Tag Archives: Iran

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Analysis: A Closer Look At The P5+1-Iranian Agreement

There wasn’t a news site by last Sunday morning void of a story about the historic deal — or “mistake,” as Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was calling it — which was signed between Iran and the P5+1 (the United States, Russia, China, the United Kingdom and France plus Germany) late last Saturday night.

But, according to analysts, many of the headlines that cluttered the Internet were inaccurate and deceptive. There was no “freeze,” “halt” or “stopping” of Iranian nuclear proliferation as many newspapers and websites described. Rather, said Dr. Robert Satloff, director of the Washington Institute, on a Jewish Federations of North America leadership briefing Monday afternoon, “it impedes or limits” nuclear progress.

What does Iran give up? What does it get to keep?

Iran’s key commitment is to limit its enrichment of uranium — the element needed to make a nuclear bomb — to 5 percent, according to a summary of the agreement released by the White House. Iran will dilute its stockpile of 20-percent-enriched uranium down to 5 percent, freeze many of its centrifuges that produce uranium and disable some technical features of some centrifuges. Iran also will stop construction and fuel production for its unfinished plutonium reactor and not expand its enrichment capabilities.

Under the agreement, Iran may continue to enrich uranium and does not need to dismantle any centrifuges or its plutonium reactor — conditions Netanyahu has said are necessary.

What is the significance of different levels of uranium enrichment?

Only a rare and specific type of uranium, uranium 235, can be used for a nuclear weapon. Enrichment, which is conducted using centrifuges, is the process of separating that material from the rest of the uranium supply. Five percent enrichment, for example, means that 5 percent of the uranium stockpile in question is uranium 235.

Five-percent-enriched uranium can be used for civilian purposes such as nuclear power; to be used for a nuclear weapon, uranium needs to be enriched to 90 percent. Iran has long claimed that its nuclear program is for civilian purposes only.

The agreement aims to curb Iran’s uranium enrichment at 5 percent. However, getting uranium from 0 to 5 percent is the hardest part of enrichment; jumping from 5 to 90 percent is easier. So by allowing Iran to enrich to 5 percent, the agreement allows Iran to continue clearing the biggest enrichment-related hurdle to bomb-making capacity.

Iran also possesses “next-generation” centrifuges that allow it to jump from 5 to 90 percent in a matter of weeks — what Israelis call a “breakout capacity.” The agreement freezes those centrifuges but doesn’t require Iran to fully dismantle them.

In exchange, most of the sanctions on Iran’s oil and banking sectors will stay in place, including $100 billion in holdings that Iran cannot access, but there will be $7 billion in relief, including the release of funds from some Iranian oil sales and the suspension of sanctions on Iran’s auto, precious metals and petro-chemical industries.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is calling the agreement between the P5+1 and Iran a “historic mistake.”

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is calling the agreement between the P5+1 and Iran a “historic mistake.”
(Haim Zach/ GPO/FLASH90)

And this is why Israel is calling the deal a “historic mistake,” as Netanyahu put it during his Sunday cabinet meeting.

Netanyahu said, “Today the world has become much more dangerous because the most dangerous regime in the world took a significant step to getting the most dangerous weapon in the world.”

“If a nuclear suitcase blows up five years from now in New York or Madrid,” said Naftali Bennett, chairman of the Jewish Home party and a government minister, “it will be because of the deal that was signed [in Geneva].”

Several American congressmen and senators — as well as analysts — are seconding that notion.

Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) said in a statement that she feels the agreement reached with Iran “leaves unfulfilled our ultimate objective: a complete dismantling of Iran’s nuclear program and related activities. … The agreement … simply does not go far enough to ensure our national security interests and those of our allies, like the democratic Jewish State of Israel.”

Opponents of the deal were spewing off terms like “worried” and “suspicious” in blogs and on social media, as well as in official statements disseminated to supporters and the media. Concern came from those in official capacities, as well as Jewish citizens in the area.

“I have serious concerns,” said U.S. Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.) in a statement.

“I am deeply concerned,” said Nathan Diament, executive director for public policy of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America.

“I have little trust in the Iranian regime,” noted Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), a senior member of the Intelligence Committee. “We will need to scrutinize Iranian behavior to ensure they do not cheat.”

Dr. Arthur C. Abramson, executive director of the Baltimore Jewish Council, said he is not confident. He said, “I am suspicious, suspicious, suspicious.”

In Baltimore, Israel Orange of Israel Orange Studios, told the JT, “I am worried,” and asked, “How can this be good?”

Shimmy Rosenblum from Silver Spring, now living in Israel, said, “It will work well for Iran bombing its enemies. [President] Obama has shown a new low in world diplomacy.”

Added the Maryland/Israel Development Center’s Peter Telem, “Substitute the words ‘Nazi Germany’ for Iran, then think again about how this will turn out.”

Iran, Major Powers Achieve Interim Deal On Nuclear Program

Iran and the major powers achieved an interim deal to freeze some nuclear activity in exchange for some sanctions relief.

“We have reached an agreement,” Javad Zarif, the Iranian foreign minister leading talks in Geneva, said on his Twitter feed early Sunday morning.

According to a White House statement sent to reporters later in the evening, Iran will stop enriching uranium at 20 percent, but will keep enriching at 5 percent or lower.

Iran will neutralize its existing stockpiles of 20 percent enriched uranium and will not install or build any new centrifuges, except to replace damaged machines.

Experts say 5 percent enriched uranium is well below weaponization, but Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has said that Iran’s program is advanced enough that even enriching at low levels brings it closer to the weapons breakout point.

Sanctions relief would amount to about $7 billion out of the $100-120 billion that annually impacts Iran’s economy. the White House statement said.

Although some sanctions relief would affect Iran’s energy sector, the statement said the principal sanctions targeting Iran’s banking and energy sectors would remain in place.

The negotiators now have six months to work out a final status deal.

“The agreement reached today between the world powers and Iran is a positive step forward in the diplomatic effort to roll back Iran’s nuclear program,” said Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), a senior Member of the Intelligence Committee, in a statement.

He noted, however, that he has “little trust in the Iranian regime, and we will need to scrutinize Iranian behavior to ensure they do not cheat. … At the same time, if Iran’s new President can make good on his stated intention, the next six months could mark a turning point in our relations with Iran of historic significance.”

Similarly, Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said he has “serious concerns” that this agreement does not meet the standards necessary to protect the United States and its allies.

“Instead of rolling back Iran’s program, Tehran would be able to keep the key elements of its nuclear weapons-making capability. Yet we are the ones doing the dismantling – relieving Iran of the sanctions pressure built up over years,” Royce said in a statement. “This sanctions relief is more lifeline than ‘modest.’ Secretary Kerry should soon come before the Foreign Affairs Committee to address the many concerns with this agreement.”

However, President Obama, in a statement delivered on TV late Saturday night in the United States, said that he would dedicate the time to solving an issue “that has threatened our security and the security of our allies for decades.”

He appealed to Congress not to pass intensified sanctions, saying that to do so would endanger any deal and unravel the alliance that has kept pressure on Iran through sanctions until now.

Obama also said that the “resolve of the United States will remain firm” and so would “the commitment to our allies” which had reason to be skeptical of Iran, naming Israel among them.

JCPA President and CEO Rabbi Steve Gutow released the following statement: “Though Iran has done little to deserve our trust, diplomacy is preferable to military action. At the same time, we support President Obama when he says that no option should be taken off the table. Thus, we believe the interim agreement reached in Geneva today has the potential to serve as a valuable stepping stone to a final agreement that can serve the long term security interests of the United States, Israel, the Middle East and the entire international community. Such a final agreement, which should be negotiated in a tight time frame, must not leave Iran in a position to continue its drive for nuclear weapons capability, or to be able to restart it with ease anytime in the future. The menace of a nuclear armed Iran needs to be eliminated once and for all.”

Said Ori Nir on behalf of Americans for Peace Now: “We congratulate the Obama Administration and its international partners for this important achievement and welcome this demonstration of a new Iranian readiness to seriously negotiate the future of its nuclear program. We believe that anyone who cares about U.S. national security, the security of Israel and stability in the Middle East should likewise welcome this agreement.”

 

 

A Belgian citizen spying for Iran, Ali Mansuri,  was arrested on September 11, 2013.

Iranian Spy Captured In Israel

A Belgian citizen spying for Iran was arrested on September 11th 2013 in Tel Aviv, this according to a statement released by Israel’s General Security Service (GSS). The man, named Alex Menes, aged 55, was arrested as he tried to leave Israel via Ben Gurian airport.

A Belgian citizen spying for Iran, Ali Mansuri,  was arrested on September 11, 2013.

A Belgian citizen spying for Iran, Ali Mansuri, was arrested on September 11, 2013.

In his interrogation it became apparent that he is an Iranian citizen, born Ali Mansuri, who was sent to Israel on various espionage missions. He lived with his family in Iran until 1980, then moving to Turkey where he established himself as a business man. In 1997 he received a Belgian visa, marrying a native Belgian who he subsequently divorced. During this period he was granted Belgian citizenship, changing his name to Alex Menes, thus obscuring his Iranian identity.

In 2007 he returned to Iran, and broadened his business connections. He remarried, this time to an Iranian woman, and was recruited by the Iranian espionage services in 2012. He was instructed to use his business as a cover for visits in Israel. He was promised vast sums to finance his activities.

Mansuri has previously visited Israel in July 2012 and January 2013 on the request of his Iranian handlers. His last visit began on September 6th. He tried to establish business connections during these visits, presenting himself as a Belgian businessman.

During his arrest he was in the possession of numerous photos from various locations in Israel, several of them of interest to the Iranian intelligence services, including the US embassy in Tel Aviv.

Mansuri detailed during his interrogation by the GSS the training he received, the various methods he used to maintain contact with the Iranian intelligence services and his actions in Israel over the past months.

 

Despite Netanyahu’s Pleas, Top House Dems Open To Testing Iran’s New Leader

In increasingly strident tones, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been telling his American friends that the purported moderation of Iran’s new president is a ploy aimed at relieving international pressure and buying the Islamic Republic more time to cross the nuclear threshold.

But in ways both subtle and direct, some of those friends — among them some of Israel’s closest allies in Washington — are saying that maybe Hassan Rohani is worth hearing out.

That was the message delivered this week by Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), the second-ranking Democrat in the U.S. House of Representatives, while leading a tour of Israel for 36 fellow House Democrats.

“We have a new [Iranian] president,” Hoyer told JTA from Israel, where the stalwart supporter of the Jewish state was on his 13th tour as a congressman. “It makes sense for the [Obama] administration to test the sincerity, willingness and ability of the new president to accomplish the objective of assuring the West and Israel and the U.N. what the Iranians are not doing, and will reverse what they already have done, toward a nuclear capability.”

The divergence represents a rare public gap on a crucial security issue between pro-Israel lawmakers and Netanyahu, who in a succession of meetings this month with congressional delegations to Israel has lobbied hard to persuade American leaders to ignore Rohani’s overtures.

“I know that some place their hopes on Iran’s new president,” Netanyahu told a delegation on Wednesday led by Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.). “He knows how to exploit this, and yesterday he called for more talks.

“Of course he wants more talks. He wants to talk and talk and talk. And while everybody is busy talking to him, he’ll be busy enriching uranium. The centrifuges will keep on spinning.”

In his first news conference as president, Rohani said Iran wants to improve its relations with the United States and intimated he was prepared to increase transparency of his country’s nuclear program, which he insists is peaceful but which Western intelligence agencies believe is aimed at producing weapons.

Iran “will defend its people’s rights and at the same time will remove the concerns of the other party,” Rohani said. “If we feel that the Americans are truly serious about resolving problems, Iran is serious in its will to resolve problems and dismiss worries.”

Netanyahu dismisses such talk as a sham, but the Democratic leadership in the House doesn’t appear to agree.

An official in the office of Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), the minority leader, said her thinking on Iran was consistent with Hoyer’s, pointing to a floor speech July 31 when she joined the overwhelming majority of the House in voting to stiffen sanctions against Iran.

Though she backed new sanctions against the Islamic Republic, Pelosi also welcomed Rohani’s openness to talks aimed at ending the nuclear standoff.

“Let’s do it diplomatically. Let’s do it with economic sanctions. Let’s do it by encouraging dialogue, engagement and the rest,” she said. “But let’s do that engagement from strength.”

Like Pelosi, Hoyer backs both increased economic pressure and an openness to talks — a position he said is not inconsistent with Netanyahu’s tough line. Nor is a letter signed by 131 House members urging President Obama to test Rohani’s offer, Hoyer said.

“The letter and the actions of the House of Representatives are consistent with what the prime minister has said,” said Hoyer, who did not sign the letter. “Words are cheap, talk is cheap and let’s see what the walk is.”

For Netanyahu and some in the pro-Israel community like Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N .Y.), the clock has run out on that approach.

In July, Netanyahu told the news program “Face the Nation” that Iran was “within a few weeks” of crossing the red line — a boundary the prime minister defined as possessing 250 kilograms of 20 percent enriched uranium — and vowed it would not be permitted to do so.

“If this were three years ago, I would have said, we have a couple of months to lose, OK,” said Engel, the senior Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. “Now, while Iran is playing out the clock spinning centrifuges, pretending Rohani is a moderate and stepping back, thinking we might be pleasantly surprised — we would not be pleasantly surprised. We would be three months closer to Iran having a nuclear weapon.”

Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.) in his July 31 floor speech backing the intensified sanctions also suggested there was no point in waiting out Rohani.

“Considering that Iran continues to flagrantly violate numerous U.N. Security Council resolutions that call for the suspension of its nuclear enrichment program while denying inspectors access to suspected nuclear sites, it is clear that Iran has negotiated again and again in bad faith,” he said.

“America’s policies must be based on facts and not some hope about a new government in Iran that will somehow change the nature of the clerical regime in Tehran. We must respond to Iran’s policies and behavior, not to its rhetoric.”

Nevertheless, the letter urging Obama to test Rohani — spearheaded by Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.) and Rep. David Price (D-N.C.) — appears to have had an impact. Its signatories include 18 Republicans, most of them from the party’s mainstream. Dent is on three subcommittees of the Appropriations Committee. Also included were pro-Israel stalwarts Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.) and Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.).

The following week, J Street and Americans for Peace Now urged senators to join a similar letter to Obama initiated by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.). The letter has yet to be sent — a sign that Feinstein may be having a hard time finding signatories.

A separate and tougher letter to Obama backed by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and initiated by Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, garnered 76 signers. The Menendez letter, sent Aug. 2, emphasized intensified sanctions and urged that Iran be threatened with military engagement.

But in a sign of how the “test Rohani” message is gaining traction, the AIPAC-backed letter notes Rohani’s offer to engage and counsels “a sincere demonstration of openness to negotiations.”

Obama appears to have embraced the message, although in carefully restrained tones. After Rohani’s inauguration, the White House issued a statement praising Iranian voters, not Rohani. It was issued by the White House, not by Obama.

“The inauguration of President Rohani presents an opportunity for Iran to act quickly to resolve the international community’s deep concerns over Iran’s nuclear program,” the statement said. “Should this new government choose to engage substantively and seriously to meet its international obligations and find a peaceful solution to this issue, it will find a willing partner in the United States.”

 Ron Kampeas writes for JTA Wire Service.

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How Big A Threat?

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An Iranian military truck carries a long-range
Ghadr-F ballistic missile during the annual military
parade marking the Iraqi invasion in 1980.

A Pentagon report on the ballistic and cruise missile threat has raised concern with its assessment that “Iran could develop and test an [intercontinental ballistic missile] capable of reaching the United States by 2015.” But analysts caution that this conclusion omits crucial context about Iran’s missile.

The National Air and Space Intelligence Center released the report on July 10. It assesses the short-, medium- and long-range ballistic missile threat across the globe. Russia, China, North Korea, India, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are analyzed, as well as Iran, which is believed to be developing nuclear weapons.

“Iran has ambitious ballistic missile and space launch development programs, and continues to attempt to increase the range, lethality and accuracy of its ballistic missile force,” the report stated. “Iran is fielding increased numbers of theater ballistic missiles, improving its existing inventory, and is developing the technical capability to produce an ICBM.”

Anthony H. Cordesman, an analyst and scholar at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said that although Iran may test a missile two years from now, the report provides no information about when Iran will be able to deploy such a weapon — if ever.

“The fact that you can fly a missile a certain number of miles doesn’t tell you how well it will work or how lethal the warhead will be, none of which is dealt with in the study,” Cordesman said.

Nor does the report say when the missile will be available for deployment or what the Iranians will have to do to make it an effective weapon.

“Ballistic missiles are terrible to disseminate chemical and biological weapons,” he said. “Unless you design a warhead very carefully, it will hit the ground and a lot of the explosion will go into the air. It’s an expensive way to take out two city blocks.”

The report, the first of its kind since 2009, will contribute to the public debate on weapons proliferation, said Hans M. Kristensen, director of the Federation of American Scientists’ nuclear information project.

“It reveals a piece of the classified assessments,” he said, noting that the trend in recent years has been for the government to provide less and less unclassified information.

Kristensen said the report confirms that Iran is continuing to improve the range of its missiles. And while the date given, 2015, “is pretty close” to today, he said he’s heard that Iran was on its way to develop “something like an ICBM … for the last 15 years. What enables them to say that it’s that close?”

The gap between testing technology and having an operational system integrated into the military is wide, he said. And a particular technology cannot necessarily be repurposed.

“People say that since North Korea can launch a vehicle into space, they can hit the U.S. Not so.”

Iran has also fired a space launch vehicle.

While China has “the most active and diverse ballistic missile development program in the world,” Russia has the largest number of “nuclear warheads deployed on ballistic missiles capable of reaching the United States” — 1,200, according to the report.

By treaty, neither the U.S. nor Russia has intermediate range weapons. Recent reports claimed that the new Russian Yars M missile violated the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF). But the Pentagon report “very clearly shows” that not to be the case because the Yars M’s range puts it into the ICBM category, Kristensen said.

President Barack Obama’s call last month for a new round of nuclear arms-reduction talks with Russia sparked a partisan debate in this country, Kristensen said.

The largest number of ballistic missiles carrying nuclear warheads — 1,550 — is held by the United States.

David Holzel writes for JT’s sister publication, Washington Jewish Week.