mykeystrokes.com

"Do or Do not. There is no try."

“The Art Of The Deal”: Congress Has A Clear Choice, Approve This Deal Or Watch Iran Grow Stronger

In the annals of nuclear arms control accords, the deal signed with Iran on Tuesday morning is a remarkably good deal. The 159-page document—titled “Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action”—is more elaborate, detailed, and allows for more intrusive inspections than any Soviet-American arms treaty completed during the Cold War.

Of course, to many, that’s not good enough. For some critics, any deal with Iran is a bad deal; the very act of negotiating with the Islamic Republic is seen as tantamount to appeasement. Other critics, though, have voiced reasonable concerns: whether a deal like this, with a regime like Iran’s, can be verified with any confidence; whether the West might end up lifting economic sanctions before Iran has truly abandoned its (presumed) ambitions to build nuclear weapons; and whether the sanctions can be restored, and other countermeasures be taken, if Iran is seen as cheating.

The main articles of the deal have been outlined elsewhere, and no serious critic can dispute their merits. If Iran observes the deal’s terms, all paths to a nuclear bomb—whether through enriched uranium or plutonium—will be cut off for at least 10 years. (Those who object that 10 years is like the blink of an eye have got to be kidding. These same people warn that Iran could build a bomb within one year from now. Which outcome is preferable?) The real question, then, is what the agreement does to help ensure that Iran observes the deal.

In fact, it does quite a lot. When this round of the talks got under way last month in Vienna, Iran’s supreme leader, the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, made some statements that raised a lot of eyebrows: He said that sanctions must be lifted upon the signing of a deal and that no international inspectors would be allowed on Iranian military sites. I’ve supported these negotiations, but even I wrote that if Khamenei’s words held sway, no final deal was possible.

As it turns out, whatever the supreme leader’s motive was in making those remarks, they are not reflected in the deal signed Tuesday morning.

The timing of sanctions-relief is addressed in Annex V of the document, and it’s very clear that nothing gets lifted right away. This is a step-by-step process.

The first step is “Adoption Day,” which occurs 90 days after the deal is endorsed by the U.N. Security Council. On that day, the United States and the European Union start taking legal steps to lift certain sanctions—while Iran must pass the Additional Protocol of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (which allows for onsite inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency) and issue a statement on “Past and Present Issues of Concern,” acknowledging or explaining military aspects of its nuclear program in the past. (Many critics were certain that Iran would never own up to this obligation.)

The second step is “Implementation Day.” This is when the West really starts to lift sanctions, but only “upon the IAEA-verified implementation by Iran of the nuclear-related measures”—that is, only after international inspectors are satisfied that Iran has fulfilled its main responsibilities in freezing and reducing elements of its nuclear program. Section 15 of Annex V lists 11 specific requirements that Iran must have fulfilled, including converting the Arak heavy-water research reactor, so it can no longer produce plutonium; reducing the number of centrifuges and halting production of advanced centrifuges; slashing its uranium stocks; and completing all “transparency measures” to let the inspectors do their job.

The third step is “Transition Day,” when more sanctions are dropped. This happens eight years after Adoption Day, and even then only after the IAEA Board of Governors issues a report, concluding “that all nuclear material in Iran remains in peaceful activities.”

Finally, there is “UNSCR [U.N. Security Council Resolution] Termination Day,” when the Security Council drops all of its remaining nuclear-related sanctions. This happens 10 years after Adoption Day.

In other words, sanctions are not lifted upon the signing of the deal or anytime at all soon—and when they are lifted, it’s only after inspectors signify that Iran is abiding by the terms of the deal, not simply that a certain date on the calendar has passed.

But how will the inspectors know this? The Advanced Protocol of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, which Iran must sign and ratify soon, allows international inspectors inside known nuclear sites. But what about covert sites? This has always been a knotty issue in arms control talks. No country would sign an accord that lets outsiders inspect any military site of their choosing simply because they “suspect” covert nuclear activity might be going on there. And yet covert nuclear activity might be going on somewhere. How to reconcile this genuine dilemma?

The deal’s section on “Access,” beginning with Article 74, lays out the protocols. If the inspectors suspect that nuclear activities are going on at undeclared sites, they will request access, laying out the reasons for their concerns. If access is denied, the matter can be turned over to a joint commission, consisting of delegates from the countries that negotiated the deal, which would have to rule on the request—either by consensus or majority vote—within seven days.

This may seem legalistic to some, but what are the alternatives? Meanwhile, under other articles of the deal, the inspectors will have access to the complete “supply chain” of Iran’s nuclear materials—from the production of centrifuges to the stockpile of uranium to such esoterica as all work on neutrons, uranium metallurgy, and multipoint detonation optics. For instance, centrifuge rotor tubes and bellows will be kept under surveillance for 20 years.

The point is, cheating—pursuing an atomic weapon covertly—requires a number of steps, at a number of complexes, some of which are very likely to be detected, given the IAEA’s rights of surveillance. If Iran suddenly denies IAEA those rights, if it ignores a decision by the joint commission, the United States and the European Union can pull out of the deal and reinstate the sanctions. Some fear that the Western leaders wouldn’t take that step, that they might put too much stake in the deal to let a few possible violations get in the way. The critics may have a point, but this is a matter to be settled politically and diplomatically. No treaty could survive the scrutiny of every what-if scenario.

Congress now has 60 days to examine this deal. Its leaders, who distrust Iran (with some reason) and want to deny President Obama any diplomatic triumph (especially in an election season), will pry open every crevice for ambiguities and loopholes, and they will no doubt find a few.

But here’s the proper question: Which state of affairs is better for national and international security: an Iran, even a gradually more economically robust Iran, that’s constrained in its nuclear program and bound by international inspectors or an Iran with growing nuclear capability and no diplomatic obligations, burdened with no foreign watchdogs on the ground? It’s worth noting that the economic sanctions have held in place for as long as they have only because they were seen as incentives to drive Iran to the negotiating table—as a bargaining chip to get a nuclear deal. If the deal falls apart, especially if it falls apart because the U.S. Congress makes it fall apart, the sanctions will collapse as well. Then Iran will grow in strength—and be unconstrained by restrictions, foreign inspectors, and the rest.

The details are worth examining, but the choice is clear.

 

By: Fred Kaplan, Slate, July 14, 2015

 

July 15, 2015 Posted by | Congress, European Union, Iran Nuclear Agreement | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“What Could Possibly Go Wrong?”: Cotton Sees Bombing Iran As No Big Deal

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) has made no real effort to hide his support for a military confrontation with Iran. But in an interview yesterday on the Family Research Council’s radio show, the right-wing freshman went a little further, suggesting bombing Iran would be quick and simple.

Indeed, as BuzzFeed’s report noted, Cotton argued that U.S. strikes in Iran would go much smoother than the invasion of Iraq “and would instead be similar to 1999’s Operation Desert Fox, a four-day bombing campaign against Iraq ordered by President Bill Clinton.”

“Even if military action were required – and we certainly should have kept the credible threat of military force on the table throughout which always improves diplomacy – the president is trying to make you think it would be 150,000 heavy mechanized troops on the ground in the Middle East again as we saw in Iraq and that’s simply not the case,” Cotton said.

“It would be something more along the lines of what President Clinton did in December 1998 during Operation Desert Fox. Several days [of] air and naval bombing against Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction facilities for exactly the same kind of behavior.”

For the record, the Arkansas Republican did not use the word “cakewalk” or assure listeners that we’d be “greeted as liberators.”

Look, we’ve seen this play before, and we have a pretty good idea how it turns out. When a right-wing neoconservative tells Americans that we can launch a new military offensive in the Middle East, it won’t last long, and the whole thing will greatly improve our national security interests, there’s reason for some skepticism.

Tom Cotton – the guy who told voters last year that ISIS and Mexican drug cartels might team up to attack Arkansans – wants to bomb Iran, so he’s telling the public how easy it would be.

What the senator didn’t talk about yesterday is what happens after the bombs fall – or even what transpires when Iran shoots back during the campaign. Are we to believe Tehran would just accept the attack and move on?

Similarly, Cotton neglected to talk about the broader consequences of an offensive, including the likelihood that airstrikes would end up accelerating Iran’s nuclear ambitions going forward.

There’s also the inconvenient detail that the Bush/Cheney administration weighed a military option against Iran, but it concluded that “a military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities would be a bad idea – and would only make it harder to prevent Iran from going nuclear in the future.”

But don’t worry, America, Tom Cotton thinks this would all be easy and we could drop our bombs without consequence. What could possibly go wrong?

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, April 8, 2015

April 9, 2015 Posted by | Iran, Iraq War, Tom Cotton | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Barack Obama Is Not Neville Chamberlain”: Have The Iranians Emerged Stronger From Lausanne? No

Let’s not fool ourselves into thinking that we have secured a long-lasting peace with Iran, or that Tehran’s deeply troubling bad behavior in the Middle East will be modified.

We all know the framework nuclear agreement between six world powers and Iran is far from perfect — when you’re sitting at the table with the Russians, Chinese, French, and Iranians, how could it be? — but it has bought something quite valuable: time. And now, the underlying, fundamental question — does the deal dampen the prospect of war itself? — must be answered, ever so cautiously, yes.

Predictably, hawkish critics have been quick to accuse President Obama over the last several months (before the agreement was even reached) of selling out Israel with these Iran negotiations, with comparisons writ large to Neville Chamberlain, the feckless British prime minister who threw the Sudetenland (a portion of sovereign Czechoslovakia) to the wolves to appease Hitler in 1938 (the French were in on the sellout as well). It is “peace in our time,” Chamberlain proclaimed, waving a piece of paper to prove it.

But wolves are always hungry. Six months after the Munich deal, Hitler gobbled up the rest of Czechoslovakia as well — before rolling into Poland six months after that. The second World War was on, and Chamberlain would go down in history as a naif, a coward, or both.

Unprepared and anxious to avoid war, British and French demands during the Czech crisis were directed not at the source of the problem — Hitler — but at his intended victim, the Czechs. The Germans were never asked to disarm or even scale back their growing military machine. The true appeasement of Munich was the feeding of the wolf with the naive belief that it would not wish to feed again.

Hitler emerged from Munich stronger, having won everything he desired and giving up nothing to Chamberlain. Have the Iranians emerged stronger from Lausanne? No.

Iran is giving up 68 percent of its nuclear centrifuges for at least a decade. Tehran has agreed to not enrich uranium beyond 3.67 percent purity — enough to produce electricity but nowhere near the level needed for nuclear weapons — for 15 years. Its current stockpile of low-enriched uranium —10,000 kiliograms — will be cut 97 percent. The once-secret enrichment plant at Fordo — discovered by American intelligence in 2009 — will be converted to a “research center.” A heavy water reactor at Arak — theoretically capable of producing weapons-grade plutonium — will be redesigned and rebuilt to prevent this.

Can Iran be trusted to actually do all this? Not on your life. For more than a quarter-century, Iran has lied about and hidden virtually every part of its nuclear program from the rest of the world. It has threatened to destroy Israel. To this day, it continues to support terror groups like Hezbollah and murderous regimes like Syria. Iran has since 1984 been considered by the U.S. to be a state sponsor of terrorism.

This is why as part of the Lausanne framework, the U.S. and its allies have demanded regular and intrusive access for international inspectors — not just of Iran’s nuclear facilities, but of their supply chains. And it’s why the sanctions that have crippled a broad swath of the Iranian economy will remain in place and be lifted gradually and only when the U.S. and others are satisfied that their demands are being met. Beyond this intrusive on-ground presence, U.S. ELINT (electronic intelligence gathering) and other measures will be stepped up to provide extra layers of scrutiny.

The WWII appeasement comparisons lobbed by Obama’s critics would only be remotely accurate if Chamberlain and France’s Édouard Daladier told Hitler in 1938 that he needed to dismantle two-thirds of the Wehrmacht to prove his intentions benign, or that Allied inspectors must be allowed into German armament factories in the Ruhr to ensure no further production of Panzers.

Obama, German Chancellor Merkel, French President Hollande (whose position on Iran has been toughest of all) and Britain’s outgoing Prime Minister Cameron know better. “Distrust but verify” is the phrase you hear in the West Wing — better than Reagan’s “trust but verify,” which he used with a far bigger and more dangerous enemy, the Soviet Union, back in the 1980s.

Is Obama Neville Chamberlain because he hasn’t insisted on the complete fantasy of total disarmament from Iran? Of course not. Iran isn’t a vanquished power, like Germany or Japan in 1945, when we had total command of the strategic situation and could dictate terms to a T. Diplomacy and arms reduction is a process of gradualism, with each side — wary and distrusting — cautiously taking interim steps and searching for common ground. The last four decades of relations between Washington and Moscow — frosty, warmer, and now frosty again — have been defined by competition, distrust, misunderstandings, and a series of gradual arms reductions pacts.

Has Obama sold out Israel as Chamberlain did Czechoslovakia? Of course not. Obama has stepped up funding of Iron Dome, the missile defense system that saved lives during last year’s war with Hamas. He quietly gave Benjamin Netanyahu bunker buster bombs — a request rejected by the Bush administration out of fear that Israel was sending U.S. military technology to China. “Even some of the hawks from the George W. Bush administration grudgingly give Obama credit for behind-the-scenes progress,” says former Reagan foreign policy advisor Elliott Abrams. And Ehud Barak — Netanyahu’s former defense minister and a former prime minister himself, tells CNN, “I should tell you honestly that this administration under President Obama is doing in regard to our security is more than anything that I can remember in the past.”

Some sellout.

No one says this deal is perfect. And given Iran’s history of lying and cheating, no one says we’ve achieved “peace in our time.” But if Iran cheats, as Obama said last week in the Rose Garden, “the world will know it. If we see something suspicious, we will inspect it…with this deal, Iran will face more inspections than any other country in the world.” Hardly an expression of confidence in the mullahs’ true intentions.

And hardly a betrayal of our good friends in Israel.

 

By: Paul Brandus, The Week, April 6, 2015

April 7, 2015 Posted by | Diplomacy, Foreign Policy, Iran | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Nuclear Deal With Iran Isn’t Just About Bombs”: An Opportunity For Iran To End Its Chapter In Extremism

To prove that Americans can be every bit as crazy as Iranians, I took my daughter along on my last trip to Iran, in 2012, for a road trip across the country.

Iranians were stunned to see a 14-year-old Yankee teeny-bopper in their midst. In Mashhad, a conservative Islamic city that might seem wary of Americans, three Iranian women in black chadors accosted my daughter — and then invited her to a cafe where they plied her with ice cream, marveling at her and kissing her on the cheek as she ate.

They weren’t political, but they yearned for Iran to be a normal country again.

As the Iranian nuclear talks creep on into double overtime, let’s remember that this isn’t just about centrifuges but also about creating some chance over time of realigning the Middle East and bringing Iran out of the cold. It’s a long shot, yes, but it’s one reason Saudi Arabia is alarmed, along with Iranian hard-liners themselves. Those hard-liners survive on a narrative of conflict with the West, and depriving them of that narrative undermines them.

It’s odd to be debating a deal that hasn’t been reached, but, frankly, critics are mostly right in their specific objections to a deal, and in their aspirations for it.

“A better deal would significantly roll back Iran’s nuclear infrastructure,” noted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel. “A better deal would link the eventual lifting of the restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program to a change in Iran’s behavior.”

All true. Of course, a better deal would also involve gifts of delicious Persian baklava for every American. And a pony.

Netanyahu also suggests that a deal would give “Iran’s murderous regime a clear path to the bomb.” That’s a fallacy.

Iran is already on a path to nuclear capability. Netanyahu should know, because he’s been pointing that out for more than two decades. Beginning in 1992, he asserted that Iran was three to five years from a nuclear capability. Over time, that dropped to “a year or two,” and then to “months.”

But even if Netanyahu’s warnings have been alarmist, he has a point: Iran is getting closer. The problem is that fulminations don’t constitute a policy.

The West essentially has three options:

■ We can try to obtain a deal to block all avenues to a bomb, uranium, plutonium and purchase of a weapon. This would allow Iran to remain on the nuclear path but would essentially freeze its progress — if it doesn’t cheat. To prevent cheating, we need the toughest inspections regime in history.

■ We can continue the sanctions, cyberwarfare and sabotage to slow Iran’s progress. This has worked better than expected, but it’s not clear that we have a new Stuxnet worm to release. And, partly because of congressional meddling, international support for sanctions may unravel.

■ We can launch military strikes on Natanz, Isfahan, Arak, Fordow and, possibly, Tehran. This would be a major operation lasting weeks. Strikes would take place in the daytime to maximize the number of nuclear scientists killed. All this would probably delay a weapon by one to three years — but it could send oil prices soaring, lead to retaliatory strikes and provoke a nationalistic backlash in support of the government.

Imagine if we had launched a military strike against Chinese nuclear sites in the 1960s. In that case, Beijing might still be ruled by Maoists.

On balance, with either the military option or the sanctions option, Iran probably ends up with a nuclear capability within a decade. With a nuclear deal, it’s just possible that we could prevent that from happening. Perhaps no deal is achievable; the Iranian side has been recalcitrant lately. In that case, we continue with sanctions and hope that the economic pressure further delegitimizes the government and eventually forces Iran back to the table.

But, again, this isn’t just about uranium but also about undermining an odious regime and creating the conditions for Iran to become a normal country. I’ve rarely been to a more pro-American country, at the grass-roots, and there’s a pent-up anger at corruption and hypocrisy. That doesn’t mean that there’s going to be a revolution anytime soon. But it means that there’s a chance for movement after the death of the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who is 75 and underwent prostate surgery last year.

In the office of Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, whom Khamenei edged out to be supreme leader, I was once jokingly introduced as coming from the “Great Satan.” An aide, referring to Iran’s own regime, immediately quipped: “America is only Baby Satan. We have Big Satan right here at home.”

So, sure, a nuclear deal carries risks and will be ugly and imperfect, but, on balance, it probably reduces the risk that Iran gets the bomb in the next 10 years. It may also, after Ayatollah Khamenei is gone, create an opportunity for Iran to end its chapter in extremism, so that the country is defined less by rapacious ayatollahs and more by those doting matrons in Mashhad.

 

By: Nicholas Kristof, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, April 3, 2015

April 5, 2015 Posted by | Foreign Policy, Iran, Middle East | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“An Opportunity Of Historic Significance”: Breakthrough: Iran’s Nuclear Concessions Vindicate Obama’s Diplomatic Strategy

As outlined by President Obama at a news conference this afternoon, the tentative nuclear agreement reached with Iran appears to include significant concessions that will achieve the most important metric demanded by the United States and its diplomatic partners — namely, to extend the “breakout” period required for Tehran to develop a single nuclear weapon. The full deal is complex and yet to be completed, but the highlights seem to answer the most pressing concerns about a sustainable and verifiable non-proliferation regime.

According to the president and negotiators in Lausanne, Switzerland, where the talks had continued into the early hours today, the government of Iran has agreed to cut its uranium-enriching centrifuges from 19,000 to 6,000, greatly reducing its capacity to rapidly produce weapons-grade material. For the next 10 years, only about 5,000 of those centrifuges will actually operate at all. The excess centrifuges and related machinery will be held in storage monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency, to be used only for replacement parts — and Iran will construct no new uranium-enrichment facilities for the duration of the agreement.

Taken together, these changes are expected to extend the “breakout” period from a few months to at least one year.

Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif also agreed that his country would not enrich uranium over 3.67 percent for the next 15 years and will slash its present inventory of more than 20 tons of low-enriched uranium to well under a ton for the same duration. Moreover, Zarif and his team conceded that Iran will ship all the spent fuel from its heavy-water reactor at Arak, which might have been reprocessed into bomb-ready plutonium, to other countries for reprocessing — a sticking point earlier in the talks. The Arak facility itself will undergo a reconstruction process — including the destruction of the reactor’s original core — that will make production of plutonium there impossible, and Iran will construct no further plants capable of producing plutonium for at least 15 years.

The deal provides for continuous IAEA monitoring of all Iranian nuclear reactors and programs — described by Obama as the most intensive ever undertaken — and for sanctions relief that will only begin when Iran has met all of its initial commitments to restructure and dismantle its weapons-related equipment and programs. It also includes restrictions on certain kinds of conventional weapons and technology.

As the president said with his usual lucidity, these negotiations — and their ultimate success — are an opportunity of historic significance to reduce the risks of war and proliferation.

But the Iran talks also represent a chance to promote peaceful change in that unfortunate country, whose people desperately hope that the Rouhani government can progress toward normal relationships with Western countries, especially the United States. The best guarantees of peace and security — for the world, the U.S., the Mideast region, and yes, Israel — will be realized by strengthening the forces in Tehran that seek to transcend Iran’s status as diplomatic and economic pariah.

Partisan efforts to scuttle the nascent bargain have long been underway, and will now intensify. The perpetrators are almost exclusively “experts” who were wrong about very similar issues concerning the supposed nuclear ambitions of Iraq — and led us into a pointless war that cost many thousands of lives and trillions of dollars. The American people support President Obama’s use of internationally backed sanctions to encourage a negotiated agreement rather than armed conflict — and his approach is proving more effective than the belligerent attitude promoted by his critics over the past decade. Let us hope that he and Secretary of State John Kerry, both of whom deserve enormous credit for their moral courage and pertinacity, will be able to bring forth a signed agreement by the next deadline in late June.

 

By: Joe Conason, Editor in Chief, The National Memo, April2, 2015

April 3, 2015 Posted by | Diplomacy, Foreign Policy, Iran | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

%d bloggers like this: