Republicans and some Democrats in Congress have been pushing for oversight of the pending deal given that current proposals include relief from some of the sanctions placed on Iran by Congress. The bill that passed Thursday requires that Congress be able to review and possibly reject any deal the U.S. and world powers make with Iran regarding nuclear weapons. If Congress approves of the deal — or fails to disapprove within a certain timeframe — the President’s deal can move forward……
While the debate continues, however, some lawmakers have signaled their support for the President’s negotiations with Iran. In a letter first reported on by the Washington Post, 150 Democrats urged Obama to “stay on course” and commended the work of world powers so far in the process.
“The stakes are too great and the alternatives are too dire,” the letter reads. “If the United States were to abandon negotiations or cause their collapse, not only would we fail to peacefully prevent the nuclear-armed Iran, we would make that outcome more likely.”
The Washington Post reports that the letter could mean the President has enough Congressional support to override a veto should lawmakers vote to reject the deal once it is released in June. http://time.com/3850806/congress-iran-nuclear-deal/
Why an Iran deal won’t lead to nuclear proliferation, WP, By Dina Esfandiary and Ariane Tabatabai April 28 This post is part of the “Iran and the Nuclear Deal” symposium.
When the P5+1 and Iran announced their framework agreement earlier this month, some analysts reiterated that a final deal would result in aproliferation cascade in the Middle East. This widely held and long-standing assumption remains largely unchallenged. But a careful look at the actual technical capability, political and security context, and intentions of potential contenders confirms that much of this hype is baseless.
Those who invoke the proliferation cascade theory often confuse both the cause and the actual result. Would a nuclear agreement with Iran or nuclear-armed Iran cause a cascade? Does the regional spread of civilian nuclear programs count as a proliferation cascade, or is it restricted to the spread of the bomb?…….
First, the entire region, except for nuclear-armed Israel, is party to the NPT. This means that they’ve already legally given up the nuclear weapon option. Moreover, nuclear weapon states can’t legally provide them nuclear weapons either. Second, many countries have safeguards agreements and some, the additional protocol, in place. This means that their programs are under close International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) scrutiny. Continue reading
As Iran pursues a peaceful nuclear programme, Iran’s enrichment capacity, enrichment level and stockpile will be limited for specified durations, and there will be no other enrichment facility than Natanz. Iran’s research and development on centrifuges will be carried out on a scope and schedule that has been mutually agreed.
The grand bargain: What Iran conceded in the nuclear talks, Brookings, Richard Nephew | April 18, 2015 Since the P5+1 and Iran announced the agreed parameters for a comprehensive settlement of the Iran nuclear issue earlier this month, Washington punditry has obsessed over the fine points of both the joint statement read by EU Foreign Minister Mogherini and Iranian FM Zarif, and the fact sheet released by the Obama administration, to identify concessions made by the United States.
Much attention has centered on centrifuge numbers, the strategic implications of the Iranian nuclear program within the context of the deal and the decision to provide early sanctions relief to Iran in exchange for substantial nuclear steps by Iran.As with everything in Washington as late, the discussion quickly divided into two camps: those convinced that Obama gave up critical advantage over Iran too readily in order to get a nuclear deal that, even if better than what was anticipated, still is not satisfactory; and, those convinced that, given the alternatives, what Obama achieved was worth such concessions.
Next Round of Nuclear Talks With Iran Set for Next Week http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/17/world/middleeast/next-round-of-nuclear-talks-with-iran-set-for-next-week.html?_r=0 By THOMAS ERDBRINK APRIL 16, 2015 TEHRAN — The next round of nuclear talks between world powers andIran is scheduled for next week in Vienna, as the two sides begin to address the issues they left unresolved earlier this month in Lausanne, Switzerland, and try to conclude a comprehensive agreement by the end of June.
The European Union, the host of the talks, said in a statement released on Thursday that its senior negotiator, Helga Schmid, will meet with Iran’s deputy foreign minister, Abbas Araghchi, on Wednesday, to pursue an agreement that would restrict Iran to peaceful research in the nuclear area in exchange for the phased lifting of economic sanctions.
After the parties reached a framework agreement in Lausanne, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, complicated matters by insisting that all sanctions would have to be lifted immediately and that all military sites would be off limits to inspectors.
President Hassan Rouhani on Thursday acknowledged the problems but said he remained optimistic that the negotiators would reach a deal. “There is a difficult path ahead of us towards the final deal,” he said at a news conference during a trip to northern Iran, but the country’s “will and decision is to continue the negotiations until a final deal is reached.”
Iran nuclear deal: ‘Accusations with very little proof’, DW 14 Apr 15 In an interview with Deutsche Welle, former IAEA nuclear inspector Robert Kelley suspects the nuclear watchdog could be misused as a tool to derail the nuclear deal with Iran. Diplomats and experts will start hammering out the legal and technical details of a nuclear agreement between Iran and six world powers next week in Vienna, the EU diplomatic service announced Thursday.
Foreign ministers from Iran and the group of Britain, China, France, Russia, the United States and Germany agreed on the outlines of the deal on April 2 in Lausanne. In addition, Iran and the group of six still have to draw up a list of Iranian nuclear sites, which experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA, will get to visit as part of its probe into alleged nuclear weapons projects.
A senior IAEA delegation returned from a visit to Tehran on Thursday, without any answers on ten new suspected research and development projects identified by the agency in addition to the two that are already being discussed.
DW talked to Robert Kelley, former IAEA director for nuclear inspections in Iraq and now expert for nuclear energy and weapons issues with the Stockholm-based International Peace Research Institute.
DW: The IAEA plays a central role in the nuclear deal reached in Lausanne on April 2. Now, an IAEA delegation under chief inspector Tero Varjoranta, which sought answers to allegations over the possible military use of Irans nuclear program in the past, left Tehran without those answers. What exactly is the IAEA looking for?……….
In this age of satellites and super high sensitive detectors, how difficult would it be to effectively hide nuclear activities?
The very best detectors in the world are the IAEA inspectors. If you for some reason offend Iran so much, that they kick the IAEA out, then you are blind. You won´t know anything about what is going on. So one of the things that are good about this new agreement is: The inspectors have access to every aspect of uranium mining, conversion to the right chemicals, chemicals producing uranium hexafluoride in the enrichment plant and things after the enrichment plant. So the inspectors are getting a very good picture of everything Iran is openly doing.
And they are also going to be looking at procurement. The import regime is part of the agreement. That is a very powerful thing. The chances of having a completely clandestine, hidden, secret program becomes much more difficult when you have these things in place. Things like the handling of uranium and plutonium do leave a lot of signatures and detectors can pick them up. Not from space but on the ground. But you can´t detect things like explosives and explosive bridgewire detonators, because they have conventional military uses, they are used in mining, for all kinds of other activities. And you can´t call that a nuclear activity. http://www.dw.de/iran-nuclear-deal-accusations-with-very-little-proof/a-18388394
Pakistan Has Complicated Nuclear Relationship With Saudi Arabia, Iran VOA, Ayesha Tanzeem April 07, 2015 ISLAMABAD—
Iran’s foreign minister visits Pakistan Wednesday to discuss the conflict in Yemen, which many see as a fight for influence between regional rivals Iran and Saudi Arabia.
Iran also has recently reached a framework nuclear agreement with six world powers to possibly curb the weapons potential of its nuclear program.
Saudi Arabia, in the past, has reportedly sought to form its own nuclear alliances to counter a perceived Iranian threat. A member of the Saudi royal family and the kingdom’s former intelligence chief, Prince Turki al-Faisal, warned a few months ago that the kingdom would seek the same nuclear capabilities that Tehran is allowed to maintain under any deal.
In this regard, Pakistan’s relationship with the kingdom is unusual.
On one hand, it has sold nuclear secrets to Iran in the past through a network run by former chief Pakistani nuclear scientist A.Q. Khan. The network also sold nuclear technology or know-how to Libya and North Korea.
On the other, it has faced allegations of promising Saudi Arabia a nuclear umbrella against Iran.
‘Unacknowledged nuclear partnership’…….http://www.voanews.com/content/pakistan-has-complicated-nuclear-relationship-with-saudi-arabia-iran/2710343.html
A nuclear deal with Iran is the best option By Fareed Zakaria WP April 2 When making up their minds about the nuclear deal with Iran, people are properly focused on its details. But to figure out whether an agreement that limits and inspects Iran’s nuclear program is acceptable, one has to consider seriously the alternatives to it — and there are really only two.
First, a return to sanctions. Let’s say that the U.S. Congress rejects the final agreement reached by all in June. What then? The current sanctions regime against Iran is almost unprecedented in that all the world’s major powers, and Iran’s neighbors, support it. Usually sanctions wear thin over time.
If other countries believe that Iran made a reasonable offer that the United States turned down, they are unlikely to continue to support a tight sanctions regime. Most studies confirm that it is the multilateral aspect of the sanctions against Iran that has made them effective………
Would continued sanctions halt the nuclear program? That’s highly unlikely. Iran has expanded its nuclear program under sanctions for the last two decades. In 2003, Iran had under 200 centrifuges. Today it has 19,000. The restrictions are now tighter — if they last — but Iran’s nuclear establishment is also much larger. Keep in mind that Iran began showing active interest in a nuclear program as early as the 1950s. It now has thousands of nuclear scientists and technicians who work in the field.
That raises option two, a military attack. People speak of a strike on Iranlike Israel’s against an Iraqi reactor in 1981 and a Syrian facility in 2007. But those were single facilities. Iran, by contrast, has a vast nuclear industry, comprising many installations spread across the country, some close to population centers, others in mountainous terrain. The United States would effectively have to go to war with Iran, destroying its air defenses, then attacking its facilities in dozens — perhaps hundreds — of sorties. The bombers would be equipped with highly explosive weapons, demolishing buildings, reactors and laboratories, but also producing considerable collateral damage.
What would be the effect of such an attack? When any country is bombed by foreigners, its people tend to rally around the regime. The Islamic Republic would likely gain domestic support. It would also respond in various ways, through its allies in Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon and elsewhere. The attacks might be directed at U.S. troops or allies.
An attack would also mean the splintering of the international coalition against Iran. Russia, China and many other countries would condemn it. Iran would be seen as the victim of an unprovoked invasion. The sanctions would crumble. Its nuclear program would be devastated, but Iran would begin to rebuild it. Even under the current sanctions regime, Iran makes tens of billions of dollars in oil revenues, more than enough to afford to rebuild its facilities.
Finally, once it had been attacked, Tehran would invoke the need for a deterrent against future attacks and would work directly and speedily not on a nuclear program but a nuclear weapon. In his op-ed advocating war with Iran, former U.N. ambassador John Bolton argues that military attacks “should be combined with vigorous American support for Iran’s opposition, aimed at regime change in Tehran.” But bombing and then threatening the Islamic Republic’s existence would likely produce exactly the opposite effect — a government strengthened at home with a clear rationale to acquire a nuclear deterrent. http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/a-nuclear-deal-with-iran-is-the-best-option/2015/04/02/bc8292d2-d978-11e4-8103-fa84725dbf9d_story.html
t marks a major breakthrough in a 12-year stand-off between Iran and the West, which has long feared Tehran wants to build a nuclear bomb. US President Barack Obama welcomed the ‘historic understanding’ with Iran but cautioned more work needed to be done. ‘If Iran cheats, the world will know it,’ he said in a televised address from the White House on Thursday.
After eight days of talks that sometimes went through the night, Iran agreed to curtail its nuclear program in return for the lifting of punishing sanctions, said EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini.
The main outlines agreed at the negotiations in the Swiss city of Lausanne now have to be finalised in a highly complex agreement by June 30.
-US Secretary of State John Kerry hailed a ‘big day’, saying on Twitter that the global powers and Iran ‘now have parameters to resolve major issues on nuclear program. Back to work soon on a final deal’.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said the drafting of a full agreement would begin immediately with the aim of completing it by the June 30 deadline. Iranian media said the deal will include Iran slashing by two-thirds, to 6000 from 19,000, the number of centrifuges, which can make fuel for nuclear power but also the core of a nuclear bomb.
Mogherini said the United States and the EU will lift all nuclear-related sanctions on Iran once the UN atomic agency has verified that Tehran has stuck to the ground-breaking deal. Mogherini, in a joint press statement with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, also said that the design of a new reactor will be changed so that no weapons-grade plutonium can be produced.
The Fordo facility, built deep into a mountain, will remain open but will not be used for enrichment but for research and development.
The so-called P5+1 group – the United States, Britain, China, France and Russia plus Germany – hope that the deal will make it virtually impossible for Iran to make nuclear weapons under the guise of its civilian program. France warned that the sanctions could be reimposed if Tehran does not fully keep its side of the bargain.The office of President Francois Hollande said in a statement that Paris would watch closely to ensure a ‘credible’ and ‘verifiable’ final agreement that prevents Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.
According to the Haaretz news website, the Israeli prime minister claimed there was an “Iran-Lausanne-Yemen” axis, linking the venue for the nuclear talks with Iranian backing for Houthi rebels in Yemen, and said the deal posed a threat to humanity that must be stopped…….
Netanyahu made his remarks as negotiations in Lausanne approached the 31 March deadline for an understanding on the framework for a deal, and took on a new intensity. The UK foreign secretary, Philip Hammond, and his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, arrived at the Swiss lakeside town on Sunday evening to join the US secretary of state, John Kerry, and foreign ministers from Iran, France, Germany and China, as well as the EU foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini………
A possible solution is for the foreign ministers to make a joint declaration in Lausanne or in nearby Geneva, to be followed by the publication of an informal “factsheet” of agreed points, that could be officially deniable in Tehran. A former state department official said it could take several days to draft this, so experts could stay behind after the foreign ministers leave, to work on the document before Congress reconvenes in mid-April.
However, a European official at the talks said they were still mired in issues of substance, and had yet to tackle differences over presentation.
“We will remain at the negotiation table for however long it takes to get a good deal,” the Iranian deputy foreign minister, Abbas Araghchi. He added: “All the sides are strongly motivated to reach a compromise.” http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/mar/29/binyamin-netanyahu-denounces-iran-nuclear-negotiations
The agreement under discussion by the P5+1 with Iran is fundamentally to provide assurances that Iran’s nuclear program has purely civilian, peaceful uses. This is not an arms control treaty because it will not address weapons. While there is evidence to suggest that Iran engaged in nuclear weaponization activities, there is no evidence that Iran now has nuclear weapons. As a non-nuclear-weapon state, party to the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), Iran is obligated not to manufacture, acquire, or otherwise obtain nuclear weapons. The agreement under discussion will impose requirements on Iran in addition to those it has as an NPT party. [Iran hopes the deal will be endorsed by a Security Council resolution and not involve the U.S. Congress since the five members of the United Nations Security Council are involved.]
We Need To Get This Iranian Nuclear Deal Done, Forbes, James Conca, 26 Mar 15 By the sounds of the rhetoric going back and forth in the media, you’d think the Iranian Nuclear Deal we’re trying to put in place is a horrible loss for the United States, and that we’re being taken for a ride by the wily Ayatollahs.
Or that previous deals with Iran hadn’t ever worked.
Nothing could be farther from the truth. Last year, the five members of the United Nations Security Council, the United States, Great Britain, France, China and Russia, plus Germany, called the P5+1 Group, reached an interim deal with Iran to stop their nuclear weapons program while a larger deal could be brokered. Four key provisions were obtained in this deal and all four have occurred:……… Continue reading
Unstated Factor in Iran Talks: Threat of Nuclear Tampering, NYT, By DAVID E. SANGER and WILLIAM J. BROADMARCH 21, 2015 “………if negotiators succeed in reaching a deal with Iran, does the huge, covert sabotage effort by the United States, Israel and some European allies come to an end? “Probably not,” said one senior official with knowledge of the program. In fact, a number of officials make the case that surveillance of Iran will intensify and covert action may become more important than ever to ensure that Iran does not import the critical materials that would enable it to accelerate the development of advanced centrifuges or pursue a covert path to a bomb.
In the case of the covert effort to purchase the specialty aluminum, the Iranians actually discovered the switch before they installed the tubes, and now say they are racing ahead to develop a next-generation centrifuge that would produce nuclear fuel far faster, a prospect that has become a major sticking point in negotiations.
In public, the Obama administration says economic sanctions on oil exports and financial transactions drove Iran to negotiations — and the prospect of getting those restrictions lifted are the best chance of persuading Iran’s leadership to take a diplomatic deal limiting Iran’s production of nuclear fuel for a decade or more.
In private, officials say sabotage was the other big stick — a persistent effort to slow Iran’s progress, and a signal that the United States had other ways to deal with the nuclear program. On occasion they allude to it, as Stephen J. Hadley, President Bush’s national security adviser, did at a presentation on sanctions last year, when he talked about how the financial penalties were supplemented by “things directed at their program, which we can’t talk about.”
Although American officials remain suspicious of Iran operating a covert nuclear facility, they say they see no solid evidence of a hidden operation today.
It is entirely possible that if an accord is reached, President Obama could call a pause in what has been more than a decade of attacks, the most famous of which was a yearslong effort, code-named Olympic Games, which inserted into Iranian facilities the most sophisticated cyberweapons ever deployed. One of them was the Stuxnet worm that disabled about 1,000 centrifuges, but also spread around the world, revealing the program.
But reaching an accord is quite different than reaching a state of trust. Inside Iran, there will be pressure to keep making slow progress on a nuclear program that is central to the ambitions of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps and thousands of scientists who have labored for years. And in the uneasy alliance among Israel, the United States and Europe there will be continued debate about whether to supplement diplomatic pressure with covert action to keep Iran from getting to the threshold of being able to build a weapon.
For the past decade or so, the covert war to halt Iran’s nuclear program has included high-profile assassinations of their top scientists — widely attributed to Israel — and cyberattacks.
The assassinations suddenly stopped a few years ago, after they were publicly denounced by the United States. The cyberattack efforts may be continuing, probably at a lower level: a recently disclosed document from the National Security Agency, written in 2013, describes “NSA’s planned battle rhythm” to attack Iran’s systems in case of a crisis, and “Iran’s discovery of computer network exploitation tools on their networks in 2012 and 2013.” They make it clear that the N.S.A. has played a crucial role in the negotiations, in “support to policy makers” during negotiation on Iran’s nuclear program.
The ultimate goal of the covert program of industrial sabotage, according to intelligence and weapons specialists, is to produce damage obscure enough to evade easy detection, but extensive enough to result in random failures that seriously impede Iran’s nuclear drive………http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/22/world/middleeast/unstated-factor-in-iran-talks-threat-of-nuclear-tampering.html?_r=0
Philip Hammond, the Foreign Secretary, warned that the letter “could become a spanner in the works” of the negotiations, due to resume on Monday, with an “unpredictable effect on opinion” inside Iran.
Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, also poured derision on the Republican letter in a statement expressing astonishment that members of Congress would seek to undermine a US administration by writing directly to a foreign power, and suggesting that the letter’s authors had much to learn about international and even US law.
However, the sharpest reaction to Monday’s open letter came from the White House. President Obama accused its 47 Republican signatories of “wanting to make common cause with the hardliners in Iran”.
The US vice-president, Joseph Biden, said the letter, drafted by Tom Cotton, a freshman senator from Arkansas, was “expressly designed to undercut a sitting president in the midst of sensitive international negotiations”.
What Netanyahu left out of his speech to Congress http://warincontext.org/ 03/06/2015
Gary Sick lists five significant omissions: 1. Iran has dramatically reduced its stockpile of enriched uranium. Remember Bibi’s cartoon bomb that was going to go off last summer? Well, it has been drained of fuel, and that will probably continue to be true indefinitely. No mention.
2. Inspections will continue long after the nominal 10-year point, contrary to his claim that everything expires in ten years. No mention.
3. The heavy water reactor at Arak will be permanently modified, so it produces near zero plutonium. Not only did he not mention it, but he listed the reactor and plutonium as one of his threats.
4. His repeated assertion that Iran is actively seeking nuclear weapons ignores the judgment “with high confidence” of both American and Israeli intelligence that Iran has taken no decision to build nuclear weapons. It also contradicts the repeated findings of the IAEA that no materials have been diverted for military purposes.
5. All the major countries of the world are co-negotiators with the United States, so a U.S. congressional intervention that killed the deal will not only affect us but all of our major allies. If we stiff them, there is no reason to believe the international sanctions will hold for long. No mention.
The talks will resume on March 15, probably in Geneva, as the latest deadline for agreement looms at the end of the month.
Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif said a deal was “very close”,telling NBC that he and his team were prepared to carry on working through the Persian New Year celebration of Nowruz starting on March 21. Continue reading
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