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U.S. Adopts Israeli Demand to Bring Iran’s Missiles into Nuclear Talks

By Gareth Porter | IPS | February 22, 2014 

The Barack Obama administration’s insistence that Iran discuss its ballistic missile programme in the negotiations for a comprehensive nuclear agreement brings its position into line with that of Israel and senators who introduced legislation drafted by the pro-Israel lobby group AIPAC aimed at torpedoing the negotiations.

But the history of the issue suggests that the Obama administration knows that Iran will not accept the demand and that it is not necessary to a final agreement guaranteeing that Iran’s nuclear programme is not used for a weapon.

White House spokesman Jay Carney highlighted the new U.S. demand in a statement Wednesday that the Iranians “have to deal with matters related to their ballistic missile program.”

Carney cited United Nations Security Council resolution 1929, approved in 2010, which prohibited any activity related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including missile launches. “So that’s completely agreed by Iran in the Joint Plan of Action,” he added.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif not only explicitly contradicted Carney’s claim that Iran had agreed to discuss ballistic missiles but warned that a U.S. demand for discussion of its missile programme would violate a red line for Iran.

“Nothing except Iran’s nuclear activities will be discussed in the talks with the [six powers known as the P5+1], and we have agreed on it,” he said, according to Iran’s IRNA.

The push back by Zarif implies that the U.S. position would seriously risk the breakdown of the negotiations if the Obama administration were to persist in making the demand.

Contrary to Carney’s statement, the topic of ballistic missiles is not part of the interim accord reached last November. The Joint Plan of Action refers only to “addressing the UN Security Council resolutions, with a view toward bringing to a satisfactory conclusion the UN Security Council’s consideration of this matter” and the formation of a “Joint Commission” which would “work with the IAEA to facilitate resolution of past and present issues of concern”.

It is not even clear that the U.S. side took the position in the talks last fall that Iran’s missile programme had to be on the table in order to complete a final agreement. But in any event it was not part of the Joint Plan of Action agreed on Nov. 24.

Past U.S. statements on the problem of the Security Council resolutions indicate that the administration had previously acknowledged that no agreement had been reached to negotiate on ballistic missiles and that it had not originally intended to press for discussions on the issue.

The “senior administration officials” who briefed journalists on the Joint Plan of Action last November made no reference to ballistic missiles at all. They referred only to “possible military dimensions” of the Iranian nuclear programme and to “Iranian activities at Parchin”.

The demand for negotiations on Iran’s missile programme originated with Israel, both directly and through Senate Foreign Relations Committee members committed to AIPAC’s agenda.

Citing an unnamed senior Israeli official, Ha’aretz reported Thursday that Israeli Minister of Strategic Affairs Yuval Steinitz had met with Sherman and senior French and British foreign ministry officials before the start of the February talks and had emphasised that Iran’s missile programme “must be part of the agenda” for negotiation of a final agreement.

By early December, however, Israel was engaged in an even more direct effort to pressure the administration to make that demand, drafting a bill that explicitly included among its provisions one that would have required new sanctions unless the president certified that “Iran has not conducted any tests for ballistic missiles with a range exceeding 500 kilometers.”

Since Iran had obviously tested missiles beyond that limit long ago, it would have made it impossible for Obama to make such a certification.

Although the bill was stopped, at least temporarily, in the Senate when enough Democratic members refused to support it, Republicans on the committee continued to attack the administration’s negotiating position, and began singling out the administration’s tolerance of Iranian missiles in particular.

At a Feb. 4 Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, the ranking Republican on the Committee, Sen. Robert Corker, ripped into Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman, the chief U.S. negotiator in the nuclear talks with Iran.

After a highly distorted picture of Iran’s readiness to build a nuclear weapon, Corker asked, “Why did you all not in this agreement in any way address the delivery mechanisms, the militarizing of nuclear arms? Why was that left off since they breached a threshold everyone acknowledges?”

But instead of correcting Corker’s highly distorted characterisation of the situation, Sherman immediately reassured him that the administration would do just what he wanted them to do.

Sherman admitted that the November agreement covering the next months had not “shut down all the production of any ballistic missile that could have anything to do with delivery of a nuclear weapon.” Then she added, “But that is indeed something that has to be addressed as part of a comprehensive agreement.”

Sherman also suggested at one point that there would be no real need to prohibit any Iranian missile if the negotiations on the nuclear programme were successful. “Not having a nuclear weapon,” she said, “makes delivery systems almost — not wholly, but almost — irrelevant.”

That admission underlined the wholly political purpose of the administration’s apparent embrace of the Israeli demand that Iran negotiate limits on its ballistic missiles.

The Obama administration may be seeking to take political credit for a hard line on Iranian missiles in the knowledge that it will not be able to get a consensus for that negotiating position among the group of six powers negotiating with Iran.

Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Rybakov clearly implied that Moscow would not support such a demand in a statement Thursday that Russia “considers that a comprehensive agreement must concern only and exclusively the restoration of trust in a purely peaceful intention of Iran’s nuclear program.”

Although U.S., European and Israeli officials have asserted consistently over the years that Iran’s medium-range ballistic missiles are designed to carry nuclear weapons, Israel’s foremost expert on the Iranian nuclear programme, Uzi Rubin, who managed Israel’s missile defence programme throughout the 1990s, has argued that the conventional analysis was wrong.

In an interview with the hardline anti-Iran Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control in September 2009, Rubin said, “The Iranians believe in conventional missiles. Not just for saturation but also to take out specific targets…. Remember, they have practically no air force to do it. Their main striking power is based on missiles.”

Since 2008, the International Atomic Energy Agency has accused Iran of working on integrating a nuclear weapon into the Shahab-3 missile reentry vehicle in 2002-2003, based on a set of drawings in a set of purported Iranian documents. The documents were said by the George W. Bush administration to have come from the purloined laptop of a participant in an alleged Iranian nuclear weapons research programme.

But that account turned to be a falsehood, as were other variants on the origins of the document. The documents actually came from the Mujahedin-e-Khalq, the anti-regime organisation then listed as a terrorist organisation by the U.S. State Department, according to two German sources.

Karsten Voigt, who was the German foreign office coordinator, publicly warned about the MEK provenance of the papers in a November 2004 interview with the Wall Street Journal.

Voigt, who retired from the foreign office in 2010, recounted the story of how an MEK member delivered the papers to German intelligence in 2004 in an interview last year for a newly-published book by this writer.

February 22, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Progressive Hypocrite, Wars for Israel | , , , , | 1 Comment

US penalizes companies for doing business with Iran

Press TV – February 7, 2014

The United States has penalized nearly three dozen companies and individuals in eight countries, accusing them of evading unilateral sanctions against Iran.

The move is aimed at blunting “an atmosphere of optimism” that has resulted from an interim nuclear deal reached between Iran and six world powers late last year, the New York Times reports.

The US Treasury Department said the targeted entities operated in Turkey, Spain, Germany, Georgia, Afghanistan, Iran, Liechtenstein and the United Arab Emirates.

The announcement marks the second time the Obama administration has penalized businesses since the deal was inked on November 24 and put into effect last month.

As part of the current agreement, the West offered Tehran modest sanctions relief in return for Iran taking steps to limit its uranium enrichment activities. The deal called for negotiation of a full agreement within a year.

Many members of Congress and Israel have denounced the agreement, arguing that the easing of sanctions disproportionately favored Iran.

Washington has said it will continue to enforce existing sanctions until a more comprehensive deal is reached. “We strongly believe that sustaining sanctions pressure will be critical,” a senior US Treasury Department official said in a conference call with reporters on Thursday.

A recent visit to Iran by a French delegation of more than 100 businesspeople has greatly irritated senior US officials.

Secretary of State John Kerry called his French counterpart, Laurent Fabius, on Tuesday to express concern about the business delegation.

In testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday, Wendy Sherman, under secretary of state for political affairs and the Obama administration’s top negotiator with Iran, said Kerry and other senior US officials believe these trade visits are “not helpful.”

“Tehran is not open for business because our sanctions relief is quite temporary, quite limited and quite targeted,” Sherman said.

David Cohen, top Treasury sanctions official, also warned that companies or governments still risk heavy penalties under United Nations, US or European sanctions if they expanded trade with Iran.

The Treasury prohibits companies and individuals from carrying out financial transactions with Iran under US jurisdiction.

February 7, 2014 Posted by | Corruption, Economics, Wars for Israel | , , , , | Leave a comment

Spinning Iran’s Centrifuges: A Quick Lesson in Alarmism

By Nima Shirazi | Wide Alseep in America | December 14, 2013

On December 12, the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee held a hearing on last month’s interim nuclear agreement between Iran and the P5+1, which means there was a tremendous amount of ignorant bluster, conventional wisdom, wishful thinking, staggering ignorance, and shameless posturing for lobbyist money on display. In other words, Congress members were speaking about Iran.

While nearly every single word uttered by the Treasury Department’s David Cohen and Undersecretary Wendy Sherman – the State Department’s number three and lead U.S. negotiator in Geneva – and her Senatorial inquisitors could (and should) be fact-checked and debunked, in the interest of time and sanity, I will address only a single statement that cried out for correction (and will maybe get to more at another time).

Midway through the hearing, Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee claimed Iran is “wreaking havoc” in the Middle East, lamented that the United States is “ceding much of Middle Eastern activities to them,” and expressed his frustration with the recent deal and any prospect of alleviating sanctions for fear that Iran may not be seen as a “rogue nation,” but rather “part of the international community.”

Corker further opined that the P5+1 deal has “no sacrifice on their part whatsoever, none. They’re still spinning 19,000 centrifuges every single day.”

This has recently become a canard in mainstream, usually hawkish, discourse on Iran’s nuclear program.

In October, Joel Rubin of the Ploughshares Fund, who is described by Voice of America as an “Iran expert,” said that Iran “does have 19,000 centrifuges spinning.”

Following the release of yet another speculative study by career alarmist David Albright of the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) and an error-riddled USA Today article noting that Iran currently has “19,000 centrifuges” installed in its two enrichment facilities, this talking point gained even more traction.

On October 29, neoconservative operative Kenneth Timmerman wrote in The Washington Times that “the [Iranian] regime now has 19,000 centrifuges, including several thousand high-performance, new-generation machines they are still testing,” and has already amassed a stockpile of uranium that, “with further enrichment… is enough for roughly 10 bombs.”

In late November, Sarah Stern – head of the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET), an extreme right-wing Zionist messaging organization that proudly describes itself as an “unabashedly pro-Israel and pro-American think tank,” and who serves as an advisor to the creepy propaganda outfit The Clarion Fundclaimed that, for Iran, the interim accord “keeps every one of its 19,000 centrifuges spinning.” A graphic on the EMET website states that, as part of the deal, “Iran gets… 19,000 cylinders spinning enriching uranium.”

On December 1, Senator Jim Inhofe called the deal a “reckless gamble” that, among other things he doesn’t like, “allows [Iran] to keep its nearly 19,000 centrifuges spinning.”

The very next day, KT McFarland, a Fox News contributor and former aide to Henry Kissinger and Ronald Reagan, declared, “It’s just crazy, there are 19,000 centrifuges spinning in Iran, that’s twice as many centrifuges in Iran as there are Starbucks in America.”

Spooky, right? Well, they’re wrong.

According to the most recent assessment – from mid-November – by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which conducts routine inspections of its nuclear program, Iran is reported to have installed roughly 19,000 centrifuges in its two enrichment facilities at Natanz and Fordow.

But they’re not all spinning. Not even close.

The IAEA even provided a handy little graph along with its report showing the difference between what Iran has installed and what is actually operational. At most, Iran has about 10,000 operable centrifuges, all of which produce enriched uranium far below levels required for a nuclear weapon.

Furthermore, the IAEA notes, “Not all of the centrifuges fed with UF6[feedstock] may have been working.”

Moreover, Iran’s Natanz facility is designed for a fully operational capacity of 50,000 centrifuges.  So far, fewer than 15,500 centrifuges have been installed and fewer than 9,000 are actually functional.  Of the 2,710 centrifuges installed at the Fordow site, only about 700 are operational.

Roughly 1,000 second-generation centrifuges have also been installed, but not a single one has yet been used.

So, while Bob Corker and the rest sound pretty serious when they fret about Iran’s 19,000 “spinning” centrifuges, they’re overselling what Iran is actually doing in order to gin up their required hysteria.

What a surprise.

December 19, 2013 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

US: Anti-Iran ‘non-nuclear’ sanctions are OK

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US State Department official Wendy Sherman at the Senate Banking Committee on Dec. 12, 2013
Press TV – December 13, 2013

The administration of President Barack Obama has told lawmakers in US Congress that they could pass new sanctions against Iran as far as they are not “nuclear-related.”

During a public testimony before the Senate Banking Committee on Thursday, State Department official Wendy Sherman, who led the US delegation in nuclear talks with Iran in Geneva, indicated that US lawmakers had the green light from the Obama administration to pass new anti-Iran sanctions as long as the sanctions are not “nuclear-related.”

“Given that there are different kinds of sanctions and the agreement focuses on nuclear-related sanctions,” Sen. Mike Crapo, the top Republican on the Committee, asked Sherman, “assuming we can specify exactly what that is and distinguish between the different sanctions, does that mean that Congress would be free to pass other sanctions measures while we are” negotiating over a final deal over Iran’s nuclear energy program?

“We have said to Iran that we will continue to enforce all of our existing sanctions, and we have said that this agreement pertains only to new nuclear-related sanctions,” Sherman answered.

In a phone interview with Press TV on Thursday, US Congress policy advisor Frederick Peterson said that the problem with some hawkish US lawmakers who are pushing for a new anti-Iran sanctions bill is exacerbated by the way the Obama administration is “misrepresenting” the interim deal between Iran and the P5+1 to the American people and Congress.

Meanwhile, the US Departments of Treasury and State announced new sanctions against a number of companies and individuals for “providing support for” Iran’s nuclear energy program.

Treasury Department official David Cohen, who also testified before the Senate Banking Committee on Thursday, said the new sanctions were “a stark reminder to businesses, banks, and brokers everywhere that we will continue relentlessly to enforce our sanctions.”

Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi has hit out at Washington, saying that the new restrictions are in full contradiction with the recent nuclear deal between Tehran and the P5+1. Araqchi also said that Tehran is now assessing the current situation.

December 13, 2013 Posted by | Deception, Economics, Progressive Hypocrite, Wars for Israel | , , , , , | Leave a comment

The DNA of Iranians and Under Secretary Sherman

By SASAN FAYAZMANESH | CounterPunch | November 4, 2013

On October 22, 2013, the following exchange took place at the Daily Press Briefing between Deputy Spokesperson for the Department of State Marie Harf and an unidentified, tenacious reporter:

QUESTION: Earlier this month, the L.A. Times quoted Under Secretary Sherman saying in a Senate briefing that, quote, “Deception is part of the DNA of the Iranian leadership.” It’s only now picking up in Iranian media and Foreign Minister Zarif has condemned this remark. Do you have a response to that, or can you clarify what she may have meant?

MS. HARF: No, thank you for the question. I will make a couple points on that. I think first that doubtless each side has said things that have offended the other side over the last, what, thirty years now, and each side has commented publicly on its inability to trust the other side. I think focusing on those things that divide us really isn’t going to get us anywhere. We have a lot of work to do. We were in Geneva, as you know, last week, and I think the Iran delegation and the American delegation, led by Under Secretary Sherman, began to understand each other in ways—new ways during this last round of the P5+1 talks. In addition, their bilateral meeting, which was the first, I think, since 2009 between the U.S. and Iran, which we hope will continue as we go forward with the P5+1, will help, I think, set aside those years of mistrust and really start a—more of a direct dialogue.

QUESTION: So are you saying she misspoke?

MS. HARF: No, no. Not at all. The President in his UNGA speech said that there are decades and a long history of mistrust. This mistrust has deep roots, and we don’t think it can be overcome overnight, but we made some progress last week in Geneva, and we hope to continue making progress, including with additional bilateral meetings going forward.

QUESTION: Well, there is a difference between deep mistrust and saying that deception is in their DNA. If it’s in their DNA, that means they can’t ever change. Right?

MS. HARF: I don’t—I guess I don’t have any further comment on that than this. We –

QUESTION: So –

MS. HARF: — had good meetings last week.

QUESTION: I –

MS. HARF: Under Secretary Sherman had a good bilateral meeting with her Iranian counterparts and we believe we began to make process [sic] and hope to continue to do so.

QUESTION: Maybe this is something that stem cells can fix, yeah? Can you explain — Under Secretary Sherman, when she made those comments on the Hill, was talking specifically about President Rouhani in his previous capacity as an—as the Iranian nuclear negotiator when she said deception runs in the DNA.

MS. HARF: Well, I think we’ve made a lot of comments about –

. . . 

QUESTION: So you don’t believe that President Rouhani is genetically incapable of being not deceptive? Do you—is that correct?

MS. HARF: We have said repeatedly over the last few weeks and months that President Rouhani—that we are encouraged by the words he said. We are encouraged with his conversation with President Obama. We’re encouraged by Foreign Minister Zarif’s conversations that he had with the Secretary and then at the P5+1. We also have said coming out of the P5+1 that there—this was a new level of seriousness, this was a new level of specificity in these talks that we have never seen before. That’s what we’re focused on and that’s what we’re focused on going forward.

QUESTION: So Under Secretary Sherman’s comment was not meant to imply that President Rouhani is genetically incapable of telling the truth or being –

MS. HARF: In no way. We’ve been very clear that we appreciate some of the—many of the things President Rouhani has said, that we appreciate the tone coming out of him and the rest of the Iranian delegation to the P5+1, and hope to continue that tone going forward.

The painful exchange between the persistent reporter and inarticulate Ms. Harf continued for a bit longer. Yet, to the very end, the reporter could not get an answer to his basic question: Does Under Secretary Sherman believe that Iranians are genetically deceptive?

To be fair, what Wendy Sherman actually stated in her Senate briefing was: “[W]e know that deception is part of the DNA.” As some news media in Iran pointed out, the statement did not explicitly refer to “Iranians.” However, as some others correctly pointed out, Sherman did not need to be explicit; given the context of her conversation, her meaning was clear. Indeed, on October 25, 2013, in an interview with the Voice of America, the propaganda wing of her own State Department, Sherman was given the chance to clarify her statement and, perhaps, rectify its racist overtone. Yet, she stuck to her guns, and even implicated President Obama, by stating: “I think those words spoke to some deep mistrust that President Obama discussed, and that we have to really work to get over that mistrust.” She was then asked about calls in Iran to boycott nuclear talks with the West if she were present. She answered: “The President, the Secretary of State, have asked me to lead the US delegation. I think colleagues will say that I am a fair [and] balanced negotiator.”

It is difficult to picture Wendy Sherman as a fair and balanced negotiator in the meetings between Iran and the P5+1 (the five permanent members of the Security Council—the US, Britain, France, Russia and China—and Germany). This is not because she considers Iranians as genetically deceptive, but because of the history of her role in these negotiations. As I pointed out in my March and June essays, in the past meetings between Iran and the P5+1 Sherman appeared to represent mostly the interests of a colonial entity allied with the US, Israel. In these meetings she would put forward the Israeli manufactured demands and then go to Israel to report on the Iranian reactions. For example, as Haaretz reported on May 25, 2012, following the Iran-P5+1 meeting in Iraq, Sherman went straight to Israel to “update Israeli officials on the talks in Baghdad, and on preparations for the third round of talks in Moscow on June 18 and 19.” “We updated the Israelis in detail before we updated our own government,” Haaretz quoted an unnamed US official on the following day. According to the same report, in her trip to Israel, Sherman was accompanied by Gary Samore, President Obama’s Coordinator for Weapons of Mass Destruction Counter-Terrorism and Arms Control. Similar to Sherman, Samore represented the position of Israel in the Obama Administration before his departure in September of 2013. He was—along with Dennis Ross, the architect of Obama’s Iran policy, and Richard Holbrooke—one of the original leaders of “United Against Nuclear Iran” (UANI), an Israeli lobby group which has been actively seeking sanctions and the use of military force against Iran. After leaving the White House, Samore became the President of UANI! It was probably associates such as Gary Samore that Wendy Sherman had in mind when she stated “colleagues will say that I am a fair [and] balanced negotiator.”

In sum, neither Wendy Sherman nor many of her colleagues are what they pretend to be. They are not honest and objective negotiators who are genuinely trying to resolve peacefully a dispute between the West and Iran over Iran’s nuclear program. In the guise of representing the interests of the people of the United States of America, these individuals are in fact representing the interests of a colonial power in the Middle East. There is a saying in Persian to the effect that the pagan considers everyone else to have the same faith as himself.  It appears that when Mrs. Sherman stated that “deception is part of the DNA,” she was thinking of herself and many of her own colleagues.

Another round of Iran-P5+1 meeting is scheduled for November 7 and 8. It follows the meetings on October 15-16 in Vienna, which were the first of such meetings during the Presidency of Hassan Rouhani. In these meetings Iran offered a set of proposals. Even though the details remained confidential, there were some reports as to what was proposed—all of which, of course, were denied by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. According to these reports, the set of proposals included Iran freezing its production of 20% enriched uranium and converting the stock of such uranium into fuel rods for the Tehran Research Reactor that produces medical isotopes. In addition, it was reported, Iran offered to relinquish spent fuel from a yet-to-be-operational Arak heavy water reactor. Moreover, the reports contended that Iran agreed to sign the so-called Additional Protocol—which would allow for the most intrusive inspection of Iran’s nuclear facilities by the International Atomic Energy Agency—once unilateral and multilateral sanctions were lifted.

Iran’s set of proposals, if in fact true, were not that far apart from what had been offered by the P5+1 to Iran during the presidency of Ahmadinejad. Under normal circumstances, one would expect the two sides to reach some sort of agreement, given that their offers and counter offers were close. But we are not dealing with normal circumstances. As I have pointed out in my previous essays, Israel, which is not interested in any peaceful settlement of the dispute, basically sets the agenda for these meetings, not only through US officials, such as Wendy Sherman, but through British and French officials. Just before the last meetings, on October 10, 2013, Haaretz reported that “high-ranking” British and French diplomats arrived in Israel to meet with their “Israeli counterparts.” The delegations, according to the report, included individuals who represent Britain and France at the P5+1 and Iran meetings.

More importantly, Israel has nearly a veto power over any agreement that might ever be reached. Reuters reported on October 12, 2013, that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu phoned British Prime Minister David Cameron and French President François Hollande to tell them “sanctions must not be eased.” The same message has been delivered ad nauseam by Netanyahu et al. to President Obama. But that is not all. Israel fortifies its position by pressuring the US Congress, mainly through its numerous lobby groups and its surrogate Senators and Congressmen. The Jewish Daily Forward reported on October 25, 2013, that for “members of Congress, the pressure is to not just maintain, but to increase the current far-reaching economic and trade sanctions against Iran. And it’s coming not just from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in Washington but also from the local level, district-by-district, where Jewish groups are engaged in a push that is almost unprecedented in its intensity and breadth.” The situation is such that the White House has to beg these same groups to allow negotiations between the P5+1 and Iran to proceed, at least temporality. On October 29, 2013, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported that a “small coterie of Jewish organizational leaders” will meet “with top staff at the National Security Council to discuss Iran, according to the White House and officials of the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.” The following day Al-Monitor reported that the officials who were present at the meeting were National Security Advisor Susan Rice, Deputy National Security Advisors Antony Blinken and Ben Rhodes, and, of course, Under Secretary Wendy Sherman.

The Obama Administration’s policy of “tough diplomacy” toward Iran, originally manufactured by Israeli lobby groups, has failed to bring about its desired results. The economic pain, induced by the most colossal sanctions ever imposed on a country, has not succeeded in bringing the disgruntled Iranians into the streets and preparing the ground for a naval blockade of Iran and military actions. The failure of the policy, as well as the departure of some of the original brains behind it, such as Dennis Ross and Gary Samore, has created an opportunity for the US to change course. But would Israel, its lobby groups and its surrogates in the US government, allow a different path to be followed? Would they allow the P5+1 and Iran to settle the dispute over Iran’s nuclear program? Or would they veto any peaceful resolution of the conflict and push for more sanctions and war? Whatever the answer, the DNA of Iranians has no bearing on the matter.

Sasan Fayazmanesh is Professor Emeritus of Economics at California State University, Fresno. He can be reached at: sasan.fayazmanesh@gmail.com.  His new book Containing Iran: Obama’s Policy of “Tough Diplomacy” will be available in December, 2013.

November 4, 2013 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Progressive Hypocrite, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , , | Leave a comment

America’s Lead Iran Negotiator Misrepresents U.S. Policy (and International Law) to Congress

332915_Wendy Sherman

By Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett | Going to Tehran | November 3, 2013

Last month, while testifying to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Wendy Sherman—Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs and the senior U.S. representative in the P5+1 nuclear talks with Iran—said, with reference to Iranians, “We know that deception is part of the DNA.”  This statement goes beyond orientalist stereotyping; it is, in the most literal sense, racist.  And it evidently was not a mere “slip of the tongue”:  a former Obama administration senior official told us that Sherman has used such language before about Iranians.

If a senior U.S. government official made public statements about “deception” or some other negative character trait being “part of the DNA” of Jews, people of African origin, or most other ethnic groups, that official would—rightly—be fired or forced to resign, and would probably not be allowed back into “polite society” until after multiple groveling apologies and a long period of penance.

–But a senior U.S. official can make such a statement about Iranians—or almost certainly about any other ethnic group a majority of whose members are Muslim—and that’s just fine.

Of course, it’s not fine.  But that’s the America we live in.

Putting aside Sherman’s glaring display of anti-Iranian racism, there was another egregious manifestation of prejudice-cum-lie in her testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that we want to explore more fully.  It came in a response to a question from Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida) about whether states have a right to enrich under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).  Here is the relevant passage in Sherman’s reply:

It has always been the U.S. position that Article IV of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty does not speak about the right of enrichment at all [and] doesn’t speak to enrichment, period.  It simply says that you have the right to research and development.”

Sherman goes on to acknowledge that “many countries such as Japan and Germany have taken that [uranium enrichment] to be a right.”  But, she says, “the United States does not take that position.  We take the position that we look at each one of these [cases].”  Or, as she put it at the beginning of her response to Sen. Rubio, “It has always been the U.S. position that Article IV of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty does not speak about the right of enrichment at all” (emphasis added).

Two points should be made here.  First, the claim that the NPT’s Article IV does not affirm the right of non-nuclear-weapons states to pursue indigenous development of fuel-cycle capabilities, including uranium enrichment, under international safeguards is flat-out false.

Article IV makes a blanket statement that “nothing in this Treaty shall be interpreted as affecting the inalienable right of all the Parties to the Treaty to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes without discrimination.”  And it’s not just “countries such as Japan and Germany”—both close U.S. allies—which affirm that this includes the right of non-weapons states to enrich uranium under safeguards.  The BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) countries and the Non-Aligned Movement (whose 120 countries represent a large majority of UN members) have all clearly affirmed the right of non-nuclear-weapons states, including the Islamic Republic of Iran, to pursue indigenous safeguarded enrichment.

In fact, just four countries in the world hold that there is no right to safeguarded enrichment under the NPT:  the United States, Britain, France, and Israel (which isn’t even a NPT signatory).  That’s it.

Moreover, the right to indigenous technological development—including nuclear fuel-cycle capabilities, should a state choose to pursue them—is a sovereign right.  It is not conferred by the NPT; the NPT’s Article IV recognizes states’ “inalienable right” in this regard, while other provisions bind non-weapons states that join the Treaty to exercise this right under international safeguards.

There have been many first-rate analyses demonstrating that the right to safeguarded enrichment under the NPT is crystal clear—from the Treaty itself, from its negotiating history, and from subsequent practice, with at least a dozen non-weapons states building fuel-cycle infrastructures potentially capable of supporting weapons programs.  Bill Beeman published a nice Op Ed in the Huffington Post on this question in response to Sherman’s Senate Foreign Relations Committee testimony, see here and, for a text including references, here.  For truly definitive legal analyses, see the work of Daniel Joyner, for example here and here.  The issue will also be dealt with in articles by Flynt Leverett and Dan Joyner in a forthcoming special issue of the Penn State Journal of Law and International Affairs, which should appear within the next few days.

From any objectively informed legal perspective, denying non-weapons states’ right of safeguarded enrichment amounts to nothing more than a shameless effort to rewrite the NPT unilaterally.  And this brings us to our second point about Sherman’s Senate Foreign Relations Committee testimony.

Sherman claims that “It has always been the U.S. position that Article IV of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty does not speak about the right of enrichment at all [and] doesn’t speak to enrichment, period.”  But, in fact, the United States originally held that the right to peaceful use recognized in the NPT’s Article IV includes the indigenous development of safeguarded fuel-cycle capabilities.

In 1968, as America and the Soviet Union, the NPT’s sponsors, prepared to open it for signature, the founding Director of the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, William Foster, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee—the same committee to which Sherman untruthfully testified last month—that the Treaty permitted non-weapons states to pursue the fuel cycle.  We quote Foster on this point:   “Neither uranium enrichment nor the stockpiling of fissionable material in connection with a peaceful program would violate Article II so long as these activities were safeguarded under Article III.”  [Note:  In Article II of the NPT, non-weapons states commit not to build or acquire nuclear weapons; in Article III, they agree to accept safeguards on the nuclear activities, “as set forth in an agreement to be negotiated and concluded with the International Atomic Energy Agency.”]

Thus, it is a bald-faced lie to say that the United States has “always” held that the NPT does not recognize a right to safeguarded enrichment.  As a matter of policy, the United States held that that the NPT recognized such a right even before it was opened for signature; this continued to be the U.S. position for more than a quarter century thereafter.

It was only after the Cold War ended that the United States—along with Britain, France, and Israel—decided that the NPT should be, in effect, unilaterally rewritten (by them) to constrain the diffusion of fuel-cycle capabilities to non-Western states.  And their main motive for trying to do so has been to maximize America’s freedom of unilateral military initiative and, in the Middle East, that of Israel.

This is the agenda for which Wendy Sherman tells falsehoods to a Congress that is all too happy to accept them.

November 4, 2013 Posted by | Deception, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

US won’t ignore Israeli interest at N-talks: Sherman

Press TV – November 3, 2013

US Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman says Washington will take into consideration Israel’s security interests at the upcoming talks between Iran and the group of six major world powers.

According to a report published by the Israeli daily Jerusalem Post, Sherman said the US will not ignore Israel’s security interests at the forthcoming nuclear talks, which are slated to be held in the Swiss city of Geneva on November 7-8.

Sherman made the remarks in an interview with Channel 10, which is set to be broadcast later on Sunday.

Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council – Britain, China, France, Russia and the US – plus Germany held two days of talks over the Islamic Republic’s nuclear energy program in Geneva, Switzerland, on October 15-16.

During the talks, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif presented Tehran’s proposal titled, “Closing an Unnecessary Crisis, Opening a New Horizon” to the six countries.

Sherman also rejected reports about Washington offering Iran relief from unilateral sanctions imposed over the country’s nuclear energy program.

“We have not offered any sanctions relief on Iran, and we have not removed any sanctions,” the US official added.

Under pressures by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the US Senate is ratcheting up pressure on the White House to tighten the sanctions against Iran in line with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s demand for more pressure against Tehran.

In a statement on Saturday, the AIPAC said there would be “no pause, delay or moratorium in our efforts” to seek new sanctions on Iran.

November 3, 2013 Posted by | Wars for Israel | , , , , , | Leave a comment

On Ambassador Sherman’s Testimony on Iran

By Peter Jenkins | LobeLog | May 17, 2013

Listening, on 15 April, to the House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on US policy towards Iran put me in mind of the inscription Dante imagined over the entrance to Hell: “Abandon hope all you who enter here”.

There seemed no notion among members of the committee that territories beyond the borders of the United States of America are not subject to US jurisdiction – still less that reasoned persuasion and reciprocity can be more effective tools for achieving US foreign policy goals than sanctions (how the good Congressmen love sanctions!) and the infliction of pain.

Wendy Sherman, the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs who heads the U.S. delegation in the P5+1 negotiations with Iran, must have come away from that hearing with the feeling that she has an impossible task. Congress will howl if the administration makes the slightest concession to secure Iranian agreement to non-proliferation assurances and restrictions on nuclear activities. Yet if Iran is offered nothing in return for measures it deems to be voluntary, because they lie beyond the provisions of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), it will continue to defy the US and its allies.

Still, it is hard to avoid the thought that the administration could have made more of this opportunity.

Ambassador Sherman’s opening statement contained no reference to the US intelligence community’s confidence that Iran’s leaders have not taken a decision to acquire nuclear weapons. Instead, it referred to “Iran’s nuclear weapon ambitions” and to the need for Iran to “change course”, which the congressmen could be forgiven for taking as confirmation of their chairman’s opening assertion that Iran is trying to build a nuclear arsenal.

On top of that, Ambassador Sherman fed the Congressmen’s appetite for a penal approach by stressing that the goal of US policy is to have Iran live up to its “international obligations”. The Congressmen were left undisturbed in their conviction that Iran is entirely in the wrong and most certainly should not be rewarded for mending its ways. The opportunity to start helping their Honours to understand that the reality is more complicated went begging.

I hope LobeLog readers who know what lies behind that last sentence will forgive me for explicating it.

Iran’s “international obligations” come in two forms. One lot of obligations stem from the provisions of the NPT. Iran accepts that these are genuine obligations under international law and is ready to comply fully with them without reciprocity. Indeed some observers believe Iran is already fully compliant.

The other lot stem from the provisions of four Security Council resolutions adopted under article 41 of the UN Charter. Iran refuses to accept the legally-binding nature of these, not unreasonably, given that, when they were adopted, the Council had not determined that Iran’s nuclear activities represented a threat to international peace and security. Instead, Iran offers to proceed on the basis of reciprocity, volunteering the steps specified in these resolutions in return for recognition that Iran has NPT rights as well as obligations, and also for the lifting of nuclear-related sanctions.

The third missed opportunity was ethical in nature. The administration had no need to indulge in misrepresentation and distortion but succumbed to temptation.

The Congressmen were told that Iran is “isolated”. In reality, Iran maintains full diplomatic relations with some 100 states. Iran’s Foreign Minister is received courteously almost everywhere in Asia and Europe apart from the UK and Israel. Just this week Iran assumed the chair of the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva. Currently Iran presides over the 120-member Non-Aligned Movement

Ambassador Sherman implied that responsibility for the appalling civil conflict in Syria must be ascribed to Iran, “a destabilising influence across the entire Middle East”. The initial supply of weapons to the Syrian opposition by Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia was not mentioned. Some Middle Eastern states are allowed to have interests beyond their borders, it seems, and others are not.

Oh, and in Syria all the violence against “the Syrian people” is being inflicted by the Assad regime, supported by its Iranian ally. Perish the thought that the opposition has shed a single drop of Syrian blood!

Most Europeans yearn for the objectivity and ethical agnosticism that underlay the US opening to China, détente with the Soviet Union, and the final flurry of US/USSR agreements heralding the end of the Cold War. That sort of objectivity should come naturally, one might think, when the adversary is Iran, a state so very much weaker than the US. Alas, the opposite seems to be the case!

May 19, 2013 Posted by | Deception, Militarism | , , , , , | 3 Comments

The P5+1 Meeting with Iran

Did Somebody Blink?

By SASAN FAYAZMANESH | CounterPunch | March 7, 2013

On March 1, 2010, an essay in Haaretz titled “Who will blink first in Iran’s nuclear poker game?” stated that “Israel is on the verge of a preemptive war to try to foil Iran’s nuclear program.” So, the question was who would blink first? Would it be Iran that would give up its nuclear program? Would it be Israel that would be forced to withdraw its threat of military attack? Or would it be the US that would ratchet up the pressure on Iran to please Israel?

Similar arguments continued to appear in the next two years. For example, On March 2, 2012, in an interview titled “Between The U.S., Israel And Iran, Who Blinks First?” NPR asked Martin Indyk to elaborate on his comment in The New York Times that we “are now engaged in a three-way game of chicken, which makes blinking more dangerous than confrontation.”  Indyk, the former executive director of the Israeli lobby group The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, advisor to President Clinton, and US Ambassador to Israel, answered:

Well, essentially we’re now in a vicious cycle. In order to calm the Israelis down and get them to back away from their intense interest in taking care of the [Iranian nuclear] program militarily, we are ratcheting up sanctions that essentially are aimed at Iran’s economic jugular. We are doing that on the theory that the more pressure we put on them, the more we bring their economy to its knees, the more likely the Iranians are to cry uncle, to blink, to say, OK, we’ll negotiate meaningful curbs on our nuclear program. . . And unless somebody blinks, I’m afraid it’s going to lead to a confrontation.

It seems that after many years of this “three-way game of chicken” somebody finally blinked; and that somebody was not Iran.

Last week, following a long hiatus and much anticipation, there was a meeting in Kazakhstan between Iran and the so-called P5+1, the five permanent members of the Security Council and Germany. Such meetings are usually shrouded in secrecy and it is often difficult to get an accurate picture of what goes on behind closed doors.  For example, on February 27, 2013, after the conclusion of the two-day meeting, a press release was issued by “EU High Representative Catherine Ashton,” the convener of these meetings, which basically stated: “We put what we call a confidence building proposal on the table.”

What the proposal stated remained secret. However, from various reports in the US, Israeli, and Iranian media one could surmise that the US, which is the main force behind these meetings, advanced the following proposal. In exchange for some so-called sanction relief, Iran would: 1) “significantly restrict” its accumulation of 20% enriched uranium, but would keep sufficient amount to fuel its Tehran Research Reactor that produces isotope for medical purposes; 2) suspend enrichment at Fordow underground facility and accept conditions that “constrain” the ability to quickly resume enrichment at Fordow; and 3) allow more regular and thorough monitoring of its nuclear facilities by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

If what was reported were true, and if there were no deception involved, then the US had indeed blinked and had withdrawn its previous and punishing proposal, a proposal that is usually referred to as “stop, shut and ship.” The earlier proposal, as summarized by Ashton on June 19, 2012, demanded from Iran: “stopping 20 percent enrichment activities, shutting the Fordow nuclear facility and shipping out stockpiled 20 percent enriched nuclear materials.”

The latest P5+1 proposal not only did not ask for shutting down Fordow and stopping 20 percent enrichment, but would let Iran retain some of its medium level enriched uranium to make fuel. More importantly, the proposal would implicitly recognize the right of Iran to enrich uranium for civilian purposes, something that Iran has been asking for years and the US and Israel have consistently denied.

Understandably, the Iranian side was pleased and stated that on some points the P5+1 got closer to the Iranian perspective. Indeed, the US had, to the chagrin of The Washington Post editorial piece on February 28, 2013, “kowtowed,” or more accurately, blinked. But what about Israel, the third party in the “three-way game of chicken,” did it also blink?

The “stop, shut and ship” proposal was originally manufactured in Israel. On April 4, 2012, The Jerusalem Post reported that Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak “has held discussions with American and European officials in recent weeks with the goal of convincing them to set clear goals for the planned talks with Iran.” The report went on to say that according to Barak, Israel’s demands are: “1) [the] transfer of all uranium enriched to 20 percent—approximately 120 kg.—out of Iran to a third party country; 2) the transfer of the majority of the 5 tons of uranium enriched to 3.5% out of Iran, leaving just enough needed for energy purposes; 3) the closure of the Fordow enrichment facility, buried under a mountain near the city of Qom; [and] 4) the transfer of fuel rods from a third party country to Iran for the purpose of activating the Tehran Research Reactor.” The US slightly modified these demands and presented them at the P5+1 and Iran meeting in June 2012.

After the June meeting, Ha’aretz reported that “representatives of the powers are expected to fly to Israel and update its leaders” (June 18, 2012). On the same day Israeli Vice Prime Minister Moshe Yaalon tried to exert more pressure on the P5+1 by stating that Israel could find itself facing the dilemma of “a bomb, or to bomb” (Reuters). “Should that be the choice,” Yaalon, stated, “then bombing (Iran) is preferable to a bomb (in Iran’s hands). . . I hope we do not face that dilemma.”

Delivering the Israeli manufactured demands to Iran and then going to Israel to report on the Iranian reaction were not new. After the May meeting between Iran and the P5+1, Haaretz reported on May 25, 2012, that Wendy Sherman, the US representative at the meeting, went straight to Israel. As the report stated, Sherman was going to “update Israeli officials on the talks in Baghdad, and on preparations for the third round of talks in Moscow on June 18 and 19.” The report also stated that according to the State Department, Sherman will also “reaffirm our unshakable commitment to Israel’s security.”

The following day, on May 26, Haaretz published a more extensive piece about Sherman’s visit. It quoted an unnamed US official as saying: “We updated the Israelis in detail before we updated our own government.” He was also quoted as saying: “There are no gaps between the U.S. and Israel in anything related to talks between Iran and the six world powers over the future of Iran’s nuclear program. . . Even if we do not have the patience, we need to give diplomacy a chance before military action.” In addition, the report stated that Sherman arrived in Israel “along with officials from the White House National Security Council working on the Iran nuclear issue—Gary Seymour and Puneet Talwar.” “The American team,” the report went on to say, “had a three-hour meeting with Defense Minister Ehud Barak, with National Security advisor Yaakov Amidror, and a number of other senior Israeli officials who deal with the Iran issue.” Not surprisingly, Gary Samore, President Obama’s Coordinator for Weapons of Mass Destruction Counter-Terrorism and Arms Control, was one of the original founders of the Israeli lobby group “United Against Nuclear Iran.”

The February 2013 meeting between the P5+1 and Iran was also followed by a similar visit to Israel. On February 26, 2013, Haaretz reported that the “American administration, along with the U.K., France and Germany, are in close contact with Israel and have been coordinating with it ahead of the [P5+1] talks in Kazakhstan. Immediately after the talks, an American negotiating team headed by Wendy Sherman, the under secretary for political affairs, is expected to come to Jerusalem.”  “Sherman,” the report went on to add, “intends to meet with National Security Adviser Yaakov Amidror, Foreign Ministry Director General for Strategic Affairs Jeremy Issacharoff and other high-ranking officials to update them about the content of the talks with Iran.” The report also stated: “Last week, Amidror visited Washington and discussed the Iranian nuclear program with his American counterpart, Thomas E. Donilon.”

Given the close coordination between the US and Israel, one has to conclude that not only the US, but also Israel blinked at the February 2013 meeting. This, of course, comes as no surprise, since Israeli officials, particularly Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, had bluffed and blinked many times before. After many years of crying wolf and threatening Iran, Netanyahu’s most public blinking came on September 27, 2012, when he appeared before the UN General Assembly and held up a diagram of a cartoonish-looking bomb with a fuse and drew a redline on it at 90% enriched uranium. The bizarre spectacle, which was mocked by some as “Bibi’s Wiley E. Coyote-style cartoon bomb,” was not only the proverbial “one too many times” that Mr. Netanyahu had cried wolf, but it was also the beginning of the end of Israel’s intense and unsuccessful campaign to make the US attack Iran or intensify the sanctions. The “decisive year” of 2012, as Israeli newspaper Maariv pointed out, was passing “without decisiveness” (Reuters, September 28, 2012).

What made the US and Israel blink? The answer requires a detailed analysis of Obama Administration’s policy of “tough diplomacy,” an analysis that will appear in my forthcoming book. However, a short answer is that the US and Israel seem to have run out of options in overthrowing the current government in Iran and replacing it with a friendly regime. “Tough diplomacy”—which was formulated mostly by Dennis Ross, currently the counselor to The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, and formerly special assistant to President Obama—threw at Iran everything the US had in terms of sanctions, sabotage, cyber-attacks and possibly assassinations of the Iranian nuclear scientists. Yet, the last step in this policy, which was supposed to be a naval blockade of Iran and military attack, could not be taken. Why? Because in order to wage a war against Iran the economic conditions in that country must become as dismal as they were in Iraq before it was invaded; and that, at the present, is not the case. Even though the accumulated result of 33 years of sanctions against Iran, particularly the most brutal and unprecedented ones in the last 4 years, have helped to create massive hardship in Iran, there is no sign that the Iranian economy is actually collapsing. There are also hardly any Iranian entities or individuals left to sanction. The US and Israel seem to be coming to terms with the reality and beginning to blink.

Sasan Fayazmanesh is Professor Emeritus of Economics at California State University, Fresno. He can be reached at: sasan.fayazmanesh@gmail.com.

March 7, 2013 Posted by | Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment