Another great guest post by friend of ACL, Dr. Yousaf Butt, on the technical implications of the findings of the IAEA when Agency inspectors finally visited the site at Parchin that they’ve been angling to visit for years.
Elephant Not in the Room: Whither the Mythological Parchin Explosion Chamber?
By Yousaf Butt
Many reporters and non-proliferation experts have been busy lately arguing over the protocols used for taking samples at the Parchin military site in Iran. They may have missed the elephant in the room. This might be excusable since there is no elephant in the room: the enormous explosion chamber that was supposed to be there was not seen by the IAEA in their latest visit to their latest building of interest at Parchin.
As all hardcore Parchin fans know, the IAEA had visited the site twice before and also found nothing suspicious in – or even around – the other buildings they had previously been interested in. Three strikes and you’re out? Well, not quite: one ought to wait for the results of the sampling before passing final judgment on whether nuclear materials were used at Parchin and whether possible safeguards violations may have occurred.
However, it seems fairly clear by now that the intel supplied to the IAEA regarding the chamber was flawed. Regardless of whether the sampling results end up being positive or not, there is no chamber at Parchin at any of the multiple locations deduced from the intel fed to the Agency by some unknown third-party.
Could the huge chamber have been cut-up and sneaked out as some people at a DC-based NGO have insisted? As Robert Kelley – a former head of the DoE Remote Sensing Laboratory at Nellis Air Force Base and a former IAEA inspections director – explains in a recent SIPRI release, the answer is a firm “No” — because of continuous satellite monitoring:
“A removal operation would be obvious to an observer using panchromatic satellite imaging, supplemented by Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) and many forms of multi-spectral imaging.”
To those of us who have been examining the scientific quality of some of the allegations against Iran the non-existence of the mythological chamber has not come as a big surprise: it may well be that the same country that fed the bogus and amateurishly-flawed Associated Press graphs to the IAEA, also fed the now-debunked Parchin chamber story.
As Robert Kelley recaps, there were multiple failures of competence in the 2011 IAEA Annex report that made the Parchin allegations in the first place. Most glaringly, there is no need for an explosion chamber if the aim of the chamber was nuclear-weapons related in the first place: “Claims about the purpose of the alleged experiments at Parchin are not consistent with the logic of nuclear weapons design and testing.”
Apart from the latest Parchin report, non-proliferation experts and reporters would be well-advised to do their due-diligence and read the compendium of expert SIPRI reports written by Robert Kelley and his colleague Tariq Rauf – the former Head of Verification and Security Policy Coordination at the IAEA.
A puzzling question persists, however: If the chamber never existed and there’s no big nefarious deal at Parchin why then were the Iranians so insistent to lead the latest swipe-sampling inspections themselves? It’s uncertain of course, but it may be related to the reports that the IAEA mishandled the Syria investigation and so Iran perhaps wanted to ensure that that is not repeated at Parchin.
The upshot of all this is that the IAEA should stick to doing nuclear materials accountancy and not delve into nuclear weaponization investigations, until its mandate and expertise is broadened to include such activities.
Dr. Yousaf Butt, a nuclear physicist, is senior scientific advisor to the British American Security Information Council (BASIC) in London. The views expressed here are his own.
Saudi Arabia has selected a variant of a warship Lockheed Martin is building for the US Navy as the frigate for the kingdom’s Eastern Fleet modernization program, a source told Defense News.
The frigates sale will be the cornerstone of the modernization of the Royal Saudi Navy’s eastern fleet and its aging US warships in the Arabian Gulf.
A letter of request from the Saudi Navy that detailed requirements for the program was signed in early August, the source said, and the Saudis have asked the US Navy and Lockheed to complete a letter of agreement by November, Defense News reported.
The deal calls for four frigates capable of hosting Sikorsky MH-60R helicopters.
Saudi and US officials also are finalizing a $1.9 billion deal to buy 10 MH-60R helicopters, which can be used for anti-submarine warfare and other missions. Lockheed is in the process acquiring Sikorsky.
The ships are also expected to be fitted with a vertical launch system that can accommodate surface-to-air missiles.
The entire Eastern Fleet expansion program is expected to cost between $16 billion and $20 billion and also includes patrol boats, three maritime patrol aircraft, and 30 to 50 unmanned aerial vehicles, Defense News reported.
The four large frigates are expected to take up about 20-25% of the total cost. Saudi Arabia earlier this year budgeted $3.5 billion for the program, money that needs to be spent in calendar 2015.
The deal, if finalized, would mark the first international sale of a US littoral combat ship.
The Saudi Navy’s expansion program has been in the works for years, but US sources say Saudi Arabia’s concerns about Iran have accelerated the effort.
In July, world powers and Iran reached a deal aimed at curbing Tehran’s nuclear program in exchange for lifting sanctions. Regional neighbors worry about the threat posed by a financially strong Iran.
“An agent of influence is an agent of some stature who uses his or her position to influence public opinion or decision making to produce results beneficial to the country whose intelligence service operates the agent.” So goes the book definition but any experienced intelligence officer will note that there are degrees of cooperation and direction in such a relationship. The agent might be fully controlled and on a salary or he or she might be very loosely guided, ideologically motivated but cautious and reluctant to receive any favors in return. The key is that the agent has to be acting on behalf of the interests of the foreign government, which will at least some of the time mean working directly against the interests of his own.
I thought of how an agent of influence operates on the morning of September 9th when I opened the Washington Post and read two letters to the editor, both written by constituents, regarding Maryland Senator Benjamin Cardin’s refusal to support President Barack Obama’s Iran deal.
The first, from Carole Anderson of Bethesda said that “my U.S. senator, Benjamin L. Cardin, has forgotten that he represents Maryland — not the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, not a portion of the Jewish community, not Israel. His constituents expect him to vote based on the best interests of the United States, which in this case also is in Israel’s long-term interest, not based on what his rabbi says. He has demonstrated that he is incapable of doing his job.”
The second, from Stephen O. Dean of Gaithersburg observed that “Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin’s plan to oppose the Iran nuclear deal is an embarrassment to the people of Maryland. Though a Democrat, he allied himself with the Republicans in Congress, the Republican presidential contenders, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the powerful pro-Israel lobby. He turned his back on President Obama and rejected the long, difficult work of Secretary of State John F. Kerry and his counterparts from five other major countries. The alternative he offered is a bill he will introduce to send more U.S. taxpayer money to Israel. One wishes he took the path to peace with Iran, instead of to potential war.”
Cardin’s position was not unexpected even though he is reliably liberal on any issue but Palestine and a solid Democratic Party water boy. As an elected official, Cardin has frequently framed himself as being personally responsible for delivering benefits to his Jewish constituents. He sponsors the Senator Ben Cardin Jewish Scholars Program and also has been active in steering Department of Homeland Security (DHS) grants to what he calls “high risk” Jewish organizations in Baltimore. Due to the assiduous efforts of Congressmen like Cardin fully 97% of all DHS grants go to Jewish groups.
But as complete deference to Israel is all too common inside the beltway, I was, to put it mildly, shocked that two letters expressing such dissident views regarding Cardin actually appeared in the Post, a haven of neoconservatism on its editorial page. One might enthuse that it is perhaps a welcome sign that popular views on the extremely damaging Israel relationship really have begun to shift.
I have previously written that the so-called Corker-Cardin bill that reportedly gave Congress a chance to safely vent over the Iran deal was actually a Trojan horse in that it was intended to lead to eventual defeat of the agreement. I noted at the time that Cardin was the snake in the woodpile as he was pretending to give a lifeline to his party and president while all the time intending to vote no and do everything in his power to overturn any rapprochement with Iran.
Now what I predicted has come about. And Cardin has even admitted that he discussed with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) how he should vote. AIPAC, for all its posturing about American interests, is not a source of objective information on the Middle East as it often pretends to be. It actively and aggressively lobbies on behalf of the Israeli government and would be listed under the Foreign Agent Registration Act of 1938 but for the fact that it is politically powerful and no White House has been willing to take it on. Cardin was also heavily lobbied by his rabbi, who called him repeatedly.
Cardin justified his opposition to the agreement based on alarmist talking points that could have been, and maybe were, written by AIPAC to include, “…there cannot be respect for a country that actively foments regional instability, advocates for Israel’s destruction, kills the innocent and shouts ‘Death to America.’” And Cardin has also gone on record pledging to back up his “no” vote by introducing legislation that he is already working on that will allow congress to overturn the agreement while also sending 30,000 pound penetrator bombs to Israel that will enable Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to attack Iran, which would clearly not be in America’s interest.
The Cardin supported initiative to undermine the Iran agreement through further congressional meddling and delaying tactics is being referred to in some circles as “Plan B.” There are a number of aspects to it, but it involves creating new legislation and imposing other conditions that will permit additional congressional review of both the deal itself and, more particularly, Iran’s compliance. It has become axiomatic to refer to Iranians as “liars and cheaters,” setting the stage for any number of contrived revelations about their behavior.
As has often been the case in the past where friends of Israel have sought either military action or other punitive measures, the planned new congressional initiatives will likely seek to create red lines or tripwires that will mandate congressional or presidential action. In the past, these red lines have been described in a way that permits them to be interpreted subjectively, meaning that there will be a push to find fault with Tehran and that evidence might easily be manufactured to suit or even provided by Israel. Cardin appears to be the driving force behind this effort if one is to go by his own words and the praise that has been heaped upon him by organizations like Christians United for Israel.
So who does Cardin actually represent? I would suggest that he fits the mold of the classic agent of influence in that his allegiance to the United States is constrained by his greater loyalty to a foreign nation. I do not believe that he does it for money or other material favors and I would not imagine that Mossad actually gives him his marching orders, but I would bet that his contact with the Israeli Embassy and AIPAC to both obtain and synchronize with their views is frequent and ongoing. One has to hope that Cardin will both fail in his new legislative efforts on behalf of Israel and also that he will be turned out of office in the next cycle by his constituents for his failure to support actual American and Marylander interests.
The question of what to do about the Cardins of this world is, of course, clouded by the broader issue of “dual loyalty,” a label that has rightly been of particular concern for many diaspora Jews because it often is employed as a classic anti-Semitic canard. Those who promote it think that some or even most Jews can never be truly loyal to the country that they reside in, that they will always have a higher allegiance to their tribe. Since the founding of Israel that alleged supranational allegiance has also embraced the Jewish state, with questions raised regarding whether it is possible to actively promote all-too-often uncritical support for a foreign nation while living and working in another country that will inevitably have quite different national and international interests.
In reality, of course, it is not so simple. Some Jews will relate to their “tribe” more than to their non-Jewish fellow citizens but most will not and many will even regard that kind of sentiment as completely unacceptable. But all of that given, the issue of where one’s loyalty as a citizen of a nation should lie and to what degree is something that just will not go away. Nearly all of the neoconservatives who cajoled Americans into the disastrous war against Iraq were Jews and they were at least in part motivated by perceived Israeli interests. Bush Administration senior official Philip Zelikow subsequently even claimed that the Iraq war was primarily fought to eliminate a threat to Israel. And if that is not convincing enough, there is the “Clean Break” policy document that was presented to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in 1996 recommending inter alia the systematic break-up of Israel’s Arab neighbors into tribal groups to “secure the realm” of Israel. Many of the signatories were the very same American Jews who later promoted the war with Iraq and are now orchestrating the agitation vis-a-vis Iran, which itself is being overwhelmingly funded by Jewish groups.
Because of the potential problem posed by divided loyalty, many Americans now believe that no citizen should hold any foreign passport in addition to that of the United States. An increasing number are beginning to understand that competing parochial loyalties of various kinds have been detrimental to the viability of the United States as a nation and destructive of Teddy Roosevelt’s once proud assertion that it doesn’t matter where we came from but “we are all Americans.”
The dual loyalty question becomes more serious when one is considering the roles of government officials, both elected and as members of the federal bureaucracy, as they are in a position where they can actually do damage. The United States is currently wrestling with problems posed by Christian officials who believe that what they are told by God preempts what they are obligated to do as bureaucrats. This type of deference to tribe and culture is also where Cardin is both tone deaf and dissimulating. He is the stereotype of what has frequently been disparagingly described as an “Israel firster.” There is absolutely no reasonable argument to be made against the Iran agreement from a U.S. perspective and the mere fact that it is opposed by Israel should have no weight, but Cardin clearly does not see things that way.
One might reasonably object that Cardin is far from unique and to be sure there are many in Washington that are feckless in their relationships with Israel’s government. Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, who has declared himself to be the “shomer” or guardian of Israel in the U.S. Senate, is a case in point and undoubtedly many of the criticisms leveled against Cardin would fit just as well with Schumer. One might also note the unanimous Republican opposition to the Iran deal but that is a bit of a red herring. In many cases the attachment is more likely than not based more on politics than on any genuine affinity towards Israel. A frequently cynical kowtowing to perceived Zionist and evangelical demands is coupled with the expectation that Israel’s most powerful and wealthy backer in the U.S. Sheldon Adelson will shower his billions on the GOP and its preferred presidential candidate as long as the whole campaign is in key areas subordinate to Israeli interests. The Republican hard line is also a reflexive rejection of Obama foreign policy to create a wedge issue for 2016 and is not linked to any rational assessment of the merits of the Iran agreement.
On balance, Senator Ben Cardin in his apparent collusion with both the Israeli government and its powerful domestic Lobby appears to cross lines that should not be crossed by any American elected official. My contention that he may be a de facto agent of influence for Israel is, of course, somewhat conjectural. I would imagine that Cardin rationalizes his behavior by choosing to believe that Israeli and American interests are identical, which is, of course, not true. If he claims that he is not in fact preemptively guided by Israeli interests it would be interesting to have him reveal full details of the frequency and nature of his encounters with Israeli officials and also with the components of the Israel Lobby, most particularly AIPAC, which are established conduits for relaying Israeli perspectives to accomplices in the U.S. government. I would also be interested in hearing Cardin’s views on how a war with Iran would possibly benefit the people of Maryland.
As the United States Congress debates whether or not to accept an agreement that the U.S. and five other nations reached with Iran, regulating that nation’s nuclear program, the media keeps a less-than-rapt public informed. Each day, news pundits first speculate on how this or that senator may vote, and then when some senator announces his or her position, it is tallied up as a ‘yes’ or ‘no’, and a victory or defeat for President Barack Obama.
As all this takes place, some odd but revealing statements have been made. Let us first look at just two, both from Democrats, one from a senator voting for the deal, and one who opposes it, and see what they tells us.
Colorado Senator Michael Bennett, in endorsing the deal, made this astonishing statement: “Our primary objectives are to prevent Iran from having a nuclear weapon, make sure Israel is safe and, if possible, avoid another war in the Middle East.”
As this writer is wont to do, let us break this statement down to its component parts. We will look at Mr. Bennett’s ‘primary objectives’.
“Prevent Iran from having a nuclear weapon”. Well, the fewer nuclear weapons in the world, the better. But why are some countries allowed to have them, and others not? The only nation in the world ever to have used nuclear weapons, the U.S., has a large stockpile, and has done nothing to reduce it. Please note that the U.S. has been at war with one country or another for most of its long and bloody history, so the fact that it has nuclear weapons is certainly a great risk to the world. Former President Richard Nixon is said to have considered using nuclear weapons in Vietnam. Why is Iran being singled out as not allowed to have such weapons when the U.S. can have them?
“Make sure Israel is safe”. See how quickly we get to the crux of the matter? Israel’s safety, for Mr. Bennett, is of paramount importance. And if Iran were to develop nuclear weapons, then Israel wouldn’t be the only Middle East country with them.
There is always so much concern about Israel’s safety! Does the U.S. not care about the safety and security of other Middle Eastern nations? We know that Iraq’s security is not of any interest to the U.S., or it wouldn’t have destabilized Iraq by invading it in 2003. And with Israel assassinating Iran’s nuclear scientists, there can’t be too much concern about that nation’s internal security.
And what about Palestine? Israel increasingly steals Palestinian land, but no U.S. politician ever talks about the national security of Palestine.
U.S. spokespeople always proclaim that Israel is the U.S.’s only ally in the Middle East. Perhaps if the U.S. would stop bombing the men, women and children of other Middle Eastern countries, and would be a little more equitable in its foreign aid distribution (currently, Israel gets more foreign aid from the U.S. than all other countries combined), it might find that it suddenly would have more friends in the Middle East. It has been said that before the bloody, murderous and genocidal establishment of Israel in 1948, the U.S. had no enemies in the Middle East.
Why, then, might Mr. Bennett be so concerned about Israel? Could it be the $108,766.00 in donations from Israeli lobbies that he received between 2009 and 2015? Perhaps we will dismiss that notion, and say that Mr. Bennett is a statesman, rising above such petty things as campaign contributions, and only doing what he feels, in his heart of hearts, is best for the U.S. citizenry, come what may. When pigs fly.
“If possible, avoid another war in the Middle East.” So, as an afterthought, after concerns about Israel’s security have been addressed, perhaps avoiding a war isn’t such a bad idea. This is not the usual U.S. way; diplomacy isn’t high on the list of characteristics held by most of Congress. There isn’t a lot of muscle-flexing and chest-thumping involved in diplomacy, and what’s a little blood of U.S. citizens, and lots of it of foreign citizens, when such macho displays of power are to be demonstrated?
Now, to the opposition. Democratic Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland, who greatly distrusts Iran, said this: “There cannot be respect for a country that actively foments regional instability, advocates for Israel’s destruction, kills the innocent and shouts ‘Death to America.’” Again, we will look at the component parts.
Mr. Cardin is critical of nations that
1 ‘Actively foment regional instability’. The U.S. is causing untold suffering and ‘regional instability’ through drone strikes and support for repressive regimes or rebel groups throughout the region. One would like to hear Mr. Cardin oppose such active fomenting of regional instability.
2 ‘Advocate for Israel’s destruction’. Once again, Israel is foremost in the mind of another senator, as he looks at the nuclear agreement with Iran. Israel, of course, acts to destroy Palestine with full U.S. support, but that, as mentioned above, isn’t a concern.
Between 2009 and 2015, Mr. Cardin received $241,293.00 from Israeli lobbies. We will wonder again if this, perhaps, didn’t factor in strongly in Mr. Cardin’s deliberations.
As might be expected, the multitudinous Republican presidential candidate wannabes were universally opposed to the agreement. Oddly (not!), Israel was a major factor in their criticisms. The following are just a few of their comments.
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker: “The deal rewards the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism with a massive financial windfall, which Iran will use to further threaten our interests and key allies, especially Israel.” No, Mr. Walker, by any objective means, it is the U.S., not Iran, that is the world’s leading state sponsor of terror.
Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee: “As president, I will stand with Israel and keep all options on the table, including military force, to topple the terrorist Iranian regime.” It sounds as if Mr. Huckabee wants ‘regime change’: when have we heard this before? Oh yes, that was President George W. Bush’s mantra when he sent soldiers in to ‘fix’ Iraq. We all know how well that turned out. Mr. Huckabee further said: “A threat to Israel is a threat to America.” No, it simply is not. Also, preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons doesn’t seem to constitute a threat to any nation, with the possible exception of Iran.
Senator Lindsay Graham weighed in with these pearls of wisdom: “You’ve put Israel in the worst possible box. This will be a death over time sentence to Israel if they don’t push back.” It is interesting to note that between 2009 and 2015, Mr. Graham received $286,350.00 from Israeli lobbies.
It is no secret where this great anxiety for Israel originates; money talks in the U.S., and Israeli lobby groups speak loudly. What is disturbing is how it takes precedence over every other concern, to the point where elected officials are willing to wage war to protect an apartheid nation, censured more by the United Nations than any other country on the planet. This is the nation whose interests the U.S. puts front and center, before its own. This is the nation that receives billions of dollars in U.S. aid annually, as U.S. cities decay. This is the nation for which the U.S. will jeopardize the lives of its young citizens, by disdaining diplomacy and using war as the dominant means of ‘leading’ in the world.
That leading politicians so blatantly state their adoration for Israel should give every U.S. citizen cause for concern. It is time for justice and human rights to be enshrined as the hallmarks of U.S. foreign policy. As that has never been the case, it will be difficult to introduce it now. But it must be done; the world has suffered for too long because of the U.S.
Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei, has instructed the Parliament (Majlis) to review and vote on the nuclear deal reached between Iran and the world powers in July, and has also questioned the parts of the deal, known as Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) that refer to the suspension rather than annulment of Iran sanctions.
Khamenei’s latest statement, raising questions about the JCPOA, comes at a time when various US officials devote most of their energy assuring the skeptics about the “snap back” and the like, instead of clarifying the nature and timeline of their removal of Iran sanctions; this is not to mention the unpleasant language of military threat that has resurfaced in full fury since the breakthrough agreement in Vienna.
With respect to Iran’s parliamentary approval, Ali Larijani, the powerful speaker of Majlis who was recently in New York for an inter-parliamentary meeting, told an Iranian audience that he foresees a more energetic role by Majlis on the nuclear issue in the near future. Larijani, who backs the deal and is considered an important ally of President Hassan Rouhani, will have his work cut out for him, in light of the strong reservations toward the deal by the majority faction known as the Principalists, some of whom have clashed with the members of the negotiation team who have testified at Majlis.
Henceforth, while President Obama has declared victory by securing the Congressional votes that safeguards the nuclear deal from any derailment by the opponents of the deal, the situation in Iran is turning more complicated and casts a cloud of uncertainty on the JCPOA’s future.
One of the thorny issues is the separate agreement between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which is confidential and is key to resolving the disputes over the so-called “Possible Military Dimension” (PMD) issues and concerns raised by the agency. Since this agreement is confidential, it is unclear if the members of Majlis will be privy to information about it, which might be essential to their ultimate verdict on the agreement.
According to the head of IAEA, Yukiya Amano, the PMD agreement is moving forward with Iran’s submission of substantial new information, and the issue is set to be resolved before the year’s end, assuming a smooth progress. Should the IAEA press for access to certain military sites, then this would certainly complicate the prospect of PMD’s resolution in the next three months. And since the IAEA’s certification of Iran’s compliance is key to the removal of sanctions, the whole issue has raised concerns in Iran that the IAEA might be manipulated by certain powers to refrain from giving Iran a ‘clean bill of health’ in order to linger the cloud of suspicion on Iran’s head and also to delay the sanctions’ relief, which is badly needed for the struggling Iranian economy, in light of the declining oil prices.
From Tehran’s vantage point, it is imperative that the other side provides further guarantees that it will stick to the terms of its obligations under the JCPOA and avoid bad-faith implementation that would erode the trust-building between the two sides. Tehran is certainly disquieted by the “liberal imperialist” American discourse that reinterprets the JCPOA as a means of “containing Iran” and uses it as a hammer to knock down Iranian power in the region.
The earlier expectations of the JCPOA as a prelude for the normalization of US-Iran relations has been to some extent evaporated, replaced instead by a new mood of mutual hostility — that is disfunctional for the vested interests of both sides, given the potential for incremental improvement and even select US-Iran cooperation on regional issues provided by the landmark agreement. Khamenei has questioned the hawkish anti-Iran pronouncements of US officials and former officials, which some view as directed for “domestic consumption” only, stating that such statements carry consequences and must be rebuffed by Iran.
In light of the above-said, the adoption and implementation of JCPOA faces many hurdles including in Iran, where the coming parliamentary elections have added sprinkles of political factionalism to the issue. While it remains to be seen how the critics of JCPOA inside the Majlis will utilize the green light by the Supreme Leader, what is clear however is that U.S. policy-makers have yet to jailbreak from the confines of “containment” strategy and its binary divisions, as a result of which the prospects for a genuine evolution of Iran-U.S. relations continues to remain suspended.
Even outspoken supporters of the nuclear deal signed between Iran and the P5+1 (the US, UK, France, China, Russia and Germany) rely on myriad entrenched myths and falsehoods about Iran’s nuclear program to make their case. For instance, the constant claim that the agreement “prevents Iran from building a nuclear weapon” is a facile talking point that assumes an Iranian drive for a bomb that has never actually existed.
What the deal – known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action – does is, in exchange for removing sanctions, verifiably limit Iran’s nuclear infrastructure by restricting enrichment levels, expanding monitoring access beyond the legal requirements of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) and Iran’s safeguards agreements to affirm the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program, a program that has never been found to have ever been militarized.
Nevertheless, advocates of the accord have consistently argued that without this deal, Iran would inevitably race toward producing the bomb it’s never wanted and has prohibited for decades, and as a result, the United States (or Israel) would be forced to bomb Iranian nuclear and military facilities to save the world from the clutches of evil atomic mullahs.
We’ve heard the same thing for decades, that the “clock is ticking” and “time is running out” to attack Iran or force it to capitulate on its legal nuclear program, lest Iran acquire the atomic arsenal that we’ve been told since the mid-1980s is only “a few screwdriver turns” away and right around the corner.
These are bad facts, built upon a two-pronged foundation of alarmism that promotes the supposed inevitably of two things that will never happen: Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon and a U.S./Israeli military attack on Iran. And with bad facts come worse analysis.
In essence, even the deal’s own supporters buy into ahistorical, Netanyahu-inspired narratives of malevolent Iranian intent and prepare their appeals from there. One of the most striking examples of this egregious practice is a recent opinion piece by Anne-Marie Slaughter in USA Today, a publication with a history of terrible reporting and commentary on Iran.
Slaughter surely has impressive credentials. She’s taught at elite universities, including Harvard and Princeton, served for two years as Hillary Clinton’s director of policy planning in the U.S. State Department and currently heads the New America Foundation, an influential center-left think tank in Washington D.C.
With this résumé, it is both shocking and illuminating how little she seems to understand about Iran’s nuclear program. Slaughter refers to “Iran’s illegal nuclear program,” despite the fact that Iran has the inalienable right to a domestic nuclear program as affirmed by the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). She is also apparently convinced Iran is engaged in a “quest for a nuclear weapon” (alternatively rendered as “Iran’s illegal pursuit of a nuclear weapon”), which it decidedly is not and for which there is no credible evidence.
And that’s not all. Slaughter’s analysis gets a lot more wrong.
Slaughter’s Imaginary Stockpiles
Here’s Slaughter’s opening gambit:
The opponents of the Iran deal are absolutely right about the existence of an alternative. We could bomb Iran. A sustained attack could destroy its nuclear facilities and presumably a large part of its stockpiled plutonium and highly enriched uranium.
For starters, the argument of either a “deal or war” is a wholly false choice, despite Slaughter’s conclusion that, “Like it or not, those are the only two choices we have.”
In fact, with no deal, Iran would still be a member of the NPT, have a comprehensive safeguards agreement with the IAEA, and continue to call for a nuclear weapons free zone in the Middle East, as it has done for decades. An attack on Iran, a sovereign nation that virtually all intelligence agencies on the planet have determined is not pursuing nuclear weapons, would be a undeniable war crime.
But in her second sentence, Slaughter makes a gigantic, and completely inexplicable, error. Iran has exactly zero “stockpiled plutonium and highly enriched uranium.” This is not a controversial issue; anyone who knows absolutely anything about Iran’s nuclear program knows this.
Before it can be stockpiled, plutonium must first be extracted and reprocessed from the spent uranium fuel of an operational nuclear reactor. Iran has never done this and doesn’t even have a reprocessing plant. Iran has literally never extracted plutonium from a reactor core, let alone stockpiled it, as Slaughter claims.
Iran has also never produced, let alone stockpiled, any “highly enriched uranium” (HEU), which is defined by the IAEA as “uranium containing 20% or more of the isotope 235U.” Only when uranium is enriched to about 90% does it become suitable for weaponization. Prior to the implementation of the November 2013 Joint Plan of Action (JPOA), Iran had been enriching uranium to between 3.5% and 5% 235U for use as fuel in nuclear power plants and to about 19.75% 235U for use in medical research reactors. Since the plan went into effect, Iran ceased all enrichment above 5%, diluted or disposed of its entire stockpile of 19.75% LEU, and converted the vast majority of its remaining stockpile of LEU to a form incapable of being weaponized.
Even the Israeli intelligence community, perhaps the entity most hostile to Iran and likely responsible for the murder of five Iranian scientists, doesn’t claim Iran has any stockpiled plutonium or HEU. In a top-secret 2012 memo, the Israeli Mossad assessed that, although Iran maintained a declared stockpile of LEU, “it does not appear to be ready to enrich it to higher levels.” Furthermore, the cable noted that, without a plutonium reprocessing plant in Iran, the plutonium produced as a byproduct of running the heavy water research reactor in Arak (still under construction), “will not be able to be used for weapons.”
No amount of criminal airstrikes can bomb away material that does not exist. With this little grasp of the issues at stake, the fact that Slaughter was a policy adviser to a Secretary of State for two years is a harrowing thought.
Slaughter’s Bad Facts on the Iran Deal
Slaughter’s comprehension of the deal itself – the deal she herself supports – is similarly tenuous. Regarding sanctions relief and specifically the unfreezing of Iranian assets abroad, she writes, “If, in fact, Iran complies with the terms of this deal, stops pursuing a weapon and completely dismantles its nuclear supply chain, then it is entitled to recover the funds.”
Ok, no. This is wrong. As noted already, since Iran isn’t “pursuing a weapon,” it doesn’t actually have anything to stop doing in that regard.
Beyond this, Iran will absolutely not be “dismantling its nuclear supply chain,” which extends from the mining and milling of natural uranium ore to yellowcake conversion to centrifuge manufacturing and storage facilities to enrichment and fuel production. None of these elements of Iran’s program is being dismantled under the deal; rather, unprecedented monitoring and surveillance access is being granted by Iran to the IAEA at every step of the way, a level of inspections and insight unmatched anywhere in the world.
Slaughter’s Obfuscation of U.S. Role in Failed Iran Diplomacy
Later on in her oped, Slaughter engages in quite a bit of fictional storytelling about her past experience in the State Department:
George W. Bush’s administration spent eight years just trying to get Iran to come to the table to negotiate, without success. In 2010, during my first year working as director of Policy Planning under Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, we thought we had a deal with the Iranians to ship most of their highly enriched uranium to Russia, but it promptly collapsed when the Iranian negotiators took it back to the supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei. And all the while, the Iranians moved from hundreds of centrifuges to about 20,000, of ever more sophisticated design. Their supply of highly enriched uranium, just one step away from the fuel needed for a bomb, went up and up.
Again, Slaughter pretends that Iran has produced and maintained a supply of “highly enriched uranium.” It hasn’t, and never has. Also, the link she provides to support the absurd claim that the Bush administration was desperate for diplomacy with Iran is a piece of utter propaganda written by Stephen Hadley, a stalwart neocon who served as Bush’s national security adviser.
Slaughter omits the fact that, in 2002 and 2003, diplomacy between Iran and the EU-3 (Britain, France and Germany) resulted in the suspension of Iran’s nascent enrichment program and voluntary adoption of the stringent Additional Protocol, which allowed the IAEA extensive access to Iran’s program for over two years. In that time, the IAEA consistently affirmed that Iran had never diverted any nuclear material to military purposes.
It was only after Iran’s European negotiating partners, at the behest of the Americans, reneged on their promise to offer substantive commitments and respect Iran’s inalienable right to a domestic nuclear infrastructure that talks dissolved and Iran resumed enrichment. The proposal eventually brought to Iran by Western negotiators on August 5, 2005 has been described as “vague on incentives and heavy on demands,” and even dismissed by one EU diplomat as “a lot of gift wrapping around an empty box.”
Nevertheless, since late 2005, Iran has proven willing time and again to engage in negotiations over its nuclear program and the international sanctions regime. Its numerous proposals over the years have consistently reiterated its willingness to officially ban nuclear weapons development through legislation, cap its level and scope of enrichment, immediately convert its enriched uranium to fuel rods “to preclude even the technical possibility of further enrichment” towards weapons-grade material, “to provide unprecedented added guarantees” to the IAEA that its program would remain peaceful, and open its enrichment program to international partnership.
Iran’s offers were routinely rejected by the United States government, which long maintained the irrational position that Iran capitulate to the American demand of zero enrichment on Iranian soil. “We cannot have a single centrifuge spinning in Iran,” declared George W. Bush’s undersecretary of state for arms control Robert Joseph in early 2006. As recently as this past March, Slaughter’s former boss Hillary Clinton was still indicating her preference for “little-to-no enrichment” in Iran.
What made successful diplomacy with Iran possible was not, as so many still erroneously claim, the devastating sanctions imposed on the Iranian people or even the 2013 election of Hassan Rouhani, it was the Obama administration’s eventual abandonment of the “zero enrichment” demand, opening the door for acknowledging (albeit implicitly) Iran’s right to enrich and for negotiations to move forward productively.Perhaps the most curious comment Slaughter makes, however, is about the 2009 P5+1 nuclear swap proposal, in which she claims the United States and its partners offered “to ship most of [Iran’s] highly enriched uranium to Russia.”
Forgive the repetition, but remember, Iran never had any “highly enriched uranium,” so Slaughter is beginning with a completely false premise. Placing the blame on the Iranian leadership for the failure to implement the deal is also disingenuous. Here’s what really happened:
In June 2009, while it was enriching uranium up to 5% LEU only, Iran announced publicly that it required a new stock of nearly 20% LEU to keep the U.S.-built Tehran Research Reactor (TRR) operational and producing vital medical radioisotopes used to treat nearly a million Iranian cancer patients. In advance of the depletion of its reactor fuel, Iran tried to purchase more enriched uranium on the open market under full IAEA supervision.
Despite the safeguarded TRR presenting no proliferation threat, the United States and its European partners prevented any discussion of such a commercial sale. Instead, in October 2009, they offered a “swap” proposal whereby Iran would ship out most of its stockpiled low-enriched uranium to Russia to be enriched to the requisite 19.75%. This would then be shipped to France where fuel rods that could power the TRR would be produced. Iran would then, theoretically, receive those rods a year after shipping out its stockpile.
Iran agreed in principle to this arrangement, with the intention of hammering out mutually acceptable details at a later date. In late 2009, the deal was still in the works. Iran’s then foreign minister Manouchehr Mottaki reiterated that Iran was “willing to exchange most of its uranium for processed nuclear fuel from abroad” in a phased transfer of material with full guarantees that the West “will not backtrack an exchange deal.”
In reviewing the P5+1 offer, the Iranian press reported, “technical studies showed that it would only take two to three months for any country to further enrich the nuclear stockpile and turn it into metal nuclear rods for the Tehran Research Reactor, while suppliers had announced that they would not return fuel to Iran any less than seven months.”
As the parties discussed final terms, Mottaki suggested Iran initially hand over a quarter of its enriched uranium stockpile in a simultaneous exchange on Iranian soil for an equivalent amount of processed fuel for use in the medical research reactor. The remainder of the uranium would then be traded over “several years,” under an agreed upon and internationally supervised framework.
This proposed timetable was immediately rejected by Western powers. An unidentified senior U.S. official was quoted by Voice of America as claiming that the Iranian counter-proposal was inconsistent with the “fair and balanced” draft agreement. Meanwhile, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Slaughter’s boss at the time, urged Iran to “accept the agreement as proposed because we are not altering it,” which is the definition of an ultimatum, not a negotiation. Talks predictably fell apart.
When Iran later renegotiated the swap arrangement with Brazil and Turkey in May 2010, the Obama administration angrily rejected the terms and aggressively pushed more sanctions through the UN Security Council.
Slaughter’s History of Support for Military Intervention
Despite her distressing lack of accurate information about Iran’s nuclear program, Anne-Marie Slaughter’s uneasy embrace of the Iran deal is, at minimum, still a welcome departure from her usual militarist posture.
Five years after supporting the invasion of Iraq, Slaughter was annoyed by the “gotcha politics” of being held accountable for her bad judgment, grousing in The Huffington Post that “debate is still far too much about who was right and who was wrong on the initial invasion.”
In 2011, after leaving the State Department, Slaughter lent her full-throated support to the NATO bombing campaign in Libya, extolling herself as a champion of humanitarianism and democracy and then hailing the operation as an unmitigated success. It’s been anything but.
A year later, she was calling for U.S. allies to arm rebel forces against the Assad government in Syria, writing in The New York Times, “Foreign military intervention in Syria offers the best hope for curtailing a long, bloody and destabilizing civil war.”
In 2013, Slaughter openly lamented her support for the invasion of Iraq a decade earlier. “Looking back, it is hard to remember just how convinced many of us were that weapons of mass destruction would be found,” she wrote in The New Republic. “Had I not believed that, I would never have countenanced any kind of intervention on purely humanitarian terms.”
Slaughter said she had learned her lesson. “Never again will I trust a single government’s interpretation of data when lives are at stake, perhaps especially my own government,” Slaughter resolved. “And I will not support the international use of force in a war of choice rather than necessity without the approval of some multilateral body, one that includes countries that are directly affected by both the circumstances in the target country and by the planned intervention.”
Nevertheless, after penning this mea culpa, Slaughter continued busily advocating unilateral American airstrikes on Syria and pushing for Obama to at least threaten military action against Russia in Ukraine. “A US strike against the Syrian government now would change the entire dynamic,” she wrote for Project Syndicate. “It would either force the regime back to the negotiating table with a genuine intention of reaching a settlement, or at least make it clear that Assad will not have a free hand in re-establishing his rule.” Her calls for the U.S. bombing of Syria, and also Iraq, have since intensified.
Just last week, Slaughter again pressed her case for imposing a no-fly zone over Syria, citing “both moral and strategic reasons.” The direct American military intervention, Slaughter suggests, could be conducted “using sea-based missile systems” and “would force Mr. Assad to reconsider his long-term prospects and, most likely, force him to the negotiating table.”
Claiming that military strikes would inevitably follow the (increasingly impossible) Congressional rejection of the Iran deal is its own form of bellicosity. Deal opponents falsely argue that a “better deal,” not bombing and regime change, is their real goal, but that too is ridiculous.
It is indeed unfortunate that intelligent and influential commentators like Slaughter feel the need to resort to their own fear-mongering and false narratives to support a diplomatic initiative whose benefits need no such bludgeon. Real threat reduction over the Iranian nuclear issue would be far better served by an honest appraisal of the facts, examination of hard evidence and a refusal to engage in selective history.
Without these facts at her fingertips, Slaughter winds up promoting the very thing she supposedly seeks to prevent. She supports the deal, but for all the wrong reasons. If her former boss becomes the next commander-in-chief, Slaughter will almost certainly return to a high-powered position in government. Let’s hope she gets her facts straight before then.
*Editor’s Note: Read an accompanying post to this article here.
A number of readers have complained that I buried the important news in my last post marking Mikulski’s announcement Wednesday. So I’m reposting below that part of the Mikulski piece that dealt with what appears to be AIPAC’s and the opposition’s most likely “Plan B” for congressional action, aimed chiefly at those Democrats who feel queasy about their decision to support the White House and vote against the pending resolution to reject the JCPOA.
A summary of a draft bill, which I obtained from a source who asked to remain anonymous, is circulating that is designed (almost certainly by AIPAC) to appeal to those Democrats eager to “kiss and make up” after their defiance of the most powerful Israel lobby group (whose reputation for omnipotence just took a very heavy hit) and its donors. Although most of the bill appears to be innocuous and consistent with the administration’s own intentions, it also contains a number of “poison pills,” which, if approved, appear calculated to raise new obstacles to implementation and Tehran’s confidence that the U.S. will fully comply with both the spirit and the letter of the JCPOA.
With proposed banking sanctions, for example, it appears to do what Kagan and the policy director of the neoconservative Foreign Policy Initiative (FPI), Juan Zarate, have urged with respect to codifying existing non-nuclear sanctions and reducing or eliminating the president’s waiver authority. It also would set up a process for “expedited procedures” for Congress to pass new terrorism sanctions against Iran under certain circumstances, and also create a coordinator for compliance whose responsibilities would not only be to oversee Iran’s implementation of the JCPOA but also report on non-nuclear issues outside the scope of the agreement.
Yet another provision would authorize the delivery to Israel of Washington’s most powerful Massive Ordinance Penetration munitions (MOPs) and the means to deliver them against Iran’s nuclear facilities, a move that administration officials have long said they strongly oppose. This would be one part of a much- enhanced package of military assistance for Israel.
Other provisions appear designed to “renegotiate” certain provisions of the JCPOA; for example, by eliminating the exemption of any contracts agreed to between Iran and foreign companies during the implementation phase in the event that sanctions are “snapped back.” It also requires Iran to abide by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty’s (NPT) Additional Protocol as of “adoption day,” even if the Iranian parliament has not yet ratified the Protocol.
We hear that the sponsors intend to push this through Congress as a companion to the disapproval resolution. The idea is to enable nervous Democrats to demonstrate their strong support for Israel and their undiluted distrust and hostility toward Iran. The fear is that if this measure isn’t passed now, then it could prove much more difficult to pass once Iran begins to implement the agreement.
Here is a summary of the draft bill which, as I understand it, is still very much a work in progress.
The Iran Policy Oversight Act of 2015
Building on the bipartisan commitment to oversight outlined in the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015 – PL 114-17
Sets the U.S.’s going-forward Iran policy regarding the nuclear issue: The United States will never permit Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon, and all options available to the United States, including the military option, remain available.
Clarifies key interpretive issues in the JCPOA, which would also apply to subsequent agreements, including:
No sanctions relief will be provided to Iran until it meets its commitments related to resolution of PMD [possible military dimensions] issues.
Any production of HEU by Iran would be a violation of the JCPOA.
Nothing in the JCPOA limits or curtails Congress’ ability to pass sanctions legislation addressed to legitimate foreign policy purposes, including sanctions related to terrorism, human rights, and Iran’s ballistic missile activities.
There is no “grandfather clause” that would shield ongoing sanctionable activities by foreign firms in the event of a snap-back of Iran sanctions.
The JCPOA commits Iran to abide by all the provisions of the Additional Protocol of the NPT as of “adoption day,” regardless of whether the Iranian parliament approves the Additional Protocol.
Requires the Administration to submit:
A ten-year regional strategy for Countering Conventional and Asymmetric Iranian Activity and Threats in the Middle East and North Africa within six months, and every two years thereafter,
Report[s] detailing Iran’s use of funds received through sanctions relief and changes in funding for regional activities and support for terrorism,
Reports detailing Iran’s R&D activities as well as estimated nuclear weapons capability breakout time, and
A report addressing the IAEA’s resolution of the PMD issue.
Explicitly authorizes additional, specific security assistance to Israel, including bunker-busting MOPs, to ensure the President can and should take all necessary and appropriate measures to ensure Israel has the means and capacity to defend itself against nuclear and other threats from Iran.
Continues in effect banking sanctions addressed to ballistic missile proliferation and terrorism sanctions, unless the President certifies that designated financial institutions have ceased their support for missile proliferation and terrorism. Also continues in effect sanctions related to human rights abuses.
Requires the President to seek multilateral arrangements to both maintain control of exports related to conventional arms and ballistic missiles to Iran, and ensure an effective snap-back policy to respond to any non-compliance incidents as well as breach of the JCPOA by Iran.
Puts into place expedited procedures for consideration of new terrorism sanctions against Iran if Iran:
1) directs or conducts an act of terrorism against the U.S., or
2) substantially increases its operational or financial support for a terrorist organization that threatens U.S. interests or allies.
Requires the President to appoint a Coordinator for Compliance within the Department of State to:
1) coordinate all activities related to implementation of the JCPOA and any subsequent related agreements, and
2) monitor human rights abuses and activities relating to support for acts of international terrorism by the government of Iran.
They won’t anyway and it will cost us much more
There are a lot of expressions about standing up to bullies being the best policy. Unfortunately the White House has difficulty in following that sound advice when it comes to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his governing coalition of racists and thugs. And one might also add that the reticence also applies to dealing with Israel’s many friends in Congress, some of whom have apparently extorted their pound of flesh in exchange for their votes on the Iran deal.
Israel is already the military colossus in the Middle East, with formidable high tech ground, sea and air forces backed up by a semi-secret nuclear arsenal with modern delivery systems and several defensive missile system referred to as Iron Dome, Arrow 4 and David Sling. The defense systems were developed and deployed using $3 billion of U.S. Treasury special “grants” while roughly 20% of Israel’s annual total defense budget comes directly from the American taxpayer. This is all justified on the basis of sustaining Israel’s “Qualitative Military Edge,” an expression that has its own acronym QME and that is much loved by America’s national legislators, the White House and the media. In reality, Israel possesses an enormous military superiority relative to all its neighbors combined and has benefited from that capability for many years, all thanks to the United States of America.
But for some, too much is never enough. President Barack Obama is struggling to line up sufficient Democratic votes to block any congressional veto of his Iran agreement. At this point it looks like he will succeed, but the effort has brought with it the type of backstage politicking that most Americans have come to despise. Both Netanyahu and select Congressmen are being treated to a package of bribes for Israel that defies all reason, particularly given the fact that even the Israeli defense and intelligence establishments have split with Bibi’s government and sensibly declared the agreement with Iran to be better than any alternative. So even though defanging Iran is good for Israel, Washington nevertheless feels compelled to sweeten the pot, with actual American interests as usual ignored or not even considered.
How it all works has been revealed by Walter Pincus of the Washington Post, who apparently has seen a copy of a personal letter from President Obama that was sent to Democratic Congressman Jerrold Nadler, a representative from New York who was hesitating over how to cast his vote regarding Iran. Nadler’s district is reported to be heavily Jewish and the congressman, himself Jewish, has long been an outspoken advocate for Israel. The letter he received may have been similar or even identical to letters presumably sent to other Congressmen who have also been sitting on the fence over the Iran deal.
Obama, to give him his due, cleverly focuses on “our enhanced support for Israel” as the way to get to Nadler’s vote, thereby enabling the Congressman to cite what Israel will be getting out of it as he explains to his angry constituents why he is defying the call by Netanyahu to vote down the deal.
President Obama, boasting in the letter that “no administration has done more for Israel’s security than mine,” adds that he is “prepared to further strengthen the relationship.” Indeed he does. He commits the United States to extend the U.S. commitment to provide Israel with $3.5 billion per year for purchasing military equipment for an additional decade after the current George W. Bush era program expires in 2018. The letter notes a “unique element” in the purchase agreement which allows Tel Aviv to spend up to 26.3% of the money on Israeli manufactured equipment.
Beyond the $3 billion plus per annum, Obama also pledged to continue extra funding for “collaborative research and development for tunnel detection and mapping technologies,” a program that only benefits Israel. Israel will also be the only country in the Middle East to receive the new advanced F-35 fighter when it finally becomes operational next year, all paid for by the American taxpayer.
Apart from the fact that the United States is inexplicably giving billions to an Israel that has a thriving economy with Western European levels of income, there are a number of problems with this Obama deal and the nature of the “special relationship” that it represents. For Washington, Israel is the squeaking wheel that is constantly requiring applications of grease to keep quiet. The grease is liberally applied, but the wheel keeps squeaking, the noise generally emanating from the office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has been directly interfering in U.S. politics since 2012.
One problem is that the United States is allowing Israel to use the money to be armed and equipped in a fashion which is directly contrary to American interests. A May offering of $1.88 billion in new equipment to Israel included 50 BLU-113 5,000 pound bombs with special penetrating nose cones that can be used against underground targets. Those targets would include Iran’s nuclear facilities, most notably its Fodrow underground uranium enrichment plant. Israel’s friends have also been agitating for the much larger 30,000 pound version of the bomb together with the heavy bombers needed to drop it on target. If past history is anything to go by it is merely a matter of time before they are granted their wish.
Bombing Iran is not exactly a U.S. interest at the moment – quite the contrary. Is it far-fetched to imagine Netanyahu staging such an attack to upset the apple cart and destroy any chance of Iranian rapprochement with Washington? A month ago I would have said no, but last week former Israeli Prime Minister and Defense Minister Ehud Barak revealed that both he and Netanyahu did indeed want to bomb Iran in 2010-2012 but backed down because of technical issues and also due to the refusal of key cabinet members and military officers to support the decision.
A second problem is the authorization for Israel to spend American taxpayer money on equipment produced locally. Israel is a major weapons supplier worldwide, sometimes both selling and providing training to regimes that many consider unsavory. Its own military industrial complex was built up using the largesse coming from the United States and it now competes with American companies. It also has a well-established record of stealing United States developed military technology and then re-exporting it under its own label, a win-win for Israel but a lose-lose for American companies.
While I am far from a fan of America’s military industrial congressional complex, using American tax dollars to subsidize a foreign competitor is the height of insanity. It will cut into exports and cost American jobs. Combining that reality with the fact that no amount of bribery will make Netanyahu shut up and that Israel will likely use some of the gifted weapons in ways that will cause difficulties for Washington the constant introduction of more money and more arms for Israel is just not a good idea. Kudos to Obama for having proceeded as far as he has with the Iran agreement but if a Congressman from New York cannot for once perceive that a deal is good for America he should resign his seat and go home. Constantly playing the Israel card has not been good for politics in the United States and it has also not been good for Israel itself as well as for the Middle East region. It is time to cut the tie that binds.
US Vice President Joe Biden will go to Florida to “beg” American Jewish leaders to allow Washington to have its nuclear agreement with Iran, says a political commentator.
“Something this critically important to American foreign policy means only one thing… begging to powerful Jews to let America have its deal,” said David Christie, a broadcast journalist based in New York.
Christie made the remarks in an interview with Press TV on Friday while commenting on Biden’s plan to visit Jewish leaders in Miami next week.
Biden’s office said in a statement that he will “participate in a discussion organized by [chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee] Debbie Wasserman Schultz to discuss the Iran deal with leaders in the Jewish community.”
The vice president, who has played an important behind-the-scenes role in the Obama administration’s lobbying push for the agreement approval by Congress in September, hopes to win support from Wasserman Schultz who has not announced her position on the issue.
“The best way to do that is for Joe [Biden] to make a pilgrimage to Miami so he can pay homage to the one group that has been at the core of our bizarre obsession with forging a nuclear deal with a country that can never be a threat to us in the first place,” said Christie.
Iran and the P5+1 group of countries — the US, Britain, France, Russia, China, and Germany – announced the conclusion of nuclear negotiations in the Austrian capital, Vienna, on July 14. The US Congress will vote on the agreement in September.
Under the agreement, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, restrictions will be put on Iran’s nuclear activities in exchange for, among other things, the removal of all economic sanctions against the Islamic Republic.
“Indeed, none of our hysterical pre-occupation within an Iranian deal would even exist if it weren’t for what has become the mission in life for all US politicians and of course, that is to serve and protect Israel at all—and I mean—all costs,” said the journalist.
According to Carol Greenwald writing at American Thinker on 27 August 2015, Washington Post writer “[Carol] Morello does not mention how incredible it was that a few people, mostly a woman named Marsha Halteman from New Orleans, in one week could get 190 flag officers to sign a public letter stating that “the JCPOA [Iran Deal] would threaten the national security and vital interests of the United States and, therefore, should be disapproved by the Congress.”
Well not so incredible at all thanks to the Jewish Institute of National Security Affairs (JINSA) very successful Generals and Admiral Program that has been in operation for many years. It has been the pipeline for 400 American military officers to visit Israel. Israel also runs similar programs for US military academy students and US law enforcement personnel.
The purpose of bringing American military personnel—and military academy students—is to maintain “Continued and robust military-to-military dialogue between the American and Israeli defense establishments is central to JINSA’s philosophy. The annual Generals and Admirals Program to Israel, in which recently retired American generals and admirals are invited to visit Israel with JINSA to meet the top echelon of the Israeli military and political leadership, ensures that the American delegation is well briefed on the security concerns of Israel, as well as the key role Israel plays as a friend and ally of the U.S. To date, JINSA has taken close to 400 retired officers to Israel, many of whom serve on JINSA’s Board of Advisors.”
As of this writing the Washington Post does not appear to have updated its story on the incredible effort of Marsha Halteman who is the recipient of a prestigious award from a US combatant command.
“It gives us great pleasure to announce that JINSA’s Marsha Halteman will be honored by the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) with their Outstanding Civilian Service Medal for her tireless work on JINSA’s Soldiers Appeal, which raises funds for military members and their families who are in need of financial assistance. Her selfless and hard work is instrumental in actively supporting a USSOCOM priority – enhancing the quality of life of the individual warrior and family. Established by the Commander of USSOCOM in September 1998, the Outstanding Civilian Service Medal recognizes civilians who have provided outstanding support or service. For Marsha, this work has been both an act of love and admiration for our men and women in uniform, as well as above and beyond the call of duty. She has truly made a difference in the lives of so many soldiers and their families and she is most deserving of this award. This prestigious award will be presented to Marsha by a senior member of the USSOCOM Command at JINSA’s Spring 2014 Leadership Conference. Details of this meeting and a formal “Save the Date” will be released soon. We hope that many of you will be able to join us for the meeting and to honor Marsha.”
If the US national security and political establishment had the dedication, tenacity and thoroughness of the Israeli’s—in their pursuit of their national security interests, the USA would be a far more powerful country abroad and maybe at home. Israel’s interests are represented in every nook and cranny in the United States at the local, state and federal levels. They believe in Israel, nothing else. That deserves respect. American leaders, comparatively, are pathetic.
The hysterical campaign launched against the Iran nuclear deal by the flag-waving militarist partisans in and around the US congress has terribly obfuscated the issues included in the deal. Not surprisingly, the campaign has created a number of misconceptions regarding both the actual contents of the deal and the main disagreements between the advocates and opponents of the deal.
One such misconception is that the deal is, or must be, more advantageous to Iran than the US and Israel; otherwise, the simple logic goes, there would not be so much opposition to it. Such impressions, created simply by all the hue and cry on the part of the opponents of the deal are patently false. Even a cursory reading of the nuclear agreement reveals that, as I pointed out in a recent article on the issue, it is highly skewed against Iran. Not only does the agreement downgrade and freeze Iran’s peaceful nuclear technology, it also limits the scope of the county’s scientific research and development, jeopardizes its national security or defense capabilities and, perhaps most importantly, undermines its national sovereignty.
So, considering the fact the deal represents a big win for the US and its allies and, by the same token, a major loss for Iran, why all the uproar against it?
A number of reasons can be thought of for all the war party’s feverish hullabaloo. The main reason, however, seems to be that while the deal obviously represents a fantastic victory for the US and its allies, it nonetheless falls short of what the war party projected and fought for, that is, devastating regime change by military means, similar to what was done to Iraq and Libya.
The second misconception that the war party’s vehement opposition to the nuclear deal has created is that their ultimate goal vis-à-vis Iran is significantly different from that of the Obama administration and other proponents of the deal. In reality, however, the difference between the opponents and proponents of the deal is largely tactical; strategically, both factions pursue the same objective: regime change in Iran.
While the advocates of the deal have in recent years switched their tactics from direct military intervention and regime change from without to soft-power methods of regime change from within, the opponents of the deal continue to insist that overwhelming military force and escalating economic strangulation are the more effective means of regime change in Tehran, that is, regime change from outside.
This does not mean that the advocates of the nuclear deal have ruled out the military option altogether—by no means. As President Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry and other administration officials have frequently pointed out, the military option is on the table when/if needed, that is, if Iran fails to carry out all the punishing obligations under the nuclear deal.
The tactical switch by the proponents of the deal from military to soft-power methods of regime change did not come about overnight, or by an epiphany. For over thirty years since the 1979 revolution in Iran, which significantly undermined the U.S. influence in that country and elsewhere in the region, these proponents, like their counterparts in the war party, pursued policies of regime change from outside. These included instigation of and support for Saddam Hussein to invade Iran, training and supporting destabilizing terrorist organizations to attack Iran from all corners of the country, constant war and military threats, efforts to sabotage the 2009 presidential election through the so-called “green revolution,” and systematic escalation of economic sanctions.
Not only did these evil schemes fall short of their nefarious goal of “regime change” in Iran, they in fact drove the country to become a major power in the region.
In the face of the brutal economic sanctions and constant military threats, Iran embarked on a relatively radical path of a public/state-guided economy that successfully provided both for the war mobilization to defend its territorial integrity and for respectable living conditions of its population. By taking control of the commanding heights of the national economy, and effectively utilizing the revolutionary energy and dedication of their people, Iranian policy makers at the time also succeeded in taking significant steps toward economic self-reliance, which further thwarted the geopolitical plans of the US and its allies to bring Iran to its knees, or to overthrow its government.
Having thus failed at its plots of “regime change” from without, a major faction of the US ruling class, headed by the Obama administration, now seems to have opted for regime change (or reform) from within; that is, through political and economic rapprochement with Iran—using the nuclear negotiations as a starting point, or transitional channel.
What has made this option more promising in recent years is the rise of a well-organized, Western-oriented neoliberal capitalist class in Iran whose chief priority seems to be the ability to do business with their counterparts in the West.
Many of the once revolutionary leaders who successfully managed the 1980-88 war economy have now become business entrepreneurs and prosperous capitalists. Having effectively enriched themselves in the shadow of the public sector economy, these folks are now ready to do business American style, that is, follow the neoliberal/austerity model of economics.
It is thus understandable why major factions within Iran’s ruling circles, represented largely by the Rouhani administration, have no stomach for a regimented, war-like economy; and why they support the highly disgraceful compromises made by Iran’s nuclear negotiators to the United States and its allies. For the rich and powerful elites of these circles issues such as nuclear technology or national sovereignty are of secondary importance to self-enrichment, or profit motive.
It follows that the Obama administration and other US advocates of the nuclear deal opted for negotiation with Iran only after they came to the realization that (a) continuing on the path of regime change from outside tended to be ineffective, or even counterproductive, and (b) the rise of a pro-US, collaborationist capitalist class in Iran increasingly promised to be a more effective vehicle of spreading the US influence in Iran and, ultimately, of regime change from within.
Indeed, the Obama administration’s recent approach of relying primarily on business/market forces of regime change, or modification, without ruling out the military option is likely to be more effective in achieving its goal than the war party’s reckless insistence on escalating sanctions and military threats.
The effectiveness of this approach lies in the fact that, as pointed out earlier, the nuclear deal would significantly limit Iran’s military and defense capabilities. The deal would also avail the US extensive knowledge of Iran’s economic, technological, security, and military capabilities and, therefore, vulnerabilities. This means that if at any time in the future Iran defies or resists the heavy-handed imperialistic designs of the United States, the US can then employ its war machine more effectively as it would have the necessary information on strategic places or targets to be attacked or bombarded.
This is no speculation or conspiracy theory. It is, indeed, a scenario projected by the Obama administration officials and other advocates of the nuclear deal as they promote it ahead of the next month’s critical vote in Congress. “In meetings on Capitol Hill and with influential policy analysts, administration officials argue that inspections of Iran’s nuclear facilities under the deal will reveal important details that can be used for better targeting should the U.S. decide to attack Iran” .
Commenting on this ominous depraved scheme, Representative Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, told Michael Crowley of Politico, “It’s certainly an argument I’ve heard made. . . . We’ll be better off with the agreement were we to need to use force” .
To see how this menacing projection is not simply an abstract or partisan argument, suffice it to remember the fact that this is exactly what was done to Iraq and Libya. In both cases, the United States and its allies used disingenuous negotiations with Saddam Hussein and Muammar al-Qaddafi as pretexts to collect information about their military/defense capabilities and, then, used the information thus acquired for targeted bombardment and effective invasion.
 Michael Crowley, The ultimate argument in favor of the Iran deal: The agreement would make it easier to bomb Iran, administration officials have told lawmakers.
Ismael Hossein-zadeh is Professor Emeritus of Economics (Drake University). He is the author of Beyond Mainstream Explanations of the Financial Crisis (Routledge 2014), and The Political Economy of U.S. Militarism (Palgrave–Macmillan 2007).
You’ve probably heard of iSideWith.com; it’s the site with that helpful quiz that tells you which of the presidential candidates you most agree (and disagree) with on a range of political and social issues.
The efficacy of the quiz, however, requires the asking of questions based on accurate information. Unfortunately, the single Iran-related query in the poll and the accompanying explanatory information are rife with factual errors. These errors and misinformation undoubtedly shape the ways in which less-informed users understand the issue and how they will respond.
Here’s the Iran question:
Should the U.S. conduct targeted airstrikes on Iran’s nuclear weapons facilities?
The iStandWith poll, in its framing of the Iran question, repeats an egregious error. Iran does not have any “nuclear weapons facilities,” quite simply because – as affirmed by all American, European and Israeli intelligence communities and others for years now, including the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) – Iran has no nuclear weapons program. All 16 U.S. intelligence agencies have collectively concurred since 2007 that, even if Iran had conducted research into nuclear weaponry in the past, this research (which is not itself prohibited under international law) ceased in 2003 and has not resumed. This assessment has been reaffirmed multiple times since.
Not only this, the Iranian leadership is judged time and again not to have even made a decision on whether to embark on a nuclear weapons program (unless, of course, you count the decades-long repetition by the Iranian government that they have indeed made such a decision: and that decision is to never build or acquire a nuclear weapon).
So iStandWith’s entire contention is faulty from the start. The U.S. can’t bomb Iran’s “nuclear weapons facilities” because they don’t actually exist. Such a flawed question is sure to elicit mistaken comprehension by respondents unfamiliar with these facts, who are led to believe that Iran is doing something it’s not actually doing at all.
For those less informed on this issue, however, iStandWith provides a brief primer for interested users. By clicking a “learn more” button, this paragraph of text is revealed:
In July 2015 the U.S. reached an accord with Iran to limit their ability to put uranium or plutonium in weapons. Iran agreed to turn one nuclear plant into a scientific research facility and shut another one down. Iran agreed to let the International Atomic Energy Agency inspect these sites. Critics argue that the deal gave too many concessions to the Iranians including a provision that gives them up to 24 days to grant inspectors access to their facilities. Proponents argue that the deal makes the possibility of Iran developing a nuclear weapon in the next 25 years extremely remote.
The first sentence – like the last – is reductive, speculative, and incomplete, but okay, fine. It’s the stuff in the middle that’s extremely problematic and, unfortunately, the mistakes compound rapidly.
iSideWith says: Iran agreed to turn one nuclear plant into a scientific research facility and shut another one down.
The facility at Fordow, which iStandWith describes as a “nuclear plant,” is actually a uranium enrichment facility, which, yes, Iran has agreed to convert into an international nuclear, physics, and technology research lab. The installed and operational centrifuges at Fordow will no longer enrich uranium, but will be used for experiments involving non-fissile material.
The other facility referenced above is the Arak heavy-water research reactor, which will not be “shut down,” as iStandWith claims. Actually, it is still under construction and, as such, has never been operational, so there’s nothing to “shut down.” The Arak reactor, far from being shuttered or dismantled under the agreement, will be reconfigured with international support and will operate under full safeguards as planned.
iSideWith says: Iran agreed to let the International Atomic Energy Agency inspect these sites.
The sites mentioned by iStandWith above – Fordow and Arak – have already been inspected regularly by the IAEA for years: Fordow since it was declared in 2009 and Arak since it was declared in 2002. They are fully-safeguarded facilities, under constant IAEA containment and surveillance. Inspections are not the result of the new deal. Many other sites related to Iran’s nuclear program are also routinely inspected and have been for years. All nuclear material remains under agency seal, containment and surveillance and no diversion of nuclear material to military purposes has ever been reported.
iSideWith says: Critics argue that the deal gave too many concessions to the Iranians including a provision that gives them up to 24 days to grant inspectors access to their facilities.
This is just all kinds of wrong. All of Iran’s declared nuclear facilities and sites (including hospitals that use radioisotopes to treat cancer patients) are already open and accessible to inspectors at all times. This is not a function of the agreement, this is standard practice under Iran’s safeguards protocol with the IAEA, in place since 1974. This constant and consistent access now includes, under the new deal, inspections and monitoring of all aspects of Iran’s nuclear supply chain, such as centrifuge workshops and uranium mines and mills. These kinds of non-nuclear facilities are not safeguarded anywhere else on Earth. Inspectors have daily access to all of these sites; no provision in the deal limits this. This fact alone is proof of the massive concessions Iran has agreed to to try and end this absurd decades-long charade.
(By the way, no other nation involved in these negotiations has relinquished any aspect of their own sovereignty, inalienable rights or self-determination to achieve this deal. The lifting of sanctions, designed specifically to force Iranian capitulation to American demands, the abrogation of internationally-recognized and guaranteed national nuclear rights, and exact suffering upon the Iranian people, is not a concession – it is the inevitable, and theoretically desired, result of successful diplomacy and voluntary Iranian compromise.)
The specific bone of contention mentioned by iSideWith – the so-called 24-day delay – is also completely misunderstood. For one, the claim has to do with undeclared sites where the IAEA may suspect Iran is conducted proscribed activities. Undeclared sites, such as military bases and research installations, are legally off-limits to inspectors. The seven parties to the deal – Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia, the United States and Iran – have attempted to square this circle through a reasonable review process.
Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, has explained that, rather than 24 days, “the IAEA will need to give only 24 hours’ notice before showing up at a suspicious site to take samples. Access could even be requested with as little as two hours’ notice, something that will be much more feasible now that Iran has agreed to let inspectors stay in-country for the long term. Iran is obligated to provide the IAEA access to all such sites…”
“What happens if Iran tries to stall and refuses to provide access, on whatever grounds?” Lewis continues, before laying out the parameters of the process:
There is a strict time limit on stalling. Iran must provide access within two weeks. If Iran refuses, the Joint Commission set up under the deal must decide within seven days whether to force access. Following a majority vote in the Joint Commission — where the United States and its allies constitute a majority bloc — Iran has three days to comply. If it doesn’t, it’s openly violating the deal, which would be grounds for the swift return of the international sanctions regime, known colloquially as the “snap back.”
This arrangement is much, much stronger than the normal safeguards agreement, which requires prompt access in theory but does not place time limits on dickering.
What opponents of the deal have done is add up all the time limits and claim that inspections will occur only after a 24-day pause. This is simply not true.
Unfortunately, the guys running iSideWith – Taylor Peck and Nick Boutelier – don’t seem to know any of this. But they should, especially since they’re claiming to be providing context upon which their users can make informed decisions about supporting an unprovoked and illegal military assault on a country of 80 million people.
It appears that iSideWith should first inform itself before siding with discredited allegations and base propaganda over clear facts. Without a doubt, the Iran poll question should be updated to reflect reality.