Archive for the ‘Iran – Implementation Day’ category

Iran’s Free Hand in Testing Ballistic Missiles

March 16, 2016

Iran’s Free Hand in Testing Ballistic Missiles, Front Page MagazineJoseph Klein, March 16, 2016

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The United Nations Security Council met in an “emergency” closed door session on Monday March 14th to discuss Iran’s recent testing of ballistic missiles reportedly designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons. The words “Israel must be wiped out” were written in Hebrew on the side of the missiles. These most recent tests followed in the wake of missile tests conducted last fall, which the Security Council did nothing about at the time.

While North Korea was finally hit with more UN sanctions for its nuclear and missile tests, North Korea’s nuclear weapons collaborators in Iran continue to be let off the hook without even a slap on the wrist.

U.S. Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power told reporters, after the March 14th meeting produced no concrete results, that she will keep trying “no matter the quibbling that we heard today about this and that.” She said that Iran’s missile tests were “in defiance of provisions of UN Security Council Resolution 2231, the resolution that came into effect on January 16, on Implementation Day for the JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action].”

The quibbler in chief is Russia. Its UN ambassador said that Iran has not violated the resolution and that there was no need for any punitive measures against Iran.

The truth is that the Obama administration is now hoisted with its own petard. Ambassador Power complained that “Russia seems to be lawyering its way to look for reasons not to act rather than stepping up and being prepared to shoulder our collective responsibility.” Yet that would not have been as easy for Russia to do if the Obama administration had not allowed a loophole in the nuclear deal wide enough for Iran to fire a whole bunch of missiles through.

President Obama wanted the nuclear deal with Iran so badly that he gave in to Iran’s last minute demands to preserve its missile program. Iran insisted that all prior UN Security Council resolutions which had unambiguously prohibited Iran’s development, testing or procurement of ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons must be terminated. Otherwise, Iran would not go forward with the JCPOA. To make matters worse, even though Iran had held the JCPOA hostage to its missile demands, the Obama administration also bowed to Iran’s insistence that its missile program would not be covered by the JCPOA itself. Thus, Iran would not be subject to the automatic “snap back” of sanctions when Iran is found to have violated the JCPOA, because its missile tests would be outside the scope of the JCPOA. In fact, the Obama administration agreed to language in the JCPOA to clarify that such separation of Iran’s missile program from the JCPOA was the intent. All reliance for dealing with Iran’s missile tests would be placed on the much weaker Security Council Resolution 2231.

The new Security Council Resolution 2231, which endorsed the JCPOA but drafted as separate from the JCPOA, used weaker language than the outright prohibition that had existed under the prior resolutions that were now superseded. Calling upon Iran to refrain from doing something is not the same as an enforceable ban. Moreover, even this insipid “call upon” language is included in an annex to the resolution. This annex is little more than a statement of intent by the parties negotiating with Iran, which Iran does not consider binding on itself.

The Obama administration missed the window of opportunity to clamp down on Iran’s missile testing when those tests were being conducted last fall. The previous Security Council resolutions that prohibited Iran’s missile program outright, and the sanctions regime against Iran, were then still in effect. Those resolutions were referenced in the JCPOA itself as still being binding until the JCPOA was actually implemented. Implementation in turn was dependent on verification of Iran’s compliance with certain commitments set forth in the JCPOA having to do with its enrichment and plutonium programs. Until the JCPOA’s formal implementation date of January 16, 2016, when those resolutions were terminated, the missile program ban had not been technically untethered from the JCPOA.

All the Obama administration had to do last fall was to declare Iran in breach of the JCPOA because the missile ban under those resolutions that Iran breached were effectively incorporated into the JCPOA until terminated. The sanctions were still in place. Iran’s assets were still frozen. Russia’s “lawyering” would have done it little good last fall when the United States still had the upper hand both legally and in practical terms. But President Obama frittered away the last real chance to hold Iran’s feet to the fire before the sanctions were lifted. He wanted the nuclear deal to go forward as a centerpiece of his “legacy” and let the next president worry about its fallout.

In fact, instead of pressing the case against Iran and threatening to walk away from the JCPOA when he had the leverage, Secretary of State John Kerry actually defended Iran’s position on its missile tests. “The issue of ballistic missiles is addressed by the provisions of the new United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR), which do not constitute provisions of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA),” Kerry wrote in a letter to Senator Marco Rubio last September.  “Since the Security Council has called upon Iran not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such ballistic missile technology, any such activity would be inconsistent with the UNSCR and a serious matter for the Security Council to review.”

Rubio raised his concern with Kerry that the language in the new Security Council resolution did not appear to require Iran to refrain from pursuing its ballistic missile tests. Rubio seized upon the weak “call upon” language discussed earlier as the basis for his concern. Kerry’s response was that “if Iran were to undertake them it would be inconsistent with the UNSCR and a serious matter for the Security Council to review.”

Senator Rubio had a right to be concerned. Kerry had deliberately agreed to a circular process to deal with Iran’s missile program violations, which was doomed to fail. To placate Iran, he kicked the can down the road until the JCPOA was actually implemented and the prior, much stronger Security Council missile resolutions that were initially tied into the JCPOA by reference went away. The separation of the JCPOA and the new Security Council resolution was completed as of the formal implementation date. Kerry had to know that once the JCPOA was implemented and in full force, with sanctions lifted and the missile program separated out from the JCPOA with its automatic “snap back” provisions, Russia would likely veto any separate sanctions resolution against its ally and missile purchaser based on Iran’s missile tests. The American people got suckered by President Obama’s reckless concessions.

Iran not only will have a pathway to nuclear enrichment sufficient to produce nuclear weapons when the deal’s restrictions sunset – if not before. Thanks to the Obama administration, Iran presently has a free hand to develop and test ballistic missiles capable of delivering those nuclear weapons along any pathway of attack it chooses.

Cartoon of the Day

January 17, 2016

H/t Vermont Loon Watch

 

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Progress of sanctions relief will quicken Iran’s power struggle, spur clash with Saudi Arabia

January 17, 2016

Progress of sanctions relief will quicken Iran’s power struggle, spur clash with Saudi Arabia, DEBKAfile, January 16, 2016

investment-in-Iran-by-Ghanoon-daily_16.1.16The nuclear accord implementation by Iran and the lifting of sanctions may not survive the radical opposition in Tehran – not least, because Iran exports will further depress oil prices.

The nuclear watchdog confirmed Saturday night, Jan. 16, that Iran had fulfilled its side of the nuclear deal with the six world powers and that sanctions could be lifted, after US Secretary of State John Kerry, EU’s Federica Mogherini and Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif had been kept hanging about for the IAEA’s from early morning for a verdict worth some $100-150 billion to Tehran. The wording did not explicitly confirm that Iran had met all the terms of the nuclear deal or that it had mothballed most of its uranium-enrichment centrifuges.

From the start, the deal was viewed with deep suspicion by Israel, Saudi Arabia and US lawmakers. Even the White House spokesman Josh Earnest was moved to comment Friday that “the United States wants to make sure that Iran doesn’t cut any corners.”

DEBKAfile’s intelligence and Iranian sources account for the delay in publishing the nuclear watchdog’s report by the “corners” Iran was still trying to cut. According to our sources, Iran had managed to dodge compliance with key terms of the nuclear deal. Nine tons of enriched uranium were indeed shipped to Russia, but most expert watchers are dubious about three other commitments:

1. Washington and Tehran have claimed that the Iranians fulfilled their commitment to pour concrete into the core of the Arak reactor to disable its capacity for producing plutonium. Two days ago, on Thursday, Iranian officials denied this had been done: Only a token operation may have taken place, if any.

Officials associated with Iran’s radical Revolutionary Guards, which fought tooth and nail against the nuclear accord, commented that instead of pouring concrete into the Arak reactor, it should be poured into the hearts of President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Zarif, for negotiating the accord with the six powers.

Such comments rarely reach the Western media. They are important because they mirror the fierce power struggle ongoing in Tehran, which is heavily fueled by infighting over the nuclear deal and sanctions.

2.  That deal provided for the number of centrifuges enriching uranium at the Natanz center to be reduced from 19,500 to 5,050. Our sources report that 9,000 are still in operation.

3. There is no confirmation that the number of centrifuges operating at the underground facility of Fordo was cut down to one thousand, as agreed.

On top of these deviations, the Obama administration admitted last week that the dispute over Iran’s nuclear-capable ballistic missiles, which were tested last month, is still open, in defiance of UN Security Council resolutions. This makes Tehran liable to a fresh set of sanctions, as US officials too have indicated.

The capture of two US patrol boats by the Revolutionary Guards speedboats last Tuesday, with the 10 American sailors aboard forced to surrender before they were released, was clearly a last-ditch attempt by Iran’s radicals to derail the nuclear accord before the Saturday deadline was reached.

That will not be the last such episode: Iran’s radicals may embark on more such actions to counteract the nuclear deal by striking more American targets and looking for trouble with Saudi Arabi and its Gulf allies.

The fact is that the hard-line factions in Tehran don’t want the sanctions lifted, because they see them as net profit for President Rouhani and his moderate conservatives and his leading backer, former president Hashem Rafsanjani, head of the powerful Assembly of Experts.

Iran’s Finance Minister Ali Tayyebnia gave the radicals fodder when he said last week that even $100 billion in cancelled sanctions would not haul the Iranian economy our [sic]  of crisis or balance the state budget, because the country’s indebtedness is far in excess of that huge amount.

The Iranian-Saudi row is another factor that could upset the nuclear deal, although paradoxically, since oil prices sank below $30, the Guards and Riyadh have a common interest in its collapse.

Iran’s expected return to an already glutted market – through the removal of sanctions – will drive prices down further. This, neither the Revolutionary Guards Corps, which control Iran’s oil sector, nor the Saudis want to see.

The spiral of hostility launched with the Saudi execution of the prominent Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr, followed by the mob attack on the Saudi embassy in Tehran and consulate in Meshaad, and the multiple severance of diplomatic and commercial ties between the Gulf emirates and Tehran, may have the effect of reversing the downward trend of oil prices with a sudden spurt.
Therefore, the rosy prospect the Obama administration paints of a successful landmark deal for curbing Iran’s nuclear capabilities is a far cry from being realized.

Therefore, the rosy prospect the Obama administration paints of a successful landmark deal for curbing Iran’s nuclear capabilities is a far cry from being realized.

U.S. lifts sanctions against Iran, says nuclear deal obligations have been met

January 17, 2016

U.S. lifts sanctions against Iran, says nuclear deal obligations have been met, Washinton TimesDave Boyer, January 16, 2016

austria_iran_kerry_c0-0-3500-2040_s885x516U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry, is greeted by the U.S. Ambassador to Austria, Alexa Wesner, left, as he steps from his plane Saturday, Jan. 16, 2016, upon his arrival in Vienna, Austria on what is expected to be “implementation day,” the day the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) verifies that Iran has met all conditions under the nuclear deal. (Kevin Lamarque/Pool Photo via AP)

Completing a major diplomatic effort over the objections of many in Congress, President Obama lifted economic sanctions against Iran Saturday after the U.N. atomic watchdog agency determined that Tehran has complied with the deal to curb its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.

In a statement, Secretary of State John F. Kerry said the sanctions termination provisions of Iran’s landmark nuclear agreement are now in effect.

Mr. Obama signed the orders Saturday afternoon, saying Iran’s compliance with the deal “marks a fundamental shift in circumstances with respect to Iran’s nuclear program.”

The U.S. and Iran also carried out a prisoner swap Saturday, with Iran releasing an American pastor, a Washington Post reporter and three other Americans who had been held.

Removing the sanctions is part of the international agreement reached last year among Iran, the U.S. and five other world powers when Iran agreed to curbs on its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.

Certification by the International Atomic Energy Agency will allow Iran to immediately recoup some $100 billion in assets frozen overseas. Iran will also see huge benefits from new oil, trade and financial opportunities after Western sanctions against it are lifted.

IAEA director general Yukiya Amano said Saturday this means “relations between Iran and the IAEA now enter a new phase. It is an important day for the international community. I congratulate all those who helped make it a reality.”

In Congress, Speaker Paul D. Ryan, Wisconsin Republican, said the administration was lifting sanctions “on the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism.”

“As the president himself has acknowledged, Iran is likely to use this cash infusion — more than $100 billion in total — to finance terrorists,” Mr. Ryan said. “This comes just weeks after Tehran’s most recent illegal ballistic missile test, and just days after [Iranian forces] detained 10 American sailors. A bipartisan majority in the House voted to reject this deal in the first place, and we will continue to do everything possible to prevent a nuclear Iran.”

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce, California Republican, said the “flawed” deal is allowing Iran to keep much of its nuclear infrastructure.

“The ayatollah won’t even have to cheat to be just steps away from a nuclear weapon,” Mr. Royce said. “Meanwhile, tens of billions of dollars in sanctions relief will now start flowing to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Since the nuclear deal was signed, Iran has twice violated U.N. resolutions to test ballistic missiles, fired rockets within 1,500 yards of the U.S.S. Truman, and seized 10 American sailors — all while propping up the murderous Assad regime in Syria. Iran will use this deal to become more militarily aggressive and dominate the region.”

At the same time, the administration engaged in a high-profile prisoner swap with Tehran. Iran agreed Saturday to release four detained Americans in exchange for seven Iranians held or charged in the U.S., while a fifth American detained in Iran, a student, was also released in an unrelated move.

The wife of an Idaho pastor who is among four detained Americans being released from Iran says the news is “a huge burden lifted off.”

Naghmeh Abedini told The Associated Press on Saturday that after she learned that Iran was going to release Pastor Saeed Abedini, she woke her kids up and told them, “Daddy was coming home.”

She said in a telephone interview from Boise that “they were just excited. They couldn’t believe it.”

The Boise man was detained for compromising national security, presumably because of Christian proselytizing, in September 2012. He was sentenced in 2013 to eight years in prison.

Republican presidential candidates Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Rand Paul of Kentucky welcomed the release of Mr. Abedini, and Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont said the exchange shows “diplomacy can work even in this volatile region of the world.”

Republican presidential hopeful Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and other Republicans say Americans should never have been captured in the first place, and Mr. Rubio blamed the administration’s willingness to do prisoner swaps in the past.

In Iowa, Mr. Rubio said that governments were taking Americans hostage because they believe they can gain concessions from the Obama administration. He mentioned the June 2014 swap in which the United States exchanged Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who had been held by the Taliban for five years, for five top Taliban commanders at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The publisher of The Washington Post says he “couldn’t be happier” to hear that the paper’s reporter, Jason Rezaian, had been released from Iran’s Evin Prison on Saturday.

In a statement, publisher Frederick J. Ryan Jr. also says more information will be available once he has more details and can confirm Mr. Rezaian has safely left Iran.

Mr. Rezaian had been held more than 543 days on espionage and related charges. He is among four detained Americans released Saturday in exchange for seven Iranians held or charged in the U.S.

Among the seven Iranians affected by the U.S.-Iranian prisoner swap is Bahram Mechanic, who has been jailed since his indictment last April on charges of illegally exporting microelectronic technology to Iran.

Defense lawyer Joel Androphy said his client was “elated” to be pardoned Saturday but says Mechanic has “been incarcerated for nine months for a crime that he’s just accused of but did not commit.”

Two other defendants in the case, Khosrow Afghahi and Tooraj Faridi, are also among those being offered clemency.

Mr. Androphy said the products his client was accused of providing to Iran were essentially surge protectors but the Justice Department “blew it up into some sort of national security terrorism threat.” He says Mechanic is “basically a victim of the trade issues between the United States and Iran.”

Nuclear watchdog holds up report on Iranian compliance

January 16, 2016

Nuclear watchdog holds up report on Iranian compliance, DEBKAfile, January 16, 2016 7:17 PM IDT

The International Atomic Energy Agency’s report on full Iranian compliance with the nuclear accord signed with the big powers was due to be released Saturday morning, and so trigger the lifting of international sanctions. However, by Saturday evening, the report was still held back in view of difficulties that remained to be ironed out over Tehran’s fulfillment of its obligations.

Anti-Iran Sanctions to Be Removed Today: Iran’s FM Zarif

January 16, 2016

Anti-Iran Sanctions to Be Removed Today: Iran’s FM Zarif, Tasnim News Agency, January 16, 2016

(Happy Implementation Day, Obama. — DM)

Implementation day

VIENNA (Tasnim) – Iranian Foreign Minister announced that the nuclear deal finalized by Tehran and world powers in July 2015 will be implemented today and anti-Iran sanctions will be removed after the release of IAEA report verifying that Iran has fulfilled its commitments as per the deal.

According to Tasnim dispatches, Mohammad Javad Zarif told reporters upon his arrival in the Austrian capital of Vienna on Saturday that the Director-General of International Atomic Energy Agency Yukiya Amano will release the verification report, and the nuclear deal (dubbed as JCPOA) will be implemented accordingly.

A joint statement will then be issued, which will announce the implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (the text of the nuclear deal), he added.

As regards his Saturday agenda, Zarif said he is scheduled to meet with Amano, announce the implementation of the nuclear deal, and hold bilateral meetings with European Union’s Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini and possibly with other foreign ministers of the Group 5+1 (Russia, China, the US, Britain, France, and Germany) including US Secretary of State John Kerry.

The meetings are aimed at ensuring the correct implementation of JCPOA, the Iranian minister declared, noting that a meeting with his US counterpart is especially important considering “the extensive measures the Americans have declared to have taken.”

Implementation of the JCPOA is a good opportunity for the Iranian nation to see not only the termination of all cruel resolutions passed by the United Nations Security Council and the IAEA Board of Governors against Iran, but also the removal of all cruel sanctions imposed on the country due to its nuclear energy program, Zarif stressed.

This is a good day for the Iranian people, but it is also a very good day for the region, because the Middle East is now freed from an unnecessary conflict, which could cause concern for the region, the Iranian top diplomat noted.

“This day proves that we can resolve the world’s important problems through diplomacy. Problems are settled through dialog, not through threat of pressure and sanction,” he added.

Zarif arrived in the European capital along with a number of other Iranian officials including Deputy Foreign Minister Seyed Abbas Araqchi, Head of Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) Ali Akbar Salehi, AEOI Spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi, and Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hossein Jaberi Ansari.

Iran and the Group 5+1 (also known as E3+3 and P5+1) on July 14, 2015, reached a conclusion on a 159-page nuclear agreement that would terminate all sanctions imposed on Tehran over its nuclear energy program after coming into force.

Afterwards, the 15-memebr United Nations Security Council passed a resolution that endorsed the JCPOA.

According to the UNSC Resolution 2231, all previous UNSC sanctions imposed on Iran over its nuclear program will be terminated when the JCPOA takes effect.