Professor Raymond Tanter at MidPoint

5 de marzo 12Professor Raymond Tanter appeared on Newsmaxtv on 04 March 2015. The former senior staff member of the National Security Council, Reagan-Bush administration, and an adjunct scholar of The Washington Institute researching U.S. policy will discuss the recommendations Benjamin Netanyahu made in dealing with Iran vs. the reality of feasible options. He’ll also speak about reports and opinion that Iran already has nuclear capability, what the talks John Kerry is engaged in can really accomplish and whether a deal could be trusted if in fact an agreement is met.

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Washington’s Third Option Against a Nuclear Iran

febrero 17 15

Being a nuclear threshold state and a rouge regime is toxic.Iran is a threshold state and rogue regime. Its 1979 Revolution says resist compromises in the national interest. No need to choose between bombing Iran and a nuclear-armed Iran: Seek soft revolution via coalition that rejects clerical rule.

Jay Solomon and Carol Lee, two widely respected reporters of The Wall Street Journal, wrote last week on Iran as both a nuclear threshold state and a rogue regime. On Feb. 13, Solomon and Lee said that Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei sent a new letter to President Obama.

That letter was in response to one sent by President Barack Obama in October 2014 that linked progress in the nuclear talks with cooperation between Washington and Tehran against the Islamic State (also called ISIS). According to these journalists, an unnamed Iranian diplomat informed them that Obama had sent a letter that raised the possibility of what I would call an American-Iranian entente cordiale to counter the Islamic if a nuclear deal is secured. Khamenei was supposedly “respectful” but noncommittal on the Obama offer to cooperate against the Islamic State.

Congressional pushback against a bad deal in the bilateral nuclear talks between Tehran and Washington plus expected failure of the multilateral Geneva talks could invigorate Hill pressure on the administration for reversion to the prior international consensus of zero right to enrich uranium gas on Iranian soil and zero breakout time before Tehran can dash for the bomb before inspectors can detect its moves. During July 2014, moreover, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton exclaimed that allowing Iran to have “any enrichment will trigger an arms race in the Middle East,” a signal that she favored the zero-enrichment option.

There also is growing support for tough measures against Iran in general. They include: ballistic missile constraints and zero collusion of Washington with Tehran in the fight against the Islamic State. Anticipate the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations under the leadership of Chairman Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Ranking Member Bob Menendez (D-NJ) to hold hearings that put the heat on Team Obama for tying the nuclear talks to an informal alignment with Iran against ISIS.

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The Rising Insurgency for Sanctions Against Iran

30 de enero 15“Laws are like sausages, it is better not to see them being made.”

-Otto von Bismarck

Bismarck’s statement is eerily familiar with the legislative process described below. Stay with me while I dive deeply into the process as a first step in making the case why this moment is such a big deal.

The draft Kirk-Menendez bill was published Friday, Jan. 23, and introduced in the Senate on Jan. 27. Officially it is the Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2015 but dubbed for names of its main sponsors — Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ). It is a diplomatic insurance policy imposing conditional sanctions against the risk that Tehran fails to negotiate in good faith by June 30, 2015.

A strong supporter of Kirk-Menendez is Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.). During Q&A at a Senate Banking Committee hearing on Iran on Jan. 27, 2015, he said, “We don’t just sit around shooting the breeze [on Capitol Hill]: We vote.” At issue is when such a vote might occur. Corker was ready to move the bill to a series of procedures and vote as soon as possible but realized he needs to hold the Democrats in the coalition; so there is a short delay.

Still, there is little consensus on a timetable between the Congress and the Executive branch. Senators like Corker consider March 24 as the date there should be a deal, to be worked on by technical experts until the official signing by June 30. But consider the words of Deputy Secretary of StateTony Blinken on Jan. 27 and State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki at a briefing on the same day; both stated by “end of March” for the political agreement (and then June 30 to complete technical details).

Politico‘s Burgess Everett has looked into legislative mechanics. On Thursday, Jan. 29, the bill is to proceed for “markup,” (congressional committees debate, amend, and rewrite proposed legislation) in the Banking Committee. Everett considered a letter Democrats in the Senate sent to the president as vindication against an immediate vote sought by Republicans; but my take is that it is also a statement of the bipartisan consensus in support of Kirk-Menendez. The bill was officially introduced with 16 original cosponsors — nine Republicans and seven Democrats. Now add three more Democrats who are not signatories but cosponsored the bill in the preceding congress. According to Kristina Wong in The Hill, there would be somewhere between 62 and 65 Senators in support, close to 67 needed for an override of a presidential veto — 52 Republicans, 13 Democrats.

Now to the big deal: An 18 to 4 vote in the Senate Banking Committee reflected bipartisanship for a tougher diplomacy toward Iran. Despite a two-week full court press by the administration to peel away Democrats, a bipartisan consensus held and is even stronger on Capitol Hill. It may portend a bullet-proof margin for the Kirk-Menendez conditional sanctions on Iran.

So, the president may not have enough votes in the Senate to sustain a threatened veto contained in his State of the Union address: “New sanctions passed by this Congress, at this moment in time, will all but guarantee that diplomacy fails — alienating America from its allies; making it harder to maintain sanctions; and ensuring that Iran starts up its nuclear program again. It doesn’t make sense. And that’s why I will veto any new sanctions bill that threatens to undo this progress.”

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Is Washington Forgetting Its Allies in the Iranian Nuclear Negotiations?

BELGIUM-SYRIA-IRAQ -CONFLICT-US-COALITIONAs Secretary of State John Kerry rushed in 2013 to sign an interim nuclear deal with Iran, Sen. John McCain, (R-Ariz.), incoming chair of the Senate Arms Services Committee, stated that Kerry “has been a human wrecking ball.” Regarding extension of current talks to July 2014, McCain, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), and Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) said a “bad deal” with Iran would start a nuclear arms race in the Middle East.

If Ashton Carter is confirmed as secretary of defense, he may temper Kerry’s overemphasis on nuclear diplomacy with little regard for regional implications; Carter would marry diplomacy with military elements in an overall strategy for Iran’s nuclear program.

Simon Henderson and Olli Heinonen wrote in a post for the Washington Institute that as far back as April 2009, Saudis told U.S. Special Envoy Dennis Ross, “if [the Iranians] get nuclear weapons, we will get nuclear weapons.” On Nov. 1, 2013, just prior to the Nov. 24 interim nuclear accord between Iran and the Permanent Five Members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany (P5+1), the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI),reported Riyadh’s concerns before Kerry’s visit two days later about a Tehran-Washington rapprochement: It increases Iran’s regional influence at the expense of the Arab States; a year later, Nov. 23, 2014, Saudi newspaperscriticized Obama for cooperating with Iran while abandoning his Arab allies and called on Riyadh to conduct a strategic reassessment of the alliance with Washington.

Contrast how America’s Middle East allies are cut out of the nuclear talks with Iran versus nuclear talks with North Korea. Gulf states and Israel are excluded while European allies play a prominent role in the P5+1 negotiation with Tehran. In Asia, U.S. regional allies like Seoul and Tokyo are in a contact group with Beijing, Pyongyang, and Moscow. Although talks with Pyongyang have a mixed record, Arab States are absent from talks on Iran’s nuclear program and pay the price of a deal or no deal, whether good or bad. Although Kerry often travels to Jerusalem and Riyadh before talks with Iran, he does so at his discretion, and there is not formal consultation with regional allies before each secret bilateral or multilateral with Tehran.

Washington’s participation in nuclear talks with Iran while ignoring Iranian dissidents to curry favor with Tehran are intertwined stories of diplomatic appeasement of the Ayatollahs.

The Islamic Republic wields outsize influence in councils of power in Baghdad. According to the Washington Post, appointment of Iraq’s interior minister in October 2014 opened the door to Shiite militia and Iranian influence in Baghdad. Mohammed Ghabban, a Shiite politician with the Badr Organization has ties to Hadi al-Amiri, head of Badr and its military wing. He is likely to wield huge power in the ministry. The Badr militia ran Shiite death squads during Iraq’s sectarian war, after infiltrating the Interior Ministry. A leaked 2009 State Department cable said Amiri may have personally ordered attacks on up to 2,000 Sunnis. The Post also stated that head of Iraq’s human rights ministry is also affiliated with Badr.

Meanwhile, Iranian dissidents are not well represented by the American Embassy in Baghdad during the past three years, while nuclear talks have been taking place. Memorializing an accord with Baghdad, on Dec. 25, 2011, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, under pressure from pro-Iran Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, urged some 3,000 Iranian dissidents to abandon their home in Camp Ashraf, where they had lived for decades, in favor of Camp Liberty. In that statement, Secretary Clinton promised“officials from U.S. Embassy Baghdad will visit regularly and frequently.” This pledge was never fulfilled, except for a few short visits to the camp without discussing security concerns of the dissidents. Trying to please Tehran with unfilled efforts by U.S. Embassy staff is a macabre example of the adage, “Promises are made to be broken and lies are meant to be kept.”

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Democratic transition to prevent revolutionary Iran from nuclear-armed status

US-VOTE-2012-DEMOCRATIC CAMPAIGN-OBAMAKey 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 “pragmatistsaccept 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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Is Iran About to Lash Out at Its Dissidents?

495442311_720The United States and five other major powers negotiating about the Iranian nuclear program agreed to a four-month extension of the talks until Nov. 24. This period is a time of peril for opponents of the Islamic Republic of Iran, who have been of great value in revealing intelligence about its nuclear cheating. It’s possible that Tehran may use its negotiating leverage in this phase to attack its dissidents in Iraq, including the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), the main resistance group that rejects clerical rule, and its largest unit, the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MEK).

Because the resistance is instrumental in exposing double-dealing by Tehran, it may attack to end dissidents’ ability to reveal regime secrets. It’s time for Washington, for which the regime opponents have long been a useful ray of light on the covert Iranian nuclear weapons program, to use its diplomatic leverage with Baghdad to protect them while getting the dissidents out of Iraq to safer countries, including the United States.

As the July 20 target date approached for reaching the nuclear accord, the Iranian regime’s media person at the U.N. penned a letter to the Wall Street Journal, which I countered with an accompanying one. The regime spokesman launched an ad hominem attack on the main source of a Journal editorial, the NCRI, without dealing with the substance of the evidence. Because that organization has an excellent track record exposing the regime’s lack of transparency and noncompliance with its financial and nuclear commitments, the PR attack failed.

During his first news conference in June 2013, Iran’s President-Elect Hassan Rouhani claimed that its nuclear programs were completely transparent but promised “even more.” Because of Iran’s deceitful record on financial and trade sanctions, however, Jonathan Schanzer and Mark Dubowitz of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), demonstrate there is “no such thing as a good Iranian Bank.” They argue, “History will judge whether the president [Barack Obama] was right to compromise with a regime that has a long track record of nuclear mendacity.”

Despite Rouhani’s claims, Tehran is not transparent in its nuclear program, particularly regarding possible military dimensions. In referring to NCRI revelations about Tehran’s nuclear activities, President George W. Bush stated in 2005, “Iran has concealed its…nuclear program. That became discovered not because of compliance” with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), “but because a dissident group pointed it out to the world.”

Read more: atfp.co/1sC399a

The Mysteries of Nuclear Iran—Two letters responding to ‘Iran’s Nuclear Masters’ (editorial, 27 May 2014), 3 June 2014

Requires Subscription at: http://on.wsj.com/1kpl1jW

 Image<– (Iran’s uranium processing site just outside the city of Isfahan)

Hamid Babaei,Counselor and head of press office, Mission of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the United Nations, New York

 Regarding your editorial “Iran’s Nuclear Masters” (May 28th): It is highly unfortunate that The Wall Street Journal has opted to choose the Mujahedeen-e Khalq, a known terrorist group which until recently had been listed as a terrorist group in the U.S., and still is in many other places around the world, as its main source of information.

This has resulted the aforementioned article to become an unfounded set of allegations against the exclusively peaceful nuclear program of Iran. Such fabrications only serve as means to derail the ongoing talks between Iran and P5+1 as well as ongoing cooperation of Iran with the International Atomic Energy Agency to resolve this issue in a comprehensive manner.

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Raymond Tanter, Professor Emeritus, University of Michigan, Washington DC

[The following letter is slightly edited from the published version in the WSJ, e.g., with the addition of hyperlinks that do not require subscription to access]:

Kudos for your editorial on the Islamic Republic’s nuclear-weaponization program! As a former member of the senior staff of the Reagan National Security Council and a scholar of Iranian dissidents, I follow Tehran’s nuclear cheating closely.

The editorial uses information from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA); the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS); and the National Council of Resistance of Iran, the Iranian opposition group also known as MEK, which has done much to expose the mullahs’ nuclear-weapons program in the past.

“The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) revelations about Iran’s secret nuclear program did prove to be the trigger point in inviting the IAEA into Tehran for inspections,” the Center for Strategic and International Studies declared in a 2006 report (though the report questioned some aspects of those revelations).

The MEK in August 2002 exposed a secret nuclear facility near Natanz. ISIS confirmed the revelation, identified the site as a uranium-enrichment facility and released imagery of Natanz in December 2002.

Also in August 2002, NCRI intelligence blew the lid on Iran’s heavy-water production facility at Arak. As ISIS has written: “The existence of this facility was first revealed publicly by the Iranian opposition group, National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), in August 2002. ISIS then located the site in commercial satellite imagery after a wide-area search.”

Regarding a nuclear facility at Lavizan-Shian, ISIS wrotein a 2004 report: “This site first came to public attention in May 2003 when the Iranian opposition group, National Council for Resistance of Iran, announced that the site, called the Lavizan-Shian Technical Research Center, was associated with biological weapons research.”

In August 2004, NCRI exposed a laser enrichment facility, Lavizan 2, built with equipment removed from the Lavizan-Shian site, which had been kept off limits to international inspectors.

In December 2005, NCRI revealed a site near Qom, where tunneling activity in the mountains was initiated in 2000 to construct an underground nuclear facility; the Western allies publicly acknowledgedthe Qom site in September 2009.

NCRI intelligence revealed in September two additional sites in and near Tehran, where the Iranian regime may be working on detonators for nuclear warheads. Prompted by publicity, the Iranian regime admitted in September existence of a uranium enrichment facility about 20 miles north of Qom. And by January 2012, Iran stated it had begun enrichment at the heavily fortified site—the Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant. I could go on.

The record shows that Tehran’s nuclear mendacity has been and can continue to be exposed by the NCRI.

Not by Sanctions Alone: Using Intelligence and Military Means to Bolster Diplomacy with Iran

The U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN-74), steams alongside the British Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious (R 06) in the Persian Gulf on April 9, 1998.  DoD photo by Airman Robert Baker, U.S. Navy.

Stringer/Iran/Reuters – Military personnel place a flag on a submarine during the Velayat-90 war games by the Iranian navy in the Strait of Hormuz in southern Iran December 27, 2011. Iran is rapidly gaining new capabilities to strike at U.S. warships in the Persian Gulf, amassing an arsenal of sophisticated anti-ship missiles while expanding its fleet of fast-attack boats and submarines.

 

In “Not by Sanctions Alone: Using Intelligence and Military Means to Bolster Diplomacy with Iran,” Michael Eisenstadt of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy recommends ways to reinforce American diplomacy regarding Iran, and thereby diminish the prospects of military confrontation with Tehran. He suggests the United States intensify intelligence operations and use the military instrument in ways it has not been willing to thus far:

Successful diplomacy may well depend on the administration’s ability to convince Tehran that the price of failed negotiations could be armed conflict. To make this threat credible, Washington must first show Tehran that it is preparing for a possible military confrontation—whether initiated by Iran or a third country—and that it is willing and able to enforce its red lines regarding freedom of navigation in the Gulf and the regime’s nuclear program.

Eisenstadt concludes:

If nuclear diplomacy with Tehran is to succeed, Washington must be prepared for the kind of brinkmanship it has not engaged in since the Cold War. This means ratcheting up pressure, while, backstopping diplomacy with preparations that underscore its readiness for a confrontation, in order to deter Iran from additional steps toward a nuclear breakout. To this end, Washington should reinforce three key notions in Tehran: that the Iranian nuclear program has been penetrated by foreign intelligence services, that the regime would not be able to conduct a clandestine breakout without getting caught, and that if it does try to build a nuclear weapon, the United States will destroy its nuclear infrastructure. In this way, the administration would make clear to Tehran that the only way to obtain sanctions relief, escape from its growing isolation, and avert the possibility of war is through a diplomatic solution—one that meets Iran’s desire for peaceful nuclear technology without allowing for the possibility of a breakout.

While IPC research is in line with most of the recommendations of Eisenstadt, the research also suggests:

Removal of Iranian opposition groups, such as the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), from the U.S. foreign terrorist organizations list to send a signal to Tehran that survival of its regime is on the table.

Enhanced use of Iranian dissident information as “lead intelligence” to complement surveillance information based on United States, Arab Gulf States, and Israeli services to make it more difficult for Tehran to plan or implement retaliatory action in the event of Israeli or American military strikes.

MAR 2012, Image of police presence in Camp Liberty

Employment of maximum diplomatic and economic pressure on the Government of Iraq for it to implement minimum humanitarian life support requirements to facilitate departure of residents from Camp Ashraf to Camp Liberty, Iraq. The residents are members of the largest unit with the NCRI—the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MEK), and it is critical for them to survive as an indication the Iranian regime’s survival is at stake.