Monday, November 25, 2013

Fiasco in Geneva

gen“Israel is the sinister, unclean, rabid dog of the region…. The Zionist regime is a regime whose pillars are extremely shaky and is doomed to collapse.”

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said that on Wednesday to a huge assembly of his Basij militiamen. The Times of Israel noted that “Footage of the event showed the crowd shouting ‘Death to America’ and ‘Death to Israel.’”

Slightly later the BBC gave this translation (find it here) of parts of Khamenei’s speech:
We are against the arrogance. We fight against the arrogance…. The government of the United States of America is on the top of the arrogance in the world. [The audience repeatedly chants: "Death to America."]
The Zionist regime is doomed to oblivion. The Zionist regime is an imposed regime which is formed by force. None of the formations or creatures which are formed by force is durable, and neither is this one…. Unfortunately, some European countries cringe before this creature which is not worthy of the name of a human being, before these leaders of the Zionist regime, who look like beasts and who cannot be called human.
One might wonder: on the eve of the new round of nuclear talks with the P5+1 countries in Geneva, why did Khamenei use such language? Since Khamenei is indeed the “supreme leader” of Iran, and Iran appeared to want an agreement, wouldn’t Khamenei have thought such a tirade would make the P5+1—or at least its leader, the United States—have grave doubts about whom it was dealing with?
The answer is that Khamenei knew better; he knew his words would have no such effect. President Obama announced that a six-month interim deal had been struck, claiming it had “cut off Iran’s most likely paths to a bomb.”

The problem is that it does no such thing.

Although the text of the deal was still under wraps, the U.S. State Department released a fact sheet on its main points. They concern Iran’s uranium enrichment, its Arak plutonium reactor, monitoring of its nuclear program by the IAEA, and—in return for Iran’s ostensible concessions—sanctions relief.

On enrichment, Iran is supposed to stop enriching uranium to 20%, not install additional centrifuges, leave some of its existing centrifuges inoperable, and not increase its stockpile of 3.5%-enriched uranium.

And yet, as Israeli military analyst Ron Ben-Yishai notes:
These restrictions are in fact almost meaningless, as the Iranians have already managed to install nearly 18,000 centrifuges used to enrich uranium. With such an amount of centrifuges, they can enrich uranium to any level they want within a short period of time. At the moment they already have more than 8 tons of uranium enriched to a 3.5-5% level, which is enough for four to five atom bombs of the size dropped on Hiroshima.
By allowing Iran to go on enriching uranium despite six UN Security Council resolutions in recent years that prohibited it from doing so, the P5+1 has—as Iranian president Hassan Rouhani lost no time proclaiming triumphantly to his countrymen—conceded on the crucial issue of Iran’s supposed “right to enrich.”
Which raises this question: now that the “international community” has validated Iran’s violation of six Security Council resolutions, why should it be any more resolute in enforcing the current deal?

On the plutonium reactor, the State Department’s fact sheet lists some things Iran is not supposed to do there for the next six months, such as fueling it, adding components, transferring fuel and heavy water to it, and others.
What Iran does not have to stop, however, is construction at Arak. Ben-Yishai calls this “the major flaw,” noting that:
after the construction is completed, the installment of plutonium production equipment…can be implemented for about six months—and then Iran will have, together with the enrichment abilities it already possesses, a perfect fuel circle which can produce a plutonium-based nuclear weapon.
In addition, when that equipment is brought in and the reactor becomes “hot,” it cannot be targeted in a military operation for fear of a Chernobyl-like disaster.
On monitoring, the fact sheet says Iran has agreed to “provide daily access by IAEA inspectors” to two of its enrichment sites, Natanz and Fordow.
That, however, in no way addresses the issue of secret nuclear sites. Just last week an Iranian exiled opposition group—which has exposed such sites in the past—said it had information about a secret site now under construction.
And Mark Hibbs, an expert at the Carnegie Endowment, said monitoring would be “full of landmines” and that it would
require a level of cooperation and information sharing between the IAEA, the powers and Iran which is probably unprecedented concerning one country’s nuclear program…. 
Which again raises the question: are the Iranian regime and its operatives the sort of people one should trust?
Finally, on sanctions, the State Department fact sheet says the deal will provide “limited, temporary, targeted, and reversible relief” to Iran worth about $7 billion.
But Mark D. Wallace, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, warns that:
the carefully constructed sanctions architecture developed over decades has been significantly rolled back…those touting this agreement do not appear to understand the fragility of sanctions, or the dangers of rolling them back and easing the economic pressure on Iran.
Meanwhile AP reported on Sunday that the Obama administration and Iran have been holding secret talks on a nuclear deal over the past year.  For ten days following the UN General Assembly meeting in September,
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif stayed in the U.S….along with 75 colleagues from President Rouhani’s entourage—businessmen, industrialists and representatives of the Iranian gas and oil sector, who met with representatives of American oil companies Chevron and Exxon.
It makes you wonder how much of the remaining sanctions will be left after six months—and just who is going to revamp them after, of course, Iran cheats on all of its commitments.

If it sounds like the West reaching yet another hollow deal with a heinous, manipulative, entirely dishonest regime, it is. If it sounds like the Obama administration was never really serious about the Iranian threat in the first place, it’s that too.

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