Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Carter: looks like it, and smells like it....

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter
Peanut Farmer Jimmy Carter

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin has refused to meet former US PresidentJimmy Carter in an upcoming visit to Israel, the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Gaza due to his anti-Israeli views...

A senior diplomatic source told the news agency that Carter, who has a long history of antagonism towards Israel, is "permanently damaging" to Israel and that Israel's leaders should refrain from meeting with him, on principle. 

Rivlin's advisors have said the same. 

In May 2014, the former President supported the Palestine Liberation Organization's (PLO) unilateral push to join international organizations in breach of the ongoing peace talks with Israel and the 1993 Oslo Accords.

The year before, he called on the European Union (EU) to label products coming from "illegal Israeli settlements" - despite the fact that Israel's presence in Judea and Samaria is legal under international law.

In 2006, Carter wrote a book entitled "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid." His claims in the book, which he continued to espouse even after factual errors were revealed, led the reporting accuracy group CAMERA to say that the ex-president “clearly has an Israel, and even a Jewish problem.”

The United States appears to have lost the courage of its convictions

Uncle Sam appears to have lost the courage of his convictions....

From The Washington Post, 17 April 2015, by Natan Sharansky, human rights activist, former political prisoner in the Soviet Union, and chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel:

...If Iran wishes to be treated as a normal state, ...then it should start acting like one. 

...The Obama administration apparently believes that only after a nuclear agreement is signed can the free world expect Iran to stop its attempts at regional domination, improve its human rights record and, in general, behave like the civilized state it hopes the world will recognize it to be.

As a former Soviet dissident, I cannot help but compare this approach to that of the United States during its decades-long negotiations with the Soviet Union, which at the time was a global superpower and a existential threat to the free world. The differences are striking and revealing.

For starters, consider that the Soviet regime felt obliged to make its first ideological concession simply to enter into negotiations with the United States about economic cooperation. At the end of the 1950s, Moscow abandoned its doctrine of fomenting a worldwide communist revolution and adopted in its place a credo of peaceful coexistence between communism and capitalism. The Soviet leadership paid a high price for this concession, both internally — in the form of millions of citizens, like me, who had been obliged to study Marxism and Leninism as the truth and now found their partial abandonment confusing — and internationally, in their relations with the Chinese and other dogmatic communists who viewed the change as a betrayal. Nevertheless, the Soviet government understood that it had no other way to get what it needed from the United States.

Imagine what would have happened if instead, after completing a round of negotiations over disarmament, the Soviet Union had declared that its right to expand communism across the continent was not up for discussion. This would have spelled the end of the talks.

Yet today, Iran feels no need to tone down its rhetoric calling for the death of America and wiping Israel off the map. 

Of course, changes in rhetoric did not change the Soviet Union’s policy, which included sending missiles to Cuba, tanks to Prague and armies to Afghanistan. But each time, such aggression caused a serious crisis in relations between Moscow and Washington, influencing the atmosphere and results of negotiations between them. So, for example, when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan shortly after the SALT II agreement had been signed, the United States quickly abandoned the deal and accompanying discussions. 

Today, by contrast, apparently no amount of belligerence on Iran’s part can convince the free world that Tehran has disqualified itself from the negotiations or the benefits being offered therein. Over the past month alone, as nuclear discussions continued apace, we watched Iran’s proxy terror group, Hezbollah, transform into a full-blown army on Israel’s northern border, and we saw Tehran continue to impose its rule on other countries, adding Yemen to the list of those under its control.

Then there is the question of human rights. When American negotiations with the Soviets reached the issue of trade, and in particular the lifting of sanctions and the conferring of most-favored-nation status on the Soviet Union, the Senate, led by Democrat Henry Jackson, insisted on linking economic normalization to Moscow’s allowing freedom of emigration. By the next year, when the Helsinki agreement was signed, the White House had joined Congress in making the Soviets’ treatment of dissidents a central issue in nearly every negotiation.

Iran’s dismal human rights record, by contrast, has gone entirely unmentioned in the recent negotiations. Sadly, America’s reticence is familiar: In 2009, in response to the democratic uprisings that mobilized so many Iranian citizens, President Obama declared that engaging the theocratic regime would take priority over changing it.

Reality is complicated, and the use of historical analogies is always somewhat limited. But even this superficial comparison shows that what the United States saw fit to demand back then from the most powerful and dangerous competitor it had ever known is now considered beyond the pale in its dealings with Iran.

Why the dramatic shift? One could suggest a simple answer: Today there is something the United States wants badly from Iran, leaving Washington and its allies with little bargaining power to demand additional concessions. Yet in fact Iran has at least as many reasons to hope for a deal. For Tehran, the lifting of sanctions could spell the difference between bankruptcy and becoming a regional economic superpower, and in slowing down its arms race it could avoid a military attack.

I  am afraid that the real reason for the U.S. stance is not its assessment, however incorrect, of the two sides’ respective interests but rather a tragic loss of moral self-confidence. While negotiating with the Soviet Union, U.S. administrations of all stripes felt certain of the moral superiority of their political system over the Soviet one. They felt they were speaking in the name of their people and the free world as a whole, while the leaders of the Soviet regime could speak for no one but themselves and the declining number of true believers still loyal to their ideology. 

But in today’s postmodern world, when asserting the superiority of liberal democracy over other regimes seems like the quaint relic of a colonialist past, even the United States appears to have lost the courage of its convictions

We have yet to see the full consequences of this moral diffidence, but one thing is clear: The loss of America’s self-assured global leadership threatens not only the United States and Israel but also the people of Iran and a growing number of others living under Tehran’s increasingly emboldened rule. Although the hour is growing late, there is still time to change course — before the effects grow more catastrophic still.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Israel Joins New Asia Bank despite US reservations

From BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 295, April 16, 2015, by Dr. Alon Levkowitz*:

(Photo Credit: Prime Minister’s Office/ Amos Ben Gershom)

The Israeli government’s decision to apply to the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), despite Washington’s displeasure, is an expression of Israel’s strong interest in increasing its economic engagement in Asia.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in his capacity as minister of finance, signed a letter of application to join the Chinese-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) on March 31, despite Washington’s displeasure. Fully aware of Washington’s failed attempt to convince its allies not to join the AIIB, the decision to apply demonstrates Israel’s understanding of the rising importance of Asia, especially China, to Israel’s economy.

The new bank is viewed by many as an important indicator of the changing economic and global balance of power, appearing as a threat to the World Bank. The decision to join the AIIB is another phase in Israel’s policy to improve relations with Asia. Additional moves include negotiating free trade agreements with China, Japan and South Korea.

Does the AIIB symbolize a global financial shift towards China? Is it yet another indication of the gradual decline of the United States in Asia and the global arena?

...Chinese President Xi Jinping announced the plans for the AIIB in a speech to the Indonesian parliament in 2013. The bank looks to invest about $100 billion in infrastructure projects in Asia in contrast to the World Bank, which has a global, not regional focus. Another difference between the two banks is the amount that they would invest in Asia.  While the WB total work program funding for 2015 in Asia is $172 million, the AIIB intends to invest more than $800 million in Asia in 2015.

The AIIB will boost China’s role in the global economy beyond what is currently reflected in the voting mechanisms of the IMF and World Bank. It will also allow China to enhance its soft power in Asia. The AIIB might, as suggested by Washington, have transparency and technical problems, but the fundamental issue for the Americans is that it challenges its global hegemonic position.

Washington’s allies, mainly in Asia, were faced with a dilemma: to join or follow Washington’s recommendation not to. While the United States is undoubtedly an important ally for many countries, China’s importance as a major trading partner and ally also carries substantial weight.

For example, South Korea found itself in a dilemma, stuck between Washington’s request to abstain from joining the AIIB and to deploy the American Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile system. On the other hand, Beijing asked Seoul to join the AIIB and abstain from deploying THAAD. In the end, Seoul decided to join the AIIB and delay its decision on deploying the sophisticated anti-missile system. One possible reason why Seoul decided to join the Chinese led bank could have been to assist infrastructure projects in North Korea which would decrease Pyongyang’s incentive to initiate military provocations.

Besides South Korea, many other US allies decided to join the AIIB in spite of Washington’s objections. These include Britain, France, Germany, and Saudi Arabia. Tokyo and Washington are the two main economic powers that have so far decided not to join the new bank. However, based on Washington’s past record of opposing Asian regional initiatives at the beginning, only to later reverse its decision, it is likely that Washington and even Tokyo will also join in the long run.

The AIIB is another indication of China’s growing economic growth and willingness to challenge American power on the world stage.  And although Washington and Beijing do not see eye to eye on political, security, and economic issues, both states are economically interdependent, which could serve to constrain their rivalry over the balance of power in Asia.

The Israeli government’s decision to apply to the AIIB, despite Washington’s reticence, shows that it understands that it cannot afford to be left out of Asia’s economic rise. Once its application is approved, Israel will be able to initiate projects in Asia through the AIIB and assist Israeli companies in the process, thus increasing its relations in Asia.

*Dr. Alon Levkowitz, a research associate at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, is an expert on East Asian security, the Korean Peninsula, and Asian international organizations.

BESA Center Perspectives Papers are published through the generosity of the Greg Rosshandler Family.

Anti-Israel boycotters, including NIF-funded NGOs, lose legal appeal in Israel

Israel's High Court of Justice largely rejected an appeal against a law which limits Israelis’ ability to call for boycotts of West Bank settlements.

The 2011 law does not make a boycott a criminal offense, but allows plaintiffs to file a civil lawsuit demanding compensation from those who call for boycotts.

Defenders of the law said it prohibits discrimination based on geography.

Petitioners against the law and in support of boycotts included:
  • Ta'al - Arab parliament group 
  • Knesset member Ahmad Tibi
  • Supreme Monitoring Committee for Arab Affairs in Israel
  • *Coalition of Women for Peace
  • *Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI)
  • *Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI)
  • *HaMoked
  • *Yesh Din
  • *Adalah
  • Jerusalem Center for Legal Aid and Human Rights
  • Israel movement for reform and progressive Judaism 

* = NGO funded by the New Israel Fund

A panel of nine judges determined that the law was mostly on solid ground. Only one, important, clause was rejected: a section stipulating that courts may order unlimited sums in compensation to plaintiffs without proof of damages.

While Justice Hanan Meltzer, who wrote the majority opinion, agreed that the law limited free speech, he asserted that the limitation was in this case proportionate as boycotts were, in general, an undesired measure.

Meltzer said the only clause which could disproportionately limit free speech was the one the court elected to annul.

...The ruling came against a backdrop of an international boycott campaign against Israel.

Deputy Foreign Minister Ze’ev Elkin, who initiated the law, said the aim was to prevent discrimination against people based on where they lived. He said Israel has to defend itself against those aiming to harm it.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The Anguish of Liberation and the Return to Life

This posting, on the eve of 
Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Day 2015, 
is dedicated 
in loving memory of               לזכר נשמת
Hersz Lieblich              צבי בן יוסף
Born c 1890 in Kamien, near Rzeszow, Poland
Farmer and grain dealer - Husband of Chaya - Father of Josef, Israel & Moniek

Chaja Lieblich (Bratshpis)           חיה בת יצחק
Born 1896 in Stobierna, near Rzeszow, Poland
Wife of Hersz - Mother of Josef, Israel & Moniek

 Moniek Lieblich          מרדכי בן צבי
Born c1925 in Kamien, near Rzeszow, Poland
Brother of Josef & Israel

who were murdered by the Nazis and their accomplices in World War 2

Seventy Years Since the End of WWII

by Prof. Dina Porat*

...On 9 May 1945, when the defeated Germans finally capitulated to the Allied Forces, great joy spread throughout the world. The most horrific of wars had come to an end – a war that had wreaked destruction on a scale unprecedented in history: roughly 60 million dead; millions of refugees of every nationality spread throughout Europe; economies and infrastructures shattered. Soldiers from the US and the Soviet Union banded together on the smoldering ruins of Berlin, and throughout the European continent, barely freed from the clutches of the Nazi regime, military parades and celebrations followed one another in close succession. Yet one nation did not take part in the general euphoria – the Jews of Europe. For them, victory had come too late.

The day of liberation, the one for which every Jew had longed throughout the years of the Holocaust, was for most a day of crisis and emptiness, a feeling of overwhelming loneliness as they grasped the sheer scale of the destruction on both the personal and communal level. At the war's end, in the early spring of 1945, it became apparent that some six million Jews had been murdered – about one-third of world Jewry. Those who had survived were scattered throughout Europe: tens of thousands of survivors of the camps and death marches, liberated by the Allied armies on German soil and in other countries, were in a severely deteriorated physical condition and in a state of emotional shock. Others emerged for the first time from various places of hiding and shed the false identities they had assumed, or surfaced from partisan units with whom they had cast their lot and in whose ranks they had fought for the liberation of Europe. In the wake of international agreements signed at the end of the war, some 200,000 additional Jews began to make their way back West from the Soviet Union, where they had fled and managed to survive the war years.

With the advent of liberation, piercing questions arose in the minds of the survivors: How would they be able to go back to living a normal life, to build homes and families?  And having survived, what obligation did they bear towards those who had not – was it their duty to preserve and commemorate their legacy? Were the survivors to avenge them, as they demanded before their death? The overwhelming majority of survivors took no revenge on the Germans, but set out on a path of rehabilitation, rebuilding and creativity, while commemorating the world that was no more.

During the Holocaust, many Jews lived with the feeling that they were the last Jews to survive. Nevertheless, after liberation, survivors went far and wide in search of family members, friends and loved ones who might also have stayed alive, against all odds. Many decided to go back to their prewar homes, but they encountered utter destruction. In some places, especially in Eastern Europe, Jews met with severe outbreaks of antisemitism – some 1,000 Jews were murdered in the initial postwar years by the locals. The most appalling episode was the Kielce pogrom, in Poland – a violent attack on Jewish residents in July 1946 in which 42 Jews were murdered – some of them the sole survivors of entire families – and many others were injured.

The Kielce pogrom became a turning point in the history of the She'erit Hapleita, the surviving remnant as Holocaust survivors began to be known, in Poland. In the eyes of many, it was the final proof that no hope remained for rebuilding Jewish life in those lands. During the months following the pogrom, the flow of migrants from Eastern and Southern Europe increased manifold: In any way they could, Jews tried to make their way west and southward. Young surviving Jews, together with delegates and soldiers from the Land of Israel, aided and directed this exodus, the mass migration that came to be known as Habricha, "The Escape" – a grand-scale attempt to transfer as many Jews as possible to territories controlled by British and US troops in Germany, as a step before leaving Europe. Upon arrival in these regions, refugees joined the tens of thousands of Jewish survivors liberated in Central Europe, and together they amassed in the DP camps across Germany, Austria and Italy.  Oftentimes, these camps were established at the sites of former Nazi concentration camps, among them Bergen-Belsen and Buchenwald.

The activities of the She'erit Hapleita in the DP camps were a powerful expression of the survivors' efforts to return to life after the war. As early as the first days and weeks after liberation, survivors began to recover and organize themselves, despite the grief, physical weakness and extensive hardships. They formed new families and an independent leadership, set up educational and foster-care facilities for children and youth, published dozens of newspapers and magazines, collected testimonies on the fate of Jews during the Holocaust, and became a significant factor in the Zionist movement's aspirations and in related international politics.

At the same time, many survivors sought to leave Europe and move to places where they could safely rebuild their lives and their homes. About two-thirds of the survivors who chose not to remain in Europe after the war set their sights on Eretz Israel. Yet going to Israel was a formidable struggle, in view of the policies imposed by the British Mandate that barred them from entering into the Land. As part of the effort to break through the borders and prohibitions, the illegal immigration movement – the Ha'apala – was organized, whereby survivors boarded old vessels in various Mediterranean ports and sailed for Eretz Israel. The remaining third immigrated to the US, Latin America, South Africa, Canada and Australia.

The Ha'apala, as well as immigration to other countries, was a pivotal stage in the survivors' postwar recovery process. Holocaust survivors contributed, each in their own way, to building a better world for themselves, for their children and for future generations that would never know the horrors of the Holocaust. As survivor Riva Chirurg, who lost dozens of family members in the Lodz ghetto and at Auschwitz, said: "If more than 20 people, second and third generation, gather around my Pesach Seder table, then I have done my share."

*The author is Chief Historian of Yad Vashem. 

Sunday, April 12, 2015

There is no better deal with Iran

From Israel Hayom, 9 April 2015, by Prof. Efraim Inbar*:

There is no better deal with Iran 

The debate over the pros and cons of the Iran nuclear framework agreement negotiated between the P5+1 and Iran at Lausanne (April 2, 2015) is simply irrelevant. The search for truth in the conflicting versions about the details of the deal coming out of Washington and Tehran is of no consequence. And the steps suggested by Israel and other critics to improve the efficacy of the deal (by more stringent inspections and so on) will not change much.

The deal is basically dangerous in nature, and needs to be rejected outright.

The deal permits Iran to preserve stockpiles of enriched uranium, to continue to enrich uranium, and to maintain illegally-built facilities at Fordow and Arak. Even in the absence of a signed full agreement, the U.S. and its negotiating partners already have awarded legitimacy to Iran’s nuclear threshold status. In all likelihood, the United States, quite desperate to get a formal deal, will make additional concessions in order to have a signed formal deal -- which won’t be worth the paper on which it is printed.

This outcome has been a foregone conclusion since November 2013, when the U.S. agreed to the "Joint Plan of Action" on Iran's nuclear program. Already back then, the U.S. decided not to insist any longer on the goal of rolling back the Iranian nuclear program, ignoring several U.N. Security Council resolutions demanding no uranium enrichment, as well as discarding the security concerns of American allies in the Middle East (primarily Israel, Saudi Arabia and Egypt -- who better understand the regional realities).

Middle Easterners clearly discern an Iranian diplomatic victory in this accord, which should not surprise anybody. Iranians are much more adept at negotiating than Americans. Iran is getting more or less what it wanted: the capability to produce enriched uranium and to research weapon design; agreement to keep its missile program intact; and no linkages to Iranian behavior in the region. The deal is a prelude to nuclear breakout and Iranian regional hegemony.

Indeed, with no attempt to roll back the Iranian nuclear program, as was done in Libya, we are progressing toward the North Korean model. Those two are the only options in dealing with nuclear programs of determined states such as Iran. Iran's nuclear program benefited in many ways from assistance that originated in Pakistan and in North Korea (both are nuclear proliferators despite American opposition). Compare the recent statements by President Obama to the speeches of President Clinton justifying the agreement with North Korea (October 1994). Their similarities are amazing; an indication of the incredible capacity of great powers for self-delusion.

What counts is not the Obama's administration expression of satisfaction with the prospective deal, but the perceptions of Middle East actors. For example, Saudi Arabia and Egypt have deplored the fact that the U.S. is bestowing international legitimacy on Iran’s status as a nuclear threshold state. They probably believe the interpretations of the deal offered by Tehran more than those professed in Washington. Therefore, they will do their best to build a similar infrastructure leading inevitably to nuclear proliferation in the region -- a strategic nightmare for everybody.

Unfortunately, no better deal is in the offing. Whatever revisions are introduced cannot change its basic nature. The accord allows Iran to have fissionable material that can be enriched to weapons grade material in a short time and Tehran can always deny access to inspectors any time it chooses. This is the essence of the North Korean precedent.

Obama is right that the only alternative to this deal is an Iranian nuclear fait accompli or the bombing of the Iranian nuclear infrastructure. Obama’s penchant for engagement, his reluctance to use force, and his liberal prism on international relations (which adds rosy colors to international agreements) has led to this miserable result.

Netanyahu is wrong in demanding a better deal because no such deal exists. Yet denying its ratification by the U.S. Congress could create better international circumstances for an Israeli military strike. In fact, criticism of Obama’s deal with Iran fulfills only one main function -- to legitimize future military action. Indeed, Netanyahu is the only leader concerned enough about the consequences of a bad deal with the guts and the military capability to order a strike on the Iranian key nuclear installations.

If inspections, sanctions, sabotage and political isolation ever had a chance to stop Iran from getting the bomb (this was always a dicey proposition), that certainly is no longer the case. It is more evident than ever that only military action can stop a determined state such as the Islamic Republic of Iran from building a nuclear bomb...

*Efraim Inbar, director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, is a professor of political studies at Bar-Ilan University and a fellow at the Middle East Forum.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Iran is a train wreck that cannot be averted.

From Spengler, 1 April 2015:

...Iran has an apocalyptic regime with a great deal to be apocalyptic about. 

...no poor country in the entire troubled history of the world has seen its fertility rate plunge from 7 children per female just one generation ago to only 1.6 children per female today. There is no explanation for mass rejection of a nation’s demographic future except for deep cultural pessimism. 

Islamism, whether of the Sunni variety propounded by Sayyid Qutb or the Shia version of Ayatollah Khomeini, rejects modernity, which it views as corrosive of Muslim society.

Iran had the misfortune to be the most modernized Muslim nation (thanks to the Shah’s commitment to universal female literacy), as well as the most backward in ideology under the Islamic Republic. Its unsuccessful engagement with modernity has left a childless country plagued by social pathologies, including some of the world’s highest rates of opium addiction, venereal disease, and prostitution.

As a matter of arithmetic, Iran will have an elderly dependent ratio worse than Europe or the United States one generation from now, with one-tenth the per capital GDP. 

Demographic problems which barely are soluble in rich countries are a death sentence for a poor country. 

This is a train wreck that cannot be averted. 

Even in the unlikely event that Iran were to raise its fertility rate through incentives to families (as it recently proposed to do), it will have negligible impact on the rapid aging of its population and the ensuing collapse of its economy. The chart below uses the constant fertility projections of the United Nations Population Prospects, which readers can generate for themselves here.

Population Over 60, Iran vs. the United States
Population Over 60, Iran vs. the United States

As a matter of arithmetic, Iran can sustain a third of its population as elderly dependents only by acquiring the wealth of its neighbors, for example, Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia, which has a Shia majority, and where Iran already is attempting to subvert the Saudi monarchy. That is why Iran is aggressive, and why no negotiation will contain it.

... My recommendation to the American government since 2006 is the same as the one that former UN Ambassador John Bolton made in the New York Times March 26: destroy Iran’s nuclear capacity through air strikes. 

Reasonable people may disagree with this conclusion. But I still would like to hear someone disagree with my arithmetic.

The case for war

From Spengler, 7 April 2015:

...Some wars will happen, whether we want them to or not. They arise from the roots of national identity. 

The nations of Europe fought the First World War in the ultimately futile effort to avoid becoming what they are today, I wrote on the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War:
“Men are immoderate. We are not as different from our fathers as we like to think. The childless, hedonistic Europeans of today are the same people who fought and died in their millions for king and country in 1618 or 1814. Anything worth living for is worth dying for; if we can think of nothing we would die for, it means that we have nothing to live for, either – like today’s Europeans.
Europe learned at length that blood and soil, Kultur and Grandeur, were not worth fighting for. But Europe could find nothing to live for after it forswore the national gods of its violent past. It is dying of enervation and ennui, disgusted with its past and unconcerned for its future, unwilling to bring sufficient numbers of children into the world to ensure its survival for another century.”
Iran has not yet learned this lesson, and it will only learn it the same way the nations of Europe learned it in the past century...

Iran’s position in the Middle East today parallels the position of democratic France in 1914: an ambitious power with grand ambitions at the cusp of demographic decline, whose last chance to assert its regional dominance is at hand. 

The German and French population were more less equal at the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War in 1870; by 1913, Germany had grown by 70% while France had stagnated, probably because France was the first country to secularize.


Anglo-Saxon historiography long has blamed Germany for the First World War, an easy conviction before the bar of history given its culpability for the Second. Christopher Clark has now shown in his bestselling book The Sleepwalkers  that Russia’s mobilization forced Germany’s hand.

If one believes the memoirs of the French ambassador to St. Petersburg, Maurice Paleologue, France urged the Czar towards war. Four-fifths of France’s military age men were already mobilized in the eight months before the outbreak of war, against half of Germany’s. A war of attrition of sorts had already begun; France needed an early resolution because, unlike Germany, it could not sustain the costs continued mobilization.

Demographically, Iran is in a position comparable to that of France in 1914: its military-age population is now approximately half that of three most important Sunni states combined (Pakistan, Turkey and Egypt). By 2020 the ratio will shift to only one-fourth, due to the collapse of Iran’s fertility rate from 7 children per female in 1979 to only 1.6 in 2012.

Its 125,000 Revolutionary Guards constitute the best fighting force in the region after overthrow of the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq. Although Iran lacks a modern air force, it is the dominant land power in the Levant. Saudi Arabia’s new Sunni coalition is an attempt to respond to Iran’s depredations in Yemen and elsewhere, but the fractious and divided Sunnis are far from acting in concert. Pakistan is too preoccupied with India and its internal extremists to send soldiers on foreign adventures, and Turkey has no desire to commit to Saudi leadership in the region. Iran’s strength will peak during the next several years, especially if the lifting of sanctions gives it the money and authority to modernize its armed forces.

UN World Population Prospects (Low Variant)
UN World Population Prospects (Low Variant)

The point... is that all the factors that contributed to European bellicosity in 1914, and above all to German aggression in 1939, apply a fortiori to Iran: 

  • national messianism, 
  • the perception of historical injustice, 
  • the willingness to sacrifice arbitrary large numbers of lives, 
  • contempt for the humanity of neighboring states and–above all–
  • the entirely rational perception that time is running out, and that an inevitable war with neighboring states will become impossible to win not very far into the future.

Even if the proposed agreement with Iran succeeded in suppressing development of nuclear weapons–in my view an unlikely outcome–it will given Iran the resources to prepare for the final settling of accounts with the Sunnis on what ultimately will be an horrific scale. 

If European diplomats were deluded in their attempts to maintain the balance of power in the years before World War I, today’s diplomats are mad to believe that a balance of power can be established between Iran and its Sunni neighbors. 

War is already joined in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, Lebanon and Libya. War is not a choice. It is an event. If Iran were to triumph in the relative short-term, Sunni revenge would be all more terrible in the aftermath. 

A generation hence, a third of Iranians will be older than 60, the first time in all of history that a poor country will carry such an enormous burden of dependent elderly. The younger populations of its Sunni neighbors will overwhelm it. One has to go back in history before the Thirty Years War, perhaps to Tamerlane, to conceive of the carnage that this will cause. If Iran has nuclear weapons they will be used, and others will use nuclear weapons as well.

The balance of power in the Middle East fell apart when the United States forced a Shia majority government on Iraq through the elections of 2006. That was a catastrophic error. Nothing will quite restore it. But the next best thing, and the best alternative under the circumstances, is to suppress Iran’s ambitions and reinforce the conservative Sunni states as a bulwark against chaos.

I continue to believe, as I have argued since 2005, that an American preemptive strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities is the best course of action.

*  *  *  *

Postscript, from Michael Morell, Acting and Deputy Director of CIA 2010-2013:
Last month, a senior adviser to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani spoke at a conference in Tehran on “Iran, Nationalism, History, and Culture.” The adviser made clear that Iran’s ambition is to become a regional hegemon — in short, to reestablish the Persian empire…
The adviser, Ali Younesi — who was head of intelligence for former president Mohammad Khatami — told conference attendees, “Since its inception, Iran has [always] had a global [dimension]. It was born an empire. Iran’s leaders, officials and administrators have always thought in the global” dimension.
Younesi defined the territory of the Iranian empire, which he called “Greater Iran,” as reaching from the borders of China and including the Indian subcontinent, the north and south Caucasus and the Persian Gulf. He said Iraq is the capital of the Iranian Empire — a reference to the ancient city of Babylon, in present-day Iraq, which was the center of Persian life for centuries.
“We are protecting the interests of [all] the people in the region — because they are all Iran’s people,” he said. “We must try to once again spread the banner of Islamic-Iranian unity and peace in the region. Iran must bear this responsibility, as it did in the past.”

Friday, April 10, 2015

The win-win delusion

From the Washington Times, 7 April 2015, by Clifford D. May, president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies:

Americans must not allow Obama to simply trust Iran

Illustration on the untrustworthy Iranian leadership by Linas Garsys/The Washington Times
Illustration on the untrustworthy Iranian leadership by Linas Garsys/The Washington Times
..The unsigned, non-binding “understanding” announced last week dismantles none of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure — not even Fordow, the facility built secretly and illicitly under a mountain. 

It does nothing to slow the Islamic republic’s development of intercontinental ballistic missiles, whose only conceivable purpose is to deliver nuclear warheads to distant targets. 

It does not authorize “go-anywhere-anytime” inspections — the only kind of inspections likely to uncover whatever prohibited activities Iran undertakes over the months ahead.

It doesn’t even require Iran’s rulers to stop lying — to acknowledge that their nuclear program has not been strictly for “peaceful purposes” as they have claimed. 

And, of course, it doesn’t address 

  • Iran’s support for terrorists, 
  • its holding of innocent Americans hostage, 
  • its power grab in Iraq, 
  • its military support for the brutal Assad dynasty in Syria and Houthi rebels in Yemen, 
  • its continuing threats to topple Arab regimes with close ties to the United States, and 
  • to “erase Israel from the map” (that is “non-negotiable,” a commander of Iran’s Basji militia declared last week) and, 
  • in due time, bring “death to America.”

In exchange for not making these concessions, Iran is to be rewarded with the lifting of the remaining economic sanctions. Already, there is disagreement over whether that is to happen immediately or only gradually in response to Iran taking verifiable steps to slow its nuclear weapons development.

If that’s not Western capitulation, it will do until the real thing comes along — the real thing being the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the final agreement that is to replace the interim Joint Plan of Action by June 30. Whether the deal gets better or worse over the weeks ahead depends on which side will have tougher and more determined negotiators. What’s your best guess?

...the agreement being finalized is likely to lead to 
  • the spread of nuclear weapons (with a serious risk that some of those nukes will end up in the hands of terrorists), 
  • ... further fuel jihadi fires (Sunni and Shia alike), 
  • ....heighten our enemies’ contempt for us (while further depleting our allies’ trust in us)...
...21 years ago, President Clinton announced the conclusion of a “framework” with North Korea, an agreement he described as “a good deal for the United States” because North Korea would henceforth be obligated to “freeze and then dismantle its nuclear program.”

“The United States and international inspectors will carefully monitor North Korea to make sure it keeps its commitments,” he vowed. North Korea’s chief negotiator, Kang Sok Ju, provided further reassurance: The agreement will resolve “all questions of the so-called nuclear weapons development by North Korea” that have raised “such unfounded concerns and suspicions.”

He added: “We have neither the intention nor the plan to develop nuclear weapons.” 

He was lying. And we were choosing to believe him. 

Today, North Korea does indeed have nuclear weapons and is building more — while also developing longer-range missiles and assisting Iran’s nuclear weapons program in ways about which we know too little....

Iran's Goal is Middle Eastern Hegemony

From World Affairs, 6 April 2015, by Michael J. Totten:

The chattering class has spent the last couple of days pontificating on and bickering about the so-called nuclear “deal” with Iran, but largely missing from the conversation is a recognition of the Iranian government's ultimate goal—to become the regional hegemon. Its nuclear weapons program is simply a means to that end.

...one thing at least should be clear: the Iranian government is and will continue to be a pernicious force in the region regardless of any agreement. Even with a good deal from our point of view, replacing a rapid expansion of Iran's nuclear weapons program with sanctions relief and economic growth will at best be a wash.

Many in Washington seem unbothered by Iran's ultimate ambitions and are only concerned with Iranian nukes. In an interview on NPR in December, President Barack Obama said a deal could break Iran's isolation and enable the country to become, as he put it, “a successful regional power.”

Iran, though, is already a successful regional power. It has been an on-again off-again regional power since the Persian Empire ruled much of the ancient world, and it has been more culturally and politically sophisticated than most of the Middle East for thousands of years...

...One Middle Eastern state after another has disintegrated into schismatic abstractions controlled by rival armed groups. Iraq, Syria, Libya, Lebanon, and Yemen are all, as scholar and analyst Jonathan Spyer put it, “living in the time of the militias,” many of which moonlight as international terrorist organizations.

Iran backs armed factions in four out of five of those countries—

  • Hezbollah in Lebanon and Syria, 
  • undisciplined Shia militias in Iraq, and 
  • the Houthi rebels in Yemen. 
The only reason it has no footprint in Libya is because Libya has no natural Shia constituency for Iran to throw its weight and power behind.

Tehran's most effective project so far is Hezbollah, which has dominated Lebanon for decades and is expanding into its range of operations deep into Syria. Its Iraqi proxies just burned and looted Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit, and its Houthi clients in Yemen are well on their way to conquering the city of Aden, one of the country's largest cities, after seizing control of the capital Sanaa a couple of months ago.

One could argue that Iran's influence isn't entirely negative since its proxies are fighting ISIS in Syria and Iraq, but ISIS wouldn't have gained much traction there in the first place if it weren't for the vicious depredations of Syria's Bashar al-Assad and Iraq's Nouri al-Maliki, both Iranian clients. Besides, the world's largest state sponsor of international terrorism is the last country on earth we should want as a firewall between us and international terrorist organizations.

Iran's ability to disrupt the Middle East is unmatched by any other state in the region, but it couldn't conquer and rule the whole area even if it did have nuclear weapons. It can, however, foment fragmentation, chaos, terrorism, and war, and will continue to do so whether or not its government signs and adheres to an agreement with the US. A deal that allows Iran to grow stronger through sanctions relief without addressing any of that, alas, will almost certainly make the Middle East a worse place than it already is.

It’s ‘Victory Over America Day’ in Iran

From The American Enterprise Institute, April 4, 2015, by Thomas Donnelly:

Dianna Ingram/Bergman Group
Dianna Ingram/Bergman Group

The Obama administration’s actions have shown the Iranians that they can continue their gradual march toward regional hegemony and save their nukes for another day. As a result, Sunni states are likely to feel threatened and go nuclear.

... is there an enduring strategic logic behind Iran accepting a deal that temporarily “blocks every pathway” to a nuclear weapon,” as President Obama declared?

To answer such a question, it is necessary to speculate on the reasons why Iran has pursued nukes for so long. The reason now advanced by the Iranians is that it was a matter of national pride. “It’s our moon shot,” Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi told a US official at one point — the point at which, apparently, the administration gave up on its original goal of dismantling the program. And that’s no doubt part of the matter, but there is also a greater geopolitical reason that better explains why Tehran might be willing to at least slow its drive for the nuclear capabilities they have paid so much to acquire, not only in investment but in sanctions-inflicted pain.

Don’t stand in the way of an enemy who’s retreating.

...So now, when we see Iranians dancing joyfully in the streets, it might be at the prospects of prosperity resulting from the end of economic sanctions, but we should also ask whether it is a kind of victory celebration, a victory won despite what once looked like very long odds. In Tehran, it’s “V-A” — Victory over America — Day. The signing ceremony awaits.

For Iran, getting a nuke has been a way to deter the United States, which since the Iranian Revolution, and especially since 2003 and until 2009, had been perceived by Iran as an increasingly present danger in the region. After all, where Saddam killed hundreds of thousands of Iranians, America toyed at length and seemingly at leisure with him — overthrowing his regime with apparent ease. Tehran could never tell when the Great Satan might lash out again.

But through its withdrawals from Iraq and Afghanistan, unwillingness to stand by Arab allies, venom toward Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, phobia regarding the use of military power, and devout belief in the efficacy of arms control, the Obama administration seems to have convinced the Iranians that they can continue their gradual march toward regional hegemony and save their nukes for another day. 

Iran will no doubt reinvest the proceeds from any economic revival induced by sanctions relief in campaigns in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Yemen, and elsewhere; Washington has become a willing partner in making Iran the dominant power in the region.

The likelihood now is that Congress and the Washington chattering classes will spend inordinate energy parsing the details of the Iran “framework,” which will be followed by more obsessing in the event that a formal pact is reached, followed by still more wrangling over what role the European Union, the United Nations, and Congress ought to play in ratifying such an outcome. Not that the nuclear negotiating details aren’t important, but they obscure the larger issues of power. With the United States, the Europeans, and the rest of the world acquiescing in Iran’s rise, the Sunni states are likely to feel so threatened they take a page out of the Eisenhower “New Look” and go nuclear. After all, that’s what the Jews of Israel — the Arabs new best friends — have done.

In many ways the biggest danger in the Iran framework is that it will more or less live up to the president’s billing. Iran may be content to wear treaty-designed nuclear shackles for the next 10 years. But if Iran makes as many gains in the Middle East in the next decade as it has in this one, it will be free to spread an umbrella of nuclear deterrence over a much larger regional sphere of influence — of the sort that has long stirred Persian dreams.

'Not a framework deal, but rather deception'

From Israel Hayom, 9 Apeil 2015, by Nadav Shragai:

Joint statement issued in Lausanne, Switzerland last week "was nothing but a smokescreen meant to disguise difficult, ongoing disagreements between the parties," Col. (ret.) Yigal Carmon, president of the Middle East Media Research Institute, says.

While U.S. President Barack Obama is engaged in a "world war" with Congress over the framework nuclear deal with Iran and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has taken a clear stand on the matter, one of the foremost experts on Iran, Col. (ret.) Yigal Carmon [the founder and president of the prestigious Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI)], provides a fresh perspective and some new facts, which may send this hot potato rolling in new directions.
"The U.S. and Iran have, in fact, not reached any nuclear agreement..." ....
"The joint statement in Lausanne, which the Iranians defined as a press release, was nothing but a smokescreen meant to disguise difficult, ongoing disagreements between the parties..." ...
Carmon, who along with MEMRI's experts on Iran is currently in the institute's offices in Washington, believes the "fact sheet" released by the White House and the U.S. State Department, detailing the alleged deal with Iran, was "a ploy of incredible deception, meant to prevent Congress from imposing immediate, crippling sanctions on the Iranians." 

He recommends Netanyahu change his approach, and inform Obama that since this is clearly a ruse, and that there are no understandings with Iran, let alone a deal, Israel expects and hopes Congress will continue to pursue and intensify its sanctions on Iran.
..."It was, apparently, only after Obama informed the Iranians that Congress would exacerbate the sanctions if the negotiations reach their deadline with no result that Khamenei agreed to a wary, minimal, and limited move, providing Obama with a show of sorts."
Q: A show?

"Yes. The Americans called the Lausanne statement 'a joint statement,' but for the Iranians it was no more than 'a press release.' If you read the Lausanne statement word for word, you see it amounts to no agreement. The most far-reaching statement it makes mentions 'solutions for key parameters for the final deal.' The wording is vague and nonbinding, and can be interpreted either way." Binding agreements are left for the future, whenever the final solution is drafted.

Q: But the White House issued a very detailed fact sheet about the agreement reached with the Iranians, a follow-up on what you call "vague and nonbinding" language.

"That document was born when Obama understood that the Lausanne statement was too weak to go with to Congress, to block new, immediate, crippling sanctions," Carmon explained.

..."But then at the end of the day, it turned out that the fantastic achievement was nothing but a fata morgana. A ploy that didn't last even 36 hours," he said.

"When the American fact sheet was first brought to the attention of the Iranian foreign minister he said it was a media spin," Carmon continued. "Later on he and his deputy bluntly challenged [U.S. Secretary of State] John Kerry by saying the fact sheet was false.

"The Iranians ended up releasing their own, very detailed fact sheet, indicating that there are substantial gaps between the two documents. This means there are no agreements, or anything close to agreements."

Duplicitous language
Carmon has studied the American and the Iranian fact sheets over and over again, and his institute has translated the Iranian document verbatim.

The Iranians, he said, stated with emphasis that the Lausanne statement has no legal bearing and is no more than an "interpretive guide for organizing and writing a comprehensive action plan."

There are countless differences between the two documents, says Carmon, not only in what they contain but also in what they do not contain, and gives just a few examples.

Unlike in the fact sheet released by the White House, "the Iranians made it clear that nuclear-related activities in all facilities will not be ended, suspended or stopped, and that Iran's nuclear activity in the facilities in Natanz, Fordo, Isfahan, and Arak, will continue. This contradicts the American document, which states that enrichment activity will continue in only one facility."

Carmon noted the Iranians had used language that could be interpreted in several ways, when saying that "more than 5,000 centrifuges" would remain operational in Natanz, producing enriched uranium, as well as "more than 1,000" centrifuges would continue in Arak.

"'More than 5,000' could be 6,000 but it could also be 20,000, and 'more than 1,000' could be 4,000 or 8,000. What kind of wording is that for an agreement?" he wondered.

Regarding the stockpile of 10 tons of low-grade enriched uranium the Iranians already posses -- the Iranian document states that Tehran will use it for its own nuclear purposes or export it to international markets.

"This means that they have no binding obligation. The will remain the owners and will use it as they see fit by their own decisions.

"They also write that the 'additional protocol' that provides for surprise inspections procedures, will be carried out "voluntarily and temporarily," and "as a confidence-building measure." The Iranians, Carmon said, "make no mention of the advanced, effective procedure the Americans introduced in their fact sheet."

Deceit's achievements
The documents, Carmon explained, include a detailed record of what is to become of the sanctions.

According to Obama, the sanctions will be lifted gradually, provided that Iran complies with its obligations. The Iranians, however, note the immediate and simultaneous removal of all sanctions, slated to take place as Iran begins the agreement's implementation -- not when it completes it.

Q: How do you explain these differences? Is Obama fooling himself?

"Surely not," Carmon said. "The New York Times quoted unnamed administration officials, who alluded that this was a 'cold-blooded' decision: The Americans explained to the Iranians before they parted ways that they would release something to Congress and the American public, and that it would express different narratives. But that they will try not to contradict each other. Later, Wendy Sherman was clearer in an interview to MSNBC. She said that the negotiating teams discussed the matter before they left Lausanne, and made it clear that there are two narratives, but promised not to contradict each other.

"If this is not a premeditated collusion to deceive Congress and public opinion -- I don’t know what one would be," says Carmon.

Q: Has Congress been duped?

"I certainly hope not, but when members of Congress hear from the president and their State Department of such achievements, in an official document, the 'fact sheet,' they are obligated to at least delay making a decision on new sanctions pending further review. In this respect, this deception has achieved its goal, at least for the short term."

Q: How do you think Israel should act at this time?

"If I were in a position to offer Netanyahu advice, I would advise him not to fight the nonexistent deal but rather explain to Congress that there is no agreement," Carmon said.

"By fighting this nonexistent deal, Netanyahu is playing into Obama's hands, as Obama can say to Congress, 'We have a deal indeed, there are different approaches as to what is the best way to deal with the Iranian threat, as evident by Netanyahu's objections, and we will continue to debate the matter as friends.' But a deal exists and therefore Congress should refrain from added sanctions until we finalize drafting it. This is very convincing, had it not been false and misleading, since Obama has not reached a deal [with Iran]. This has to be stated, loud and clear, in hopes that Congress will continue its efforts to pressure Iran based on the fact that there is no deal."

The absent handshake 
Carmon pointed to the fact that once the Lausanne charade had ended, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif made sure to avoid even shaking hands with any of the delegation heads.

The Iranian statement on the American fact sheet, he noted, also included a short line about a round of final agreement negotiations, which took place in Lausanne on March 25.

Carmon hedged the Iranians introduced that line "to reiterate what they have been saying this whole time -- there is no two-stage negotiation. You should know that the final agreement has already been discussed."

Q: Why do you think the Americans are going about this in such a devious way?

"There are different explanations about Obama and Kerry's general approach to Iran, but I don't believe some of them. For example -- I heard 'explanations' attributing it to Obama's senior adviser Valerie Jarrett, who some say is his 'spiritual twin.' She was born in Shiraz, Iran. She grew up there. Kerry's daughter is married to an Iranian physician from Los Angeles. I don't subscribe to such 'explanations.' I believe the explanation is political," Carmon said.

"The political explanation is that Obama wanted to spare himself a grave failure and also wanted to spare Iran from new, additional, stricter, and immediate sanctions, and reporting fabricated success is the best way for it. It seems like the goal justified any means, including misreporting and a collusion to misrepresent the results of the negotiations. Telling Congress and the public a tall tale about an alleged agreement and producing a fact sheet, much of which was immediately debunked by the Iranians.

"Iran played along with this charade to a certain extent, but when the Iranians learned of its magnitude, they issued a fact sheet of their own, exposing the American ploy for what it was."

At the end of the day, Carmon said, "This deception will fail. The three months remaining until June 30 will fly by, and given the Iranian position, which adamantly seeks a path that would allow them to freely pursue the development of nuclear weapons, Obama will find himself facing the same failure. 

"Congress won't be duped twice. In fact, the negotiations will resume within a week or two, and it will turn out that all of the agreements and alleged Iranian concessions, were really never made; that they were fabled."

Carmon is convinced that "Obama and his administration will eventually be perceived as those who have deceived Congress and the American public, which I find regrettable. The United States is the leader of the free world, and it is unfortunate that its weakness has been exposed. It's bad for the free world, and it's certainly bad for Israel."

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Ehud Barak on Iran: Close the door and tell them ‘dismantle or else’

From the Times of Israel, April 9, 2015:

US could destroy Iran’s nuclear facilities in ‘a fraction of one night,’ former prime minister says

Former prime minister Ehud Barak speaking to CNBC in an interview published on Wednesday, April 8 2015. (Screen capture: MSNBC)
Former prime minister Ehud Barak, April 8 2015. 
(Screen capture: CNBC)

Former prime minister Ehud Barak on Wednesday urged the United States to adopt a tougher negotiating position with Iran and deliver it an ultimatum: Dismantle its entire nuclear program “or else.”

In an interview with CNBC, Barak said the US should hold direct negotiations with the Iranians and send “a clear message.” He downplayed fears that a military strike on Iran would spark a full-fledged war, saying the operation would more closely resemble the assassination of Osama bin Laden than the 2003 Iraq war and could be carried out in one night.

“It’s the [world powers’] last moment to stand firm and to make a position and to make sure that Iran will eventually understand, that either they dismantle their nuclear program or else,” Barak said.
“I think that what is really needed is a clear message — it’s not too late to send an authoritative envoy of the president to come to [Iranian Supreme Leader Ali] Khamenei, [Iranian President Hassan] Rouhani, close the door behind and tell them: ‘Gentlemen, we fully understand you, we are not going to embarrass you, we’re not going to humiliate you, but you have to understand: either you agree once and for all to dismantle your nuclear military program – or else.’”
Barak suggested that the “blurring” of the military option doesn’t serve Western interests.
“The reason that they’re here is exactly the fact that they suffered the sanctions, [and] there was so clearly the big stick in the background and they felt the simmering tension from underneath,” Barak said.

Barak rejected the US presentation of the nuclear deal as the only alternative to war, while also arguing that a military campaign against Iran would not be as extensive as President Barack Obama has intimated.
“Now, the administration uses the term war and people are probably thinking it’s something like a war on Iraq or a war on Afghanistan – it’s not the case.
“Technically speaking, the Pentagon and the armed forces of America under the backing and probably directive of the president create extremely effective means of destroying the Iranian nuclear military program over a fraction of one night, in an operation which is much closer on the spectrum between the war on Iraq and the killing of Osama bin Laden, it’s much closer to killing Osama Bin Laden, and it’s something that should be understood — the Iranians can do nothing about it except for attacking Israel,” Barak said.
“All of us prefer a solution that might be through negotiations, but to negotiate – the other side should understand and believe, not just ‘fake-believe’ – he should understand and strongly believe that if they will not come to terms with the real demands to put all the enriched material out of Iran, to close [the underground nuclear facility at] Fordo, to stop all work on weaponization, on making preparations for a weapon – if all this is not agreed right now they face the alternative.”

Iran Dictator: Nuclear framework no guarantee of deal

From the Times of Israel, 9 April 2015, by AFP and Jonathan Beck:

Breaking silence, Ali Khamenei blasts White House for ‘lying’ on fact sheet; warns ‘it’s too early to congratulate’

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (screen capture: YouTube/PressTVGlobalNews)
Iran's Dictator Ayatollah Ali Khamenei 
(screen capture: YouTube/PressTVGlobalNews)

A framework nuclear deal reached with world powers last week is no guarantee a full agreement will be secured by the end of June, Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Thursday.
“What has been done so far does not guarantee an agreement, nor its contents, nor even that the negotiations will continue to the end,” Khamenei, who has the final word on all matters of state, said on his official website.
In the first comments by the supreme leader since the Lausanne framework agreement, an evasive Khamenei said he was “neither for it or against it.”

The supreme leader also addressed the discrepancies between the US and Iranian accounts of the terms of the framework agreement, accusing the White House of lying.
“I trust our negotiators but I’m really worried as the other side is into lying and breaching promises; an example was White House fact sheet,” he wrote on Twitter. “Hours after the talks, Americans offered a fact sheet that most of it was contrary to what was agreed. They always deceive and breach promises.”
Ever since the framework agreement was announced last week, the various parties have set out sometimes sharply differing accounts of what has been agreed, provoking escalating controversy and criticism over the deal. The Iranian Foreign Ministry on Friday issued its own fact sheet, which differs starkly with the official American parameters and with the French fact sheet seen by The Times of Israel.

Six key discrepancies between the US and Iranian documents, some of them at the very heart of the framework agreement announced in Lausanne, Switzerland, last Thursday, were highlighted by an Israeli expert on Saturday.

Khamenei maintained that the understandings secured in Switzerland are not binding and said “the details” in the final deal will determine whether an agreement is signed.
“It’s all about the details. The disloyal side may want to stab Iran in the back over the details; it is too early to congratulate,” Khamenei wrote on Twitter.
The supreme leader said he backs the negotiators and supports a deal “which ensures [the] nation’s interests,” adding that “no deal is favorable to a deal against Iran interests and dignity.”

Earlier on Thursday, President Hassan Rouhani said that Tehran would not sign a final nuclear deal with world powers unless all sanctions against the Islamic Republic were removed immediately.
“We will not sign any agreements unless on the first day of the implementation of the deal all economic sanctions are totally lifted on the same day,” Rouhani said in a televised speech.
Iran and six world powers reached a framework agreement last week aimed at keeping Tehran from being able to develop a nuclear weapon. No text was signed or finalized, and there are major discrepancies over what was agreed, including over the process of sanctions relief.

The deal is to be finalized by the end of June.

It is meant to curb Iran’s nuclear program while giving Tehran quick access to bank accounts, oil markets and financial assets blocked by international sanctions.

The pace at which the sanctions will be lifted is one of the many outstanding issues that still has to be agreed in the final accord.

Western governments, which have imposed their own sanctions over and above those adopted by the United Nations, have been pushing for it to happen only gradually.

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Abbas: Let Palestinians Die in Syria Rather than Give Up ‘Right of Return’

This article from Algemeiner, 11 January 2013, is very relevant today, when "Palestinian refugees" are being brutalised by IS in Syria:

Mahmoud Abbas. Photo: World Economic Forum.
Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas has said he has rejected a United Nations’ brokered deal with Israel to allow Palestinian refugees living in Syria to resettle in the West Bank and Gaza.

Speaking to a group of journalists in Cairo, Abbas told them that in December [2012] he reached out to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to contact Israel on his behalf to resolve the status of Palestinians caught in the Syrian civil war.
Abbas, however, said that Israel conditionally agreed as long as the Palestinian refugees forfeit claims to “return” to Israel, which he rejected.
“So we rejected that and said it’s better they die in Syria than give up their right of return,” Abbas reportedly told Egyptian journalists, the Associated Press reported.
...As part of the 1948 War of Independence, more than 700,000 Palestinian Arabs became refugees as a result of the conflict they initiated. Today, the refugees and their descendants (estimated to be around 5 million) remain largely stateless in refugee camps throughout the Arab world.
The UN’s typical policy is that only those who flee their countries themselves are considered “refugees,” not their descendants. However, the UN makes an exception for descendants of Arabs who fled Israel.
In Syria, it is estimated that about 150,000 Palestinians have fled the country as a result of the civil war.
Israel has called for the Palestinian refugee situation to be resolved as part of a comprehensive regional peace deal, while Palestinian leaders have maintained calls for the unconditional return of all refugees to the pre-1948 homes inside of Israel.