John Kerry’s Hypocrisy: “Can You Deliver?”

Listening to US Secretary of State John Kerry try to explain and defend the P5+1 Iranian nuclear deal to various audiences is a spectacle to behold, regardless of one’s position on the best course of action.  One of the people who might want to watch the sessions and learn something from John Kerry is John Kerry.

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John Kerry speaking at the Council of Foreign Relations
July 2015

Secretary Kerry argued at the Council for Foreign Relations (CFR) that Congress must support the deal or it would undermine his ability to negotiate any treaty with any government in the future. At 29:55 of the CFR talk, Kerry said: “Other people in the world are going to sit there and say ‘hey, let’s negotiate with the United States, they have 535 Secretaries of State. I mean, please! I would be embarrassed to try to go out… I mean, what am I going to say to people after this as Secretary of State? ‘Come negotiate with us?’ ‘Can you deliver?’ Please!

Kerry made the point that when two parties sit down to negotiate, it is critical for the sides to know that the negotiating parties are both authorized to negotiate and have the ability to fulfill their sides of the deal. If no such authority or ability exists, the discussions are an irrelevant waste of time.

Despite Kerry being quite clear about his logic, he has nevertheless insisted that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sit down and negotiate with Acting-President of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas, even though it is clearly understood that Abbas can deliver nothing.

  • No Mandate: Abbas’s four-year term as president ran out in 2009. No presidential elections have been held since then.
  • No Authority: Abbas’s Fatah party lost legislative elections in 2006, winning only 33% of the parliament. No legislative elections have been held since then.
  • No Support: Abbas lags in every Palestinian poll held since 2006.
  • No Control: Abbas has no control of Gaza since his Fatah party was kicked out in 2007.
  • No Track Record: Abbas has shown zero credibility in being able to strike compromises to govern his own people, let alone deliver compromises with Israel.

Despite the glaringly obvious impotence of Abbas, the Obama administration continued to pressure Israel to negotiate with this straw man.

The Obama administration publicly acknowledged that the Palestinian Authority has absolutely no ability to deliver peace a few years ago. During the Gaza war on Israel in 2012, then US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton tried to broker a cease-fire. She made a dozen calls to various world leaders to halt the war- but not ONCE called the Abbas and the Palestinian Authority.

Compounding the inherent flaws in Abbas and the Palestinian Authority is Abbas’s insistence on bringing terms of any deal with Israel to a referendum. Abbas stated that he cannot decide on the “Right of Return” for all Palestinians, but that each of the 5 million Palestinian Arab “refugees” must make a decision for themselves. Hey Kerry- 535 “second-guessers” looks pretty good compared to 5 million! In terms of the rest of the components of a final agreement, Abbas stated that he “would go to a referendum everywhere because the agreement represents Palestinians everywhere.”  That’s impressive – he seeks the approval of 11 million “Palestinian” Arabs from all around the world!


Kerry’s comments regarding Iran are both on- and off-the-mark.  Iran and all of the parties in the negotiations know that the United States is a democracy and the political process must run its course.  Once the American people’s representatives in Congress make a decision, the government will deliver on its commitments.

However, Abbas – a complete straw man if ever there was one – with no authority or control whatsoever, openly states that millions of individuals will ultimately not only decide the fate of an Israeli-PA deal overall, but even on certain components on an individual basis.

 

Kerry fully appreciates that before negotiators start a process that they want to know the answer to the fundamental question: “Can you deliver“? However, he doesn’t care when he forces Israel to do exactly that with Abbas and the Palestinian Authority.


Related FirstOneThrough video and articles:

Abbas demands R-E-S-P-E-C-T

The Disappointing 4+6 Abbas Anniversary

Palestinian “Refugees” or “SAPs”?

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Gimme that Old-Time Religion

Two of the three main monotheistic faiths had amazing historical revelations in July 2015. If you read the New York Times, you only learned about one of them.

Quran

On a front page story with a large accompanying color picture, the New York Times relayed an incredible discovery: an old Quran that had been sitting on the shelves of the University of Birmingham, England for a century, was dated to around the year 600CE plus or minus 50 years.  That would make this version of the Quran the oldest manuscript in Islam.

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New York Times Front Page Story on Quran,
July 23, 2015

According to Islamic tradition, their prophet Mohammed received divine revelations and compiled the Quran sometime between 610 to 632CE. Religious scholars had debated whether the Quran was passed down in oral form for many generations after Mohammed’s death before ultimately being written down. If the text indeed was written down on the parchment when it was prepared (sometimes parchments were washed and reused, and carbon-dating only relates to the parchment but not the actual ink and text), it would answer that outstanding question.

The Hebrew Bible

Three days before the world heard about the dating of the oldest Quran, researchers uncovered one of the oldest texts of the Hebrew Bible, dating from around 500CE.

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Charred scroll from synagogue in Ein Gedi
(photo: Shay Halevi/Israel Antiquities Authority)

In the 1970s, the piece of a charred scroll was discovered in Ein Gedi in the Judean Desert. Only in July 2015 were researchers able to use the latest technology to decipher the damaged text to reveal sentences from the book of Leviticus. While older documents (by 500+ years) of the Hebrew Bible had been discovered not far from Ein Gedi, those documents were found hidden in jars within caves.  This scroll was found in the ancient synagogue of Ein Gedi, revealing the earliest discovery of a Torah scroll housed in a synagogue.

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Text from the Ein Gedi scrolls
(photo: University of Kentucky)

Both of these stories are amazing in terms of history, religion and science.  It brings to mind an old gospel song: “Give Me that Old Time Religion!”

Yet the part “that’s NOT good enough for me” (to paraphrase the song) is the nagging question why the New York Times never misses an opportunity to slight Israel.  The discovery of one old religious treasure received front page attention (for Islam) but a text from 100 years earlier didn’t even get a passing mention (for Judaism).  Was it because the scrolls were found in the Judean Desert which further underscores the long history of Jews in the contentious Jordan Valley?

Why do you think the NYT mentioned only one of these stories?


Related FirstOneThrough articles:

When were Jews barred from living in Judea & Samaria?

Names and Narrative: The West Bank / Judea and Samaria

The Subtle Discoloration of History: Shuafat

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The Fault in Our Tent: The Limit of Acceptable Speech

 Some passionate and eloquent liberals have bemoaned the state of inclusiveness among Jews today. Leon Wieseltier, editor of the New Republic, penned an angry piece “J Street’s Rejection Is a Scandal” about the exclusion in 2014 of J Street from the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. Angry voices are again being heard about J Street due to their position in favor of the Iranian nuclear deal promoted by the Obama administration. Is Wieseltier correct in that we only seek to hear our own voices and that “the orthodoxies and the bubbles and the closed loops and the echo chambers are everywhere?” Is there a “red line” that J Street and others have crossed and therefore deserve to be excluded from the broad tent of acceptable conversation?

Individual Hate Speech

Many countries have laws that ban hate speech. Sometimes the exact language is clearly spelled out about what cannot be said publicly and sometimes it is more general in nature.

For example, several European countries, including Germany, have laws that prohibit Holocaust denial. Those countries took such steps not simply because such expressions offend Jews, but because of the continent’s failure to step in and protect Jews which led to their slaughter. Silence became complicity which must never be allowed to happen again.

For its part, the United Nations Human Rights Council adopted Resolution 16/18 whose goal is “Combating Intolerance, Negative Stereotyping and Stigmatization of, and Discrimination, Incitement to Violence and Violence Against, Persons Based on Religion or Belief.” The resolution was drafted principally at the behest of Islamic countries who were worried about the spread of “Islamophobia.”

The various laws against hate speech all seek to curtail an incitement to violence and harm. The banned speech relates to a specific group of people (ie. Muslims) and not a concept (for example, a religion like Islam).  While a person can legally say disparaging remarks about a concept (“Communism is evil”), one risks breaking the law by attacking a group of people (“All Communists should be beaten up”).

Banned Groups

Hate Speech laws are typically drafted against individuals. However, laws are also drafted against groups that incite violence.  Israel banned two political parties, Kach and Kahane Chai in 1994 as they were defined as terrorist organizations.  The groups’ ideology was based on the teachings of Rabbi Meir Kahane who called for expelling Arabs from Israel, thereby running afoul of the premise of calling for negative actions against people.  Israel has also banned some Arab parties from running in elections which supported terrorism.

BDS, Hamas and Iran

Liberals and J Street supporters feel that BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions), Hamas and the Iranian nuclear deal should be rightly within civil discourse.  However, do these topics and groups support violence against people, or are they just broad discussions about policies and ideas?

BDS: Reasonable people can arrive at different conclusions about Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria. Some feel that all the settlements are completely legal as called for in international law in 1922, while others feel that Jews living east of the Green Line is against international law as recently stated by the UN Secretary General. Those competing viewpoints would fall within legal and acceptable conversation, both in public society and in an open-minded pro-Israel community.

However, inciting hatred against settlers is inciting violence.  Calling on the economic strangulation of Jews who legally purchased homes and businesses is akin to hate speech.  As such, new laws are being passed which specifically outlaw supporting BDS.

Hamas: Hamas is a rabidly anti-Semitic organization that calls for the complete destruction of Israel. It has fired well over 10,000 rockets into Israel, killed thousands of people in hundreds of attacks. Since completely taking over Gaza in 2007, Hamas has engaged in three wars against Israel.

Supporting Hamas in any way is supporting terror.  It should be banned completely in public society and in the pro-Israel tent.

Iranian nuclear deal: The Iranian nuclear agreement took various turns over the past several years. As Iran openly calls for the destruction of Israel, any group supporting Iran or helping Iran obtain weaponry would be supporting violence against Israel.

While the Iranian deal may arguably slow down Iran’s pathway to nuclear weapons, it certainly gives Iran tremendous financing and weaponry.  As such, 78% of Israelis oppose the Iran deal in its current format.

J Street Views

J Street has taken provocative stances on these three issues.

  • On BDS, the group technically states that it opposes the BDS movement, while it supports efforts that do call for BDS, particularly of communities east of the Green Line.
  • On Hamas, the group’s own website states that “Hamas is a political movement with an important and significant base of support within Palestinian society… and we support efforts by third parties to achieve reconciliation [between Fatah and Hamas which Israel opposes] and a unity government.”  One could similarly say that the Nazi party was a political party.
  • On Iran, the group launched a major campaign to support the deal, in direct opposition to pro-Israel groups such as AIPAC and the government of Israel itself. J Street was even against Iranian sanctions in 2009.

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 Full page J Street Advertisement supporting Iran Deal
New York Times July 25, 2015

On these issues which directly harm Israelis and the state of Israel, J Street has sided against the stated desires of the government of Israel.  Each time, they have taken stances which closely align with Israel’s enemies which seek to harm the country and its citizens.

Further, and most alarmingly, J Street has urged the Obama administration to vote against Israel at the United Nations Security Council, which is the sole voice of support in many instances. That action was so reprehensible, that even devout liberal politician Gary Ackerman (D-NY) said I’ve come to the conclusion that J-Street is not an organization with which I wish to be associated….America really does need a smart, credible, politically active organization that is as aggressively pro-peace as it is pro-Israel. Unfortunately, J-Street ain’t it.

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PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat at J Street Conference
March 2015 (photo: J Street)

A Related View from Tisha b’Av

The Talmud relates a story about the reason the Second Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed:

In Gittin 56ab the Talmud tells the story of zealots who wanted to fight the Romans as they got ready to attack Jerusalem. These zealots burned decades worth of food that had been stored in Jerusalem in order to force the residents of the city to confront the Romans.

These zealots undoubtedly considered themselves pro-Jewish. They thought that by destroying all safeguards and alternative options, they could force the rest of the Jewish people to adopt their position in the battle against Rome.

J Street, like the zealots 2000 years ago, view themselves as pro-Israel. While some parts of the Arab and Muslim world (f/k/a Romans) may seek to attack and destroy Israel, J Street views their approach to the conflict as the only logical course of action.  As such, they have engaged in co-opting the US government to take positions against those sought by the government of Israel.  Like the zealots who burned all of Jerusalem’s food supplies (now known as US support), they feel that Israel stripped of all of the territories won in 1967, without a Gaza blockade, and with a nuclear pact in place with Iran will secure Israel’s future. J Street is pursuing global and US pressure to make that happen, rather than seeking to convince the Israeli government.

JStreet-Map
Bookmark designed for J Street Conference
(Photo: Lisa Goldman)

 In the minds of many, the J Street positions have made them the a modern-looking version of Neturei Karta, the anti-Zionist Chasidic sect, similar to the clean-shaven Jewish outreach people who market a more modern version of Chabad outreach.


Debating the merits of different approaches for how Israel deals with hostile neighbors is within constructive debate.  Consistently arguing in favor of Israel’s enemies that seek to destroy the country and kill its people is akin to inciting violence.

Review the statements and positions of J Street here and consider whether such voices deserve to be heard in your community.


Related First One Through articles:

New York Times Confusion on Free Speech

Selective Speech

A Disservice to Jewish Community

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Losing the Temples, Knowledge and Caring

In modern times, the “Western Wall” or the Kotel has become the center of Jewish prayers.  As it has done so, it has replaced the Temple and Temple Mount in the minds of many Jews, so much so, that people have forgotten and misrepresent what the Kotel actually is or have stopped caring at all.

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Young and Old pray at the Kotel

Non-Orthodox Jews “Don’t Care”

The Jewish Week, a popular weekly newspaper for Jews in the metropolitan New York City area, published a piece called “Mourning the Temples’ Losses” on July 24, 2015. The article was written about the holiday of Tisha b’Av, the ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av, which is when tradition states that each of the two Jewish Temples were destroyed.  The article claims that the holiday has become only meaningful to Orthodox Jews, and for “secular Jews, ‘Tisha b’Av seems a vestigial organ,’ writes Don Futterman, program director in Israel for the Moriah Fund, wrote in Haaretz [a left-wing Israeli paper].” 

The secular anti-Orthodox newspaper quoted a left-wing charity in Israel which describes itself as “Promoting Civil Rights, Social Justice and Democracy in Israel and “Protecting and advancing human rights” which it feels it can achieve by funding movies questioning Israel such as “Breaking the Silence” and the anti-Israel 972 magazine.  These are indeed the views of many secular and liberal Israelis who feel that Judaism has evolved from Temple service to prayer, and from prayer to “social justice”. Together with such evolution was an abandonment of historic places and forms of worship to a modern emphasis only on people.  Those “vestigial organs” are there as part of history, but serve no function (and can and should be removed if they prove dangerous to the body as a whole).

Orthodox Jews “Don’t Know”

The Jewish Week continued that “for many Orthodox Israelis, the center of their Tisha b’Av observance is the plaza of the Western Wall, the last remnant of the Second Temple.” The statement repeats an often repeated falsehood about the nature of the Western Wall. The Temples were completely destroyed and no walls of the Temples stand today. Aish.com, which claims to be “the leading Jewish content website” posts on its website that “The Western Wall is a surviving remnant of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem,”  .

The Kotel is the western wall of the TEMPLE MOUNT, not of the Temple.  The Temple Mount was built by King Herod between 19BCE and 63CE to extend the size of the platform southward to both enable more people and traffic flow to the Second Temple. As the Temple was built atop a hill, extending the platform at the same height as the Temple required “filling in” the slopes of the hill.  The Kotel is the western wall of that supporting structure.

The Kotel gained significance in Judaism (say compared to the southern Temple Mount wall which is similarly a retaining wall), around the year 1550.  Prior to that year, many Jews visited and prayed on the Temple Mount itself including Rabbi Menachem Meiri (1249-1316) and Rabbi David ben Shlomo Ibn Zimra, (known as the Radbaz, 1479–1573), the Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem.  However, around 1550, while Ottoman leader Suleiman I made various structural improvements to the city of Jerusalem, he set aside the Western Wall area as a designated area for the Jews to pray.

After the 1967 Six Day War, Israel reunited Jerusalem including the Old City, the Temple Mount and the Kotel. After 18 years of being banned from the city by the Jordanians (1949-67), Israelis celebrated their return to the Old City.  To maintain calm after the war with the Muslim world, Israel handed administrative control of the Temple Mount to the Islamic Waqf. Israel then demolished the Mughrabi Quarter which abutted the Kotel to create the Western Wall Plaza that many know today. This plaza enables thousands of Jews to visit the Kotel at one time.

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The Kotel with the Dome of the Rock,
location of the Jewish Temples

Tisha b’Av

Every year the Jews mark a day on the calendar to remember the destruction of the Temples. Over time, the Tisha b’Av holiday incorporated other tragic events such as the expulsion of 200,000 Jews from Spain in 1492.  Perhaps today Jews should also mourn a newer tragedy in their history: their apathy and ignorance.


Related First.One.Through articles:

The United Nations and Holy Sites in the Holy Land

Joint Prayer: The Cave of the Patriarchs and the Temple Mount

Tolerance at the Temple Mount

The Waqf and the Temple Mount

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The Joys of Iranian Pistachios and Caviar

This is not a Satire (?)

The full text of the Iranian nuclear deal completed in Vienna on July 14, 2015 was a weighty 159 pages. The many members of the negotiating teams clearly used their time very productively as they worked through months of discussions and debates, even working past several deadlines on complicated scientific matters of nuclear fission.

The great citizens of the United States can thank the members of Secretary of State John Kerry’s team who negotiated endlessly on behalf of every American. His negotiating skills were clearly evident as he secured important points to benefit the country in these tense talks. In particular, Americans may not have caught a key clause buried inside the deal points. I offer one here (see page 67 of the agreement):

“Section 5.1.3 License the importation into the United States of Iranian-origin carpets and foodstuffs, including pistachios and caviar.”

kerry green tieThis was an important concession that Kerry’s team was able to secure.  Americans have grown tired of California pistachios and miss their Beluga Caviar from the Caspian Sea.  While the Iranian team was busy focused on centrifuges, missiles and fissile material, Kerry scored a big hit for US bellies.

Over the coming weeks, Obama will surely point out this key item in emphasizing that this is a “good deal” for the United States. The American people have suffered long enough from the sanction regime that has denied them these delectable treats from Iran.

pistachios

To paraphrase Robin Leach in Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous to the Obama Administration trying to sell this “good deal” to Congress:  “Wishing you pistachio wishes and caviar dreams.”

O’bama, Where Art Thou?

In 2000, the Coen brothers released a movie called “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” loosely based on Homer’s Odyssey (it won the Oscar for Best Screenplay from Adapted Material).  The original tale of 2700 years ago, described Odysseus’ 10-year ordeal to return home from his decade-long Trojan War. A convoluted parallel is taking place in the Middle East today.

Iran and Iraq Wars

In 1979, Iran went through an Islamic revolution at which time it threw out its western-backed leader. In a year’s time, Iran was at war with its Muslim neighbor next door in Iraq. That eight year war claimed 1 million lives.  Within two years of that war’s end, in 1990 Iraq went to war with its neighbor Kuwait, which brought America back to the region in Operation Desert Storm.

America would return to the region to defend itself rather than an ally. After the terrorist attacks on the United States in 2001, the US launched a major offensive against Iraq in 2003, under the belief that Iraq was behind the 9-11 attacks and that it was developing weapons of mass destruction again (Israel destroyed Iraq’s initial plant in 1981).  While running for president of the USA, then-Senator Barack Obama stated that the Iraq war was a mistake and promised to pull US forces out if elected, which he did in 2011.

The vacuum created from the withdrawal of American troops was filled by Islamic radicals seeking to create a new Islamic State.  The group brutally slaughtered many thousands of people as it sought to impose a new country based on radical Islam throughout the Middle East, beginning with Iraq.

Obama Cast as Hero

Obama defined himself in his presidential campaign as being anti-war. The world cast the young politician as a hero (like Odysseus?) and awarded him the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009 before he even did anything. His moniker “Hope” stuck to him like bumper stickers on a Subaru: here was a man who was going to leave the wars behind and bring Americans home. The decades of war in the Middle East were ending, and Odysseus – ‘er Obama – was the hero to make it happen.

obama car

Obama in the Middle East

Obama has fought (and sought to portray his fights) in the Middle East with a very light hand, compared to his aggressive war in Afghanistan:

  • In Yemen, he preferred discrete drone strikes against terrorists, over deploying thousands of US troops on the ground
  • In Syria, where a civil war has claimed over 200,000 lives (and counting), he has been reluctant to get involved. Indeed, even after Syria used chemical weapons which crossed Obama’s “red line”, he still opted to use diplomacy over a military strike
  • In Libya, Obama overthrew the government, but he claimed it was a “limited operation” and didn’t even seek Congressional approval
  • In Iraq, he removed all US troops, even though he was advised strongly against doing so by members of Congress.

And then there is Iran.

The US did not initially get involved in stemming Iran’s nuclear ambitions. In 2006 the UN Security Council passed its first resolution calling for Iran to stop its nuclear program, and US President George Bush convinced Russian President Vladimir Putin to agree to a sanctions program against Iran. However, when Iran elected Hassan Rouhani president in 2013, the Obama administration opted to shift courses from crippling sanctions and a military threat, to engagement. Obama called Rouhani. US Secretary of State Kerry met with Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif. The dream was that Iran had changed attitude to become more moderate, and therefore changed course on the direction of its nuclear program.

The 2013 Iranian election provided a pathway for Obama to dial back on sanctions and threats on the Iranian nuclear program.  While the Iran still shouted “Death to America, Death to Israel”, hanged gays from the center of the capital, and promoted terrorism around the world, Obama “Hoped” that Iran had moderated its ways with a single election, which would enable Obama to avoid returning American troops to the region.

The People on Iranian Nuclear Weapons

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July 22, 2015 Protest in Times Square, NY
(photo: FirstOneThrough)

It is almost universal in the western world that people do not want Iran to have nuclear weapons. Whether in protests in New York or London, or reading blogs in Berlin or Tel Aviv, ordinary people understand that a state-sponsor of terrorism with a violent ideological bent should never be permitted to have weapons of mass destruction.

In the summer of 2015, the question before the US Congress is whether the proposed Iranian deal will ensure that Iran will not have the ability to obtain nuclear weapons.  For some reason, the view that the deal will be effective is held uniquely by Democrats, while Republicans view the deal as a guarantee for a nuclear-armed Iran.

At a rally in New York City on July 22, 2015 against the Iran deal, almost every speaker was a Republican, including George Pataki and Allen West. The Democrats that came out were not politicians, but ordinary citizens like Harvard Professor Alan Dershowitz who said that Iran should not be a partisan issue (he needs to talk to more fellow Democrats). Speakers like Caroline Glick and others called out Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York, for not being there. The crowd essentially called out “O Democrats, Where Art Thou?”

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10,000 people protest against Iran deal in Times Square
(photos: FirstOneThrough)

Obama’s Homeward Journey; The World’s Souvenir

Like Odysseus, Obama is coming to the end of his journey. He has charted his way home from long wars, and he is doing everything he can to avoid returning back to the scene of the battles.

However, avoiding war is not always a good choice.  A commitment to end a war should only be kept if conditions warrant. A fear of returning to a region should not govern important matters of foreign policy.

Obama claims that the Iranian deal will prevent the country from obtaining nuclear weapons and is pitching the merits of the deal on that basis. His party loyalists are willing to believe him; liberals will always believe in this hero. But is this deal more about Obama finally arriving home to complete his epic poem?

The world is not a poem which ends with Obama’s last speech. The world will live with the ramifications of this deal for many years to come. There are many who feel strongly that Obama and the United Nations are pursuing a dangerous course that will guarantee a much more costly war in the future, rather than deal effectively with the issue today.

A nuclear-armed rogue state is not a souvenir the world can afford to end Obama’s journey.


Related FirstOneThrough articles:

Has the “Left-Wing” Joined the UN in Protecting Iran and the Palestinians from a “Right-Wing” Israel?

The New Endorsed Parameters of Peaceful Nuclear Power

The Gap between Fairness and Safety: WMDs in Iraq and Iran

Obama’s Iranian Red Line

Has the “Left-Wing” Joined the UN in Protecting Iran and the Palestinians from a “Right-Wing” Israel?

The left-wing Israeli newspaper Haaretz published an article in May 2015 questioning Israel’s nervousness over a possible deal regarding Iranian nuclear weapons. It pointed out that another Muslim country, Pakistan, already possessed nuclear weapons and Israel did not object.  However, the paper noted that “though Pakistan is the first Muslim state with a nuclear weapons program, it does not call for Israel’s destruction or sponsor terror attacks against Israel. A nuclear Iran, by contrast, would receive cover to step up its hegemonic ambitions in the region and intensify its support for terrorism against the Jewish state.”  A significant difference.

The parameters of the final Iran deal made many people question whether Iran would be able to advance a nuclear weapons program immediately, as the verification program ultimately was very far from the “anywhere, anytime” stated goal that would have better ensured Iranian compliance.  The plan left wide open the possibility that Iran could “break-out” with nuclear weapons in a decade.

Putting aside the question of if-and-when Iran obtains nuclear weapons for a moment, the following deal points are clear:

Unlike the core issue of Iran potentially having nuclear weapons, these dangerous deal points are not in question.

Ramifications – More Money and Weapons

The US State Department considers Iran a state-sponsor of terrorism.  Specifically, it stated: “Iran has historically provided weapons, training, and funding to Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups, including the Palestine Islamic Jihad (PIJ) and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC), although Hamas’s ties to Tehran have been strained due to the Syrian civil war.  Since the end of the 2006 Israeli-Hizballah conflict, Iran has also assisted in rearming Hizballah, in direct violation of UNSCR 1701.  Iran has provided hundreds of millions of dollars in support of Hizballah in Lebanon and has trained thousands of its fighters at camps in Iran.  These trained fighters often use these skills in support of the Assad regime in Syria.”

With the execution of this Iranian deal, $150 billion will flow to Iran, some of which, the Obama administration noted, will most likely go towards terrorism.  The deal will also provide a fresh flow of missiles to Iran and likely to Iranian friends on the borders of Israel.

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Hamas leader Haniyeh and Iranian spiritual head Khamenei

Ramifications – Tighter Border Controls

While Israel’s main fear is a nuclear-armed Iran, the flow of money and missiles to Hamas and other terrorists on Israeli borders are also significant concerns.  The likely Israeli actions to counter these threats will be:

  • Tighter Gaza blockade
  • Permanent security positions along the Jordan Valley
  • Fewer permits with longer delays in allowing Palestinian Arabs to travel to Israel and between territories

The significantly enhanced threats on Israel’s borders – even before factoring in a nuclear Iran – will force Israel to take additional security measures which will harm daily life for ordinary Israelis and Palestinian Arabs.

World Preemptive Action – Stop Israeli Defenses

The global powers voted to approve the Iranian deal and lift the sanctions against Iran, knowing of Israel’s security concerns.  The world has now begun to take additional steps to prevent Israel from protecting itself:

As Israel prepares to protect its citizens from the immediate threats from the Iranian nuclear deal that the United Nations approved, the world prepares to challenge those very defenses that Israel needs to implement, such as the land and sea border controls..

 What is the Goal of all the Negotiations?

These actions beg questions that contradicts the narrative used in the west:

      • was the real goal of the Iranian nuclear deal to protect Iran from a nuclear Israel? The deal includes language that the P5+1 group will “protect against, and respond to nuclear security threats, including sabotage [against the Iranian nuclear program].” Seriously?
      • Has Obama deliberately handed over authority and control of the region to Iran, as he has no desire to put US troops back into the Middle East?

Is the world now taking steps to protect Palestinian Arabs from their perception of a Mr. Right Wing Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel?

The Obama narrative is that the world is safer with the Iranian deal.  In actuality, is the world safer, or is Iran safer? 

President Obama faces an American public that is more wary of Iran and sympathetic to Israel than much of the world, so he is spinning the deal in verbiage that is more accepting to Americans.  Thus far, Americans are buying the pitch, even while they strongly question whether it will work.

Who’s goals are these anyway?

  • The Arab and Muslim world celebrated the advancement of its goals to destroy the west and Israel.  They did not attempt to hide their mission.
  • The left-wing American parties, papers and groups like J-Street have endorsed the Iranian deal, and are pushing Israel to further dismantle its defenses. They are either lying to themselves or the American people about their goals. Perhaps both.

As Jeffrey Goldberg wrote in the Atlantic, “The Iran deal represents one of those rare issues that has unified Israelis of most political parties[including] the left, center, and right.”  In the United States, it has only unified the left-wing with the Iranian dream.


Related First One Through articles:

The New Endorsed Parameters of Peaceful Nuclear Power

The Gap between Fairness and Safety: WMDs in Iraq and Iran

Hidden Reactor, Silent Reaction

Netanyahu’s View of Obama: Trust and Consequences

UN’s Confusion on the Legality of Israel’s Blockade of Gaza

A “Viable” Palestinian State

The New Endorsed Parameters of Peaceful Nuclear Power

In July 2015, six world powers concluded their negotiations with Iran on its nuclear power program. Parties like US President Barack Obama congratulated himself and the negotiating team for “prevent[ing] Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon and ensur[ing] that Iran’s nuclear program will be exclusively peaceful going forward.”

That claim is questionable in the short-term and clearly false in the long-term. What is certain, was the deal established the new parameters for peaceful nuclear power for the world to (potentially) replicate.

 iran-historic-nuclear-deal
European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton (3rd L) delivers a statement during a ceremony next to British Foreign Secretary William Hague, Germany’s Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius (L-R) at the United Nations in Geneva November 24, 2013 (Reuters / Denis Balibouse) / Reuters

Nuclear Energy versus Nuclear Weapons

There are thirty-one countries in the world that have nuclear power plants for generating electricity and nine countries which have nuclear weapons. Those countries are (countries in bold posses both nuclear energy and weapons):

  • Nuclear power plants (31): United States; France; Russia; South Korea; China; Canada; Germany; Ukraine; UK; Sweden; Spain; Belgium; India; Czech Republic; Switzerland; Finland; Slovakia; Hungary; Japan; Brazil; South Africa; Bulgaria; Mexico; Romania; Argentina; Slovenia; Pakistan; Iran; Netherlands; Armenia
  • Nuclear weapons (9): Russia; United States; France; China; United Kingdom; Pakistan; India; Israel; North Korea

There are more than 31 countries that use electricity from nuclear plants – such as Italy and Denmark that each get over 10% of their power from nuclear plants – but do not host nuclear power plants in their country.  Nuclear power plants generate 14% of the electricity in the world.

Safety Concerns of Nuclear Energy

Despite the sizable role that nuclear electricity-generation plays, there are many safety concerns.

Peaceful power plants: Notable “meltdowns” of peaceful nuclear power plants include Ukraine (1986); United States (1979); and Japan (2011).  Countries with nuclear power plants institute many safety procedures to protect the surrounding areas from potential nuclear radiation fallout.

Fuel: Beyond the plants themselves, countries carefully manage the materials that are the basis for nuclear power: raw uranium and plutonium (that are mined); enriched uranium and plutonium (suitable for use in nuclear power or weapons); and spent fuel rods (post-use, no longer able to generate electricity, but have radiation).

  • Mining: Uranium is mined in 20 countries, with 90% mined in just a handful of countries: Australia; Kazakhstan; Russia; Canada; Niger; Namibia; South Africa; Brazil; USA; and China. Plutonium, while found in trace amounts in nature, is created in nuclear plants by modifying uranium.
  • Spent fuel: Edwin Lyman and Harold Feiveson have written about safety concerns of spent fuel.  Spent nuclear reactor fuel is highly radioactive and contains significant concentration of weapons-usable plutonium isotopes. Some countries like the USA, Canada and Sweden plan to store the spent fuel in geologic repositories. Others like UK and France reprocess the spent fuel and separate the plutonium from the uranium. Such uranium, which can be handled, becomes a potential source for theft to be used in nuclear weapons.

Nuclear weapon facilities: Some nuclear facilities do not focus on generating electricity but are built specifically to produce weapons of mass destruction. These facilities pose risks not only from the radioactive materials or potential fallout from a meltdown of the plant, but from the massive destruction that such weapons can produce.

End-to-End Nuclear Facilities

Most countries with peaceful nuclear power plants do not have end-to-end facilities which can produce nuclear-generated power completely on their own.  Countries do not typically mine uranium, enrich it, produce the electricity and store or reprocess the spent fuel.  For example, Japan, which gets over 30% of its power from 50 nuclear plants, imports uranium from Australia, Kazakhstan and Canada. Historically, Japan relied on other countries for various steps of its nuclear program, but it has recently taken steps to enrich the raw uranium and reprocess some of the spent fuel inside Japan. For the most part, spent fuel has still been stored in the UK and France.

With the new 2015 P5+1 deal with Iran, Iran will have complete end-to-end nuclear capabilities with global approval.

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Source: New Scientist/Global Security

Iranian Uranium Mines:  Iran opened two uranium mines in 2013, the Saghand mine and Gchine mine, that provide some uranium for its enrichment program (but these have low concentrations of uranium). The two mines in the city of Saghand in central Iran operate 1,150 feet underground.

Iranian Milling Facility: Approximately 75km from Saghand is the Ardakan mill which processes the uranium into yellowcake.

Iranian Enrichment Facility: The Uranium Enrichment Facility at Isfahan purifies the yellowcake to UF6, a gas, which enables it to be enriched. Enrichment increases the proportion of the U-235 isotope from its natural level of 0.7% to 3-5%.

After enrichment, the UF6 gas is converted to uranium dioxide (UO2) which is formed into fuel pellets. These fuel pellets are placed inside thin metal tubes which are assembled in bundles to become the fuel elements for the core of the reactor.

Natanz is Iran’s primary enrichment facility and consists of three underground buildings, two of which are designed to hold fifty thousand centrifuges, and six buildings built above ground. It’s stated purpose is to produce enriched uranium for use in both the Tehran Research Reactor (requiring 19.75% U-235 content) and fuel for the Bushehr nuclear power plant (requiring 3.5% U-235 content).

The Fordow Enrichment Plant is a large underground industrial facility located near the city of Qom. The site includes two underground halls each able to hold 1,500 centrifuges.  Iran failed to disclose the existence of the Fordow facility until it was revealed publicly by western governments in 2009.

A heavy water nuclear reactor near Arak was first identified by US satellite images in 2002. Heavy water reactors produce a lot of plutonium waste product as part of enriching uranium, which can be used in nuclear weapons.

The nuclear reactor at Bushehr on the Arabian Gulf, was started by Germany in the early 1970s, but suspended after the 1979 Iranian Revolution.  Russia took over constructing the plant and started delivering the nuclear fuel in May 2011.

Iran will soon have a complete end-to-end nuclear program which would include several underground and fortified nuclear sites.

From Nuclear Energy to Nuclear Weapons

There is a narrow gap between the assets and capability needed to build a power plant and what is needed to build weapons of mass destruction.  A brief primer from the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI):

Both nuclear reactors and nuclear bombs use either uranium or plutonium to create a nuclear chain reaction that releases energy. The speed with which they release energy is the crucial difference between the two: in a reactor the energy release is controlled and sustained over an extended period, whereas in a nuclear bomb the release occurs in fractions of a second. The science of fission is fairly straightforward; however, controlling fission reactions to get the desired effect is challenging.

While on the surface it may appear that the infrastructure required for both electricity and weaponry is the same (just some technical understanding stands in the gap), the reality is more complicated.

“To develop a nuclear device, the difference in the speed of the chain reaction creates additional requirements for the firing mechanism, grade of the uranium or plutonium used, and the density, physical surrounding and shape of the fissile material. These differences are substantial barriers to a state looking to shift from power production to assembling a nuclear device.”

In short, the raw materials and infrastructure are very similar, while the technical capabilities are a bit more complicated.

 Iran’s Nuclear Program: from Energy to Weapons?

According to CIGI: “a peaceful program provides the scientific foundation
upon which a state can go on to build and operate its own dedicated plutonium production reactor to produce the material for a nuclear weapon… The main benefit derived from a once-through nuclear energy program for the construction of a nuclear device is the buildup of nuclear infrastructure that would otherwise be difficult, if not impossible, to camouflage….  a peaceful nuclear energy program is best characterized as a stepping stone to acquiring the wherewithal for a nuclear device.”

The White House produced a summary of how the contemplated 2015 deal would block Iran from converting a peaceful program into a weapons program:

  • Reduce level of raw uranium: cut stockpile (mostly acquired in the past from South Africa) by 98%
  • Block enriching uranium: by reducing centrifuge count at Natanz and Fordow
  • Cap the enrichment level: to 3.67%, below the required level to produce weapons
  • Block plutonium production: reconfigure Arak plant so it cannot produce plutonium; ship out all spent fuel. Additionally, no new construction of heavy-water reactors for 15 years

In July 2015, the P5+1 countries effectively endorsed the acceptable parameters of a valid and peaceful nuclear energy program.

Creating the New Paradigm for All Countries

Which begs the question, if there are 31 countries that have nuclear power plants, why are there only 9 with nuclear weapons? Do they not have the technical capabilities for producing a weapon? Lack the desire? How much effort and infrastructure would it take for a country like Hungary to go from a peaceful nuclear program to a weapons program?

If a known state-sponsor of terrorism which calls for the annihilation of other countries (Iran) is permitted to keep such a vast nuclear infrastructure, every other country would be permitted to build comparable nuclear infrastructure.  This is true for countries with existing nuclear plants like Armenia, or non-nuclear countries like Venezuela.  In other words, this deal marks the world’s endorsement of a baseline peaceful nuclear program.

This is obviously very dangerous for the safety and security of the entire world.

A Better Alternative

US President Obama and others have questioned whether there is a better alternative.  Here are some possible points that should be considered before blessing an explosion of “peaceful” nuclear infrastructure construction in the world:

  • No end-to-end capabilities.  As a checks-and-balance for nuclear proliferation, no country should be able to maintain a complete mines-to-reactor program. Countries which are state-sponsors of terrorism should be barred from two components of a complete program. For Iran, they would likely opt to abandon their mines which are not very productive anyway. They would then be left with a choice of modifying their global behavior or giving up another component of their program (maybe opting to ship all spent fuel out of the country permanently).
  • No underground fortified facilities.   As a global precaution against a peaceful program becoming weaponized, no nuclear enrichment facilities should be fortified to such a level that destroying them with conventional weapons becomes nearly impossible. This would require Iran dismantling some of their underground facilities or making them less fortified.
  • Anytime, anywhere inspections. All peaceful nuclear facilities should be available for inspections by the IAEA at anytime.  For this Iranian deal, it would require a more stringent approach than the lengthy 24-day process currently contemplated.
  • Cap on centrifuges. Not only should the number of centrifuges of a country be capped, but no facility should be able to have over a certain number of centrifuges (for example, a cap of 6000 in a country, and no single facility with over 1,500).

These are some examples which should become a requirement of every country for every peaceful nuclear power program. These steps would help protect the entire world from a step-up from peaceful nuclear energy to threshold nuclear weapons.

 


The current P5+1 Iranian nuclear deal cannot be viewed in a simple comparison of whether the deal is better than no deal. It must be viewed in the context of establishing a new baseline for the use of nuclear power around the world. On such basis, it is easy to see the existing shortfalls.

 


Related First One Through articles:

Parallel and Perpendicular Views of Iranian Nuclear Deal

Has the “Left-Wing” Joined the UN in Protecting Iran and the Palestinians from a “Right-Wing” Israel?

 

 

Parallel and Perpendicular Views of Iranian Nuclear Deal

In a world of 7 billion people, there can be no surprise that people have different views. Even in smaller segments of society, whether in a small town or school, different people could look at a situation and arrive at very different conclusions. One story, two views.

Conclusions may in turn generate additional comparisons. Once an opinion becomes anchored, another similar thought may come to mind. Over time, the two distinct ideas become linked together, in closely related parallel views. Two stories, one view.

THE IRANIAN NUCLEAR DEAL

Perpendicular Conclusions

Much of the world followed the negotiations between six global powers and Iran over the latter’s nuclear ambitions. Not only did many people seek different outcomes, even people that sought the SAME outcomes, viewed the deal in completely different ways.

Consider the Wall Street Journal and The New York Times. Presumably each American newspaper sought a deal which left Iran without nuclear weapons capability.  On July 15, each paper ran factual headlines about the outcome of the negotiations.  Yet the emphasis for each was extremely different.

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Front page of New York Times,
July 15, 2015

The headline for the NYT read: “World Leaders Strike Agreement with Iran to Curb Nuclear Ability and Lift Sanctions.”  Sub-headers read “Accord is Based on Verification, Not Trust, Obama Says” and “G.O.P. Pledges to Kill Pact, But Veto Looms.”  An article further down the page was entitled “President’s Leap of Faith“.

In the middle of the front page the Times sought to summarize the deal terms in a Q&A format.  For anyone reading the answers, it was clear that the deal offered few assurances that Iran was not going to have nuclear weapons within the decade, and certainty that they would have it after a decade.

The portrayal was in sharp contrast to the front page of the WSJ.

DSC_0118
Front page of Wall Street Journal,
July 15, 2015

The WSJ also led with a factual headline about the reactions to the Iranian deal. “Iran Deal Ignites Fierce Fight” The paper included three large pictures with quotes from the leaders of the United States, Iran and Israel with their views on the deal terms.

Both papers considered that Obama and Iranian leader Rouhani were happy with the deal.  That was where the similarities ended.

The Times called out the Republicans as being unhappy, while the Journal highlighted Israel’s unhappiness with the deal. One paper took a more domestic review of the international matter, while the other focused on the international fallout. The NYT used small font to review the dissent of the deal in language that could have been used to describe a capital gains tax hike, while the WSJ used large color photographs in the center of the paper to draw attention to the significant global ramifications of the agreement.

The NYT seemed to tell its readership that if they had faith in Obama, they should have faith in this deal. The WSJ told its readership that a huge fight was brewing overseas, and the US aligned itself with an enemy state and against an ally.

Two papers presumably started at the same spot seeking the same result, but moved in opposite directions when the negotiations concluded.

False Parallels

The head of the Shalom Hartman Institute of North America, Yehuda Kurtzer, also decided to weigh in on the Iranian deal from the ancient Jewish city of Hebron. In a blog called “On Iran, from Hebron” he described his trip with a group of rabbis who came to hear a wide range of narratives from all sorts of people in the city.  Kurtzer’s conclusion was that there exists an obvious parallel between the Iranian threat against Israel, and Jews living east of the Green Line. He said: “I am sad and nervous – both about what Israel is doing to itself in places like Hebron with its commitment to structures which risk its unmaking, and about the threats to Israel’s existence from state actors” and continued the parallel in more clear language about “a settlement [Hebron] that constitutes a self-imposed existential threat to Israel, while listening on Twitter to debates about external existential threats.

Here was a leader of an organization that described itself as a “pluralistic center of research and education deepening and elevating the quality of Jewish life in Israel and around the world,” equating a Jew living with his family in Hebron, with an Iranian regime shouting “Death to Israel” while it obtained the green light from the world to have nuclear weapons in ten years.

A champion of pluralism drew an equivalence between starkly different stories: Jews living freely in places they lived for thousands of years; and a country that has threatened -and will soon be armed for- a genocide.


I understand different people having different opinions. I respect the concept that two parties can start at the same spot and move in opposite directions. Yet I struggle when a single person can conflate two completely different matters into a single narrative.

The NYT loves Obama and feels that their trust and faith in him has prevailed over his presidency, so why not trust him again now? (Of course, that has nothing to do with trusting Iran, but the Times at least starts consistently). The WSJ has always pointed out the flaws of Obama’s foreign policies and used this bad Iranian deal to point it out again.

But what of the leader of a “pluralistic” organization? Does being pluralistic mean that everything and everyone carry the same weight? Does the notion that “pluralism can mean that no full knowledge of truth is possible” mean that it can be so amazingly wrong to suggest that the “external existential threat” of an Iranian nuclear bomb is the same as a “self-imposed existential threat” of Jews living in Hebron?

There is a logic to a liberal paper supporting a liberal president. One can agree to disagree. But how does one react to someone who distorts reality as if the world was a hall of mirrors perched atop a black hole? On Earth, we know opinions can diverge.  In the ethereal world of “pluralism”, it would appear that accepting information from everywhere can lead to a singularity of stupidity.