Posted by Albert Gersh - October 18, 2013
- Obama administration said to be warming to non-sanctions financial relief proposal for Iran
- WaPo: Iran doesn't have enrichment "right," West must consider more pressure to secure genuine concessions
- Spy-burning scandal raises new questions over Turkey's status as Western ally
- U.S. announces $10.8 billion in Gulf arms sales, underscoring Iran-driven arms race fears
What we’re watching today:
- The Obama administration is said to be considering a proposal that would provide non-sanctions financial relief to Iran in exchange for Iranian nuclear program concessions, giving the administration the flexibility to reciprocate confidence-building measures without threatening the delicate sanctions regime widely credited for bringing Tehran to the bargaining table. The framework - outlined by Foundation for Defense of Democracies Executive Director Mark Dubowitz and first published by Bloomberg columnist Jeffrey Goldberg - would see the U.S. loosen restrictions that have kept roughly $50 billion frozen or semi-frozen in banks around the world. The proposal would functionally place a dollar value on Iranian concessions. The structure would partially address concerns of the kind expressed yesterday by the insidery security bulletin KGS NightWatch, which worried that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani would replicate the negotiating strategy he led in the mid-2000s and "offer small compromises by Iran in return for major concessions by the West and others." It would also allow policymakers to sidestep broadly held concerns that chipping away at the regime will quickly cascade into a full collapse. Goldberg also noted that Dubowitz's basket of carrots would be accompanied by a stick: If Iran doubled down on its intransigence, that administration would pursue a provision denying foreign financial institutions access to U.S. markets if they released financial reserves to Iran for any non-humanitarian reasons. The New York Times this morning followed up on the proposal, quoting a Senate aide praising it as preferable to earlier frameworks.
- The Washington Post on Thursday brushed off repeated Iranian assertions that the Islamic republic has an absolute "right" to enrich uranium, matter-of-factly noting that "no 'right' to enrich uranium exists in the Non-Proliferation Treaty," that enrichment is not "needed for a nuclear program," that "many countries using nuclear power do not enrich their own uranium," and - quoting a 2005 speech by Iranian president Hassan Rouhani - that a "country that possesses this capability is able to produce nuclear weapons." The Post tersely evaluated that "Iran's insistence on enrichment appears meant to preserve a capability for nuclear breakout after sanctions are lifted," and called on the West to pursue "far greater concessions than the regime appears to be contemplating." Another article in the Post, this one by Jennifer Rubin, quoted Cliff May, president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, emphasizing that Iran will only offer further concessions if Congress and the White House move immediately to "ratchet up sanctions pressure." The analysis came amid reports that even Iran's current offer - which already falls short of a half-dozen United Nations Security Council resolutions calling on Tehran to dismantle its nuclear program - has failed to bridge the gaps between the P5+1 and the Islamic republic.
- Turkish diplomats scrambled for a second day to contain the fallout from a Washington Post bombshell published lateWednesday night, as journalists published more details surrounding allegations that top Turkish officials - including the country's prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and its intelligence chief Hakan Fidan - deliberately burned 10 Iranians who had been working with Israel's Mossad to reveal details of Iran's nuclear program. The Wall Street Journal had already revealed that Fidan passed classified U.S. intelligence to Iran, and the Long War Journal blog yesterday expanded on long-standing concerns over the spy chief's ties to Iran and to other anti-Western elements. Turkish officials were already trying to dampen an ongoing controversy over Ankara's plans to purchase and integrate Chinese missile assets - Western defense officials say the plan will introduce a "virus" into NATO's command and control infrastructure - and the allegations regarding Fidan will deepen suspicions regarding Turkey's status as a U.S. and NATO ally. They will also have diplomatic impacts.The New York Times noted this morning that the controversy has strained an already faltering U.S.-backed effort to restore ties between Israel and Turkey. Turkey had steadily eroded the country's relationship with Israel over several years, and formally downgraded ties after a U.N. investigation found Israel justified in intercepting a Turkish vessel that had been trying to break Israel's blockade of the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. Israeli commandos intercepting the ship had been attacked by its passengers, and nine people died in the subsequent fighting. Ankara's interpretation of the events were at odds with what the U.N. concluded, and Turkish officials lashed out against the findings and against Israel. The Times quoted a senior Israeli official saying that "Israel very much wanted to renew the relationship" and to pursue mediation initiated by President Barack Obama, but that "in public statements, Turkish officials had added more and more conditions, like a demand that Israel accept responsibility for the deaths in the raid."
- The Department of Defense announced on Thursday that it intends to sell $10.8 billion in weapons to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, with Bloomberg describing the move as designed to send "a message of support" to Gulf allies known to be increasingly critical of the Obama's administration's general posture in the region and, more specifically, over what Arab leaders believe is a too-credulous approach to Iran. The moves may however reignite fears that instability already being generated by Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons, even with Tehran stopping short of nuclearization, will trigger an arms race throughout the Middle East. If Iran ever did acquire a nuclear device, of course, Riyadh has already signaled that it will follow suit. The near-certainty of nuclear breakout is behind analysis and statements, including those made by President Barack Obama, emphasizing that Iranian nuclear weapons acquisition would shred the international non-proliferation regime.
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