THE RUSSIAN-TRUMP CONNECTION: GETTING TO THE TRUTH AND ITS IMPLICATIONS
By Harry C. Blaney III
THE RUSSIAN-TRUMP CONNECTION: GETTING TO THE TRUTH AND ITS IMPLICATIONS
By Harry C. Blaney III
The question of Putin and Russian interest and involvement in the U.S. election debate, hacking of Democratic Party e-mails, and interference with US election voting all have been raised recently. They have also been mentioned by former Secretary Hillary Clinton. But more important are reports from U.S. intelligence sources that indeed Russians were involved in all of these activities. The significance of these activities has not been fully appreciated by the American public. The effort of Putin to impact and even change the trajectory of American democratic institutions in ways that will undermine our global leadership, respect and indeed security needs more understanding and attention. This is as serious an issue as any in this election.
A main danger is what we still do not know of how much the Russians have influenced Trump and his staff. There are hints that Trump’s people had advance notice of the WikiLeaks documents which likely had their sources from Russian intelligence. We know that Donald Trump has praised Putin’s leadership, has said that Putin is a better leader than Obama And Trump has held a grudge against Obama and Clinton as has Putin.
But of greatest importance so far is all the evidence indicates that Putin is more than hoping, but also acting on the theory of an American president who is clearly self-interested, ignorant of the niceties of global strategy and diplomacy, and has displayed total disdain for the importance of deep knowledge or listening to expert advice on critical issues in dealing with national security challenges.
One of the deepest fears from the word of Trump has been his explicit indication that he would act as an authoritarian leader (“lock her up”) and disregard the norms and laws of our nation including ordering an investigation of Clinton which would be against all legal norms. This is not the only brutal authoritarian leader that Trump has admired and it seems that he thinks that as president these are good examples of himself as a “strong” leader.
Trump, to make it clear, is and would be a danger to our national security at every level and proof of that alone is he admires a ruthless opponent and authoritarian leader that is trying his best to undermine the democratic West, their institutions and defense. As one will see an example from the voice of one of Putin’s supporters below, who clearly wants to help Trump to better manipulate the outcomes of American-Russian conflicts. Indeed it is my view we may more likely have a dangerous armed conflict with Russia under a maniacal Trump than from a highly experienced Clinton who knows the national security issues and risks and acts with real understanding and experience.
The oddest recent development has been the dismaying statement by one of Putin’s colleague who leads a party that supports Putin, the Russian Liberal Democratic Party – a misnomer if there ever was one. The man is Vladimir Zhirinovsky, an unrestrained veteran lawmaker known for his wild rhetoric, much in the mold of Trump, who told Reuters in a recent interview that Donald Trump was the only person able to deescalate dangerous tensions between Moscow and Washington.
When you read Zhirinovksy think Putin for these are the words that Putin and or his people put into the mouth of one of his puppets to express their fear of a Hillary Clinton presidency and undermine her candidacy.
Russia Leaders Quotes:
Vladimir Zhirinovksy on Trump:
“Americans voting for a president on Nov. 8 must realize that they are voting for peace on Planet Earth if they vote for Trump. But if they vote for Hillary it’s war. It will be a short movie. There will be Hiroshimas and Nagasakis everywhere.”
“He (Trump) won’t care about Syria, Libya and Iraq and why an earth should America interfere in these countries? And Ukraine. Who needs Ukraine?…Trump will have a brilliant chance to make relations more peaceful … He’s the only one who can do this,”- Vladimir Zhirinovsky 10/12/2016 – Reuters
In contrast, Zhirinovsky described Clinton as “an evil mother-in law” and said her record as secretary of state under Obama in 2009-2013 showed she was unfit to lead her country.
Zhirinovsky also said about Clinton: “She craves power. Her view is that Hillary is the most important person on the planet, that America is an exceptional country, as Barack Obama said,” ….. “That’s dangerous. She could start a nuclear war.”
In characteristically chauvinistic remarks, Zhirinovsky said Clinton’s gender should also block her from the presidency:
“Most Americans should choose Trump because men have been leading for millions of year. You can’t take the risk of having one of the richest, most powerful countries led by a woman president,”
With regard to lewd comments Trump made about women in 2005 that have damaged his campaign, Zhirinovsky defended the Republican: “Men all round the world sometimes say such things that are just for their comrades. We must only consider his business (and political) qualities.”
Putin on Trump:
““Trump’s a colorful person. And well, isn’t he colorful? Colorful. I didn’t make any other kind of characterization about him.
“But here’s where I will pay close attention, and where I exactly welcome and where on the contrary I don’t see anything bad: Mr Trump has declared that he’s ready for the full restoration of Russian-American relations. Is there anything bad there? We all welcome this, don’t you?”” – Putin on Trump 6/18/2016 – The Guardian
“US intelligence has meddled in elections in other countries on numerous occasions starting with the Italian parliamentary elections of 1948… To my knowledge this is however the first occasion that US intelligence has directly and publicly meddled in a US national election, acting to help one candidate defeat another.”
– Russian media claims US intelligence report blaming Russia for hacking is example of the government helping Hillary Clinton win. – Alexander Mercouris – theduran.com
Russia media, via RT, also suggests that neither Trump nor Clinton would be Putin’s top choice.
“As for Putin? He has said he’d like to work with a person who can make responsible decisions and implement agreements: “Their last name doesn’t matter.”” Putin has called Trump “colorful,” not “brilliant,” and has mentioned him only twice.
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Harry C. Blaney III
Given the recent statements by the Republican presidential candidates none appear to have any new or even relevant answers to the strategic challenges that America faces other than bluster, mass bombing (which kills thousands of innocent woman and children and civilians which is what the terrorist do), and making disparaging remarks about the policies of President Obama. That is frankly not enough for any one who is aspiring to be the leader of the free world and possibly Commander-in-Chief with his fingers on the atomic button.
The debate last GOP debate of 2015on November 16th only reinforced this impression, besides trying to put each other down and making what can only be described as vague and even outrageous remarks on serious national security issues it shows again what light-weights they all are and I do mean nearly all were in the area of foreign policy and national security.
Much of the key part of the debate focused on who would be harshest on ISIS without really a word that would actually provide or seriously outline a true comprehensive realistic and efficacious strategy to deal with the complex threat that is ISIS or the regional landscape.
Trump thinks that banning Muslim believers is a strategy to defeat Islamic radicals in ISIS, most experts believe it has just the opposite effect of increasing the recruitment of more terrorists at home and abroad. This misguided policy is just what ISIS wants. In fact Bakr al- Baghdadi who heads the Islamic State has recently taunted America for not putting troops on the ground so that can be easy targets – in effect Trump is playing to ISIS’s trap. He is just that stupid.
On of the more sane candidate side, by only a small margin, was Jeb Bush who said:
“Well, first of all, we need to destroy ISIS in the caliphate. That’s — that should be our objective. The refugee issue will be solved if we destroy ISIS there, which means we need to have a no-fly zone, safe zones there for refugees and to build a military force.
We need to embed our forces — our troops inside the Iraqi military. We need to arm directly the Kurds. And all of that has to be done in concert with the Arab nations. And if we’re going to ban all Muslims, how are we going to get them to be part of a coalition to destroy ISIS?”
Bush added as an example of his vague and simpleminded view of the struggle against ISIS: “It is developing a strategy, leading the world, funding it to make sure that we have a military that’s second to none, and doing the job and making sure that we destroy ISIS there. That’s how you keep America safe.” As if this simplicity is a real policy!
Note we already are leading the fight against ISIS, we are already have a military that is second to none (did not Bush already know that?), and “making sure” is a strategy?
This statement proves both points above: namely that he is following Obama’s plan only “more so,” if one can figure out what that means in the end. The one idea that he included which has not yet been adapted is to establish a “no-fly zone” which would require the strong support of Muslim troops on the ground that included both Sunni and Shia forces and, in my view, also UN peacekeepers and much higher levels of refugee support and security than it seems the Republicans are likely to vote for in Congress to help Obama. The “no fly zone” idea is seen by some as an opening wedge to get US combat troops on the ground without saying so. (It does not have to be so however.)
But Trump is not alone in coming up with ideas that are counterproductive and dangerous. What is interesting is that these candidates are all paying to basic fear after the Paris attack and trying to increase that fear among Americans. This includes both pointing to an attack on America and saying over and over that Obama is “weak” on dealing with ISIS. They all think they could do better but when pressed for specific policies they often just repeat what Obama is already in doing — only “more.”
Lets take the case of Sen. Marco Rubio to frighten his GOP audience he said:
“what’s important to do is we must deal frontally with this threat of radical Islamists, especially from ISIS. This is the most sophisticated terror group that has ever threatened the world or the United States of America. They are actively recruiting Americans.”
The fact is that terrorist threats in America have decreased rather than increased since 911 and many are “lone wolf” types and small scale. More people die of guns being used daily but the candidates never talk of stopping people from having guns or restrictions on gun ownership or use. Are they really interested in the safety of Americans?
Rubio other misstatement was on the growth of ISIS “We also understand that this is a group that’s growing in its governance of territory.” The fact is that ISIS control over Iraq and parts of Syria have been reduced from their heights (a loss reportedly of some 30-40% of land control in Iraq), and outside Iraq and Syria they are in some places on the run and not least from their deadly terrorism competitor Al Qaeda affiliates in some Islamic nations and attacks by US and allied special forces and bombing.
The other candidate Sen.Ted Cruz with little comprehension evidently of the true complexity of the Middle East, and especially the complex role and differing goals of the many actors in the region, and seems oblivious to the danger of ‘doing stupid things” as Obama put it.
Cruz’s answer to the issue of immigration and the terrorist threat is not quite that of Trump but still exclusionary legislation, he described it this way: “what my legislation would do is suspend all refugees for three years from countries where ISIS or Al Qaida control substantial territory.” So those who are most threatened with being killed by ISIS would be excluded from being refugees which are by definition are in danger in their own country. I wonder if he feels the same why about excluding Cubans, like his family, from the United States if they feel they are threaten by the communist party there???? America has almost automatically been welcoming Cubans to America for decades.
Take the sophistication of Cruz’s strategic vision and what he proposes that might be different from what is already taking place on the ground:
“…… ISIS is gaining strength because the perception is that they’re winning. And President Obama fuels that perception. That will change when militants across the globe see that when you join ISIS that you are giving up your life, you are signing your death warrant, and we need a president who is focused on defeating every single ISIS terrorist and protecting the homeland, which should be the first priority.” And Obama is not?
Cruz also said: “What it means is using overwhelming air power to utterly and completely destroy ISIS. To put things in perspective, in the first Persian Gulf War, we launched roughly 1,100 air attacks a day. We carpet bombed them for 36 days, saturation bombing, after which our troops went in and in a day and a half mopped up what was left of the Iraqi army.
Right now, Obama is launching between 15 and 30 air attacks a day. It is photo op foreign policy. We need to use overwhelming air power. We need to be arming the Kurds. We need to be fighting and killing ISIS where they are.”
My comment to these remarks is, yes Senator Cruz, and Iraq in 2003 turned out so great with that same strategy. It seems to me that the U.S. strategy includes quite a bit bombing attacks, arming and training of the Kurds and Sunni tribes and Iraqi aremy and seems after time and hard U.S. efforts to be now working. The bombing under Obama has been, as it should under international laws of war, not aimed at civilians. Cruz misses the point that most of the ISIS troops are camped in cities and towns with civilians….and it is our duty to try not to kill them. We are there to save them but when we kill their families they will be supporters of the Islamic State.
One added thought about possible ISIS fighters being afraid of death and our bombing and troops……..Cruz you may not have been reading about so many that have happily joined suicide squads and pledge to die for their cause. And like Trump, Rubio, and Cruz and none of the rest has the wit of getting to some of the fundamental religious, social, political, and historical realities on the ground, which thankfully Obama and Secretary Kerry were and are dealing with under difficult conditions – but not these crazy and clueless ideologues, which is likely the only path towards long term peace and real security for the region.
As for the rest of the lot, none came up with any new ideas or analysis that got to the bottom of real conditions and solutions to ISIS or the larger Middle East conflicts.
As to the media coverage of the debate, it was as vapid as the earlier ones, including those largely on domestic issues…….filled with highly laudatory or banal reviews by the usual right wing pundits and TV and radio commentators….or selected criticism of the “wrong” candidate of the moment and the “right” one of favor.
The questions did not get to the heart of the matter in most cases. The post debate mainline media chat was mostly empty of real insight since many commentators especially on TV and radio were even less knowledgeable than the candidates themselves. There were few real experts on the Middle east or strategic matters asking questions and those that were put on after seemed almost made up of cheering squads and echochambers of the worst kind made up of neocons and Fox News types without hard decades of real field experience. Happily there were some deep and thoughtful commentaries but mostly in the quality press which does not, sadly, reach the mass viewers of broadcast outlets.
Where were the real reporters? Now we get talking heads and “hosts.” Where were those who have spent decades on the ground in combat zones in the Middle East or North Africa – almost nowhere to be found? Much of the “bought” U.S. media is as much a danger to our democracy as are the GOP candidates. Few challenged clear mistaken facts or shallow understanding, indeed it was as if they were covering a horse race not the would be leaders of the free world. In the world of parachute journalism few have the chance to be on the ground long enough to truly know the terrain. Others are chosen more for their looks or ideology than expertise. I hope future debates are more enlightening.
Finally, you can find many added quotes from the debates and other statements on this blog in the section at the right top.
We welcome comments!!!!!
By Harry C. Blaney III
A lot of credit must go to President Hollande, his team, President Obama, and Secretary Kerry as they all worked beyond human energy levels for a positive outcome at the COP21 conference especially at the ninth hour and beyond on Saturday night December 12th. Also, some great credit must go to the political and diplomatic leaders that led the way and overcame major obstacles. Having attended a number of major conferences throughout my career, getting consensus or at least lack of opposition is a hard lift, and in too many cases an impossible task. I have long argued that one of the great historical moments in human history would be the decision by the global community to decide to act effectively to address the looming, if not already present disaster that is climate change or global warming. It is an existential challenge, not just to the nations states but for the peoples of the entire planet.
A reminder, it is not just this accord in itself that is key, but rather, the will to actually work towards its goals that are important. That will still take political will and the strong backing and daily support of citizens around the world along with strong and determined leaders who will stand by their work and their successors.
Here are comments, analysis, and questions on some of the key points of the agreement:
TEMPERATURE INCREASE AT A 2.0 OR 1.5 CELSIUS CAP TARGETS:
We need to be frank on this difference. The developing countries wanted to get some commitment to the 1.5 C target and they got that but it will be difficult if not impossible to achieve even the 2.0 C goal. But better to put this on the table for future debate as this compromise helped to get some of the developing countries on board for the entire Paris package. A number of NGOs also thought this was necessary as many scientist believe that even at 2.00 C could bring about catastrophic impacts, especially on the poorer and vulnerable nations like the Island countries.
BURDEN SHARING OF COSTS WITH RESOURCES TO DEVELOPING NATIONS FROM DEVELOPED:
Here there again were trade-offs. There was acknowledgment on the part of the economically advanced nations that they had an obligation to support those with few resources to deal with and address local climate change making assistance much needed. But there were few hard commitments towards specific amounts. America pledged $800 million but it will be up to Congress to appropriate the money, or it will come out of other development aid accounts. Already Republican leaders in Congress have said the money will not be voted on.
ABSENCE OF “GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSIONS NEUTRALITY” FROM PARIS PRIORITIES, IS IT REALLY DOABLE OR THE BEST PATH TO THE 1.6-2.0 TARGETS:
This is a tricky issue and one with much uncertainty. There are groups, many in the private sector, that are auguring for a “technological fix” or in other terms a “geo-engendering” of our planet on a mass scale. This, in effect, would employ new means to “capture” greenhouse gasses by storing them underground. Other technologies would include taking CO2 out of the air.
None of this has yet to be demonstrated as economically proven or on a mass scale feasible. The consensus was to informally embrace this concept especially since much of the funding for this approach will likely come from very rich persons who strongly believe that this is a key path to address warming since traditional approaches are not likely to work.
But others argue that messing with nature could have unforseen consequences. Final judgement: This approach is on the policy table but no new technology has proven to be a “quick fix” anytime soon. Finally, many experts believe that stopping deforestation, planting new trees, protecting the oceans, and letting photosynthesis do its job is a better, perhaps cheaper option, with many side benefits and within the capability of poorer large forested nations. The question is the money and the commitment on all sides there to make greening of the globe work.
OPTIMISM OR PESSIMISM BALANCE OF THE ACCORD AND ITS DO ABILITY:
The key answer is that the Paris accords taken together are a major advancement towards fully addressing climate change on the part of the entire globe –developed and developing nations – which in my view, is the absolute “sine que non” for a real chance to mitigate the catastrophic consequences within the lifetime of most on this planet. It is the necessary condition for a political and economic consensus going forward to build upon if future leaders recognize the dire alternative and are willing to pay the price for saving this planet.
THE DIVIDE BETWEEN DEVELOPED AND DEVELOPING NATIONS ON WAY FORWARD:
As noted above, the masterful diplomacy of president Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry in getting the truly key developing nations on board, namely India, China, and others, moved the conference away from confrontation, which was never absent from the meeting. This was a key element in getting the final almost complete consensus and ,even more important, a sense of momentum and a framework for future progress. The introduction of a 5 year review progress was also a necessary element to give some hope of holding nations pledges to the fire, getting them to think of ways to improve their own pledges, and provide needed greater transparency to the agreement. The benefit will be future actions that will undoubtedly be required as we learn more of the science and have better tools to make improvements.
QUESTIONS FOR THE FUTURE:
Yes this was a historic achievement but the success, as always, rests in the hands of, we hope, wise leaders and wise and empowered global citizens. We need better and more resourced international institutions to help shape our global response to the high risks and challenges to our globe, and the key test of this new international capability will be climate change, and the other will be new efforts at dealing with nuclear-proliferation.
Within America we need to better educate our citizens, of which nearly a third are skeptical of climate change due to the power of true crazies, including Republicans running for president, those with massive amounts of money, from the coal and oil industries, and right-wing think tanks, along with the lack of our mass media to say the truth in front of those that argue nonsense about science like the current Chairman of the Senate environmental and Public Works Senate committee James M. Inhofe. He said that the Paris talks were “full of hot air.” The danger to our nation and world are people like Inhofe and the people behind him, as they undermine American values, and our real security and global leadership by their insanity, ignorance and greed.
We will need better leaders if our real national and global security is to be safeguarded and enhanced. We will examine in the future how the Paris agreements are implemented.
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Photo: Times of Israel
Harry C. Blaney III
The agreed deal with Iran is a good one for both Iran and for the rest of the world including America and yes Israel. It is, in short, a “win-win” for all despite some compromises by both sides. It does exactly what President Obama said he wanted, namely, closing off all likely paths for Iran to obtain nuclear weapons over the next ten years and likely, from my perspective, even beyond.
We have already posted the details of the agreement and its requirements for both Iran and the international community. The key issues of these very difficult negotiations were addressed: inspections and verification; the phasing out of sanctions and how they might be brought back in case of violations; and the institutionalizing of the verification requirements of the “Additional Protocol” of the NPT. The “Additional Protocol” is unlimited and makes a “breakout” highly unlikely without the West knowing exactly what is taking place. The deal restricts research and development on more advanced centrifuges. It keeps in place and adds major limits on the amount of low enriched uranium while significantly reducing the number and function of existing or future centrifuges during the agreement’s specified time period.
In short, as President Obama said “This deal meets every single one of the bottom lines that we established when we achieved a framework this spring,” furthermore he said, “Every pathway to a nuclear weapon is cut off, and the inspection and transparency regime necessary to verify that objective will be put in place.”
What we need now to focus on first is the implementation of the accord and not let it unravel either in Tehran or in Washington. Above all we need to not let the caustic and irresponsible utterances of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s assessment that the accord was an historical mistake and that Iran would still get a nuclear weapon out of the agreement deter us.
The sad part of all this is that the main beneficiary of this accord is Israel, as without the agreement there would be no limitations on Iran building an atomic bomb. The other alternative is seen by most to be ultimately war. Now there is time and perhaps the willingness to work towards a long-term security structure for the entire Middle East. Israel is far more secure now unless it acts foolishly. This agreement has reduced a likely un-winnable war which would have catastrophic results for the entire region not least Israel.
I see the impact of this accord at a number of levels. For example, a possible rapprochement and security framework for the Middle East, implications for non-proliferation efforts and the NPT, and recognition of the role of and need for new intense diplomacy and what it can accomplish in determined hand, rather than cries for war. American leadership in wise hands can accomplish a lot. We may have an opening to widen political and economic possibilities should both sides decide that engagement, compromise, stability and true security is in the common interest. I argued at the start of these negotiations that an agreement was likely in the end because on any “net assessment” both sides could gain.
THE MIDDLE EAST IMPLICATIONS
Looking beyond this agreement, we have repeatedly written long ago that a possible agreement might lead to other diplomatic actions by both sides. While it remains uncertain if new cooperation might be possible, this agreement could, with hard work, have profound impact on the Middle East hopes for reconciliation and security.
Out of this now established dialogue with much difficulty, a larger set of solutions to the many conflicts and bitter rivalries between the Sunni and the Shia, and also more security for Israel. We need to have the Arab states themselves see a better way forward. Both sides now need to grasp at the momentum of the July 14th deal and start looking at fundamental issues that can be resolved for again a “win-win” solution. Courage on all sides will be required.
NUCLEAR AND NPT IMPLICATIONS AND OPPORTUNITIES AND SECURITY IN THE REGION
It is clear the move towards a world with less nuclear weapons and the possible use of them has likely gained by this agreement if implemented. But for this to happen there is a need for a deeper and wider look at other “nuclear actors” and to try to create a structure where non-proliferation and nuclear weapons are seen more as a mortal danger rather than an instrument of security and national safety. That means frankly we need to look hard again at India, Pakistan, North Korea, China, Israel and at those that might be potential proliferators in the future. America and Russia need to look for further reductions in their nuclear weapons. Here the lesson is that the instruments of diplomacy need to be fully engaged in new and creative ways. If America with the other powers and Iran can sit down together and hammer out this agreement then other nuclear regimes and nexus of conflict can and should also be addressed in new and stronger ways.
LARGER POLITICAL AND ECONOMIC AND DIPLOMATIC DIMENSIONS
From this agreement new possibilities for cooperation can arise for areas like economic growth, trade, addressing poverty and unemployment, and new views on building mutual security. There is need to get at the more fundamental causes of conflict, hate, prejudices, and long standing conditions that breed terrorism and mass violence.
America saw this after World War II with the Marshal Plan. This initiative moved away from retribution and punishment to rebuilding societies including former enemies, helping nurture cooperation and institutions like the UN, the World Bank, NATO, the EU and so many other organizations to cement cooperation and sharing of burdens and risks.
Some in America, especially among the far right today in the Republican Party, have long natured a move towards military adventurism, a hate of multilateral diplomacy especially by a democratic President, and thought war was the main or only effective instrument of global engagement. That has proved to be a disaster for all. Already Republican leaders have stated their blind opposition without even reading the text, their motivation being not the national interest but their distaste for our president.
President Obama and Secretary Kerry have proven these naysayers and critics wrong. Time and time again strong diplomacy gained as with the New SALT agreement, lowering our military footprint in Iraq and Afghanistan, reaching out to countries like India, Burma, Cuba and our pivot to Asia, and in many other ways. We should strengthen our efforts to deal with incipient conflicts in many areas, with what I call “preventive diplomacy” as a less costly alternative to military action.
We need to strengthen the use of our many diplomacy tools, and yes, that does mean sanctions when necessary, and also the application of “carrots” and “sticks” when needed. It includes wise development assistance and listening to others.
Efforts by this administration at mediation, engagement, and dialogue show to the American people that under Obama America is still, as he said, a kind of “indispensable nation” but also with others, in creating a more peaceful world. By addressing arising conflicts rather than ignoring our problems we have made some progress in a difficult environment. This approach is better than putting, as some Republicans seem to want, either putting our heads in the sand in isolationism or seeing mindlessly putting “troops on the ground” as the simplistic answer to every problem.
We need to recognize the necessity of strengthening, reforming, providing more resources and in general making more effective international institutions. The IAEA has played a vital role in the Iran nuclear agreement and its inspection and verification role. But also International Organizations like UNHCR, UNRRA, The World Bank, NATO, World Food program, and the United Nations as a whole and the Security Council, which voted sanctions which led to this agreement. We also need new strong instruments of multilateral diplomacy, of effective peacekeeping and peacemaking. All of these instruments of “diplomacy” can in time bring our now dangerous and conflict ridden world a bit of peace and security that all can share.
We welcome your comments!
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Photo Credit: Politico
Well, good afternoon everybody. I want to begin by thanking you, as others have, for your extraordinary patience. I know this has been a long couple of weeks for everybody, including, above all, the press, who have waited long hours during the day for very little news, and we’re very grateful for your patience. This is an historic day, but for me, it’s an historic day because it represents the first time in six weeks that I’ve worn a pair of shoes. (Laughter.)
Today, in announcing a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the United States, our P5+1 and EU partners, and Iran have taken a measureable step away from the prospect of nuclear proliferation, towards transparency and cooperation. It is a step away from the specter of conflict and towards the possibility of peace.
This moment has been a long time coming, and we have worked very hard to get here. A resolution to this type of challenge never comes easily – not when the stakes are so high, not when the issues are so technical, and not when each decision affects global and regional security so directly. The fact is that the agreement we’ve reached, fully implemented, will bring insight and accountability to Iran’s nuclear program – not for a small number of years but for the lifetime of that program. This is the good deal that we have sought.
Believe me, had we been willing to settle for a lesser deal, we would have finished this negotiation a long time ago. But we were not. All of us – not just the United States, but France, the United Kingdom, Germany, Russia, China, and the EU – were determined to get this right. And so we have been patient, and I believe our persistence has paid off.
A few months ago in Lausanne, we and our international partners joined Iran in announcing a series of parameters to serve as the contours of a potential deal. Experts and commentators were, in fact, surprised by all that we had achieved at that point. After three more months of long days and late nights, I’m pleased to tell you that we have stayed true to those contours and we have now finally carved in the details.
Now I want to be very clear: The parameters that we announced in Lausanne not only remain intact and form the backbone of the agreement that we reached today, but through the detail, they have been amplified in ways that make this agreement even stronger.
That includes the sizable reduction of Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium and the number of centrifuges that it operates.
It also guarantees that Iran’s breakout time – the time it would take for Iran to speed up its enrichment and produce enough fissile material for just one nuclear weapon – that time will increase to at least one year for a period of at least 10 years.
And contrary to the assertions of some, this agreement has no sunset. It doesn’t terminate. It will be implemented in phases – beginning within 90 days of the UN Security Council endorsing the deal, and some of the provisions are in place for 10 years, others for 15 year, others for 25 years. And certain provisions – including many of the transparency measures and prohibitions on nuclear work – will stay in place permanently.
But most importantly, this agreement addresses Iran’s potential pathways to fissile material for a bomb exactly as we said it would – with appropriate limitations and transparency in order to assure the world of the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program.
Now, let me explain exactly how it will accomplish that goal.
To start, the participants have agreed Iran will not produce or acquire either highly enriched uranium or weapons-grade plutonium for at least the next 15 years, and Iran declares a longer period of intent.
Iran’s total stockpile of enriched uranium – which today is equivalent to almost 12,000 kilograms of UF6 – will be capped at just 300 kilograms for the next 15 years – an essential component of expanding our breakout time. Two-thirds of Iran’s centrifuges will be removed from nuclear facilities along with the infrastructure that supports them. And once they’re removed, the centrifuges will be – and the infrastructure, by the way – will be locked away and under around-the-clock monitoring by the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Uranium enrichment at Natanz will be scaled down significantly. For the next 15 years, no uranium will be enriched beyond 3.67 percent. To put that in context, this is a level that is appropriate for civilian nuclear power and research, but well below anything that could be used possibly for a weapon.
For the next 10 years, Iran has agreed to only use its first-generation centrifuges in order to enrich uranium. Iran has further agreed to disconnect nearly all of its advanced centrifuges, and those that remain installed will be part of a constrained and closely monitored R&D program – and none will be used to produce enriched uranium.
Iran has also agreed to stop enriching uranium at its Fordow facility for the next 15 years. It will not even use or store fissile material on the site during that time. Instead, Fordow will be transformed into a nuclear, physics, and technology research center – it will be used, for example, to produce isotopes for cancer treatment, and it will be subject to daily inspection and it will have other nations working in unison with the Iranians within that technology center.
So when this deal is implemented, the two uranium paths Iran has towards fissile material for a weapon will be closed off.
The same is true for the plutonium path. We have agreed Iran’s heavy-water reactor at Arak will be rebuilt – based on a final design that the United States and international partners will approve – so that it will only be used for peaceful purposes. And Iran will not build a new heavy-water reactor or reprocess fuel from its existing reactors for at least 15 years.
But this agreement is not only about what happens to Iran’s declared facilities. The deal we have reached also gives us the greatest assurance that we have had that Iran will not pursue a weapon covertly.
Not only will inspectors be able to access Iran’s declared facilities daily, but they will also have access to the entire supply chain that supports Iran’s nuclear program, from start to finish – from uranium mines to centrifuge manufacturing and operation. So what this means is, in fact, that to be able to have a covert path, Iran would actually need far more than one covert facility – it would need an entire covert supply chain in order to feed into that site. And to ensure that that does not happen without our knowledge, under this deal, inspectors will be able to gain access to any location the IAEA and a majority of the P5+1 nations deem suspicious.
It is no secret that the IAEA also has had longstanding questions about the possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program. That is one of the primary reasons that we are even here today, and we and our partners have made clear throughout the negotiations that Iran would need to satisfy the IAEA on this as part of the final deal. With that in mind, Iran and the IAEA have already entered into an agreement on the process to address all of the IAEA’s outstanding questions within three months – and doing so is a fundamental requirement for sanctions relief that Iran seeks. And Director Amano announced earlier this morning that that agreement has been signed.
Now, our quarrel has never been with the Iranian people, and we realize how deeply the nuclear-related sanctions have affected the lives of Iranians. Thanks to the agreement reached today, that will begin to change. In return for the dramatic changes that Iran has accepted for its nuclear program, the international community will be lifting the nuclear-related sanctions on Iran’s economy.
And the relief from sanctions will only start when Tehran has met its key initial nuclear commitments – for example, when it has removed the core from the Arak reactor; when it has dismantled the centrifuges that it has agreed to dismantle; when it has shipped out the enriched uranium that it has agreed to ship out. When these and other commitments are met, the sanctions relief will then begin to be implemented in phases.
The reason for that is very simple: Confidence is never built overnight. It has to be developed over time. And this morning, Foreign Minister Javad Zarif expressed his hope that this agreement can be a beginning of a change of the interactions between Iran and the international community.
That is why none of the sanctions that we currently have in place will, in fact, be lifted until Iran implements the commitments that it has made. And some restrictions, including those related to arms and proliferation, will remain in place for some years to come. And I want to underscore: If Iran fails in a material way to live up to these commitments, then the United States, the EU, and even the UN sanctions that initially brought Iran to the table can and will snap right back into place. We have a specific provision in this agreement called snapback for the return of those sanctions in the event of noncompliance.
Now, there will be some who will assert that we could have done more – or that if we had just continued to ratchet up the pressure, Iran would have eventually raised a white flag and abandoned its nuclear program altogether. But the fact is the international community tried that approach. That was the policy of the United States and others during the years 2000 and before. And in the meantime, guess what happened? The Iranian program went from 164 centrifuges to thousands. The Iranian program grew despite the fact that the international community said, “No enrichment at all, none.” The program grew to the point where Iran accumulated enough fissile material for about 12 – 10 to 12 nuclear bombs.
I will tell you, sanctioning Iran until it capitulates makes for a powerful talking point and a pretty good political speech, but it’s not achievable outside a world of fantasy.
The true measure of this agreement is not whether it meets all of the desires of one side at the expense of the other; the test is whether or not it will leave the world safer and more secure than it would be without it. So let’s review the facts.
Without this agreement or the Joint Plan of Action on which it builds, Iran’s breakout time to get enough material – nuclear material for a weapon was already two to three months. That’s where we started. We started with Iran two months away with enough fissile material for 10 bombs. With this agreement, that breakout time goes to a year or more, and that will be the case for at least a decade.
Without this agreement, Iran could just double its enrichment capacity tomorrow – literally – and within a few years it could expand it to as many as 100,000 centrifuges. With this agreement, Iran will be operating about 5,000 centrifuges for a fixed period of time.
Without this agreement, Iran would be able to add rapidly and without any constraint to its stockpile of enriched uranium, which already at 20 percent was dangerous and higher than any of us were satisfied was acceptable. With this agreement, the stockpile will be kept at no more than 300 kilograms for 15 years.
Without this agreement, Iran’s Arak reactor could produce enough weapons-grade plutonium each year to fuel two nuclear weapons. With this agreement, the core of the Arak reactor will be removed and filled with concrete, and Iran will not produce any weapons-grade plutonium.
Without this agreement, the IAEA would not have definitive access to locations suspected of conducting undeclared nuclear activities. With this agreement, the IAEA will be able to access any location, declared or undeclared, to follow up on legitimate concerns about nuclear activities.
There can be no question that this agreement will provide a stronger, more comprehensive, and more lasting means of limiting Iran’s nuclear program than any realistic – realistic alternative. And those who criticize and those who spend a lot of time suggesting that something could be better have an obligation to provide an alternative that, in fact, works. And let me add this: While the nations that comprise the P5+1 obviously don’t always see eye-to-eye on global issues, we are in full agreement on the quality and importance of this deal. From the very beginning of this process, we have considered not only our own security concerns, but also the serious and legitimate anxieties of our friends and our allies in the region – especially Israel and the Gulf States. And that has certainly been the case in recent days, as we worked to hammer out the final details.
So let me make a couple of points crystal-clear: First, what we are announcing today is an agreement addressing the threat posed by Iran’s nuclear program – period – just the nuclear program. And anybody who knows the conduct of international affairs knows that it is better to deal with a country if you have problems with it if they don’t have a nuclear weapon. As such, a number of U.S. sanctions will remain in place, including those related to terrorism, human rights, and ballistic missiles. In addition, the United States will continue our efforts to address concerns about Iran’s actions in the region, including by our providing key support to our partners and our allies and by making sure we are vigilant in pushing back against destabilizing activities.
And certainly, we continue to call on Iran to immediately release the detained U.S. citizens. These Americans have remained in our thoughts throughout this negotiation, and we will continue to work for their safe and their swift return. And we urge Iran to bring our missing Americans home as well.
And we also know there is not a challenge in the entire region that would not become worse if Iran had a nuclear weapon. That’s why this deal is so important. It’s also why we met at Camp David with the Gulf States and why we will make clear to them in the days ahead the ways in which we will work together in order to guarantee the security of the region. The provisions of this agreement help guarantee that the international community can and will address regional challenges without the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran.
Second, no part of this agreement relies on trust. It is all based on thorough and extensive transparency and verification measures that are included in very specific terms in the annexes of this agreement. If Iran fails to comply, we will know it, because we’re going to be there – the international community, through the IAEA and otherwise – and we will know it quickly, and we will be able to respond accordingly.
And before closing, I would like to make – I would like to say thank you to some folks who really made a difference in the course of all of this. And I want to begin by thanking my president, President Obama, who had the courage to launch this process, believe in it, support it, encourage it, when many thought that the objective was impossible, and who led the way from the start to the finish. The President has been resolute in insisting from the day he came to office that Iran will never have a nuclear weapon, and he has been equally – equally strong in asserting that diplomacy should be given a fair chance to achieve that goal.
I want to thank my Cabinet colleagues – excuse me – for the many, many contributions that they have made – Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, Defense Secretary Ash Carter, the entire DOD – the department, but I especially want to thank my partner in this effort who came late to the process but has made an essential contribution to our achievement of this agreement, and that is Energy Secretary Ernie Moniz, who has put many long days here in Switzerland – here and in Switzerland – during these negotiations and, frankly, whose background as a nuclear scientist just proved to be essential in helping us, together with former foreign minister and Vice President Salehi, to be able to really work through very difficult issues, some of the toughest and technical issues.
I want to thank the members of Congress – my former colleagues – for their role in this achievement, particularly in designing and passing sanctions legislation that did exactly what the UN resolution set out to do, and that is bring Iran to the table in order to negotiate. It helped us achieve the goal of these negotiations, and I appreciate their counsel and I look forward to the next chapter in our conversations. Whatever disagreements might sometimes exist, we all agree on a goal of a Middle East where our interests are protected and our allies and our friends are safe and secure.
And I want to especially thank my friend and my exceptional colleague, the Under Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, who has piloted – (applause) – she has led our team, which you can tell is still pretty enthusiastic, notwithstanding the long stay – and she has really done so with just an amazingly strong will, with a clear sense of direction, very steady nerves, hardly any sleep – and she’s been doing that for several years, folks, with amazing periods of time away from home and away from family. She and our absolutely brilliant, tireless team of experts and diplomats have done an absolutely incredible job, and frankly, they deserve the gratitude of our nation. (Applause.) I also want to thank those who’ve served on the U.S. negotiating team in the past who were not here for the close but who were indispensable in helping to shape this negotiation – particularly former Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns, Jake Sullivan, who were absolutely essential in the earliest days.
I also want to thank my counterparts from every other delegation. All of the political directors were absolutely stunning in this. It’s been a privilege of my public service to be able to work with the teams that I have worked with here and in the other cities we’ve been. Our counterparts have made absolutely critical contributions to this. This was a team effort. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius; British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond; Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov; German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier; and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.
I also want to thank the high representatives of the EU, there’s several – Javier Solana, Dame Cathy Ashton, and her successor, Federica Mogherini, who helped shepherd these past weeks in such an effective way. I also want to thank her deputy to the high representative, Helga Schmid, who, together with Wendy, they just formed an incredible unity, and they facilitated and guided our talks with enormous dedication and skill.
All of these leaders and the legion of aids who contributed countless hours to assisting us really set a new standard for international cooperation and hard work. And the fact that we have stood together and maintained our unity throughout these 18 months lends enormous weight and credibility to the agreement we have forged, but it also offers everybody a sign of possibilities, a sign of encouragement for those who believe in the power of diplomacy and of negotiation.
Thank you also to the Government of Austria, which has very generously hosted this last round of talks – perhaps for a bit longer than it may have expected – (laughter) – and it has also hosted countless rounds before this one, so they’ve made a very special contribution to this. And I’ll tell you, all the police and the folks in the hotels and everybody in Austria, Vielen dank. We thank you for a really remarkable welcome. (Applause.)
I want to thank the other nations that have hosted these talks – this has been sort of a traveling circus – in particular Switzerland, Oman, Turkey, Russia, Kazakhstan, Iraq, and my home country, the United States.
And I am particularly grateful – we are particularly grateful, all of us, to the sultan of Oman, for his very personal engagement and support for the possibility of an agreement. He and his government were there to help every step of the way.
And I finally want to express my deep respect for the serious and constructive approach that Iran’s representatives brought to our deliberations. The president of Iran, President Rouhani, had to make a difficult decision. We all know the tensions that exist. Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, a tough, capable negotiator, and patriot, a man who fought every inch of the way for the things he believed, and sometimes these were heated and passionate exchanges. But he and his team, while tough, always professional, always dedicated to finding solutions to difficult problems. And we were, both of us, able to approach these negotiations with mutual respect, even when there were times of a heated discussion, I think he would agree with me at the end of every meeting we left with a smile and with a conviction that we were going to come back and continue the process. We never lost sight of the goal that an agreement could bring and the best long-term interests of all concerned.
Now, we are under no illusions that the hard work is over. No one is standing here today to say that the path ahead is easy or automatic. We move now to a new phase – a phase that is equally critical and may prove to be just as difficult – and that is implementation. The 109 pages that we have agreed upon outline commitments made on both sides. In the end, however, this agreement will live or die by whether the leaders who have to implement it on both sides honor and implement the commitments that have been made.
There is reason to be optimistic. In January of last year, we took the first step by adopting the Joint Plan of Action. Man, were we told by skeptics that we were making a mistake of a lifetime – that Iran would never comply, that this was a terrible agreement. But you know what? They were dead wrong. All sides met their obligations. The diplomatic process went forward. And we are already nearing almost two years of Iran’s compliance, full compliance, with the agreement.
The entire world has a stake in ensuring that the same thing happens now. Not only will this deal, fully implemented, make the world safer than it is today, but it may also eventually unlock opportunities to begin addressing regional challenges that cannot be resolved without this kind of an agreement being in place in the first place. The past 18 months have been yet another example of diplomacy’s consummate power to forge a peaceful way forward, no matter how impossible it may seem.
Obviously, every country that has been at the table over the past 18 months has had its own domestic perspective to consider. The United States is no exception. Back home, the future of Iran’s nuclear program has long been the focus of a lot of debate, and I have absolutely no doubt that debate is going to become even more intense in the coming days. I’ll tell you what, we welcome the opportunity to engage. These are vitally important issues, and they deserve rigorous but fact-based discussion. I’ve heard more talk in the last days about concessions being made and people racing. We have not made concessions. Lausanne is more than intact. And the facts are what should define this agreement.
From the start, President Obama and I have pledged that we would not settle for anything less than a good deal – good for Americans and good for our partners, our friends, our allies, good for the future of the Middle East, and good for the peace of mind of the world. That is what we pursued and that is what we insisted on through long months of hard negotiations, and that is precisely what we believe we have achieved today.
I will just share with you very personally, years ago when I left college, I went to war. And I learned in war the price that is paid when diplomacy fails. And I made a decision that if I ever was lucky enough to be in a position to make a difference, I would try to do so. I believe this agreement actually represents an effort by the United States of America and all of its member – its colleagues in the P5+1 to come together with Iran to avert an inevitability of conflict that would come were we not able to reach agreement. I think that’s what diplomacy was put in place to achieve, and I know that war is the failure of diplomacy and the failure of leaders to make alternative decisions.
So we have a chance here and I hope that in the days ahead that people will look at this agreement hard for the facts that define it and that we will be able to fully implement it and move forward.
The press conference of March 2nd in Geneva in which Secretary John Kerry provided a broad outline with great clarity of some of the most pressing foreign affairs and national security issues facing this administration. There is so much substance to this press briefing in Geneva that we decided it deserves to be highlighted and its text posted to provide to our readers a chance to not only read it in full but also to comment, if they wish, on Secretary Kerry’s outline of our objectives and perspective.
What is clear is that the international landscape presents extraordinary challenges and difficulties that require not only wisdom and real resources by America but also the full participation by our allies and friends in the difficult task of dealing effectively with the many crises that clearly face the international community. In the coming days we will post some of our analysis of these and others topics in our earlier post on looking at American strategy in 2015 and beyond.
“I met this morning with Foreign Minister Lavrov. And we spent a fair amount of time discussing Syria, Ukraine, ISIS, and Iran. I reiterated the urgency of Russia’s leaders and the separatists that they back implementing the full measure of the commitments under the Minsk agreements and to implement them everywhere, including in Debaltseve, outside Mariupol, and in other key strategic areas. And I underscored this morning that if that does not happen, if there continue to be these broad swaths of noncompliance, or there continues to be a cherry-picking as to where heavy equipment will be moved back from without knowing where it’s been moved to, or if the OSCE is not able to adequately be able to gain the access necessary, then there would be inevitably further consequences that will place added strain on Russia’s already troubled economy. Now, obviously, Ukraine is just one of those issues, as I mentioned, that we focused on. And it’s only one of those issues, frankly, on which the United States and Russia are focused.”
“We spoke at length about steps that might be able to be taken in order to try to see if there is a potential of common ground. And we agreed that there is no military solution; we agreed there is a need for a political solution; and we agreed on the need of those countries who have been supporting people in this endeavor, in this conflict, to be able to search yet again to see whether or not there is a path either to Geneva 1 or to some hybrid or some means of ending the violence. And one of the things that drives that interest, that common interest, is the reality of Daesh, the reality of what is happening to Syria as a result of the presence of Daesh there and its use of Syria as a base for spreading evil to other places.”
“We continue to believe, all the members of the P5+1, that the best way to deal with the questions surrounding this nuclear program is to find a comprehensive deal, but not a deal that comes at any cost, not a deal just for the purpose of a deal; a deal that meets the test of providing the answers and the guarantees that are needed in order to know that the four pathways to a nuclear bomb have been closed off. And that is the task. And we hope it is possible to get there, but there is not guarantee.”
“Sanctions alone are not going to provide that solution. What needs to happen is that Iran needs to provide a verifiable set of commitments that its program is in fact peaceful. And that average people and experts alike looking at that verifiable set of commitments have confidence that they are sustainable, that they are real, and that they will provide the answers and guarantees well into the future.
Any deal must close every potential pathway that Iran has towards fissile material, whether it’s uranium, plutonium, or a covert path. The fact is only a good, comprehensive deal in the end can actually check off all those boxes.”
“Now, I want to be clear about two things. Right now, no deal exists, no partial deal exists. And unless Iran is able to make the difficult decisions that will be required, there won’t be a deal. Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. That is the standard by which negotiation is taking place, any anyone who tells you otherwise is simply misinformed.”
“Now, we are concerned by reports that suggest selective details of the ongoing negotiations will be discussed publicly in the coming days. I want to say clearly that doing so would make it more difficult to reach the goal that Israel and others say they share in order to get a good deal. Israel’s security is absolutely at the forefront of all of our minds, but frankly, so is the security of all the other countries in the region, so is our security in the United States. And we are very clear that as we negotiate with Iran, if we are able to reach the kind of deal that we’re hoping for, then it would have to be considered in its entirety and measured against alternatives.”
“President Obama has said this repeatedly: We will not accept a bad deal. We have said no deal is better than a bad deal, because a bad deal could actually make things less secure and more dangerous. Any deal that we could possibly agree to would make the international community, especially Israel, safer than it is today. That’s our standard. So our team is working very hard to close remaining gaps, to reach a deal that ensures Iran’s nuclear program is exclusively and verifiably peaceful, and we have made some progress, but we still have a long way to go and the clock is ticking.”
To read the full text of this press conference from Geneva on March 2nd visit https://cipnationalsecurity.wordpress.com/resources/full-text-pieces/
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