Posted by Albert Gersh - May 13, 2014
- Experts: Agreement without Iran coming clean on military activity "would undermine the verifiability of the deal... [and] of the Obama administration"
- Analysts worry that unwinding Iran sanctions with weak deal risks "integrity of the U.S. and global financial system"
- Turkey prime minister lashes out at U.S., Israel, and Germany after NGO classifies country as "Not Free" for journalists
A new report published on Monday by top figures at the U.S.-based Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) sought to clarify [PDF] what has emerged as a growing debate about the degree to which Iran will be forced to live up to its obligation to disclose so-called "possible military dimensions" (PMD) of its atomic program in the context of any agreement between Tehran and the P5+1 global powers, with David Albright and Serena Kelleher-Vergantini - respectively the president and a research analyst at ISIS - bluntly declaring that "a deal that does not include Iran addressing the IAEA's concerns about the past and possibly on-going military dimensions of its nuclear program would undermine the verifiability of the deal, and thus the credibility of a comprehensive deal, in addition to the credibility of the Obama administration." At stake among other things is access to Iran's military base at Parchin, where the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog (IAEA) has long suspected [PDF] Iran conducted work related to the creation of nuclear warheads. The IAEA has long sought and been denied access to the facility, and a recent meeting between Tehran and the IAEA ended with - per Agence France-Presse (AFP) - with both sides remaining "tight-lipped" on whatever progress might have been achieved. Reuters reported last week that Iran has fallen far short of addressing PMD-related issues, which range from detonator development to computer modeling, and into preparatory experimentation for full-blown nuclear tests. Last week's Reuters report tersely noted that "the United States says Iran's readiness to tackle the IAEA's concerns will be central to the success of efforts to reach a broader diplomatic accord to end the decade-old nuclear dispute."
Moves to unwind the international sanctions regime against Iran risk "compromising the integrity of the U.S. and global financial system" as long as Tehran continues to engage in a range of illicit activities - from its support for global terrorism to its pursuit illegal weapons materials - according to a report published Tuesday by Mark Dubowitz and Jonathan Schanzer, respectively the executive director and vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD). The Daily Beast emphasized last November that "isolating [Iran's] banks from the global financial sector" had emerged as a critical tool by which the Obama administration exerted pressure on Iran. Expectations have been growing, according to Dubowitz and Schanzer, that the P5+1 global powers will strike a deal with the Islamic republic under which Iran will "retain essential elements of its military-nuclear infrastructure... [but] the White House will unravel the complex sanctions architecture that has kept Iran’s economy on its heels." The scenario would allow Iran to continue pursuing illicit activities even as the West encouraged financial institutions to release funds on the basis of good faith, risking a dynamic that would have Western banks interacting with toxic Iranian banks used by the regime to fund those activities. Iran has already sought to build on the erosion of sanctions provided by the interim Joint Plan of Action (JPA) to expand into segments of the global banking world. Arabic and Turkish outlets reported in April that multiple Iranian banks were seeking to establish footholds in Turkey, and FDD Research Fellow Benjamin Weinthal reported in January that German corporations were seeking to finance projects in Iran.
Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth this weekend assessed that the Palestinian Authority (PA) faces what the outlet described as an "economic meltdown," days before the two dominant Palestinian factions - Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, and Fatah, which controls Palestinian portions of the West Bank - announced that they were on track to form a new unity government per an agreement announced in April. The surprise declaration, which had come as Western diplomats scrambled to extend a U.S.-backed peace push, had earned immediate rebukes from U.S. lawmakers, who emphasized that black-letter U.S. law required a suspension in assistance to any Palestinian government that includes Hamas. Yedioth for its part cited broader dynamics in the post-Arab Spring Middle East, under which "governments shifted their emphasis" from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and started "putting money into domestic issues" instead. The Palestinian economy is almost entirely floated by foreign aid, and the prospect of a broad contraction in assistance has generated analyst concerns that the creation of a Palestinian unity government will shortly be followed by widespread, economically driven political instability across the West Bank. Palestinian sources have been expansive in noting that Hamas has "displayed a large degree of flexibility" in forming the new government, fueling suspicions that the group is seeking to reverse a year-long downward spiral by reviving its infrastructure in the until-now Fatah-controlled territory. The PA has recently agreed to allow Hamas to resume distributing a long-banned pro-Hamas paper in the West Bank. Secretary of State John Kerry is set to meet with PA President Mahmoud Abbas in London later this week, where it is expected that Abbas will emphasize that no actual, open Hamas operative will sit in the new Palestinian cabinet. The move may be seen as too clever by half. U.S. legislation conditioning aid includes language prohibiting assistance specifically to any government "that results from an agreement with Hamas and over which Hamas exercises undue influence".
Hurriyet Daily News on Tuesday conveyed a speech by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan that the outlet characterized as "slam[ming] Israel, Germany, the United States and many others" - which the Islamist leader did in the context of "defending Ankara’s press freedom record" from a recent Freedom House report downgrading Ankara to "Not Free" - amid growing criticism of creeping authoritarianism by Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) government. Erdogan reportedly picked out Freedom House's categorization of Israel as the only "Free" country in the region for particular criticism. The prime minister's anti-Israel remarks came as other AKP officials were openly declaring that ties between Ankara and Israel were set to be restored after several years in deep freeze, with Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu saying that he hoped Jerusalem would take a "positive attitude" toward reconciliation. Meanwhile a range of governmental and non-governmental organizations have in recent days sharpened their criticism of both recent and long-standing Turkish policies. The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has ruled that Turkey owes Cyprus over 90 million Euros to compensate for its military actions on the island in 1974 (Davutoglu has already announced that Ankara will ignore the order). Human Rights Watch Executive Director Kenneth Roth on Tuesday took to Foreign Policy to worry that under Erdogan "Turkey is embarking on a dangerous experiment of undermining basic rights and the rule of law as constraints on majoritarian rule."
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