Wednesday, July 29, 2015

29-Jul-15: Built not on trust but on... verification

The notion that the deal is based on verification gets a response from political leaders
in Vienna, July 14, 2015 [Image Source]
Allow us, in these confusing times, to draw some attention to three quite revealing recent quotes about the Iran Nuclear Enablement Deal™, the one the US president has called a deal not built on trust, but on verification.

The first, from John Kerry's US State Department, lays out why Iran is one of four (Cuba, Syria, Sudan are the others) US-designated state sponsors of terrorism. The unsigned (keep reading - we explain this below) JCPOA with Iran, by far the largest of those state sponsors of terror, gradually nullifies the sanctions that come with that distinguished title, and gives Iran access to vast cash resources, frozen for some years, that are going to be used for... well, no one can really say. 

But if - just for argument's sake - any of it is going to give even more teeth to the extremely hostile messaging issuing forth from authoritative Iranian sources [like this "22-Jul-15: Now that peace is on the way, what to make of blood-curdling Iranian incitement like this?"; and like this "27-Jul-15: Even more peace from Iran's highest-level military force"], this could become very bad, very quickly. 

US State Department Country Reports on Terrorism 2014
Chapter 3: State Sponsors of Terrorism Overview: Iran [Source]
Designated as a State Sponsor of Terrorism in 1984, Iran continued its terrorist-related activity in 2014, including support for Palestinian terrorist groups in Gaza, Lebanese Hizballah, and various groups in Iraq and throughout the Middle East. This year, Iran increased its assistance to Iraqi Shia militias, one of which is a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO), in response to the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) incursion into Iraq... Iran and its proxies also continued subtle efforts at growing influence elsewhere including in Africa, Asia, and, to a lesser extent, Latin America. Iran used the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF) to implement foreign policy goals, provide cover for intelligence operations, and create instability in the Middle East... Iran views Syria as a crucial causeway in its weapons supply route to Lebanese Hizballah, its primary beneficiary, and as a key pillar in its “resistance” front... Iran has historically provided weapons, training, and funding to Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups, including Palestine Islamic Jihad (PIJ) and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC)... Iran has also assisted in rearming Lebanese Hizballah, in direct violation of UNSCR 1701... Despite multiple UNSCRs requiring Iran to suspend its sensitive nuclear proliferation activities, Iran continued to be in noncompliance with its international obligations regarding its nuclear program... 
Not built on trust [Image Source]
The second comes from an opinion column by Bret Stephens in the Wall Street Journal's July 27 edition. Here, he bitterly takes apart the hubris of a US president bent on turning Americans into believers in the value of coming to terms with the same Iran described in the previous paragraph, essentially because there is no better alternative and why not?

The Syria Sham and the Iran Deal
Bret Stephens | Wall Street Journal | July 27, 2015
There was Mr. Obama... at a Camp David press conference in May: “Assad gave up his chemical weapons. That’s not speculation on our part. That, in fact, has been confirmed by the organization internationally that is charged with eliminating chemical weapons.”
Note the certitude of these pronouncements, the lordly swagger...
The CIA now admits that Syria retains significant quantities of its deadliest chemical weapons. When Mr. Obama announced the Syria deal, he warned that he would use military force in the event that Mr. Assad failed to honor his promises. The threat was hollow then. It is laughable now. 
What ties the Syrian sham to the Iranian one is an American president bent on conjuring political illusions at home at the expense of strategic facts abroad, his weakness apparent to everyone but himself.
So either verification is not relevant where Syria is concerned, or he didn't mean to be taken so literally.

The third, from a non-American source ["Critical Points To Consider In Understanding The Iranian Nuclear Deal", MEMRI, July 24, 2015], relates to what was and was not done between Iran and the West a fortnight ago

But first this. Much of the news coverage in Western countries describes how the JCPOA (the authorized final text is here - an Iranian site has the text plus all annexes here) is an agreement (yes, an agreement) reached between Iran and a group of Western powers led by the US, and signed (yes, signed) in Vienna on July 14, 2015. Some examples:
  • "The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) (Persian: برنامه جامع اقدام مشترک‎, abbreviated as برجام) is a nuclear agreement signed in Vienna on 14 July 2015 between Iran, the P5+1 (the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council—China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, United States—plus Germany), and the European Union." [Wikipedia]
  • "Following is a timeline for the implementation of a historic deal signed between Iran and six major powers on July 14..." [AFP, July 15, 2015]
  • "[T]he agreement was signed by representatives of the United States, its negotiating partners and Iran. The implementation plan called for immediate approval by the U.N. Security Council — which occurred Monday — of the agreed-upon resolution endorsing the JCPOA." [Washington Post, July 20, 2015]
  • "The UN Security Council on Monday backed Iran's nuclear agreement with world powers..."[Times of India, July 21, 2015]
  • "Iran signed a nuclear agreement on July 14 with the five permanent members of the UN Security Council..." [Deutsche Welle, German Radio, July 21, 2015]
  • "Here's a pop quiz about the six-nation nuclear pact with Iran, signed last week..." [Los Angeles Times, July 19, 2015]
  • "Now that the deal has been signed... there are several steps that the Iranian leadership can take to build on its newly minted goodwill." [The National, United Arab Emirates, July 15, 2015]
  • "The nuclear agreement signed between Iran and the P5+1... will remain a point of contention in Washington for many years to come." [USA Today, July 15, 2015]
  • Iran's foreign minister Zarif, Vienna [Image Source]
  • "Iran and the P5+1... signed a final agreement in Vienna on Tuesday, bringing to a close nearly two years of contentious talks..." [Anadolu News, Turkey, July 15, 2015]
In reality, as our third quote clarifies, there is a text but there is no agreementNothing was signed:
[C]ontrary to how it is perceived, the JCPOA is not a bilateral or multilateral contract between the United States and/or Europe and Iran. Nothing has been signed and nothing is judicially binding between any of the parties. It is a set of understandings that was sent to a third party, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), for endorsement. This structure is a result of Iran's insistence to not sign any bilateral or multilateral contract. [MEMRI]
For their part, and to give them credit, the Iranians have been scrupulous about explaining the limits of the document to their own people:
  • "[T]he United States, Britain, France, Russia and China plus Germany – finally arrived at a final deal on July 14 which would put an end to a 12-year nuclear dispute." [Islamic Republic News Agency, July 21, 2015]
  • "Iran and the {Western powers] finalized the text of a lasting agreement on Tehran's nuclear energy program in Vienna, Austria, on July 14. Later, the 15-member United Nations Security Council unanimously passed a resolution endorsing the text of the deal..." [Al Alam News Channel, Iran, July 27, 2015]
  • "Iran and the six powers on July 14 finalized the text of a lasting nuclear talks conclusion dubbed as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). While the United Nations Security Council adopted a resolution afterwards to endorse the deal, the text of the document needs to be ratified by both Iran's Parliament and the US Congress. [IRIB The Voice of the Islamic Republic, Iran, July 26, 2015]
  • [Discussing what president Obama has called snapback and "real consequences"] "Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi said the country will be able to “immediately” reverse its commitments under a final nuclear deal with world powers if it finds out that the other side has breached commitments under the [JCPOA]... Whenever Iran feels the other side has not honored its commitments, the “reversibility” of Tehran’s nuclear program will happen immediately, he said." [Tasnim News Agency, Iran, July 28, 2015]
It's not an agreement. It's not signed. And Iran sees it as not binding on Iran. 

Makes a thinking person wonder how the mainstream news media work, and what's really on the minds of the many - politicians and citizens alike - who think this is all worth getting solidly behind.


Elihu D. Stone said...

Adding to the concern, Kerry and Obama earlier this year trotted out the meme that Khamenei, Iran’s Supreme Leader issued a fatwa against Iran ever building or using nuclear weapons Notorious left-wingers like Juan Cole made a huge deal of this fatwa years ago . If we accept that the fatwa exists and has any significance that would seem to render the whole deal superfluous, from the U.S perspective. Indeed, if the fatwa is given any credence it seems nothing short of bizarre that the President now raises the issue of the fatwa again, but simultaneously claims that this deal – the sole purpose of which according the Iranians is to remove sanctions – is the only thing that will stop Iran from building a bomb – (Of course, Obama uses rhetorical sleight of hand to distract from this issue – by pitting the fatwa against the alternative of Israel bombing Iran) Obama never proposes the option of living with the status quo and relying on the fatwa to guarantee Iran will not weaponized nuclear power because he would be laughed out of town. Still it’s worth pressing. Logically, by negotiating an end to sanctions, Obama _must_ be insinuating that he believes Iran’s Supreme Leader would sacrifice his iron-clad religious principles for mere economic profit – otherwise why should the U.S. negotiate the nuclear issue on this basis? However, if Obama suspects Khamenei’s religious integrity - and given that Khamenei wields absolute power - why would the U.S sign on to a document with such appallingly weak verification provisions?

This Ongoing War said...

Hard questions, sharp observations - thank you.

There's something bizarre about the public debate being conducted on the basis of people lining up behind the US president and dismissing the tsunami of critical analysis as "noise" and "politics". Some of the most incisive rebuttals of the JCPOA's rationale are turning up in blogs, and in comments to blogs.

Is this any way for the White House to make some of the weightiest decisions ever to have been undertaken by a president?

rlandes said...

astonishing all around. the (lack of) logic is clear to anyone who chooses to look, but the need not to think badly of a sitting president is so powerful that people won't see what's before their eyes. cognitive dissonance can have produce astonishing feats of denial.