Friday, July 17, 2015

In Gulf Press, Fear And Criticism Of Iran Nuclear Agreement: Obama Is Leaving The Middle East A Legacy Of Disaster - MEMRI


Gulf newspapers were filled with editorials and op-eds expressing apprehension and concern about the agreement, and terming it "a disaster for the Middle East," saying that it would "open the gates of evil," and calling it "an historic gift" from the Obama administration to Iran. They also said that it would "change the Middle East forever."

The announcement of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action between Iran and the P5+1 has sparked widespread reactions in the Gulf states. The leaders of most of these countries, with the exclusion of Saudi Arabia, issued official responses that included congratulatory letters to Iranian President Hassan Rohani and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, expressing hope that the agreement would promote stability in the region.
In contrast, Gulf newspapers were filled with editorials and op-eds expressing apprehension and concern about the agreement, and terming it "a disaster for the Middle East," saying that it would "open the gates of evil," and calling it "an historic gift" from the Obama administration to Iran. They also said that it would "change the Middle East forever."
These opinion pieces questioned Iran's honesty and argued that the agreement greenlights its ongoing interference in the internal affairs of its neighbors, its efforts to destabilize them, and its cultivation of terrorist groups in the region as well as in the West. They also claimed that, contrary to the stated goal of the superpowers, which is to prevent Iran from developing its nuclear program, the agreement actually gives Iran the legitimacy, strength, and funds to continue developing its program undisturbed, and paves the way to a nuclear arms race in the Gulf.
Some of the pieces stated that Iran must now prove that its intentions towards the countries of the region are peaceful, and that it has abandoned the "role of villain," as a precondition for the Gulf states to reassess their attitude towards it and to consider dialogue with it.
The following are excerpts from official Gulf state responses as well as editorials and op-eds in Gulf newspapers, from July 14 and 15, 2015.  

Senior Official Saudi Source To Saudi News Agency: We Will Respond Decisively To Any Iranian Attempt To Destabilize The Region

The Saudi news agency SPA's initial response included recognition of the importance of the agreement, but also threats if Iran were to use its new resources to destabilize the region. It cited an unnamed senior official Saudi source as saying that the country "has always recognized the importance of an agreement regarding Iran's nuclear program, which will ensure that it cannot attain nuclear weapons under any circumstances, and which includes a defined and permanent inspection apparatus for all sites, including military sites, as well as an apparatus to re-impose the sanctions quickly and effectively if Iran violates the agreement."

The source noted that at this time, after the agreement, "Iran should use its resources for domestic development and for improving the lives of the Iranian people, instead of for causing riots and sending shockwaves throughout the region – which would evoke firm reactions from the countries in the region."

The news agency also quoted the source as saying:  

The source added: "Since Iran is a neighboring country, Saudi Arabia wishes to develop better relations with it on all levels, based on neighborliness and non-interference in the affairs of others.[1]

Bahraini King Hamad bin 'Issa Al-Khalifa also addressed fears that Iran would continue to interfere in the internal affairs of Arab countries. Al-Khalifa sent a letter to Iranian President Hassan Rohani congratulating him on the agreement, and expressing hope that "this important agreement will aid in establishing the elements of security and stability in the region, and in improving relations among the countries, which will be based on neighborliness and mutual respect, as well as non-interference in internal affairs."[2] 

Qatar, Kuwait, UAE Leaders To Iran: We Hope The Agreement Brings Regional Peace And Stability

Statements by the rest of the Gulf states included hope that the agreement would help strengthen regional stability and security. The Qatari Foreign Ministry stated: "We congratulate [the sides] on this agreement and see it as an important step; Qatar is determined to preserve peace and stability. We hope the agreement strengthens regional peace and stability."[3]

The official Kuwaiti news agency reported: "Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad sent a letter to Dr. Hassan Rohani, president of our friend the Islamic Republic of Iran, and to Ayatollah Sayed Ali Khamenei, Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution, offering congratulations for the historic agreement signed [sic] in Vienna." According to the report, Al-Sabah expressed hope that "this agreement would help strengthen regional security and stability and devote all resources and efforts to develop the countries of the region."[4]

UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al-Nahyan also sent a congratulatory letter to President Rohani expressing hope that "the agreement will help strengthen regional security." In a phone conversation with President Obama, UAE Crown Prince Muhammad bin Zayed Al-Nahyan said that he hoped that the agreement "will end military nuclear aspirations and [bring about] a regional disarmament of weapons of mass destruction." Obama, for his part, promised to strengthen U.S. ties with the GCC states, in light of the security challenges that they face.[5] 

The Obama Administration Is Leaving The Middle East A Legacy Of Disaster; Iran Has Received "The Legitimacy, The Strength, And The Funds To Develop Nuclear Weapons" 

An editorial in the Saudi daily Al-Yawm stated: "... Iran has not changed, and neither have its aspirations and plots to cause chaos in the Middle East. What has changed is that the administration of President Barack Obama, with its agreement with Iran, has given it an historic gift that helps its efforts to arm itself with nuclear weapons, and grants it international legitimacy. Beyond this historic gift to Iran, the American administration will unfreeze tens of billions of dollars that Iran longs to receive – not to improve its stagnating economy, to help the Iranian poor, or to build hospitals... but to distribute among the terror [cells] in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Africa, and even the U.S. and Europe, in order to escalate the violence and expand terrorism in the Middle East and the world.

"The agreement between the West and Iran... actually strengthens Iranian nuclear facilities; gives Iran time to develop its nuclear weapons undisturbed; lifts the economic sanctions [on it]; enables it to spread the culture of hatred, sectarianism, and death to neighboring countries; and provides Iran with money to fund this destructive plan and spread division among the people...

"This agreement has given Iran the legitimacy, the strength, and the funds to develop nuclear weapons. This means that the agreement has strengthened the option of war and has made peace impossible, because the Iranian regime uses its strength, its resources, and its ties to spread wars, division, and destruction.

"The Iranian nuclear agreement will embolden Iranian to destroy the world, make its military nuclear reactors more immune to international inspection, and make the new impending arms race inevitable, so long as the West gives Iran a free hand on the nuclear issue and gives it all the capabilities and gifts [that it needs] to further threaten the region and the world."[6] 

Iran directs "nuclear agreement" dollars to "terrorism" (Source: Al-Watan, Saudi Arabia, July 15, 2015) 

Columnist Randa Taghi Deen wrote in the London daily Al-Hayat: "Iran is not a democratic country that cares for the welfare of its residents... This agreement and the lifting of the sanctions will serve members of the [Islamic] Revolutionary Guard [Corps] who provide state funds to [Iran's] agents in Lebanon, chiefly Hizbullah; to the Assad regime; and to pro-Iranian Iraqi militias... American policy is ambiguous and two-faced. It calls the IRGC terrorists, but at the same time wants to normalize relations with the Iranian regime and its basic component – the IRGC.

"Obama is leaving a disastrous legacy to the Middle East by giving the first person to welcome this agreement with Iran – Bashar Al-Assad – an opportunity to benefit enormously from the Iranian funds and military aid to Hizbullah in order to continue to murder and to expel. The Houthis will also benefit from Iranian funds in order to step up their fighting in Yemen. The schism in Iraq will also expand, because of Iran's profits under this agreement... Iran's money will not reach its people that thirst [for it], but will feed adventures outside Iran and also the destabilization of the Middle East."[7] 

Qatari Daily: The Agreement Changes The Middle East Forever, And Transforms Iran Into A New Regional Superpower

The London-based Qatari daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi wrote in an editorial that was published on the eve of the announcement that an agreement had been reached: "[This is] an agreement that will change the Middle East forever. It will reshape international alliances and rivalries, as well as traditional priorities, and change Iran's image in the eyes of the world. [The agreement] will redefine [Iran's] status as a superpower in this vital and volatile region, and [will make it] a member of the superpower club, after attaining legitimacy for its nuclear program in the heart of an environment that is crumbling along racial and sectarian lines...

"One unavoidable result of this agreement is the confluence of Israel's interests with [those] of some Arab countries who see 'a nuclear Iran' as the greatest danger to their influence, and perhaps their existence. Therefore, an 'alliance of necessity' will be formed between these two sides. SInce several other Arab countries are going to focus on fighting terrorist organizations that threaten to topple them – as explained recently by Tunisia's president – observers will have no choice but to assess that there will be even more regression in [dealing with] the Palestinian problem...

"The region could enter a new arms race, from which the weapons-exporting countries would benefit. The Arab countries will be allowed to purchase ready-made nuclear power plants, so that they can 'go nuclear' as well, but with one difference: Washington, and behind it Israel, will not allow the existence of another Iran, which possesses the knowhow and capability to enrich [uranium].

"While military solutions are becoming ever harder [to carry out], if not unacceptable in places like Syria and Yemen, and while the quagmires in other countries are only being perpetuated, we must ask: Has the time come to launch a strategic Arab-Iranian dialogue that recognizes [the existence] of a new regional power [i.e. Iran] instead of continuing down this dark tunnel?"[8]
In the Kuwaiti daily Al-Jarida,  Dr. Ghanim Al-Najjar wrote about the possibility that the agreement would pave the way for negotiations between Iran and the Gulf countries. He stated: "This is an historic agreement... and it opens the door to only two options. The first is to continue the war or wars that are being ignited in the region... The second is that this historic agreement will offer a greater opportunity for an historic arrangement in the Gulf, and perhaps on the Arab level, in order to end the situation of undeclared war in every place and every aspect... 

"Historic responsibility requires the leaders of the region to launch serious talks to resolve all sources of tension and to restore the natural situation, security, stability... The nuclear agreement is an opportunity for a comprehensive arrangement in the region..."[9]  

The Agreement Is A Green Light For A Nuclear Arms Race

The for the Saudi daily Al-Riyadh argued in an editorial: "Following this agreement, any country in the region can now join the [nuclear] club, because the conditions to join it have been clearly reformulated. This is while the right to join this club was once reserved for a group of countries that could be counted on the fingers of one hand... This agreement can be seen as a green light to Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states to develop a nuclear program that enables them to produce nuclear fuel and more, in order to deter and ensure the stability of the [regional] balance of power and to make sure that it remains undisturbed."[10]
The Saudi daily Al-Madina wrote, also in an editorial: "The superpowers that signed [sic] the agreement must implement its sections diligently and transparently, and must defend the interests and security of the countries that neighbor Iran. They must know that any [Iranian] attempt at deception or fraud will lead to a bitter end, and that the genie of a nuclear arms race will be released from its bottle and will be unstoppable – because every country has the right to defend its security, its stability, and the welfare of its people."[11]  

Jihad Al-Khazen, columnist for the London-based Saudi daily Al-Hayat, wrote that Arab countries must now work to obtain nuclear weapons in order to defend their citizens: "I insist that countries like Egypt and Saudi Arabia not only be allowed [nuclear weapons], but that they are not entitled to leave their peoples defenseless while Israel possesses a nuclear arsenal and Iran aspires to possess a similar arsenal. The agreement with Iran comes at the expense of the Arabs and requires the launching of an Arab nuclear program... Of course the ideal situation is a Middle East free of nuclear weapons, but the U.S. protects Israel's arsenal and therefore we must defend ourselves."[12]

Similarly, Daoud Al-Shirian wrote, also in Al-Hayat: "It is sad that Western countries know that the purpose of this agreement is to postpone the date when Iran possesses nuclear weapons, as opposed to preventing it from obtaining them – as if this agreement marks the starting line in the regional nuclear arms race."[13]

"Iran" and "U.S at the "Friendship Club" (Source: Al-Iqtisadiyya, Saudi Arabia, July 15, 2015) 

The Agreement Will Increase Iran's Resources – Which It Will Devote To Destabilizing Its Neighbors; We Need An Arab Deterrent Force

Salman Al-Dosari, editor of the London-based Saudi daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, wrote, under the headline "The Nuclear Agreement Will Open The Gates Of Evil": "...The main concern is what happens after the agreement; what its results will be, and political cards Iran will play. No knowledgeable person believes that Iran will halt its policy of destabilizing the region.

"Therefore, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf have no choice but to welcome the agreement, which is aimed at ending a chapter of evil – but the real concern is whether it will launch new chapters of evil such as those that Iran has successfully produced, one after the other, despite the sanctions. And what will happen when it regroups?!"[14]
The Saudi daily Al-Sharq wrote in an editorial: "... The lifelines of the Iranian economy will be revived, and the leaders in Tehran will use the political and military achievements granted them by the nuclear agreement to continue their meddling in the countries of the region and their support for extremist and terrorist groups, as well as to continue destabilizing the region with their militias in Yemen, Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq..."[15]

Iran and U.S. trample "Middle East" on their way to "nuclear agreement" (Source: Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, London, July 15, 2015)

The London-based Qatari daily Al-Quds Al Arabi argued: "The U.S. has effectively abandoned the Arabs as strategic allies by arriving at a potential pact, not yet an actual pact, with a country that it still officially accuses of supporting terrorism... The Arabs should establish an Arab deterrent force for themselves as part of a true strategic vision, without any connection to fragile alliances, since hundreds of billions spent on arms deals could not save the Arabs from their current problem."[16]

The Saudi daily Al-Watan stated: "Postponing [Iran's obtaining] nuclear weapons for 15 years in return for the lifting of sanctions on Tehran is a real Iranian achievements that enables the Persian state to turn its attention to regional matters and try to strengthen the role it plays in several Arab capitals such as Baghdad, Beirut, and Damascus... In our assessment, Congress will absolutely not oppose the agreement, whatever the pressure [on it], because it [the agreement] does not constitute a real threat to Israel's security, since its true threat is only to Arab capitals. This is why the U.S. will settle for merely providing guarantees for Israel's security.

"The important thing in the wake of this agreement is that Iran can sell oil and gas, and that frozen Iranian financial assets will unfreeze, which will arouse the Iranian economy. The impact of this on the countries of the region could be negative. , since the action against Iran on the nuclear issue is over and there is no way out but to take other actions to deal with Iran's aspirations in the region. Therefore, the Saudi-Russian rapprochement was the right thing at the right time, and the Gulf states must also diversify their alliances, in this age of polarization that Obama and his current administration have accepted and to which they have surrendered.

"In order to deal with Iranian danger, we must formulate a united Arab view regarding the events in Syria and Iraq, just as happened in Yemen, [where] Iran infiltrated only because of Arab mistakes... International support for this Arab trend has enabled an Arab course of action that can halt any potential Iranian danger."[17] 

Iran Must Prove That It Has Changed Its Policy

The Kuwaiti daily Al-Siyassa stated: "The sense of relief in several superpower capitals and in the streets and cities of Iran [following the announcement the agreement] is not enough to make us forget the suffering of the Arab peoples because of the role played by Iran and the exploits of the agents of [Iran's] rule of the jurisprudent [i.e. the Iranian regime], whether in Yemen, Iraq, Syria, or Lebanon. Even if we congratulated both sides on the agreement, we in the Gulf Cooperation Council [GCC] have aspired, and still aspire for this neighbor country to adhere to international laws and treaties, to act in a neighborly fashion, and to work for cooperation in development and economy, in order to restore peace and stability to the region. We were, and still are, convinced that this cannot be done unless Tehran abandons the questionable slogans it has promoted for 36 years, including 'exporting the Revolution' or 'reviving the Persian Empire' or boasting of its control of 'four Arab capitals...'

"Iran, which is intoxicated with its sense of victory in the negotiations on its nuclear program, which lasted 12 years, should persuade [the Gulf states] that it has abandoned the role of villain in international relations and that it understands the limits of its political activity and that its leadership will relinquish its illusions of regional control...

"It is possible that the day after the agreement will offer Iran an opportunity to reexamine its relations with all the countries of the region and to understand, even at this late phase, that since 1979, the GCC states have extended their hand in peace and that they still are, on the basis of respect for the independence of nations and non-interference in their [internal] affairs. Maybe then it will conclude that it is now its duty to rectify its historic mistake by renewing good relations with its neighbors."[18]

The Qatari daily Al-Raya stated: "Iran's view of the agreement as an historic victory that enables it to obtain nuclear technology proves that there are doubts regarding Iran's intentions. Iran is working to destabilize the entire region with its actions in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen. If the agreement gives concessions to Iran, then the dangers in the region worsen. Thus, it is crucial that Iran knows that widespread support for a nuclear agreement that heralds its return to the international arena after years of isolation means that it must fundamentally change its foreign policy in the region. This means [that it will] no longer interfere in internal affairs [of other countries], especially in the GCC countries, Yemen, Syria, and Iraq; and that it will adhere to positive cooperation and constructive action to cement security and stability in the region. Furthermore, [Iran] must know that positive action on its part will launch a new phase towards increasing regional and international, as well as domestic, security and stability.

"There are Arab fears, especially in the Arab Gulf countries, that this agreement, although it is positive and ends the Iranian nuclear dossier crisis, comes at the expense of the region. [There are Arab fears] that [the agreement] grants Iran a green light to continue its unacceptable conduct and its interference in the affairs of countries [in the region] by playing a negative role in sparking internal battles and destabilization. Therefore, attempts to reassure the countries of the region, especially those in the Arab Gulf, should be transformed into clear positions that require Iran to refrain from meddling in regional affairs and to not use it [i.e. the agreement] as a bargaining chip to attain further regional influence..."[19]

The Qatari daily Al-Sharq added: "In the current state, Tehran should make a greater effort to restore the atmosphere of trust in its relations with Arab countries, by taking real steps on the ground. Many still look suspiciously at Iranian intentions and regional policies, which some think have sparked tensions in more than one country and region. However, there are increased hopes that this agreement will boost efforts to stabilize the region..."[20]

[1] SPA (Saudi Arabia), July 14, 2015.
[2] Akhbar Al-Khaleej (Bahrain), July 15, 2015.
[3] Al-Watan (Qatar), July 15, 2015.
[4] Al-Watan (Kuwait), July 15, 2015.
[5] Al-Ittihad (UAE), July 15, 2015.
[6] Al-Yawm (Saudi Arabia), July 15, 2015.
[7] Al-Hayat (London), July 15, 2015.
[8] Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), July 14, 2015.
[9] Al-Jarida (Kuwait), July 15, 2015.
[10] Al-Riyadh (Saudi Arabia), July 15, 2015.
[11] Al-Madina (Saudi Arabia), July 15, 2015.
[12] Al-Hayat (London), July 15, 2015.
[13] Al-Hayat (London), July 15, 2015.
[14] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), July 15, 2015.
[15] Al-Sharq (Saudi Arabia), July 15, 2015.
[16] Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), July 15, 2015.
[17] Al-Watan (Saudi Arabia), July 15, 2015.
[18] Al-Siyassa (Kuwait), July 15, 2015.
[19] Al-Raya (Kuwait), July 15, 2015.
[20] Al-Sharq (Qatar), July 15, 2015.



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The Iran Failure Has Many Fathers - Bruce Thornton

by Bruce Thornton

The dangerous belief that words alone can transcend an eternal truth of human nature.

Everybody knows the deal with Iran is a disaster. Why is equally obvious: Iran will get $150 billion to spend on weapons and its terrorist proxies, will keep its enrichment facilities, will continue to develop missiles, will easily avoid the laughably pusillanimous inspections regime, and will end up a nuclear power with malign consequences for the stability of the Middle East.

We also know who bears the responsibility for this fiasco––Barack Obama. Historically ignorant and terminally narcissistic, Obama has all the superstitions and delusions of the progressive elite. And one of the most persistent and hoary of those beliefs is the fetish of diplomacy as a means to resolve disputes without force. 

We must remember that Obama pointedly ran on the promise to “reinvigorate” American diplomacy. This trope was in fact a way to run against George Bush, whom the Dems and the media had caricatured as a “cowboy” with an itchy trigger finger, a gunslinger scornful of diplomacy and multilateralism. That charge was a lie––Bush wasted several months on diplomacy in an unsuccessful attempt to get the U.N.’s sanction for the war, even though the U.S. Congress had approved it, Hussein was in gross violation of the first Gulf War cease-fire agreement, and the U.N. already has passed 17 Security Council resolutions, all of which Hussein had violated.

Yet the narrative that Bush had “failed so miserably at diplomacy that we are now forced to war,” as then Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle put it, lived on. For the progressives committed to crypto-pacifism and to the belief that America is a guilty aggressor, the story was too politically useful. Obama, one of the most programmatic progressives in the Senate, embodied all those superstitions. As senator he continually criticized the war in Iraq, scorned the ultimately successful “surge” of troops in 2007 as a “reckless escalation” and a “mistake,” and introduced legislation to remove all troops from Iraq by March 2008. 

As a presidential candidate, his whole foreign policy was predicated on his being the “anti-Bush” who would “reinvigorate diplomacy” and initiate “engagement” with all our enemies in order to defuse conflict and create peace. As president, Obama has been true to his word. He has apologized, groveled, bowed to potentates, “reset” relations with our rivals, shaken hands with thugs, and now talked Iran into being a nuclear power. As for “peace,” it is nowhere to be found as violence and atrocities multiply from Ukraine to Yemen, Tunisia to Afghanistan.  

But as much as Obama is personally to blame for what will turn out to be a disastrous foreign policy mistake, the larger problem is the very notion that rational discussion, negotiation, and dickering with our enemies and rivals can replace force, rather than being an adjunct to a credible threat of force. It is based on the arrogant assumption that the enemy is a “rational actor,” as Obama’s flacks have been asserting about the mullahs, and respects life, coexistence, and peace as much as we. That this administration can believe this delusion––when the Iranians regularly chant “Death to America” and have practiced what they preach by killing Americans for 36 years––is as mystifyingly blind as the British were to Hitler’s threatening rants at the Nuremburg Party Rally a few weeks before the Munich conference, when the Fuhrer called Czechoslovakia an “irreconcilable” enemy. 

Plato, of course, expressed the truth of interstate relations 24 centuries earlier, when he said, “In reality, every state is in a natural state of war with every other,” and “peace is only a name.” Charles de Gaulle in 1934 made the same point in terms relevant for the just completed farce with Iran:
But, hope though we may, what reason have we for thinking that passion and self-interest, the root cause of armed conflict in men and in nations, will cease to operate; that anyone will willingly surrender what he has or not try to get what he wants; in short that human nature will ever become something other than it is? … ‘Laws unsupported by force soon fall into contempt,’ said Cardinal de Retz. International agreements will be of little value unless there are troops to prevent their infringement. In whatever direction the world may move, it will never be able to do without the final arbitration of arms.
The belief that words alone can transcend this eternal truth of human nature––a belief deeply engrained in the mentality of our leaders and foreign policy establishment–– led to the disaster of World War II, and will despite this lesson of history lead to a lesser, but still dangerous, disaster.

But there is yet another factor in this debacle that must be acknowledged: the tendency of democracies to privilege short-term comfort over long-term threats. In democracies the use of force must have the assent of the voters, who in the U.S. every 2 years hold leaders accountable at the ballot box. Setbacks, mistakes, atrocities, casualties, and all the other unfortunately eternal contingencies of mass violence try the patience of voters, and citizen control of the military gives them a means of expressing their impatience or anger. As de Tocqueville recognized more than 150 years ago, “The people are more apt to feel than to reason; and if their present sufferings are great, it is to be feared that the still greater sufferings attendant upon defeat will be forgotten.” That pretty much sums up America’s response so far to Obama’s agreement.

We know that no diplomatic “deal” with Iran will keep the world’s worst state sponsor of terrorism from obtaining nuclear weapons. As puny North Korea demonstrated, a determined regime can lie, obfuscate, and cheat its way around any parchment defenses. We also know that the U.S. possesses the military means to degrade Iran’s nuclear infrastructure and military assets enough to end that threat. It is not a question of ability, but will. But does anybody think that a critical mass of American citizens today has the will to support serious military action? Are there enough outraged moderate Democrats to hold their Democratic Representatives’ and Senators’ feet to the fire and convince them to pass with a veto-proof majority legislation stopping this train-wreck? When that vote comes, we will know the answer to the first question.

It is a cliché that free democracies are formidable warriors. But first they must be roused, as Tocqueville put it, to “a sudden effort of remarkable vigor.” So far it’s hard to see such vigor among the people, and one shudders to think what it will take to restore it. But one thing’s for sure–– it will take more than merely putting a Republican in the White House.

Bruce Thornton is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center.


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The Timeline of Obama's Iran Capitulation - Ted Belman

by Ted Belman

I must conclude that he has lied all along about what he wanted and was merely saying so as a cover for his true goals.

Some suggest that President Obama was naïve, or misguided, or a poor negotiator to end up with such a bad deal. Normally this would be true -- if one believed that Obama really wanted what he said he wanted. But I don't believe that anyone could be so inept. I must conclude that he has lied all along about what he wanted and was merely saying so as a cover for his true goals.

At one point in negotiations, Iran was down for the count. Rather than delivering a coup de grâce by tightening sanctions, Obama released sanctions and money thereby resuscitating Iran.  Who does that? Certainly not someone who wanted to win.

We must conclude that the most important thing for Obama was to reach a deal, any deal, no matter what.

Here's the time line.
  • Beginning in December 2006 the UNSC passed a resolution calling for sanctions on Iran and kept tightening and expanding those sanctions until 2010, at which time they were beginning to bite but insufficiently so.
  • President Obama was inaugurated in January 2009, six months after the US joined the talks with Iran for the first time. Before the end of that year his administration was having direct talks with Iran.
  • In January 2012, the IAEA said Iran was enriching to 20 percent at its mountain facility near Fordo. The European Union then froze the assets of Iran's central bank and halted Iranian oil imports. Then the sanctions really began to bite.
  • Negotiations were restarted between Iran and the six world powers but went nowhere. By the summer, secret talks between US and Iranian officials were taking place to see if diplomatic progress was possible. A year later, after Iran elected a new President, Hassan Rouhani, President Obama spoke to him directly in September 2013.
  • Two months later, Iran and the six powers announced an Interim Agreement that moved the goal posts of what was being demanded and unfroze some Iranian assets worth billions. The deal set the stage for extended negotiations on a comprehensive nuclear capitulation.
  • This capitulation included an agreement to provide “co-operation through training and workshops to strengthen Iran’s ability to protect against, and respond to nuclear security threats, including sabotage.”  So now America has become Iran’s protector rather than Israel’s protector.
  • Obama must have concluded that a deal was not available on US terms and that the US had no alternative to reach an agreement except on Iranian terms. The Interim Agreement signaled his capitulation.  The rest was deception and theater. If Obama was still pursuing a tough deal, the Interim Agreement would never have been made.
No matter how egregious Iran's conduct was, Obama had concluded that any deal is better than no deal. Two other circumstances favored such a policy: namely Obama wanted Iran's help in subduing ISIS, and Europe was experiencing tough economic times and wanted to do business with Iran who was getting an infusion of about $150 Billion in sanctions relief. Slowing Iran's rush to the bomb had a low priority and protecting allies like Israel and the Gulf States, no priority at all.

While the EU and the US bent over backwards to give Iran what it wanted, they doubled down on their demands of Israel to stop construction of any kind east of armistice lines and to accept a Palestinian state with borders based the '67 lines plus swaps.

Thus they are giving Israel’s arch enemy what it wants while at the same time denying Israel what it wants and pressuring her to concede to their inflexible demands.

Now the battle to approve or reject this agreement will be fought in Congress in the next two months.  Obama will be playing his double game. He will offer Israel all kinds of security guarantees, military equipment and money so that Congressmen and Senators who are concerned with where this agreement leaves Israel, will be mollified.

Meanwhile, Israel has to decide whether such Obama gifts or bribes will or should impact her decision on whether or not to attack Iran. If she decides to attack Iran in self-defense, she will do so in the fall.

Ted Belman


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The Arab absurdity - Dan Margalit

by Dan Margalit

If authorized representatives of each of the Arab League nations could talk to Israel, they would probably whisper that they welcome the possibility that Israel possesses nuclear weapons, because under particularly dire circumstances, it could serve as the single most effective deterrent to ward off the Iranian ayatollahs.

The ink has not yet dried on the 159-page nuclear agreement with Iran, and already Arab states are rushing to demand international inspection of Israel's suspected nuclear facilities. The Arab League is also seeking to compel Israel to sign the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, based on experts' assumptions that Israel possesses a substantial depot of atomic bombs. 

Recently, U.S. President Barack Obama stymied Egyptian efforts to raise Israel's alleged nuclear conduct to the international agenda, and it looked as though we would have five years of quiet after that, but no. The Arab League is renewing its demand at a unique time, raising the question: In light of their disappointment with the Iran nuclear deal and the Americans' weakness, could the possibility of Israel being a nuclear power actually serve the interests of the Arab states that are complaining about it? 

Israel's nuclear activity, if it in fact exists, counters Iran's growing power as a threat to regional states and their international maritime routes. If authorized representatives of each of the Arab League nations could talk to Israel, they would probably whisper that they welcome the possibility that Israel possesses nuclear weapons, because under particularly dire circumstances, it could serve as the single most effective deterrent to ward off the Iranian ayatollahs.

Arab governments are bound by rhetoric that does not accurately reflect their interests. In practice, it may be in their best interests to create a unified bloc, including Israel and possibly Turkey at some point down the line, to ward off Iran's expansion efforts. But because of their commitment to an anti-Israel lexicon, they make declarations that run contrary to their actual interests. 

One of their demands reaches the point of absurdity. They want to force Israel to join the non-proliferation treaty, but Iran has been a signatory of the treaty for years, and if the Iranian signature had any value there would be no need for the agreement that was reached this week. After all, they have made previous commitments not to manufacture nuclear weapons, so this signature is meaningless. 

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu received a letter this week from attorney Itai Mack, on behalf of the Israeli Disarmament Movement, seeking legislation that would regulate the status of Israel's Atomic Energy Commission, established by David Ben-Gurion after the establishment of the state, which has been functioning well, and in secret, ever since. Ostensibly, it seems the natural thing to do. But in reality it could destroy Israel's policy of nuclear ambiguity. Careful, the secret of the Dimona reactor is out.

Dan Margalit


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Beware the Hyde-and-Jekyll Defense of the Iran Nuclear Agreement - Gary C. Gambill

by Gary C. Gambill

The Obama administration has abandoned the pursuit of a decisive reduction in Iran's nuclear breakout capacity.

Obama administration officials believe that a nuclear threshold détente will transform Iran into the kind of state one might trust to linger near the finish line of producing a bomb.
After two years of negotiations with Iran over the fate of its nuclear program, the Obama administration has unveiled an agreement abandoning the pursuit of a decisive reduction in the Islamic Republic's breakout capacity – the ability to quickly and successfully produce a bomb – and lifting the economic sanctions that have hobbled its economy. The agreement not only sanctifies Teheran's retention of sufficient enrichment infrastructure to produce a bomb in a year or less, but also drops or dilutes a range of other longstanding demands, from closing a once-secret, heavily fortified underground enrichment facility to providing inspectors with a full accounting of its bomb-making research and development.

As the Obama administration and its supporters seek to rally domestic and international support for this historic compromise, listen for what can best be described as a Hyde-and-Jekyll defense.
The Obama administration has abandoned the pursuit of a decisive reduction in Iran's nuclear breakout capacity.
When discussing what will happen if the P5+1 world powers maintain their long-standing refusal to accept Iran's retention of proliferation-prone nuclear infrastructure, the administration has often depicted the Islamic Republic as a menacing force hell-bent on continuing its march toward the brink, whatever the consequences. Secretary of State John Kerry has suggested that Iran might "rush towards a nuclear weapon" if the talks collapse. Obama has characterized the alternative as "letting them rush towards a bomb." Outside of the administration, supporters of the pending nuclear agreement have typically offered more measured warnings that the Iranians could "take the lid off their program" and "rapidly ramp up their uranium enrichment." Most believe that war will be likely, if not unavoidable, if there is no agreement.

However, when speaking about what will happen if the P5+1 recognizes and validates Tehran's nuclear threshold status, the administration and its supporters have depicted the Islamic Republic as an eminently rational actor likely to abide by the letter and spirit of a prospective agreement. Obama sees the P5+1 as offering the Iranians the prospect of being "a very successful regional power" in return for accepting monitored limits on their nuclear program. "Without in any way being under an illusion about Iranian intentions ... [or] the nature of that regime, they are self-interested," according to Obama. "It is possible for them to make a strategic calculation that, at minimum, pushes much further to the right whatever potential breakout capacity they may have."
If we demand that Iran unclench its nuclear fist, we will supposedly get Mr. Hyde. If we give in, we get the friendly Dr. Jekyll.
Put simply, if we continue refusing to lift sanctions until Iran fully unclenches its nuclear fist (dramatically downsizes its enrichment infrastructure, acknowledges past weaponization work, gives inspectors wide latitude, etc.), we will get Mr. Hyde. But we will get the friendly Dr. Jekyll if we give in and accept the agreement Obama has put before us. And this is only if we give in – proponents of the agreement are quite certain that the good doctor won't pop up if the international community stands firm (i.e. that the Iranians won't, upon further reflection, make more concessions on the nuclear issue, or otherwise try harder to win international confidence).

Obama administration officials warn that Iran could "rush" for a bomb if the international community demands a more decisive reduction in its nuclear infrastructure.
Oddly enough, the Hyde portraiture isn't one of Iran reverting to its nuclear posture before direct talks with the Obama administration began in early 2013. Back then, the mullahs weren't "rapidly" ramping up enrichment capacity (let alone "rushing" for a bomb), but increasing it slowly enough not to cross certain thresholds deemed likely to trigger Israeli and/or American military action (e.g., accumulating enough near-20% enriched uranium to produce through further enrichment sufficient weapons grade uranium for a bomb). The Iran they suggest will emerge from our failure to compromise is far more unhinged and oblivious to its people's welfare than the one they sat down with two years ago. And dumber, too – an attempt by Iran to "rush" for a bomb or significantly narrow its nuclear breakout time by ramping up enrichment capacity would be supremely stupid when international resolve is at a peak.

While some proponents of the agreement are simply cherry-picking diametrically opposed characterizations of Iran to fit mismatched legs of a bad argument, many appear to genuinely believe that a nuclear threshold détente will somehow transform Iran into the kind of partner one might trust to linger near the finish line of producing a bomb, and that lack of one will put it on a path to war.

There are three overlapping strands of reasoning in this argument. All have an elegant logic with a weak empirical track record outside of Iran and little applicability to the particulars of the case at hand.

"More to lose"

The first holds that lifting sanctions will accelerate Iran's integration into the world economy, creating disincentives to misbehave. "If in fact they're engaged in international business, and there are foreign investors, and their economy becomes more integrated with the world economy, then in many ways it makes it harder for them to engage in behaviors that are contrary to international norms," explained Obama in April.

Lifting sanctions isn't likely to result in Iran's headlong integration into the world economy.
Although there is much to be said for free markets and trade, economic integration hasn't reliably inhibited the aggression of states. The European continent was more economically integrated on the eve of World War I than at any time prior and for many decades after.
In any case, lifting sanctions isn't likely to result in Iran's headlong integration into the world economy. This isn't a situation where a bankrupt dictatorship opens up to the world out of desperation and falls prey to socio-economic forces beyond its control. The Iranian regime is getting a direct financial windfall out of this (access to frozen Iranian assets worth as much as $150 billion, ability to sell oil, etc.), which it can simply pocket while forgoing the kind of increased trade and foreign investment that might constrain its freedom of action later.

"More like us"

The second line of reasoning holds that drawing Iran into closer economic and socio-cultural contact with the rest of the world will cause religious extremism, xenophobia, and other unsavory attitudes among the public at large to give way to materialist and individualist concerns that will constrain government decision-making. Obama "believes the more people interact with open societies, the more they will want to be part of an open society," says Ivo Daalder, Obama's former NATO ambassador and head of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

There's little evidence that Iranian public opinion supports the regime's nuclear brinksmanship.
But this presumes that the Iranian public has influence over its government's aggressive regional and international policies. As was made clear in the deadly aftermath of the rigged 2009 elections and at many other times, the Iranian 
government can and does ignore public opinion.

In any case, there's little evidence that Iranian public opinion supports the regime's nuclear brinksmanship. While most Iranians do express support for a civilian energy program, few attach a high priority to it. Despite a steady diet of government propaganda heralding the nuclear program as the sacred right of the Iranian people, only 6% of respondents in a September 2013 Zogby poll said that continuing Iran's enrichment program was one of their top two policy priorities. Iranian leaders threaten world peace because of ideological and strategic reasons, not public opinion.

"Empower moderates"

Obama has argued that the pending nuclear agreement could "strengthen the hands" of President Hassan Rouhani and other "moderates."
Finally, Obama has argued that an agreement "could strengthen the hands of more moderate leaders in Iran." President Hassan Rouhani and other "moderates" will gain clout in Iran's government if there is a deal on his watch, while "hardliners" will gain influence if there isn't one.

But this is a misreading of what causes the strength of moderates in government to fluctuate. This variable is in large part a function of how aggressively radical mullahs vet who can run in elections. So-called "moderates" are allowed to ascend the ranks of power when the system is under threat and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei needs them to safely channel public dissent and/or soften international hostility to Iran, but they lose clout when they are no longer needed to deflect such challenges.

Moderates are allowed to ascend the ranks of power when the system is under threat, but they lose clout when no longer needed.
Might not the exorbitant financial payoff to the Iranian state of having sanctions lifted boost the legitimacy of the system and thereby weaken moderates? Alan J. Kuperman, head of the Nuclear Proliferation Prevention Project at the University of Texas at Austin, is concerned that such a windfall "would entrench the ruling mullahs, who could claim credit for Iran's economic resurgence."

Moreover, Kuperman adds, the Iranian regime will acquire "extra resources" to "amplify the havoc it is fostering in neighboring countries like Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen." And once a nuclear deal is signed, fear of provoking Tehran to violate it will surely discourage the international community from punishing it for its terrorism sponsorship and bloody proxy interventions in the region.

Rouhani may get a personal boost from getting sanctions lifted on his watch, but it's a mistake to translate that into broad advancement of "moderates." The Iranian president may be a soft-liner on some domestic issues, but he is no less committed to realizing Iran's nuclear ambitions than so-called hardliners.

Indeed, he is arguably more so. Many hardliners are more interested in using the nuclear program to throw a wrench into Iran's relations with the West and keep it on a "rogue" footing than in the delicate task of preventing the international community from stopping its eventual construction of a bomb. Not surprisingly, the above-mentioned Zogby poll showed that Iranians who believe Iran should have nuclear weapons are more likely to self-identify as Rouhani supporters than those who don't.


The reality is that we don't know what will happen inside Iran in the years to come. But it's a good bet the nature and temperament of the regime won't change dramatically for better or worse as a result of whether or not the international community sanctifies Iran's nuclear threshold status.

The nature of the Iranian regime likely won't change dramatically for better or worse as a result of the nuclear agreement.
Although Obama administration officials are quick to insist that their proposed nuclear agreement with Iran is a good idea regardless of the nature and intentions of the Iranian regime, no one really believes this. If Iran is completely unchanged by its opening to the world, then the best case scenario is that we'll be exactly where we are today when modest restrictions on its enrichment capacity expire in 10 years, only Iran will have recovered economically from the impact of sanctions, shattered the global coalition arrayed against it, and obtained the internationally sanctioned right to ramp up enrichment.

The worst-case scenario is, well, a lot worse.

Gary C. Gambill is a frequent contributor to The National Post, FPRI E-Notes, The Jerusalem Post, Foreign Policy, and The National Interest. He is a research fellow at the Middle East Forum and was formerly editor of Middle East Intelligence Bulletin and Mideast Monitor.


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Iran Nuclear Deal: Good and Bad News for Turkey - Burak Bekdil

by Burak Bekdil

  • Iran will have a stronger hand in supporting the Shiite war against the Sunnis in the Middle East, financially, militarily and politically.
  • Once again, Turkey is pursuing an unattainable goal: That Iran will give up its sectarian warfare but let Turkey continue to wage its own sectarian warfare.
  • After the nuclear deal, the Turks see that their sectarian war against Shiite dominance in the region will be harder to fight.
Officially, Turkey has welcomed the nuclear deal that the P5+1 bloc (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany) reached with Iran, and the lifting of sanctions on its eastern neighbor.

Ankara said that the deal 1) will contribute to the regional stability and economy; 2) will have a direct positive impact on Turkey; and 3) must be put into practice with full transparency.

Ironically, such warm welcome from Ankara put Turkey into the same line as its worst regional nemesis, the Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Assad, who also welcomed the deal. "We are confident that the Islamic Republic of Iran will support, with greater drive, the just causes of nations, and work for peace and stability in the region and the world," Assad said in a message to Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

As always, it is safer to understand the Turkish thinking on anything involving Iran from the "cautious" words in any official statement, not from the "cheerful" words.

After welcoming the nuclear deal with Iran, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu called on Iran to revise its regional policies and "abandon sectarian politics." More specifically, Cavusoglu called on Iran to revise its role in Syria, Iraq and Yemen. Iran "should play a positive and constructive role. It should abandon sectarian politics and give importance to political dialogue for solutions. This is our expectation from our brother Iran," the Turkish minister said.

Where does the Iran deal leave Turkey? The short answer is: In purgatory. That is because, for the Turks, Iran is a "brotherly Muslim state" but at the same time it is, privately, "a rival and potential enemy that worships a heretical sect of Islam."

Ankara would privately welcome Tehran's developing a nuclear bomb and threatening exclusively Israel. But it knows that an Iran equipped with nuclear warheads would pose an existential security threat not only to Israel: Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Egypt would have to line up in the queue as well, or develop their own nuclear weapons in response.

Iran is not a new regional rival to Turkey. Ostensibly, the 550 km (nearly 350 mile) border between Turkey and Iran has been one of the most stable and peaceful in the volatile Middle East. The last "official" war fought between the Ottoman Empire and Persia (under the Safavid dynasty) was in 1623-1639. That war, for the control of Mesopotamia, ended with the signing of the Treaty of Zuhab, leaving Mesopotamia in Ottoman hands, until the empire was lost in the aftermath of World War I.

The Sunni and Shiite regional powers, however, did fight a full-scale war in 1733, when the Persians wanted to take Baghdad from the Ottomans.

In 1775, Persia (under the Zand dynasty) attacked Ottoman-ruled Basra, an invasion that lasted until 1821, when another war broke out which lasted until 1823. In 1840, the Ottomans and Persians also had a major conflict over the control of what is today Iran's Khorramshar.

In more modern times, Iran, in 1930, supported Kurdish uprisings against the Republic of Turkey; they were followed by a dispute over the Turkish-Iranian border.

More recently, in the 1980s and 1990s, Turkey accused Iran of killing secular and leftist Turkish intellectuals, of trying to export its Islamist regime to Turkey (when Turkey itself was a secular country), and of supporting Kurdish militants fighting for independence from Turkey.

The nuclear deal, if successfully and honestly implemented -- that is, if it stops Iran's ambitions for nuclear weapons -- will relieve Turkey: a nuclear Iran would be too dangerous a regional rival for Turkey to deal with.

Turkey's President (then prime minister) Recep Tayyip Erdogan greets Iran's President Hassan Rouhani in Ankara, June 9, 2014. (Image source: AKP)

Possessing a nuclear arsenal would also significantly boost Iran's regional political clout and military influence. Therefore, the "official" Turkish welcome for the deal reflects Ankara's cheerful mood over the idea that a nightmarish Iran scenario may have been averted.

But the same deal also rings alarm bells in the Turkish capital -- hence the cautious words accompanying the official Turkish statement.

The lifting of sanctions will gradually open up Iran to the international community and boost Iran's economy, possibly with billions of petro-dollars flowing in, and trade with the rest of the world flourishing -- all strengthening the "Shiite heretics." What would that mean for Turkey? Iran will have a stronger hand in supporting the Shiite war against the Sunnis in the Middle East, financially, militarily and politically. Now re-read the Turkish foreign minister's caution:
"Iran should revise its regional policies and abandon sectarian politics ... It should revise its role in Syria, Iraq and Yemen ... It should play a positive and constructive role. It should abandon sectarian politics and give importance to political dialogue for solutions. This is our expectation from our brother Iran."
Take out the diplomatic courtesy part, "our brother Iran." The statement is a clear but discreet expression of concern and childish hypocrisy. Once again, Turkey is asking for too much, and unfairly. It asks Iran to "revise its sectarian policies." Which means that "the Iranians should stop supporting the Shiite jihadists but the Turks should continue supporting the Sunni jihadists."

And once again, Turkey is pursuing an unattainable goal: That Iran will give up its sectarian warfare but let Turkey continue to wage its own sectarian warfare.

After the nuclear deal, the Turks see that their sectarian war against Shiite dominance in the region will be harder to fight.
Burak Bekdil, based in Ankara, is a Turkish columnist for the Hürriyet Daily and a Fellow at the Middle East Forum.

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