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  • 1 July 2015
  • Posted By Behbod Negahban
  • 0 Comments
  • Congress, Diplomacy, Neo-Con Agenda, Nuclear file

An Ideological Echo-Chamber in the House of Representatives

Photo via Miami Herald

Photo via Miami Herald

WASHINGTON, DC — The final round of the Iran nuclear negotiations is underway, and public opinion across the United States is emphatically favorable—with the latest polling, from NBC, showing that Americans support a deal by a 2 to 1 margin.

But sooner or later, it’s Congress that will have to decide whether to approve the agreement. The stakes are high, and what the Hill needs now is an edifying discussion to ensure that its members make an informed, prudential decision.

Yet that’s not the discussion they’ve been having, at least in the House. Over the past two months, the Committee on Foreign Affairs has held almost weekly hearings discussing Iran. Of the fifteen expert witnesses they’ve heard from, twelve have been ardent opponents of any negotiations— skewing debate decisively towards the hawks.

One witness, General Michael T. Flynn, actually plagiarized entire sections of his testimony from a report issued by the Washington Institute of Near-East Policy, a think-tank offshoot of the powerful anti-deal lobby AIPAC. Flynn actually argued that regime change, like we tried with Saddam, was the only way to effectively deal with Iran’s nuclear program.

Another “expert” that has been featured was Maryam Rajavi—the “president-elect” of the Mojahedin-e-Khalq, a “cult-like” Marxist organization that, until 2012, was actually considered a terrorist-group by the United States for its attacks against Iran; hardly an objective or reliable source for analysis.

And just like that, they’ve turned the hearings into tax-payer purchased stick to beat the agreement with— creating the appearance that supporters of an agreement are a radical minority, when in reality the opposite is true. No, this doesn’t mean that lawmakers should only hear from the deal’s supporters, but democratic discourse is only fruitful when it hears from both sides. By hearing only one side of the argument, the debate has taken place in a vacuum in which any potential flaw in a deal has been magnetized, the benefits have been disregarded, and the consequences of rejecting a deal have been completely ignored.

These are consequences that few lawmakers have bothered to raise in their questioning of witnesses, with one exception. Representative Gerald Connolly (D-VA) is one of the only committee members to defend the nuclear talks during the hearings—and also happens to be one of the only lawmakers from the Democratic minority who have decided to actually attend these events and confront the heavily slanted panels.

“What is the probability,” Connolly asked at one of the hearings, “that pulling the plug and imposing more sanctions will lead to Iranians concluding that it is not beneficial to negotiate with the West?”  Dissatisfied with the panel’s noncommittal response, Connolly suggested that doing so would blow up a deal, lift constraints on Iran’s nuclear program and push its rivals to respond with nuclear programs of their own. Connolly implored the panel, and his colleagues, “to examine whether your approach will lead precisely to the end result that you want to avoid, which is massive proliferation.”

Debating the deal on its actual merits, seriously addressing the viability of alternatives, digging into the most pressing issues— only when we hear more statements like Connolly’s will we have productive discussion on the Iran nuclear deal. Everything up to then will be exactly as it has been so far: nothing but sound and fury.

  • 21 April 2014
  • Posted By Kaveh Eslampour
  • 0 Comments
  • Diplomacy

Iran talks hit Cruz control

Ted Cruz

The P5+1 and Iran have reportedly agreed to hold the next round of expert-level nuclear negotiations May 5th through 9th on the sidelines of an upcoming NPT conference in New York.

Although the news has received scant attention from the media and public, the fact these talks will take place in New York is quite interesting considering the recent friction over Hamid Aboutalebi, who was blocked by the White House and Congress from representing Iran at the UN. That these negotiations are proceeding unencumbered–and in New York no less–shows an unprecedented level of determination by both sides to not allow nuclear negotiations fall victim to political distractions.

The controversy drummed up over the UN rep was less about visas than it was about hardliners on both sides attempting to undermine the talks. Senator Ted Cruz, who rushed to take ownership of the controversy and authored the legislation to block Aboutalebi’s visa, called the passage of his bill a mere “first step“. He went on to explain, “This action should be followed by the President suspending the Geneva negotiations unless and until Iran not only ceases this behavior but also ceases all enrichment activities and dismantles their nuclear program in its entirety.”

But against the odds, the Obama and Rouhani administrations have managed to insulate the nuclear talks from separate issues that could derail the negotiation process. Even as controversies get drummed up and exploited, these administrations have kept their eyes on the prize. They are not willing to let perceived provocations distract from or disrupt the hard work of nuclear negotiations.

The current nuclear negotiations are just that – negotiations focused on resolving the nuclear issue. The two sides have made the strategic decision to focus these negotiations on resolving the nuclear issue, understanding that their success can open the possibilities to address other important issues.

The technical meetings in New York will be the last  before the P5+1 and Iran begin drafting a comprehensive nuclear agreement in mid-May. By July, we may be looking at a historic final agreement. The Iran and the United States have not be able to agree on everything, and certainly not all at once, but for now the Obama and Rouhani administrations seem to agree on one thing: these negotiations are too important to let hardliners drag them down.

  • 15 January 2014
  • Posted By Arrizu Sirjani
  • 0 Comments
  • Congress, Diplomacy

Rep. Blumenauer Calls to Give Diplomacy a Chance


Last week, Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR-3) delivered another strong statement in support of U.S.-Iran diplomacy, calling for Congress to “calm down and give diplomacy a chance” in response to new Iran sanctions legislation.

Speaking on the House floor,  Rep. Blumenauer extolled the interim agreement with Iran and urged Congress, “Let’s work to make progress with the agreement and beyond.” He suggested, “Congress can do this most importantly, by leaving it alone. Congress shouldn’t mettle. Congress shouldn’t muddle. Congress shouldn’t give Iranian hardliners who do not want any agreement at all an excuse to scuttle it.”

“We have an opportunity to improve the most violate region in the world,” Blumenauer said, “and Congress shouldn’t blow that opportunity.”

  • 19 January 2012
  • Posted By Ardavon Naimi
  • 0 Comments
  • NIAC round-up

Iran News Roundup 01/19

U.S. proposes a direct line of communication with Iran 

A  a conservative Iranian lawmaker, Ali Motahari, claims that the U.S. has sent a letter to Iran’s Supreme Leader proposing direct talks. The Obama administration has denied the claim. Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast claims that the proposal for direct talks was embedded in the U.S. letter warning Iran against closing the Strait of Hormuz (ABC 01/18).  

CNN reports that the United States has suggested creating a direct line of communication with Iran in order to prevent any escalating miscalculations between the two countries (CNN 01/18).

Turkey’s foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu, at a joint news conference with Iran’s Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi, said that Turkey is prepared to host nuclear talks between Iran and Western countries. He urged for negotiations to begin immediately (Washington Post 01/19).

U.S. crafting new “confidence building measure” with Iran

The U.S. is crafting a new diplomatic proposal that would require Iran to stop enriching uranium to 20% and to give up its existing stockpile of 20% uranium  (Yahoo News 01/18).

EU set to approve central bank and oil sanctions

EU foreign ministers are expected to agree on an oil embargo against Iran and a freeze on the assets of its central bank at a meeting scheduled for Monday, according to French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe (Reuters 01/19). 

The director general of the IAEA, Yukiya Amano, said that the U.N. would press for full Iranian cooperation in meetings with Iranian officials. An IAEA delegation is set to seek explanations about allegations regarding Iran’s nuclear program (Reuters 01/19).

Meanwhile, Deputy House Whip Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT), returning from a trip to the U.S.’s Gulf allies, said there is widespread concern about Iran’s nuclear ambitions and support for sanctions, but great reservation and worry about a possible military attack against Iran (Think Progress 01/18).

Japan, China statements on Iran oil

China’s premier Wen Jiabao, at a press conference in Qatar, defended their oil trade with Iran while warning against Iran developing and acquiring a nuclear weapon (The Guardian 01/19). Meanwhile, Japan has said that it is likely to reduce Iranian crude purchases over the next three months (Reuters 01/19).

Former Revolutionary Guard commander criticizes Iranian government

A high-ranking former Iranian commander, Retired Rear Adm. Hossein Alaei, has sparked protest and anger in Iran for publishing a letter perceived to be critical of the Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei. In the letter, Alaei implicitly compared the recent government crackdowns on the opposition to the repression during the time of the shah. Alaei publicly expressed regret for having written the letter after angry mobs, supporters of Khamenei, attacked his home (Washington Post 01/18).

Notable opinion: 

In a Politico op-ed, author and journalist Hooman Majd discusses the 5 main U.S. misconceptions about Iran:

Top five, 10 or 100 lists are standard at the end of the year. Though the Iranian year doesn’t end for roughly two months, given the escalating tensions between Washington and Tehran, with threats and counter threats over the Strait of Hormuz — to say nothing of most GOP presidential candidates’ views on what to do about Iran — it might be useful to compile one on the growing Iran crisis, early 2012 here and late 1390 there.

To read the full piece click here.

Additional Notable News:

Three prominent journalists have been arrested in Iran ahead of the country’s parliamentary elections.

The New York Times reports that Iran’s currency fell to its lowest level ever against the dollar on Wednesday.

Nato’s secretary-general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, has urged Iran to keep the Strait of Hormuz open.

Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar, during a trip to Turkey, warned Arab states against aligning themselves too closely with the United States.

  • 17 January 2012
  • Posted By Ardavon Naimi
  • 0 Comments
  • NIAC round-up

Iran News Roundup 01/17

U.S.-Israel missile defense drill cancelled as concerns grow over Israeli attack against Iran

Senior military officials announced that the largest joint US-Israel missile defense drill has been postponed (Reuters 01/15).  Israel officially claimed this was due to budget cuts, but some U.S. and Israeli officials said the exercise was mutually postponed to not inflame tensions with Iran (Yahoo 01/16).  Still other U.S. officials expressed concerns privately that Israel had postponed the Spring exercise to clear the way for a strike on Iran, while others speculated that the exercise was cancelled by the U.S. to send a signal to Israel and Iran (IPS 01/16).

U.S. defense leaders have become increasingly concerned that Israel is preparing an attack against Iran, stepping up plans to protect U.S. facilities in the region in case. U.S. officials have been sending Israel private messages warning about the disastrous consequences of a conflict with Iran (WSJ 01/14) Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff will be visiting Israel on Thursday amidst the United States’ increasing concerns of a possible Israeli military strike on Iran (Haaretz 01/15). Additionally, Sen. George Mitchell said a case has not been made for attacking Iran (Think Progress 01/13).

UK foreign minister William Hague said that all options remain on the table regarding Iran, but said, “we are clearly not calling for or advocating military action. We are advocating meaningful negotiations, if Iran will enter into them, and the increasing pressure of sanctions to try to get some flexibility from Iran” (The Guardian 01/15).

John Kirby, a Pentagon spokesman downplayed reports that the U.S. is increasing military presence in the Middle East is solely because of Iran (Reuters 01/13).

U.N. Secretary-General condemns assassination of Iranian scientists

On Friday, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was quoted as saying that “Any terrorist action or assassination of any people, whether scientist or civilian, is to be condemned. It is not acceptable. Human rights must be protected” (Reuters 01/13).

Iran’s foreign minister sent a letter to the Swiss ambassador in Tehran, which represents U.S. interests, saying Iran has evidence of U.S. involvement in the assassination of Iranian scientist Mostafa Roshan.  “We have reliable documents and evidence that this terrorist act was planned, guided and supported by the CIA,” the letter stated (Reuters 01/14).

Meanwhile, nearly a 100 scholars, academicians, and journalists have signed a petition condemning the murder of Iranian scientists.

  • 5 November 2009
  • Posted By Lloyd Chebaclo
  • 1 Comments
  • Diplomacy, Events in Iran, Nuclear file, UN

Iranian Nuclear Official: No Reason to Reject Nuclear Deal

ILNA interviewed an Iranian nuclear official recently who criticized the Iranian leadership for not accepting the proposed nuclear deal offered by the P-5+1. The official, Ahmad Qarib of the Iranian Atomic energy Organization, said Iran does not currently have the capacity in its nuclear infrastructure to use all of its enriched uranium, and that therefore they have nothing to lose from signing on to the deal.

In an interview with the Iranian news agency ILNA, Ahmad Qarib, Iranian Atomic Energy Organization Scientific Committee member and former director of the organization’s research institute, criticized Iran’s rejection of the Vienna draft proposal under which Iran would transfer 75% of its stock of enriched uranium (its total stock is estimated at 1,600 kg) for further enrichment in a third country, so that Iran will have a supply of fuel for its Tehran nuclear reactor.

Qarib stated that because Iran does not have an infrastructure of nuclear plants that would require such a stock of enriched uranium for operation, the country really has no reason to reject the Vienna proposal. He also pointed out that the Tehran facility is not expected to operate efficiently for longer than another 10 years.

Qarib explained: “Iran has no reactor besides the Tehran research reactor and the Bushehr plant [which is not yet operational]. All this fuss [by Iran] over fuel for them comes at a time when the Bushehr [plant] is not yet finished; and even if it is completed, Russia will supply the fuel that it requires. In effect, right now we don’t need all of the 1,600 kg of uranium that we now have…”

He added that “in the era of the Mir Hossein Mousavi [government, 1981-1989], Iran purchased 680 tons of uranium, and so far has used only 12 tons of that, as fuel for the research reactor in Tehran. Over 660 tons remain – and our enrichment process [at the Natanz facility] is ongoing.”

He continued, “So it is not clear why this issue has become so complex, [when] the Tehran research reactor will be operating [efficiently] for no more than another decade [and then will have to be shut down]; [in any event,] it does not need all that fuel.”

Nuclear deal drafted Wednesday, signatures due Friday

An agreement calling for Iran to send its domestically-produced low-enriched uranium abroad for further enrichment and then have it returned for medical use (what is being called by some the “elegant solution”) was accepted by negotiators in Wednesday’s negotiations in Vienna. Friday is the current deadline for delegations from France, Russia, the US, and Iran to sign it.

Mohamed ElBaradei called the development “a balanced approach to the problem.”

David Sanger wrote about concerns regarding the timing of uranium shipments:

NYT: “If Iran actually sends the low-enriched uranium to Russia in a single shipment, as the draft document states, it would have too little fuel on hand to build a nuclear weapon for roughly a year, according to the agency’s experts. If the fuel leaves Iran in batches, the experts warn, Iran would have the ability to replace it almost as quickly as it leaves the country.”

Julian Borger of the UK’s Guardian also wrote an article on the nuclear deal and a blog post based on discussions with a diplomat involved in the negotiations which addresses the timing of shipments. He writes:

“The fuel would be sent by the end of the year, and sent out in bulk, not in small parcels.”

He has also recently added new information on the possible deal:

Update: some more details. 1200 kg of Iranian LEU (just under three quarters of the present stockpile) would be shipped by the end of the year. The four signatories of the deal would be Iran, Russia, France and the IAEA, not the US (as stated in earlier reports). France’s role in fuel fabrication would be presented as optional, as a way of soothing Iranian sensitivities over past uranium deals with France that went sour.

The draft is a significant step forward in talks and a good reason for hawks to reign in sanctions rhetoric, much less talk of the military option for a while longer. Incidentally, and on a completely unrelated note…don’ t miss AEI’s event: “Should Israel Attack Iran?” this Friday.

  • 12 January 2009
  • Posted By Patrick Disney
  • 0 Comments
  • Diplomacy, Nuclear file, Persian Gulf, Sanctions, US-Iran War

Nuclear disarmament in exchange for US relations: North Korea official

iran-north-koreaKyodo News has reported that North Korea would consider disarming its nuclear arsenal in exchange for a renewal of diplomatic relations with the United States.

For those not familiar, North Korea developed nuclear weapons after it pulled out of the NPT in 2003, tested a weapon in October of 2006, and is currently estimated to have approximately 5 warheads (give or take a few).

The US has engaged in multiparty negotiations with North Korea for the better part of two decades, with progress coming in fits and starts throughout.  Though the source for this latest news was particularly vague, it seems that “diplomatic relations” would involve the establishment of a US Embassy with an ambassador in Pyongyang.

Reverse-engineering an Obama deal with Iran

If all the hype about the incoming Obama administration is to be believed, prospects for a deal between the US and Iran on the nuclear issue have never been brighter.  So imagine for a moment that we’re already a year into an Obama presidency, and the White House has just recently issued a proud statement that it has just negotiated a deal with Iran over its nuclear program, and talks are underway at Camp David to finalize the agreement. How did this come about? 

Let’s re-trace our steps, from that historic day a little over a year from now all the way back to today, and see just what it took to get us there…

  • 30 October 2008
  • Posted By Rebecca Schiel
  • 0 Comments
  • Diplomacy, Persian Gulf

Clearly Not a Carpet-Bazaar…

Hooman Majd, author of The Ayatollah Begs to Differ, unleashed a stinging rebuke in the Huffington Post yesterday to Thomas Friedman’s New York Times op-ed, calling the columnist’s conclusions “offensively colonialist and racist generalizations.”

The piece by Friedman was an explanation as to why he believes the next US president will have more leverage in dealing with Iran. Essentially, he said that the falling price of oil gives the US badly needed leverage over Iran. He drew largely on comments made by Karim Sadjadpour, an Iran expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, characterizing negotiations with Iran as similar to bargain shopping in the bazaar. He quoted Sadjadpour saying, “there is never a price tag on any carpet. The dealer is not looking for a fixed price, but the highest price he can get — and the ‘Iran price’ is constantly fluctuating depending on the price of oil.”

Sign the Petition

 

7,349 signatures

Tell Google: Stop playing Persian Gulf name games!

May 14, 2012
Larry Page
Chief Executive Officer
Google Inc.
1600 Amphitheatre Parkway
Mountain View, California 94043

Dear Mr. Page:

It has come to our attention that Google has begun omitting the title of the Persian Gulf from its Google Maps application. This is a disconcerting development given the undisputed historic and geographic precedent of the name Persian Gulf, and the more recent history of opening up the name to political, ethnic, and territorial disputes. However unintentionally, in adopting this practice, Google is participating in a dangerous effort to foment tensions and ethnic divisions in the Middle East by politicizing the region’s geographic nomenclature. Members of the Iranian-American community are overwhelmingly opposed to such efforts, particularly at a time when regional tensions already have been pushed to the brink and threaten to spill over into conflict. As the largest grassroots organization in the Iranian-American community, the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) calls on Google to not allow its products to become propaganda tools and to immediately reinstate the historically accurate, apolitical title of “Persian Gulf” in all of its informational products, including Google Maps.

Historically, the name “Persian Gulf” is undisputed. The Greek geographer and astronomer Ptolemy referencing in his writings the “Aquarius Persico.” The Romans referred to the "Mare Persicum." The Arabs historically call the body of water, "Bahr al-Farsia." The legal precedent of this nomenclature is also indisputable, with both the United Nations and the United States Board of Geographic Names confirming the sole legitimacy of the term “Persian Gulf.” Agreement on this matter has also been codified by the signatures of all six bordering Arab countries on United Nations directives declaring this body of water to be the Persian Gulf.

But in the past century, and particularly at times of escalating tensions, there have been efforts to exploit the name of the Persian Gulf as a political tool to foment ethnic division. From colonial interests to Arab interests to Iranian interests, the opening of debate regarding the name of the Persian Gulf has been a recent phenomenon that has been exploited for political gain by all sides. Google should not enable these politicized efforts.

In the 1930s, British adviser to Bahrain Sir Charles Belgrave proposed to rename the Persian Gulf, “Arabian Gulf,” a proposal that was rejected by the British Colonial and Foreign offices. Two decades later, the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company resurrected the term during its dispute with Mohammad Mossadegh, the Iranian Prime Minister whose battle with British oil interests would end in a U.S.-sponsored coup d'état that continues to haunt U.S.-Iran relations. In the 1960s, the title “Arabian Gulf” became central to propaganda efforts during the Pan-Arabism era aimed at exploiting ethnic divisions in the region to unite Arabs against non-Arabs, namely Iranians and Israelis. The term was later employed by Saddam Hussein to justify his aims at territorial expansion. Osama Bin Laden even adopted the phrase in an attempt to rally Arab populations by emphasizing ethnic rivalries in the Middle East.

We have serious concerns that Google is now playing into these efforts of geographic politicization. Unfortunately, this is not the first time Google has stirred controversy on this topic. In 2008, Google Earth began including the term “Arabian Gulf” in addition to Persian Gulf as the name for the body of water. NIAC and others called on you then to stop using this ethnically divisive propaganda term, but to no avail. Instead of following the example of organizations like the National Geographic Society, which in 2004 used term “Arabian Gulf” in its maps but recognized the error and corrected it, Google has apparently decided to allow its informational products to become politicized.

Google should rectify this situation and immediately include the proper name for the Persian Gulf in Google Maps and all of its informational products. The exclusion of the title of the Persian Gulf diminishes your applications as informational tools, and raises questions about the integrity and accuracy of information provided by Google.

We strongly urge you to stay true to Google’s mission – “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful” – without distorting or politicizing that information. We look forward to an explanation from you regarding the recent removal of the Persian Gulf name from Google Maps and call on you to immediately correct this mistake.

Sincerely,

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