Here, as promised, are my reasons to feel positive about the (still unimplemented) interim nuclear deal between the Great Powers and Iran:
Just kidding. Sort of. While I believe that Iran has so far generally outsmarted, and outplayed, the West (and I include Benjamin Netanyahu’s Israel as one of those countries that has been outplayed), and while I think that Iran is perilously close to crossing the nuclear threshold, I also think that the interim agreement could make the world a provisionally safer place. To do so, it will have to serve as a path to a final agreement that includes dismantling key elements of the nuclear program, a rollback that would put the country years -- rather than weeks or months -- away from producing the bomb, should its leaders decide that they definitively want one.Read more »
The interim nuclear agreement between the Great Powers (such as they are) and Iran is creating a lot of anxiety for people who support the deal, because not much proof has been offered to suggest that it will actually work. And by “not much proof,” I mean, “no proof.”
Why support it, then? Because, so far, the remote possibility that this agreement will lead to the denuclearization of Iran beats the alternative: military action by the U.S. or, worse, by Israel. All options should be on the table, but, really, the military option could be disastrous.Read more »
In an interview with Charles Gati in Politico Magazine, Zbigniew Brzezinski, who served as national security adviser to Jimmy Carter, proves once again that he is a man of profound religious faith. He worships at the Church of Linkage, which holds that Israel's settlement policy on the West Bank is the primary cause of Middle East instability and a principal cause -- if not the main cause -- of the U.S.’s troubles in the Muslim world.
Before I go on, the usual caveats: The settlement project -- especially those settlements far from Jerusalem that have been planted in the middle of thickly populated Palestinian areas -- is a strategic and moral disaster for Israel. The settlements should be dismantled. They threaten Israel’s standing in the world; they threaten to undermine the very nature and purpose of Israel. And so on. I’ve written before about the threat that settlements pose, at great length.Read more »
U.S. President Barack Obama has had two overarching goals in the Iran crisis. The first was to stop the Iranian regime from gaining possession of a nuclear weapon. The second was to prevent Israel from attacking Iran’s nuclear facilities.
This weekend, the president achieved one of these goals. He boxed-in Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu so comprehensively that it's unimaginable Israel will strike Iran in the foreseeable future. Netanyahu had his best chance to attack in 2010 and 2011, and he missed it. He came close but was swayed by Obama’s demand that he keep his planes parked. It would be a foolhardy act -- one that could turn Israel into a true pariah state, and bring about the collapse of sanctions and possible war in the Middle East -- if Israel were to attack Iran now, in the middle of negotiations.Read more »
Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, the Saudi royal who seems to own most everything there is to own -- a chunk of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, a piece of Twitter, all of Paris’s George V Hotel, the Savoy in London, and a Boeing 747 for his personal use -- was sitting in the lobby of the Four Seasons Hotel in Chicago the other evening (he and Bill Gates own most of Four Seasons Holdings), offering up the view -- the view of an experienced negotiator from the Middle East -- that U.S. President Barack Obama is outmatched by the Islamic Republic of Iran.
“There’s no confidence in the Obama administration doing the right thing with Iran,” he told me, with a directness that would make Benjamin Netanyahu blush. “We’re really concerned -- Israel, Saudi Arabia, the Middle East countries -- about this.”Read more »
Fidel Castro shares at least one belief with the majority of Americans: He is convinced that the assassination of President John F. Kennedy was not the work of a lone gunman, but rather the culmination of a broad conspiracy. According to a recent Gallup poll, 61 percent of Americans believe Lee Harvey Oswald did not act alone in Dallas 50 years ago.
But Castro suspects that Oswald might not have been involved in the assassination at all. He told me -- to my great surprise -- over lunch three years ago in Havana: “I have reached the conclusion that Oswald could not have been the one who killed Kennedy.” Castro is of course a confident man, but he said this with a degree of surety that was noteworthy.Read more »
Lifting sanctions on Iran prematurely is a bad idea. Hitting Iran with more sanctions is also a bad idea. A conundrum!
Pressure is increasing in the U.S. Congress to impose more stringent sanctions on Iran, but the actual target of congressional ire -- and the ire of Israeli and Arab leaders -- is Secretary of State John Kerry, who seems to many critics to be starry-eyed and frenetic in his approach to just about every Middle East crisis. When the foreign minister of France suggests that you are in danger of accepting a “fool’s deal,” perhaps you are in danger of accepting a fool’s deal.Read more »
Eight questions about the dramatic events of the past 24 hours: Iran and the P5+1 (the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and Germany) seem ready to strike an interim deal that would loosen sanctions on the Iranian economy in exchange for … It’s hard to tell at the moment. With any luck, a total suspension of uranium enrichment, but that doesn’t seem to be in the cards. At best, a commitment from the Iranians to limit enrichment, slow down work at the Arak plutonium facility and continue tweeting holiday greetings to Jewish people.
And in other news, Secretary of State John Kerry just told Israel's prime minister that he's inviting Palestinian violence on himself by not budging on the issue of settlements. Also, Saudi Arabia might go nuclear, now that it believes the U.S. is moving closer to Iran. Also, there’s some sort of civil war going on in Syria.Read more »
Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is very upset with the P5+1 countries -- the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and Germany -- for agreeing, in principle, to the idea that Iran could be granted temporary sanctions relief in exchange for a temporary halt to its nuclear program.
These provisional concessions, in exchange for a provisional freeze, would theoretically buy time for negotiators to work out a permanent deal. Such a deal would -- if the West negotiates wisely -- prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. And that would make Israel and the Arab states very happy.Read more »
Word comes now that an examination of the remains of Yasser Arafat, the Palestinian leader who died in 2004, has found “unexpected high activity” of polonium. According to Arafat’s official medical records, he suffered a fatal stroke, but this level of radioactive polonium -- 18 times the normal level -- has prompted scientists to say they “moderately” support the notion, advanced by Arafat’s widow and others, that he was poisoned to death.
Although Arafat had many enemies in the Palestinian camp (and was notably unpopular with many Arab leaders), speculation about a culprit has naturally centered on Israel. The spokesman for the Israeli foreign ministry, Yigal Palmor, disparaged the claim today, saying that it is “more soap opera than science.” He cast doubt on the neutrality of the examining scientists, and also raised a legitimate question about whether they had access to all of Arafat’s medical records. In Buzzfeed, Sheera Frenkel reports that Israel is bracing for a wave of criticism. She quotes Ran Cohen, a left-wing politician, saying that, “most Palestinians believe that we were behind his death, now their anger will be renewed.”Read more »