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Climate change predicted to increase Nile flow variability

Climate change could lead to overall increase in river flow, but more droughts and floods, study shows, Science Daily 

Date:
April 24, 2017
Source:
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Summary:
The unpredictable annual flow of the Nile River is legendary, as evidenced by the story of Joseph and the Pharaoh, whose dream foretold seven years of abundance followed by seven years of famine in a land whose agriculture was, and still is, utterly dependent on that flow. Now, researchers have found that climate change may drastically increase the variability in Nile’s annual output……..https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/04/170424141236.htm

April 26, 2017 Posted by | climate change, Egypt | Leave a comment

Trump might want to rip up Iran nuclear agreement, but actually, he can’t

Why Trump Can’t Rip Up Iran’s Internationally Brokered Nuclear Deal , Sputnik News 21 Apr 17   While the Trump administration admitted that Iran has complied with the 2015 nuclear agreement, it continues to send mixed signals to Tehran, accusing the latter of sponsoring terrorism. Speaking to Sputnik Persian, Hamid Gholamzadeh assumed that Washington is looking for any excuse to rip the deal up.

Although the Trump administration admitted Tuesday that Iran is complying with the terms of the 2015 nuclear agreement and extended the sanctions relief given to Tehran, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson leveled criticism at Iran on Wednesday, dubbing the deal a “failed approach.”

Tillerson emphasized that the US is going to carry out a “comprehensive review” of its policy toward Iran, which, according to the Secretary of State, is about to follow in North Korea’s footsteps.

“The Trump administration is currently conducting across the entire government a review of our Iran policy… an unchecked Iran has the potential to follow the same path as North Korea and take the world along with it. The United States is keen to avoid a second piece of evidence that strategic patience is a failed approach,” Tillerson said as quoted by CNBC……..

Speaking to Sputnik Persian, Hamed Mousavi, a professor at the Department of Political Sciences of the University of Tehran, highlighted that Iran’s nuclear agreement is an international deal in the first place.

“One should pay attention to a few points, in particular, the multilateral nature of the obligations under the JCPOA. The US should not forget that a nuclear deal is not a bilateral agreement between [Washington] and Iran. The United States cannot unilaterally abolish the international agreement that was signed by Iran and several other countries and which was approved by the UN Security Council. This is contrary to international law,” Mousavi emphasized.

Grigory Yarygin, Associate Professor at the Department of American Studies of the School of International Relations at St.Petersburg State University, echoed Mousavi.

“This nuclear deal was concluded not only between Tehran and Washington, but it is Iran’s deal with six international mediators. Therefore, it is highly unlikely that the attempt to cancel this deal will succeed,” Yarygin told Radio Sputnik.

“We must understand that at the international level, significant efforts were made… to ease tensions between Iran and the United States and prevented possible tragic consequences related to the [Iranian] nuclear program,” he said.

For his part, Hamid Gholamzadeh, an expert on North America and English Chief Editor of Mehr News Agency, suggested in an interview with Sputnik Persian that Washington is looking for an excuse to undermine the deal.

“The US has recognized that Iran is fulfilling its obligations. But this did not convince them. Therefore, the US is looking for new pretexts, which they want to prove using the relevant documents. Despite the reaffirmation of Iran’s commitment to its obligations, the US accused it of supporting terrorism in order to obtain a justification [for imposing sanctions],” Gholamzadeh explained.

“I believe that the US will play out its own scenario: they will try to reimpose the sanctions, unless Europe, Russia and China, as the main negotiators, try to prevent these plans,” he added.

The question then arises as to why the new administration is pushing ahead with its plan to rip the Iran nuclear deal up?

Robbie Gramer of Foreign Policy magazine believes that Donald Trump is seeking to restore US-Saudi relations, which were undermined by the US nuclear deal struck under Obama………https://sputniknews.com/politics/201704201052818335-trump-iran-nuclear-deal/

April 22, 2017 Posted by | Iran, politics international | Leave a comment

American State Dept certifies that Iran is complying with nuclear deal. Tillerson slams the deal anyway!

Tillerson Slams Nuclear Deal after State Department Certifies Iranian Compliance, A proliferation expert suggests the certification was made to comply with law and avoid a crisis while reviewing its Iran policy. The Weekly Standard, APR 20, 2017 | By JENNA LIFHITS Secretary of State Rex Tillerson slammed the Iran nuclear deal for its limited scope and eventual sunset date Wednesday, and said the Trump administration is conducting an exhaustive review of its Iran policy.

The secretary’s rebuke came one day after his State Department certified that Iran is complying with the deal. The decision to certify likely follows from the administration being knee-deep in an intensive review of the agreement and uncertain about next steps, top proliferation experts told THE WEEKLY STANDARD………

While Tillerson did not specify whether the administration would scrap or rigorously enforce the deal, he and other administration officials have suggested a preference for the latter.

Late Tuesday, Tillerson certified to Congress that Iran is complying with the nuclear deal.

The president must by law report to Congress about Iranian compliance with the deal every three months. If the administration does not submit a compliance certification or determines that Iran is in “material breach” of the deal, Congress has the ability to quickly re-impose sanctions lifted under the deal. The certification drew the ire of some in the White House who would have preferred to see no certification filed and the deal subsequently done away with.

The administration likely issued the certification to meet the conditions of the law and avoid a crisis while reviewing its Iran policy, a top proliferation expert told TWS………

If the administration had not issued the certification, the diplomatic fallout could have been significant, David Albright (founder of the Institute for Science and International Security)  added.

Tillerson said this week that the administration is conducting a broad review of its Iran policy, including the nuclear agreement and whether to maintain related sanctions relief…….

Administration officials have also reportedly been considering broadening sanctions against Iran and its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). http://www.weeklystandard.com/tillerson-slams-nuclear-deal-after-state-department-certifies-iranian-compliance/article/2007709

April 21, 2017 Posted by | Iran, politics international, USA | Leave a comment

Trump administration confused about Iran nuclear agreement

White House Shouldn’t Try To Reverse Iran Nuclear Deal, Parsi Says, NPR, April 20, 20175 , Heard on Morning Edition  Steve Inskeep talks to Trita Parsi, an Iran scholar, who warns of dire consequences if Trump officials renege on the nuclear accord and reverse a pledge to ease sanctions against Tehran.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
Let’s make sense of two moves that President Trump’s administration made this week. The administration affirms that Iran is following a nuclear deal. The administration also says Iran is misbehaving around the Middle East. Put another way, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says Iran is following a deal that the Trump administration really doesn’t like.
INSKEEP: One observer of the administration moves is Trita Parsi, president of the National Iranian American Council. He supported the nuclear deal made by the Obama administration, although he is not on good terms with Iran’s government. Welcome to the program.

INSKEEP: So what does it mean that President Trump, who said he would rip up this nuclear deal on day one, instead says Iran is following it?…..

PARSI: Well, I think the first thing to say is that it doesn’t seem as if the Trump administration really knows what it’s doing. It’s a significant contradiction to first come out and say that the Iranians – contrary to all of their claims that Iran would be cheating – actually is living up to the deal only to come out the day after and saying, well, we hate the deal anyways and signaling that the U.S. might actually be walking away from the deal, unless of course the aim is to get rid of the deal without the U.S. having to pay the cost for it, meaning instead of the U.S. violating the deal directly by not renewing these sanctions waivers, killing the deal by escalating tensions in Yemen and elsewhere in the region and hoping that that will force the Iranians out of the deal…….

INSKEEP: Wouldn’t you like some pressure on this government, though, even though you are a supporter of the nuclear deal?

PARSI: Certainly. There’s many areas in which there needs to be pressure on Iran, particularly, I would say, on the human rights front. But an approach that is centered on pressure and that is completely void of diplomacy most likely will lead to a military confrontation…….

INSKEEP: Can you just remind us what the basics of this nuclear deal are? Iran still has a nuclear program – right? – but it’s restricted.

PARSI: Iran has a restricted nuclear program. There are inspections in every aspect of Iran’s program. And all of the various pathways that Iran had towards building a nuclear bomb as a result of this deal has been closed. Some of these restrictions will be lifted in about 15 or so years. But the most important restriction is the inspections regime, the additional product called a Non-Proliferation Treaty, will be permanent, granted, of course, that all sides live up to their end of the bargain. And as the Trump administration certified two days ago, so far, the Iranians are living up to the bargain. And now, the United States also has to continue to waive sanctions in order for the United States to be in compliance with the deal.

INSKEEP: OK. You just mentioned waiving sanctions. Does President Trump have to actively do something to keep the sanctions off Iran for the moment?

PARSI: Yes. Before May 18, the United States is obliged to continue to waive sanctions in order for the U.S. to be in compliance. If it doesn’t, then the U.S. pulls out of the deal, and that will likely cause the Iranians to do the same.

INSKEEP: So that would be the next big moment to watch, potentially, is whether President Trump is willing to affirmatively keep sanctions eased on Iran.

PARSI: Exactly. And the day after the deadline is the Iranian presidential elections.

INSKEEP: And in which the president who did the deal, President Hassan Rouhani, is up for re-election.PARSI: He is up for re-election. And if he loses, then we will have a president in the United States and a president in Iran that most likely will be opposed to this deal. And that would be very negative for the continuation of this nuclear accord.

INSKEEP: Trita Parsi has a book coming out called “Losing An Enemy: Obama, Iran, And The Triumph Of Diplomacy.” He’s with the National Iranian American Council……http://www.npr.org/2017/04/20/524833644/white-house-shouldnt-try-to-reverse-iran-nuclear-deal-parsi-says

April 21, 2017 Posted by | Iran, politics international, USA | Leave a comment

New book: Nuclear Multilateralism and Iran.

Championing Nuclear Non-Proliferation Rules: The EU and Iran , Lobelog, by Peter Jenkins, 20 Apr 17 In a newly published book, Tarja Cronberg contrasts EU and US conceptions of multilateralism in the nuclear field. Her work is titled Nuclear Multilateralism and Iran.

A former member of the European Parliament (EP) and chair of the EP delegation for EU relations with Iran, Cronberg writes: “For the US multilateralism is a means to an end, but for Europeans it is an end in itself.” Both the EU and the US are committed, she continues, to upholding international law, well-functioning international institutions, and a rules-based international order. But the EU’s commitment is more heartfelt and goes deeper than the US commitment. After all, the EU itself is a multilateral institution, and, lacking military resources, is more dependent on global rules. The US approach is “utilitarian,” writes Cronberg, quoting Robert Kagan, whereas the EU approach could be characterized as both idealistic and needy (my words, not hers).

These distinctions are the starting-point for an analysis of the EU contribution to resolving the concern aroused by International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reports in 2003 that Iran had “pursued a policy of concealment” for 18 years and had failed to declare the possession and use of nuclear material to develop a uranium enrichment capability. Cronberg finds that the EU contribution was important, even essential to the eventual outcome of that process. The EU showed itself to be a “unified” and effective “actor.”

Good Cop/Bad Cop

This finding leads her to offer several recommendations to EU policymakers. Her chief recommendation relates to the role the EU should aspire to play in the event of similar nuclear proliferation cases in the future. She would like the EU role to be “autonomous.” In effect she is advocating that the EU put itself forward as a purer champion of a multilateral rules-based order than the United States, to lead the international search for peaceful solutions.

In support of that recommendation she makes a telling point. On moral and political grounds the five Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Nuclear Weapon States (NWS) ought to have disbarred themselves from preaching nuclear non-proliferation years ago. Most NPT parties resent the continuing reluctance of the NWS to act on their NPT pledge to negotiate “in good faith” on nuclear disarmament. Indeed most parties find NWS hypocrisy nauseating. In contrast, although two NWS are members of the EU (only one, in all probability, from April 2019), the EU as a whole is entitled to characterize itself as a non-nuclear weapon entity………

This is a thought-provoking book that draws on “front-line” experience of the issues and historical events that the author addresses. It appears at a time when the commitment of the United States to the multilateral rules-based order that it fathered over 70 years ago seems weaker than ever. http://lobelog.com/championing-nuclear-non-proliferation-rules-the-eu-and-iran/

April 21, 2017 Posted by | Iran, politics international, resources - print | Leave a comment

Court case: $234B In Aid To Israel Violates US Law Against Supporting Secret Nuclear States

Lawsuit Warns $234B In Aid To Israel Violates US Law Against Supporting Secret Nuclear States, Mint Press, By Kit O’Connell Follow on Facebook |  @KitOConnell | August 16, 2016

The lawsuit warns that the U.S. gave Israel about $234 billion in foreign aid since the passage of the International Security Assistance and Arms Export Control Act of 1976, despite a ban on support for secret nuclear weapons programs.​
By Kit O’Connell AUSTIN, Texas — A lawsuit warns that U.S. aid to Israel violates a law meant to prevent nuclear weapons proliferation, even as the United States prepares to increase the already massive Israeli aid program.

Filed Aug. 8 by Grant Smith, director of the Institute for Research: Middle East Policy, or IRMEP, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, the suit alleges that U.S. aid to Israel violates two amendments to the 1961 Foreign Assistance Act, known as the the Symington and Glenn Amendments, which collectively ban support for countries engaged in clandestine nuclear programs.

In the lawsuit, Smith alleges that violating these amendments means that Israel has received approximately $234 billion in illegal aid since the passage of the International Security Assistance and Arms Export Control Act of 1976.

The lawsuit reads:

“This lawsuit is not about foreign policy. It is about the rule of law, presidential power, the structural limits of the U.S. Constitution, and the right of the public to understand the functions of government and informed petition of the government for redress.”…….

Israel’s dangerous ‘nuclear ambiguity’

The IRMEP lawsuit argues that Israel’s policy of official secrecy on its nuclear weapons program perfectly fits the definition of the 1976 Export Control Act, and that the U.S. government broke the law through its “failure to act upon facts long in their possession while prohibiting the release of official government information about Israel’s nuclear weapons program, particularly ongoing illicit transfers of nuclear weapons material and technology from the U.S. to Israel.”

Smith wrote that the U.S. offers material support to Israel’s nuclear program while helping suppress information about the program. He continued:

“These violations manifest in gagging and prosecuting federal officials and contractors who publicly acknowledge Israel’s nuclear weapons program, imposing punitive economic costs on public interest researchers who attempt to educate the public about the functions of government, refusing to make bona fide responses to journalists and consistently failing to act on credible information available in the government and public domain.”

This policy of secrecy goes by many names, he noted. “These acts serve a policy that has many names all referring to the same subterfuge, ‘nuclear opacity,’ ‘nuclear ambiguity,’ and ‘strategic ambiguity.’”

Although long denied by both American and Israeli politicians, Israel’s nuclear program was first revealed by whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu, who spent 16 years in prison for sharing secret details of the program with Britain’s Sunday Times in 1986, and has been repeatedly arrested for continuing to publicly speak out.

Although the program is still not officially acknowledged, a November report by the Institute for Science and International Security suggested the Israeli government has amassed enough material to create at least 115 nuclear warheads. That would put Israel, a country roughly the size of New Jersey, on nearly equal nuclear footing with India and Pakistan…….http://www.mintpressnews.com/lawsuit-warns-234b-aid-israel-violates-us-law-supporting-secret-nuclear-states/219502/

April 19, 2017 Posted by | Israel, Legal, USA | Leave a comment

The secretive Israeli nuclear weapons program

The World’s Most Mysterious Nuclear Weapons Program (And Its Not North Korea) National Interest, Kyle Mizokami, 15 Apr 17, In a private email leaked to the public in September of 2016, former secretary of state and retired U.S. Army general Colin Powell alluded to Israel having an arsenal of “200 nuclear weapons.” While this number appears to be an exaggeration, there is no doubt that Israel does have a small but powerful nuclear stockpile, spread out among its armed forces.

Israel set off to join the nuclear club in the 1950s. …..
By the late 1960s the United States assessed Israeli nukes as “probable,” and U.S. efforts to slow the nuclear program and get Israel to join the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty went nowhere. Finally in September 1969, Nixon and Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir reportedly reached a secret agreement that the United States would cease its demand for inspections and Israeli compliance with antiproliferation efforts, and in return Israel would not declare or test its nuclear weapons……..
Not much is known about early Israeli weapons, particularly their yield and the size of the stockpile. The strategic situation, in which Israel was outnumbered in conventional weapons but had no nuclear adversaries, meant Israel likely had smaller tactical nuclear weapons to destroy masses of attacking Arab tanks, military bases and military airfields. …….
Israel does not confirm nor deny having nuclear weapons. Experts generally assess the country as currently having approximately eighty nuclear weapons, fewer than countries such as France, China and the United Kingdom, but still a sizeable number considering its adversaries have none. These weapons are spread out among Israel’s version of a nuclear “triad” of land-, air- and sea-based forces scattered in a way that they deter surprise nuclear attack……
Like other nuclear-armed nations, the Israeli Navy has reportedly deployed nukes to what is generally agreed to as the most survivable seagoing platform: submarines. Israel has five German-built Dolphin-class submarines, which experts believe are equipped with nuclear-tipped cruise missiles. ……http://nationalinterest.org/blog/the-buzz/the-worlds-most-mysterious-nuclear-weapons-program-its-not-20198?page=2

April 17, 2017 Posted by | Israel, weapons and war | Leave a comment

For the first time, USA drops largest Non-Nuclear Bomb, in Afghanistan

US Forces Just Dropped Their Largest Non-Nuclear Bomb For The First Time, Gizmodo, Adam Clark Estes Apr 14, 2017,Citing military sources, CNN reports the United States just dropped a 9.14m-long bomb with a blast yield equivalent to 11 tons of TNT on suspected ISIS targets in Afghanistan. Nicknamed MOAB (short for “Mother of All Bombs”), the weapon is the largest non-nuclear bomb in America’s arsenal. This is the first time a MOAB has been used in combat.

Details of the attack remain sparse. According to CNN, the bombing aimed to take out ISIS tunnels in the Achin district of Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province. The network also says that the bomb was dropped from an Air Force Special Operations Command MC-130 aircraft and that the military is “currently assessing the damage.”

What we do know is that the MOAB is an extremely powerful weapon. First developed in the lead up to the 2003 Iraq invasion, the bomb, officially named the GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast, had only been detonated in testing before Thursday’s attack in Afghanistan. However, the MOAB served as a weapon of psychological warfare after it was moved into the theatre back in 2003. The US military also distributed videos of test drops that show how the 9,798kg, GPS-guided bomb can level entire armies. They are indeed scary videos:…….. https://www.gizmodo.com.au/2017/04/us-forces-just-dropped-its-largest-non-nuclear-bomb-for-the-first-time/

April 15, 2017 Posted by | Afghanistan, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Foreign Ministers at G7 declare support for Iran nuclear agreement

G7 FMs declare support for Iran’s nuclear deal IRNA http://theiranproject.com/blog/2017/04/11/g7-fms-declare-support-irans-nuclear-deal/   – The G7 Ministers of Foreign Affairs in the final declaration of their meeting in Lucca, Italy have expressed support for the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers, known also as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

“We support the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) as an important contribution to the non-proliferation regime,” the Group of 7 (G7) Industrialized nations, including Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States, said in Italy.

“Continued and full implementation of the JCPOA is essential to build confidence that Iran’s nuclear program is exclusively peaceful in nature,” the declaration further read.

The G7 foreign ministers also called for full commitment by all parties involved in the nuclear deal.

“We value the JCPOA’s comprehensive structure and the commitment by all parties to its solid verification mechanism,” they said. We commend and continue supporting the IAEA in its crucial work in Iran, including monitoring and verification to help ensure compliance with Iran’s JCPOA commitments and safeguard obligations, thus playing a key role in fostering mutual trust,” they said.

They further added that, “We stress the need for all parties to entirely and consistently fulfill all their commitments under the JCPOA in good faith.”

The G7 foreign ministers also asked the Islamic Republic of Iran to remain to comply with its JCPOA-commitments.

“We reaffirm the need for Iran to strictly abide by all its nuclear related commitments,” they said in their declaration.

The declaration further referred to the need for the Resolution 2231 of the United Nations Security Council to be fully implemented.

“UN Security Council Resolution 2231 needs to be fully implemented, including its provisions prohibiting the transfer of arms,” the declaration noted.

It also touched upon Iran’s role in Syria and noted, “We call upon Iran to play a constructive regional role by contributing to efforts to achieve political solutions, reconciliation and peace in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen and other parts of the region and to cooperate in countering the spread of terrorism and violent extremism.’

According to the G7 official website, the G7 Ministers of Foreign Affairs met on 10-11 April in Lucca. A traditional meeting held once a year between the seven most industrialized countries of the world.

April 14, 2017 Posted by | 2 WORLD, Iran, politics international | Leave a comment

US reaffirms Iran nuclear agreement

 http://www.argusmedia.com/news/article/?id=1440687 11 Apr 2017, Washington, 11 April (Argus) — The US administration’s new focus on crises in Syria and North Korea is highlighting a full retreat from President Donald Trump’s pledge to rescind the nuclear agreement his predecessor signed with Iran.

US secretary of state Rex Tillerson today reaffirmed support for the multilateral agreement — the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action — that lifted restrictions on crude exports from Iran in January 2016. The EU, Russia and China also are parties to the agreement.

The G7 foreign ministers, meeting in Lucca, Italy, in a statement hailed the agreement’s “important contribution to the non-proliferation regime.” Implementation of the agreement will “build confidence that Iran’s nuclear program is exclusively peaceful in nature,” the ministers said.

The US’ approach to Iran so far has not departed greatly from the path former president Barack Obama’s administration paved following the lifting of the nuclear-related sanctions, even though Trump still denounces the deal. Trump imposed new sanctions on Iran following tests of ballistic missiles, just like his predecessor did. And the Pentagon continues to view Iran as a threat to US interests in the Middle East, including the freedom of navigation in the straits of Hormuz and Bab al-Mandeb.

Iran since the lifting of the nuclear-related sanctions increased production by more than 900,000 b/d to 3.8mn b/d in February.

Senior White House officials contend that Iran’s missile tests are evidence of a covert nuclear weapons program. Iran says its program is defensive in nature.

The US administration promised to push for a stronger international response to the missile tests than Obama did. But today’s G7 statement only expresses “deep regret” over the tests.

The need to coordinate sanctions programs with the EU is likely a key driver in the new administration’s approach. EU officials also persuaded US senators to delay advancing a widely supported bill to expand the scope of sanctions on Iran over the missile tests. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will wait until after the Iranian presidential election on 19 May to schedule a vote on the bill, committee chairman Bob Corker (R-Tennessee) said.

The G7 statement calls on Russia and Iran, as allies of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad’s regime, to ensure Syria’s compliance with the UN convention banning the use of chemical weapons. But the US is directing the bulk of its criticism over Assad’s alleged use of chemical weapons against civilians at Russia.

April 14, 2017 Posted by | Iran, politics international, USA | Leave a comment

Overall analysis of the Iran Nuclear Agreement

The Impact of the Iran Nuclear Agreement http://www.cfr.org/iran/impact-iran-nuclear-agreement/p39032
 Zachary Laub, Senior Copy Editor/Writer  April 11, 2017

Introduction

Iran has dismantled much of its nuclear program and given international inspectors extensive access to sensitive sites under an agreement known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Under its terms, the United States, European Union, and United Nations have lifted sanctions that had crippled the Iranian economy, but more than year after the accord took effect, Iranians have yet to see the recovery that President Hassan Rouhani had promised. Meanwhile, as the Trump administration has vowed a more aggressive approach to Iran and the U.S. Congress considers levying new sanctions, international businesses, sensing uncertainty, have largely held back from investing in the country.

 What are the terms of the JCPOA?

The JCPOA, which was signed in July 2015 and went into effect the following January, imposes restrictions on Iran’s stockpiles of uranium and its ability to enrich it. The so-called P5+1—that is, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and United States) and Germany—negotiated the agreement with Iran over nearly two years. During this period, the Obama administration said its intent was to set back Iran’s nuclear program so that any decision to sprint toward producing fissile material for a weapon—an indicator known as “breakout times”—would take at least a year, up from just a few weeks.

Nuclear restrictions on Iran. To extend that breakout time, the agreement requires that uranium enrichment at Fordow and Natanz be restricted and a heavy-water reactor, at Arak, have its core rendered inoperable; its plutonium byproduct, the P5+1 countries feared, could have been reprocessed into weapons-grade material. These facilities are now being repurposed for research, industrial, or medical purposes, and subjected to inspections by monitors from the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The accord imposes limits on the numbers and types of centrifuges Iran can operate, as well as the size of its caches of enriched uranium. (Mined uranium has less than 1 percent of the uranium-235 isotope, and centrifuges increase that isotope’s concentration. Uranium enriched to 5 percent is used in nuclear power plants, and at 20 percent it can be used in research reactors or for medical purposes. High-enriched uranium, at some 90 percent, is used in nuclear weapons.) The JCPOA also aims to guard against the possibility that Iran could develop nuclear arms in secret at undeclared sites.

Many of the JCPOA’s nuclear provisions have expiration dates. After ten years, for example, centrifuge restrictions will be lifted, and after fifteen years, so too will limits on the low-enriched uranium it can possess, as well as the IAEA’s access to undeclared sites.

Monitoring and verification. Among the open-ended provisions, Iran is bound to implement and later ratify an “additional protocol” to its safeguards agreement with the IAEA, which gives IAEA inspectors unprecedented access to Iran’s nuclear facilities. (As a signatory to the Nonproliferation Treaty, or NPT, Iran has committed to never pursue nuclear weapons, but it is entitled to pursue nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.) The agency’s director-general issues quarterly reports to the IAEA Board of Governors and UN Security Council verifying Iran’s implementation of its nuclear commitments.

The JCPOA established the Joint Commission, with the negotiating parties all represented, to monitor implementation of the agreement. That body, chaired by Federica Mogherini, the EU foreign policy chief, is charged with dispute resolution, and a majority vote of its members can gain IAEA inspectors access to undeclared sites they consider suspect. It also oversees the transfer of nuclear-related or dual-use materials.

Sanctions relief. In exchange for these limitations on its nuclear program and opening up access to international inspectors, the EU, UN, and United States all committed to lifting sanctions that they had imposed on Iran for its nuclear program. While the United States has only suspended extant nuclear sanctions, it pledged in the JCPOA to remove specified entities from sanctions lists and seek legislation to repeal the suspended sanctions within eight years, as long as the IAEA concludes that Iran’s nuclear activities remain peaceful in nature.

Still, other U.S. sanctions [PDF], some dating back to the hostage crisis in 1979, remain in effect. They cover matters such as ballistic missile production, support for U.S.-designated terrorist groups, and domestic human rights abuses. The United States has stopped enforcing its sanctions on oil exports, freeing Iran to trade on international markets again, but restrictions on financial transactions remain in place. Many banks and other companies, including foreign subsidiaries of U.S. businesses, are wary of doing business in Iran for fear of incurring fines or being barred from dealing on Wall Street. A major exception to U.S. primary sanctions allows Boeing to sell aircraft to Iranian airlines.

New Security Council resolutions are periodically needed to keep UN sanctions suspended, so, by alleging a major violation, any one of the P5 members can veto a new resolution. This “snapback” mechanism is set to remain in effect for ten years, after which point the UN sanctions are set to be repealed.

Has Iran upheld its obligations?

Implementation Day, on which sanctions were lifted, came once the IAEA certified that Iran had met preliminary requirements, including taking thousands of centrifuges offline, rendering the core of the Arak heavy-water reactor inoperable, and selling excess low-enriched uranium to Russia. Since then, the IAEA has mostly found Iran in compliance with the JCPOA’s requirements. Iran twice exceeded the amount of heavy water that it is allowed under the agreement, the IAEA reported, but quickly resolved it.

“Monitoring is a physical act, but verification is a political act.” —Christopher Bidwell, Federation of American Scientists

The challenge inspectors face is that they are “looking to prove the negative,” says Christopher Bidwell, a senior fellow at the Federation of American Scientists. “IAEA reports talk about where Iran is compliant, but then are silent on known rough issues,” he says, highlighting military sites, for which inspectors must seek access from Iranian authorities or adjudication by the Joint Commission. Also omitted from the public record, the International Crisis Group notes, are reports on Iran’s caches of low-enriched uranium and research on centrifuges. “Monitoring is a physical act, but verification is a political act,” Bidwell says. “How sure are you that what you’ve monitored has told you what you want to know?”

Have the P5+1 countries upheld their obligations?

The United Nations, European Union, and United States all repealed or suspended the sanctions that the JCPOA specified be lifted on Implementation Day, and since then the United States has also unfrozen or delivered to Iran certain seized funds. (Liquid assets freed up in European and Asian banks might have totaled some $50 billion, according to a U.S. Treasury official; in addition, the United States refunded $1.7 billion delivered for an arms deal that was signed before the 1979 revolution but never fulfilled.) Most significantly, the United States is no longer enforcing secondary sanctions on Iran’s oil sector, which has allowed Iran to ramp up its oil exports to nearly the level it had been prior to sanctions. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimated in October [PDF] that Iran’s GDP was growing at 4.5 percent in 2016 as it boosted its oil production to 3.6 million barrels per day.

How is Iran’s economy performing?

Iranians have not seen as robust an economic recovery as many had expected to follow the JCPOA’s implementation. A morass of U.S. sanctions unrelated to the nuclear program has discouraged major international banks from investing in the country and made many companies wary of expanding into Iran. They fear being held liable for transacting with the numerous sanctioned entities associated with, for example, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which is ubiquitous in some industries. Uncertainty over whether the nuclear sanctions might be restored persists.

But factors unrelated to sanctions are also hampering the recovery. Corruption, mismanagement, and aging infrastructure are widely acknowledged barriers to industry, and, at about $50 a barrel as of April 2017, oil is trading at less than half the price it was five years earlier, so the revenues to be made from export don’t go as far. The IMF projected that Iran’s growth would “taper sharply” [PDF] in 2017 as it would have trouble surpassing its pre-sanctions level of oil production, and in March 2017 Iran said it would limit its oil production to 3.8 million barrels per day if OPEC members’ agreement to cap their production—a bid to raise oil prices—holds.

With the economy underperforming compared to what Rouhani had promised, some Iranian politicians have accused the United States of dealing in bad faith. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who has expressed ambivalence about the JCPOA, criticized the faltering recovery. But so too has Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, who negotiated the agreement. He said at CFR in September 2016, “it takes a lot to change the global climate that is afraid of the United States taking action against any bank that does any business with Iran.” Referring to U.S. Treasury regulations, he added, “there is one sentence that it’s OK to do business with Iran and about five pages of ifs and buts,” discouraging banks from entering the market.

Do U.S. politics jeopardize the JCPOA?

On the campaign trail, Trump pledged to dismantle or renegotiate the nuclear agreement, echoing the criticisms made by some members of Congress as the agreement was being finalized. Many objected to sanctions relief on the grounds that it would enrich Iran and allow it to expand its influence in regional conflicts like the Syrian civil war. Critics also said that monitoring provisions in the JCPOA offered no guarantee that Iran could not covertly develop a nuclear weapon.

Trump could reimpose waived sanctions or add new ones by presidential prerogative, enact statutory sanctions passed by Congress, or allow the presidential waivers of nuclear sanctions to lapse when they come due for renewal. Any of those measures could be perceived by either Iran or other members of the P5+1 as the United States reneging on its commitments.

After Iran tested ballistic missiles in late January 2017, the administration extended sanctions to twenty-five individuals and entities associated with either the missile program or the IRGC’s expeditionary Quds Force. (Though ballistic missiles could be used to deliver nuclear weapons, they are beyond the scope of the JCPOA; the UN Security Council resolution that codified the JCPOA contains only nonbinding language on the matter.) “It wasn’t a drastic departure from previous policy, including from the Obama administration,” says Ariane M. Tabatabai, a visiting assistant professor at Georgetown’s Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service.

A bill cosponsored by the top Republican and Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee could prevent the president from fulfilling the U.S. obligation to delist certain entities within eight years of implementation; it could also be construed as impeding the benefits Iran can accrue from sanctions relief. That would “threaten the ongoing implementation of the nuclear deal,” says the Arms Control Association, an independent Washington-based nonproliferation group.

Do Iranian politics jeopardize the JCPOA?

The JCPOA is contentious in Iran as well. Rouhani is running for reelection on May 19, and “the main thing he’s being judged on by the electorate is the economic recovery,” Tabatabai says.

“The Rouhani government oversold its ability to generate economic recovery following the sanctions relief,” she says, “and so now it is dialing back expectations of what is realistic.” The government is now arguing that the recovery will take more time, and that its lag cannot be attributed to sanctions alone.

Hard-liners in Iran argue that the United States is angling to keep the Iranian economy depressed and that Rouhani was hoodwinked into unfavorable terms, a view they say is bolstered by extreme rhetoric from some members of the Trump administration and Congress. They argue that Iran has “redesigned its nuclear facilities while the sanctions have only been suspended,” and so the United States can reinstate sanctions with relative ease even as the Iranian nuclear program has been permanently set back, says Mohammad Ayatollahi Tabaar, an assistant professor at Texas A&M University’s Bush School of Government and Public Service

While some U.S. lawmakers continue to criticize the JCPOA, the other members of the P5+1 are firmly behind it. Many close watchers of the accord say that if the United States were to reinstate sanctions without presenting clear evidence of Iranian cheating, its negotiating partners would be unlikely to follow suit and resurrect the global regime that drove Iran to the negotiating table. “Iran’s goal is to create a gap between the U.S. and EU,” says Tabaar, so Iran likely won’t renege on its nuclear commitments. Instead, he says, hard-liners might push back against the United States in areas beyond the scope of the JCPOA, such as testing ballistic missiles or boosting its support for its clients in Iraq, Syria, or Yemen.

More on this topic from CFR

April 14, 2017 Posted by | Iran, politics international, Reference | Leave a comment

Saudi Arabia seeking bids for 700-Megawatt Wind and Solar Projects

Saudis to Seek Bids for 700-Megawatt Wind and Solar Projects, Bloomberg, by Anthony Dipaola

April 11, 2017
  • Energy Ministry qualifies 51 companies to bid for power plants
  • First Solar, renewables unit of EDF among qualified companies

Saudi Arabia will begin seeking bids next week from renewable-energy companies to build wind and solar plants with a combined capacity of 700 megawatts as part of the kingdom’s $50 billion program to boost power generation and cut its oil consumption.

Energy Minister Khalid Al Falih will announce a request for proposals for the projects, the next phase in the country’s bidding process, at a conference next week in Riyadh, the ministry said Monday in an emailed statement. The ministry qualified 27 companies to bid for a 300-megawatt solar plant and 24 firms for a 400-megawatt wind farm.

The project is part of a plan to transform the Saudi economy by weaning it off oil and creating new industries. Other Middle Eastern countries including the United Arab Emirates, Jordan and Morocco are also developing renewable energy to curb fuel imports or conserve crude oil for export. Saudi Arabia plans to develop almost 10 gigawatts of renewables by 2023, requiring investment of $30 billion to $50 billion, Al-Falih said in January…….https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-04-10/saudis-to-seek-bids-for-700-megawatt-wind-and-solar-projects

April 12, 2017 Posted by | renewable, Saudi Arabia | Leave a comment

America launches first direct attack on Syrian government, – 50 cruise missiles to a military airfield

U.S. strikes Syrian military airfield in first direct assault on Bashar al-Assad’s government [following US-backed ‘rebel’ chemical false flag] WP,  06 April 2017 | The U.S. military launched approximately 50 cruise missiles at a Syrian military airfield late on Thursday, in the first direct American assault on the government of President Bashar al-Assad since that country’s civil war began six years ago. The operation, which the Trump administration authorized in retaliation for a chemical attack killing scores of civilians this week, dramatically expands U.S. military involvement in Syria and exposes the United States to heightened risk of direct confrontation with Russia and Iran, both backing Assad in his attempt to crush his opposition.

April 7, 2017 Posted by | Syria, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

The path to war? US legislation in Congress to unravel the Iran nuclear agreement

If Congress sends Trump this legislation, our new president will be granted the tools and the greenlight from Congress to unravel the Iran deal and put us back on the path to a war with Iran. Unless Democratic senators stand up against this bill soon, opponents of the Iran nuclear deal may wipe away Obama’s diplomatic legacy with Iran faster than even they thought was possible.
 
Why Give Trump The Keys To War With Iran? https://www.niacouncil.org/give-trump-
keys-war-iran/ 
When Trump won the elections, many worried that it could lead to war between the United States and Iran, due to his desire to kill the Iran nuclear deal. Now, thanks to the U.S. Senate, we may be one step closer to this nightmare scenario: The Senate is poised to pass legislation that will place President Trump’s trigger-happy finger on the ignition switch of a deadly conflict with Iran.

Introduced to coincide with the annual American Israel Public Affairs Council (AIPAC) conference that concludes today, the Countering Iran’s Destabilizing Activities Act of 2017 (S. 722) would give Trump new tools to violate the Iran nuclear deal. Perhaps most shockingly, a small group of Senate Democrats have joined Republicans to grant Trump some of the most dangerous authorities that would put the U.S. and Iran back on the path to war. The list of sponsors includes many of the usual suspects ― the consummate Iran hawks who worked to block Obama’s diplomacy with Iran and many of whom have sworn to “rip up” the nuclear deal: Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Bob Corker (R-TN), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Tom Cotton (R-AR), and Ted Cruz (R-TX). But the list of sponsors also includes Ben Cardin (D-MD) ― who opposed the nuclear deal but has said the U.S. should still abide by it ― as well as Bob Casey (D-PA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Chris Coons (D-DE), and Joe Donnelly (D-IN) who supported the deal.

Yet now these senators are signed onto legislation that requires non-nuclear certifications that would block the president from removing sanctions that are set to expire in later stages of the nuclear agreement. Why would Democratic senators who support the nuclear deal sign on to a measure that would violate the agreement? Because, they have argued, the bill gives the president a case-by-case waiver for the deal-killing provisions. That means that these senators are trusting Donald Trump with new deal-killing authorities and abdicating to him whether the U.S. honors the nuclear deal or “rips it to shreds.”

The bill also enables Trump to re-impose sanctions on Iranian entities that were de-listed pursuant to the accord. And it mandates sanctions that would broadly target any person or entity that ― knowingly or unknowingly ― contributes to Iran’s ballistic missile program, including universities that conduct research and banks that process payments for the government. This would amount to a trickle-down reimplementation of sanctions on much of Iran ― and a violation of the nuclear accord. Finally, the bill would designate the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), an elite branch of the Iranian military, as a terrorist group ― a major escalation. The IRGC is a highly problematic organization that has benefitted from years of a sanctions economy at the expense of Iran’s people. It is not unusual for individuals within the IRGC to be sanctioned if they are believed to have connections to Iran’s ballistic missile program. However, designating a foreign military branch as a terrorist organization is an extremely dangerous provocation that Pentagon leaders in multiple administrations have advised against. AIPAC has urged for the IRGC designation for the past decade, yet Barack Obama and even George W. Bush resisted. But now, with Donald Trump in the White House, AIPAC is pressing ahead with its proposal.

If this legislation is passed the U.S. can expect a negative response from Tehran that will undermine moderates in Iran’s upcoming May elections and empower anti-U.S. hardliners. The ranking member of Iran’s Parliament, Alaeddin Boroujerdi, has already signaled that Iranian lawmakers will consider designating the U.S. Army as a terrorist organization in retaliation. It is naïve to assume this exchange will be limited to words. U.S. special forces and IRGC units are currently fighting ISIS on the same front in Mosul. Despite some evidence that IRGC units targeted U.S. troops with IEDs during the height of the Iraq War, there have been no such incidents since U.S. soldiers reentered Iraq in the summer of 2014. In effect, the IRGC and the U.S.-backed coalition have agreed to stay out of each other’s way as they fight a mutual enemy in ISIS. This bill could change that reality by removing any incentive for Iran not to attack U.S. troops in Iraq, forbidding any cooperation with IRGC-backed militias against ISIS, and placing our Iraqi allies in a diplomatic catch-22.  It is for this very reason that back in 2007, President Bush’s Pentagon opposed an SDGT designation for the IRGC.

With thousands of AIPAC supporters on Capitol Hill to lobby senators on behalf of the bill, there is a strong chance that this bill could obtain filibuster-proof levels of support. If every Republican supports the bill, and just one more Democrat signs on, AIPAC’s bill will hit 60 votes. If that happens, and Congress sends Trump this legislation, our new president will be granted the tools and the greenlight from Congress to unravel the Iran deal and put us back on the path to a war with Iran. Unless Democratic senators stand up against this bill soon, opponents of the Iran nuclear deal may wipe away Obama’s diplomatic legacy with Iran faster than even they thought was possible.  This piece originally appeared in The Huffington Post.

April 1, 2017 Posted by | Iran, politics, politics international, USA | Leave a comment

Climate change: historic drought led to civil war in Syria, and later to UK’s Brexit – Al Gore

Climate change played key role in Syrian civil war and helped Brexit, Al Gore says, http://www.sanluisobispo.com/news/nation-world/national/article140523093.htmlAn 24 Mar 17, historic drought in Syria led to that nation’s civil war, which, in turn, helped Brexit pass in England, according to former United States Vice President Al Gore who explained his theory at a conference in London this week.

Gore, who has long argued that humans are causing climate change, won an Oscar for his climate-change documentary “An Inconvenient Truth.”

“From 2006 to 2010, 60 percent of the farms in Syria were destroyed and had to be abandoned. Eighty percent of the livestock were killed. The drought in the eastern Mediterranean is the worst ever recorded,” Gore said according to several press reports.

The drought, Gore says, forced more than a million Syrians into cities where they “collided” with refugees from the Iraq War, setting the stage for the Syrian Civil War. Gore said that WikiLeaks documents revealed internal conversations among the Syrian government.

Gore is not the first to tie the severe drought to climate change or the civil war that followed.

“They were saying to one another, ‘We can’t handle this. There’s going to be a social explosion.’ There are other causes of the Syrian civil war,” Gore said, “but this was the principle one.”

That conflict, which began in July 2011, has killed more than 450,000 Syrians and displaced more than 12 million Syrians, according to Al-Jazeera. CNN reports more than 4.8 million Syrians have left the country due to the conflict, which started as a government crackdown in response to protests.

Many of those fleeing the country have migrated to Europe, creating crises in several European nations. That, Gore says, helped lead to Brexit. In June of 2016, citizens of the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union. Many linked the ongoing refugee crisis to the vote to leave.

“It has unleashed with other factors this incredible flow of refugees into Europe, which is creating political instability in Europe,” Gore said, “and which contributed in some ways to the desire of some in the U.K., to say, ‘Wow, we’re not sure we want to be a part of that anymore.’ ”

The Trump administration does not share Gore’s views on human-caused climate change and has already rolled back numerous Obama-era environmental protections.

Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt told CNBC that carbon dioxide is not a primary contributor to global warming. Mick Mulvaney, Trump’s budget director, said climate change research programs are “a waste of your money” while unveiling Trump’s first budget proposal.

“Regarding the questions as to climate change, I think the President was fairly straightforward. We’re not spending money on that anymore. We consider that to be a waste of your money to go out and do that,” Mulvaney said.

March 25, 2017 Posted by | climate change, Syria | Leave a comment