American aircraft-manufacturing giant Boeing has ended a 35-year break in business with Iran, supplying the country’s national flag carrier with a cargo of aircraft-related items.
But the sale did not include spare parts for Iranian aircraft as promised by Washington following last year’s nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers.
“During the third quarter of 2014, we sold aircraft manuals, drawings, and navigation charts and data to Iran Air,” Boeing said in its quarterly report on Wednesday.
This is the first time that the American company has sold safety items to Iran Air since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
The business deal brought Boeing USD 120,000 in revenue, the report added.
The sales came after the US Treasury Department issued a license in April that allowed Boeing to provide “spare parts that are for safety purposes” to Iran for a “limited period of time.”
Boeing said the plane parts were purchased “consistent with guidance from the US government in connection with ongoing negotiations.”
Boeing, which is still banned from selling new aircraft to the Islamic Republic, said that it could sell more plane parts to Iran Air in the future.
“We may engage in additional sales pursuant to this license,” it added.
In February, two major US aerospace manufacturers, Boeing and General Electric, applied for export licenses in order to sell airliner parts to Iran following an interim nuclear agreement between Tehran and the P5+1 group of world powers in November 2013.
Under the deal dubbed the Geneva Joint Plan of Action, the six countries – the US, France, Britain, Russia, China and Germany – undertook to provide Iran with some sanctions relief in exchange for Tehran agreeing to limit certain aspects of its nuclear activities.
In the past decade, Iran has witnessed several major air accidents blamed on its aging aircraft due to the US sanctions that prevent Iran from buying aircraft spare parts.
Bible thumping and carpet bombing
The really interesting thing about the Junior Senator from Texas is the fact that he demonstrates that anyone who wants it badly enough can become president. It is, of course, something for which there is a precedent, when voters elected an inexperienced and largely unknown Barack Obama. Cruz shares Obama’s lack of preparation for the highest office while he is also something of a throwback to fellow Texan George W. Bush’s tradition of anti-intellectualism and lack of curiosity about how the rest of the world interacts with the United States. This is particularly unfortunate as Cruz, a conventional Republican conservative on all social issues, ironically has chosen to identify differences in foreign policy to distinguish himself from the rest of the Republican pack.
Cruz might rightly be seen by some as a nightmarish incarnation of a narrow minded conservative Christian vision of what the United States is all about, aggressively embracing a world view based on ignorance coupled with the license granted by God endowed “American exceptionalism” from sea to shining sea. His father is an Evangelical preacher and the son has successfully absorbed much of both the blinkered notions of right and wrong as well as the Elmer Gantry style, but that is not to suggest that he is stupid. By all accounts Cruz, a graduate of Princeton and of Harvard Law School, is extremely intelligent and by some accounts endowed with both extraordinary cunning and ambition. He is possessed of excellent political instincts when it comes to appealing to the constituencies in the GOP that he believes to be essential to his success.
Washington has seen presidents who were truly religious in the past but it has rarely experienced the Cruz mixture of demagoguery combined with a Biblically infused sense of righteousness which admits to no error. His Manichean sense of good and evil is constantly on display, but he is most on fire when he is speaking to his fellow conservative Christians, most recently at the gathering of the Faith and Freedom Coalition in Iowa. Cruz was one of a number of GOP speakers, which included potential presidential hopefuls Bobby Jindal and Paul Ryan, who were received tepidly while Cruz was greeted with cheering and a standing ovation before launching into his most recent theme, blaming the White House for not pressuring foreign governments to protect their Christian minorities. The enthusiastic reception was not surprising as Cruz is, after all, the “real thing” speaking “their language” fluently and the Evangelicals know it.
Cruz is intelligent enough to realize that what he is peddling is a type of narrative designed to make himself electable. What he actually believes is somewhat irrelevant except that if he is an actual zealot he might well be immune to viewpoints that run counter to his biases, dangerous in a president. A year ago Cruz grandstanded in leading the GOP dissidents’ attempt to shut down the government over the issue of Obamacare, a move that the party leadership regarded as a major “tactical error.” He was widely condemned for his performance in the media and within his own party but he made points with the constituency he was courting, the Tea Partiers.
The disturbing thing about Cruz is that his foreign policy statements are awash in what must be a willful disregard of reality, but, as with the threatened government shutdown, he apparently knows what will sell with the Bible thumping America first crowd that he is primarily targeting. His latest leitmotif which he has been hammering relentlessly is the worldwide persecution of Christians, with the clear implication that it is uniquely a Muslim problem. It is also a line that is being pursued by the Israeli government and American Jewish groups, that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is somehow a protector of Christianity. He opposes negotiations with Iran, for example, because a Christian pastor is in prison there. That several other Americans are also being held by the government in Tehran, including a former US Marine, appears to be of secondary importance and US broader regional interests do not enter into the discussion at all.
As part of his strategy to outflank his competition in the GOP, Cruz is shameless in his promotion of Israel and its interests. He did so recently by telling an audience of beleaguered Middle Eastern Christians that they had “no greater ally than Israel,” a statement so palpably out of sync with the actual experiences of those in the audience that he was booed of the stage. His response: “Those who hate Israel hate America.” Countering conservative critics of his performance Cruz subsequently wrote that “… the only time at least some of these writers seem to care about persecuted Christians is when it furthers an anti-Israel narrative for them.”
Cruz will, of course, find Israel haters wherever he looks as it constitutes a convenient way to dismiss critics without affording them a hearing. He will never concede that Israel discriminates against its Christian minority in spite of the considerable evidence that it does so. That Israel chooses to describe itself as a Jewish State, a designation that Cruz enthusiastically supports, does not ring any bells for him though he is quick to pounce on Iran for calling itself the Islamic Republic.
This willful blindness derives from the fact that Israel is central to Cruz’s foreign policy thinking. He has visited the country three times since becoming Senator. In Des Moines last week he spoke about Israel and he has referred to it from the Senate floor literally thousands of times, according to the Congressional Record. His private Senate office features a large framed photo of himself with Netanyahu. Nearly every speech Cruz makes sooner or later comes around to the issue of “standing for Israel” even when there is no logical reason to make that connection. At the recent Values Voters Summit in Washington he brought the cheering crowd to its feet by shouting “We stand for life. We stand for marriage. We stand for Israel.”
To be sure, part of the Cruz strategy comes from his recognition that no Republican can become a presidential candidate without the endorsement of Israel’s supporters. Cruz has met privately with the leaders of Jewish organizations, including Bill Kristol, editor of the neocon Weekly Standard and founder or board member of the multitude of pro-Israel alphabet soup organizations that seem to spring up spontaneously. The Weekly Standard has, not surprisingly, promoted the Cruz candidacy. Cruz also has his eye on Jewish money. He is seeking the support of Las Vegas casino mega-billionaire Sheldon Adelson, who could single handedly fund his campaign if he should choose to do so, as well as with other potential donors.
Cruz, who apparently believes he has learned something from the Vietnam and Iraq fiascos, describes his foreign policy in simple terms: have a clearly defined objective, use overwhelming force, and then get out. If viewed at face value, the formula is an antidote for prolonged and unsuccessful nation building, which would be good, but it has to be taken in the context of Cruz’s other pronouncements. He describes the world as being “on fire” and his rhetoric is uniformly belligerent. He sees “overwhelming” military intervention by the US as a God given right whenever the policy makers in Washington feel threatened and he also regards the military option as a first resort without any regard for what is going on in the country that is the target. Making a mess and leaving it is a recipe for international anarchy.
In a recent speech Cruz denounced the Administration for talking with Iranian representatives at the opening of the UN General Assembly in New York. He characterized the event as “swilling chardonnay with the Iranian government.” That the United States has very compelling interests to be working with Iran both on ISIS and on nuclear proliferation apparently escaped Cruz’s grasp, so he was left with little more than a cheap shot joke to explain his unwillingness to negotiate with a government that he and Israel have repeatedly demonized.
Regarding Russia, Cruz has called for an expansion of NATO and more sanctions without any explanation of what the strategy might be or any curiosity about where increasing pressure on Moscow might lead. As a Cuban American he is inevitably hostile towards the government in Havana. Regarding Iran, Cruz supports harsher sanctions even though it would mean an end to negotiations over that country’s nuclear program.
Cruz’s foreign policy vision has been reported to be finding a “sweet spot” between the nation building of the Democrats and the reflexive belligerency of some Republican Senators like John McCain and Lindsey Graham who have not apparently realized that the country is weary of war. In reality however, Cruz veers strongly towards McCain-like solutions, accepting military interventions while eschewing the occupation and rebuilding bits only because they are too expensive and prone to misadventure to entertain. Sadly, like other GOP hawks, Cruz does not recognize that Washington has caused many if not most international problems, that foreign nations actually have interests that should be respected or at least considered, that military solutions are rarely sustainable, and that inextricably linking the United States to a rogue nation like Israel might not actually be good policy. But such considerations count for little when a man with a mission is on his way to become President of the United States.
As part of what appears to be a concerted campaign in the Right-wing and pro-Israeli media outlets in the US against US nuclear negotiations with Iran, which have a consistent theme of portraying the Obama administration as somehow “caving in” to Iranian demands, the Wall Street Journal today goes far out of its way to misrepresent the state of affairs in an article about President Rouhani’s speech at the UN.
The article is entitled “Iran Makes the Rules. Tehran holds firm while the U.S. keeps making nuclear concessions.”
Any reader who has followed the news would at this point wonder what “concessions” the US has been making, since there are none other than not engaging in courses of action (such as bombing Iran) that are illegal anyway. But then the article proceeds to claim,
“[Rouhani] also claimed that Iran had honored its obligations under the interim nuclear agreement. That’s despite a report this month from the International Atomic Energy Agency noting that Tehran continued to stymie its efforts to investigate the “possible military dimensions” of Iran’s nuclear program.”
There are two factual problems here that the Wall Street Journal misrepresents. First of all, the “claim” that Iran has honored its obligations under the Joint Plan of Action, is actually verifiable. In fact, independent arms control organizations have done so, and their conclusion is clearly that Iran has either completed or is complying with each and every one of the requirements of the Joint Plan of Action.
Secondly, what the Wall Street Journal doesn’t tell you is that the timetable for the completion of the requirements of the Joint Plan of Action is separate from the IAEA’s investigation of the so-called “Possible Military Dimensions” issue. So the fact that the IAEA continues to claim that the PMD issue is outstanding, has no bearing on the Joint Plan of Action.
Of course, a bigger issue that the Wall Street Journal leaves out is the fact that the “Possible Military Dimension” (formerly called “Alleged Studies”) are considered even by nuclear experts to be manufactured accusations which have repeatedly been shown to be fraudulent. Formerly, the IAEA had refused to endorse these claims because they were “insufficiently verified.” For that, and because the IAEA Director Elbaradei was accused of “censoring” information pressured by the US (Israel went as far as to accuse him of being “an Iranian agent.”) But after the US-backed Amano was installed as the head of the IAEA, the issue was politicized further as he released the IAEA’s so-called “Secret Annex” which supposedly detailed these “possible military dimensions” to Iran’s nuclear program — allegations which actual nuclear experts even former IAEA weapons inspectors who reviewed the information considered “thin” and shoddy.
Read more about former IAEA director Elbaradei’s views of these allegations in his book, Age of Deception
The coalition of developing countries at the United Nations has categorically condemned unilateral sanctions against Iran over its civilian nuclear energy program.
In a resolution issued on the sidelines of the 69th annual session of the UN General Assembly in New York on Friday, foreign ministers of the Group of 77 plus China for the first time explicitly rejected as unacceptable the imposition of unilateral economic sanctions against Iran.
Such sanctions would have adverse consequences on the development of the Iranian nation, the resolution said, calling for the immediate removal of the bans.
The illegal US-engineered sanctions on Iran have been imposed based on the accusation that Tehran is pursuing non-civilian objectives in its nuclear energy program.
Iran rejects the allegation, arguing that as a committed signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), it has the right to use nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.
The 133-member Group of 77 plus China strongly rejected any unilateral punitive moves such as sanctions against developing countries and called for the removal of all such measures.
The foreign ministers of the member states noted that such measures would not only undermine the UN charter-based international law, but also would leave a negative impact on the freedom of trade and investment.
They further called on the international community to take an effective collective action to stop unilateral economic sanctions against developing states.
The Group of 77 was founded on June 15, 1964, by the “Joint Declaration of the Seventy-Seven Developing Countries” issued at the conclusion of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) in Geneva.
The Group of 77 holds a one-year and rotating presidency among Africa, Asia and Latin America. Bolivia holds the chairmanship for 2014.
A top European court has struck down restrictions imposed by the European Union against the Central Bank of Iran (CBI) on an alleged charge of circumventing US-led sanctions against the Islamic Republic.
In a judgment on Thursday, the Luxembourg-based EU’s Court of Justice said it “annuls… the EU March 23, 2012 [ruling] concerning restrictive measures against Iran in so far as it listed Central Bank of Iran.”
“The reasons relied on are so vague and lacking in detail that the only possible response was in the form of a general denial,” the court ruled on Thursday, adding that “those reasons therefore do not comply with the requirements of the case-law.”
It said the charge leveled against the CBI is “insufficient in the sense that it does not enable either the applicant or the Court to understand the circumstances which led the [European] Council to consider…to adopt the contested act.”
The court also ordered the 28-nation European bloc to “bear one half of its own costs and to pay one half of the costs of Central Bank of Iran.”
At the beginning of 2012, the US and EU imposed sanctions on Iran’s oil and financial sectors with the goal of preventing other countries from purchasing Iranian oil and conducting transactions with the Central Bank of Iran.
On October 15, 2012, the EU foreign ministers reached an agreement on another round of sanctions against Iran.
Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany reached an interim deal in the Swiss city of Geneva last November, according to which the six countries accepted to ease sanctions against Iran in return for the Islamic Republic limiting certain aspects of its nuclear activities. The deal came into effect on January 20 and expired on July 20. The two sides then agreed to extend the duration of the agreement until November 24.
The two sides are scheduled to resume talks on Friday to discuss removal of sanctions against Tehran.
If ever there was any need to prove that the US — not just under Bush but also under Obama — is using the “Iranian nuclear threat” as a manufactured pretext and cover for an entirely different policy of imposing regime-change on Iran, one only need remember the Turkey/Brazil nuclear deal with Iran, and how Obama pulled the rug out from under its own allies after they had gotten a “Yes” from Iran to terms that the Obama administration itself had endorsed in a letter just 1 week earlier — thus again moving the goalpost to ensure that the nuclear threat pretext would be kept alive.
This is what IAEA director Elbaradei wrote about that deal in his book, Age of Deception:
On May 17, 2010, in a joint declaration, Iran, Brazil, and Turkey announced they had reached an agreement on a fuel swap. Iran would send twelve hundred kilograms of LEU to Turkey, in a single shipment, to be held in escrow while Iran’s research reactor fuel was being fabricated. It was a leap forward-particularly because it signaled the willingness of new players, Turkey and Brazil, to take an active role in resolving the diplomatic impasse.
But the very next day, in a masterstroke of diplomatic futility, the P-5+1 announced that they had reached agreement on a fourth Security Council resolution to escalate sanctions on Iran for not bringing its enrichment program to a halt. Hillary Clinton called the fuel swap deal with Turkey and Brazil a “transparent ploy” on Iran’s part to avoid new sanctions.
I was dumbstruck and, to say the least, grievously disappointed. Once again, as I noted in an interview with Jornal do Brasil, the West had refused to take yes for an answer. Brazil and Turkey were outraged. Ahmadinejad urged the United States to accept the fuel swap as a move toward openness and dialogue. At the Security Council, Brazil voted against the sanctions-to no avail. The Western powers once more had touched a solution with their fingertips, only to brush it away.
When I had first proposed the fuel swap, Iran had produced about fifteen hundred kilograms of enriched uranium, so the agreement would have removed most of Iran’s inventory from the country. By the time of the agreement with Turkey and Brazil, the stock had risen to about twenty-five hundred kilograms, which of course made the agreement less attractive to the Americans as a diplomatic point of entry, since Iran would be retaining a “significant quantity.” Iran also had not committed, in the agreement, to stop enriching to 20 percent, although Ahmadinejad had hinted that they would do so.
The Western powers were not happy about these aspects of the deal, but it was obvious to me that they could easily and successfully have addressed these issues in the early stages of negotiation. It was incomprehensible and somewhat naïve to ask Iran-or any country, for that matter-to give up everything before the start of talks and expect a positive response. But the pattern was familiar: nothing would satisfy, short of Iran coming to the table completely undressed.
Demanding that Iran give up her rights before entering into negotiations was the same tactic that the Bush administration had been using in order to prevent any peaceful resolution to the standoff. These ‘excess demands’ — including that Iran give up enrichment entirely (“zero enrichment) before any negotiations — are imposed on Iran by the US precisely for that reason. In fact, Iran has long been making compromise offers that would address any real nuclear-weapons concerns, only to see them ignored or deliberately undermined by the US making illegal demands on Iran:
In 2005 Iran was ready to discuss an upper limit for the number of its centrifuges and to maintain its rate of enrichment far below the high levels necessary for weapons. Tehran also expressed its readiness to allow intrusive inspections, even in non-declared sites. But at that time Europe and the US wanted to compel Iran to ditch its enrichment programme entirely.
Iranians assume that this is still the European and US goal, and that for this reason the security council insists on suspension of all Iranian enrichment activities. But the goal of “zero centrifuges operating in Iran, permanently or temporarily” is unrealistic, and has contributed greatly to the present standoff.
Among the justifications provided later for the rejection of the Turkey/Brazil deal by Obama was that since Iran had continued to enrich uranium, the 1200 lbs that were to be exported did not constitute a significant-enough amount of Iran’s stockpile of enriched Uranium.
However, actual nuclear scientists pointed out too that even if Iran had agreed earlier to the same deal, the actual difference in the amount of enriched uranium in its stockpile would not have been significantly different:
“We have calculated just what the differences in the proposed sequences and timing of the swap really amounted to. The answer is: very little… Indeed, if the swap had been agreed when it was first proposed last October, by the time the fuel rods would have been ready the following October, there would be no difference between the two positions.”
“Thus, at very little actual, technical cost, Iran has appeared to make a significant concession. The US and its allies should have beaten Iran to it, but they didn’t. The question now is whether we could accept Iran’s “yes” as an answer.“
Ceasing enrichment was in fact never part of the original conditions to a deal that Obama endorsed just weeks earlier as the Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim pointed out:
“It wasn’t on the agenda. Nobody told us, ‘Hey if you don’t stop 20 percent enrichment, forget the deal.’
In fact Iran would never have accepted such a demand and had consistently refused this precondition on talks for a while. After all, this entire deal was meant to be a “confidence-building” measure, not a permanent end to the standoff, and Iran had been demanding that their enriched uranium go to a third, neutral country to be held in escrow until Iran actually received the promised nuclear fuel in exchange, precisely because it didn’t trust the US to come through on its promises.
Nor was this the first time that the US killed-off a potential peaceful resolution to the standoff: the same happened in the EU-3 negotiations with Iran during the Paris Agreement affair of 2005, in which the Europeans and Iranians were engaged in negotiations to limit Iran’s nuclear program — limits that were supposed to recognize Iran’s right to enrichment — but apparently the EU negotiators themselves didn’t know that the Brits and Americans had already agreed not to recognize Iran’s right to enrichment, regardless of what they had been telling the Iranians.
Ultimately, and Peter Jenkins stated in an interview with Scott Horton in 2012
The Israelis don’t want to see peace between the US and Iran.
And that has not changed. The fact is, the Obama administration can’t make a deal with Iran, even if it wanted, because Obama can’t lift the sanctions on Iran due to the influence of Israel in Congress, and Congressional action would be required to lift the US sanctions on Iran – -without which there can be no deal.
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.