Monthly Archives: July 2015

Iran has signed a historic nuclear deal – now it’s Israel’s turn – Javad Zarif

If the Vienna deal is to mean anything, the whole of the Middle East must rid itself of weapons of mass destruction

The Guardian | Javad Zarif | 31 July 2015

Nuclear-missiles--009

Strategic nuclear missiles from the cold war on display at the National Museum of the US Air Force. ‘The cold war era assymetry is no longer tolerable.’ Photograph: Alamy

We – Iran and its interlocutors in the group of nations known as the P5+1 – have finally achieved the shared objective of turning the Iranian nuclear programme from an unnecessary crisis into a platform for cooperation on nuclear non-proliferation and beyond. The nuclear deal reached in Vienna this month is not a ceiling but a solid foundation on which we must build. The joint comprehensive plan of action, as the accord is officially known, cements Iran’s status as a zone free of nuclear weapons. Now it is high time that we expand that zone to encompass the entire Middle East.

Iran’s push for a ban on weapons of mass destruction in its regional neighbourhood has been consistent. The fact that it precedes Saddam Hussein’s systematic use of WMDs against Iran (never reciprocated in kind) is evidence of the depth of my country’s commitment to this noble cause. And while Iran has received the support of some of its Arab friends in this endeavour, Israel – home to the Middle East’s only nuclear weapons programme – has been the holdout. In the light of the historic nuclear deal, we must address this challenge head on.

One of the many ironies of history is that non-nuclear-weapon states, like Iran, have actually done far more for the cause of non-proliferation in practice than nuclear-weapon states have done on paper. Iran and other nuclear have-nots have genuinely “walked the walk” in seeking to consolidate the non-proliferation regime. Meanwhile, states actually possessing these destructive weapons have hardly even “talked the talk”, while completely brushing off their disarmament obligations under the non-proliferation treaty (NPT) and customary international law.

That is to say nothing of countries outside the NPT, or Israel, with an undeclared nuclear arsenal and a declared disdain towards non-proliferation, notwithstanding its absurd and alarmist campaign against the Iranian nuclear deal.

Today, in light of the Vienna deal, it is high time that the nuclear “haves” remedied the gap by adopting serious disarmament measures and reinforcing the non-proliferation regime.

It is time for the “haves” to finally come to terms with a crucial reality; we live in a globalised security environment. The cold war era asymmetry between states that possess nuclear weapons and those that don’t is no longer remotely tolerable.

For too long, it has been assumed that the insane concept of mutually assured destruction would sustain stability and non-proliferation. Nothing could be further from the truth. The prevalence of this deterrence doctrine in international relations has been the primary driving force behind the temptation by some countries to acquire nuclear weapons, and by others to engage in expanding and beefing up the strength of their nuclear arsenals. All this in blatant violation of the disarmament objectives set by the international community.

It is imperative that we change this dangerous and erroneous security paradigm and move toward a better, safer and fairer arrangement. I sincerely believe that the nuclear agreement between my country – a non-nuclear-weapon state – and the P5+1 (which control almost all nuclear warheads on Earth) is symbolically significant enough to kickstart this paradigm shift and mark the beginning of a new era for the non-proliferation regime.

One step in the right direction would be to start negotiations for a weapons elimination treaty, backed by a robust monitoring and compliance-verification mechanism.

This could, in an initial phase, occasion the de-alerting of nuclear arsenals (removing warheads from delivery vehicles to reduce the risk of use) and subsequently engender the progressive disarmament by all countries possessing such WMDs. It is certainly a feasible goal to start this global project with a robust, universal and really genuine push to establish a WMD-free zone in the Middle East, if the relevant powers finally come to deem it not just a noble cause but a strategic imperative.

Such a new treaty would revive and complement the NPT for nuclear “haves”. It would codify disarmament obligations for nuclear-armed regimes that are not party to the NPT – but that are nonetheless bound – politically, by the international non-proliferation regime and, legally, by preemptory norms of customary international law to disarm.

Iran, in its national capacity and as current chairman of the Non-Aligned Movement, is prepared to work with the international community to achieve these goals, knowing full well that, along the way, it will probably run into many hurdles raised by the sceptics of peace and diplomacy. But we must endeavour to convince and persist, as we did in Vienna.

The Middle East will never be the same: Why the Iran pact is a historic triumph

PETER VAN BUREN, TOMDISPATCH.COM, July 30, 2015

Without a shot being fired, the United States and Iran have effectively ended an era of outright hostility

AP844025933399-620x412

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, left, talks to Hassan Khomeini, grandson of late revolutionary founder Ayatollah Khomeini. ( (Credit: AP/Vahid Salemi)

This piece originally appeared on TomDispatch.

Don’t sweat the details of the July nuclear accord between the United States and Iran. What matters is that the calculus of power in the Middle East just changed in significant ways.

Washington and Tehran announced their nuclear agreement on July 14th and yes, some of the details are still classified. Of course the Obama administration negotiated alongside China, Russia, Great Britain, France, and Germany, which means Iran and five other governments must approve the detailed 159-page “Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.” The U.N., which also had to sign off on the deal, has already agreed to measures to end its sanctions against Iran.

If we’re not all yet insta-experts on centrifuges and enrichment ratios, the media will ensure that in the next two months – during which Congress will debate and weigh approving the agreement — we’ll become so. Verification strategies will be debated. The Israelis will claim that the apocalypse is nigh. And everyone who is anyone will swear to the skies that the devil is in the details. On Sunday talk shows, war hawks will fuss endlessly about the nightmare to come, as well as the weak-kneedness of the president and his “delusional” secretary of state, John Kerry. (No one of note, however, will ask why the president’s past decisions to launch or continue wars in the Middle East were not greeted with at least the same sort of skepticism as his present efforts to forestall one.)

There are two crucial points to take away from all the angry chatter to come: first, none of this matters and second, the devil is not in the details, though he may indeed appear on those Sunday talk shows.

Here’s what actually matters most: at a crucial moment and without a shot being fired, the United States and Iran have come to a turning point away from an era of outright hostility. The nuclear accord binds the two nations to years of engagement and leaves the door open to a far fuller relationship. Understanding how significant that is requires a look backward.

A Very Quick History of U.S.-Iranian Relations

The short version: relations have been terrible for almost four decades. A slightly longer version would, however, begin in 1953 when the CIA helped orchestrate a coup to oust Iran’s democratically elected prime minister, Mohammad Mosaddegh. A secular leader — just the sort of guy U.S. officials have dreamed about ever since the ayatollahs took power in 1979 — Mosaddegh sought to nationalize Iran’s oil industry. That, at the time, was a total no-no for Washington and London. Hence, he had to go.

In his place, Washington installed a puppet leader worthy of the sleaziest of banana republics, Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. The U.S. assisted him in maintaining a particularly grim secret police force, the Savak, which he aimed directly at his political opponents, democratic and otherwise, including the ones who espoused a brand of Islamic fundamentalism unfamiliar to the West at the time. Washington lapped up the Shah’s oil and, in return, sold him the modern weapons he fetishized. Through the 1970s, the U.S. also supplied nuclear fuel and reactor technology to Iran to build on President Dwight Eisenhower’s “Atoms for Peace” initiative, which had kicked off Iran’s nuclear program in 1957.

In 1979, following months of demonstrations and seeing his fate in the streets of Tehran, the Shah fled. Religious leader Ayatollah Khomeini returned from exile to take control of the nation in what became known as the Islamic Revolution. Iranian “students” channeled decades of anti-American rage over the Shah and his secret police into a takeover of the American Embassy in Tehran. In an event that few Americans of a certain age are likely to forget, 52 American staffers were held hostage there for some 15 months.

In retaliation, the U.S. would, among other things, assist Iraqi autocrat Saddam Hussein (remember him?) in his war with Iran in the 1980s, and in 1988, an American guided missile cruiser in the Persian Gulf would shoot down a civilian Iran Air flight, killing all 290 people on board. (Washingtonclaimed it was an accident.) In 2003, when Iran reached out to Washington, following American military successes in Afghanistan, President George W. Bush declared that country part of the “Axis of Evil.”

Iran later funded, trained, and helped lead a Shiite insurgency against the United States in Iraq. In tit-for-tat fashion, U.S. forces raided an Iranian diplomatic office there and arrested several staffers. As Washington slowly withdrew its military from that country, Iran increased its support for pro-Tehran leaders in Baghdad. When Iran’s nuclear program grew, the U.S. attacked its computers with malware, launching what was in effect the first cyberwarin history. At the same time, Washington imposed economic sanctions on the country and its crucial energy production sector.

In short, for the last 36 years, the U.S.-Iranian relationship has been hostile, antagonistic, unproductive, and often just plain mean. Neither country seems to have benefited, even as both remained committed to the fight.

Iran Ascendant

Despite the best efforts of the United States, Iran is now the co-dominant power in the Middle East. And rising. (Washington remains the other half of that “co.”)

Another quick plunge into largely forgotten history: the U.S. stumbled into the post-9/11 era with two invasions that neatly eliminated Iran’s key enemies on its eastern and western borders — Saddam Hussein in Iraq and the Taliban in Afghanistan. (The former is, of course, gone for good; the latter is doing better these days, though unlikely to threaten Iran for some time.) As those wars bled on without the promised victories, America’s military weariness sapped the desire in the Bush administration for military strikes against Iran. Jump almost a decade ahead and Washington now quietly supports at least some of that country’s military efforts in Iraq against the insurgent Islamic State. The Obama administration is seemingly at least half-resigned to looking the other way while Tehran ensures that it will have a puppet regime in Baghdad. In its serially failing strategies in Yemen, Lebanon, and Syria, Washington has all but begged the Iranians to assume a leading role in those places. They have.

And that only scratches the surface of the new Iranian ascendancy in the region. Despite the damage done by U.S.-led economic sanctions, Iran’s real strength lies at home. It is probably the most stable Muslim nation in the Middle East. It has existed more or less within its current borders for thousands of years. It is almost completely ethnically, religiously, culturally, and linguistically homogeneous, with its minorities comparatively under control. While still governed in large part by its clerics, the country has nonetheless experienced a series of increasingly democratic electoral transitions since the 1979 revolution. Most significantly, unlike nearly every other nation in the Middle East, Iran’s leaders do not rule in fear of an Islamic revolution. They already had one.

Why Iran Won’t Have Nuclear Weapons

Now, about those nukes. It would take a blind man in the dark not to notice one obvious fact about the Greater Middle East: regimes the U.S. opposes tend to find themselves blasted into chaos once they lose their nuclear programs. The Israelis destroyed Saddam’s program, as they did Syria’s, from the air. Muammar Qaddafi’s Libya went down the drain thanks to American/NATO-inspired regime change after he voluntarily gave up his nuclear ambitions. At the same time, no one in Tehran could miss how North Korea’s membership in the regime-change club wasn’t renewed once that country went nuclear. Consider those pretty good reasons for Iran to develop a robust nuclear weapons program — and not give it up entirely.

While, since 2002, Washington hasn’t taken a day off in its saber-rattling toward Iran, it isn’t the only country the clerics fear. They are quite convinced that Israel, with its unacknowledged but all too real nuclear arsenal, is capable and might someday be willing to deliver a strike via missile, aircraft, or submarine.

Now, here’s the added irony: American sabers and Israeli nukes also explain why Iran will always remain a nuclear threshold state — one that holds most or all of the technology and materials needed to make such a weapon, but chooses not to take the final steps. Just exactly how close a country is at any given moment to having a working nuclear weapon is called “breakout time.” If Iran were to get too close, with too short a breakout time, or actually went nuclear, a devastating attack by Israel and/or the United States would be a near inevitability. Iran is not a third world society. Its urban areas and infrastructure are exactly the kinds of things bombing campaigns are designed to blow away. So call Iran’s nuclear program a game of chicken, but one in which all the players involved always knew who would blink first.

The U.S.-Iran Nuclear Accord

So if Iran was never going to be a true nuclear power and if the world has lived with Iran as a threshold state for some time now, does the July accord matter?

There are two answers to that question: it doesn’t and it does.

It doesn’t really matter because the deal changes so little on the ground. If the provisions of the accord are implemented as best we currently understand them, with no cheating, then Iran will slowly move from its current two- to three-month breakout time to a year or more. Iran doesn’t have nukes now, it would not have nukes if there were no accord, and it won’t have nukes with the accord. In other words, the Vienna agreement successfully eliminated weapons of mass destruction that never existed.

It does really matter because, for the first time in decades, the two major powers in the Middle East have opened the door to relations. Without the political cover of the accord, the White House could never envisage taking a second step forward.

It’s a breakthrough because through it the U.S. and Iran acknowledge shared interests for the first time, even as they recognize their ongoing conflicts in Syria, Yemen, and elsewhere. That’s how adversaries work together: you don’t have to make deals like the July accord with your friends. Indeed, President Obama’s description of how the deal will be implemented — based on verification, not trust — represents a precise choice of words. The reference is to President Ronald Reagan, who used the phrase “trust but verify” in 1987 when signing the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with the Russians.

The agreement was reached the old-school way, by sitting down at a table over many months and negotiating. Diplomats consulted experts. Men and women in suits, not in uniform, did most of the talking. The process, perhaps unfamiliar to a post-9/11 generation raised on the machismo of “you’re either with us or against us,” is called compromise. It’s an essential part of a skill that is increasingly unfamiliar to Americans: diplomacy. The goal is not to defeat an enemy, find quick fixes, solve every bilateral issue, or even gain the release of the four Americans held in Iran. The goal is to achieve a mutually agreeable resolution to a specific problem. Such deft statecraft demonstrates the sort of foreign policy dexterity American voters have seldom seen exercised since Barack Obama was awarded the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize (Cuba being the sole exception).

It’s All About the Money

While diplomacy brought the United States and Iran to this point, cash is what will expand and sustain the relationship.

Iran, with the fourth-largest proven crude oil reserves and the second-largest natural gas reserves on the planet, is ready to start selling on world markets as soon as sanctions lift. Its young people reportedly yearn for greater engagement with the West. The lifting of sanctions will allow Iranian businesses access to global capital and outside businesses access to starved Iranian commercial markets.

Since November 2014, the Chinese, for example, have already doubled their investment in Iran. European companies, including Shell and Peugeot, are now holding talks with Iranian officials. Apple is contacting Iranian distributors. Germany sent a trade delegation to Tehran. Ads for European cars and luxury goods are starting to reappear in the Iranian capital. Hundreds of billions of dollars worth of foreign technology and expertise will need to be acquired if the country is to update its frayed oil and natural gasinfrastructure. Many of its airliners are decades old and need replacement. Airlines in Dubai are fast adding new Iran routes to meet growing demand. The money will flow. After that, it will be very hard for the war hawks in Washington, Tel Aviv, or Riyadh to put the toothpaste back in the tube, which is why you hear such screaming and grinding of teeth now.

The Real Fears of the Israelis and the Saudis

Neither Israel nor the Saudis ever really expected to trade missile volleys with a nuclear-armed Iran, nor do their other primary objections to the accord hold much water. Critics have said the deal will only last 10 years. (The key provisions scale in over 10 years, then taper off.) Leaving aside that a decade is a lifetime in politics, this line of thinking also presumes that, as the calendar rolls over to 10 years and a day, Iran will bolt from the deal and go rogue. It’s a curious argument to make.

Similarly, any talk of the accord touching off a nuclear arms race in the Middle East is long out of date. Israel has long had the bomb, with no arms race triggered. Latent fears that Iran will create “the Islamic Bomb” ignore the fact that Pakistan, with own hands dirty from abetting terror and plenty of Islamic extremists on hand, has been a nuclear power since at least 1998.

No, what fundamentally worries the Israelis and the Saudis is that Iran will rejoin the community of nations as a diplomatic and trading partner of the United States, Asia, and Europe. Embarking on a diplomatic offensive in the wake of its nuclear deal, Iranian officials assured fellow Muslim countries in the region that they hoped the accord would pave the way for greater cooperation. American policy in the Persian Gulf, once reliably focused only on its own security and energy needs, may (finally) start to line up with an increasingly multifaceted Eurasian reality. A powerful Iran is indeed a threat to the status quo — hence the upset in Tel Aviv and Riyadh — just not a military one. Real power in the twenty-first century, short of total war, rests with money.

The July accord acknowledges the real-world power map of the Middle East. It does not make Iran and the United States friends. It does, however, open the door for the two biggest regional players to talk to each other and develop the kinds of financial and trade ties that will make conflict more impractical. After more than three decades of U.S.-Iranian hostility in the world’s most volatile region, that is no small accomplishment.

 

Peter Van Buren blew the whistle on State Department waste and mismanagement during Iraqi reconstruction in his first book, We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People. A TomDispatch regular, he writes about current events at his blog, We Meant Well. His new book, Ghosts of Tom Joad: A Story of the #99Percent, has just been published.

Brazil Nuclear Leader’s Arrest May Stymie Atomic Ambitions

VOA | Reuters | July 30, 2015

70D691F3-D296-467D-8C97-E4B9030A09B8_w640_r1_s_cx15_cy0_cw83

FILE : A general view of Angra dos Reis nuclear complex, located 240 km (150 miles) from Rio de Janeiro, in this Aug. 31, 2011 file photo.

The arrest of the longtime head of Brazil’s nuclear energy utility on corruption charges could disrupt a plan to revive Brazilian nuclear ambitions whose roots go back to its atomic-bomb program in the 1980s.

Othon Luiz Pinheiro da Silva, a retired admiral, was arrested on Tuesday for allegedly taking 4.5 million reais ($1.35 million) in bribes from engineering firms working on the long-delayed Angra 3 nuclear power plant.

While its constitution commits Brazil to the peaceful use of atomic power, Pinheiro, 76, has for three decades been a central player in plans to finish Angra 3, build eight additional reactors and even a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines.

“The arrest is a tragedy for the industry,” said Luiz Pinguelli Rosa, a Brazilian nuclear physicist and Eletrobras’ chief executive from 2003 to 2005.

“The industry was already in crisis, but now the corruption concerns are bound to delay Angra 3 further and cause costs to rise even more.”

Pinheiro, an atomic engineer, was tasked by Brazil’s military dictatorship in the 1980s to find a way to build a nuclear reactor small enough for a home-built submarine and the means to process enough enriched uranium to fuel it.

His work eventually led to a secretive, but UN-sanctioned, uranium-enrichment plant outside of Rio de Janeiro. The plant, which reprocesses fuel from Angra 1 and 2, does much the same thing as Iran’s controversial military-civilian facilities.

In 1990, five years after the end of military rule, Brazil publicly renounced its bomb-making plans with the implosion of tunnels in the Amazon that had been dug to test thermonuclear devices.

For the past decade, Pinheiro ran Eletronuclear, the nuclear energy unit of state-controlled utility Eletrobras that has been trying to complete the long-delayed Angra 3 reactor 100 km (60 miles) west of Rio de Janeiro.

But with the economy shrinking, environmental fears growing, public anger over corruption, and delays and cost overruns on government projects, Pinheiro’s arrest could lead to a scaling back of Brazil’s nuclear plans.

Scandal

As with a widening corruption scandal at state-run oil company Petroleo Brasileiro SA, or Petrobras, the allegations of graft are causing a slowdown at Eletronuclear.

Areva SA, a French government-controlled nuclear reactor builder, was hired by Eletronuclear to assemble the pieces of Angra 3 that have been sitting in storage since the 1980s, but it has struggled to get financing for the project. It recently reduced work at the site as a result.

Since construction restarted in 2010, the Angra 3 budget has nearly doubled to 14 billion reais ($4.2 billion) and the completion date has been pushed back several times.

“The goal of 2019 will be very hard to meet. And the other plants, who knows?” said Claudio Salles, president of Instituto Acende, a Brazilian energy-research group in Sao Paulo. “These plants take 10-15 years to build and as time goes on they become less viable.”

The same applies to the nuclear submarine program, Pinguelli said.

Pinheiro led the submarine program in the 1980s after Brazilian military planners were surprised by the ease with which a single British nuclear sub helped beat Argentina in the 1982 war over the Falkland Islands.

Brazilian police are now investigating a shipyard being built with French help near Rio de Janeiro, according to media reports. The yard is supposed to deliver an attack submarine with a Brazilian nuclear reactor and a hull and weapons systems designed with French help by 2023.

Nuclear supporters who mistrust the program’s grandiose designs hope the problems will speed reform.

The energy ministry this year said Angra 3 will be the last nuclear plant built by the government and it plans to have private contractors build future plants and lease them to Eletronuclear.

“Hydroelectric potential is running out, and wind, solar and biomass won’t meet our needs,” said Nivalde de Castro, an energy economist at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro. “Unless we want to use fossil fuels, we will have to use nuclear.”

Brazil relies heavily on hydropower but dams have already been built on many of its largest rivers and a recent drought has raised doubts about the once-reliable power source.

But Eletrobras and Eletronuclear have a constitutional monopoly on all nuclear power projects in Brazil. Any changes to reduce state control of oil and other energy projects will likely meet stiff resistance.

Ildo Sauer, a nuclear physicist who worked under Pinheiro in the late 1980s, says Brazil’s nuclear program is too expensive and has been co-opted by politicians and major construction and engineering firms.

“The problem is the lobbyists who see nuclear as a chance to build expensive megaprojects with little regard for cost,” said Sauer, a former head of natural gas at Petrobras. “It’s no longer about science or energy. It’s about politics and money, and that brings corruption.”

Brazil Arrests Nuclear Chief in Widening of Graft Case

The New York Times | Simon Romero | July 28, 2015

RIO DE JANEIRO — The sweeping corruption scandal shaking Brazil’s establishment intensified on Tuesday after the police arrested the mastermind of the military’s secret nuclear program during the 1970s and ’80s.

With the arrest of that figure, Othon Luiz Pinheiro da Silva, a retired navy admiral, what started as a bribery inquiry at the national oil company, Petrobras, seems to have taken on a life of its own, with one prominent figure after another becoming ensnared in accusations of a broad web of graft involving state-controlled enterprises and some of the country’s most powerful private companies.

Prosecutors said Mr. Pinheiro da Silva, 76, took more than $1.3 million in bribes as chief executive of Eletronuclear, a public company that operates two nuclear power plants. The bribes, which the prosecutors said were paid from 2009 to 2014, were related to contracts with construction companies building a third plant, Angra 3, near Rio de Janeiro.

During the military dictatorship, which lasted from 1964 to 1985, Mr. Pinheiro da Silva, a nuclear engineer educated at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, oversaw a clandestine operation to build reactors for submarines.

“Corruption in Brazil is endemic and is in the process of metastasis,” Athayde Ribeiro Costa, a public prosecutor, told reporters.

If the charges are true, the pattern of graft at Petrobras seems to have been replicated in parts of Eletrobras, the giant public electricity company that controls Eletronuclear. The leadership of Eletronuclear had already come under criticism after costs ballooned for its new nuclear plant, doubling to about $4.5 billion.

Mr. Pinheiro da Silva, a nationalist fixture in Brazil’s military hierarchy, was named chief executive of Eletronuclear in 2005, during the administration of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, the mentor and predecessor of President Dilma Rousseff.

Mr. Pinheiro da Silva, a vocal defender of developing Brazil’s nuclear capabilities, had been on leave since April from Eletronuclear, after he was identified as a recipient of bribes by a construction company executive who reached a plea deal with investigators.

A lawyer for Mr. Pinheiro da Silva did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The scandal has kept Ms. Rousseff on the defensive, with some critics even calling for her impeachment. No testimony has emerged indicating that the president personally profited from the bribery scheme, but her opponents point out that she closely oversaw the expansion of public energy companies in the previous decade as energy minister and later served as Mr. da Silva’s chief of staff before mounting her own presidential campaign in 2010.

This month, federal prosecutors said they had opened an investigation into possible influence peddling by Mr. da Silva himself.

The scandal has sent shock waves through the executive suites of some of Brazil’s largest companies. Over the weekend, the authorities transferred eight executives accused of allowing the bribery scheme to flourish to a prison complex in southern Paraná State after a police holding facility became too crowded because of the rising number of arrests.

The jailed men include Marcelo Odebrecht, the billionaire chief executive of Odebrecht, the construction giant that ranks among Brazil’s largest employers.

After Iran Deal and Modi-Sharif Talks

Mainstream Weekly | Editorial | 20 July 2015

Two major events have taken place on the global plane.

On July 14 Iran and a group of six nations (five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany) clinched a final, historic deal on Iran’s nuclear activities. In turn, the deal will end Iran’s international isolation. It is a remarkable breakthrough in world affairs and the global media acknowledged the pivotal role played by US President Barack Obama and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in securing this momentous agreement.

Viewed from the Indian perspective, the Iran nuclear deal is of immense significance as now Iran could exert a positive stabilising influence in Afghanistan with the US troops’ withdrawal from that country. Besides Iranian oil, Tehran’s re-emergence on the global scene would help counterbalance Sunni extremism in India’s neighbourhood.

Four days before the conclusion of the Iran accord, the PMs of India and Pakistan held their first structured meeting in a year at the Russian city of Ufa on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation’s summit (where both the countries were made full SCO members for the first time). This happened on July 10. A Joint Statement, issued by the Foreign Secretaries of the two countries after the hourlong talks, informed that both sides had “condemned terrorism in all its forms and agreed to cooperate with each other to eliminate this menace from South Asia”. In the course of their discussions, the two leaders had also signalled their willingness to find ways to expedite the trial of those who engineered the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks. However, Kashmir was not referred to in the Joint Statement (even as Pakistan’s National Security Adviser Sartaj Aziz insisted that it came up during the talks). By way of concrete outcome, it was decided that the NSAs of the two sides, Aziz and Ajit Doval, would shortly meet to take up the security issues.

However, within less than a week the positive message of the talks has suddenly vanished into thin air. First, Pakistan announced that it had shot down a drone on its territory implying that New Delhi had sent it on a spying mission. Simultaneously the firing from Pakistan’s side of the LoC intensified breaking the ceasefire and killing an innocent Indian civilian. In the circumstances the External Affairs Minister, Defence Minister, NSA and Foreign Secretary met at the Union Home Minister’s office in the Capital for a joint meeting today and declared that the Pakistani attacks on the LoC will invite firm and decisive retaliation from the Indian side. It was also found that the drone, alleged to have been sent from India, was actually of Chinese-make and not of Indian origin.

But PM Narendra Modi was not present in this meeting.

Obviously there are elements on both sides hell-bent on torpedoing the restoration of Indo-Pak harmony. They are all itching for a conflict, even an armed one between the two security forces.

Unless these jingoists are stopped on their tracks peace along the India-Pakistan border, leave aside amity between the two states, cannot return. The situation is turning grave. There is no time to lose. One cannot possibly sit idle in the prevailing scenario for that would be suicidal in the long run.

July 16 S.C.

Security Council Resolution 2231 and the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on Iran’s Nuclear Program

Arms Control Law | Dan Joyner | July 27, 2015

Note: Cross posted from EJIL:Talk!

Last week I did a couple of posts elsewhere on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), agreed on July 14 between the P5+1 and Iran regarding Iran’s nuclear program. See here and here. These posts may be of interest in explaining the essential agreement contained in the JCPOA, and in examining some of its key legal implications.

The JCPOA is the culmination of twenty months of negotiations between the P5+1 and Iran, since the initial Joint Plan of Action (JPOA) was agreed by the parties in November 2013. I wrote a post discussing the JPOA here at EJIL:Talk! at the time it was agreed.

I’d like to focus this post on the unanimous passage by the U.N. Security Council on July 20 of Resolution 2231, which can be found here. Resolution 2231 comprises 104 pages of text, inclusive of two annexes, one of which is the entire JCPOA text. I mention this because my primary impression in reading over Resolution 2231 and is annexes for the first time, was frankly astonishment that the parties had been able to agree on such an amazingly complex, thorough and comprehensive diplomatic accord. I was also impressed by the precision of the text of Resolution 2231 itself (apart from a couple of typos) in implementing, in what appears to be a very sophisticated and, as far as I can tell, correct way, the agreement reached by the parties on July 14.

The JCPOA itself and Resolution 2231 appear to represent a major success of international diplomacy, as well as a significant achievement of international law in facilitating the implementation of the diplomatic accord. Again, it is difficult to overstate the complexity of the issues that had to be resolved among the parties to arrive at both the JCPOA and Resolution 2231. And the specificity with which these issues were addressed in both documents – down to weights and measures and dates of implementation – is frankly astonishing, and far exceeds my expectations.  And so I compliment all of the diplomats and lawyers involved.

The purpose of Security Council Resolution 2231 is primarily to endorse the JCPOA, which is itself a legally non-binding agreement, and to implement the actions of the Security Council which were agreed to in the JCPOA. Specifically, the Security Council decides in Resolution 2231 that on Implementation Day, as defined in the JCPOA, the previous resolutions of the Security Council regarding Iran’s nuclear program will be terminated. Implementation Day is scheduled to occur when a number of essential actions are taken by Iran, and by the U.S. and the E.U., as spelled out in Annex V of the JCPOA. Practically speaking, Implementation Day is likely to occur within the next 6-8 months.

So again, within the next 8 months, according to Resolution 2231, all of the Security Council’s previous resolutions on Iran regarding its nuclear program, inclusive of sanctions applied pursuant to those resolutions, will be terminated. This is subject, however, to a “snapback” procedure, described in operative paragraphs 11-13 of Resolution 2231. According to this “snapback procedure,” any party to the JCPOA, including Iran, can lodge a complaint with the Security Council at any time alleging substantial noncompliance with the JCPOA’s terms by any other party. If no resolution can be achieved on the matter, the Security Council will vote on whether to continue in effect the termination of its previous resolutions. If this vote by the Security Council fails – e.g. if one of the permanent members votes against it – all of the Security Council’s previous resolutions, including the sanctions implemented thereby, will come back into effect. This process was particularly sought for inclusion by the United States, so that U.S. officials could truthfully say to a skeptical Congress that the U.S., acting alone (i.e. as complainer, and as a permanent member of the Security Council), could if it wished cause the re-application of Security Council sanctions in the event that Iran substantially failed to comply with the terms of the JCPOA.

Assuming the “snapback” procedure is not implemented, however, after the termination of previous Security Council resolutions occurs on Implementation Day, Resolution 2231 puts in their place a more limited, continuing set of restrictions on trade with Iran, which are to continue until UNSCR Termination Day. UNSCR Termination Day is scheduled in the JCPOA to occur in 10 years from Adoption Day. This interim set of restrictions is outlined in Annex B to Resolution 2231, and includes restrictions on trade with Iran, primarily in items and technologies related to Iran’s nuclear program. It does, however, allow for some exceptions for permissible trade in technologies necessary to support the 6,000 uranium enrichment centrifuges which Iran is allowed to maintain in operation throughout the term of the JCPOA.

The restrictions also, notably, include the continuation for five-years of the conventional arms embargo which was a part of previous Security Council resolutions on Iran. The continuation of this arms embargo was one of the more contentious points of the JCPOA negotiations between the parties, and this five-year extension is the resultant agreed compromise.

Importantly, from the perspective of Iran, if all sides abide by their commitments under the JCPOA, Resolution 2231 provides that:

 [O]n the date ten years after the JCPOA Adoption Day, as defined in the JCPOA, all the provisions of this resolution shall be terminated, and none of the previous resolutions described in paragraph 7 (a) shall be applied, the Security Council will have concluded its consideration of the Iranian nuclear issue, and the item “Non-proliferation” will be removed from the list of matters of which the Council is seized;

For Iran, this promise represents its ultimate aspiration on this issue – the full removal of international sanctions related to its nuclear program, and its treatment as a lawful possessor of peaceful nuclear energy capabilities.

There would appear to be no “poison pills,” or impossible, or even unreasonable commitments for any party in the text of the JCPOA or in Resolution 2231. Optimism is therefore warranted that this aspiration will be achieved.

Stephen Cohen On the Folly and Hypocrisy of American Russia Policy

Russian Insider | Huffington Post | Dan Kovalik | July 24, 2015

Cohen nails it. On WWII, NATO expansion, Crimean referendum, repeated US violations of international law…

This past May, the world celebrated the 70th Anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany by Allied Forces. Professor Cohen and I began our interview with a discussion about the increasing downplaying of Russia’s critical role as an ally of the U.S. and Britain in this victory.

As Cohen explains, popular films like Saving Private Ryan deceptively portray World II as being won by the U.S. with the invasion of Normandy in 1944, while ignoring the three years prior in which the USSR drove the Nazis from the heart of Russia back to Germany.

Cohen cites Winston Churchill for the proposition that it was the Red Army that “tore the guts out of the German Army.” And, while Cohen is quick to acknowledge and condemn Stalin’s many crimes and his exertion of control over Eastern Europe after World War II, he notes that it is a factual reality, which can’t be denied, that the USSR played a historic role in liberating Europe from the Nazis. As Cohen relates:

I always taught historically … and it was very clear to me … that the Soviet Union destroyed and defeated Nazi Germany. And the United States won the war in the Pacific against Japan… .

I have a vivid memory of a man I knew who became one of the great Western scholars of the Soviet Union, telling me … of knowing a number of people of his generation who vividly told him, because it was a fateful moment of their lives, that when they weighed something like 70 pounds and were dying in the camps liberated by the Red Army, some strapping, tall, young Red Army solider lifting them up and carrying them off to the makeshift infirmary where they were saved, and all of them saying to him then, no matter what Stalin did after that or before that – and I know it all – the fact is, it was this young Red Army soldier that saved my life… .

In my view, the downplaying of the good that Russia did during World II (and it did so at the sacrifice of approximately 27 million Soviet lives) is a necessary part of attempting to vilify and demonize that country now.

After all, it is difficult to manipulate Americans into equating the current Russian leader with Hitler (as Hillary Clinton has attempted to do) if we are reminded that Russia did more than any other country to eliminate Hitler and that Russia celebrates this triumph as its most important secular holiday.

I might also add that the attempts to compare Putin to Hitler appear to be transparent attempt to deflect attention from the fact that the U.S. has been training neo-Nazis in the Ukraine.

The other historical facts being wholly ignored are the promises the U.S. made to Mikhail Gorbachev during the waning years of the Soviet Union, and how the breaking of these promises have led us to the current international crisis.

As Cohen explains, Gorbachev willingly allowed the Soviet Bloc countries to leave the Soviet orbit, and agreed to the reunification of Germany (over UK and French objections, he added) in return for certain assurances:

Gorbachev was given these assurances … that if you agree to German reunification and a reunited Germany, one Germany, as a member of NATO, we promise you, to use Baker’s words, “NATO will not move one inch to the east.” … And the Russians do regard it as the first betrayal, predatel’stvo, in Russian … .

The expansion of NATO from West Berlin all the way to the Baltics, hundreds of thousands of kilometers in the last 20 plus years, must be in history, in peacetime, the greatest expansion or inflation of a sphere of influence … . And of course, NATO is an American institution, so it’s an expansion of the American sphere of influence… .

So while we’re expanding our sphere of influence, which by the way we tried to do in 2008 to Georgia along Russia’s Caucasus border, as we are expanding our sphere of influence in an unprecedented way all the way to Russia’s borders, we are sanctimoniously saying that Russia is in the wrong because it wants a sphere of influence.

As Cohen explains, we must attempt to see historic and current events as Russians see them in order to help us to turn back from our dangerous stand-off with Russia.

And, the Russians see a world in which the U.S., while scolding Russia for its alleged violations of international law, seems to violate international law at nearly every turn:

So, we say that the Russians violate this. I mean, we are the pace setters in the violation of international legality … .

The Russians point out in answering about Crimea, we took Kosovo, we severed with bombers, airplanes in the air, killing a lot of people, we severed Kosovo from Serbia.

And Putin repeatedly says nobody died during the [Crimean] referendum, while we never had a referendum in Kosovo or Serbia. Putin answers we had a peaceful democratic referendum and nobody died. It’s sheer hypocrisy… .

Well, there’s no question that quantitatively in modern times we’ve become the most interventionist great power in the world… . We feel we have the right as the preeminent whatever to intervene anywhere in the world to the extent that we can to make things the way we think they should be.

There’s an explanation for that. I called it “Triumphalism,” which took shape under Clinton after the Soviet Union ended … . You can imagine that we wake up tomorrow and we see that there’s Chinese military bases … on our Canadian and Mexican borders. Washington would go crazy. Or that Mexico and Canada had signed some kind of exclusive trade arrangements with China, which is what the European Union asked Kiev to do in November 13.

Putin had said there should be a tripartite relationship with Ukraine. Ukraine should trade with the European Union and with Russia because Russia is overwhelmingly its traditional and largest trading partner. But Europe said no, it’s either with us or it’s with Russia, you can’t have both. Imagine if such an agreement had been offered to Mexico or Canada, what the reaction would have been… .

American top officials … say to explain why we’re resisting Russia in that part of the world is that Russia wants a sphere of influence, and they can’t have one, not even on their own borders, and that that’s a 19th century or 20th century concept that is no longer modern … .

I don’t think Russia is entitled to a sphere of influence in the old sense that they could control the policies of the countries in their sphere. What Russia is entitled to, just as we have always claimed [for ourselves], is a zone of national security on its borders… .

And what it means is that no military bases of a foreign power will be located on their borders and that the countries on their borders will not be members of a hostile military alliance and NATO. That’s what Russia has demanded. And I think it’s a perfectly reasonable demand.