of oppression taking place in the Islamic regime. Neda Agha-Soltan was killed June 20th, 2009 by a sniper from the paramilitary, while exiting her car with her music teacher. A video of her agony and death, filmed live by mobile phone, was transmitted instantly around the world on Facebook and YouTube. Several rallies were held around the world in her honor. There was talk of her being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Her fiancé, a photographer named Caspian Makan, meets Shimon Peres in Israel and says: “I come to Israel as an ambassador of the Iranian people, a messenger of peace”, adding, “I have no doubt that the spirit and soul of Neda was with us during the presidential meeting”. Unfortunately, there emerge blatant inconsistencies: 1. There are actually three videos of Neda’s agaonizing death, which resemble several “takes” of the same scene. 2. A BBC interview with the doctor who attended her death is full of contradictions. 3. The autopsy concluded that Neda was killed at point blank range. 4. Finally, the face that became a global icon is actually that of another young girl, Neda Soltani. Many surmised that Neda Agha-Soltan, an apprentice actress, agreed to act her own death in exchange for a promising career abroad, but was shot for real immediately after.
Finally, Iran is indicted, since the beginning of the first Bush presidency, for its civilian nuclear research program, claims being made that it is only a front for secret military operations. The 2005 publication of a first National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) report was the subject of intense media attention regarding Iran and its supposed interests; though its revision in 2007 should have calmed what were alarming implications from the 2005 version, it was largely ignored, as was the fact that religious leaders of Iran, begun by Ayatollah Khomeini, had issued several fatwa banning nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction. Meanwhile, nothing is mentioned regarding the illegal Israeli program that operates still unacknowledged, one that has allowed Israel to stockpile an estimated 200 atomic bombs to date.
Among the countries targeted by the neocons after 9/11, we must not forget to mention the two best allies of the U.S. in the Middle East, which is proof that the neocons do not have U.S. interests at heart. The plan to accuse and threaten Saudi Arabia was clearly built in the 9/11 false flag scenario, as is evidenced by the fact that Osama bin Laden and 15 out his 19 highjakers were Saudis. David Wurmser first opened fire in the Weekly Standard with an article titled “The Saudi Connection”, pretending that the Saudi royal family was behind the attack. The Hudson Institute had long been preparing the ground by violently denouncing all the sins (real and imaginary) of the Saudi dynasty, under the lead of its co-founder Max Singer (today director of research at the Institute for Zionist Strategies in Jerusalem). In June 2002, the Institute sponsored a seminar called “Discourses on Democracy: Saudi Arabia, Friend or Foe?”, where all answers pointed to foe as the right answer. A special event honored the publication of the book Hatred’s Kingdom: How Saudi Arabia Supports the New Global Terrorism, by the Israeli Dore Gold, once an advisor to Netanyahu and Sharon and an ambassador to the United Nations. On July 10th, 2002, neocon Laurent Murawiec, of the Hudson Institute and Committee on the Present Danger, was invited to speak before Richard Perle’s Defense Policy Board to explain that Saudi Arabia represented “the kernel of evil, the prime mover, the most dangerous opponent”, and to recommend that the U.S. army invade it, occupy it and dismember it. He summarized his “Grand Strategy for the Middle East” by these words: “Iraq is the tactical pivot. Saudi Arabia the strategic pivot. Egypt the prize”.
The neocons provided, in fact, the original inspiration of the soft challenge to the 9/11 official story, which admits the responsibility of Al Qaeda but points to links between the Bushes, the Saudis, and the bin Ladens. In their 2003 book, An End to Evil: How to Win the War on Terror, Richard Perle and and David Frum (Bush’s speech-writer) write that “The Saudis qualify for their own membership in the axis of evil”, and ask President Bush to “tell the truth about Saudi Arabia”, meaning that Saudi princes finance Al Qaeda. To understand the absurdity of such a claim, let us recall that Osama, who called the Saudi princes traitors to Islam for tolerating U.S. military bases since the Gulf war, was stripped of his Saudi nationality in 1994 and banned from the bin Laden clan. In a Declaration of War Against the Americans Occupying the Land of the Two Holy Places, published in 1996, bin Laden called for the overthrow of the Saudi dynasty and, in 1998, he admitted his role in the 1995 bombing of the National Guard headquarters in Riyad. Osama is the sworn enemy of the Saudis. It is unthinkable that the Saudis would have conspired with Osama bin Laden. [...]
Bin Laden is a multi-use patsy. Blaming him for 9/11 made it possible to threaten and blackmail Saudi Arabia, but also Pakistan, another U.S. ally. For if the Taliban are behind bin Laden, Pakistan is behind the Taliban. No official accusation was made against Pakistan, but General Ahmed Mahmud, director of ISI (Pakistan’s CIA) was implicated by information leaked from India (an ally to Israel, against their common enemy Pakistan), by the The Times of India on October 9th, 2001: “US authorities sought his removal after confirming the fact that $100,000 were wired to WTC hijacker Mohamed Atta from Pakistan by [ISI agent] Ahmed Omar Saïd Sheikh at the insistance of General Mahmud”. Since Mohamed Atta is nothing but a patsy in this whole affair, the information can only be interpreted as a way to blackmail the ISI and Pakistan into supporting the official 9/11 story and collaborating with the U.S. to destroy the Taliban. If the ISI did pay Atta for some reason, then Atta’s name was picked as ringleader of the terrorists precisely for that reason, as a lever against Pakistan. Mahmud, who had travelled often to Washington since 1999, was there precisely between September 4 and 11, 2001. He allegedly met George Tenet, Director of the CIA, Marc Grossman, Under-Secretary of State for Political Affairs, and perhaps Condoleezza Rice (who denies). At the moment of the attacks, he was at a breakfast meeting including Bob Graham, Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and Porter Goss, Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee; “We were talking about terrorism, specifically terrorism generated from Afghanistan”, said Graham, who with Goss will be appointed to the 9/11 Commission.
The fake assassination of bin Laden (or assassination of fake bin Laden) in May 2011 in Pakistan is another proof that the 9/11 master plotters intended to keep maximum pressure on Pakistan. It allowed accusing Pakistan, after Afghanistan, of having welcomed and protected bin Laden for 10 years, which constitutes in the eyes of Americans real treason and a cause for war. Several books are written in this vein, such as Deadly Embrace: Pakistan, America, and the Future of Global Jihad by ex-CIA Bruce Riedel. According to Riedel, bin Laden’s quiet life in a suburb of Abbotabad suggest “an astonishing degree of duplicity” on the part of Pakistan, who might well be “the secret patron of global jihad on a scale almost too dangerous to conceive. We would need to rethink our entire relationship with Pakistan and our understanding of its strategic motives”.
All these wars and threats of wars under false pretexts in the wake of 9/11 betray a desire to inflame conflicts in the Middle East rather than to control resources, let alone encourage stability. Michael Ledeen himself declares in his article “The War on Terror will not end in Baghdad” in the Wall Street Journal, on September 4th, 2002: “We do not want stability in Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and even Saudi Arabia: we want things to change. The real issue is not whether, but how to destabilize”.
What could be the motivation for these incessant accusations and two-faced policies? It’s not simply a mindless killing spree, and is rather a project designed by a group of exceptionally intelligent men, under a particular rationality with precise and realistic goals — but to what purpose? Osama bin Laden replied to this question in an article published by the London Arabic newspaper Al-Quds al-Arabi on February 23rd, 1998 (partially translated by Bernard Lewis in Foreign Affairs, November-December 1998). Referring to “the Crusader-Jewish alliance”, bin Laden speaks of “their attempts to dismember all the states of the region, such as Iraq and Saudi Arabia and Egypt and Sudan, into petty states, whose division and weakness would ensure the survival of Israel”. Indeed, it appears that a Zionist cabal is interested in a new kind of world war, one that would weaken and fragment all the enemies of Israel for decades to come, putting it in a position to surpass even the United States, who would be ruined by their ruthless military spending (just like the USSR in the 80s) and hated across the globe. Little, it would seem, stands in the way of the final phase of the Zionist plan: a thorough ethnic cleansing and the annexation of the whole of Palestine. Not without some irony, the neoconservative Stephen Schwartz, author of The Two Faces of Islam: The House of Saud, from Tradition to Terror (2003), attributed to Saudi Arabia a plan that would spread terror throughout the world (while recognizing Saudi Arabia “incapable of defending its own territory”) and blamed Islam for the emergence of a World War whose bloody unfolding will mean: “The war against terrorist Wahhabism is therefore a war to the death, as the second world war was a war to the death against fascism”.
In an article in the Wall Street Journal dated November 20th, 2001, the neoconservative Eliot Cohen speaks about the war against terrorism as “World War IV”, a framing soon echoed by other neoconservatives. In September 2004, at a conference in Washington attended by neoconservatives Norman Podhoretz and Paul Wolfowitz entitled “World War IV: Why We Fight, Whom We Fight, How We Fight”, Cohen said: “The enemy in this war is not ‘terrorism’ […] but militant Islam”. Like the Cold War (considered to be a third world war), this Fourth World War, as seen prophetically by Cohen, has ideological roots, will have global implications and will last a long time, involving a whole range of conflicts. The rhetorical device of this “fourth” global conflict has also been popularized by Norman Podhoretz, in “How to Win World War IV” published in Commentary in February 2002, followed by a second article in September 2004, “World War IV: How It Started , What It Means, and Why We Have to Win”, and finally in 2007 in a book called “World War IV: The Long Struggle Against Islamofascism”.
The Bible and the Empire
Clearly, the strategists of Likud and their neoconservative allies intend to forge their legacy as those who waged and won the global annihilation of the Islamic civilization. How does one account for such hubris? One explanation lies in the very nature of the State of Israel and the leadership role held by its military since day one, not unlike the American National Security State. David Ben Gurion, who combined the functions of Prime Minister and Defense Minister, saw the whole fate of Israel integrally intertwined with its failure or success in the defeat of an Arab enemy: “Why should the Arabs make peace? If I were an Arab leader I would never make terms with Israel. That is natural: […] we have come here and stolen their country. Why should they accept that? They may perhaps forget in one or two generations’ time, but for the moment there is no chance. So, it’s simple: we have to stay strong and maintain a powerful army. Our whole policy is there. Otherwise the Arabs will wipe us out” (Nahum Goldmann, The Jewish Paradox: A Personal Memoir, 1978). Thus, circumstances decree that Israel is and will be a security state.
It is, of course, also a colonizing state. Even when Levi Eshkol replaced Ben Gurion in 1963 as Prime Minister, his government could not oppose the military’s will of annexing new territories, as Ariel Sharon revealed to journalist Ze’ev Schiff shortly after the Six Days War: “We could have locked the ministers in the room and gone off with the key. We would have taken the appropriate decisions and no one would have known that the events taking place were the result of decisions by major generals” (Ha’aretz, June 1st, 2007).
Sharon is the man who, in the eyes of Israel and the world, most aptly embodies the spirit of the Israeli military and its security apparatus. He commanded Unit 101, which, on October 14th, 1953 razed the village of Qibya, Jordan, with dynamite, killing 69 civilians in their homes. In 1956, during the Suez Canal crisis, a unit under his command executed more than 200 Egyptian prisoners and Sudanese civilians. In 1971, charged with putting an end to ongoing resistance in the Gaza Strip, his troops killed more than 100 Palestinian civilians. And in September 1982, acting as the Minister of Defense, he launched the invasion of Lebanon, where, after his [overseeing the] slaughter of refugees in two Palestinian camps in West Beirut he was given the nickname, “the butcher of Sabra and Chatila”. The Prime Minister at that time was Menachem Begin, once the leader of the Irgun terrorist militia, who coordinated both the attack on the King David Hotel in 1946, and the Deir Yassin massacre in 1948.
Begin, Sharon and Netanyahu’s Likud have never stopped campaigning for a Greater Israel and against a proposed Palestinian state. While Foreign Minister to Netanyahu from 1996 to 1999, Sharon described the Oslo Accords as “national suicide” and rather advocated the “biblical borders”, thereby encouraging illegal settlements: “Everybody has to move, run and grab as many hilltops as they can to enlarge the settlements because everything we take now will stay ours” he said on November 15th, 1998. When he came to power in February 2001, with Netanyahu in turn becoming Foreign Minister, Sharon deliberately sabotaged the peace process and set off the second intifada through a series of calculated provocations. When on March 28th, 2001, 22 nations gathered in Beirut under the auspices of the Arab League and agreed to recognize Israel if it only complied with Resolution 242, the next day, the Israeli army invaded and besieged Yasser Arafat in his headquarters in Ramallah. Six months later, September 11th brought the fatal blow to any hope of peace.
The Likud and its political allies among religious extremists are not merely opposed to the secession of Palestine; they are driven by an almost imperial vision of Israel’s destiny. In December 1981, Ariel Sharon expressed in a speech for the Institute for Strategic Affairs at Tel Aviv University: “Beyond the Arab countries in the Middle East and on the shores of the Mediterranean and the Red Sea, we must expand the field of Israel’s strategic and security concerns in the eighties to include countries like Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, and areas like the Persian Gulf and Africa, and in particular the countries of North and Central Africa” (as translated from Hebrew in the Journal of Palestine Studies). This speech will be canceled at the last minute because of the controversy over the annexation of the Syrian territories at Golan Heights, but it will be published shortly after the in daily Ma’ariv. This “Sharon doctrine” is found in a number of Hebrew texts, translated and published by the dissident Israel Shahak in Open Secrets: Israeli Nuclear and Foreign Policies (1997). In an essay entitled “A Strategy for Israel in the Eighties” written for the World Zionist Organization in February 1982, Oded Yinon, a former senior official in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, put forward a strategy to exert control over the Middle East through the fragmentation of Israel’s neighbors, beginning with Lebanon: “The total disintegration of Lebanon into five regional localized governments is the precedent for the entire Arab world including Egypt, Syria, Iraq, and the Arab peninsula, in a similar fashion. The dissolution of Egypt and later Iraq into districts of ethnic and religious minorities following the example of Lebanon is the main long-range objective of Israel on the Eastern Front. The present military weakening of these states is the short-term objective. Syria will disintegrate into several states along the lines of its ethnic and sectarian structure, as is happening in Lebanon today.”
The ideology behind Likud’s strategy and its neoconservative allies is an intransigent version of Zionism. Zionism, as its name suggests (Zion is the name given to Jerusalem 152 times in the Hebrew Bible), is before anything else a biblical dream, shaped by the biblically defined borders of Eretz Israel. “The Bible is our mandate”, proclaimed Chaim Weisman, the future first President of Israel, at the Versailles Conference in 1919. In Germany in the late 19th century, the biblical notion of a “chosen people” was translated by the founding fathers of Zionism into a racial ideology, correlative and in competition with the fantastical dream of a superior pan-Germanic Aryan race. Zionism, like Nazism, opposed the assimilationist trend of the majority of German Jews. Zeev Jabotinsky wrote in 1923, two years before Hitler’s Mein Kampf: “A Jew raised in the midst of Germans can certainly adopt German customs and speak the German language. He can become totally immersed in this German milieu, but he will always be a Jew, because his blood, his body and his racial type, his entire organic system, is Jewish”. We now know that these kinds of claims are categorically unscientific: Israeli settlers from Eastern Europe can not claim any biological descent from among the ancient Hebrews in Judea or Samaria, unlike the Palestinians they’ve evicted from their ancestral lands, and perhaps the Sephardic Jews from North Africa, once called “human garbage” by the Prime Minister Levi Eshkol and submitted to eugenic policies in the 1950s (Haim Malka, Selection and Discrimination in the Aliya and Absorption of Moroccan and North African Jewry, 1948-1956, 1998).
The Zionism of Zev Jabotinsky is as important a key as the Machiavellianism of Leo Strauss in decrypting the mentality of the men who, in Israel and in the United States, are trying to reshape the Middle East. It is, at least, a key to understand the ultimate goals of Benjamin Netanyahu, whose father, Ben Zion Netanyahu (born Mileikowsky in Warsaw), was the personal secretary of Jabotinsky. March 31st, 2009, Netanyahu appointed Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, from the Yisrael Beiteinu party that presents itself as “a national movement with the clear vision to follow in the brave path of Zev Jabotinsky”. Lieberman is intent upon, “fighting Hamas just as the United States fought the Japanese during the Second World War”.
Zionism has outlived Nazism because, after the war, it was able to shamelessly capitalize on the terrible persecution of Jews in Europe and usurp the representation of the Jewish community. To do that, it had to force the forgetting of its active involvement with the Nazi regime in the 30s, which then saw the immigration of Jews to Palestine as the “solution to the Jewish problem” (see Lenni Brenner’s 51 Documents: Zionist Collaboration with the Nazis, 2009). The pervasive legitimacy of Zionism has also relied heavily upon its biblical roots. Despite being agnostic, David Ben Gurion (born Grün), was indoctrinated by the biblical story, to the point of adopting the name of a Judean general who fought the Romans; “There can be no worthwhile political or military education about Israel without profound knowledge of the Bible”, he is quoted stating (Dan Kurzman, Ben-Gurion, Prophet of fire, 1984). While envisioning an attack against Egypt in 1948, he wrote in his diary: “This will be our revenge for what they did to our ancestors in Biblical times” (Ilan Pappe, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, 2008). The planned ethnic cleansing by Ben Gurion in 1947-48, which forced the fleeing of 750,000 Palestinians (more than half of the native population), was deeply reminiscent of that which was ordained by Yahweh against the Canaanites: “dispossess them of their towns and houses” (Deuteronomy 19:1), and, in the towns that resist, do “not leave alive anything that breathes” (Deuteronomy 20:16-17).
This dream instilled by the biblical God to His chosen people is not only racist, it is also militarist and imperialist. These verses from the second chapter of Isaiah (reproduced in Micah 4:1-3) are often held up to show the pacifist trend of the biblical prophecy: “they shall beat their swords into plowshares, their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore” (Isaiah 2:4); but taken in context, we see that this Pax Judaica will come only when “all the nations shall flow” to the Jerusalem temple, from where “shall go forth the law” (Isaiah 2:1-3). This vision of a new world order with Jerusalem at its center resonates within the Likudnik and neoconservative circles. At the Jerusalem Summit, held from October 12th to 14th, 2003 in the symbolically significant King David Hotel, an alliance was forged between Zionist Jews and Evangelical Christians around a “theopolitical” project, one that would consider Israel, according to the “Jerusalem Declaration” published on the official website of the Summit, “the key to the harmony of civilizations”, replacing the United Nations that’s become a “a tribalized confederation hijacked by Third World dictatorships”: “Jerusalem’s spiritual and historical importance endows it with a special authority to become a center of world’s unity. [...] We believe that one of the objectives of Israel’s divinely-inspired rebirth is to make it the center of the new unity of the nations, which will lead to an era of peace and prosperity, foretold by the Prophets”. Three acting Israeli ministers spoke at the summit, including Benjamin Netanyahu, and Richard Perle, the guest of honor, received on this occasion the Henry Scoop Jackson Prize.
Jerusalem’s dream empire is expected to come through the nightmare of world war. The prophet Zechariah, often cited on Zionist forums, predicted that the Lord will fight “all nations” allied against Israel. In a single day, the whole earth will become a desert, with the exception of Jerusalem, who “shall remain aloft upon its site” (14:10). Zechariah seems to envision what God could do with nuclear weapons: “And this shall be the plague with which the Lord will smite all the peoples that waged war against Jerusalem: their flesh shall rot while they are still on their feet, their eyes shall rot in their sockets, and their tongues shall rot in their mouths” (14:12). It is only after the carnage that the world will finally find peace, providing their worship of “the Lord Almighty”: “Then every one that survives of all the nations that have come against Jerusalem shall go up year after year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the feast of booths. And if any of the families of the earth do not go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, there will be no rain upon them…” (14:16-17)
Is it possible that this biblical dream, mixed with the neo-Machiavellianism of Leo Strauss and the militarism of Likud, is what is quietly animating an exceptionally determined and organized ultra-Zionist clan? General Wesley Clark testified on numerous occasions before the cameras, that one month after September 11th, 2001 a general from the Pentagon showed him a memo from neoconservative strategists “that describes how we’re gonna take out seven countries in five years, starting with Iraq, and then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia and Sudan and finishing off with Iran”. Is it just a coincidence that the “seven nations” doomed to be destroyed by Israel form part of the biblical myths instilled in Israeli schoolchildren? According to Deuteronomy, when Yahweh will deliver Israel “seven nations greater and mightier than yourself […] you must utterly destroy them; you shall make no covenant with them, and show no mercy to them. You shall not make marriages with them…” (7:1-2). “And he will give their kings into your hand, and you shall make their name perish from under heaven” (7:24).
Laurent Guyénot – Engineer (National School of Advanced Technology, 1982) and medievalist (PhD in Medieval Studies at Paris IV-Sorbonne, 2009). He has authored numerous books on the subject. He has dedicated the past three years to studying the behind-the-scenes history of the United States, where he lived for five years.
I just wanted to draw attention to several cases recently decided by the EU General Court in which EU sanctions against designated individuals and businesses allegedly connected to Iran’s nuclear program have been annulled. These are just the latest in a growing line of cases in both the EU General Court and the European Court of Justice reaching similar decisions regarding EU sanctions targeting Iran’s nuclear program, which are essentially attempts to implement UN Security Council sanctions against Iran. I’ve written about this issue before on a couple of occasions. The EU Sanctions Blog has a great run down of the three recent cases here, here and here. I’m particularly pleased to note that the Sharif University of Technology was represented in its case by my friend Matthew Happold. See the text of the court’s judgment in this case here. Congratulations to Matt and to the University.
In terms of the legal merits of these cases, they really are just a continuation of the same bases on which earlier cases in this line have been decided. Basically the EU courts are requiring the EU and state governments to provide evidence on which the sanctions are based, and the governments involved are refusing to do so. Thus, as a basic matter of due process, the court has decided that the sanctions cannot stand on a lack of proffered evidence. A very sound holding in my view.
Hopefully, of course, the current round of P5+1 negotiations with Iran will produce a comprehensive agreement before the July 20 deadline, and this will lead to these EU sanctions being repealed, as part of a normalization of relations between Iran and the West. I think it is reasonable to expect that both the UN Security Council and the EU will be willing and able to withdraw the sanctions they have imposed against Iran over the past ten years, pursuant to such a comprehensive diplomatic agreement (as long as the US administration chooses to at least not veto such a decision by the UNSC). I have just about zero confidence, however, that the US government will be able to implement meaningful sanctions relief promised under such a comprehensive agreement. As I’ve said before, I think the biggest impediment to implementing a comprehensive agreement between Iran and the West over Iran’s nuclear program is the US Congress.
US Secretary of State John Kerry has threatened Iran with tightened sanctions and deepened isolation as he says time is running out for a “comprehensive” nuclear agreement with Iran.
In an opinion piece published by The Washington Post on Monday, Kerry said failure to reach a comprehensive agreement over Iran’s nuclear energy program could not be blamed on the “excessive demands on our part” but on Iran because Tehran has to “back up its words with concrete and verifiable actions.”
Iran has always emphasized that its nuclear energy program is geared to civilian purposes only. The International Atomic Energy Agency has conducted numerous inspections of Iran’s nuclear facilities but has never found any evidence showing that Iran’s civilian nuclear energy program has been diverted to nuclear weapons production.
However, Kerry urges Iran to choose between “phased relief” from unilateral sanctions and sanctions that “will tighten.”
“Now Iran must choose,” writes Kerry in his op-ed, threatening that “international sanctions will tighten and Iran’s isolation will deepen” if Iranians choose to stand by “the positions they have articulated”.
What Iran has always insisted on is that as a committed signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and a member of the IAEA, it will never give up the right to use nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.
Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany reached an interim deal on November 24, 2013, in the Swiss city of Geneva. The six-month deal, which took effect on January 20 and will end on July 20, can be extended.
However, Kerry says Iran “must show a genuine willingness” to address the US and its allies’ “concerns” or “the United States and our partners will not consent to an extension.”
Kerry’s remarks came after Israel sent a high-ranking delegation to the United States to discuss a final deal between Iran and the P5+1.
The Israeli team headed by Israel’s Minister of Strategic Affairs Yuval Steinitz traveled to Washington on Sunday to meet with US Under-Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman, who is the country’s representative in the nuclear talks.
The Israeli lobby in the US has been working hard to sabotage Iran’s nuclear deal with the world powers.
WASHINGTON — With only a few weeks remaining before the July 20 deadline, the Barack Obama administration issued a warning to Iran that it must accept deep cuts in the number of its centrifuges in order to demonstrate that its nuclear programme is only for peaceful purposes.
U.S. officials have argued that such cuts are necessary to increase the “breakout” time – the time it would take Iran to enrich enough uranium to weapons grade level to build a single bomb – from what is said to be two to three months at present to as long as a year or even more.
Given the past record of political interference in fuel agreements, Washington knows it faces a tough sell trying to get Iran to accept the U.S. insistence on reliance on foreign suppliers.
Tehran has made it clear that it will not accept such a demand. Dismantling the vast majority of the centrifuges that Iran had installed is a highly symbolic issue, and the political cost of acceptance would be extremely high.
But a closer examination of the issues under negotiation suggests that the ostensible pressure on Iran is part of a strategy aimed at extracting concessions from Iran on the issue of its longer-term enrichment capability.
The Obama administration has been aware from the beginning of the talks that the “breakout” period could be lengthened to nearly a year without requiring the removal of most of the 10,000 centrifuges that have been used over the past two and a half years.
U.S. officials were well aware that reducing the amount of low enriched uranium and oxide powder now stockpiled by Iran to close to zero and avoiding any future accumulation would have the same effect – and that Iran was willing to accept such restrictions.
David Albright of the Institute for Science and International Security and Olli Heinonen, the former International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) deputy director general for Safeguards, warned in a June 3 article against a deal that would allow Iran to have more than 4,000 centrifuges in return for reducing its stocks of UF6 and oxide powder (UO2).
But they acknowledged that, if the Iranian LEU stockpile were reduced from the present level of 8,475 kg to 1,000 kilogrammes, the breakout time for 10,000 IR-1 centrifuges would be six months. And if the stockpile were reduced to zero, the breakout time would increase to close to a year, according to one of the graphs accompanying the article.
Experts from the Department of Energy as well as from the intelligence community certainly briefed policymakers on the fact that lengthening the breakout timeline to between six and 12 months could be achieved through reducing either centrifuges or the stockpile of low enriched uranium (LEU), according to Steve Fetter, who was assistant director at large for the White House Office of Science and Technology from 2009-12.
Eliminating the existing LEU stockpile and avoiding any further accumulation is the intent of an Iranian proposal formally handed over to EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in Istanbul last month. Under that proposal, which Zarif revealed in an interview with IPS in Tehran June 3, Iran would convert all UF6 to Uranium oxide powder (U02) and then convert the U02 to fuel plates for Bushehr.
Iran has expressed the desire to fabricate fuel plates for Bushehr itself, but has not yet mastered the technology. The proposal would therefore involve shipping either UF6 enriched to 3.5 percent or the U02 to Russia for conversion into fuel plates until the expiration of the contract with Russia for fuel fabrication for Bushehr expires in 2021.
In the interim agreement, Iran committed to begin converting UF6 enriched to 3.5 percent to oxide powder as soon as its line for such conversion became operational. The Enriched U02 Powder Plant began operating in May, but the time required to reduce the existing stockpile to zero will depend on the capacity of the plant, which has not been announced.
Zarif told IPS he had unveiled the basic idea underlying the Iranian proposal in his PowerPoint presentation to European officials in Geneva in mid-October.
When Secretary of State John Kerry declared in April that he would demand a major increase in the existing “breakout” period to somewhere between to six and 12 months, therefore, he had good reason to believe that Washington could achieve that objective without cutting Iran’s centrifuges to a few thousand.
An agreement to freeze the existing level of 10,000 operating centrifuges while reducing the LEU stockpile to zero could place the 9,000 centrifuges that have never been operated in storage under IAEA seal. Those used centrifuges include 1,000 advanced IR-2 centrifuges that are estimated to be three to five times more efficient than the IR-1 model.
Iran’s policy of introducing thousands of centrifuges into the Natanz and Fordow enrichment facilities that were never used was aimed at accumulating negotiating chips for eventual negotiations on its nuclear programme.
In late August 2012, a senior U.S. official told the New York Times that Iran was being “very strategic” by “creating tremendous [enrichment] capacity,” but “not using it.” In doing so, the official said, Iran was acquiring “leverage” – obviously referring to future negotiations.
During the round of negotiations in Vienna in June, however, the draft tabled by the P5+1 apparently called for cuts going well beyond what U.S. officials knew would be acceptable to Iran. U.S. officials told the New York Times that the objective was now to lengthen the “breakout period” to more than a year – thus going beyond what Kerry had suggested in April.
The draft may have included an even more extreme demand from the French government. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius declared in mid-June that the West wants to cut the number of centrifuges to “several hundred”.
After the June round of negotiations, Zarif denounced the draft as containing “excessive demands” which Iran would not accept.
But those demands appear to be a negotiating ploy in which the U.S. would give up the demand for deep short-term reductions centrifuges in the coming years in return for Iranian concessions on the level of enrichment capability to be allowed in the later stage of the agreement.
The November 2013 Joint Plan of Action provided that the future enrichment programme would depend on Iran’s “practical needs”. Iran interprets that term to include the need to be self-reliant in providing reactor fuel for Bushehr, whereas the Obama administration argues that Iran can and should rely on Russia or other foreign suppliers.
Given the past record of political interference in fuel agreements Iran had negotiated with French and German firms in the 1980s and with Russia in 2005, however, Washington knows it faces a tough sell trying to get Iran to accept the U.S. insistence on reliance on foreign suppliers.
The “practical need” criterion suggests that Iran would have to provide concrete evidence of its need and ability to provide the fuel rods for the Bushehr reactor when the current contract with Russia expires in 2021.
Postponing the negotiations over that issue until a date much closer to 2021 would offer a period of a few years to negotiate an agreement on a regional fuel consortium for the Middle East that would be acceptable to both sides, as has been proposed by a group of Princeton University scientists and scholars.
Perhaps even more important, such a postponement would allow for increasing trust through the successful implementation of the agreement covering the next few years.
Explaining the Princeton group’s plan at a briefing in Washington, D.C. last week, nuclear scientist Frank N. von Hippel, who was assistant director for national security in the White House Office of Science and Technology in the Bill Clinton administration, said, “We would have five years to cool down this impasse.”