Monday, July 20, 2015

The Iran Debacle

    From the Daily Alert, prepared for the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, 17 July 2015:

    • Unplanned Results of the Iran Deal - Danielle Pletka
      Right or wrong, the perception of many in the Middle East is that Iran is looking to impose Shiite hegemony wherever possible. Expect the region's Sunni powers to do all they can to push back. In Shia-majority states dominated by Sunnis like Bahrain, or where there are substantial Shia minorities like in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Yemen, there has always been suspicions that Shiites are fifth columnists for Iran. With those governments convinced that the nuclear deal empowers Iran, Shia life there is going to only get worse.
          Only financial constraints have limited Iran's support for Hizbullah and other proxies like Hamas. With cash washing in, these groups will receive the full benefit of Iranian military advances. In addition, the flow of fighters, weapons and money fueling the devastating conflict in Syria will only worsen.
          Once, a country that hid behind the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) to violate safeguards agreements and work on nuclear weapons faced the certainty of international punishment. Iran is now being pardoned, rehabilitated and allowed to keep its nuclear infrastructure. We can expect other countries - especially those most worried about Iran's rising power - to emulate Iran in using the NPT as cover for advancing their own nuclear weapons programs. The writer is senior vice president of foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute. (Politico)
    • A Deal with Gaping Failures - Yaakov Lappin interviews Dr. Emily Landau
      Dr. Emily Landau, head of the arms control and regional security program at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv, is one of Israel's keenest expert observers of the Iranian nuclear program. Landau told the Jerusalem Post she was at a loss to understand Washington's enthusiasm to conclude a deal with such gaping failures in it. The first of those problems, she said, is the deal's built-in sunset clause, making restrictions placed on Iran's nuclear program temporary.
          "This deal was supposed to add very strict verification measures that should have lasted forever." Instead, U.S.-led negotiators have agreed to a sunset clause "without any strategic indication that Iran has backed away from nuclear weapons, like Libya did 10 years ago. Why in the world would they lift restrictions in such conditions?" Only a clear strategic U-turn by the Islamic Republic could justify a sunset clause, Landau stated, "But we don't have that."  (Jerusalem Post)
    • Trusting the Iranians? - Yair Lapid
      When the Iranian Foreign Minister, Mohammad Zarif, goes on Charlie Rose and says, without batting an eyelid, that "Iran never called for Israel's destruction," he knows it's a lie (and so does Charlie). Iran has called for Israel's destruction hundreds of times, at all levels starting from the Supreme Leader Khamenei in recorded conversations, through to General Qasem Soleimani who is charged with the destruction of Israel in the Revolutionary Guards.
          Iran lied about building the enrichment complex in Natanz, lied about the plutonium reactor in Arak, lied constantly to IAEA inspectors about everything, and lied when they told the world that they weren't trying to develop nuclear weapons.
          In my conversations in Washington last month, I said, "Like most Israelis, from the opposition and coalition alike, I think this is a terrible deal which threatens the peace of the world. But even if you disagree, you have to find a way to protect yourselves from the possibility that the Iranians are signing only to get an easing of the sanctions and then use the money which will flow to them to build nuclear weapons behind the world's back."
          After all, they have experience. They built two reactors without anyone noticing (it was the Iranian opposition which told the world about Arak and Natanz), they built second-generation centrifuges without the world suspecting, enriched uranium to a high degree in Fordow without the world knowing, and built missiles which can carry nuclear warheads at Parchin without the world guessing. The writer, chairman of the opposition Yesh Atid party, is a former Israeli finance minister. (Times of Israel)
    • The Iran Agreement Is Worse than the U.S. Deal with North Korea - Bandar Bin Sultan Bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud
      Mr. Obama made his decision on the Iran nuclear deal aware that the national intelligence information and intelligence from U.S. allies in the region predict a worse outcome than in North Korea - and Iran will have access to billions of dollars. This deal will wreak havoc in the Middle East. People in my region now are consolidating their local capabilities and analyses with everyone except our oldest and most powerful ally. The writer was Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the U.S. from 1981 to 2005. (Washington Post)
    • Iran Deal Worse than We Could Have Imagined - Charles Krauthammer
      Who would have imagined we would be giving up the conventional arms and ballistic missile embargoes on Iran? In nuclear negotiations? When asked Wednesday at his news conference why there is nothing in the deal about the American hostages being held by Iran, President Obama explained that this is a separate issue, not part of nuclear talks. Are conventional weapons not a separate issue?
          Congress won't get to vote on the deal until September. But Obama is taking the agreement to the UN Security Council for approval within days. Approval there will cancel all previous UN resolutions outlawing and sanctioning Iran's nuclear activities, dismantling the legal underpinning for the entire international sanctions regime against Iran. Ten years of painstakingly constructed international sanctions will vanish overnight, irretrievably. (Washington Post)
    • Instead of Turning the Screw, the U.S. Relieved the Pressure - Bret Stephens
      Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei is an irascible and violent revolutionary bent on imposing a dark ideology on his people and his neighborhood. If there is evidence of an Iranian trend toward moderation it behooves proponents of a deal to show it.
          Serious sanctions were only imposed on Iran in November 2011. They cut the country's oil exports by half, shut off its banking system from the rest of the world, sent the rial into free fall and caused the inflation rate to soar to 60%. And that was only the first turn of the economic screw: Iran's permitted oil exports could have been cut further; additional sanctions could have been imposed. Instead of turning the screw, Mr. Obama relieved the pressure by signing on to the interim agreement. (Wall Street Journal)
    • We Should Not Let Euphoria about the Iran Nuclear Deal Cloud Our Judgment - Michael Herzog
      While the P5+1 negotiators celebrate the nuclear deal with Iran, in Israel, coalition and opposition are now united in deep concern about its long-term implications. Israel was not a participant in these negotiations, but its national security will be impacted more than anybody else's. After all, Iran combines ideological commitment to Israel's destruction with nuclear ambitions and the ability to project violence through proxies on Israel's borders. It is Israel that is targeted by tens of thousands of rockets supplied by Iran to armed groups on our borders, including Hizbullah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Brig.-Gen. (res.) Michael Herzog, a former chief of staff to Israel's minister of defense, is a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. (Guardian-UK)
    • Understanding the Argument for the Iran Deal - John Podhoretz
      At his press conference Wednesday, President Obama's argument boils down to this (these are my words, not his): "We wanted to keep Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. We've done it. And if you say otherwise, you either don't know what you're talking about or you want war."
          The key to understanding the president's argument is his conviction that the Iranians will hold to its terms, and that the methods it lays out to ensure it holds to the terms are sufficient to make them do so even if they want to cheat. Those who oppose the deal do not believe the Iranians will hold to its terms, and do not believe its enforcement mechanisms will prevent them from doing whatever they feel they must.
          There is literally no way to resolve this difference. That's why the president can and will argue that, hey, it's at least worth a try; someone else can bomb them later, and that someone will have more international support if he or she does. (Commentary)
    • Netanyahu's Warnings Apt on Iran Nuclear Deal - Editorial
      Diplomacy is certainly preferable to war. But the stakes - a nuclear armed Iran, with all the danger and destabilization that would imply for the region and the world - are simply too high to accept just any deal, at any price. It is assumed that Iran will, in fact, honor the undertakings it has made. Yet its track record in this regard is not encouraging.
          The bottom line is this: the agreement assumes a desire on Iran's part to become a constructive member of the international community. Yet there is precious little evidence of this, from a regime that continues to destabilize the region and to threaten Israel, and gives every sign of doing so in future - only now with the status of a nuclear threshold state. If the U.S. won't work to contain Iran, you can't blame the locals for taking matters into their own hands. (National Post-Canada)
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