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Iran’s Nuclear Triumph: Wall Street Journal, Nov. 24, 2013 — President Obama is hailing a weekend accord that he says has "halted the progress of the Iranian nuclear program," and we devoutly wish this were true.
The Geneva Deal: Editorial, Jerusalem Post, Nov. 24, 2013— The nuclear agreement signed in Geneva between the P5+1 and Iran over the weekend is a “bad deal” from Israel’s perspective.
Iran Deal Marks Vast U.S. Israel Gap on Existential Issues: Yori Yanover, Jewish Press, Nov. 24, 2013 — Israel’s freshly reinstated foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman on Sunday morning told Army Radio he was unhappy with the signing of the deal between Iran and the West.
When the Obama Magic Died: Fouad Ajami, Wall Street Journal, Nov. 14, 2013 — The current troubles of the Obama presidency can be read back into its beginnings.
White House Fact Sheet on the Iran Deal: Jerusalem Post, Nov. 24, 2013
Dangerous Times: A Looming Strategic Disaster in the Middle East: James Lewis, American Thinker, Nov. 24, 2013
Israeli Ministers Line Up To Lambast Iran Nuclear Deal: Algemeiner, Nov. 24, 2013
Obama’s Moves Could Start World War III: Noah Beck, American Thinker, Nov. 19, 2013
Wall Street Journal, Nov. 24, 2013
President Obama is hailing a weekend accord that he says has "halted the progress of the Iranian nuclear program," and we devoutly wish this were true. The reality is that the agreement in Geneva with five Western nations takes Iran a giant step closer to becoming a de facto nuclear power. Start with the fact that this "interim" accord fails to meet the terms of several United Nations resolutions, which specify no sanctions relief until Iran suspends all uranium enrichment. Under this deal Iran gets sanctions relief, but it does not have to give up its centrifuges that enrich uranium, does not have to stop enriching, does not have to transfer control of its enrichment stockpiles, and does not have to shut down its plutonium reactor at Arak.
Mr. Obama's weekend statement glossed over these canyon-sized holes. He said Iran "cannot install or start up new centrifuges," but it already has about 10,000 operational centrifuges that it can continue to spin for at least another six months. Why does Tehran need so many centrifuges if not to make a bomb at the time it pleases? The President also said that "Iran has committed to halting certain levels of enrichment and neutralizing part of its stockpiles." He is referring to an Iranian pledge to oxidize its 20% enriched uranium stockpile. But this too is less than reassuring because the process can be reversed and Iran retains a capability to enrich to 5%, which used to be a threshold we didn't accept because it can easily be reconverted to 20%. Mr. Obama said "Iran will halt work at its plutonium reactor," but Iran has only promised not to fuel the reactor even as it can continue other work at the site. That is far from dismantling what is nothing more than a bomb factory. North Korea made similar promises in a similar deal with Condoleezza Rice during the final Bush years, but it quickly returned to bomb-making.
As for inspections, Mr. Obama hailed "extensive access" that will "allow the international community to verify whether Iran is keeping its commitments." One problem is that Iran hasn't ratified the additional protocol to its International Atomic Energy Agency agreement that would allow inspections on demand at such sites as Parchin, which remain off limits. Iran can also oust U.N. inspectors at any time, much as North Korea did. Then there is the sanctions relief, which Mr. Obama says is only "modest" but which reverses years of U.S. diplomacy to tighten and enforce them. The message is that the sanctions era is over. The loosening of the oil regime is especially pernicious, inviting China, India and Germany to get back to business with Iran.
We are told that all of these issues will be negotiated as part of a "final" accord in the next six months, but that is not how arms control works. It is far more likely that this accord will set a precedent for a series of temporary deals in which the West will gradually ease more sanctions in return for fewer Iranian concessions. Iran will threaten to walk away from the talks without new concessions, and Mr. Obama will not want to acknowledge that his diplomatic achievement wasn't real. The history of arms control is that once it is underway the process dominates over substance, and a Western leader who calls a halt is denounced for risking war. The negotiating advantage lies with the dictatorship that can ignore domestic opinion.
Mr. Obama all but admitted this himself by noting that "only diplomacy can bring about a durable solution to the challenge posed by Iran's nuclear program." He added that "I have a profound responsibility to try to resolve our differences peacefully, rather than rush towards conflict." Rush to conflict? Iran's covert nuclear program was uncovered a decade ago, and the West has been desperately trying to avoid military action.
The best that can be said is that the weekend deal slows for a few weeks Iran's rapid progress to a nuclear breakout. But the price is that at best it sets a standard that will allow Iran to become a nuclear-capable regime that stops just short of exploding a bomb. At worst, it will allow Iran to continue to cheat and explode a bomb whenever it is strategically convenient to serve its goal of dominating the Middle East.
This seems to be the conclusion in Tehran, where Foreign Minister Javad Zarif boasted that the deal recognizes Iran's right to enrich uranium while taking the threat of Western military action off the table. Grand Ayatollah Ali Khameini also vouchsafed his approval, only days after he denounced the U.S. and called Jews "rabid dogs." Israel has a different view of the deal, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu calling it a "historic mistake." He and his cabinet will now have to make their own calculations about the risks of unilateral military action. Far from having Israel's back, as Mr. Obama likes to say, the U.S. and Europe are moving to a strategy of trying to contain Israel rather than containing Iran. The French also fell into line as we feared they would under U.S. and media pressure.
Mr. Obama seems determined to press ahead with an Iran deal regardless of the details or damage. He views it as a legacy project. A President has enormous leeway on foreign policy, but Congress can signal its bipartisan unhappiness by moving ahead as soon as possible to strengthen sanctions. Mr. Obama warned Congress not to do so in his weekend remarks, but it is the only way now to stop the President from accommodating a nuclear Iran.
Jerusalem Post, Nov. 24, 2013
The nuclear agreement signed in Geneva between the P5+1 and Iran over the weekend is a “bad deal” from Israel’s perspective. Simply put, the deal does not roll back the vast majority of technological advances Iran has made in the past five years that have drastically shortened what nuclear experts call its “dash time” — the minimum time it would take to build a nuclear weapon if Iran’s supreme leader or military decided to pursue such as path. Iran’s centrifuges, which numbered a few thousand in 2009 when US President Barack Obama took office and have grown to 18,000, will not be dismantled and will continue to spin. What’s more, according to the deal, those that break down can be replaced with the same type of centrifuges so that Iran’s ability to “dash” for the bomb remains intact at its present level.
Iran has agreed not to enrich uranium beyond 5 percent and must either convert or dilute fuel stocks that are closest to the 20% weapons grade, But since its centrifuges will remain in operation, Iran will retain the capability to produce more of this weapon-grade fuel if it so chooses. And it could do this clandestinely: There is no provision in the agreement to allow the monitoring of underground sites where the CIA, Europe and Israel believe — but have no clear-cut evidence — that Iran is conducting enrichment. Also, a heavy water reactor outside the city of Arak – which has the sole purpose of producing a nuclear weapon — will not be dismantled.
And all of this nuclear weapon activity will be allowed to continue as the P5+1 relinquishes aspects of the sanction regime that have been put together meticulously for several years. The EU, the UN and the US all agreed not to put in place any new sanctions (if Congress votes for more sanctions after Thanksgiving break, Obama will have to veto the motion). And the US and the EU have agreed to suspend sanctions on Iran’s petrochemical exports; its auto industry; its gold and precious metals trade. The P5+1 has agreed to establish a financial channel to facilitate humanitarian trade for Iran’s domestic needs using oil revenues held abroad. Included under “humanitarian trade” are tuition payments to universities and colleges for Iranian students studying abroad.
It is difficult to gauge the economic significance of all these concessions — but even if the positive impact of these concessions is quite modest (the White House estimates they are worth about $7 billion) the psychological impact is clear: if the Islamic Republic’s mullah regime had been concerned that the deteriorating economic situation might lead to dissent, discontent and political upheaval, the mullahs now have some breathing space. Also, while it is easy to roll back sanctions, it will be much more difficult to reinstate them should the Iranians renege on their part of the deal. And cracks in the sanction regime combined with the tremendous pressures of business interests to resume “business as usual” with Iran might result in more economic relief than intended.
Understandably, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and others in the government such as Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, Intelligence, International Relations and Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni are calling it a bad deal. Netanyahu called it a “historic mistake” and reiterated Israel’s right to stop Iran with military means if necessary. “Today the world has become a much more dangerous place because the most dangerous regime in the world has taken a significant step toward attaining the most dangerous weapon in the world,” Netanyahu said.
But Israel is not the only one critical of the deal. The Saudis, wary of seeing neighboring Iran with the bomb, might spark a nuclear arms race by turning to Pakistan, which developed its own nuclear weapons with Saudi funding. And Obama will face stiff opposition at home as well. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R –Virginia) expressed concern that the deal did not meet the demands of the UN Security Council resolutions which call for the full suspension of Iran’s nuclear activities. And a similar point was made in a letter to US Secretary of State John Kerry signed by Senator Chuck Schumer, a Democrat from New York.
At its best, the deal signed in Geneva might temporarily slow Iran’s progress toward nuclear arms capability. More likely it will provide the US and other western nations with a false impression that headway has been made while providing cover for the Iranians as they plod forward toward nuclear capability. Under the circumstances, there seems little cause for celebration.
Jewish Press, Nov. 24, 2013
Israel’s freshly reinstated foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman on Sunday morning told Army Radio he was unhappy with the signing of the deal between Iran and the West. “There’s no dismantling of the centrifuges and no shipping out of the country of the fissile material from the uranium,” Lieberman said. Instead, he complained, “there is recognition of Iran’s legitimate right to enrich uranium, despite its blatant disregard for every possible agreement. As soon as they enter a nuclear arms race, all the countries of the region will follow.” Lieberman suggested the Iranians “possess enough material to produce several bombs, not just one.” Asked if Israel will attack Iran in light of the new reality, Lieberman said, “You must understand that this brings us to a new reality, us and the Saudis as well. Anyone who follows their reactions would realize that this isn’t just our concern, but the concern of all the states in the region. It looks like we’ll have to make decisions – with all the options on the table.” Lieberman also pointed out that “when you see the smiles on the faces of the Iranians, it’s clear that victory is theirs. The one making decisions there is still Khamenei.”
Sources in the prime minister’s office told Ma’ariv that this is a bad agreement, which “awards Iran everything it desired – both a significant reduction of the sanctions and preserving the most significant components of its nuclear program. The deal enables Iran to continue enriching uranium, and lets it keep all its centrifuges making fissile material for a nuclear weapon.” The same sources added that the deal does not require the dismantling of the heavy water plant in Arak, repeating Israel’s point that keeping Iran under continued economic pressure would have yielded a much better deal that included degrading Iran’s n uclear capabilities. Minister of Intelligence Yuval Steinitz said on Sunday that “Israel cannot partake in the international celebration which is founded on Iran’s con job and on self deception.” According to Steinitz, “the last minute changes are far from satisfying us, and the deal was and remains a bad deal, making it harder to reach a suitable solution in the future. Like the failed deal with North Korea, the current deal will most likely bring Iran closer to getting the bomb.” Nevertheless, the minister said that “despite our disappointment, we’ll continue to insist on our positions and to work with our friends in the U.S. and the world to seek an inclusive solution that will feature a real and complete dismantling of the Iran’s military nuclear infrastructure.
Finance Minister Yair Lapid told Army Radio that “it’s a bad deal. I’m concerned on two levels: one, about the deal and its ramifications, and two, because we’ve lost the ear of the world. Our role is to be the ones who issue the warnings. We have 6 months, at the end of which we must be back at a situation where the Americans are listening to us the way they used to.” Minister of the Economy Naftali Bennett said that “if in five years a nuclear suitcase explodes in New York or Madrid, it will be because of this deal. We woke up this morning to a reality in which a bad, very bad deal had been signed in Geneva.” Bennett warned that Israel is not obligated to keep a deal which threatens its very existence. Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon also warned that “all the options are still on the table and Israel has the duty and the ability to defend itself.” Likud MK Moshe Feiglin said the deal was “an Iranian Munich agreement. like Czechoslovakia back then, which was not allowed to participate in the discussion, and its fate was determined by the Western powers, Israel today is also looking on from the sidelines and seeing its national interest being sacrificed by the Western powers.” Likud MK Reuven Livni suggested that “the American attempt to calm us down worries me the most.” He noted that “undoubtedly, this deal reflects differences between us and the west and the U.S. which are not merely tactical but strategic. This is a dangerous agreement which prevents war only for the time being but does nothing to remove this option off the table.” Metetz Chairperson Zehava Gal-on and Communist MK Dov Haanin both praised the deal, saying it would now free Netanyahu up to reaching a deal with the Palestinians. See? Every cloud has a silver lining, and every serious political article must offer some comic relief.
Wall Street Journal, Nov. 14, 2013
The current troubles of the Obama presidency can be read back into its beginnings. Rule by personal charisma has met its proper fate. The spell has been broken, and the magician stands exposed. We need no pollsters to tell us of the loss of faith in Mr. Obama's policies—and, more significantly, in the man himself. Charisma is like that. Crowds come together and they project their needs onto an imagined redeemer. The redeemer leaves the crowd to its imagination: For as long as the charismatic moment lasts—a year, an era—the redeemer is above and beyond judgment. He glides through crises, he knits together groups of varied, often clashing, interests. Always there is that magical moment, and its beauty, as a reference point.
Mr. Obama gave voice to this sentiment in a speech on Nov. 6 in Dallas: "Sometimes I worry because everybody had such a fun experience in '08, at least that's how it seemed in retrospect. And, 'yes we can,' and the slogans and the posters, et cetera, sometimes I worry that people forget change in this country has always been hard." It's a pity we can't stay in that moment, says the redeemer: The fault lies in the country itself—everywhere, that is, except in the magician's performance. Forgive the personal reference, but from the very beginning of Mr. Obama's astonishing rise, I felt that I was witnessing something old and familiar. My advantage owed nothing to any mastery of American political history. I was guided by my immersion in the political history of the Arab world and of a life studying Third World societies.
In 2008, seeing the Obama crowds in Portland, Denver and St. Louis spurred memories of the spectacles that had attended the rise and fall of Arab political pretenders. I had lived through the era of the Egyptian leader Gamal Abdul Nasser. He had emerged from a military cabal to become a demigod, immune to judgment. His followers clung to him even as he led the Arabs to a catastrophic military defeat in the Six Day War of 1967. He issued a kind of apology for his performance. But his reign was never about policies and performance. It was about political magic.
In trying to grapple with, and write about, the Obama phenomenon, I found guidance in a book of breathtaking erudition, Crowds and Power (1962) by the Nobel laureate Elias Canetti. Born in Bulgaria in 1905 and educated in Vienna and Britain, Canetti was unmatched in his understanding of the passions, and the delusions, of crowds. The crowd is a "mysterious and universal phenomenon," he writes. It forms where there was nothing before. There comes a moment when "all who belong to the crowd get rid of their difference and feel equal." Density gives the illusion of equality, a blessed moment when "no one is greater or better than another." But the crowd also has a presentiment of its own disintegration, a time when those who belong to the crowd "creep back under their private burdens."
Five years on, we can still recall how the Obama coalition was formed. There were the African-Americans justifiably proud of one of their own. There were upper-class white professionals who were drawn to the candidate's "cool." There were Latinos swayed by the promise of immigration reform. The white working class in the Rust Belt was the last bloc to embrace Mr. Obama—he wasn't one of them, but they put their reservations aside during an economic storm and voted for the redistributive state and its protections. There were no economic or cultural bonds among this coalition. There was the new leader, all things to all people.
A nemesis awaited the promise of this new presidency: Mr. Obama would turn out to be among the most polarizing of American leaders. No, it wasn't his race, as Harry Reid would contend, that stirred up the opposition to him. It was his exalted views of himself, and his mission. The sharp lines were sharp between those who raised his banners and those who objected to his policies. America holds presidential elections, we know. But Mr. Obama took his victory as a plebiscite on his reading of the American social contract. A president who constantly reminded his critics that he had won at the ballot box was bound to deepen the opposition of his critics. A leader who set out to remake the health-care system in the country, a sixth of the national economy, on a razor-thin majority with no support whatsoever from the opposition party, misunderstood the nature of democratic politics. An election victory is the beginning of things, not the culmination. With Air Force One and the other prerogatives of office come the need for compromise, and for the disputations of democracy. A president who sought consensus would have never left his agenda on Capitol Hill in the hands of Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi.
Mr. Obama has shown scant regard for precedent in American history. To him, and to the coterie around him, his presidency was a radical discontinuity in American politics. There is no evidence in the record that Mr. Obama read, with discernment and appreciation, of the ordeal and struggles of his predecessors. At best there was a willful reading of that history. Early on, he was Abraham Lincoln resurrected (the new president, who hailed from Illinois, took the oath of office on the Lincoln Bible). He had been sworn in during an economic crisis, and thus he was FDR restored to the White House. He was stylish with two young children, so the Kennedy precedent was on offer. In the oddest of twists, Mr. Obama claimed that his foreign policy was in the mold of Dwight Eisenhower's . But Eisenhower knew war and peace, and the foreign world held him in high regard…
There are no stars in the Obama cabinet today, men and women of independent stature and outlook. It was after a walk on the White House grounds with his chief of staff, Denis McDonough, that Mr. Obama called off the attacks on the Syrian regime that he had threatened. If he had taken that walk with Henry Kissinger or George Shultz, one of those skilled statesmen might have explained to him the consequences of so abject a retreat. But Mr. Obama needs no sage advice, he rules through political handlers. Valerie Jarrett, the president's most trusted, probably most powerful, aide, once said in admiration that Mr. Obama has been bored his whole life. The implication was that he is above things, a man alone, and anointed. Perhaps this moment—a presidency coming apart, the incompetent social engineering of an entire health-care system—will now claim Mr. Obama's attention.
White House Fact Sheet on the Iran Deal: Jerusalem Post, Nov. 24, 2013 — Fact Sheet: First Step Understandings Regarding the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Nuclear Program
Dangerous Times: A Looming Strategic Disaster in the Middle East: James Lewis, American Thinker, Nov. 24, 2013 — If you think ObamaCare is bad, just wait till you hear the new "peace" agreement that is due to be imposed on the Middle East over the coming weeks.
Israeli Ministers Line Up To Lambast Iran Nuclear Deal: Algemeiner, Nov. 24, 2013 — As news broke in the wee hours of the morning of an interim deal reached between Iran and world powers over the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program, Israeli ministers and political figures from across the political spectrum took to the airwaves with sharp critique.
Obama’s Moves Could Start World War III: Noah Beck, American Thinker, Nov. 19, 2013 — According to a recent news report, President Barack Obama has for over a year secretly conducted negotiations with Iran (through his adviser Valerie Jarrett) and the Geneva talks on Iranian nukes now appear to be just a facade providing international legitimacy for Obama's secret deal with Iran.
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