Obama’s terrible plan to spread nuclear weapons

November 25, 2010

Henry Sokolski

President Obama is currently engrossed in a battle over the ratification of his New START treaty with Russia-along with the urgent news that North Korea’s previously covert uranium enrichment program is up and running, and now affords it something else scary to export. Yet, there is another related issue that Mr. Obama must decide upon, which could easily do as much damage to his drive toward zero nuclear weapons: How will America handle the overt spread of civilian nuclear technologies which other countries might divert to make bombs?

Last year, President Obama finalized a nuclear cooperation agreement with the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The deal would allow the United States to provide technology to help the UAE generate nuclear energy, but only if the UAE meets a new set of nonproliferation conditions. First, the UAE must forego making nuclear fuel. Second, it must open its nuclear facilities up to intrusive nuclear inspections established by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) under a set of rules known as the Additional Protocol. The administration proudly proclaimed this arrangement as the international nonproliferation “gold standard.”

Now, there are signs that the administration’s commitment to the “gold standard” may be slipping. This summer, word leaked out that State Department officials are hoping to delete the nonproliferation conditions from proposed civilian nuclear cooperation deals with Vietnam and Jordan. According to the State officials, the UAE agreement’s nonproliferation conditions were now just “a standard” to be applied when possible, rather than “the standard” to be applied to all future U.S. civilian nuclear cooperative agreements.

Will the United States insist on the UAE nonproliferation standards in the case of Jordan and Vietnam? The National Security Council has passed the decision to President Obama’s inbox. If the president blinks on this issue, it would set an extremely dangerous precedent: While neither Vietnam nor Jordan is that likely to develop a nuclear weapons option, holding either of them to a lower bar would set off a chain reaction, which would virtually ensure that no future nuclear cooperation agreement is subject to the UAE conditions.

If he decides to give Vietnam a pass but not Jordan, Obama would risk validating Jordanian and Muslim complaints that the United States is using double standards. On the other hand, backing off of Jordan’s requirements would nix any chance that the United States can secure stringent nonproliferation conditions with any other country in the Middle East. Even the original UAE agreement would be in jeopardy, because a key provision of the U.S.-UAE nuclear deal stipulates that if the United States reaches a nuclear agreement with another Middle Eastern state which is more generous in its conditions, the UAE would have the right to demand renegotiation to secure similar terms.

This would weaken the nonproliferation regime at a time when it is already coming apart: Earlier this month, President Obama caved to Indian pressures to back its membership in an international nuclear control cartel known as the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). This effectively would allow India, which flagrantly broke NSG rules for decades illicitly importing controlled nuclear goods for its nuclear weapons program, to become a full member in good standing. Meanwhile, another NSG member, China, has announced its intent to export NSG-controlled nuclear reactors to Pakistan even though the NSG prohibits the latter from receiving such goods. These are all signs that NSG’s ability to block dangerous nuclear exports is failing, and Washington should be strengthening its nonproliferation rules in order to take up the slack.

And, fortunately, this is also a time when the United States has more leverage to get other key nuclear supplier states to follow its lead. The French want to expand their civilian nuclear business in the United States by building nuclear reactors and fuel making plants with U.S. taxpayer help-i.e., with billions of dollars in U.S. Department of Energy contracts and federal nuclear loan guarantees. The Russians, who want to build a large commercial uranium enrichment plant in the United States, will be asking for the same.

A backlash to the State Department’s proposal is already brewing. In a bipartisan letter to President Obama that was published last week, 17 of the nation’s leading nuclear nonproliferation experts asked the president to deny loan guarantees to French nuclear companies unless they adopt the higher U.S.-UAE nonproliferation standards when signing their nuclear cooperation agreements. A bipartisan group in Congress is also pushing back: The House Committee on Foreign Affairs has made it clear that whatever the president decides, the committee is likely to table legislation that would require both Houses to approve any proposed nuclear cooperative agreement that does not meet the UAE conditions.

The House understands that if the United States fails to convince nations everywhere to forswear making nuclear fuel, little will stop them from being able to make bombs of their own. Both Republican and Democratic members of the committee understand that that would dash any hopes of getting anywhere close to zero nuclear weapons, and it could easily catalyze North Korean efforts to expand its nuclear export market. The only question now is what the president will decide to do.

Henry Sokolski is the executive director of the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center in Arlington, Virginia and is editor of Nuclear Power’s Global Expansion: Weighing the Costs and Risks (U.S. Army War College Strategic Studies Institute, forthcoming).

US Strategy to Pitch India against China

November 10, 2010

By Zaheerul Hassan

President Barack Obama has announced $10 billion trade deals with India and claimed that the deal will create 53,670 U.S. jobs. He brought some of the changes in export rules to make it easier for U.S. companies to do business with the nation of 1.2 billion people. US is also relaxing control on India’s purchase of “dual use” technologies that could be used for civilian or military purposes, have been top priorities for the business community. The commercial deals include the purchase of thirty three (33) Boeing 737s by India’s Spice Jet Airlines; the Indian military’s plans to buy aircraft engines from General Electric; and a preliminary agreement between Boeing and the Indian Air Force on the purchase of 10 C17s. Though, Obama’s mentioning of trade deal and creation of jobs in US may attribute depicting an attempt of put his domestic economy back on track.

It is mentionable here that Obama also promised to support Indian nomination as permanent member of United Nation Security Council. Though, overtly the US leader’s visit seem to be a business tour but his covert agenda could be to promote and present India as second super power while pitching her against China. In this way she will be able to get her ultimate objective of hitting two birds in one stone.

Interestingly, at the same time, President Obama declared Pakistan as American’s strategic partner and deliberately avoided of making any lose statement on Pakistan’s related issues. In this connection while addressing the Common Session of Indian Parliament, he advocated the continuation of peace process between Pakistan and India. He also stressed that confrontation on Kashmir issue should be resolved bilaterally, however US can come forward as a mediator if desired by two countries. In short, India failed to achieve optimum results of threshing out Pakistan on the issue of extremisms since Obama has shown maturity by not involving Pakistan in terrorism. He asked both the countries to resolve the disputes for establishing permanent peace.

In fact, Obama exposed US desire openly while saying that the relationship between the two great powers (India and U.S) “will be one of the defining and indispensable partnerships of the 21st century.” Declaring India as great power has to be translated and viewed in its true perspective. Unfortunate part of Obama’s visit is that he backed a country where millions of people have been victimized by the extremists’ Hindus and armed forces. During this visit Obama did not mention clearly about human violation of India. However, to gain more sympathies Indian government ensured that American president to stay in Taj Mehal but at the same time never been allowed or to visit Kashmir, Golden Temple and Babri Mosque. Obama said that he intended to send a signal by making Mumbai the first stop of the trip and by staying at the Taj, which was a target during the terror siege.” The United States and India stand united,” he said. “We’ll never forget.” This action of organizers of the visit is enough to show true motive of secular state (India) and so called civilized democratic country (USA). Would some out of Obama’s staff would like to clarify that why he only preferred to show solidarity with Hindus only and failed to say something on the brutality against Kashmiries, Maoists, Sikhs and Christians.

The other angle of the visit depicts that Obama’s visit would be adding tension between China-India and Pakistan. Obama has also broadcasted his underline message more openly as compare to the past i.e. making India militarily and economically strong. The American’s president visit and arms pacts with India are being viewed with concern by the China, Pakistan, Russia and Sri Lanka. An arms race, conventional and nuclear, between India and china is now gaining prominence as India is building her weapon piles increasing day by day. Some analysts have also started to view India competing with China in an arms race rather than acquiring weapons merely for defensive purposes. It is mentionable here that India is also developing her nuclear and missile system with the help of Israel and US. The UN Watchdog “IAEA’ should inspect Indian nuclear programme since it has pathetic security arrangement and could prove danger to the human lives again. Though, Indian concerned authorities are trying to tighten the security at nuke plant sites but no worthwhile improvement has been yet noticed. Recently, security was tightened in Maharashtra’s Ratnagiri district after villagers clashed with officials of the Nuclear Power Corporation of India. The corporation was constructing a cluster of nuclear power plants in Ratnagiri under the Indo-US nuclear agreement. The villagers, opposing the nuclear establishment, attacked and chased away the officials who were visiting the villages to take soil samples. India is also planning to buy Israeli Missile System. New Delhi has also launched major effort to develop laser weapons for military applications. Reportedly, Indian military is working on laser weapons for deploying on its submarines, destroyers, air force fighters and transport planes.

Actually, Indo-US-Israel collaboration is emerging the world most dangerous collaboration. Few days back, US National Security Adviser Tom Donilon while briefing reporters said that Obama intends the trip to be “a full embrace of India’s rise.” At this occasion Indian officials Shivshankar Menon endorsed that he doesn’t think that there’s an area of human endeavor in which we do not actually cooperate.

In this connection, very authenticated reports illustrated that: (one) Israeli systems are being tested in India, (two) India is a stake-holder in Iron Dome and David’s Sling systems as these are being tested in India, (two) systems have been tested in controlled environment and thus have not gained the un-questioned confidence of Indian side, (fourth) Japanese were also called for demonstration of Israeli missile systems. They remained skeptical and un-committed; (fifth)India is also persisting with its Prithvi Air Defence System PAD in order to keep its intentions are to contain China and stopped Pakistan for further developments.

As a matter of fact after disintegration of Soviet Union, uni-polar system emerged. The new great game and number of new cold wars like: Indo-Pak, Indo-China, North- South Korea, US-Iran and Sri Lanka-India have been started. The regional and global security environment has been changed drastically because of 9/11, American invasions in Iraq and Afghanistan. India took U-turn and became U.S regional and global ally against China and Russia. India in its pursuit of acquiring high technology has been making headway both politically and scientifically. Recently, Indian Defense Minister, AK Antony, to the US marked the highlight of Indo-US relation. Mr Antony had meetings with Secretary Gates, Secretary Clinton and NSA James Jones. Obama administration has been pushing India in awarding defense contracts to the American companies. Indian who is already purchasing arms to restructure her armed forces has welcomed US lucrative defense contracts for transferring high technology.

Concluding I must say that though Obama tried to adopt balanced approach while talking about India Pakistan issues but never forgotten his ultimate objective of putting India against China. The arms race between China and India would definitely going to be speed up. She already tested Agni-II, a revamped Agni-II in the Wheeler Island, off the Orissa coast. Agni-II has two stages and both are powered by solid propellants. It has several features of advanced technology. The missile, which can carry nuclear warheads, can be transported both by rail and road. Its projected range is 2750 to 3000 km. Indian second missile system Agni-III is ready for Operational Induction. According to Defence Minister Mr A K Antony, the 3000 km range Agni-III missile is ready for induction into the armed forces. The nuclear capable ballistic missile would give a boost to India’s credible minimum deterrence as no other missile in the Indian arsenal has the range to strike targets deep inside China. She also carried out Strategic Weapons Storages in Bikaner, Jodhpur, Jallandar, Jaisalmer, Bhuj, Bhatinda and Barmer.

World community and US administration should know that Indian design of storage, deployment, development of nuke weapons and recently concluded defence pacts with Israel and USA are serious threats to the regional and global peace. There is a need to stop and condemn Indian aggressive nature of expansionism rather than declaring her a great power and future member of Security Council.

Two Minutes to Midnight?

August 25, 2010

Cutting Through the Media’s Bogus Bomb-Iran Debate

By Tony Karon

America’s march to a disastrous war in Iraq began in the media, where an unprovoked U.S. invasion of an Arab country was introduced as a legitimate policy option, then debated as a prudent and necessary one. Now, a similarly flawed media conversation on Iran is gaining momentum.

Last month, Time’s Joe Klein warned that Obama administration sources had told him bombing Iran’s nuclear facilities was “back on the table.” In an interview with CNN, former CIA director Admiral Mike Hayden next spoke of an “inexorable” dynamic toward confrontation, claiming that bombing was a more viable option for the Obama administration than it had been for George W. Bush. The pièce de résistancein the most recent drum roll of bomb-Iran alerts, however, came from Jeffrey Goldberg in the Atlantic Monthly. A journalist influential in U.S. pro-Israeli circles, he also has access to Israel’s corridors of power. Because sanctions were unlikely to force Iran to back down on its uranium enrichment project, Goldberg invited readers to believe that there was a more than even chance Israel would launch a military strike on the country by next summer.

His piece, which sparked considerable debate in both the blogosphere and the traditional media, was certainly an odd one. After all, despite the dramatics he deployed, including vivid descriptions of the Israeli battle plan, and his tendency to paint Iran as a new Auschwitz, he also made clear that many of his top Israeli sources simply didn’t believe Iran would launch nuclear weapons against Israel, even if it acquired them.

Nonetheless, Goldberg warned, absent an Iranian white flag soon, Israel would indeed launch that war in summer 2011, and it, in turn, was guaranteed to plunge the region into chaos. The message: the Obama administration better do more to confront Iran or Israel will act crazy.

It’s not lost on many of his progressive critics that, when it came to supporting a prospective invasion of Iraq back in 2002, Goldberg proved effective in lobbying liberal America, especially through his reports of “evidence” linking Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda. Then and now, he presents himself as an interlocutor who has no point of view. In his most recent Atlantic piece, he professed a “profound, paralyzing ambivalence” on the question of a military strike on Iran and subsequently, in radio interviews, claimed to be “personally opposed” to military action.

His piece, however, conveniently skipped over the obvious inconsistencies in what his Israeli sources were telling him. In addition, he excluded perspectives from Israeli leaders that might have challenged his narrative in which an embattled Jewish state feels it has no alternative but to launch a quixotic military strike. Such an attack, as he presented it, would have limited hope of doing more than briefly setting back the Iranian nuclear program, perhaps at catastrophic cost, and so Israeli leaders would act only because they believe the “goyim” won’t stop another Auschwitz. Or as my friend Paul Woodward, editor of the War in Context website, so brilliantly summed up the Israeli message to America: “You must do what we can’t, because if you don’t, we will.”

Goldberg insists that he is merely initiating a debate about how to tackle Iran and that debate is already underway on his terms — that is, like its Iraq War predecessor, based on a fabricated sense of crisis and arbitrary deadlines.

Last Friday, the New York Times reported that the Obama administration had convinced Israel that there was no need to rush on the issue. Should Iran decide to build a nuclear weapon (which it has not done), it would, administration officials pointed out, quickly make its intentions clear by expelling the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors who routinely monitor its nuclear work, and breaking out of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). After that, it would still need another year or more to assemble its first weapon.

In other words, despite Goldberg’s breathless two-minutes-to-midnight schedule, there’s no urgency whatsoever about debating military action against Iran. And then, of course, there’s the question of the very premises of the to-bomb-or-not-to-bomb “debate.” Perhaps, after all these years of obsessive Iran nuclear mania, it’s too much to request a moment of sanity on the issue of Iran and the bomb. If, however, we really have a couple of years to think this over, what about starting by asking three crucial questions, each of which our debaters would prefer to avoid or ignore?

1. Does the U.S. have a right to launch wars of aggression without provocation, in defiance of international law and an international consensus, simply on the basis of its own suspicions about another country’s future intentions?

Or to put it bluntly, as former National Security Council staffers Flint Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett have: Does the U.S. have the right to attack Iran because it is enriching uranium?

The idea that the U.S. has the right to take such a catastrophic step based on the fevered imaginations of Biblically inspired Israeli extremists — Goldberg has previously suggested that Prime Minister Netanyahu believes Iran to be the reincarnation of the Biblical Amalekites, mortal enemies the ancient Hebrews were to smite — or simply to preserve an Israeli monopoly on nuclear force in the Middle East is as bizarre as it is reckless. Even debating the possibility of launching a military strike on Iranian nuclear facilities as a matter of rational policy, absent any Iranian aggression or even solid evidence that the Iranian leadership intends to wage its own version of aggressive war, gives an undeserved respectability to what would otherwise be considered steps beyond the bounds of rational foreign policy discussion.

Perhaps someone in our media hothouse could take just a moment to ask why, outside of the United States and Israel, there is no support — nada, zero, zip — for military action against Iran. In Goldberg’s world, this may be nothing more than the eternal beast of anti-Semitism rearing its ugly head in the form of disdain for the rise of yet another Amalek/Haman/Torquemada/Hitler. A more sober reading of the international situation would, however, suggest that most of the international community simply doesn’t share an alarmist view of what Iran’s nuclear program represents.

Indeed, it is notable that, in Goldberg’s world, Arabs and Iranians never get to speak. The Arabs, we are told, secretly want Israel or the U.S. to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities out of fear that the acquisition of nuclear weapons would embolden their Persian rivals. They are, so the story goes, just not able to say so in public. Of course, when Arab leaders do publicly express their opposition to the idea of another war being launched in the Middle East, they are ignored in the Goldberg-led debate.

Similarly, their rejection of Washington’s long-held premise that Israel’s special security must be exempted from any discussion of the creation of a nuclear-free Middle East remains outside the bounds of the Iran-debate story. And don’t expect to see any mention of the authoritative University of Maryland annual survey of Arab public opinion either. After all, it recently reportedthat, contrary to claims of an Arab world cowering under the threat of Iranian nukes, 57% of the Arab public actually believe a nuclear-armed Iran would be good for the Middle East!

The idea that Iran’s regime might exist for any purpose other than to destroy Israel is largely ignored as well. Bizarrely enough, Iranians don’t actually feature much in the American “debate” at all (beyond citations of Mad-Mullah-like pronouncements by some Iranian leaders who wish Israel would disappear). The long, nuanced relationship between Israel and the Islamic Republic, asexplained by Trita Parsi, author of Treacherous Alliance: The Secret Dealings of Israel, Iran, and the United States, is simply ignored. So, too, is every indication Iran’s leaders have given that they have no intention of attacking Israel or any other country. In fact, in the Goldberg debate, domestic politics in both the U.S. and Israel is understood as an important factor in future decisions; Iran, with the Green Movement presently suppressed, is considered to have no domestic politics at all, just those Mad Mullahs.

2. Even if Iran were to acquire the means to build a nuclear weapon, would that be a legitimate or prudent reason for launching a war?

If Iran is actually pursuing the capability to build nuclear weapons, its leaders would be doing so in response to a strategic environment in which two of its key adversaries, the U.S. and Israel, and two of its sometime friends/sometime adversaries, Russia and Pakistan, have substantial nuclear arsenals. By all sober accounts, Iran’s security posture is primarily focused on the survival of its regime. Some Israeli military and intelligence officials have been quoted in Israel’s media as saying that Iran’s motivation in seeking a nuclear weapon would be primarily to head off a threat of U.S. intervention aimed at regime change.

Most states do not pursue weapons systems as ends in themselves, and most states are hardwired to prioritize their own survival. It is to that end that they acquire weapons systems — to protect, enhance, or advance their own strategic position, or up the odds against more powerful rivals. In other words, the conflicts that fuel the drive for nuclear weapons are more dangerous than the weapons themselves, and the problem of those weapons can’t be addressed separately from those conflicts.

An Iran that had been bombed to destroy its nuclear power program would likely emerge from the experience far more dangerous to the U.S. and its allies over the decades to come than an Iran that had nuclear weapons within reach. The only way to diminish the danger of an escalating confrontation with Iran is to address the conflict between Tehran and its rivals directly, and seek a modus vivendi that would manage their conflicting interests.

Unfortunately, such a dialogue between Washington and Tehran has scarcely begun, even as, amid alarmist warnings, Goldberg and others insist it must be curtailed so as to avoid the Iranians “playing for time.”

3. Is Iran actually developing nuclear weapons?

No, it is not. That’s the conclusion of the CIA, the IAEA, whose inspectors are inside Iran’s nuclear facilities, and most of the world’s intelligence agencies, including the Israelis. U.S. intelligence believes that Iran is using a civilian nuclear energy program to assemble much of the infrastructure that could, in the future, be used to build a bomb, and that Iran may also be continuing theoretical work on designing such a weapon.

Washington’s spooks and its defense establishment do not, however, believe Iran is currently developing nuclear weapons, nor that its leadership has made the ultimate decision to do so. In fact, the consensus appears to be that Iran will not weaponize nuclear material, but will stop short at “breakout capacity” — the ability, also available, for instance, to Japan, to move relatively quickly to build such a weapon. Currently, as the New York Times reported, the time frame for “breakout,” if all went well (and it might not), would be about a year, after which Iran would have enough fissile material for one bomb. (The Israelis, by comparison, are believed to have 200 to 400 nuclear weapons in their undeclared program, the Pakistanis between 70 and 90, and the United States more than 5,000.) In addition, a credible nuclear deterrent would require the production of not one or two bombs, but a number of them, which would allow for testing.

For ex-CIA Director Hayden, such a breakout capacity would be “as destabilizing as their actually having a weapon.” His is a logical leap that’s hard to sustain, unless you believe that it’s worth launching a war to prevent Iran from, at worst, acquiring a defensive trump card that might prevent it from being attacked.

Iran’s enrichment activities are, of course, a violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions backed by sanctions. Those were imposed to demand that Iran suspend its enrichment program until it satisfied concerns raised by IAEA inspectors over its compliance with the disclosure and transparency requirements of the NPT — especially when it came to aspects of its program which have been developed in secret, raising suspicions over their future use.

Three years before North Korea was in a position to test a nuclear weapon, it had to withdraw from the NPT and kick out IAEA inspectors. Iran remains within the treaty. Even as the standoff over its nuclear program continues, renewed efforts are underway to broker a confidence-building deal to exchange Iranian enriched uranium for fuel rods produced outside the country to power a Tehran reactor that produces medical isotopes.

None of this will be easy, of course. The two main parties are trying to impose their own, mutually exclusive terms on any deal: Washington wants Iran to forego its treaty-guaranteed right to enrich its own uranium because that also gives it the potential means to produce bomb materiel; Iran has no intention of foregoing that right. Such longstanding pillars of foreign policy sobriety as Senator John Kerry and Colin Powell, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Secretary of State, have publicly deemed the U.S. position untenable.

To suggest that Iran’s present nuclear program represents the security equivalent of a clock ticking down to midnight is calculated hysteria that bears no relation to reality. Ah, says Goldberg, but the point is that the Israelis believe it to be so. Yes, replies former National Security Council Iran analyst Gary Sick, now at Columbia University, but the Israelis and some Americans have been claiming Iran is just a few years away from a nuclear weapon since 1992.

The premises of the debate just initiated by Goldberg’s piece are palpably false. More important, they are remarkably dangerous, since they leap-frog over the three basic questions laid out above and move straight on to arguing the case for war amid visions of annihilation. This campaign of panic is not Goldberg’s invention. It’s been with us for a long time now. Goldberg is just the present vehicle for an American conversation initiated by others, among them those known in the Bush years as neocons, who have long been dreaming of war with Iran and are already, as Juan Cole recently indicated, planning for such a war under a future Republican administration, if not sooner.

Similarly, among Israelis, Prime Minister Netanyahu, in particular, believes that Americans are politically feeble-minded; he said as much to a group of Israeli settlers in a video that surfaced recently: “I know what America is. America is a thing you can move very easily, move it in the right direction. They won’t get in [our] way.”

Through Goldberg, the Israeli leader and his aides are seeking to “move America in the right direction” with dark tales of Auschwitz and Amalekites, and of Netanyahu himself as a hostage, in the Freudian sense, to a fierce and unforgiving father who won’t tolerate any show of weakness in the face of perceived threats to the Jews. Goldberg’s sources, including Netanyahu, make it perfectly clear that they don’t believe Iran would attack Israel. Instead, they warn that an Iranian nuclear weapon would embolden Hamas and Hizballah, although the logic there is flimsy indeed. After all, if Iran would not attack Israel on its own with a nuclear weapon, why would it do so to defend its insurgent allies?

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak has suggested that a nuclear-armed Iran would prompt the best and brightest Israelis to emigrate, because they are clever people who can make a good life for themselves anywhere in the world. Indeed, and they have been doing exactly that for many years now. Some 750,000 Israeli Jews now live abroad — one in every six Israelis — precisely because anti-Semitism is no longer a threat to Jewish life in most of the industrialized world. None of this has anything to do with an Iranian bomb. It has to do with the frustration of Israel’s leadership that 63% of the world’s Jews have chosen to live elsewhere.

Despite Goldberg’s panic-inducing prediction, there are plenty of reasons to believe that, for all its bluster and threat, Israel won’t, in fact, bomb Iran next year — or any time soon. But would the Israelis like to see the United States take on their prime regional enemy? You bet they would. Indeed, Netanyahu continually insists that the U.S. has an obligation to take the lead in confronting Iran.

It’s patently clear in Goldberg’s piece that the Israelis are trying to create a climate in which the U.S. is pressed onto the path of escalation, adding more and more sanctions, and keeping “all options on the table” in case those don’t work.

In an excellent commentary that dismantles the logic of Goldberg’s argument, David Kay — the American who served as an UNSCOM arms inspector in search of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq after the U.S. invasion — suggests that:

Israel is engaged in psychological warfare with the Obama administration — and it only partly concerns Iran… [B]eyond Iran, of probably greater importance to the current Israeli government is avoiding the Obama administration pushing it into a choice between settlements and territorial arrangements with the Palestinians that it is unwilling to make and permanent damage to its relationship with the U.S. Hyping the Iranian nuclear program and the need for early military action is a nice bargaining counter… if the U.S. wants to avoid an imminent Israeli strike, it must make concessions to Israel on the Palestinian issues.”

Creating a sense of crisis on the Iran front, narrowing U.S. options in the public mind, and precluding a real discussion of U.S. policy towards Iran may serve multiple purposes for various interested groups. Taken together, however, they reduce all discussion to one issue: when to exercise that military option kept “on the table,” given the unlikeliness of an Iranian surrender. The debate’s ultimate purpose is to plant in the public mind the idea that a march to war with Iran, as Admiral Hayden put it on CNN, “seems inexorable, doesn’t it?”

Inexorable — only if the media allows itself to be fooled twice.

Tony Karon is a senior editor at TIME.com where he analyzes Middle Eastern and other conflicts. He also blogs on his own website Rootless Cosmopolitan.

Iran Guards ‘unworried by new sanctions’

June 15, 2010

by Hiedeh Farmani

TEHRAN (AFP) – Iran’s Revolutionary Guards are unworried by the new UN sanctions that especially target the elite force, state-run media reported on Monday.

“Whatever the severity of sanctions, they are not worrying us,” IRNA quoted deputy Guards’ commander Brigadier General Hossein Salami as saying.

“We have grown and shaped our defence capabilities after taking into consideration the worst case scenarios,” he told IRNA.

“It is the world outside which would lose from these sanctions. We are not worried about sanctions.”

The Revolutionary Guards, set up after the 1979 Islamic revolution to defend it from internal and external threats, have extended into Iran’s economic and industrial sectors under hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

New UN sanctions imposed Wednesday target the force, accusing it of involvement in a nuclear programme which the West suspects is aimed at building a bomb, but which Iran insists is entirely peaceful.

The sanctions were imposed after Iran repeatedly refused to stop uranium enrichment, the most controversial aspect of its atomic programme.

The punitive measures obligate states to exercise vigilance in dealing with entities linked to the Guards. The sanctions list 15 industrial outfits attached to the force, including its main industrial wing, Khatam al-Anbiya.

Salami said the Iranian economy was not driven by big powers and that “the threats of the US and the Zionist regime, sanctions (and) intimidations, have become old and worn out issues.”

Meanwhile, a top lawmaker said there was no need for a new law that would give parliament the right to downgrade ties with the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN atomic watchdog.

“The previous parliament has adopted a bill which authorises the government to determine the level of ties with the agency,” said Kazem Jalali, spokesman of parliament’s commission on foreign policy and national security.

“In my opinion such a law exists… there is no need for a new legislation for merely reducing ties with the IAEA,” he was quoted as saying by moderate newspaper Shargh.

Soon after the sanctions were imposed, the commission’s head Alaeddin Borujerdi said that the assembly will discuss a bill on Sunday to downgrade ties with the IAEA.

But on Sunday, another member of the panel, Esmaeel Kosari, said the bill was still being drafted.

Obama’s Doublespeak on Iran

June 10, 2010


On April 12, 2010, President Barack Obama hosted a forty-seven nation Nuclear Security Summit in Washington. He met with dozens of heads of state making his case for a fourth set of crippling sanctions on Iran because of its intransigence on the nuclear issue. His main argument was the refusal of Iran to accept the proposal by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) of transferring the bulk of Iran’s low enriched uranium outside the country in exchange for medical nuclear isotopes.

The following day Obama met with President Luiz Lula Da Silva of Brazil and Prime Minister Recep Tayyib Erdogan of Turkey. Both countries are currently members of the UN Security Council, considered friends of the US and are emerging economic and regional powers.

Lula and Erdogan emphasized to the US president the importance of a diplomatic resolution to Iran’s nuclear issue in an effort to diffuse the crisis and build confidence-building measures for further negotiations. During the meeting Obama not only encouraged them to pursue a diplomatic breakthrough, but he also vowed to be constructive and flexible, as well as promising to send them in writing the parameters of any deal deemed acceptable to the US.

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Iran agrees atom fuel deal with Turkey, Brazil

May 18, 2010


TEHRAN – Iran agreed with mediators Brazil and Turkey on Monday it would send some of its uranium abroad, abruptly ending its refusal to countenance such a deal just as the U.N. Security Council readied tougher sanctions.

In a sign of Western scepticism despite Iran’s apparent concessions to revive a U.N.-drafted fuel swap plan, Britain said work on further U.N. sanctions on Tehran must continue until it can assure the world its nuclear programme is peaceful.

Iran made clear it had no intention of heeding demands to suspend sensitive atomic activities which the West suspects are aimed at making bombs, including work to enrich uranium to a level of 20 percent it launched in February.

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Radiation death in India raises nuclear safety concerns

May 5, 2010

The radiation-related death of a scrap metal worker has raised concerns over nuclear safety in India, at a time when the Asian power is wooing foreign players to its $150 billion civilian nuclear market.

Matthias Williams

Authorities have launched a probe into the unauthorized disposal of a disused machine from the chemistry department of Delhi University, which contained the radioactive material cobalt-60 and ended up in a scrap metal hub in the capital.

A man died in hospital from exposure last week, in a case a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was quoted as saying was the most serious worldwide since 2006.

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