What do we do with Inequality and what does that mean to You? Repost from 2013: It Hasn’t Improved



  1. Blog post on What do we do with Inequality and what does that mean to You?This is the first of an ongoing series, with some dialogue and comment, we hope. It is are that we will take an extended passage from a journal and launch a discussion series based on this. But I encountered a rare passage from an author in MONTHLY REVIEW (not always the most vivid of progressive publications) that I found so compelling that I want the first “cut” to speak for itself. Imagine at a very practical level, what it is like to “grow up with advantages” in modern America—and without them. See how this passage captures that, and drawing implications should follow. Our source is from Michael Yates in the March 12, 2012 issue of MR, pp. 9-10 in an Article entitled “The Great Inequality,” … he quotes at length from his own book, Naming the System: Inequality and Work in the Global Economy (New York: Monthly Review Press, 2012) pp.58-59… (Yates is co-editor of Monthly Review and an economist, formerly of the U. of Pennsylvania): In Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania where I lived for many years, there is an extraordinarily wealthy family, the Hillmans, with a net worth of several billion dollars. One of their homes, along once fashionable Fifth Avenue, is a gorgeous mansion on a magnificent piece of property. About three miles east of this residence is the Homewood section of the city, whose mean streets have been made famous by the writer John Edgar Wideman. On North Lang Street there is a row of three connected apartments. One of the end apartments has been abandoned to the elements to the rodents and drug users. This is gang territory, and if you are African-American, you do not go there wearing the wrong colors. Poverty, deep and grinding, in rampant on this street and in this neighborhood, which has one of the nation’s highest infant mortality rates. Consider two children, one born in the Hillman house and another in the North Lang Street apartment. In the former there are two rich and influential parents. In the latter there is a single mother working nights with three small children. Let us ask some basic questions. Which mother will have the best health care, with regular visits to the doctor, medicine if needed and a healthy diet? Which child is more likely to have a normal birth weight? Which child is likely to get adequate health care and have good healthcare in early childhood? If the poor child does not have these things, who will return to this child the brain cells lost as a consequence? Which child is more likely to suffer the ill effects of lead poisoning? Which child is more likely to have an older sibling, just 12 years old, be responsible for him when the mother is working at night? Who will be fed cookies for supper and be entertained by an old television set? If the two children get ill in the middle of the night, which one will be more likely to make it to the emergency room in time? Which child will start school speaking standard English, wearing new clothes, and having someone at home to make sure the homework gets done? Which child will travel, and which will barely make it out of the neighborhood?  As the two children grow up, what sort of people will they meet? Which will be more likely to meet persons who could be useful to them when seeking admission to college or looking for a job or trying to find funding for a business venture? Which will be more likely to be hit by a stray bullet fired in a war over drug turf? Which will go to the better school? Which will have access to books, magazines, newspapers, and computers in the home? Which one will wear worn-out clothes?  Which will be embarrassed because his clothes smell? Which will be more likely to have caring teachers who work in well equipped and safe schools? Which will be afraid to tell the teacher that he does not have crayons and colored paper at home? Which will learn the grammar and the syntax of the rich? Which child will join a gang? Abuse drugs? Commit a crime? Be harassed by the police because he is black? When these two children face the labor market, which will be more productive?


    To ask these questions is to answer them. And when we considered that the poor child in the United States is better off than two thirds of the world’s population, we must consider that most of the world’s people live in a condition of deprivation so extreme that they must be considered to have almost no opportunities at all. They are almost as condemned as a person on death row in a Texas prison.



    Strong words? Yes. Mr. Yates would not back down from a single one of them, nor would we. Please let us know what You think.

Hint Russia May Work With OPEC Sends Oil Prices Soaring


If the Russians–Putin– join up with OPEC in cutting oil production, you may want to take your road trip sooner, rather than later.




Oil prices jumped in world markets October 5 after Russia’s energy minister over the weekend said Russia might attend an OPEC meeting to discuss the depressed state of oil prices.

Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak told the Sochi-2015 international investment forum October 3 that Russia and the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries might organize a meeting between technical specialists.

“Russia is ready to participate in discussing the situation emerging in the oil and gas markets,” he said.

It would be a first for Russia, which as one of the world’s top three oil producers has never joined or cooperated with the price-setting cartel. But today’s depressed oil prices have been crushing Russia’s economy and government revenues.

Novak’s remarks sent oil prices soaring by 2.3 percent in London trading, with Brent crude settling up at $49.25 a barrel.

“The news provided strong upside momentum in the oil market, as Russia has been thus far unwilling to cut oil production and cooperate with OPEC members to support current low crude oil prices,” said Myrto Sokou, analyst at Sucden Financial Research.

Based on reporting by Reuters and TASS

FROM FORBES OF ALL PLACES: Obama as Economic Growth Hero?



Some pretty impressive, if not perfect, info here! Pay attention, conservatives.

SEP 5, 2014 @ 03:46 PM 734,744 VIEWS

Obama Outperforms Reagan On Jobs, Growth And Investing

I cover business growth & overcoming organizational obstacles.
Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) today issued America’s latest jobs report covering August. And it’s a disappointment. The economy created an additional 142,000 jobs last month. After six consecutive months over 200,000, most pundits expected the string to continue, including ADP which just yesterday said 204,000 jobs were created in August.

One month variation does not change a trend

Even though the plus-200,000 monthly string was broken (unless revised upward at a future date,) unemployment did continue to decline and is now reported at only 6.1%. Jobless claims were just over 300,000; lowest since 2007. Despite the lower than expected August jobs number, America will create about 2.5 million new jobs in 2014.

And that is great news.

Back in May, 2013 (15 months ago) the Dow was out of its recession doldrums and hitting new highs. I asked readers if Obama could, economically, be the best modern President? Through discussion of that question, the number one issue raised by readers was whether the stock market was a good economic barometer for judging “best.” Many complained that the measure they were watching was jobs – and that too many people were still looking for work.

To put this week’s jobs report in economic perspective I reached out to Bob Deitrick, CEO of Polaris Financial Partners and author of Bulls, Bears and the Ballot Box (which I profiled in October, 2012 just before the election) for some explanation. Since then Polaris’ investor newsletters have consistently been the best predictor of economic performance. Better than all the major investment houses.
This is the best private sector jobs creation performance in American history

Unemployment Reagan v ObamaBob Deitrick: ”President Reagan has long been considered the best modern economic President. So we compared his performance dealing with the oil-induced recession of the 1980s with that of President Obama and his performance during this ‘Great Recession.’

“As this unemployment chart shows, President Obama’s job creation kept unemployment from peaking at as high a level as President Reagan, and promoted people into the workforce faster than President Reagan.

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“President Obama has achieved a 6.1% unemployment rate in his sixth year, fully one year faster than President Reagan did. At this point in his presidency, President Reagan was still struggling with 7.1% unemployment, and he did not reach into the mid-low 6% range for another full year. So, despite today’s number, the Obama administration has still done considerably better at job creating and reducing unemployment than did the Reagan administration.

“We forecast unemployment will fall to around 5.4% by summer, 2015. A rate President Reagan was unable to achieve during his two terms.”

What about the Labor Participation Rate?

Much has been made about the poor results of the labor participation rate, which has shown more stubborn recalcitrance as this rate remains higher even as jobs have grown.

U3 v U6 1994-2014Deitrick: “The labor participation rate adds in jobless part time workers and those in marginal work situations with those seeking full time work. This is not a “hidden” unemployment. It is a measure tracked since 1900 and called ‘U6.’ today by the BLS.

“As this chart shows, the difference between reported unemployment and all unemployment – including those on the fringe of the workforce – has remained pretty constant since 1994.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics – Databases, Tables and Calculators by Subject
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics – Databases, Tables and Calculators by Subject

“Labor participation is affected much less by short-term job creation, and much more by long-term demographic trends. As this chart from the BLS shows, as the Baby Boomers entered the workforce and societal acceptance of women working changed, labor participation grew.
“Now that ‘Boomers’ are retiring we are seeing the percentage of those seeking employment decline. This has nothing to do with job availability, and everything to do with a highly predictable aging demographic.
“What’s now clear is that the Obama administration policies have outperformed the Reagan administration policies for job creation and unemployment reduction. Even though Reagan had the benefit of a growing Boomer class to ignite economic growth, while Obama has been forced to deal with a retiring workforce developing special needs. During the eight years preceding Obama there was a net reduction in jobs in America. We now are rapidly moving toward higher, sustainable jobs growth.”

Economic growth, including manufacturing, is driving jobs

When President Obama took office America was gripped in an offshoring boom, started years earlier, pushing jobs to the developing world. Manufacturing was declining in America, and plants were closing across the nation.

This week the Institute for Supply Management (ISM) released its manufacturing report, and it surprised nearly everyone. The latest Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) scored 59, two points higher than July and about that much higher than prognosticators expected. This represents 63 straight months of economic expansion, and 25 consecutive months of manufacturing expansion.

New orders were up 3.3 points to 66.7, with 15 consecutive months of improvement and reaching the highest level since April, 2004 – five years prior to Obama becoming President. Not surprisingly, this economic growth provided for 14 consecutive months of improvement in the employment index. Meaning that the “grass roots” economy made its turn for the better just as the DJIA was reaching those highs back in 2013 – demonstrating that index is still the leading indicator for jobs that it has famously always been.

As the last 15 months have proven, jobs and economy are improving, and investors are benefiting

The stock market has converted the long-term growth in jobs and GDP into additional gains for investors. Recently the S&P has crested 2,000 – reaching new all time highs. Gains made by investors earlier in the Obama administration have further grown, helping businesses raise capital and improving the nest eggs of almost all Americans. And laying the foundation for recent, and prolonged job growth.

Investment Returns Reagan v ObamaDeitrick: ”While most Americans think they are not involved with the stock market, truthfully they are. Via their 401K, pension plan and employer savings accounts 2/3 of Americans have a clear vested interest in stock performance.

“As this chart shows, over the first 67 months of their presidencies there is a clear “winner” from an investor’s viewpoint. A dollar invested when Reagan assumed the presidency would have yielded a staggering 190% return. Such returns were unheard of prior to his leadership.

“However, it is undeniable that President Obama has surpassed the previous president. Investors have gained a remarkable 220% over the last 5.5 years! This level of investor growth is unprecedented by any administration, and has proven quite beneficial for everyone.

“In 2009, with pension funds underfunded and most private retirement accounts savaged by the financial meltdown and Wall Street losses, Boomers and Seniors were resigned to never retiring. The nest egg appeared gone, leaving the ‘chickens’ to keep working. But now that the coffers have been reloaded increasingly people age 55 – 70 are happily discovering they can quit their old jobs and spend time with family, relax, enjoy hobbies or start new at-home businesses from their laptops or tablets. It is due to a skyrocketing stock market that people can now pursue these dreams and reduce the labor participation rates for ‘better pastures.”








The Battleground Issues

  • Deep reductions in installed centrifuges and enriched uranium stocks, as well as other constraints on enrichment capacity, will reliably lengthen the time it would take Iran to produce enough weapons-grade uranium for a single bomb to at least one year for at least the first 10 years of the agreement.
  • The re-design of the Arak heavy water reactor, the shipment of its spent fuel out of Iran, and the 15-year ban on reprocessing will effectively block the plutonium path to a bomb for the foreseeable future.
  • Limits on research and development of advanced centrifuges for the first 10 years are highly restrictive, allowing Iran to test only single machines or very small cascades. Testing of Iran’s most advanced centrifuges in larger, operationally-sized cascades can only take place after a decade, delaying deployment and operation in significant numbers.
  • The agreement ensures high confidence in the ability to detect non-compliance at declared facilities because of the use of advanced verification technologies and the scope and intensity of monitoring arrangements, including continuous surveillance and inventory accounting of activities not usually subject to such rigorous monitoring (e.g., production of uranium ore concentrate and centrifuge rotors and bellows).
  • The procedure for resolving disputes over site access will allow the United States and its European partners to overrule Iran (even if supported by Russia and China) and require it to grant the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) access to any location, ensuring that military installations will not be out of bounds to inspectors.
  • The JCPOA makes clear, notwithstanding earlier Iranian rhetoric about sanctions being terminated on the day a deal is reached, that Tehran will not receive sanctions relief until the IAEA confirms that Iran has fulfilled its key nuclear commitments, including moving roughly 13,000 excess centrifuges to monitored storage, reducing enriched uranium stocks from well over 10,000 kilograms to 300 kilograms, and removing and disabling the core of the Arak heavy water reactor.
  • Under an unprecedented snap-back procedure, if the United States charges Iran with significant non-performance of its commitments, previous Security Council sanctions will be restored, unless a new, veto-able Security Council resolution is adopted that maintains the suspension of sanctions.
  • The annexes contain numerous detailed, technical agreements that will minimize ambiguities and should reduce implementation problems down the road.

In coming weeks, as Congress and the American public evaluate the Iran nuclear deal, other, more controversial aspects of the JCPOA—the battleground issues—are likely to command the main focus of what promises to be a knock-down, drag-out fight.

Go back to battleground issues list »

Wikimedia Commons/Nanking2012 – A photo of the Arak IR-40 heavy water reactor in Iran

  1. What happens to Iran’s nuclear program after the deal’s first decade?

An issue likely to receive much attention, deservedly so, is what happens in the “out years”—the later years of the deal, when some key restrictions on Iran’s enrichment capacity begin to expire. JCPOA limits will ensure that, at least for 10 years, Iran would need at least one year to produce enough weapons-grade uranium to build a bomb, if it decides to breach the agreement. But as Iran becomes free to increase the number of operating centrifuges and introduce more advanced types (after 10 years) and to increase its enrichment level and stocks of enriched uranium (after 15 years), breakout time will decrease and eventually shrink to a matter of weeks—leaving Iran with a “threshold” nuclear weapons capability. Critics assert that allowing Iran to ramp up its enrichment capacity in the “out years” means that the deal merely postpones but does not prevent a nuclear-armed Iran.

There are two separate “out-year” issues. The first is how rapidly Iran can increase its enrichment capacity and thereby shorten breakout time in the second decade of the agreement. The second is whether Iran can be prevented from building nuclear weapons once the breakout time is reduced to a few weeks.

On the first issue, several elements of the nuclear deal will impede Iran’s ability to rapidly boost its enrichment capacity. Strict limits on research and development in the first 10 years will require Iran to do further R&D on advanced centrifuges after 10 years, delaying the time those machines could be deployed and operated. Moreover, maintaining the 300-kilogram cap on enriched uranium stocks and the 3.67 percent cap on enrichment levels for 15 years will further slow the rate at which breakout time will decrease between years 10 and 15.

Also important, as part of its obligations under the Additional Protocol, Iran will submit a plan to the IAEA this fall indicating the rate at which it will increase its enrichment program up to year 14, including any plans for introducing more advanced centrifuges. Under the JCPOA, Iran commits itself to abide by that plan. The P5+1 countries are aware of the plan’s key elements, which have been briefed in confidence to Congress. Reportedly, the plan indicates that Iran will increase its enrichment program at a gradual pace, not race to an industrial-scale capability that its leaders describe as their goal.

On the basis of these factors, it is expected that, at least until year 14, breakout time will be significantly greater than it is at present, perhaps in the neighborhood of half a year. If Iran encounters technical problems in developing or manufacturing advanced centrifuges—which would not be surprising given the difficulties it experienced with the IR-1 first-generation machines—breakout time will decline more slowly.

Still, whatever the rate of decline, at some point—likely between years 15 and 20—Iran will be able to increase enrichment capacity sufficiently to lower breakout time to a few weeks. At that point, the question becomes whether Iran can be prevented from making the decision to cross the threshold and build nuclear weapons.

Critics argue that, once Iran has gotten that close to the nuclear threshold, it will have a clear path ahead to nuclear weapons and will almost surely embark on that path at a time of its choosing. But it is far from certain that Iran’s leaders—having paid the huge price of devastating sanctions and international isolation for pursuing nuclear weapons—would judge that nuclear arms are a national imperative. Much would depend on how, at the time, they viewed their regional security environment, whether they thought their national aspirations could be met without nuclear weapons, and how they perceived other nations would react to their deceit in violating their international obligations and declared religious principles.

The idea that Iran ultimately may not opt for nuclear weapons is consistent with repeated assessments by the U.S. intelligence community. Since 2007, the intelligence community has judged that, while Iran’s leaders have kept open the option to pursue nuclear weapons, they have not made the decision to do so.

Even if Iranian leaders, after 15 years or more, believed their national interests were best served by having nuclear weapons, they would run major risks in going forward, with no guarantee of success.

But even if Iranian leaders, after 15 years or more, believed their national interests were best served by having nuclear weapons, they would run major risks in going forward, with no guarantee of success. Even in the ‘out years,’ the JCPOA’s rigorous monitoring arrangements will remain in force. The world will have gained intimate knowledge of Iran’s nuclear program, which would give the United States prompt warning of any Iranian effort to make a dash for the bomb. Even if breakout time had declined to a few weeks, the United States would likely have sufficient time to intervene militarily to stop them. And during the preceding years, the United States will have pursued more effective intelligence means to discover, and more effective military means to thwart, any Iranian movement toward building the bomb.

It would have been preferable to have permanent or longer-term restrictions on Iran’s enrichment program to preserve a one-year breakout time well beyond 15 years. But preventing a nuclear-armed Iran is possible without longer-lasting restrictions—provided the United States and key partners maintain a strong and credible deterrent against a future Iranian decision to go for the bomb. To that end, current and future U.S. presidents, explicitly supported by Congress, should declare that it is U.S. policy to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons and that the United States will use any necessary means, including military force, to enforce that policy.

Go back to battleground issues list »

REUTERS/Heinz Peter-Bader – International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Yukiya Amano addresses a news conference after a board of governors meeting at the IAEA headquarters in Vienna March 2, 2015

  1. How does the deal address concerns about the possible military dimensions of Iran’s past nuclear work?

Another battleground issue involves persistent IAEA efforts, long frustrated by Iranian stonewalling, to gain a better understanding of past Iranian research, experimentation, and procurement believed to be related to the development of nuclear weapons. On July 14, 2015, Iran and the IAEA agreed on a “roadmap” aimed at resolving all outstanding issues related to the “possible military dimensions” (PMD) of Iran’s nuclear program. The roadmap provides for “technical-expert meetings” and “technical measures”—presumably IAEA interviews with Iranian scientists and IAEA access to documents and certain sites. Those agreed activities, all of which are to be completed by October 15, are contained in separate, confidential agreements. By December 15, the IAEA director general will provide his final assessment of the PMD issue to the agency’s board of governors and the U.N. Security Council.

Iran’s completion of all agreed roadmap steps by October 15 is a prerequisite—along with Iran’s implementation of several other nuclear-related commitments—for the suspension of U.S., EU, and U.N. sanctions. The confidential nature of Iran’s roadmap steps reflects the IAEA’s standard practice of confidentiality on safeguards matters, but this has understandably caused a stir on Capitol Hill, especially because sanctions relief depends on fulfillment of those steps.

The IAEA’s professional judgment is that implementation of the agreed steps would provide the agency what it needs to gain an adequate understanding of the PMD issue. But U.S. legislators want to make their own evaluation of those steps before casting votes on the JCPOA. Administration officials apparently are not in possession of the detailed IAEA-Iran arrangements, although they are aware of the key elements. To address legitimate congressional concerns, they have confidentially briefed those elements to members. Moreover, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a closed-door session with IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano on August 5 to discuss the roadmap.

Implementation of the roadmap may well give the IAEA greater insights into past Iranian activities than it has gained to date. But even if Iran takes the formal steps required by the roadmap–grants the required access to scientists, documents, and sites—it is hard to imagine that Iranian cooperation with the IAEA will be sufficiently forthcoming or that Iranian responses to IAEA questions will be sufficiently complete and truthful to give the IAEA a full understanding of those activities. As a result, the director general’s December report is likely to be inconclusive, indicating progress in clarifying certain issues but noting questions and concerns that remain. It may say, on the one hand, that the agency is unaware of evidence that weaponization activities continue but, on the other, that it cannot conclude that past activities were not nuclear weapons-related.

Clearly, such an outcome of the PMD issue would not be very satisfying. But a full and honest disclosure by Iran of its past weaponization activities—which would contradict Tehran’s narrative of an exclusively peaceful program as well the supreme leader’s fatwa that Islam forbids nuclear weapons—was never in the cards. The key question is whether the absence of a full Iranian confession regarding its past activities is a serious obstacle to achieving confidence that Iran is not pursuing nuclear weapons going forward.

Considering the range of tools we will have for preventing a nuclear-armed Iran, including but not limited to those provided in the JCPOA, the failure to achieve full knowledge of the past does not represent a critical deficiency.

The answer to this question will be vigorously debated. However, considering the range of tools we will have for preventing a nuclear-armed Iran, including but not limited to those provided in the JCPOA, the failure to achieve full knowledge of the past does not represent a critical deficiency.

The JCPOA contains a number of provisions that can help deter and prevent future weaponization activities. Correcting a serious omission in the Non-Proliferation Treaty, it explicitly commits Iran not to engage in a range of specific activities related to the development of nuclear weapons, including certain work in uranium and plutonium metallurgy, nuclear explosive modeling, research on explosive detonation and neutron initiation systems, and procurement of specialized equipment for those purposes. In addition, Security Council restrictions on importing sensitive technologies for military end-uses, together with the consensus approval procedure for the procurement channel set up to allow nuclear and dual-use items for peaceful purposes, will impede Iranian attempts to import materials and equipment relevant to weaponization. And the deal’s provisions that ensure IAEA access to any locations in Iran where illicit activities are suspected of taking place (discussed below) can play a role, albeit a modest one, in discouraging future nuclear weapons-related activities.

In addition to the tools provided in the agreement, the international community will need to rely heavily on national intelligence capabilities, especially those of the United States and its foreign partners, to discover any future work on weaponization. Indeed, what we know about Iran’s past weapons-related activities comes primarily from Western intelligence sources. Keeping the Iran nuclear issue near the top of U.S. intelligence priorities may be the most promising way to address weaponization going forward.

Some observers have argued that full knowledge of past activities is necessary to design an effective verification system for the future. But the relevance of activities over 12 years ago to devising today’s monitoring arrangements is not clear. Would the Iranians return to the same sites they used for weaponization activities previously? Would future weapons-related activities be confined to the same personnel who participated before?

More fundamentally, the challenge of detecting small-scale weaponization work is much greater than the challenge of monitoring higher-profile, less easily concealed activities related to the production of fissile materials. With or without full knowledge of the past, it is hard to imagine reaching agreement on monitoring arrangements intrusive enough to provide confidence that Iran has no ongoing weaponization activities. For example, among the measures that could be helpful in providing such confidence would be arrangements for closely and frequently keeping track of the activities of Iranian scientists with the necessary expertise or for verifying on site the end-uses of equipment throughout Iran that could be used in nuclear weapons design and diagnostics.

However, such intrusive arrangements are simply unrealistic. No sovereign state will permit that level of external scrutiny. Full knowledge of past Iranian activities would not make it any easier to persuade Tehran to accept such monitoring. That is why deterring weaponization activities must depend less on agreed monitoring measures and more on intelligence capabilities, procurement restrictions, and the threat of harsh penalties for violations.

Some analysts argue that, in order to calculate how much time we would have to intervene and thwart an Iranian attempt to break out and build nuclear weapons, we need to know how much progress Iran made in its past weaponization efforts—and that this requires full disclosure by Iran of its past activities. But why would we depend on Iranian accounts of how far they had progressed, especially when they would have incentives to mislead us, most likely to understate how far they had gotten?

From our own sources, we already have considerable knowledge of past Iranian activities—not “absolute knowledge” as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry claimed in a recent misstatement, but a significant amount. Moreover, in calculating the time available to thwart an Iranian breakout attempt, we would have to make the conservative assumption that Iran had made major headway on weaponization, and that going from the production of weapons-grade uranium to the fabrication of a workable nuclear weapon would not be a significant challenge. It is unlikely that anything Iranian scientists might tell the IAEA about activities before 2003 (when dedicated weaponization research is believed to have been suspended) would affect U.S. planning for interrupting an Iranian dash for nuclear weapons.

It would certainly be preferable for Iran to come clean on its past weaponization work, not because it would have much practical utility in devising the agreement’s monitoring measures or in planning to thwart a possible future breakout, but because an admission of past nuclear weapons intent would provide greater confidence that Iran had made a strategic decision to abandon any aspiration to acquire nuclear arms. Unfortunately, Iran will not come clean, and that will perpetuate concerns about its intentions.

Still, with vigorous enforcement of the JCPOA, aggressive intelligence-gathering, and the credible threat of forceful intervention in the event of an Iranian breakout attempt, it is possible to deter Iran from exercising the option to build nuclear weapons, even if the outcome on the PMD issue is less than fully satisfactory. And if Iran’s implementation of the PMD roadmap does not allay IAEA concerns and leads to an inconclusive report in December, the PMD file should stay open over the next several years as the IAEA considers the “broader conclusion” on whether Iran’s nuclear program is exclusively peaceful—the conclusion that would provide the basis for a future U.S. administration to ask Congress to terminate, not just suspend, statutory sanctions.

Go back to battleground issues list »

REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger – Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iranian ambassador to IAEA Ali Akbar Salehi, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, British Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Philip Hammond, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz (L-R in Vienna, Austria, July 14, 2015

  1. Is IAEA access to sensitive sites timely enough?

Another battleground issue that has gained prominence in recent weeks is whether the JCPOA’s provisions on IAEA access to suspect sites—beyond those declared sites that will be subject to continuous verification—can effectively deter and detect covert violations of the agreement. The text of the agreement has largely put to rest concerns that the IAEA might be denied access to such suspect sites—concerns heightened by statements from Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, that access to military sites would cross one of his redlines. The JCPOA’s provisions for resolving access disputes—under which a Joint Commission can, by majority vote, require Iran to grant access or face the Security Council’s restoration of sanctions—provide assurance that Tehran cannot get away with blocking access to any location in the country.

The main controversy on access involves the question of whether IAEA inspectors will be admitted to suspect facilities in a timely fashion—in particular, whether they will gain access before Iran is able to hide or remove evidence of illicit activities. Although the IAEA Additional Protocol does not establish a time limit after which parties are required to admit inspectors, the P5+1 insisted on imposing one on Iran in the JCPOA. It provides for a maximum of 24 days from the time the IAEA requests access to the time Iran must accede to a Joint Commission decision to provide access. In a breakout scenario, the time limit would prevent the Iranians from stalling indefinitely in the hope of buying time for breakout activities to advance before the United States or others could intervene to stop them.

Critics argue that 24 days would give Iran plenty of opportunity to eliminate incriminating evidence before inspectors can arrive—either by simply moving equipment or materials to another location or scrubbing the facility of any physical traces of illicit activity.

Supporters of the agreement point out that it would not be possible in 24 days to hide evidence of covert production facilities, such as conversion and enrichment plants or centrifuge manufacturing workshops, or other relatively large objects, such as a high-explosive chamber. Moreover, they maintain that sophisticated environmental sampling technologies would have a good chance of detecting microscopic traces of covert activity if uranium or other nuclear materials were involved, even long after 24 days. And they argue that, as soon as the IAEA requests an inspection, U.S. intelligence assets would focus on the suspect site and be able to identify signs that incriminating cleanup efforts were underway.

The critics are right that removal and cleanup efforts could be successfully completed within 24 days in the case of small-scale illicit activities, especially if no nuclear materials are involved. Moreover, although intelligence assets have in the past detected efforts to sanitize sites—notably at Iran’s Parchin facility—detection of such efforts cannot be counted on in all instances.

In the absence of no-notice, surprise inspections–which have only been achieved in a case like Iraq, where the Security Council was in a position to dictate terms to a defeated country–no inspection system can reliably ensure on-site confirmation of small-scale, non-nuclear activities.

In the absence of no-notice, surprise inspections—which have only been achieved in a case like Iraq, where the Security Council was in a position to dictate terms to a defeated country—no inspection system can reliably ensure on-site confirmation of small-scale, non-nuclear activities. Even a system requiring access to be granted in a week or even several days, which some of the critics advocate, could not provide such assurance. The inspection system established under the JCPOA is not perfect, but it is timely enough to prevent the removal or concealment of incriminating evidence of the kind of illicit activities that would be of greatest concern and would most significantly lessen Iran’s breakout time.

Moreover, responding to Iranian violations need not depend on proof gathered by the IAEA on site. While an IAEA inspection that catches Iran red-handed would probably provide the strongest basis for going to the Security Council and re-imposing sanctions, the United States would not need to wait for IAEA confirmation of Iranian cheating. If the United States acquired reliable intelligence of Iranian violations that posed a serious security threat and could be shared with others, the nuclear deal enables Washington to go directly to the Security Council without waiting for IAEA access. Indeed, depending on the scale and time-urgency of the threat, the United States could choose to act on its own to penalize Iran.

Inspections are only one component of the JCPOA’s comprehensive monitoring system. Continuous surveillance of the entire nuclear supply chain, including the prohibition of sensitive imports other than those individually approved and monitored for legitimate purposes, will make it difficult for Iran to pursue an undetected covert enrichment program. To succeed, a covert program requires not just a single clandestine site but a substantial number of effectively hidden facilities and undetected movement of equipment and materials between them. It requires unaccounted-for or successfully diverted supplies of uranium ore, processed uranium, uranium gas, centrifuge components, and facilities designed to produce those supplies. The JCPOA’s layered monitoring system will greatly increase the likelihood of detecting one or more of the necessary elements of a covert program and provide a substantial deterrent to Iranian cheating.

“Anywhere, anytime” inspections were never a possibility. But the approach to inspections outlined in the nuclear deal can prevent extended foot-dragging, facilitate IAEA confirmation of violations that cannot be rapidly covered up, and heighten the perceived risks to Iran of cheating—all of which make a significant contribution to the JCPOA’s overall verification system.

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REUTERS/Damir Sagolj – Iran’s Shahab-3 medium range missile is pictured in this September 25, 1998 file photo at a military parade in Tehran.

  1. What is the significance of restrictions on conventional arms transfers and ballistic missile activities?

An issue that was only resolved in the final days of negotiations and has become controversial since then is the question of restrictions on Iran’s export and import of conventional arms and on its ballistic missile program. These restrictions were part of the Security Council sanctions in place prior to the conclusion of the JCPOA. Iran, supported by Russia and China, pressed for eliminating them at the same time other Security Council sanctions are removed, but the United States insisted on preserving them in a new council resolution. A compromise was reached on their duration, with the conventional arms embargo lasting five more years and the ballistic missile restrictions lasting eight more years.

The original Security Council restrictions were adopted as punishment for Iran’s violations of its nuclear obligations and as an inducement to negotiate a nuclear deal. The restrictions were not intended to be permanent; their termination was linked to an agreement that would provide confidence in the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program. Given that reality and strong pressures for immediate repeal by Iran, Russia, and China, it was a significant accomplishment to have preserved the restrictions at all.

Critics have attacked the expiration of the restrictions after five and eight years. They maintain that, once the restrictions end, Iran will be free dramatically to increase its military capabilities and threaten its neighbors. Moreover, the Iranians have made clear that, even during the five-year and eight-year periods, they will not consider themselves bound by the renewed conventional arms and ballistic missile constraints, just as they did not consider themselves bound by the original Security Council restrictions, which they termed illegal. They say they are only committed to comply with their commitments under the JCPOA and have given every indication that they will disregard and seek to circumvent the renewed council restrictions.

But even though the conventional arms and ballistic missile restrictions have finite durations and even though Iran has no intention to comply with them, they are well worth having. They will prevent Tehran from using the $100-plus billion in previously frozen oil revenues that will be released under the JCPOA to go on a buying spree next year for advanced conventional weaponry and ballistic missile technology. Although Iran will seek to evade the renewed restrictions, Russia and China voted for them and, together with other U.N. members, will be bound to enforce them. Although the arms embargo does not cover all categories of arms (air defense systems such as the S-300 are not included), neither Russia nor China is expected to sell Iran the weapons that are covered, such as high-performance aircraft.

During the five- and eight-year reprieves on the termination of the restrictions, the United States and its partners will have time to strengthen their regional conventional military and missile defense capabilities. To maintain the qualitative advantages currently held by Israel and several Gulf Arab states, Congress should approve proposed arms sales to the Gulf Arabs and pass a new 10-year Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for military assistance to Israel, which should include additional funding for the development and deployment of the next stage of the Arrow ballistic missile defense system.

The continuation of conventional arms and missile restrictions will also provide international legitimacy to efforts by the United States and others to interdict shipments and stop transactions that violate the restrictions. Should the United States receive intelligence or other information about Iranian attempts to procure arms or technology illicitly or to export arms (of any category) to its proxies, it will have the Security Council’s continuing authorization to take steps to block such transfers, and it can call on other U.N. members to cooperate in enforcing the Council’s mandated restrictions.

Even after the renewed Security Council restrictions expire, the United States will have other legal authorities and policy tools to address Iranian arms transfers to its proxies and imports of sensitive technologies.

Even after the renewed Security Council restrictions expire, the United States will have other legal authorities and policy tools to address Iranian arms transfers to its proxies and imports of sensitive technologies. Existing U.N. embargoes on transfers to Hezbollah, the Yemeni Houthis, and Shiite militants in Iraq require U.N. members to prevent prohibited transfers from or through their territory. Other available policy tools include the Proliferation Security Initiative which facilitates international cooperation in interdicting illicit transfers, U.S. sanctions laws which target certain Iranian conventional arms and missile activities, and the Missile Technology Control Regime which coordinates the missile export policies of the major missile supplying governments, including Russia.

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REUTERS/Presidential official website/Handout – Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visits the Natanz nuclear enrichment facility, 350 km (217 miles) south of Tehran, April 8, 2008. Iran has begun installing 6,000 new centrifuges at its uranium enrichment plant, Ahmadinejad said on Tuesday, defying the West which fears Tehran is trying to build nuclear bombs.

  1. What are the implications of sanctions relief, including release of $100-plus billion in restricted assets?

The nuclear deal’s provisions on sanctions relief have generated many important questions—including whether relief would be conditioned on Iran’s performance, whether major and early relief would forfeit too much leverage needed to incentivize continued Iranian compliance, whether sanctions can be restored in the event of non-compliance, and whether Iran will be penalized for behavior outside the nuclear realm.

Obama administration officials have addressed many of these questions—not to the full satisfaction of the deal’s critics but enough to allay some of the most serious concerns. They have pointed out that, under the nuclear deal:

  • Sanctions relief will follow, not precede, Iran’s implementation of key nuclear commitments.
  • Existing sanctions for non-nuclear-related Iranian behavior (e.g., support for terrorism, human rights abuses) will remain in force, and additional sanctions can be imposed, including on entities no longer sanctioned for nuclear reasons.
  • A substantial number of entities on the U.S. sanctions list will remain on the list for eight years or indefinitely (including the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps—IRGC—and its regional arm, the Quds Force, and various military and missile entities).
  • Foreign banks and other entities dealing with those that remain on the sanctions list will be subject to being cut off from the U.S. financial system.
  • S. sanctions can be restored in a matter of days if Iran violates its commitments, and Security Council sanctions can be snapped back automatically within 30 days if a single JCPOA party charges Iran with significant non-performance of its commitments.
  • Entities that legally enter into contracts before the snap-back of Security Council sanctions will be subject to sanctions if they do not stop or wind down the implementation of any such contracts covered by the restored sanctions. Contrary to an impression created by convoluted language in the JCPOA text, those contracts will not be grandfathered.

Although the JCPOA clearly provides for snap-back, legitimate questions remain about whether businesses and governments will conscientiously go along with the re-imposition of sanctions, especially if they have established a strong commercial or political stake in remaining engaged with Iran. Much will depend on the seriousness of the Iranian violation that triggered the re-imposition and the strength of the evidence that a violation had been committed. Strong, shareable evidence of major violations, such as breakout preparations, would facilitate the reassembling of the international sanctions coalition. Weaker evidence or less serious infractions would make it harder.

The Obama administration should engage now with key international partners to sensitize them to the possible future need to restore sanctions, in whole or in part, and to develop procedures and contingency plans for doing so. It should build support for rigorous enforcement of compliance from the outset, addressing and resolving promptly the inevitable implementation problems that will arise and not allowing even minor violations of the JCPOA to proceed without an appropriately firm response.

One sanctions relief issue that remains highly controversial is what the Iranians will do with the oil revenues held in restricted overseas bank accounts that will be released to them on “implementation day,” when the major tranche of nuclear-related sanctions will be suspended. Critics of the nuclear deal, both at home and abroad, regard the released funds—somewhere in the neighborhood of $100 billion—as a windfall that will enable Iran to devote substantial additional resources to destabilizing its neighbors and expanding its regional influence, including by boosting assistance to its proxies and allies in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Bahrain, Gaza, and Yemen and strengthening the capabilities of the IRGC’s Quds Force. They note that, unlike the ability to reverse the suspension of most other sanctions, the previously frozen assets, once released, will be unrecoverable.

The administration has tried to minimize the potential adverse effects of the released funds. In a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on July 23, U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew pointed out that, of the roughly $100 billion in released funds, about half are already committed to meeting outstanding obligations, including payments to China for infrastructure projects, leaving Tehran with approximately $50 billion not yet spoken for. Administration officials have maintained that Iran will likely give priority to the huge expenditures needed for rehabilitating its economy, which Lew said would require well over $500 billion in pressing investment requirements and government obligations.

Administration officials also point out that, for the IRGC—the organization many critics believe will be a major beneficiary from released assets—sanctions relief will be a mixed blessing. While it may gain access to additional funds, it will also likely lose out on profits derived from its control over the black market for sanctioned goods and sectors—at least part of the explanation why the IRGC opposes the nuclear deal.

Still, the release of the restricted assets clearly poses risks. Even if only half the released $100 billion is uncommitted and even if the lion’s share of those uncommitted funds will go to addressing Iran’s economic woes, which seems like a very safe assumption, even a small fraction of the released assets could make a significant difference if allocated to supporting Tehran’s aggressive regional behavior, including arming and funding proxies like Hezbollah and the Assad regime in Syria. This is the source of deep concern among America’s Gulf Arab friends and Israel.

The most effective U.S. response to the risks posed by the released assets is not to scuttle the deal or to try to re-negotiate a phased or substantially delayed release which, given the priority the Iranians attached to early recovery of the funds, would have little chance of success. Instead, Washington should work with its partners to counter Iranian provocations. That means stepping up interdictions of illicit arms shipments, strengthening counter-terrorism efforts (including impeding and sanctioning terrorism financing), building up the capacities of America’s friends, and in general demonstrating U.S. resolve to play a strong leadership role in the region, including opposing Tehran’s aggressive regional designs.

Critics of the nuclear deal are correct that nothing in the JCPOA prevents Iran from continuing to engage in destabilizing regional behavior. By the same token, nothing prevents the United States and its partners from countering that behavior.

Critics of the nuclear deal are correct that nothing in the JCPOA prevents Iran from continuing to engage in destabilizing regional behavior. By the same token, nothing prevents the United States and its partners from countering that behavior, including by imposing sanctions not removed by the JCPOA and by employing a wide range of available policy tools to counter terrorism and illicit arms trafficking. Moreover, while the released assets will put additional resources at Tehran’s disposal, those funds are much more than offset by the substantially greater resources that the United States and its Gulf Arab partners can bring to bear to address the regional challenges posed by Iran.

At the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, Secretary Lew stated that the United States “will aggressively target any attempts by Iran to use funds gained from sanctions relief to support militant proxies.” U.S. partners in the region will be watching closely to see if Washington follows through on that pledge.

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REUTERS/Raheb Homavandi – Gas flares from an oil production platform at the Soroush oil fields in the Persian Gulf

  1. What are the consequences of rejecting the deal?

As a congressional vote on the JCPOA nears, the debate over the consequences of disapproval will intensify. The administration argues that, in the event of rejection, the U.S.-led sanctions regime would unravel; the United States would be isolated as the spoiler; Iran would quickly build up its nuclear capabilities; and prospects for a military confrontation would increase. Opponents of the deal paint a much rosier scenario: The United States would build support for stronger sanctions; members of the international sanctions coalition would stick together in the hope of getting negotiations back on track, preventing confrontation, and avoiding the imposition of sanctions on their own firms; the Iranians would continue the interim freeze on their nuclear program; and before long, negotiations would resume and a better deal would be concluded.

Of course, we can only speculate on the consequences of rejection. But available evidence suggests that the likely outcome would be closer to the administration’s predictions, although not quite as rapid or precarious.

Should Congress pass a joint resolution disapproving the nuclear deal and then override Obama’s promised veto, the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act (INARA) would prevent the president from issuing the waivers needed to implement the U.S. commitment under the JCPOA to suspend U.S. sanctions—nullifying a central element of the deal and preemptively removing the incentive for Iran to begin implementing its nuclear commitments. Under the JCPOA, the suspension of U.S. sanctions is supposed to take place after Iran has fulfilled key nuclear commitments, most likely not until early 2016.

More immediately, congressional rejection would prevent the president from continuing to implement the limited sanctions relief required by the Joint Plan of Action (JPOA)—the interim agreement reached in November 2013.

One of the JPOA’s relief measures has been to release $700 million to Iran each month of the roughly $100 billion of Iran’s assets frozen in overseas accounts. Those payments would stop.

The most important of the JPOA’s interim sanctions-relief measures involves the purchase of Iranian crude oil. Starting in 2012, U.S. oil sanctions compelled key countries purchasing Iranian crude to make significant cuts in their imports every six months. Under the JPOA, those countries were allowed to freeze reductions at already-reduced levels without risking sanctions. The end of JPOA sanctions relief under the INARA would mean that the administration would be required to impose sanctions on countries importing Iranian crude oil if they did not make significant additional reductions over the next six months. The countries that would be affected would include China, India, Japan, South Korea, and Turkey.

The key would be China, the largest purchaser of Iranian crude, which reluctantly made major cuts in imports to provide leverage for diplomacy. Convinced that the United States walked away from an effective solution to the nuclear problem, Beijing might simply ignore the re-imposition of U.S. oil sanctions and refuse to make further cuts, forcing the United States to choose between not imposing sanctions (and exposing them as a paper tiger) or imposing them and risking a major confrontation with China. And even if the U.S. chose the more confrontational course, China could possibly find workarounds, creating new banks and companies to bear the brunt of sanctions for facilitating oil purchases, while insulating major Chinese entities from the reach of U.S. sanctions and proceeding to increase purchases.

A less likely possibility is that the Chinese, wishing to avoid a confrontation with the United States and able to find alternative suppliers in today’s well-supplied oil market, might decide to go along with the re-imposed sanctions. But instead of making the significant additional reductions required by U.S. sanctions law (roughly 20 percent additional cuts over six months), it might proffer a token reduction (e.g., a few percent), counting on the United States to regard that as sufficient not to trigger sanctions rather than precipitate a confrontation.

To avoid commercial disadvantage, India, Japan, and South Korea have been willing since 2012 to reduce crude oil purchases only as long as China was doing so. Following the rejection of the nuclear deal, they could be expected to follow Beijing’s lead, either making token reductions of their own or ignoring the re-imposition of sanctions in the expectation that Washington would not pick a major fight with a united front of regional powers and trading partners.

So, in the worst case, congressional rejection could thrust the United States into a damaging standoff, threatening and possibly imposing sanctions against the world’s leading economies in the uncertain hope of forestalling a rapid hemorrhaging of oil sanctions. In the best case, the United States could win grudging support for token additional reductions. But the likelihood of persuading Iran’s principal customers to accept dramatic new cuts in purchases—on a scale that could pressure Iran to make major concessions it has been unwilling to make under the devastating sanctions it has faced for years—is extremely small, especially when all those customers view the negotiated deal as reasonable and would resent Washington’s decision to walk away from it.

Meanwhile, the United States would be trying to maintain existing sanctions in areas other than crude oil. It would be assisted in this effort by the cautious approach many entities could be expected to take when considering whether to buck the current sanctions regime. Major international banks might be especially guarded, fearing a cutoff from the U.S. financial system if they ran afoul of U.S. sanctions.

A U.S. rejection of the nuclear deal and the indefinite continuation of American sanctions would give many [businesses] pause. But we could expect others to begin testing whether existing U.S. sanctions would be vigorously enforced.

But the temptation to enter or re-enter the Iranian market may, in many cases, override that caution. In anticipation of a nuclear agreement and the removal of sanctions, businesses all over the world, supported by their governments, have been eager to establish or restore commercial relationships with Iran and work on new deals. Sensing major opportunities, they want to move quickly, lest they wait too long and find themselves at a disadvantage relative to their competitors. A U.S. rejection of the nuclear deal and the indefinite continuation of American sanctions would give many of them pause. But we could expect others to begin testing whether existing U.S. sanctions would be vigorously enforced.

Until now, the United States has had the strong support of the European Union and European governments in enforcing sanctions. But in the wake of U.S. rejection of an agreement that European governments strongly support, European authorities may be less resolute in cracking down on sanctions evaders.

In an effort to hold the line on existing sanctions, the United States would need to pursue a vigorous worldwide campaign to penalize sanctions busters, threatening and imposing sanctions even on close allies and trading partners. And as the ranks of sanctions evaders grew and as the defectors came to believe there was strength in numbers, such a campaign could become increasingly confrontational, futile, and self-defeating, especially if the sanctioned entities had substantial economic links to the United States.

Existing sanctions would not collapse suddenly. But over time—perhaps a period of several months to a year—they would certainly erode. And if keeping the current sanctions regime intact would be very difficult, persuading the international community to ratchet up sanctions dramatically—what critics of the JCPOA are counting on to pressure Iran to accept a “better deal”—would be nearly impossible, especially in the absence of a major new provocation by Iran, such as a rapid increase in its enrichment capacity.

How would the Iranians react to congressional rejection of the JCPOA and U.S. efforts to strengthen sanctions? Some engagement-minded Iranians might recommend taking the “high road”—let the Americans shoot themselves in the foot; maintain the interim accord’s nuclear freeze and enhanced monitoring measures without initiating the nuclear and monitoring steps required by the final deal; launch a worldwide campaign to blame the United States for the collapse of the diplomatic effort; and plan for increasing nuclear capacity at a time when Iran would escape any criticism for doing so.

However, such an Iranian reaction is very unlikely. With the United States resuming sanctions that had been suspended during the negotiations and the U.S. president legally barred from implementing the comprehensive sanctions relief that was Iran’s main reason for reaching the nuclear deal, there is little chance of Tehran opting for the high road. Spurred on by domestic opponents of the nuclear deal, the supreme leader could be expected to retaliate against congressional action by forbidding steps to implement the JCPOA and authorizing the resumption of nuclear activities suspended under the JPOA.

To win over international opinion and encourage the erosion of international sanctions, Iran might initially see advantage in only a gradual increase in nuclear activities—testing advanced centrifuges but not increasing the number of operating centrifuges, resuming the construction of the originally designed Arak reactor, suspending the conversion of enriched uranium hexafluoride to oxide, discontinuing the JPOA’s enhanced monitoring measures, and so on.

However, as time passed and the Iranians saw the United States actively seeking to retain and expand sanctions, nuclear self-restraint would become less and less politically tenable and Iran’s nuclear capabilities would grow. Even then, the Iranians might well be reluctant to boost their capabilities at a rate that would cause alarm and provide a justification for new sanctions or the consideration of military options.

Congressional rejection of the JCPOA would mean the end of negotiations for quite some time. With the U.S. pursuing stronger sanctions and the Iranians increasing their nuclear capabilities, and each side accusing the other of bad faith, the climate for resuming diplomacy would deteriorate. Movement toward a military confrontation would not be inevitable—it would depend significantly on the pace and direction of Iran’s nuclear program.

It is not inconceivable that a new round of negotiations could begin at some future date. But prospects for success would be more remote than at present. Iranian opponents of negotiations would have the convenient and domestically powerful argument that Iranian concessions make little sense when the Americans have demonstrated that they cannot be trusted to live up to their end of any deal. And by the time new negotiations got underway, both the scale and technical sophistication of Iran’s nuclear program would be significantly greater than they are today.

A “better deal”–now or in the future–is an illusion.

Achieving a deal that would be as strong a barrier to a nuclear-armed Iran as the one currently on the table, especially without the powerful sanctions lever



But the alternatives are no controls on Iran at all.


All other nations will eliminate their sanctions.

We may be the only ones continuing them.

This way we’ll be able to keep tabs on them.

And so many in Iran are pressuring their government to open to us and to the rest of the world.

Why does NORPAC have to be so negative on any attempts to reach out to the other side.

Please be a little imaginative.

Netanyahu’s settlement policies are much more dangerous for Israel and for world Jewry than those who are more moderate. It’s Netanyahu’s policies that have turned so many in the world against Israel, and, by extension, against Jews.

He’s provided arguments that are used by anti-Semites. If Israel would be more clearly for peace, and show more concern for those on the other side who also want peace–build their credibility–it would provide much more security for Israel and the Jews of the world.

And if the Iranians cheat on the deal, then we can return to the sanctions–even increase them–with the support of the rest of the world.

Fear that we won’t discover their cheating? Have you no faith in the Israeli and U.S. intelligence forces?

And so many in the Israeli defense/intelligence  community support the agreement.

If it doesn’t work, we can go back to where we are.

But if it works, the whole world will benefit. What do we have to lose? Now and then you just have to try something.

You have to admit, it was amazing that Russia, China, the U.S., Britain, France, the European Union, and Germany were able to sit on the same side of the table in this negotiation. That in itself is incredible.

Why can’t NORPAC support Israel’s security instead of Netanyahu’s policies that are putting Israel in more and more danger?

Oh! Concerning “after careful review,” it seems that most of those who are opposed decided way before the agreement’s terms were made public.

How many oppose it just because they oppose anything Obama does–no matter how beneficial? Is NORPAC just one of the “usual suspects” in this regard?

Art Lerman





Take a look at this. North Korea fades in and out of public consciousness? And WHY?


North Korea ‘prepares submarine attack’ on South Korea as crisis talks enter third day: live

Seoul refuses to back down and demands apology from Kim Jong-un for landmine blast it claims maimed two soldiers – follow the latest updates

This page will automatically update every 90 secondsOn Off

• South Korea says anti-Pyongyang propaganda broadcasts will continue
• Seoul demands apology from North Korea over claims its land mines “maimed two soldiers”
• North Korea has accused South Korea of being “war maniacs”
• Kim Jong-un accused of amassing 70 submarines for sneak attack on South Korea
North Korean troops ordered onto war footing by Kim Jong-un: as it happened
• The bizarre photoshoots of Kim Jong-un


North Korea’s state media – Korean Central News Agency – has just issued another Shakespearean tirade against the South, accusing it of “false propaganda.”

QuoteThey [South Korea] claimed the DPRK “promulgated a decree on establishing a donation system” and “the society in the north has turned into the one where loyalty can be bought and sold.” They asserted this was a “reliable source” from North Hamgyong Province.

They even took issue with the newly built Pyongyang Home for the Aged, saying this or that about “old people selected to live there.”

This is a hideous act of tarnishing the image of the dignified DPRK where everything serves its people and an unpardonable insult to their intense loyalty to their leaders.

These are the worst invectives which can be concocted only by hack writers of the reptile media in south Korea where money is everything.

The “decree” touted by them has never been promulgated in the DPRK. It is something unthinkable under its popular policy which sets store by the pure mind and conscience of its people and takes warm care of them.

As far as their loyalty is concerned, it is their spiritual world of conscience and obligation as pure as white gem and as strong as bamboo because they consider their peerlessly great leaders as protectors of their destiny.


North Korea v South Korea: How do the forces compare?

This week The Telegraph’s David Blair investigated how the two Koreas’ armies would stack up against each other:

David BlairNorth Korea’s bloated armed forces outnumber those of its southern neighbour by a large margin. When it comes to soldiers and artillery pieces, North Korea enjoys a two-to-one advantage over its old enemy.

Yet an abundance of soldiers carrying light arms does not translate into military dominance. North Korea’s armed forces might be immense, but their weapons and equipment are largely obsolete.

South Korea’s much smaller armed forces, by contrast, benefit from some of the best American-supplied weapons and equipment, including more than 2,000 tanks and hundreds of F5, F15 and F16 fighter jets and fighter bombers.

More importantly, it nestles under the US security umbrella, and there are 28,500 American troops permanently based in the South.

Its army moreover is better-fed – a factor which while reminiscent of a previous era to European armies remains significant in North Korea, where defectors often talk of the debilitating experience of hunger during their own military service.


Today’s crisis talks “most significant since 2007″

Given the seniority of the negotiators and the back-breaking duration of their negotiations, these talks are the most significant inter-Korean talks to be held since the meeting between South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun and North Korean leader Kim Jong-il in 2007, Andrew Salmon in Seoul writes.

QuoteBellicosity and dire threats are nothing new from Pyongyang, and most South Koreans, having lived with North Korea for 70 years, have grown blasé. But the gravity of the current situation is underlined by the fact that North Korea offered these last-minute talks on Saturday afternoon – just two hours before Kim Jong-un’s own deadline for military action expired – and by the seniority of the North Korean delegation. General Hwang Pyong-so, the director of the General Political Bureau of the North Korean army, and so the de facto head of the North ‘s Korean People’s Army is seen as one of Kim Jong-un’s most trusted lieutenants. The second negotiator is Kim Yang-gon, Pyongyang’s point man on inter-Korean affairs. The negotiations also seem to be taking place in good faith. The marathon duration of the talks – which have extended into the early hours on two successive nights – are encouraging, as neither side has stormed out of the negotiating room.

Kim Kwan-jin, South Korea’s chief negotiator, is currently President Park Geun-hye’s National Security Advisor, hence chief aide on military affairs. Kim, a former general, was bought into government as defence minister after the sinking of a South Korean ship and a North Korean artillery strike in 2010. Seen as a principled hardliner, he vowed not to let any further North Korean provocations go by without retaliation.


South Korea’s military has expressed concern at intelligence reports that indicate that more than 50 North Korean submarines have sortied from their bases, Julian Ryall in Tokyo writes.

The sheer number of vessels that have put to sea means it is impossible to track all of the submarines, officials said, even though the boats are largely outdated and technically obsolescent versions produced in the 1960s for the Soviet Union.

Nevertheless, by swamping the South’s maritime defences, the North’s submarines may be able to land infiltration parties on the coast to carry out attacks behind the front line. Alternatively, they may target warships of the South Korean or US navies.

Earlier this year, North Korea released images purportedly showing a ballistic missile being fired from a submerged submarine. Although the images were dismissed at the time as being computer enhanced, there have been concerns that the North’s navy is attempting to fit at least one of its submarines with a missile.


A video has emerged of South Korean protesters tearing up a North Korean flag.

The protestors were calling for retaliation against North Korean landmines which the South Koreans say injured two of their soldiers, Olivia Rudgard reports.

After chanting and holding up images of the North Korean flag with a cross through it, the group tore down the flag and ripped it into pieces.

The protest ended in a minor confrontation with police, and some protestors were knocked to the floor.


You may recall from Friday’s liveblog that the hashtag #PrayForKorea took the internet by storm over the weekend.

It has emerged that the Koreans are responding with a hashtag of their own – #WeAreFineThankYou.


The President of South Korea is talking tough today, vowing there will be “no retreat” from North Korea.

“There will be no retreat in the face of North Korean threats,” Park Geun-Hye said this morning, promising “stern retaliation” for any further provocation, AFP reports.

Park has maintained a strong line on not appeasing North Korea since she came to office, and will push back hard against any compromise that might be seen as rewarding its behaviour.

The talks that began Saturday in Panmunjom between top aides to both countries’ leaders have so far failed to thrash out a mutually acceptable way to calm the situation, despite two all-night sessions.

Top-level North and South Korean negotiators talked through the night with no sign of an agreement on August 24 for ending a military standoff that has threatened to boil over into armed conflict.South Korea’s Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) is deployed just south of the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas in Yeoncheon  Photo: REUTERS/Shin Wong-su/ News1


North Korea deploys ‘hovercraft invasion force’ targeting South Korean beaches

North Korea has deployed 10 large hovercraft designed to put special invasion forces ashore on South Korean beaches, Julian Ryall in Tokyo writes.

Military sources in Seoul told Yonhap news agency that the crafts were seen leaving their home port at Cholsan and moving to an advanced base some 40 miles north of the Northern Limit Line, the disputed border off the west coast of the peninsula.

The North is able to deploy two types of assault hovercraft, a 35-ton Gongbang II, which has a top speed of 60 mph, and the smaller but faster Gongbang III.

The Korea Observer reported that around 20 crafts were moved to the sea border.


North Korean youngsters are signing up to the army in their hundreds of thousands (according to state media) because they are “brainwashed,” an expert has told an Australian newspaper.

Dr Leonid Petrov from ANU’s College of Asia and the Pacific told news.com.au:

QuoteThe young generation don’t know much about life outside. They’re curious about what’s going on but constantly brainwashed that the world is hostile. Life in North Korea is pretty artificial. There’s access to fashionable clothes in Pyongyang, where people can see, but in rural areas, even if you have a mobile phone there’s no electricity, or access to the web. People eat a little better now but life is pretty difficult.


China steps up military presence on North Korean border

Concerned at the growing North/South tensions, China has reinforced its military units on the border with North Korea, Julian Ryall in Tokyo reports.

Beijing’s concern would be a possible flood of refugees attempting to cross the border into China should hostilities break out, while a massive military presence on Pyongyang’s northern border may serve to concentrate the minds of the North Korean military and the inner-circle of Kim Jong-un.

And despite the ongoing talks at Panmunjom designed to ease tensions on the border, North Korea is keeping up is own propaganda assaults against the South.

An editorial on Monday in The Rodong Sinmun, the official newspaper of the Workers’ Party, accused South Korea of driving the situation to the brink of war as part of a deliberate plan concocted with the United States to invade the North.

The newspaper also insisted that South Korea had made up the story about a land mine maiming two of its troops as a pretext for going to war.

In a report on the newspaper’s coverage, state-run Korea Central News Agency reported, “The editorial said the puppets’ confrontational mental illness has reached the later stages”.

Top-level North and South Korean negotiators talked through the night with no sign of an agreement on August 24 for ending a military standoff that has threatened to boil over into armed conflict.North Koreans who signed up to join the army take part in target practice exercises  Photo: REUTERS/KCNA


The growing tensions between North and South have seen the former’s rhetoric reach new heights of extremity.

“A rat who should be struck by lightning,” a “crafty prostitute” and “Obama’s pimp” are just a few examples picked by the Telegraph’s video team here.


The US are not just planning to send a warplane, it has emerged.

It is also poised to send a nuclear submarine presently based at the naval base at Yokosuka, in Japan, to waters off the Korean peninsula, Julian Ryall in Tokyo writes.

The US Seventh Fleet is the largest in the US navy’s arsenal, with up to 100 surface vessels and submarines and 200 aircraft forward deployed to Japan and the Pacific island of Guam.

The Seventh Fleet conducts regular military exercises in conjunction with South Korean forces and has been put on standby in South Korean waters at times of inter-Korean tensions in the past.

Meanwhile, state media in North Korea have yet more pictures of the “million” young people who are said to have signed up to the army to help fight South Korea.

Top-level North and South Korean negotiators talked through the night with no sign of an agreement on August 24 for ending a military standoff that has threatened to boil over into armed conflict.North Koreans sign up to join the army   Photo: REUTERS/KCNA


The US is planning to send a “bunker-buster” warplane to the Korean peninsula act as a deterrent to the North, Julian Ryall in Tokyo writes.

In response to Kim Jong-un announcing that North Korea’s military were in a state of readiness for war, South Korea and the United States are discussing the transfer of a B-52 Stratofortress bomber to an air base in South Korea.

“Keeping close tabs on the crisis situation on the Korean Peninsula, South Korea and the US are flexibly reviewing the timing of the deployment of strategic US military assets”, Kim Min-seok, a spokesman for the defence ministry in Seoul, said.

Yonhap news reported that the Stratofortress, which is equipped with deep-penetration “bunker-buster” ordinance, will arrive from the mainland US and is designed as a show of force to the North.

“Our initial concept against North Korea’s provocations is deterrence”, Mr Kim said. “The South Korean and US militaries are in principle combining to deter North Korea from making provocations.”

Mr Kim reiterated the South Korean government’s position that any North Korean attacks will be met with powerful counter-attacks.

“We stand in a powerful position of readiness for war to deter North Korean provocations and, if provoked, we will react harshly and to an extent that the North would regret their actions”.

A B-52 bomber A B-52 bomber   Photo: EPA/MICHAEL REYNOLDS


North Korea will never apologise for the land mine blast which allegedly maimed two South Korean soldiers – and Seoul is fully aware of that, experts have said.

Yang Moo-Jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul, told Reuters:

QuotePresident Park knows that of course…Both sides are really just trying to ramp up pressure on the other, looking for an upper hand in what are clearly very tough negotiations.

Top-level North and South Korean negotiators talked through the night with no sign of an agreement on August 24 for ending a military standoff that has threatened to boil over into armed conflict.South Korean marines patrol Yeonpyeong island just south of Northern Limit Line (NLL), South Korea  Photo: REUTERS/Min Gyeong-seok/ News1


North and South Korea seem stuck in a deadlock in their crisis talks at a remote village on the border, Julian Ryall in Tokyo writes.

Discussions between senior officials of the governments of North and South Korea continue at the border village of Pannmunjom, but neither side appears to be willing to make the concessions that could ease tensions on the frontier.

South Korea insists that the North must acknowledge that its forces planted land mines in the South’s sector of the Demilitarised Zone that divides the two nations. Two members of a South Korean patrol were seriously injured on August 9 when they trod on a mine.

Park Guen-hye, the South Korean president, said Monday that Pyongyang must also apologise for the incident or loudspeakers will continue to broadcast propaganda over the border into the North.

Pyongyang’s negotiators continue to deny that it had anything to do with the land mine incident. They also refuse to accept that North Korea fired first in an exchange of artillery fire across the DMZ that further raised tensions on Thursday.

The North is demanding that the South halt the propaganda broadcasts or it will use military means to silence the loudspeakers.


A million young North Koreans have joined army to “annihilate” South Korea – state media

It emerged yesterday that Pyongyang’s state broadcaster claimed a million people had signed up in North Korea to fight the “war maniacs” in the South.

The Korean Central News Agency said:

QuoteYoung people across the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea are turning out in the sacred war for defending the country with their faith and will to annihilate the enemies.

The regime has now released these images, which it says show North Koreans signing up to the army en masse.

Top-level North and South Korean negotiators talked through the night with no sign of an agreement on August 24 for ending a military standoff that has threatened to boil over into armed conflict.North Koreans sign up to join the army in Pyongyang  Photo: REUTERS/KCNA

Top-level North and South Korean negotiators talked through the night with no sign of an agreement on August 24 for ending a military standoff that has threatened to boil over into armed conflict.North Koreans who signed up to join the army march in Pyongyang  Photo: REUTERS/KCNA


NBC News has been speaking to South Korean officials this morning who accuse North Korea of using “war and peace” tactics.

Tensions are said to be at boiling point after South Korean defence officials said they were “detecting unusual movement from North Korean submarines, in that they have left their bases, and also North Korea has doubled artillery power along the border.”

A South Korean official told NBC News the submarine movement suggested the North was using a “dual tactic” of “war and peace strategies” as envoys met in the Panmunjom truce village inside the Demilitarized Zone.


The negotiations have now dragged on for more than thirty hours – ten hours during the first session on Saturday and another 21 hours on Sunday.

South Korean President Park Geun-hye has told her most senior aides that Seoul would not “stand down even if North Korea ratchets up provocation to its highest level and threatens our national security,” AFP reports.

Top-level North and South Korean negotiators talked through the night with no sign of an agreement on August 24 for ending a military standoff that has threatened to boil over into armed conflict.South Korean President Park Geun-hye speaks during a meeting with her top aides at the presidential Blue House in Seoul   Photo: YONHAP/AFP/Getty Images


Good morning and welcome to the Telegraph’s live coverage of the crisis talks between North and South Korea as they enter their third day. Here is what we know so far:

  1. North and South Korea are locked in negotiations after Kim Jong-un declared a “quasi state of war” last week
  2. Row erupted after South Korea resumed anti-Pyongyang propaganda broadcasts
  3. Both sides exchanged artillery fire amid escalating tensions and threats of ‘nuclear’ warfare
  4. On Sunday Kim Jong-un amassed an army of 70 submarines for a strike on South Korea, Seoul intelligence sources claim
  5. South Korea’s President, Park Geun-hye, is refusing to back down and has demanded an apology from North Korea




What to do about Saudi Arabia?. Well maybe nothing, but this is a country that has been a simmering ally for quite a while. The pot may boil over as oil prices continue down and the government’s policies of both rough justice and the king’s outreach to buy loyalty from constituents clash. Note that the US has its own execution /death penalty issues (Russia and China being the principle “big powers” that also indulge in this). But then, 4 and counting wrongs do not make a right.

from the EIN new service 8/5/2015:

Saudi Arabia has beheaded its 110th prisoner this year

The Islamic Kingdom is in the top five countries in the world for putting people to death, according to Amnesty International
Wednesday 05 August 2015

When Saudi Arabia beheaded Mugrib al-Thanyan on Monday it brought the number of people decapitated in the kingdom this year to 110.

Al-Thanyan was executed in Eastern Province after being found guilty of shooting a fellow Saudi dead following a dispute, according to a statement from the country’s ministry of interior.

The Islamic Kingdom is in the top five countries in the world for putting people to death, according to rights group Amnesty International who ranked number three in 2014 after China and Iran.

However, the number of executions this year is alarming groups like Human Rights Watch (HRW), who estimated that there were only 88 executions in 2014. The current figure beheading figure was worked out by the Agence France Presse agency.

When the country passed 100 executions two months ago, HRW’s Middle East and North Africa director, Sarah Leah Whitson accused the country of waging a “campaign of death.”

But there has been no let-up in the number of beheadings and there are fears the nation will surpass its modern-day execution record of 192, set back in 1995.

Saudi Arabia advertised eight new executioners in May to carry out and increasing number of death sentences.

No special qualifications were needed for the jobs whose main role is “executing a judgement of death” but also involve performing amputations on those convicted of lesser offences, the advert, posted on the civil service jobs portal, said.

While many countries have establish minimum and maximum sentences for different crimes, or a penal code, in Saudi Arabia only a handful of crimes carry specific punishments.

These include murder, adultery and “consensual sexual relations between adults of the same sex, all of which carry a death sentence, according to Death Penalty Worldwide.

Sorcery and witchcraft is also on that list.

Therefore, “for many crimes what constitutes a crime, the proof required to prove it, and the sentence it carries are entirely up to a judge to decide,” according to HRW.

“It’s bad enough that Saudi Arabia executes so many people, but to execute people convicted in nonviolent drug offenses shows just how wanton these executions are,” said Whitson in her July interview.



from THE NEW YORKER ONLINE July 16, 2015

our brief analysis will follow at the end of this article

July 16, 2015 Twenty-Five Years After Another Gulf War

By Jeffrey Frank

In the run-up to Desert Storm, Secretary of State James A. Baker III, along with President George H. W. Bush, played a considerably more consequential role than did the Ambassador to Iraq, April C. Glaspie. Credit PHOTOGRAPH BY TERRY ASHE / THE LIFE IMAGES COLLECTION / GETTY When Jeb Bush, not long ago, kept mangling his answers after being asked whether, knowing what we know now, he would do what his brother George did when he launched the ruinous Second Gulf War, in March, 2003, he eventually said that he would not, but also that he didn’t want to “get back into hypotheticals.” Hypothetical questions can be useful, though, and the answers often depend not only upon what you’re asked but when you’re asked. For instance, knowing what we know now, should Jeb’s father, the first President Bush, have launched his Gulf War, in 1991? Operation Desert Storm succeeded in its limited goal—to drive the Iraqis out of neighboring Kuwait, which they had invaded, on August 2, 1990—a quarter century ago. But it also embroiled the United States and participating allies in a conflict that might someday be seen as the start of a baffling, destructive regional war that still continues—and that might have been avoided with better communication. You do not have to agree with Senator Rand Paul’s assertion that Republican hawks “created” the Islamic State to see a link between American interventions in the Middle East and the chaos that followed. For that matter, you do not have to agree that the culpable hawks belong only to the Republican Party. The Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler revisited the run-up to the First Gulf War a few years ago, and followed a trail of mixed signals that could be traced, in reverse sequence, from April C. Glaspie, the United States Ambassador to Iraq, to James A. Baker III, the Secretary of State, to George H. W. Bush. Glaspie, a career Foreign Service officer, was in Baghdad when Iraqi forces entered Kuwait. A week earlier, when it looked as if an incursion was imminent, she spent two hours with Saddam Hussein, at the Presidential Palace, where she urged restraint but never quite said that the United States would use military force to stop him. Before the fighting began, the Iraqi government released what they claimed was a transcript of their conversation, and which Glaspie has always maintained was doctored: Glaspie: I have direct instructions from President Bush to improve our relations with Iraq. We have considerable sympathy for your quest for higher oil prices, the immediate cause of your confrontation with Kuwait. As you know, I lived here for years and admire your extraordinary efforts to rebuild your country. We know you need funds. We understand that, and our opinion is that you should have the opportunity to rebuild your country. We can see that you have deployed massive numbers of troops in the south. Normally that would be none of our business, but when this happens in the context of your threats against Kuwait, then it would be reasonable for us to be concerned. For this reason, I have received an instruction to ask you, in the spirit of friendship—not confrontation—regarding your intentions: Why are your troops massed so very close to Kuwait’s borders? Hussein: As you know, for years now I have made every effort to reach a settlement on our dispute with Kuwait. There is to be a meeting in two days; I am prepared to give negotiations only this one more brief chance. When we meet and we see there is hope, then nothing will happen. But if we are unable to find a solution, then it will be natural that Iraq will not accept death. According to the Iraqi account of the conversation, when Glaspie asked, “What solutions would be acceptable?” Saddam talked about the suicidal 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war, during which an estimated half-million people died, and insisted that Iraq, its economy wrecked by the war, had legitimate territorial claims on Kuwait and its oil. When Saddam asked, “What is the United States’ opinion on this?,” Glaspie replied, “We have no opinion on your Arab-Arab conflicts, such as your dispute with Kuwait. Secretary [of State James] Baker has directed me to emphasize the instruction, first given to Iraq in the 1960s, that the Kuwait issue is not associated with America.” In 1991, in conversations with members of Senate and House foreign-affairs committees, Glaspie said that what she’d actually told Hussein was to “keep your hands off this country,” and that the Iraqi transcript included only “one part of my sentence. The other part of my sentence was, ‘but we insist that you settle your disputes with Kuwait nonviolently.’ And he told me he would do so.” But Representative Lee Hamilton asked a key question: “Did you ever tell Saddam Hussein, ‘Mr. President, if you go across that line into Kuwait, we’re going to fight’?” Glaspie replied, “No, I did not.” Still, the suggestion that the United States may have even unintentionally green-lighted Saddam’s war became an embarrassment for Glaspie, and pretty much ended any chance for another diplomatic posting. (She retired from the Foreign Service a few years later.) Kessler’s story in the Post was prompted by a rare interview that Glaspie gave, in 2008, to Randa Takieddine of the pan-Arab newspaper Al-Hayat. In it, she maintained that parts of the transcript of her meeting with Saddam were “invented by Tarek Aziz,” Iraq’s former Minister of Information, who died this past June. As Kessler noted, though, a cable sent by Glaspie to the State Department after seeing Saddam suggested that she’d been more conciliatory than she recalled. Her dispatch, declassified after efforts by the National Security Archive at George Washington University (and later published by Wikileaks), described Saddam’s manner as “cordial, reasonable, and even warm,” and said she had told Saddam that President Bush had “instructed her to broaden and deepen our relations with Iraq.” Saddam, she wrote, knew that America could use “planes and rockets and hurt Iraq deeply,” and had asked that the United States “not force Iraq to the point of humiliation”; his “emphasis that he wants peaceful settlement is surely sincere (Iraqis are sick of war), but the terms sound difficult to achieve.” In the 2008 interview, Glaspie sounded eager to put it all behind her. “It is over,” she said. “Nobody wants to take the blame. I am quite happy to take the blame. Perhaps I was not able to make Saddam believe that we would do what we said we would do, but in all honesty, I don’t think anybody in the world could have persuaded him.” Actually, no one ought to blame Glaspie for what followed. Transcripts and cables tell part of the story, but far from all of it. The roles played by Secretary of State Baker and the President were of considerably more consequence than that of their Ambassador, though neither Baker nor Bush suffered the scrutiny and scorn that was directed toward Glaspie. (When she was asked if “all this blame from Baker and Washington” was unfair, she replied that “President Bush was superb…. He was extremely thoughtful, extremely knowledgeable, extremely worried as he should have been.” The lack of a similar comment about Baker seems notable.) Glaspie didn’t ask if, knowing what we know now, the nation’s leaders should have given more thought to the idea that the task in the father-and-son Gulf Wars was greater than a massive military operation against a third-rate power. She said as much when she told Al-Hayat that “There has to be from the West [a] really deeper understanding than I have seen of the profundity of the animosities in Iraq.” She added, “Past is past; either we learn from it or we don’t.” The nuclear deal between Iran and Western powers, for all the questions it’s bound to face, might be viewed in that light: that something was learned from America’s quarter century in the Middle East and that, as President Obama said, it’s “an opportunity to move in a new direction.” Perhaps, a quarter century from now, someone will ask whether another long, corrosive Mideast war was avoided by all the bickering, posturing, and, in the end, essential faith among the negotiators in Vienna that diplomacy is something other than the exchange of empty phrases. With luck, the answer will be that it was.

Comments- Arthur Lerman, writing against NORPAC, an “anti-Iran deal” Jewish Group– one of many well funded groups, many non-Jewish, that do not want to see this agreement come to fruition. This blog needs the downside of the Kerry-Iran accord re-explained frequently, because it is simply hard to follow. The upsides are easy.

So Dr. Lerman:

But the alternatives are no controls on Iran at all.

All other nations will eliminate their sanctions.

We may be the only ones continuing them.

This way we’ll be able to keep tabs on them.

And so many in Iran are pressuring their government to open to us and to the rest of the world. The agreement will greatly strengthen their efforts—a reason the right-wing in Iran also opposes the agreement. (Interesting that the right wing in both Iran and the U.S. oppose it—not at all strange bedfellows?)
Why does NORPAC have to be so negative on any attempts to reach out to the other side?

Please be a little imaginative.

Yes, the policy of the Israeli Netanyahu government is to oppose the agreement. But, given the negative record of Netanyahu’s policies overall, what kind of a recommendation is that? His settlement policies, for a most egregious example, have been a disaster for Israel and for world Jewry, turning so many in the world against Israel, and, by extension, against Jews.

His policies provide examples that are used in arguments by anti-Semites. If Israel would be more clearly for peace, and show more concern for those on the other side who also want peace (Palestinian moderates and Iranian youth, for example), it would build their credibility, providing much more security for Israel and the Jews of the world.

And if the Iranians cheat on the deal, then we can return to the sanctions–even increase them–with the support of the rest of the world.

Fear that we won’t discover their cheating? Have you no faith in the Israeli and U.S. intelligence forces?

And so many in the Israeli defense/intelligence community support the agreement.
(See http://forward.com/opinion/312461/cracks-widen-as-israel-security-insiders-break-with-politicians-on-iran-dea/.)

If it doesn’t work, we can go back to where we are.

But if it works, the whole world will benefit. What do we have to lose? Now and then you just have to try something.

You have to admit, it was amazing that Russia, China, the U.S., Britain, France, the European Union, and Germany were able to sit on the same side of the table in this negotiation. That in itself is incredible.
(See http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/16/world/middleeast/clearing-hurdles-to-iran-nuclear-deal-with-standoffs-shouts-and-compromise.html?_r=0)

Reject the agreement and restart negotiations? It was so hard to get them all to where they are now. Do you think you can even get them into the same room again for a do-over–especially when so many forces in all these countries were so against the negotiations in the first place?

Why can’t NORPAC support Israel’s security instead of Netanyahu’s policies that are putting Israel in more and more danger?

Oh! Concerning your statement that you decided to oppose the agreement “after careful review,” it seems that most of those who are opposed decided way before the agreement’s terms were made public.

How many oppose it just because they oppose anything Obama does–no matter how beneficial? Is NORPAC just one of the “usual suspects” in this regard?

Art Lerman

Art is quick to recommend postings from The Forward, J Street and Tikkun Magazine—Jewish organizations that strongly support the Iran deal.

Concerning Jewish public opinion:

“J Street wants Congress to know that, despite some loud opposition to the deal coming from Jewish organizational leaders, our polling suggests that a clear majority of Jewish Americans agrees with us and backs the deal,” the group said in a statement.
(See http://www.jpost.com/Diaspora/J-Street-launches-campaign-backing-Iran-deal-AIPAC-rejects-accord-409167.)

Here are some other relevant postings:

5 Reasons AIPAC Is Dead Wrong about the Iran Deal





confederate flad         QUESTION MARK

This piece by an EIN news (similar to Reuter’s) correspondent takes (Republican)  Gov. Nicky Haley’s call for a removal of the Confederate flag from the state flag a step further and presents a no holds barred endorsement of the policy. I don’t think, personally, that you can hit “delete” on historical symbols, but if they are displayed in public places and on state flags they have come to be increasingly associated with disrespect for groups who did Not benefit from the Confederacy and its aftermath.

Given the passion with which the Tea Party and Southern hard-liners have attacked “liberals, Washington, Obama” etc., they need to realize that a tough position opposed to theirs can be articulated and you will find one such articulation here. This is not a trampling of the South, which has seen impressive reforms, especially in the past 30 years, shifts in attitudes etc. This might just be the next logical step.


June 22, 2015 By Joe Rothstein
Editor, EINNews.com

Is the confederate flag a symbol of racism? That debate has gone on for decades. It won’t end because nine people were shot and killed in a South Carolina church. But what’s not debatable is that the confederate flag is a symbol of treason. 

The U.S. Constitution defines treason as levying war against the government and aiding and abetting its enemies. Under the banner of the confederate flag, the deadliest war in U.S. history was waged against the U.S. government. More than 600,000 died, half of all those killed in all wars we’ve ever fought as a nation. Jefferson Davis was charged with treason. Lincoln circulated a list of top Confederate generals he said deserved to be imprisoned for treason. That list even included Robert E. Lee.

There’s a popular sick joke that goes this way: A visitor from a northern state stops in a southern town, sees the confederate flag prominently displayed and engages a local in a discussion about it. “What do you think happened at Appomattox Court House?” he asks. The local’s reply: “The longest ceasefire in history.” For many, the Civil War never ended. And it won’t end while the flag the South marched under continues to be a respectable symbol.

As South Carolina U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham said, in defense of the confederate flag after the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church murders, “It’s who we are. It’s our heritage.”

Eleven southern states tried to secede from the U.S. because they refused to abide by the laws of the land, laws created by democratically elected representatives. Leaders in those states had many alternatives to war. They could have worked to change majority opinion. They could have tried to change the composition of Congress at a future election. They could have banded together to try to elect a president sympathetic to their views. The U.S. Constitution provides multiple road maps for change and public expression. If anything, the founding fathers purposely over-weighted our system of government toward minority view expression and protection.

If their efforts for peaceful change failed the leaders of those 11 states could have done what state leaders before and since have done: accept the will of the majority and adjust to it. But they chose to wage war against the U.S. A century and a half later, many still are waging that war. To listen to the political narratives in many southern states and communities is not much different than listening to the rantings about the U.S. government we hear from Iran, North Korea and other enemies of the U.S. Washington is the enemy. The South will rise again.

In our global society, we often compare the U.S. with other countries. But the U.S. isn’t like any other country. No other country so willing has accepted and integrated immigrants into its society. Few countries permit the range of free speech, religion, and other rights of individual liberty as the U.S. permits. And those that do share our democratic form of government adopted those rights from the U.S. model. Even in Great Britain, home of the Magna Carta, reporters can be jailed for printing articles that routinely show up in U.S. newspapers. That’s why WikiLeaks first appeared in the N.Y. Times rather than the Times of London.

That freedom and diversity expresses itself in many ways. Vast numbers of citizens in the U.S. West are unhappy about the way federal lands are managed. Many who live in states where coal mining is a major industry are aggressively opposed to attempts to control its use. Urban areas struggle to uplift neighborhoods where populations are dense and jobs scarce. To be an American is to be part of a cauldron of interests, often conflicting, where passions and differences create on-going tension.

That’s the price we pay to avoid having a master or master group telling us what to do and what’s best. We win. We lose. We accept, but reserve the right to continue trying to steer matters in our preferred direction.

What we don’t do is take up arms against the government. Millions of Americans opposed the Vietnam and Iraqi wars. They marched in the streets. Many sought arrest to highlight their protest. Likewise the anti-nuclear arms movement of the Cold War. The Civil Rights movement of the 60s and 70s. What violence occurred during those uprisings was limited, condemned and punished. Hopefully, there always will be high levels of dissent in the U.S. Hopefully, we will continue to be free enough and caring enough to express our concerns with public action. There’s hardly a stronger agent for positive change than demonstrations by active citizens.

All of this happens under one flag. The American flag. The proper symbol for a free people who use that freedom to try to make lawful change. 

The confederate flag is the antithesis of that. It symbolizes armed revolution by those not willing to abide by the law and defend the Constitution. It’s treason. And the more we coddle those who fly that flag and wear it on tee shirts and belt buckles the longer we contribute to the notion that Appomattox was a cease fire rather than an ignominious defeat. 

It’s time to put an end to the romance of the confederacy. It was a horrible war that took an incredible toll in human life and resulted in a legacy of another hundred years of virtual servitude for African Americans. As long as we tolerate it we will have dreadful incidents such as the murder of people during Bible study. 

Lindsey Graham says it’s “our heritage.” He’s right. And an ugly, treasonous one. It’s time to call it what it is.

(Joe Rothstein can be contacted at joe@einnews.com)




Sen. Warren zeroes in on my Bank President Jamie Dimon’s patronizing remarks. Need we say more?



warren_dimonElizabeth Warren just dropped the mic on JPMorgan Chase CEO
byWalter Einenkel

You can’t buy class.
A couple of days ago, JPMorgan Chase & Co CEO Jamie Dimon thought it would be funny to take a pot shot at Senator Elizabeth Warren. He was trying to undermine her and other Washington lawmakers’ investigations and proposed regulations of the financial district.
“I don’t know if she fully understands the global banking system,” Dimon, speaking Wednesday at an event in Chicago, said of the Massachusetts Democrat. Still, he said he agrees with some of her concerns about risks.
Warren, a Senate Banking Committee member, has won popular support and gained influence in her party by openly challenging the size of large lenders and their political power. She has said it was a mistake for the U.S. government to refrain from breaking up big banks, such as Citigroup Inc., after the 2008 financial crisis. Last month, as firms including JPMorgan pleaded guilty to resolve probes into market-rigging, she criticized regulators for granting waivers that let the companies continue operating certain businesses.

Elizabeth Warren addressed Dimon’s comments on “So, That Happened” Podcast:
“The problem is not that I don’t understand the global banking system. The problem for these guys is that I fully understand the system and I understand how they make their money. And that’s what they don’t like about me.”




Georgia flood: Tbilisi residents warned over zoo animals after devastating flood

    • 14 minutes ago


Media captionRayhan Demytrie reports from Tbilisi Zoo on the devastation caused by the flood

Heavy flooding in the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, has killed at least 12 people, with officials warning people to stay indoors to avoid animals that have escaped from a zoo.

The missing animals include tigers, lions, bears and wolves. Three of the dead people were found within the zoo.

A hippopotamus was cornered in one of the city’s main squares and subdued with a tranquiliser gun.

Rescue workers are searching submerged homes to check for trapped residents.

Dozens of people have been left homeless.

‘Hellish whirlpool’

Tbilisi Zoo spokeswoman Mzia Sharashidze told InterPressNews agency that three bodies had been found in the zoo, including those of two employees.

A handout picture provided by the Georgian Prime Minister's press office shows a runaway bear sitting on the window of the second floor of a building on the flooded street in Tbilisi, Georgia on 14 June 2015
People have been told to stay indoors until the animals have been found
A man shoots a tranquilizer dart to put a hippopotamus to sleep at a flooded street in Tbilisi, Georgia, 14 June 2015
The hippopotamus was tranquilised, but some animals have been killed
A municipal worker sits near the body of a lion at a flooded zoo area in Tbilisi (14 June 2015)
A lion was among the animals who died
Deer in Tbilisi zoo (June 2015)
It is still not clear exactly how many animals remain on the loose

She said the grounds had been turned into “a hellish whirlpool”.

Ms Sharashidze said wolves, lions, tigers, jackals and jaguars had been shot dead by special forces or were missing.

The bodies of a lion and a pony lay near the zoo.

The flooding began when heavy rains caused the River Vere – normally little more than a stream – to burst its banks.

Thousands of people have been left without water and electricity while others have had to be airlifted to safety.

Mayor Davit Narmania said the situation was “very grave”.

Several main roads have been destroyed while small houses and cars were swept away.

Coffins in a city cemetery have reportedly been washed out of the ground and left lying on the mud.

Flood damage at Tbilisi zoo
A large part of the zoo in Tbilisi remains under water
A damaged area near a flooded zoo in Tbilisi, Georgia (14 June 2015)
The flooding has also caused major damage to roads and property

Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili has called on residents to stay indoors until the animals have been found.

President Giorgi Margvelashvili has visited affected area and extended his condolences to relatives of the victims.

It remains unclear how many are animals missing. Helicopters are circling the city as part of a search and rescue operation.

Vice-mayor Irakly Lekvinadze estimated the preliminary damage at $10m (£6.43m).

In May 2012, five people were killed in Tbilisi after another river flooded.