It is always fun to start out the morning with a funny, over-the-top and so obviously completely bullshit "news article" about Iran of the sort that you can only find in the New York Times.
Today they have an article by Alan Cowell and Rick Gladstone entitled "U.N. Inspectors Visit Uranium Mine in Iran, Media Report." Had Mr Cowell and Gladstone been actual reporters and the New York Times an actual
newspaper that actually covered the actual news when it comes to Iran, the article could have noted that IAEA officials had first visited Iran's uranium mines years ago, when Iran officially invited them there, and furthermore that uranium mines were never required to be shown to inspectors in the first place. In fact the entire controversy about this mine -- whether it was supposedly related to the military or not -- is not terribly relevant, legally, since nothing in the NPT prohibits such an arrangement nor requires its disclosure. The reporters could have confirmed this with a bit of effort.
But instead of you know, actual news and analysis, we get this beauty of an attempt at fear-mongering which sounds like government talking points, dumbed-down
to the point of absurdity for you the mass consuming audience to chew on:
"The Arak plant produces heavy water for a plutonium reactor still under
construction, which Iran describes as designed to generate energy. If it became
operational, however, it would produce plutonium that could be used in a nuclear
weapon. Inspectors visited it in December."
Wow. Gotta love it.
OK, for a start, they fail to note that Iran was never under any obligation to allow any inspections of the heavy water plant.
The authority of inspectors, under Iran's safeguards agreement with the IAEA, extends only to nuclear material and the places where they are kept and related records etc. -- in fact the inspector's authority is specifically stated TWICE in the safeguards agreement to be limited "exclusively" to verifying Iran's declarations and that's all. Heavy water is not nuclear material, and therefore the IAEA has no legal authority to demand to see it. But yet again, Iran compromised an allowed it.
Secondly, "Which Iran describes to generate energy..."
Well, I'm not aware of any reactor that is NOT designed to generate energy. Every reactor generates energy -- that's why they are built.
Third: "If it became
operational, however, it would produce plutonium"
Well, similarly, every reactor produces plutonium once it becomes operational. That's just physics not an Iranian conspiracy. The Tehran Research Reactor and the Bushehr reactor are right now producing plutonium as you read this sentence. OH MY GOD! RUN FOR THE HILLS! SEEK SHELTER!
Fourth: " that could be used in a nuclear
No, it can't. The plutonium is the byproduct of the nuclear reaction, and is accumulated in the highly radioactive fuel rods that are placed inside the reactor. In order for it to be used for weapons, those extremely deadly fuel rods have to be removed (typically when the reactor is being refueled) and then put through a dangerous and complicated process called "reprocessing" -- basically crushing up and chemically removing the plutonium. And then all you have is some plutonium -- you then have to actually make a nuke with it.
Aside from the fact that the reactors and their fuel rods are subject to standard IAEA monitoring, Iran doesn't even have the reprocessing facilities according to the IAEA itself. The fuel rods at Bushehr go back to Russia for reprocessing. The Iranians have repeatedly stated that they have no interest in developing reprocessing facilities and are willing to agree to "Refrain from reprocessing or producing plutonium" as part of a compromise with the US.
Needless to say these Iranian compromise offers were consistently ignored or undermined by the US, which was not interested in actually resolving any actual proliferation threats but instead was using the "Iranian nuclear threat" as a pretext, to hide an entirely different policy of imposing regime-change in Iran (just as "WMDs in Iraq" was used as a pretext.) Remember the 2003 faxed offer, or the Turkey-Brazil brokered deal which the Obama administration killed after Iran had agreed to it, much to the displeasure of both Brazil and Turkey. This was a pattern.
So was imposing the demand that Iran first abandon enrichment before any talks could be held. All a deliberate effort by the US to keep the "Iranian nuclear threat" pretext alive and prevent its resolution.
Today the question is whether the Obama administration
has given up on this approach and is genuinely interested in resolving the standoff, or whether they've just engaged in a tactical step back from their obviously over-reaching position of "give in before we talk" to a more nuanced effort which is still ultimately intended to accomplish regime change rather than resolving any genuine nuclear weapons concern. We have yet to see. Certainly, the Israelis are worried and are making a stink, and the likes of Dennis Ross have scurried out of their dark damp holes to write articles insisting that in dealing with Iran the only choices are war or Iran "rolling back" its nuclear program. Well, sorry Dennis but a 5000-year old nation of 80 million people isn't going to give up its technological accomplishments to suit your exaggerated fears and no Iranian negotiator dares to return to Iran with such an offer. The demand "Rollback" is just as much a fantasy as "zero enrichment" and is being used deliberately to kill
the talks in the same way.
I have been biting my lip and not saying anything about the nuclear negotiations because there's just too much uninformed speculation out there, so I don't want to add my own. I'm waiting for the dust to settle to see where things stand.
Unfortunately, there are a host of "defenders" of the Iran-US negotiations however, who are pumping out complete rubbish in the meantime. Mostly this has to do with Iran's right to enrich uranium, and these authors are trying to find a way to justify the US somehow conceding less than that. The various and sundry justifications they provide for their silly arguments is itself a marvel to behold and can cause fits of giggles.
"There is no formal, legal 'right' to enrichment or any other nuclear activity...if the world becomes convinced that a non–nuclear weapons state’s activities are directed toward acquiring nuclear weapons, such activities thereby become illegal."
This is just too sophomoric a description of international law to even countenance especially by the head of a foreign policy outfit. I should point out that such silly statements about the right of enrichment only makes it more necessary to clarify the issue and forces the sides to take strong and public positions which can only wreck any deal. This refusal to acknowledge the right of enrichment has long been the cause of conflict (and not just with Iran) going back to the Paris Agreement negotiations, wherein the EU3 told the Iranians that they would not demand permanent cessation, whilst at the same time telling the Americans that the EU3's "demand for permanent cessation of all enrichment was non-negotiable." http://wikileaks.org/cable/2004/12/04BRUSSELS5396.html
Along the same lines, we have Christian Cooper writing in Foreign Affairs:
"But the Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), despite its specificity about compliant, signatory nations’ inalienable right to use peaceful nuclear power, is vague, either by design or omission, about where that enrichment can take place." http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/140651/christian-h-cooper/limited-rights -- suggesting that somehow Iran can be told to give its uranium to others and accept very significant limts on its enrichment program.
Apparently these people think the NPT is the personal playground of the US who can go around willy-nilly dispensing or taking away rights and responsibilities, and is free to create another version of the NPT to be applied to countries it doesn't like. No Iranian negotiator -- or any negotiator - would agree to allow his nation to become a second-class member of the NPT subject to the demands and whims of the US and allies.
The fact that these people seem to think that Iran's enrichment rights are up for negotiation is itself an indicator that the negotiations are not being conducted in good faith, which makes it all the more important for Iran to take a very public stance on its enrichment rights to ensure that there is no confusion about what Iran has agreed to and not agreed to.
So lets continue taking apart the utter rubbish by Carnegie Endowment;s Mathews:
"For more than fifteen years, intelligence and on-the-ground inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency ( IAEA )
revealed nuclear facilities, imports of nuclear technology, and research that had no civilian use"
Unfortunately the author fails to specify the alleged technology or research that "had no civilian use" -- naturally, because no such thing happened. This is unmitigated rubbish. The IAEA has consistently stated that it has found precisely zero evidence of any military aspect to Iran's nuclear program.
Mathews continues: "This brings the story to the stunning surprises of 2013, beginning with Iran’s June election in which Hassan Rouhani, confounding poll results..."
Actually poll results were not confounded at all, as there was a documented shift away from Tehran Mayor Baqer in favor of Rouhani days before the election, and especially when Rouhani received Khatami and Rafsanjani's endorsement. I suppose the mostly-US based pundits who insisted the elections would be fixed to let Jalili win were indeed confounded.
"Most important, and perhaps most unexpected, Iran agreed to eliminate its existing stockpile of 20 percent enriched uranium."
Actually, it is hardly unexpected. Iran had been offering to end 20% enrichment for years, and Ahmadinejad himself went before the UNGA and repeated the offer a few years ago. It was US sanctions on the sale of civilian reactor fuel to Iran that caused Iran to increase enrichment to 20% in the first place, a sanctions policy "blowback" no one wants to openly acknowledge so we have pundits like Mathews claiming this is some sort of big and unexpected breakthrough.
"To prevent Iran from once again using the negotiations to buy time to advance its program.."
I'm not sure where the "once again" comes but this "buying time" meme is straight out of AIPAC's talking points. In reality Iran suspended enrichment entirely for almost 3 years, hardly something a country seeking to "buy time" to make nukes would have done. As Amb. Mousavian pointed out, "instead it is the West’s strategy to delay a face-saving solution to the nuclear impasse by having the sanctions take more effect and bring Iran to its knees" -- regime change, in other word.
I'm just as surprised as anyone else. When I started pointing out the role of AIPAC wayyyyyyy back in the 1990s, anyone who mentioned the "pro-Israeli lobby" was automatically dismissed as either a conspiracy kook or a Nazi sympathizing anti-Semite. Now, we have mainstream press pointing the role of AIPAC in pushing for war! However while this is indeed the result of AIPAC's own arrogance, the question is whether the momentum can be maintained to effectively sideline AIPAC. The folks at AIPAC and Israeli must be furiously trying to position themselves to limit the damage.
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According to UNDP calculations, between the years 1980 and 2012,
Iran’s HDI value increased by 67 per cent – or at an average annual
increase of about 1.6 per cent. During the same period, for other
countries in the High Human Development group (the group containing
Iran), the average annual gain was only about half of what Iran managed –
0.73 per cent. For all countries on the planet, the average gain was
even less – only 0.69 per cent. This means that Iran’s annual growth in
its HDI was over double the global average. Simultaneously, this would
imply that – from a human development standpoint – during the period
1980-2012, Iran’s policy interventions were both significant and
appropriate to produce improvements in human development.
Glenn Kessler of the washington post has an article pretending to verify the truthfulness of a statement by Kkerry about how the US rejected a compromise proposal by Iran which was communicated to the US via the Swiss by fax.
Of course back
then the hardliners on Iran denied that this was anything to take seriously, and went as far as denying not only that it amounted to a peace proposal but also deny that entire event happened.
i'm sure the leveretts and others will have more to add but in the meantime i hope someone will put straight this claim that rouhani boasted about 'hoodwinking' the west in previous negotiations. kessler has decided to put his own spin on the history of events, ignoring for example what was going on during the eu3 negotiations with iran at the time including the fact that rouhani
came under extreme criticism for suspending iran's enrichment for so long while obtainin no benefits and ultimately being cheated by the eu3.
rouhani's defense as stated in his speech was to emphasise that iran did not abandon all of the nuclear program, and that while some aspects of it were indeed suspended -- as verified in the west -- other aspects were not suspended NOR WERE REQUIRED TO BE suspended under the terms of the very agreement itself.
Furthermore the fact that Rouhani emphasized that Iran would eventually continue enrichment is presented as some sort of proof of deception by Kessler -- in fact this had been made crystal clear in the negotiations with the EU3 from the get-go. Mousavian has specifically told the EU3, and Iran had made it perfectly clear, that giving up enrichment was "off the table" and that the suspension was temporary. This is well-known history.
So Rouhani was not "boasing about hoodwinking" anyone as Kessler claims, and this is obvious to anyone familiar with the history. I believe that Amb Jenkins has written on this specific point too but I can't access my computer right now
The claim that Iran had hoodwinked anyone in those talks, and promoting the idea that the Iranin 2003 faxed offer either did not exist or was not from Iran etc, is itself not accurate
and a spin on history. I look forward to seeing people's reactions to this supposed "fact checking" by Kessler.
"Hecker is talking about Parchin, a military complex 18 miles southeast
of Tehran where, according to a 2011 International Atomic Energy Agency
report, there were high-explosive and hydrodynamic tests that could have
been related to nuclear weapons. IAEA inspectors haven’t had access to
Parchin over the past two years."
So what's left out? Lets count just some of the facts that have been eliminated from "the reality" by Pincus here:
2- Even if such "weapons-related" hydrodynamic testing etc occurred, it would not have been a violation of the NPT and Iran would not be legally required to report it to the IAEA, because the IAEA's obligations under the terms of Iran's safeguards agreement are "exclusively" limited to accounting for
nuclear material itself and not anything more. "Nuclear-related" experiments are not banned until and unless they involve a "diversion of fissile material for nonpeaceful uses" -- that's the legal standard for when the IAEA gets involved.
3- Iran allowed inspections at Parchin, twice in 2005, despite being under no legal obligation to do so.
4- The Alleged Studies occurred in Parchin allegedly up to 2003 so the access provided in 2005 would have sufficed to verify it if it had occurred, and so Pincus's assertion that the inspectors have not had access to Parchin in over two years is non-sequitur.
5- Actual nuclear inspectors such as Robert Kelley question why the emphasis on Parchin in the first place
I am always amused (well, bored to tears actually) whenever I read yet another article that repeats yet another well-worn and highly questionable standard narrative on Iran, but I particularly love it (yeah right) when they combine these memes into weird combinations to push a point -- usually involving their long-wished for end to the IRI.
So for example we see some "political commenator" for a German magazine combining two of the oldest memes on Iran in an op-ed in the NY Times entitled "Is Rouhani an Iranian Gorbachev?" -- the same Gorbachev who oversaw the collapse and dismantling of the Soviet Union, mind you -- and he concludes that the nuclear negotiations should concentrate on "unleashing the people's democratic aspirations" yada yada yada -- nevermind that those same people would probably actually prefer the US to butt out of their democratic aspirations and instead respect their nation's sovereign rights.
But in any case the amusing meme's here are the old "the youth will topple the regime" thing, which we have heard for a while now. Those "youths" who were first supposed to topple the regime back in the 1980s and 1990s are now well into middle age (whatever happened to those despicable SMCCDI folks btw?) but hey the Western media's hope for regime-change in Iran springs eternal.
And the second meme is of course the comparison of Iran to the Soviet Union -- because that's a familiar bogeymonster for the public consuming this crap. After all, if you want to envision a stereotype of an unpopular repressive regime that is holding onto power contrary to the wishes of the people and by brute force alone rather than legitimacy, the Soviet Union comes to mind -- and naturally Iran must be similar, and the people in Iran cannot possibly actually generally support their
govt. No, that is never to be conceded in the Western media, and instead we're treated to wishful comparisons to the ill-fated Soviets.
Of course this isn't to say that Iran won't be going through some significant changes and won't face significant challenges in adopting to modernity. The NY Times may
like to believe that "Until the revolution, Iran was among the most cultured, cosmopolitan countries in the region" but in fact back then Iran had less than 50% literacy rates which has since reached over 98% -- all in the course of 30 years or 1 generation. and that's just one indicator amongst others, altogether showing that Iran's overall Human Development Index improved 67% since the 1979 Islamic Revolution (compared to China's 70%.) You can't have that level of sudden and massive human development without significant challenges to what used to be social, political and cultural norms. Also, remember that Iranians now overwhelmingly live in nuclear families, in relatively small apartment in large cities
instead of the extended family home or compound in the villages where most of the population once lived not so long ago. The paternalism inherent in the old ways, is falling away and more and more kids are being raised in two-parent working households. In short, Iran will be going through massive transformations, and hopefully for the better as people and society evolves and adapts.
But that's just not the
same as Gorbachev and the demise of the Soviet Union, sorry.
I am always amused by various articles I've read that purport to be a guide on "How to negotiate with Iranians," and which usually consist of a list of supposedly Iranian cultural characteristics that should be borne in mind when arguing with those sneaky fellows. In addition to being condescending and bordering on racist, what I really find funny about these sorts of articles is that they're typically written by Americans who are married to Iranians - so they're actually guides on how to argue with their inlaws. No doubt these lists are but a distillation of built-up resentments and frustrations towards the inlaws from many years, and the authors jumped on the chance to finally get it all off their chest, even if they had to pass it off as applicable to all Iranians in general rather
than just their particular inlaws.
But I do think that culture has a lot to do with negotiation style as well as substance. And if you really want to know anything about Iran and Iranian culture, you can do much worse than start with some architectural elements.
I just returned from Iran, and a trip from Kashan and Isfahan. Some of you may know that I have ancestors from Kashan but I am particularly interested in Isfahan for the moment, as I'm working on a short book about the history. I saw the grave of Shah Abbas the First in Kashan, which is
not as celebrated or well known as it should be (in fact the grave stone itself does not mention his name) but I always wondered what passed through his head as he sat comfortably surrounded with his retenue and servants on the balcony of the Ali Qapu and watched the polo games in the great Meydan of Isfahan below. The meydan is a great sight to behold, not just for its architecture but for also what it says about Iranian society for it in we see the fundamental forces at work there. standing at the balcony of the Ali Qapu, or "High Door," we see three major structures: the great Mosque to the right, the Qheysarriey entrace to the Bazaar on the left and across from you is perhaps the most maginificently-tiled building ever, the Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque. But it is actually not a mosque (note the absence of minarets) and was instead a private chapel for the Queen and Queen Mother, and named after an Shia cleric who was an in-law to Shah Abbas. So we
have a mosque and bazaar, the sacred and profane, balancing each other - and in the center is the Family, opposite of which is the King or State.
But the neatest thing is not in this grand layout - it is in the details: The Chehel Sotoon Palace served as a diplomatic reception hall, and there's much to be learned from the frescos inside of Iranian battle scenes as well as the scenes of the shahs sitting down with foreign dignataries and rulers. For example no one seems to ask why the Battle of Cheldoran is so prominently shown in the Chehel Sotoon Palace. Remember,
this was a battle in which Iran was defeated, and rather badly. Nor does anyone ask why some of the column supports in the Great Mosque do not actually match eachother, though they appear to be similar, and what that implies. Nor does anyone ask what a Zoorkhooneh's entrance door has to say about Iran and Iranians.
In any case, if you want to understand Iran and Iranian negotiating style, my point is there are better sources of knowledge than those sorts of articles about the inlaws, folks.
I must say that the most interesting thing about reading all the opinion pieces published in response to the announced interim deal is how they absolutely mutilate even recent history as well as the NPT and the most basic of technical facts about the enrichment process in order to make their point. What on earth is "heavily-enriched uranium" or and how is it that Arak "produces plutonium" but not Bushehr? And nary a mention -- oh no, certainly not! -- of why/how Iran started enriching to 20% in the first place, or of Iran's repeated offers, reaffirmed under the Evil Ahamadinejad (who apparently was the cause of the entire standoff all long -- who knew?!) to cease that level of enrichment as well as all the other compromise offers which were ignored. Then we have Khatami who was stymied by Iranian hardliners -- nevermind the Paris Agreement fiasco and embarrassment for his administration, and the fact that Iranian presidents as a
whole were portrayed in the US as powerless nobodies who should be ignored...
There's enough spin as if riding a amusement ride at Disneyland. But in the end, we'll see where things stand when the dust settles.
One of my favorite apocryphal quotes attributed to Churchill is that "Americans will eventually do the right thing but only after exhausting other alternatives."
Remember those many, many magazine articles which we all read for years detailing how Israel and the US would attack Iran, complete with glossy pull-out maps showing blue arrows pointing to red explosions surrounded by dramatic nuclear or military symbols? Or the various claims about Iranian misdeeds that could never quite be corroborated or turned out to be outright hoaxes but were accepted as true and promoted in the media anyway? Well, save a few just so that we never forget that THAT is what we had to contend with...before we won.
I'm as shocked and surprised as anyone else, especially as I just retrurned from Iran about 3 hours ago. I don't think this is anything but a short term arrangement arrived by what are still highly competitive parties engaged in rough and tumble negotiations that can still fail at any time, and I believe strongly that the reason why the US accepted this deal is because the Russians and Chinese were starting to complain and the integrity of the P51 was at stake, and I don't know what Congress and Israel will do in reaction (though I can guess the general trend) but the most significant victory here is not in the details of the agreement itself (which we will get to) but in the very fact that by sitting across from Iran had reaching a deal, any deal, the ground has shifted -- oh how the mighty have fallen, and now have to actually contend with the rest as an equal rather than waving and wagging their pointy hypocritical fingers from up high. This was the point I made at a meeting at Sharif U: the greater victory for Iran is in that the US has now recognize Iran not as a "rogue state" but as a legitimate nation, which it has to deal with diplomatically as with other nations, regardless of the rhetoric of "all options on the table."
As for unhappy Israel, that insufferable cow Jennifer Rubin once expressed the true fear of the the Israelis, which was not that Iran would nuke Israel and "kill all the Jews" with their "flying holocaust chambers" and other such dramatic bullshit cooked up by the Israeli propaganda machine, but that Iran would be deemed by the US to be a legitimate entity and thus competitor to Israel. Well, Jennifer, you warmongering bitch, your nightmares have come true. And Obama's constant and repetitious refrain about his concern for Israel's security is sounding more and more like empty rhetoric, but mainly because Israel's own attempts at portraying Iran as an "existential threat" was empty rhetoric too -- as the Israelis themselves would conceed relatively easily.
Indeed, as I mentioned in Iran, I'm astounded now to read articles in the media resulting from these negotiations which ask once totally taboo questions of whether Israeli interests necessarily align with that of the US, and whether the folks at AIPAC and such prioritize US or Israeli interests. And perhaps the greatest irony here is that the Israelis brought this totally upon themselves. They were far too arrogant and had gone far from the "nightflower that blooms best in the dark" to being simple and overt pains in the ass, and their push for the Iraq war resulted in a backlash that has been growing (not that these arrogant asses pay attention -- they continue to embarrass themselves.)
The fact is, the world is pretty tired of Israel as well as the Saudis, the two parties who stand in opposition to a US Iran detente but which had no real alternatives to offer either, so the US **MAY** have actually decided to hop on the right side of history by dealing with Iran. And this can also help Iran get further on the right side of history, as the sanctions fall, economy improves, middle class grows, people travel, get educated, learn about the world etc. etc. -- all benefitting the forces of moderation and progress in a part of the world that certainly needs it.
As for the deal itself, the most important point is that it is temporary. Iran is not bound to anything, and the compromises it does make does not require it to "roll back" anything, merely to stop it where it is...for a duration. Their most important concern should be that any compromise Iran makes should not be deemed as a defacto new interpretation of the NPT, nor of Iran's sovereign rights as recognized by that treaty. Iran cannot be deemed a "special case" in the NPT. Such a precedent that the P5+1 can bully nations into giving up any rights or changing the NPT structure and legal function, should never be recognized either explicitly OR implicitly, but should be denied explicitly so as to prevent any future doubts. In short, it should be made explicitly clear that Iran has not and will not give up its right to enrichment of uranium (as much as it wants, to whatever degree it wants) nor "production of plutonium" as the media strangely refer to the construction and operation of a heavy water reactor - even if it chooses not to exercise that right for now. This, no doubt, is a major concern for all in Iran as it should be for the rest of the developing world: That Iran should not be a separate case of the NPT or international law, and that the nuclear-armed nations should not be able to cleaves the not-haves into separate little boxes of special treatment. ALL THREE of the NPT's pillars have to hold fast, not just the nonproliferation aspect, and so all the members of the NPT should hold fast together, against the historical push by the nuclear-armed states to increasetheirprerogatives whilst disregarding their obligations, turning the NPT into a farce.
And lets remember how this is a good deal for the US: Israel is a racist apartheid state that is building walls around itself whilst building Jewish only parking lots, and the Saudis...well, do I need to say anything about a geriatric kleptocracy that supports the same people who crashed airplanes into NYC building? The sadness of it all, is that it took so long for the US to see which horse to pick whilst also vindicating its own historical perspective that free commerce and engagement are what build strong and stable relations as well as the democracy we so earnestly profess ... but the US has failed to live up to its own rhetoric so much lately that you can't help feel disappointed, especially if you're someone who chose to be an American rather than simply born one accidentally. A market of 80 million Amerophiles in a major oil producing nation beckons, you idiots, there but for the taking.
Perhaps there is hope after all. I just hope we don't have to continue exhausting all the alternatives.
So the Russians are saying that the deal was complete and everyone was about to go home before the US Sec of State showed up and killed the deal.
“There was an American-proposed draft, which eventually received Iran’s consent.” Lavrov thus confirmed the fact that the United States and Iran had reached informal agreement on a negotiating text...
Then Lavrov revealed for the first time that the U.S. delegation had made changes in the negotiating text that had already been worked out with Iran at the insistence of France without having consulted Russia.
Wow, that's pretty familiar, no? And before that time, they did the same with the EU-3 negotiations too -- made sure that no deal would ever go through, regardless of the assurances they had provided Iran. Seems like a rather deliberate pattern of supposedly "missed chances," wouldn't you say?
I am not holding my breath waiting for any sort of actual deal to happen with regard to these nuclear negotiations, as you know. But I do think it is interesting how the coverage has led to the scales falling off people's eyes about who is pulling who's strings in dealing with Iran. Suddenly we're seeing articles (albeit in UK's Guardian) raising the question of whether Israeli interests correspond to US interests or not, and people are wondering why the US has to be on the side of the likes of the Saudis in this affair, and we're also seeing mainstream reporting on how US senators are falling over themselves to appease Israeli lobbyists. An AIPAC boss once stated that "Lobbying is like a night flower that blooms best in the dark" (or something to that effect) and yet they could not help boasting about their power to get 70 US senators to sign even a dinner napkin in an hour either...and now, both Israel and the Pro-Israeli lobby have been outed (or, they outed themselves with their rabid push for war war and more war.) I mean, if you're a proIsraeli PR agent, it must really burn your ass that a shady billionaire old Repubican casino mogul has emerged as your spokesman -- and Sheldon managed to creat quite a stir too.
This is doing some real damage to Israeli influence in the US. People are starting to seriously question why the US is toeing Israel's line. Israelis pride themselves on chutzpah, they don't seem to realize that people resent being pushed and will eventually push back.
According to news reports, Obama and Hollande issued a statment in which they "expressed their shared determination to obtain from Iran every guarantee that it will finally give up its military nuclear programme."
"Finally give up its military nuclear program"? The choice of wording here is deliberate, and the message is clear: there isn't going to be a deal and they're not going to acknowledge Iran's rights.
Going as far as being deliberately insulting by referring to Iran's nuclear program so matter-of-factly as a weapons program is nothing but a poke in the eye at Iran, especially since even US intelligence sources have said that no one in Iran has made a decision to make nukes.
I mean, think about it. These people went as far as to murder scientists by blowing up their cars. They went as far as to manufacture fake evidence of nuclear weapons work and pass it off with the Associated Press. They spied on the former IAEA head, called him an "Iranian agent" and engineered his replacement with a docile and loyal servant under whom the IAEA has been turned into a politicized joke. They've literally turned international law -- trade law, nuclear law, law of war -- on its ear ... all of this not to prevent any nuclear weapons in Iran -- since they themselves admit there isn't any -- but simply in order to "get" Iran. And these are just some of the atrocities they've committed. But suddenly now something has changed so massively that they've given allthis up -- and why, because Rohani was elected? THEY DON'T CARE. Anyway, lets remember folks, Rowhani is not something new in the nuclear talks -- he headed the talks while Khatami was president. And nothing much happened then either.
Anyway I highly recommend reading these twointerviews (video and transcript) with an actual nuclear weapons inspector Robert Kelley, who is a critic of the IAEA reports on Iran, in which he debunks many of the current myths about Arak, and notes that the IAEA seems to have dropped its insistence on (re-)visiting Parchin, which was never really legitimate anyway. The fact is that this agreement with the IAEA is intended to be non-binding, and subject to the progress in the main negotiations with the P5. Nevertheless having made even this non-binding agreement to agree later, I will bet you that even this will be used against Iran with yells and screams about how Iran is "failing" to meet its "obligations" under even this non-agreement.
Note that Robert Kelley suggests that Iran may have been justified in investigating nuclear weapons back in the days of the "Alleged Studies" because Saddam was making nukes. Of course, there's no actual evidence that Iran did so, nor has the US been able to point to anything concrete other than claims about Iran's "intentions to obtain capabilities" to make nukes, whatever that means.
However I should point out that nuclear weapons studies by themselves would not be a violation of the NPT or Iran's safeguards agreement with the IAEA, until and unless there was a "diversion of nuclear material for non-peaceful uses" involved --- which the IAEA has explicitly stated it has never found even with respect to previously undeclared nuclear activities by Iran. So even if Iran had done all sorts of studies on nuclear weapons, it would not have been in any way illegal, so there's nothing for Iran to "admit" ...nor hide. After all, Iran happily admitted that it had developed a stockpile of chemical weapons in respons to Saddam's US-backed genocide and chemical weapons atoricities so they're not particularly reticent about stuff like that. In fact the nuclear program in Iran was never a secret nor was the enrichment program, so the accusation against Iran tends to vary from having had nuclear weapons programs in the past to "intending to acquire the capability" to get one in the indefinite future, depending on how the wind blows.
Remember this is a nuclear weapons program for which no evidence has ever turned up despite the fact that Iran -- with its single functioning reactor -- has been consuming a great part of the IAEA's inspections budget and manpower for quite a while now, to the apparent frustration of some IAEA officials and contrary to the terms of Iran's safeguards agreement which make it clear that the intrusiveness of inspections must be minimized.
I also enjoyed reading an op-ed by the Israeli Intelligence Minister who suggest a "simple, logical" solution to the nuclear dispute with Iran: Iran must just gave up her rights, naturally -- rights that the Israelis themselves have expanded upon to include making weapons of genocide which the Iranians have explicitly and repeatedly and thus far verifiably disavowed on moral grounds. Go home, Yuval, you're drunk.
Anyway I will point out Dan Joyner's blog again on Arms Control Law, and particularly his post about the right to enrich, which the US has now explicitly denied. Note that none of the reporting on the issue have mentioned that the US nuclear negotiations with Vietnam were recently completed when the US had to give up on forcing Vietnam to give up enrichment. They don't mention the fact that this dispute about enrichment is far bigger than Iran, and is in fact a Norht-South conflict over control of the sole source of energy in the near post-oil world. There will be more from Prof. Joyner published soon so keep your eyes peeled.
Here are twomore things to read -- I'll be back in a week.
I'm pretty sure he's referring to Kerry's claim that Iran "backed out" of the negotiations, in which he didn't mention that the US had refused to recognize Iran's rights.
So, it is looking more and more that my fears are confirmed: these sets of negotiations were no different from the previous sets, the goal being to set-up Iran and make it seem that Iran is the "intransigent" party. The US/EU side, as usual, were never serious about making any deals. They were pushing maximalist illegal demands, hoping to make Iran balk. They did not enter the negotiations in good faith.
This statement by Rouhani further strongly suggests to me that the red line he's referring to -- Iran's sovereign right to enrich uranium on its soil, a right that other nations take for granted and which the NPT recognizes as inalienable (meaning Iran could not give it away even if it wanted to) -- was really the cause for no deal happenening.
Just to remind everyone, since this post has exploded: enrichment is the most important process whereby natural uranium ore (rocks) are turned into fuel for nuclear reactors. WIthout it, you can only import the fuel.
And as I keep saying over and over and over and over, this demand that Iran abandon enrichment is deliberately made in order to prevent any resolution of the nuclear issue, which would deprive them of a pretext for imposing regime change on Iran (the goal all along.) Iran suspended enrichment entirely for more than two years, and has historically repeatedly offered to limit its enrichment capability to a fraction of what it is today, and even then they didn't accept it. The point is to deprive Iran of her rights and subjugate Iran, relegating Iran and subsequently all other developing nations who signed the NPT and are entitled to develop technologically, to a third class status forever reliant on a handful of self-appointed nations that will form a cartel for nuclear power fuel as well as all the other technological advances that follow (since any form of high tech "could be used to make nukes.") And it is hardly just Iran that objects to this, nor was this just a Bush-era policy which the developing states laughed at.
Lets remember, Iran acheived "High Human Development" status in the 1990s, after a remarkable period of development (67% improvement in their HDI figures since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, beating out all the other BRICs except for China's 70% HDI improvement.) Iran is emerging -- and they're trying to prevent it. These people are quite literally assassins of scientists and mass murderers, after all. You'd be safer in a cage with a wild animal than trust them.
As a country with a major civilian nuclear industry, France would be particularly sensitive to yet another competitor entering the field. Especially since under the NPT, Iran is **LEGALLY ENTITLED** to receive and/or develop -- then export -- the most advanced civilian nuclear technology it wants. In fact in the the text of the NPT, the developing states made sure to insert language that made it clear that the recognized nuclear-armed signatories (China, Russia, France, UK, US) had a positive obligation to actively help promote civilian nuclear technology in developing states. In fact, that was the basis of the NPT bargain, which makes it so much more egregious that the US has prevented the IAEA from providing technical cooperation to Iran even in nuclear safety related areas.
This isn't just about Iran -- they're trying to rewrite the rules of the NonProliferation Treaty to suit themselves.
Under the terms of the NPT, those countries that had made nukes --the "haves" or Nuclear Weapons Nations (NWP) -- made the commitment to reduce and eventually eliminate their
arsenals, and the "have-nots" (including Iran, a charter member of the NPT) agreed not to seek atomic weapons as long
as they could obtain the advantages of nuclear technology for peaceful
purposes and as long as the "haves" didn't share their nuke tech with non-NPT signatories (such as Israel and India.)
But instead now the US and the nuclear-armed states -- who have consistently failed to meet their own disarmament obligations under the NPT and have shared nuclear tech with both Israel and more recently India (as a bribe by the US to India for India's vote against Iran at the IAEA Board, incidentally) -- are ALSO FURTHER demanding the the non-nuclear armed NPT signatories give up MORE rights, including the right to make their own nuclear fuel.
How's that for bare-faced audacity?
The IAEA has also been sucked into this after the US tried so hard for so long to replace ElBaradei with Amano, much to the displeasure of developing nations. Heck, the IAEA under Amano even issued a report in which he explicitly LIED about the authority that the IAEA Board had supposedly granted the IAEA on a related issue, as Dan Joyner discovered when he checked the primary documents of a meeting of the Board. These people are about as dishonest as any used car salesman (who at least has to stay within the boundaries of some law.)
Think about it -- they outright fabricated the Board's resoution, to claim that the Board had approved an interpretation of the NPT which went contrary to existing law. In fact as Dan Joyner showed, far from endorsing such a standard, representatives of several countries explicitly objected to such an interpretation. But you'd have to check the transcript to discover that. None of the reporters bothered. The didn't expect anyone to do so.
And naturally developing nations say they don't want to give up their rights to
uranium enrichment and don't trust the United States or other nuclear
countries to be consistent suppliers of the nuclear material they would
need to run their power plants.
In fact, if anything the illegal sanctions placed on Iran's nuclear program right now -- which are in total violation of IRan's NPT-recognized rights -- are themselves proof that neither Iran nor any othe developing nation can rely on any of these countries (or any supposedly "independent" organization they form) to not use the power of control over the sole fuel source of the future post-oil world, for their own political gains. In fact they would be just stupid to trust such an arrangement. Note that the none of the so-called and self-designated supplier states are themselves willing to become hostage to any developing country for their energy sources and instead they go right ahead and develop whatever nukes and bombs and missiles and reactors they want for themselves.
Simple: to kill the negotiations. They never planned on the negotiations working out. They needed a way out. In the past, whenever negotiations were working out, the US imposed the demand that Iran abandon enrichment, knowing it would kill any deal. That's what they did with the Brazil/Turkish deal.
This time, they again announced that they would not recognize an enrichment right in Iran and are now using France's objections as a way to back out yet again when they saw they couldnt intimidate Iran into abandoning her unquestionable and absolute rights. That's all.
How many times will we have to watch reruns?
I don't know how many times I have to say it over and over again: they have no intention of making any kind of actual deal with Iran that respect's Iran's rights.
Apparently a mysterious new website has emerged called NuclearEnergy.ir. No one knows who is behind it, and I haven't had the time to check it out in great detail myself. I'd like like to note here that YEARS ago I started raising the point that while many officials in Iran complain about "Zionist conspiracies" that prevent fair media coverage of Iran, there was still not a single website published by Iran which explained the issue and attempted to overcome the false propaganda.
So you can imagine my mixed feelings about this site: I love the idea that FINALLY someone decided to speak, and hopefully this is an authoritative website too. But you can also imagine my frustration that this happened 10 YEARS after the ISIS/MEK propaganda operation about "exposing" Natanz. TEN YEARS! It too them to finally take what should have been a basic and fundamental step. Every 12 year old has a website and the yet the Iranians could not be bothered to create this for such a hot and fateful topic.
It is being reported -- whether accurately or not who knows? -- that France's Foreign Minister Laurent "Pepe le Pew" Fabius has raised objections to a deal with Iran due to something about Iran's perfectly legal and legitimate Arak heavy water reactor. N
Speculation is that this French move was motivated by Saudi money but I think the issue is more fundamental than that. France is heavily invested in the nuclear arena and certainly would not welcome a competitor such as Iran exporting its nuclear knowhow to compete with French industry in the future, for example.
No doubt they want Iran to give up soveregn rights. The irony is in that France has not only cheated Iran in the past, not only do they rely on nuclear power themselves (about 78% of France's energy is nuclear) but they've been modernzing and updating their nukes and making new nuclear armed submarines instead abiding by their NPT obligations to disarm. And yet they think Iranianas are just a bunch of dirty ragged beggars at their feet.
Nevertheless, and despite this experience, Iran offered in the past to allow EURODIF, the French-based multinational uranium enrichment consortium which Iran had invested in, to monitor Iran's enrichment program as a good faith gesuture and proof that they don't intend to make nukes -- this was back in 2006. And guess what happened to those negotiations? They got hung up on the same issue which is hanging up these negotiations because - like I'm getting tired of saying over and over again -- the West has no intention of resolving this standoff. This is not, and never was, about Iran's nuclear program. Iran could make all the nuclear compromise offers it wants, it will never work.It is about toppling the regime there and returning Iran into a subservient state that can, at best, only hope to get whatever technological scraps the Frenc and Americans deem fit to toss to Iran.
when it comes their Iran coverage. The entire newspaper staff there has blood on their hands, as far as I'm concerned, and in an ideal world they should be on trial for deliberately promoting the nonsense that led to the Iraq invasion, nevermind the terrible "journalists" like Michael Gordon, the human dictaphone, who work there.
But just to point out that nothing has changed, I refer you to the latest example of crap posing as news by, who else, then Michael Gordon (and Mark Lander.) I could poke holes in this story all day but the best bit is about the Arak heavy water reactor.
They mention that this reactor, once operational, will produce plutonium which can theoretically be made into a bomb, and they they casually proceed to refer to "Iran's plutonium production program" as if this is some sort of deliberate move by Iran to make plutonium
But plutonium is created in practically any nuclear reactor's fuel rods, because of the laws of physics which apply equally to Iran as anywhere else. Aside from the fact that the reactor will be under constant IAEA safeguards, the irradiated reactor rods are extremely radioactive and so there is no way that this plutonium can be used for anything without it going through a very complex chain of reactions called "reprocessing" and furthermore, while the Shah was absolutely insistent that Iran retain a reprocessing capability, the Islamic Republic has no reprocessing facilty and according to the IAEA itself, has shown no interest in it. In fact, Iran has repeatedly offered to forego reprocessing (the reactor rods from Iran's Bushehr reactor are sent back to Russia for reprocessing.)
Of course, the NY Times could not be bothered to mention ANY of that instead Gordon and Landis made up a "plutonium production program" in Iran.
Mr Kerry went on TV a few weeks a go and with a bit of flourish demanded that Iran allow IAEA inspections of Fordo --- a site that has been the subject of IAEA inspections for quite a while now.
The 60 Minutes reporter either didn't know enough himself, or chose not to confront the Secretary of State over such a fundamental error, as Nima Shirazi pointed out.
Now, the absurdities are compounded: we have a reportertelling the gov't officialwhat's what, with an unnamed Senior Administration Official who responds "I quite agree" to a bit of nonsense stated by an NBC reporter who claimed the "secret" Fordo site was "pretty full blown until you found out about it, I mean, it was a pretty big functioning complex when you found out about it."
What the heck are these people talking about? Aside from the fact that Fordo was not a "secret" and had in fact been declared FIRST by the Iranians to the IAEA, before Iran was legally obligated to declare it (and, an undeclared site is not the same thing as a "secret" site anyway) Fordo was far from "full blown" or "functional" -- it was, to quote IAEA Director ElBaradei who actually visited the place which Kerry seems to think is hidden behind closed doors, was "nothing more than a hole in mountain." According to the IAEA itself, the only things that had been installed were basic water piping and electricity, none of which was even connected or functional.
And yet here we are with a "Senior Administration Official" agreeing to nonsense. It seems like the falsified narrative has overtaken and may be driving the facts, and the media are now more than just complicit in promoting it, but are actually instructing the politicians in it!
And now we see how the US just killed off these talks too, by explicitly claiming that Iran has no right to enrichment:
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I don't believe any country - the United States does not believe any country has a right. That doesn't mean countries don't have enrichment programs. They do. So the issue is not -- when people say we have a right, then it means you can't put any limitations on it, you cannot stop it, you cannot question it, because it's an inherent right. We believe Iran does not have a right. We don't believe any country has a right.
QUESTION: Does that mean, though, that you will countenance Iran's possibility –
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We have not -
QUESTION: — to enrich after a final review, or you won't countenance?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We have not gotten to the end of this story. We gotten to the end of this story. We need to first take a first step, stop the advance of Iran's program, so that we can have a serious discussion about how to meet the international community's concerns. These are not just our concerns. There is a -- there are UN Security Council resolutions, and there is a UN Security Council resolution that called for the suspension of Iran's enrichment program because they had not met their international obligations and responsibilities. All of this has to be addressed. That's what we're going to try to do.
(SOURCE: State Department Press Office, Office of the Spokesperson November 6, 2013 - 2013/1358 -Background Briefing: Senior Administration Official Previewing Iran P5+1 Talks, November 6, 2013, Geneva, Switzerland.)
It is funny that if you read the entire transcript, this "Senior Administration Official" is pretty reticent to share any substance of the negotiations with the reporters, except for this particular one.
This is a remarkably ignorant statement to be made, and not just substantively on the law of the NPT (I'm sure many signatories will have something to say about it, as Turkey and Brazil and several other countries representing the majority of the world's nations, have explicitly backed Iran on this point of the right to enrichment)
But even if the position of the US is that there is no right to enrichment, by explicity stating it so, the US has now made it impossible for any deal to go through. Any sort of compromise now reached and agreed to by Iran under these conditions of non-recognition of Iran's rights under the NPT, would amount to an at least tacit approval and endorsement by Iran of the idea that the US has a veto power over Iran's (and by implication, everyone else's) NPT rights. Any agreement now worked out will always be tainted as Iran's giving up its rights.
Maybe Iran could have accepted some sort of additional restriction and limitation on its nuclear program outside of the NPT; it was willing to in the past, and actually has done so for a long time, but now that the US has outright and blatantly denied Iran's rights, the issue cannot be finessed away. It is now made front-and-center thanks to this Senior Govt Spokesman. It has to be dealt with or else no legitimate deal can happen. The negotiators know full well that if they even appear to be accepting that Iran does not have a right to enrichment, there will be hell to pay, and the IRI might as well a start packing because the regime will otherwise stand accused of selling Iran's rights in order to stay in power.
And I don't think this is an accident -- I think the US continues to deliberately impose outlandish and illegal demands in order to undermine any chance of the talks working out, as in numerous instances in the past.
No, sorry, this ridiculous claim evinces a continued fundamental bad faith by the US in the talks.
In short, this is yet another set-up. In the past, they made Iran's abandomnet of her absolute and unquestionable rights into a precondition on talks, now they're a condition for the talks being successful -- the same game though.
Of course the Senior Govt Spokesman claims that "no country" has this right, but frankly I don't see the US justifying its nuclear pursuits, weapons related and otherwise, to the so-called 'World Community" under threats of sanctions and attacks, and this pathetic attempt to falsely portray Iran as being dealt with on an even-handed basis is just an additional insult to injury. Apparently they think Iranians are stupid.
"Other optimists claim that the likes of Goldberg et al would not be trying so hard to position this as a victory over Iran unless the US did in fact plan to reach a deal with Iran this time around. In other words, they're pre-emptively trying to prepare the public for a deal with Iran..."
I am greatly amused by efforts of our chattering classes to rewrite the history of the past 10 years to pretend that the reason for the lack of progress thus far in the US-Iran nuclear debacle has been Iran's intrasigence. The Leveretts point out that much of the media coverage starts out with the assumption that it is Iran's burden to make compromises to meet US demands, not vice versa, as if the obstacle to the resolution of the standoff thus long has been Iran and not the US with its excess demands that Iran abandon enrichment. Joel Rubin of Politico claims that the negotiations are "the result of years of painstaking efforts by the Obama administration and lawmakers to pressure the Islamic Republic ... to pursue diplomacy" and furthermore he writes, "Now that Iran has made a clear decision to engage seriously in diplomatic negotiations with the West over its nuclear program..." Then there's former Israeli border guard Jeffrey Goldberg who claims that Iran is only now "ready at least to have a facsimile of a serious discussion about its nuclear program" because supposedly "The crippling of the Iranian economy by the U.S. sanctions regime is the only reason Iran is even negotiating at all."
It would be only natural for the proponents of the sanctions policy thus far to claim that any progress on the nuclear file must be attributable to the "success" of these sanctions -- when in fact such progress happened despite the sanctions, not because of them. Though a crowing rooster takes credit for the rising sun, the truth of the matter is that the sanctions regime on Iran has already started to falter, and Iran's economy is already expected to start growing in 2014. It is certainly doubtful that the sanctions are hurting Iran enough that the government is willing to give up the sovereign right of enrichment, as the US demands, because they know that the Iranian people massively support their nuclear program and would consider such a concession to be traitorous. It will be hard enough selling any sort of deal with the US in which Iran has somehow ends up being treated differently than any other NPT signatory.
Furthermore, European courts have already started the process of dismantling the sanctions on Iranian banks too. The sanctions were always illegal anyway, as they violated the terms of international trade rules that prohibit secondary sanctions. The only reason why European and Asian trading partners with Iran did not mount a legal challenge to these extraterritorial sanctions at the World Trade Organization is because of a poltical agreement not to do so, and that can last only so long before the floodgates break. After all, China and India need Iran's oil and aren't about to make their economic development indirectly subject to US veto.
And then there's the NY Times, typically promoting nonsense and inaccuracy as news as usual. They have the usual load of hot, steaming bullshit posing as a "Q&A" about Iran's nuclear program entitled "Examining the Status of Iran’s Nuclear Program and Talks" -- in which they promote the usual propaganda lines: Fordo was a "secret facility"(nevermind that Iran declared it to the IAEA first, and before it was legally required to do so) and Iran has "refused to allow inspectors to visit Parchin" nevermind that Iran allowed it twice in 2005 and nothing was found then, and nevermind that Iran is not under any legal obligation to allow any such "transparency" visits which are themselves illegal and outside of the NPT. The NY Times also claims that the Arak heavy water reactor "could be a source of plutonium, another fuel for a weapon" -- when in fact practically EVERY nuclear reactor "could be" a source of plutonium since that's what's produced in the highly-irradiated fuel rods for reactors in Iran or anywhere else -- however removing and using the plutonium is an extremely complicated process called reprocessing, and Iran has no such facilities as the IAEA itself has noted repeatedly and has no interest in developing -- a fact left out of the NY Times version of reality.
But here's the bigger picture issue I want to deal with: what does all the speculation and spin around the Iran nuclear negotiations indicate about the substance and direction of those negoiations, if anything? naturally we're seeing some jostling on even the part of Iran' hawks like Jeffrey Goldberg to spin the recent news of an Iran-US negotiations as being attributable to an Iranian shift. The consistency of this narrative is such that it suggests a metaphorical "talking points memo" has been issued amongst the chattering classes, emphasizing the need to put this spin on the news: Iran has shifted, thefore the US can now potentially compromise with Iran.
This is of course total bullshit, as Glenn Greenwald pointed out. Iran has been making the same compromise offers it is now making for a very very very long time in the past. Better ones, in fact. The problem had always been the US insistence on Iran giving up enrichment, a demand that was deliberately used by the US to kill off negotiations and to ensure that there could be no peaceful resolution of the nuclear issue as long as the regime is still in power in Iran (the nuclear issue as always been just a pretext for regime-change, just as "WMDs in Iraq" was always just as pretext) Even former IAEA head Elbaradei concluded as much.
So the question is, are these talks any different than the previous occasions when there was a lot of hype and speculation, but no progress because the US continued to insist on nonsensical demands on Iran? Has the US really started to deal seriously with the nuclear issue now for once instead of pulling the rug out from under their own negotiators as they did to the Turks/Brazilians (because of an additional demand that Iran also give up enrichment which the US added after Iran had said yes to the deal) and the EU-3 prior to that? Has the US given up on regime change, or is it simply shifting tactics?
Well, according to Trita Parsi, these talks are different in the sense that the US has finally conceeded to negotiating an "end state" - in other words, telling Iran what it hopes to acheive in the end with negotiations (specifically the question of concern to the Iranian side is whether the US conceeds that Iran has a practical right to enrich Uranium or not.) This would be important for the Iranian side since they know what they're finally negotiating in the first place: a US recognition of Iran's enrichment rights, or Iran's gradual and pactical repudiation of those rights.
Other optimists claim that the likes of Goldberg et al would not be trying so hard to position this as a victory over Iran unless the US did in fact plan to reach a deal with Iran this time around. In other words, they're pre-emptively trying to prepare the public for a deal. This view actually has some merit, but as an argument it is speculative. There are multiple other reasons why the likes of Goldberg would be engaged in such spin, entirely on their own and not because of any actual expected "progress" at the negotiations. In the meantime, apart from trying to read tea leaves and engage in speculation, we won't know if the US was serious or not until after the final deal is announced. In the meantime, there is absolutely no reason why we should assume these negotiations to be anything more than a set-up, as in the past.
So in the end, I'd rather wait to see the actual shape of a deal at the end before I get my hopes up. Wendy Sherman's testiomny before Congress suggests that the US is still not willing to recognized a right to enrichment by Iran. She tried to pull some bullshit stunt by making a distinction between enrichment versus the Right to enrichment -- as if a right that is only exercisable upon the arbitrary approval of outside powers is still really a right. That's not encouraging and suggests that they're still trying to finesse the issue instead of coming to terms with it -- and they're insulting our intelligence on top of it all which is what really annoys me. AIPAC of course is making their usual noise, but as fas I can tell it is just noise, thus far, which suggests to me that they've got something up their sleeve. Perhaps they're just giving the Obama administration enough rope to hang himself with, knowing that any deal with Iran is DOA in Congress anyway.
In the meantime, Dear Ms. Wendy Sherman: We're watching, Wendy. We can see what's going on. Don't try to pull any bullshit 'cuz we're not buying it.
Pierre Goldschmidt, formerly of the IAEA, wrote an article that I posted a reply to on the Gulf2000 mailing list. Farid Marjai forwarded it to IRDiplomacy where it was published online. In the comments senction Goldschmidt honors me by replying to me, albeit he pretty much ignores everything I wrote and also ignores the link to Dan Joyner's legal analysis of what Iran is actually obligated to do and not do.
You can read the substance of the discussion yourself, I have no plan on redebating what is already pretty much old news and nothing new. I've done my best in talking sense and I'll let the readers decide the rest.
But this is what I thought was interesting about the interaction: here I am, arguing with an international civil servant who asserts boldly and apparently without the slightest sense of irony, that a country must actually exceed the terms of a treaty that it is not a signatory to, under the threat of sanctions which are primarily and directly targetting its civilian population, and yet he does so supposedly for the sake of the same people of Iran who have been deprived of medicine and aircraft parts until their govt agrees to give up THEIR -- the people's, not the gov't -- sovereign rights.
Once you step back and take a look at that, you can't help but just gasp and feel exasperated, as well as be disappointed in humanity.
It is amazing, isn't it, how otherwise normal, intelligent and I'm sure kind people, so totally and complete lose their moral compass when they start to identify with authority. (And then they insult your intelligence on top of it! The in-your-face audacity is just breathtaking if it wasn't so silly and obviously dicredited.)
But these facts have been excluded almost entirely from the dominant US media narrative for years. The fact that Iran, at its highest leadership levels, has repeatedly and unequivocally disavowed any interest in nuclear weapons is something that most Americans simply don't know,
Well, Brian Williams of NBC isn't the only one pushing this claim about a "suddent" Iranian willingness to resolve disputes with the US. Some guy named Kaveh Waddel writes in The Atlantic:
"Iran’s sudden enthusiasm for negotiation stems from its urgent need for timely, significant changes to the global sanctions regime. But the U.S. lost sight of the power of economic sanctions when it created a regime so inflexible that incentivizing cooperation through sanctions relief became near-impossible."
While the rest of the statement is true -- after all even George Bush II complained "We have sanctioned ourselves out of leverage over Iran" -- the first sentence is definitely false: Iran's desire to negotiate is hardly "sudden" and in fact it has been consistently the case for over a decade now. Iran has been making compromise offers, Iran offered to ship out its enriched fuel and Obama killed that, Iran suspended enrichment for close to 3 years whilst in negotiations with the EU-3. There's nothing "sudden" about this at all. In fact it is pretty much the definition of NOT sudden.
I have been hestitant to write anything about the current situation because I think there's already far too much hype and speculation about the US-Iran nuclear talks and not enough actual knowledge. So, I'm just going to sit this one out and wait to see what happens once the dust settles. I also don't want to prejudge or prejudice the issue in any way.
While there is a lot of optimism, there's room for quite a bit of pessimism too though just based on reading tea-leaves. For example, Kerry's reply to the question below is not very comforting:
Asked what steps Iran could take to prove its seriousness, Kerry replied: "They could immediately open for inspection the Fordo facility, they could immediately sign the protocol of the international community regarding inspections, they could offer to cease voluntarily to take enrichment above a certain level."
Except that Fordo has been open to inspections for years, since the Iranians (and not US intelligence agencies, as the NY Times claims) first disclosed the location of the site to the IAEA. In fact Mohammad ElBaradei himself visited Fordo, and famously said it was nothing more than a hole in the mountain and nothing to be worried about. You could not possibly be even slightly aware of the Iranian nuclear issue, without knowing the Fordo is already open to inspections.
Secondly, Iran has signed the Additional Protocol already, and offered to ratify it if its rights are also recognized, though Iran is absolutely under no legal obligation whatsoever to sign the AP, just as neither Egypt nor Argentina nor Brazil nor lots of other countries have signed.
Third, Iran has consistently stated that it is willing to limit enrichment to 3.5%. In fact Iran was forced to enrich to 20% due to US sanctions that prevented Iran from simply buying the fuel for a medical reactor (which the US gave Iran in the first place) that uses fuel rods made with 20% enriched uranium. So it was the US policies in the first place that caused Iran to increase its enrichment levels, even though the reactor in question posed no credible nuclear weapons proliferation threat and so the US sanctions on the sale of fuel for that reactor did not actually promote or protect any legitimate non-proliferation goals. The media have been very insistent on ignoring this fact even though they will gladly engage in all sorts of totally biased speculation about "how close to a bomb" Iran's 20% enrichment gets it, and other reporters have completely gone overboard and have made up their own terminology by referring to this as Iran's stockpile of "medium enriched" uranium too, though no such term appears in the IAEA Glossary. That's how the media not only follow the dominant narrative promoted by the govt but further embellish it before they pass it on.
So anyway, since Kerry obviously hasn't a clue what he's talking about with regard to Fordo, you have to wonder what's really being discussed at these "nuclear talks" with Iran.
However I should point out that the stakes are quite significant. After all, if you ever visit the Iranian Foreign Ministry, you'd see that the slogan "Neither East Nor West" is carved into stone over the entrance way door. This was one of the foundational slogans of the 1979 Islamic Republic. The point was that Iran would not fall under the influence of any outside powers but would instead chart an independent & assertive way for itself to promote its own interests. Furthermore, one of the biggest "weaknesses" of the regime was perceived to be its lack of nationalist credentials (the mullahs were not strong on the Persian nationalism thing as the Shah was -- and this was used against them, what with allegations such as that the mullahs had allowed Persepolis to fall into disrepair etc. which were quite false.) So, after so many years of hyperventilation and speculation about the nuclear issue, we may have arrived at the moment when we will see whether the Iranian govt will vindicate its nationalist credentials as well its revolutionary slogans in a deal with the US by getting the US to accept a nuclear Iran (not as in nuclear-armed, but a country with a sovereign, independent access to nuclear technology and know-how, including enrichment.)
This can be a "make-it or break-it out" outcome. If Iran succeeds in getting its nuclear program "recognized" by the US, the regime can not only point to a significant victory but also vindicate its nationalist credentials. The Islamic Republic will have officially "won" not just the dispute over the nuclear issue. If not, and if there is some sort of half-assed compromise that in any way delegitimizes Iran's nuclear program, then the regime as a whole -- and not just Rouhani's government -- is open to the charge that it compromised with foreign powers over the interests of the nation and people of Iran in order to stay in power a bit longer, and Rouhani himself will be facing the music. Ropuhani knows this, since he was the subject of a great deal of criticism for one unnecessary suspension of enrichment back during the EU3 negotiations. And we all know what happened then: The EU-3 were simply playing good cop to the US' bad cop whilst all the time the EU and US had agreed never to recognize any enrichment in Iran contrary to what the EU had been telling the Iranians; in the end Iran was cheated and received nothing for its gestures of good faith which included suspending enrichment for close to 3 years.
Ironically, if this results in a "make it" moment for Iran, we should remember it is ultimately the result of the US' own policy of pressing for unrealistic concessions by Iran. Once you make excessive demands, then you have to pay the consequences for doing an about-face.
It will be quite painful to watch if Obama decides to make a deal, since it would mean ultimately recognizing Iran as a legitimate entity in the Mideast, much to the chagrin of the Saudis and Israelis.
He's going to have to find a way, therefore, to present any sort of deal with Iran as a victory for the US and a defeat for Iran. This will mean spinning the deal as a concession by Iran. Naturally, a US claim that Iran has made some spectacular new concession will be a good way to sell a deal, even if the claim has no actual validity. We're already seening media references to "new" concessions by Iran which totally disregard the fact that all of these "new" concessions have in fact been offered by Iran for years now.
For example, aside from Kerry's flub, as Glen Grenwald has pointed out Brain Williams of NBC claims that Iran has just now and "suddenly" decided to get rid of its "nuclear weapons program" -- though in fact Iran was the first nation to call for a nuclear-weapons free-zone in the Mideast and has never sought nuclear weapons itself & stated so quite plainly.
You know I'm not an optimist. I've seen similar build-ups of hype and speculation about a US-Iran breakthrough before. Won't happen. Thus far we have not seen an ounce of evidence that the US has decided to abandon pressing Iran to give up her sovereign right to enrichment, and that has always been the pretext that the US has used to exacerbate relations with Iran. Furthermore, Israel and AIPAC have not gone away and I don't think that the Israelis and AIPAC will really allow anything to come of this, and at best they consider this to be a half-assed outreach which is expected to fail, and all they are concerned with is finding a way to blame that on Iran as a justification for further aggressive measures.
Sure, there are "signs" of improved relations, such as a lot of pretty words and the telephone call between Rouhani and Obama etc. etc. but these are "feel good" yet irrelevant issues --- the question is whether the US will finally recognize Iran's NPT rights and will lift the illegal sanctions which have preventing Iran from exercising her sovereign rights as recognized by the NPT, "to the fullest extent possible" and "without discrimination."
And until then, I will only look on with amusement.
The Jewish Telegraphic Agency newswire reports that an Argentinian minister is being investigated for paying $400,000 to one of the people involved in the AMIA bombing, adding yet another layer of obfuscation an confusion into and investigation that was screwed up from the start and was marked by joint US-Israeli pressure on the Argentinians to finger Iran despite the lack of evidence implicating Iran in the bombing
With Nelson Mandela's health looking not so good, I think it is about time to remind everyone that historically while Islamic Iran was strongly supporting the freedom movement there, the US sided with the S African apartheid regime and Reagan in particular was opposed to the sanctions on that government. Israel too was a close cooperator with the racist regime there, and may have even jointly developed a nuclear weapon with S Africa. Israel was the most significant arms supplier to that regime throughout
the 1980s and served as a lifeline for the apartheid government during a
period when Pretoria faced growing international condemnation and
heightened domestic unrest
When Clinton came into office, he tried to get Mandela to oppose Iran -- which Mandela had visited -but Mandella replied that his critics should "go jump in a pool" since "We should not abandon those who helped us in the darkest hour
of the history of this country.'
A few days ago, it was widely reported that an Argentinian prosecutor had claimed that Iran's president-elect Rowhani was involved in the secret plans to bomb the AMIA Jewish cultural center in Argentina in 1994. There are now more recent reports that say the opposite: that the prosecutor has claimed that Rowhani was *not* involved in the bombing, thus contradicting earlier reports.
Of course, the media are making a big deal out of what the prosecutor alleges are Iran's ties to the event and are reporting his allegations as established fact, despite the years of accumulated contradictions of any Iranian involement in the bombing, but there are reports that the actual indictment issued by this same prosecutor *does* indeed implicate Rowhani. If that's true -- and I have not seen the indictment so I don't know -- the question is what the heck is going on?
The situation is comedically confusing and self-contradictory, as is everything associated with the investigation of the bombing, which was corrupt from the very start.
It is interesting to note that president-elect Ahmadinejad was also the subject of similar smears in the US media, starting almost the day after his first election victory was announced; smears that consisted of claims that he was one of the US Embassy hostage-takers. Even though the CIA later concluded otherwise, and other US embassy hostage-takers verified that he had no role in the event (he had reportedly even suggested attacking the Russian embassy instead) that rumor still persists.
The point, of course, is not whether Ahmadinejad was really a hostage-taker or not, nor is it whether Rowhani was involved in the Argentina bombing or not. Rather, the point of the smear campaign is to try to pre-emptively discredit any newly-elected Iranian president so as it make it harder for any potential US-Iran breakthrough to occur under the new president. After all, Khatami's election and his outreach to the US caught the pro-Israeli lobby and Iran hawks off-guard, and they had to scurry to get the meme out in the media that Iranian presidents are just powerless nobodies who should be ignored. That changed, of course, once Ahmadinejad came around, and his every utterance was presented as proof of the coming Iranian-inspired Apocalypse. Ahmadinejad's rhetoric was too good and useful for these Iran hawks to allow it to be dismissed as the words of a powerless nobody, after all.
So now that Rowhani is the president-elect, it is only natural that the same pre-emptive smearing be applied to him...which makes it all the more interesting that there has been a hamfisted effort to re-call the smear campaign and "undo" it. I wonder what's going on behind the scenes that we're witnessing such contradictions?
Back to the reporting about the Argetinian's prosecutor's claims: The media made a big deal that the names of some Iranian official have been placed on the Interpol Red Notice list, as if that proves something. Keep in mind, however, that placing people's names on the Interpol Red Notice list is hardly determinative of anything. Interpol is not an independent police organization, it is simply a representative association of national police forces which cooperate with each other at the international level. So there is no real independent judgment exercised by Interpol in placing names on the Red Notice list. In fact the names of several Iranians had been placed on that same list before, with allegations of involvment in the bombings in Argentina, only to have the names later removed amid some criticism about politicization and the misuse of procedure involved in getting the names there in the first place.
Second, the indictment is itself is not proof of anything either. I have heard that it relies heavily on a witness names Mesbahi,aka Manuchehr Motamar, aka Witness C and many other names, who has made a carreer out of implicating Iran in various misdeeds around the world, from the assassinations of Kurdish separatist leaders at Mykonos (which he later retracted) to the Lockerbie bombing, and has since been widely discredited, even by the Argentinians themselves
Third, the political nature of the Argentinian's prosecutor's allegations are just laughably obvious to anyone who as followed the storyline. The obvious pressure by the US and Israel on the Argentinians to finger Iran and end commercial relations (which included nuclear cooperation) was fantastically transparent. Heck even the Argentinian Jewish community leaders themselves don't believe the official claims of Iranian complicity.
And lets also not forget that Iran's former Ambassador to Argentina, Hadi Soleimanpour, was later arrested in the UK based on an Argentinian extradition request which was tossed out because the Argentinians failed -- twice -- to present the minimal evidence of any connection between him and the bombings to justify the extradition, so the Brits released Soleimanpour.
As you guys know, I keep a file of interesting or weird articles and I return to them later to follow-up or just reminisce. This one is about PressTV and it is meant to be just a bit funny.
Many years ago, when AlJazeera had just started up and was being called the "Middle Eastern CNN" I remember bitterly complaining to a former Iranian official that despite the long-standing nuclear dispute and the complaints about how "Zionists dominate the international media," no government agency or organization had bothered to create a single website that explained Iran's side of the argument. Sure the AEOI had a website and so did the Foreign Ministry etc etc and perhaps there was a slogan-filled article or two on those sites on the issue but there was no single, comprehensive site that simply explained Iran's side of the issue and which was regularly updated to respond to the prevelant allegations daily stream of BS (there still is no such site, by the way. Every 12-year old in the world has their own website but not Iran on this very hot issue.)
I also remember complaining about why the "CNN of the Middle East" was not in Tehran.Well, I didn't know it but something was already in the works at least on the second point. A couple of years later, PressTV emerged.
Now, I have been interviewed on PressTV and they were just as professional about it as CBC, BBC, Sky etc were (no, I don't do interviews anymore so please don't call.) I recognise the fact that PressTV staff are working in very difficult conditions and circumstances, and that living in Iran as a whole cannot be easy right now (was it ever?) and I also recognize that as a (relatively) brand new station, they have some learning to do and they have some really significant competition that sets rather high (and expensive) standards.
But guys, come on now. Did you really, honestly not see the problem with this headline? I still giggle when I read it. The WHOLE POINT of Iran in this dispute is that Parchin is NOT a nuclear site...and yet what do you call it?
According to Reuters, Iranian companies which have been blacklisted due to EU sanctions are winning in their legal fight against the sanctions in European courts. This is indeed a vindication for the rule of law -- and how ironic is it that in this nuclear dispute. the "rogue" and "pariah" Iran is the one insisting on observing the law whilst the US and EU states, self-designated as "the international community" are the ones violating the law.
The article goes on to mention the procedure used in the UK to present classified information as evidence in the court whilst minimizing the risk of disclosure by allowing the judge to see the "secret' evidence privately. In this case the judge was apparently not terribly impressed by the quality of this evidence since he still ruled in favor of Iran.
The US has a similar procedure ( limited to criminal prosecutions) but I don't know if any such lawsuits in US court would be as successful, for a variety of reasons not the least of which is the State Secrets Privilege, which once invoked by the govt has the effect of ending all lawsuits because the govt can prevent the disclosure of any evidence during the trial that it claims would risk exposure of national security secrets. All the govt lawyers have to do is say "State Secrets Privilege" and usually that's the end of the case since crucial information is then prevented from being considered by the court. The government doesn't have to justify their claim in any way -- the judge is not qualified to second-guess the govt decision to make the State Secrets claim. A great number of perfectly valid, legitimate cases against the US -- particularly against Bush and Rumsfeld and his friends -- have been summarily tossed out of courts this way, which is why Bush and Rumsfeld are still walking around as free men rather than being in prison as war criminals as I have written before.
So do you think such a legal principle which has the effect of denying justice to plaintiffs on national security grounds is open to abuse by the government who uses the legal principle to hide its misdeeds instead of actual secrets? Well, let me tell you a story!
The legal concept of "State Secrets Privilege" was first developed by the US Supreme Court in a case called US v. Reynolds, which dated from the early 1950s, during the Cold War. A US military plane crashed and a civilian contractor employee on board, named Reynolds, was killed. His relatives filed a lawsuit against the US military and government, claiming that the accident was due to the negligent maintenance and operation of the military airplane. They demanded to see the accident report. The US government refused to disclose the accident report, and replied that because the airplane and Reynolds were involved in some super-secret electronics experiment, the disclosure of the accident report may risk exposing national security secrets. The courts ruled that in such cases, where national security is at stake, then the government can withhold information and evidence that it would otherwise have to present to the court and the plaintiff. Without an accident report, there was no case. The government gave some money to the relatives and sent them away.
Years later, one of Reynold's daughters was cruising the web, and found the accident report. It has been declassified released to the owner of a website who had a hobby of collecting information about airplane accidents and presenting them on his website, even though throughout the years the government had denied the requests by Reynolds' relatives to get a copy of the same accident report.
And more importantly, the accident report showed that the accident was indeed due to an engine fire and negligence. While the report mentioned the presence of secret electronics, it in no way described them. In other words, the government's claim that a release of the accident report could compromise national security was just a cover-up for its own negligence that had resulted in the deaths of several people on the plane.
So Reynolds' relatives went back to court. And lost.Why? Because the courts still refuse to question government decisions on what is or is not secret, basically. So if the government *says* the accident report contains secret info, that's all there is to it, essentially. The government doesn't have to justify its decision to classify information as secret to the judge. Hell, the judge is not even allowed to see the information.
As a result, today in the US it is perfectly legal of the government to take innocent people from their daily, law-abiding lives, place them inside "black site" prisons, and send them to repressive countries to be abused and tortured in their dungeons. And if they are so lucky as to survive all this and somehow manage to make it back, they have no legal claim. If they try to sue, they'll get the State Secrets beelAkh. And if you think I'm joking or exaggerating, meet Mr Masri and others (And no, this was not just a Bush administration thing. Nor is there any liklihood that the US courts will ever allow a legal challenge to such "anti-terrorism" laws to occur.)
This is America in the 21st Century folks. It wasn't always like this... or was it?
People have been asking my opinion of Rouhani's (or Rowhani's) presidential election victory in Iran and what that means with respect to the nuclear dispute. I haven't been following Rouhani's campaign closely, frankly, but I have caught the gist of his position and see how he's been labelled as the "moderate" in the US press so I'll venture a guess that there's the expectation that he'll be more flexible on the nuclear issue than Ahmadinejad.
First, lets get the myth away that Ahmadinejad was particularly hardline on the nuclear issue. In fact lets remember that *Ahmadinejad agreed* to the Uranium swap deal, and was criticized for that during the 2009 elections by Mousavi, the purported "Green" leader, who accused Ahmadinejad of selling out.
But I'm curious to know what Rouhani is going to offer. Certainly, permanent cessation is "off the table" even with a new President. Giving up enrichment would be tantamount to Iran giving up sovereignty over its soil -- a comparison, by the way, that Rafsanjani himself made. The Tobacco Concession of 1891 that ultimately led to the fall of the Qajar dynasty would be nothing compared to giving up the sovereign right to an independent nuclear fuel cycle, and any regime that gives up this right would have not only lost all legitimacy but also blackened its name in the annals of Iranian history for generations to come...much like the Qajars.
So perhaps another "temporary suspension" is in the works? Rouhani was widely criticized during his campaign for his role in the nuclear negotiations with the EU-3 in which Iran agreed to the policy of suspension of enrichment as a voluntary goodwill gesture during the Khatami administration, but this supposedly "temporary" suspension was dragged out by the EU side for almost 3 years, and ultimately got Iran nothing in return for its gesture because the EU-3 had already agreed with the US that they would not recognize any enrichment in Iran, regardless of what they had told the Iranians when the Iranians first agreed to the suspension. That's why analysts said that the much-delayed EU-3 offer to Iran was little more than an "empty box in pretty wrapping."
[I should point out here how funny it is to read media accounts of those events, and notice how the media desperately try to come up with reasons for the failure of the Paris Agreement talks that blame Iran but they pointedly make an effort to avoid mentioning the mendacity of the EU-3 side. Instead we're told for example that Ahmadinejad's election was the reason for the resumption of enrichment, when in fact the resumption was announced by Rouhani himself, while Khatami was still in office as president. The actual resumption was delayed a few days to allow the IAEA to reinstall their monitoring gear, so it coincidentally occurred a few days after Ahmadinejad took office -- but it was under Khatami, not Ahmadinejad, when Iran restarted enrichment. And the reason why the Iranians restarted enrichment was because the Eu-3 lied to Iran. Don't let them tell you otherwise.]
I can't say that Rouhani won't offer another suspension of enrichment. The question is, at what price. Will it be another "freebie" like during the Paris Agreement (and Sa'adabad Declaration) negotiations or will there be a price exacted by the Iranians? I doubt it. I just don't see how Rouhani could commit the error of another pointless "gesture" like the suspension of enrichment. What's the point of making these gestures when the US has made its position clear: no enrichment in Iran? I can't believe that Rouhani is that naive.
"During the first meeting between Dr Rohani, the EU-3 foreign ministers, and the European Union’s foreign-policy chief, Javier Solana, in December 2004, the Iranians made it clear to their European counterparts that if the latter sought a complete termination of Iran’s nuclear fuel-cycle activities there would be no negotiations. The Europeans answered that they were not seeking such a termination, only an assurance on the non-diversion of Iran’s nuclear programme to military ends." http://www.worlddialogue.org/content.php?id=367
Nevertheless, and despite these assurances, the EU3 apparently always had permanent cessation in mind, and tried to drag out the process for as long as they could in an effort to turn Iran's temporary suspension of enrichment into a permanent one. And finally when Iran had had enough, the EU-3 came forth belatedly with a demand that Iran give up enrichment, contrary to their prior promises, and in effect offered Iran nothing in return (which is why one diplomat was cited as characterizing the EU-3 offer to Iran as an "empty box in pretty wrapping.")
If there is a deal that requires Iran to suspend enrichment, a pretext, I suppose, could be drawn up to say that the US hasn't *really* said "no enrichment in Iran" but instead has *actually* said it could *one day in the indefinite future* recognize enrichment in Iran. This pretext could be used to try to sell such any deal the obligates Iran to suspend enrichment to the public. Of course no one would be fooled by this and everyone would know that such a suspension in effect amounts to permanent cessaion. And in that case the only price that Iranians would accept for giving up enrichment (even in the guise of a temporary suspension) would be the total removal of all sanctions on Iran ... which will never happen because certainly AIPAC and friends won't go along with that in Congress, and furthermore what's clear by now is that the nuclear issue is entirely pretextual anyway, since the real aim of the US is to topple the regime, and once Iran gives up enrichment the US will simply continue the same policy and will find another excuse to impose sanctions.
In short, if Mr Rouhani makes concessions, I am skeptical that he will win anything in return of comparable value. After all, it is hard to imagine what Iran could offer that it has not already offered and which has been dismissed by the US. And if Rouhani is thinking of making yet another concession offer, I predict he will be disapppointed and thus his election, rather than a new start, is really a continuation of what has become a tiresome pattern of repetition in the US-Iran standoff in which Iran makes concessions and gesture, and the US side raises the stakes. Hopefully though whatever concessions Iran makes will be better thought out than before, so as to not amount to permanent obligations imposed on Iran when the other side fails to reciprocate (this happened with Iran's temporary and voluntary acceptance of the Modified Safeguards. Even after Iran made it clear that it no longer intended to abide by them, the IAEA insisted that Iran had an on-going obligation to implement them.)
The excerpt of Chapter 7 of the book by Peter Osborne and David Morrison is out.
W.Bush’s book acknowledges, US antagonism towards Iran does not stem from a
conviction that Iran is developing nuclear weapons or may do so in future. It
is about the US determination to prevent Iran becoming a major power in the
Middle East in opposition to the US. A change in regime to one that is prepared
to do US bidding would be ideal, but that is probably outside the realm of
For now, the name of the
game is to keep the pressure on Iran by ferocious economic sanctions and other
means, leaving open the option of military action, justified as a measure to
prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.
John Mundy, the last Canadian ambassador to Iran, writes that the Canadian Foreign Minister Baird's hawkish position on Iran has prevented real solutions from being considered, and notes that Iran had already accepted many of the demands placed on its nuclear program:
Imagine if Iran’s current rulers agreed to suspend further fuel
enrichment, implemented an Additional Protocol with the International
Atomic Energy Agency and began negotiating a trade and cooperation
agreement with the West that included enhanced people-to-people contacts
and a dialogue on human rights. If you listened to Foreign Minister
Baird last week you would dismiss this as a pipe dream.
the Iranian government, led by its current leader Ayatollah Khamenei,
actually did this. In 2003, after years of patient negotiation between
Iran and the European Union, Iran agreed to all of this and also made a
direct overture to the United States. The agreement lasted until 2005
when Ayatollah Khamenei became convinced that Europe was negotiating in
bad faith and only acting for the United States, who remained
This of course is a reference to the period in which Iran voluntarily suspended enrichment as a good faith gesture, conditional on the EU-3's recognition of Iran's nuclear rights under the NPT pursuant to the Paris Agreement deal...which the EU-3 ended up violating. And we know why the US remained "unambiguously hostile" to resolving the nuclear dispute with Iran thanks to Peter Osborne who writes about the Paris Agreement deal:
The answer is that a different agenda is at work, which we believe has little
or nothing to do with Iran’s non-existent nuclear weapons. The US and its
European clients are driven by a different compulsion: the humiliation and
eventual destruction of Iran’s Islamic regime.
Peter Jenkins, former UK representative to IAEA, has a very interesting post on Lobelog reviewing Wendy Sherman's Congressional testimony on Iran, and he concludes
Most Europeans yearn for the objectivity and ethical agnosticism that
underlay the US opening to China, détente with the Soviet Union, and the
final flurry of US/USSR agreements heralding the end of the Cold War.
That sort of objectivity should come naturally, one might think, when
the adversary is Iran, a state so very much weaker than the US. Alas,
the opposite seems to be the case!
The Orange County Register newspaper has an interesting article about Ahmadinejad's continued popularity entitled "The People's President?" written by the Associated Press' Ali Akbar Daraeni and Brian Murphy, who visited the small town of Birjand in eastern Iran (hometown of my maternal grandmother.)
The point out that Ahmadenjad came into office as a champion of the poor, and the poor are likely to continue to support him or any candidates that are pro-Ahmadinejad. The conclusion of the article quotes a reformist:
“A pro-Ahmadinejad candidate will have a good number of votes,” said Abolfazl Zahei, a pro-reform activist. “There are 2,000 villages in South Khorasan province, and most people in those villages have benefited from Ahmadinejad’s government. People care about making their ends meet and welfare, not politics.”
Saeed Kamali Dehghan, writing for the Guardian, attempts to explain Iran's presidential elections by promoting some standard nonsense propaganda, for example by claiming that the so called Green Movement was "pro-democracy" movement when in fact they were attempting to violently undo an election whose results have since been vindicated as truly representative of Iranian public opinion by multiple independent polls.
Furthermore, on the topic of Iran's nuclear program, he simply and matter-of-factly asserts that the sanctions are "over suspicions that the programme has military ambitions" and that Iran has "failed to abide by its international obligations" when in fact by now anyone who has followed the nuclear dispute is unquestionably aware that the sanctions have nothing to do with the nuclear program and instead, that the dispute over the nuclear program is merely a pretext pushed by the US as a cover for a policy of imposing regime-change in Iran. Furthermore, Iran has not violated any such non-existent "international obligation" (as Dehghan claims matter-of-factly) to give up her sovereign right to enrich uranium -- if anything it is the US and EU who violated their international obligations under the NPT with respect to not just Iran by forcibly attempting to deprive countries of their rights as recognized by the NPT (and also not disarming their own nuclear weapons as the NPT requires them to do, neverming murdering civilian scientists and making illegal threats of attacking Iran on a daily basis etc etc.)
So here we go again with the Western media and complicit journalists promoting bullshit under the guise of analysis. just watch how this Dehghan character has repeated some of the standard talking points of the US about iran's nuclear program without even a hint of objectivity. You can of course expect more of this. Note that there is no option to post comments regarding this piece by dehghan on the Guardin site; you're just supposed to accept it.
Another US cock-up in the Mideast that will cause generations of problems, due primarily to short sightdness and a lack of accountability, just like supporting Saddam. That's what's actually going on in Syria
Firstly, the FSA [Free Syrian Army] - that you have been hearing so much about - does not exist.
A better title would be MWG, or men with guns, because having
guns and firing them in the same direction is the only thing that
The word "army" suggests a cohesive force with a command
structure. Almost two years after the FSA was created, that remains
The situation has been further complicated by the
introduction into the arena of al-Qaeda-linked jihadists and armed
"It is clear that nobody knows how to end this crisis”
Secondly, the Syrian
opposition's political leadership - which wanders around international
capitals attending conferences and making grand speeches - is not
leading anyone. It barely has control of the delegates in the room with
it, let alone the fighters in the field.
These two things can help explain why this crisis has so far shown no sign of being resolved politically.
America is not acting because it does not know what to do or whom to do it with.
Neither do the European countries.
Having spent the last few days in Beirut and Damascus,
talking to the international community, Western diplomats, FSA activists
and Syrian regime supporters, it is clear that nobody knows how to end
That's just about the only thing all sides agree on.
Saudi and Qatari 'meddling'
The vacuum created by Western inaction has been filled by two of the Gulf states - Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
These are both sorely undemocratic states, they are not champions of democracy either at home or abroad.
So, why in Syria did we have a "free world" standing by and
watching the democratic uprising being brutally crushed, when suddenly
from over the horizon came the cavalry from the very un-free Gulf world
to arm and support the aspirations of the people?
This bit is simple - they did not.
Saudi Arabia and Qatar are meddling in Syria for thoroughly
selfish reasons. Freedom, democracy and human rights have absolutely
nothing to do with why they are arming the rebels.
President Assad's Alawite community is a splinter from the Shia faith - its closest allies are in Shia Iran.
Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia hates Shia Iran, so it is using the war in Syria to try and weaken it.
Does anyone else not see the extreme irony in the fact that the same week in which Stephen Hawking's decision to boycott an academic conference in Israel is decried as being contrary to "peace and progress," corresponds to the imposition of new sanctions on the publication of Iranian research articles in international scientific journals?
Frederick Dahl writes for Reuters that IAEA inspectors can find incredibly minute traces of nuclear material at Parchin, if Iran had conducted secret nuclear experiments there as alleged. What Frederick Dahl leaves out is that the IAEA already visited Parchin, twice in fact in 2005, and at time such environmental samples were taken. Nothing was found.
Kinda a key fact to be left out, huh? Dahl is speculating about what could be in Parchin and could be discovered if it is inspected by the IAEA, but not mentioning that it was already inspected.
The funny thing is that I remember just about a year ago, there was almost the same sort article published about "what cound be found" at Parchin.
Apparently to "journalists," Parchin has become a sort of unopened Christmas present box, which has a unique charm: You can shake it up and weigh it and toss it around, all the time speculating and imagining all sorts of wonderful and amazing things that may be in there. A pony! A race car! A nuclear bomb! Anything is possible! The limits are only your imagination.
But not content with adding to the bullshit "suspicions" about Parchin, Dahl ends the piece with a speculative quote from Robert Kelley about how, in effect, even if no such radioactive particles are found there, even then the suspicions about Parchin should continue since the Iranians could have used a non-radioactive substitute for uranium: Tungsten! There' could be Tungsten in the Christmas box!
First of all, I just want to point out the greater rhetorical framework of this debate. I have written about the uses and abuses of logic and rhetoric in the Iranian nuclear debate before and this is a subject of endless fascination for me. Plainly said, some people are willing to go to any extremes of irrationality rather than to admit that these claims about Parchin are just bullshit. Similarly, they found ways to dismiss the warnings about the lack of evidence of "WMDs in Iraq" a few years ago.
See, in magical media land, everything is open to further speculation -- and it sells ads too, conveniently enough. The fact that no evidence of a nuclear weapons program has been found in Iran after years of intensive investigation, is of no importance. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, they say, meaning in effect that just because we can't find something doesn't mean it's not there. But three-legged goblins? The love child of Elvis and Bigfoot? Rabid sharks with lasers on their heads? Yes, they all "could" exist too even though we don't have any evidence of their existence. How far do you take this? As far as is politically convenient. After all, how can the non-existence of something ever be proven? It can't, so you can keep up the speculation indefinitely.(*)
And this is where we see the true rhetorical benefit of such reasoning and how it can be used as tool of subtle persuasion: it has the effect of shifting the burden of proof. We come up with the speculation, and then require the other side to prove that our speculation is not true. No matter how much they object that there's no evidence of what we speculate must exist, we dismiss their concerns: the fact that there's no evidence that three-legged goblins exist, is not proof that they don't exist. Similarly, we imagine the scary, nasty nuclear things that may exist in Iran, and then we require Iran prove that our imaginary nuclear things don't exist. The IAEA can say everyday that they don't have proof of any nuclear weapons program in Iran -- it nevertheless could exist. So, the other side is then caught in a jam: they can refuse to try to prove the negative, in which case they seem guilty, or they can try fruitlessly to prove a negative, in which case they also end up looking guilty.
This was precisely the same position that the US put Saddam into: prove that you got rid of your WMDs. Saddam filed a detailed 12,000 page declaration showing how the WMD program had been eliminated, but the US just turned around and accused him of attempting to cheating by filing such a voluminous document. Saddam could not win.
What a great rhetorical scam.
Anyway, another irony in this piece is that it quotes former IAEA inspector Robert Kelley speculating about this mythical use of a uranium substitute by Iran at Parchin, but Dahl failed to mention that Robert Kelley is also a vocalcritic of the idea that secret nuclear experiments had been carried out there. Specifically, Kelley pointed out that any use of nuclear material in the so-called "secret nuclear test chamber" as alleged to have existed at Parchin would have contaminated the area, far and wide, and would have been picked up by environmental sampling done by the inspectors. In fact this point was also made by the Iranians themselves when they laughed out loud at the allegations prevalent back then that Iran was busy "sanitizing" the site in question, because it had been a secret nuclear site -- allegations that were complete with satellite photos of running water as proof of this sanitization.
Yes, the Iranians themselves already acknowledged that they're fully aware that nuclear sites could not be sanitized, and in fact they pointed out that that fact by itself was a reason why the allegations about Iran having conducted secret nuclear experiments there should be doubted in the first place. After all had Iran conducted those experiments as alleged, aside from the fact that previous environmental samples turned up nothing, there would be no point in trying to sanitize the site.
I guess Fred Dahl didn't think that was worthy of mentioning, even though in effect he has just vindicated the Iranians' reasoning with this article of his.
* The very nature of inductive reasoning, after all, is incapable of proving things to be true. Inductive reasoning can only suggest that some conclusions are more probable based on the assumptions in their premisses.
This morning, I read what was I guess a response by Mr Vaez regarding my criticisms of the Carnegie Endowment report that he wrote along with Mr Sadjadpur. I wasn't able to make out the full response because it had been highly edited prior to being posted to the Gulf2000 Listserve (I can only access this on the G2K website, I don't receive the emails so perhaps a less edited version that made more sense exists but I haven't seen it.)
Of course due to the rules of G2K I can't reproduce the response by Mr Vaez either, but if anyone is actually interested, below is my reply anyway -- I think you can make out the gist of his points from my reply.
I should say that I won't be following up on this anymore, unless something dramatic happens since the CEIP report is a non-event which no one actually bothered to read as far as I can tell.
In response to Mr Vaez, to the extent that I could make out the post
On the first point of self-sufficiency: many countries with zero uranium reserves have highly developed nuclear programs -- and no one is telling them that they should give up their sovereign rights or face bombings -- so that's pretty much irrelevant. The "omni-present narrative of self-sufficiency" is not necessarily indicative of self-sufficiency in raw materials but in technological capability. To rely on the statements of some politicians when convenient, and yet to ignore the statements such as that provided by Mr Salehi which I cited, in no way can be deemed to be an "assessment on its merits" of the issue as Mr Vaez claims, and is precisely an example of the one-sided and agenda-driven nature of the CEIP report.
On the so-called concealment issue, I would be very grateful to Mr Vaez if he could explain how an op-ed written by Mr Nafisi in 2006, about a correspondence between Ay. Khomeini and Commander Rezai in 1988, in which the idea of a prospective desirability nuclear armaments is raised as an example of an unrealistic set of conditions to win the war, and which was dismissed by Ay Khomeini, amounts to any sort indication of the "domestic context" or proof for the idea that Iran had a military motive in mind when it supposedly "restarted" the nuclear program 4 years prior to that correspondence. Next, I would be grateful if he could explain why the CEIP report totally ignored the multiple other events I cited, including reports on Iranian national radio, which show that the nuclear program was hardly a secret, and that the uranium exploration and enrichment development program continued from 1979, and was unrelated to and predated the much-cited appearance of AQ Khan by many years.
Germany and the UAE are most certainly cited in the report as models of emulation for Iran, without regard to the actual merits of those models.
On the subject of 'transparency': In paragraph 52 of its November 2003 report on the Implementation of NPT Safeguards in Iran, theIAEA stated that " there is no evidence that the previously undeclared nuclear material and activities ... were related to a nuclear weapons program." A year later, the IAEA again stated that "all the declared nuclear material in Iran has been accounted for, and therefore such material is not diverted to prohibited activities."And since then, all of these previously undeclared activities were deemed resolved by the IAEA pursuant to the Iran-IAEA Modalities Agreement. All of this is entirely missing from the CEIP report. Indeed to accuse Iran of a lack of transparency, when Iran not only implemented the Additional Protocol volunarily but also regularly exceeded the requiremens of even that treaty to which it was not a party, nevermind suspending enrichment entirely for around three years, is simply ridiculous.
The claim that the report does not "equate Bushehr with Chernobyl" simply beggars belief. Chernobyl is repeatedly raised as an example of inherently unsafe Russian nuclear engineering skills and is used to cast doubt on the safety of Bushehr, and there's not a single instance in which the very fundamental differences in the design of the two reactors is acknowledged. I would not argue that there is sufficient safety in nuclear materials anywhere (in fact the greatest danger is in unregulated nuclear medical waste, which can actually kill people as an unfortunate event in Brazil a few years ago showed) however to accuse Iran of having an unsafe nuclear program and yet ignore the existing political context and sanctions is simply inexcusable especially when Iran has been cut off from receiving the technical assistance it has requested from the IAEA on several projects, including those related to improving nuclear safety, due to US pressure on that agency (and in violation of the NPT.)
It is most certainly true that people are entitled to their own opinions but not their own facts -- and the CEIP report engages in quite a bit of cherry-picking of those facts when it isn't resorting to opinions, arguments by innuendo and false parallels. Incidentally, I am not a proponent of the nuclear program in Iran, as I have nothing to gain or lose from it. I am a proponent of objectivity and facts. Indeed the CEIP report could have been a contribution to an informed and civil debate, but that's not what happened.
One witness puts the problem like this: “There was not the faintest chance
that President George W Bush’s Republican advisers and Israeli allies would
allow him to look benignly on such a deal. On the contrary, if the Europeans
were to defy American wishes, they would be letting themselves in for a
transatlantic row to end all rows...
So the peace proposal from the Iranian negotiators was killed stone dead even
though the European negotiating team realised that it was both very well
judged and in full conformity with international law.
Of course when Iran then ended the 3 year voluntary suspension of enrichment that accompanied this talks, the EU3 accused Iran of "violating the Paris Agreement."
Oh and incidentally, earlier in 2003 an Iranian peace offer made to the US was similarly spurned.
So what does Peter Osborn think was really going on?
The answer is that a different agenda is at work, which we believe has little
or nothing to do with Iran’s non-existent nuclear weapons. The US and its
European clients are driven by a different compulsion: the humiliation and
eventual destruction of Iran’s Islamic regime.
So remember that the next time the corporate media matter-of-factly declares "The goal of these sanctions is to support diplomatic efforts to
peacefully resolve the disagreements with Iran without having to resort
to violent means." Because that's a lie.
(Yes I know I misspelled Odyssey. There are lots of typos here, because I didn't bother dedicating the time to spell check this and just typed it out as I went along .. and as I get older, I care less and less about stuff like that. I'm not getting paid to do any of this, you know, and I seriously doubt anyone else has read the full document anyway.)
My critique of "Iran’s Nuclear Odyssy", by Vaezi and Sadjadpour published by the Carnegie Endowment: -- this was posted but in a highly edited form on the Gulf200 Listserve so I thought people should have a chance to read the full version.
While I applaud the conclusion that the US has to take a more realistic stance with respect to Iran’s enrichment program, the material on the nuclear program itself in this report is, frankly, egregiously inaccurate and amounts to a series of bile-spitting non-sequiturs and outright falsehoods that should not have been published with the imprimatur of the CEIP. I won’t bore anyone with a page-by-page criticism, though there is in fact something worthy of criticism on every page, but all-in-all their arguments are the same gripes that have been tossed around in exile circles for a while now and are often contradicted within the same report. The contradictions are not highlighted but are instead artfully evaded, and we are also presented with footnotes to sources that either do not support the assertions they’re cited for, or even contradict them.
I’ll just limit myself to 5 issues and will save the funniest bit for the last:
1- The authors repeatedly emphasize that the size of Iran’s uranium deposits and the capacity of the facilities at Natanz are insufficient to support a totally independent domestic nuclear fuel program -- leaving out that the Iranians have repeatedly stated that they did not plan to rely exclusively on domestic fuel to power their nuclear program, but had developed the program as bargaining chip and a hedge against price increases and foreign cut-offs. In fact, Mr Salehi specifically made this point in an interview published in the Financial Times in 2004:
“Nantaz, with all its vastness, can supply only one reactor for a year. We are to construct seven reactors, we are starting the bid for the twin reactor in Bushehr in a year’s time, so for that one we need to buy our uranium from outside. ..We say that for other plants we are going to buy our fuel from outside, but we are not going to become hostage to their wishes. Once they know we can develop our own enrichment, then they will enter into bargaining with us – like any other country.” (SOURCE: http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/52c8d7b8-027c-11d9-a968-00000e2511c8.html#axzz2QjGRroFt)
2- The most egregious section is entitled Concealment(1984-2002) on page 8, in which the authors go to great lengths to characterize Iran’s nuclear program as being secret and having military aims. They claim matter-of-factly that the motivation for the decision to restart the nuclear program was for it to serve as a “deterrence option” in the face of Saddam, and then they go to great lengths making a connection between AQ Khan and the program as proof of the military nature of the program.
Strangely, the evidence they provide for this matter-of-fact statement about a military motivation is footnote 38, an opinion piece written by Rasool Nafisi in the Iranian.com in 2006, which in no way supports their assertions of fact (In his article, Mr Nafisi in turn refers to correspondence between Commander Rezai and Ayatullah Khomeini in 1988, which was made public by Rafsanjani, in which Rezai stated that Iran could not hope to win the war with Iraq unless there was a massive -- and totally unrealistic -- increase in Iran’s armaments including nuclear weapons. Khomeini did not take this seriously, and as Mr Nafisi himself writes in the article, some have latched onto this correspondence and spin it as the long-sought evidence of Iran’s nuclear weapons aims.)
Sajadpour and Vaez also claim that “Iran’s uranium enrichment program was thus born in secret” and assert that the facility in Natanz was “clandestine”, and that China had provided nuclear material to Iran in secret, etc. etc. Reality begs to differ with all of this. First of all, Iran was not legally required to formally declare the facility at Natanz when the ISIS/MEK “exposure” of the site occurred, and the same applies to the heavy water project. And while the timeline as presented by the authors show a large gap in Iran’s enrichment program between 1979 when “work was suspended” and 1986 when the AQ Khan “Doctor No” character is introduced, there was in fact a lot more going on -- events which, when not deliberately ignored, paint an entirely different image than the impression the authors’ try to convey.
For example, In April 1979 Fereydun Sahabi, then Deputy Minister of Energy and Supervisor of the Atomic Energy Organization, specifically stated in an interview that while the nuclear program would be cut back, the Iranian “Atomic Energy Organization's activities regarding prospecting and extraction of uranium would continue.” In fact, far from reinvigorating a “secret” nuclear program in the late 1980 as a deterrent to Saddam, Iranian national radio reported the discovery of Uranium in Dec 1981, March 1982, and again in Jan 1985.
The 1982 national radio broadcast specifically quoted the director of Isfahan nuclear technology center, Mr Saidi, as stating quite explicitly that Iran was going to import the necessary technology to develop the enrichment program too.
Furthermore, Mark Hibbs, one of the consultants in this report, wrote in Nuclear Fuel magazine in 2003 that the Iranians and the IAEA had intended to launch a joint program to develop enrichment facilities in Iran but that the US stopped the IAEA from doing so in 1983. The motivations for the Iranians going to AQ Khan was thus not due to secret military aims as this report seeks to imply, but because the US had systematically obstructed Iran’s efforts to obtain the civilian nuclear technology that it was entitled to have under the NPT. (While the authors mention the US interference in multiple Iranian nuclear contracts with foreign nations, they pretend not to notice that this contradicts their own thesis of a “secret” nuclear program in Iran.)
Further information missing from this report is the fact that IAEA officials had visited Iran’s uranium mines at the invitation of the Iranians in 1992. And while the authors mention that US pressure ended Iran-Sino nuclear cooperation, they fail to mention that Iran told the IAEA in 1996 that they would complete the uranium conversion facility by themselves, and that the Iranians formally declared the facility to the IAEA in 2000 -- almost three years prior to the dramatic MEK/ISIS “exposure” of Iran’s supposedly “secret” nuclear program.
I won’t continue debunking the finer points in this section, but all of this information is a matter of public record (the Iranian radio broadcasts were translated by the BBC World Service and can be obtained on Lexis.) Therefore, I consider the authors’ presentation of such a one-sided and contra-factual narrative of events as evidence of bad faith and an agenda which taints the rest of the report too.
3- The authors go on quite a bit about the supposed lack of attention paid to alternative energy sources in Iran, for example by repeatedly emphasizing the potential for natural gas. They fail to mention that Iran has massively increased its consumption of natural gas in recent years, and in fact today more than 75% of Iran’s electricity comes from natural gas. Furthermore they leave out hydroelectric power, which currently accounts for about 3% of Iran’s electricity production, and that Iran has invested heavily in constructing some of the largest hydroelectric dams in the world. Thus to characterize Iran as mono-maniacally pursuing nuclear power is simply inaccurate and false.
In fact, if anything the sanctions have harmed Iran’s development of alternative energy sources. For example, in addition to investing in wind power, Iran is a manufacturer exporter of wind energy turbines, but has had a hard time obtaining the material used for the rotors due the sanctions. Indeed much of the “costs” that the authors attribute to Iran’s nuclear program are actually costs of the sanctions and not the nuclear program itself, but while they insist that Iran should abandon its nuclear program, lifting sanctions is apparently beyond the pale.
Here, I am not interested in debating the economics of nuclear power, as I am sure you can ask 10 economists and get 13 answers. Ultimately, as an investigation by a Foreign Affairs Select Committee of the British Parliament concluded, “arguments as to whether Iran has a genuine requirement for domestically-produced nuclear electricity are not all, or even predominantly, on one side” and neither the US or any other country has a right to tell Iran how to run its own economy, especially at the point of a gun barrel.
4- In criticizing Bushehr, the authors repeatedly use “Chernobyl “ as a scare word, nevermind that the reactor at Chernobyl was fundamentally of an entirely different design that the sort of lightwater reactor used at Bushehr which has an excellent safety record and is used worldwide. They also repeatedly refer to the UAE and Gemany as a model for Iran, but leave out quite a few facts.
Let us put aside the fact that Germany and the UAE are very fundamentally different countries and cannot be compared to Iran, whether in terms of economic development, strategic considerations or energy demand. The media often report that Germany has phased out nuclear power and has instead substituted renewable sources (specifically, solar power) but in fact Germany has already started to experience energy shortfalls, which have been compensated for by non-renewable sources such as natural gas imports, a significant increase in coal power (making up for 80% of the shortfall, according to Wikipedia) and nuclear-generated electricity from the Czech Republic.
And, while the US “123 Agreement” with UAE does indeed require the UAE to “renounce” (as the authors put it) enrichment or reprocessing of nuclear material (thus earning the agreement the “Gold Standard” label in non-proliferation circles) in fact the agreement is only limited to US-origin nuclear material, and furthermore the agreement specifically allows the UAE to renegotiate the deal in the future. Countries more comparable to Iran have not agreed to give up enrichment as part of a bilateral 123 Agreement with the US, and recently S Korea stopped negotiations over their renewal of their 123 Agreement with the US over this issue. In short, the UAE deal is not only not a model for Iran, it isn’t even a model for other countries. As one arms control wonk pointed out recently, far from serving as a Gold Model, the UAE agreement is little more than “a sui generis case unlikely to be replicated that creates a misleading impression about U.S. leverage over certain partners.” (SOURCE: http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2012/08/01/it_s_not_as_easy_as_1_2_3)
5- And finally, we come to a bit of comedy. According to the authors, the fact that the US and Israel released the Stuxnet virus on Iran and assassinated nuclear scientists there is proof that Iran can’t be relied upon to run a nuclear program which safeguards nuclear material from non-state actors who are presumably out to steal Iran's enriched uranium. Here, the authors site an AP article as proof of an impending disaster at Bushehr due to Stuxnet (footnote 195.) However, if you actually read the AP report cited, you’d see that that it has been misrepresented. According to the AP article cited, the report in question was issued by “a nation closely monitoring Iran’s nuclear program” -- Russians, Israelis, Chinese? -- and the report itself actually stated that “such conclusions were premature and based on the ‘casual assessment’ of Russian and Iranian scientists at Bushehr.” The AP article then goes on to quote a cybersecurity experts and Russian nuclear experts stating that Stuxnet could not in fact have damage Bushehr.
But aside from that, the argument itself is weirdly illogical on several counts. First of all, the US and Israel, which everyone assumes were behind Stuxnet and the assassinations, are not "non-state actors." Furthermore, nuclear scientists in any country tend to die when bombs are attached to their cars, and Stuxnet went on to wreak havoc well beyond Iran’s borders (in fact by some accounts Iran wasn’t even the primary victim of the virus.) But what I am really curious to know is what the authors think these mythical non-state actors can do with stolen Iranian enriched uranium because, aside from tossing it at someone’s head, the stuff isn’t actually particularly dangerous. It has low-level radioactivity, but certainly cannot be used for a bomb. In gaseous form, it is highly corrosive -- but so is Fluorine, an industrial gas which can be purchased commercially far more easily. Of course once irradiated, fuel rods made from enriched uranium are highly radioactive, but in the case of any attempted theft of the stuff the first victim would be the fool who tried to steal it.
As I said, I am not going to bore anyone with debunking what is a series of half-baked claims that are hardly new or interesting, especially since it doesn’t seem that too many people have actually read the entire report. The more interesting question for me is what role the Carnegie Endowment had in vetting this report before it was published under their name. After the Iraq war, the Washington Post and NY Times submitted a weak mea culpa for misleading their readers about “WMDs in Iraq” (even though particularly in the case of the NY Times, the lessons learned and promises made were quickly forgotten as the human dictaphone Michael Gordon once again pushed out scaremongering articles consisting of a long series of anonymous govt official quotes, etc.) but there has been no real accounting for the role of the think tanks in pushing that nonsense. I am not aware of any academic study of the role of think tanks in that fiasco, and don’t expect to see it now but if such an academic study is undertaken, this report by Mr Vaez and Sajadpour should serve as Exhibit A of one-sided and inaccurate, agenda-driven reports published under the guise of scholarship. Where is the peer review? Where is the balance? Where is the accountability?
Tehran's conditions for a long-term deal remain fundamentally what they have been for years -- above all, U.S. acceptance of Iran's revolution and its independence, including its right to enrich under international safeguards. Just as importantly, the Obama administration is no more prepared than prior administrations to accept the Islamic Republic and put forward a proposal that might actually interest Tehran. And Obama's ability to modify sanctions in the course of negotiations -- or lift them as part of a deal -- is tightly circumscribed by laws that he himself signed, belying the argument that sanctions are somehow a constructive diplomatic tool.
Frankly, I don't see the point. By now it is obvious that Obama does not have the balls to take on AIPAC, and yet the US is in no position to start another war either ... So Obama will most likely make all the right noises to keep the Israelis satisfied and yet will kick the ball down the road.
Like I keep saying, if you're expecting these talks to ever pan out, you're betting on the wrong horse. The Israeli influence over US foreign policy has not disappeared by magic -- it is still there, and any US-Iran rapprochement is anathema for them. With Syria wobbling, the US and Israel are not interested in making any deals because their hand could be stronger later if Assad falls. But this assumes that the US is actually interested in making a deal in the first place, rather than dragging out this standoff until there is an opportunity to impose regime-change in Iran (which is and will always be the "best scenario" goal of the US and Israel.) The history of this standoff has shown that's the case: the US has repeatedly batted away opportunities to resolve this standoff peacefully whilst also addressing any actual proliferation threats, and instead has repeatedly deliberately imposed conditions on the talks that were intended to kill any chance for compromise. And in addition, we all know that Obama is simply not capable of making any sort of deal with Iran even if he wanted to anyway, since the removal of sanctions would be the minimum quid-pro-quo demand by Iran, and US sanctions are mostly imposed by the pro-Israeli Congress not the US President. (That fact could not have been made more apparently by the treatment meted out to Hagel in his disgusting nomination process as Obama's Sec of Def.)
In any case I was reminded of an Dec 2006 interview with Iranian Ambassador Javad Zarif published in the National Interest Online site, when he predicted that the sanctions won't have any effect except to act as an obstacle to reaching one of the many compromise solutions offered by Iranandothers which would have addressed any real weapons proliferation threats, but certainly they won't prevent Iran from continuing her perfectly legal nuclear program. Amb Zarif pointed out even back then that in fact the sanctions policy seems more intended to prevent any sort of resolution rather than solving the standoff:
The Security Council sanctions will not be able to stop the Iranian program [and] the sanctions that are requested will not satisfy proliferation concerns. Proliferation concerns—if there are any real, sincere proliferation concerns—can be addressed through mechanisms that would bring about transparency, international monitoring and other possibilities that would provide the assurance that Iran’s program will always remain peaceful. The Security Council can impose sanctions but that does not provide that assurance.
Because Iran has been denied technology over the last 27 years and this resolution only officiates what has been the policy and practice, Iran has had to be discrete in its acquisitions of peaceful nuclear technology to the point that today Iran’s nuclear program has been localized. Every element of that program is produced locally and our own scientists have developed the scientific know-how in order to be able to sustain the program without any external support.
That was not always the case. Our desire was to have international cooperation in order to have access to technology. But the option that was provided to Iran throughout the past 27 years—and now more officially in this resolution—is to either accept being deprived of this technology—which is assuming greater and greater significance—or to try to develop it based on our own. Between these two options, we certainly choose the latter.
If the option were to be provided to Iran to develop this technology through cooperation, that is what we have suggested: an international consortium. Other countries, including Western countries, could own jointly with Iran the facilities, and also jointly operate them. That would give the greatest assurance that these programs are not diverted into any illicit activities.
Prof. Walt has an blog entry at Foreign Policy in which he essentiaaly makes th point that even if Iran had a nuclea weapon, it would be pretty useless, and the US would not attack Iran over it.
He starts out positing so many "suppose that" in order to put a hypothetical nuke in Iran's hands, arguendo, that I got lost. I don't have an argument with his article as such. My real criticism however is that by even hypothetically accepting such a premise, articles like this legitimate the the idea that Iran's nuclear program is really the cause of the current standoff b beteen the US and Iran, when it clearly isn't. The article implicitly buys into the framing that "the problem" is the nuclear program in Iran and not AIPAC-dictated policy of imposing regime change. The nuclear issue is and always has been a pretext, and we should not forget that fact, even for the sake of argument.
But aside from that, I was reminded by Walt's article about a "scandal" in Fance a few ears ago when Jacques Chric decided to ad lib a little instead of mouthing the same tired lines (which have become evev more shabbily worn since) about this alleged "Iranian nuclear threat" What did Chriac say that caused the scandal?
During a presidential press briefing at the Elysée palace devoted to the Paris conference on climate change, a New York Times journalist changed the subject to ask the French President about the Iranian nuclear threat. Chirac began with the standard official "International Community" line, namely that Tehran's refusal to give up its uranium enrichment program was "very dangerous". But then, Chirac (thinking, he explained later, that he was speaking off the record) gave in to the temptation to speak honestly. For Iran to have a nuclear weapon was not really so dangerous, he said. To make his point, he asked rhetorically what good it would do Iran to have a nuclear bomb, or even two. "Where would it fire that bomb? At Israel? It wouldn't have traveled 200 meters through the atmosphere before Tehran would be razed."
Chirac even went so far as to suggest that Iran had a motive for its nuclear research, including its fear of being "challenged or threatened by the international community. And the international community, who is that? It's the United States."
Of course the media went crazy about this. How dare Chirac say Iran's nuclear program isn't the threat that Israel and the US say it is, even though the Israelis themselves quietly say they don't really feel threatened by it either!
Just listened to a BBC News segment on the March 16, 1988 poison gas attack on the Kurdish village of Halabja by Saddam's forces during the Anfal campaign,which killed 5000 people. Of course, there was no mention of the US/German and othe European backing of Saddam, or the facts that the US tried to shift blame for the attack off of Saddam and onto Iran (even though it was the Iranians who first tried to bring Saddam's gas attacks to public attention through the UN, though the US had instructed its representative at the UN to try to stifle debate over the issue, while at the same time the US was arming Saddam.) Specifically, the first photographs (warning: images of death)of the aftermath of the attack were taken by an Iranian photojournalist Kaveh Golestan who was later killed covering the US invasion of Iraq. Ironically, he was working for the BBC when he was killed.
Ironically, and despite US complicity in the atrocity at Halabja, Bush cited the event as a pretext for invadng Iraq: “On this very day 15 years ago, Saddam Hussein launched a chemical
weapons attack on the Iraqi village of Halabja,” George W. Bush
proclaimed at the Azores summit on March 16, 2003. “If military force
is required, we’ll quickly seek new Security Council resolutions to
encourage broad participation in the process of helping the Iraqi people
to build a free Iraq.” Failing to get another Security Council
resolution to authorize the use of military force, he went ahead
anyway, and killed even more Iraqis.
Iran had been trying to bring Saddam's use of WMDs to the world's attention ever since the Nov 13 1983 chemical attack on Panjavin, an Iraq village a few miles from Halabja, causing 30,000 Kurdish/Iranian casualties (earlier yet use of chemical weapons at Haij Umran had resulted in 100 casualtis.) In 1984, Iran introduced a draft resolution to the United Nations Security Council condemning Saddam Hussein's use of chemical weapons on the
battlefield. In response, the United States instructed its delegate at
the UN to lobby friendly representatives in support of a motion to take
"no decision" on the use of chemical munitions by Iraq. If backing to
obstruct the resolution could be won, then the U.S. delegation was to
proceed and vote in favour of taking zero action; if support were not
forthcoming, the U.S. delegate were to refrain from voting altogether.
From then on, Iranians and Iraqis suffered thousands of casualties from Saddam's chemical weapons, while at the same time, Iraq was removed from the US State Dept list of terrorist nations so as to ease the process of sending weapons to Saddam, a process that National Security Council adviser Howard Teicher explained in a court affidavit (which was later sealed) was intended to ensure Saddam's grip on power in the face of Iranian battlefield victories. There were also two trips to Baghdad in 1983 and 1984 by Donald Rumsfeld, then
serving as a special envoy of President Ronald Reagan, in which Rumsfeld was famously shown shaking hands with Saddam.
Lets remember now, the United States had a key role in
the development of the Iraqi chemical weapons program, which included
arranging forthe sale of cluster munitions, sharing intelligence, and facilitating
Iraq's acquisition of chemical and biological weapons components. Leaked
portions of Iraq's "Full, Final and Complete" dislosure of the sources
for its weapons programs lists many American companies which provided the chemical precursors to Iraq's weapons program, even though the US tried to suppress the disclosure. These reportedly include thiodiglycol,
a substance needed to manufacture deadly mustard gas, which made its
way to Iraq via Alcolac International, Inc., a Maryland company, since
dissolved and reformed as Alcolac Inc., and Phillips, once a subsidiary
of Phillips Petroleum and now part of ConocoPhillips, an American oil
and energy company. The US was fully aware of the use of these chemicals
- in fact, the Reagan administration had to first remove Iraq from the
State Department list of terrorist nations in order to ease the transfer of the technology and material to Iraq.
Imagine my surprise when I see an editorial in the NY Times that I can actually agree with! The NY Times editors typically have the most misleading and inaccurate claims about Iran, even repeatedly referring to a non-existent "Iranian nuclear weapons program" but today they have an editorial entitled "Congress gets in the way on Iran" in which they complain that fresh Congressional sanctions on Iran harm the nuclear negotiations. More significantly, it indirectly cites AIPAC, Israel and Netanyahu as the motivation behind the measures.
Way back in Jan 2012, I asked a simple question: even assuming for the mere sake of argument that the Obama administration is serious about wanting a deal with Iran and isn't just playing "rope-a-dope" wth Iran in the hopes of eventually achieving regime-change there (which I think it is totally the case, a policy continued and adopted by Obama from the Bush admin, which is why Dennis Ross was initially brough aboard from the Bush administration), since any sort of viable nuclear deal with Iran is going to require the lifting of sanctions, and since most of the US sanctions on Iran are imposed by Congress and not the President, then is the Obama administration actually capable of delivering on any such deal with Iran?
The answer, of course, is a big fat "No." The US Congress is bought-and-paid for by Israel. Obama can barely get his Def Sec nominee Hagel past Congress, and the fellow had to literally debase himself and practically swear never-ending fealty to Israel before he sqeaked by the nomination committee. (Apparently Israel was mentioned during the Hagel hearings more often than Afghanistan, where US troops are still fighting an actual war.)
So, like I said before and before then too these talks will in all liklihood die too. Sorry. That's how the world is.
Why? The Israelis and AIPAC haven't suddenly disappeared, folks. They're still running the show in DC, and will be doing so for the forseeable future, as long as US election laws allow money to talk louder than votes and as long as most American voters can barely find their own country (let alone Iran) on a map. Like I said before, the US-Iran standoff is a sympton of a much greater pathology: the dysfunctional relation between Israel and the US, in which the "tail wags the dog."
At some point, maybe, the burden of this albatross around the US's neck may become so great that people will wake up and throw it off. There are even encouraging signs. After all not so long ago AIPAC lobbyists boasted of their ability to operate in the dark, comparing themselves to night-blooming flowers, but today the excess and malign influence of Israel on US foreign policy (especially over Iran) is part of the mainstream discussion. No longer is mentioning the phrase "pro-Israel lobby" cause to have the utterer classified with various lunatics and genuine or accused anti-Semites as in the past. And like I said before, the more Israel pushes Iran into the spotlight, the more it exposes itself too.
But they still own Congress, so don't hold your breath about any real deal coming out of these nuclear negotiations yet. Won't happen. Rest assured.
Ahmadinejad: A study in obstinacy "Iran has often been at the receiving end of ultimatums from foreign powers," said Cyrus Safdari, an independent Iranian analyst. "The politicians who stood up to these ultimatums are treated as heroes, and the ones who caved are still considered to be traitors."
ASIA TIMES: Funding regime change Madame Rice has a really bad sense of timing in seeking to 'reach out to the people of Iran' - who don't need $75 million to watch 'a few bad apples' from the US torturing people in Abu Ghraib."