Saturday, November 16, 2013

Deals of the Century for Iran: Carter vs. Obama

by Majid Rafizadeh


The Obama administration has been so anxious and eager to strike a nuclear deal with Iran— regardless of whether that nuclear deal be detrimental, flimsy, or one-sided— and President Barack Obama has been so fearful of taking other actions or alternatives, that the theocratic and Islamist state of Iran has been mocking the US, playing a game with the American administration by tossing it around in international talks and enjoying how it will soon gets its second deal of the century by announcing itself as “The Islamist Nuclear-Armed State.”

The mismanaged and misinformed foreign policies of the Jimmy Carter administration significantly contributed to the first Iranian deal in 1979, the deal that would change the 20th century for the nation and for the Islamists, Ayatollah, and Mullahs in the Islamic Republic of Iran. When the Shah— an American ally— was deposed, Carter constantly tried to view the ruling Islamist cleric and Ayatollah Khomeini as a rational and constructive force in government. The soft talks and the weak position that the Carter administration took were a blessing for the Mullahs, who were capable of creating their own Shiite, Islamic, Muhammadian-style state, recreating a 1400-year-old Shiite Shari’a law-based political and social order.

The next deal of the century, the 21st century reward, is going to be given to Iran by the Obama administration. Although the first deal assisted Iran in becoming an independent sovereign state, along with implementing their Islamic laws, increasing their influence in the world, and funding terrorist groups with oil revenues from illegal sales on the black market, the second deal is much more pivotal, substantial, and vital.

This Iranian deal will provide the required platform that the Mullah and Ayatollah need to make a weapons-grade nuclear breakthrough in roughly the next few months. According to nuclear experts, the longest period it could take to reach capability will be six months. Meaning during the Obama administration, we will see the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Leader of Iran, announce that Iran is armed with nuclear weapons. By that point, nothing can be reverted back. Through this, the Islamist state of Iran would be mocking the international community, efforts of the International Atomic Energy Agency, p5+1, etc.

The recent breakdown in the talks revealed that it was the Obama administration’s nuclear team that was armed with packages of deals for the Rouhani nuclear team. As the Obama administration “desperately” looked to make any kind of nuclear deal with the Islamist Iranian leaders, the Iranian leaders proceeded to refuse each of the deals, showing superiority and looking down on the US. The Iranians refused every deal that Secretary of State John Kerry provided.

The reason that I put the word “desperately” in quotation marks is to emphasize that Obama administration has been so frightened to take alternative actions, that it is damaging the American image by almost pleading with, and begging, the Iranian leaders to just sign any deal.

Iranian leaders, including the Supreme Leader Khamenei, President Rouhani and Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, have masterfully and shrewdly captured the desperate situation that the Obama administration is in, taking advantage of the weak position of the American government and playing games with the US while waiting for next talks, next talks, and next talks.

The intriguing thing is that the desperate status of the Obama administration has made the Iranian Mullahs, Ayatollahs, and Leaders, so much bolder that they believe they are entitled to their explicit terms. It was the Iranian leaders who have been walking out of the talk because they did not approve the presented deals. The Iranian deal has been made clear to be one that would allow for the enrichment of uranium, processing of plutonium, and for the West to remove economic sanctions on the Mullahs. The Iranians want to have their cake and eat it too, to be offered a deal that they fully agree with, without compromise.

Iran, according to experts on nuclear enrichment, only needs less than a year (roughly 6 months) to achieve their ambition. The country currently possesses near 440 pounds of highly enriched uranium at 20 percent. In order to create a nuclear warhead, nearly 550 pounds of the highly enriched uranium is needed. Secondly, Iran has initiated a reactor to process plutonium. There is no incentive— such as for civilians or for fuel— in processing plutonium other than really developing nuclear weapons-grade material. There are two methods to creating nuclear weapons-grade material, either by enriching uranium at a high percentage or by processing plutonium. The crucial issue is that as this reactor operates, it will be hard to even military damage the installation due to the dangerous material that will be released into the environment, and the danger this material poses to human beings. According to experts, processing plutonium requires approximately a year to turn to a nuclear breakaway capacity.

The major issue comes down to why the Obama administration is so frightened of the prospect of not making a deal with Iran. A crucial reason is that the Obama administration does not want to take action through finding alternatives that would call for the United States to take a true stance. The alternative would be to stop the Mullahs from mocking the international community, taking tough measures. However, President Obama prefers a much more docile approach, using submissive policies in order to prevent the Mullahs from getting upset at him.

It is puzzling to attempt to comprehend what it would take for the Obama administration to accept that the Iranian government will never give up its nuclear program. It is truly confounding that even when the Iranian president and his foreign minister have repeatedly announced in the English language that they will not relinquish their uranium enrichment programs, the Obama administration continues to plead with Iran to sign a deal— no matter how detrimental that deal would be to world security. Iranian leaders have already accomplished their goal to buy time for at least an extra year, and are now a hundred percent confident that the Obama administration is too weak and docile to take any real action.

Yes. Carter gave Iran the first deal, and the second (more fundamental) deal has been given by the Obama administration.

Majid Rafizadeh


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Hezbollah Wants Iran Deal Almost as Much as Obama

by Ari Lieberman


On Wednesday, Hassan Nasrallah of Hezbollah announced (from a secret location) that the P5 + 1 group’s failure to reach an agreement with the Islamic Republic on sanctions will result in a regional war. Clearly, Nasrallah wants and, in fact, needs a deal. Sanctions have already cost Iran 130 billion dollars. That amount not only puts a serious dent into Iran’s economy, sowing discontent among the masses, it adversely affects Iran’s ability to wage war via its proxies, Hezbollah, Syria and Hamas. A cash infusion, the byproduct of sanctions relief, will enable Iran and Hezbollah to carry on with their pillaging.

Strangely, Nasrallah’s “anti-war,” pro-deal stance puts him in the same corner as the Obama administration. Administration officials have even adopted Nasrallah’s rhetoric, claiming that the imposition of stiffer sanctions on Iran, as contemplated by congress, would lead to war.

Reeling from record low favorability ratings, the healthcare fiasco and various foreign policy failures, the administration is desperate for a deal, any deal. According to published reports, however, the French nixed a prospective deal on sanctions for not being tough enough, placing the current state of world affairs clearly within the depths of Twilight Zone territory.

France is not a nation well known for its backbone and its history is replete with examples of French perfidy and spinelessness. From its collaborationist Vichy past to its fiascos in Indochina and Algeria, the French have a rich history of cutting and running. Now, however, the French have suddenly turned into saviors, preventing a deal that would have allowed the mullahs to continue enriching uranium without dismantling any nuclear infrastructure or reducing existing stockpiles of enriched uranium.

So we are now confronted with a bizarre situation where Hezbollah and the United States are advocating the same cause and using the same panicky language, while the French, the traditional authority figures on appeasement, are showing some backbone. If that isn’t strange enough, the leadership void created by the administration’s vacillation and appeasement has generated a peculiar realignment of realpolitik whereby the Saudis, Kuwaitis, Qataris and other Gulf nations are looking to their traditional enemy, the Israelis, to protect their security interests.

All the regional players are acutely cognizant of Iran’s pernicious objectives. They are keenly aware that Iran lied about its enrichment facilities at Fordow and Natanz. That it lied about its heavy water plutonium facility at Arak. That it kept its uranium enrichment activities underground away from prying eyes and that it conducted nuclear implosion experiments and attempted to conceal this from International Atomic Energy Inspectors. The Gulf nations are nervous and with good justification but lacking credible military strength, they are helpless. Abandoned by the administration, they naturally turned to Israel, something that would have been unheard of in times past.

U.S. foreign policy is turning the world on its head in other theaters as well. On August 21, Syria’s serial killer head of state and chief warlord, Bashar Assad, emboldened by a sheepish U.S. president, used chemical weapons against his own people killing at least 1,300, many of them children. The Obama administration hooted and hollered but in the end, it was Russia’s ex-KGB strongman, Vladimir Putin, who came to the rescue and defused the situation in a manner that suited the interests of the Syrian-Iranian-Hezbollah axis. In the age of Obama, an ex-KGB thug is suddenly transformed into a peacemaker.

The administration claims to seek regional stability but they’re doing their damnedest to create regional conflagration. Administration officials deliberately leaked information that implicated Israel in an October 31 strike against advanced Russian made Syrian anti-aircraft missiles and related equipment near Latakia. The disclosures threatened to back Assad into a corner leaving him no recourse but avenge “Arab honor” and offer some form of military response.

Israeli officials were furious and called the leaks “scandalous.” Israeli protests to the White House were met with muted response and the Israelis were at a loss to describe the administration’s inexplicable behavior, which at best amounted to gross negligence and endangered the security interests of its closest Mideast ally.

This isn’t the first occasion where administration officials leaked damaging information about Israel’s strategic and tactical initiatives. In March 2012 administration officials disclosed damaging information concerning the burgeoning alliance between Israel and Azerbaijan. The disclosure served no purpose except to damage the close relationship carefully cultivated between the two nations and jeopardize Israel’s strategic initiatives. Allies don’t treat each other that way but this administration has a knack for upsetting allies; Honduras, Columbia, Poland and the Czech Republic just to name a few.

Perhaps the most inexplicable behavior of all is the manner in which Secretary of State John Kerry torpedoed any chance of a negotiated settlement between Israel and its duplicitous “peace partner,” The Palestinian Authority. In a scathing commentary last week, one marked by vitriol characteristic of the radical left, Kerry launched into a diatribe blaming Israel exclusively for stalled talks while giving the Palestinian Authority a free pass and even gave implicit recognition to terrorism as a legitimate means to obtain concessions. The net result of his malevolent screed was to harden already implausible and unrealistic Arab demands, diminishing any hope for a peaceful resolution. For an administration besotted by establishing Judenrein in Judea and Samaria, Kerry’s nonsensical talk likely had the opposite effect.

So there you have it. John Kerry and Hassan Nasrallah have teamed up to urge capitulation to the Islamic Republic while the French, historically known as the jellyfish of Europe, are suddenly developing a skeletal structure. The Saudis and the Gulf countries are looking to the Jews for protection and an ex-KGB man has been transformed into a peculiar combination of rainmaker and peacemaker. To top it off the administration is treating its closest regional ally like an adversary and is systematically sabotaging its security interests while providing political cover to its sworn enemies.

We are indeed living in strange times, a product of the leadership void created by the Obama administration. Rod Serling in his finest hour couldn’t conjure up a more convoluted scenario.

In other news, North Korea recently executed 80 people for possessing bibles and watching South Korean films with no protest from the United Nations Human Rights Council. Oh well. It’s good to know that some things will always remain predictable.

Ari Lieberman


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American Jewry, Where is your Voice?

by David M. Weinberg

The Forward's J. J. Goldberg complained in a column this week that Prime Minister Netanyahu "scared" Diaspora Jewish leaders at the Jewish Federations of North America General Assembly in Jerusalem with "exaggerated" depictions of the threats Israel faces from the impending Geneva nuclear deal between the West and Iran. 

"Netanyahu's evident intention," Goldberg laments and mocks, "was to get Jewish activists to put pressure on Washington to harden its terms in advance of renewed talks with Iran later this month." Goldberg goes on to disparagingly explain to his readers that "Israeli leaders have a long tradition of plying American Jewish activists with extreme, often exaggerated depictions of the threats Israel faces in order to maximize the pressure the alarmed activists will then exert on Washington on Israel's behalf. It's usually done more subtly, though, and in closer adherence to the truth."

The arrogant Goldberg explains that Obama is far wiser than Netanyahu. Obama is smartly "pursuing a strategy that can maximize pressure on Iran, while minimizing the odds that the extraordinary coalition the President has carefully assembled, which includes China and Russia along with the traditional Western European allies, will collapse." 

Goldberg continues to sneer at Netanyahu, smugly noting that "applause was light during most of Netanyahu's speech, and standing ovations, a standard gesture during this sort of appearance, were entirely absent except the obligatory one at the end, despite the fact that Netanyahu pushed hard on all of his favorite buttons."

Fortunately, Netanyahu's bad manners and truly downbeat act was immediately followed by a performance of Israel's Batsheva Dance Company, "which appeared to lift the audience's mood from the gloom of the prime minister's message."

Thank G-d for the Batsheva dancers! We wouldn't have wanted to leave American Jewish leaders with any sense of heavy foreboding about the real and imminent dangers that Israel faces from Iran, or with any over-the-top concern about the deleterious policies of their beloved president, Barack Obama!

We wouldn't have wanted, Heaven forbid, to burden American Jewish leaders with the thought that perhaps Netanyahu is not exaggerating, and that all Israelis are gravely concerned about Obama's drift towards a grand civilizational deal with the Iranians, at Israel's expense.

Unfortunately, I fear that many American Jews indeed left their "feel-good-about-ourselves" General Assembly in Israel without too much apprehension about Iran or about Obama. Like Goldberg, they sloughed-off Netanyahu's attempt to rouse them from their stupor. They ignored the attempts to galvanize the U.S. Jewish community into action in order to ward-off policies that will be bad for both America and Israel alike. 

No Jewish leader at the GA tabled an urgent action item for debate about Iran or proposed a resolution invoking history and global Jewish responsibility to call for emergency mobilization of the community back in the United States.

Only Abe Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, called Netanyahu's call to action "eloquent," noting that "we are entering a period of time that may be the most dangerous the world has seen since the fall of the Berlin wall." Himself seemingly in despair about American weakness and Jewish community irresponsibility, Foxman is left with "hoping that France, Saudi Arabia and Israel can rise above past differences to bring the international community back to sane policies in the face of the threat of a nuclear Iran."

In fact, Foxman is the only American Jewish leader with the guts to say what policy analysts in Israel have worryingly discerned for some time: That developments with Iran seem to reflect a weakening of American resolve, a desperation to find a solution (maybe any solution?) in order to avoid military conflict with Iran, and a hesitation, at best, about America's continuing leadership in the world. He is the only American Jewish leader I have heard explicitly defend Netanyahu against the charge of "warmongering" regarding Iran.

So you have to wonder: Do American Jewish leaders have a well-substantiated situation assessment that is different than Israel's? After 25 years of an Iranian drive towards obtainment of a nuclear weapon and decades of Israeli warnings, are they not aware that Teheran is now 95 percent of the way to completing a bomb; that Iran needs only a few months' time to "break-out" and craft a nuclear weapon; that Iran is already a nuclear threshold nation?

Do American Jewish leaders really have a solid, more sanguine assessment of where President Obama is going with regards to Iran (and with regards to pressing Israel into creating a "whole" Palestine in line with the fullest of Palestinian demands)? 

Do they not realize that Obama apparently seeks not to really block Iran's incipient weaponization, but rather to mend fences and strike a partnership with Iran, as Tom Friedman made the strategy plain in The New York Times this week? Do they not comprehend that Obama is planning to use his politically-invulnerable last three years in office to ram through transformative policies that will yank America's place in the world and Israel's place in the Middle East from their current foundations? 

Did American Jews not discern during their week of much-ballyhooed "conversation and dialogue" with Israelis that all Israelis, not just the supposedly-hysterical Netanyahu, feel and fear that Obama is leading America towards Iran and away from Israel?

I assume that American Jewish leaders must see some of this. I suppose that they must have some inkling of the deep trouble and crisis ahead. I imagine that they must understand the corner that Israel is being pushed into.

And if that's the case, then we in Israel are left with following questions: What will it take to rouse American Jewry into action? And, is there any oomph left in the organized American Jewish community in order to go to bat for Israel (and for America) when the chips are down, now?

David M. Weinberg


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Palestinian Authority's Double Standards on Prisoners

by Khaled Abu Toameh

The daily Al-Quds al-Arabi recently revealed that dozens of Palestinians have been held in Kuwaiti prisons since 1991. The families of these prisoners do not know anything about their conditions. The Palestinian Authority ambassador to Kuwait, Rami Tahboub, refused to comment on the plight of the prisoners there. Reached by phone, the ambassador first said he was busy with a meeting. He later stopped answering the phone.
As far as the Palestinian Authority leadership is concerned, the only "heroes" are those prisoners who are held in Israel. For the Palestinian Authority, Palestinians who are being tortured and killed in Arab prisons are not worth even a statement.

While the Palestinian Authority continues to demand the release of Palestinians from Israeli jails, it has long been ignoring the fact that thousands of Palestinians are languishing in prisons in several Arab countries.

The families of the prisoners held by Israel at least know where their sons are and most visit them on a regular basis.

But in the Arab world the story is completely different.

The daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi recently revealed that dozens of Palestinians have been held in Kuwaiti prisons since 1991. The families of these prisoners do not know anything about their conditions.

That Palestinians are being held in prison in an Arab country is not surprising. What is not understood is the Palestinian Authority's position.

According to the report, the Palestinian Authority has never approached the Kuwaitis concerning the fate of the prisoners.

Mohammed al-Udwan, the father of one of the Palestinians held in Kuwait for the past 25 years, said that he still does not know exactly where his son, Essam, is being held. He and other families complained that the Palestinian Authority has not done anything to help them.

The Palestinian Authority ambassador to Kuwait, Rami Tahboub, refused to comment on the plight of the prisoners there. Reached by phone, the ambassador first said he was busy with a meeting. He later stopped answering the phone.

Hassan Khraisheh, Deputy Speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council in Ramallah, urged the emir of Kuwait to put an end to the "tragedy" of the Palestinian families whose sons are held in his prisons without trial.

Khraisheh called on the emir to inform the families whether their sons were still alive. "If they are dead," he added, "then we want confirmation and information where they are buried."

Kuwait expelled hundreds of thousands of Palestinians after U.S.-led coalition forces liberated the tiny oil-rich emirate in 1991. The move came in retaliation for the Palestinian Liberation Organization's [PLO] support for Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait a year earlier.

A Palestinian billboard from 2006, honoring Yasser Arafat and Saddam Hussein. (Image source: Screenshot from video by Palestinian Media Watch]

After liberation, the Kuwaitis also arrested many Palestinians on suspicion of collaboration with the Iraqi occupation army.

Recently, the Kuwaitis finally allowed the Palestinian Authority to reopen the Palestinian embassy in the emirate. The move came after Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas apologized for the PLO's support of Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait.

But the Palestinian Authority leadership is apparently too afraid to ask the Kuwaiti authorities about the Palestinians who went missing in the emirate during the past two decades. Abbas does not want to alienate the Kuwaitis; he is apparently hoping that they will resume financial aid to the Palestinians.

Two weeks ago, Abbas boasted that he had acted as a mediator to secure the release of nine Lebanese nationals abducted 17 months ago in Syria.

Abbas's announcement enraged families of Palestinian prisoners in Kuwait and other Arab countries. The families said that Abbas's top priority should have been to secure the release of Palestinians, and not Lebanese, from Syrian prisons.

Hundreds of Palestinians are held in various prisons in Syria, some for more than two decades. In the past year, at least two prisoners were reported to have died in Syrian and Egyptian prisons.

Again, the Palestinian Authority leadership has not even demanded an inquiry into the deaths or the continued incarceration of Palestinians in the Arab world.

A prominent Palestinian writer who spent three weeks in jail in Syria described the prisons there as "human slaughterhouses." Salameh Kaileh was arrested in April last year on suspicion of printing leaflets calling for the overthrow of Bashar Assad.

"It was hell on earth," Kaileh told Associated Press. "I felt I was going to die under the brutal, savage and continuous beating of the interrogators, who tied me to ropes hung from the ceiling."

For the Palestinian Authority, the plight of Palestinians in Arab prisons does not seem to be an important issue. As far as the Palestinian Authority leadership is concerned, the only "heroes" are those prisoners who are held in Israel. For the Palestinian Authority, the Palestinians who are being tortured and killed in Arab prisons are not worth even a statement.

Khaled Abu Toameh


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Israeli Minister Erdan ‘Astounded’ by Kerry Remarks

by Zach Pontz

Israeli Minister Gilad Erdan. Photo: Maxine Dovere

Israel’s Home Front Defense and Communications Minister Gilad Erdan struck back at John Kerry Thursday, further highlighting the widening gap between the U.S. and Israel when it comes to nuclear talks with Iran.

Erdan told an audience at a security conference in Tel Aviv that he was “astounded” by Kerry’s remarks earlier this week that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s objections to a proposed deal between six world powers and Iran was “premature,” as no deal had yet been signed.

“Netanyahu has to understand that no agreement was signed between Iran and the world powers and his adamant objections are premature,” Kerry said.

Erdan responded: “I have not heard such a claim for many years; this is a country that wants to destroy Israel and the conditions that will enable it to carry out its wishes. What do they expect from an Israeli prime minister? Not to cry out when the knife is in the hand, but only when it is across our throat?”

“It is only thanks to the discussion about the terms being discussed in Geneva, behind closed doors, that we have received an additional delay of several days and perhaps even an improvement in the terms of the agreement,” he said. “We must not be mistaken – an interim agreement will be a permanent agreement. All those involved in the agreement must understand that the moment Iran becomes a nuclear threshold state an arms race will begin in the Middle East and regional uncertainty will increase.”

Zach Pontz


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Majority of Israelis Believe Solo Strike on Iran can Succeed

by Aharon Lapidot

Israel Hayom-New Wave Research poll finds 52.4% of the Israeli Jewish public is in favor of an independent strike on Iran's nuclear facilities • Some 52.5% support Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's position regarding tensions with the U.S. over Iran.

An aerial photograph of the Russian-built Bushehr nuclear plant
Photo credit: AFP

Aharon Lapidot


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The United States Must not Cease to be Vigilant about Iran

by Michael Curtis

It is a truth that should be acknowledged by the United States and all democratic countries that a nuclear Iran will mean the destruction of the State of Israel and a threat to the rest of the world. No doubt it is a desirable principle to attempt to reconcile national differences by negotiation. But not all agreements are worth the price paid. 

It comes as no small surprise that in the negotiations with Iran in Geneva the United States together with five other countries, the permanent members of the Security Council plus Germany, should have persisted in a formula that would have ended in an undesirable compromise unlikely to limit the threat of Iranian aggression. The formula appeared simple: Iran would freeze its nuclear program in return for the international loosening of sanctions against it. However, this reverses the reality that it is the present sanctions, and possibly future tougher ones, that have made Iran seem more agreeable to halt or dismantle its nuclear facilities and pursuit of a weapons program. 

Is it naïve to doubt the intentions of Iran? In spite of the charm offensive in New York of Iran's President Hassan Rouhani, the nature of the Iranian regime, with its continuing support of the brutal President Assad in Syria and the terrorist Hezbollah with supplies and advisers do not make it a candidate for the next Nobel Peace Prize. The draft negotiations were not likely to improve relations between the U.S. and Iran. Nor did they take account of the Iran's Parchin military base southeast of Tehran at which weapons research continues. 

Fortunately, a hasty, undesirable agreement in Geneva was blocked partly by French arguments which insisted as a minimum on restrictions on Iran's heavy water plant in Arak that can produce plutonium, and partly, perhaps largely, because of Iranian intransigence. 

The contemplated deal would have entailed the promise by Iran that it would not enrich its nuclear enrichment capabilities to more than 3.5 per cent as part of an interim agreement. In return, the international economic sanctions against Iran, on its oil operation and its currency, that have had considerable success, would be eased. Because of the sanctions the Iranian economy was reduced by some 5 per cent last year. Iran's daily crude oil sales have been reduced by 60 per cent in the last two years. 

It is unlikely that the proposed agreement would eliminate the threat of Iran continuing its development of a nuclear weapon. Iran has insisted on its right to develop enriched uranium, the path to nuclear fuel for both power plants and for weapons. At a very minimum, Iran should have agreed to stop any more centrifuges and should allow international inspectors to ensure that it does so. In addition, economic sanctions should be kept in place until those inspectors declare it has been done. Since Iran's currency reserves held abroad amount to about $70-80 billion the imposition of sanctions is easy to manage.

The position of the U.S. appears naïve. Secretary Kerry has said that with good work and good faith the "goal" can be secured. Where is the "good faith" of Iran? Can it be trusted to give and especially to abide by assurances of its willingness to forego production of a weapon? In the past the International Atomic Energy Agency found that Iran was not complying with international agreements to inspect facilities. It is unlikely that Supreme Leader Khamenei is likely now to forgo Iran's ambition of nuclear capability. The country already has low-grade uranium as a result of its large number of centrifuges, which are the path to nuclear success. 

The eager pursuit of Iran by Kerry and others is all too reminiscent of events concerning Nazi Germany, especially the infamous 1938 Munich agreement, now the symbol of inherent appeasement. Before the resumption of talks, expected on November 20, 2013, Kerry might ponder the remark attributed to Winston Churchill concerning British government policy: "the government had to choose between war and shame. It chose shame. They will get war too." 

France had been prepared to act against President Assad in Syria because of his use of chemical weapons, but was prevented by the unwillingness and caution of the British Parliament and President Obama. France has shown that firmness works in Mali last year and now in Geneva. As a result of France's expressed insistence that there be more controls on the reactor at Arak, Iran has agreed to allow inspection of its facility though it insists on agreeing to the details of the inspection. Iran claims it wants to produce isotopes for medical and agricultural purposes at Arak. Yet the common belief is that Arak if and when operational can produce enough plutonium to make two bombs a year. 

Kerry, who is not loath to remind us of his military service in Vietnam, should take account of firmness shown both by France and by Israel in defense against aggression. Since the end of Operation Pillar of Defense, the Israel response in November 2012 to the ballistic fire from the Gaza Strip by Hamas, similar attacks have almost stopped. Israel had experienced 1400 rockets fired against its civilians by groups in Gaza with hundreds more intercepted by its Iron Dome system. After that Operation, Israel has had to deal with only 35 incidents of rocket fire.

The main problem for western countries, Saudi Arabia, and Israel is not simply the fear of a belligerent Islamic Iran, but the lack of faith, almost a crisis of faith, about the willingness of the Obama administration, to stand firm. Contrary to what might be expected, reports suggest that Obama is easing the restrictions on Iran through manipulations by the U.S. Treasury Department that reduce the isolation of Iran's banks from the global financial sector that makes international commerce possible.

It is not constructive policy that Kerry's immediate concern seems to be not Iran's nuclear facilities but Israel settlements, "illegitimate" in his words, and the presence of the IDF in the West Bank. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is not alone in regarding the contemplated agreement as a "very, very, bad deal." Clearly Saudi Arabia, the Gulf countries, and probably France think the same even though their criticism is more private and their language more restrained.

Michael Curtis is author of Jews, Antisemitism, and the Middle East.


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Thwarting Iran: the Secret Alliances

by Neville Teller

Netanyahu leads a group of states concerned that a US-Iran diplomatic agreement will provides for “less than the dismantling of the Iranian nuclear program.” And this may be the most likely outcome

Can you read?
There are two distinct groupings of interests opposed to Iran’s nuclear ambitions, but each – to misapply Oscar Wilde’s aphorism – is “a love that dare not speak its name.”

Benjamin Netanyahu has been taking the lead for one of these covert community of interests. Ahead of the 6-party diplomatic talks that took place in Geneva, where Iran faced the US, Russia, the UK, France, China and Germany, Netanyahu undertook a diplomatic and media blitz. He went on a whirlwind tour, both of TV studios and the world, voicing the case for maintaining the sanctions pressure on the Iranian regime until soft words are matched by hard action. 

He does not oppose diplomatic initiatives to avert a nuclear Iran but, like the range of states and groupings he implicitly represents, he fears that the international community will accept a compromise on this issue, allowing Tehran to avoid dismantling its nuclear weapons facilities and having its stocks of enriched uranium removed from the country.

His fears seem all too justified, for behind his back – and the backs of most European and Gulf state leaders – it seems as though a secret deal on Iran’s nuclear programme has already been worked out between the White House in Washington, the Kremlin in Moscow and the Tehran office of Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. 

This US-Russian-Iranian grouping represents the second secret alliance – though how far it will go towards curbing Iran’s nuclear ambitions remains to be seen.

Sergei Kiriyenko, director of the Russian Atomic Agency Rosatom and the builder of Iran’s first nuclear reactor at Bushehr, is one of Putin’s most trusted advisers on nuclear affairs.  Reports indicate that he has been in Iran for most of the summer and that, under his guidance, the text of a nuclear accord was drawn up by a team of Farsi-speaking Russian nuclear scientists for Tehran and Washington to sign.

Drafts of this text, which was modeled on the US-Russian accord for the elimination of Syria’s chemical weapons, were then passed between the US and Russian presidents until they saw eye to eye, and finally it was referred to US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov, to be shaped into a document that was to be put on the negotiating table at Geneva as agreed proposals.

It is reported that President Obama has briefed Netanyahu in detail on the understandings reached with Tehran, including Iran’s concessions on its nuclear programme. Obama has also informed him that Washington will soon start easing certain economic sanctions against Iran.

Neither European nor Gulf leaders, including Saudi Arabia, had been let in on the scale of reciprocal concessions approved between Obama and Iran’s Supreme Leader, although by now an indication has probably leaked out via the diplomatic grapevine.

Certainly the Wall Street Journal on October 8 reported, one assumes from informed sources, that Iran will offer to limit its operational centrifuges, cease 20 percent uranium enrichment and agree to greater international supervision of its nuclear programme, in return for a lifting of sanctions on its financial system and oil market. 

On October 14 the London Daily Telegraph reported that Iran had drawn the line at removing all the uranium already manufactured in its facilities, and insisted on keeping access to nuclear enrichment – since that would leave the potential for a relatively short dash to build a nuclear weapon. They seem to have won the day.

“Western diplomats have indicated privately,” said the Telegraph, “a deal is likely to include access to limited enrichment.”

Whether it was a done deal before the principals ever took their places at the negotiating table, time and the second round of talks on November 7, will tell. What is certain is that Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states have not been party to any backstairs discussions, and that they view the apparent success of Iran’s charm offensive with alarm. 

Their concern is for their regional interests. They fear that Obama may be tempted to strike a deal allowing Iranian allies to go on dominating Arab countries such as Lebanon, Syria and Iraq in return for Iran’s agreeing to inspections of its atomic sites.  

They are also desperately concerned about Iran’s ambition to achieve hegemony over the Gulf, and its continuing effort to orchestrate political foes across half a dozen Arab countries.

All this fear was revealed in the 250,000 confidential US documents that were published in November 2010 by WikiLeaks. They showed that, contrary to their public positions, Arab leaders strongly supported, and indeed campaigned for, a US attack on Iran’s growing nuclear programme. 

According to the leaked documents, Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah “frequently exhorted” the US to bomb Iran and “cut the head off the snake.”  He warned Washington that if Iran acquired nuclear weapons, “everyone in the region would do the same, including Saudi Arabia.”

Abu Dhabi’s crown prince said that Iran was seeking regional domination, and urged Americans to “take out” its nuclear capacity, or even send ground troops. Iran “is going to take us to war … it’s a matter of time.”

The king of Bahrain said the US “must terminate” Iran’s nuclear programme, “by whatever means necessary”. Zeid Rifai, then president of Jordan’s senate, said: “Bomb Iran, or live with an Iranian bomb.” Hosni Mubarak, then President of Egypt, expressed a “visceral hatred” for the Islamic Republic. 

In short, no Arab government accepted Iran’s claim that its nuclear programme was merely peaceful.

More to the point, perhaps, the WikiLeaks documents revealed that Iran loomed as the largest source of concern to the Arab world. As far back as summer 2010 Dubai's chief of police, Dahi Khalfan, one of the most outspoken security officials in the United Arab Emirates, warned of an "international plot" to overthrow the governments of Gulf Arab countries. Then United Arab Emirates officials announced that authorities were investigating a foreign-linked group planning "crimes against the security of the state."

This perhaps explains reports that Israel has recently been holding a series of meetings with prominent figures from a number of Gulf and other Arab states, supervised directly by PM Netanyahu. The Arab and Gulf states involved in the talks have no diplomatic ties with Jerusalem, the report noted.

What they share with Israel is the concern that Iran’s President Rouhani’s new diplomatic approach will fool the US and lead to a US-Iran diplomatic agreement which provides for “less than the dismantling of the Iranian nuclear program.”

Which, as it now appears, and with Russia’s blessing, is indeed the most likely outcome.

Neville Teller is the author of “One Year in the History of Israel and Palestine” (2011) and writes the blog “A Mid-East Journal


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Egypt-Russia: The Bear is Back

by Ahmed Eleiba

Cairo aims to build on near and distant familiarity with Russian technology as Moscow readies to provide military hardware to a post-30-June Egypt which faces diplomatic pressures from its erstwhile ally, the US

General Abdel Fattah El-Sisi and Russian defence minister Sergei Shoygu
General Abdel Fattah El-Sisi (R) and Russian defence minister Sergei Shoygu 
(Photo courtesy of Egypt's army spokesman's official Facebook page)
Egypt’s boosting of military cooperation with Russia is not a knee-jerk response to distortions in Egyptian-US relations following the 30 June Revolution. It is informed by broader considerations, not least the resurgence of the Russian bear in the international arena. Moscow has been basking in the global limelight for some time now, through its handling of critical global and regional issues from European and Asian security and defence arrangements to the Syrian crisis.
Egypt’s position on Syria coincides with that of Moscow. “It is necessary,” Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmi recently argued, “to reach a political solution to the Syrian crisis in view of the inability of either side to resolve the conflict militarily. A political solution is possible through proper preparation for the Geneva II conference which aims to secure a consensus regionally, internationally and among all Syrian parties to put hostilities on hold and begin a transitional process.”
The Egyptian stance, says Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, is in perfect accord with Moscow.
Even on domestic issues there is a meeting of minds. Moscow not only anticipated the failure of Muslim Brotherhood rule but has included the group on its list of terrorist organisations.
During the recent G20 Summit the Russian president underscored the threat posed by terrorism in Sinai and the need to offer Egypt support to prevent its spreading.
The Egyptian Foreign Ministry has repeatedly stressed that broadening ties with Russia is not an alternative to friendly relations with the US. The spate of visits between Cairo and Moscow during recent weeks, however, has led to speculation that, as one expert on US-Egyptian relations put it, the US “has a problem with its policies towards the Arab region in general, and Egypt in particular”.
Former foreign minister Mohamed Al-Arabi, a member of the Egyptian “people’s delegation” that visited Russia last week, told Al-Ahram Weekly that while the Russians were enthusiastic about the prospect of upgrading Russian-Egyptian relations their enthusiasm was tempered by their experiences in the early 1970s when president Anwar Al-Sadat expelled Russian military and other experts.
Moscow fears a repetition of the same scenario, particularly in the wake of US Secretary of State John Kerry’s last visit to Cairo in which he displayed flexibility in US policy and acknowledged the new status quo in Egypt. According to Al-Arabi, the Egyptian delegation reassured the Russians that Egypt was not turning to Moscow in response to pressures from Washington.
Boosting relations serves the interests of both sides, says Al-Arabi.
“For Egypt it will offer greater manoeuvrability with regard to pressures exerted by the US. It will open space to move and help Egypt withstand the challenges posed by the current Egyptian-US relationship.”
The flurry of diplomatic activity between Egypt and Russia was crowned by a visit to Cairo yesterday by Lavrov and Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shergu. They were accompanied by a delegation of politicians, diplomats, officials from Russia’s armaments industry and from the Ross Oborn Export Company which specialises in advanced military hardware.
The visit focussed on a broad military partnership agenda and included arms deals, joint military training, a $4 billion package of Russian military aid and refurbishment of the High Dam’s generators. In the course of the two-day visit topics of domestic and regional concern were also discussed.
Russian military expenditure is expected to climb to RUB 3.4 trillion by 2021 from its current annual total of RUB 1.9 trillion. In 2012 arms exports totalled RUB 325 billion ($10 billion) and there has been unprecedented growth in the country’s electronics, aviation, missiles and conventional weapons industries.
Egypt is keen to benefit from that progress, especially in view of recent cutbacks in US military support. Washington has withheld $260 million worth of military aid contingent on political developments in Egypt and has frozen the delivery of tanks, F-16 fighters, Apache helicopters and Harpoon missiles.
“We are looking forward to the announcement of the details of the arms deals between the two sides,” military expert General Talaat Muslim told the Weekly, “and whether it includes advanced aircraft, defence systems or the rehabilitation of Russian military equipment Egypt has possessed since the Soviet era.”
Muslim agrees with Al-Arabi that closer military cooperation with Russia “will open up a new space that will ease America’s grip on us.”
“Although Russia is not an alternative to the US it can give us the opportunity to familiarise ourselves with weapons that suit us, especially items from the Russian aviation and naval industries.”
In a telephone interview with the Weekly, Russian political analyst and military affairs expert Michael Riyabov noted that Egyptian-Russian military and technological cooperation during the Soviet era was exceptionally fruitful. “I was among the Russian team that worked with Egypt during the War of Attrition in 1970 at the request of president [Gamal] Abdel-Nasser. I met with many Egyptian officers,” he said.
“Russia is aware of its responsibilities and role with regard to what is happening in the Middle East,” Riyabov continued. “Initially our experts expected the Arab Spring would restrict Russian presence in the region, especially in the military sphere. But then the winds blew in the opposite direction, opening the way for Russia to expand its partnerships with countries such as Egypt, Libya and Iraq. Perhaps these new relationships will open new doors for Russia and military cooperation with Russia in the region… Russia might lose the Al-Assad regime, in which case it will need similar partners in the region. I believe that the move towards Egypt is a step in the right direction in this respect.”
It is an analysis with which Muslim concurs. “Russia will benefit from richer relations with Egypt and, hence, with many other countries in the region. There will be joint training exercises, academic missions and periodic military manoeuvres. There have already been encouraging signs in this direction, to which the official ceremonies and military rituals by the Egyptian navy as it welcomed the Russian destroyer Vareg in the port of Alexandria on Monday testify. It is likely that Russia will obtain logistic facilities from Egypt, over which the two sides are currently negotiating.”
The general pointed out that Egypt stands to benefit from these developments.
“There will be a strong rival to the US military presence in the Mediterranean and the Gulf. The tactic might stir further US resentment but what is important is that we have moved beyond the phase of US pressure and the unwarranted and incomprehensible folly of Washington’s approach to the Egyptian administration.”
The visit of the two Russian ministers to Egypt, says Riyabov, was a “testing of the pulse or, in military terminology, reconnaissance of the terrain”. There is a perfect opportunity, he argues, to revive historic mutual cooperation between the two countries.
“Politics is the art of the possible, so why shouldn’t the two sides seize this opportunity. We have to do something as long as we are able to.”
The Russian analyst stresses that Egyptian-Russian military cooperation is not new but is rather on the verge of expanding.
“Military cooperation between the two countries was not enormous, but neither was it insignificant. From 2005 to 2011 there was military cooperation to the tune of $2.452 billion. Russia was Egypt’s second source of arms, China its third. The expansion in cooperation today is necessary for Egypt to assert its sovereign rights in the face of US pressure. Russia wants to affirm that Egypt is a good partner and the relationship has been restored to its normal context.”
Mikhail Zavaly, a senior official with Russia's arms export agency Rosoboronexport who will lead its delegation at the upcoming 13th Dubai air show, confirmed Russia wanted to sell military hardware to Egypt.
"Now we are offering Egypt modern helicopters, air defence equipment and the modernisation of previously purchased military equipment," he told the RIA Novosti news agency.
"The word is now with our partners," he added.

He did not give further details but Russian daily Vedomosti said negotiations were ongoing about the sale of MiG-29M/M2 fighter jets, low range air defence systems and Kornet anti-tank rockets.
The Egyptian army will have no problem converting to Russian arms, says General Muslim. Egyptian military experts have been keeping close track of Russian military advances.
“It’s not as if Russian arms are unfamiliar to us. Within three to five years we will have reached the necessary level of training on any new equipment. In the 1970s, when we obtained Russian arms, we only had a short time for training before using them in the 1973 War.”
In a related development, military spokesman Colonel Ahmed Ali poured cold water on suggestions that the Russians would establish a military base in Egypt on the Red Sea or Mediterranean coast. Egypt, he said, opposed to the existence of any foreign bases on its territory or in its territorial waters. It is a position that will not change and anyone wishing to cooperate with Egypt must realise this.
He stressed that Egypt had rejected US requests to set up military bases on its territory and in the wake of a revolution which voiced Egyptians’ determination to assert their national will there was more resolve than ever before not to let it happen. The Russian delegation, he added, had not brought up the subject.
This article was first published in Al-Ahram Weekly

Ahmed Eleiba


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