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PM Netanyahu to the Iranian people: We are your friend not your enemy

Posted on January 22, 2017 at 8:55 PM Comments comments (0)

Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu - בנימין נתניהו FB

I yearn for the day when Israelis and Iranians can once again visit each other freely in Tehran and Esfahan, in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

The fanatics must not win. Their cruelty must not conquer our compassion.


Our two peoples can work together for a more peaceful and hopeful future for both of us. We must defeat terror and tyranny and we must ensure that freedom and friendship win the day.



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Original publication date: 1/21/2017

The Details of the Iran Deal Matter, Now More Than Ever

Posted on September 24, 2015 at 5:50 PM Comments comments (0)

United States, Iran Matters (Harvard's Belfer Center)

Ephraim Asculai, Senior Research Fellow at the the Institute for National Security Studies, and Emily Landau, Senior Research Associate at INSS, argue that while the Iran nuclear agreement is being implemented, there are still significant flaws that need to be remedied in the implementation phase to ensure the agreement functions. They suggest meticulous verification mechanisms to monitor Iranian compliance, transparency in the verification regime, professional oversight and analysis of the IAEA's verification techniques, timely reporting, and verifying and checking information provided by member states to the IAEA as ways to ensure that Iran does not cheat on the agreement and is held to its commitments.

Ephraim Asculai and Emily Landau

Original publication date: 9/24/2015

> What Happened to the Military Option Against Iran?

Gary Samore, Director of Research at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, and Ephraim Kam, Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv, examine the fate of the military option in the process of the Iranian nuclear talks. They discuss how from the beginning, American and Israeli understandings of the use and effectiveness of the military option against the Iranian program, and that while the United States sought to diminish the likelihood of a military attack during the negotiations, Israeli officials accused the US of diminishing the credibility of a potential military attack. While they recommend that the military option be strengthened going forward, considering the continued possibility that Iran will renege on its commitments and potentially try to construct a nuclear weapon, they recognize that many factors will influence whether or not the military option is employed against the Iranian nuclear program going into the future. (9/29)

Ash Carter: Iran deal features defense backstop

Posted on September 5, 2015 at 11:35 AM Comments comments (0)

United States, USA Today


With an agreement, the military option stays on the table and becomes more effective. The military option is real today and, as secretary of Defense, I will be sure that remains true well into the future. Iran might walk away from the deal or cheat, which are risks in any negotiated deal. But, unlike the arms control deals of the Cold War, nothing in the Iran deal constrains the U.S. Defense Department in any way or its ability to carry out such a mission.

Indeed, the reality is that any prospective military option, if called for, will be more effective under this deal — not less. Iran will have a smaller and more concentrated civil nuclear program, and the deal’s verification provisions will give us more information with which to plan.

No one is saying this deal will fix every problem with Iran or in the Middle East. While it removes the greatest danger — Iran with a nuclear weapon — the deal does not address Iran’s extensive malign activities in the region. But because the deal places no limits whatsoever on the United States military, it will not hinder America’s strategic approach to the region or our military’s important work to check those destabilizing activities and stand by our friends in the Middle East.

Indeed, as I told some of the more than 35,000 American troops in the region when I visited last month, the United States military will remain “full speed ahead.” We’re deterring regional threats, maintaining a robust military posture — including our most sophisticated ground, maritime, and air and ballistic missile defense assets, as well as the ability to quickly surge overwhelming additional forces — and continuing to increase our cooperation with Israel and our Persian Gulf partners in meaningful ways.


Ash Carter

Original publication date: 9/4/2015

> New York Times, Thomas Erdbrink and Somini Sengupta - Iran’s Supreme Leader Orders Parliament to Vote on Nuclear Deal

A day after President Obama secured enough votes to ensure approval of the Iranian nuclear deal in the United States Congress, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, on Thursday ordered Parliament to vote on the agreement and threatened to cancel the pact entirely if the West merely suspended, rather than canceled, economic sanctions, state news media reported.

While the Iranian Parliament is expected to approve the agreement, the announcement nonetheless represented a setback for President Hassan Rouhani and his nuclear negotiators, who have long held that the deal should be ratified by the Supreme National Security Council, which Mr. Rouhani heads. Their fear is that a debate in Parliament will provide a platform for strident, archconservative opponents of the pact.

The head of Parliament, Ali Larijani, who has been visiting New York for an international conference for speakers of parliaments, said on Thursday that he expected more “drama” in his own legislature than in Congress over the nuclear deal. (9/3)

> Iran Matters (Harvard's Belfer Center) - What Should Obama Do Next on Iran?

Nicholas Burns, Senior Fellow at the Belfer Center, argues in The New York Times that with the likely passage of the Iran nuclear deal, the President needs to put in place a strategy to continue to check Iran regionally and to ensure that they do not build a nuclear weapon. He suggests the US should reaffirm the American commitment to defend the Gulf Region from any aggressor, clarify that the United States will use force if Iran violates the deal and seeks to build a nuclear weapon, renew US-Israeli security cooperation and mend fences with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and reaffirm US commitment to maintaining a coalition of states opposed to Iran's regional and nuclear ambitions. (9/2)

> Why Those Secret Iran Side Deals Matter

William Tobey, Senior Fellow at the Belfer Center, writes with Judith Miller in Real Clear Politics that it is crucial that the IAEA release the side agreements with Iran regarding the inspections process that will be undertaken to determine the Past Military Dimensions of Iran's nuclear research. They suggest that the debate about the Associated Press draft version of the agreement underscores the need to have the full documents out in public view, and argue that while confidentiality is an important process of the IAEA, that the documents should still be released because they are unlikely to betray nuclear or military secrets of Iran, because Iran is a special case that violated previous agreements, and because Iran struck the agreement with the IAEA and with six other major powers, not just with the IAEA.

> Debating the Iran Nuclear Deal

Robert Einhorn, Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution, outlines major issues at stake in the debate about the Iran nuclear deal. Specifically, he discusses what will happen to Iran's program after the initial ten years of the nuclear agreement, how the agreement addresses the potential military aspects of Iran's prior nuclear research, the extent of IAEA access, the importance of arms restrictions on conventional weapons and ballistic missiles, the potential implications of sanctions relief, and the consequences of rejecting the nuclear agreement.

Iran Tracker (AEI CTP) - Iran News Round Up September 3, 2015

Key takeaway: Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned that "there will be no deal" if sanctions are not lifted. Khamenei also called for a parliamentary review of the nuclear deal.

 

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said that the nuclear deal would be jeopardized without the removal of sanctions during a meeting with the Assembly of Experts. Khamenei asked, “If the framework of the sanctions is to remain in place, what did we negotiate for?”

Khamenei also stressed that “Parliament should not be sidelined on the nuclear deal.” Khamenei added, however, that he has no “advice to Parliament regarding the type of review or regarding the approval of the JCPOA or disapproval of it; the representatives of the nation must decide about it.” Khamenei singled out President Rouhani, who recently voiced opposition to allowing the Parliament vote on the nuclear deal. The Supreme Leader stated, “I have said, Mr. President, it is not in the best interest to exclude Parliament from reviewing the JCPOA.”

US veterans fight over Iran deal

Posted on September 1, 2015 at 7:50 PM Comments comments (0)

United States, Al-Monitor


Congress is getting mixed messages from Americans who’ve battled Tehran. American veterans are increasingly joining in the Iran deal fight as the debate turns from its technical merits to concerns about empowering a US foe.

War fighters’ mixed feelings about the nuclear agreement will be on full display today when two groups claiming the veterans’ mantle hold dueling rallies in New York and Virginia. Both hope to capitalize on the good name of an institution that consistently polls as one of the most respected in the country as Congress prepares to vote on the deal.

Julian Pecquet

Original publication date: 9/1/2015

> Could US state sanctions on Iran unravel nuke deal?

Critics of the nuclear agreement say states have it in their power to kill it, but do they really? US critics of the nuclear agreement with Iran are turning to the 50 states as it becomes increasingly obvious that Congress won’t be able to kill the deal.

> Saudi king wants Obama to tackle Iranian 'mischief'

The new Saudi king will use his first official visit to the White House this week to make clear that his country’s lukewarm support for the nuclear deal with Iran comes with strings attached.

King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud’s three-day visit, strategically scheduled just days before Congress votes on the agreement, offers the Saudi leader a powerful platform to insist that the United States help combat Iranian “mischief.” The king is seeking assurances in the fight against Iran’s proxies across the region, as well as with elements of the nuclear deal itself. The visit “underscores the importance of the strategic partnership between the United States and Saudi Arabia,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Aug. 27. (8/31)

> Barbara Slavin - Larijani: US must fully implement nuclear deal

Ali Larijani, the powerful speaker of the Iranian parliament, praised President Barack Obama for being “wiser” than his predecessor in negotiating a diplomatic resolution to the Iranian nuclear crisis, but warned that if Obama’s successor does not fully implement the deal, Iran won’t either. [...] Larijani said that Iran is seeking “lasting security in the region” and that US allies such as Saudi Arabia are the ones that are fueling instability and extremism. He criticized the Saudis for bombing Yemen, comparing the onslaught to the Bush administration’s pre-emptive invasion of Iraq in pursuit of what turned out to be nonexistent weapons of mass destruction. “What [the Saudis] did was wrong and it was supported by the Americans,” Larijani said.

However, he dodged questions about why Iran has intervened on the side of the Houthis in Yemen, a country that does not border the Islamic Republic and with which it has no special historical ties. Larijani also offered no new formula to pacify Syria and repeated Iranian talking points about favoring a “political solution” and a government of national unity — outcomes that look unobtainable at present. (2/9)

> Uri Savir - State Department: Middle East needs 10-year plan including pressure on Iran, improved US relations with Sunni countries

Strategic policy analysts in the State Department are dealing these days with the ramifications of the Iran deal on regional stability. A senior State Department official, who is part of Middle East policy planning, told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity that the US administration intends to use the Iran deal for policy initiatives on regional issues: "We plan to exert pressure on the Iranians to halt inflaming the region through their assistance to Hezbollah and Hamas. In parallel, the US will strengthen its cooperation with pragmatic Sunni countries — Egypt, Saudi Arabia, perhaps also other Gulf countries, and Jordan. This has to be viewed as an incremental process, as we view the relationship with Tehran. We have given the Iran agreement at least 10 years; a parallel time frame may be necessary to stabilize the region and to implement the two-state solution."

Iran Tracker (AEI CTP) - Iran News Round Up September 1, 2015

Key takeaway: The Office of the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei released a statement reiterating Khamenei’s comments on the nuclear deal. IRGC Commander Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari echoed the regime’s fears of “soft war” in the post-nuclear deal environment.

The Office of the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei published a statement asserting that Khamenei has “made clear-cut, transparent, and explicit comments” on the nuclear deal. The statement stressed that “anything attributed to the Supreme Leader outside this framework is invalid.” This statement is likely a response to comments made by Hossein Shariatmadari, the managing editor of conservative news outlet Kayhan, who asserted that Khamenei clearly opposes the nuclear deal.

IRGC Commander Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari rejected the notion that the West’s enmity towards Iran has decreased following the nuclear deal, claiming that the West’s “tools…are being channeled towards soft war.

Iran News Round Up September 2, 2015

Key takeaway: Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani expressed his approval for the nuclear deal. The “Power of Sarallah” military exercises began in Tehran.

Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani said that he considers the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) a “good deal” in an interview with CNN. Larijani suggested that the agreement is a “beginning for a better understanding” with the U.S. Larijani also acknowledged that he cannot say whether the deal will be approved or not.

IRGC Commander Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari commenced the “Power of Sarallah” military exercises. Twenty-three IRGC “cultural cyber-space” battalions from the IRGC Mohammad Rasoul-Allah unit are also holding cyber security drills in the exercises.

How to put some teeth into the nuclear deal with Iran

Posted on August 27, 2015 at 8:45 PM Comments comments (0)

United States, Iran Matters (Harvard's Belfer Center)


Dennis Ross, International Council Member of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs and David Petraeus, Senior Fellow at the Belfer Center, write in The Washington Post that it is necessary for the United States to continue to project a strong deterrent to Iran in order to insure that it does not develop nuclear weapons after the expiration of the most stringent controls of the nuclear deal.

Specifically, they argue that the United States should provide Israel with the Massive Ordinance Penetrator bomb, capable of destroying the most heavily defending Iranian nuclear sites, in order to strengthen the deterrent against trying to break out and built a nuclear weapon.

Original publication date: 8/27/2015

> New York Times, Julie Hirschfeld Davis - Obama’s Sanctions Chief to Defend Iran Accord in Israel

President Obama’s sanctions chief will arrive in Israel on Friday to defend the nuclear containment deal with Iran and try to reassure a government and public deeply opposed to the accord that the United States is still prepared to inflict severe financial penalties on Tehran for its sponsorship of terrorism and support for military proxies.

The Obama aide, Adam J. Szubin, the top Treasury Department official who helped negotiate the accord between Iran and six world powers, will meet with Israeli government officials and foreign policy experts to make his case during a three-day trip, administration officials announced on Thursday. It is part of Mr. Obama’s full-throated effort to build support for the agreement, which faces a vote of disapproval in Congress within weeks.

> Foreign Policy, David Francis - The Chosen One

Meet Adam Szubin, Obama’s point man to sell the Iran deal to Israel. Three days after the United States struck a long-fought nuclear deal with Iran, Treasury staffers who worked to help clinch the historic accord gathered to celebrate. They met in the Cash Room, an ornate space inside the Treasury Department that once served as an internal bank, to regale a key tenet of the Obama administration’s assumed foreign-policy legacy. The euphoria soon faded, however, and would be followed by weeks of skepticism from U.S. lawmakers and outright hostility from Israel, America’s top ally in the Mideast.

The July 17 celebration was organized by Adam Szubin, acting Treasury undersecretary for terrorism and financial crimes, according to two officials who attended the event. Szubin helped set up the Obama administration’s crushing Iran sanctions. Now he’s trying to sell the White House’s case for lifting them. (8/28)

Iran Tracker (AEI CTP) - Iran News Round Up August 31, 2015

Key takeaway: President Hassan Rouhani claimed that Iran is not obligated to implement restrictions on its missile program under UNSC Resolution 2231.

President Rouhani asserted that UNSC Resolution 2231 does not legally bind Iran to implement restrictions on its missile program. President Rouhani added that he opposes a parliamentary vote on the JCPOA because it would transform the nuclear deal into an unnecessary legal obligation for the government. Rouhani also responded to pushback from conservatives on his comments regarding the Guardian Council, stating, “We have no intention to quarrel with any institution...We must enforce the law.”

Defense Minister IRGC Brigadier General Hossein Dehghan praised the nuclear deal for maintaining “all the infrastructure, capabilities, and technologies of the peaceful nuclear program.” Dehghan also stated that Tehran is discussing purchasing “Sukhoi fighter planes” with Moscow.

Iran News Round Up August 28, 2015

Key takeaway: Senior clerics reflected the regime’s heightened concerns over Western cultural and political infiltration into Iran in the wake of the nuclear deal.

Mashhad Friday Prayer Leader and Assembly of Experts member Ayatollah Ahmad Alam ol Hoda described the reopening of the British embassy in Tehran as “worrisome,” arguing that it provides “the enemy an opportunity to attack the Islamic Revolution.” Assembly of Experts member and Tabriz Friday Prayer Leader Mohsen Mojtahed Shabestari also stated that following various media outlets’ claims that the Iranian people are distancing themselves from Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s revolutionary ideals; current Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei “advised” the Rouhani administration “to express revolutionary positions bluntly…” Alam ol Hoda and Shabestari’s comments reflect the regime’s increased concerns over Western cultural and political infiltration into Iran following the nuclear deal.

Iran News Round Up August 27, 2015

Key takeaway: President Hassan Rouhani briefed the Supreme Leader on the government’s actions over the past two years, while Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif confirmed that the 10-year restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program will begin on September 23.


President Rouhani reassured the Supreme Leader that the government is committed to fulfilling the necessary requirements to implement the Resistance Economy, citing a 19 percent increase in non-oil exports. Rouhani identified cash subsidies as a significant obstacle for the government and stressed the need for a gradual elimination of subsidies. He also praised the nuclear deal and declared: “We have reached a stage which can be called 'legal deterrence'.”

Foreign Minister Zarif discussed the 10-year nuclear restrictions on Iran’s enrichment capacity mandated by the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and said that once the restrictions “sunset” the UN Security Council will close Iran’s file. Zarif added that the IAEA could also lift the missile and weapons restrictions “at an earlier time.” Deputy Foreign Minister Majid Takht Ravanchi, meanwhile, dismissed talks concerning Parliament’s legal right to approve the nuclear deal. The senior nuclear negotiator claimed: “It is not necessary for Parliament to ratify the JCPOA, because… it is not like a protocol or an international treaty.”

World tunes out Netanyahu's broken record on Iran

Posted on August 25, 2015 at 10:45 PM Comments comments (0)

United States, Al-Monitor

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's repeated opposition to an agreement with Iran has turned the world deaf to him, and if Iran does violate the deal's conditions, no one will listen to Israel's warnings.

It is hard to overstate the importance of the recorded confession by former Prime Minister and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, in which he reveals past discussions of a closed and confidential security forum concerning an eventual strike against Iran, aired by Channel 2 on Aug. 21. At this stage, clearing the ambiguity surrounding the plan to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities by one of its senior advocates is almost as important as renouncing Israel’s policy on its nuclear program. From Barak’s recorded comments, it appears that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu favored a military solution to the Iranian military nuclear threat over “peaceful means.” Two civilians and one military man — Ministers Moshe Ya'alon and Yuval Steinitz, members of the “Forum of Eight” and then-Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi — stopped Netanyahu, Barak and then-Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman from going to war with Iran and perhaps with the entire region. On another occasion, according to Barak, American military maneuvers conducted in the region prevented an Israeli military move against Iran. Barak’s disclosures call into question not only the judgment of the two Israeli leaders, turning a rumor about an Israeli decision to attack Iran into a quote straight from the mouth of one of the decision-makers, but also the credibility of the incumbent prime minister.


Akiva Eldar

Original publication date: 8/25/2015

> Ben Caspit - Audio tapes reveal how Ehud Barak attempted to rewrite history with Iran

Associates of former Prime Minister Ehud Barak leaked tapes indicating that Barak supported an attack on Iran in 2012, but other sources suggest that he then changed his mind and was the person who actually blocked an eventual strike. No one, not at the Pentagon nor in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, needs Barak to confirm that Israel did, indeed, prepare itself for several long years to launch an assault on Iran’s nuclear infrastructure. It is also no secret that the decisive years were from 2009 to 2012. Every summer, between July and September, during those years, the suspense index rose to new heights. According to analyses, the weather during those months was favorable for an assault, which was supposed to last several consecutive days. Even the differences of opinion in the “forum of eight,” the select group of senior ministers assembled by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to formulate strategy regarding Iran, were widely disseminated. (8/24)

> Ephraim Sneh - Hoping to counter Iran, former Israeli defense official calls on Riyadh to add 'security annex' to Arab Peace Initiative

Standing up against a reinvigorated Iran requires a strong regional alliance, and Israel will have to be a member of this new coalition, making a unique and substantial contribution to it. At the same time, however, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict cannot remain unresolved. The status quo is unsustainable. The situation whereby the Palestinian people have no sovereignty and no state of their own lacks international legitimacy. That said, the Israeli people need to be convinced that a Palestinian state alongside Israel will give them more security, not less.

The Saudis should, therefore, add a “security annex” to their original peace proposal, adding an essential dimension to its basic concept — that is, the establishment of a framework for defense cooperation between Israel and the Arab states of Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Such cooperation would include, among other elements, a joint center for counter-terrorism warfare coordination, unified efforts against the Islamic State and other extremist Islamist organizations, joint and coordinated action against Iranian regional subversion, a naval surveillance center for intercepting illegal arms shipments and smuggling to Iran's proxies and joint anti-ballistic missile defense based around Israeli systems.

Security cooperation would also include a joint space program, a joint project for solving Jordan's energy and water problems and a political-economic plan for the reconstruction and development of the Gaza Strip, disarming terrorist movements and restoring the Palestinian Authority there.

All this is premised, however, on an initial Israeli-Palestinian agreement based on the principle of “two states for two peoples” and the start of serious negotiations for ending the occupation and detailing a permanent status agreement. These measures would make the Middle East a safer place and constitute the most appropriate response to the Iranian expansionism spearheaded by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

> Arash Karami - Khamenei supports nuclear deal but warns of 'the enemy'

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei met with President Hassan Rouhani’s Cabinet on Aug. 26, expressing support for the recent nuclear agreement but warning against the influence of "the enemy" in foreign countries.

On the comprehensive nuclear deal commonly referred to as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which was the result of two years of negotiations between Iran and six world powers, Khamenei said, “Concluding the nuclear negotiations is one of the very important accomplishments that was done, and we are hopeful that if there are issues or problems in this area, they are resolved.” Khamenei’s comments are designed to put to rest questions about his position on the nuclear deal. Hossein Shariatmadari, editor of Kayhan newspaper, had written Aug. 15 that Khamenei was “unhappy” with the deal. (8/26)

Iran Tracker (AEI CTP) - Iran News Round Up August 26, 2015

Key takeaway: The Supreme Leader lauded the government’s economic and political performance and demanded complete cooperation from regime officials in implementing the Resistance Economy. IRGC Major General Yayha Rahim Safavi claimed that Iran will receive the S-300 and S-400 surface-to-air missile systems from Russia.

 

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei met with President Hassan Rouhani and his cabinet to review the government’s performance and to reinforce cultural and economic priorities. Khamenei identified the economy as the most important priority and called for a coherent plan to fulfill policy requirements for the Resistance Economy. The Supreme Leader praised the Rouhani administration for overcoming economic stagnation and resolving the nuclear dispute. Khamenei, however, expressed concerns about the nuclear deal and urged regime officials to remain vigilant against plots hatched by the West to infiltrate and influence the Iranian nation.

Senior Military Advisor to the Supreme Leader IRGC Major General Safavi stated that Russia will deliver the S-300 and S-400 missile systems; however, he did not provide any further details on the arrangement with Moscow.

Weighing the Odds in Fight Over Iran Nuclear Deal

Posted on August 25, 2015 at 7:25 PM Comments comments (0)

United States, New York Times

After Congress passes foreign policy legislation that the president strongly opposes, he vetoes the bill, saying it unlawfully restricts executive authority. Lawmakers refuse to accept the action and override the veto, with the Senate quickly following the House.

That was the case in November 1973 when Congress enacted the War Powers Resolution over the objections of President Richard M. Nixon, a rare occasion when the House and Senate overcame a presidential veto on foreign affairs legislation. Now, the coming fight over the disapproval of the nuclear agreement with Iran raises the possibility of another national security veto clash between a Congress controlled by one party and a White House controlled by the other.

The rarity of veto overrides over all — and on foreign policy matters in particular — shows how difficult it would be for Republican opponents of the nuclear pact to overcome President Obama’s promised rejection of the resolution of disapproval of the deal, if the fight even gets that far.


Carl Hulse

> Celestine Bohlenaug - Europe Doesn’t Share U.S. Concerns on Iran Deal

Given the sound, fury and millions of dollars swirling around the debate in Washington over the Iranian nuclear deal, the silence in Europe is striking. It’s particularly noticeable in Britain, France and Germany, which were among the seven countries that signed the deal on July 14.

Here in France, which took the toughest stance during the last years of negotiation, the matter is settled, according to Camille Grand, director of the Strategic Research Foundation in Paris and an expert on nuclear nonproliferation.

“In Europe, you don’t have a constituency against the deal,” he said. “In France, I can’t think of a single politician or member of the expert community who has spoken against it, including some of us who were critical during the negotiations.”

> Carol Giacomo - Showing Courage on Iran

Intense lobbying and heated (often demagogic and hateful) rhetoric has made deciding whether to support the Iran nuclear deal an excruciating process for many members of Congress. None have come under more pressure and scrutiny than Jewish-American lawmakers. And among those, Representative Jerrold Nadler stands out. He represents a district of New York City from the liberal Upper West Side to ultra-Orthodox Borough Park in Brooklyn that is believed to have the largest Jewish population in the country. [...]

If, as expected, Congress passes a resolution to disapprove of the Iran deal, President Obama will veto the measure. With the announcement on Sunday that Senator Harry Reid, the Democratic leader, would support the nuclear agreement, Democrats and the White House increasingly believe they will have enough votes to salvage the deal by blocking efforts to overturn the veto. That would be a win for the deal but a very shallow one. As part of a continuing push to expand the margin, Mr. Obama plans to hold a webcast with Jewish leaders this week. Perhaps Mr. Nadler’s act of courage will encourage them to listen to Mr. Obama more carefully.

> David E. Sanger and Michael R. Gordon - Future Risks of an Iran Nuclear Deal

As President Obama begins his three-week push to win approval of the Iran nuclear deal, he is confronting this political reality: His strongest argument in favor of passage has also become his greatest vulnerability. Mr. Obama has been pressing the case that the sharp limits on how much nuclear fuel Iran can hold, how many centrifuges it can spin and what kind of technology it can acquire would make it extraordinarily difficult for Iran to race for the bomb over the next 15 years.

His problem is that most of the significant constraints on Tehran’s program lapse after 15 years — and, after that, Iran is free to produce uranium on an industrial scale. [...] Even some of the most enthusiastic backers of the agreement, reached by six world powers with Iran, say they fear Mr. Obama has oversold some of the accord’s virtues as he asserts that it would “block” all pathways to a nuclear weapon.

A more accurate description is that the agreement is likely to delay Iran’s program for a decade and a half — just as sanctions and sabotage have slowed Iran in recent years. The administration’s case essentially is that the benefits over the next 15 years overwhelmingly justify the longer-term risks of what comes after. (8/23)

Iran Tracker (AEI CTP) - Iran News Round Up August 24, 2015

Key takeaway: President Hassan Rouhani called for enhanced defensive power through military and private sector collaboration; he also declared that Iran can purchase and sell weapons as it sees fit. The Defense Ministry unveiled an advanced short-range ballistic missile. The Iranian and British embassies reopened in Tehran and London after a four-year closure.

 

President Rouhani underlined the importance of integrating the military and private industry in order to advance the nation’s defensive capabilities. He also emphasized that Iran’s military doctrine is predicated on defense in an effort to allay concerns shared by some Arab states over the regime’s conventional capabilities. Rouhani reassured his domestic audiences that the nuclear deal will not limit Iran’s defense capacity, claiming: “We will sell and buy weapons whenever and wherever we deem it necessary… we will not wait for permission…or any resolution.” Defense Minister IRGC Brigadier General Hossein Dehghan stressed that Iran will not waver from its determination to strengthen its defense capabilities. The Defense Ministry, meanwhile, introduced the Fateh 313 precision-guided missile, which runs on solid fuel with a reported range of 500 kilometers.

National Security and Foreign Policy Parliamentary Commission member Mohammad Esmail Kowsari criticized the Rouhani administration for failing to strengthen the economy, claiming: “Mr. Rouhani made promises to the people regarding the improvement of the economic situation, but today, not much has emerged.” The former senior IRGC commander stated, “Unfortunately, the current government does not tolerate fair criticism…”

British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond traveled to Iran on August 23 to reopen his country’s embassy in Tehran. Hammond and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif held a joint press conference to mark the resumption of Tehran-London ties. The British Foreign Secretary also met with President Rouhani and other senior Iranian officials.

Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) Undersecretary for Strategic Affairs Ali Hosseini Tash rejected a recent Associated Press report alleging that he signed a secret agreement with the IAEA, which purportedly allows Iran to use its own inspectors to monitor the Parchin military site.

Iran News Round Up August 21, 2015

Key takeaway: Defense Minister IRGC Brigadier General Hossein Dehghan reaffirmed Iran’s commitment to bolster its defense capabilities, while IRGC Air Force Commander Amir Ali Hajizadeh said that the IRGC will soon hold large-scale ballistic missile drills.

IRGC Brigadier General Dehghan dismissed the premise that the P5+1 nuclear deal will restrict Iran’s military capabilities. The Defense Minister reiterated the Supreme Leader’s firm position that the regime’s missiles are nonnegotiable. Dehghan asserted that imposing sanctions will not deter Iran from strengthening its defensive capacity and insisted: “our nation has no worries or concerns about this issue…” IRGC Brigadier General Hajizadeh, meanwhile, confirmed the IRGC’s upcoming plans to hold missile exercises.

Iran News Round Up August 20, 2015

Key takeaway: IRGC Commander Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari warned government officials not to challenge regime principles, while the Foreign Ministry confirmed reports that British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond will travel to Tehran this weekend to reopen the UK embassy.

Major General Jafari reinforced the Supreme Leader’s recent call to counter U.S. “soft war” plots to subvert the regime. The IRGC Commander advised Iranian officials not to pursue policies that contradict the values of the Islamic Revolution. He stressed the need to safeguard national security and stated, “Those who…[undermine] the orders of the Supreme Leader—to open new holes for foreign influence in the country—should know that we [the IRGC] will never allow the growth and implementation of such thinking.” Jafari’s warning is indicative of his fear that the U.S. will exploit Iran’s social and cultural vulnerabilities.

Israel and the Iran Nuclear Deal: "Chronicle of a Failure Foretold"?

Posted on August 18, 2015 at 5:35 PM Comments comments (0)

Israel, INSS Insight

While Netanyahu probably had little if any chance of stopping the deal that materialized over the past year, he still has a role to play in trying to mitigate some of its worst implications – and this he should do. For this to happen, there is no substitute for focused discussions with the US administration, now and in the future. In this regard, Netanyahu is not doing himself or Israel any favors by continuing to intervene in the Congressional process that is currently underway. His perceived interference only exacerbates relations with the administration further, and provides a platform for accusations that American detractors of the deal are actually choosing Israel’s interests over America’s. The Prime Minister must understand and appreciate his limitations, allow Congress to do its job, and get to work doing what he can to make the best of what currently looks like a very bad situation.

Emily B. Landau, Shimon Stein

Original publication date: 8/18/2015

> Azriel Bermant - What Will the Iran Deal Mean for NATO Missile Defense?

Following the signing of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) between the world powers and Iran, Russia was quick to call on the United States to stop the NATO missile defense deployments in Europe, on the grounds that Iran will no longer pose a nuclear threat to Alliance countries. However, while the agreement could delay Iran’s ability to break out to a nuclear weapon by up to one year, the JCPOA dos not call for the dismantling of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure. NATO can therefore claim that there is no reason to scale back its missile defense plans. Indeed, with the lifting of the UN Security Council missile embargo in eight years as per the agreement, and with the absence of provisions addressing Iran’s ballistic missile capability, the United States will have a stronger interest in consolidating its missile defense programs in the Middle East and beyond. Furthermore, at a time of heightened alarm in Eastern Europe over Russia’s actions in Ukraine, a decision to review NATO missile defense plans at this time would risk alienating Poland and the Baltic states. (8/17)

> Zaki Shalom - The Obama Administration in Defense of the Nuclear Agreement with Iran

On August 5, 2015, President Barack Obama delivered an address that included criticism of Israel’s stance on the nuclear agreement with Iran. Although his specific remarks were particularly poignant, the overall message was not new. Indeed, regular statements by the President, Secretary of State Kerry, and other leading members of the administration since the agreement was signed in Vienna are intended to persuade Congress and US public opinion of the value of the nuclear agreement and why it merits United States approval. The intense debate underway in the United States about the agreement is a tribute to American democracy – similar debates are not taking place in any of the other countries that are parties to the agreement. Thus far the opponents of the agreement have not managed to refute the administration’s main arguments. Moreover, many who oppose the agreement are becoming convinced that its defeat in Congress might only aggravate the threat of the Iranian nuclear program. This article reviews the administration’s leading contentions in favor of the agreement.

New IDF strategy dismisses Iran nuclear threat

Posted on August 17, 2015 at 8:35 PM Comments comments (0)

United States, Al-Monitor

On Aug. 14, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot issued “IDF Strategy,” a precedential, perhaps even historical, document. It marks the first time that the strategic program of the IDF has been released to the public, in a censored version. Operational data and numbers only appear in the classified version. This document outlines the IDF's objectives and missions, states how its successes or failures will be defined and identifies what modes of action are needed to achieve success.

The report exemplifies the maturity of the IDF, which after quite a few formative experiences, has finally internalized the reality that the old world is no longer. The era of speedy victories has ceased to exist, as have some of Israel’s old enemies and the entire old Middle East. We are in a new era, and we should adjust our expectations, as well as our forces, accordingly.

Commentators have marveled that the Iranian nuclear threat is barely mentioned in the document. According to the chief of staff, that threat is currently not sufficiently relevant to be included in the IDF's strategy for the next five years. The threat can be shelved for a decade or two. The document also confirms something published in Al-Monitor a few weeks ago: that the IDF top brass are far less melodramatic about the Iranian threat than Israel’s highest political echelons, i.e., Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and some of his ministers. Instead, the IDF is much more concerned about potential Iranian involvement in considerable proportions of terror acts against Israel along the length of its various borders.

Israel’s map of threats, which once included a list of states, now contains a list of organizations: Islamic State (IS), Hamas, Hezbollah and so on. The IDF has updated its mode of action and battle order accordingly. Much effort has been invested in its ability to fly large forces to distant sites on aircraft with “high survivability” to carry out precision surgical strikes against consequential terror targets. All IDF special units receive high priority and are dealt with at the General Staff level, and even above-General Staff level, with regard to resource concentration, planning and inputs of non-IDF intelligence and espionage organizations, including various government ministries.

So, how are the IDF's goals now defined? Victory in its previous format is out. The new goal is “achieving diplomatic aims set for the battle in a way that will lead to the improvement of the security situation after the conflict.”


Ben Caspit

Original publication date: 8/17/2015

> Arad Nir - Netanyahu playing chess, not checkers on Iran deal

[A]t the epicenter of the campaign against the agreement, Netanyahu’s office in Jerusalem, there is a growing realization that the prospects of garnering such a [two-thirds] majority to overcome a presidential veto are nil. In fact, in the words of a senior official who asked that his name be withheld, “It’s inconceivable.” Despite this assessment, the official told Al-Monitor, the prime minister does not intend to ease the pressure on Congress. He wants to enlist the support of as many opponents to the deal as possible to obtain what he calls a “resounding moral majority,” even if it's not a “veto overruling majority.” According to the source, Netanyahu argues that this same moral majority is supposed to represent the broad opposition to the agreement among the American public, which according to recent poll results encompasses nearly two-thirds of US citizens. [...]

Netanyahu is not deterred by the long list of counterarguments that are being thrown at him these days. [...] “I don’t play checkers, I play chess!” Netanyahu said in response to such questions, according to the source. He views his moves in Congress not just as a strategic-diplomatic campaign, but as a personal mission thrust upon him by the historic circumstances in which he finds himself. As far as he is concerned, all means are justified. He contemptuously waves away all the arguments directed against his approach to this issue. He regards them as reflecting the worldview of people who play checkers. (8/20)

> Uri Savir - Israel must wake up and 'recognize reality' of Iran deal

Despite the ferocious political attacks between the White House and the Israeli government, one hears from both sides positive ramblings about future relations between the two countries. Governmental spokespeople, mainly in Israel, describe the current rift over the Iranian nuclear deal as an unfortunate incident, or “accident,” in a family with genuinely good relations. This, however, is not the case, and there certainly might be long-term damage to the strategic alliance between the two countries. [...]

[T]here is much room for concern and soul-searching about the future of Israeli-US relations. This crisis demands a fundamental change in Israeli policy vis-a-vis the United States. An immediate change is called for in the prime minister’s relationship with the White House. Israel must recognize the reality of the Iran deal and work with President Obama and his national security team on its ramifications. Close cooperation is necessary for monitoring Iranian compliance with the agreement. In the immediate future, a security assistance package should be agreed upon for the supply of sophisticated defensive arms and systems.

In parallel, the two governments need to coordinate peace policies in the region based on the two-state solution and cooperation with the pragmatic Sunni axis against the fundamentalist terror groups. These elements should lead the United States and Israel to conclude a political-security partnership agreement parallel to the Iranian agreement. The first step in this direction is for the Israeli prime minister to announce that bipartisanship will be the basis for future relations with the United States and release the Jewish lobby from the plague of dual loyalty tests. (8/19)

> Akiva Eldar - Israel increasingly isolated as Iran opens up to region

If US President Barack Obama manages to overcome congressional opposition to the Iran deal, Israel will go down in history as the only country in the world that tried to rescind the international agreement endorsed unanimously by the UN Security Council. If the deal’s opponents get the upper hand, Israel will bear sole responsibility for a conflict between the United States and Iran and for dealing a serious blow to the prestige of the world’s leading superpower, a country vital to Israel’s security. [...]

How did Israel become the last bad boy standing in the campaign against the agreement? What happened to Saudi Arabia and the other Sunni states in the region that were also intimidated by the Shiite nuclear threat? Ever since the start of the negotiations between the six world powers and Tehran on its nuclear program, we had read in all the papers that the Gulf states were also swimming against the stream, right alongside Israel, opposing the agreement. Even after the agreement seemed to be a fait accompli, top officials in Jerusalem and an international bevy of acclaimed experts agreed that “Saudi Arabia is with us,” in a concerted effort to prevent Obama from signing off on a “bad agreement.” [...]

Saudi Arabia isn’t just sitting in the gallery watching Netanyahu and Obama descend into fisticuffs. Riyadh is also sending conciliatory messages to Iran. At an Aug. 10 press conference in Berlin, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said his country would be prepared to establish diplomatic relations with Iran provided Tehran stop intervening in internal Saudi affairs. The Saudi statesman said absolutely nothing about the need to rescind the nuclear agreement with Iran. Coincidentally or not, shortly thereafter the Shiite Houthi leadership in Yemen expressed its readiness to withdraw from Sanaa. According to a report in Asharq al-Awsat, the Houthis are even considering a transfer of government authority to exiled President Abed Rabbo Mansur Hadi, who is backed by the Saudi-led coalition fighting the Houthis. (8/18)

Iran Tracker (AEI CTP) - Iran News Round Up August 19, 2015

Key takeaway: President Hassan Rouhani stated that the P5+1’s position on sanctions relief weakened during the nuclear negotiations. Senior officials marked the anniversary of the 1953 coup against Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh.

President Rouhani indicated that the P5+1 weakened its position on the schedule of sanctions relief, calling the “complete and simultaneous removal of economic sanctions” under the JCPOA a “great achievement.” Rouhani also said that Iran’s “main goal” in the negotiations focused on retaining nuclear facilities and “protecting enrichment and the right to research and development,” and that it “achieved these goals well.”

On the August 19 anniversary of the 1953 coup overthrowing Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh, Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani stressed that the Supreme Leader’s recent warnings of American attempts to “infiltrate” Iran by means of the nuclear deal should be considered “realistic and accurate.” IRGC Deputy Commander Brigadier General Hossein Salami also discussed the anniversary of the coup, claiming that Washington pursued the nuclear negotiations because its “military power against Iran lost its credibility.”

Iran News Round Up August 18, 2015

Key takeaway: Defense Minister IRGC Brigadier General Hossein Dehghan announced that Iran will sign a contract with Russia next week to purchase four S-300 surface-to-air missile “battalions.”

Defense Minister Dehghan claimed that Russia will deliver four modernized S-300 surface-to-air missile “battalions” to Iran “soon.” He also stated that Tehran is negotiating with Moscow over the purchase of fighter aircraft.

Planning and Strategic Supervision Deputy to the President Mohammad Nobakht reiterated that the nuclear agreement does not require parliamentary approval. He claimed that the agreement “does not require the approval of any institution other than the Supreme National Security Council.” Nobakht’s comments are in response to a recent letter signed by 201 lawmakers requesting that the Rouhani administration submit the nuclear deal to Parliament “as a bill.”

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif denied reports that IRGC Qods Force Commander Major General Qassem Soleimani traveled to Russia in late July.

Iran News Round Up August 17, 2015

Key takeaway: Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei stated that the West wanted to reach a nuclear deal with Iran in order to “infiltrate” it. He indicated that the nuclear deal “is still unsettled” as neither the Iranian Parliament nor the U.S. Congress “has adopted it yet.”

Supreme Leader Khamenei said that the West pursued a nuclear deal “to find a way to infiltrate the Islamic Republic.” He stressed that Iran “will not allow America to make economic, political, or cultural inroads into the country.” Khamenei said that the nuclear deal “is still unsettled given the fact that neither Iran nor the U.S. parliaments have adopted it yet.”

Senior Foreign Policy Advisor to the Supreme Leader Ali Akbar Velayati called the demand for Syrian President Bashar al Assad to step aside “irrational." Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, meanwhile, met with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Moscow. Zarif stated that Russia and Iran will be able to cooperate on regional issues, because they have a “shared vision.”

Managing Editor of conservative news outlet Kayhan Hossein Shariatmadari claimed that a close analysis of Supreme Leader Khamenei’s earlier comments on the nuclear deal suggests that Khamenei “is not in any way satisfied with the nuclear deal.” In response, Cultural Media Advisor to the Commander of the IRGC Hamid Reza Moghaddam Far criticized Shariatmadari for claiming to his “audience that the Supreme Leader thinks like him…”

Best Analysis on the Iran Nuclear Deal

Posted on August 15, 2015 at 9:40 PM Comments comments (0)

United States, Iran Matters (Harvard's Belfer Center)

Graham Allison, Director of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, highlights important analysis pieces discussing the recent Iran nuclear deal. Specifically, he focuses on pieces by Richard Haass, Sandy Berger, Efraim Halevy, Amos Yadlin, Shai Feldman, and Ariel Levite which analyze the important pros and cons of the nuclear deal, its repercussions for US and Israeli policy in the region, and how the United States should move forward in responding to the Iranian nuclear challenge.

Graham Allison

Original publication date: 8/15/2015

> Vox, Max Fisher - Gary Samore, a leading skeptic of the Iran deal, explains why he changed his mind

For someone who just lost one of his two jobs, Gary Samore was in remarkably good spirits when I called him at his office at Harvard University. Samore had just stepped down from his position as the president of United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI), an influential bipartisan group that opposes the Iran nuclear deal. The reason for the change was buried at the bottom of a very strange and very surprising UANI press release announcing his replacement: Samore now supports the nuclear deal.

Samore's journey on the Iran nuclear program is an interesting one. He has studied it for decades, worked on it as a senior arms control official in the Clinton and Obama administrations, and left government in 2013 to join Harvard and to preside over UANI. He long shared UANI's official position of skepticism toward the idea that an acceptable nuclear deal could be negotiated with Iran. That carried a lot of weight in the arms control community, where he is considered a leading authority and a technocrat. [...]

I called Samore to ask him about what had happened, as well as what he'd learned from the experience, both about the Iran nuclear deal and about the politics of it. He had some interesting and often blunt things to say. While he was careful not criticize UANI, he said he'd come out of the past year worried that "the American capacity to have a reasoned debate about national security issues has really been damaged by the polarization in Washington. ... There are still experts, but their voices are really muted by the politics." (8/13)

> Iran and the Arab World after the Nuclear Deal

The Iran Project at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs has completed a report on Iranian relations with the Arab World in the wake of the Iran nuclear deal. The recent nuclear agreement reached between Iran and the P5+1 in Vienna, or the “Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action” (JCPOA), is an historic agreement which is consequential not only for international security and nuclear proliferation but for Iran and the broader Middle East as a whole. In particular, one of the key arenas that the agreement will impact is Iran-Arab world security relations and, at its center, the Iran-Saudi cold war. Spawning regional conflicts and proxy wars from Yemen to Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq, the confrontation between these two regional powers serves as the geopolitical and security background upon which the nuclear deal was forged. How this cold war proceeds—whether or not it is effectively managed and resolved, or how it escalates—will largely determine the security dynamics and landscape of the Middle East for years to come.

Given the significant ramifications that these openings may herald for the future of Iran-Arab world ties, it is more important than ever to engage and analyze viewpoints from scholars and analysts based in the region on the future of Iran’s role in the Middle East and Arab security. In this light, this publication brings together a diverse set of voices from Arab world experts to comment on the implications of the nuclear agreement between Iran and the P5+1 on Iran-Arab security relations. This chapter accordingly begins with a summary and brief analysis of Arab expert opinion in order to elucidate the broader trends and patterns of analytic thought on Iran and the Arab world. Thereafter, the chapter turns to an examination of the implications of the agreement on Iranian politics and the factors shaping the possibility of Iranian foreign policy moderation. It does so because no serious discussion on Iran-Arab security relations can ignore the Iranian decision-making process and domestic Iranian politics.



Iran Tracker (AEI CTP) - Iran News Round Up August 14, 2015

Key takeaway: Deputy Foreign Minister Amir Abdollahian announced that Iran will hold talks on Syria and Yemen with the six members of the Gulf Cooperation Council. Hamas Political Bureau Head Khaled Meshaal reportedly said that Hamas is interested in expanding cooperation with Saudi Arabia.

 

Deputy Foreign Minister Abdollahian claimed that Iran will hold talks with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) starting in September. Abdollahian explained that the talks will focus on reaching “a common understanding for...confronting crises present in the region.” Abdollahian also stated that Foreign Minister Zarif’s trip to Turkey was canceled because of the “absence of essential officials in Ankara” but emphasized that Iran and Turkey share a “strategic relationship.”

Hamas Political Bureau Head Khaled Meshaal said that Hamas intends to expand relations with Saudi Arabia, saying that “efforts are currently underway to open a new page in relations with this country.” Khaled Meshaal had previously traveled to Saudi Arabia in late July to meet with Saudi King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud and senior Saudi officials. The Supreme Leader’s Senior Foreign Policy Advisor Ali Akbar Velayati later said that Meshaal’s visit did not create a rift between Iran and Hamas, claiming their relationship was “cordial.”

Guardian Council Secretary Ayatollah Ahmed Jannati addressed the domestic debate over Parliament’s constitutional right to review the nuclear deal. Jannati stated that he considers the deal a treaty and therefore Parliament must approve the agreement. Jannati, however, stopped short of explicitly demanding a parliamentary vote on the nuclear deal, saying that “we must wait for the views of the officials on this matter to see what they decide.”

Iran News Round Up August 13, 2015

Key takeaway: Expediency Discernment Council Secretary Mohsen Rezaei stated, “The JCPOA is the beginning of our new era with America.”

At an academic ceremony in Mashhad, Razavi Khorasan province, Mohsen Rezaei highlighted the period from Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s death in 1989 to [President George W.] “Bush’s time” as a “period of détente between Iran and America.” In contrast, the Expediency Discernment Council Secretary said that America increased sanctions and negative “slogans” against Iran in the period from President George W. Bush’s administration to President Barack Obama’s administration. Rezaei said President Obama “pulled America out of a foreign policy swamp,” and stressed that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, “is the beginning of a new era with America.”

Iran News Round Up August 12, 2015

Key takeaway: IRGC Commander Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari stressed that domestic “deviation from the path of the [Islamic] Revolution” is “our main risk.” Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif met with Syrian President Bashar al Assad in Damascus to discuss regional diplomacy in the wake of the nuclear deal.

IRGC Major General Jafari criticized the lack of attention paid to “cultural attacks” against the values of the Islamic Revolution. He stressed the need to address “cultural threats” in order to advance the Islamic evolution past the “third and fourth stages.”

Foreign Minister Zarif discussed efforts to end the Syrian civil war with President Assad and senior Syrian officials. Zarif described the talks as “constructive” and “good conversations on solving the Syrian crisis.” Before travelling to Syria, Zarif was in Lebanon, where he met with Lebanese Prime Minister Tamam Salaam, Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, and Lebanese Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah.

The Armed Forces General Staff Chief Major General Hassan Firouzabadi announced that “missile drills will be conducted according to the schedule approved by the Supreme Leader.”

Iran Deal Keeps Our Military Options Open

Posted on August 11, 2015 at 9:05 PM Comments comments (0)

United States, Iran Matters (Harvard's Belfer Center)

Graham Allison, Director of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, argues in The Boston Globe that contrary to certain statements, the Iran nuclear agreement actually does not constrain American or Israeli abilities to launch military options against Iran's nuclear facilities if needed in the future. He argues that the intelligence gained from monitoring the Iranian program will help targeting Iranian nuclear sites, and as a result the possibility for a military strike on Iran after the deal would be more likely to be successful than a military strike now.

Original publication date: 8/11/2015

> Deal or No Deal: The Choice Before Congress

Albert Carnesale, Member of the Board of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, writes in The National Interest that the idea of another deal being negotiated after the current accord under review should Congress reject it is faulty. He argues that there is no diplomatic path to a better deal because American leverage would be significantly weaker if the agreement is rejected, a military solution will fail to set back Iran's program by more than a few years, and Iranian compliance with the deal without the US will tie American hands to influence further nuclear diplomacy with Iran.

> How Congress Could Make the Iran Deal Work

William Tobey, Senior Fellow at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, with Judith Miller, write in Real Clear Politics about steps Congress can take to be confident in the agreement between Iran and the P5+1. They argue that Congress should seek greater clarification on how Iran will comply with its agreements with the IAEA, extend the review period in order to see how Iran responds to some of the early deadlines for compliance under the accord, authorize military force to halt Iran from becoming a nuclear weapons state, establish an independent team of experts to assess Iranian compliance, sell weapons to Israel capable of damaging the fortified Iranian nuclear sites, and increase funding for actions to help counter Iran's regional activities.

> Just How Vulnerable is Iran to Sanctions?

Aaron Arnold, Associate at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, writes in The National Interest that contrary to what some have argued, the more Iran is connected the to global economy, the more vulnerable it is to the snapback sanctions measures built into the Iranian nuclear deal. He argues that as Iran becomes more connected to the global economy, the American dominance of financial markets and the importance of the dollar as a global currency will mean that in the event of snapback, companies will be deterred from action in Iran. As a result, the more Iran reconnects its economy to the world, the more vulnerable it will be to snapback measures.

> Foreign Policy, John Hudson - Kerry: There Is No ‘Better’ Iran Deal

Rejecting critics who say the United States should simply re-negotiate a “better deal” with Iran over its nuclear program, Secretary of State John Kerry said Tuesday such a proposal is naive and based on a misreading of the last decade of diplomatic efforts to curb Tehran’s nuclear program. “There isn’t a, quote, ‘better deal’ to be gotten,” said Kerry, speaking at an event hosted by Thomson Reuters in New York. [...]

Kerry also fielded a question about whether the U.S. could maintain unity against Iran among the world powers that negotiated the agreement last month if Congress rejects the deal. The former Massachusetts senator said maintaining international sanctions against Tehran would be impossible if American allies watched Congress reject a deal they saw as fair and equitable. “Are you kidding me?” said Kerry. “The United States is gonna start sanctioning our allies and their banks and their businesses because we walked away from a deal?”

> Bloomberg, Jonathan Tirone - Concern Over Iran’s Parchin Not Supported by Images

The number of parked vehicles at an Iranian military complex hasn’t shown any sign of change in more than a year, according to satellite imagery and analysts. That’s at odds with the conclusions of an influential Washington research group that’s expressed concern about the site.

The Institute for Science and International Security, or ISIS, said in an Aug. 7 research note that Iran’s decision to park two vehicles near a building at the Parchin complex roused suspicion. However, according to satellite images, an average of two vehicles have occupied the same parking spot since 2014. The number of cars identified by ISIS at a second parking site has remained constant for five years. “The ‘parking lot of death’ has been imaged dozens of times and there are clear patterns of passenger cars parked there,” said Robert Kelley, an intelligence analyst and former U.S. nuclear-weapons scientist. “There have been no indicators of a change in Iranian activities of any significance -- no earth moving or sanitization whatsoever.”

> Washington Post, Karen DeYoung - Dozens of retired generals, admirals back Iran nuclear deal

Three dozen retired generals and admirals released an open letter Tuesday supporting the Iran nuclear deal and urging Congress to do the same. Calling the agreement “the most effective means currently available to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons,” the letter said that gaining international support for military action against Iran, should that ever become necessary, “would only be possible if we have first given the diplomatic path a chance.” (https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/retired-generals-and-admirals-back-iran-nuclear-deal/2015/08/11/bd26f6ae-4045-11e5-bfe3-ff1d8549bfd2_story.html)

Iran Tracker (AEI CTP) - Iran News Round Up August 11, 2015

Key takeaway: Head of the Passive Defense Organization IRGC Brigadier General Gholam Reza Jalali introduced a comprehensive command and control system for monitoring biological, chemical, radiation, and cyber threats.

IRGC Brigadier General Jalali announced that the Passive Defense Organization will open a command and control system in two months. The command and control system will have four specialized headquarters for “defending against biological, chemical, radiation, and cyber threats.”

The Deputy Foreign Minister for Legal and International Affairs Abbas Araghchi claimed that Parliament is not required to approve the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA. In response, the Secretary of Iran’s Human Rights Council Mohammad Javad Larijani called for Parliament to pass a “fact sheet” in order to prevent misinterpretation of the agreement.

Expediency Discernment Council Secretary Mohsen Rezaei stated that the Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) is reviewing the JCPOA and should conclude its review “in the next couple of sessions.”

Iran News Round Up August 10, 2015

Key takeaway: Armed Forces Chief of Staff Major General Hassan Firouzabadi lent his support for the nuclear deal in a published letter outlining several advantages of the agreement.

Hassan Firouzabadi expressed concerns about the “impact of the deal on Iran’s defense capabilities,” but stressed that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and UN Security Council Resolution 2231 have “merits to which, unfortunately, critics pay less attention.” For example, Firouzabadi highlighted the noticeably weaker “tone” of Resolution 2231 in comparison to previous resolutions, stating, “The resolution’s tone has been downgraded from the authoritarian fashion of the previous four resolutions to recommendations and requests.”

IRGC Brigadier General Massoud Jazayeri reiterated that “Iran will not grant foreigners access to military resources” in response to comments made by IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano that Iran has denied IAEA inspectors access to scientists and military officials. Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, meanwhile, rejected allegations that Iran has engaged in clean-up activities at the Parchin military site ahead of IAEA inspections of the facility.

Mehdi Hashemi Rafsanjani, the son of former President Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, began his ten-year prison sentence in Tehran’s Evin prison. Mehdi Hashemi Rafsanjani was convicted in March of embezzlement, bribery, and “anti-security issues.”

Expediency Discernment Council Secretary Mohsen Rezaei stressed that the nuclear deal gives Iran the opportunity to increase foreign trade. Rezaei warned, however, that “American mischief may continue.”

It's Either Iran Nuclear Deal or 'Some Form of War,' Obama Warns

Posted on August 5, 2015 at 9:05 PM Comments comments (0)

United States, New York Times

President Obama took on critics of the nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers in an aggressive speech on Wednesday, saying they were the same people who created the “drumbeat of war” and played on public fears to push the United States into the Iraq war more than a decade ago. “Let’s not mince words: The choice we face is ultimately between diplomacy and some form of war — maybe not tomorrow, maybe not three months from now, but soon,” Mr. Obama told about 200 people in a speech at American University. “How can we in good conscience justify war before we’ve tested a diplomatic agreement that achieves our objectives?”

Mr. Obama, opening a new, more overtly political phase of his public campaign for the accord, portrayed the coming vote in Congress to approve or reject the deal as the most consequential foreign policy decision for lawmakers since Congress voted in 2003 to authorize the invasion of Iraq. He implored them to “shut out the noise” and back the deal.

Delivered in stark terms that surprised some foreign policy analysts and left no room for questioning whether the agreement is good for American security — “It’s not even close,” Mr. Obama declared at one point — the president’s speech was a striking display of certitude about a diplomatic deal that has split the American public and presented a dilemma for lawmakers, including many in his own party.


Julie Hirschfeld Davis

Original publication date: 8/5/2015

> Foreign Policy, Dan De Luce, John Hudson - To Sell Iran Nuclear Deal, Obama Invokes Iraq War Fiasco

Warning Congress not to derail his agreement, the president compares critics of the Iran nuclear accord to those who backed the 2003 invasion of Iraq. President Barack Obama on Wednesday made his strongest and most detailed argument to date for his landmark nuclear deal with Iran by likening opponents of the agreement to supporters of the Iraq War — and warning that congressional rejection of the accord could pave the way to a new, bloody, and unpredictable Mideast conflict.

Speaking to a crowd of students, professors, and diplomats at American University, Obama said the nuclear deal now being reviewed by Congress represented the “most consequential foreign-policy debate” since the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, and warned lawmakers not to fall for similar arguments that could lead to another disastrous war.

“Between now and the congressional vote in September, you are going to hear a lot of arguments against this deal, backed by tens of millions of dollars in advertising,” Obama said. “And if the rhetoric in these ads and the accompanying commentary sounds familiar, it should, for many of the same people who argued for the war in Iraq are now making the case against the Iran nuclear deal.”

Iran Tracker (AEI CTP) - Iran News Round Up August 5, 2015

Key takeaway: Assembly of Experts Chairman Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi echoed the Supreme Leader’s call for a comprehensive review of the nuclear deal, while senior nuclear negotiator Hamid Baeidinejad reiterated that Iran is not beholden to UN Security Council (UNSC) Resolution 2231’s ballistic missile restrictions.

Ayatollah Yazdi explicitly directed Iranian officials to scrutinize the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) agreement to ensure it complies with the Supreme Leader’s redlines. The Assembly of Experts Chairman stressed that Iran’s security and defense secrets “must be preserved.” Ayatollah Ahmad Alam ol Hoda, moreover, warned about the ramifications of pursuing “any relationship with America and Europe.” The Assembly of Experts member claimed that the JCPOA “violates” the Supreme Leader’s redlines.

The Foreign Ministry’s Director for Political and International Affairs Hamid Baeidinejad, meanwhile, stated that UNSC Resolution 2231’s statements on “arms sanctioning is not absolute.”

Iran News Round Up August 6, 2015

Key takeaway: President Hassan Rouhani continued to sell the P5+1 nuclear deal to his domestic audiences, while Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi urged Iranian officials to exercise prudence as the deal goes through legal review. Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif censured U.S. foreign policy in response to President Obama’s speech on Wednesday.

 

President Rouhani pursued his aggressive campaign to build public support for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in an effort to counter opposition from regime hardliners. Rouhani addressed a large gathering in Tehran to promote the economic benefits of the JCPOA. He also reiterated his pledge to reduce inflationary pressure from economic sanctions. Rouhani’s statements underscore the administration’s deliberate policy prioritization and his commitment to economic performance-based legitimacy. Assembly of Experts Chairman Ayatollah Yazdi, meanwhile, warned against institutional divide over the deal and stated that Parliament and the Supreme National Security Council must review the JCPOA.

Foreign Minister Zarif responded to President Obama’s remarks on the JCPOA by highlighting U.S. foreign policy failures in the Middle East and calling on Washington to accept responsibility for creating regional crises. Zarif indicated that such events as CIA orchestrated coup in 1953 and America’s support for Saddam Hussein during the Iran-Iraq War “are all alive in the historical memory of the Iranian people.” Zarif added, “If the U.S. government wants to change the opinions and slogans of the Iranian people,” it should consider a different approach to its relationship with Iran.

Iran News Round Up August 7, 2015

Key takeaway: Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani criticized opponents of the nuclear deal and expressed cautious optimism about thawing relations with the U.S., while Assembly of Experts member Ayatollah Ahmad Alam ol Hoda reiterated that the P5+1 agreement violates regime redlines.

Ayatollah Rafsanjani reinforced President Rouhani’s campaign to sell the benefits of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) to the Iranian and people. The Expediency Discernment Council Chairman defended the nuclear deal, claiming that Iran’s “entire nuclear infrastructure” will remain intact. Rafsanjani suggested that regime hardliners “are making a mistake” by opposing the JCPOA. He also indicated that the nuclear deal could be an opportunity for a diplomatic thaw between Iran and the U.S. Mashhad Friday Prayer Leader Ayatollah Alam ol Hoda, meanwhile, explicitly criticized the JCPOA. The Assembly of Experts member restated his opposition to the deal and asserted that the nuclear “agreement violates” the Supreme Leader’s redlines.

Reuters reported that an anonymous Iranian official confirmed a report that IRGC Qods Force Commander Major General Qassem Soleimani traveled to Russia during the second half of July despite the UN travel ban. Soleimani allegedly met with Russian President Vladimir Putin and discussed bilateral and regional issues, including the delivery of the S-300 surface-to-air missile system to Iran.

The Iran Nuclear Deal: A Definitive Guide

Posted on August 3, 2015 at 10:05 PM Comments comments (0)

United States, Iran Matters (Harvard's Belfer Center)

The Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at the Harvard Kennedy School has produced this briefing book on the Iran deal in the interest of contributing to informed Congres­sional review and public discourse on the agreement. First, we have provided a concise description of the complex agreement and the accompanying UN Security Council Resolution 2231, including areas that appear ambiguous. Second, we have tried to provide a balanced assessment of the agreement’s strengths and weaknesses with respect to its central objective to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

We have not tried to address larger political questions, such as the implications of the agreement on Iran’s behavior in the region and domestic politics, implications of the agreement on regional dynamics in the Middle East and the larger non-proliferation regime, or the relationship between the nuclear issue and other areas of dispute between the U.S. and Iran. Our focus is on the merits and drawbacks within the four cor­ners of the agreement itself. The team of experts who prepared this report includes Democrats, Republicans, independents, and internationals. Noting areas of disagreements among themselves, they ultimately agreed that this report provides an accurate description and balanced assessment of the agreement.


> Iran Edition: Hardliners Criticize Nuclear, Missile Limits

Shirin Lotfi describes reactions in the Iranian press to the nuclear deal signed with the P5+1. Specifically, Iranian hardliners have criticized the deal in editorial comments, critiquing it for sections relating to Iran's ballistic missile program, the process of sanctions relief, and the potential for the United States to impose further sanctions for nonnuclear activities.

> Brookings, Suzanne Maloney - Un-sanctioning Iran: What the nuclear deal means for the future of sanctions

Ultimately, however, the text of the final deal concluded last month suggests a more ambivalent bottom line. The disparity between the agreement’s sweeping sanctions relief and the more parsimonious scope of its constraints on Tehran’s nuclear activities underscores the limitations to the use of sanctions as leverage in the negotiations themselves. In this respect, the deal serves as a useful corrective to the recent infatuation with sanctions and the corresponding tendency to overestimate their efficacy in solving international problems without the use of military force. Sanctions may have been the silver bullet that brought Iran back to the negotiating table, but they proved too blunt an instrument to advance the most advantageous terms of a deal. [...]

However, the case of Iran also suggests the limitations of utilizing sanctions to craft a diplomatic resolution to a conflict. Others have noted the difficulty in calibrating sanctions' impact on the target economy; the Iran deal speaks to the even greater difficulty of calibrating an exit strategy to a crisis. In the end, despite assertions to the contrary throughout the 18-month process of hammering out a final deal, Western negotiators were unable to design a deal that relied upon gradual de-sanctioning of Iran as a means of providing incentives and reassurance for continuing Iranian compliance with the accord.

The lack of incrementalism in the final agreement underscores another enduring truth about the use of sanctions as a policy instrument: no matter how "smart" or targeted they may be, sanctions do not necessarily provide deft instruments for advancing complex solutions or aligning incentives with actions. Sanctions may be valuable bargaining chips, but they are almost unavoidably clumsy ones.

> Foreign Policy, John Hudson - Obama Administration Wins Gulf Support for Iran Deal

Gulf Arab countries offered their support for the United States’ nuclear deal with Iran on Monday, an important diplomatic victory for President Barack Obama’s administration as it seeks to sell Congress on the merits of the agreement.

The expression of support came out of a meeting in Qatar of the Gulf Cooperation Council, a collective of oil-rich states, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman, and Bahrain. The move further isolates Israel, America’s other Middle East ally, which has vocally opposed the Iran deal.

“This was the best option amongst other options in order to try to come up with a solution for the nuclear weapons of Iran through dialogue, and this came up as a result of the efforts exerted by the United States of America and its allies,” Qatari Foreign Minister Khalid al-Attiyah said at a press conference. Qatar currently enjoys the chairmanship of the GCC.

One Congressman's Iran

Posted on July 30, 2015 at 5:25 PM Comments comments (0)

United States, New York Times


Representative Sander M. Levin, Democrat of Michigan and the longest-serving Jewish member of the House, said something important this week: “In my view, the only anchors in public life are to dig deeply into the facts and consult broadly and then to say what you believe.”

His words were important for two reasons. First, they defied a prevalent political culture of ignoring inconvenient facts, consulting narrowly if at all, and never saying what you believe when it’s not what your constituency wants to hear. Second, his statement concerned Iran, an issue where fact-based reasoning on Capitol Hill and beyond tends to take second place to preposterous posturing — as per Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee’s statement that the nuclear deal with Tehran would march Israelis “to the door of the oven.”

Levin’s reflection led him to the sober, accurate conclusion that the agreement is “the best way to achieve” the goal of preventing Iran from advancing toward a nuclear weapon, an outcome that will make Israel, the Middle East and the world “far more secure.” Not the ideal way, the perfect way, or a foolproof way, but, in the real world of ineradicable Iranian nuclear know-how, the best way attainable.

Roger Cogen

Original publication date: 7/30/2015

> Nicholas Kristof - Why the Naysayers Are Wrong About the Iran Deal

This is one of the pivotal foreign policy decisions of the decade, so let’s examine the arguments. [...] Diplomacy is rarely about optimal outcomes; it is about muddling along in the dark, dodging bullets, struggling to defer war and catastrophe for the time being, nurturing opportunities for a better tomorrow. By that standard, the Iran deal succeeds. Sure, it is flawed, and yes, it makes us safer.

> Helene Cooper and Gardiner Harris - Top General Gives ‘Pragmatic’ View of Iran Nuclear Deal

While the nuclear agreement with Iran will not stop it from funding organizations the United States considers to be terrorist groups, the pact reduces the chances of a near-term military conflict between the two countries, the top American military leader, Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, told Congress on Wednesday.

Later in the day, President Obama hosted about 90 House Democrats at the White House for what he had hoped would be a lengthy back-and-forth about the Iran deal, but the lawmakers ended up leaving after just 30 minutes because a series of votes were rescheduled on legislation dealing with highway aid and veterans’ health.

General Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the nuclear deal did not prevent the United States from striking Iranian facilities if officials decide that Tehran is cheating on the agreement. But if it sticks to the terms of the pact, such a strike — with attendant retaliation — is far less likely, he said.

In his trademark to-the-point style, General Dempsey answered a barrage of questions from Republican senators that appeared intended to make him criticize the pact. The general — appearing alongside Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter, Energy Secretary Ernest J. Moniz, Secretary of State John Kerry and Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew — neither praised nor condemned the nuclear agreement.

> Foreign Policy Initiative - FPI Resources on the Nuclear Deal with Iran

U.S. lawmakers are carefully examining the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) ahead of a September vote to approve or disapprove the agreement. As both the House and Senate hold hearings with administration officials and outside experts, the President and senior policymakers are meeting with Congressmen and Senators to persuade any uncommitted members. The FPI believes the following resources will be helpful for lawmakers and their staffs as they continue to examine the deal’s provisions and consequences.

> Iran Watch, Simon Chin and Valerie Lincy - What the Iran Deal Says (and Doesn't Say) about Iran's Ballistic Missiles

One of the final hurdles in the nuclear talks between Iran and the P5+1 was the United Nations sanctions on Iran's ballistic missile program and conventional arms purchases. A compromise led to the extension of the U.N. arms embargo for five years and the missile ban for eight years.

While Iran’s ballistic missile capabilities were not considered a core issue in the nuclear talks, the nuclear deal will have consequences for the future of Iran’s ballistic missile program. [...] Iran’s attempts to advance its nuclear-capable ballistic missile program – through test launches, production, and illicit procurement – will be made easier, while attempts to punish or deter Iran’s ballistic missile activity and illicit procurement will be made more difficult.

Iran Tracker (AEI CTP) - Iran News Round Up July 29, 2015

Key takeaway: Ali Akbar Velayati stated that Iran considers the sections on Iran’s weapons capabilities in UNSC Resolution 2231 “unacceptable.”

Senior Foreign Policy Advisor to the Supreme Leader Ali Akbar Velayati said the sections of UNSC Resolution 2231 on Iran’s weapons capabilities, “especially missiles…[are] from the point of view of Iran, unacceptable.” He stated that such a resolution “weakens Iran’s defensive power,” so that Western countries can “impose their demands on Iran.” Velayati indicated that Iran “did not and will not” submit to such weakening of Iran’s weapons capabilities.

Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati was reappointed as Guardian Council Secretary. The Guardian Council’s primary roles include approving Parliament’s legislation and supervising elections for the Assembly of Experts, the President, and the Parliament.

Iran News Round Up July 30, 2015

Key takeaway: Abbas Araghchi stated that the “resistance economy” doctrine does not take an “isolationist” approach, but instead supports selective economic interaction “with [other] countries without depending upon them.”

In a meeting with the National Security and Foreign Policy (NSFP) Parliamentary Commission, Deputy Foreign Minister for Legal and International Affairs Abbas Araghchi stressed that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s “resistance economy” doctrine does not prohibit all economic interaction with other countries or promote an “isolationist” approach to Iran’s economy; rather, it “prescribes a certain type of economic interaction with the world” such that no nation can “put pressure on our economy.” He also warned that “in upcoming [economic] cooperation with other countries, Iran will not forget the past.”

Iran to United Nations; New Sanctions Could Kill Nuclear Deal

Posted on July 28, 2015 at 12:35 PM Comments comments (0)

United States, Foreign Policy

Iran has warned the U.N. Security Council it may reconsider its commitment to a landmark nuclear deal with key powers if the United States or any other state reimposes nuclear-related sanctions on Tehran under the pretext of countering other Iranian activities [its alleged support for terrorism and human rights abuses].

In a statement transmitted to the 15-member body, Iran’s U.N. envoy, Gholamali Khoshroo, said Tehran “may reconsider its commitments” under the nuclear pact if U.S., European, and U.N. sanctions lifted under the deal are “impaired by continued application or the imposition of new sanctions with a nature and scope identical or similar to those that were in place prior to the implementation date, irrespective of whether such new sanctions are introduced on nuclear related or other grounds, unless the issues are remedied within a reasonably short time.”

Khoshroo first issued the warning before the U.N. Security Council on July 20. But the matter has taken on added significance as Congressional leaders have sought clarification on whether the nuclear pact will restrict their ability to sanction Iran in the future. For the last two weeks, Republican and Democratic lawmakers have peppered U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew with questions about their right to hit Iran with a fresh round of sanctions if Iran continues to support terrorism or the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. [...] During a hearing on Tuesday, Secretary of State John Kerry assured lawmakers that the U.S. could continue to impose sanctions against Iran for its support of terrorism and other nefarious activities. “We are free to add those,” he said.


Colum Lynch

Original publication date: 7/28/2015

> Reuters, Parisa Hafezi - EU's Mogherini in Iran to discuss nuclear deal, region - TV

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Tuesday the nuclear deal reached between Tehran and major world powers this month will help fight terrorism and bloodshed in the Middle East, Iran's state TV reported. Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif also cited wider effects of the deal, saying Tehran and the European Union could now discuss questions "including energy cooperation ... human rights, confronting terrorism and regional issues".

The Iranian leaders spoke during a one-day visit by EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini to Tehran to discuss implementation of the deal to curb Tehran's nuclear programme in return for lifting economic sanctions imposed on the country.

> AP - Iran says will hold 'high-level' talks with EU

> Al-Monitor, Arash Karami - Iran's dos and don'ts for talking about the nuclear deal

Iran's Culture Ministry believes the nuclear negotiations are a national security issue and specific guidelines must be followed in their coverage to prevent divisions in society. On July 22, two documents stamped “Very Confidential” appeared on Iranian websites and social media claiming to show a document from Iran’s Culture Ministry addressed to domestic media and editors outlining guidelines for appropriate coverage of the comprehensive deal between Iran and five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany.

> Fabius takes over Tehran

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius is the most high-profile foreign official to visit Iran after the July 14 comprehensive nuclear agreement between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany (P5+1). Iranian media and officials largely welcomed his visit, which was panned by conservative media because of his role in an HIV blood scandal dating back to the 1980s. Many seem to hope that his visit signals to the world that Iran is open for business after years of economic and diplomatic isolation.

Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif welcomed Fabius in the Foreign Ministry building. Other than a 2003 trilateral meeting, this is the first time a French foreign minister has visited Iran in 17 years, Zarif said in a joint press conference. Zarif said despite "ups and downs in relations in last few years, we are hopeful that from now on we move in a stronger and more serious direction in relations." Zarif added that a French economic delegation will travel to Tehran later this summer. (7/30)

> New York Times, Thomas Erdbrink - Laurent Fabius, French Foreign Minister, Visits Iran

The French foreign minister arrived in Tehran on Wednesday, the latest in a string of visits by officials from European countries seeking closer economic and political ties with Iran after the nuclear agreement this month. The minister, Laurent Fabius, has been criticized here for his firm stance during the nuclear talks — many Iranians perceived him to be particularly harsh. Those talks concluded on July 14, preparing the way for the lifting of sanctions and opening a path for foreign businesses and investors to return to Iran in exchange for long-term curbs on Tehran’s nuclear program.

On Wednesday, Mr. Fabius was warmly received by Iranian officials, and though he has often been called a “Zionist lackey” by the state news media, his visit received prominent coverage on state television. The visit by Mr. Fabius comes as French companies such as Airbus and the carmakers Peugeot Citroën and Renault have been seeking to renew ties with local producers that were cut because of the sanctions.

Speaking to reporters in Tehran, Mr. Fabius thanked the Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, for his “formula” in the nuclear talks, which Mr. Fabius characterized as “yes to nuclear energy, no to a nuclear bomb.” Mr. Fabius also defended his position during the negotiations, when he often emphasized that Iran needed to give more concessions.

“Our method was to remain firm, because we wanted a deal that no one could object to,” Mr. Fabius said. Now it is time to look to the future, he said, adding that “this deal allows the relations between our countries to develop and allows us to renew cooperation.” He also invited Mr. Rouhani to visit France for a meeting in November with the French president, François Hollande. (7/29)

> Wall Street Daily, Tim Maverick - Iran Nuclear Agreement Loser: U.S. Businesses

No Lunch for Us. Everyone knows that sanctions on Iran will be lifted eventually. That’s why European and Asian companies are already in discussions with Iranian officials and businessmen to establish new relationships or to reignite old ones. But American corporations are being held back by strict, decades-old restrictions on doing business with Iran. Foreign subsidiaries of U.S. companies may be allowed to invest in Iran. But, understandably, executives are wary of running afoul of the politicians.

So, while our top companies stand on the sidelines, our competitors will eat our lunch in Iran. And it will be quite a tasty lunch, too. China is now Iran’s largest trading partner. And German exports to Iran are expected to quickly grow four-fold from 2.4 billion euros last year to 10 billion euros. Plus, Tehran already said that it will need in excess of $200 billion in investments for its oil and gas industry.

There’s a lot more than energy at play here, too. Iran is also an industrial powerhouse in waiting. The country is the world’s biggest exporter of cement, and ranks in the world’s top 15 for both steel production and auto production. Iran is also recognized in the global medical community for its work in stem cell research and nanotechnology.

In other words, Iran isn’t a run-of-the-mill emerging market. The country has little debt, unlike other emerging markets, and has a stock market with a market capitalization of about $110 billion. The Iranian market soared last year in anticipation of a deal, rising a record 130%! (7/27)

Iran Tracker (AEI CTP) - Iran News Round Up July 28, 2015

Key takeaway: Planning and Strategic Supervision Deputy to the President Mohammad Bagher Nobakht asserted that” it was not intended” for Parliament to vote on the nuclear agreement “as a bill.”

Bagher Nobakht claimed that “it was not intended for the nuclear agreement to be submitted to Parliament as a bill.” He stated that it had previously been agreed “in Parliament” that the Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) “would review and make decisions regarding the bill.” Bagher Nobakht’s statement is likely a response to conservative Parliamentarian Ahmad Tavakkoli’s July 26 statement that according to the Constitution, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) must be sent to Parliament “as a bill,” but that “no action has yet been taken.” Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani also pushed back on criticism that he was preventing parliamentary review of the nuclear agreement, stating “I do not need to defend myself.”

Lessons From the Past on Negotiating with Iran

Posted on July 27, 2015 at 4:25 PM Comments comments (0)

United States, New York Times


Republicans in Congress have gotten a lot of mileage, and headlines, out of being glibly contemptuous of the Iran nuclear deal. Some of them charged on Thursday, with barely disguised disgust, that President Obama and his negotiating team were “fleeced” and “bamboozled” by the Iranians who will gain access to $50 billion in assets now frozen in overseas banks and be able to pursue a civilian nuclear energy program if they abide by the agreement.

In fact, the deal is, by all practical measures, a strong one. One thing the critics never mention is that the basic bargain – Iran will receive benefits in exchange for limits on its nuclear program – was actually endorsed by a Republican president, George W. Bush, in 2006, when super-hawks Dick Cheney and John Bolton were also part of the American power structure. It never triggered the rhetorical venom that this deal has.

Carol Giacomo

Original publication date: 7/27/2015

> In Israel, Some Support the Iran Deal

As far as Americans go, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has pretty much drowned out other Israeli voices on the nuclear deal between Iran and the major powers. He has called it a “historic mistake.” On Wednesday, his ambassador to Washington, Ron Dermer, met 40 conservative members of Congress as part of a full-court Israeli push to persuade American lawmakers to vote down the accord. But some members of Israel’s security establishment see merit in the agreement, which imposes limits on Iran’s nuclear program in return for a lifting of international economic sanctions. (7/23)

> Weekly Standard, David Adesnik - Here’s the Alternative to a Bad Deal with Iran

Defenders of the nuclear deal with Iran are right to ask what the alternatives are to the offer that’s now on the table. What’s excessive is their confidence that the only alternative to this deal is war. In fact, the alternative is not hard to describe and is not terribly dramatic. War is not imminent because the structure of the deal now on the table gives Iran very strong incentives to remain cooperative at least until the next American president takes office and Tehran finishes negotiating long-term contracts with the multinational energy firms that are so eager to claim a share of the Iranian market.

> Al-Monitor, Laura Rozen - Burns: implementation key to Iran nuclear deal

Former US Deputy Secretary of State William Burns, who led the secret US diplomacy with Iran, told Al-Monitor that implementing the Iran nuclear deal the first year will be critical to ensuring its durability. "The Iranians will inevitably test the provisions of the deal, and that's why a rigorous commitment to execution is so important for the US and our partners right from the start," said Burns, now president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. "I keep coming back to implementation," Burns said. "There is no substitute. Unless that is going OK," it will reduce the space to potentially talk with the Iranians on other issues.

> Alireza Nader - Post deal, can Rouhani deliver on promises of reform?

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani must tread lightly to ensure economic prosperity after sanctions relief. The next few months will see President Hassan Rouhani enjoy a peak in popularity. The nuclear agreement reached between Iran and the P5+1 (United States, Russia, China, United Kingdom, France and Germany) boosts Rouhani among the public and even the political elite. The mild-mannered president will have much more political capital in his hand. But what will he spend it on? The economy will no doubt be a big focus. Rouhani’s government has already indicated a desire to liberalize and privatize Iran’s moribund economy and possibly loosen the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ (IRGC) chokehold on business. But Rouhani has been relatively reticent on political and social reforms, both of which matter a great deal to Iranians; after all, what is economic prosperity if there is no accompanying personal freedom? (7/24)

> Politico, Michael Crowley - Obama eyes next diplomatic steps with Iran

The president could leverage warmer relations with Tehran into solutions for Syria, ISIS and Yemen. Even as he defends his nuclear deal with Iran, Secretary of State John Kerry is speaking more bullishly about partnering with Tehran on a range of crises in the Middle East — at the same time as another top Obama national security official offers a cautionary note about Iran’s future behavior.

“I know that a Middle East that is on fire is going to be more manageable with this [nuclear] deal, and opens more potential for us to be able to try to deal with those fires,” including Syria, Yemen and Iraq, Kerry told the Council on Foreign Relations on Friday. During the nuclear talks, Kerry said, he “tried very hard” to raise other regional issues with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, but the Iranian lacked authority to discuss them. Yet since the deal was struck, Zarif and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani “have made it clear that, with the agreement, they are prepared to discuss the regional issues,” Kerry added.

Kerry’s comments hint at new strategic planning within the administration about leveraging a changed relationship with Tehran to help stabilize the Middle East. Sources said Kerry also harbors a desire to jump-start the moribund Israeli-Palestinian peace process, though on that score he may differ with President Barack Obama.

Any optimism is tempered by the sheer complexity of the problems, however — not to mention deep-seated skepticism about Iran’s willingness to moderate its foreign policy. “I don’t have any doubts… about Iranian behavior, the things they do in the region, their promotion of terrorism, their support of proxies like Hezbollah. And this [nuclear] agreement in and of itself I don’t think is going to alter their behavior,” Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said at the Aspen Security Forum on Friday. “Whether this agreement can be built on, and looking to the future, is hope an option here? I don’t know,” he added.

As his administration considers next steps, Obama appears to be straddling the two camps. He has expressed clear hope that Iran’s regime, which sponsors terrorism and intervenes in several regional conflicts, can gradually moderate. But he has also lowered expectations: Asked at a July 15 press conference what kind of Middle East he hopes to leave his successor, Obama spoke modestly of “at least a foundation for continued progress.”

Iran Tracker (AEI CTP) - Iran News Round Up July 27, 2015

Key takeaway: President Hassan Rouhani lauded Iran’s regional influence and proclaimed that the Islamic Republic will “cleanse” the Middle East of terrorism through a unified Shi’a-Sunni effort. Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) Head Ali Akbar Salehi stated that “there is no secrecy” in the IAEA agreement, but admitted that the manner of the investigations “will be classified.” Senior nuclear negotiator Abbas Araghchi, meanwhile, reasserted Iran’s right to test ballistic missiles.

 

President Rouhani advised the United States to rethink its policies towards Iran, because of Iran’s position of power and influence in the Middle East. Rouhani touted Iran as the “most stable” and secure country in the region and stated, “If it were not for Iran…the Iraqi cities of Erbil and Baghdad would have fallen to [ISIS].” Rouhani reassured neighboring states that Iran does not “differentiate between Shi’as and Sunnis…” Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, meanwhile, traveled to Kuwait and Qatar to promote regional cooperation. Zarif’s Gulf trip underscores Tehran’s concerted effort to alleviate tensions with its Arab neighbors and to help diffuse opposition to the nuclear deal.

AEOI Head Salehi stated that the manner of IAEA investigations will be secret. He also responded to Secretary of State John Kerry’s remarks concerning the Arak heavy water reactor. Salehi said that Kerry was “mistaken,” claiming that the Arak reactor’s core will not be removed, adding: “the steel reservoir will be removed, put aside, and filled with concrete; in case the nuclear deal fails,” Salehi said, Iran can “install a new reservoir in the place of the old one.” Deputy Foreign Minister Araghchi reassured domestic critics that “testing [ballistic] missiles does not violate” the nuclear deal.

U.S.: Netanyahu expects Iran to capitulate in return for nothing

Posted on July 23, 2015 at 11:50 PM Comments comments (0)

Israel, Haaretz - Premium

Officials tell Haaretz: U.S. efforts to enforce continued sanctions if Congress nixes nuclear deal could 'tank the global economy.' One of the senior administration officials with whom I spoke this week said that efforts to derail the nuclear deal with Iran are like “a dog chasing a car.” Perhaps the phrase was inspired by the rock group Snow Patrol’s 2006 hit single “Chasing Cars”. In essence, it means that the chase is futile, but even if the dog does catch the car, it has no idea how to handle it.

The analogy may seem frivolous, but it is crystal clear nonetheless: despite the best efforts of Prime Minister Netanyahu, the pro-Israel lobby and the Republican Party, the administration is confident, or at least pretends to be confident, that efforts to derail the Iran nuclear deal in Congress will ultimately fail. On the off chance that they will succeed, however, the deal’s critics will have achieved a monumental Pyrrhic victory: for both the United States and Israel, the situation could become “potentially catastrophic”.

This is the dual strategy that the administration intends to employ over the next 55 days - as evidenced in Thursday’s riveting hearings in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee - in its efforts to dissuade Congress from disapproving the Iran nuclear deal: staunch defense of the agreement’s provisions, on the one hand, and dire warnings of the consequences that would ensue from its rejection, on the other. “Iran would feel free to pursue a bomb, the sanctions regime would collapse, the United States would be isolated and its international credibility damaged,” they said. [...]

“Everything we do is a “historic mistake” according to Netanyahu, including the interim Joint Plan of Action, which the Iranians have kept to the letter and is now an acceptable status quo, apparently.” “Netanyahu finds nothing positive in the deal, though it has elements that are clearly positive. These clearly discredit the blanket condemnation of the deal. It’s a good thing that 98% of Iranian’s stockpile of enriched uranium will be removed; it’s a good thing that two thirds of its centrifuges will be out of play for ten years; it’s a good thing that Iran won’t be on its way to producing plutonium.”

In all our discussions with Israel, the official adds, we were constantly told that it’s main concerns are Arak, where plutonium was going to be produced, and Fordow, the hidden nuclear facility buried under a mountain. Well, he adds: Arak will be reconfigured so that it won’t have the ability to produce plutonium while Fordow won’t enrich or have fissile material for 15 years. The deal limits enrichment only to Natanz, where we have full inspection rights. The officials also rebuff the campaign against the 24-day hiatus that might precede inspections of previously unknown sites. This clause has been used indiscriminately, they say, in order to obfuscate the fact that the International Atomic Energy Agency will have full and immediate access to all the known nuclear sites. At unknown sites, the officials are confident the U.S. will be able to uncover all but the most “rudimentary” illicit nuclear activities. [...]

The officials rejected claims that the deal places Tehran in an improved position to attain a nuclear bomb in 10-15 years. “That’s the way it’s done in non-proliferation, in time increments,” they say. In any case, even if one assumes that Iran will try to violate its ongoing obligations and try to build a bomb, the advantages of the agreement outweigh its disadvantages. “They will be more transparent, we will have better knowledge of their abilities, we will be partners to the security arrangements on their nuclear installations, they will be without plutonium and without Fordow,”the officials said – and with a lot to lose.

There are only two options now, the officials say: one in which Iran may be strengthened diplomatically and economically but which ensures that it won’t build a bomb within the next 10-15 years, and the other in which it is besieged, famished, bearing a grudge and capable of building a bomb within a few months, as they are today. We prefer the first option, the official says: over the course of the next 10-15 years we can try to deal with the other Iranian threats that Israel is rightly wary of, but without the shadow of a nuclear Iran. The other option is that Iran will desperately seek a way to break the deadlock and the status quo. Everyone should decide for themselves, the officials said, which is better for America’s national security, and for Israel’s as well. [Print Version]


Chemi Shalev

Original publication date: 7/24/2015

> Frederick W. Kagan - Obama presents a false dichotomy on Iran

President Obama and his supporters have done a terrific job of framing the debate over the Iran nuclear agreement as a choice between taking the deal or opting for war. They continually challenge critics to articulate an alternative to the deal, claiming that there isn’t one. This is a superb debating technique, and it has put critics on the defensive. But it is a false dichotomy. The choice might conceivably be between a deal and war, although that is by no means certain — the Cold War, after all, ended with neither a deal nor war. But the choice at hand is between accepting this deal now or continuing to press and negotiate for a better deal later. Many critics of this particular agreement, including me, believe that it would be far preferable to sign a good deal with Iran than to go to war with Iran — but also believe that this is a very bad deal indeed.

[...] Opposing the current deal is thus not in any way equivalent to favoring war. It is not a rejection of the idea of a peaceful resolution of this conflict, nor is it a refusal to negotiate with Iran. One can quite rationally oppose this deal without opposing any deal. Given how bad this deal is, in fact, that is the only rational position to take.

> Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Michael Herzog - Israel Confronts the Iran Nuclear Deal

Israelis fear that the deal will legitimize Iran as a nuclear threshold state, embolden its highly destabilizing role in a volatile Middle East, and trigger nuclear proliferation and a conventional arms race in the region. The Iran nuclear deal was met in Israel by an atmosphere of gloom, in stark contrast to the widespread celebration in the West and Iran. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu characterized it as "a bad mistake of historic proportions," the cabinet unanimously rejected it, and leading opposition figures joined in slamming it. Ensuing opinion polls indicated that more than 70 percent of Israelis believe the deal is dangerous and will not block Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

Such reactions are not surprising, since Israelis believe the stakes are higher for them than for anyone else. Unlike the United States, Israel regards Iran and its radical axis as the most serious threat to its national security -- an assessment based squarely on Tehran's extreme ideology, its calls for eliminating Israel, its nuclear and regional ambitions, and its heavily armed proxies on Israel's borders (including Hezbollah and its estimated 100,000 rockets). Israelis do not believe the nuclear deal signifies a fundamental shift in Iran's strategic orientation, and they question the U.S. administration's resolve to block the regime's ambitions. [...]

While most Israelis agree on the deal's risks, there is a policy debate on how best to address them, especially in the American theater. Some believe that the deal is a fait accompli and fighting it head-on would exact a political price on crucial U.S.-Israel relations. In their view, Israel should instead embark on a quiet dialogue with the Obama administration to secure assurances and understandings. Conversely, the decisionmakers strongly believe that Israeli concerns are not taken seriously enough -- given the high stakes, they believe it is imperative to sound an unequivocal critical voice in the current public debate, which may ultimately lead to serious discussion of the risks.

If the nuclear deal is implemented, it will be tested over the years, but so will U.S.-Israeli relations. For now, the relationship is characterized by a clash of worldviews, but the two allies will have to seriously discuss Israel's strategic concerns once the dust settles. In particular, they should seek common ground in addressing the deal's weak links, revamping deterrence against Iran's destabilizing regional policies, providing assurances about what will happen once the deal expires, and enhancing Israel's margins of security.

> MEMRI, Y. Carmon, A. Braunstein, and A. Savyon - Critical Points To Consider In Understanding The Iranian Nuclear Deal

The following analysis is the first in a series which will discuss the Iranian nuclear deal and will examine the JCPOA from the American perspective. It will focus on the components of the JCPOA as a legal document. It will also draw on United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 2231 which endorsed the JCPOA for reference. It will not discuss possible future implications, nor does it mean to be an overall assessment of the deal.

It should be emphasized that, contrary to how it is perceived, the JCPOA is not a bilateral or multilateral contract between the United States and/or Europe and Iran. Nothing has been signed and nothing is judicially binding between any of the parties. It is a set of understandings that was sent to a third party, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), for endorsement. This structure is a result of Iran's insistence to not sign any bilateral or multilateral contract.

> Times of Israel - Yadlin: Israel now has five years to ensure we can stop Iran

Deal is flawed, says ex-IDF intel chief, but initially it improves Israel’s security situation because Tehran’s program will be reduced and subject to more inspection. The Israeli military must utilize the next five years, as the nuclear deal with Iran is implemented, to ensure Israel has the capacity to stop any subsequent Iranian attempt to break out to the bomb, Israel’s former head of military intelligence, Amos Yadlin, urged Friday. And Israel’s political leadership should act now to reach an agreement with the U.S. on the fullest possible security cooperation — to detect Iranian violations of the deal, to agree on how to act against Iran if necessary, and to ensure Israel maintains its military advantage over Iran and other regional threats.

Yadlin, who heads Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies, was critical of aspects of the deal — including the massive imminent flow of funds to the regime as sanctions are lifted, and its ability to build an unlimited nuclear program as key clauses expire.

> Times of Israel staff - Oren: Kerry ‘threats’ won’t deter Israel from opposing nuke deal

Israel’s former ambassador to the United States Michael Oren hit back sharply at US Secretary of State John Kerry on Friday evening, warning that his earlier comments suggesting Israel could be blamed if Congress rejects the agreement with Iran on its nuclear activity would not deter Israel. “If American legislators reject the nuclear deal, they will do so exclusively on the basis of US interests. The threat of the secretary of state who, in the past, warned that Israel was in danger of becoming an apartheid state, cannot deter us from fulfilling our national duty to oppose this dangerous deal,” Oren, now a member of the centrist Kulanu party, said in a statement Friday.[...]

Oren has butted heads with the US since he published a series of essays last month criticizing the Obama administration, ahead of the release of his memoir on the Israel-US relationship, “Ally.”

In June, he penned three opinion pieces that received mixed reactions from US political figures and the Jewish community: “How Obama abandoned Israel” in the Wall Street Journal; followed by “Why Obama is wrong about Iran being ‘rational’ on nukes,” in the Los Angeles Times; and, in Foreign Policy Magazine, “How Obama Opened His Heart to the ‘Muslim World.” Oren has said he believes “Obama is not anti-Israel” but that he has engaged in a major policy shift vis-a-vis Israel. The former ambassador has also said the release of his book aims to enlist American Jews to fight the nuclear deal with Iran at a “critical moment” reminiscent of the lead-up to the Holocaust.

> Ricky Ben-David and Rebecca Shimoni Stoil - Israel could be blamed if Congress rejects Iran deal, warns Kerry

“I fear that what could happen is that, if Congress were to overturn it, our friends in Israel could actually wind up being more isolated. And more blamed. And we would lose Europe and China and Russia with respect to whatever military action we might have to take. Because we will have turned our backs on a very legitimate program that allows us to put their program to the test over the next few years,” Kerry told an audience at the Council of Foreign Relations in New York.

Republicans Have Minds Made Up as Debate Begins on Iran Nuclear Deal

Posted on July 23, 2015 at 8:25 PM Comments comments (0)

United States, New York Times

Senator Bob Corker, Republican of Tennessee and the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, stared at Secretary of State John Kerry on Thursday with thinly veiled disgust. “You have turned Iran from being a pariah to now, Congress being a pariah,” said Mr. Corker, who helped broker a delicate deal with Democrats and the White House allowing lawmakers to review the proposed lifting of sanctions against Iran.

While Mr. Corker, who promised a considered assessment of the agreement, may have seemed close to an endgame during a hearing on Capitol Hill, the vast majority of Republicans appear to have made up their minds before a single classified briefing, hearing or visit with administration officials. Their view seems born of genuine distaste for the deal’s details, inherent distrust of President Obama, intense loyalty to Israel and an expansive view of the role that sanctions have played beyond preventing Iran’s nuclear abilities.


Jennifer Steinhauer

Original publication date: 7/23/2015

> Jonathan Weisman and Michael R. Gordon - Kerry Defends Iran Nuclear Deal Before Skeptical Senate

After four and a half hours of contentious questioning, three cabinet secretaries deployed Thursday by President Obama to the Senate to defend his nuclear deal with Iran appeared to keep Democrats largely lined up as a bulwark against Republican opposition. The hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee was the Obama administration’s first public defense of the agreement before Congress since it was unveiled this month. Secretary of State John Kerry, Energy Secretary Ernest J. Moniz and Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew parried questions — at times hostile — as they tried to stave off a resolution of disapproval that could come before lawmakers in September.

> Michael R. Gordon - Verification Process in Iran Deal Is Questioned by Some Experts

The Obama administration’s claim that the Iran nuclear accord provides for airtight verification procedures is coming under challenge from nuclear experts with long experience in monitoring Tehran’s program. Energy Secretary Ernest J. Moniz has insisted that Iran would not be able to hide traces of any illicit nuclear work before inspectors gain access to a suspicious site. But several experts, including a former high-ranking official at the International Atomic Energy Agency, said a provision that gives Iran up to 24 days to grant access to inspectors might enable it to escape detection.

Olli Heinonen, a former deputy director of the agency, said in an interview that while “it is clear that a facility of sizable scale cannot simply be erased in three weeks’ time without leaving traces,” the more likely risk is that the Iranians would pursue smaller-scale but still important nuclear work, such as manufacturing uranium components for a nuclear weapon. “A 24-day adjudicated timeline reduces detection probabilities exactly where the system is weakest: detecting undeclared facilities and materials,” he said.

David Albright, the president of the Institute for Science and International Security and a former weapons inspector in Iraq, also said that three weeks might be ample time for the Iranians to dispose of any evidence of prohibited nuclear work. Among the possibilities, he said, were experiments with high explosives that could be used to trigger a nuclear weapon, or the construction of a small plant to make centrifuges.

> Washington Post, Fareed Zakaria - Obama’s critics are the real gamblers on Iran

Let’s imagine that the opponents of the nuclear agreement with Iran get their way: The U.S. Congress kills it. What is the most likely consequence? Within one year, Iran would have more than 25,000 centrifuges, its breakout time would shrink to mere weeks and the sanctions against it would crumble. How is this in the United States’ national interest? Or Israel’s? Or Saudi Arabia’s? This is not an implausible scenario; it is rooted in facts. [...]

In fact, the administration is making a calculated bet that Iran will be constrained by international pressure, intrusive inspections, verification mechanisms and the prospect of snapback sanctions. The deal’s opponents have conjured up a fantasy scenario in which the world will sign up for more sanctions, Tehran will meekly return to the table with further concessions, or perhaps the Islamic republic will itself implode — and its successors will then denounce and dismantle the nuclear program. To bet on this scenario is the real gamble, a high stakes one with little evidence to support it.

> Ishaan Tharoor - How the Iran deal is good for Israel, according to Israelis who know what they’re talking about

In the aftermath of the deal over Iran's nuclear program announced in Vienna last week, attention immediately centered on the reaction in one country that was never a direct party to the talks: Israel. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was swift and uncompromising in his criticism... His anger was echoed by his center-left political opponents in the Israeli parliament.

But while Israel's politicians may be singing from the same song sheet, others are less sure. Prominent members of the country's security establishment have come out at various stages of the negotiations in support of the Obama administration's efforts. Some of these men have been consistently vocal in their opposition to Netanyahu's hard-line rhetoric, which included a controversial speech to the U.S. Congress earlier this year. Here's a rundown of some of their observations. (7/22)

> Jennifer Rubin - The more you know, the worse it looks

One of the worst provisions of the Iran deal is the 24-day period during which Iran can delay an inspection. The Obama administration claims you can’t scrub a facility clean in that time. There are two problems with this. First, the administration is wrong according to multiple, neutral experts. Second, the scope of inspections remains unclear, and in fact, (secret) third, it is more than 24 days. [...] Without awareness of the PMDs, inspectors will have a hard time knowing where to look. Unfortunately, Congress still does not have access to the annexes that would clarify whether Iran has access to military sites and whether Iran’s revelations of all PMDs is a precondition to sanctions relief. [...] This sounds like a joke, but it’s all too real. It is for this very reason — the difficulty in detecting, gaining access to and determining a site that is in violation of the deal that it was essential to dismantle and remove Iran’s nuclear architecture, not merely leave it in place and available for Iran to use as it chips away at the restrictions.

The administration is currently affording Congress insufficient information to assess just how bad this deal is. The AIPAC-funded Citizens for a Nuclear Free Iran in a written statement asserted, “We are concerned by reports that Congress may not have access to side agreements with Iran dealing with inspections of military sites and resolving outstanding issues on possible military dimensions (PMDs) of Iran’s nuclear program. It is imperative that all agreements with Iran be completely revealed to Congress and the American people. Full transparency rather than secrecy is the only way that the American people can be fully informed about this flawed agreement with a deceitful regime. Congress must have anytime, anywhere access to the complete agreement and any side agreements before the review process begins.”

> National Interest, Mark N. Katz - America and Iran: Can the Nuclear Deal Lead to Rapprochement?

As the 1970s-era Soviet-American case shows, continued differences over regional security issues can halt progress toward rapprochement. Considering how bad Iranian-American relations have been for so many years up until recently, it is remarkable that these two governments were able to reach a nuclear agreement at all. But can they now build upon this agreement to improve their relations more broadly?

There are significant obstacles to this. One, of course, is that there are influential forces at work in both countries that want to scuttle the nuclear deal altogether. But even if these do not succeed in blocking the deal, there are other important differences between the two countries over several issues, including ongoing regional conflicts, Iranian relations with Israel, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Arab states, and human rights issues.

Iran Tracker (AEI CTP) - Iran News Round Up July 23, 2015

Key takeaway: President Hassan Rouhani continued to praise the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear deal, while Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani called the JCPOA a “national achievement.” Hossein Shariatmadari the Managing Editor of the leading conservative news outlet Kayhan and a group of Iranian professors openly criticized the nuclear deal.


President Rouhani met with the nuclear negotiating team to congratulate them on successfully defending Iran’s interests. Rouhani reassured the domestic audience that the nuclear deal does not compromise the Supreme Leader’s redlines. Rouhani added that during the Lausanne talks in April, “I told them [Iranian negotiating team] that if… [the P5+1] didn't accept our demands, the team should leave…” Parliament Speaker Larijani reinforced Rouhani’s remarks by endorsing the JCPOA and declaring it a “national achievement.”

A group of Iranian professors wrote a letter to President Rouhani expressing concern over UN Security Council Resolution 2231.The professors claimed that the resolution undermines national security. Hossein Shariatmadari, known to be a close confidant of the Supreme Leader, indirectly challenged Rouhani’s claims. The leading hardline commentator raised concerns about violated redlines. Shariatmadari suggested that the resolution is in direct conflict with Iran’s defense capabilities and stated: “One must ask our dear brothers in the nuclear negotiating team; was not the enemy supposed to be prevented from accessing military sites and our weapon capabilities?”

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif reportedly defended IRGC Qods Force Commander Major General Qassem Soleimani against the West. An unnamed Iranian negotiator claimed that Zarif reminded his western counterparts in the P5+1 talks that if “General Soleimani had not stood up to ISIS and other extremists in Syria and Iraq; they would have witnessed a different situation in many Iraqi and Syrian cities today."

The Iran Nuke Deal Could End Any Hope of Israeli-Palestinian Peace

Posted on July 22, 2015 at 7:55 PM Comments comments (0)

United States, Foreign Policy

And six other reasons why there’s a long, long way to go before we can celebrate what a “new” Tehran means for the Middle East. Whether you’re for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), against it, or somewhere in between, the Iran nuclear agreement will have profound consequences for a Middle East already in the throes of turbulent change.

For 40 years, American policy toward Iran was based on the containment of Iran — at times even confrontation. That paradigm will now change. An agreement this complex will require interaction between the United States and Iran at many levels. To what extent that interaction, cooperation, and problem-solving (rather than problem-creating) will extend from the nuclear issue to regional issues is another matter.

And this uncertainty is why caution should be the order of the day. Indeed, as we’ve seen with other events in this region — notably the Arab Spring — change is not always positive, quickly apparent, or linear. “History, like nature, knows no jumps,” Robert Penn Warren wrote. “Except the jump backward, maybe.”

Time will be the ultimate arbiter of how this agreement will shape regional trends. And we should be careful not to make hard-and-fast predictions for a region that more often than not confounds rather than confirms experts’ views. But assuming the nuclear agreement reaches the implementation phase, here’s a first cut at seven regional trends that will likely be set into motion by one of the most portentous Middle Eastern events in decades.


Aaron David Miller, Jason Brodsky

Original publication date: 7/22/2015

> David Rothkopf - President Obama Is Wrong — The Iran Deal Is Transformational

The president of the United States has argued that the Iran nuclear deal, which will almost certainly become the centerpiece of his foreign-policy legacy, is not transformational. In a confident and telling interview with the New York Times’ Thomas Friedman, President Barack Obama asserted that, “We are not measuring this deal by whether it is changing the regime inside of Iran.” That statement — which came amid a list of assertions by the president of what the deal is not — is unsettling for several reasons, even for those of us who support the flawed but useful deal. [...]

The big question is, what is actually being transformed? For the president, this administration, and our allies, therefore, it is essential that they don’t make the mistake of believing their own spin. This is a transformational deal in the midst of a transformational moment. The deal’s architects and its champions must recognize that it is up to them to determine what kind of transformation that entails. But so, too, must its opponents.

Almost certainly, bigger changes are to come. Old alliances may falter. Power is likely to shift further. Iran is almost certain to rise in influence. And that, of course, is where we come to one of the biggest looming questions of all. Because if this deal is transformational for the region, fueling further Iran’s relative rise, but not for Iran itself, then history is certain to judge it very harshly. The president cannot hide behind pronouncements about the limits of American power and the “we did all we could do” on this point. He cannot suggest the deal stands alone on its merits. It is a considerable accomplishment, but it also must be viewed as setting up an enormous challenge for this president, his successors, and our allies worldwide. (7/20)

> Times of Israel, Tamar Pileggi - Kerry: Khamenei’s anti-American remarks ‘disturbing’

Top US diplomat says Washington committed to protecting allies against regional terror and Tehran’s military ambitions. Discussing a speech made by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei just four days after Iran and world powers reached a landmark nuclear deal, the secretary of state told the Saudi-based media outlet Al-Arabiya that he took the anti-American remarks “at face value.” [...]

Kerry is scheduled to travel to the Middle East early next month to explain the Iran deal to Gulf leaders unconvinced the agreement will effectively curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions. During his visit, Kerry said, he would detail to his counterparts “all of the ways in which this [nuclear] agreement, in fact, makes the Gulf states and the region safer. “I will also discuss with them at great length the things that the United States of America is going to do, working with them, in order to push back against the terror and counter-terrorism efforts and other activities in the region that are very alarming to them,” he added. (7/21)

> Times of Israel staff and AP - Iran dismisses Germany’s call for Israel recognition

Iran brusquely dismissed a German official’s appeal that it recognize the State of Israel’s right to exist, saying its stance is not going to change following the signing of a nuclear accord with world powers. “We have totally different views from Germany on certain regional issues in the Middle East and we have explicitly expressed our viewpoints in different negotiations,” Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Marziyeh Afkham said Monday, according to the Fars news agency. She added that “this is not something new.” (7/21)

Iran Tracker (AEI CTP) - Iran News Round Up July 22, 2015

Key takeaway: Nuclear negotiator Abbas Araghchi denied that the issue of possible military dimensions [PMD] of Iran’s nuclear program will be resolved under the JCPOA.

 

Deputy Foreign Minister for Legal and International Affairs Abbas Araghchi stressed, “In the agreement [JCPOA], it is only mentioned that Iran will cooperate [regarding PMD issues]…it [issue of PMD] is not part of the agreement.” Araghchi also stated that a renewal of United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Resolution 2231 endorsing last week’s final nuclear deal “is not relevant in our opinion.” Araghchi also stated, “Relations between Iran, Russia, and China are…positive and increasing.”

Atomic Energy Organization of Iran Head Ali Akbar Salehi stated that Iran and China have agreed to build four nuclear power plants in Southern Iran “in the next two to three years.”

Statement by 60 National Security Leaders on the Announcement of a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action

Posted on July 21, 2015 at 4:10 PM Comments comments (0)

United States, Iran Matters (Harvard's Belfer Center)

Nicholas Burns, Professor of Practice at the Harvard Kennedy School, Michele Flournoy, Senior Fellow at the Belfer Center and CEO of the Center for a New American Security, Joseph Nye, Professor and Former Dean of the Harvard Kennedy School and James Walsh, Research Associate with the MIT Security Studies program were among a group of 60 former national security officials and analysts who signed a statement in favor of the nuclear agreement with Iran. The statement, while acknowledging faults with the agreement, supported it and urged the Administration and Congress to work closely to implement the deal.

> Seven Realities That Made an Iran Deal Almost Inevitable

Shai Feldman, Director of the Crown Center for Middle East Studies at Brandeis University and member of the board of the Belfer Center, writes in The National Interest that the recent nuclear deal with Iran was made inevitable for the United States due to the constellation of political and diplomatic realities in the Middle East and the World. First, he argues that the defeat and dismantling of the Iraqi state in 2003 allowed Iran to expand its influence throughout the region without any force balancing it, meaning that sanctions pressure would not be successful in forcing Iranian capitulation on the nuclear issue. He also argues that the war weariness of the American public effectively removed the likelihood of the United States using military force against Iran and that the growing realization among political elites that force has had a limited utility in effecting policy goals in recent years. Other realities he notes are the increased US and Israeli energy independence from events in the broader Middle East, the reality that the JCPOA is a compromise between Iranian and American priorities and narratives, the steady growth of the threat of Sunni jihadism in the form of Al-Qaeda and ISIS, and the complexity of the Middle East in the post-Arab Spring era all resulted in impacting the importance of achieving an agreement and the contours of the final deal.

> A Good Deal for Israel

Chuck Freilich, Senior Fellow at the Belfer Center and former Israeli Deputy National Security Adviser writes in the New York Times and in Israeli media that the nuclear agreement between Iran and the P5+1, despite flaws, is in fact good for Israel. He argues that critics of the current agreement have not offered feasible alternative plans, and that the deal will buy Israel time to address immediate threats in its region, such as Hamas and Hezbollah, without worrying about the potential for an Iranian nuclear weapon. He concludes that the intransigence of Prime Minister Netanyahu is a dangerous course, as it is most likely either going to fail or seriously endanger the close relationship between Israel and the United States.

> Foreign Policy Initiative, David Adesnik, Tzvi Kahn - FPI Fact Sheet: The Iranian Nuclear Deal

The agreement with Iran, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), seeks to impose a range of restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of international sanctions. This FPI Fact Sheet provides a basic outline of the key provisions of the deal in order to help policymakers understand the respective obligations of its signatories. In the coming weeks, FPI will provide more detailed analyses of the nuclear deal and its implications for U.S. foreign policy and the broader Middle East.

> Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Michael Singh - The Risk in Lifting Sanctions, and Pressure, on Iran's Weapons Activities

Tehran's longstanding arms trafficking and missile research efforts highlight the problem with wholesale removal of weapons restrictions. As Iran develops more advanced missiles and more sensitive nuclear technology, these capabilities, too, could be shared. The U.S. does have other authorities to interdict arms shipments to terrorist groups, as President Obama has noted. But interdiction requires having intelligence and opportunity, and the latter often involves depending on the will and capacity of Iran's neighbors to assist. These tasks would be far easier if the arms are prohibited from reaching Iran in the first place.

The Obama administration may feel that it had no choice but to accept the phasing out of sanctions. But this argument should be made on its own merits. The notion that we never sought such limits or were obligated to remove the sanctions doesn't hold up. If the sanctions are fully lifted without Iran pledging to cease or limit its arms trafficking and ballistic missile activities, the next U.S. president will be left to find different options -- likely more forceful or less effective -- to counter Iranian behavior.

> Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Nick Gillard, Dominic Williams - What the Iran deal means for blacklisted entities

At face value, the outline of the sanctions relief that the deal proposes is simple [...] But sanctions relief is easier said than done. It’s already hard to understand the intricacies of the major sanctions regimes that are in force across the globe, and the interplay between them—that’s why an entire industry of sanctions consultants and lawyers has appeared over the last decade, who promise to help governments and businesses navigate these treacherous legal waters. The 159-page nuclear deal agreed to in Vienna will keep these lawyers in business a while yet. It contains more than 100 paragraphs detailing the type of sanctions relief that Iran will get, and another 20 or so paragraphs on when the various stages of sanctions relief will take effect. Read the agreement and you’ll find a tortuous interplay between these provisions that proves that while the agreement was conceived by diplomats and delivered by physicists, it was clearly vaccinated by lawyers, with some painful results.

This complexity has already led to minor scuffles breaking out: the United States has had to defend the deal on the grounds that some thought that Qasem Soleimani, the notorious Iranian general who leads the elite Qods Forces of the country’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, would be dropped from sanctions.[...] The debate over Soleimani’s removal from different sanctions lists illuminates a broader point that is worth noting—the lack of consistency between the lists, maintained by various authorities, that record and punish those people and companies who have been involved in Iran’s proliferation activities. Analysts call these listings "designations." People and companies are designated by the United Nations or other authorities as being guilty of having assisted in Iranian proliferation—and in turn, national authorities are expected to freeze their assets and deny them visas.

You might expect that these designation lists are all the same—but that’s by no means the case. The three major sanctions regimes against Iran’s nuclear and missile programs—those of the United Nations, United States, and the European Union—are frustratingly disjointed in this respect. [...] These inconsistencies are at the root of the nuclear deal’s somewhat convoluted provisions regarding sanctions relief.

> Times of Israel, AFP, AP and Times of Israel staff - Obama denounces ‘chest beating’ against Iran accord

Echoing criticism of Netanyahu leveled by Kerry in February, president says those against pact are the same who pushed for the Iraq war. US President Barack Obama told a gathering of military veterans Tuesday that hardheaded diplomacy with Iran could avoid the type of “unnecessary wars” for which they have personally paid the price, comparing those who opposed the deal to hawks who supported the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. A steely Obama traveled to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania where he urged the 1.9 million member Veterans of Foreign Wars to give the nuclear deal with Tehran a chance.

> Marissa Newman - Top aide to Khamenei puts kibosh on military site inspections

A senior aide to Iran’s supreme leader on Tuesday ruled out international inspections of military sites, echoing comments made by the country’s defense minister a day earlier. Ali Akbar Velayati, chief adviser on international affairs to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, also maintained Iran would continue its production of medium and long-range ballistic missiles. “They have made some comments about defensive and missile issues, but Iran will not allow them to visit our military centers and interfere in decisions about the type of Iran’s defensive weapons,” Velayati said, according to Iran’s semi-official Fars News Agency.

The statements by top Iranian officials in the past few days appear to contradict the terms of the nuclear deal reached between Iran and world powers last week, which outlines a procedure granting international inspectors access to all Iranian sites under certain conditions. Before the deal was signed, Khamenei was adamant that there would be no access to military sites, but the final text of the agreement does not distinguish between military and non-military facilities.


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