Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Israel and the Iran deal

If Israel is the loser from the recently concluded interim deal over Iran's nuclear programme, it is because Benjamin Netanyahu has made it so.

Iran will stop enriching uranium beyond 5% and neutralise its stockpile of more highly enriched uranium, either by diluting it to less than 5% or converting it to a form which cannot be further enriched; leave many of its installed centrifuges inoperable; halt work on the construction of its heavy-water reactor at Arak and not attempt to produce plutonium there. As The New York Times concludes, cited by Hamid Dabashi, the deal means that: "Iran retains the technology and material to produce fuel for a weapon for now, [but] the deal adds time to an Iranian nuclear "breakout", [while] Iran will receive some financial relief, but most sanctions will remain."

And yet Netanyahu calls it a disaster. His claim that other countries in the region take the same view as Israel is largely delusional. Saudi agreement with an: 
"The government of the kingdom sees that if there was goodwill, this agreement could represent a preliminary step towards a comprehensive solution to the Iranian nuclear programme," the cabinet said in a statement.
Channel 4 News had a graphic showing just how isolated Israel is (Photo 2).

No doubt Netanyahu will continue to try to get his allies in the US Congress to block the deal. For the first time, I am glad that Barack Obama is in the White House, not John McCain (as regards foreign policy). A couple of Tweets from him:  My stmt today on negotiations with : ( "We therefore urge the [...] Committee to mark up its bipartisan sanctions legislation as soon as possible.”) Must-read on deal: "Worse Than Munich" (

Even Harry's Place has a reasonably balanced post (Not a bad deal, 25/11, cross-post by Marc Goldberg):
The incentives provided to the Iranians are many and particularly difficult to swallow considering how many tens of thousands of innocent civilians their forces have been murdering in Syria and Iraq right now. But the point is they just agreed not to build nuclear weapons.
It's not clear that the Iranian people are happy about the role their forces are playing in Syria. (And, as far as I can see, it's the al Qaeda franchise, the Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham, that's doing most of the murdering in Iraq at the moment.)

24 Nov - From : I'm happy that I voted.. I'm satisfied.. Thank you People.

Or, as Hamid Dabashi puts its:
Agency and confidence for future actions are confirmed among the Iranian people whose ballot box option in June's presidential election put into office a president and a foreign minister who are far closer to their aspirations than the previous government.
Meanwhile, Israel gave the go-ahead for some more settlements in the West Bank, that had previously been put on hold while the Iran talks were ongoing. On Al Jazeera, the construction of the settlements (which involves the demolition of some Palestinian  homes) was described as "payback" for the Iran deal (1). 

The trouble with recent actions and statements by the Israeli government is that it gives so much ammunition to Israel's enemies, to those who would question the basis of its existence. Hamid Dabashi again:
The exceptionalism on which Zionists so adamantly insist, in fact works against them - it proves that they are no legitimate sovereign state - that they are what they are: a settler colony.
So called "peace activists", such as Pam Bailey, speak of "the struggle against war in  and ". Ms. Bailey: I don't think you should conflate "struggle against war in Syria" with "struggle against war with Iran".  And, in case you hadn't noticed the war in Syria is still going on.

Also, from Kate Hudson of CND (19/11): "Just two weeks after a vote in the British parliament derailed a United States attack on Syria, the US and Russia were signing an agreement to destroy Syria's chemical weapons. It took just three days of talks in Geneva, between John Kerry and Sergei Lavrov, to arrive at that agreement." Ditto (the war in Syria is still going on).

(1) Mike Hanna on Al Jazeera English,  Newshour, 26/11 13:40 approx.)  Also, "Children wade through raw sewage in Gaza". 

Update: Israeli settlements expand after Iran deal, Mike Hanna from Qaryut, the West Bank, Al Jazeera, uploaded 28/11 10:35.
BBC WS News, 8:00 - deal  Yes !!! 4:57 PM

BBC News -  agrees to curb nuclear activity at Geneva talks -
BBC News - As it happened:  nuclear deal
BBC News -  nuclear deal 'reached' at Geneva talks, James Reynolds 2:37 GMT
BBC News - Analysis:  deal limited but important, Jonathan Marcus: "Netanyahu sees it as a "historic mistake". Others argue that it changes the face of the Middle East: Hyperbole on both counts."

Shifting focus: Impact of  nuclear deal - nuclear deal sparks war of words - 
US and : Seven questions beyond the nuclear deal, Marwan Bishara
The Arabs'  dilemma, Salah Nasrawi
Diplomats strike deal in  talks, Al Jazeera's Jonah Hull reports from Geneva:

ICG (26/11) The Iran Nuclear Accord: First Step in a Long Journey -

The big deal about the Iran nuclear deal, Hamid Dabashi, , updated: 26 Nov, 09:44
AIPAC no match for the 'sleeping giant'
, Pam Bailey
From Iran to Syria: diplomacy, not war, can bear fruit
, Kate Hudson, (19/11)
Update: 27/11 12:01 'This is Iran. Everyone is happy.' Khosrow Soltani: expressions of joy were reported mostly by reformist and moderate newspapers.
(12:11) What does Saudi Arabia want? Shashank Joshi

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Iran: the prize and the key

But the main road-blocks to a deal could be in Washington.

 An Iran deal offers an alluring prize, editorial in The Financial Times, 9/11:
Details of any deal [..] could see temporary curbs on Iran’s uranium enrichment, perhaps in return for the partial unfreezing of Iranian assets abroad seized after the 1979 revolution. [..] It would require only an executive decision by President Barack Obama, enabling him to bypass a US Congress sometimes more alert to Israel’s concerns than US national interest.
The defenders of detente also need to make a convincing case that getting Iran inside the tent can only improve the worst problems of the surrounding region – the Syrian civil war, of course, but also Lebanon, Israel-Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan. If diplomacy is a bit like lock-picking, then this deal has the potential to spring quite a few regional locks, including some that have rusted shut. War with Iran, which Mr Netanyahu all but threatened before Mr Kerry dropped by on his way to Geneva, would fatally convulse a Middle East already close to the limits of turmoil. The Israeli prime minister is right – in the wrong way. Handled right, this could be the deal of the century – not for Iran but for the region as a whole.
From The Guardian: Rouhani's diplomatic progress in Geneva keeps Iran's hardliners at bay:
A Tehran University professor, Sadegh Zibakalam, said by telephone that he anticipated a historic moment in Iran's relationship with the west. "We didn't expect this, but it seems that Rouhani's 'key' is opening many doors and a historic agreement may be under way," he said, referring to the key Rouhani adopted as the symbol of his election campaign.
The Guardian also has this (Iran nuclear deal: Q&A):
The Obama administration would be able to arrange for the unfreezing of Iranian assets without having to go to Congress, but it would still have to convince the Senate not to pass the further raft of sanctions that are currently being prepared. If those were passed, it could derail the deal.
See also White House ambitions on Iran deal face challenge from hawks in Congress:
Congressional distaste for an Iran deal is likely to be fueled by the outright fury to it voiced by Israel's prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, an influential figure on Capitol Hill.
And Hawks squawk even before Iran nuclear deal is sealed:
Israel's ill-tempered opposition – even before anything has been formally agreed – looks set to further strain its already tense relations with [Washington]. "Netanyahu unwise to challenge US so openly/dismissively on possible Iran nuclear deal," tweeted Nicholas Burns, a former senior US diplomat. "Netanyahu's outburst was a serious tactical error." [..] It is still hard to imagine, however, that Israel would attack Iran – even if it has the military capability to do so alone – while a prolonged and internationally backed agreement is in place.
Iran nuclear deal hopes rise as foreign ministers fly into Geneva and Iran nuclear negotiations at crucial juncture over Arak reactor.

Going back to The Guardian's Q&A (If a deal is signed, does that mean sanctions work?):
Analysts also argue that the west could have clinched today's deal several years ago, but had used sanctions in an abortive attempt to get Iran to stop enrichment altogether. That bid has clearly failed, as acceptance of Iranian enrichment at some level will have to be a part of any workable long-term agreement.
Update (10 Nov, 00:30): the talks have finished without agreement. France appears to have been the stumbling block. From the initial reactions, there is some resentment towards the French, for example that FM Laurent Fabius was the first to announce the "failure of Geneva"  (tweets from Kim Ghattas and Trita Parsi ‏at 00:12 and 00:30). Talks are to resume on the 20th, but not at such a high level as the last day or so, and again there is the danger that further sanctions imposed by the US Congress could torpedo any deal.

Nuclear Talks With Iran Hit a Snag as France Questions Deal By MARK LANDLER and MICHAEL R. GORDON 4:19 PM ET: " France questioned whether a deal would do enough to curb a nuclear reactor that would produce plutonium, the first sign of division among the major powers negotiating a deal."

Thursday, November 07, 2013

la presse assassinée

Photo: RFI

Ghislaine Dupont, RFI journalist who, with her sound engineer, Claude Verlon, was abducted and murdered in Kidal, Northern Mali on 2 Nov. Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb are subsequently reported to have claimed responsibility for this.

Just catching up on this, first from the BBC website then from RFI themseves. As someone who listens to RFI, I remember hearing her reports and I'm really quite shocked.

« Ghislaine, c’était une journaliste chevronnée, un chien renifleur, qui ne se contentait jamais de l’info qu’elle avait. Elle voulait toujours creuser, creuser plus. Et elle partageait cette passion avec nous parce qu’elle nous encourageait à aller toujours plus loin », says Nicolas Champeau.

«la presse assassinée» is the headline from Libération, 4 Nov. 

There's much more, notably Kidal, où règne l'anarchie.