Israel's contempt for diplomacy

July 15, 2015
Sarah Benton

This posting has these items:
1) Haaretz: Netanyahu tells Obama Iran deal threatens Israel’s security, Barak Ravid on the security cabinet;
2) Fars news agency: Iran’s Top Negotiator: Vienna Agreement Solid Basis for Future Co-operation, official view that Iran’s isolation now ended;
3) JPost: Ehud Barak: Israel can live with a nuclear Iran, not least because all Israeli party leaders expect increased American security support;
4) WP: Israel blasts Iran deal as ‘one of the darkest days in history’, the US and Israeli opposition;
5) +972: Nuclear deal will usher in an era of Iranian diplomatic engagement, Haggai Matar grasps the Israeli fear of unlimited Iranian Shi’ite influence but doubts that is possible;
6) Bloomberg view The Best Bad Deal on Iran it doesn’t convert Iran into a US-friendly country but it effectively limits Iran’s nuclear capability for the foreseeable future;
7) Al Monitor: Why Bibi is personally responsible for Iran policy failure, as on the UNHRC report, Netanyahu’s refusal to co-operate with any international body isolates him and his country. He has no foreign minister and has sealed himself inside a clique of yes-men;
8- Al Arabiya: Obama discusses Iran deal with Saudi King Salman, Saudis welcome deal, cf Netanyahu’s claim;
9) AFP: Iranians celebrate nuclear deal, hail Zarif as hero;
10) Haaretz: Palestinians welcome Iran deal, expect similar international pressure on Israel;
11) Telegraph: Barack Obama praises Putin for help clinching Iran deal, unexpected consequences of the Iran deal – the effects on Russia and Syria;

Iranians gather in celebration in northern Tehran on July 14, 2015, after Iran’s nuclear negotiating team struck a deal with world powers in Vienna. Photo by Atta Kenare / AFP.

Netanyahu tells Obama Iran deal threatens Israel’s security

Security cabinet unanimously rejects Vienna nuclear agreement; Obama: Deal will not diminish U.S. concerns regarding Iranian threats over Israel.

By Barak Ravid, Ha’aretz
July 14, 2015

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told U.S. President Barack Obama on Tuesday that Israel is concerned over the nuclear agreement between Iran and the world powers.

In a phone conversation, Netanyahu said the deal threatens the security of Israel and of the entire world.

“Prime Minister Netanyahu stressed that an examination of the agreement raises two major dangers,” the Prime Minister’s Office said.”The agreement will allow Iran to arm itself with nuclear weapons either after adhering to the agreement for 10-15 years, or by violating it beforehand. In addition, [the deal] will pump billions of dollars to the Iranian terror and war machine, which threatens Israel and the entire world.”

Obama told Netanyahu that U.S. Secretary of Defence Ashton Carter will visit Israel next week to discuss ways to strengthen security co-operation between the two nations, “as we remain vigilant in countering the Iranian regime’s destabilizing activities in the region,” a statement published by the White House said. The agreement “will verifiably prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon while ensuring the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear programme,” the U.S. president said.

During the conversation with Netanyahu, Obama stressed his administration’s commitment to Israel’s security and noted that the nuclear deal will remove the danger of a nuclear-armed Iran, “an outcome in the national security interest of the United States and Israel.”

The nuclear agreement with Iran, Obama continued, will not diminish American concerns “regarding Iran’s support for terrorism and threats over Israel.”

Inner cabinet rejects Iran deal

After discussing the nuclear deal on Tuesday, the Israeli security cabinet unanimously decided to reject the agreement reached in Vienna and said that Israel was not bound by it, a stance also voiced by Netanyahu earlier.

The ministers were briefed in the meeting by Mossad chief Tamir Pardo, chief of Military Intelligence Herzi Halevi, National Security Adviser Yossi Cohen and other officials.

After the meeting, Education Minister Naftali Bennett told Ha’aretz that Iran will become a terror powerhouse in the next decade, because of the funds it will now receive. In ten years, he added, Iran will become a nuclear power that could break out to a nuclear bomb swiftly.

Speaking to reporters ahead of the meeting, Netanyahu fiercely criticized the nuclear agreement, calling it “a stunning historic mistake.”

“The world is a much more dangerous place today than it was yesterday,” he said in a press conference in Jerusalem before the inner security cabinet convened to discuss the nuclear agreement.

The prime minister said the six world powers – the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China – poorly “bet our collective future.”

The deal will give the Iranian regime “the capacity to produce many nuclear bombs, in fact an entire nuclear arsenal, with the means to deliver it. What a stunning, historic mistake,” Netanyahu said, sterssing that “Israel is not bound by this deal with Iran, because Iran continues to seek our destruction. We will always defend ourselves.”

Obama said Tuesday that the agreement ensures that “every pathway” the Islamic Republic may have had to nuclear weapons “is cut off.” Senior American officials said that, according to the deal, if Iran violates the it, international sanctions will be restored within 65 days. In addition, the International Atomic Energy Agency would have to confirm prior to the lifting of each sanction that Iran had fulfilled its obligations.

Iran’s Top Negotiator: Vienna Agreement Solid Basis for Future Co-operation

Fars news agency
July 14, 2015

TEHRAN – Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said the Vienna agreement could serve as a prelude to further co-operation between his country and the six world powers.

“This agreement is not the ceiling, but a firm foundation for future work,” Zarif, also Iran’s top negotiator, said commenting on the Vienna agreement.

Speaking to reporters in a press conference in Vienna, Zarif said endorsement of the agreement in a UN Security Council resolution in the coming days would mean that “the same UN Security Council that issued resolutions against Iran under the pretext of proliferation, now recognizes Iran’s nuclear enrichment programme”.

He said the five permanent UN Security Council members and Germany will propose the deal as a draft to be approved by the council as a resolution.

Zarif said 2 to 3 months later and after the US congress approves the agreement, it could be called a deal and put into effect.

He stressed that Iran will take certain moves based on its co-operation plan with the IAEA in that two-month period, but its undertakings mentioned in the Vienna agreement would start after the Congress approval and simultaneous with the US compliance with its undertakings.

Zarif cautioned that in case each party defies its undertakings, there will be a mechanism for the opposite party to reverse its measures.

Iran and the six world powers struck a deal in Vienna earlier today.

The hitherto elusive agreement was finally nailed down on Tuesday in the ritzy Palais Coburg Hotel in the Austrian capital of Vienna, where negotiators from Iran and the six other countries had recently been spending over two weeks to work out the remaining technical and political issues.

Zarif and EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini in landmark remarks declared attainment of the agreement.

Zarif and Mogherini thanked all those who played a role in resolving the Iran-West nuclear standoff, including the Austrian government and IAEA.

“We, the EU foreign policy chief and the foreign ministers of the Islamic Republic of Iran, China, France, US, Germany, Britain and Russia, welcome the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action that guarantees the fully peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear programme,” the two top diplomats said.

They said that Iran and the Group 5+1 (the five permanent UN Security Council members and Germany) have ratified a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action that ensures the path ahead for co-operation.

“The JCPOA* includes removal of all sanctions, including banking, financial and energy embargoes,” they said.

They said the agreement includes the JCPOA along with five annexes, including one on sanctions and another one on nuclear co-operation.

Meantime, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said his country has achieved all its four goals in the agreement that his foreign minister Zarif signed with the six world powers in Vienna today.

President Rouhani said his nation started talks with the world powers in a bid to remove all sanctions while maintaining its nuclear programme and nuclear progress as two main goals.

All sanctions, including the financial, banking, energy, insurance, transportation, precious metals and even arms and proliferation sanctions will be, not suspended, but terminated according to the Tuesday agreement as soon as the deal comes into force, he said, adding that Iran will only be placed under certain limited arms deal restrictions for five years.

Meantime, Iran will inject gas into its highly advanced IR8 centrifuge machines, continue its nuclear research and development, and keep its Arak Heavy Water Facility and Fordo and Natanz enrichment plants under the agreement, he said, elaborating on Iran’s gains.

Another goal, Rouhani said, was taking Iran off Chapter Seven of the UN Charter, “and we did it”.

Yet, he said Iran will scrutinize implementation of the agreement to see if the opposite side would comply with its terms.

He stressed that certain powers have left a dark record in complying with their undertakings under previous agreements, and Iran will keep a watchful eye on powers’ compliance with the agreement.

Rouhani underlined that Iran will remain fully loyal to the terms of the agreement as long as powers comply with their undertakings.

Yet, he said the agreement will come into full force after several phases. “Today was phase one. The second step will be approval of the agreement in a UN Security Council resolution.”

“And phase three will be two months after the UNSC resolution,” the president said, adding that the agreement will go into effect after phase three when Iran and the powers declare their preparedness to start action.

Yet, Rouhani said “today was the most important phase.”

He said the agreement came despite the Israeli regime’s powerful opposition, adding that Tel Aviv’s steadfast antagonism proved futile.

Rouhani said the regional nations are happy today to see the agreement has been struck between Iran and the 6 world powers.

He cautioned “certain parties to the nuclear talks to avoid claims that the agreement prevents Iran from developing nuclear bombs, because every one in the world knows that our Supreme Leader (Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei) has placed a religious ban on the development, use or acquisition of military nuclear technology and Iran has never been after atomic bombs.”

President Rouhani thanked the Iranian team of negotiators for their industrious efforts as well as the Leader for his guidelines and support, and the Iranian nation for their years of resistance against illegitimate pressures.

Meantime, the President welcomed domestic critics to present their assessments and proposals on the agreement.

Rouhani also cautioned the regional nations to take good care not to be deceived by enemies, stressing that Iran is only after peace and security in the region.

The agreement, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), will be presented to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), which will adopt a resolution in seven to 10 days making the JCPOA an official document.

Meantime, Iran and the IAEA signed a roadmap. The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency said a “roadmap” has been signed between the IAEA and Iran as the final agreement was struck over the Islamic Republic’s nuclear programme.

Yukiya Amano, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, and Head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran Ali Akbar Salehi signed the roadmap.

Amano said the roadmap calls for his agency, with Iran’s co-operation, to make an assessment of issues relating to what is called as possible military dimensions of the Islamic Republic’s nuclear programme by the end of 2015.

“This is a significant step forward toward clarifying outstanding issues regarding Iran’s nuclear programme,” Amano said.

Ehud Barak: Israel can live with a nuclear Iran

Six world powers adopt nuclear deal with Iran
Arab MKs say deal should have denuclearized Israel.

By Ariel Ben Solomon, Gil Hoffman, JPost staff
July 14, 2015

The nuclear deal reached by the world’s leading countries with Iran will likely lead to the Islamic Republic becoming a nuclear power but Israel can live with a nuclear Iran, because it is by far the strongest country in the region, former prime minister, defence minister, and IDF chief of staff Ehud Barak said in an interview with Channel 2 Tuesday night.

Barak was among Israeli politicians across the political spectrum who slammed the deal. MKs from the Joint (Arab) List were the only Israeli politicians who praised it.

“The agreement gives legitimacy for Iran to become a nuclear threshold state,” Barak said. It allows them to subsidize terror and removes them from the noose of sanctions. It is fair to say that it will allow Iran to follow North Korea to become a nuclear power. In the deal, the world recognized Iran as a legitimate nuclear superpower.”

Barak said it was legitimate for Israeli politicians to go to the US to explain why the deal is problematic for Israel, but he cautioned against interfering in American politics and said positive relations with the White House must be restored. He said the nuclear deal can taken advantage of to set a new regional security order.

“We need to define together with America what a smoking gun is, and what is an Iranian violation,” he said. “You don’t need to be a security expert to understand that the deal changes the security situation. You need the US to reevaluate the situation and maintain and develop the military option.”

Opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Zionist Union) announced that he would be leaving for the US in the coming days to “demand a dramatic package of security measures for Israel.” Voicing his disappointment over the deal at a Knesset press conference, Herzog said he had been in talks with AIPAC and other bodies in the US and that he intends to fly there as soon as possible to “clarify the nature of the risks stemming from the agreement to Israel and the rest of the region.”

“With regard to security, I am more extreme than Netanyahu,” Herzog said. “In light of the situation, we must do everything within our power to improve our security. I have full confidence in the power of the State of Israel, and the unity and the power of our society to face and overcome any challenge and risks that lie in its path. Even if there are disputes within, Israel knows how to unite and fight together for security.”

Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid intends to lobby Congressmen to vote against the deal, which he said made Tuesday “a bad day for the Jewish people.”

Education Minister Naftali Bennett went further, saying “this day will be remembered as a black day in the history of the free world.” He spoke out against the deal on CNN, immediately after the network broadcast speeches praising the deal by the presidents of the US and Iran.

“The history books have been rewritten again today, and this period will be deemed particularly grave and dangerous,” Bennett said. “Western citizens who get up for another day at work or school, are not aware of the fact that about half a trillion dollars has been transferred to the hands of a terrorist superpower, the most dangerous country in the world, who has promised the destruction of nations and peoples. Today it may be us, tomorrow it may reach every country in the form of suitcase bombs in London or New York. Israel has done everything possible to warn of danger and in the end it will follow its own interests and will do whatever it takes to defend itself.”

Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman warned that “the agreement with Iran will be remembered in history in the same way as the Munich Agreement that led to World War II and the agreement with North Korea that led to its nuclearization.

“This agreement ignores great dangers, and as a result is a total surrender to terror and unbridled violence in the international arena,” Liberman said. “A black flag waves over this agreement and it will be remembered as a black day in history, and in the entire free world. The State of Israel needs to ensure at all times and in all circumstances that it will defend itself. Today, Israel needs to remember: ‘If I am not for myself, who will be for me’?”

The ruling Likud party criticized opposition lawmakers on Tuesday for assailing Netanyahu’s policies in light of the nuclear agreement struck between Iran and the Western powers.

“Instead of presenting a unified front on a fateful issue for Israel, on which there is no Right or Left, and on which everyone knows Israel’s security is at stake, some politicians are engaging in narrow political prattle at the expense of the interests of Israel,” the party said in a statement. “The prime minister never promised that there would not be a deal, only that Iran would not obtain nuclear weapons, and that promise still holds, today more than ever.”

The Joint List welcomed the nuclear deal, saying in a statement that it is a “victory” for the Iranian people and now Israel should dismantle its purported nuclear weapons programme.

The deal is “a victory for the will of the Iranian people and its struggle to remove the siege and sanctions,” said the mostly Israeli Arab Joint List.

Israel’s objections against the deal are based on the aim “to remain the only country with nuclear power in the region and to distract the international community from the occupation, which is the source of tension, war, and instability in the Middle East,” said the statement.

“We have to keep the region free from nuclear weapons,” it added.

The United Arab List (UAL), Ta’al, Hadash, and Balad parties struck a historic deal before the election to run as a united bloc despite differing ideologies.

Interestingly, Arab nationalist Balad and the Islamic Movement’s UAL signed off on the statement even though their ideologies would seem to indicate solidarity with their Arab brethren in the larger Islamic and Sunni world, which oppose Shi’ite Iran’s regional ambitions and are likely to be critical of the deal.

Israel blasts Iran deal as ‘one of the darkest days in history’

By William Booth and Ruth Eglash, Washington Post
July 14, 2015

JERUSALEM — Israeli leaders across the political spectrum condemned in stark apocalyptic language the Iranian nuclear pact announced by the United States and world powers Tuesday, calling it a historic mistake that frees Iran to sponsor global terror while assembling the expertise to build a nuclear bomb.

“Iran is going to receive a sure path to nuclear weapons,” said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “Many of the restrictions that were supposed to prevent it from getting there will be lifted.”

With the lifting of economic sanctions, Netanyahu warned, “Iran will get a jackpot, a cash bonanza of hundreds of billions of dollars, which will enable it to continue to pursue its aggression and terror.”

Netanyahu’s hard-line coalition partner, Education Minister Naftali Bennett added: “Today a terrorist nuclear superpower is born, and it will go down as one of the darkest days in world history.”

Netanyahu’s fellow Likud member, Science Minister Danny Danon, said the Iran pact “is like providing a pyromaniac with matches.”

The condemnations are not new. Netanyahu has led a tireless campaign against the prospects of a deal, including an address before the U.S. Congress in March to hammer home Israel’s worries over Iran — whose leaders often have called for the annihilation of the Jewish state.

The rifts with Washington over the Iran talks have led to rare open tensions between the allies.

Hours after the deal was reached in Vienna, Secretary of State John F. Kerry told NBC that he thought Netanyahu was wrong and has been “making comments that are way over the top.”

Kerry said “Israel is safer” as a result of nuclear accord.

“This is under attack by people who really don’t know the terms of the agreement,” Kerry told the network.

Later, a White House statement said Obama called Netanyahu to stress that the nuclear accord does not undercut U.S. “concerns regarding Iran’s support for terrorism and threats toward Israel.”

Critics of Israel also point out that the country has an undeclared, but widely suspected, nuclear programme that is not under international monitoring. Israel is not a signer of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, U.N. accord overseeing the spread of nuclear technology. Iran is a member.

Israeli social media accounts were filled with images of former British prime minister Neville Chamberlain, who pushed a policy of appeasement toward Adolf Hitler and the Nazis on the eve of World War II.

Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders blasted the deal even as negotiators in Vienna were still making the announcement and providing details.

“Israel will defend itself,” Bennett warned, vowing that military action is still an option for the Jewish State. Like-minded Israelis feel they are in the crosshairs of a belligerent enemy, where last week protesters in Tehran were chanting “Death to Israel!”

Israel’s security cabinet unanimously rejected the Iran deal, also saying that Israel reserves the right to take action to protect the state.

Three years ago, Israelis were debating at the highest levels whether it might be necessary for Israel or the United States, or both countries, to launch aerial strikes against Iranian nuclear facilities.

Even as Israel reasserts its right to act independently if threatened, a unilateral Israeli strike is not more likely today, Israeli defense analysts say, because the United States is committed to making the Iran pact work and Israel is not likely to act alone.

“It goes without saying that an agreement prevents Israel from thinking about a military option, unlike the options that might have existed five or 10 years ago,” said Uzi Rabi, director of the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African History at Tel Aviv University.

On the eve of the nuclear accord, Netanyahu warned on his Twitter account that Iran “is more dangerous than ISIS,” a reference to the radical Islamic State group that has captured vast swaths of Syria and Iraq. He argued that “the true goal of this aggression . . . is to take over the world.”

“The only thing Netanyahu has left is to continue talking,” said Yoel Guzansky, former head of the Iran desk at Israel’s National Security Council.

Israeli politicians and pro-Israel supporters in the United States will now likely press Congress to derail the deal. However, that is a difficult prospect that could eventually require trying to override a presidential veto in a congressional vote that would need deep Democratic support.

“The State of Israel will employ all diplomatic means to prevent confirmation of the agreement,” said Israel’s deputy foreign minister, Tzipi Hotovely.

American and European diplomats have said that Netanyahu has failed to accept the idea that it is better to stall, observe and roll back Iranian nuclear capabilities than double down on economic sanctions and isolation.

Iran has repeatedly said its aims are peaceful and that developing nuclear power and medical isotopes are its right both as a sovereign nation and a signatory of the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Opposition leaders were united in condemning the Iran deal, but they also called its signing a major diplomatic failure for Netanyahu.

Speaking on Israel Radio, Efraim Halevy, former head of the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad, said that perhaps it would have been better to avoid a head-on clash with Obama and, instead, seek to apply pressure through more discreet channels and have more of a role in shaping the negotiations.

Yair Lapid, a top opposition figure and leader of an Israeli political party, said there is “no daylight” between Israelis in condemning the Iran deal. But he said Netanyahu bungled the diplomacy.

On the evening news in Israel, a rough consensus among political commentators concluded that Netanyahu has been rendered irrelevant, dismissed by the U.S. administration.

The United States remains Israel’s closest — and sometimes only — ally in the world, supplying diplomatic cover and billions of dollars in military aid over the years, including some of the most sophisticated U.S. arms technology.

In an interview with Israel’s Army Radio, main opposition leaders Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni both criticized Netanyahu for allowing the deal to be reached.

“If you go to a deal, as bad as it may be, the way to minimize its damage is by arriving at an agreement with the U.S. on a very significant security package,” said Herzog.

Secretary of State John Kerry sits across from Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif on June 30, 2015, in Vienna, Austria, before a one-on-one meeting amid negotiations about the future of Iran’s nuclear programme. Photo from US State Department

Nuclear deal will usher in an era of Iranian diplomatic engagement

By Haggai Matar, +972
July 14, 2015

Put aside the details for a moment. The nuclear deal signed in Vienna today will force Iran to act through diplomacy, not violence. The other option? A nuclear Iran that acts recklessly and orders strikes on Western targets.

The decision to sign a nuclear agreement with Iran this morning was the right one. At the end of the day we can only take one of two paths: either we go the way of diplomacy, or we go to war. Either a path through which Iran becomes part of the international community, or it is pushed out using sanctions and isolation.

We must, of course, discuss the details of the agreement: why will inspectors only be allowed arranged visits to Iran’s nuclear facilities? Does the agreement adequately prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear bomb in the future?

But even if Iran does obtain a nuclear weapon at some point, it is not insane enough to use it. Iran is not a suicidal country. Even Netanyahu’s closest associates say that Israel is not actually worried about nuclear annihilation. That isn’t the issue.

The issue is Iran’s position as a regional superpower, not to mention a global energy superpower. Israel’s worries stem, first and foremost, from the fact that the U.S.-Sunni alliance (led by Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and Turkey, among others) is a comfortable one for Israel — one that does not threaten it and fights its enemies. Iran, on the other hand, leads the Shia axis, supports Hezbollah, Assad and the Houthi rebels in Yemen, and is increasingly influential in Iraq. As an accepted member of the international community, Iran’s power in the Middle East will only grow. That is what threatens Israel.

Iran’s legitimacy, however, will not grant it carte blanche to act recklessly. It has signed an agreement with six world powers, according to which problems will now have to be solved through diplomacy. The truth is that the more isolated Iran is, the more likely it will act however it wants, including by ordering Hezbollah strikes on Israel as a means of attacking the West (just as the U.S. and the Soviet Union manipulated Israel and the Arab states during the Cold War). An Iran that is integrated into the world economy and diplomatic system, on the other hand, is an Iran that knows its decisions carry a price. It is well aware that the sanctions regime, from which it has suffered, can return at any time.

The nuclear agreement is itself a choice to engage in dialogue (even if it has been forced on Iran through years of sanctions), while leaving the door open for future discussions. These could potentially strengthen both the local and international alliances against ISIS, for instance.

A few more thoughts:

1. Israel/Palestine: We must wonder what kind of effect the agreement will have on the Palestinians. On the one hand, a stronger Iran-U.S. relationship may weaken Washington’s obligations to Israel and could potentially put more pressure on Israel to reach a peace agreement and end the occupation. Iran, by the way, was a supporter of the Saudi-led Arab Peace Initiative, which would include a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians that would result in normalized relations with the Arab and Muslim world. Although Iran had its own reservations regarding the plan, its tepid support should not be taken lightly.

On the other hand, it could be that Iran’s integration into the international community will actually lessen its interest in Israel/Palestine, which in any case was mostly used for internal political needs and as a tool for international leverage.

2. Human rights: As Orly Noy wrote here yesterday, and as Iranian dissident Ahmad Rafat wrote last week, the agreement may open Iran to the world, but it does not necessarily bode well for the human rights situation inside Iran. Perhaps even the opposite is true. If the struggle for an agreement ended this morning, the struggle for human rights and democracy inside Iran may only be beginning.

3. Hypocrisy: Every discussion of Iran includes a blind spot that must be discussed. We speak about whether or not Iran will be “allowed” to act a certain way, or whether or not it is “legitimate,” “trustworthy,” or “democratic” enough. There is a great deal of hypocrisy in taking this position.

The United States has and continues to support corrupt and murderous regimes across the world, and it is the only country that has ever dropped an atomic bomb on a civilian population. The European Union continues to enjoy the fruits of colonialism and the enslavement of countless nations, while also supporting tyrannical regimes in Africa and Asia. Israel has also historically supported dictatorial regimes, including the Shah in Iran, Apartheid South Africa, and the current Eritrean government.

Why are all these countries deemed moral authorities that can judge Iran from on high? Yes, Iran is a tyrannical country that flaunts human rights and supports terrorist organizations. So is Saudi Arabia, America’s closest ally in the Middle East. The global political field is ugly any way you look at it, and it is in need of fundamental, democratic reform.

4. We must all strive to create a Middle East (and world) free of nuclear weapons. Presently, according to foreign reports, only one country in the Middle East has nuclear weapons: Israel. According to those same reports, its facilities go un-inspected by the international community, and it is not a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty. If we want a nuclear-free Middle East, we must start by looking at ourselves.

The Best Bad Deal on Iran

By Marc Champion, Bloomberg View
July 15, 2014

The Iran deal published on Tuesday has drawn the expected criticisms. Taken together they add up to something like: a “historic mistake” that ensures Iran will get a nuclear bomb and amounts to “declaring war” on Israel and the Gulf Arab states.

It’s nowhere near that bad.

Sure, this isn’t the deal most people would want. It works for only 10 to 15 years. It doesn’t eliminate Iran’s nuclear fuel program. It doesn’t end once and for all the problem of a radical regional power that wants to acquire a nuclear weapon and is well on its way to having the knowhow and production capacity to get one. Nor does it ensure that Saudi Arabia won’t feel the need to develop its own bomb. In fact, this deal is the worst possible outcome — except for all the other ones.

Start with the most common criticism, that the deal ensures Iran will get a nuclear weapon. It doesn’t. It will, however, make it much harder for Iran to acquire one in the next 10 to 15 years. Iran will be allowed to keep only 2 percent of the stockpile of enriched uranium it has today; its heavy water reactor will be redesigned so it doesn’t produce fuel useful for nukes; and international inspectors will have much more access to suspect facilities than they have today.

After the deal expires, though, all bets are off. There is awful language in the agreement about what Iran “plans” or “intends” to do after binding constraints are lifted, rather than what it commits to do. The inspection regime will continue, but Iran will be able to produce nuclear fuel on an industrial scale. New strategies will have to be found to prevent Iran from building a bomb.

But evaluating this deal requires comparing it with the actual alternatives.

Take those “anywhere, anytime” inspections of military sites that weren’t included. Inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency can demand access to suspect military sites, but have to give 14 days’ notice, with a potential 10-day arbitration period. Yet because it’s so hard to eradicate traces of radioactivity, that’s far from useless, and it’s important that inspectors will have the right to examine military sites. Of course, in Iraq between the two Gulf wars, inspectors had the right to go anywhere, anytime, and that would have been better. But Iraq had been invaded and defeated. Iran has not. It was never going to submit to those terms.

The biggest source of anger over the deal stems from its concessions in lifting international sanctions. The most effective of these were imposed in 2010 to force the Iranians back to the negotiating table. A deal has now been struck, strongly supported by the Europeans — who imposed some of the most effective sanctions — and the Russians and Chinese — who at least didn’t undermine them. This kind of international unity is rare.

Had the U.S. walked away from the talks because they couldn’t eliminate Iran’s nuclear fuel program, a strategy not backed by its negotiating partners, the sanctions could not have been expected to hold for long.

Yes, a richer Iran will have more money to spare for military aggression in the region. And those who think the regime will suddenly become more peaceful and co-operative are deluding themselves. (Did financial success make Russian President Vladimir Putin less aggressive?) But it isn’t feasible to maintain the nuclear sanctions indefinitely.

President Barack Obama and the negotiators for the so-called P5+1 countries — China, France, Germany, Russia, the U.K. and the U.S. — have just bought some time. In the decade that elapsed from the time Iran’s covert nuclear program was exposed until the start of the current talks, the country went from having 100 unassembled centrifuges to 19,000 and a stockpile of enriched uranium big enough to reprocess for use in 10 nuclear weapons.

Netanyahu called Tuesday’s agreement a “historic mistake,” the same phrase he used to describe the temporary agreement struck in November 2013. He was wrong about that one: It froze or reversed Iran’s nuclear progress for more than 18 months. This deal promises to deepen those gains and extend them for 10 years. When that time has passed, maybe U.S. and Israeli airstrikes will have to follow — or maybe not. But why rush to war now?

To contact the author on this story:

Marc Champion at

Why Bibi is personally responsible for Iran policy failure

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be held solely responsible for Israel’s diplomatic failure on Iran, maintaining too much control over too many portfolios and surrounding himself with people who won’t criticize him.

By Akiva Eldar, trans. Ruti Sinai, Al Monitor / Israel Pulse
July 14, 2015

The whole world speaks of a historical agreement with Iran, but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks today, July 14, of a “historical mistake for the world.” Netanyahu has used this same terminology many times in the past.

On July 12, the prime minister of a state the size of New Jersey, tiny Israel, announced, “We will not accept” the surrender to Iran by the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany, and also the leadership of the European Union’s 28 members. At the start of the weekly Cabinet meeting, Netanyahu accused the world powers of capitulating to Iran and ignoring its incessant calls for the destruction of the state of Israel.

Indeed, an Israeli leader has no right to accept a plan to destroy the Jewish state. When the prime minister announces that the agreement with Iran hastens Israel’s demise, he cannot make do with a statement to the media. He must leave no stone unturned in order to remove this threat. The Lausanne understandings and the emerging agreement being formulated in Vienna indicate that the verbal slings and arrows Netanyahu fired at the White House from the congressional podium on March 3 did not affect the negotiating powers. Now he is preparing to lash out in every direction, David against a company of Goliaths. There’s no telling whether this time David will gain the upper hand.

Assuming that “we will not accept” does not include a military attack on Iran or the elimination of nuclear scientists on its territory — after it signed an agreement with the six major powers — the only way to carry out such a mission is to line up a large majority in the US Congress to override a presidential veto. There’s no secret which of the two American parties the prime minister favours. In the last US presidential elections he made no attempt to hide his support for President Barack Obama’s rivals. And so far, there is no sign of him changing his position. Despite the attempts by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to toe the right-leaning line of the US Jewish community, it’s safe to assume that Netanyahu will bestow his favours on the Republican candidate. After all, it was the Republicans who arranged for him to speak in front of the two houses. Surely he would prefer to see another name — Bush, for instance — gracing the White House door over Clinton.

At that same Cabinet meeting at which he promised that Israel would not stand for a capitulation to Iran, Netanyahu sent the Democrats a taste of the cocktail he’s mixing for their candidate at the next elections if they don’t assist the Republicans with the necessary votes to topple the agreement with Iran. He played for his ministers, the media was quick to learn, a 1994 video clip in which former President Bill Clinton is heard patting himself on the back for the framework agreement he reached at the time with North Korea on its nuclear programme. The Democratic president promised to great fanfare that the agreement would “make the world a safer place.” In 2013, the US Defense Intelligence Agency issued a classified report according to which North Korea can, in all likelihood, arm a ballistic missile with a nuclear warhead.

Netanyahu is right; Clinton’s expectations of North Korea were exaggerated. There’s no doubt North Korea continues to flout the will of the world and to hold nuclear weapons. What Netanyahu forgot or did not want to say is that there was another president who took seriously the word of a dictatorial regime regarding nuclear weapons. He was not a Democratic president who recoiled from using force. In February 2007, President George W. Bush took great pleasure in the success of negotiations with North Korea that culminated in its commitment to seal its nuclear reactor in Yongbyon within 60 days and to submit to international inspections at the site. Bush said at the time that the talks provide “the best opportunity to use diplomacy to address North Korea’s nuclear programmes.” White House spokesman Tony Snow calmed sceptics, saying that if Korea fails to abide by the agreement, “There is still a possibility of sanctions through the international community.” Sound familiar?

If Netanyahu had by his side a seasoned foreign minister to provide some balance, he might have warned him against his continued crude interference in American politics. Had he not surrounded himself with yes-men, someone might perhaps have told Netanyahu that his threat to “not accept” the actions of the world powers makes the same impression on them as the threat of a tail to stop wagging a dog. But there’s no one of stature by Netanyahu’s side to challenge his foreign policy and his conduct toward the international community.

During his previous term as prime minister, Netanyahu named settler Avigdor Liberman, the most abrasive politician in the Knesset, as Israel’s top diplomat. During his current term, Netanyahu kept the foreign service for himself and named Tzipi Hotovely as his deputy minister, so that she could tell Israel’s diplomats that God gave the Jewish people the whole of the Land of Israel. Between dealing with the Iranian nuclear issue and managing his bare-bones coalition, the prime minister has to run his other ministries — the Health Ministry, the Ministry of Communication and the Ministry for Regional Co-operation. Netanyahu keeps all of these portfolios for himself mainly to maintain the possibility of enlarging the coalition in the future. The extra portfolios could then be delegated to new coalition partners.

Associate Chief Justice Elyakim Rubinstein, who was in the past appointed Cabinet secretary by Likud Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir and served from 1986 to 1994, said last week that holding many ministerial portfolios could interfere with Netanyahu’s performance. At a Supreme Court hearing on July 7 on a petition submitted by Yesh Atid against Netanyahu for holding the health portfolio, Rubinstein asked the state’s representative, “Who is truly in charge of health? You said the prime minister has Iran, and defense, and foreign affairs, and communications and a few others. So someone has to be in charge. Who’s in charge?”

Attorney Yisrael Maimon, who served as Cabinet secretary between 2003 and 2007 during the second Sharon government and the Olmert government, told Al-Monitor on July 12, “The job of prime minister, especially in a country as challenging as Israel, requires that the captain deals with issues which he regards as being at the top of the national agenda, and that’s how his schedule is run.” Maimon said that having to head many ministries places an extreme burden on the prime minister and his staff. “Even without having to deal with the issues of other ministries, the prime minister faces many and complex tasks,” he noted.

The defeat in the campaign to foil the Iranian plot to destroy Israel, as Netanyahu claims, will bear his name. The man who chose to personally lead one of the most difficult and intricate diplomatic missions that Israel has undertaken since its inception — if not the most difficult and intricate of them all — will bear sole responsibility for its failure. But we will all pay the price for the deep erosion in the estimation of Israel’s international influence and of the wisdom of its leaders.

Obama discusses Iran deal with Saudi King Salman

By Staff writer, Al Arabiya News
July 15, 2015

President Barack Obama telephoned Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz on Tuesday from Air Force One to discuss the newly completed Iran nuclear agreement, the White House said.

Saudi Arabia expressed hope on Tuesday for an end to Iran’s regional “interference” after a historic nuclear deal aimed at ensuring Tehran does not obtain an atomic bomb was struck.

“Given that Iran is a neighbour, Saudi Arabia hopes to build with her better relations in all areas on the basis of good neighbourliness and non-interference in internal affairs,” said an official spokesman cited by the Saudi Press Agency.

Both leaders also discussed the urgent need to stop the fighting in Yemen and ensure assistance for all Yemenis through international humanitarian channels.

Obama also spoke with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan by telephone to discuss the nuclear agreement.

The United Arab Emirates welcomed the historic deal saying it could turn a “new page” for the Gulf region.

“Iran could play a (significant) role in the region if it revises its policy and stops interfering in the internal affairs of countries like Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen,” a UAE official said in the first reaction from the Gulf Arab monarchies to the Vienna accord.

Meanwhile, Egypt said it “hopes that the deal between both sides is complete and prevents an arms race in the Middle East as well as ensuring the region is free of all weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons.”

Obama emphasized the United States’ commitment to working with Gulf partners, such as United Arab Emirates, to counter Iran’s destabilizing activities in the region.

Following the calls, it was revealed that the U.S. president is sending his defense chief next week to the Middle East to reassure reassuring allies that the nuclear deal will not undermine America’s commitment to their security.

U.S. defence officials told Reuters that Defence Secretary Ash Carter would travel to Israel and elsewhere within the region but declined to offer details.

The agreement between Iran and six major world powers could transform the Middle East, curbing sensitive Iranian nuclear activities in exchange for sanctions relief – and, in the process, upending assumptions about Tehran’s isolation.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned Tuesday’s deal as “a stunning, historic mistake.”

Offering a hint of his message to allies, Carter said in a statement about the Iran deal that the United States stood ready to “check Iranian malign influence”.

“We remain prepared and postured to bolster the security of our friends and allies in the region, including Israel,” he said.

The deal

Iran and major powers agreed on a mechanism under which the U.N. nuclear watchdog International Atomic Energy Agency could get access to suspect nuclear sites in Iran within 24 days, the text of the Iran nuclear agreement said.

Iran will also be allowed to conduct research and development (R&D) with uranium for advanced centrifuges during the first 10 years of a nuclear agreement with major powers, according to the text of the deal posted on the Russian foreign ministry website.

“Iran will continue to conduct enrichment R&D in a manner that does not accumulate enriched uranium,” the text of the agreement said.

Tehran and the six powers had been holding marathon diplomatic negotiations at the ministerial level for more than two weeks to resolve a 12-year stand-off over Iran’s nuclear programme.

An Iranian boy waves the national flag during celebrations in northern Tehran on July 14, 2015, after the country’s nuclear negotiating team struck a deal with world powers. Photo by Atta Kenare / AFP

Iranians celebrate nuclear deal, hail Zarif as hero

By Arthur MacMillan, AFP
July 15, 2015

Tehran – The crowd was small at first but as the din of car horns grew louder so did the number of Iranians celebrating a long-awaited nuclear deal in Tehran late Tuesday.

Some said they hoped it would improve their lives and change Iran’s image abroad. Others simply wanted to express their gratitude.

“Thank you Mr Zarif,” said Parvaneh Farvadi, among the hundreds who assembled at Parkway, a busy intersection in the north of the capital, shortly after sundown.

Her admiration was not confined to Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, whose name rang out in song.

“I love John Kerry,” the 32-year-old said of the US Secretary of State who for almost two years has faced Zarif at the forefront of nuclear talks which culminated in Tuesday’s historic deal.

“We are so happy. The diplomacy worked,” Farvadi added, as people placed Iranian flags atop their car windscreens and others held balloons out of the windows. Some people even danced.

Several drivers also carried a large wooden key — the symbol of President Hassan Rouhani’s successful election campaign two years ago, after which a nuclear deal became his dominant aim.

As a candidate Rouhani said the key stood for “prudence and hope”, and pledged the nuclear crisis could be solved and economic prosperity restored after nearly a decade of international sanctions.

At Parkway, most people evoked the same wish of better times, recounting a turbulent period, including recession and high inflation in which the nuclear dispute defined Iran’s image abroad.

– ‘Because we’re happy’ –

“If you look at the street tonight it’s because we’re happy,” said Giti, 42, who returned to Iran three years ago having lived in Canada and the United States and was again considering a move abroad.

The nuclear deal may change her mind.

“Maybe the economy is going to change, especially for the young people. I was thinking about leaving, but now I will stay to see what happens,” said the computer programmer.

“I could never have imagined this, even two years ago,” she added.

While some in the crowd chanted “Iran, Iran, Iran!” several groups of young students hailed Zarif in the same breath as Mohammad Mossadegh, the democratically elected premier overthrown in a US-British coup in 1953.

“Mossadegh, Zarif, Mossadegh, Zarif, these are the heroes of Iran,” they sang with flags draped across their shoulders as the road started to clog up with cars and people dodged the traffic.

Mossadegh, who was toppled after nationalising the nation’s oil industry, is regarded as one of Iran’s greatest sons.

Other celebrations took place across the capital, official media said, with pictures and video of the revelry posted on social media.

“Condolences Israel and Kayhan,” people chanted at Vanak Square, referring to the biggest international opponent of a nuclear deal and a hardline Iranian newspaper that also railed against the diplomacy of the past two years.

– Relief and enthusiasm –

Authorities appeared apprehensive earlier this week about people celebrating the same way they did after a preliminary deal was agreed with world powers on April 2.

Warnings from some officials may have been heeded as while there were several celebrations the numbers looked to be in the hundreds rather than the thousands, observers said.

In the first hour at Parkway there was no police presence, but social media posts later said officers had arrived to exercise some control.

When news of the deal first came through around noon in Tehran, where the temperature hit 39 degrees Celsius (102 Fahrenheit), there was relief and enthusiasm.

“It’s great news because the economy will boom,” said accountant Behnam Arian at Argentine Square, a busy commercial district in the capital.

Hamid Bahri, an engineer, was happy the talks were finally over after 18 days of waiting for a breakthrough in Vienna.

“Any deal is better than no deal,” he said.

Such optimism was not universal.

“This deal will have no effect on the economic development and daily lives of Iranians,” said Abtin Afarinsh, who sells luxury leather goods.

Shrugging his shoulders, he added: “I’m not going to be fooled by this.”

Palestinians welcome Iran deal, expect similar international pressure on Israel

Reaction across Arab to nuclear agreement world mostly positive; Syria hails accord as ‘great victory.’

By Jack Khoury and Reuters, Ha’aretz
July 14, 2015

The Arab world’s reaction to Tuesday’s signing of the nuclear agreement between Iran and world powers was mostly positive, namely Syria’s assertion that the accord constitutes “a great victory.” Turkey and Egypt were similarly enthusiastic.

The Palestinians also welcomed the deal, but a senior official told Haaretz that Ramallah also expects the international community to show similar resolve vis-à-vis the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“Just like the powers – especially the U.S. – were determined to conclude the negotiations [with Iran] and went to great lengths,” the official said, “so do we see the Palestinian issue as an equally important matter and expect the U.S. and world powers to exert the same efforts.”

Assad congratulates Khamenei

Syrian President Bashar Assad expressed confidence that his top regional ally Iran would now step up its efforts to back “just causes,” suggesting he expects more backing from Tehran in his fight against insurgents.

Shi’ite power Iran has provided crucial financial and diplomatic support for Assad and has sent military advisers to Syria while backing fighters from Lebanese Shi’ite group Hezbollah and other militias involved in the conflict.

“We are confident that the Islamic Republic of Iran will support, with greater drive, just causes of nations and work for peace and stability in the region and the world,” Assad said in a congratulatory message to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei published by state news agency SANA.

Assad also called the atomic agreement sealed in Vienna a victory and a “major turning point” in the history of Iran, the region and the world.” The coming days will see momentum in the constructive role played by the Islamic Republic of Iran in supporting for the rights of people and the laying of the foundation stones for amiable relations between nations for the good of humanity,” Assad said in a separate message to Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani, according to SANA.

The Syrian Foreign Ministry welcomed the agreement, saying its importance lies in the fact that diplomacy has triumphed over threats and sanctions. In a statement, the ministry added that the deal will contribute to regional security and stability.

The Egyptian Foreign Ministry expressed hope that the agreement with Iran will put a stop to the nuclear arms race in the Middle East.

Turkey: Deal vital to Mideast peace, stability

Turkey welcomed the nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers on Tuesday, saying it was of vital importance for the stability of the Middle East, but urged Tehran to rethink its policies on issues from Syria to Yemen.

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said transparent implementation of the deal would now be key and that the easing of sanctions would be of economic benefit to Turkey, which is one of Iran’s major trading partners.

But he also called on Tehran to play a constructive role in conflicts around the region.

“We have to abandon sectarian-based policies and place particular emphasis on political dialogue. We need to contribute to resolution of these issues through dialogue. This is what we expect from brotherly Iran,” Cavusoglu told a news conference.

Turkey and Iran have in the past accused each other of trying to dominate the Middle East, backing opposing sides in the war in Syria and the crisis in Yemen, but their economic interdependence has kept relations broadly on track.

Turkey’s imports from Iran were nearly $10 billion in 2014 and its exports totalled around $4 billion.

Finance Minister Mehmet Simsek said the deal was “great news” for the Turkish economy as it would likely boost bilateral trade, while Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said it could unlock investment in the Islamic Republic.

The Turkish Exporters’ Assembly said bilateral trade would probably double to $35 billion by the end of next year in the wake of the agreement.

Meanwhile, a Saudi official said that while the nuclear deal will mean “a happy day” if it stops Iran gaining a nuclear arsenal, the agreement would prove bad if it allowed Tehran to “wreak havoc in the region.”

The official told Reuters Iran had destabilized the whole Middle East through its activities in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen and added that if the deal allowed it concessions, the region would become more dangerous.

Barack Obama holds a news conference at the conclusion of the G7 Summit on June 8th in the Bavarian town of Kruen. Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

Barack Obama praises Putin for help clinching Iran deal

The unexpected consequence of the talks – an “opening” for further detente in the worst crisis in American-Russian relations since the Cold War

By Roland Oliphant, Telegraph
July 15, 2015

Moscow–Russian-American co-operation on the Iran nuclear deal could pave the way for an agreement on Syria, Barack Obama has said, despite the current confrontation between Moscow and the West over Ukraine.

Mr Obama praised Vladimir Putin for his role in the agreement and said there could now be an “opening” for further detente in the worst crisis in American-Russian relations since the Cold War.

Speaking shortly after a historic agreement to curb Iran’s nuclear programme was signed in Vienna, Mr Obama said that there was now an opportunity for a “serious conversation” with Mr Putin about the fate of Bashar Assad, the embattled Syrian president.

He did not go into details, but analysts in Moscow and Washington have previously suggested diplomats may be working on a bargain that would see a managed change of regime in Damascus acceptable to both Moscow and Washington.

Speaking to the New York Times Mr Obama said Mr Putin’s co-operation had “surprised” him, and that he was hopeful of an “opening” for further detente in otherwise fraught relationship between the two powers.

“Russia was a help on this. I’ll be honest with you. I was not sure given the strong differences we are having with Russia right now around Ukraine, whether this would sustain itself. Putin and the Russian government compartmentalised on this in a way that surprised me,” he told the paper.

“We would have not achieved this agreement had it not been for Russia’s willingness to stick with us and the other P5-Plus members in insisting on a strong deal.”

Russia worked hard to achieve a nuclear deal and Vladimir Putin praised the agreement achieved on Tuesday, saying that the “world heaved a sigh of relief” and promising that “Russia will do everything” to implement it.

“The political will demonstrated by these six states and Iran in the course of these negotiations is a guarantee of the successful implementation of the plan of action designed for the long term,” he said in a statement.

The deal meets several Russian foreign policy goals, including ending the isolation of Iran, Russia’s key Middle Eastern ally, paving the way for Russia to develop Iran’s civilian nuclear programme, and potentially reopening a historically lucrative market for Russian arms.

Some Russian analysts fret that the return of Iranian crude to the global oil market will suppress prices, and that in the long term the deal will allow Tehran to seek new partners outside its close but often fractious alliance with Moscow.

Mr Obama said Mr Putin had telephoned him recently to discuss Syria, where the regime of Bashar Assad, a Russian ally, has suffered severe battlefield setbacks in recent months.

“I think they get a sense that the Assad regime is losing a grip over greater and greater swaths of territory inside of Syria [to Sunni jihadist militias] and that the prospects for a Isil or al-Nusra takeover or rout of the Syrian regime is not imminent but becomes a greater and greater threat by the day,” he said.

Differences over the 2014 revolution in Ukraine and Russia’s subsequent annexation of Crimea and backing of a separatist rebellion in the east of the country have plunged relations between the United States and Russia to the their lowest point since the end of the Cold War.
The crisis has seen Nato and Russia both mount sabre-rattling military exercises that analysts worry could spill into a wider conflict in Europe.


* JCPOA: Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action

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