Posted by Albert Gersh - December 03, 2013
- WH concedes Iran will be allowed to enrich uranium even under comprehensive agreement, fueling fears of global cascade
- Politico: State Department pressed on misleading reporters over Iran diplomacy
- Bloomberg View: "daunting" concerns as Iran deal remains unfinished while economic pressure erodes
- Scientists rule out Arafat polonium poisoning conspiracy theories, again
What we’re watching today:
- The White House late Tuesday issued a statement declaring that the Obama administration is prepared to allow Iran to continue enriching uranium in the context of a comprehensive agreement over Tehran's nuclear program, after a report on the issue published by the Washington Free Beacon generated questions from journalists seeking further clarification. Critics have expressed concerns that such a stance, which has the U.S. functionally abandoning at least half a dozen United Nations Security Council resolutions demanding that the Islamic republic fully suspend its nuclear program, will undermine confidence in global nonproliferation norms. The Wall Street Journal had over the weekend published analysis from experts and diplomats worrying that allowing Iran to continue enrichment would open "the floodgates for other countries to demand the same right." The United States had previously worked out arrangements with several allies - including South Korea, Jordan, and the United Arab Emirates - under which those countries would receive nuclear assistance only if they ceded enrichment capabilities. The Journal quoted Henry Sokolski, executive director of the Washington-based Nonproliferation Policy Education Center, assessing that "Obama's nuclear team thinks it can let Iran make nuclear fuel, but get others like Saudi Arabia and South Korea to forswear doing so" and predicting that "we're all in for a rude awakening."
- Politico yesterday reported on a confrontation between State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki and Fox News's Chief Washington Correspondent James Rosen, in which Rosen pressed Psaki on statements made in February by State's then-spokesperson Victoria Nuland, in which Nuland was asked about the existence of "direct, secret bilateral talks with Iran." Nuland denied the existence of such talks, a characterization that has become strained in the aftermath of stories revealing that senior U.S. officials, up to and including Secretary of State Bill Burns, held months of meetings with top Iranian officials. When asked whether she would "stand by the accuracy" by Nuland's statements, Psaki responded that she had "no new information... today." Politico described Rosen as requesting clarification "on the thinking of State Department briefers on whether it would be appropriate to mislead reporters about matters such as sensitive diplomatic negotiations." The credibility of administration assurances to lawmakers, allies, and journalists has been questioned in recent weeks, after the White House seemingly abandoned its long-time stance that Iran would be expected to fully suspend its nuclear program under the terms of a comprehensive deal.
- Bloomberg View columnist Jeffrey Goldberg published an article late Tuesday outlining "six reasons to worry about the Iranian nuclear deal," beginning with the revelation - acknowledged by the State Department last week as journalists probed when Iran would be held to the terms of the Geneva agreement - that the deal hasn't been finalized yet. Goldberg described the realization that "the Iranians are going about their business as if they've promised nothing" as "daunting." Promised Western concessions have in contrast already eased Tehran's economic isolation, triggering fears that the sanctions regime may fall prey to a "feeding frenzy" in which companies and nations rush to beat each other back into Iran's market. Goldberg assessed that "many companies and the Iranians themselves are seeing this agreement as the beginning of the end of the sanctions regime," a concern raised very early by some analysts but dismissed as "fanciful" by the deal's supporters. The asymmetry, described by the Washington Post last Thursday as one that "leaves the United States and its partners at a disadvantage in negotiating the comprehensive settlement," has generated calls for Congress and the Treasury Department to redress the imbalance. Goldberg also expressed concerns over what has been widely interpreted as a concession codified in the Geneva language that envisions Iran being allowed to enrich uranium indefinitely, as well as related language implying that the constraints that would seek to limit such enrichment would eventually be lifted such that "Iran could run however many centrifuges it chooses to run."
- French forensic specialists investigating the death of former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat have concluded that he died of natural causes, ruling out conspiracy theories that sought to link the terrorist's decline to polonium poisoning. The French findings are in tension with media reports published last month describing the results of a Swiss lab that had also probed the 2004 death. The lab generated an inconclusive forensics report regarding the presence of polonium in Arafat's personal effects, a result that inexplicably received broad international coverage, with outlets reporting that the results lent credibility to suggestions that Arafat may in fact have been poisoned. Stories to that effect were published by among others the Associated Press, Reuters, The New York Times, CNN, ABC News, CBS News, the BBC, the Telegraph, Salon. There are exactly zero plausible scenarios under which tests conducted in recent years could have detected polonium poisoning from 2004, and critics implied that journalists had fallen for a publicity campaign orchestrated in part by Al Jazeera. The Qatari outlet had aired an investigation titled "What Killed Arafat" in 2012, and was at the time gearing up to air a second broadcast that the station - on a poster emblazoned with the word "poisoned" - promised would reveal "the secret of [Arafat's] death." .
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