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Weekly Address: President Obama-Reaching a Comprehensive, Long-Term Deal on Iran’s Nuclear Program

The President’s Weekly Address post is also an Open News Thread. Feel free to share other news stories in the comments.


From the White HouseWeekly Address

In this week’s address, the President described the historic understanding the United States — with our allies and partners — reached with Iran, which, if fully implemented, will prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon and will make our country, our allies, and our world safer. The deal, announced on Thursday, meets our core objectives of cutting off every pathway that Iran could take to develop a nuclear weapon.

It is both comprehensive and long-term, and includes robust and intrusive inspections of the country’s nuclear program. The President reiterated that the deal is not yet done — and if there is backsliding from Iran in the months to come, there will be no deal. He echoed his belief that a diplomatic resolution is by far the best option, and promised to continue to fully brief Congress and the American people on the substance and progress of the negotiations in the months to come.

President Obama: “The issues at stake here are matters of war and peace”

From the Rose Garden – President Obama on the International Nuclear Framework with Iran:

President Obama:

This framework would cut off every pathway that Iran could take to develop a nuclear weapon. Iran will face strict limitations on its program, and Iran has also agreed to the most robust and intrusive inspections and transparency regime ever negotiated for any nuclear program in history. So this deal is not based on trust. It’s based on unprecedented verification.

… if we can get this done and Iran follows through on the framework that our negotiators agreed to, we will be able to resolve one of the greatest threats to our security and to do so peacefully.

A reminder to Congress and perhaps the 2016 GOP presidential field:

So when you hear the inevitable critics of the deal sound off, ask them a simple question: Do you really think that this verifiable deal, if fully implemented, backed by the world’s major powers, is a worse option than the risk of another war in the Middle East? Is it worse than doing what we’ve done for almost two decades with Iran moving forward with its nuclear program and without robust inspections?

… the issues at stake here are bigger than politics. These are matters of war and peace.

… this is not simply a deal between my administration and Iran. This is a deal between Iran, the United States of America and the major powers in the world, including some of our closest allies. If Congress kills this deal not based on expert analysis, and without offering any reasonable alternative, then it’s the United States that will be blamed for the failure of diplomacy. International unity will collapse, and the path to conflict will widen.

About Iran and Nuclear Weapons

Let me start by saying three things:

  1. I support diplomatic efforts to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons
  2. I support the Schumer-Menendez-Kirk bill
  3. I don’t think there are any right answers here, but only answers that are less wrong than other ones

Inherent in the first statement is the fact that I do not believe Iran’s claims it is pursuing nuclear power for peaceful purposes.  I believe there is one purpose behind Iran’s nuclear program and that is the development of a nuclear weapon.  That said, I do not believe the Iranians would be stupid enough to use nuclear weapons on Israel.  The ayatollahs, as 2009 demonstrated, are interested, first and foremost in the maintenance of their power.  The surest way to lose that power is to use nuclear weapons on Israel.  Israel would have no compunctions about massive retaliation against Iran in such a situation and no reasonable person could fault Israel for taking such action.

While many would argue that support for the Schumer-Menendez-Kirk bill is the quickest way to end the diplomatic process and ensure war, I believe that wrongly reads the situation.  It was the pressure brought to bear by sanctions, and the effect upon the Iranian economy, that caused Iran to come to the negotiating table in the first place.  To successfully conclude a deal to end the prospect of Iranian nuclear weapons requires that Iran understand that consequences exist in the event negotiations fail.  The threat of additional sanctions helps serve that purpose.

In the News: Tentative Iran Nuclear Agreement Announced

Yesterday, a tentative agreement regarding Iran’s nuclear program was announced.

NPR: Deal Reached To Limit Iran’s Nuclear Program

Iran and six world powers have reached a preliminary agreement in Geneva on curbing Tehran’s nuclear program in exchange for some sanctions relief.

In a late-night statement from the White House, President Obama called the breakthrough “the most significant and tangible progress” with Iran since he took office. It calls for specific actions over the next six months, while negotations continue on a longer-term deal.

President Obama:

Statement By The President On First Step Agreement On Iran’s Nuclear Program

Good evening.  Today, the United States — together with our close allies and partners — took an important first step toward a comprehensive solution that addresses our concerns with the Islamic Republic of Iran’s nuclear program.  

Since I took office, I’ve made clear my determination to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.  As I’ve said many times, my strong preference is to resolve this issue peacefully, and we’ve extended the hand of diplomacy.  Yet for many years, Iran has been unwilling to meet its obligations to the international community.  So my administration worked with Congress, the United Nations Security Council and countries around the world to impose unprecedented sanctions on the Iranian government.

These sanctions have had a substantial impact on the Iranian economy, and with the election of a new Iranian President earlier this year, an opening for diplomacy emerged.  I spoke personally with President Rouhani of Iran earlier this fall.  Secretary Kerry has met multiple times with Iran’s Foreign Minister.  And we have pursued intensive diplomacy — bilaterally with the Iranians, and together with our P5-plus-1 partners — the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia, and China, as well as the European Union.

Today, that diplomacy opened up a new path toward a world that is more secure — a future in which we can verify that Iran’s nuclear program is peaceful and that it cannot build a nuclear weapon.

(Rest of remarks below the fold)

Sec. State Kerry Gets Serious about Iran

Cross Posted at The Progressive Zionist

In his first public address regarding Iran, new Secretary of State John Kerry has words from the Administration regarding Iran:

“We are prepared to let diplomacy be the victor in this confrontation over their nuclear program,” Kerry said after meeting with Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird. “The president has made it clear that he is prepared to talk about a peaceful nuclear program.”

Kerry also said: “Iran has a choice: they have to prove to the world that it is peaceful and we are prepared to sit responsibly and negotiate how they can do that and how we can all be satisfied.”….

…Kerry also said that Iran’s recent revelation that it would vastly increase its pace of uranium enrichment, which can make both reactor fuel and the fissile core of warheads, is “concerning” and “disturbing.”

“The president has made it clear that his preference is to have a diplomatic solution, but if he cannot get there, he is prepared to do whatever is necessary to make certain that Iran does not have a nuclear weapon,” he said.…

Now, this is clearly a diplomatic “shot across the bow” to Iran. Right now it seems it is meant purely as a rhetorical threat as the U.S. in reality is actually going through force reduction in the Persian Gulf and rotating a carrier group OUT of the region.

It comes on the heels of Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khameini’s rhetoric stating:

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) – Iran’s supreme leader

Thursday strongly rejected proposals for direct talks with the United States, effectively quashing suggestions for a breakthrough one-on-one dialogue on the nuclear standoff and potentially other issues…..

….”Talks will not solve any problems,” Khamenei said in the statement posted Thursday following a meeting with air force commanders.

“You are holding a gun against Iran saying, ‘Talks or you’ll fire.’ The Iranian nation will not be frightened by such threats,” he added in apparent reference to U.S. sanctions over Iran’s nuclear efforts.

However, this bellicose tone however, has not necessarily been supported through their actions.

First off, while the Bulgarians found Hizbollah guilty in an attack on a civilian bus in Burgas, Bulgaria that wounded a number of Israelis Iran has been quick to distance itself from it’s client’s actions.

Second, The Iranians publicly rebuffed Syrian requests for action after Israeli warplanes attacked a Syrian transfer of Soviet SA-117 missles to Hizbollah as well as a chemical weapons research facility.

Lately Iranian rhetoric has simply not matched their deeds. SO… what can we take away from this ratcheting up of rhetoric from the U.S.

Well…. (and I have been very wrong before), I think this is a signal that the U.S. is about to take an enhanced DIPLOMATIC role in the region. Now note that I say Diplomatic rather than Military.

Why do I say this? Well I say this due to the fact that the U.S. is in Force Reduction and Balancing the Budget mode, so ADDING a conflict in the region would do neither of those things. Additionally, the administration is discussing peaceable Nuclear energy as a “live with” situation.

At the same time perhaps the unconfirmed “blast” at Fordo was a message to Iran regarding the realities of their quest to enrich Uranium to weapons grade levels.

What then does the U.S. taking the DIPLOMATIC initiative mean… Well, it means that the President is putting the U.S. out in front on both a political and economic track to isolate the Iranian regime.

So far, aside from the Civil War in Syria (that is sure to cost the Iranians that nation), there are grumblings in Lebanon against Hizbollah (an Iranian client), as Israeli Jets fly mock sorties over the country in response to Hizbollah threats. At the same time the Government of Egypt who just had productive talks with Iran is facing popular dissension in the streets.

So is the U.S. signalling a move to enhance it’s standing in the region through more covert means and with use of it’s allies?

As far as economically, my assumption from Kerry’s statements are that should the Iranians NOT “come to the table”, they will face another more severe round of sanctions in addition to the ones that are beginning to strongly effect the Iranian economy and causing grumbling amongst the populace.

What I don’t see is an all out military strike just yet, and honestly maybe not ever. BUT I do think things are about to get extremely “interesting” in the Persian Gulf.  

GOP Messaging 2.0: “Hateful Policies Lovingly Framed”

Still smarting from Obama’s re-election and the ongoing implosion of the GOP brand, party leaders have concluded that something’s terribly wrong. Not their message. Nah, it couldn’t be that. More likely it’s the way they’ve been using angry, misogynistic, racist old white guys to carry the party standard. Seems that this is alienating the voters, and We Can’t Have That.

Your intrepid diarist has picked through the dumpster behind Reince Priebus’ office and found some of their latest public relations communiques on a range of subject matter. Oddly, they’re all encrypted in limerick form…

GOP anti-abortion messaging focuses on shaming women who find themselves in difficult circumstances, piling on to compound their anguish, just because they can:

Abortions are evil! Tut, tut!

If you get one, you must be a slut!

Shame on you, Jezebel!

You’ll be headed to Hell!

Guess you should have just kept your legs shut!

However, that misogynistic messaging is proving a little out-of-touch, so the new GOP copywriters are proposing something more, um… upbeat:

Life is sacred, on that we agree

Who would not love a cute, pink baby?

With their eyes full of joy

Every young girl and boy

Is a treasure to you and to me

Speaking of misogynistic messaging, how about all those armchair gynecologists dispensing disinformation on birth control such as…

A legitimate rape? Well, okay…

But most women just lie when they say

Their assailant was armed

Chances are they were charmed

By some boyfriend (at least he’s not gay!)

When life hands women a bushel-basket of lemons, it’s time to make some lemonade:

We’re so sorry; we do understand

Your rape-pregnancy happened, unplanned

Sometimes life’s so unfair

It’s just too much to bear

It’s too bad we can’t lend you a hand.

Harsh views on homosexuality abound in GOP political rhetoric (usually right up to the point when those unfortunate photos come to light):

We’re good Christians! We do not believe

In the marriage of Adam and Steve

It’s grotesque and obscene!

Marriage must be kept clean!

It’s in danger! We can’t be naïve!

Under the Kinder Gentler GOP 2.0, it’s time to face facts: not everyone’s a heterosexual. It might be time to ditch the homophobia and realize that gay people do, after all, vote:

Are Republicans biased? No way!

Why, my neighbor’s ex-wife’s son is gay!

He’s a charming young man

Served in Afghanistan

When “don’t ask, don’t tell” passed, I said “yay!”

As we learned in the Ayn Rand petroglyphs, sympathy for the poor, the homeless, the jobless, the sick, the elderly and other losers is a sign of insufferable weakness:

A poor person who can’t pay their rent?

Unemployment check’s already spent?

Well, I simply don’t care!

Not one dime could I spare!

I’m elite! In the top One Percent!

Perhaps that seems a bit, well, uncaring. Let’s see if the new GOP-lite version would sound a little more altruistic:

In the land of the free and the brave

Someone must play the part of wage slave

You should keep working hard

For that house with a yard

And that other nice stuff that you crave.

Of course, there’s nobody like a GOP chicken-hawk draft dodger when it comes to international saber-rattling and war-mongering:

Time to scramble the bombers! Let’s roll!

North Korea is out of control!

And Iran will be armed!

People should be alarmed!

We’re at war for America’s soul!

Well, that sounded nice and patriotic, but since they’ll be fighting these wars using your kids as cannon-fodder, perhaps they need a better recruiting message like this:

Join the Army, young patriot guy!

Beam with pride as our flag flies on high!

Keep America free

In Marines or Navy

It’s all good (well, it’s true: you might die)

While they weren’t busy plotting the next unpaid-for war or stripping women of their rights or shredding the safety net or protecting the uber-rich, GOPers focused their efforts on obstructing that President Obama put forth:

He’s a Socialist Kenyan! Watch out!

All the birthers were right to cast doubt!

That usurper would dare

Push for Obamacare!

Well, impeachment will be our next route

Turns out that those pesky voters keep electing the dude, though, so maybe it’s time for a little more bipartisan approach

Four more years? Well, that sucks, but oh, well…

We’ll try not to freak out or raise hell

“Kumbaya” we shall sing

In the hopes we can bring

Some bipartisan stories to tell

So… by now, you get the picture: same pig, different lipstick. Feel free to add some more rewrites in the comments section below.  

The Tale of the RQ-170

On 4 Dec 2011 an RQ-170 drone came down in North-eastern Iran, about 250km from the Afghanistan border, and led to a brief unresolved diplomatic incident; the US government ultimately admitted, after considerable prevarication, that the surveillance drone was operated by the CIA and asked that it be returned.

More disturbingly, Iran claimed that the drone was captured, not shot down, “by their own ways and means.”  Subsequent reports detailed how this was claimed to be accomplished by jamming the encrypted control signal.  Others have suggested an even more sophisticated cyberattack which hacked the command link while masking the intrusion from the aircraft’s erstwhile controllers.  Whatever the explanation the self-destruct protocol one assumes would be provided didn’t function or was not invoked.

Dick Cheney’s criticism that it should have been destroyed by an immediate air strike, while instructive, failed to consider that the CIA may have by then completely lost track of it.

Fars, the semi-official Iranian news agency, reported that both Russia and China had been “most aggressive in their pursuit of details on the drone” and most defence analysts agreed that “reverse engineering” was inevitable though opinions varied on the impact on the operational superiority enjoyed by classified US stealth assets.  Whatever the outcome the active intelligence gathering missions targeting Iran’s nuclear program had become public:

The overflights by the bat-winged RQ-170 Sentinel, built by Lockheed Martin and first glimpsed on an airfield in Kandahar, Afghanistan, in 2009, are part of an increasingly aggressive intelligence collection program aimed at Iran, current and former officials say. The urgency of the effort has been underscored by a recent public debate in Israel about whether time is running out for a military strike to slow Iran’s progress toward a nuclear weapon.

Scott Shane and David E Sanger – Drone Crash in Iran Reveals Secret U.S. Surveillance Effort NYT 7 Dec 11

The political consequences were largely subsumed in the almost universal bipartisan acknowledgement that such actions were prudent and necessary.

Martyrs’ Eyes: Election in Iran

Friday, 2 March 2012 the Iranian parliamentary elections take place, but unlike 2009 the reform movement is not taking part.  It is a contest among conservatives and this time around Ahmadinejad is taking on the Supreme Leader and the clerics:

The real competition in this election is among the so-called principalists – the various conservative forces that have fought so fiercely to control Iran’s government.

In that context, some see this election as fundamentally a fight between supporters of President Ahmadinejad and loyalists of the Supreme Leader.

“There is an attempt to rally people around the Ahmadinejad faction,” says Hashemi, the analyst at the University of Denver. “And one of the things that the Ahmadinejad faction has been doing is to try and play off of the peoples’ general antipathy toward clerical rule.”

Mike Schuster – In Iran’s Election, Not All Candidates Are Welcome NPR 1 Mar 12

Yeah, that’s right, this time Ahmadinejad is the moderate.

Rulers of the Waves

Mythology records the constraints on power of mortal kings:

…[King Cnut of Denmark, England and Norway] set his throne by the sea shore and commanded the tide to halt and not wet his feet and robes; but the tide failed to stop. According to Henry [of Huntingdon], Cnut leapt backwards and said “Let all men know how empty and worthless is the power of kings, for there is none worthy of the name, but He whom heaven, earth, and sea obey by eternal laws.” He then hung his gold crown on a crucifix, and never wore it again.

Cnut the Great Wikipedia

In the wake of the revolution in Tunisia and the amazing scenes in Egypt in recent weeks the tide of popular sentiment against autocratic rule has risen to unprecedented levels among the persistent regimes of Africa and the Middle East and threatens to expose the illegitimacy of their rule if not inundate them altogether.

That these movements are concentrated in, though not limited to, the Islamic world seems no coincidence and their scope transcends the geopolitical or religious alignment and ethnicity of their respective ruling classes.  This is not strictly speaking a democracy movement in the narrowly understood Western sense though it is clearly a movement of social justice as framed within the context of the culture of the respective states.

The Fifth Domain of Warfare

If you haven’t heard about the Stuxnet worm by now you probably soon will.  The analysis of this recently identified ‘weaponised’ worm is the opening chapter of a fascinating John le Carré novel for the 21st century with political, diplomatic and practical implications for all concerned.

A little background:

One of the most sophisticated pieces of malware ever detected was probably targeting “high value” infrastructure in Iran, experts have told the BBC.

Stuxnet’s complexity suggests it could only have been written by a “nation state”, some researchers have claimed.  It is believed to be the first-known worm designed to target real-world infrastructure such as power stations, water plants and industrial units.

It was first detected in June and has been intensely studied ever since.

Jonathan Fildes – Stuxnet worm ‘targeted high-value Iranian assets’ BBC 23 Sep 10

Unfortunately there is no specific forensic evidence that Iran was the target, although it seems the epicentre of infection.  And clearly this is not the work of some hacker ‘sitting in the basement of his parents house:’

Since reverse engineering chunks of Stuxnet’s massive code, senior US cyber security experts confirm what Mr. Langner, the German researcher, told the Monitor: Stuxnet is essentially a precision, military-grade cyber missile deployed early last year to seek out and destroy one real-world target of high importance – a target still unknown.

Bruce Schneier – The Stuxnet Worm Schneier on Security 22 Sep 10

Holy Thumbdrive, Caped Crusader!