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“In the case of Iran getting the bomb, I’ve always assumed that the roughly 200 weapons … in Pakistan now were rent-a-bombs for Saudi Arabia — that the moment Saudi Arabia sees that the Iranians have the bomb … they’ll use their Hertz preferred credit thing to get a couple of bombs sent over.” — Sen. Mark Kirk to Foreign Policy Initiative, Foundation for Defense of Democracies, and the Bipartisan Policy Center briefing on Capitol Hill, Nov. 20, 2014
By extending nuclear talks with Iran for seven more months, the major powers avoided total collapse but also raised the stakes, “ensuring that failure, if that is what eventually happens, will be all the more cataclysmic,” according to the Guardian. My take, however, is that a bad deal with the Iranian regime is likely to destabilize the Middle East.
How could a bad deal destabilize the region?
It might look something like this: Iran pockets, without reciprocity, the backing away by the major powers from U.N. Security Council Resolutions (UNSC) and International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) from demands for full disclosure of “possible military dimensions” (PMD) of Iran’s nuclear program. Consequently, regional actors follow the lead of Riyadh and Jerusalem — getting the bomb (as Sen. Kirk outlined) and bombing Iran, respectively.
According to the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), on Nov. 18 Iran’s Fars news agency — which is affiliated with the country’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps — revealed U.S. demands from Tehran in the talks. Although Iran is to permit snap inspections at every Iranian facility, including military ones now off limits to inspectors, there is no explicit mention of PMD.
The MEMRI report is troubling. But a Reuters article from Saturday is even more so: It reports that the major powers “will likely stop short of demanding full disclosure of any secret weapon work by Tehran to avoid killing an historic deal.” PMD is a baseline for verification. Inspectors require a yardstick to compare with the current Iranian nuclear program. PMD is the gold standard for the IAEA to operate in Iran.
A backdown on PMD erodes credibility of the U.N. Security Council and the IAEA in face of Iranian obstructionism. UNSC Resolution 1929 of June 9, 2010 stated that Iran has not cooperated with the U.N. watchdog agency, “to exclude the possibility of military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear programme.” The IAEA stated on May 25, 2012, “Since 2002, the Agency has become increasingly concerned about the possible existence in Iran of undisclosed nuclear related activities involving military related organizations, including activities related to the development of a nuclear payload for a missile.”
This issue has been raised regularly throughout the talks.
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During 18-24 November, the Vienna talks resumed between major powers and Iran. The narrative: How many of Iran’s 19,000 centrifuges should be mothballed to prevent breakout before inspectors can detect a race for the bomb; one or two chambers for testing high explosive devices in secret weaponization work, (if two, inspections would be harder); and ongoing cheating around sanctions because there is “no such thing as a good Iranian bank.”
Although the front story is important, consider the backstory: war for Washington between realists and conservatives over a moral and strategic case for keeping faith with friends.
Realists deal with states as they are and pay less attention to how they treat people. Conservatives are more likely to take into account the odious nature of a regime like Iran, its abysmal human rights record, and strategic value of keeping faith with its people. President Barack Obama is a realist who ignores how Tehran treats people and discounts being faithful, if Washington closes an arms control accord with Tehran.
President Ronald Reagan was a conservative who condemned the Soviet Union as an “evil empire,” succeeded in reducing oppression of Soviet people, and negotiated arms control with Moscow. Reagan and Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev concluded the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces accord in 1987 and established the foundation for the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, which concluded in 1991 during Bush 41. Reagan and his successor made strides inpersuading Moscow to accept the Helsinki Final Act, which allowed for human rights to flourish in the Eastern bloc, break away from Moscow, and demise of the Soviet Union.
Obama properly uses “pure evil” to condemn beheading of an American citizen by Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS); he does not censure the Iranian regime, which engages in public hangings of political dissidents and encourages Baghdad to oppress the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI)—Iranian dissidents in Camp Liberty, Iraq.
Given Obama’s realism, he ignores the plight of friends left behind in Iraq after the withdrawal of U.S. military forces. Even with reintroduction of military advisors embedded in Iraqi and Kurdish units to degrade and destroy ISIS, there is little attention to friends we left in Iraq, vulnerable to persecution. But Obama is not alone leaving friends behind. A Republican realist, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, abandoned Vietnamese who helped U.S. troops during the war until it was too late in 1975.
During a 2007 campaign speech, Candidate Obama stated, “We must also keep faith with Iraqis who kept faith with us.” But later, Team Obama has allowedresettlement in the United States of “only a tiny fraction of our own loyalists.”
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Prof. Raymond Tanter, President, Iran Policy Committee and Publishing Professor Emeritus, The University of Michigan, Former Senior Staff Member, National Security Council, United States of America
World Summit on Counter-Terrorism: Terrorism’s Global Impact ICT’s 12th Annual International Conference.
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Key senators in the incoming Republican majority and like-minded Democrats have a vision of Iran as a revolutionary state. It is risky to conduct business as usual with revolutionary Iran. If “regime change from within” were an implicit part of U.S. policy, emergence of a free Iran that does not become a nuclear-armed state is likely. President Barack Obama, however, treats Iran as if it were a normal state to engage in give-and-take bargaining.
Regarding current talks to prevent Iran from getting the bomb, Republican senators believe they have votes from both parties to pass additional economic sanctions on Tehran to overcome a veto by Obama. The White House is on record to avoid congressional scrutiny of any agreement. But a bipartisan coalition could use its majority to compel a vote on any accord from the November 18-24, Vienna talks between the major powers and Iran.
Opposing congressional oversight, supporters of reaching out to Iran say it has not decided whether it is a revolutionary movement or a normal state; hence, U.S. diplomacy can strengthen pragmatists against revolutionaries. This unsuccessful search for a moderate highlights the fallacy of treating Iran as a normal state. Even “pragmatists” accept rule by Iranian clerics.
Business as usual is consistent with a report that Washington may reestablish an economic-diplomatic presence in Tehran, if there were a positive outcome in Vienna. But expectations are rising that an agreement is likely to be a “bad deal.” If so, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), chair of foreign operations subcommittee of the incoming Appropriations Committee and Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), incoming Foreign Relations Committee chair are cosponsoring a bill intended “to kill” a bad deal, according to Graham.
In addition to being a nuclear threat, Iran may be building missile facilities in Syria to prop up the Assad regime. Such missile production is acclaimed on religious beliefs inherent in the Iranian Revolution: “Today, the Islamic Iran has grown into the world’s sixth missile power and this is a major source of pride for the Revolution,” stated an officer of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). It has enhanced military capabilities in Iraq “to steal the show from Washington,” with a blow by the IRGC to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, (ISIS).
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How to counter Iran’s bold cheating on its nuclear commitments? Publicize and act on revelations of mendacity alleged by the Iranian opposition group with a track record of valid revelations — the National of Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) and its office in Washington, NCRIUS.
The narrative of talks between the major powers and Iran focuses on whether Iran will agree to curb uranium enrichment by cutting down on centrifuges in exchange for sanctions relief. But the backstory — Tehran’s serial cheating — should be the front narrative.
Is President Barack Obama hoping for a deal so much that he ignores Iran’s prior record of defiance of its obligations to be transparent? Our president’s desperate October letter to an unresponsive and uncooperative Supreme Leader of Iran signals weakness in face of defiance and cheating is of little consequence.
Doubling down on desperation, Secretary of State John Kerry has lamented how difficult it would be to reach a deal with Iran if negotiations extend beyond the Nov. 24 deadline: “I want to get this done,” he said, reported the Washington Post, “And we are driving toward the finish with a view of trying to get it done.” He has compounded desperation with unfounded optimism about demonstrating Iran’s nuclear program is peaceful, saying, “We believe it is pretty easy to prove to the world that a plan is peaceful.”
But it is difficult for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to verify whether Iran is cheating: IAEA inspectors are not allowed to gain access to a major facility indicating marrying fuel to a delivery system — Parchin — on the grounds it is a military site for conventional weapons research and off-limits to the IAEA.
Recalcitrance has prompted the IAEA regularly to issue statements like: “Since 2002, the Agency has become increasingly concerned about the possible existence in Iran of undisclosed nuclear related activities involving military related organizations, including activities related to the development of a nuclear payload for a missile.”
In support of the international community, NCRIUS released details of Iran’s illicit nuclear weapons activities at a press conference on Nov. 7, 2014.
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Islamic State militants massacred Sunnis in Iraq’s western Anbar province, including dozens of women and children. At least 322 members of the Iraqi tribe died in the bloodshed with some bodies dumped in a well, according to the government.
Iraqi forces retaliated with airstrikes against ISIL targets in Anbar province. The Islamic militants are also destroying tombs, mosques and churches as they seize large areas of northwest Iraq and neighboring Syria, prompting the head of UNESCO to call on the international community to work together to preserve Iraqi cultural heritage.
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Congressional Republicans and Democrats espouse a policy toward Iran that takes Israel into account; results of the 2014 elections may induce the Obama administration to consult more with Congress and Israel; they are concerned about lack of intelligence on tunnels in Gaza and Iran.
With Iranian assistance and funding, tunnels in Gaza displayed Tehran’s efforts to threaten Israel. By secretly helping its ally, Hamas—the Islamist movement that rules Gaza, build tunnels, Iran laid a predicate for the 2014 Gaza War.
There has been a resumption of tunneling in the aftermath of fighting. Hamas officials publicly acknowledge resumption of tunnel construction. The Israeli military estimates it cost Hamas $90 million to build 32 tunnels uncovered. The average tunnel required 350 truckloads of construction supplies; contrary to using these materials in building schools, hospitals, and housing, Hamas used them for tunnels.
After the 2008 Gaza War, Iran aided rehabilitation of infrastructure damaged in the fighting. During the Muslim Brotherhood one-year rule in Egypt, 2012-2013, Iran accelerated transfer rockets to Gaza by sea, land (Sinai and Sudan), and underground tunnels from Sinai.
Another Iranian ally, Hezbollah, may have an underground tunnel network leading into Israel’s north, which could be used to conduct an enormous terror attack on residents along the Israel-Lebanon border.
In Terror Tunnels, Alan Dershowitz makes a strong case for Israel’s “just war” against Hamas. The 2014 War in Gaza required use of Israeli ground forces to gain access to the tunnels and shut them down. Israel was unable to determine their routes and exit ramps in advance because they were too deep underground and not detectable from the air.
Israeli intelligence was largely unaware that Hamas had kept secret critical details about the tunnel network; Israel relies on technologies capable of eavesdropping on telecommunications in Palestinian territories. Hamas countered by wiring its longer tunnels with cables unconnected with the local telephone grid. Such is the importance of the tunnels, Israel’s Gaza War aim changed from mainly stopping rocket attacks to principally destroying the tunnels.
Regarding nuclear tunnels, Iran hides part of its facilities in networks of underpasses and bunkers across the country. Because it is difficult to determine what part of Iran’s nuclear program is hidden, there is a need for human source intelligence to complement electronic and satellite surveillance.
In 2002, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), an opposition organization that can continue adding to the multisource basis for verification of Iran’s nuclear activities, revealed that Iran was building a secret underground nuclear plant at Natanz. Later, the Institute for Science and International Security determined it was for enriching uranium and released imagery of Natanz in December 2002.
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