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. 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. 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.

Confused Framework

From Times of Israel, 7 April 2015:

French fact sheet differs from US on Iran’s centrifuge use, R&D

Raising new questions, internal Paris document seen by Times of Israel also shows discrepancies over sanctions relief, inspectors’ access

A French government fact sheet on the Iran framework deal, which has not been made public by Paris but which has been seen by The Times of Israel, provides for Iran to gradually introduce the use of advanced centrifuges to enrich uranium after 12 years, in contrast to the US official parameters, which make no such specific provision.

The use of the more advanced IR-2 and IR-4 centrifuges, as permitted according to the French fact sheet, would enable Iran to more rapidly accumulate the highly enriched uranium needed to build nuclear weapons, accelerating its breakout time to the bomb.

The French fact sheet also specifies that Iran will be allowed to continue R&D work on the advanced IR-4, IR-5, IR-6 and IR-8 centrifuges, the last of which can enrich uranium at 20-times the speed of Iran’s current IR-1 centrifuges, whereas the American parameters are less specific.

Differences between the texts issued by Paris and Washington also extend to the question of inspection and supervision of Iran’s activities, with the French document indicating that the IAEA, the International Atomic Energy Agency, will be able to visit any suspect site in Iran — so-called “anywhere, anytime” access — whereas the US document is less far-reaching.

The two documents also differ in their terminology as regards the scale and timing of sanctions relief as the deal takes effect.

From left, Head of Mission of the People's Republic of China to the European Union Hailong Wu, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, German Foreign Minister Frank Walter Steinmeier, European Union High Representative Federica Mogherini, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarifat, Russian Deputy Political Director Alexey Karpov, British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond and US Secretary of State John Kerry arrive in Lausanne, Switzerland, Thursday, April 2, 2015, after the United States, Iran and five other world powers on Thursday announced an understanding outlining limits on Iran's nuclear program. (AP Photo/Brendan Smialowski, Pool)
From left: Head of Mission of the People’s Republic of China to the European Union, Hailong Wu; French Foreign Minister, Laurent Fabius; German Foreign Minister, Frank Walter Steinmeier; European Union High Representative, Federica Mogherini; Iranian Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif; Russian Deputy Political Director, Alexey Karpov; British Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond; and US Secretary of State, John Kerry, in Lausanne, Switzerland, on April 2, 2015, after the US, Iran and five other world powers announced an understanding outlining limits on Iran’s nuclear program. (photo credit: AP/Brendan Smialowski)


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 a deal that President Barack Obama has hailed as historic and Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has warned is “very bad” and paves Iran’s path to the bomb.

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.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif claimed earlier on Saturday that, under the deal, Iran has the right to continue working on more of the advanced IR-8 centrifuges. “Some said Iran can have no R&D, but we now have the right to develop IR-8, which has 20x the output of IR-1,” he said.

The Israeli government on Monday issued a series of demands intended to transform the non-signed framework agreement into a more reasonable deal by the scheduled June 30 deadline, and asked 10 key questions about the terms, several of which related to the emerging discrepancies between the various players’ accounts of what was decided in Lausanne.

Hours later, in two interviews with Israeli television stations, Ben Rhodes, a senior adviser to Obama, quashed the notion that the final deal would be markedly more stringent on Iran than the terms of the framework agreement, declaring that the deal as it now stands meets the US’s “core objectives.
“We believe that this is the best deal that can emerge from these negotiations,” Rhodes said.

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

The Middle East: living in the time of the militias

In a process of profound importance, five Arab states in the Middle East have effectively ceased to exist over the last decade.  The five states in question are Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen and Libya.  It is possible that more will follow.
But in all these cases, the result has been remarkably similar — it is the ceding of power from strong central authorities to a variety of political-military organizations, usually but not always organized around a shared sectarian or ethnic origin.  The Middle East today is overshadowed by this process.  
We are living in the time of the militias.
The causes of their disappearance are not all the same. In two cases (Iraq, Libya) it was western military intervention which began the process of collapse.  In another case (Lebanon) it is intervention from a Middle Eastern state (Iran) which is at the root of the definitive hollowing out of the state.
Observe:  in Syria, the clearest-cut case, the country is now effectively separated into separated ethnic and sectarian enclaves — an area dominated by Bashar Assad in the south and west, an area dominated by the Sunni jihadi Islamic State group in the east, three non-contiguous Kurdish enclaves across the north, an area under the domination of al-Qaeda and its allies in the northwest and a small area in the southwest held jointly by al-Qaeda and a variety of other Sunni Arab militias supported by the west.
The important point to note here is that the area controlled by Assad (around 40% of the total area of Syria) does not essentially differ in its militia-nature from the other areas.
On the contrary, Assad has been able to survive because he is aligned with the force best designed to successfully exploit the fragmentation of Arab states and the emergence of militias seeking to impose their authority on the ruins of the state.
This force is Iran, and more specifically the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps and its Qods Force.
This force is a unique body.  It exists for the precise purpose of building proxy paramilitary organizations to serve the Iranian regional interest.  At a time like the present, the possession of such a force is an enormous advantage.
Assad’s large, mainly Sunni Arab conventional army became largely useless to him in 2011/12.  The IRGC stepped in and created for him one of its own preferred force types.  Today, this militia (the National Defense Forces) along with other Iranian-created or -sponsored militia forces from neighboring Iraq and Lebanon are largely responsible for Assad’s survival. But he survives as a warlord and militia chief, not as a “president” or the head of a state.

Monday, April 06, 2015

Iran a 'terrorist monster' wreaking havoc on the Mideast

From JPost, 4 April 2015:

Defense minister says framework nuclear deal a "huge achievement for Iran and a historic mistake for the West." 

Moshe Yaalon
Moshe Yaalon. 

As an onslaught of condemnation from Israeli officials continued to target  the framework deal reached last week on Iran's nuclear program, 

Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon on Sunday blasted Iran as a "terrorist monster" that creates disorder in the region and around the world. 
"Iran is a terrorist monster that funds, trains and arms organizations and entities to wreak havoc among the pro-Western regimes in the Middle East and around the world, and it has no intention of stopping this," Ya'alon charged. 
He added that the agreement reached Thursday would not pose as an obstacle to Iran, rather it would set the stage for the Islamic Republic to "increase its appetite to spread disarray." 

The defense minister said that the framework agreement between Iran and world powers was "a huge achievement for Iran and a historic mistake for the West."

Meanwhile, Economy Minister Naftali Bennett took to Facebook, posting a list of responses explaining his rejection of the veracity of the text of the initial Iranian nuclear accord.

Bennett summarized his comments by saying the "right course of action is quite simple: Keep the sanctions until Iran gives up their nuclear weapons program. It will take another year, or perhaps five, but it will happen eventually."

The economy minster noted that as a comprehensive deal has not yet been signed, there is still time to stop this "historical error" and "fix the situation."

The ministers' remarks came after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier on Sunday took his arguments against the Iran nuclear deal to the US public, giving interviews on three Sunday morning news shows and saying he was not against any deal with Iran, just [against] a “bad deal.” 

However, on Friday the White House said the United States would not sign on to an agreement over Iran's nuclear program that would threaten Israel....

Obama’s Iranian nuke deal a dismal outcome for the wor

President Barack Obama, speaking (with Haim Saban) at the Saban Forum in Washington on December 7, laughs when asked if he and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would analyze the Geneva deal with Iran differently. (photo credit: Saban Forum screen shot)
President Barack Obama, speaking (with Haim Saban) at the Saban Forum in Washington in December, 2013 laughs when asked if he and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would analyze the Geneva interim deal with Iran differently. 
(photo credit: Saban Forum screen shot)

US President Barack Obama has now effectively guaranteed that Iran will eventually acquire ­nuclear weapons, in what will be a black day for the hopes of peace and stability for anyone in the world.

The Iranian government has out-negotiated Obama completely. They showed more ­resolve, more cunning and greater strategic patience.

Obama took a strong hand and played it very badly.

The Iranians played a weak hand to perfection. They were forced into negotiations by the overall weakness of their position but have emerged with all the main elements of their nuclear program intact. In time, they will acquire nuclear weapons. Obama will go down in history as the president who made this possible.

The framework that was announced in Lausanne is a most peculiar document. It is unsigned and interpreted differently in Iran, from in the US. It contains very few details. A great deal of the­ ­substance of any agreement remains to be negotiated by June 30. However, as Obama, his Secretary of State, John Kerry, and other senior officials constantly claim that the only alternative to this deal is war, they have effectively given away the last shreds of American leverage.

The Iranians know the Obama administration is absolutely desperate to conclude a deal.
All the leverage now rests with the Iranians.

Even the broad terms of the framework as announced contain all manner of key concessions the Americans not so long ago said they would never make.

Among these, Iran gets to keep nuclear facilities, such as its underground Fordow plant, which it developed illegally, in secret, in defiance of the International Atomic Energy Agency. Similarly, it gets to keep its heavy water reactor at Arak, although it will convert it to a facility that for the moment cannot produce plutonium.

It gets to keep 6000 centr­i­fuges to enrich uranium of which 5000 will remain operational. There is no purpose in having these centrifuges other than to eventually produce material for nuclear weapons. It will also be ­allowed to undertake intensive ­research on building more ­advanced centrifuges that can enrich more uranium more quickly. It will not have to export its enriched uranium but merely convert it into a more benign form in a process that can be reversed. And almost all the notional restrictions on Iran run out in 10 years.

The concessions that Iran made, such as reducing the number of centrifuges it now has and allowing IAEA inspections in the future, are useful but modest. Iran was under pressure because of three distinct factors.

  • One, it was subject to crippling sanctions, which gave it a rotten standard of living. 
  • Two, the price of oil is low, exacerbating the effect of sanctions. 
  • Three, the US, and to a lesser extent Israel, had explicitly said that the military option, of potentially attacking Iran’s nuclear facilities, remained on the table.

Now Obama has done everything he can to remove all the pressure on Iran. Once the deal is under way, the UN will remove all the nuclear-based sanctions on Iran. The UN Security Council will rescind all its relevant resolutions. Obama says these sanctions will “snap back” automatically if Iran ever breaches the deal. That is a joke. Effective sanctions are extraordinarily difficult to assemble and impose. And Obama has put this all in the hands of the UN, the very byword of procrastination and inaction.

Further, incremental breaches of deals like this are never enforced. Who defines a breach of the deal?

How widely would such a breach notice be accepted? There is no detail on the supposed inspections regime and Iran has a long history of frustrating and denying inspectors.
Also, Obama has taken the military option off the table — never very likely to be exercised by anyone. But the possibility that it might be exercised provided some real leverage.
He has also to some extent tied the hands of his successors. Obama says he will commit the US to all sorts of UN resolutions, which will be extremely difficult for his successors to undo.

The strategic triumph for Iran is enormous. It has to modify no part of its international outlook or behaviour, from sponsoring terrorism to declaring the annihilation of Israel non-negotiable.

It gets, for the first time ever, and this is crucial, international legitimacy for its nuclear program, which covers every part of the cycle. It gets sanctions lifted, which should help its economy dramatically. And from very early on, it will start cheating on the deal.

Obama is dishonest to claim the only alternative was war. The chief alternative was continued sanctions. That would have been the least worst policy.

When Iran eventually acquires nuclear weapons, it will almost certainly induce a raft of other players in the Middle East to acquire nuclear weapons as well. But Obama will have done everything he wanted to do. He will have avoided difficult action and produced another moment he can claim as a triumph for his unique approach to leading the US. This is a dismal outcome for everyone.

Defeatist Obama’s deal with the devil

From the Times of Israel, 3 April 2015, by David Horowitz:

President Barack Obama speaks the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, Thursday, April 2, 2015, about the breakthrough in the Iranian nuclear talks. The president heralded a framework nuclear understanding with Iran as an "historic" agreement that could pave the way for a final deal that would leave the U.S., its allies and the world safer. (photo credit: AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
President Barack Obama speaks the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, Thursday, April 2, 2015, about the breakthrough in the Iranian nuclear talks. The president heralded a framework nuclear understanding with Iran as an "historic" agreement that could pave the way for a final deal that would leave the U.S., its allies and the world safer. (photo credit: AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Extolling the virtues of his deal with Iran on Thursday, President Barack Obama made a false and extremely nasty assertion:
“It’s no secret,” he claimed, incorrectly, “that the Israeli prime minister and I don’t agree about whether the United States should move forward with a peaceful resolution to the Iranian issue.” 
It is indeed no secret that Obama and Netanyahu don’t agree on how to thwart Iran’s nuclear weapons ambitions. 
It is emphatically not the case, however, that Israel’s prime minister opposes “a peaceful resolution to the Iranian issue.” 
It is emphatically not the case, despite Obama’s insinuation, that Israel’s leader regards military intervention as the only means to thwart Iran.

Netanyahu has not been saying no to diplomacy. His endlessly stated contention is not that war is the only alternative to the deal so delightedly hailed by Obama as “the most effective way to ensure Iran doesn’t get a nuclear weapon.” Rather,
in Netanyahu’s insistent opinion, what is needed is simply a different, far more potent deal.

As Netanyahu made plain in anguished, infuriated tones on Wednesday, in the final hours before the Lausanne agreement was struck, what was required was not no deal at all, but rather “a better deal,” one “which would significantly roll back Iran’s nuclear infrastructure” and “link the eventual lifting of the restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program to a change in Iran’s behavior.” A deal to ensure that Iran “stop its aggression in the region, stop its terrorism throughout the world, and stop its threats to annihilate Israel.” That, said Netanyahu, is “the deal that the world powers must insist upon.”

From left: EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini; Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif; British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond; and US Secretary of State John Kerry line up for a press announcement at the nuclear talks in Lausanne, Switzerland, April 2, 2015. (photo credit: AP/Keystone, Jean-Christophe Bott)
From left: EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini; Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif; British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond; and US Secretary of State John Kerry line up for a press announcement at the nuclear talks in Lausanne, Switzerland, April 2, 2015. (photo credit: AP/Keystone, Jean-Christophe Bott)

Instead, what the world powers agreed in principle with the world’s most dangerous regime was a deal under which none of Iran’s nuclear facilities will be shuttered, and in which the ostensibly unprecedented international inspections do not meet the critical “anyplace, anytime” requirement — even if, that is, this currently unfinalized framework is actually filled in and completed over the months ahead. 
“None of those measures include closing any of our facilities; the proud people of Iran would never accept that,” Iran’s super-suave Foreign Minister Mohammad Javid Zarif contentedly reported. “Our facilities will continue. We will continue enriching; we will continue research and development; our heavy water reactor will be modernized, and we will continue the Fordow facility…”
Obama’s consistently compromising mindset
Much has been made in the past few days about the purported departure, in this hopelessly flawed framework agreement, from the goals that Obama had publicly set for his diplomatic outreach.

Netanyahu himself has twice alluded to remarks made by Obama as recently as 15 months ago, at the Saban Forum in Washington, DC. 
“They don’t need to have an underground, fortified facility like Fordow in order to have a peaceful nuclear program,” Obama said then, in answer to a question posed by Israel’s former IDF Military intelligence chief Amos Yadlin [15 months ago]. “They certainly don’t need a heavy-water reactor at Arak in order to have a peaceful nuclear program. They don’t need some of the advanced centrifuges that they currently possess in order to have a limited, peaceful nuclear program.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on March 29, 2015 (photo credit: Emil Salman/POOL)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on March 29, 2015 
(photo credit: Emil Salman/POOL)

In fact, however, the framework announced Thursday cleaves closely to the radically compromising mindset that the president detailed in that answer he gave to Yadlin. For what Obama went on to say that day in December 2013 was that, 
“…the question ultimately is going to be, are they prepared to roll back some of the advancements that they’ve made that … hint at a desire to have breakout capacity and go right to the edge of breakout capacity. And if we can move that significantly back, then that is, I think, a net win.”
With talk of reduced stockpiles and the halting of the plutonium route, Thursday’s framework does indeed contain potentially positive elements toward that goal — the rolling back of some of Iran’s moves toward a breakout to the bomb.

President Barack Obama, speaking (with Haim Saban) at the Saban Forum in Washington on December 7, laughs when asked if he and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would analyze the Geneva deal with Iran differently. (photo credit: Saban Forum screen shot)
President Barack Obama, speaking (with Haim Saban) at the Saban Forum in Washington in December, 2013 laughs when asked if he and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would analyze the Geneva interim deal with Iran differently. (photo credit: Saban Forum screen shot)

But Obama’s defeatist approach — at the Saban Forum he derided Netanyahu’s demand for the dismantling of Iran’s military nuclear capabilities as plain unrealistic — means that the essential components for Iran’s breakout to the bomb will merely be “mothballed,” as the Israeli nuclear expert Dr. Emily Landau put it to me on Friday, rather than taken apart. “It’ll still have everything there,” warns Landau, to break out as and when it wants to.

And already Zarif is asserting that the US position paper setting out the ostensible agreement is “spin.”

Emboldening a murderous regime
Iranians were said to be celebrating in the streets late Thursday, overjoyed by news of the deal, and most especially the imminent phased lifting of the sanctions that brought the regime to the negotiating table in the first place.

The ayatollahs have every reason for celebration too. This unsigned, already disputed, inadequate deal further cements their hold on power. It leaves a ruthless, duplicitous, and patient regime with the ways and means to break out to the bomb further down the road.

And it was negotiated in a context that can only have convinced Iran of the fecklessness of its adversaries.

Even as the world powers were convened in Lausanne, Iran was strengthening its proxy hold on Yemen, still further bolstering its sway in the region.

Mohammad Reza Naqdi, commander of Iran's Basij force (screen capture: Youtube/PresTVGlobalNews)
Mohammad Reza Naqdi, commander of Iran’s Basij force (screen capture: Youtube/PresTVGlobalNews)

The talks went on, quite undisturbed, despite the declaration on Tuesday by Reza Naqdi, the commander of the Basij militia of the Revolutionary Guards, that, for Iran, “erasing Israel from the map” is “nonnegotiable.”

The US-led negotiators convened, evidently unfazed, just days after Iran’s Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, having wound up a mass gathering in Tehran to chant “Death to America,” responded: “Of course yes, Death to America.”

“The proud people of Iran,” crowed Foreign Minister Zarif, would never have accepted the closure of any of their nuclear facilities. But the president of the United States was not too proud to strike a deal that empowers and rewards a murderous leadership that is widening its influence across the Middle East, extending its missile range, sponsoring terrorism worldwide, vowing to eliminate Israel, and demanding “Death to America.”

What was needed was not no deal at all. What was needed — and, crucially, what was possible given the economic pressure that had been mustered against Iran — was a better deal.

A better deal is still needed. Unfortunately, tragically, the president of the United States has not been sufficiently resolute to insist upon it.

The Iranian trap

From Israel Hayom, 5 April 2015, by Dr Haim Shine:

...When Obama was elected president, American commentators said that the U.S. had woken up to a new reality. Now we know what this new reality means.

...Israel, even in its most difficult military campaigns, did not ask the U.S. to risk the life of even one American soldier. The Israeli people have paid the full price to ensure their independence and over the years Israel has proven to be America's most stable and trustworthy ally, in a true partnership that has benefited both sides.

Now, at a moment of truth, when an Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander says in a public speech that the destruction of Israel is a holy mission to pursue, the U.S. is turning its back on Israel and the rest of its allies in the Middle East. The Iranian nuclear plan is designed to allow Iran realize its dream of destroying Israel and sowing terror throughout the world.

U.S. and European leaders have been fooled by the sweet talk of Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and his partners. While the EU foreign policy chief explained in English the details of the framework deal, Zarif sent a message to his people in Farsi that the West had once again fallen into the trap.

The Americans and Europeans have never fully internalized the double talk used by individuals such as the late Palestine Liberation Organization head Yasser Arafat, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and former Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi. Unfortunately, several Israeli leaders have also fallen into this trap.

Passover is also called the holiday of freedom, a memory of an historical event when a nation of slaves was freed from the agonizing burden of the Egyptian empire and adopted into its being a consciousness of freedom. Being free is not just a physical reality, it is a state of mind. There are free people who are slaves, and there are slaves who are free.

Throughout history, the Jewish people never relinquished their inner freedom, even when the physical reality was humiliating and dreadful. Jews in Nazi extermination camps branded with numbers on their arms to erase their identities never lost hope for liberation and freedom.

In the State of Israel, after a long exile, that consciousness of freedom was once again merged with independence. The whole world needs to know that we will never again waive our right to defend ourselves, and the ayatollahs in Iran should realize that their people will pay heavily the day Israel decides the nuclear threat is imminent. We survived Pharaoh; we will survive the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and his henchmen, as well.