July 20, 2015
Can a country that chants “Death to America” one day be a trusted partner the next day? President Obama is staking his presidency on the new Iranian nuclear agreement and told the country: “This deal is not based on trust but it’s based on unprecedented verification.” That statement hinges on the Iranians allowing Western inspectors onto military nuclear sites. In spite of presidential assurances, the Supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei continues to oppose any such inspections.
During a television address marking the end of Ramadan the Ayatollah said, “Our policies toward the arrogant government of the United States will not change at all.” The Supreme Leader also claimed Iran was not at the center of any regional politics or capitulating to the West.
However, in a 180 degree turnabout, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani promised that his country would play nice with world, and proposed Iranian “Death to America” chants should morph into “death to arrogance” therefore demonstrating his country’s ability to compromise.
President Obama and his team have chosen to believe Rouhani and chastised nuclear agreement non-believers, charging that their alternative is war. (Text of deal here)
While the White House claims it has the only plan around, critics say relying on sanctions snap-back won’t work because Russia and China will never vote to renew sanctions because their economies are closely tied to the Iranian oil reserves.
In the meantime, President Obama and his cabinet shifted their focus to Congress and promised Democrats that nuclear inspectors would gain access to military bases with 24 days notice. “They can’t hide the evidence of that in any meaningful way in that kind of period of time. And you can’t hide a facility of that size very easily for long,” National Security Adviser Susan Rice told Reuters on her version of the Iranian talking points. Hopefully she is able to attain an outcome different from her infamous Benghazi talking points media blitz.
Continuing the “only game in town” theme, Obama explained one should negotiate with your enemies: “This deal is not contingent on Iran changing its behavior. It’s not contingent on Iran suddenly operating like a liberal democracy.”
Secretary of State John Kerry also took to the Sunday talk shows and contradicted an earlier statement made by Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes that “you (the US) will have anytime 24/7 access” to nuclear sites. Kerry said he couldn’t comment on a fellow Obama advisor statements but claimed, “there isn’t any nation in the world, none, that has an anytime anywhere inspections.”
Despite White House high-five euphoria, there is merit to dissenter’s claims. Perhaps an unintended positive reaction to the nuke deal came from President Bashar Assad of Syria and Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, who both enthusiastically endorsed the nuclear agreement. Assad described the deal as an “historic achievement” and said it was a “great victory,” something echoed by Obama’s foreign policy legacy team.
House of Saud and Israel see it differently
This week a Saudi-owned Asharq al-Awsat newspaper’s opinion section described concerns in its editorial page: “Western governments will be under great pressure to make the deal succeed and therefore turn a blind eye to many of Iran’s destabilizing policies as well as Tehran’s blatant interference in the domestic affairs of its neighbors. Moreover, the West will also have to neglect Tehran’s support of extremist militias, such as Iraq’s Popular Mobilization forces, also known as the Hashd al-Shaabi, that have gradually become almost part of Iraq’s military. Iran has established a policy based on the equation of fighting terrorism with terrorism amid deafening silence from the West.”
“Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states can only welcome the nuclear deal, which in itself is supposed to close the gates of evil that Iran had opened in the region. However, the real concern is that the deal will open other gates of evil, gates which Iran mastered knocking at for years even while Western sanctions were still in place, ” the column read. Concerns surrounding the ending of financial sanctions on Iran and freeing up of an estimated $150 billion in frozen revenue per year will facilitate a considerable increase in aid to its litany of regional partners and proxies. Critics argue Iran is already involved or engaged in at least five major conflict zones in the Middle East region.
“But it’s the portion surrounding the Iranian creation of proxies with Hezbollah in Lebanon is (sic) (as) the dominant political and military force in that country. The organization depends on Iranian support, training and funding to maintain this position. The nuclear deal compounds and completes the picture. From the perspective of the Saudis and other Sunni Arabs, Iranian ruthlessness, clarity and advance combined with the flailing, retreating US regional policy now so much in evidence spell potential disaster,” the Saudi article summed up.
In a remarkable form of strange bedfellows, the Sunni Arabs have partnered with Israel and other regional opponents of Iran, in a self-preservation move to develop strategies independent of the US, and turn Iran’s growing presence in the region back. The Sunni, Shia, Israeli struggle will ultimately decide the fate of the region and quite possibly redraw the Sykes–Picot boundaries in the Middle East.
Setting all the vitriolic aside, the Ayatollah Khamenei will eventually sign onto the US-negotiated agreement. There is simply too much money at stake, but the sanctions relief does not ensure Iran won’t cheat or give nuclear program inspectors the runaround.
Under the Vienna deal, Iran will regain access to Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) system. The coveted bank allows some 10,800 financial companies to communicate securely. This reconnection will allow Tehran’s biggest banks to gain more access to money and restore its place in world banking, something that could infuse Iran’s cratering economy with an estimated $150 billion per year. Adding perspective are details from the CIA World Fact book, Tehran’s annual GDP is roughly $1.2 trillion.
The infusion of cash would definitely help its bottom line, so why did negotiators not add a few provisions to prevent or limit the Islamic Republic’s ability to fund known terrorist organizations? Even President Obama acknowledged Iran’s “support for terrorism” and “its use of proxies to destabilize parts of the Middle East.” With Iran’s newfound connection to SWIFT, opponents say Iran is poised to easily move funds to terrorists’ war chests that undermine conflict in the region.
Those detractors, like Israel, say Tehran could procure equipment meant for a clandestine weapons program. And if history is any indicator, terrorists, like the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) have taken control of state-of-the art weapons.
Furthermore tucked inside the Iran deal is the unconditional removal from the terrorist watch list of General Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the Quds Force, a division of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) that is responsible for Iranian clandestine and terror operations outside Iran. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman, the lead US negotiator, confirmed that fact at a State Department press conference on Thursday.
“The Qassem Soleimani who comes off the [sanctions lists] in the first phase, once in fact we get to it, was head of a uranium mine company,” Sherman said. She acknowledged that Soleimani of the IRGC is also on the UN designations list, and “would in fact – if everybody complied – come off,” but in “phase two, which is some years away.”
The State Department official also said “he remains on a US list because of our counterterrorism sanctions, not just because of our nuclear-related sanctions.” For those who may not be acquainted with Soleimani, he has been accused of directing Shite militias that carried out deadly attacks against U.S. troops in Iraq during the second half of the Iraq War. He has also been credited with inventing, and personally using remotely controlled lethal Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs).
Lifting the arms embargo
Inconceivably, the Obama negotiators declined to include the four American hostages currently held in Iran, Robert Levinson (reportedly a CIA agent), Amir Hekmati (A retired US Marine), Saeed Abedini (A US Christian Pastor) and Jason Rezaian (A Washington Post reporter) as part of the Islamic Republic deal.
In the give and take of negotiation for a nuclear deal, President Obama gave into Iranian pressure and lifted the conventional arms embargo. On this front there’s bipartisan concern. A number of Democrats have already voiced their skepticism believing the Iranian regime will use the influx of weapons to support terrorist organizations like Hezbollah and Hamas. The heavily touted intercontinental ballistic missiles that could one day be filled with nuclear material by Iran could be purchased from Russia. It’s also being reported by several news outlets that China, Britain and France are eager to open the arms selling window to Iran even though the “little Saten,” Israel, remains vehemently opposed to the deal.
The chief regional critic, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, told CBS’ Face the Nation that the deal essentially gives Iran a pathway to rid themselves of sanctions that are crippling its economy and sets Iran well on its way to producing nuclear weapons. “It allows them, if they keep the deal, if they keep the deal, in a few years they [will be] able to break out and they can build many, many bombs with virtually zero break out time.” He went on to say this deal mirrors the bad deal in North Korea where they’ve proven to be outright hostile to its regional neighbors.
Taking a look at the Vienna agreement has also caused concern for many Jewish groups. A non-profit political organization linked to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) says it expects to spend $5 million dollars in advertisements throughout the US in at least 32 different cities opposing a recently inked nuclear accord with Iran, according to sources tracking the media buy.
Another 501(c)(4) non-profit organization, Citizens for a Nuclear Free Iran said in a statement: “This proposed agreement fails to halt Iran’s nuclear quest. Instead, it would facilitate rather than prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon and would further entrench and empower the leading state sponsor of terror.”
Iranian courts even had the audacity to levy a $50 billion fine against the US. According to Fars News Agency, the Islamic Republic claims America is guilty of crimes against Iranians by aiding its enemies. The Judiciary implied the US is responsible for “killing the Iranian nationals by assisting their enemies,” including former Iraqi tyrant Saddam Hussein. “The Iranian courts have issued verdicts against the US administration that charge Washington to pay (sic) a total $50 billon to compensate for a part of the losses it has inflicted on Iranian legal entities and real persons,” Fars News described. The story also accuses America of aiding “different terrorist groups against Tehran,” although it did not name any of the groups. If the US pays the fine, it could provide a preview for the new Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) deal the Obama administration just signed into law.
Nevertheless, a pair of closed-door meetings by Vice President Joe Biden has done little to assuage Democrats and Republicans who have slammed the agreement that lifts sanctions in exchange for limits on Iran’s nuclear program. It remains uncertain if the White House can overcome repudiation from Congress, including many Democrats that are extraordinarily skeptical of the deal.
“I support the agreement because it can help us prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon,” Obama said. “I’ve logged tens of thousands of miles and twisted a lot of arms to build a global coalition to impose the most crippling sanctions in history. Signing (the agreement) is just the beginning. As President, I would use every tool in our arsenal to compel rigorous Iranian compliance.”
But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described the deal as “a stunning, historic mistake,” which would ultimately help Iran obtain nuclear weapons capability.
Now, Congress will have 60 days to argue the merits of the Iranian deal. Will the Republicans convince enough Democrats to split from their leader? Or will the Obama administration magically end 40 years of hostilities with Iran with the stroke of a pen?
To read Ring of fire: http://www.examiner.com/article/ring-of-fire-iran-the-crosshairs
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