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  • 27 February 2014
  • Posted By Shervin Taheran
  • 0 Comments
  • Congress, Diplomacy, Sanctions

Partisanship at Its Worst

Less than a month ago, Senator Menendez [D-NJ] conceded in a floor speech that his new Iran sanctions bill, S. 1881, should not be brought to the floor after 42 Republican Senators demanded a vote. “I hope that we will not find ourselves in a partisan process trying to force a vote on this national security matter before its appropriate time,” said Menendez at the time.

This is a good thing considering that we now know that one of the key claims of AIPAC and other supporters was not true. They said that the bill would  require sanctions be imposed, in violation of the preliminary nuclear deal with Iran, only if Iran first violated the deal. But in reality, the bill would have imposed sanctions for a variety of actions beyond what was required in that deal. And Republican staffer  recently admitted as much, telling Wall Street Journal, “Had our bill been in law, the latest [Iranian ballistic missile] tests would have triggered a re-imposition of sanctions.” So Republicans are beginning to acknowledge that the mantra of “the sanctions will be imposed only if the talks fail” was thoroughly misleading.

One would think that the discussion was finally put to rest, that sanctions were not the answer, and that we could now focus our attention to achieving a pragmatic, realistic, and concrete deal with Iran.

However, just this past Monday, Senator Jerry Moran (R-KS) blocked a bid to vote on bills to combat sexual assault in the military, demanding a vote on S. 1881 in return for allowing the Senate to debate an issue which affects about 26,000 men and women in the military per year. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) stated it most diplomatically when he said, “I’m terribly disappointed that my Republican friends are trying to turn this vital national security concern into a partisan issue by trying to inject [it] into a setting where it’s clearly not relevant.”

  • 31 January 2014
  • Posted By Shervin Taheran
  • 0 Comments
  • Diplomacy, Nuclear file

The Impracticality of the Zero Enrichment Stipulation

The Israel Project has recently launched a website which aims to convince the public that if Iran is allowed to enrich uranium at all, then Iran will certainly develop a nuclear weapon. However, holding on to such notions is a fallacy that will undermine diplomatic progress. While it would be great to have zero risk of Iranian proliferation, which the zero enrichment proposal seeks to attain, such a situation is neither attainable nor necessary to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran. Further, with sufficient safeguards in place, risks of Iranian weaponization can be diminished to reasonable and acceptable levels. Therefore, it is in America’s interest to sacrifice the long-gone idea of “zero enrichment” and instead focus on securing concrete and verifiable transparency from the Iranian regime. Insisting on unprecedented monitoring of the Iranian nuclear program, rather than deal-killing stipulations such as “zero enrichment,” will ultimately prove more effective in guarding against an Iranian nuclear weapon.

The expectation and the feasibility of a zero-enrichment clause in any final deal with Iran is not realistic. As George Perkovich said, “Iran has already paid tens of billions of dollars in direct costs; lost more than $100 billion in sanctions; and suffered a cyberattack, the assassination of key scientists and engineers, and the perpetual threat of war to protect its self-proclaimed right to enrich uranium. There is no reason to think that more sanctions or military strikes would change Tehran’s stance now.” Further, an insistence on zero enrichment has precluded the possibility of viable nuclear deals in the past, including in a potential 2005 bargain with European powers that would have capped Iran’s enrichment at 3,000 centrifuges.

Moreover, Iranians frequently bring up the argument that they want to have the capability to enrich their own nuclear fuel because they don’t want to be dependent on other nations whom they don’t trust. For example, Iranians mention the event in which France reneged on a deal with Iran after Iran had already provided a billion-dollar investment in the multinational enrichment consortium, Eurodif. France refused to deliver the nuclear fuel previously promised to Iran, thus giving the Iranians ammunition to strengthen their own nuclear program.

Additionally, Iran is currently one of fourteen countries that enrich uranium on their own soil, including non-nuclear weapon states like Argentina, Brazil, Germany, Japan and the Netherlands. Under the NPT, parties are recognized as having the “inalienable right…to develop research, production, and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes without discrimination and in conformity with Articles I and II of this Treaty.” Any enrichment capabilities – which are neither granted nor denied by the NPT – are subject to full and thorough inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). And under the NPT and IAEA inspection, no country has ever obtained a nuclear weapon.  This is why it is a more valuable use of our time to expand the access of international inspectors than insisting on “zero enrichment”.

As far as the interim agreement, as signed by the P5+1, enrichment is actually explicitly defined and permitted. The preamble of the agreement says, “[T]his comprehensive solution would involve a mutually defined enrichment program with practical limits and transparency measures to ensure the peaceful nature of the program.” Even in a final deal, enrichment would not violate the intent of the Security Council resolutions. As Arms Control Association Executive Director Daryl Kimball said, “the first step Geneva deal effectively accomplishes the original goal of the U.N. Security Council resolutions by capping the total amount of 3.5% material [low-enriched uranium] and it goes further by requiring Iran to neutralize its 20% stockpiles and to cease all enrichment to 20% levels while a comprehensive agreement that further limits Iran’s enrichment capacity below current levels is negotiated.”

Since a final agreement with Iran would likely include the ratification and implementation of the IAEA’s Additional Protocol and potentially further voluntary measures, insisting on zero enrichment while the Iranians hold firm in their opposition against the demand is a waste of time, diplomatic energy, and political capital. We should be focusing our energies into creating practical demands which we can get the Iranians to agree to in order to ensure Iranians cannot develop a nuclear weapon. And this is a fact that America’s highest ranked diplomats and politicians have already recognized.

In 2009, when current Secretary of State John Kerry was the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he said, “The Bush administration [argument of] no enrichment was ridiculous… it was bombastic diplomacy. It was wasted energy. It sort of hardened the lines, if you will. They have a right to peaceful nuclear power and to enrichment in that purpose.” Even former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who has traditionally held a hard line in regards to Iran, said to BBC while she was American’s top diplomat that once Iran has shown that their nuclear program is thoroughly responsible, peaceful and in accordance to international standards, they can possibly enrich for civilian purposes in the future. And just on Tuesday, Senator Angus King [I-MI] said at a Council of Foreign Relations event that, “some of our allies want success to be no nuclear capacity at all, no enrichment capacity at all. The indication from Iran is that they’re not going to accept that, so the question is, what between zero and something is going to be acceptable in the agreement.”

Regardless of whether you support the Geneva agreement or not, we will not obtain zero Iranian enrichment.  Military strikes can’t bomb away nuclear know-how and would only enhance desires for a nuclear deterrent.  Sanctions have failed to alter Iran’s nuclear calculus.  Diplomacy, however, can provide sufficient assurances so that Iranian enrichment is used for peaceful purposes, and that’s where the US and the rest of the P5+1 need to focus their efforts.

  • 18 June 2012
  • Posted By Roshan Alemi
  • 0 Comments
  • Congress, Diplomacy, Neo-Con Agenda, US-Iran War

Kristol’s Push for Military Strikes Against Iran

William Kristol and Jamie Fly, neoconservatives who were instrumental in orchestrating the War in Iraq, are at it again.  While their previous war advocacy shop, the Project for a New American Century, is now defunct (after a job well done), they have reconstituted their pro-war efforts in the form of the Foreign Policy Institute.

This time they are calling for Congress to pass an Authorization for Use of Military Force in Iran–with or without support from Commander in Chief Obama.  Completely contradicting US, Israeli, and European intelligence, Kristol and Fly insist that Iran is a dangerous threat that is “closer than ever to nuclear weapons.”

These fear mongering tactics may have worked back in 2003 when Kristol and Fly organized support for the War in Iraq, but today we know better than to take the advice of war hawks such as Kristol and his cronies.  Their ridiculous claim that military action against Iran would “serve the nations interests,” only illustrates their disregard for the lives of U.S soldiers and the words of people who actually know what they are talking about.  The most prominent words used by military and civilian leaders to describe a strike against Iran are: disastrous, calamitous, and dangerous.  Their words to describe folks like Kritol and Fly could probably be summed up as: chicken hawks.

  • 16 December 2011
  • Posted By Loren White
  • 0 Comments
  • US-Iran War

Always assuming the worst with Iran

Today we awoke to an AFP report that Iran had been caught red-handed trying to smuggle “nuclear material” out of Russia.  According the report, in response to this illegal act “a criminal enquiry has been launched.”  The report seemed to confirm many people’s beliefs about Iran’s willingness to use any means at its disposal, illicit or otherwise, in its pursuit of nuclear weapons.  Iran hawks have long been trying to compile evidence ranging from IAEA reports to “laptops of death” to support such assertions.  And no doubt today’s report about a furtive attempt to smuggle nuclear material into Iran must surely be one more piece of evidence demonstrating Iran’s efforts and intentions to pursue nuclear weapons. Right?

Wrong.  As more information emerged it turned out that the nuclear material was not weapons grade uranium or anything of the sort that could be used for any military purpose, but a rather innocuous radioactive isotope.  According to an ABC report:

On closer examination the isotope was identified as Na22, which is used in medicine.  It is commonly used to trace sodium in the body. It cannot be used in the production nuclear weapons.

While it is sometimes overlooked, there are very legitimate usages for nuclear material that range from civilian energy production to treating cancer.  In fact, Russia has an agreement in place with Iran to supply medical isotopes, such as Na22.   Such an agreement could mean that today’s “smuggling” of nuclear material is connected to a legitimate and recognized purpose, and not some nefarious militarized nuclear program.

Today’s revelations regarding this incident should illustrate two points.

  • 15 November 2011
  • Posted By Loren White
  • 0 Comments
  • Diplomacy, Events in Iran, Israel, NIAC round-up, Sanctions, US-Iran War

Iran News Roundup 11/15

Details and questions about explosion near Tehran that killed IRGC general

Skepticism is emerging about Tehran’s claims that the recent explosion in Iran was an accident and not an Israeli attack.  The NY times reported one of the casualties in the explosion was a Revolutionary Guard general who was a key figure in developing Iran’s shahab missile program (NY Times 11/14).  Time’s Tony Karon writes that, if Israel was behind the explosion, it could create an escalatory cycle of military retaliations that could lead to war.  However, Tehran may view this as a trap to provide casus belli for war against it and hence is denying Israeli involvement. (Time 11/14)

Current Iran legislation is “dangerous”

The ‘Iran Threat Reduction Act’, which recently passed the House Foreign Affairs Committee and is expected to come up for a vote in the House before the end of the year, could actually increase the threat of war with Iran says Steven Zunes. The act “appears designed to pave way for war” by setting “a dangerous precedent” of setting legal constraints against diplomatic contact between American and Iranian officials. (Zunes Huffington Post 11/14)

Additional Notable News:

Reuters reports that EU foreign ministers voiced support for additional sanctions but will wait until their next Dec. 1 meeting before deciding on whether to take further action.

Brigadier General John H. Johns (ret.) writes in the New York Times: Calls for military strikes on Iran may provide “applause lines” in GOP debates, but they “flatly ignore or reject outright best advice of America’s national security leadership.”

CBS poll found that 55% of Americans think Iran can be effectively dealt with through diplomacy instead of military action, while 15% said they see Iran as a threat that requires military action now.

Video: Former inspector Robert Kelly calls recent IAEA report on Iran’s nuclear program “misleading” and says it “recycles old information and is meant to bolster hardliners.”

The Mojahedin of the Islamic Revolution Organization issued a letter, signed by 175 people, rejecting the regimes “stubborn” stance on their nuclear program.

The Daily Telegraph reports that Iran is holding meetings with Syrian opposition groups as it continues to hedge its bets regarding Assad’s future.

  • 10 November 2011
  • Posted By Loren White
  • 0 Comments
  • Diplomacy, Sanctions, UN, US-Iran War

IAEA report sets off firestorm of comments

The IAEA released its latest report on Iran’s nuclear program, generating a range of responses from arms control groups, government officials, and policymakers in various countries. Here is what some fo them had to say:

Arms control groups respond

Arms Control Association:

The IAEA report and annex reinforce what the nonproliferation community has recognized for some time: that Iran engaged in various nuclear weapons development activities until 2003, then stopped many of them, but continued others. […]  The report suggests that Iran is working to shorten the timeframe to building the bomb once and if it makes that decision. But it is also apparent that a nuclear-armed Iran is still not imminent nor is it inevitable.

Center for Arms Control and Non-proliferation says “New Details on Iran Don’t Change the Game”:

While Iran’s nuclear program continues to make progress, an Iranian nuclear weapon is not imminent and the U.S. intelligence community continues to believe that Iran has yet to make the political decision to build and test a nuclear weapon. […]  The U.S. should be actively engaged in a discussion about how to change Iran’s nuclear calculus, and must continue to reiterate its commitment to further diplomatic engagement with Iran.

  • 19 July 2010
  • Posted By Shawn Amoei
  • 0 Comments
  • Diplomacy, Israel, US-Iran War

New Report: War Not an Option in Dealing with Iran

A new report by the Oxford Research Group (ORG), an independent UK based non-governmental organization, maps out the growing risk of an Israeli military strike on Iran and the devastating consequences that could lead to a long, protracted war. The report, authored by Professor Paul Rogers, warns that an Israeli attack “would be unlikely to prevent the eventual acquisition of nuclear weapons by Iran and might even encourage it.”

With talk of the military option against Iran back on the table, the consequences of such an attack are being assessed more and more carefully. The report indicates that a military attack would cause many civilian casualties in Iran, which would be met with a response that could bog down the United States in a protracted regional war. While considerable damage can be done to Iran’s missile and nuclear programs, it would increase political unity and strengthen the Ahmadinejad government.

An attack on Iran by Israel — a non-signatory to the NPT — would almost certainly lead the Iranians to withdraw from the treaty, and send a message to the international community that by staying out of the NPT you have more benefits then by joining.

Advocates of military strikes must ask themselves what they are going to do the day after an attack. Those who cannot answer that question should not consider the military option. Even implicit or explicit threats of war tend to be counterproductive, especially with Iran, as they make a possible accommodation more difficult.

The report indicates that an attack would surely extend the shelf life of the regime and should be firmly ruled out while alternative strategies must be pursued. The military option would set in motion a complex and long-lasting confrontation and “the consequences of a military attack on Iran are so serious that they should not be encouraged in any shape or form. However difficult, other ways must be found to resolve the Iranian nuclear crisis.”

The report suggests that after the first strike comes the deluge, and the genie won’t be put back in the bottle. Iran would likely withdraw from the NPT, develop nuclear weapons to deter further attacks, set off a series of actions aimed at Israel and the United States, spark regional war, and cause a sharp rise in oil prices. As Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates recently warned, “If we attack Iran, our grandchildren will have to fight the jihadists here at home.”

The report warns that strikes will not solve the nuclear issue, and “put bluntly, war is not an option in responding to the difficult issue of Iran’s nuclear ambitions.”

  • 9 June 2010
  • Posted By Sanaz Yarvali
  • 0 Comments
  • Nuclear file

An Unsolved Mystery: Shahram Amiri

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iD4SzcAeExg&hl=en_US&fs=1&]

Shahram Amiri, an Iranian physicist who has been missing since June of last year, has uploaded two separate videos online sharing completely contradictory accounts of his situation. Which video is real? Or are both just a fraud?

In his first video, Amiri says he is residing in Tuscon, Arizona after having been abducted from Medina “in a joint operation by terror and kidnap teams from the US intelligence service CIA and Saudi Arabia’s Istikhbarat.” He says that he was abducted for information about Iran’s nuclear program. Toward the end of the video, he says that if this is the last video that his family sees…for them to have patience. He looks quite disheveled in the grainy video, though there seems to be no hard evidence to indicate either that the video is real or fake.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7tMY-oraOfA&hl=en_US&fs=1&]

In the second video, he is well dressed and has asked for everyone “to stop presenting a distorted image of me.” He starts off by saying that he is thankful for having the opportunity to talk and that he is living freely in the United States. He refers to himself as a simple medical physicist, and that he misses his wife and family.

Recently, US officials acknowledged that Amiri had defected and had been resettled in the United States after extensive debriefing, in which he reportedly shared valuable information to American intelligence agencies.

A U.S. official familiar with the case scoffed at the notion that he had been kidnapped, noting that if Amiri were imprisoned, it would not be possible for him to make videos for Iranian television.

Both videos raise lots more questions than answers. For now, it seems like the case of Shahram Amiri will remain an unsolved mystery.

  • 3 June 2010
  • Posted By Setareh Tabatabaie
  • 0 Comments
  • Diplomacy, Nuclear file, Sanctions, UN

Shifting on 20% enrichment?

Iran’s Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki and Permanent Envoy to the IAEA Ali Asghar Soltanieh relayed seemingly coordinated messages yesterday, hinting that Iran might consider giving up its 20% enrichment work, which is currently the biggest stumbling block for the fuel swap deal.

While reiterating the usual assertion that uranium enrichment is allowed under the NPT, Mottaki added: “if we do not need the 20 percent we won’t move into that direction.”

“We have to do it since we have been facing a lack of any legally-binding assurance of supply,” Soltanieh also told reporters yesterday, adding “when we don’t need 20 percent uranium, we will not produce it.”

These statements might represent a cautious foray into a shifting position by Iran on the 20% enrichment issue.  Iran realizes that with 20% enrichment serving only as a backup plan, and possibly being wholly eliminated in the future, the West’s excuses for rejecting the Brazilian/Turkish deal would evaporate.

For me, now seems like the time to commit to diplomacy, especially when Iran is finally showing some willingness to compromise.

  • 17 May 2010
  • Posted By Setareh Tabatabaie
  • 2 Comments
  • Diplomacy, Nuclear file, UN

White House Statement on the TRR Nuclear Swap

The White House has released a statement on the nuclear fuel swap agreement Brazil and Turkey just reached with Iran:

We acknowledge the efforts that have been made by Turkey and Brazil.  The proposal announced in Tehran must now be conveyed clearly and authoritatively to the IAEA before it can be considered by the international community. Given Iran’s repeated failure to live up to its own commitments, and the need to address fundamental issues related to Iran’s nuclear program, the United States and international community continue to have serious concerns.  While it would be a positive step for Iran to transfer low-enriched uranium off of its soil as it agreed to do last October, Iran said today that it would continue its 20% enrichment, which is a direct violation of UN Security Council resolutions and which the Iranian government originally justified by pointing to the need for fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor. Furthermore, the Joint Declaration issued in Tehran is vague about Iran’s willingness to meet with the P5+1 countries to address international concerns about its nuclear program, as it also agreed to do last October.

The United States will continue to work with our international partners, and through the United Nations Security Council, to make it clear to the Iranian government that it must demonstrate through deeds – and not simply words – its willingness to live up to international obligations or face consequences, including sanctions. Iran must take the steps necessary to assure the international community that its nuclear program is intended exclusively for peaceful purposes, including by complying with U.N. Security Council resolutions and cooperating fully with the IAEA.  We remain committed to a diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear program, as part of the P5+1 dual track approach, and will be consulting closely with our partners on these developments going forward.

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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