Iran Cheated On Nuclear Deal: Should We Be Surprised?

Stephen Hayes: Iran cheated on the interim nuclear deal

International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors and Iranian technicians stop a uranium enrichment process at the Natanz facility, Jan. 20, 2014 (AP)
As the pundits look ahead to 2015, they know that time is running out for the United States to reach a permanent deal with Iran over its nuclear program.

The five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council — China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States — along with Germany, have until mid March to come to terms on a deal with the Islamic republic. If all goes the way the United States hopes, a signed agreement will keep Iran out of the nuclear weapons club.

For now, the two sides are operating under an interim agreement, which rolls back Iran’s stock of enriched uranium and freezes the country’s capability to produce nuclear materials that could be used to make a nuclear bomb. In exchange, Iran can sell its oil more freely and gain access to millions of dollars in frozen assets.

On Fox News Sunday Dec. 28, 2014, Stephen Hayes of the conservative Weekly Standard magazine spoke skeptically about what lies ahead. Hayes believes a final deal is likely, but he doubts the Obama administration will drive a hard bargain.

“They want the deal for the sake of having the deal,” Hayes said. “We basically caught — we’ve caught Iran cheating on the interim deal and rather than saying, ‘Look, we’re done, you’ve proven that you’re not an effective partner, that we can’t trust you,’ they say, ‘We’ll give you more time because we’re going to get to a deal.’ ”

We decided to check whether Iran was caught cheating on the interim agreement.

Hayes told us he had two violations in mind. The one most tightly tied to Iran’s nuclear program had to do with Iran’s work with a new model of centrifuge. Centrifuges are key to enriching uranium and enriched uranium is key to making a bomb. The other violation had to do with Iran selling more oil than it is allowed.

In our research, we found a third possible violation involving Iran buying parts for its heavy water reactor in Arak.

What we discovered is that while Iran isn’t squeaky clean, no point is definitively in violation of the interim agreement. Importantly, the International Atomic Energy Agency has reported no violations with the Joint Plan of Action.

We’ll deal with each potential violation in turn.

Work with a new model of centrifuge

One of the pillars of the interim agreement, the Joint Plan of Action, was to freeze Iran’s centrifuge facilities. It could keep the tens of thousands of centrifuges it has and could repair any that were broken, but it couldn’t expand its capacity. As part of the agreement, Iran could continue some limited research and development work.

A problem emerged in November when the International Atomic Energy Agency reported that in the “R&D area,” Iran “has been intermittently feeding natural UF6 (uranium fluoride) into the IR-5 centrifuge.” Agency inspectors said that no enriched uranium emerged because the Iranians recombined everything back together at the end of the run.

This set off red flags because, until then, the Iranians had not fed uranium fluoride into that particular centrifuge.

“Iran was caught red-handed engaged in centrifuge activities,” Hayes said. “When confronted by the State Department, Iran stopped feeding the IR-5.”

Hayes relied on an assessment from the Institute for Science and International Security, a Washington-based group that aims to stop the spread of nuclear weapons. In November, the institute initially said, “The feeding of the IR-5 centrifuge is an apparent violation of that commitment to freeze centrifuge R&D activities.”

Hayes told us that he took an “apparent violation” to be the equivalent of cheating.

But David Albright, the institute’s president, said that after a closer look, it wasn’t that cut and dried.
“It’s hard to say definitively one way or the other on the question of a clear violation,” Albright told PunditFact.

Albright and his group’s latest assessment is that the Joint Plan of Action didn’t specifically allow the Iranians to feed the uranium into the IR-5 centrifuge. But it’s not clear if that constitutes a violation.
Albright said that an administration official told him that the action was “inconsistent with the United States’ understanding of the Joint Plan of Action.” That could be a diplomatic way of saying there had been a violation, or it might mean that the original agreement was unclear, a lawyer told Albright.
What is clear: The Americans asked Iran to stop, and Iran did.

Adam Mount, a nuclear security fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, said as far as anyone can tell, the interim agreement has achieved what it set out to do.

“There is no publicly available evidence that Iran has violated the terms of the Joint Plan of Action,” Mount said. “Progress on the Iranian nuclear program is frozen and in some of the most important areas, it has been rolled back.”

Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, a group that hopes to see a final nuclear agreement with Iran, said it would have been better if Iran hadn’t fed the uranium into the IR-5 centrifuge.

“Was it useful or helpful?” Kimball asked. “No. Was it specifically prohibited by the Joint Plan of Action? Also no. There is a big difference between the Iranians have been caught cheating, and a dispute about the one centrifuge.”

In sum, the weight of the evidence says that it would have been better if Iran had not fired up that IR-5 centrifuge, but doing so didn’t rise to the level of violating the interim agreement.

Iran sold too much oil
Hayes’ second contention is that Iran sold more oil than allowed as part of the interim agreement.
“Iran violated the terms of the Joint Plan of Action by exporting more crude than the agreement allowed, specifically to China, India, Japan and South Korea,” Hayes told us. For evidence, Hayes pointed us to a Reuters article that reported that in the first nine months of 2014, sales to those countries had risen nearly 20 percent from the year before, to about 1.14 million barrels per day.
But again, things aren’t so cut and dried.

The Joint Plan of Action says that the five Security Council countries and Germany would stop trying to reduce the amount of oil that Iran could sell. It also says that countries can continue to buy “their current average amounts of crude oil.”

There are no specific caps, however, and no clear explanation of what would constitute a violation.
We spoke to Mark Dubowitz, who is executive director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a group that monitors enforcement of sanctions against Iran. Dubowitz said he believes both Iran and the countries that bought its oil skirted the deal. But ultimately, Dubowitz said we can’t know for sure whether Iran’s oil sales violate the terms of the agreement because we lack access to a critical piece. Behind the public summary of the Joint Plan of Action is a much more detailed implementation agreement. Only people with a certain level of security clearance can see it.
“We don’t know what that says,” Dubowitz said. “Iran’s sales might be a violation. Or they might not.”
Also, several of the countries that are buying Iran’s oil, such as India, Japan and South Korea, didn’t sign the interim agreement and thus wouldn’t be bound by it. And lastly, while the United States has set limits on the amount of oil Iran can sell, those are not written into the Joint Plan of Action.
Buying parts for a heavy water reactor

Some analysts we reached thought Hayes might have been thinking of another potential problem with Iran. According to some reports, it has continued to buy parts that could be used in its heavy water reactor, which is another means to produce fuel for a nuclear bomb.
However, even if those reports are accurate, the activity falls outside the interim agreement.
Matthew Kroenig is a professor of international relations at Georgetown University. Kroenig would not call these purchases a violation of the Joint Plan of Action. On the other hand, Kroenig said that shouldn’t make anyone feel any better.

“It is in violation of U.N. sanctions prohibiting Iranian procurement of sensitive nuclear technology,” Kroenig said. “It also might reveal something about how sincere Iran is about shutting down or converting the reactor as part of a final deal.”

Our ruling

Hayes said Iran had been caught cheating on the interim deal to rein in Iran’s nuclear program, called the Joint Plan of Action.

First, the International Atomic Energy Agency has reported no violations with the Joint Plan of Action. That said, there are some actions by Iran that certainly cut near the boundaries of the terms of the agreement.

Iran has worked with a new kind of centrifuge that, while perhaps not a formal violation, does seem to contradict the United States’ understanding of the deal, an expert told us. When confronted on the matter, Iran stopped its work.

Also, there is some question about the amount of oil Iran is exporting. But an expert said we just don’t have enough information to determine whether that constitutes a violation of the agreement or not.

Hayes said we caught Iran cheating. You can say some allege that, and you can say there’s some
evidence that might suggest that. But we found no hand in the cookie jar. As such, we rate this claim Mostly False.

Terrorism: The Mark Of The Antichrist (Rev 13:16)

Gurmeet Kanwal, Jan 1, 2015, DHNS:

The gruesome terrorist strike on hapless school children in Peshawar on December 16, 2014, once again underlined the dark reality that the Af-Pak region is the terror centre of Southern Asia. In fact, the region is the second most unstable region in the world and is competing closely with West Asia for the number one spot.

Both China and Pakistan have become militarily more assertive on India’s borders. Chinese transgressions into Demchok and Chumar in Ladakh cast a shadow on President Xi Jinping’s visit to India. Chinese intransigence on demarcating the Line of Actual Control continues. Quite inexplicably, despite Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s efforts at reaching out to the SAARC leaders, the Pakistan army under General Raheel Sharif repeatedly violated the ceasefire agreement and once again stepped up the infiltration of terrorists across the LoC.

The single greatest cause of an unstable regional security environment is the conflict in Afghanistan and the areas along the Hindukush Range astride the Durand Line. The present security situation can be characterised as a stalemate. With the drawdown of NATO-ISAF forces by year end, the situation is likely to deteriorate further.

The Afghan National Army (ANA) has assumed responsibility for security, but does not yet possess the professional standards necessary to prevail over the increasingly resurgent Taliban. The remaining US forces will ‘train, advise and assist’ the ANA. However, they are likely to continue to launch air and drone strikes in Pakistan against extremists sheltering in the Khyber-Pakhtoonkhwa and FATA areas against Al Qaeda terrorists. A gradual drift into civil war appears to be the most likely outcome.
Pakistan’s half-hearted struggle against the remnants of the al Qaeda and the home grown Taliban like the TTP and the TNSM, fissiparous tendencies in Balochistan, continuing radical extremism and creeping Talibanisation in the heartland, tentative efforts towards counter-terrorism, the floundering economy and, consequently, the nation’s gradual slide towards becoming a ‘failed state’, pose a major security challenge for the region.
The Pakistan army’s campaign against the TTP in North Waziristan is floundering. The army refuses to give up its idiosyncratic notions of ‘strategic depth’ and ‘good Taliban’ and continues to sponsor terrorism in India and Afghanistan. Unless it concentrates on eliminating the scourge of terrorism, Pakistan will continue to slide deeper into chaos.

Sri Lanka’s inability to find a lasting solution to its ethnic problems despite the comprehensive defeat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) has serious repercussions for long-term stability in the island nation. The unchecked rise of Islamist fundamentalist terrorism in Bangladesh, even as it struggles for economic upliftment to subsistence levels, could trigger new forces of destruction. Much will depend on how well the government of Sheikh Hasina cooperates with the new government in India to neutralise organisations like HuJI and the Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) that operate on both sides of the border.

Nepal’s fledgling democracy is continuing to struggle. The government’s inclination to seek neutrality between India and China is a blow to the historically stable India-Nepal relationship. Simmering discontentment that is gathering momentum in Tibet and Xinjiang against China’s repressive regime has the potential to snowball into a full-blown revolt.

The people’s nascent movement for democracy in Myanmar and several long festering insurgencies may destabilise the military Junta despite its post-election confidence. Australia and most South-east Asian nations are apprehensive of the increasing Chinese presence even as US influence appears to be gradually declining. The US pivot to the Indo-Pacific is not yet seen as becoming potentially capable of balancing China.

With the newly proclaimed Caliphate astride the Iraq-Syria border that calls itself the Islamic State, turmoil in West Asia is likely to continue. Despite the efforts of the Iraqi forces, the Kurdish Peshmerga and the air strikes being launched by the US and its allies, the IS militia has been gaining ground. The Israel-Palestinian stand-off shows no sign of abating. Israel refuses to halt the construction of new settlements in the West Bank and the Hamas militia is getting increasingly restive.

Iran’s refusal to unambiguously renounce its nuclear ambitions and the vaguely stated threats of several of its neighbours to follow suit are a cause for concern in the region. Saudi Arabia is suspected to be funding Pakistan’s nuclear expansion programme as a hedging strategy against the acquisition of nuclear weapons by Iran.The collusive nuclear weapons-cum-missile development programme of China, North Korea and Pakistan also causes apprehension.

Security environment

The Korean military stand-off along the 38th Parallel is a destabilising factor in the precarious security environment in East Asia. This sub-region will remain volatile unless the Chinese use their influence with North Korea to persuade it to back off from the path of confrontation. Increasing Chinese assertiveness over the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands and in the South China Sea is completely out of character with China’s stated objective of a peaceful rise. Other negative factors impacting regional stability include the unchecked proliferation of small arms being sustained by large-scale narcotics trafficking. India lies between the golden triangle and the golden crescent.

With a history of four conflicts in 60 years and three nuclear-armed adversaries with unresolved territorial disputes continuing to face off, Southern Asia has been described as a nuclear flashpoint. India’s standing as a regional power that has global power ambitions and aspires to a permanent seat on the UN Security Council has been seriously compromised by its inability to successfully manage the external conflicts in its neighbourhood, singly or in concert with its strategic partners.

Together, the ongoing conflicts are undermining Asia’s efforts towards socio-economic development and poverty alleviation by hampering governance and vitiating the investment climate. A cooperative security framework to unitedly meet future threats and challenges is nowhere in sight.

(The writer is former Director, Centre for Land Warfare Studies, New Delhi)

Like Israel, Pakistan At An Existential Point

Pakistan at an existential point
Harlan Ullman

Make no mistake: Pakistan is at an existential point in its almost 70-year history. The ghastly killing of nearly 150 students and adults in Peshawar earlier this month was more than an atrocity. This act of terror orchestrated by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has forced Pakistan and Pakistanis to confront the most critical question since partition in 1947: is Pakistan to be a democracy under the rule of law or a pseudo-state serving as a shell and shill for breeding extremism, terror and threats to humanity? While the jury is out, the indications are that unless and until Pakistanis realise the precariousness and danger of the current situation, do not bet on democracy. Indeed, while still an outside wager, do not discount the prospect of the TTP fomenting civil war and unseating any semblance of a democratic government.

Of course, Pakistanis were so sufficiently outraged six years ago when a videotape of the Taliban beating a young girl went viral that the army could be sent to Swat to clean out these ‘miscreants’. But a great deal has happened since to change perceptions. First, for too many Pakistanis, the US has superseded the Taliban as the enemy. Drone attacks and collateral damage, however small, provoked understandable resentment. The Abbottabad raid that killed Osama bin Laden is still seen as an attack against Pakistani sovereignty. The Raymond Davis case in which two Pakistanis were gunned down in more or less cold blood and then Davis was freed accelerated anti-US sentiments. And former chairman of the US Joint Chiefs, Admiral Mike Mullen’s parting shot calling the Afghan Taliban a “veritable arm” of the Inter-Services Intelligence Agency (ISI) brought the relationship to a nadir.
Over the last year, as time passed, the relationship with the US improved. However, fundamentalism has spread and more Pakistanis have turned to tolerate, if not accept, extremism. Nearly a decade ago, then President and General Pervez Musharraf mightily tried to close down extremist clerics and thousands of madrassas that fostered this distorted interpretation of Islam. He failed. No one has tried since.

Four years ago this January, Punjab’s Governor Salmaan Taseer was brutally murdered by one of his bodyguards for challenging the blasphemy laws. Judges and courts are terrified of trying the assassin who was viewed as a hero by large numbers of the public, including lawyers. Two years ago, when asked by then Senator John Kerry as to why Pakistan would not take on the Haqqani network, a senior diplomat replied: “If we did, they would burn my house down!” About 80,000 Pakistanis and soldiers have died so far in this battle against extremism. The assault into North Waziristan earlier this year was long overdue although the army has been overstretched. Meanwhile, the TTP are consolidating and plotting.

While Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has promised that distinctions between ‘good’ (i.e. Afghan) and ‘bad’ (i.e. Pakistani) Taliban no longer exist, the government lacks the stomach, backbone and brains to neutralise these extremists and their fellow travelling criminal organisations such as the Haqqanis and others. The formation of military courts to try terrorists because civilian courts cannot be trusted to dispense justice is an understandable but further strain on the constitution and democracy.

What can be done? First, the US and other external powers have little leverage. However, in the case of the US, removing textile tariffs on Pakistani cotton goods is long overdue. Such a step will have greater psychological and political benefit than economic. But that is essential to enhance US influence in other areas. Second, outside states can move Pakistan to closer dialogue with India and Afghanistan. Given the new leadership in both neighbours, the time was never riper for fruitful diplomatic initiatives. Given the TTP’s intent on launching another Mumbai-like attack to generate a crisis and possibly war between India and Pakistan, both nuclear armed, pre-emptive steps must be taken now to prevent such a crisis. Third, Pakistan also needs an additional 100,000 or so in the police force. Outside aid and assistance to help fund this force is essential.

A further list of actions is too lengthy to repeat, ranging from dealing with grave water, electricity and food shortages to de-radicalisation and providing jobs and hope for the 80 to 90 million young Pakistanis who are without both. Many will argue that Pakistan will muddle through. Tragically, the Peshawar massacre contradicts that expectation. It is up to Pakistan and Pakistanis. Do they wish Pakistan to be a liberal democracy or a haven for terror, violence and terrorists? The choice is theirs.

McCain Tries To Stop The Inevitable (Daniel 8:3)

Sen. McCain Asks Iraqi Officials expel Iranian Forces
persian empire
30 December 2014
Iran Focus

The United States Senator John McCain has asked the Iraqi Prime Minister to expel the Iranian forces from Iraq, according to an Iraqi source.
“During his visit to Iraq, Sen. John McCain asked Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar Abadi,  to expel Iranian soldiers from Iraq,” a member of the Iraqi Sadr party told a Kuwaiti newspaper.

According to the source: “He has told Abadi not to allow Quds Force commnder Qassem Soleimani to walk freely through Iraq because Iran has been sanctioned by the international community,” said the source.

Senator McCain also has given Abadi details of some 2500 crimes committed in Iraq by Iranian forces.

“McCain has also asked Abadi not to allow Iranian military advisers to enter Iraq because their presence is a threat to the US-led coalition military advisers in the country,” the source was quoted as saying.

According to a senior Iranian cleric quoted by the Washington Post, there are currently some 1000 Iranian military advisors in Iraq.

This source indicated that in addition to those 1,000 there were unspecified elite units also operating in the country, accompanying recent airstrikes and total military aid to date of over one billion dollars.

The Post indicates that Iranian involvement in Iraq has grown tremendously in the past year. But if we stretch back several years into recent Iraqi history the figures given by the above-mentioned cleric may rise even higher, as some Iranian influence has apparently been a mainstay in Iraq since the US invasion that topped Saddam Hussein. The Post quotes a commander with Iraqi Shiite militia Kataib Hezbollah as saying, “Iran never left Iraq… This very closer relationship has made Iran support Iraq all they can.”