TRUMP’S “FIRE AND FURY” RESPONSE TO NORTH KOREA: HOW CAN IT END?

By

Harry C. Blaney III

Donald Trump at press event today in while on vacation in NJ: “North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States.” “They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen. He has been very threatening beyond a normal state and as I said they will be met with fire and fury and frankly power the likes of which this world has never seen before.”

This is an very scary preview of Trump’s view of how to “deal” with a contending and critical conflict situation that may escalate the trajectory towards catastrophic destruction rather than moving toward de-escalation. Words matter on both sides as do threats especially by those that have the power of nuclear weapons.

The background is of a long history of negotiations by the U.S. with North Korea whose formal name is Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Past negotiations and short lived agreements failing, have resulted with a dangerous stalemate created by both sides. Past administrations trying to open new talks with North Korea rejecting the pre-condition of stopping building and testing of these weapons.

Recent intelligence reports indicate North Korea is more advanced in both nuclear weapons and ICBM’s than assessed earlier. Thus indicating that North Korea was getting close to having its long range intercontinental missiles reaching mainland U.S. Most recently after a series of missile tests and threatening statements from North Korea President Kim Jong Un Kim, the United Nations Security Council acted this last weekend with new sanctions after North Korea carried out recently two intercontinental ballistic missile tests. The new sanctions it is predicted would reduce North Korea’s annual export revenue by about a third and hopefully hindering its ability to raise resources for added developing nuclear weapons and missiles.

Just after the threatening statement by Trump, North Korea President Kim replied by threatening the ability to strike the U.S. territory of Guam. What each side needs is to avoid being drawn into a very stupid tit-for-tat escalation – the last thing anyone with sense would want to see. We now have late tonight an added threat by President Kim.

Almost all experts, who are not dire war hawks on this issue, are saying this is an unnecessary escalation now which would be best approached by intensive diplomacy. Not by bluster and threats on either side. This means the need by top leaders to work to tone down that harsh rhetoric by all sides. For America, if neither the White House Chief-of-Staff General Kelly or the head of the NSC General McMaster, can tone down Trump. If on China’s side, they can’t accomplish that end, our already fragile world will be in even deeper perilous trouble. The last thing China wants is a war on their borders.

We need to work closely with South Korea as they have the most to lose with total destruction, given the alignment of North Korea forces on their border. This is not often understood by Trump.

What then are the paths forward? Alternative options include a preemptive strike, a response second strike….all of these would be catastrophic given any normal fairly known scenario for all sides and even for the world. It would be reckless beyond imagination. We can again try direct contact and direct negotiations which would be our first likely option if both sides were sane.

That is sadly not a sure thing. North Korea has said they will not give up their nuclear weapons of missiles under any conditions. We have said we would not talk unless they stood down on their nuclear and missile program. Thus our existing stalemate. Their goal is to get American forces out of South Korea. We are committed to staying and defending South Korea – and for that matter Japan. Yet there have been innovative diplomacy ideas, like we have worked on in the Middle East, to find some way to decelerate the conflict and create a more stable situation. Whatever outcome, both sides would need to see that this diplomacy would achieve better security and peace than the status quo.

My own thought should these options not work, is we try what is called close “indirect mediation or negotiations”close in the same hotel or city, via a third neutral but very able person(s) that both sides can trust. We have used this mechanism, as have others in talks, for example between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Henry Kissinger also has used a version of this approach. There is also the more clumsy long distant bilateral mediation or “good offices” where a mediator would fly from one capital to another back and forth trying different solutions, seeking common ground and some level of agreement. One other related inducement for both sides may be for North Korea to offer to temporarily “stand down” on any new work on weapons and the other interested parties to temporarily to not enforce the new sanctions that were recently imposed. We need perhaps also a “sticks and carrots” approach.

In any case, the sad part is that the first truly existential challenge Trump has faced has shown a level of recklessness, stupidity, and created greater danger to peace. All in a critical region that requires the greatest attention, patience, deep knowledge and expertise Trump is wholly lacking and unwilling to consult and use. Sad for us!

We welcome your comments!

 

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NUCLEAR MADNESS: TRUMP’S DANGEROUS BABBLE AND IGNORANCE OF STRATEGIC REALITIES

NUCLEAR MADNESS: TRUMP’S DANGEROUS BABBLE AND IGNORANCE OF STRATEGIC REALITIES

By

Harry C. Blaney III

There seems to be no act by Donald Trump that does not endanger American and global security. We had the undermining of the EU and NATO, the beating up on America’s allies, and the threat to tear up the Iran nuclear and not least the still unknown relationship between Trump and Putin with overtones of selling out to Putin and rewarding him for helping in Trump’s election.  But in the most recent words by Trump in an interview Thursday, he said he thought an arms control treaty with Russia is a “bad deal” and that the United States should build up its nuclear arsenal to be the “top of the pack.” This, is my top pick of dangerous acts by this clearly clueless man on issues of war and nuclear matters.

As every knowledgeable person knows the American nuclear arsenal and capability tops that of any other nation on this earth and has for a long time. Our nuclear weapons can destroy much of the world almost instantaneously. Much of that nuclear capability is deployed in essentially invulnerable American ballistic missile submarines. That is why there is no reason for us to add to them or try to “modernize nukes” them beyond basic maintenance and safekeeping.

Contrary to Trump’s call for added military expenditure just adds to the overwhelming resources and war fighting capability we already have over either Russia or China. Any conflict with them would be as they use to say MAD –mutual assured destruction. That means they should never be used in any circumstance and their existence is purely as deterrence.

American experts and our allies know that a new arms race would not be to the interest of any nation either friend or potential foe. But now both Russia under Putin and Trump seem to not understand the importance to our security of past and present arms control treaties and agreements. The last was the New START treaty between America and Russia which capped the number of nuclear warheads by both nations. And under the Non-proliferation Treaty we and other nuclear nations are bound and promised to work toward elimination of these weapons. The treaty’s aim by this promise is to stop other nations from building their own nuclear weapons. Top leaders, Secretaries of State and Defense, etc. with great experience on nuclear issues, Republicans and Democrats have called for their eventual and timely elimination, known as “going to zero.” A worthy cause but requires all to moderate their own ambitions and work very hard on a true mutual reduction accompanied by other safeguards to ensure security for all nations.

US and Russian escalation of these weapons would undermine greatly the incentive of others to forgo their own weapons. Trump’s words and actions so far have only given other nation reasons to be frightened,  uncertain of our support, or  go alone in developing these weapons. The end being a world of chaos and destruction which Trump for some reason seems to relish.

What is at work in Trump mind or his real goals? Is it an initiative, not of gaining good and fair arms control agreements and seeking confidence building measures bringing security for the world population that make us all safer, or is it Trump’s chaos theory at work of unlimited and high risk blindness to an “arms race” that itself is massively dangerous?
What is needed is less such weapons, better training and practical equipment to ensure American defense, support of our allies, and safety of our people in the world we have today. We need not more money in weapons with no purpose in our time but the near elimination of humanity and global civilization.

Trump in this field has continue his exaggerations and reinforced his habitual lies in claiming the U.S. has “fallen behind on nuclear weapon capacity.” There is NO nation on earth that can match America’s modern nuclear force or for that matter conventional war fighting and the safeguarding of our nation. To say otherwise is to deceive out people, waste our needed resources for building back our civilian infrastructure, ensuring our children get the best education in the world, and protecting our environment, not least addressing the massive threat of climate change.

We welcome your comments!! See section below for your comments.

WHITE HOUSE FACT SHEET: IRAN NUCLEAR AGREEMENT

Blocking the Four Pathways to a Nuclear Weapon

Building a nuclear bomb requires either uranium or plutonium. But thanks to this deal, Iran’s four possible ways to leverage those fissile materials are blocked.
Under the framework for an Iran nuclear deal Iran's uranium enrichment pathway to a weapon will be shut down

The Uranium pathways at Natanz and Fordow

Iran would needs two key elements to construct a uranium bomb: tens of thousands of centrifuges and enough highly enriched uranium to produce enough material to construct a uranium bomb.
 
There are currently two uranium enrichment facilities in the country: the Natanz facility and the Fordow facility.
Let’s take a look at Iran’s uranium stockpile first. Currently, Iran has a uranium stockpile to create 8 to ten nuclear bombs.
But thanks to this nuclear deal, Iran must reduce its stockpile of uranium by 98%, and will keep its level of uranium enrichment at 3.67% — significantly below the enrichment level needed to create a bomb.
 
Iran also needs tens of thousands of centrifuges to create highly enriched uranium for a bomb. Right now, Iran has nearly 20,000 centrifuges between their Natanz and Fordow facilities. But under this deal, Iran must reduce its centrifuges to 6,104 for the next ten years. No enrichment will be allowed at the Fordow facility at all, and the only centrifuges Iran will be allowed to use are their oldest and least efficient models.
 
In short, here’s the difference this historic deal will make:
Under the framework for an Iran nuclear deal Iran's uranium enrichment pathway to a weapon will be shut down

The Plutonium pathway at the Arak reactor

The third way Iran could build a nuclear weapon is by using weapons-grade plutonium. The only site where Iran could accomplish this is the Arak reactor, a heavy-water nuclear reactor. Right now, this reactor could be used in a weapons program, but under this deal, the Arak reactor will be redesigned so it cannot produce any weapons-grade plutonium. And all the spent fuel rods (which could also be source material for weapons-grade plutonium) will be sent out of the country as long as this reactor exists. What’s more, Iran will not be able to build a single heavy-water reactor for at least 15 years. That means, because of this deal, Iran will no longer have a source for weapons-grade plutonium.

A covert pathway to building a secret nuclear program

The previous three pathways occur at facilities that Iran has declared. But what if they try to build a nuclear program in secret? That’s why this deal is so important. Under the new nuclear deal, Iran has committed to extraordinary and robust monitoring, verification, and inspection. International inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will not only be continuously monitoring every element of Iran’s declared nuclear program, but they will also be verifying that no fissile material is covertly carted off to a secret location to build a bomb. And if IAEA inspectors become aware of a suspicious location, Iran has agreed to implement the Additional Protocol to their IAEA Safeguards Agreement, which will allow inspectors to access and inspect any site they deem suspicious. Such suspicions can be triggered by holes in the ground that could be uranium mines, intelligence reports, unexplained purchases, or isotope alarms.
 
Basically, from the minute materials that could be used for a weapon comes out of the ground to the minute it is shipped out of the country, the IAEA will have eyes on it and anywhere Iran could try and take it:
Under the framework for an Iran nuclear deal Iran's uranium enrichment pathway to a weapon will be shut down

What Iran’s Nuclear Program Would Look Like Without This Deal

As it stands today, Iran has a large stockpile of enriched uranium and nearly 20,000 centrifuges, enough to create 8 to 10 bombs. If Iran decided to rush to make a bomb without the deal in place, it would take them 2 to 3 months until they had enough weapon-ready uranium (or highly enriched uranium) to build their first nuclear weapon. Left unchecked, that stockpile and that number of centrifuges would grow exponentially, practically guaranteeing that Iran could create a bomb—and create one quickly – if it so chose.
 
This deal removes the key elements needed to create a bomb and prolongs Iran’s breakout time from 2-3 months to 1 year or more if Iran broke its commitments. Importantly, Iran won’t garner any new sanctions relief until the IAEA confirms that Iran has followed through with its end of the deal. And should Iran violate any aspect of this deal, the U.N., U.S., and E.U. can snap the sanctions that have crippled Iran’s economy back into place.
 
Here’s what Iran has committed to:
Under the framework for an Iran nuclear deal Iran's uranium enrichment pathway to a weapon will be shut down
The difference this deal is significant. Take a look at exactly what Iran’s nuclear program will look like now under this deal:
Under the framework for an Iran nuclear deal Iran's uranium enrichment pathway to a weapon will be shut down

SECRETARY OF STATE KERRY’S STATEMENT ON THE IRAN DEAL

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.

PRESIDENT OBAMA’S STATEMENT ON THE IRAN NUCLEAR DEAL

“Today, after two years of negotiations, the United States, together with our international partners, has achieved something that decades of animosity has not: a comprehensive long term deal with Iran that will prevent it from obtaining a nuclear weapon. This deal demonstrates that American diplomacy can bring about real and meaningful change — change that makes our country and the world safer and more secure. This deal is also in line with a tradition of American leadership. It’s now more than 50 years since president Kennedy stood before the American people and said, ‘Let us never negotiate out of fear but let us never fear to negotiate.’ He was speaking then about the need for discussions between the United States and Soviet Union, which led to efforts to restrict the spread of nuclear weapons. In those days the risk was a catastrophic nuclear war between two superpowers.

In our time, the risk is that nuclear weapons will spread to more and more countries, particularly in the Middle East, the most volatile region in our world. Today, because America negotiated from a position of strength and principle, we have stopped the spread of nuclear weapons in this region. Because of this deal, the international community will be able to verify that the Islamic Republic of Iran will not develop a nuclear weapon.

This deal meets every single one of the bottom lines that we established when we achieved a framework earlier this spring. Every pathway to a nuclear weapon is cut off. In the inspection and transparency regime necessary to verify that objective will be put in place. Because of this deal Iran will not produce the highly enriched uranium weapons grade plutonium that form the raw materials necessary for a nuclear bomb. Because of this deal Iran will remove two-thirds of its installed centrifuges, the machines necessary to produce highly enriched uranium for a bomb, and store them under constant international supervision. Iran will not use its advanced centrifuges to produce enriched uranium for the next decade. Iran will also get rid of 98 percent of its stockpile of enriched uranium.

To put that in perspective Iran currently has a stockpile that can produce up to 10 nuclear weapons. Because of this deal, that stockpile will be reduced to a fraction of what would be required for a single weapon. This stockpile limitation will last for 15 years. Because of this deal, Iran will modify the core of its reactor in Iraq so that it will not produce weapons-grade plutonium. And it has agreed to ship the spent fuel from the reactor out of the country for the lifetime of the reactor. For at least the next 15 years, Iran will not build any new heavy water reactors.

Because of this deal we will for the first time be in a position to verify all of these commitments. That means this deal is not built on trust. It is built on verification. Inspectors will have 24/7 access to Iran’s key nuclear facilities. Iran will have access to Iran’s entire nuclear supply chain — its uranium mines and mills, its conversion facility and its centrifuge manufacturing and storage facilities. This ensures that Iran will not be able to divert materials from known facilities to covert ones. Some of these transparency measures will be in place for 25 years. Because of this deal inspectors will also be able to access any suspicious location.

Put simply, the organization responsible for the inspections, the IAEA, will have access where necessary, when necessary. That arrangement is permanent. And the IAEA has also reach an agreement with Iran to get access that it needs to complete its investigation into the possible military dimensions of Iran’s past nuclear research.

Finally, Iran is permanently prohibited from pursuing a nuclear weapon under the nuclear nonproliferation treaty, which provided the basis for the international community’s efforts to apply pressure on Iran. As Iran takes steps to implement this deal, it will receive relief from the sanctions that we put in place because of Iran’s nuclear program — both Americans’ own sanctions and sanctions imposed by the United Nations Security Council. This relief will be phased in. Iran must complete key nuclear steps before it begins to receive new sanctions relief. And over the course of the next decade, Iran must abide by the deal before additional sanctions are lifted, including five years for restrictions related to arms and eight years for restrictions related to ballistic missiles. All of this will be memorialized and endorsed in a new United Nations Security Council resolution. And if Iran violates the deal, all of these sanctions will snap back into place — so there’s a very clear and senate for Iran to fall through. And there are very real consequences for a violation.

That’s the deal. It has the full backing of the international community. Congress will now have an opportunity to review the details and my administration’s stands ready to provide extensive briefings on how this will move forward. As the American people and Congress review the deal, it will be important to consider the alternative. Consider what happens in a world without this deal. Without this deal, there is no scenario where the world joins us in sanctioning Iran until it completely dismantles its nuclear program. Nothing we know about the Iranian government suggest that it would simply capitulate under that kind of pressure. And the world would not support an effort to permanently sanction Iran into submission. We put sanctions in place to get a diplomatic resolution. And that is what we have done.

Without this deal, there would be no agreed-upon limitations for the Iranian nuclear program. Iran could produce, operate and test more and more centrifuges. Iran could fuel a reactor capable of producing plutonium for a bomb and we would not have any of the inspections that allow us to detect a covert nuclear weapons program. In other words, no deal means no lasting constraints on Iran’s nuclear program. Such a scenario would make it more likely that other countries in the region would feel compelled to pursue their own nuclear programs, threatening a nuclear arms race in the most volatile region of the world. It would also present the United States with fewer and less-effective options to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

I’ve been president and commander in chief for over six years now. Time and again I have faced decisions about whether or not to use military force. It’s the greatest decision that any president has to make. Many times, in multiple countries, I have decided to use force. I’ll never hesitate to do so when it is in our national security interest. I strongly believe that our national security interest now depends upon preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon — which means that without a diplomatic resolution, either I or a future U.S. president would face a decision about whether or not to allow Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon or whether to use our military to stop it. Put simply, no deal means a greater chance of more war in the Middle East.

Moreover, we give nothing up by testing whether or not this problem can be solved peacefully. If, in the worst-case scenario, Iran violates the deal, the same options that are available to me today will be available to any U.S. president in the future. And I’ve no doubt that 10 or 15 years from now the person who holds this office will be in a far stronger position with Iran further away from my weapon and with the inspections and transparency that allow us to monitor the Iranian program. For this reason, I believe it would be irresponsible to walk away from this deal. But, on such a tough issue, it is important to the American people and their representatives in Congress get a full opportunity to review the deal. After all, the details matter. And we’ve had some of the finest nuclear scientists in the world working through those details. And we’re dealing with a country, Iran, that has been a sworn adversary of the United States for over 35 years.

So I welcome a robust debate in Congress on this issue and I welcome scrutiny of the details of this agreement. But I will remind Congress the you don’t make deals like this with your friends. We negotiated arms control agreements with the Soviet Union when that nation was committed to our destruction. And those agreements ultimately made us safer. I am confident that this deal will meet at the national security interest of the United States and our allies. So I will veto any legislation that prevents the successful implementation of this deal. We do not have to accept an inevitable spiral into conflict and we certainly shouldn’t seek it. And precisely because the stakes are so high, this is not the time for politics or posturing. Tough talk from Washington does not solve problems. Hard-nosed diplomacy leadership that has united the world’s major powers, offers a more effective way to verify that Iran is not pursuing a nuclear weapon.

Now, that doesn’t mean that this deal will resolve all of our differences with Iraq. We share the concerns expressed by many of our friends and Middle East, including Israel and the Gulf States, about Iran’s support for terrorism and its use of proxies to destabilize the region. That is precisely why we are taking this step. Because an Iran armed with a nuclear weapon would be far more destabilizing and far more dangerous to our friends and to the world. Meanwhile, we will maintain our own sanctions related to Iran’s support for terrorism, its ballistic missile program and its human rights violations. We will continue our unprecedented efforts to strengthen Israel’s security, efforts that go beyond what any American administration has done before. And we will continue the work we began at Camp David — to elevate our partnership with the gulf states to strengthen their capabilities to counter threats from Iran or terrorist groups like ISIL. However, I believe that we must continue to test whether or not this region, which is known so much suffering, so much bloodshed, can move in a different direction.

Time and again I’ve made clear to the Iranian people that we will always be open to engagement on the basis of mutual interests and mutual respect. Our differences are real. And the difficult history between our nations cannot be ignored. But it is possible to change. The path of violence and rigid ideology, a foreign policy based on threats to attack your neighbors or eradicate Israel — that’s a dead end. A different path, one of tolerance, and peaceful resolution of conflict, leads to more integration into the global economy, more engagement with the international community, and the ability of the Iranian people to prosper and thrive.

This deal offers an opportunity to move in a new direction. We should seize it. We have come a long way to reach this point. Decades of an Iranian nuclear program, many years of sanctions and many months of intense negotiations. Today, I want to thank the members of Congress from both parties who helped us put in place the sanctions that have proven so effective, as well as the other countries who joined us in that effort. I want to thank our negotiating partners — the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia, China — as well as the European Union, for our unity in this effort, which showed that the world can do remarkable things when we share a vision of peacefully addressing conflicts. We showed what we can do when we do not split apart.

And finally, I want to thank the American negotiating team. We had a team of experts working for several weeks straight on this, including our Secretary of Energy, Ernie Moniz. And I want to particularly thank John Kerry, our secretary of state, who began his service to this country more than four decades ago when he put on our uniform and went off to war. He’s now making this country safer through his commitment to strong-principled American diplomacy. History shows that America must lead, not just with our might, but with our principles. It shows we are stronger not when we are alone but when we bring the world together. Today’s announcement marks one more chapter in this pursuit of a safer and more helpful, more hopeful world. Thank you. God bless you. And god bless the United States of America.”

Check out the latest article on the Iran deal from the New York Times here.

RUSSIA REMAINS REGRESSIVE AT HOME AND ABROAD: CAN PUTIN EVER LEARN?

Vladimir Putin Speaks in Moscow.
Vladimir Putin Speaks in Moscow.

By: Harry C. Blaney III

With news that conflict in Ukraine has increased with Russian troops and their insurgent rebels still trying to make brutal advances, in Moscow Putin remains in a state of denial about the Russian economy and gloates over his assumed “victories”. With this, one must wonder what world Putin is living in and will there ever be a revelation of reality and desire to do good for the Russian people?

At home Russia may be in a mini recession of 2% and seems on a trajectory for more drops in its GDP in the coming months.  The Ruble has increased some and oil which also has increased slightly seems to be hitting a plateau but still far from its high, but the long range fundamental economic condition of Russia seems very bleak especially for the majority of average Russian citizens.

On the international stage, Russia has announced the “sale” of ballistic defense systems to Iran.

The offer of the Russian S-300 missile defense system to Iran remains problematic. While it may not be an immediate delivery, as a Russian Foreign Ministry official said on April 23rd, it “is not a matter of the nearest future,” according to Haaretz.  The TASS official news agency reported Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov saying “It is more important that a political and legal decision, which opens up such a possibility, is taken.”  Putin also made overtures to a dangerous North Korea.

In the cyber area, Russian hackers also broke into unclassified networks at the Department of Defense earlier this year, Pentagon Secretary Ashton Carter said on April 23rd. No real surprises there, however an indicator of hostile intent.

NATO’s Jens Stoltenberg, the organization’s secretary general, said on Thursday that it is seeing a “substantial Russian buildup,” along the border with and inside Ukraine. This is violating the Minsk cease-fire agreement and again shows that Russia still is using misinformation and lies as a tool of its diplomacy and propaganda strategy. In the long-run this will undermine Russia’s believability and, when at another time, it will need creditability it will have been lost.  There will be a point, as in Soviet times, when respect at home and abroad is imperiled. Already the outflow of funds indicates that this has already taken place.

The West needs badly a new and serious reassessment of Russian actions and strategy, but it can’t be a kneed-jerk reaction, or an overreaction. It needs to be rather a rational consideration of the dangers from an aggressive Russia and a long-term strategy of turning the relationship around to more productive and safer conditions as we did in the old “cold war.” Then firmness, restraint and engagement worked. One of the best ways to react would be to start a set of strategies within NATO, EU, G-7 and the OECD countries of a growth and productivity strategy rather than the conservative and failed “austerity” programs that have slowed growth, caused large unemployment, and created instability in key countries.

We need to stop the fights within our open society communities and start to jointly move rapidly to increased employment of the “middle and poorer” majority, improving our own infrastructure both physically and intellectually, become fairer, and start to cooperate on the many global challenges that threaten to set asunder our societies and our globe. President Obama has tried to do this, Europe remains divided over Greece, growth, immigration and beset by racist right-wing parties that threaten democracy and progress. These need to be addressed and addressed with vigor and in common. Then, Russia as a regressive nation with a backward looking regime might see a real future in cooperation with a growing and robust West and act in its own interest.

 

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THE GRAND FLAW IN THE UN

Foreword: In the interest of providing some alternative views on national security we are inviting new views on our topics from a diverse group of individuals who can contribute to a healthy and creative debate on key international issues of our day.  One such contribution is below.


U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon giving a speech at a press conference in Geneva.
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon giving a speech at a press conference in Geneva.

By: Chuck Woolery, Guest blogger

Recently, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged member States to recommit to “collective security” and human rights. He claimed the UN prevented another war but those who suffered from the lethal consequences of the Cold War or the current violence and loss of human rights as a result of an ongoing and predictably endless global war on terrorism might disagree.

 

Peace, or the absence of war, particularly a nuclear war, was the original motivation for the creation of the UN. But it’s increasingly clear to those who deal with threats to individual and national security, and others concerned about human rights and the environment, that effectively protecting human security, national security and the environment will require more than just “peace”.

 

What the vast majority of ‘we the people’ of the world really want is security without the loss of the freedom, and the prosperity that comes from maximizing both freedom and security. Threats like Ebola, Climate Change, violent extremism and WMD proliferation in a world where the rights of nations remain superior to the rights of ‘we the people’, will never see nations, people or economies free from threats and violations of the most fundamental of human rights — the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

 

Encouragingly, the UN Secretary General specifically stated that UN Member States needed to fortify a sense of unity on the meaning of the term ‘collective security’, which he stressed was the core purpose of the organization. He also noted that Nation States have been falling short of their responsibility to prevent conflict, something the UN Charter is very clear on. What he didn’t mention was the grand flaw of the UN’s original design of giving sovereign equality to all member states with absolutely no means of enforcing that equality, short of war, or sanctions — which can be more deadly than war. And, worse yet, the universal protection of human rights is only an afterthought. A grand gesture with absolutely no muscle other than words (in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights), accusations (frequent UN reports), powerless courts (ICC and ICJ) and noble promises (R2P).

 

There should be no doubt that violations of human rights eventually weaken state sovereignty and national security. But not a single organization in the world is actively demanding or even offering solutions to resolve this grand flaw. If anyone is looking for such solutions, a new book lists them along with detailing rational means for achieving them. The book is titled “Transforming the United Nations System” written by Joseph E. Schwartzberg and endorsed by former UN Secretary General as “an essential reference work for all…concerned…”.

 

Ban states “In today’s world, the less sovereignty is viewed as a wall or a shield, the better our prospects will be for protecting people and solving our shared problems…” But, in fact, it is the belief that national sovereignty is the key to protecting national security and human rights that is the grand flaw in the current UN system.

 

Human rights abuses kill, maim, and displace people, divide communities, undermine economies and destroy cultural heritage. Ban called for “a conceptual shift” in international understanding of UN human rights action in order to transform the Security Council’s role in peace and security. Yet, no organization today boldly takes the stand in support of such needed transformation.

 

Ban said “We must ask whether, for example, earlier efforts to address human rights violations and political grievances in Syria could have kept the situation from escalating so horrendously.” He went on to say “We must be willing to act before situations deteriorate. This is both a moral responsibility and critical for the maintenance of international peace and security. We cannot afford to be indifferent.” Anyone adding up just the economic costs of our indifference would have to agree.

 

Noting that the distinctions between national and international were beginning to disappear, Mr. Ban cited commerce, communication, public health and climate change as areas of transnational concern. Terrorism and extremism were also serious issues and he highlighted the need to respond decisively, and to combat extremism without multiplying the problem and with full respect for human rights. What he was saying without actually saying it is ‘we need enforceable international laws’ (i.e. the ‘force of law’ instead of the ‘law of force’ for dealing with our individual, religious and national differences.)

 

Regarding many other important issues of international concern, the UN’s 70th anniversary should serve as a chance to seriously reflect on nation states’ common enterprise and to take transformative actions like those detailed in Mr. Schwartzberg’s book. And high on any list should be the newest, laudable, affordable and achievable goals soon to be affirmed for sustainable development and climate change. But we must recognize that any hope of actually achieving these vital goals will require three fundamental tactics.

 

  1. A holistic and global approach. (global enforcement of UDHR)
  2. A new source of secure and adequate funding (a global financial transaction tax)
  3. The context of national security and protecting fundamental human freedoms in advocating for both of these.

 

The world still awaits an organization (or movement of organizations) that will stand for and passionately advocate for any or all of these fundamental prerequisites to having the world work for everyone.

 

The bad news is that time is not on our side. Those with the power to make such change appear to be emotionally detached from actual deaths, torture, diseases, disabilities, pain and other suffering of hundreds of millions of innocent men, women and children. Some would say there is a lack of political will to do what is humanly doable. I’m beginning to think it is a lack of empathy and courage.

 

We know what needs to be done. We know it’s the moral thing to do. We know we cannot bare the economic cost of not doing it.

 

Nearly 40 years ago I attended a presentation on climate change. The title of that talk was “Is there intelligent life on earth?” In hindsight, knowing of all ‘smart’ technologies we have at our finger tips and the massive “intelligence agencies” our government funds, I would have to answer “yes” to that question. If asked “is there wisdom in our application of that intelligence?” The answer would be as self-evident as our God given universal rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

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