Friday, April 10, 2015

The Iran Nuclear Deal Is Good–for the Mullahs - Washington Wire

The Iran Nuclear Deal Is Good–for the Mullahs - Washington Wire

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Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in Tehran on April 9. 
Agence France-Presse/Getty Images
The agreement over Iran’s nuclear program will be neither the historic catastrophe its detractors argue nor the transformative breakthrough advocates suggest. And the supreme leader’s comments Thursday that there is still much to be worked out underscores that the deal is far from done.
Think of it as a more focused quid pro quo. Barack Obama wanted to avoid being the U.S. president who presides over Iran getting the bomb. Iran wanted sanctions relief and validation of its nuclear program. Both sides made concessions, and a crisis appears to have been averted, at least in the short term. But what we know now suggests that the mullahs got the better end of the deal. Consider:
It may well be, given the constraints of the possible, that the U.S. never could have achieved what it initially wanted: no enrichment; centrifuges dismantled; nuclear facilities shuttered; Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium shipped abroad; full disclosure on the military dimensions of Iran’s program. But a deal-hungry Washington shifted goals. The U.S. went from seeking to dismantle a putative nuclear weapons program to trying to impose limitations on one. Score one for the mullahs. By the time a final agreement is reached, Iran’s right to enrich uranium and its nuclear infrastructure may be validated in a U.N. Security Council resolution. That would be another win for the mullahs.
Is time on the mullahs’ side? Nobody can predict the future. It is possible that, over time, sanctions relief, integration into the international community, and rising public expectations will force changes in the Iranian regime’s behavior. But the mullahs have been around since 1979, and they take a longer view of things than Washington, where time tends to be measured in four- and eight-year increments. Will the U.S. and the international community bring the same focus to verification and enforcement in five or 10 years? Great powers have many responsibilities and are easily distracted. Iran’s regime is single-minded: political survival in a turbulent region. As we’ve seen with North Korea, agreements can come and go, while issues relating to insecurity, vulnerability, threat perception, and power ambitions remain. Maintaining the nuclear hedge will continue to be part of that calculation.
Had the Obama administration made Iran’s behavior at home or in the region part of the negotiations, no framework agreement would have been reached. But in compartmentalizing, Washington has all but confirmed Iran as the key broker in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon. I’ve long arguedthat one of the reasons the Obama administration has not been more aggressive militarily against the Assad regime is that the U.S. feared becoming embroiled in a proxy war in Syria—possibly involving killing Iranian Revolutionary Guard units—that would have undermined the nuclear negotiations with Iran. In Iraq, the implicit U.S. cooperation with Tehran against Islamic State has helped expand Iran’s influence. There is no indication that Washington will want to aggressively counter Iran in the region during the early phase of implementation of a final agreement. On the contrary, the logic is that engagement will, over time, produce changes in the regime so it’s best to give the reformists and moderates a chance to expand their influence.
Whatever its intentions, the administration has created the impression that it is pursuing an Iran-centric policy in the Middle East. It is remarkable that even while Iran imprisons U.S. citizens and tortures and executes its own people, Washington’s tensions aren’t with Tehran but with Israel. In many ways, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has overplayed his hand on the Iran issue. Still, it’s stunning that the president of the United States is protesting Mr. Netanyahu’s terrible statements about Israeli Arabs and not blasting Tehran for its human rights abuses. Saudi Arabia may have publicly welcomed the putative Iranian nuclear deal. But the kingdom is increasingly worried by the emerging U.S. relationship with Iran and by Iran’s exploitation of Yemen’s internal conflict to increase Tehran’s reach in Saudi Arabia’s back yard. Both the Israelis and the Saudis are thinking about the long term and the fact that sanctions relief will add to Iran’s coffers without forcing it to abandon a nuclear weapons hedge.
Bottom line: This round goes to the mullahs.
Aaron David Miller is a vice president at the Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars and most recently the author of “The End of Greatness: Why America Can’t Have (and Doesn’t Want) Another Great President.” He is on Twitter: @AaronDMiller2.
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Opinion: Contradictions in Obama's Doctrine

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I tried to ignore US President Barack Obama’s interview with the New York Times because I was sure it would be part of his propaganda campaign for the framework nuclear deal with Iran. Still, the interview’s impact cannot be ignored. Rather than calming the fears of those in the Gulf region, Obama has provoked many here.
Thomas Friedman, one of the Times’ most prominent writers who is extremely knowledgeable about the region’s affairs, interviewed the president. Perhaps this was why the nation’s leader was dragged into arguing his points, instead of justifying them.
What’s strange about the conversation was that Obama commended the Iranian regime, justifying its actions and implying a sense of guilt over what the US had done against Iran.
I don’t know what books the American president reads before he goes to bed or how he understands the events of the past three decades. Tehran’s mentality and practices are close to those of Al-Qaeda: religious, fascist and hostile towards anyone who opposes their ideology. Tehran’s understanding of the world considers others as either believers or infidels. It is Iran that was responsible for much of the violence in the region under the banner of religion—and this was around 15 years before Al-Qaeda even emerged.
In as much as Obama was apologetic toward the Iranian regime and generous with his gift of a nuclear agreement, he was harsh toward Arabs, and his severity was unjustified. For example, he said that instead of worrying about the threat posed by Iran, Arabs must stand against the crimes of Bashar Al-Assad.
To be frank, I read this paragraph more than once and tried to put it in to context, yet I failed to understand what seemed to me to be contradictions. The crimes of the Assad regime, which have led to the deaths of a quarter of a million people and displaced more than 10 million are the direct result of the support and interference of Iran, the country that Obama is apologizing to and commending.
Obama criticizes Arabs because they have not fought against the Assad regime, when in fact it’s his government that prevented them from using advanced weapons to confront Assad’s tanks and stop Assad’s warplanes that have shelled Syrian cities every day!
For four years now, the Syrian rebels have been defending themselves against Assad’s forces by using low-grade arms such as Kalashnikovs and mortars—this is because the US prevents them from buying and attaining more powerful weapons from any other party.
Then Obama criticized his Gulf allies by saying their problems are domestic, as a result of a lack of satisfaction among their people, as well as the presence of extremism, terrorism and unemployment. Of course, this is all true and no one denies there are domestic challenges. However it does not mean the Gulf will not voice its irritation at the agreement the Americans reached with Iran that gives Tehran free rein in a manner that threatens the Gulf.
There’s no contradiction here. These domestic and external concerns do not contradict one another. To illustrate the point: it would not make sense for us to tell the American president that he does not have to worry about the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and Al-Qaeda because he has internal problems such as unemployment and inadequate healthcare.
As Arabs, we are not against Obama signing a reconciliation deal with Iran—on the contrary we agree with it because we are the weakest party. Our hope is that we all reach peace and end disputes. However, what Obama is doing by lifting sanctions on Iran is that he’s bringing down the wall with the country without placing down any ways in which to restrain it. Meanwhile, Iran sends its forces and generals to fight in Syria and Iraq and funds the Houthi uprising in Yemen.
An acquaintance of mine who read Obama’s interview with Friedman said that perhaps the president wants his name to make it to the history books, like former President Richard Nixon did when opening up relations with China. However, the difference is huge. Comparisons with China and Iran are not valid. Iran is more like North Korea. China was a country closed in on itself, and it was not part of wars and terrorist activities across the world, which Iran has been carrying out non-stop for the last three decades.
What’s stranger still is that after Obama’s statements were published, the president’s deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes addressed the Arabs of the Gulf, commending and reassuring them—and in doing so some of his statements contradicted what Obama had told Friedman.

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is the general manager of Al-Arabiya television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine Al-Majalla. He is also a senior columnist in the daily newspapers Al-Madina and Al-Bilad. He has a US post-graduate degree in mass communications, and has been a guest on many TV current affairs programs. He is currently based in Dubai.
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US liberal groups push congressional Democrats on Iran nuclear bills - Middle East

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US progressive groups rallied on Thursday to persuade Democratic senators not to support a bill giving Congress a vote on a nuclear deal with Iran, echoing the White House's insistence that the measure could blow up delicate negotiations.
Five groups - CREDO, Daily Kos, Democracy for America, <a href="" rel="nofollow"></a> Political Action and USAction - sent a letter warning Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, Minority Whip Richard Durbin and seven other Democratic US Senate leaders that they would hold them accountable if they backed legislation seen as detrimental to the talks.
Supporters say they are close to a veto-proof majority of 67 senators supporting a bill drafted by Republican Senator Bob Corker and Democratic Senator Robert Menendez giving Congress the opportunity to approve or reject sanctions relief in an Iran nuclear deal.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is due to vote on the bill on April 14. On Wednesday, Democratic senators filed amendments that, if passed, would eliminate some sections of the legislation most worrisome to Democrats.
In their letter, the liberal groups noted that they represent millions of activists around the country who have raised "tens of millions of dollars" to turn out voters and help elect Democrats.
"We urge you to support the diplomatic process, and ensure that Democrats don't deliver the Republicans the votes they need to override a presidential veto of diplomacy-killing legislation and begin yet another war of choice in the Middle East," they wrote.
Separately, Credo organized a petition specifically targeting Senator Charles Schumer, the No. 3 Democrat in the Senate, who has come out in favor of the bill
The petition reads, "Tell Sen. Chuck Schumer: Don't lead Senate Democrats into war with Iran." It had been signed by more than 44,000 people by Thursday morning. 

White House Takes Shot At Netanyahu On Twitter Using Iran Bomb Diagram « CBS DC

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WASHINGTON (CBS DC/AP) — The White House Twitter account took a shot at Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday, tweeting a cartoon bomb graphic nearly identical to one used by Netanyahu during a 2012 United Nations speech about nuclear negotiations with Iran.
The image of the similar cartoon bomb featured a split between what would happen without an Iran nuclear deal and what would happen with the deal. The White House’s not-so-subtle-dig at Netanyahu highlights the ongoing public dispute between the Obama administration’s push for a nuclear deal with Iran versus Netanyahu’s staunch opposition to such a deal.
The bomb sketch used by the White House’s official Twitter account reads, “Worth sharing: Here’s how the #IranDeal would shut down Iran’s pathway to a nuclear weapon.”
The image shows the difference in opinion between the Israeli leader and the Obama administration, with the left showing that Iran would see an “unlimited increase” in nuclear capabilities with the deal and the right listing 98 percent reduction in Iran’s uranium stockpile.
In 2012, Netanyahu used the cartoon bomb image as he warned the United Nations about the consequences of a nuclear-armed Iran. He dramatically drew a red line at the top of the bomb diagram to illustrate the country nearing the “Final Stage” of its nuclear armament.
President Barack Obama on Wednesday called the chairman and the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to further discuss a framework agreement aimed at keeping Iranfrom being able to develop a nuclear weapon.
Chairman Bob Corker, R-Tenn., and ranking member Ben Cardin, D-Md., are working on legislation that would give Congress a say in the implementation of any final deal the U.S. and its partners can reach with Iran in coming weeks. The committee is to vote on the bill Tuesday.
Obama objects to the bill as it’s written and has promised to veto it.
Josh Earnest, the president’s spokesman, says Obama discussed with Corker the commitments Iran had made to limit its nuclear program.
Earnest says Obama praised Corker’s handling of the issue and reiterated that the emerging deal is the best way to keep Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.
The tentative agreement has to be finalized by June 30.
(TM and © Copyright 2015 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2015 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
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Obama’s doctrine and legacy | New York Amsterdam News: The new Black view

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Special to the AmNews
If President Barack Obama’s intention is to forge a legacy, one mainly based on his foreign policy, he has made several decisive steps toward that goal. Several months ago, he reached out to Cuba with the purpose of normalizing relations with the island nation. But his effort to deal diplomatically with Iran, putting a stop to its nuclear weapon possibilities, is by far the most dramatic indication of the “Obama doctrine,” a policy given full exposition during a recent interview with Thomas Friedman of The New York Times.
At the very top of the long interview, Obama spelled out what he conceived as his doctrine. “You asked about an Obama doctrine. The doctrine is: We will engage, but we preserve all our capabilities,” he told Friedman.
To get to the core of the doctrine, the president brought Cuba into the discussion. “You take a country like Cuba,” he said. “For us to test the possibility that engagement leads to a better outcome for the Cuban people, there aren’t that many risks for us. It’s a tiny little country. It’s not one that threatens our core security interests, and so [there’s no reason not] to test the proposition.
“And if it turns out that it doesn’t lead to better outcomes, we can adjust our policies. The same is true with respect to Iran, a larger country, a dangerous country, one that has engaged in activities that resulted in the death of U.S. citizens, but the truth of the matter is, Iran’s defense budget is $30 billion. Our defense budget is closer to $600 billion. Iran understands that they cannot fight us.”
One criticism of the Obama doctrine from Israel and many Republicans is that the bargain with Iran weakens the U.S. and presents Iran with a path toward a nuclear bomb. However, Obama told Friedman that America’s military power stays in place. “We’re not relinquishing our capacity to defend ourselves or our allies. In that situation, why wouldn’t we test it?”
The president said the U.S. stands forthright behind Israel in the event of an attack from Iran. “What I would say to the Israeli people is … that there is no formula, there is no option, to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon that will be more effective than the diplomatic initiative and framework that we put forward—and that’s demonstrable,” he said.
When asked if he was concerned about the huge amount of money flowing to the Republican Party from super-rich Israelis—a shift that was evident during the last midterm elections—Obama said it was something of concern to him and other Democrats. He observed that Israel is a “robust democracy” and historically their ties to the U.S. “has transcended party, and I think that has to be preserved.”
Any commentary on the current U.S.-Israel relations has to be seen in light of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s rejection of the deal and his address to a joint session of Congress last month. “There has to be a way for Prime Minister Netanyahu to disagree with me on policy without being viewed as anti-Democrat, and I think the right way to do it is to recognize that as many commonalities as we have, there are going to be strategic differences,” Obama explained.
The president also addressed some of the concerns about protecting his Sunni Arab allies, particularly Saudi Arabia. However, in his estimation, Iran presents a lesser threat to stability or an invasion than the dissatisfaction inside their own countries. “That’s a tough conversation to have,” he said, “but it’s one that we have to have.”
Of course, the deal with Iran is far from concluded, Obama added, and nothing is more vital to its finality than a vote from Congress, where many members tend to view the diplomacy as nothing more than the president exercising his executive authority.
“We’re not done yet,” Obama said. “There are a lot of details to be worked out, and you could see backtracking and slippage and real political difficulties, both in Iran and obviously here in the United States Congress.”
There are many important details to be worked out on the agreement, including the role of inspectors, what sanctions will be lifted and the process if Iran violates the agreement.
The interview with Friedman was quite extensive, and those interested in reading it should
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The White House's Netanyahu-trolling cartoon is pretty misleading

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The White House tweeted out a cartoon on Wednesday afternoon, defending the Iran nuclear framework agreement, that was unmistakably designed to mock Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. It's pretty good trolling — but as an explanation of the Iran nuclear issue, it's somewhat misleading.
The image in question is a drawing of a cartoon bomb. The basic point is to illustrate that, under the terms of the proposed deal, Iran would have to give up a lot of the enriched uranium and centrifuges it could use to develop a nuclear bomb — which leaves Iran much further from a bomb than it would be in the absence of the deal. And that basic point is true.
The drawing is an unmistakable reference to a cartoon bomb Netanyahu famously used during a 2012 UN speech, a prop used to illustrate just how close he believed Iran was to a bomb. Netanyahu is one of the framework deal's most outspoken critics, and the White House is clearly poking fun at his bomb drawing, which was widely mocked at the time.
Netanyahu holds a bomb drawing at the UN in 2012. (Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images)
The jab at Netanyahu reflects the general state of US-Israel relations under Netanyahu and Obama — that is to say, openly antagonistic. And the White House is probably right that this framework is the best of all feasible alternatives for limiting Iran's nuclear progress without war.
But the diagram confuses the issue, and ends up being more misleading than informative. Iran will still maintain a real nuclear infrastructure under the terms of the deal. For example, the framework grants them about 6,000 centrifuges, the devices used to enrich uranium. They can't enrich uranium to anywhere near weapons-grade, but they can enrich it. The diagram seems to outright say that Iran will be zero percent of the way to a bomb under the deal's terms. It's hard to put a specific percentage on it, but it's certainly more than zero.
Much of the confusion here stems from Netanayahu's original bomb chart. As Kingston Reif, the Director for Disarmament and Threat Reduction Policy at the Arms Control Agency, explained via email, Netanyahu's diagram is designed to represent progress towards a bomb. But it measures that in a very narrow way.
"The 70% line in the cartoon referred to Iran's accumulation of enough less than 5% enriched uranium (UF6) for one bomb. The 90% line referred to enough 20% enriched uranium for one bomb," he writes. But because it's harder to go from 5 percent to 20 than from 20 percent to 90, Reif explains, "up to 5% enriched uranium is actually about 70% of the way to weapon grade. Up to 20% enriched uranium is about 90% of the way."
This all makes Netanyahu's measure confusing and imprecise, not to mention awfully narrow as a metric for measuring Iran's nuclear progress. That's true of the White House cartoon as well; since the White House has tried to needle Netanyahu by using his same metric, they've ended up with a cartoon that's similarly misleading.
The framework deal, Reif explains, "would require the elimination of Iran's 20% enriched uranium and cap the low enriched uranium at 300 kgs of 3.5%. This means Bibi [Netanyahu's] one bomb would be drained most of the way, but not all the way."
But the White House cartoon appears to mark Iran as zero percent of the way to a bomb. According to Reif, the correct number should be a fair bit higher: "At a minimum about 1200 kg of [low enriched uranium] is required for one bomb, so that means Bibi's bomb wouldn't be totally empty, but it would be close to empty. Roughly 1/4 of the 70% section of the bomb would be filled in."
This all comes down to a question of how you define Iran's progress toward a bomb. The White House cartoon doesn't say, other than to imply that it's the same metric as Netanyahu used. To be fair to the White House, there are other, more accurate ways to measure how close Iran is to a bomb than Netanyahu's. Some of them yield something closer to, but not quite, zero percent progress under the deal. The graphic itself doesn't make clear which standard is being used, which confuses the issue further.
A White House official defended the graphic on the grounds that the deal would put Iran "dramatically down" towards zero, which is what they were intending to represent. That's true on some metrics, but the place that the line was drawn on the bomb wasn't accurate if you use Netanyahu's original standard, and the drawing clearly implies zero percent progress.
Moreover, none of this nuance about different modes of measurement come across in a diagram. If you take either of the most natural readings of the diagram — measurement of how close Iran is to a bomb relative to a country with no nuclear program, or a direct application of the standard Netanyahu laid out in his 2012 UN speech — the diagram isn't particularly helpful.
Correction: This post initially stated that Netanyahu's cartoon bomb used uranium enrichment levels as a metric for the country's progress toward a bomb. While the diagram did use a technical metric as a benchmark for overall nuclear progress, that metric was the progress of enrichment toward having enough material for a bomb, rather than the specific enrichment level.
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When Debating Iran's Nuclear Program, Sort Fact from Fiction | Scott Ritter

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American policy makers have made it a point, expressed consistently over time, to emphasize that intelligence estimates do not, in and of themselves, constitute policy decisions, and are useful only in so far as they inform policy makers who then make the actual decisions. The logic of this argument allows for the notion of detached decision-making on the part of the policy makers, and includes a built-in premise that the estimates they use are constructed in such a manner as to allow for a wide range of policy options. This model of decision-making works well on paper, and within the realm of academic theory, but in the harsh reality of post-9/11 America, where overhyped information is further exaggerated through a relentless 24-hour news cycle that encourages simplicity to the point of intellectual dishonesty, it is hard to imagine a scenario where such a pattern of informed, deliberate decision-making has, or could, occur.
This is especially true with regard to Iran's alleged nuclear weapons program, an issue that has been projected front and center to the American public as a result of the ongoing debate over the viability of the recently concluded nuclear framework agreement. The technical aspects of that agreement will be the subject of intense negotiations scheduled to take place through June 30, when a final accord is expected to be reached. The details of any such accord will provide the grist for expert analysis by those equipped to engage in such. For the most part, the American public is not. However, the role of the American public is critical in determining the level of political support generated for any nuclear agreement with Iran, especially given the contentious debate ongoing between Congress and the White House over this issue. While the technical minutia of nuclear enrichment and the means to effectively monitor such may elude most Americans, the concerns over a nuclear-armed Iran do not. A meaningful debate and dialogue over Iran's nuclear program is essential in a democracy such as the United States, but it is likewise essential that any such discussion be done responsibly, and be based upon facts, not fiction.
America's decade-long experience in the post-9/11 Middle East has conditioned the American public, and by extension the American body politic, to embrace hyperbole and sensationalism over fact and nuance. In doing so, decisions are being made which do not reflect reality, and as such not only fail to rectify the situation at hand, but more often than not, exacerbate it. America's experience with Iran stands as a clear case in point, where analysts have failed to accurately depict the true nature of Iran's military capability, among other issues, and policy makers have, as a result, failed to formulate policies which deal with the issues arising from decades of American-Iranian animosity fueled by post-9/11 emotions, which continue to run high to this day. Getting it wrong on Iran has become an American institution, one which may have far-reaching detrimental consequences.
The level of analytic deficiency which is present in the current American assessment of Iran mirrors the now-disgraced work of the neo-conservative "Team B," created to second-guess CIA estimates of Soviet military power in the late 1970's. The CIA Director at the time, George H. W. Bush, noted that the work of "Team B" "...lends itself for purposes other than estimative accuracy." This is perhaps the most sympathetic spin one could attach to the present-day analysis and assessments conducted by the US Government regarding both Iran's military threat (defined in terms of nuclear weapons and ballistic missile capability), and system of government (described as moving a blend of theocratic-military dictatorship). One is loath to ascribe a too-rosy characteristic to either Iranian military capability or its system of government. However, the present American assessment is so poorly supported by fact-based analysis that it borders on the dangerously ridiculous.
The United States has, for the past decade, labeled Iran as a nation pursuing nuclear weapons capability. This conclusion is based upon internal intelligence estimates, as well as the work of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), mandated by the United Nations Security Council to monitor Iran's nuclear activities. The US intelligence estimates are inconclusive and contentious, thereby placing an even greater emphasis on the conclusions and analysis of the IAEA on ascertaining Iran's nuclear ambition. Much of the work of the IAEA to date has centered on Iran's effort to enrich uranium, a program Iran says is for peaceful nuclear energy, and the IAEA says might have application in a yet-to-be-discovered nuclear weapons program. From a technical standpoint, Iran's enrichment program represents an analytical black hole, where nothing can be discerned that would permit a finding that would certify Iran as a nation pursuing nuclear weapons. As such, one is left disassembling a complex web of conspiracy theories put forward by the IAEA and its supporters as fact, and yet still remain largely unsubstantiated.
The IAEA derives its concerns over "Possible military dimensions" of Iran's nuclear program not from any new intelligence information or data collected by its personnel inside Iran, but rather a re-packaging of data the IAEA had previously considered too questionable in terms of its veracity for use in formulating official positions. The majority of this data is directly linked to a laptop computer, or more precisely, the contents of a laptop computer, presented to the IAEA by the United States back in 2005, and said to contain material sourced from inside Iran which related to ongoing Iranian efforts to develop a nuclear weapon. The laptop computer itself was not of Iranian origin, but rather served as the vehicle for which the United States had assembled a significant body of fragmentary data, most, if not all, of which was sourced to an Iranian opposition group -- the Mujahedin-e Khalq, or MEK -- which has a mixed record with regard to its past reporting on Iran's nuclear program.
It was the MEK which disclosed Iran's nuclear enrichment program at Natanz back in 2002, resulting in the IAEA's ongoing investigations in Iran today. But subsequent reports from the MEK about secret nuclear weapons facilities located on sensitive military installations had proven to be wrong. Most of the data on the laptop computer was not in the form of original documentation, but rather text documents prepared by the CIA from undisclosed sources. And the actual documentation that was contained on the laptop turned out to be questionable in nature, either showing obvious signs of alteration, or inconsistent in format from legitimate Iranian documents of a similar nature.
To overcome the obvious deficiencies associated with the laptop documentation, the United States took the lead in assembling intelligence information from its own sources and those of other nations, and used this new data to repackage the laptop material in a manner which made it impossible for the IAEA to share the material with Iran in an effort to compel cooperation. Iran had been able to provide strong refutation of the limited amount of data the IAEA had initially been allowed to share from the laptop computer, significantly watering down the impact of the allegations made. With the new intelligence material packaged in a manner which precluded any sharing of information with Iran, the IAEA demanded Iranian cooperation, most of which went beyond Iran's obligations under the NPT and its existing safeguards agreements. Iran's refusal to cooperate with what it calls "baseless" allegations lies at the center of the case the IAEA is currently making regarding "possible military dimensions" to Iran's nuclear program.
In addition to the issues created by a process which requires Iran to prove a negative (i.e., making an assertion void of demonstrable fact, then demanding that Iran prove the assertion false), there are two additional problems which dilute information used by the IAEA to bolster its case about "possible military dimensions" to the Iranian program. The first is the timeliness of the information being used. Most of the data is sourced to the 2004 timeframe. As the IAEA itself notes, the passage of time makes verification of this data increasingly difficult, even if Iran were to provide the level of cooperation being demanded by the IAEA. The other issue lies in the actual nature of the allegations themselves. Most of these allegations fail a certain logic test, such as those which claim an Iranian program to develop neutron initiators for a military weapon, without explaining why the nuclear material which would be required to conduct such experiments continues to be fully accounted for, or why no physical evidence of such experiments (such as trace elements of nuclear residue) has been detected by the sensitive inspection means used by the IAEA.
Allegations about a nuclear weapons design capable of producing a weapon that could be delivered by a ballistic missile likewise fail the logic test, since nowhere in the cited documentation in the possession of the IAEA is there any mention of a nuclear warhead or nuclear weapons design, but rather what is claimed to be ballistic missile re-entry vehicle design specifications. References to high precision detonators fired simultaneously likewise raise questions, since they refer to a highly-classified nuclear weapons design technique which was used on certain US-designed nuclear weapons in the past. The technical skill and experience required to produce such a weapon in Iran today requires one to accept, by way of example, the Wright Brothers to be exploring modern jet-propulsion fighters even before they conducted their first powered flight at Kitty Hawk.
Other alleged tests and studies can either be similarly explained away as illogical, or associated with the legitimate military needs of Iran in light of its current security situation. In this, the IAEA approach to investigating Iran's nuclear programs bears an eerie resemblance to another UN-led investigation of a covert nuclear weapons program. In the 1990's the United Nations Special Commission, or UNSCOM, was tasked by the Security Council with overseeing the destruction, removal or rendering harmless of Iraq's chemical, biological, nuclear and long-range ballistic missile capabilities. The nuclear aspect of this work was done in concert with the IAEA. By 1992, it was acknowledged by all parties that the major infrastructure associated with Iraq's former nuclear program, including all nuclear material, had been accounted for and/or disposed of. One of the unresolved issues was that of technical knowledge of the scientists and technicians who had formerly worked on the Iraqi nuclear weapons program.
A major concern within UNSCOM and the IAEA was that Iraq was grouping this knowledge under the guise of national reconstruction programs so that the involved personnel might be able to continue their nuclear weapons-related work in secret. Organization charts, drawn from a combination of intelligence sources (primarily from Israel and the United States) and in-house analysis by both UNSCOM and the IAEA, were created, populated with scientists and technicians, who were then assigned various covert research and manufacturing tasks, all part of what was assessed as a "known effort" by Iraq to reconstitute its nuclear program. In the aftermath of the 2003 US-led invasion and occupation of Iraq, this was all shown to be false -- Iraq was not reconstituting a nuclear capability, and all of the scientists and technicians were, as Iraq claimed, working for the cause of national reconstruction.
The IAEA today seems to not have learned from the past. It has built a conspiracy theory about nuclear weapons research and development around the person of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, a scientist and University lecturer, and his alleged role in the development of a "nuclear trigger" for an Iranian nuclear bomb. Mr. Fakhrizadeh has been named as one of the persons whom the United Nations has placed economic and travel sanctions on because of his work with Iran's nuclear program, and Iran's ongoing refusal to allow him to be interviewed by the IAEA. The IAEA analysis is based upon claims, derived from Israeli and western intelligence sources, that Mr. Fakhrizadeh was involved with an institute, the Physics Research Center, which in the 1990's received several items, such as vacuum equipment, magnets, a balancing machine, and a mass spectrometer, which were dual-use in nature, meaning they had legitimate peaceful applications as well as being capable of being used in nuclear weapons-related activities. The IAEA assesses, again based upon the conclusions of western and Israeli intelligence reports, that Mr. Fakhrizadeh transferred the equipment, personnel and nuclear weapons mission previously associated (through analysis, not fact) with the Physics Research Center with him when he assumed his current role as the head of the "Advanced Technology Development and Deployment Department." The IAEA has in its possession a document, part of a larger trove of similar documents of questionable provenance, which states that Mr. Fakhrizadeh serves in the role of department head at the present time.
The document the IAEA is relying on, however, has been demonstrated to be a forgery. The information contained within the document, purporting to show Mr. Fakhrizadeh as a department head, and providing names and organizational references for a dozen other entities the IAEA has affiliated with an Iranian nuclear weapons program, is at odds with known facts, and is internally contradictory. Iran has provided documents to the IAEA which demonstrate that Mr. Fakhrizadeh's work with the Physics Research Center was entirely peaceful in nature, a claim the IAEA has certified as accurate. The IAEA likewise does not contest that the material acquired by the Physics Research Center was procured and used for peaceful purposes. It also acknowledges that the document which links Mr. Fakhrizadeh to the work of the "Advanced Technology and Deployment Department" has serious credibility issues, and that Mr. Fakhrizadeh's role in any such organization has probably been misrepresented.
The IAEA claims that it needs to interview Mr. Fakhrizadeh in order to "corroborate" its findings. Iran, however, refuses to permit such an interview on the grounds that it has nothing to do with Iran's obligations under its nuclear safeguards agreement with the IAEA, and that it would legitimize a process which allowed forged documents to serve as a basis for probing into legitimate Iranian national security matters which fall outside the purview of the IAEA's mandate. Thus, Mr. Fakhrizadeh's name remains on the list of Iranians being sanctioned by the United Nations, and the document which serves to legitimize the IAEA's interest in Mr. Fakhrizadeh, although exposed as fraudulent, continues to serve as the basis for one of the IAEA's "unresolved issues," thereby continuing the saga of an Iranian "nuclear trigger" which does not exist, breathing life into conspiracy theories about an Iranian nuclear weapons program which has been manufactured by western and Israeli intelligence services from thin air.
The intellectually dishonest approach witnessed in the IAEA investigation of Iran's nuclear program, clearly demonstrated in the Fakhrizadeh case, has not stopped the United States from endorsing the IAEA's findings, flawed as they are, and expanding upon them. The lack of integrity displayed in the consistent misrepresentation of Iran's nuclear capabilities by the United States is not an isolated incident. Indeed, the flawed assessment in regard to Iran's nuclear weapons ambitions is directly tied into similarly flawed analysis put forward by the United States on Iran's ballistic missile capabilities.
The Iranian missile silos have been a reality for more than a decade. Far from representing cutting-edge technology, the Iranian missile silos are reflective of the reality that Iran's first- and second-generation Shahab missiles are inaccurate systems, possessing a circular-error-probability (CEP) of more than one kilometer (this means that a missile will land within one kilometer of its designated impact point.) The one ton warhead of the Shahab-A missile is capable of causing considerable damage, equivalent to a 2,000-pound bomb dropped by the US Air Force. The lethal radius of a 2,000 bomb is measured in terms of "probability of injury," or PI, with 225-275 meters producing a 10% PI rate, and 500 meters for a .1% PI. This isn't bad when one is guiding a 2,000-pound bomb onto its target using satellite guidance or laser designation, in which case the CEP is close to zero. But for a system such as the Shahab-A missile, its inaccuracy reduces its viability as a strategic weapon of any significance, unless measures are undertaken to increase its chance of hitting its intended target.
In this, the Iranians have taken a page out of the Iraqi ballistic missile book. In 1989-1990, the Iraqis built what were known as "fixed launch facilities" in western Iraq, where a cluster of six-ten missile erector-launcher arms were installed on fixed concrete pads. These sites were oriented toward Israel, and were intended to deliver a salvo of missiles to designated targets, such as the Kirya military headquarters, the Dimona nuclear plant, and several Israeli airbases. The belief was that, despite the inherent inaccuracy of the modified SCUD missiles used by Iraq, the overlapping CEPs produced by a salvo of missiles would result in at least one hitting its intended target. The fixed launcher concept was flawed, however, in that the missiles would be exposed while being fueled, armed and prepared for launch, and any presence of missiles at the sites would serve as a warning that an attack was imminent, thereby prompting a preemptive strike. Although built, Iraq never used its fixed-arm launchers during the Gulf War, instead launching the totality of its missiles from mobile launchers.
The use by Iran of missile silos eliminates many of the drawbacks of the fixed arm launchers, while retaining the overlapping CEP concept of salvo firing. Furthermore, the Iranian missiles use what is known as "storable fuel," which means that, unlike the Iraqi missiles which had to be fueled up shortly prior to launch, the Iranian missiles are fueled and ready to launch on short notice, thereby reducing reaction time. But the missile silos in Iran are merely a cosmetic change when it comes to addressing the issue of missile vulnerability. These are not facilities designed to withstand a near-miss by a 150 kiloton nuclear warhead, as was the case with American and Soviet missile silos constructed during the Cold War, but rather to remove the missiles from the surface, protecting them from shrapnel and debris generated by a near miss from conventional ordnance. The covers of the silos, consisting of reinforced concrete and metal structures which slide apart prior to launch, are less than a meter thick. A single B-52 bomber, equipped with a dozen 2,000-pound satellite guided bombs, each programmed to hit a single silo, could take out an entire Iranian missile silo base. If subjected to a coordinated American pre-emptive strike, it is unlikely Iran would be able to fire more than a handful of silo-based missiles, if any.
The Shahab-3C, however, is a different missile altogether. Equipped with a more modern, tri-conic warhead, the Shahab-3C has improved on the accuracy of the Shahab-A, having a CEP of around 200 meters. The new warhead design, however, has resulted in the reduction of the payload carried from 1,000 kilograms to around 700 kilograms. To compensate for this reduced size, the Iranians have configured the Sahab-3C to carry cluster warheads capable of delivery hundreds of small bomblets to its target. The improved accuracy, combined with the use of cluster munitions, makes the Shahab-3C an ideal weapons system for single weapon-single target allocation. This allows the Iranians to deploy the Shahab-3C as a mobile missile, capable of independent firing, while still possessing confidence that the intended target will be struck. The mobile Shahab-3C represents by far the greatest threat to any potential adversary of Iran. And yet, for all of its capabilities, the Shahab-3C remains a system capable of delivering the explosive power comparable to a single airstrike conducted by an American fighter-bomber in either Iraq or Afghanistan, and with far less accuracy.
Contrary to US intelligence estimates which state otherwise, the Shahab missile, whether carrying a one-ton conventional warhead, or a 700 kilogram cluster bomb, is not a nuclear-capable delivery system, even if Iran had a nuclear weapons program, which it does not. It is a system capable of disrupting or interdicting non-hardened, fixed position targets such as a building complex or airfield. It is not capable of destroying a hardened target, and is virtually useless against mobile targets. From a military perspective, the Shahab-3 is of marginal value, and as such represents a marginal threat. From perspective of a targeted civilian population, however, the value of the Shahab increases exponentially. It is here that one finds the true nature of the threat posed by the Shahab, which has nothing to do with its true military impact, and everything to do with its potential psychological impact. The New York Times has referred to the Shahab-3 as "one of Iran's deadliest weapons, standing 56 feet tall." It underscores this meaningless threat assessment with an observation that, "in parades, Iran has draped them with banners reading, 'Wipe Israel off the map.'" The military relevance of such banners mirrors that of the signs that were posted along the parade grounds of the Iraqi missile force headquarters in the 1990's in the wake of its complete destruction by US air power during the Gulf War, which read "It was enough to make Israel cry" -- meaningless, in every sense of the word.
Speculation continues to run rampant in the western media about Iranian intent and capability with regard to nuclear weapons. American media outlets are not the only ones guilty of unsubstantiated hyperbole. Germany's Der Spiegel magazine published a few years back a story which provided details about an alleged nuclear reactor in Syria that was bombed by Israel, and the connections between this reactor and a secret Iranian nuclear weapons program. The account appeared quite credible, but for the most part was fueled by well-placed leaks from unnamed diplomatic and intelligence sources opposed to Iran's nuclear program that were impossible to independently verify. There is a fine line between investigative journalism, which seeks to inform the public, and information warfare, which seeks to shape public opinion. It is incumbent upon the consumer of media-based information to discern between the two, especially given the consequences of allowing fiction-based perceptions to influence policy formulation and implementation.
It is essential that any analysis of the Iranian nuclear program proceed from a foundation derived from fact, not speculation. Using this approach, most of the more sensational media reports about an Iranian nuclear weapons program fail on a critical point of substance, that being the issue of accounting of the total quantity of nuclear material in Iran. This "material balance" is the single most important factor when considering Iran's compliance with its obligations under the NPT. The principle task of the NPT safeguards inspections program which Iran, as a signatory member, is required to submit to, is to prevent the diversion of nuclear material away from permitted nuclear activities to prohibited military programs.
While there has been considerable disagreement between Iran and the IAEA over technical aspects of implementation of nuclear safeguards inspections inside Iran, there emerges one incontrovertible fact: the IAEA has been able to fully account for the totality of Iran's declarable nuclear material. There has been no meaningful diversion of nuclear material, and any diversions which occurred in the past have been fully accounted for. Simply put, void of any significant diversion of material from Iran's safeguarded nuclear stocks, and lacking any evidence of Iranian acquisition of undeclared nuclear material, either through procurement abroad or covert indigenous production, there can be no nuclear weapon, no matter how heated the rhetoric from Israel or Congressional Republicans becomes.
A favorite mantra of those opposed to any nuclear deal with Iran is that Iran cannot be trusted to abide by any accord it enters into. It is true that Iran has, in the past, carried out undeclared diversions of its safeguarded nuclear material. Between 1998 and 2002 Iran used 1.9 kilograms of imported uranium hexafluoride stocks to test centrifuges. Iran had originally declared that this material had leaked from its containers. However, when pressed by the IAEA, Iran acknowledged the illicit test, as well as the subsequent production of a small amount of uranium enriched to 1.2 percent. Iran also used 50 kilograms of natural uranium metal, a safeguarded material, in uranium enrichment experiments using lasers. This resulted in a small amount of uranium being produced which was enriched to 3 percent. While these actions were declarable, and Iran's failure to do so represented a de-facto violation of its safeguards agreement with the IAEA, the material produced by Iran was so small as to be insignificant in terms of any nuclear weapons activity, and was in fact consistent with Iran's declared intention to enrich uranium to levels of no more than 3.5 percent to be used as nuclear fuel.
There were other failures on the part of Iran to declare nuclear-related activities involving the production of safeguarded material. An abortive Iranian effort to extract between .5 and 1.5 grams of polonium through bismuth irradiation in 1991 had been declared to the IAEA, even though some in the West questioned Iran's stated need for polonium (Iran claimed it was for use in a nuclear battery used in space applications). Iran had also extracted 2 milligrams of plutonium from irradiated uranium. While Iran claimed this plutonium was for medical purposes (a contention the small amount of material involved would support), it still represented a declarable activity that Iran had failed to comply with.
These examples of Iran's failure to comply with its safeguards agreements have been cited by many who condemn Iran for alleged "ongoing violations" of the NPT. However, the IAEA's legal advisor has noted that there cannot be a violation of the NPT unless it can be demonstrated that there has been a diversion of safeguarded material which cannot be accounted for, or which is related to proscribed activity. Since the IAEA continues to certify that the totality of Iran's safeguarded nuclear material is fully accounted for, it is difficult to meaningfully sustain any contention that Iran is either in violation of the NPT, or is involved in any covert nuclear weapons program.
It is on this point that most, if not all, media stories speculating about the existence of a covert Iranian nuclear weapons program fall short of making their case. The aforementioned Der Spiegel article quotes western intelligence sources which claim that in the aftermath of this attack Iran demanded that Syria return large quantities of uranium that were intended for use in this reactor. But since the IAEA can account for all of Iran's uranium stocks, and there is no evidence of any undeclared Iranian uranium stockpile, the question must be asked as to what uranium these sources are referring to. Other media sources speak of an Iranian "cold" test of a nuclear device, using natural uranium to test the viability of a weapons design. But there can have been no "cold" test without diversion of natural uranium, all of which is accounted for. Likewise, every speculative account of an Iranian "breakout" scenario requires the diversion of large quantities of uranium feedstock which, if derived from safeguarded stocks, would be detected immediately by the IAEA, making moot any notion of a "covert" activity.
The bottom line is that the IAEA's continued ability to account for Iran's safeguarded nuclear materials remains the best deterrent against any Iranian nuclear weapons program. Iran and the international community still have a long way to go before they will be able to reach any accommodation which provides Iran with the nuclear enrichment capabilities it desires while operating within an expanded framework of safeguards the IAEA and the West require. The nuclear framework agreement recently concluded between Iran and the United States, Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany goes a long way toward achieving this, but the devil is in the details, and those details need to be hammered out by June 30.
The IAEA and the rest of the world have both a duty and a right to be concerned about Iran's nuclear program, given Tehran's historical lack of transparency on the matter. However, any concerns over a near-term nuclear weapons capability manifesting itself in Iran are unfounded so long as the IAEA can maintain its full accounting over Iran's safeguarded nuclear material, something it has consistently been able to do since 2003, and the capabilities to continue to do so are only increased under the terms set out by the nuclear framework agreement. And yet there continues to be a great deal of talk about so-called "break-out" scenarios that ascribe periods of two months to a year for any Iranian nuclear weapons program reaching fruition, despite the lack of any verifiable information concerning the existence of such a program. Perception creates its own reality, and the ongoing effort by those opposed to Iran's nuclear program to shape public opinion through a concerted program of media-based information warfare has succeeded in planting the seeds of doubt in the minds of many who follow this issue. Having gone down that path once before with regard to the issue of Iraq and weapons of mass destruction, it is imperative that, on the issue of Iran and its nuclear program, the consumers of media-based information ensure that in forming their respective perceptions they are able to sort fact from fiction. The consequences of getting it wrong can be dire.
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Poll Finds Most Americans Don't Trust Iran on Nuclear Deal - NBC

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Poll Finds Most Americans Don't Trust Iran on Nuclear Deal

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Most Americans don't trust that Iran will abide by an eventual agreement to curtail its nuclear program and not develop an atomic weapon, according to an NBC News poll released on Thursday.
More than half the respondents in the poll said that Iran's nuclear program represents a major threat to the United States.
The poll found that 68 percent of respondents believed that Iran was either not too likely or not at all likely to abide by a nuclear agreement, compared with 25 percent who said Iran was very likely or somewhat likely.
The poll, conducted by NBC News and SurveyMonkey, was conducted Monday through Wednesday, just days after diplomats working around the clock agreed on a framework for an eventual deal.

More than 100,000 fake Turkish passports given to ISIL

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Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants were given more than 100,000 fake Turkishpassports in order to travel to Turkey and then enter Syria to join ISIL, a daily reported on Thursday.
According to a story in the Meydan daily, A.G., an aide of Nurali T., a Uyghur Turk working for ISIL to provide militants with passports worldwide, Nurali T.'s office in İstanbul's Zeytinburnu district functions as an ISIL passport office. Each passport was sold for $200, A.G. told Meydan.
More than 50,000 Uyghur Turks came to Turkey with these fake passports from China via Thailand and Malaysia and entered Syria after staying a day in İstanbul, Meydan reported. A.G. claimed that most of the Uyghurs with fake passports were caught by police in Turkish airports but they were released in Turkey after their passports were seized. “The Uyghurs' release in Turkey is due to a secret [little-known] Turkish law on Uyghur Turks. More than 50,000 Uyghurs joined ISIL through this method,” A.G. added.
A.G. further said that Nurali T. organizes recruits from around the world from his İstanbul office. Militants who entered Turkey with these fake passports are hosted either in hotels or guesthouses for a day before they join ISIL in Syria, A.G. said.
The Turkish government's stance toward ISIL has so far been ambiguous. The Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government has been accused of supporting the terrorist organization by turning a blind eye to its militants crossing the border and even buying its oil. There have also been claims that Turkey has sent weapons to opposition groups fighting the regime of President Bashar al-Assad in Syria. The NATO ally has also been facing a backlash for its reluctance to join US-led coalition efforts to eliminate ISIL, feeding speculation that this reluctance may be an indicator that some Turkish officials are ideologically close to the terrorist group.
Based on a 2014 report, Sezgin Tanrıkulu, deputy chairman of the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) said that ISIL terrorists fighting in Syria have also been claimed to have been treated in hospitals in Turkey. However, publicly, Turkish authorities have strongly condemned the terrorist acts of ISIL militants and say these actions have nothing to do with Islam.

Obama Telephones Corker to Discuss Iran Nuke Agreement

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Associated Press
The White House says President Barack Obama and Sen. Bob Corker have discussed the tentative agreement to limit Iran's nuclear program.
Corker, a Tennessee Republican and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman, is pushing legislation to require Congress to approve the deal.
Obama objects to the bill and has promised to veto it.
Josh Earnest, the president's spokesman, says Obama called Corker on Wednesday to discuss the commitments Iran had made to limit its nuclear program.
Earnest says Obama praised Corker's handling of the issue and reiterated that the emerging deal is the best way to keep Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.
The tentative agreement has to be finalized by June 30.
Corker's office confirmed the telephone call but declined to discuss details.

Should the U.S. guarantee safety in the Mideast?

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To the editor: Professor Steven L. Spiegel's idea of the U.S. entering into formal defense treaties with Israel, Saudi Arabia and other nearby Arab states, if implemented, guarantees nothing but more Middle East wars fought by the U.S. in the future. ("A security treaty with Iran's potential victims could ensure deal compliance," op-ed, April 6)
The problem is that our treaty partners will then control U.S. actions and policy.
What if Saudi Arabia, emboldened by its recent attack on Yemen, decides to attack an Iranian naval vessel and Iran shoots back? With a formal defense treaty in place, the U.S. would be obligated to defend Saudi Arabia and wage a "hot" war on Iran.
Such a war is in the interests of no country.
John R. Yates, Los Angeles
To the editor: Spiegel offers a worthy proposal, namely, provide Israel and friendly Arab countries with a nuclear umbrella to deter Iran. Implemented, it could dissuade concerned Arab nations from going nuclear.
But the proposal deserves expansion in another direction. Given Washington's implicit alliance with Jerusalem already, hasn't the time come for the U.S. to formalize the relationship into a mutual defense pact?
This not only would serve to reduce Israel's concerns about Iran, it would provide it with the defense in depth and sense of security to make the two-state solution a reality secured by putting the new Palestinian state on notice that an attack on Israel would be an attack on the United States.
Bennett Ramberg, Los Angeles
The writer served as a policy analyst in the State Department's Bureau of Politico-Military Affairs in the George H.W. Bush administration.
Follow the Opinion section on Twitter @latimesopinion and Facebook
Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times

Could the Corker-Menendez bill kill an Iran deal? A top Dem supporter pushes back.

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Virginia Senator Tim Kaine is among the most prominent Democratic supporters of the Corker-Menendez bill on Iran. He may be one of the most important players in determining whether it passes and what it ultimately looks like — which in turn could help influence whether a final Iran deal is reached and goes forward.
Critics fear Corker-Menendez could prematurely scuttle the whole negotiation process. The bill would suspend for 65 days President Obama’s authority to temporarily lift sanctions, pending a Congressional vote to approve or disapprove the final deal, and would require the president to certify Iranian compliance on several fronts, including whether Iran has directly supported an act of terrorism against Americans or American interests. Critics say this latter provision risks killing a deal later by introducing an element unrelated to Iran’s nuclear program.
Some Senate Dems will push amendments to change or eliminate the terrorism provision during the bill’s mark-up next week, but it’s unclear whether Republicans will acccept them. Critics also say a vote on the bill now could persuade Iranians that Congress will not allow the president to deliver on our end of the bargain later, perhaps upending sensitive negotiations.
I asked Kaine to respond to all of the criticisms. A lightly edited and condensed version of our conversation follows.
THE PLUM LINE: Isn’t it true that even if Corker-Menendez never passed, Congress could vote whenever it wanted to on the Iran deal after it were signed?
SENATOR TIM KAINE: The answer to that is Yes. Congress could put a resolution of approval or disapproval on the floor at any time.
PLUM LINE: If Congress can vote at any time to approve or disapprove the deal, with or without the existence of Corker-Menendez, why do we need Corker-Menendez in the first place? Since the primary function of Corker-Menendez would be to ensure a vote that would happen anyway, then why hold a vote on it now, when that could derail a deal before it is signed?
KAINE: The reason is this. Because a central aspect of this deal is what Iran must do to get out from under Congressional sanctions, Congress will be involved in approving the final deal. The question is, will we be involved under rules that are structured and deliberate and timely, or will we get involved under free-for-all rules? Corker-Menendez gives Congress rules that are defined in terms of procedures and timing, providing certainty that may even help the negotiators in the final phase of the negotiation.
PLUM LINE: The argument is that this essentially locks Congress into a process, rather than leaving it open-ended in a way that could result in a Congressional vote at any time, and on any particular set of conditions that Congress might dream up at any given moment? That this uncertainty could itself imperil the deal after it is signed?
KAINE: Yes, that is the argument. If what Iran wants is to be out from under the original sanctions, what is their incentive to really make major concessions if they have no idea about what Congress thinks or when Congress might act? Setting up a process with timing and structure will promote certainty.
PLUM LINE: Are you saying there’s no chance that a vote on Corker-Menendez before the deal is done could have the effect of derailing the process, by, say, empowering Iranian hard-liners to say, “See? Congress won’t allow the president to keep his end of the deal”?
KAINE: There is zero chance that Corker-Menendez passing will harm these negotiations. Iran is very sophisticated. They want out from under Congressional sanctions. They’ve known from the beginning that Congress would be involved in that. The question is, What is the process that Congress will use? The letter from the 47 Republicans is engagement under a free-for-all. It’s much better to have Congressional engagement under a standard that is agreed upon and timely, and I think this is deferential to the administration.
PLUM LINE: But let’s say Corker-Menendez passes. Is there anything stopping Congressional Republicans from reverting to that free-for-all later, if the final approval/disapproval vote under Corker-Menendez doesn’t go the way Republicans want?
KAINE: There’s no guarantee. But once you have a huge number of them voting for an orderly process, I think it becomes harder for them to revert to that free-for-all process.
PLUM LINE: Corker-Menendez has at least eight or nine Democratic co-sponsors. A veto-proof majority would appear within striking distance. Let’s say Congress overrode the veto. Would you anticipate that a number of those Democrats would still vote to approve the final deal anyway?
KAINE: If you posit a final deal that looks like the agreement announced Thursday? Absolutely. A number of us who will vote for Corker-Menendez are very supportive of diplomacy.
PLUM LINE: Part Two in the Corker-Menendez framework would be a vote to approve or disapprove the final deal. Can you explain what the various permutations are from that point?
KAINE: Let’s say Corker-Menendez passes. And let’s say there’s a final deal that looks like the framework. You’ll probably see in that 60-day review period discussions and expert testimony. You’d then likely see both resolutions of approval and disapproval of the final deal introduced.  The prospects of a resolution of approval passing both houses is tough. But a resolution of disapprovalpassing would be unlikely.
Either a resolution of approval or disapproval is subject to the 60-vote threshold. And if a resolution of disapproval passed, it would be vetoed by the president.  If he could convince one-third plus one in one house of Congress to stick with him on the veto, that amounts to “no action.” Which is then defined as “approval.” That’s a very deferential standard for the president.
PLUM LINE: So under the Corker framework, what Republicans will have accepted is this: If there aren’t 60 votes in the Senate for “disapproval,” or if there aren’t 67 to override it if there is a veto, the deal is essentially approved?
KAINE: The waiver of Congressional sanctions can begin. Yes. The high hurdle still remains the repeal of the sanctions statute. [This would make the lifting of sanctions, and the deal, permanent.] That would take an affirmative vote in both houses. But that would not likely happen for some time. Congress would want to wait, to test Iranian compliance.
PLUM LINE: The Corker bill also requires the president to certify every 90 days that Iran has not directly supported a terrorist attack against an American or American business, which could trigger a vote to reimpose sanctions. I understand you now have some problems with this provision?
KAINE: I think the provision is drawn pretty narrowly. But I do understand there will be colleagues of mine offering alternative amendments. I’m open to hearing them.
PLUM LINE: Is there going to be a genuine push to improve this? And if so, what would a better version look like?
KAINE: There’s been a change in the lay of the land since we introduced the bill. The [newly-agreed-upon] framework makes very plain that nothing in this deal will put any restrictions on the U.S.’s ability to do sanctions on non-nuclear activity, including terrorist activity. The clear statement that we will maintain full ability to do that may solve the terrorism concern.
Greg Sargent writes The Plum Line blog, a reported opinion blog with a liberal slant -- what you might call “opinionated reporting” from the left.
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White House swipes at Netanyahu with tweet of Iran bomb diagram

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Amb. Gillerman: WH 'deteriorating' relationship with Israel
The White House took an apparent swipe at Benjamin Netanyahu on Twitter Wednesday, posting a diagram similar to one used by the Israeli prime minister -- only this time, using it to defend the Iran nuclear deal.
The White House tweet included a cartoonish sketch of a bomb. On the left side were the supposed consequences of not striking a deal, including resumed production of highly enriched uranium and no limits on that stockpile. On the right side were the supposed benefits of a deal, including "no production or stockpile of highly enriched uranium." 
The sketch appeared to be almost identical to the one held up by Netanyahu during a 2012 United Nations speech. In that address, he warned of the consequences of a nuclear-armed Iran and urged the world to prevent that outcome -- holding up the bomb diagram and, dramatically, drawing a red line near the top. 
The White House diagram includes the same red line and reads, “Under the framework for an Iran nuclear deal, Iran's uranium enrichment pathway to a weapon will be shut down.”
In the tweet, the fuse of the bomb is being cut with scissors. 
Though the message makes no mention of Israel, it's an unmistakable reference to the prime minister's address and just the latest episode in rising tensions between the Obama and Netanyahu administrations over the nuclear talks. 
Netanyahu publicly opposed the deal framework announced last week in Switzerland, and even demanded that any final deal include language affirming that Iran recognizes Israel's right to exist. Obama administration officials have rejected that appeal, saying the talks will only focus on the nuclear issue. They also say they would never agree to a deal that threatens Israel's security. 
The Hill first reported on the tweet. 
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The Arab Reaction to the Iran Deal

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Saudi King Salman attends the opening meeting of the Arab Summit in Sharm el-Sheikh (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters).Saudi King Salman attends the opening meeting of the Arab Summit in Sharm el-Sheikh (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters).
My research associate, Amr Leheta, wrote this terrific post on the Arab reaction to the framework agreement between the P5+1 and Iran. Enjoy!
“The Nuclear Agreement…A Strategic Earthquake in the Middle East” read one headline in a London-based, pan-Arab newspaper on April 4. In the article underneath, published a couple of days after the announcement of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) regarding Iran’s nuclear program, the editorial board of Al-Quds Al-Arabi wrote the following:
There are few who are able to debate [against the notion that] the framework agreement [over the Iranian nuclear program] reached by Iran and the P5+1 countries in Lausanne the day before yesterday represents a historic event and a strategic earthquake that has hit regions already suffering from windy political, security, and military “storms.” There are few who can also claim that they are capable of anticipating the sweeping results of this earthquake, which is redefining the balance of power in a region that is embellished by vitality and sensitivity and is the most significant arena for conflict and the interests of the great powers.
This editorial, one of the first to be published in Arab media after the announcement of the deal, encapsulated the essentials of the Arab reaction to the agreement: solemn acceptance that it represents a significant watershed moment for the Middle East—it has been likened to the 1979 Camp David peace treaty between Egypt and Israel—and a nervous disquiet over the future of Gulf security, the alliance between the United States and Arab Gulf countries, and Saudi hegemony in the region.
The profound mistrust toward Iran, a country seen by many as expansionist, antagonistic, and sectarian, informs much of the commentary on the deal. Support for the ongoing Saudi-led bombing campaign of Yemen to reverse recent power grabs by the Houthis and roll back Iranian influence in the peninsula has also shaped the general reaction. In the Saudi-owned, pan-Arab newspaper Al-Hayat (also based out of London), Khalid al-Dakhil, a Saudi academic, and Dawood al-Shirian, a television host and journalist, recently argued over which is more of an enemy to Arab states, Iran or Israel. Both agree that Iran is the bigger threat given its involvement in sectarian conflict in the region—manifested in Arab-Iranian terms as well as Sunni-Shia—and al-Shirian insinuated that some believe Israel is not even a threat to begin with.
Thus, the biggest question on Arab minds since the April 2 announcement is, as the editorial board of the Egyptian state-owned daily Al-Ahram wrote, “What are the assurances and guarantees [of security] that Iran has put forward for its Arab Gulf neighbors?” One Saudi newspaper, Al-Riyadh, expanded on this and outlined four more questions in need of answers:
Is it possible for Iran to resort to deception? At that point, would the United States or any other power have the capacity to respond in time? Would these powers use military force? And is it possible for the final agreement to dispel global concerns of Iranian intentions?
Moreover, much of the Arab concern about the agreement is rooted in the conviction that Iran has emerged as the biggest winner of the negotiations and the Arab world has been left in the lurch by the United States. Habib Fayad wrote in the Lebanese daily As-Safir that Iran has achieved what it most wanted since 2003, “the world’s recognition of Iran’s right to manufacture and possess nuclear energy.” This compromise has already spurred much speculation about what will happen next. Ahmad al-Ahmad wondered in Al-Riyadh if the time was right for the Gulf countries to start their own nuclear enrichment program, writing:
It has become imperative for Gulf and Arab countries, which have received assurances from U.S. President Barack Obama that there will not be an agreement with Iran at their expense, to declare that any concessions awarded to Tehran in its agreement with the West and the [P5+1 countries] must also necessarily be applied to Gulf and Arab countries. Thus, if Iran is permitted to have a peaceful [nuclear] program, then it is the right of Gulf and Arab countries to have a peaceful program, and if [Iran] is permitted to enrich uranium to a certain level, then it is the right of Gulf and Arab countries to enrich [uranium] to a certain level.
Like Ahmad, numerous other writers have concluded that if the United States is to make a deal with Iran, then it ought to make a similar deal with the Arab world, particularly the Gulf. For them, it is a way to be reassured of their security interests and of the strength of their relationship with the United States. Given that the Arab world was left out of the these negotiations, it is no wonder that many Gulf Arabs are insecure about where the deal leaves them, how they can secure their interests, and what it means for their relationship with the United States.
Several have gone further and suggested that the United States and Arab countries are drifting apart. Salman al-Dossary, the editor-in-chief of the Saudi-owned, London-based, pan-Arab Asharq Al-Awsat, is concerned that the United States no longer understands the needs and interests of the Arab world. In an April 7 column entitled “Does Obama Understand ‘Sunni Arabs’?” Dossary betrayed bewilderment at how the United States is seemingly trusting of Iran and expects the Gulf to be just as welcoming (the piece is translated into English here). He wrote:
Does Obama expect the Gulf—which has long suffered from Iran’s interventions and sponsorship of terrorism—to simply believe his efforts to improve the image of Tehran? Isn’t it the same Tehran that has posed a clear and present danger to Gulf states for the past 36 years?…The US administration has made a major diplomatic mistake when, during talks with Iran, it sent an indirect message that it is incapable of waging war against Tehran over its nuclear program…Instead, Washington has thrown the ball into the Gulf’s court, calling on them not to worry about Iran. One thing Mr. Obama has not done yet is present himself as a go-between for his Gulf “allies” and his friends in Tehran.
With all the disappointment in the United States, the same commentators are hoping that the upcoming meeting of the heads of the GCC states—Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates—and the U.S. president at Camp David will quell the growing anxieties. It will, after all, be a significant opportunity for Obama to convince his Arab allies that the deal with Iran is in their interests as well. In the meantime, the Arab media is looking to Operation Decisive Storm in Yemen as an example of Arab independence and capability. And even though the military campaign in Yemen is intended in part to show that the Arab world can protects its interests without the United States, Arab writers and thinkers still prefer to think that the JCPOA will fail in the haggling to come over the technical details of a final agreement so that the status quo will remain. Potential opposition from “America’s hardliners”—the Republican Party—as well as Iran’s gives them hope.
The commentary is not all pessimistic though, and some see room to secure Arab interests in the final iteration of the deal. Abdulrahman al-Rashed, a Saudi media personality who is a former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat and a previous general manager of the Al Arabiya News Channel, cautions that the details of the final agreement could push Iran in one of two directions. He wrote in an op-ed (translated into English here):
The agreement may be a victory for the Iranian regime over its rivals inside and outside Iran, but it might turn out to be a submissive deal. If halting Iran’s nuclear project, for the moment, results in just the lifting of nuclear-related sanctions and setting Iran free to become a major regional power, we will be then [sic] embarking on a more serious crisis and an era stained with more blood. Nevertheless, if halting Iran’s nuclear project resuls in the freezing of Iran’s militarized nuclear activities, controlled by the lifting of Western sanctions, and an end to political antagonism against Iran, then we would be witnessing positive progress. It would mean that Iran has finally surrendered and will become, like any other country in the region such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia, a peaceful state that defends its borders.
In others words, limited but crucial exchanges can make this a better deal in the end, one that would bring Iran into the community of nations. For Rashed, this also means the hopeful possibility of unraveling the Iranian regime. He continued, “Ayatollah [Ali Khamenei]’s regime has weakened with time…[and] the deal requires the openness of the regime, however Iran is not ready for it yet and could face what happened to the Soviet Union after the deals to reduce its nuclear arsenal and be [sic] cooperative with the West: it rapidly collapsed.” Others are less speculative about the benefits of a deal with Iran in the short-term. Also writing for Asharq Al-Awsat, Mamoun Fandy contended that “Despite [the many obstacles and questions], reaching an agreement will be better for the region and its stability,” although, he went on to say, the Arab world must keep its eyes open to see if Iran will behave transparently going forward.
What does all this tell us? Well, contrary to the popular belief in Washington that the Arab world was going to flat-out reject the framework agreement, the response has been far more measured and nuanced than expected. What has been surprising to many is the cautious Saudi acceptance of the deal. Indeed, in his phone call to Obama, King Salman bin Abdul Aziz al-Saud expressed a desire to reach a “final and mandatory accord conducive to consolidating regional as well as international security and stability.” Given this hopeful tone, perhaps even the Arab world will accept a deal in the end.
Opinions expressed on CFR blogs are solely those of the author or commenter, not of CFR, which takes no institutional positions.
CFR seeks to foster civil and informed discussion of foreign policy issues. All comments must abide by CFR's guidelines and will be moderated prior to posting.
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Chertoff: Iran Deal Worthless Without the Right Enforcement Mechanisms | TIME

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Michael Chertoff was secretary of Homeland Security from 2005 to 2009. He is now executive chairman of The Chertoff Group, a global security and risk-management advisory firm.

How will we enforce Iranian compliance to the deal?

In the wake of the recently announced “framework” on Iran’s nuclear activities, both the Barack Obama administration and critics are spinning faster than the centrifuges. But the pivotal moment – when any actual agreement is signed – is yet to come. That is when we must face the crucial issue of how Iranian compliance with any agreement will be monitored and enforced.
As outlined by the president in a set of talking points already disputed by the Iranians, the proposed agreement will limit the number of centrifuges to be used while mothballing the rest; will allow the underground (and previous concealed) facility at Fordow to operate, but only to enrich isotopes other than uranium; and will permit “peaceful” nuclear research. Issues such as restrictions on Iran’s missile program or support of terrorism are outside the scope. But even those restrictions envisioned will be subject to interpretation and riddled with ambiguity.
The stakes are high. So long as Iran is deemed to be complying with a nuclear agreement, it will be relieved of many, if not all, sanctions, and it will be able to rebuild its economy. Further, an agreement will effectively place any future covert or military efforts to retard or destroy Iran’s nuclear efforts off limits. For example, it is inconceivable that Israel would be allowed to strike at a nuclear facility in Iran so long as the proposed pact is in force. Thus, if the agreement is deemed effective, it will act as a shield against efforts of any kind to interfere with Iran’s nuclear activities.
This, of course, was what happened in Syria, when President Bashar al-Assad crossed Obama’s red line and used prohibited chemical weapons. The United States signed onto a last minute Russiandeal in which Assad agreed to dispose of certain declared chemical weapons. But the bargain was one-sided. It effectively legitimated the Assad government and shielded its continued use of other mass-killing weapons such as barrel bombs and chlorine gas.
Thus, there will be huge significance to any determination that Iran is complying with or violating the proposed nuclear agreement, especially one incorporating several subjective and uncertain requirements. For this reason, the president has understandably placed great reliance on the promise that there will be strict verification, and a “snap back” of sanctions if Iran transgresses.
Here’s the rub: The framework merely states that there will be a dispute-resolution mechanism when Iran and the West disagree about whether Tehran has broken its commitments. But actually the whole ballgame depends on the identity and the authority of the umpire who will make the finding that Iran has breached. If an allegation of Iranian violation is merely the opening round of an endless dispute, there will be wide latitude for cheating while that dispute is being litigated. And who will be the final judge? Will it be the UN Security Council, where Iran is likely to be protected by Russia, as was their mutual ally Syria?
The history of sanctions compliance suggests that there are many ways to rationalize or explain away apparent violations. Delay, obfuscation, quibbling over terms – especially when operative terms will need to be translated through multiple languages – are time-tested ways to protract resolution of international compliance disputes. Moreover, three reasons in particular will make it difficult for the international community to reach a decision that Iran has violated its obligations under this agreement.
First, recent history shows that once an agreement is signed, the parties view finding of violation as a defeat for their accomplishment. Indeed, many will take the lesson of the Iraq war to be that there can rarely be sufficient proof to establish a weapons-of-mass-destruction violation. You can be sure that if nuclear inspectors in Iran claim denials of access or violations, there will be vigorous push back by the Iranians and by a chorus singing “remember Iraq.”
Second, once sanctions are lifted, many Westerners will have vested interest similar to the Iranians in keeping them suspended. There is a lot of money to be made trading with Iranians. After Western enterprises have invested in Iran, they will be a strong voice against “snapping back” sanctions that will destroy their investments.
Third, any adjudication mechanism that requires UN Security Council approval to reimpose sanctions will give Russia a veto over the sanctions process. Besides further inserting itself into the Middle East through Syria and elsewhere, President Vladimir Putin’s Russia has also shamelessly interfered with Ukraine, and would be able to use its whip hand over Iran sanctions as a bargaining chip for its bullying in Europe. It’s not comfortable to contemplate a nonproliferation agreement that depends on Russia for its efficacy.
Whatever the debate about the framework, by far the most important negotiations are yet to come. Any nuclear agreement with Iran that is not enforceable and sanctionable through an impartial, apolitical, and swift dispute-resolution mechanism will not be worth the paper it’s printed on.
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5 reasons Iran nuke deal fails: Column

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Kicking the nuclear can down the road while praying Iran changes doesn't offer much hope.

No sooner had the P5+1 powers and Iran announced on April 2 that they had agreed upon the framework of a nuclear deal than its supporters began to spin the results. To hear the boosters tell it, the preliminary agreement represents a victory for proponents of peace and a defeat for warmongers everywhere. That sort of simplistic rhetoric may play well on a political level, but there are real strategic reasons to be skeptical of the impending deal.
A crisis deferred, not averted. Before the start of nuclear talks in Geneva in November 2013, it was widely understood that the sine qua non for negotiations was at least a temporary halt to the Iranian regime's uranium enrichment activities. A year-and-a-half later, that demand has been rolled back significantly; under the framework deal, Iran will reduce the number of its operational centrifuges by roughly two-thirds and keep them there for at least a decade. It also has pledged to keep enrichment at "civilian" levels (under 5%) for the same period. It's a significant concession, but one that will still allow Iran to continue adding to its stockpile of low-enriched uranium. Later it can again ramp up its enrichment to full speed, and refine its enlarged stockpile to higher and higher levels.
Such a bargain makes sense only if, during the decade-long pause, relations between Washington and Tehran undergo a wholesale transformation that makes Iran's nuclear progress a benign development. That's the hope of the , which clearly believes that the current deal has the ability to pave the way for a broader reconciliation between the two countries.
Their Iranian counterparts, however, do not. As Iran's top security official, Supreme National Security Council secretary , told the Financial Times back in December, the current negotiations between Iran and the West "are only for the nuclear issue," and will not lead to a larger rapprochement between the Islamic Republic and the United States. Things may change in coming years, but this agreement is simply kicking the can down the road.
An unraveling sanctions regime. Washington's interpretation of the new deal is predicated on the notion that, if Iran doesn't comply with the terms of the agreement, international sanctions will simply "snap back" into place. Yet that idea is likely to be little more than a political fiction. That's because, while most U.S. sanctions are "hybrid" in nature (encompassing not only Iran's nuclear-related activities but also its human rights practices and support for terrorism as well) and therefore more resilient, European sanctions are overwhelmingly tied to Iran's nuclear development.
In the United States the deal will receive considerable oversight in the weeks ahead from a skeptical Congress. No such review will take place in the EU. Rather, European approval of the deal will be both pro forma and rapid, carried out via foreign minister vote at the European Council. As a result, we could soon see a Europe fully re-engaged with Iran — and an Iran out of the sanctions "box," whether or not it is playing ball with the West.
The devil is in the details. As the initial euphoria surrounding the deal begins to fade, it is becoming apparent that Washington and Tehran might not be on the same page regarding the particulars. Among other things, the United States expects a phased lifting of sanctions, dependent on proper verification and compliance on the part of the Iranian regime. Tehran, on the other hand, has made clear it expects a wholesale removal of all sanctions levied against it as soon as the deal goes into force. Ambiguities also exist over the scope and level of work that Iran will be permitted to carry out at Fordo, a controversial nuclear site. Iran and the United States are at odds over half-a-dozen substantive points of the deal — each of which could end up sinking the agreement.
Trust, but (just try and) verify. During the Cold War, approached his dealings with the through the maxim of "Trust, but verify." That simple phrase encapsulated a complex concept: no matter the diplomatic niceties, no agreement between the U.S. and USSR would be worth the paper that it was printed on if there was not a rigorous inspection regime in place to prevent the parties from cheating on their obligations. That's good advice to keep in mind in our dealings with Iran, a country where "death to America" remains a popular and widely used regime slogan.
Properly monitoring Iran's nuclear program, however, is bound to prove exceedingly difficult — if not downright impossible. As former acting UNSCOM chief Charles Duelfer points out, in its day, the regime of managed to cheat and obfuscate despite an extraordinarily extensive "all access" inspections regime imposed on a defeated Iraq. There's no reason to think that Iran will acquiesce to as extensive a monitoring and verification regime as Saddam was forced to. But it's a safe bet that Tehran has learned from 's experience in foiling international oversight — and that these tactics will be used to full effect to prevent full verification of its nuclear activities.
There goes the neighborhood. Within the , U.S.-Iranian relations more often than not tend to get treated as a bilateral affair. Yet they are not. The unfolding nuclear deal is of profound importance to Iran's immediate neighborhood, insofar as it signals a major shift in the regional balance of power. Regional powers are already pushing back. , for example, recently signed a nuclear cooperation accord with South Korea, and is now spearheading a military offensive against Iranian-supported rebels in . Israel, meanwhile, is moving back toward an activist — and potentially unilateral — response to Iran's nuclear program. Its recently-reelected Prime Minister , now putting the finishing touches on his more conservative ruling coalition, took to the national airwaves the day after the P5+1 deal was announced to reiterate that "Israel will not accept an agreement which allows a country that vows to annihilate us to develop a nuclear weapon." All this suggests that the Iran nuclear deal won't be an alternative to war, as its proponents suggest, but a catalyst for still greater instability in the already-volatile Middle East.
Clearly, the Obama administration has bet big on the Iranian nuclear deal. However, there's little reason to believe the hype surrounding the agreement and plenty of reasons not to.
is Vice President of the American Foreign Policy Council..
In addition to its own editorials, USA TODAY publishes diverse opinions from outside writers, including our Board of Contributors. To read more columns like this, go to the Opinion front page.
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Nuke deal 'fact sheets' vary between US, Iran, others

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Officials and pundits have repeatedly emphasized that the devil is in the details for an Iran nuclear deal, but there may also be demons in the basics.
Key disagreements about what's been decided have emerged since diplomats announced a framework deal on April 2, and not just between the U.S. and Iran, but also between Western powers. Fact sheets distributed by various governments show discrepancies in key areas. (Tweet this)

Why this may have happened

Secretary of State John Kerry (left) and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif arrive to deliver statements after nuclear talks in Lausanne, Switzerland, on April 2, 2015.
Brendan Smialowski | Pool | Reuters
Secretary of State John Kerry (left) and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif arrive to deliver statements after nuclear talks in Lausanne, Switzerland, on April 2, 2015.
There are two possible reasons that the discrepancies have occurred.
It's possible that the various sides are trying to use their version of the framework to gain leverage for future negotiations, said Blaise Misztal, the Bipartisan Policy Center's director of foreign policy. Alternately, there could just be some confusion among the diplomats who worked late into the night to reach a deal.
"It's more likely that under the pressure of the self-imposed deadline, there was such a rush to get something out, that it wasn't necessarily fully and well negotiated," Misztal explained.
If it were simply the case that the U.S. and Iran described their concessions differently, Misztal said he would conclude it was all about bargaining, but the fact that a French document also differs implies "there is some element of just rushing and getting things wrong."
U.S. officials have implied in the days since the framework was announced that they anticipated some different conclusions between parties, but Misztal characterized that as poor diplomacy.
"I'm not sure why you would agree to an agreement that you don't think both sides have the same understanding of," he said.

Where the versions differ specifically

Two of the biggest areas of disagreement are what's going to happen to Iran's current stockpile of low-enriched uranium (LEU), and when sanctions are going to be lifted.
While U.S. officials said that Iran agreed to reduce its LEU stores from 9,000 to 300 kilograms, and that it will not convert those resources to fuel, Tehran has specifically said that it can use the existing stockpile to build something the Iranian fact sheet calls a "nuclear fuel center." That may be a reference to a nuclear fuel production facility Iran first proposed in 2006.
As for sanctions, the U.S. has insisted that it will drop nuclear-related penalties on Iran only when it has evidence that the Islamic Republic has addressed "key" parts of the deal. Iranian leaders, meanwhile, said they require all Western sanctions removed as soon as the deal is signed.
"We will not sign any deal unless all sanctions are lifted on the same day.... We want a win-win deal for all parties involved in the nuclear talks," Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said in a televised speech on Thursday.
Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei reportedly took a more combative tone in a Thursday address, suggesting that the fact sheet discrepancies could be a tactic from the "devilish" American government.
"Americans put out a statement just a few hours after our negotiators finished their talks ... this statement, which they called a 'fact sheet,' was wrong on most of the issues," Khamenei said, according to Reuters.
Reports from France indicate that officials in Paris also have a different understanding of what was decided in the talks. Those differences include how Iran will be monitored and what kinds of research and development will be allowed at advanced centrifuges, according to the Bipartisan Policy Center.
Reporting from The Times of Israel also indicates that France disagrees with the U.S. on the timing of sanctions.
Some discrepancies may just be a matter of semantics, Misztal said, citing U.S.'s stating that the limits on the Iranian enrichment program will last 15 years, while Tehran is saying the agreement was for 10 years. American officials have already indicated that the situation could begin changing between year 10 and year 15, so the specifics on that point are not essential to an understanding of the deal, he said.
A deadline for reaching the final agreement is June 30. Iran, the United States, Germany, France, Britain, Russia and China are expected to meet in the coming days to discuss the deal.
—Reuters contributed to this report.
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A Struggle to Secure Iraq’s Shared Past, and Perhaps Its Future

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BAGHDAD — Looted and shuttered after American troops seized Baghdad a dozen years ago, the National Museum of Iraq has officially reopened its doors — a response to Islamic State thugs’ taking jackhammers to ancient treasures in Mosul.
The message was clear: Baghdad and its government belong to the civilized world, and the Islamic State does not. American officials even returned some recovered objects to show solidarity.
But public relations are one thing, daily life in the long-suffering Iraqi capital another. The reopened museum looks hardly changed since the Saddam Hussein era, notwithstanding tens of millions of mostly foreign money ostensibly spent on its rejuvenation, which went who knows where.
The place was nearly empty one recent morning. Two visitors absently looked over a musty case of Neolithic bones in the vast galleries.
“It is a scandal,” Ali Alnashmi, who teaches Iraqi history at Baghdad University, told me. Some new installations, underwritten by Germans and Italians, point out by contrast how little has happened over the years.
A time capsule with yellowing labels and cracked walls, the museum tells a story about Sumerians and Akkadians; Nebuchadnezzar; Hulagu Khan, who destroyed the city in 1258; and Tamerlane, the Mongol warlord who sacked it all over again about 150 years later.
But the museum also speaks about Iraq today: its entrenched corruption, squandered fortunes and the slender thread of heritage by which the very notion of a single reunified country partly hangs.
That is because heritage is intricately bound up with national identity here. After all, what does it mean to be Iraqi at this point, with the country ripping itself apart and sectarianism remaking borders more or less arbitrarily drawn a century ago by outsiders?
Baghdadis are quick to point out that, across sects and tribes, Iraqis share a lifetime of misery and death. But many also say they share a legacy, which the museum enshrines: Iraq as the seedbed of civilization, the source of writing and statehood.
This makes the museum more than just another collection of artifacts, a tourist attraction without tourists. The Islamic State’s rampage in Mosul, which horrified countless Iraqis, Sunnis as well as Shiites and Kurds, highlighted the point. It proved that ancient objects like the ones in the museum here still have potent symbolic, spiritual meaning.
But there is also modern culture, itself a fragile concept. Once upon a time, Baghdad was a brick capital of 19th- and 20th-century arcades, parks and squares. Mr. Hussein destroyed vast stretches of the urban fabric, blasting highways through old neighborhoods, throwing up ghastly towers and even ghastlier marble palaces to house his bloated bureaucracy and to glorify himself. More than old architecture was destroyed.
“Baghdadis lost their values along with their neighborhoods,” is how Ali Mousawi, an architect, put it recently. Mr. Mousawi is helping to rebuild the southern city of Basra but lives in London, where he moved years ago to escape Mr. Hussein’s tyranny.
“We used to have beautiful gardens, but politicians gave the land away, public land,” Mr. Mousawi said. “We lost not just our shared connection with the ancient past. We lost our modern identity, too.”
Mahfodh Dawood, 74, a poet who used to work for the Ministry of Culture, elaborated on the thought. “The message of ISIS was that it wants to rob us of our identity,” he pointed out, using another name for the Islamic State.
Mr. Dawood was sandwiched among friends one afternoon on the cushioned benches in a sunny corner of Shabandar Cafe, a bustling, smoky hangout for intellectuals in downtown Baghdad. The cafe is decorated with sepia photographs of old Baghdad and portraits of the four sons and grandson of the owner who were killed when a bomb blew up the cafe a decade ago. Where so much has been lost, the cafe’s reconstruction has been a trumpeted sign of resilience.
“At this point, just about the only thing it means to be Iraqi is that you are responsible for the civilization that was here and goes back thousands of years, nothing else,” Mr. Dawood added.
His friend Muyaed Albassam, 65, said: “Culture is a tool to reunite us. Although what can it mean in the midst of murder and sectarianism?”
“I’ll tell you,” Mr. Albassam answered himself. “When Iraqis see life in the rest of the world, we feel we are poor, worthless. We are No. 1 only in corruption. But we have this past, as the source of civilization.”
Several young men were clustered on a different bench across the room, smoking hookahs. “It is our identity, our heritage, yes,” Abbas Jabir, 25, said, “but a generation has grown up since 2003 that isn’t educated in this history, in this idea of national pride, and so is more susceptible to ISIS.”
Ahmed Khaled, 28, agreed: “We lost our history. We need to spread this message about culture as a thing that unifies us — if it is not too late.”
But which culture?
That same day, Haider Fadhil, 21, was hanging out with friends in the leafy courtyard of a partly demolished municipal building along the Tigris, enjoying the shade of a tall clock tower. Armed guards at the entrance frisked families coming there to picnic and sunbathe in peace.
“The reopening of the museum means Iraq is not without hope,” Mr. Fadhil said. “Our history can bind us together, although for me, to be Iraqi now mostly means to have lived under Saddam, through wars, with sectarianism, to have lost friends and family — yet to persist.”
The only two visitors to the museum on that day were Enas Jasim, a 30-year-old student, and a companion, Auday Abdullah, an engineer, 35.
“We were nearby and just wanted to stop in,” Ms. Jasim said, by way of explaining what should not have seemed odd but was clearly unusual.
Mr. Abdullah insisted, “People need to come see this.”
But the museum is closed on weekends, when most Iraqis might visit. Its schedule is hostage to civic service budgets, the director, Ahmed Kamel Mohammed, said with a shrug.
He acknowledged that even schoolchildren are charged an entrance fee, notwithstanding many families struggle simply to scrounge up money for food and shelter.
As for countering the Islamic State’s social media campaign and elaborately produced videos, the director referred vaguely to a Facebook page that some young Iraqis had created to plead for the return of looted antiquities, as if that had much to do with the museum.
“What we need is peace,” the director said. “Peace means security, visitors, money, pride.”
About that, there could be little argument. Before Iraqis ponder heritage and its implications for national pride, they need to feel safe, which is why, perhaps even more than the reopening of the museum, the opening of Al Mansour mall a couple of years ago is news here.
Ubiquitous in many parts of the world but novel in Iraq, mall culture offers Baghdadis not just security. It also provides a rare semblance of normalcy.
With air-conditioning, a food court, chain stores, a gate on the street, guards at the entrance, and a floor of rides and games for children, it is where families of different economic levels shop, eat, catch first-run movies or just walk around for a few hours without feeling quite as much that they are taking their lives in their hands. The multistory mall is Baghdad’s new urban center, mobbed on weekends.
So heritage is a tent pole for prospective nation-building, but mall culture, in all its banality, at least for the time being, is clearly another.
“We challenge ISIS by coming to this mall,” is how Mohamed Alzaidy, 28, described the symbolic relevance of the place. He and his fiancée were polishing off lunch from K.F.C. (Krunchy Fried Chicken). Mr. Alzaidy added that a unified Iraq someday must come together around both its heritage and places like Al Mansour, past and future.
In a nearby cafe, Sara Mohamed, a 28-year-old from Mosul, said she felt heartbroken by the Islamic State’s barbarism. As she struggled to explain, her friend, Tamara Saad, 27, leapt in: “We feel proud of our ancient culture in the way you have something in your house that you pay no attention to until someone comes into the house and destroys it. You feel devastated.”
The mall, Ms. Saad added, “gave them a new life in Baghdad.”
Jaffar Darwesh publishes a magazine about Iraqi heritage. He talked about inspiring a new generation to feel pride and kinship because it is Iraq’s last, best hope.
“You can’t expect Iraqis to protect museums and ancient objects in the ground when they’re desperate to protect themselves,” is how he put it. “But this shouldn’t exempt us from caring about our past. Politics have failed to create a national identity. Religion has failed. The sects have clearly failed. So who are we? That’s the question. I think history is partly the answer, it’s common ground.”
Mr. Alnashmi, the Iraqi historian, put it differently: “It will take a great deal to bring us back together. But Iraqis are intelligent people. Our ancestors lived through disasters. We can do it again, if things do not go on like this much longer.”
“If they do,” he added, “we are lost.”
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Differences Emerge in U.S., Iran Interpretations of Nuclear Deal

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By: Shahir Shahidsaless, Contributor for Al-Monitor
After eight days and nights of intense negotiations, on April 2 Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and Federica Mogherini, the European Union foreign and security policy chief, presented a joint statement on behalf of Iran and the P5+1 nations, the five members of the UN Security Council plus Germany, regarding Iran’s nuclear program.
Immediately afterward, Iran’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs informally and through the Iranian media published the Persian-language document “A Summary of the Solutions Reached as an Understanding for Reaching a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.” The Americans followed suit and published a similar document, “Parameters for a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action Regarding the Islamic Republic of Iran's Nuclear Program,” as a Media Note on the US Department of State website. The differences between the two are far-reaching, and some could, if unresolved, seriously jeopardize the ongoing negotiations. 
In its opening paragraph, the Iranian summary, which has not been posted on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' website, reads, “These solutions are not legally binding and are only a conceptual guideline for preparing and writing the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.” In contrast, the American document's opening paragraph reads, “Below are the key parameters of a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) regarding the Islamic Republic of Iran’s nuclear program that were decided in Lausanne, Switzerland. These elements form the foundation upon which the final text of the JCPOA will be written between now and June 30. … We will work to conclude the JCPOA based on these parameters over the coming months” (emphasis added).
A comparison of the two approaches demonstrates that while the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has downplayed the significance of what it calls “solutions,” the State Department views the “parameters” mentioned as the “foundation” for the conclusion of the final and comprehensive agreement. The American document, referred to in Iran as the “American fact sheet,” fueled an uproar, forcing Zarif to respond. He tweeted: “The solutions are good for all, as they stand. There is no need to spin using 'fact sheets’ so early on.” The major differences between the two documents are as follows.
The Iranian report maintains that the restrictions imposed by the “JCPOA on Iran’s [uranium] enrichment program will stand for a 10-year period.” Highly enriched uranium — 90% and up — is the principle material for building an atomic bomb. The American document, like the Iranian version, explains that 5,060 centrifuges will enrich uranium for 10 years, which means that after that period of time, Iran can increase the number of centrifuges and, consequently, its enriched uranium production. It also states, however, that Iran has agreed “to not enrich uranium over 3.67 percent for at least 15 years,” “to reduce its current stockpile of about 10,000 kg low-enriched uranium … to 300 kg … for 15 years” and “to not build any new facilities for the purpose of enriching uranium for 15 years.” These provisions are not included in the Iranian version.
Both documents state that the Fordow underground facility, an enrichment plant (as is the one at Natanz), will no longer enrich uranium and will be used for peaceful purposes. The American report says, “Iran has agreed to not conduct research and development associated with uranium enrichment at Fordow for 15 years,” and “Iran will not have any fissile material at Fordow for 15 years.” These provisions are not only absent from the Iranian report, but they also contradict Iran’s claim that the duration of the restrictions on its enrichment program is 10 years.
Research and development
The Iranian report asserts that as a result of negotiations, Iran will continue its research and development (R&D) program on advanced machines and will continue R&D on and completion of its IR-2, IR-4, IR-5, IR-6 and IR-8 model centrifuges during the 10 years of the JCPOA. The American version, however, cites restrictions on this program: “Iran will engage in limited research and development with its advanced centrifuges, according to a schedule and parameters which have been agreed to by the P5+1” (emphasis added). 

More important, the American report states that “beyond 10 years, Iran will abide by its enrichment and enrichment R&D plan submitted to the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency], and pursuant to the JCPOA, under the Additional Protocol resulting in certain limitations on enrichment capacity.” These restrictions are absent from the Iranian document.
Arak's heavy-water reactor
Both the United States and Iran agree that the Arak heavy-water reactor will be redesigned and rebuilt and will not produce weapons-grade plutonium. Several provisions about it in the American report, however, are absent from the Iranian version. These include that the design is to be agreed to by the P5+1, “the original core of the reactor … will be destroyed or removed from the country,” and “Iran will ship all of its spent fuel from the reactor out of the country for the reactor’s lifetime.” Also missing from the Iranian report is Tehran’s indefinite commitment “to not conduct reprocessing or reprocessing research and development on spent nuclear fuel.”
While enrichment, R&D and the Arak heavy-water reactor are all significant concerns, the most contentious issues that threaten the negotiations process are sanctions and inspections.
“After the implementation of the JCPOA,” the Iran report states, “all the resolutions of the [UN] Security Council and all the multilateral European and unilateral American sanctions … will be immediately removed.” The American fact sheet asserts, however, “Iran will receive sanctions relief,if it verifiably abides by its commitments.” It adds that “US and EU nuclear-related sanctions will besuspended after the IAEA has verified that Iran has taken all of its key nuclear-related steps” (emphases added).
The Iranian leadership has called the American view on sanctions relief into serious question. The first problem for Iran is that “sanctions relief” means just that: Sanctions will not be eliminated in their entirety, only eased. The second, based on the American version, is that sanctions will be suspended, not removed or lifted. Iran opposes both these views.
In response to the American fact sheet, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said April 4, “During the talks we [both sides] always talked about lifting economic, financial, and banking sanctions. We never talked about the suspension of the sanctions, and if that were the case, no agreement would form.”
On the same day, Abbas Araghchi, Iran's senior negotiator and deputy foreign minister, said, “The American fact sheet stipulates that the US and EU suspend sanctions against Iran. … [However], the entirety of the economic and financial sanctions, and the [UN] Security Council resolutions, will be removed the first day of the implementation of the agreement. This agreement exists and is the solution that we reached.” 
Meanwhile, the fact sheet says that “the architecture of U.S. nuclear-related sanctions on Iran will be retained for much of the duration of the deal and allow for snap-back of sanctions in the event of significant non-performance.”
When asked his opinion on the fact sheet's discussion of sanctions during an April 5 TV interview, Zarif said, “That is nonsense. The architecture of the sanctions has already collapsed.”
It is noteworthy that as a matter of practical politics, President Barack Obama is not in a position to lift the sanctions. He can void the executive orders relevant to the sanctions, and according to the majority of sanctions legislation, he has the authority to “waive” congressionally approved sanctions. Congress alone, however, has the authority to nullify these laws and thus permanently remove the sanctions. At this point, considering political realities — for example, the majority of Congress maintains a hostile stance toward Iran — demanding the removal of sanctions (as opposed to Obama suspending them) is unrealistic.
The wording of the American document complicates matters concerning the lifting of UN Security Council resolutions. It says that the resolutions “will be lifted simultaneous with the completion, by Iran, of nuclear-related actions addressing all key concerns (enrichment, Fordow, Arak, PMD [possible military dimensions], and transparency).”
The sticking point is addressing the possible military dimensions of Iran’s past nuclear activities and receiving IAEA clearance, which could take months or even years, according to experts. It is unlikely that Iranians will accept provisions that roll back their nuclear program, in some cases irrevocably, while in their eyes putting them at the mercy of the IAEA, especially because they often claim that the PMD issue is manufactured by foreign security services.
The American document explains, “Iran will be required to grant access to the IAEA to investigate suspicious sites or allegations of a covert enrichment facility, conversion facility, centrifuge production facility, or yellowcake production facility anywhere in the country.” This stipulation, which does not appear in the Iranian version, effectively means that IAEA inspectors can access military facilities as well.
At this stage, a large segment of Iranians, from radicals to moderates, vehemently oppose such a provision. Given Iran's military progress in recent years, Iranians are deeply concerned about their military secrets being compromised. In fact, this secrecy is a key strategy of the Iranian government, as it uses ambiguity about its military capability to bolster deterrence. Meanwhile, Iran argues that “no global authority exists to inspect a country's military facilities. There is no treaty to do so, and the IAEA is not in a position to carry out such [a] task.”