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SLEEP-WALKING TOWARDS CATASTROPHE: OBAMA, TEHRAN, ISRAEL: REMEMBER CZECHOSLOVAKIA, ‘38
Volume XI, No. 2,844 • June 14, 2012
CLINTON HIGHLIGHTS GAPS BETWEEN US AND ISRAEL ON IRAN
Jerusalem Post, June 8, 2012
Differences between Israel and the US over the world powers’ negotiating strategy with Iran came into the open [last] Thursday when US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton talked of the need for Iran to come to nuclear talks ready to curb its enrichment of uranium to 20 percent purity. “We want them to come prepared to take concrete steps, particularly in the area of 20% enrichment,” Clinton told reporters, referring to the upcoming meeting on Iran’s nuclear program scheduled for Moscow on June 18-19.…
In recent days Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has made clear that he does not believe curbing the enrichment to 20% is sufficient, and that in previous talks with the Iranians the world demanded that it stop all its enrichment, even to 3.5%. “The P5+1 is so keen on getting any agreement, that they have lowered the demands,” Netanyahu said in an interview with Germany’s Bild newspaper, referring to the US, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany, which are engaged with the Iranians. “The Iranians were only asked to stop 20% enrichment of uranium. That doesn’t stop their nuclear program in any way. It actually allows them to continue their nuclear program,” he declared.
One government official said that the international community was well aware that Israel did not think what was currently being asked of the Iranians was enough. Jerusalem has said that Iran needed to stop all uranium enrichment, transfer all enriched uranium out of the country and close down the underground nuclear facility at Qom. In addition, Israeli officials have called on the P5+1 to…make it clear to the Iranians that “one way or another” Iran will not be allowed to develop nuclear weapons.
John R. Bolton
Washington Times, June 4, 2012
Having apparently learned nothing from 10 years of futile negotiations with Iran,…the recently concluded Baghdad talks between the [Islamic Republic] and the U.N. Security Council’s five permanent members and Germany (P-5+1) produced no substantive agreement. Nonetheless, we are assured that the meetings were successful. Why? The parties will hold a third meeting in this latest series this month, in Moscow of all places. Perhaps the fourth will be in Tehran.
Once again, we have fallen into Iran’s well-oiled trap of endless negotiations.… By securing four more weeks, Iran won [the Baghdad] round on points. It gained more precious time, as it has over the past decade, to expand its impressive nuclear-weapons and ballistic-missile infrastructure.…
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) began last month agreeing with Tehran over visits to the Parchin military base, site of explosive testing critical to detonating nuclear weapons. While no document was signed and several issues remained unresolved, this “progress” purportedly showed Iran ready for serious P5+1 talks. In fact, the deal merely demonstrated Iran’s confidence—it had removed all traces of any nuclear-weapons activity at Parchin, so IAEA inspectors would uncover nothing.…
The Baghdad meetings themselves were another tepid version of prior encounters, in which Iran was presented with a choice between “carrots and sticks.” Not surprisingly, Iran complained about the inadequacy of the carrots and the oppressiveness of the sticks, sending EU and U.S. negotiators home to wonder what additional carrots might bring Tehran around to compromise, “confidence-building measures” and, of course, further negotiations.
Afterward, U.S. negotiators rushed to Israel, as anonymous sources breathlessly leaked, to provide reassurances that Mr. Obama still had Israel’s back. More likely, our diplomats argued that Baghdad had gone so well that Israel shouldn’t even think about pre-emptively striking Iran’s nuclear weapons program. Undoubtedly, the Israelis smiled politely while deciding silently to ratchet up planning to do just that. This is a fine irony because both US President Barack Obama and Iran surely intended the talks to produce precisely the opposite pressure on Israel to stand idle as more diplomatic “progress” unfolded.
Then, as its days-old deal started crumbling, the IAEA issued a new Iran report. The most eye-catching item was evidence from the deeply buried Fordow facility of U-235 enrichment up to 27 percent, which Iran quickly dismissed as a technical glitch. Alternatively, of course, Iran could have been experimenting to find the most efficacious path to weapons-grade U-235 levels.…
The IAEA also reported perhaps more significant news. At both Fordow and Natanz, production rates for enriched uranium up to 20 percent have increased significantly, doubling or tripling previous maximum levels. Stockpiles of 20-percent-enriched uranium also have grown substantially, reducing the time needed for final enrichment to weapons-grade levels.…
The real issue here is physics, not political or diplomatic hype, notwithstanding the endless pop psychology of media commentators and administration spin artists. They could save themselves time and trouble by focusing instead on Iran’s spinning centrifuges and the ever-closer danger it actually will possess nuclear weapons. That reality should govern U.S. policy.
While, unfortunately, it does not, it is decidedly the driving factor for Israel, as past Israeli strikes against hostile nuclear programs demonstrate. We can opine endlessly on the consequences for the upcoming American elections, but Jerusalem will be guided by physical realities, not by political or diplomatic shadow-boxing.
The White House is frantically trying to avoid anything significant happening before November. Israel’s calculations are far different, as are Iran’s. That is why President Obama, once again leading from behind, is increasingly a bystander in this critical arena of nuclear proliferation.
(John Bolton is a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.)
HOW TEHRAN IS OUTFLANKING OBAMA
NY Daily News, May 30, 2012
The recent talks in Baghdad between Iran and the P5+1…yielded no agreement. Paradoxically, however, both Washington and Tehran are likely to view the negotiations as successful, but for vastly different reasons.
There is an interest that both Iran and the United States hold in common: staving off military action, whether by the U.S. or Israel. From there, however, U.S. and Iranian motivations diverge; understanding this divergence is key to understanding why the talks thus far have failed.
Iranian officials publicly dismiss but likely privately worry about the consequences of war, while U.S. officials often seem more worried about the consequences of military action than about the Iranian nuclear program a strike would be designed to destroy. Indeed, for many within the United States and other P5+1 countries, the mere fact of “intensive” talks about Iran’s nuclear program is itself a success. There is a narrative, espoused by then-candidate Barack Obama during the 2008 presidential campaign, that at the root of the Iran nuclear crisis is U.S.-Iran conflict, and that the root cause of that conflict is mistrust.
As a candidate, Obama pledged to meet personally with Iranian leaders and predicted that the Iranians “would start changing their behavior if they started seeing that they had some incentives to do so.” And as President, in his famous June 4, 2009, speech in Cairo, Obama spoke of the need to “overcome decades of mistrust.” In this narrative, talks are successful insofar as they end not in collapse but in a sustained negotiating process—that is, more talks.
For Iran, meanwhile, there is little indication that the talks are aimed at building confidence or opening up the broader possibility of U.S.-Iran rapprochement. Indeed, there is ample evidence that the Iranian regime views normal relations with the United States as undesirable, even threatening, while it views a nuclear weapons capability as strategically vital. Giving up the latter for the former would make little sense to Tehran.
Prolonging the talks serves a threefold purpose for Iran beyond merely buying time or delaying an attack: first, to enhance Iranian prestige by sitting as co-equal with the world’s great powers and discussing the great regional and global issues of the day; second, to secure tacit acceptance of nuclear advances once deemed unacceptable; and third, to gain relief from sanctions without making major concessions.…
For any negotiation to succeed, one must begin by understanding the interests of the other side. The fundamental bargain offered by the U.S. asks Iran to trade something it apparently values enormously—the ability to produce nuclear weapons—for something in which it has no demonstrable interest, closer ties with the West.
To change this and give negotiations a chance of succeeding, Iran must be presented with a different bargain: end its nuclear weapons work or face devastating consequences. Iran must be convinced that continued pursuit of a nuclear weapons capability will threaten, rather than ensure, the regime’s ultimate survival, and that talks are not a substitute for but a complement to a broader strategy, which includes ratcheting up the pressure on Tehran and bolstering the credibility of the U.S. military option.…
A GOOD DEAL FOR TEHRAN
Wall Street Journal, June 12, 2012
After the usual games of brinkmanship and lowering expectations, Tehran just raised hopes again ahead of next week’s round of nuclear talks in Moscow. On Monday, in a one-hour phone call with European Union High Representative Catherine Ashton, according to her office, Iranian nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili agreed “to engage” on the proposals previously made by the major powers. Before cheering, it’s worth discussing the proposals’ risks to Western security.
In exchange for technical support and a few eased trade restrictions, the…P5+1 demand that Iran, as a first step, stop enriching uranium to 20%; ship abroad its stockpile of 20% enriched uranium; and close the underground Fordow enrichment facility. Faithfully implemented, such a deal would certainly delay parts of Iran’s enrichment program. But it would not stop Iran’s march toward nuclear-weapons capabilities, and might even offer certain advantages for its atomic plans.
Particularly troubling is that Iran would be allowed to keep and even grow its stockpile of 3.5% enriched uranium, only this time with de-facto international approval. That would be a significant political and, in the end, military victory for the regime. It would permit Iran to stay much closer to a bomb than the weapons-grade requirement of 90% enrichment suggests. As Olli Heinonen, the former deputy director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, has repeatedly pointed out, mastering low enrichment of 3.5% is 70% of the enrichment effort required for an atomic weapon. With 20% enriched uranium, you are 90% there.…
Both the U.S. and the EU…say that the deal on the table is only an interim step until a comprehensive agreement is, they hope, reached. But since the time left to prevent Iran from going nuclear is probably measured in months, not years, any interim proposal at this late stage risks becoming final. Tehran could use the accord to make further progress on all elements for a nuclear weapon other than enriching to 20%. Once ready, Tehran could then break out of the interim deal and quickly develop a nuclear weapon.
Much of the media and many governments around the world, meanwhile, would likely hail Iran’s acceptance of the proposed bargain as a major breakthrough. As a result, international and domestic pressure would probably rise, in Europe and the U.S., to delay or weaken fresh oil sanctions set to go into force July 1. Any appetite for additional economic and diplomatic measures, if Iran then fails to move to a comprehensive agreement, would probably fade.… Compromising with Iranian nuclear negotiators inevitably means compromising on our security.
UNDERSTANDING THE IRAN TALKS
Jerusalem Post, June 3, 2012
…In the case of the recent P5+1 talks in Baghdad that will resume in Moscow later this month…an analogy comes to mind that suggests what the results of these negotiations are likely to be. The analogy is with the Munich conference at the end of September 1938, at which Nazi Germany, Italy, France, and Great Britain forced Czechoslovakia to cede to Germany the so-called Sudetenland.… Hitler favored this because it made easier the destruction of Czechoslovakia, which in turn would facilitate the acquisition of lebensraum (living space) in Russia for the Aryan race.…
That the agreement was negotiated by four heads of state—Hitler, Mussolini, Edouard Daladier for France, and Neville Chamberlain, the British Prime Minister—rather than by their foreign ministers underscored its significance. Hitler had scheduled an invasion of Czechoslovakia for October 1—a fact known to the British and the French—if it did not meet the Germans’ demand, and for that reason the Munich agreement seemed to preclude a European war. In reality it merely postponed it.
Conspicuously absent from the conference…[was] Czechoslovakia itself, whose vital national interests the participants at Munich did not consider legitimate enough for the Czechs to be present to protect. The closest any representatives of the Czech government got to the negotiating table was a room adjacent to it, where two low-level functionaries sat in silence, forbidden to participate in the negotiations.…
The obvious analogue of Czechoslovakia in the P5+1 talks is Israel. Like Czechoslovakia in 1938, it is the only country whose existence is deemed illegitimate by a participant in the talks, namely Iran.… And like Nazi Germany in 1938, Iran will not be deterred by any agreement it signs from its longstanding intention of acquiring nuclear weapons for the purpose of annihilating Israel and dominating the entire Middle East.
By consenting to America’s participation in these talks, President Obama is acquiescing in a process that can only jeopardize the lives of the six million Jews (and the one million Arabs) who live in Israel. That he is doing so while claiming “to have Israel’s back” is an act of cynical calculation worthy of the appeasers at Munich.
THE WORLD SHOULD FOCUS ON OBAMA, NOT NETANYAHU
Haaretz, May 24, 2012
President Barack Obama is a cool-headed leader. For the past 40 months he has known that history will judge him by his actions and failures vis-a-vis Iran. If he blocks the Iranian nuclear program, he will become a national hero like John F. Kennedy after the Cuban missile crisis. If he doesn’t, he will become a grotesque figure.
And yet, the man sitting in the Oval Office is ignoring the possibility that his inaction will make the Middle East go nuclear and undermine the world order. He doesn’t care that he might be responsible for losing the United States’ superpower status and turning the 21st century into a century of nuclear chaos.
The dispassionate man from Chicago is proving every day what rare stuff he’s made of. The president sees how the Iranians mock him—and does nothing. He sees radical Islam approaching the nuclear brink—and does not budge. With amazing courage Barack Obama watches the tsunami rolling toward America’s shores—and smiles.
President Obama is an intrepid leader. For a year the man seeking a second term in the White House has known that a conflagration in the Middle East could determine the 2012 election campaign. He is aware that due to an amazing coincidence, the technological, operative and strategic timetables are converging toward the end of this year. The president hears Israel telling him loud and clear that if the United States does not defuse the ticking bomb this summer, the Israel Air Force will have to do it. The president hears his best experts telling him loud and clear that the situation is very serious and Israel is very serious, so this summer is the summer of truth. And yet, the steely president is not batting an eye.
He is staging a deceptive show of a deal with the Iranians, which will seem to dull the Natanz threat. He is trying to make a fool of Jerusalem as Tehran is making a fool of him. The president is pushing Israel into a corner, but is hoping that Israel will accept its fate submissively. He is counting on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu not to surprise him.… Never has the United States had such a gambler for a president.…
America isn’t what it used to be, but it still has vast strategic, economic and military resources. The United States can stop the Iranian nuclear program by using a small part of these resources. But the commander-in-chief is not prepared to pay any price for stopping the 8,000 Shi’ite centrifuges. That’s why Obama didn’t stand by the Iranian Spring of 2009.… That’s why Obama didn’t act firmly against the underground facility near Qom, which was discovered three years ago. That’s why Obama has not touched, to this day, Iran’s central bank, nor has he stopped the flow of oil distillates to the country’s ports.…
The international community and international public opinion are preoccupied with King Netanyahu these days—will he or won’t he attack? But instead of focusing on a statesman who isn’t supposed to save the world from Iran’s nuclear program, it would be better to focus on the leader whose historic role is just that. In the past 40 months Barack Obama has been betraying his office. Will he wake up in the next four months, come to his senses and change his ways?
[Israeli] Institute for National Security Studies, June 6, 2012
Israel And The United States In Disagreement Over Iran
Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, May 23, 2012
Prof. Joshua Teitelbaum & Lt. Col. (ret.) Michael Segall
The Iranian Leadership’s Continuing Declarations Of Intent To Destroy Israel 2009-2012
American Interest, June 8, 2012
Sohrab Ahmari & James Kirchick
We Are All Persian Grammarians Now
Weekly Standard, May 30, 2012
Stuxnet and Iranâs Shadow War
FrontPage, June 4, 2012
Israel Is the New Sudetenland. And Obama?
Prof. Frederick Krantz, Director (Canadian Institute for Jewish Research)
Prof. Harold Waller (McGill University)
Prof. Ira Robinson, Associate Chairman (Department of Religion, Concordia University)
Baruch Cohen, Research Chairman (Canadian Institute for Jewish Research)
Rob Coles (Canadian Institute for Jewish Research)
Ber Lazarus (Canadian Institute for Jewish Research)