Monday, April 6, 2015

FOD 2015.04.06

Today's post is a lengthy one. It discusses a topic that in my opinion is the most crucial issue facing the world today - the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran. There is a fair amount of detail, so if you're in a rush just scroll down to the Big Picture heading. Otherwise, pour yourself a fresh cup of coffee, settle back in your chair, and begin.

There has been much angst lately about barack chamberlain obama capitulating to the Iranians on the latest nuclear negotiations, to the point where even the French are saying the U.S. "caved in to Iranian demands."

When the French accuse you of appeasement, that should be a clear sign you've gone to far.

However, this isn't anything new for obama. He began sucking up to Iran even before he was elected.
July 2007: No preconditions

During a July 23, 2007, debate for the Democratic presidential nomination (the candidates were asked) if they would be willing to meet, without precondition, within the first year of their administration, with the leaders of Iran, Syria, North Korea, Cuba and Venezuela. "I would," Obama said... He went on to say, "I think it is a disgrace that we have not spoken to them" vowing that with regards to Iraq, "One of the first things that I would do in terms of moving a diplomatic effort in the region forward, is to send a signal that we're going to talk to Iran and Syria."

January 2009: Extending the hand

Obama used the occasion of his first Inaugural Address on Jan. 20, 2009, to extend an olive branch to Iran...

A week later... In his first formal sit down interview as president – with Arab television network Al Arabiya – Obama was asked how far he'd be willing to go to prevent a nuclear Iran.

... He acknowledged Iran had a record of threatening Israel, sponsoring terrorism, and pursuing nuclear weapons. "But," he added, "I do think that it is important for us to be willing to talk to Iran

March 2009: "The Islamic Republic of Iran"

In the first of his annual messages on Nowruz, the Persian New Year, Obama addressed the Iranian people as well as the "leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran." By referring to the "Islamic Republic" he immediately added legitimacy to the anti-American regime.

June 2009: The Green Revolution

On June 12, Iran held its tightly-controlled elections, and after Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was declared the winner, massive democratic protests broke out against the regime. Rather than support the dissidents in the face of a brutal crackdown by the Islamic nation, Obama was initially silent before offering a tepid response days later.

2009 — Present: Letters to the Ayatollah

During his presidency, Obama has become pen pals with Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. This despite the fact that Khamenei continues to back terrorism, has called for "Death to America" and declared that Israel is a "cancerous tumor that should be cut and will be cut" within the context of seeking nuclear weapons.

The letters to Khamenei are just one part of Obama's outreach effort. In September 2013, Obama spoke on the phone with new Iranian President Hassan Rouhani – representing the highest-level contact between the U.S. and Iran since the Carter administration cut off ties with the regime in 1980.

2009 — 2011: Resisting tougher sanctions

At many points when it has suited his political interests, Obama has boasted of having ratcheted up sanctions against Iran in his first term. Though it's accurate that more sanctions were imposed, the important context is that Obama continually fought back Congress in an attempt to weaken sanctions...

2013 — Present: Nuclear concessions mount

On Nov. 24, 2013, the Obama administration announced an "interim agreement" with Iran that provided immediate sanctions relief in exchange for concessions on its nuclear program. The agreement was supposed to last six months, but has since been extended multiple times. And as time goes on, the U.S. moves closer and closer to the Iranian position.

The negotiations had been pitched as a way to make sure Iran "doesn't have the capacity to develop a nuclear weapon," but now, the stated goal is to make sure that the U.S. can tell when Iran is a year away from a nuclear weapon – and the hope of reaching even that lower bar appears to be fading. (emphasis added)
Note the change - from prevention to detection. Bad move. It's a lot easier to prevent a fire than it is to put one out after it has started. And what do you think obama will do if he gets word that Iran is close to completing a nuke? Based on his past performance, I'd say he'll play another round of golf.

More boring, but critical, details follow.
Initially, the U.S. denied that the interim agreement recognized Iran's right to enrich uranium, but Secretary of State John Kerry later sang a different tune. There has also been a clear shift in the number of centrifuges Iran will be allowed to operate... By September 2014, the U.S. was saying that the goal was to limit the number of centrifuges to 1,500. The latest reports are that Iran will be allowed to keep around 6,000 centrifuges – which will make it a lot harder to limit Iran's so-called breakout time to obtaining a nuclear weapon to a year.

An April 2012 New York Times report revealed that the Obama administration and its European allies were "demanding the immediate closing and ultimate dismantling" of Fordo, a nuclear facility built deep under a mountain. But the Associated Press reported last month that under the current deal, the facility would remain operational.
Note that destroying Fordo by non-nuclear weapons is not a sure thing, despite development of a new and improved MOP (Massive Ordnance Penetrator).
On top of all of these concessions, the emerging deal would allow Iran to maintain its plutonium pathway to a nuclear weapon and it hasn't addressed its ballistic missile program...

Ongoing: Realigning U.S. Middle East policy toward Iran

As the Obama administration engages in nuclear diplomacy, it has shifted its broader foreign policy in the Middle East so that it's closer to Iran... Recently, Kerry said the U.S. might have to negotiate with Syrian dictator Bashar Assad, an ally of the Iranian regime. The U.S. has tolerated a growing role for Iran in Iraq. The administration has had a tepid response to the takeover of Yemen — once hailed as a model of counterterrorism — by Iran-backed Shiite Houthi rebels. Obama has also taken an increasingly belligerent attitude toward Israel.
That's the context. It shows an early and sustained movement by the obama administration away from traditional allies towards an oppressive and extremist regime. As for the new agreement, all you need to know about it is the reaction in the streets of Iran.

From social media to the streets, Iranians erupt with joy after nuclear deal
By the elation online and in the streets, you'd think Iran had just won the World Cup. But this is bigger.

Iranians erupted in celebration as young people waved flags from their sunroofs, blasted music from stereos and chatted online with the hashtag #IranTalks.

The excitement came after a breakthrough nuclear deal with the United States and other world powers...
The perception here at home? Lower and lower expectations, that will still go unmet.
Whatever else the Obama administration accomplished in the Iran nuclear framework, it did a good job keeping the bar of expectations low...

Tehran can be expected to use every ambiguity in the agreement to its advantage as goals are converted into the language of a final deal. Disagreements are already emerging between the Obama administration and the Iranians on how and when sanctions will be lifted in exchange for compliance, with Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif essentially accusing the White House of deception.

Given the months of hard negotiations ahead, the self-congratulatory tone of President Obama’s speech announcing the agreement was extremely premature...

A number of issues seem murky. What becomes of all the fissile material Iran has apparently agreed to export? What is done with the decommissioned centrifuges and infrastructure to make sure they can’t be easily reinstalled during a breakout attempt? What is the pace and ordering of sanctions relief by the United States, the European Union and the United Nations? How fully will Iran be required to account for past military dimensions of its nuclear programs?

But the largest question will not be answered by the next stage of nuclear negotiations. Will this agreement give the Iranian regime cover for what it is currently doing in the Middle East — actively spreading its influence and threatening our allies? Negotiations on the nuclear issue have taken place in isolation from the ballistic missile issue, the terrorism issue and the regional destabilization issue.  (emphasis added)
Another thing to keep in mind is that this is not a done deal. The agreement is just a framework of general points that need to be resolved before finalizing the treaty. Below is a 'Fact Sheet' outlining the key parameters that need to be resolved before final implementation.

... Iran now has some 10,000 spinning centrifuges out of a total of 19,000 installed, and previously had insisted on keeping them all. For years the US insisted that Iran give them all up, then offered it keep a token 500.

The framework deal settles on 6,104 centrifuges installed...


Among the thorniest issues addressed this week by Iran and the P5+1 powers – the United States, Russia, Britain, France, Germany, and China – was the speed and pace of relief for Iran from a raft of United Nations, US, and European sanctions on its economy.

Iranian leaders have insisted that all sanctions be lifted “immediately” in any deal. But Western leaders, convinced that sanctions are what brought Iran to the negotiating table – an assertion Iran rejects – are reluctant to give up too much too soon.

According to a joint Iran/EU statement, the EU will “terminate” all nuclear-related economic and financial sanctions – which include an oil embargo – and the US will “cease the application” of nuclear-related sanctions “simultaneously,” when the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN’s nuclear watchdog, verifies Iran’s steps.

Already different interpretations are emerging...

Research & Development

Iran says it can’t forever use only 1970s technology – the vintage of its problem-prone IR-1 centrifuge – and wants to develop more efficient models up to the IR-8.

The deal enables Iran to continue limited research on all its most sophisticated centrifuge models, according to parameters agreed with the P5+1, but not to enrich uranium with them for 10 years.

“We will continue researching,” Zarif said of the deal. Advanced centrifuge work would be done “on a scheduled basis that is commensurate with our own scientific requirements.”

Stockpiles of enriched uranium

The most pressing stockpile issue was dealt with under the 2013 Geneva deal, which required Iran to dilute or turn into nuclear fuel its 200 kilograms (440 lbs) of uranium enriched to 20 percent – a level a few technical steps away from weapons-grade 90 percent.

And yet Iran has also accumulated 10,000 kg of low-enriched uranium purified to 5 percent, which is suitable for nuclear fuel, but also can be a shortcut to any “breakout” scenario.

Nuclear Facilities/Inspections

Compromises have also been reached on two issues that overshadowed earlier stages of talks. One is Fordow, a fortified facility buried deep in a mountain. In early 2012, the P5+1 demanded that Iran stop 20 percent enrichment there, shut the facility, and export all that enriched material – a policy shorthanded by diplomats as “stop, shut, ship.”

The deals states that Fordow is to be converted into a research center expected to work on medical isotopes that have no military application. Uranium enrichment and the presence of fissile material will be forbidden for 15 years, though 1,000 centrifuges will remain in place.

Likewise, Iran’s still-unfinished heavy water reactor at Arak is to be modified so that its core yields no plutonium – another possible pathway to a weapon. Iran has agreed to never build a processing facility necessary to make any plutonium weapons-usable.

Iran’s compliance with any final deal is to be monitored by more intrusive inspections by the IAEA. Iran is already the nation most heavily monitored by the IAEA, but Iran would accept the Additional Protocol – permanently enabling no notice, anywhere inspections.

Inspectors are to monitor Iran’s centrifuge rotor and bellows production for 20 years, and Iran’s uranium mines and mills for 25 years.
Big Picture

Note that this whole deal hinges on comprehensive and unhindered inspections. Given Iran's past behavior, that is doubtful. It also doesn't prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, but merely puts things on hold for 10-20 years.

Finally, note the Fatal Flaw in this whole thing.

Iran’s “breakout time” – the period it would take to acquire enough nuclear material for a single atomic bomb – is currently estimated at 2-3 months.

This preliminary framework for a final agreement is not expected to be completed until 30 June, 2015 - that is, 3 months from now.

In other words, Iran could have everything they need for a working nuke secreted away in a secure, unknown site before the first inspection under the new agreement.

Furthermore, the new agreement does nothing to address Iran's ballistic missile program - the delivery mechanism. It also does nothing to deter other countries in the region from developing their own nukes.

And obama things this is a win for our side?

God help us all.

P.S. - under the heading of Unintended Consequences', the deal with Iran injects an additional degree of uncertainty into the global oil market. Successful completion of the agreement will result in a return of Iranian crude to the market, putting downward pressure on the price of oil. While that may make motorists happy, it will also weaken the energy sector of the economy, threatening jobs and reducing tax revenue. Wells are already shutting down in South Texas and North Dakota. Oil field supply and service companies have already laid off thousands of workers, and producers are following suit. If the deal goes through, expect more of the same next year when Iranian wells come online.


Well Seasoned Fool said...

The one promise he made was to change this country. Don't think the fools who voted for him and still support him understand what change he had in mind.

Old NFO said...

Well researched and I agree with what you've said. This is NOT a good thing for either America OR the world in general... it IS very possible Iran will have Nuke AND a delivery vehicle by June. And Israel may decide to act unilaterally...

CenTexTim said...

WSF - well, he did change things...

NFO - scary stuff, ain't it.