The ‘complex’ negotiations with Iran.Dec 8, 2014, Vol. 20, No. 13 • By REUEL MARC GERECHT
Predictably, President Barack Obama and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei have decided to extend again the Joint Plan of Action, the interim nuclear deal they concluded in November 2013. Unlike the last extension, which was for four months, this one is for seven months; the “political” parts of the deal, Secretary of State John Kerry assures us, should be done by March, while further “technical and drafting” details may take until July.
This is an odd situation: Obama agreed to the first, shorter extension last July, when little progress on the big issues had been made. Yet after 10 rounds of negotiations and numerous side meetings, in which, per Secretary Kerry, “progress was indeed made on some of the most vexing challenges that we face,” we now need a longer extension? This is necessary, the secretary suggests, because the great progress made is just so “complex” that it requires, as he put it, an “incredible amount of rigorous technical analysis of concepts.”
Let us suggest a different narrative. More time is required for more complex negotiations because the Obama administration continues to make concessions to the Iranians that it attempts to justify with technical alchemy. Let us look at centrifuges, perhaps the hardest “technical” issue.
It really wouldn’t require long, rigorous negotiations if the American position were still the position the Obama administration inherited from the U.N. Security Council when it came into office: no enrichment of uranium. If Tehran could not maintain a single cascade of centrifuges to produce fissile material in bomb-grade quantity or stockpile enriched uranium, either as a gas or a reversible solid oxide, sufficient for a single nuclear weapon, matters would be relatively clear.
Constraining uranium enrichment becomes more complex when Washington starts conceding to the clerical regime thousands of centrifuges and a larger uranium stockpile. When Khamenei declines our offers—which it appears he’s done repeatedly since November 2013—President Obama’s response has been to allow Iran more centrifuges or SWUs (meas-ures of uranium enrichment). Both Western and Iranian media report a current American benchmark of around 4,500 machines; Revolutionary Guard-affiliated media have mentioned 6,000 centrifuges.
The recently leaked American plan to leave several thousand centrifuges spinning but disconnect the piping for most of the cascades at the Natanz enrichment sites and mothball these “excess” centrifuges was a pristine example of American technicians and diplomats trying to work around the supreme leader’s literalism. Since Khamenei had declared that not a single machine could be dismantled, then why not aim at the piping that makes a cascade? Such a plan could, of course, easily become a minefield of technical abuse. With the nuclear infrastructure of Natanz essentially intact, Iranian engineers could rapidly reconnect newer, much more efficient machines, thus presenting the United States with a shorter break-out time for a bomb.
Iranian press reports suggest that the piping proposal (fortunately) didn’t pass muster. It appears the supreme leader, who when it comes to all things American is neither curious nor forbearing, wasn’t sufficiently impressed. We hadn’t conceded enough. It’s a good guess that however many centrifuges we’d conceded as of November 24, the old deadline, the number will be increased in the next seven months, further complicating the challenge of devising a way to give Khamenei what he wants while maintaining a modicum of American integrity.
And what’s so complex and time-consuming about the heavy-water reactor at Arak? If it is converted to a light-water reactor, as the United States and Europe have requested, the extraction of plutonium becomes a very difficult task (though inspectors would still have to monitor closely the extremely hot, but extractable, spent fuel). Arak only becomes diplomatically complex and time-consuming when the Iranians refuse to accept this downgrade, thereby preserving the possibility of more easily producing a weapon. The plutonium path to an A-bomb has probably been a secondary concern for Iranian nuclear engineers since the clandestine facility was revealed in 2002, as a plutonium break-out is difficult to conceal. And yet the Iranians have proven decidedly obstreperous on Arak.
As Germans celebrate reunification, they are reluctant to confront a Russia that is once again seeking to divide the continent Nov 24, 2014, Vol. 20, No. 11 • By JAMES KIRCHICK
No U.S. leadership, no NATO.Sep 15, 2014, Vol. 20, No. 01 • By JOHN R. BOLTON
Vladimir Putin’s efforts to establish hegemony over Ukraine may now have reached a decisive point both for the balance of power in Central and Eastern Europe and for the NATO alliance. Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko warned on August 30 that Russia’s invasion of his country and extensive aid to pro-Moscow separatists could soon “reach the point of no return,” becoming a generalized conflict. German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said that “the situation is increasingly getting out of control.”
Tiananmen Square and truth-telling. Jun 9, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 37 • By DENNIS P. HALPIN
In a March 28 speech at the Körber Foundation in Berlin, China’s president, Xi Jinping, called for historical truth-telling. He had in mind the Rape of Nanking, the massacre carried out by Imperial Japan’s forces in 1937-38 during their occupation of the then-capital of the Chinese Nationalists (the city is now called Nanjing).
Don’t lose sleep over international ‘control’ of the Internet. Mar 31, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 28 • By ARIEL RABKIN and JEREMY RABKIN
The Commerce Department issued a low-key bureaucratic announcement on March 14: The government will not renew its contract with the Internet Corporation for Names and Numbers (ICANN), under which ICANN has administered the Internet’s domain name system since the mid-1990s. U.S. government supervision will be superseded next year, according to the announcement, by new arrangements to “support and enhance the multistakeholder model of Internet policymaking.”
Mar 17, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 26 • By STEPHEN F. HAYES
On February 23, five days before Russia invaded Ukraine, National Security Adviser Susan Rice appeared on Meet the Press and shrugged off suggestions that Russia was preparing any kind of military intervention: “It’s in nobody’s interest to see violence returned and the situation escalate.” A return to a “Cold War construct” isn’t necessary, Rice insisted, because such thinking “is long out of date” and “doesn’t reflect the realities of the 21st century.” Even if Vladimir Putin sees the world this way, Rice argued, it is “not in the United States’ interests” to do so.
Nov 11, 2013, Vol. 19, No. 09 • By ELLIOTT ABRAMS
There’s a Washington think-tank variation on the board game Risk, and here’s how it goes: I give you a short statement about Obama policy in the Middle East, and you have to say who it’s from.
“The Persians are taking over Iraq and Syria and building a nuclear weapon. Are you Americans crazy? You think you will outsmart them in Geneva? They send Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and Hezbollah troops to fight in Syria and you do nothing? You draw a red line over chemical weapons and let Putin erase it?”
Forget chess, Turkey is failing at geopolitical checkers. Nov 4, 2013, Vol. 19, No. 08 • By LEE SMITH
A recent spate of newspaper articles suggests a concerted media campaign targeting Turkey’s foreign intelligence service, the MIT, its director, Hakan Fidan, and almost surely his boss as well, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. In a piece published by the Wall Street Journal and another by the Washington Times, Fidan is said to be supporting al Qaeda affiliates in Syria fighting against forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad.
12:51 PM, Aug 13, 2013 • By JERYL BIER
In a report to the United Nations Committee Against Torture, the Obama administration unequivocally denies the existence of secret detention facilities operated by any part of the U.S. government.
5:20 PM, Jul 3, 2013 • By THOMAS DONNELLY
For the second time in two years, an Egyptian autocrat has been deposed. In Syria, another embattled tyrant – this one robustly supported by Iran, Hezbollah, and Russia – looks like he might hang on. Across the Muslim world, the political future hangs in the balance.
1:53 PM, Dec 17, 2012 • By DANIEL HALPER
The State Department released a statement today expressing deep concern for Syrian airstrikes targeting Palestinians.
11:18 AM, Oct 1, 2012 • By DANIEL HALPER
A pro-America rally is scheduled to be held tomorrow outside the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv, Israel. The expression of support for America is being organized by Im Tirzu Movement in order to "remind the United States that Israel is America's best friend in the Middle East"
While potentially downsizing our military. 12:48 PM, May 10, 2010 • By JOHN NOONAN
I've had my nose buried in an interesting, if not a bit alarmist, piece on a potential naval spat with China. The paper, titled "How the United States Lost the Naval War of 2015" (how's that for an eye-catcher?), raises the red flag on the PLA Navy's intent to raise the black flag. That scenario, whether it's 5 or 10 years off, could be dire. China's strategy on high-end asymmetrical warfare is everything their ancestral tactician Sun Tzu said it should it should be: simple, focused, and aimed at all of the U.S. Navy's weak points. The United States, with its ever expanding list of warfighting missions, doesn't enjoy such simplicity.
‹‹ More Recent