Thursday, April 30, 2015

Marco Rubio Makes the Case Iran Deal Must Include Iranian Recognition of Israel's Right to Exist

Marshall Islands’ cautionary tale

There is a thread that runs between Obama’s policy toward Iran and his policy toward Israel.

On Tuesday, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps forcibly commandeered the Maersk Tigris as navigated its way through the Straits of Hormuz. Iran controls the strategic waterway through which 40 percent of seaborne oil and a quarter of seaborne gas transits to global markets.

The Maersk Tigris is flagged to the Marshall Islands. The South Pacific archipelago gained its independence from the US in 1986 after signing a treaty conceding its right to self-defense in exchange for US protection. According to the treaty, the US has “full authority and responsibility for security and defense of the Marshall Islands.”

Given the US’s formal, binding obligation to the Marshall Islands, the Iranian seizure of the ship was in effect an act of war against America.

In comments to Bloomberg hours after the ship was seized, Junior Aini, chargé d’affairs at the Marshall Islands Embassy in Washington, indicated that his government’s only recourse is to rely on the US to free its ship.

Immediately after the incident began, the US Navy deployed a destroyer to the area. But that didn’t seem to make much of an impression on the Iranians. More significant than the naval movement was the fact that the Obama administration failed to condemn their unlawful action.

If the administration continues to stand by in the face of Iran’s aggression, the strategic implications will radiate far beyond the US’s bilateral ties with the Marshall Islands. If the US allows Iran to get away with unlawfully seizing a Marshall Islands flagged ship it is treaty bound to protect, it will reinforce the growing assessment of its Middle Eastern allies that its security guarantees are worthless.

As the Israel Project’s Omri Ceren put it in an email briefing to journalists, “the US would be using security assurances not to shield allies from Iran but to shield Iran from allies.”

But President Barack Obama apparently won’t allow a bit of Iranian naval piracy to rain on his parade. This week Obama indicated that he feels very good about where his policy on Iran now stands. And he has every reason to be satisfied.

With each day that passes, the chance diminishes that his nuclear deal with the mullahs will be scuppered.

On the one hand, the Iranians are signaling that they are willing to sign a deal with the Great Satan. And this makes sense. For them the deal has no downside.

First there’s the money. Last week the State Department indicated that it won’t rule out paying Iran a $50 billion “signing bonus.”

The $50b. would be an advance on Iranian funds that have been frozen in Western banks under the terms of the sanctions regime that would be lifted in the event a deal is concluded.

Iran can do a lot with $50b.

Iran is spending $3b. a month to finance its war in Syria. With $50b. in their pockets the ayatollahs can fight for another year and a half without selling a barrel of oil.

According to a report earlier this week on Channel 10, during Syrian Defense Minister General Fahd al-Freij’s visit to Tehran this week, he was instructed to enable Hezbollah to open a front against Israel on the Golan Heights. Iran’s “signing bonus” would pay for Iran’s new war against Israel.

As for their nuclear weapons program, even Obama admitted that when his deal expires in 10 years, Iran will have the capacity to build nuclear weapons at will.

Iran can get around the ideological issue of signing with its theological foe by focusing its hatred on the US Congress, something Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif did effortlessly at a press conference in New York on Wednesday.

At home as well, Obama no longer faces serious opposition to his Iran policy. The Iranian Nuclear Agreement Review Act, the bill now being debated on the Senate floor, ensures that Congress will have no ability to stand in the way of the deal. In contrast to the provisions of the US Constitution that require a two-third Senate majority to approve an international treaty, the Senate bill requires a two-third majority of senators to block the implementation of Obama’s nuclear deal with the greatest state sponsor of terrorism.

Obama has successfully bullied centrist Democrat senators into abandoning their concern for US national security and supporting his deal.

They in turn have convinced centrist Republicans – and AIPAC – to push forward the legislation and so turn Congress into partner in Obama’s nuclear gambit.

Attempts by Republican senators, including presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz, to attach amendments to the bill that would require Congress to either treat the deal as an international treaty, or at the very least require a simple majority to reject it, have been strenuously opposed not only by the Democrats, but by the Republican leadership as well.

Obama’s confidence that his deal will go through has freed him up to mark the next target of his foreign policy in what he recently referred to as the “fourth quarter” of his presidency: Israel.

According to a report in Foreign Policy, the administration is now seeking to delay anti-Israel resolutions at the UN Security Council – including a French draft resolution that would require Israel to surrender all of Judea and Samaria and northern, southern and eastern Jerusalem to the Palestinians – until after the deal with Iran is concluded at the end of June. According to the report, the administration doesn’t want to upset pro-Israel Democrats while it still needs them to approve the deal with Iran.

But Obama has no problem with marking the target.

And so, on Monday, Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman did just that.

In an address before Reform Jews, Sherman issued a direct threat against Israel.

In her words, “If the new Israeli government is seen to be stepping back from its commitment to a two-state solution, that will make our job in the international arena much tougher... it will be harder for us to prevent internationalizing the conflict.”

In an apparent attempt to soften the harsh impression Sherman’s statement made on the Israeli public, on Wednesday US Ambassador Dan Shapiro gave an interview to Army Radio.

Although his American-accented Hebrew is always a crowd pleaser, Shapiro’s statements were simply a more diplomatic restatement of Sherman’s threat.

As he put it, “We are entering a period without negotiations [between Israel and the Palestinians] and this leads us to two important challenges.

One – how do we make progress toward the two-states for two-peoples solution, and two – negotiations have always been critical to preventing the delegitimization of Israel.”

In other words, Shapiro signaled that the Obama administration expects Israel to make significant concessions to the Palestinians in return of nothing, in the absence of negotiations.

And if we fail to make such unreciprocated concessions, we will have no legitimacy and the US will have no choice but to act against Israel at the UN.

That is, by Shapiro’s and Sherman’s telling, Israel’s unwillingness to bow to Palestinian and US demands for concessions to the Palestinians is what has caused and what feeds the international campaign to delegitimize its right to exist.

For anyone who entertains the thought that Shapiro and Sherman are correct to blame Israel for the movement to delegitimize it, this week we received new proof of its falsity.

This week, the leaders of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement condemned Israel not for failing to make concessions to the Palestinians. This week they condemned the Jewish state for helping Nepal earthquake victims.

Ever since the Israeli humanitarian aid mission set off for Nepal earlier this week, leading figures in the BDS movement have been working overtime to attribute ill and even demonic intentions to their mission.

Kenneth Roth, the executive director of Human Rights Watch, tweeted on his Twitter account, “Easier to address a far-away humanitarian disaster than the nearby one of Israel’s making in Gaza. End the blockade!” Max Blumenthal, a Jewish anti-Semite who has risen to prominence in the BDS campaign, tweeted, “For a country responsible for so many man-made catastrophes, natural disasters can’t come often enough.”

Ali Abumiah, the editor of Electronic Intifada, intoned that Israel was racist to evacuate newborn infants born to surrogate mothers in Nepal and leave the surrogates behind. He also tweeted, “Propaganda operation goes into high gear to exploit Nepal earthquake to improve Israel’s blood-soaked image.”

These assaults, which attribute malign, exploitative designs to Israel’s humanitarian relief efforts, make clear that there is no connection between Israel’s actions and hostility toward Israel.

The purpose of the BDS movement is not to pressure Israel to make concessions to the Palestinians.

Its purpose is to delegitimize Israel’s right to exist and delegitimize support for Israel’s right to exist.

If Israel is evil for sending hundreds of soldiers and relief workers to Nepal to rescue earthquake victims, clearly Israel will be attacked as evil for making concessions to the Palestinians that the Palestinians and the Obama administration will insist are insufficient.

Shapiro’s claim that negotiations between Israel and the PLO, or Israeli unilateral concessions to the Palestinians, protect Israel from its Western detractors is totally unfounded.

There is a thread that runs between Obama’s policy toward Iran and his policy toward Israel.

That common threat is mendacity. Obama’s actual goals in both have little to do with his stated ones.

Obama claims that he wishes to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. But as we see from his willingness to allow Iran to become a nuclear threshold state while running wild in the Straits of Hormuz, committing mass slaughter in Syria, building an empire that includes Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen, and threatening its Arab neighbors and Israel, the purpose of the administration’s negotiations with Iran is not to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power.

The purpose of the negotiations is to build an American-Iranian alliance on Iran’s terms.

So, too, Obama says his goal is to advance the cause of peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

But his pressure and hostility toward Israel does nothing to achieve this goal. The goal of a policy of acting with hostility toward Israel is not to promote peace. It is to distance the US from Israel and align America’s Israel policy with Europe’s preternaturally hostile treatment of the Jewish state.

Three days after a ship sailing under their flag was seized by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, citizens of the Marshall Islands discovered that their decision to place their security in America’s hands is no longer the safe bet they thought it was 29 years ago.

Anyone who entertains the belief that Israel will gain diplomatic acceptance or even a respite from American pressure if it makes concessions to the Palestinians is similarly making a high risk gamble.

Caroline B. Glick will be speaking at The Jerusalem Post Conference in New York on June 7.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Possible Scenarios and Strategic Options vis-à-vis Iran

The Institute for National Security Studies

by Amos Yadlin

The six scenarios analyzed in the article indicate that an agreement between the world powers and Iran on the Iranian nuclear program based on the Lausanne parameters with necessary amendments is preferable to the current situation, even if it is not “a good deal.” The alternative to the improved Lausanne agreement would consist of severe and effective sanctions that may possibly result in a better agreement but might also lead to the realization of the dangers inherent in a failure of the talks, Iran’s continued nuclear activity, and even a decision by Tehran to break out to the bomb. By contrast, an agreement would make it possible in another 10-12 years to gauge whether the Iranian regime has become more moderate or has stayed the same and is still vying for nuclear arms. If that happens, it would be possible to take action against the nuclear program under improved operational conditions and possibly also under conditions of enhanced legitimacy. Perhaps the possibility of a special defense agreement between Israel and the United States should also be investigated.,

The likely agreement between Iran and the P5+1, based on the parameters announced by the US State Department on April 2, 2015 after the talks in Lausanne, is problematic but not necessarily the worst case scenario that could emerge in the context of Iran’s nuclear program. The starting point for comparing the various scenarios is not one in which Iran has zero nuclear capabilities, but one in which Iran has been – however illegitimately – a nuclear threshold state since the beginning of the current decade. Iran possesses a nuclear infrastructure it constructed over the last 10 years, i.e., the components and know-how to put together a nuclear bomb. Iran has 19,000 centrifuges, of which 9,000 enrich uranium, 10 tons of low grade enriched uranium (enough fissile material for 7-8 bombs after enrichment to a higher grade), two underground enrichment facilities, a power reactor in Bushehr also capable of producing plutonium, a heavy water plutonium reactor under construction in Arak, and an infrastructure of know-how, R&D, and covert activity dedicated to weapons development. The emerging agreement does not permit Iran to develop nuclear weapons, neither in 10-25 years, nor thereafter. An Iranian decision to develop nuclear weapons in 2025 or 2030, when most restrictions imposed by the agreement are scheduled to be lifted, would still represent a violation of the agreement and of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, obligating a forceful international response.

Secretary of State Kerry with P5+1
leaders and Iranian Foreign Minister
Zarif,  Lausanne, April 2, 2015 
Israel views Iran with nuclear weapons as a threat to its security of the highest order, if not an outright existential threat. Already today, before an agreement between Iran and the world powers has been signed, Iran is only 2-3 months away from the bomb, should it decide to break out to nuclear weapons. Therefore, an acceptable agreement with Iran would have to keep it at least 2-3 years away from the bomb. It thus behooves Israeli policy to focus, first and foremost, on improving the parameters of the emerging agreement. At the same time, Israel must work with the United States to promote agreements and a coordinated plan of action, and perhaps also to anchor understandings in a formal agreement that would provide solutions to the problematic scenarios and dangers inherent in an Iranian breakout, with or without a final agreement. In particular, Israel must strive to receive guarantees that there will be suitable solutions to the risks that an agreement with Iran poses to it, and to reach an agreement with the United States about strengthening Israel’s security and political standing in case the optimistic scenario envisioned by the US administration does not materialize.

An analytical model to guide the respective leaders of the United States and Israel – leaders who view Iran armed with nuclear bombs as unacceptable – is one that focuses on the question that must be asked at every point in time: have we reached “the junction” where we must choose between two problematic alternatives, each replete with negative outcomes and appalling ramifications – accepting Iran with nuclear arms or taking military action to prevent Iran from arming itself with nuclear weapons? If we believe that we have not yet reached such a decision making junction and that there are alternatives that can keep Iran from producing nuclear weapons that are neither “the bomb” nor “bombardment,” they are to be preferred. Such alternatives could take the form of a reasonable agreement, extreme sanctions that would change the balance of Iran’s calculus, secret activity against the Iranian nuclear program, or regime change in Tehran.
I believe that if Prime Minister Netanyahu determines we are at the point where a decision must be made on accepting a military nuclear Iran or stopping it using military force, he would do what it takes to stop Iran militarily. I also assume that if President Obama or any other subsequent US president realizes that the Iranians are in fact breaking out to the bomb, he or she will stand behind Obama’s promise to prevent Iran from attaining nuclear weapons and prefer “prevention” over “containment.” However, United States enthusiasm for reaching an agreement has severely weakened the administration’s position in the negotiations, and therefore this second assumption must be validated. The reasoning used by administration spokespeople to justify the interim agreement signed with Iran and the parameters for the final agreement that were made public greatly eroded the US commitment whereby “all options are on the table.” Based on their statements, it was possible to understand that if the administration assessed it was at the crucial junction, there would be little likelihood it would choose to bomb Iran rather than see Iran with the bomb.
Below are six scenarios. Three assume a failure to reach an agreement by the target date of June 30, 2015, and three assume an agreement is reached. For each of the six scenarios, the essay describes different projected Iranian conduct, with the understanding that this is the most difficult variable to predict. For every scenario, the essay attempts to analyze the circumstances whereby the difficult junction of the “the bomb” or “to bomb” decision is reached, and the extent to which each of the scenarios is either preferable or less desirable than the current situation in which Iran already possesses nuclear threshold capabilities. The analysis assumes that an agreement will include all the parameters made public by the State Department, with requisite improvements in limiting nuclear R&D in Iran and with the addition of full transparency regarding the nuclear program’s military dimensions, as well as full verification of Iranian nuclear conduct at every site and at any time, as stipulated by the agreement.

The Talks Fail

Scenario 1: The interim agreement de facto becomes the permanent agreement. The failure to reach a final agreement would stem from the gaps between the sides in their interpretations of the Lausanne parameters. An Iranian insistence on the immediate lifting of the sanctions, limited supervision, continued aggressive R&D, and the refusal to provide satisfactory answers to questions about the military dimensions of the nuclear program would necessarily lead to a breakdown of the talks. Nonetheless, the underlying assumption of this scenario is that both sides would be careful not to create a profound crisis and would declare their commitment to the spirit of the interim agreement – the Joint Plan of Action (JPOA) concluded in November 2013 and implemented in January 2014 – while continuing the talks in some format or another. In practice, the interim agreement would evolve into a permanent agreement. In this situation, Iran would be closer to the bomb (2-3 months away) than in an agreement based on the Lausanne parameters (1 year away from the bomb for the first 10 years after the agreement is signed); there would be no restrictions on developing advanced centrifuges and operating them; and there would be no restrictions on the construction of additional reactors. Supervision would be partial and not involve implementation of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s Additional Protocol. The key question in this scenario is Iran’s ability to function under the existing sanctions regime, i.e., to continue to pay the price of the sanctions. This scenario could be realized only if the US Congress adopts a moderate approach when it comes to legislating further sanctions and if the Iranians decide they can continue to absorb the burden of the current sanctions while hoping that as time passes, they can bypass them and/or the current sanctions regime will dissolve. 
The Israeli government must ask itself if this scenario is preferable to an agreement. If it is assessed that Iran can preserve its nuclear program given the current sanctions, this scenario is more problematic than an agreement. While Iranian nuclear activity will not be granted legitimacy and the sanctions imposed on it will not be lifted so that the Iranians will not receive more resources for their negative Middle East activity, the fact is that an illegitimate Iran under sanctions still managed to develop a much more extensive and dangerous infrastructure than Iran will have under the Lausanne agreement parameters. Moreover, it is doubtful that in this scenario, the US administration would feel it had arrived at “the junction”; it is doubtful it would increase pressure on Iran or take military action against it. Even though the Israeli government initially denounced the interim agreement in 2013, by the following year it readily accepted extension of the agreement and continued talks with the Iranians, given the more problematic alternatives such as resumed Iranian progress toward the bomb or a bad agreement. Thus technically speaking and in terms of the breadth and depth of the Iranian nuclear program, an agreement based on the Lausanne parameters is better than the interim agreement becoming the de facto permanent agreement. If the JPOA remains in force, the Iranians will be left with a significant reserve of 10 tons of uranium enriched to 3.5 percent, as well as 19,000 centrifuges, which means a very short breakout time. The only strategic rationale for preferring this alternative would be an assessment that the current sanctions will continue to hurt Iran so much that it will be forced to accept even more restrictive parameters of their nuclear program.
Scenario 2: The talks fail while Iran withdraws from the JPOA and expands its nuclear infrastructure though still without breaking out to the bomb. In this scenario, Iran ends its commitment to the interim agreement and renews the full scope of expanding and improving its nuclear program but still without denying its commitment to the NPT. Iran would operate advanced centrifuges, enlarge its stockpile of enriched material, resume enrichment to the 20 percent grade, not implement the Additional Protocol, and begin operating the heavy water reactor in Arak. As a result, its breakout time would be reduced to zero as early as 2016, rather than 2028 as estimated by President Obama in his interview with National Public Radio. Such conduct on Iran’s part would most assuredly lead to harsher sanctions on Iran, but it is safe to assume that the President would still not define this moment as “the junction” for making the fateful decision. The US administration has already demonstrated that it can live with extensive Iranian nuclear capabilities as long as in practice the Iranians do not break out toward the bomb. For Israel, which has determined it cannot live with an Iran capable of breaking out to the bomb on short notice, this would be a very problematic scenario and would support the assessment that Israel was already at the decision making junction. This scenario would appear to be more problematic for Israel than a formulation of an agreement based on the Lausanne parameters (with the requisite amendments). In any case, before taking action, Israel would have to consider the effectiveness of the added sanctions that would be imposed on Iran, their chances of bringing Iran back to the negotiating table, and the prospects for generating a better agreement in those renewed talks.
Scenario 3: The talks fail and Iran decides to break out to the bomb, to withdraw from the NPT, and/or to work covertly to attain the bomb. In response to the failure to reach an agreement and to the subsequent harsher sanctions, Iran would announce its withdrawal from the NPT and/or decide to produce nuclear weapons. One may assume the Iranians would justify this step by claiming that nuclear weapons are their only way to ensure Iranian security and that as a rising world power it is their right to have the same weapons possessed by the world powers and other nations in Iran’s vicinity. This is a severe crisis scenario that would immediately position both the United States and Israel at the decision making “junction.” Judging whether this scenario is preferable to an agreement would depend on a comparison between future outcomes of an agreement with Iran on the one hand (see the next three scenarios), and the effectiveness and outcomes of an attack that would be carried out to block Iran’s access to the bomb, on the other.

The Talks End in an Agreement

Scenario 4: The negotiations conclude on the basis of the Lausanne parameters, a positive dynamic develops between Iran and the world powers, and over the next 10-15 years Iran grows more moderate and stops working toward nuclear weapons. This is the optimistic scenario that the US administration hopes will materialize. In this scenario, Iran would gradually be welcomed back into the fold of the family of nations and would uphold the letter and the spirit of the agreement it made with the world powers, on the basis of an understanding that nuclear weapons are not an asset but a burden. Although Iran, even after a decade, would remain just one year away from the bomb, the tracks to a nuclear bomb – the uranium track, the plutonium track, and the covert track – would be blocked and tightly supervised. In this scenario, Iran could, after 10 years, expand its nuclear infrastructure in Natanz, but according to the agreement would not enrich to a grade above 3.67 percent, would not amass materials above a negligible amount of 300 kg, would not operate the Fordow enrichment site, and would persuade the international community it was a nation with civilian nuclear capabilities maintaining the principles of the NPT and effectively supervised by the IAEA’s expanded Additional Protocol. 
If the world powers were also capable of preventing nuclear proliferation in other Middle East nations, this scenario is undoubtedly preferable to the current state of affairs in which Iran is already only a few months away from the bomb, and certainly to a situation in which it will have a much expanded nuclear infrastructure in 2030 without an agreement. This scenario would relieve the necessity of choosing among two bad alternatives – “the bomb” or “bombardment” – at the fateful decision making junction.
Scenario 5: Iran keeps the agreement but does not concede its strategic objective, namely, having the ability to develop the bomb at any given time and on as short notice as possible. The underlying assumption of this scenario is that there will be no change in the regime and that Iran, in addition to continuing its negative activities in the Middle East (striving for regional hegemony, being involved in subversion, supporting terrorism, and working to destroy Israel), will also cling to the desire to be able to decide, at a moment’s notice, to develop a nuclear bomb without the world being able to do anything about it. At the end of the 10 years of restrictions imposed by the agreement, Iran reassembles – legitimately, according to the agreement – all 13,000 centrifuges dismantled by the agreement, and sets a goal of achieving 54,000 centrifuges (including advanced models) – the full capacity of the Natanz facility – by year 15 of the agreement. In this scenario, Iran installs the thousands of advanced centrifuges it has developed during the years of the agreement, and prepares 3,000 advanced centrifuges in Fordow in year 15 of the agreement, which allows it to return to full activity in this well-fortified site. In year 15 of the agreement, Iran can also start amassing enriched material above the 300 kg limit and increase the grade of enrichment to 20 percent. It is clear that exactly as President Obama predicted in his NPR interview, the breakout time would be very close to zero already in year 13 year of the agreement, and certainly by year 15. In 2025, the Israeli Prime Minister and the US President would undoubtedly be much closer to “the junction” and would have to decide whether or not to act before the scope and immunity of the Iranian nuclear program would leave the decision on the development of nuclear arms solely in the hands of a problematic, hostile Iranian regime. The decision to act would be difficult because the Iranians would not have deviated from the agreement, while at the same time it would be clear that non-action on the part of the world powers would mean an Iranian bomb in virtually no time at all and at a time considered optimal from the regime’s point of view.
The most important question is: will the United States, hopeful that the optimistic fourth scenario is realized but in reality encountering the problematic fifth scenario, be capable of acting against Iran without Iran having violated the agreement and before it has gone the last mile to the bomb, i.e., activity focused on high grade enrichment and the development of bomb delivery systems? By contrast, Israel would presumably be free to act because it is not a party to the agreement. Moreover, counter-intuitively, in this scenario military action against the Iranian nuclear program in 2025 would in all probability not be much more complicated or difficult than in 2015. Before the Iranian nuclear infrastructure is expanded over the duration of the agreement, between 2025 and 2027, the Iranian program will be reduced compared to what it is today, intelligence about it will be better, and it will be less immune than it is at present. On the other hand, in another 10-12 years, it may be that the Iranians will have developed new aerial defense systems and additional fortifications that would pose a challenge to an Israeli military operation.
Scenario 6: Iran operates covertly in violation of the agreement, whittles away at it, and in the extreme case breaks out toward the bomb. In this scenario, either before or after the end of the agreement, the Iranians are caught cheating, acting in violation of their commitment to the NPT or the dictates of the agreement, and working toward achieving the bomb. Developing weapon systems and/or enriching to a high grade could be carried out either overtly or covertly. In such a case, it would seem that both Israel and the United States would find themselves at the decision making “junction,” i.e., either acquiescing to Iran armed with nuclear weapons or taking counter-action. If both nations cling to their mantra that all options are on the table and that they will not allow Iran to have the bomb, it is clear that this scenario offers them the legitimacy to act in virtually any situation before 2027 (the earliest by which Iran is expected to return to its 2015 capabilities). Again, the military mission would not be more complex than it is in 2015; perhaps the opposite would be the case: the Iranian program would be more exposed and less extensive than it is now, and the Israeli and US intelligence and offensive capabilities would be better than they are at present.

The six scenarios analyzed here indicate that an agreement between the world powers and Iran on the Iranian nuclear program based on the Lausanne parameters with necessary improvements (a detailed addition to refer to R&D, responses to the weapons aspects of the program, and supervision of every site at any time) is preferable to the current situation, even if it is not “a good deal.” The alternative to the improved Lausanne agreement would consist of severe and effective sanctions that may possibly result in a better agreement but might also lead to the realization of the dangers inherent in a failure of the talks, Iran’s continued nuclear activity, and even a decision by the Tehran regime to break out to the bomb. By contrast, an agreement would make it possible in another 10-12 years to gauge whether the Iranian regime has become more moderate or has stayed exactly the same and is still vying for nuclear arms. If that happens, it would be possible to take action against the nuclear program under improved operational conditions and possibly also under conditions of enhanced legitimacy. Perhaps the possibility of a special defense agreement between Israel and the United States should be investigated, one that would be limited to the Iranian nuclear issue alone, thereby bypassing the obstacles preventing the signing of a comprehensive defense agreement between the two countries.
In case an agreement based on the Lausanne parameters is achieved, the worst scenario is not necessarily the one in which Iran violates the agreement or breaks out toward the bomb, but rather the one in which Iran maintains the letter of the agreement and does not provide the United States with a legitimate reason for preventing Iran from being zero time away from a bomb, backed by a large, advanced, and immune nuclear program. In that scenario, only the Israeli government, which is not a party to the agreement, would be at the difficult decision making juncture – the same crossroads it is at today unless an agreement is reached.
That said, Israel is running out of time to formulate a strategy until either an agreement is signed or the talks end in failure. Therefore, it is recommended that the Prime Minister discuss the strategy of action required by each of the scenarios analyzed above, and urgently formulate a corollary agreement with the United States that would include understandings for each of the scenarios. These understandings would have to relate to the clarifications required for the Lausanne parameters as well as a promise that there would be no further concessions to Iranian demands, as was hinted at after the public presentation of the document of principles formulated in Lausanne. Other topics requiring clarification and policy formulation are how to deal with Iran’s negative non-nuclear activity of and how future demands for other nuclear programs in Middle East states would be handled, restricted, and supervised. Such demands are another strategic danger that will develop if an agreement with Iran, based on the parameters of the Lausanne declaration, is signed.
The scenarios analyzed in this essay can serve as the foundation for a comprehensive, professional strategic discussion that should be held now between Israel and the United States. Analyzing the complex ramifications, as detailed above, should allow the formulation of the required components of a final future agreement and the construction of the bilateral strategy most appropriate to the problematic scenarios and crisis situations. These difficult situations are highly likely to develop after an agreement is reached between the world powers and Iran in various contexts of the Iranian nuclear program. 


Amos Yadlin is wrong. Even with the necessary amendments if they fall short of what Yuval Steinitz listed here,  the 6 alternatives presented by Yadlin look pretty bad in all cases. Either the assumptions are wishful thinking and wrong or they are simply bad since the choice is between immediate action against Iran or a nuclear Iran. 

-- no agreement, scenarios 1,2 3 

scenario 1 

"the underlying assumption of this scenario is that both sides would be careful not to create a profound crisis and would declare their commitment to the spirit of the interim agreement"  -- nonsense 

scenario 2 

 "Israel would have to consider the effectiveness of the added sanctions that would be imposed on Iran, their chances of bringing Iran back to the negotiating table, and the prospects for generating a better agreement in those renewed talks."  nonsense

scenario 3 

this is a severe crisis scenario that would immediately position both the United States and Israel at the decision making “junction.”  

-- agreement, scenarios  4,5,6 

scenario 4, 

the one US hopes will happen  " Iran grows more moderate and stops working toward nuclear weapons."   nonsense 

scenario 5

"The breakout time would be very close to zero already in year 13 year of the agreement, and certainly by year 15. 

The most important question is: will the United States, hopeful that the optimistic fourth scenario is realized but in reality encountering the problematic fifth scenario, be capable of acting against Iran without Iran having violated the agreement and before it has gone the last mile to the bomb "   Obama would do nothing

scenario 6

"it would seem that both Israel and the United States would find themselves at the decision making “junction,” i.e., either acquiescing to Iran armed with nuclear weapons or taking counter-action."    I do not think that Obama would lift a finger even here

Amos Yadlin desperately needs some education on Islam. I would suggest Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s book Heretic

Amos Yadlin, how about factoring in what scholars of Islam say?

Dry Bones: Obama Brings us Together

Monday, April 27, 2015

Amazing! The Guardian gives a positive review of Ayaan Hirsi Ali's new book Heretic

This call for historic reform, by one of Islam’s most divisive critics, only highlights the scale of the task

A woman is caned in public by a sharia police officer, in Aceh, a province in Indonesia that practises partial sharia law. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

The Somali-born author and human rights campaigner Ayaan Hirsi Ali is an unequivocal figure. Admired by many secularists for her fearless denunciation of Islamic fundamentalism, she is loathed not just by Islamic fundamentalists but by many western liberals, who find her rejection of Islam almost as objectionable as her embrace of western liberalism.
Confronted by the tribal, patriarchal and religious confines of her upbringing in east Africa, where she suffered female genital mutilation, and the liberty of the Netherlands, where she sought asylum from an arranged marriage, she chose the cultural values of her adopted home over those she had inherited. Not only did she turn her back on her native religion, she became one of its most articulate and vehement critics.
The price she paid was 24-hour police protection, and the loss of an artistic collaborator, the film director Theo Van Gogh – he was murdered in an Amsterdam high street by a jihadist, who promised to kill Hirsi Ali too. When she moved to the safer environs of America, and the welcoming arms of a conservative thinktank, her departure was little lamented in Europe. Hirsi Ali was variously accused of being a self-hating Islamophobe and a traumatised apologist for western imperialism.
Even in the US, she is still unpopular in progressive circles. As she records in her new book, Heretican honorary degree from Brandeis University was withdrawn following a petition by students and the faculty accusing her of “hate speech”. The campaign, she notes drily, saw “an authority on ‘Queer/Feminist Narrative Theory’ siding with the openly homophobic Islamists”.
Such a spectacle is just one of the many ironies that litter the contemporary discourse around Islam, freedom of speech, racism and terror. But Hirsi Ali is not much concerned with such sideshows. She is a plain speaker (too plain for some). Her views about the violence and misogyny she sees as inherent in Islamic culture have seen her denounced as an “enlightenment fundamentalist”.
‘Plain speaker’: Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Photograph: Christian Marquardt/Getty Images

Having previously argued that Islam was beyond reform, in Heretic she says she wants to strike a more conciliatory note. She sets out to find common ground with the majority of Muslims who view their religion as peaceful and spiritual. While this may be a noble aim, one doubts that a meeting of minds is about to occur anytime soon. For one thing, Hirsi Ali calls for a wholesale Islamic reformation. It makes no sense, she says, to maintain, as so many politicians and religious leaders do, that the terrorism seen in Pakistan, Kenya, Nigeria, Syria, Iraq and elsewhere has no religious justification in Islamic texts. “We delude ourselves,” she writes, “that our deadliest foes are somehow not actuated by the ideology they openly affirm.”
She quotes chapter and verse of violent exhortations in the Qur’an, and argues that as long as Muslims hold to the notion that the book is the literal word of God then extremists will be able to lay confident claim to theological rationale for their acts. Put simply, her position is that “religious doctrines matter and are in need of reform”.
But how? The statistics she assembles do not make optimistic reading. For example, 75% of Pakistanis are in favour of the death penalty for apostasy and sharia law is gaining ground in many Muslim-majority nations. However, Hirsi Ali sees the potential for change in the social protests of the Arab spring – even if they have mostly ushered in either dictators or Islamists.
She also believes that Muslims in the west have a vital role to play in forging a new identity for Islam. She divides followers of the faith into three distinct groups: the Mecca Muslims, the large majority who represent the more tolerant side of the religion, as articulated during Muhammad’s early Mecca period; the Medina Muslims (or the jihadist wing) who are inspired by the harsher aspects of the Qur’an that Muhammad is thought to have expressed during his later consolidation in Medina; and the Modifying Muslims – those dissidents and reformists who actively challenge religious dogma.
The reformers and extremists, writes Hirsi Ali, are currently locked in a battle to win the hearts and minds of the mass of passive Mecca Muslims. She claims to be hopeful that the reformers will prevail, yet she produces little evidence to support such an outcome. Instead, her strengths lie in showing the difficulties in bringing about reform – not least the widely held belief that as a final and perfect rendition of God’s word, Islam is powerfully resistant to the very concept of reinterpretation.
Even her fiercest detractors would struggle to deny much of what Hirsi Ali states about the current predicament within Islam. Unfortunately that doesn’t make it any more palatable, particularly in an era dominated by the modern commandment not to offend anyone.
It’s an unpleasant paradox that Islam’s best hope of reform might lie in its worst incarnation. In making such a visible horror show of their crimes, groups such as Isis, Boko Haram, the Pakistan Taliban and Al-Shabaab have laid down a challenge to mainstream Islam for the soul of the religion. Simply denying that these groups are part of the faith is no longer a viable option.
Whatever one may think of her solutions, Hirsi Ali should be commended for her unblinking determination to address the problem.
Heretic is published by Harper (£18.99). Click here to order it for £15.19


Is this a turning point? Is the West finally waking up? Has Ayaan Hirsi Ali managed to achieve  what no one before her managed to do – make the liberals in the West actually read quotes from the Islamic religious texts and understand the difference between the Mecca and Medina Islam? 

Hopefully, eventually even the Israeli Islam ignoramuses – Amos Oz, David Grossman and Isaac Herzog will be cornered into reading Heretic.

Thank you Ayaan Hirsi Ali!   

Saturday, April 25, 2015

The President Daydreams on Iran

Anyone who looks at the nuclear deal and sees success is living in a world of rainbows and unicorns.

I’m always chasing rainbows, watching clouds drifting by / My schemes are just like all my dreams, ending in the sky.

The vaudeville song by Harry Carroll and Joseph McCarthy, popularized by Judy Garland and Barbra Streisand, is all too appropriate to this moment, as we consider the implications of a nuclear Iran and the prospect of mushroom clouds over the Middle East.
President Obama has been chasing a rainbow in his negotiations with Iran. He has forsaken decades of pledges to the civilized world from presidents of both parties. He has misled the American people in repeatedly affirming that the U.S. would never allow revolutionary Iran to acquire nuclear weapons, which would guarantee a new arms race. In fact, one has already started. Credible reports suggest Pakistan is ready to ship an atomic package to Saudi Arabia, the Sunni nation that stands opposed to Shiite Iran’s subversion throughout the region.
But Tehran is working across religious lines as well. Though Hamas is Sunni, Iran has sent millions of dollars to the terror group that controls Gaza to rebuild the tunnel network that the Israeli Defense Force destroyed last summer.
How far Mr. Obama is prepared to chase the negotiation dream is illustrated by the recent candor of his energy secretary, Ernest Moniz, a nuclear physicist who has been party to the negotiations. In 2013 the president answered questions about Iran’s ability to produce nuclear weapons with these words: “Our assessment continues to be a year or more away, and in fact, actually our estimate is probably more conservative than the estimates of Israeli intelligence services.”
Yet on Monday Mr. Moniz told reporters at Bloomberg a different story: “They are right now spinning. I mean enriching with 9,400 centrifuges out of their roughly 19,000,” he said. “It’s very little time to go forward. That’s two to three months.” How long has the administration held this view? “Oh, quite some time,” Mr. Moniz replied. The Bloomberg report suggests “several years.”
This stunningly casual remark was based on information apparently declassified on April 1. What is Mr. Obama up to? Why was he reassuring in 2013 when he knew it was misleading? Is the declassification intended to create a false sense of urgency?
Compare where we are today with the conditions Mr. Obama laid down two years ago. Referring to Iran’s smiling new president, Hasan Rouhani, Mr. Obama said: “If in fact he is able to present a credible plan that says Iran is pursuing peaceful nuclear energy but we’re not pursuing nuclear weapons, and we are willing to be part of an internationally verified structure so that all other countries in the world know they are not pursuing nuclear weapons, then, in fact, they can improve relations, improve their economy. And we should test that.”
Sure—let’s test it:
• Enrichment: Before the talks began, the Obama administration and U.N. Security Council insisted that Iran stop all uranium enrichment. So did the 2013 framework agreement. Now the deal enshrines Iran’s right to enrich.

• Stockpile: In February, Iran had 10,000 kilograms of enriched uranium, which the deal says will be reduced to 300 kilograms. The remainder is to be exported to Russia and returned to Iran as fuel rods for use in a power plant. But Iran’s deputy foreign minister, Abbas Araghchi, told state media at the end of March that “there is no question of sending the stocks abroad.”

• Centrifuges: Iran has about 19,000 centrifuges, and the U.S. initially called for cutting that to between 500 and 1,500. The agreement now allows 6,104. Not only that, Iran’s foreign minister has said that advanced IR-8 centrifuges, which enrich uranium 20 times faster than the current IR-1 models, will be put into operation as soon as the nuclear deal takes effect—contrary to what the U.S. has asserted.

• Infrastructure: The closure of nuclear sites at Fordow, Natanz and Arak has been an American goal for a decade. Under the deal, the 40-megawatt heavy-water nuclear plant at Arak, which produces plutonium, will remain, albeit with reduced plutonium production. The deal allows the Fordow facility, which is buried in a mountain fortress designed to withstand aerial attack, to be converted into a “peaceful research” center. Iran will be allowed to keep 1,000 centrifuges there. Natanz will remain open as well.

• Missiles: Iran stonewalled on concerns about the military dimensions of its nuclear program. U.S. negotiators dropped demands that Tehran restrict development of intercontinental ballistic missiles that could be used to deliver warheads.

• Duration: Initially the U.S. wanted the deal to last 20 years. Now the key terms sunset in 10 to 15 years. Rather than enabling American disengagement from the Middle East, the framework is likely to necessitate deepening involvement under complex new terms, as former secretaries of state Henry Kissinger and George Shultz wrote in this newspaper earlier this month.

• Enforcement: President Obama promises: “If Iran cheats, the world will know it. If we see something suspicious, we will inspect it.” This is incredibly unrealistic. Over the past year alone, Iran has violated its international agreements at least three times. In November the International Atomic Energy Agency caught Iran operating a new advanced IR-5 centrifuge. Disagreement about inspections under the deal persists. Secretary Moniz has said that inspectors for the International Atomic Energy Agency must be allowed access to any place at any time. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and his military say no way.

• Sanctions: The deal gives Iran exactly what it wanted: permanent relief from economic sanctions in exchange for temporary restraints. Mr. Obama talks about being able to “snap back” sanctions. But consider the attitudes of two of the big players in the six-power talks. China’s press refers to “peaceful” Iran as if it were Switzerland. Russia says the deal has freed it to sell S-300 air-defense missiles to Tehran. Assuming that the West discovers a nuclear violation, it will be nearly impossible to reimpose today’s sanctions.

• Good behavior: Meanwhile, Ayatollah Khamenei continues to denounce the U.S. as the Great Satan, making clear that Iran doesn’t expect to normalize relations. His speeches indicate that Iran still sees itself in a holy war with the West.


So here we are at the end of the rainbow, seemingly willing to concede nuclear capacity to Iran, a country we consider a principal threat. No wonder Saudi Arabia and Egypt are insisting on developing equivalent nuclear capabilities. America’s traditional allies have concluded that the U.S. has traded temporary cooperation from Iran for acquiescence to its ultimate hegemony.
The sanctions that brought Iran to the negotiating table took years to put in place. They have impaired Iran’s ability to conduct trade in the global market. The banking freeze in particular has had a crippling effect, since international businesses will not risk being blacklisted by the U.S. and European Union to make a few dollars in Iran. Many of those who have studied the problem believe that if the sanctions were to remain, they would squeeze Tehran and force greater concessions.
President Obama seems to be willfully ignoring Iran’s belligerent behavior and its growing influence over Beirut, Damascus, Baghdad and Yemen’s capital, San’a. Free of sanctions, Iran may become even more assertive.
There are no rainbows ahead, only menacing clouds.
Mr. Zuckerman is chairman and editor in chief of U.S. News & World Report.

We have had a series of articles by Kissinger and Shultz, Bret Stephens, Charles Krauthammer, Tom Cotton, Jonathan Rosenblum, Martin Sherman, Ari Shavit and now Mortimer Zuckerman, all pointing to the disastrous consequences of Obama’s policy of appeasement of Iran. Yet no one is asking for Congress to impeach President Obama on Iran. So have these authors apparently concluded that nothing can be done and that nuclear war is inevitable? 

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Halli Casser-Jayne interviews Martin Sherman

Check Out Entertainment Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with The Halli Casser Jayne Show on BlogTalkRadio

I loved this part of the interview:

 “You need to know two things to give a really authoritative answer and if you know them you can’t really talk about them   Because you need to know A) what Israel’s true operational capabilities are, and my feeling is that Israel has far more destructive capability than people normally estimate and B), what operational intelligence  it has, if it can actually target the correct sites. Because I think that Israel would have to react but then I am not sure that Israeli leadership has the anatomical appendages to do it. It is a big decision.”

But if not having the balls to do it means being annihilated, isn’t the decision obvious?

Obama’s Nixon doctrine: anointing Iran

In December, President Obama said that he wished to see Iran ultimately become a “very successful regional power.” His wish — a nightmare for the Western-oriented Arab states — is becoming a reality. Consider:

● Gulf of Aden: Iran sends a flotilla of warships and weapons-carrying freighters to reinforce the rebels in Yemen — a noncontiguous, non-Persian, nonthreatening (to Iran) Arabian state — asserting its new status as regional bully and arbiter. The Obama administration sends an aircraft carrier group, apparently to prevent this gross breach of the U.N. weapons embargo on Yemen. Instead, the administration announces that it has no intention of doing anything. Meanwhile, it exerts pressure on Saudi Arabiato halt its air war over Yemen and agree to negotiate a political settlement involving Iran.

● Russia: After a five-year suspension, Russia announces the sale of advanced surface-to-air missiles to Iran, which will render its nuclear facilities nearly invulnerable to attack. Obama’s reaction? Criticism, threats, sanctions? No. A pat on the backfor Vladimir Putin: “I’m, frankly, surprised that [the embargo] held this long.”

●Iran: Last week, Obama preemptively caved on the long-standing U.S. condition that there be no immediate sanctions relief in any Iranian nuclear deal. He casually dismissed this red line, declaring that what is really important is whether sanctions can be reimposed if Iran cheats. And it doesn’t stop there. The Wall Street Journal reports that Obama is offering Tehran a $30 billion to $50 billion signing bonus (drawn from frozen Iranian assets) — around 10 percent of Iranian GDP.

● Syria: After insisting for years that President Bashar al-Assad of Syria “step aside,” the U.S. has adopted a hands-off policy toward a regime described by our own secretary of state as an Iranian puppet.

● Iraq: Iran’s Quds Force Commander Qasem Soleimani, director of Shiite militias that killed hundreds of Americans during the Iraq War and were ultimately defeated by the 2007-2008 U.S. surge, operates freely throughout Iraq flaunting his country’s dominance. In March, he was directing the same Iraqi militias, this time against the Islamic State — with the help of U.S. air cover.

This is the new Middle East. Its strategic reality is clear to everyone: Iran rising, assisted, astonishingly, by the United States.

Obama’s initial Middle East strategy was simply withdrawal. He would enter history as the ultimate peace president, ushering in a new era in which “the tide of war is receding.” The subsequent vacuum having been filled, unfortunately and predictably, by various enemies, adversaries and irredeemables, Obama lighted upon a new idea: We don’t just withdraw, we hand the baton. To Iran.

Obama may not even be aware that he is recapitulating the Nixon doctrine, but with a fatal twist. Nixon’s main focus was to get the Vietnamese to take over that war from us. But the doctrine evolved and was generalized to deputize various smaller powers to police their regions on our behalf. In the Persian Gulf, our principal proxy was Iran.

The only problem with Obama’s version of the Nixon doctrine is that Iran today is not the Westernized, secular, pro-American regional power it was under the shah. It is radical, clerical, rabidly anti-imperialist, deeply anti-Western. The regime’s ultimate — and openly declared — strategic purpose is to drive the American infidel from the region and either subordinate or annihilate America’s Middle Eastern allies.

Which has those allies in an understandable panic. Can an American president really believe that appeasing Iran — territorially, economically, militarily and by conferring nuclear legitimacy — will moderate its behavior and ideology, adherence to which despite all odds is now yielding undreamed of success?

Iran went into the nuclear negotiations heavily sanctioned, isolated internationally, hemorrhaging financially — and this was even before the collapse of oil prices. The premise of these talks was that the mullahs would have six months to give up their nuclear program or they would be additionally squeezed with even more devastating sanctions.

After 17 months of serial American concessions, the  Iranian economy is growing again, its forces and proxies are on the march through the Arab Middle East and it is on the verge of having its nuclear defiance rewarded and legitimized.

The Saudis are resisting being broken to Iranian dominance. They have resumed their war in Yemen. They are resisting being forced into Yemen negotiations with Iran, a country that is, in the words of the Saudi ambassador to the U.S., “part of the problem, not part of the solution.”

Obama appears undeterred. He’s determined to make his Iran-first inverted Nixon doctrine a reality. Our friends in the region, who for decades have relied on us to protect them from Iran, look on astonished.