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Working for International Dialogue and Peace
H.J.Res. 10, introduced in the House just as the new Congress began at the beginning of this month. The title of the bill tells the tale: a bill "To authorize the use of the United States Armed Forces to achieve the goal of preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons." This legislation, introduced by Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL), is as it appears: an authorization for the President to use military force against Iran. But it is much worse than that. Why so? Because it specifically authorizes the president to launch a pre-emptive war on Iran at any time of his choosing and without any further Congressional oversight or input. The operative sentence in the resolution reads, "The President is authorized to use the Armed Forces of the United States as the President determines necessary and appropriate in order to achieve the goal of preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons." ››read more
There is growing uncertainty around the fate of the nuclear deal with Iran and, more broadly, intentions of the Trump administration regarding that country. Meanwhile, the world, including the American supporters of the agreement—also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)— increasingly looks to Europe to safeguard it. The stakes could not be higher. Not only is the JCPOA a singular achievement of multilateral diplomacy and non-proliferation, but it also opens the way to re-engage with a key country at the intersection of the Middle East, the Persian Gulf, Afghanistan, and Central Asia, a huge region beset by radicalism, sectarianism, and terrorism. ››read more
Editor's note: Eldar Mamedov has served as a political adviser for the social-democrats in the Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament (EP) and is in charge of the EP delegations for inter-parliamentary relations with Iran, Iraq, the Arabian Peninsula, and Mashreq.
Opponents of the 2015 Iran nuclear accord have criticized the deal because it did not end uranium enrichment or limit missile development by Iran. With the Trump administration, some see an opportunity to undermine the agreement by imposing more non-nuclear sanctions on Iran. The assumption is that this could provoke Tehran to withdraw from the deal, snapping back the ‘crippling’ sanctions, which—according to common wisdom—brought the country to the negotiating table in 2013. Indeed, if such sanctions worked so well before, why could they not extract an even ‘better deal’ from Iran now? Others, such as the nominee for Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, seem to want to go back to the previous policy of “no uranium enrichment in Iran,” at least after the deal expires. ››read more
Donald Trump's pick to lead the Defense Department appeared to break with the president-elect's insistence on revamping the agreement that President Barack Obama's administration brokered with Iran to constrain its nuclear weapons, saying Tehran's activities present a grave threat to the Middle East but that the U.S. ultimately must stand by its commitments. The nuclear deal "is an imperfect arms-control agreement. It isn't a friendship treaty," retired Marine Gen. James Mattis told the Senate Armed Services Committee during his confirmation hearing Thursday. ››read more
Tell me if this sounds familiar: the leadership of a distant nation has its own ideas about whom you should vote for, or who should rule your country, and acts decisively on them, affecting an election. Such interference in the political life of another country must be a reference to… no, I’m not thinking about Vladimir Putin and the American election of 2016, but perhaps the Italian election of 1948, or the Japanese election of 1958, or the Nicaraguan election of 1990 – all ones in which the U.S. had a significant hand and affected the outcome. Or what about an even cruder scenario than just handing over suitcases of cash to those you support or producing “fake news” to influence another country’s voting behavior? How about just overthrowing an already elected democratic government you find distasteful and installing one more to your liking, as in Iran in 1953, Guatemala in 1954, or Chile in 1973? ››read more
According to people involved in Tuesday’s discussions, Iran has agreed to a plan that would see the facility cleaned out and enriched uranium taken out and degraded. When the nuclear deal was agreed to in 2015, Iran had an estimated 100 kilograms of enriched uranium stuck in the pipes and machinery at the plant.
Officials say there are various ways the facility could be cleaned out including, for example, flushing the pipes with chemicals to create a liquid waste that would be very hard to turn back into powder form for enriching into weapons-grade uranium. ››read more
Amid growing speculation about a Trump administration’s intentions regarding the Iran nuclear deal, a new poll has found that nearly two-thirds of the U.S. public opposes withdrawing from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) negotiated 18 months ago between Iran and the P5+1.
The poll, part of a much larger survey by the University of Maryland’s Program for Public Consultation (PPC) about public attitudes about the U.S. role in world affairs, was released Thursday to foster better informed debate about the issue in advance of Trump’s inauguration. It included 2,980 respondents and was conducted December 22-28.
“Though President-elect Trump campaigned on ripping up the deal and seeking to negotiate a better one, the majority of Americans would rather continue with the deal as long as Iran continues to comply with its terms,” said PPC’s director, veteran foreign-policy pollster Steven Kull. ››read more
Yesterday, a group of 37 American scientists–including Nobel laureates, nuclear specialists, and former White House advisers–sent an open letter to President-elect Donald Trump in support of the Iran nuclear deal (the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA). Trump made his opposition to the JCPOA quite clear during the presidential campaign, at one point calling it “the worst deal ever negotiated,” and his appointment of the virulently anti-Iran Michael Flynn to serve as his National Security Advisor does not bode well for the deal’s future. However, there have been indications since Trump’s election that he may seek to change the deal but will not look to simply eliminate it. In light of that, this letter argues that the JCPOA is working as intended to block Iran’s path to a nuclear weapon and urges Trump not to do away with it once he takes office. ››read more
The Syrian military has announced a nationwide halt to fighting starting at midnight, in a move that could promote the diplomatic efforts aimed at ending years of Takfiri violence in the Arab state. ››read more
Netanyahu began announcing settlement expansion to coincide with the visit of high American officials, just to humiliate them. Later on in another round of talks, Secretary of State John Kerry was publicly insulted as “messianic” for trying to pursue the negotiations. In the end they collapsed. In the meantime, Netanyahu publicly humiliated President Obama on several occasions, lecturing him at a joint appearance at the White House, openly campaigning for Romney in 2012, and then trying to get Congress to derail Obama’s Iran negotiations. Netanyahu actually ran the last time on the issue of no Palestinian state, and has made it clear he wants to send hundreds of thousands more Israelis into the Palestinian West Bank, where they will steal Palestinian land. ››read more
There is an increasing understanding among U.S. political leaders, thanks to ongoing grassroots pressure, of the need to hold Israel accountable to international law. The U.S. abstention from this resolution is a welcome sign in that regard. As the only country that abstained, the evidence of the U.S.’s isolation from the global consensus during the vote was stark. However, halting settlement construction is a necessary but not sufficient step toward Israel changing its policies and Palestinians realizing their rights. ››read more
Editor's note: Statement by Jewish Voice for Peace Executive Director Rebecca Vilkomerson on UN Security Council vote to condemn Israeli settlements.
The U.S.’s abstention is therefore not so much about sending a message to Trump or Netanyahu, both of whom will ignore the resolution the moment Obama leaves office. It is instead a message to other international actors – particularly its allies in Europe – about the need to end Israel’s impunity. As the world braces itself for a more bellicose and unpredictable foreign policy under Trump, it has become more vital for the EU and non-member European states to pressure Israel through their extensive political and economic ties which, despite diplomatic tensions, remain a centerpiece of Israel’s international relations. ››read more
The US Treasury Department unveiled new regulations on Dec. 22, which make it easier for pharmaceutical, medical device and agricultural sectors to more easily sell their products in the 80-million-strong Iranian market. In a first, the Office of Foreign Assets Control is also allowing relevant companies to send Americans to Iran to help with their operation and maintenance. “In response to feedback from the regulated public regarding improving patient safety,” the regulation states, “OFAC is … expanding existing general licenses to authorize the provision of training for the safe and effective use or operation of agricultural commodities, medicine and medical devices.” ››read more
Applause broke out in the 15-member Security Council’s chambers after the vote on the measure, which passed 14 to 0, with the United States ambassador, Samantha Power, raising her hand as the lone abstention. Israel’s ambassador, Danny Danon, denounced the measure, and castigated the council members who had approved it. “Would you ban the French from building in Paris?” he told them. The resolution describes the settlement building as a “major obstacle” to peace and demands that Israel stop the construction, which most the world regards as illegal. ››read more
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif says Iran, Russia and Turkey have started the process of finding a political solution to the Syria crisis.
There is no military solution to the Syria conflict and the country’s crisis can only be solved through political approaches, Zarif said in Moscow on Tuesday. ››read more
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and his Russian and Turkish counterparts Sergei Lavrov and Mevlut Cavusoglu, respectively, are planned to hold a meeting in Moscow on Tuesday. Furthermore, Iranian Defense Minister Brigadier General Hossein Dehqan is to hold talks with his Russian and Turkish counterparts Sergei Shoigu and Fikri Isik, respectively, in Moscow on Tuesday to address the latest developments in the region and the situation on the ground in Syria, especially in the newly liberated city of Aleppo. ››read more
The director-general of the nuclear watchdog for the United Nations said oil-rich Iran is meeting its commitments to downplay weapons concerns. Yukiya Amano, the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, spent the weekend in Tehran discussing the terms of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, a multi-lateral agreement that commits Iran to stepping away from the ability to produce a nuclear weapon. The deal, implemented in early 2016, means some of the nuclear-related sanctions imposed by Western powers have eased and opened the door to Iran's fossil fuels industry. ››read more
Iran's President Hassan Rouhani last week announced the plans for nuclear-powered ships in response to news that the United States was renewing sanctions legislation, which he said was a "clear violation" of the nuclear deal. Under the deal, Iran is only allowed to enrich uranium to 3.67 percent, but that limit falls away after 15 years. Tehran says Washington has breached the nuclear accord by renewing the Iran Sanctions Act, even though almost all of its measures remain suspended under the deal. ››read more
It’s probably too much to ask that Robert Torricelli or any of the renowned political figures supporting the MEK reconsider their views. But others in Congress and the public ought to consult the abundance of evidence of the MEK’s troubling history, including the abuse of its members relayed in reports by such observers as Human Rights Watch and the account of its efforts to buy influence on Capitol Hill contained in the memoir by former Congressman (and onetime Iran-based CIA operative) Robert Ney. A more informed debate about the MEK might start there. ››read more
It has just become more dangerous to be a foreign correspondent reporting on the civil war in Syria. This is because the jihadis holding power in east Aleppo were able to exclude Western journalists, who would be abducted and very likely killed if they went there, and replace them as news sources with highly partisan “local activists” who cannot escape being under jihadi control. ››read more