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‘You Could Cause Some Panic With This’

radioactive-iraq

Iraq is searching for ‘highly dangerous’ radioactive material stolen last year, according to an environment ministry document and seven security, environmental and provincial officials who fear it could be used as a weapon if acquired by Islamic State.

The material, stored in a protective case the size of a laptop computer, went missing in November from a storage facility near the southern city of Basra belonging to U.S. oilfield services company Weatherford WFT.N, the document seen by Reuters showed and officials confirmed.

A spokesman for Iraq’s environment ministry said he could not discuss the issue, citing national security concerns.

“They’ve been looking for it ever since. Whether it was just misplaced, or actually stolen, isn’t clear.”

— Official who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter

Weatherford said in a statement that it was not responsible or liable for the theft. “We do not own, operate or control sources or the bunker where the sources are stored,” it said.

The material, which uses gamma rays to test flaws in materials used for oil and gas pipelines in a process called industrial gamma radiography, is owned by Istanbul-based SGS Turkey, according to the document and officials.

An SGS official in Iraq declined to comment and referred Reuters to its Turkish headquarters, which did not respond to phone calls and emails.

The U.S. State Department said it was aware of the reports but has seen no sign that Islamic State or other militant groups have acquired it.

A U.S. official said separately that Iraq had reported a missing specialized camera containing highly radioactive Iridium-192 to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the Vienna-based U.N. nuclear watchdog, in November.

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“They’ve been looking for it ever since. Whether it was just misplaced, or actually stolen, isn’t clear,” said the official, who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.

The environment ministry document, dated Nov. 30 and addressed to the ministry’s Centre for Prevention of Radiation, describes “the theft of a highly dangerous radioactive source of Ir-192 with highly radioactive activity belonging to SGS from a depot belonging to Weatherford in the Rafidhia area of Basra province”.

A senior environment ministry official based in Basra, who declined to be named as he is not authorised to speak publicly, told Reuters the device contained up to 10 grams (0.35 ounces) of Ir-192 “capsules”, a radioactive isotope of iridium also used to treat cancer.

The material is classed as a Category 2 radioactive source by the IAEA, meaning that if not managed properly it could cause permanent injury to a person in close proximity to it for minutes or hours, and could be fatal to someone exposed for a period of hours to days. Read the rest of this entry »

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[PHOTO] Iran-Iraq Border: Iranian Female Students Play Around an Abandoned Tank in Shalamcheh, Khuzestan, Iran

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‘There are relics left along the Iran-Iraq boarders. A group of Iranian female students play around an abandoned tank [in Shalamcheh, Khuzestan, Iran]. Among them, one girl stands on the tank with her arms open.’ (Yanan Li / National Geographic 2015 Photo Contest)

See more here

Source: Winners of 2015 National Geographic Photo Contest


No Biggie For Bambi: Key Sanctions Relief Provision of Iran Deal Violates Federal Law

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Inconveniently, Sanctions Relief Provision Conflicts with Federal Statutes that were Signed into Law by President Obama.

Some senior U.S. officials involved in the implementation of the Iran nuclear deal have privately concluded that a key sanctions relief provision – a concession to Iran that will open the doors to tens of billions of dollars in U.S.-backed commerce with the Islamic regime – conflicts with existing federal statutes and cannot be implemented without violating those laws, Fox News has learned.

“What’s more, ITRA contains language, in Section 605, requiring that the terms spelled out in Section 218 shall remain in effect until the president of the United States certifies two things to Congress: first, that Iran has been removed from the State Department’s list of nations that sponsor terrorism, and second, that Iran has ceased the pursuit, acquisition, and development of weapons of mass destruction.”

At issue is a passage tucked away in ancillary paperwork attached to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, as the Iran nuclear deal is formally known. Specifically, Section 5.1.2 of Annex II provides that in exchange for Iranian compliance with the terms of the deal, the U.S. “shall…license non-U.S. entities that are owned or controlled by a U.S. person to engage in activities with Iran that are consistent with this JCPOA.”

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In short, this means that foreign subsidiaries of U.S. parent companies will, under certain conditions, be allowed to do business with Iran. The problem is that the Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act (ITRA), signed into law by President Obama in August 2012, was explicit in closing the so-called “foreign sub” loophole.

“Additional executive orders and statutes signed by President Obama, such as the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, have reaffirmed that all prior federal statutes relating to sanctions on Iran shall remain in full effect.”

Indeed, ITRA also stipulated, in Section 218, that when it comes to doing business with Iran, foreign subsidiaries of U.S. parent firms shall in all cases be treated exactly the same as U.S. firms: namely, what is prohibited for U.S. parent firms has to be prohibited for foreign subsidiaries, and what is allowed for foreign subsidiaries has to be allowed for U.S. parent firms.

What’s more, ITRA contains language, in Section 605, requiring that the terms spelled out in Section 218 shall remain in effect until the president of the United States certifies two things to Congress: first, that Iran has been removed from the State Department’s list of nations that sponsor terrorism, and second, that Iran has ceased the pursuit, acquisition, and development of weapons of mass destruction. Read the rest of this entry »


Iran Gives U.S. The Finger Even as Obama Rallies Support for Nuke Deal

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Congress to take up Iran nuke deal disapproval resolution

Paul Alster writes: Even as President Obama was securing the Senate support necessary to assure passage of the nuclear deal with Iran, Tehran’s top defense officials were scoffing at U.S. claims the pact will restrict the Islamic Republic’s military ambitions.the-finger

The president has been twisting arms and Secretary of State John Kerry reassuring lawmakers that the deal between Iran and the P5 +1 – members of the UN Security Council plus Germany – will ensure international inspections and bar Iran from ever developing nuclear weapons. This week, Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., became the 34th member of the Senate to back the controversial and unpopular deal, meaning that if it is defeated in a vote as expected, Obama will have enough support to sustain his certain veto. But Iran’s military brass has answered the U.S. nose-counting by thumbing their nose at America.

“Iran does not plan to issue permission for the [International Atomic Energy Agency] to inspect every site,” Iranian Defense Minister Brig. Gen. Hossein Dehqan told Al Mayadeen News Wednesday. “U.S. officials make boastful remarks and imagine that they can impose anything on the Iranian nation because they lack a proper knowledge of the Iranian nation.”

“U.S. officials make boastful remarks and imagine that they can impose anything on the Iranian nation because they lack a proper knowledge of the Iranian nation.”

– Iranian Defense Minister Brig. Gen. Hossein Dehqan

Iran’s official FARS news agency added that “Dehqan had earlier underlined that Tehran would not allow any foreigner to discover Iran’s defensive and missile capabilities by inspecting the country’s military sites.”

On the same day, a top Iranian general told troops preparing for a massive military drill involving up to 250,000 men that “the U.S. and the Zionists should know that the Islamic Revolution will continue enhancing its preparedness until it overthrows Israel and liberates Palestine.”

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The bluster from Iran is in sharp contrast to the message Obama and Kerry conveyed to lawmakers to line up support for the deal, which lifts international sanctions and frees up $150 billion in Iranian funds frozen when the Islamic Republic took 52 Americans hostage for 444 days beginning in 1979. Over the following three decades, Iran has, according to U.S. officials, been the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism while constantly calling for war with Israel and America. In return, Iran agreed to allow international inspectors to monitor its facilities and ensure that it did not build nuclear weapons. But troubling conditions have emerged, including that Iran will not allow Americans to take part in the inspections and will conduct its own monitoring of the key Parchin military site and turn over findings to international inspectors. Read the rest of this entry »


TWO HUNDRED Retired Generals and Admirals Write Letter to Congress Urging Rejection of Iran Deal 

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 reports: A group of nearly 200 retired U.S. generals and flag officers sent a letter to Congressional leadership on Tuesday urging them to reject the Iran nuclear deal.

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[The full text of the letter can be read here]

The letter says that the deal creates a decade-long path to nuclear weapons for Iran, while rewarding the Islamic Republic with cash it can use to rebuild its military and fund terrorism in the short-term.

“The agreement as constructed does not ‘cut off every pathway’ for Iran to acquire nuclear weapons,” it says. “To the contrary, it actually provides Iran with a legitimate path to doing that simply by abiding by the deal….(read more)

Washington Free Beacon

 

 


THE PANTSUIT REPORT: Invasive Clinton Probe to Get More Uncomfortably Invasive

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Classified emails discovered on the server Clinton maintained at her New York home contained material more sensitive than previously known.

WASHINGTON – Anita Kumar, Marisa Taylor, and Greg Gordon report: As pressure builds on Hillary Clinton to explain her official use of personal email while serving as secretary of state, she faced new complications Tuesday. It was PANTSUIT-REPORTdisclosed her top aides are being drawn into a burgeoning federal inquiry and that two emails on her private account have been classified as “Top Secret.”

The inspector general for the Intelligence Community notified senior members of Congress that two of four classified emails discovered on the server Clinton maintained at her New York home contained material deemed to be in one of the highest security classifications – more sensitive than previously known.

“We will follow the facts wherever they lead, to include former aides and associates, as appropriate.”

— Douglas Welty, a spokesman for the State Department’s inspector general

The notice came as the State Department inspector general’s office acknowledged that it is reviewing the use of “personal communications hardware and software” by Clinton’s former top aides after requests from Congress.

“Both the State Department and Intelligence Community inspectors general should be looking into the staff use of the Clinton private server for official State Department business. This means giving both inspectors general access and custody of all emails that haven’t already been deleted.”

“We will follow the facts wherever they lead, to include former aides and associates, as appropriate,” said Douglas Welty, a spokesman for the State Department’s inspector general.

“From what is publicly known, it appears that the investigation thus far has focused so much on the former secretary of state, that it’s gotten lost that high-level staff apparently also used this server too.”

— Sen. Chuck Grassley, chairman of the Judiciary Committee

Despite the acknowledgment, the State Department inspector general’s office has left numerous unanswered questions, including exactly who and what is being investigated. The office initially declined to comment and referred questions to the Intelligence Community inspector general’s office, which said it is not currently involved in any inquiry into aides and is being denied full access to aides’ emails by the State Department. Clinton, herself, is not a target.

[Read the full text here, at McClatchy DC]

The expanding inquiry threatens to further erode Clinton’s standing as the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination. Since her reliance on private email was revealed in March, polls in crucial swing states show that increasing numbers of voters say Clinton is not honest and trustworthy, in part, because of her use of private emails.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, the Republican chairman of the Judiciary Committee, wants Clinton and her aides to “come clean and cough up” information about their personal email use. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] John Kerry: Iran Deal Not A Treaty Because Getting Senate Consent Has ‘Become Physically Impossible’


The White House did not pursue the nuclear agreement with Iran as an international treaty, because getting U.S. Senate advise and consent for a treaty has “become physically impossible,” Secretary of State John Kerry told lawmakers on Tuesday.

 

 


[VIDEO] Kerry: We Can’t Reveal Contents of Secret Side Deals to American People

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Daniel Halper writes: Secretary of State John Kerry testified on Capitol Hill today the U.S. government will not be revealing the contents of secret side deals with Iran to the American people. Senator Tom Cotton wanted to know why it can’t be made public.

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 “Why can’t we confirm or deny the content of these agreements in public? Why is this classified? It’s not a sensitive U.S. government document.”

— Senator Tom Cotton

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“We don’t have their authorization to reveal what is a confidential agreement…”

— Secretary of State, recreational windsurfer, John Kerry

Watch the exchange:

“So the ayatollahs will know what they agreed to but not the American people?”

— Senator Tom Cotton

Hassan Rohani and Ayatollah Ali Khameni

“I’d like to stick with you, Secretary Kerry,” Cotton said….(read more)

[Also see – Cotton And Pompeo Reveal Stunning Secret Nuclear Side Deal As Khamenei’s Anti-US Rhetoric Continues]

The Weekly Standard


The Iran Deal in 26 Seconds: Ben Rhodes ‘Anytime, Anywhere’ ‘We Never Said That’

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 writes:

“Obama’s deal to lift sanctions on Iran and allow it to continue the purchase and production of enriched uranium is so bad that his own staff can’t even figure out how to spin for it. It’s so bad that Obama’s opponents don’t even need to craft their own arguments against it — they can just recycle the Obama administration’s arguments against the deal…”

Read more…

TheFederalist.com


Why Are They Cheering in Tehran?

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Frederick Kagan writes: The nuclear agreement with Iran announced Tuesday is an astoundingly good deal, far surpassing the hopes of anyone . . . in Tehran. It requires Iran to reduce the number of centrifuges enriching uranium by about half, to sell most of its current uranium stockpile or “downblend” it to lower levels of enrichment, and to accept inspections (whose precise nature is yet to be specified) by the International Atomic Energy Agency, something that Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei had wanted to avoid.

“The main achievement of the regime’s negotiators is striking a deal that commits the West to removing almost all sanctions on Iran, including most of those imposed to reduce terrorism or to prevent weapons proliferation.”

But the agreement also permits Iran to phase out the first-generation centrifuges on which it now relies and focus its research and development by exclusively using a number of advanced centrifuge models many times more efficient, which has been Tehran’s plan all along. The deal will also entirely end the United Nations’ involvement in Iran’s nuclear program in 10 years, and in 15 years will lift most restrictions on the program.

“Experts will debate the value of the concessions Iran has made on the nuclear front, but the value to Iran of the concessions the U.S. has made on nonnuclear issues is immeasurable.”

Even that, though, is not Tehran’s biggest win. The main achievement of the regime’s negotiators is striking a deal that commits the West to removing almost all sanctions on Iran, including most of those imposed to reduce terrorism or to prevent weapons proliferation. Most of the sanctions are likely to end in a few months. Thus the agreement ensures that after a short delay Iran will be able to lay the groundwork for a large nuclear arsenal and, in the interim, expand its conventional military capabilities as much as the regime pleases. The supreme leader should be very proud of his team.

“The Obama administration seems to be betting that lifting sanctions will cause Iran to moderate its behavior in both nuclear and nonnuclear matters. The rhetoric and actions of the regime’s leaders provide little evidence to support this notion and much evidence to the contrary.”

The agreement consists of 159 pages of opaque prose, and key sections are referred to but are not clearly marked. Even figuring out the timeline embodied in the deal is hard, but it appears to run about as follows:

[Read the full text here, at WSJ]

“Finalization Day” was July 14. The agreement stipulates that a resolution will be submitted to the United Nations Security Council “promptly after the conclusion of the negotiations . . . for adoption without delay” that will “terminate” all preceding U.N. Security Council resolutions against Iran. The document doesn’t mention the 60-day window for review by the U.S. Congress, and the language in this section suggests that action in the U.N. will not await any congressional vote. Read the rest of this entry »


Euphoria in Iran as U.S. Accepts Defeat

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” The Middle East has just become far more dangerous than it was a day ago. And the Obama administration has no one to blame but itself.”

Dov Zakheim writes:

…President Obama says that the deal makes the world “safer and more secure.” But here is how the Iranian Mehr News Agency describes the outcome:

– Iran’s nuclear program that was unjustly introduced as a threat to global security will now be recognized as a field for international cooperation with other countries.

– Iran will be recognized by the U.N. as a country with nuclear technology and entitled to rights of peaceful nuclear program including enrichment and full fuel cycle.

– All economic and financial sanctions against Iran will be removed through a new Security Council resolution.

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“The lifting of restrictions ensures that Iran will be no further from achieving nuclear weapons status than it is today. Nothing has been rolled back. None of the initial Western demands, whether regarding enrichment, the number of centrifuges, the extent of inspections, or the timetable for lifting sanctions have been met.”

– All nuclear facilities in Iran will retain their activities. Contrary to the initial demands of the other side, none of the nuclear sites will be shut down.

– With the new UNSC resolution under article 25, in addition to article 41 on provisions related to removal of past sanctions, the treatment of UN Security Council toward Iran will also undergo a fundamental change.

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“Iran will now have access to the latest technology, to international trade, and, most important, to billions of dollars. Estimates of Tehran’s financial windfall range as high as $150 billion.”

– All nuclear facilities in Iran will retain their activities. Contrary to the initial demands of the other side, none of the nuclear sites will be shut down.

– The policy to prevent Iran’s enrichment activities failed. Iran will continue nuclear enrichment.

– Iran’s nuclear infrastructure will be preserved. No centrifuge will be destroy [sic] and research and development on all advanced centrifuges including IR-4, IR-5, IR-6 and IR-8 will continue.

– Arak heavy water reactor will remain as such. Any demands to return the facility to a light water reactor have been dismissed. The facility will be modernized and enjoy new additions through cooperating with owners of most advanced and secure world technologies.

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“Even if the actual figures are no more than $50 billion, that sum is enough for Iran both to modernize its infrastructure and double, perhaps triple its financial support for terrorist activities, which currently is estimated to cost the Islamic Republic less than ten billions dollars.”

– Iran will enter global markets as a producer of nuclear products especially in the case of “enriched uranium” and “heavy water.” All sanctions and limitations against imports and exports of nuclear material will be annulled.

– All economic and financial sanctions in the fields of banking, oil, gas, petrochemicals, insurance, and transportation as imposed by the EU and the U.S. under the pretext of Iran’s nuclear program will be immediately lifted upon the implementation of the agreement.

“Clearly, from the Iranian perspective, this is one terrific deal.”

– Ban on Iran’s missile activities including ballistic missiles will be limited to missiles designed for nuclear weapons, of which the Islamic Republic has never been and will be after.

– Iran’s arms embargo will be lifted, replaced with some restrictions to be removed in 5 years.

– Ban on purchasing sensitive dual-use items will be lifted and Iran’s needs will be met more easily through Iran and 5+1 joint commission.

– Billions of Iran’s blocked revenues in foreign banks will be unfrozen.

– A total of 800 individuals and legal entities, including the Central Bank of Iran (CBI), the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines and the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC), will be released from any sanctions.

Clearly, from the Iranian perspective, this is one terrific deal.

What about from the Western perspective? The lifting of restrictions ensures that Iran will be no further from achieving nuclear weapons status than it is today. Nothing has been rolled back. None of the initial Western demands, whether regarding enrichment, the number of centrifuges, the extent of inspections, or the timetable for lifting sanctions have been met. Iran will now have access to the latest technology, to international trade, and, most important, to billions of dollars. Estimates of Tehran’s financial windfall range as high as $150 billion. Even if the actual figures are no more than $50 billion, that sum is enough for Iran both to modernize its infrastructure and double, perhaps triple its financial support for terrorist activities, which currently is estimated to cost the Islamic Republic less than ten billions dollars. The prospects for a peaceful outcome in Syria, or Yemen have diminished markedly. Hezbollah’s fortunes have skyrocketed. And the threat to Bahrain and Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province has become far more ominous. Read the rest of this entry »


Washington Post: The U.S. Response to Iran’s Cheating is a Worrying Omen

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If it is reached in the coming days, a nuclear deal with Iran will be, at best, an unsatisfying and risky compromise. Iran’s emergence as a threshold nuclear power, with the ability to produce a weapon quickly, will not be prevented; it will be postponed, by 10 to 15 years. In exchange, Tehran will reap hundreds of billions of dollars in sanctions relief it can use to revive its economy and fund the wars it is waging around the Middle East.

“Rather than publicly report this departure from the accord, the Obama administration chose to quietly accept it. When a respected independent think tank, the Institute for Science and International Security, began pointing out the problem, the administration’s response was to rush to Iran’s defense…”

Whether this flawed deal is sustainable will depend on a complex set of verification arrangements and provisions for restoring sanctions in the event of cheating. The schemes may or may not work; the history of the comparable nuclear accord with North Korea in the 1990s is not encouraging.

[Also see – Obama Laying Groundwork For Capitulation To Iran On Anytime/Anywhere Inspections]

The United States and its allies will have to be aggressive in countering the inevitable Iranian attempts to test the accord and willing to insist on consequences even if it means straining relations with friendly governments or imposing costs on Western companies.

[Read the full text here, at The Washington Post]

That’s why a recent controversy over Iran’s compliance with the interim accord now governing its nuclear work is troubling. The deal allowed Iran to continue enriching uranium, but required that amounts over a specified ceiling be converted into an oxide powder that cannot easily be further enriched. According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, Iran met the requirement for the total size of its stockpile on June 30, but it did so by converting some of its enriched uranium into a different oxide form, apparently because of problems with a plant set up to carry out the powder conversion. Read the rest of this entry »


Ankit Panda: What Really Happened in the Persian Gulf on April 28, 2015?

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Ankit Panda writes: A 65,000 ton, Danish-owned, Singapore-chartered, container ship, en route to the United Arab Emirates from Saudi Arabia, manned mostly by Eastern European and Asian sailors, is intercepted, boarded, and confiscated by the Iranian navy, prompting a U.S. destroyer to investigate.*

“Iran’s reasons for seizing the ship were at first unclear. Speculation abounded that the incident was a show of force intended to strike back at the United States after it sent the USS Theodore Roosevelt to intercept an Iranian arms shipment to Yemen’s Houthis last week.” 

That wasn’t an anecdote from Tom Friedman’s next book on globalization–it’s a rough description of what took place on Tuesday, April 28, in the strategically important sea lanes of the Strait of Hormuz.

“Additionally, others suggested that the seizure could have been a move by hardliners opposing Iran’s negotiations with the West over its nuclear program  –  an attempt to spark a broader crisis to derail those talks.”

Allow me to get into the details:

The shipping lanes in the Strait of Hormuz have long been highlighted as a potential flashpoint amid the simmering geopolitical tensions between the United States and Iran. Its waters are of particular geostrategic significance given that over a third of the world’s petroleum traded by sea passes through the region. Iran has repeatedly emphasized its dominance over the waters, threatening to blockade the strait in a time of crisis. Today, we saw an acute manifestation of Iran’s audacity when the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGCN) seized and escorted the Marshall Islands-flagged MV Maersk Tigris, a shipping vessel belonging to Denmark’s A.P. Moller–Maersk Group and chartered by Singapore-based Rickmers Shipmanagement, toward the Iranian port at Bandar Abbas.

[Read the full text here, at The Diplomat]

The incident sparked a response by U.S. Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT), which ordered the USS Farragut, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer that was 60 miles from the point of the Tigris’ interception, to respond to the vessel’s distress signal. The incident took place as Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif led a delegation to New York City for the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty review conference at the United Nations, meeting with Western diplomats on the sidelines to discuss the ongoing P5+1 talks over his country’s nuclear program.

Map depicting the MV Maersk Tigris’ original path toward the UAE and diversion after being intercepted by the IRGCN. (Source: marinetraffic.com)

Map depicting the MV Maersk Tigris’ original path toward the UAE and diversion after being intercepted by the IRGCN. (Source: marinetraffic.com)

Saudi Arabia-backed, UAE-based Al Arabiya was among the first sources to break the news in English. It reported that Iran had fired warning shots (true) and seized a U.S.-flagged vessel (false). Nevertheless, the initial reports sparked considerable online panic at the prospect that the United States and Iran could be headed for a major confrontation. The report also noted that the crew of the ship numbered 34 and were American. Needless to say, U.S. citizens being held against their will by Iran hits a raw nerve for the United States given certain historical events. We’ve since learned, thanks to Reuters, that the Tigris’ has a crew of 24, most of whom hail “from Eastern Europe and Asia.”  Read the rest of this entry »


The Iran Deal and Its Consequences

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Mixing shrewd diplomacy with defiance of U.N. resolutions, Iran has turned the negotiation on its head

Henry Kissinger and George P. Shultz write: The announced framework for an agreement on Iran’s nuclear program has the potential to generate a seminal national debate. Advocates exult over the nuclear constraints it would impose on Iran. Critics question the verifiability of these constraints and their longer-term impact on regional and world stability. The historic significance of the agreement and indeed its sustainability depend on whether these emotions, valid by themselves, can be reconciled.220px-Henry_Kissinger_Shankbone_Metropolitan_Opera_2009

“In a large country with multiple facilities and ample experience in nuclear concealment, violations will be inherently difficult to detect. Devising theoretical models of inspection is one thing. Enforcing compliance, week after week, despite competing international crises and domestic distractions, is another.”

Debate regarding technical details of the deal has thus far inhibited the soul-searching necessary regarding its deeper implications. For 20 years, three presidents of both major parties proclaimed that an Iranian nuclear weapon was contrary to American and global interests—and that they were prepared to use force to prevent it. Yet negotiations that began 12 years ago as an international effort to prevent an Iranian capability to develop a nuclear arsenal are ending with an agreement that concedes this very capability, albeit short of its full capacity in the first 10 years.

[Read the full text here, at the Wall Street Journal]

Mixing shrewd diplomacy with open defiance of U.N. resolutions, Iran has gradually turned the negotiation on its head. Iran’s centrifuges have multiplied from about 100 at the beginning of the negotiation to almost 20,000 today. The threat of war now constrains the West more than Iran. While Iran treated the mere fact of its willingness to negotiate as a concession, the West has felt compelled to break every deadlock with a new proposal. In the process, the Iranian program has reached a point officially described as being within two to three months of building a nuclear weapon. Under the proposed agreement, for 10 years Iran will never be further than one year from a nuclear weapon and, after a decade, will be significantly closer.

An Iranian worker at the Uranium Conversion Facility at Isfahan, 410 kilometers, south of Tehran. The conversion facility in Isfahan reprocesses uranium ore concentrate, known as yellowcake, into uranium hexaflouride gas. The gas is then taken to Natanz and fed into the centrifuges for enrichment. (photo credit: AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

An Iranian worker at the Uranium Conversion Facility at Isfahan, 410 kilometers, south of Tehran. The conversion facility in Isfahan reprocesses uranium ore concentrate, known as yellowcake, into uranium hexaflouride gas. The gas is then taken to Natanz and fed into the centrifuges for enrichment. (photo credit: AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

Inspections and Enforcement

The president deserves respect for the commitment with which he has pursued the objective of reducing nuclear peril, as does Secretary of State John Kerry for the persistence, patience and ingenuity with which he has striven to impose significant constraints on Iran’s nuclear program.

[Also see – Clouds of Grey Fuzz Hang Over Iran Deal]

Progress has been made on shrinking the size of Iran’s enriched stockpile, confining the enrichment of 220px-George_Pratt_Shultzuranium to one facility, and limiting aspects of the enrichment process. Still, the ultimate significance of the framework will depend on its verifiability and enforceability.

“Under the new approach, Iran permanently gives up none of its equipment, facilities or fissile product to achieve the proposed constraints…”

Negotiating the final agreement will be extremely challenging. For one thing, no official text has yet been published. The so-called framework represents a unilateral American interpretation. Some of its clauses have been dismissed by the principal Iranian negotiator as “spin.” A joint EU-Iran statement differs in important respects, especially with regard to the lifting of sanctions and permitted research and development.

“…It only places them under temporary restriction and safeguard—amounting in many cases to a seal at the door of a depot or periodic visits by inspectors to declared sites. The physical magnitude of the effort is daunting.”

Comparable ambiguities apply to the one-year window for a presumed Iranian breakout. Emerging at a relatively late stage in the negotiation, this concept replaced the previous baseline—that Iran might be permitted a technical capacity compatible with a plausible civilian nuclear program. The new approach complicates verification and makes it more political because of the vagueness of the criteria.

“Is the International Atomic Energy Agency technically, and in terms of human resources, up to so complex and vast an assignment?”

Under the new approach, Iran permanently gives up none of its equipment, facilities or fissile product to achieve the proposed constraints. Read the rest of this entry »


Bret Stephens: Obama and the ‘Inevitable Critics’

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We are dealing with a case of Mutually Assured Obfuscation

Bret Stephens writes: ‘So when you hear the inevitable critics of the deal sound off, ask them a simple question: Do you really think that this verifiable deal, if fully implemented, backed by the world’s major powers, is a worse option than the risk of another war in the Middle East?”

That was Barack Obama on Thursday, defending his Iran diplomacy while treating its opponents to the kind of glib contempt that is the mark of the progressive mind. Since I’m one of those inevitable critics, let me answer his question.

Yes, it’s worse. Much worse.

Yes, because what the president calls “this verifiable deal” fails the first test of verification—mutual agreement and clarity as to what, exactly, is in it.

[Read the full text here, at WSJ]

Take sanctions. Iran insists all sanctions—economic as well as nuclear—will be “immediately revoked” and that “the P5+1 member countries are committed to restraining from imposing new nuclear-related sanctions.” But the Obama administration claims Iran will only get relief “if it verifiably abides by its commitments.” The administration adds that “the architecture of U.S. nuclear-related sanctions on Iran will be retained for much of the duration of the deal.”

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So who is lying? Or are we dealing with a case of Mutually Assured Obfuscation?

Yes, too, because the deal fails the second test of verification: It can’t be verified.

Here again there are significant discrepancies between the U.S. and the Iranian versions of the deal. The administration claims “Iran has agreed to implement the Additional Protocol,” a reference to an addendum to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty that permits intrusive inspections. But Tehran merely promises to implement the protocol “on a voluntary and temporary basis,” pending eventual ratification by its parliament, inshallah.

We’ve seen this movie before. Iran agreed to implement the Additional Protocol in 2003, only to renounce it in early 2006, after stonewalling weapons inspectors. Read the rest of this entry »


Clouds of Grey Fuzz Hang Over Iran Deal

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Michael Crowley writes:

…Likely to be most problematic of all is Iran’s response to questions about its past research into nuclear weapons production, including bomb designs and detonators. The International Atomic Energy Agency says that Iran has stonewalled on all but one of a dozen questions the agency has posed. Iran has denied the IAEA access to its Parchin military base, where the United Nations nuclear watchdog group suspects it tested explosives that could be used to detonate a bomb.

Iran denies that it has ever pursued a military application to its nuclear program. But U.S. intelligence officials say they are confident Iran aggressively researched bomb-making until 2003, when that aspect of its program was halted.

Thursday’s agreement is vague on this score. The fact sheet says only that Iran “will implement an agreed set of measures to address the IAEA’s concerns,” but those measures aren’t detailed…(read more)

POLITICO


Report: Explosion in Iranian Nuclear Facility

- PHOTO TAKEN 28FEB04 - Satellite image shows the nuclear facility at Bushehr, Iran, on February 28,..

Two people died in an explosion that ripped through an explosive material production unit at a nuclear facility near Tehran, according to Iranian press reports on Monday.

“The glare from the blast could also be seen from a great distance.”

The incident occurred at the Parchin military compound, not far from the Iranian capital, according to the Iranian Students News Agency.

The BBC said on Monday that a pro-opposition website was also reporting an explosion at the site.

The BBC cited the pro-reform website Sahamnews as saying that the explosion on Sunday evening was “so intense that windows of buildings 15 km (nine miles) away were shattered.”

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Iran ’2 to 3 weeks’ from Nuclear Bomb

Former IAEA director warns Tehran could nix deal, arm itself quickly

nuclear-bomb-340x161If Iran breaks its deal with the West tomorrow, the country would be only two to three weeks away from producing enough highly enriched uranium to assemble a nuclear weapon, according to Olli Heinonen, former deputy director of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Heinonen directed the safeguards division of the United Nations body charged with enforcing the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

He was asked Sunday on Aaron Klein’s WABC Radio show about the timeframe in response to statements from Iran’s top nuclear negotiator, who boasted last week that Tehran can nix its deal with the West and resume enriching uranium to 20-percent levels within one day if it so desires.

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Atomic Watchdog Reports: North Korea ‘Restarts’ Nuclear Reactor

Yongbyon nuclear facility
Activity has been observed at a North Korean nuclear site consistent with an effort to restart a reactor, the International Atomic Energy Agency chief, Yukiya Amano, has said.

North Korea announced in April it would revive its aged research reactor at the Yongbyon nuclear complex – which experts say is capable of producing plutonium for bombs – but said it was seeking a deterrent capacity.

Amano said the Vienna-based IAEA continued to monitor developments at Yongbyon, mainly through satellite imagery.

“Activities have been observed at the site that are consistent with an effort to restart the 5MW(e) reactor,” Amano told the IAEA’s 35-nation board.

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Iran President: We Won, Enrichment Will Never Stop

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani laughs as he speaks during an event hosted by the Council on Foreign Relations and the Asia Society in New York, September 26, 2013.  REUTERS/Keith Bedford (

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani laughs as he speaks during an event hosted by the Council on Foreign Relations and the Asia Society in New York, September 26, 2013. REUTERS/Keith Bedford 

Reza Kahlili  writes: Iran boasted on Tuesday that it has created a major crack in the international sanctions against its nuclear program, claiming it has achieved its goal of acceptance of its nuclear development.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani announced on Tuesday that the Islamic Republic’s uranium enrichment process “will never witness the stop of enrichment in Iran and that enrichment is our red line.”

Early Sunday, Iran and the 5+1 world powers, the five permanent U.N. Security Council members plus Germany, reached an agreement in Geneva over its illicit nuclear program. Under the agreement, Iran, in return for billions of dollars in sanctions relief, will keep much of its nuclear infrastructure, is limited to enriching uranium at the five percent level for six months, will convert its highly enriched uranium of 20 percent to harmless oxide and will allow more intrusive inspections of its nuclear plants by the International Atomic Energy Agency, which will be limited to only agreed-on facilities. (RELATED: Iranian leader: Nuclear negotiations merely a maneuver to reach Islamic goal)

Rouhani said the Geneva agreement will transform the country’s banking system.

“The most important fact is that there will be no new sanctions,” he said. “This means that the sanctions regime has been broken.”

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Reality Check: If Iran Can Get This Reactor Online, Israel May Not Be Able to Bomb It

Satellite image of the Arak Nuclear Reactor in Iran collected on Feb. 9, 2013. DigitalGlobe / Getty Images

Satellite image of the Arak Nuclear Reactor in Iran collected on Feb. 9, 2013. DigitalGlobe / Getty Images

You Can Freak Out Now

 reports:  In the foreground of the nuclear talks between Iran and Western powers that got under way in Geneva this month were centrifuges, yellowcake and enriched uranium — all elements of what Iran calls a peaceful nuclear-energy program and what the West worries is a route to a nuclear weapon. But Iran has also charted a second route, one that could produce fuel for a possible bomb not from highly enriched uranium but out of plutonium, a product of the heavy-water reactor nearing completion in the hills outside the city of Arak, 300 km (190 miles) southwest of Tehran. Heavy water is water with an extra neutron, useful in moderating a nuclear reaction.

Because it is not yet up and running, the Arak heavy-water reactor has remained in the background of the nuclear controversy. But it looms larger every day. The reason: once Arak goes online, the option of destroying Iran’s nuclear program with air strikes becomes moot. The reactor is essentially invulnerable to military attack, because bombing one risks a catastrophic release of radioactivity. In the words of Israel’s last chief of military intelligence, Amos Yadlin, who piloted one of the F-16A’s that cratered Iraq’s Osirak heavy-water reactor in 1981 before it was due to become operational: “Whoever considers attacking an active reactor is willing to invite another Chernobyl, and no one wants to do that.”

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What could go wrong?

Think tank: path to Iran nuke warhead 2-4 months

VIENNA AP — Iran could produce enough weapons-grade uranium to arm a nuclear bomb within two to four months but would still face serious “engineering challenges” — and much longer delays — before it succeeds in making the other components needed for a functioning warhead, a respected U.S. think tank said Monday…

via >> AP — Yahoo! News