IRAN NUCLEAR NEGOTIATIONS: YES (AT LAST!)

Photo: Times of Israel

By:
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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IRAN DEAL AS OUTLINED IN “FRAMEWORK” ACCORD IS A “WIN-WIN” FOR ALL BUT SIGNIFICANT BEYOND ITSELF

President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry face both criticism and support as the framework for the Iranian Nuclear Deal falls into place.
President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry face both criticism and support as the framework for the Iranian Nuclear Deal falls into place.

“The notion that Iran is undeterrable–it’s simply not the case. And for us to say, ‘Let’s try’–understanding that we’re preserving all our options, that were not naive–but if in fact we can resolve these issues diplomatically, we are more likely to be safe, more likely to be more secure, in a better position to protect our allies, and who knows? Iran may change. If it doesn’t, our deterrence capabilities, our military superiority stays in place…We’re not relinquishing our capacity to defend ourselves or our allies. In that situation, why wouldn’t we test it?”   

-President Obama in an interview with New York Time’s op-ed columnist Thomas L. Friedman on the risks of the Iran Nuclear Deal, published April 6, 2015


By: Harry C. Blaney III

In many ways this “framework” agreement achieves the key necessary elements for assurance against any Iranian unknown nuclear “breakout.” It provides the basis for future initiatives that might, with great focus and a large amount of wisdom and patience by all sides, move some of the destructive dynamics in the region towards some measure of reconciliation and what we used to call ‘detente.” Yet, from the cries from its critics at home, the hysterical opposition of Netanyahu and his right-wing supporters, and some in the Sunni Gulf States, there is still a lot of hefty lifting to do to sell this effort by President Obama and Secretary John Kerry at home and abroad.

The road towards the final text and agreement may still produce some bumps, but the key signal is that both sides want and need an agreement that puts to rest the dangers of both the Iranian weapons program and the likely dangers of a non-agreement for a long period. This agreement also can set the stage, with some luck, for other measures of dialogue and possible understandings that might serve American interests in achieving a more general security landscape for all nations in the region.

While right now this seems a very difficult task given the convulsions now seen,  for that very reason it is one that needs to be undertaken and likely may take years or even a decade to come fully to fruition.

The domestic opposition comes from the same expected right-wing neo-cons and Republicans hawks that seem to think that anything short of bloody war is unacceptable.  Would they put American troops on the ground in Iran? Would they have us bomb Iran to smithereens for Israel’s own misguided right wing war-hawks or to help facilitate a mad joint attack?  They have not said about “then what” because there is no good answer or outcome of that option. They talk in vague generalities and provide no clear security and mutual accommodation path towards stable peace in the Middle East, but indeed seem to want added conflict and chaos.

President Obama already has indicated he will “consult” with Congress. But sadly, it is likely that the diehards on the right of the GOP and even some Democrats will be seen as skeptical to appease their paymasters and crazies in deadly opposition to Obama no matter what is in the agreement. The key now is to stop any effort to pass a new sanctions bill on Iran or one that would require Congressional agreement to the final accord. There is a long history of such international agreements by both Republican and Democrat presidents. If this had been Ronald Reagan, the Republicans would be praising the hell out of this accord.

Obama holds hopefully the high card here as, in the end, he can veto any bill that tries to destroy this agreement. Obama will need to work hard to get enough support in Congress to prevent the dismantling of the agreement.  It will be a very hard hill to climb to get them to agree to revoking sanctions. However, there are other avenues to this end via Presidential actions, our cooperative allies, and the UN Security Council.

The problem with getting understanding, let alone agreement with Prime Minister Netanyahu is that the whole justification of his regime is to maintain a constant state of aggression and antipathy against the Palestinians and Iran. While there is some understanding for this given the past, it is a counterproductive stance if one wants long-term peace and security for all in the region. It is doubtful that Bibi will relent and may likely employ his minions in the U.S. to fight this accord no matter the circumstances.

Yet, many supporters of Israel know that an agreement that ensures a de-nuclearized Iran for a long period of time, the full engagement of the U.S. in the region, and the creation of a true peace deal, is in the real interests of Israel and the required two-state agreement. The former security officials of Israel know that it is unfortunate that Bibi only cares about his own political future, rather than his people and keeping Israel’s state security free from continued threats and the escalation of military capabilities.  While some kind of reconciliation with the U.S. would be hoped for, it is for Bibi to make the first move given his continued intransigency and duplicitous behavior. Yet, in some way the administration needs badly to make clear to Israel’s citizens that this agreement is in their interest, that we care about and support their security, and want and will still seek a peaceful region. For that, we are already rethinking our stance in the region and paths towards some kind of firm of peace settlement.

The other task is to get the support of the American people and our allies as to the benefits of this agreement. Most of the public has little knowledge of the issues, the trade-offs, and the importance of this agreement. This needs to change. Administration leaders need to get on the airwaves to argue for this accord. Obama can expect widespread conservative and right-wing media opposition from the likes of Fox News, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post and the talking nuts on radio. This will be hard to overcome unless the administration, experts in the area, and Democratic politicians do a full court press on the merits of this accord with the media. On their side is the polls show most Americans do not want to make war with Iran.

On the issue of dealing with the largely Sunni Gulf States and in particular Saudi Arabia, the president has invited the leaders of these states this Spring to Camp David.  Already Saudi King Salman has taken a less confrontational position and has said to Obama that he hoped it would strengthen “stability and security in the region.” The discussion will include not only the new agreement, but likely an attempt to get some measure of wide cooperation on a strategy that will also address other security concerns in the region, as well as to see if a path is possible for some measure of cooperation and meeting of the minds between Sunni and Shia nations. This is but only one step towards a more stable region, but it is one of the key building blocks in a very complex region filled with conflict and mutual animosity that needs to be addressed.

In the end, we and our allies will need to talk to both leaders of Sunni and Shia nations as there are already signs of common interest in putting down ISIS’s universal butchery towards both Sunni and Shia as well as other minorities and in bringing stability and economic prosperity to the entire region. This is a job for more than one administration and America had better be wise in its future choice of its own leaders.

We welcome your comments!

A version of this essay was also carried at the London School of Economics and Political Science Web Blog. Visit the Link Here:  http://bit.ly/1HM1Toi

THE PLAYING FIELD OF THE MIDDLE EAST JUST WENT BALLISTIC!  (THE REMAKING OF THE MIDDLE EAST WITH CONFLICTING FORCES AT WORK)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's ruling Likud Party scored a resounding victory in the country's election.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ruling Likud Party scored a resounding victory in the country’s election.

By Harry C. Blaney III

This month will bring together a number of critical events and actions which could determine whether we can see a clear path towards a measure of progress that can start the process of healing and mitigating the hate and carnage that we see today and lessen the chance of a total cataclysm. What is required is a high level of creativity, resources, and focus by all sides looking at their long-term interests. But frankly, recent events, not least the Israeli elections, do not bode well for lasting peace and building the mutual confidence and sense of common interest that must be the foundation of long-term security for all in the region and beyond.

The first critical event is the elections in Israel. Clearly, given the outcome Israeli society remains divided between a constant “war” strategy and a long-term peace strategy. This time the “war hawks” won out but not by that much. This contradictory bitter split should be recognizable to Americans in our current corrosive political environment. The question is whether there can be, in this divisive environment, any growing consensus that develops into some kind of momentum towards returning to honest negotiations with the Palestinians to build a stable two state outcome that provides security for all sides. What then is the alternative?

 Incredibly, there was even post-election speculation that Bibi might go back to the two state solution, but after his victory based on anti-Palestinian policies and even promising thousands of more settlements, it is hard to envision at this moment. The question is when will the realities of the increasingly precarious situation of Israel set in and be the lever for a move towards a peace deal.

The history of the reign of Netanyahu has been a series of acts, that in its totality, were against any reasonable settlement with the Palestinians. After mouthing from time to time the idea of a “two state” solution, he revealed just a day before the elections his true motivation all along, in trying to grab the West Bank and possibly displace people from their land or perhaps even confine them to unlivable, frankly, semi-concentration camps, looked over by their Israeli guards.

The sad result of Bibi in his firm opposition to a two state solution, and saying there will be no Palestinian state under his rule, plus his attack after his election victory on the Arab citizens of Israel because, according to the NY Times, they had voted! His statement was even characterized by the New York Times editorial as a “racist rant.” Increasingly, there is a new authoritarian bent by Netanyahu and his Likud party; and a rigidity and myopic militancy that bodes badly for peace in the region and Israel’s own long-term security. There is a real danger that he will lead a democratic Israel down a path to self-destruction both externally and internally. What other option now can be possible other than a deliberate policy of impoverishment and degradation of the Islamic and Christian Arab West Bank population, and its own Arab citizens?

He has already poisoned the key US-Israeli bi-partisan relationship as we have noted previously. The question that must be asked: what policy and direction should America and Europe take now that the very basis of any lasting peace agreement has been destroyed by Bibi’s actions? Having served in the White House I have no doubt that the lights there will be burning late to provide an answer.

One key question is what should the U.S. do with its allies and other actors in the region to put back the building blocks of a lasting agreement that provide peace, security, and even a measure of prosperity for the people in the region. For the Israelis who are experiencing serious economic hardships including inflation that is robbing ordinary people of their livelihood and sense of self-worth; and who also desire a future free from conflict, they now face a very uncertain future, increased insecurity and new added risks.

While coalition building still must take place and is currently unknown, a reassessment of American policy towards the Middle East and Israel is required. Already, there is a movement in Europe to recognize a Palestinian state. Bibi unfortunately leaves little scope for a constructive American role in seeking a settlement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority especially given the desire by Bibi to get America to preemptively attack Iran or contribute to new illegal settlements and to act as a supporter of dangerous actions that will only exacerbate the existing unrest and conflict in the region. Further, Bibi by playing a partisan and self-interested divisive role in American politics may have defeated any hope for the kind of constructive cooperative efforts by the U.S. to bring true peace to his people.  Evolving events in the region may play the decisive role that may call for a basic reassessment of Israel’s security as noted by the statements of a group of senior security leaders who pointed to dangerous trends and poor policies by Bibi.  

The second event shaping the region is the beginning of serious “end state” negotiations on the Iran nuclear long-term “deal” that could put a stop on Iran getting a nuclear weapon at least for the next decade. If in the end a “good” deal is agreed with the proper verification elements, one of the truly disruptive (in the real meaning of this word, not the Silicon Valley robber baron meaning) elements fundamentally creating widespread conflict and insecurity might change the landscape of new nuclear danger to the region. It could also create an opening to larger political and military problem solving and deal with the upward trajectory of Shia-Sunni conflict.

Already, Secretary John Kerry has been working to find a consensus among the Middle East states, both largely Shia and Sunni to form some common ground especially in light of the common threat of ISIS. This is frankly an effort against the odds. But there is a small opening now for a rethinking of old hatreds and a new assessment of existential risks of the ISIS ascendancy and the spread of terrorist extremism aimed at both traditional Sunni and Shia governments and people. In the end, this opening will have to be recognized by governments that too often have been dominated by prejudice and narrow interests.

What might be needed is perhaps a new regional compact that creates a wider Middle East security structure that encompasses both Sunni and Shia nations and might include support and reinforcement by America and our European and Asian allies that have a large stake in stability and peace in the region. While Arab nations would naturally be a part of this, also non-Arab nations like Iran and Turkey should be part of such a regional compact of mutual security.        

It is clear that without some major political, economic, and military changes both in Israel and in the wider Middle East the trajectory towards chaos and destruction will overwhelm the fabric of cooperation and modest restraint and upheavals and civil strife will destroy the lives of all citizens and bring only perpetual war and killing as the norm.

Our problem is that the acts by Bibi, the shortsighted viewpoints by some Middle East leaders, and our partisans in our Congress has undermined America’s role as the “indispensable nation.” They have deliberately sabotaged every key tool and effort to bring a measure of peace to our globe by President Obama and Secretary Kerry. There is a strong Republican desire to see Obama fail no matter what the cost in lives and security including that of Israel. More war and putting American troops at risk is their only option. Their new crazy right-wing budget and proposed heedless sanction and laws on Iran undermines the authority and the needed resources for a strong American capability to create a more stable, peaceful, secure and prosperous world.  Without support at home by all of our parties, the chances of creating a more secure Middle East and beyond would be hindered. Disorder, humanitarian needs, and added wars will be the order of the day.

We welcome your comments!

DESPITE ALL THE CONTROVERSY AN IRAN DEAL IS STILL THE BEST OPTION

Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif resume nuclear negotiations on March 15, 2015
Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif resume nuclear negotiations on March 15, 2015.

By: Harry C. Blaney III

It is now agreed that the Iran nuclear talks will resume on March 15th and this session will be focused on the remaining key “macro” political issues that are still outstanding. There are indications on both sides that a deal may at last come together. However, they all say “but nothing is agreed upon unless everything is agreed on,” that there are a lot of difficult issues that remain, and that there are strong opponents of any deal on both sides.

This weekend we have been seeing statements from the “P-5 plus one” (The United States, China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom), that some progress is in the cards during the next meeting. President Barack Obama said “We have made progress in narrowing the gaps, but those gaps still exist.” On the European side, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said at a meeting in Latvia, “I believe a good deal is at hand. I also believe that there is not going to be any deal if it is not going to be a good deal.” She added the “last mile” of the nuclear talks would involve political will more than technical negotiations.

On the Iranian side, Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said we believe we are ‘very close’ to a nuclear deal during an interview with Anne Curry of NBC News on March 4th. Further, in an interview with a weekly affiliated with the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting published on Saturday 7th March, Zarif said, “I believe there are more chances of success than failure,” adding “the odds of [reaching] a [final] deal is more than 50 percent.” He said, as noted earlier: “but nothing is agreed upon unless everything is agreed on.”

All of these statements are contingent on the final requirement that both sides desire a “good” agreement and are willing to pay the political price for such an agreement.  Iran especially needs to accept that a nuclear “option” is not in its fundamental interest.  The administration has said that this agreement does not require Senate ratification since it is not a treaty but an executive or political agreement between governments.  The president can wave some of the sanctions but not all of them and this issue is a sticking point.  On the Iranian side there remains opposition from hard liners, but I doubt that Zarif would be able to proceed unless he was given authority to do so from the highest authorities. Yet any “political” or “framework” agreement would still have to be sent back to the “experts” for specific drafting and review before a formal agreement was signed. This could take months, not weeks.

In Congress the Republicans seem determined to veto any agreement they do not like. It looks sadly like many Republicans will oppose even a “good and strong” agreement. They were stopped from pushing forward a GOP plan to act before the March 31st negotiating deadline by the Democrats since the fear was  that by before the negotiations ended, Congress would act on a draft anti-agreement legislation that would undercut and indeed put up a series of barriers against any realistic agreement coming into existence. The question now is whether the Democrats can hold together against such a plan should an agreement be settled.

The more recent news is the surprising and most duplicitous action by 47 Republican Senators who have interfered and intervened into on-going delicate negotiations with Iran to limit their nuclear program. This was done on the brink of the start of new high level meetings of the key powers in Geneva and is a direct affront to the President who under our constitution has responsibility for foreign affairs.

As the New York Times Tuesday March 10th front page story reporting characterized it: “The letter appeared aimed at unraveling a framework agreement even as negotiators grew close to reaching it.”  The partisan effort was criticized by President Obama, and very strongly by Vice President Biden who denounced the Senate Republicans. Click here for the Vice President’s Full Statement.

President Obama’s statement was: “It is somewhat ironic to see some members of Congress wanting to make common cause with the hard-liners in Iran. … It’s an unusual coalition.”  I was for 25 years a diplomat and have never experienced such a direct effort by one party to directly deal with undermining a major sensitive and important to our national security high level nuclear negotiations.  Click here for the full text of President Obama’s Statement in Reaction to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech regarding Iran Nuclear Negotiations.              

The Iranians reportedly said they were not moved by the letter. Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said in response: “In our view, the letter has no legal value and is mostly a propaganda ploy. He added: “It is very interesting that while negotiations are still in progress and while no agreement has been reached, some political pressure groups are so afraid even of the prospect of an agreement that they resort to unconventional methods, unprecedented in diplomatic history.”

From a macro strategic perspective, such an agreement could have major implications upon the possibility that limited rapprochement could ensue, and a broader set of regional issues, not least how to deal with ISIS, and a effort to reconcile the Shia-Sunni divide and even get Iraq unity back on track.  As with all such deep and historic acrimony, nothing is certain and unpredictable change is always lurking on the sidelines to reappear when it is politically expedient for one side or another. But if America and our allies are to help a process of reconciliation in the region, they need to take the long-view and work very hard at it despite any setbacks.

Below is the list of Republican Senators who signed and didn’t sign the Open Letter to Iran that was written to undermine the President’s negotiations.

Senators who did sign:
2016 Possible Presidential Candidates are highlighted                                                    

Senator Tom Cotton, R-AR

Senator Orrin Hatch, R-UT

Senator Charles Grassley, R-IA

Senator Mitch McConnell, R-KY

Senator Richard Shelby, R-AL

Senator John McCain, R-AZ

Senator James Inhofe, R-OK

Senator Pat Roberts, R-KS

Senator Jeff Sessions, R-AL

Senator Michael Enzi, R-WY

Senator Michael Crapo, R-ID

Senator Lindsey Graham, R-SC

Senator John Cornyn, R-TX

Senator Richard Burr, R-NC

Senator John Thune, R-SD

Senator Johnny Isakson, R-GA

Senator David Vitter, R-LA

Senator John A. Barrasso, R-WY

Senator Roger Wicker, R-MS

Senator Jim Risch, R-ID

Senator Mark Kirk, R-IL

Senator Roy Blunt, R-MO

Senator Jerry Moran, R-KS

Senator Rob Portman, R-OH

Senator John Boozman, R-AR

Senator Pat Toomey, R-PA

Senator John Hoeven, R-ND

Senator Marco Rubio, R-FL

Senator Ron Johnson, R-WI

Senator Rand Paul, R-KY

Senator Mike Lee, R-UT

Senator Kelly Ayotte, R-NH

Senator Dean Heller, R-NV

Senator Tim Scott, R-SC

Senator Ted Cruz, R-TX

Senator Deb Fischer, R-NE

Senator Shelley Moore Capito, R-WV

Senator Bill Cassidy, R-LA

Senator Cory Gardner, R-CO

Senator James Lankford, R-OK

Senator Steve Daines, R-MT

Senator Mike Rounds, R-SD

Senator David Perdue, R-GA

Senator Thom Tillis, R-NC

Senator Joni Ernst, R-IA

Senator Ben Sasse, R-NE

Senator Dan Sullivan, R-AK

Senators who did NOT sign:

Senator Lamar Alexander, R-TN

Senator Susan Collins, R-ME

Senator Bob Corker, R-TN

Senator Dan Coats, R-IN

Senator Thad Cochran, R-MS

Senator Jeff Flake, R-AZ

Senator Lisa Murkowski, R-AK

Comments are welcome!!! 

THE LOUD SOUND OF WAR IN THE CHAMBER OF ECHOS BUT LITTLE REASON OR THOUGHT: THE NETANYAHU SPEECH

U.S. President Barack Obama with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.  (Image: Clarion Project)
` U.S. President Barack Obama with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
(Image: Clarion Project)

By Harry C. Blaney III


The predicted reactions to Prime Minster’s Netanyahu speech in Congress echo the political divide in our nation; in the real world of security and common sense it was embarrassing, shallow and simply a trap laid by Bibi to create a conflict that would scuttle any hope for peace in the region for decades. Despite disclaimers, it was also aimed at dividing Americans and our political life.

Let me be frank and direct, these Netanyahu (also called “Bibi”) actions were at best provocations. They were more likely a deliberate trap to make America again act against its own security interests and that of the region as a whole. The underlying aim was get us into a headless preemptive war out of which no good could come.

Despite unconvincing and hypocritical phrases by Netanyahu that he did not create partisan division on support for Israel, along with his disingenuous praise for Obama’s support for Israel (which has been considerable), the main impression he left, which he knew, was that Americans could not trust the President nor the Democrats to safeguard the security of Israel. The further false impression he left was that any negotiations would, in his view, lead inevitably to Iran gaining nuclear weapons.

President Obama and Secretary Kerry have pointed out frequently that any agreement must prevent Iran from gaining nuclear weapons and that any alternative was even more dangerous since it would lead even faster to the nuclear option without the constraints imposed by the interim agreement and the more comprehensive document that is on the table now and is still not agreed. The latest news is that the recent Geneva negotiations broke up without any real progress, but in these matters, people often play brinkmanship towards the end…..not a very smart tactic when so much is at stake. Whether the Netanyahu speech had an impact on the Iranian authorities to harden their position remains unknown.

It was clear that Netanyahu’s point was to undermine the Iranian nuclear negotiations, not because he thought they were insufficient, but he feared they were going to be successful and thus undermine his call for “war.” That logic in our crazy world shows what lengths Netanyahu would go to not just stop an Iran agreement, but to scuttle any further peace efforts in the Middle East.  Further, his aim was to justify a policy of piece by piece displacing Palestinians on the West Bank and eliminating the possibility of the existence of a Palestinian state and its people’s rights. There is no other conclusion that one can find for such a reckless approach.  The sad part is that this approach most en-dangerous long-term Israel’s own security and perhaps even its existence.

This Bibi strategy is simply suicidal for Israel. It must live in its neighborhood; it must find peace with others in the region. That is the only solution for Israel’s security. The rest, the illegal settlements, the killing of woman and children in Palestinian camps and in Gaza civilian urban warfare with tanks, bombs, and missiles, are all directed toward creating permanent conflict as justification for a policy of suppression, endless war, and power for Bibi and the militant right-wing to stay in control. Together this stratagem is creating insurmountable conditions for any peace agreement.  A former head of the Mossad, Meir Dagen simply called the speech “bull shit” and that the Bibi, Likud Party actions would end with an “apartheid” state.  A group of former Israeli “Commanders” from the security agencies and military also issued a statement against Bibi’s strategy and its undemanding the US-Israeli relationship.

One factor which may give some hope that Bibi’s stratagem will not work, is that Iran has the potential to curtail its nuclear program and thus to lift some of the sanctions and start exporting more of its oil, end its present isolation, and try to restart its economy for which it needs outside investment and trade.  If Iran thought for a second, it clearly needs that more than any atomic bomb which is also suicidal. But the question is: will rationality and facts on the ground prevail or like Israel, will Iran’s leader’s irrational desire for perpetual war prevail?  That remains a question for serious negotiations not war!

Finally, I want to be clear that any Middle East peace must provide for the security of Israel, which is in our interest, but also for the new Palestinian state and indeed for the region. That is rightly American policy and our key objective. War with Iran and within the region will not bring peace. Bibi seems to want not peace, but authoritarian dominance of the Palestinians. There is no other conclusion one can draw from his actions and indeed his speeches, despite him saying he “wants peace” – which seems a peace of the conqueror. That is not in the cards.

 

We welcome your comments!

NOTHING IS EASY: ISRAEL, TURKEY, RUSSIA, CYPRUS, THE EU (AND US NATIONAL SECURITY)

  The heralded and most welcome rapprochement between American friends and allies Turkey and Israel will need, as is normal, some time before it bears fruit.  As reported from Ankara by the Associated Press on March 24, Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan has been cautious in presenting his agreement with Israeli counterpart Netanyahu to his domestic constituency, along the lines of “actions speak louder than words”.  (At the same time, Netanyahu has been sharply attacked for apologizing for the 2010 Israeli attack on the Gaza flotilla by his former Foreign Minister Lieberman.)  There is nothing remarkable about a leader protecting himself at home from charges of weakness in dealing with “the enemy”, and Erdogan’s announced intention to visit Gaza and the West Bank in the near future need not upset the substance of the agreement.  Let us hope that is so but not disregard the warning signals in the AP report, worth repeating here in full.

          QUOTE:  Associated Press ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan suggested “normalization” of ties with Israel would take time, hinting that Turkey wanted to ensure the victims of a flotilla raid were compensated and Israel remained committed to the easing of restrictions of goods to Gaza before restoring relations.

Erdogan’s comments on Sunday came days after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the Turkish leader to apologize for the botched raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla in 2010 that killed eight Turks and one Turkish-American. Erdogan accepted the apology and both leaders said they would begin the work of restoring full relations.

But in a public address Sunday, Erdogan suggested there would be no quick restoration of ties.

“We have said: ‘an apology will be made, compensation will be paid and the blockade on Palestine will be lifted. There will be no normalization without these,” he said. “Normalization will happen the moment there is an implementation. But if there is no implementation, then I am sorry.”

The statement was largely seen as effort to ease concerns of his religious and pro-Palestinian support. Erdogan has won praise both at home and the Arab world for his criticism of Israel and for breaking off ties with the Jewish state over the flotilla raid.

Turkey and Israel were once strong allies but relations began to decline after Erdogan, whose party has roots in Turkey’s Islamist movement, became prime minister in 2003. Erdogan has embarked on a campaign to make Turkey a regional powerhouse in an attempt to become a leading voice in the Muslim world, distanced from Israel.

Animosity increased after the flotilla incident and ambassadors were later withdrawn. Netanyahu had previously refused to apologize, saying Israeli soldiers acted in self-defense after being attacked by activists.

Israel lifted most restrictions on the import of goods into Gaza following the flotilla incident and only restrictions on some construction materials and most exports remain in effect.

During Friday’s conversation between the two leaders, Netanyahu said Israel had substantially lifted the restrictions on the entry of civilian goods into Gaza and the Palestinian territories and this would continue as long as “calm prevailed.”

But Israeli military officials have taken to punishing Gaza residents for breaches of a November truce. Since Thursday, in response to militant rocket fire from the territory, all movement through a civilian crossing between Gaza and Israel was cancelled, except for humanitarian cases. Gaza fishermen had their permitted fishing territory restricted and a commercial goods crossing was shut down, according to Israeli rights group, Gisha.

Netanyahu said Saturday concerns over Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile were the motivating factor in restoring ties with Turkey. He said the two countries, which border Syria, needed to communicate with each other over the issue.

Meanwhile, Erdogan said he plans to travel to the Gaza Strip and the West Bank “within the month, in April.”  END QUOTE

     Where do the other parties named in the title of this post fit in?  Turkey has occupied some 40% of Cyprus going on 40 years, proclaiming the existence of a “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus”.  Such an entity has never been recognized by any country in the world, Israel, Russia, all EU members and the US prominent among those that have refused.  In May 2012, Turkish jet fighters challenged an Israeli plane hovering near a gas and oil exploration region off of Cyprus, a challenge based on Turkish defense of the “rights” of the fictional republic.  A year later, Turkey continues to challenge the right of the internationally recognized Republic of Cyprus to explore for energy resources in its exclusive economic zone, an exercise it has been conducting in cooperation with American, Israeli and other partners.  Moreover, it has been reliably reported that Russia, which currently supplies EU countries with well more than a third of their gas supplies, has been pressuring the Cypriots to let the Russian gas giant “Gazprom” into the bidding as the price of helping Cyprus out of its desperate financial dilemma.  Figures indicate that the exploitation of Cypriot gas by, among others, French and American companies could potentially reduce the EU’s dependency on Russian supplies.

     According to the French newspaper Le Monde of March 23, the Russians have been making another, equally important, proposal to the Cypriots in exchange for Russian financial help: the provision of a naval base for Russian warships.  With continued use of Syrian port facilities out of the question, Russia will be left with no berthing or basing rights in the Mediterranean, leaving Cyprus as the only feasible option.  (This scenario was hinted at, perhaps foreshadowed, in a post of July 23, 2012 headlined “Cyprus, Russia, Syria, America, the EU, Turkey et al”, which reported the docking of two Russian Black Sea Fleet warships in the Cypriot port of Limassol – and not, it must be mentioned, in the Turkish-occupied port of Famagusta.)

  NOTHING IS EASY.

After reading this article, be sure to look at our Student National Security-Foreign Policy Solutions Essay Contest page to submit your essay today!

President Obama’s Middle East Visit: Why Is It So Opposed By Those Who Do Not Want Peace?


President Barack Obama and Israeli President Shimon Peres
President Barack Obama and Israeli President Shimon Peres inspect an honor guard during the official arrival ceremony at Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv, Israel, March 20, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

I have been reading a flood of blogs, op-eds, articles, and comments from so-called experts that the President should not visit Israel or the Middle East, and furthermore should not even attempt to seek peace in the region. One article indicated that he was rightly distrusted in Israel and he could only do harm to Israel’s interests. It did not mention in any way the billions of dollars that America supplies Israel, and its critical cooperation on defense and intelligence matters that Obama has initiated. 


The other opposition has come from the American right wing neo-cons, who got us into the needless and tragic Iraq war, and now have decided that war with Iran is somehow desirable and even seek, in some cases an American pre-emptive strike. 



Most recently, the Israeli election, which cut some support for Netanyahu, nevertheless just returned a shaky coalition “right-center,” but really is still antagonistic towards any accommodating effort to make the peace negotiations active and productive. The new government is still in the hands of the far right and includes belligerent and hostile forces towards a peace treaty and the two-state solution. Even worse, with Netanyahu in the lead, Israel is spreading illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank and even more disastrously in the Arab East Jerusalem area, which is an attempt to brutally remove the Arab population from their homes and to make a two-state solution with Jerusalem as the capital of both states near impossible. 



This policy is a unilateral declaration of a never-ending and on going war by Israel. It means long-term suppression of the Arab population. The bitterness and hate that this self-defeating policy will wrought can only heighten hate and conflict with Israel, that will likely end Israel as a democratic, secure, and respected nation.

It is also clear that the Palestinians need to get their own act together and seek ways, with Obama and Secretary Kerry, to make the agreed “road map” with their own necessary compromises that ensure a balanced and mutually secure outcome. But, America needs to be a true trusted interlocutor between the two parties and neither “hands off,” nor advocate for either side alone, but for a durable peace.  



This perspective is reflected by a long line of Shin Bet (Israeli security service) heads in the recent Israeli documentary film “Gatekeepers,” which I saw this weekend. This film should be seen by every American and every Israeli, as it is clear that these men who devoted their lives to Israel’s security, believe that the very soul of Israel is threatened, as is their security by the existing extreme politics of brutality that Israel now exercises against the Palestinian population. 



Why one can ask, since a peace treaty along the lines has long been understood to be fair, would provide security and prosperity for all sides in a region that has and will become more and more dangerous to the security of Israel. It is madness that only is equal to the madness of the American Republican right wing that also seems to think war is the desired rather than the worst possible option. 



Obama’s visit may at least continue a dialogue not only with the Israeli leadership, but may also help to reach out directly to Israeli citizens who now wrongly hold negative feelings towards Obama, falsely ginned up by Netanyahu and his far right collaborators. America under Obama is not an “enemy,” and indeed America often still is the only nation that has defended Israel, even when it should not be defended for some of its policies. The time has come to have a frank talk about peace in the Middle East. We need to discuss the implications for that relationship should Israel continue a set of policies that hurt Israel itself and are antithetical to finding a fair peace and to American values and goals. Obama’s real job is to make this case to the Israeli people.

 

We will be reviewing in this blog the outcome of Obama’s visit to the Middle East and we’ll look at what next steps might be possible.

 

After reading this article, be sure to look at our Student National Security-Foreign Policy Solutions Essay Contest page to submit your essay today!