Iran Nuclear Deal Leaves Questions over Uranium Enrichment - Guy Dinmore (Financial Times-UK)
The U.S. and Iran emerged with different ideas about the future of Iran's uranium enrichment program from the six-month agreement that sets out the parameters of a comprehensive accord to come.
Javad Zarif, Iran's foreign minister, stressed that the text stated "twice explicitly that Iran will have an enrichment program.... Iran's enrichment program will continue and be part of any agreement, now and in the future."
Minutes later, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry countered by saying that the interim accord did not say Iran had a right to enrichment: "It's not in this document."
Canada "Deeply Skeptical" Iran Will Follow Through on Nuclear Deal - Barrie McKenna (Globe and Mail-Canada)
Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said Canada will not consider removing its economic sanctions against Iran until the country abandons its military nuclear program.
Baird said Sunday he is "deeply skeptical" of a weekend deal to curb Iran's nuclear program.
Secret U.S.-Iran Talks Set Stage for Nuke Deal - Bradley Klapper, Matthew Lee and Julie Pace (AP)
The U.S. and Iran secretly engaged in a series of high-level, face-to-face talks over the past year, paving the way for the deal sealed Sunday in Geneva.
The discussions were kept hidden from America's negotiating partners and Israel until two months ago, and that may explain how the nuclear accord appeared to come together so quickly.
The talks were held in Oman and elsewhere with only a tight circle of people in the know. The last four meetings, held since Rouhani was inaugurated in August, produced much of the agreement later formally hammered out in negotiations in Geneva.
See also Israel Knew of Secret U.S.-Iran Talks Months before Obama Briefed Netanyahu - Barak Ravid (Ha'aretz)
Israel found out about the existence of secret talks between the U.S. and Iran months before they were officially informed of the negotiations by the U.S. government, a senior Israeli official said.
Praise in Iran for the Agreement, All the Way to Ayatollah Khamenei - Thomas Erdbrink (New York Times)
People from across the Iranian political spectrum, including many hard-line commanders and clerics who had long advocated resistance and isolation from the West, told state news media on Sunday that the deal that Rouhani's negotiating team had made was a good start.
"The nuclear negotiating team deserves to be appreciated and thanked for its achievement," supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said.
Syria Conflict: Children "Targeted by Snipers" - Lyse Doucet (BBC News)
More than 11,000 children have died in Syria's civil war in nearly three years, including hundreds targeted by snipers.
Summary executions and torture have also been used against children, the London-based Oxford Research Group says.
Of the victims aged 17 and under, 389 were killed by sniper fire. 764 were summarily executed, and more than 100 - including infants - were tortured, the report says.
Israeli Field Hospital Restores Eyesight of Four Blind Philippines Residents - Yoav Zitun (Ynet News)
The Israeli medical team in the Philippines has restored the eyesight of four local residents, aged 40 to 74, who were blind as a result of pterygia - growths in the eyes.
"Many locals had this disease, but those who are poor couldn't afford surgery," said Lt.-Col. Dr. Erez Tsumi.
"The patients, who all of a sudden could see after the operation, were so excited - it's a miracle happening before your very eyes."
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- Major Powers Reach Deal with Iran to Freeze Nuclear Program - Laurence Norman and Jay Solomon
The U.S. and five other world powers struck an historic accord with Iran in Geneva on Sunday on an interim, six-month deal that will allow international powers to try to strike a permanent pact. The agreement calls for Iran to stop its production of near-weapons grade nuclear fuel - uranium enriched to 20% purity - and for the removal of Tehran's stockpile of the fissile material.
Iran, in return, will gain relief from Western economic sanctions that U.S. officials believe will provide between $6 billion and $7 billion in badly needed foreign exchange for Tehran over the next half-year. U.S. officials said the P5+1 immediately will begin helping Iran repatriate about $4.2 billion in oil revenues that it hasn't been able to access overseas as a result of the sanctions. The funds will be returned to Iran in monthly installments of $600 million.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said the deal includes strict oversight of Iran's commitments.
Iran agreed to significantly increase inspections of the Arak facility by the UN's nuclear watchdog. Iran committed to maintaining its total stockpile of low-enriched nuclear fuel at its current level during the six-month period. U.S. officials on Saturday acknowledged that Iran will likely be allowed to maintain some enrichment capacity on its soil as part of a final deal. (Wall Street Journal)
See also Text of Interim Nuclear Deal with Iran (Reuters)
- Statement by President Obama on First Step Agreement on Iran's Nuclear Program
President Obama said Saturday: "This first step will create time and space over the next six months for more negotiations to fully address our comprehensive concerns about the Iranian program. And because of this agreement, Iran cannot use negotiations as cover to advance its program."
"If Iran does not fully meet its commitments during this six-month phase, we will turn off the relief and ratchet up the pressure....Because of its record of violating its obligations, Iran must accept strict limitations on its nuclear program that make it impossible to develop a nuclear weapon." (White House)
See also Fact Sheet: First Step Understandings Regarding Iran's Nuclear Program (White House)
See also Kerry: Interim Agreement Is a Test for Iran
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Sunday that the purpose of the international community's efforts is to "require Iran to prove the peaceful nature of its nuclear program and to ensure that it cannot acquire a nuclear weapon. And the reason for this is very clear. The United Nations Security Council found that they were not in compliance with the NPT or other IAEA and other standards. And obviously, activities such as a secret, multi-centrifuge mountain hideaway, which was being used for enrichment, raised many people's questions, which is why ultimately sanctions were put in place."
"For the Iranian Government...this first phase is a very simple test....The next step requires proof certain of a failsafe set of steps which eliminate the current prospect of a breakout and the creation of a nuclear weapon. That will require dismantling certain things. It will require stopping certain kinds of activities." (State Department)
- Netanyahu: Geneva Agreement "a Historic Mistake"
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the Israeli Cabinet on Sunday:
"What was achieved last night in Geneva is not an historic agreement; it is an historic mistake. Today the world has become a much more dangerous place because the most dangerous regime in the world has taken a significant step toward attaining the most dangerous weapon in the world. For the first time, the world's leading powers have agreed to uranium enrichment in Iran while ignoring the UN Security Council decisions that they themselves led."
"Sanctions that required many years to put in place contain the best chance for a peaceful solution. These sanctions have been given up in exchange for cosmetic Iranian concessions that can be cancelled in weeks. This agreement and what it means endanger many countries including, of course, Israel. Israel is not bound by this agreement. The Iranian regime is committed to the destruction of Israel and Israel has the right and the obligation to defend itself, by itself, against any threat. As Prime Minister of Israel, I would like to make it clear: Israel will not allow Iran to develop a military nuclear capability." (Prime Minister's Office)
See also Obama Phones Netanyahu to Address Israeli Concerns over Iran Nuclear Deal - Dave Boyer
President Obama called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday over the U.S.-brokered pact that eases sanctions against Iran in return for tighter monitoring of its nuclear program.
The White House said that Israel "has good reason to be skeptical about Iran's intentions."
"The president told the prime minister that he wants the United States and Israel to begin consultations immediately regarding our efforts to negotiate a comprehensive solution," the White House said. (Washington Times)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Israeli Intelligence: Iran Three Months Away from a Bomb - Amos Harel
Israeli intelligence reports that Iran is now three months away from manufacturing a nuclear weapon - three months from when its leadership decides to do so. American intelligence organizations are a bit more optimistic, but they also admit that in the best-case scenario the new agreement will lengthen the Iranian bomb-making process by only a few months.
It's doubtful whether a permanent deal will be signed later because it's not at all certain the Iranians want one. Meanwhile, Israeli intelligence will try to reveal Iranian deception that would let Netanyahu keep telling the world "I told you so." But as long as there is such sweeping international support for the interim agreement, an Israeli military option isn't in play, at least not at this stage.
- Greatest Danger Is that Interim Agreement Will Become Permanent - Ron Ben-Yishai
If the interim agreement with Iran turns into a permanent agreement, as Israeli officials fear, it's a bad and even dangerous agreement. The Iranians are still unwilling to completely halt the construction of the heavy water reactor at Arak, which will allow the production of plutonium in about two-three years.
The Iranians are committed to stop enriching uranium to a 20% level and convert what they have into fuel rods or uranium oxide. Another commitment is not to increase the amount of 3.5% to 5% enriched uranium which they possess.
These restrictions are in fact almost meaningless. With nearly 18,000 centrifuges used to enrich uranium, they can enrich uranium to any level they want within a short period of time. At the moment they already have more than eight tons of uranium enriched to 3.5-5%, enough for four to five atom bombs.
The Iranians are only committing, sometime in six months, to answer questions presented by the IAEA on the efforts it has made and is still making to develop the explosive device and warhead. During this time, they can complete the development of the nuclear weapon.
- The Hidden Cost of the Iranian Nuclear Deal - Michael Doran
I see the Iranian nuclear deal as a deceptively pleasant way station on the road that is the American retreat from the Middle East. By contrast, President Obama believes that six months from now, this process will culminate in a final, sustainable agreement.
On the nuclear question specifically, I don't see this as stage one. In my view, there will never be a final agreement. What the administration just initiated was, rather, a long and expensive process by which the West pays Iran to refrain from going nuclear. We are, in essence, paying Ayatollah Khamenei to negotiate with us. We just bought six months.
What was the price?
We shredded the six UN Security Council resolutions that ordered the Islamic Republic to abandon all enrichment and reprocessing activities.
And we started building a global economic lobby dedicated to eroding the sanctions that we generated through a decade of very hard diplomatic work.
But the price that troubles me most is the free hand that the U.S. is now giving to Iran throughout the region.
And Iran will now have more money to channel to proxies such as Hizbullah.
Six months from now, when the interim agreement expires, another payment to Ayatollah Khamenei will come due. If Obama doesn't pony up, he will have to admit then that he cut a bad deal now. The writer, a senior fellow in the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at Brookings, served as a U.S. deputy assistant secretary of defense and a senior director at the National Security Council.
- Israel Looks Ahead after Iran Deal - Charles Levinson
Israeli leaders are looking ahead to ensure that the next rounds of diplomacy with Iran yield the best possible result for their country.
"Israel has to make its case very clearly looking forward to that next set of understandings, six months from now," said Dore Gold, a former Israeli ambassador to the UN who now heads the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.
Israel's best ally in the fight to undermine the nuclear deal may be Iran itself. "We're going to see Iran do what it's always done in the past: fudge its commitments and attempt to violate the deal," Gold said. "And there will be an understanding that Israel was not crying wolf and had serious concerns that should have been more seriously considered by Western powers."
Yoel Guzansky, head of Iranian policy on Israel's National Security Council from 2005-2010, added:
"In many ways, this deal actually makes the Israeli strike more close, because, now, if they are caught cheating, you have a legitimacy to do other things that you didn't have before." (Wall Street Journal)
- Let's Not Celebrate This Iran Deal...Yet - Aaron David Miller
If this interim deal leads to a final accord that mothballs Tehran's nuclear-weapons program and keeps it that way, it will be worth the heartburn it's causing Israel, Saudi Arabia and the U.S. Congress. But we should be careful.
We need to stop deluding ourselves that negotiations will produce a final agreement that will end Iran's aspirations for a nuclear weapons capacity. Iran has come too far in its nuclear program for the U.S. and Israel ever to have that kind of certainty or finality.
- Saudi Prince: "The Threat Is from Persia, Not from Israel" - Jeffrey Goldberg
Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal told me, "There's no confidence in the Obama administration doing the right thing with Iran."
Alwaleed believes that Iran will pocket whatever sanctions relief it gets without committing to ending its nuclear program.
I asked him if he thought the Arab states would actually back an Israeli strike on Iran's nuclear facilities.
"Publicly, they would be against it," he said. "Privately, they would love it." "The Sunnis will love it....The Sunni Muslim is very much anti-Shiite, and very much anti-, anti-, anti-Iran."
You're sure they loathe Iran more than they loathe Israel, I asked? "Look, Iran is a huge threat, historically speaking....The Persian empire was always against the Muslim Arab empire, especially against the Sunnis. The threat is from Persia, not from Israel." (Bloomberg)
- A Bad Agreement Likely to Get Worse - Mark Dubowitz
and Orde Kittrie
The interim agreement includes several Iranian commitments that, if verifiably implemented, would extend Iran's nuclear breakout time from about a month to about two months.
It places more constraints on Iran's nuclear program than the deal that the Obama administration reportedly was prepared to sign two weeks ago. The Senate's threat to pass additional sanctions, France's objections to the initial deal, and Israel's fierce resistance to the terms of the proposed agreement seem to have played a role in providing U.S. negotiators with leverage to extract a better deal from Iran. Mr. Dubowitz is executive director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Mr. Kittrie is a law professor at Arizona State University and a senior fellow at the foundation.
(Wall Street Journal)
Why the Iranian Nuclear Deal Is Dangerous - Eli Lake (Daily Beast)
See also Israeli Experts Suggest a Glass Half Full - Mitch Ginsburg (Times of Israel)
- The agreement signed in Geneva says Iran and six world powers will negotiate a comprehensive solution over the next six months that "would involve a mutually defined enrichment program with practical limits and transparency measures to ensure the peaceful nature of the program."
- The offer represents a significant softening of earlier demands from the United States and even the Obama administration. During his first term, Obama offered Iran a deal that would have required Iran to import enriched nuclear fuel, but not allow Iran to make that fuel in facilities its government controlled.
- Dr. Ephraim Asculai, a veteran of both the IAEA and the Israel Atomic Energy Commission, noted Sunday that the Iran accord "does not do anything to change that [breakout] time, except perhaps in a very minor way." He said the agreed-upon limitations of the interim agreement add only "a few days" onto the regime's clock, should it decide to sprint toward a bomb.
- The former head of IDF military intelligence and current director of the Institute for National Security Studies, Amos Yadlin, told Army Radio that the value of the agreement, which he termed "neither the dream agreement nor the destruction of the Third Temple," would only be evident in six months' time. "The fall of this regime before it gets the bomb should be our objective," he said.
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