Demands in US-Iran nuclear talks as political Kabuki theatre

US-led coalition still wants inspections of Iranian military facilities it deems suspicious and interviews with Iranian nuclear scientists

By Gareth Porter

In the final phase of the negotiations with Iran, the US-led international coalition is still seeking Iran’s agreement to allow the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to visit any military facilities it deems suspicious and to interview a selected list of Iranian nuclear scientists.

Such measures are not necessary to ensure that Iran is adhering to its commitments under the agreement, but they are necessary to manage the political threat from the pro-Israel extremists in the Senate to sabotage the whole agreement.

To fend off that threat, the Obama administration made the spurious claim that it had succeeded in getting Iran to agree to the demand for IAEA inspection of any site it found suspicious. In fact, Iran had agreed only that IAEA would have “enhanced access through agreed procedures” – as reflected in the wording of the joint statement of the P5+1 and Iran on 2 April. Iran’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei and senior military officials have vehemently ruled out both IAEA inspection of military sites on demand and interviews with Iranian scientists.

IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano claimed on 12 May that Iran’s acceptance of the Additional Protocol as part of a comprehensive nuclear deal meant that Iran had accepted inspections of its military sites on demand. “In many other countries from time to time we request access to military sites when we have the reason to, so why not Iran?” Amano said. “If we have a reason to request access, we will do so, and in principle Iran has to accept it.”

But that was a brazen misrepresentation of the Additional Protocol. That agreement allows unrestricted IAEA access to sites that have already been designated previously by state as related to the nuclear fuel cycle. For all other sites, IAEA access under the Additional Protocol clearly depends on the approval of the state in question. Article 5 (c) of the agreement, provides that, if the signatory state is “unable to provide such access,” it “shall make every effort to satisfy Agency requests without delay through other means”.

Now the New York Times has further muddied the waters by reporting on 31 May that the Iranian rejection of those demands had “prompted concern that Iran might be backtracking from understandings sketched out in earlier talks”.

The Times tries to support the US demand by asserting that “experts” say “wide-ranging inspections are needed to guard against cheating”. That is a reference to the argument that opponents of a nuclear deal with Iran have been making for years that Iran is likely to try a “sneakout” route to nuclear weapons, using covert supplies of enriched uranium or plutonium and a covert enrichment facility.

The main figure to make that argument is David Albright, the founder of the Institute for Science and International Security, a Washington think tank on nuclear proliferation, who had testified on 24 March that Iran must be compelled to accept “anywhere, anytime inspections”. He argued that, without such inspections, Iran could “produce enough weapons grade uranium for a bomb while avoiding detection by the IAEA”.

Another source cited by the Times in the past for that argument is Gary Samore, who was Obama’s adviser on negotiations with Iran until early 2013. Last November, the Times quoted Samore as saying, “From the beginning, the administration thought a nuclear agreement with Iran would need elements to deal with the overt program and one to detect covert facilities.” After leaving the administration, Samore became President of the organisation called United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI), which got one-third of its funding in 2013 from Sheldon Adelson, the notorious right-wing extremist and the primary funder of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s campaigns. (more…)

The Bomb Iran Lobby Gears Up for 2016

The billionaire gambling mogul Sheldon Adelson is among those bankrolling a scare campaign against U.S. diplomacy with Iran. (Image: DonkeyHotey/flickr/cc)

A tight-knit group of neocon dead-enders is pushing Iran to the forefront of the GOP’s foreign policy agenda.

By Sina Toossi

In a recent TV ad, a van snakes its way through an American city. As the driver fiddles with the radio dial, dire warnings about the perils of a “nuclear Iran” spill out of the speaker from Senator Lindsey Graham and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The driver then steers the vehicle into a parking garage, drives to the top level, and blows it up in a blinding flash of white light. Words shimmer across the screen: “No Iran Nuclear Treaty Without Congressional Approval.”

While diplomats from Iran and the “P5+1″ world powers work to forge a peaceful resolution to the decade-long standoff over Iran’s nuclear enrichment program, a well-financed network of “experts” — like the “American Security Initiative” that produced the above “Special Delivery” ad — is dedicating enormous amounts of time and energy to weakening public support for the talks in the United States.

These think-tank gurus, special interest groups, and media pundits have peddled a plethora of alarmist narratives aimed at scuttling the diplomatic process — and they’ve relied far more on fear mongering than facts.

So who are these people?

A Close-Knit Network

Despite their bipartisan façade, these reflexively anti-Iran ideologues are in reality a tight-knit group. Many were also prominent supporters of the Iraq War and other foreign policy debacles from the last 15 years. They work in close coordination with one another and are often bankrolled by similar funders.

Four GOP super-donors alone — the billionaires Sheldon Adelson, Paul Singer, Bernard Marcus, and Seth Klarman — keep afloat an array of groups that ceaselessly advocate confrontation with Iran, like the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, the American Enterprise Institute, and the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

Other groups forming the core of this network include the neoconservative Hudson Institute and the Foreign Policy Initiative, as well as more explicitly hardline “pro-Israel” groups like the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the Republican Jewish Coalition, the Emergency Committee for Israel, The Israel Project, and the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs.

Several of these outfits also rely on right-wing grant-making foundations such as the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation and the Scaife Foundations, which together funnel millions into hardline policy shops.

Hardline Senators

Together these groups have established what amounts to their own echo chamber. They’ve built an anti-Iran communications and lobbying infrastructure that enjoys substantial influence in Washington’s corridors of power, particularly in Congress.

One of this network’s more prominent beneficiaries has been Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR), a through-and-through neocon disciple whose truculent opposition to the Iran talks has given pause to even conservative figures like Fox News’ Megyn Kelly, who asked him what the “point” was of his infamous open letter to Iran last March that was signed by 47 Senate Republicans. Other prominent senators with close ties to this network include Cotton’s Republican colleagues Lindsey Graham, Mark Kirk, Kelly Ayotte, and John McCain.

Cotton’s successful run for Senate last year came on the heels of massive financial contributions he received from key members of the anti-Iran lobby, including Bill Kristol’s Emergency Committee for Israel, which spent roughly $1 million to get Cotton elected. Adelson, Singer, and Klarman, as well as the PAC run by former UN ambassador and avowed militarist John Bolton, also contributed significantly to Cotton’s campaign.

While some pundits and politicians say they’re looking for a “better deal” with Iran than the one the Obama administration has negotiated, Cotton has explicitly said that he’s looking for no deal at all. He’s called an end to the nuclear negotiations an “intended consequence” of legislation he’s supported to impose new sanctions on Iran and give Congress an up-or-down vote on the agreement.

Think Tank Warriors (more…)