France and the Iranian Nuclear Deal

 

2013-11-24T041744Z_559600050_GM1E9BO0XZ501_RTRMADP_3_IRAN-NUCLEAR-DEALFrance’s agreement to the deal reached between Iran and P5+1 represents a change in position. The endless talks temporarily collapsed, in November 2013, when French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius denounced Iran’s position as “a fool’s deal.” They were widely applauded by those opposed to the deal as clear-sighted and brave; they were impugned by those in favor of a deal as short-sighted and corrupt. This was typical of the latter kind of analysis:

… And what happened to some degree over the summer was that Prince Bandar and other Saudi officials began trolling through Europe, trying to figure out if they could pull away some of the countries of Europe in favor of the Saudi position, and essentially the Israeli position, on issues like Syria and Iran. They seem to have had great success with the French, who, of course, have a serious economic problem. They have been struggling trying to get out of this recession. They’ve had a recent credit downgrade. They’ve had high unemployment. And so when the Saudis began to flash some of their petrodollars around, it was certainly something of interest to the French. And the Saudis have recently been signing up contracts with the French for military assistance. There’s a one-and-a-half billion dollar plan for the French to help refurbish some of the Saudi Navy. And you’ve had other Gulf states making other deals with France in terms of buying their equipment, especially their military equipment. So what you’ve got here is the French having a very clear economic incentive to help the Saudis and the Israelis as much as possible.

I expect the commentary will quickly reverse itself: Those who support the deal will now applaud France for taking a brave risk for peace; those against the deal will explain French behavior in terms of the same logic. French firms have been making that kind of analysis easy by openly salivating at the the thought of the business prospects should sanctions be lifted:

If the Vienna negotiations on the Iranian nuclear deal are concluded satisfactorily, the ensuing détente will sharpen the appetites of foreign companies anticipating the lifting of sanctions. French firms are in a strong position to benefit, even though they run the risk of being hampered by Paris’ rigid stance towards the negotiations. France is better placed than most to meet Iran’s investment needs. …

French companies have suffered heavily from the sanctions on Iran. Long-standing commercial relationships in the oil and automotive industries were broken in tandem with political and cultural ties when France pre-emptively withdrew from the Iranian market. Until 2011, Peugeot/Citroën and Renault shared 40 percent of Iran’s automobile market; Iran was Peugeot’s second-biggest market. The two companies’ departure is understood to have cost them the sale of some 600,000 vehicles. Renault accrued a loss of €512m. With French manufacturers excluded, Asian companies enhanced their presence. Sales of Chinese vehicles had reportedly almost tripled by the first quarter of 2014, albeit with the overall volume of sales relatively low.

Before I offer my sense of it, this is how Fabius himself explained the shift in sentiment to Le Monde:

LE MONDE: How can you guarantee to Israel and Gulf countries that this agreement is “robust” enough, as you described, to prevent Iran from eventually acquiring nuclear weapon?

LAURENT FABIUS: The Iranian nuclear issue doesn’t just affect Israel and the Gulf countries. Ensuring that Iran cannot acquire the nuclear weapon is a concern for the entire international community. Nuclear proliferation is at stake, so security and peace are too.

To reach this goal — yes to civilian nuclear for Iran, but no to the nuclear weapon — which the President [François Hollande] and I have always said defined France’s position, we have been particularly watchful about three points in these long negotiations: accurately limit Iran’s uranium enrichment capacities and how it could be used in research and development; be able to verify, in concrete terms, the implementation of these commitments; plan an automatic mechanism for the reinstatement of sanctions in case of infringement. This constructive firmness has allowed us to reach a sufficiently robust agreement, for a more than 10-year period at least.

Does this agreement open the way to cooperation with Iran on major regional crises, especially on Syria, Iraq and Yemen?

The agreement aims to put an end to one of the most serious and longest nuclear proliferation crises. It aims for more peace and stability in the Middle East. The region is already unstable enough for nuclear conflicts to be added. Beyond this, if Iran, an important country, a great civilization, a major player in the region, clearly chooses to cooperate, we will clearly hail this evolution, but we will judge on results. Its contribution would be useful to help resolve many crises.

Don’t you fear Iran could use the substantial funds it will obtain with the lifting of the sanctions to reinforce the Shia militias in the Middle East?

It will be one of the tests. And we will be particularly watchful.

Under the terms of this agreement, Iran retains the right to a supervised nuclear program and will be able to keep carrying out research and develop advanced centrifuges. Does this not amount to postponing the same issue 10 years?

Let’s focus on indisputable elements: Before this agreement, the “breakout” period — in other words, the time Iran needs to gather enough enriched uranium to make a bomb — was two months. This period of time is pushed to 12 months after the agreement, and it will be maintained at this level for 10 years. Limitations will remain beyond the 10 years. This strictly civilian nuclear program will additionally be the object of the necessary inspections. It’s already a significant result.

The agreement encourages the lifting of sanctions against Iran. How can you guarantee that they will be reintroduced in the case of a violation from Iran?

It’s what we call the “snap back.” France has worked hard to offer and put through an automatic mechanism for the reinstatement of sanctions in case of infringement of its obligations by Iran. If one of the P5+1 countries (the U.S., Russia, China, France, the UK, Germany) believes Iran isn’t meeting its obligations, and the latter cannot provide any credible explanation, this state will be able to bring about a vote of the Security Council on a draft resolution reaffirming the lifting of the UN sanctions. By opposing its own veto, it will without fail obtain the reinstatement of the sanctions. I admit that it’s subtle, but that’s the price we must pay to make efficient compromises on such complex issues.

In case the agreement is violated, the text makes sure Iran will benefit from a maximum of 65 days before the reintroduction of the sanctions. Does this not give Iran the necessary time to conceal proliferating activities?

If one of the P5+1 states judges Iran is violating its obligations, it can refer to the Joint Committee, which includes the Six as well as the Iranians. A maximum 35-day discussion will then open. If not convinced, any member of the Six can refer to the Security Council with then 30 days maximum to reestablish the sanctions. It’s indeed quite long, but with modern surveillance and verification technologies, you can’t conceal all traces of proliferating activity in a few days.

Does the agreement maintain a total embargo on heavy and ballistic weapons, and for how long?

This was discussed right until the end. France’s stance was clear and firm on this matter, too: It would be contradictory for the immediate consequence of this agreement to be the lifting of the constraints weighing on Iran in the field of weapons and missiles. The embargo on weapons is maintained for five years and transfer prohibitions in the ballistic field for eight years.

Does the agreement allow the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to visit all the sites, including military, without restrictions?

An unverifiable agreement is an inapplicable agreement. This is why we made sure Iran applied the IAEA’s highest verification standards. The access to all sites will be possible, including the Parchin site, not to attempt to penetrate military secrets, but to verify if there has been prohibited nuclear activity. I’ve discussed this several times with the director general of the IAEA to be certain that he deemed the plan sufficient and credible.

What are the steps of the implementation of the agreement? And do you fear the U.S. Congress blocking it?

After endorsement by the Security Council, a 90-day period will open, during which Iran must take measures to prepare for the implementation of the agreement. The next phase will last six to nine months, during which it will implement all its commitments in the nuclear field. Each of these steps will go along with progressive reduction of the sanctions. Concerning the U.S. Congress, I don’t have any particular comment except what is common sense: When you assess an agreement, you don’t do it only in absolute terms, but you must compare the situation if the agreement is implemented with what would happen if there is no agreement.

Don’t you fear that the rapprochement observed between France and Saudi Arabia penalizes French companies on the Iranian market?

No, for two reasons. On one hand, when the issue is removing the threat of nuclear military power, you cannot determine the position of your own country according to commercial considerations: It’s about security and peace. On the other hand, the economic competition in Iran will undoubtedly be tough, because everybody is being considered. But don’t forget our companies have long worked with and in this country, that they excel in several fields and that they will have assets to put forward. This is why I’m confident about them. As for our traditional friendships, renouncing them is out of the question.

You can do a lot of reading-between-the-lines with that, but I don’t know that it gets you very far. The key is that he’s basically fallen in line with the US official position, but is trying to stress that owing to France’s role, the deal now has a somewhat better mechanism for reversing course if things deteriorate.

I was asked by Ricochet how the French press and other policy makers view the deal. The most striking thing is that it’s not leading the news. The top headlines today and yesterday have overwhelmingly been about Greece, the attack in Chattanooga, ISIS, Ukraine, the flight MH17 inquest, and Burundi. It’s not surprising that this is where attention is focused, either: Yascha Mounk, author of Stranger in My Own Country: A Jewish Family in Modern Germany, wrote this comment on Facebook:

It’s strange to think that, back when I was a teenager, the European project still seemed like the kind of thing to which one might nobly devote one’s life. But the European dream is dead — not just because of Greece, but because of the depth of nationalism the euro crisis has revealed, and the ugly hatred it has incited.

The best we can now hope for is an orderly slimming of the EU to its key achievements: free movement of people, coordination on the most important regulations, etc. (I deliberately exclude political values: as the case of Hungary shows, the EU is incapable of safeguarding those in any case.) But the centrifugal forces, and the strength of the populists, will be such in the next years that we may wind up losing even that.

I’m indebted to Arun Kapil for that link, and his blog will also give you a sense of what’s preoccupying many people in France.

I would be exaggerating beyond all reasonable limits if I claimed to understand precisely why France changed its position on the Iran deal. So would anyone else. No one with full access to the details of the French negotiating position would be sharing them with the media.

My intuition, and it’s no more than this, is that the calculation was probably along the following lines: France is objectively the weakest of the P5+1.  France isn’t a superpower and can’t go it alone. The EU has effectively collapsed; the French economy is stalled. Putin’s news organs are openly celebrating the Franco-German divorce. France will soon be entering campaign season (regional polls in December, presidential election in 2017). Both the far-left and far-right are, for their own reasons, in favor of the deal. I assume there may have been domestic political calculation involved along the lines that being seen to reject it would bolster both the National Front and the far-left. Both would be a disaster, not least because their growth makes it near-impossible to implement economic reforms, and when you’re looking at Greece these days, that kind of disaster seems far from an abstract possibility.

The logic, I would guess, was probably that they had held out as long as they could and extracted the maximum concessions of which they were capable, given their power and influence. My instinct would be that in their view, given the US negotiating position and a great many other competing strategic imperatives, this genuinely seemed to them the best deal they could get, for now — and that since it was clearly going to happen whether or not they liked it, they would be better off trying to buy time while remaining on the right side of the United States.

If anyone has any further insight, I’m open to it.

Photo, via RFI and the Department of Pictures that Speak a Thousand Words, shows French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

There are 26 comments.

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  1. Kozak Member
    Kozak
    @Kozak

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.: To reach this goal — yes to civilian nuclear for Iran, but no to the nuclear weapon — which the President [François Hollande] and I have always said defined France’s position, we have been particularly watchful about three points in these long negotiations:

    is a flat out lie.  There has always been a mechanism for a civilian nuclear program available to the Iranians.  They just refused to use it because their goal is a nuclear weapon.  They are already in violation of the Non Proliferation Treaty of which they are signatories.

    ” NNWS parties to the NPT agree not to “receive,” “manufacture” or “acquire” nuclear weapons or to “seek or receive any assistance in the manufacture of nuclear weapons” (Article II). NNWS parties also agree to accept safeguards by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to verify that they are not diverting nuclear energy from peaceful uses to nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices (Article III).

    I agree that the French realized that Dear Leader and JFK were going to make a deal no matter what and decided it’s in their best real politik interests to go along and scoop up whatever goodies are to be had from this.

    At best we kicked the can down the road a decade or so ( and I only give that a 10% probability).  At the cost of now being in the position that multiple states are going to get their own weapons.  The Saudi’s have already bought them ie Pakistan’s nuclear program, and they just need to take possession. I’m sure the UAE and Egypt are looking hard at their options.  In addition every other country can now demand a similar deal of obtaining the knowledge and technology of getting to the threshold of nuclear weapon production.  We are significantly closer to a Middle East full of nuclear armed crazies with a weapon flight time of  under 5 minutes.  Personally, I bought a Geiger counter and am restocking my potassium iodide.

    • #1
  2. Blue State Curmudgeon Inactive
    Blue State Curmudgeon
    @BlueStateCurmudgeon

    Thanks for a wonderful analysis.  Have you seen any polling data on public sentiment?  In the US it looks like it’s mostly against the deal with a healthy contribution from “don’t know” and “not sure yet”.

    • #2
  3. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    Kozak: At best we kicked the can down the road a decade or so ( and I only give that a 10% probability).

    I agree with you about this, but not sure why the sentence you flagged strikes you as a flat-out lie: As you say, it’s a restatement of the NPT principle, and almost empty of content.

    I pointed out what Fabius said to show that it’s basically a restatement of what the US is officially saying. I did find this comment interesting, though I don’t know if it’s meaningful:

    Concerning the U.S. Congress, I don’t have any particular comment except what is common sense: When you assess an agreement, you don’t do it only in absolute terms, but you must compare the situation if the agreement is implemented with what would happen if there is no agreement.

    If you’re inclined to read meaning into things, you could note that he doesn’t say, “Obviously, since I support the deal, I hope the U.S. Congress will agree.” In one way of reading it, you could imagine that he has been told, or has concluded based on evidence or intelligence, that the US will do nothing if there’s no agreement: The US has simply washed its hands of the region, and the agreement is as far as it will go; otherwise; it will confine itself to occasionally droning a terrorist while the place sinks further into a free-for-all.

    He’s obviously not keen to burn bridges with the US, and is in fact willing to risk all of Eurasia to preserve the Atlantic alliance, but you can definitely read that as, “If you would give us even a glimpse of a hope of an option, we’d work with you.” He hasn’t said so plainly, so this may be pure projection on my part, but that language stood out.

    • #3
  4. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    Blue State Curmudgeon:Thanks for a wonderful analysis. Have you seen any polling data on public sentiment? In the US it looks like it’s mostly against the deal with a healthy contribution from “don’t know” and “not sure yet”.

    I haven’t yet, though I was looking for it. It’s not data, but most major dailies’ op-ed pages are “very cautiously in favor, but uneasy.”

    • #4
  5. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    Blue State Curmudgeon:Thanks for a wonderful analysis. Have you seen any polling data on public sentiment? In the US it looks like it’s mostly against the deal with a healthy contribution from “don’t know” and “not sure yet”.

    According to a Reuters poll, “Americans back a newly brokered nuclear deal with Iran by a 2-to-1 margin and are very wary of the United States resorting to military action against Tehran even if the historic diplomatic effort falls through, a Reuters/Ipsos poll showed on Tuesday.”

    Even if the Iran deal fails, 49 percent want the United States to then increase sanctions and 31 percent think it should launch further diplomacy. But only 20 percent want U.S. military force to be used against Iran.

    The survey’s results suggest that a U.S. public weary of war could help bolster Obama’s push to keep Congress from approving new sanctions that would complicate the next round of negotiations for a final agreement with Iran.

    “This absolutely speaks to war fatigue, where the American appetite for intervention – anywhere – is extremely low,” Ipsos pollster Julia Clark said. “It could provide some support with Congress for the arguments being made by the administration.”

    I get a bit berzerk when I read about American “war fatigue.” And what percentage of  those polled served in the wars in question? Anyone asking what percentage of Americans who served are “fatigued?”” The ones I speak to are fatigued (to say the least) with losing wars, but they are hardly fatigued by the idea of fighting to win.

    More to the point, there are many options between this deal and war.

    • #5
  6. Kozak Member
    Kozak
    @Kozak

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.: I agree with you about this, but not sure why the sentence you flagged strikes you as a flat-out lie: As you say, it’s a restatement of the NPT principle, and almost empty of content.

    I feel it’s a lie because every point made, about enrichment, R&D  and verification were already in existence for  Iran to use to develop a civilian power program.  All they had to do was comply with the existing structure, which is what should have been the beginning and end point of any negotiation.  Clearly a civilian power program was nothing more then the Potemkin Village for their weapons program.

    • #6
  7. user_75648 Thatcher
    user_75648
    @JohnHendrix

    France understands perfectly well that this is a ghastly deal.
    France also understands that America will be the one that must ultimately deal with an nuclear Iran–not France. Put another way, the French know that it is America will get the body bags, not France.

    • #7
  8. Kozak Member
    Kozak
    @Kozak

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.: I get a bit berzerk when I read about American “war fatigue.” And what percentage of those polled served in the wars in question? Anyone asking what percentage of Americans who served are “fatigued?”” The ones I speak to are fatigued (to say the least) with losing wars, but they are hardly fatigued by the idea of fighting to win.

    The problem is Claire, for those on the Left they exist in perpetual war fatigue, for those of us on the right we are as you say tired of fighting to lose.   There is no hope under Dear Leader we would ever fight to win.

    One of the most infuriating parts of this agreement is the sub agreement that the US will help prevent any attempts to disrupt Iran’s program during the existence of the  agreement.  Meaning we would actively oppose any attempt by Israel or a coalition of actors to remove the threat.

    • #8
  9. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    John Hendrix:France understands perfectly well that this is a ghastly deal. France also understands that America will be the one that must ultimately deal with an nuclear Iran–not France. Put another way, the French know that it is America will get the body bags,not France.

    I agree with you that France understands it’s a ghastly and very risky deal. But I don’t see the logic of the next sentence: France is much closer to the region, and much more vulnerable to the consequences of a regional nuclear exchange. The United States is at least an ocean away (small comfort though this may be in an era of ICBMs.)

    France would certainly participate in any military operation to neutralize an Iranian Bomb; although I think they’d be correct in assessing that they couldn’t possibly succeed without the United States. It was France that was ready to go into Syria until the Obama Administration told them to stand down. France was the country that was led from behind, so to speak, in Libya; and France is in Mali now. French troops are widely deployed in Africa; they’re in Afghanistan, albeit in token numbers. I don’t think the French would refuse to participate in a military action, at all — and obviously, if they did, some number of their soldiers would return in body bags.

    But if I were a French strategic planner and had been told by my American counterparts, “We’re not going to use our military,” I’d conclude there was no way for France to take unilateral action. Their military just isn’t up for the job, and has already been overstretched by domestic security.

    It will be interesting to see what French defense budgets look like in the coming few years.

    • #9
  10. Ontheleftcoast Member
    Ontheleftcoast
    @Ontheleftcoast

    Kozak:

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.: I agree with you about this, but not sure why the sentence you flagged strikes you as a flat-out lie: As you say, it’s a restatement of the NPT principle, and almost empty of content.

    I feel it’s a lie because every point made, about enrichment, R&D and verification were already in existence for Iran to use to develop a civilian power program. All they had to do was comply with the existing structure, which is what should have been the beginning and end point of any negotiation. Clearly a civilian power program was nothing more then the Potemkin Village for their weapons program.

    Not to mention that little detail of those peaceful civilian ICBMs which the US has now ruled to be halal.

    • #10
  11. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    Kozak:

    One of the most infuriating parts of this agreement is the sub agreement that the US will help prevent any attempts to disrupt Iran’s program during the existence of the agreement. Meaning we would actively oppose any attempt by Israel or a coalition of actors to remove the threat.

    Yes, that’s just gratuitously infuriating, but it’s not the part on which to focus. Again I find myself agreeing with Adam Garfinkle, whose writing about this has consistently been the most lucid of any commentator:

    First, the monitoring provisions the IAEA will be permitted to use in Iranian facilities fall well short of what it is technically capable of doing. A July 6 New York Times feature co-authored by David Sanger and William Broad lays out these capabilities. When one compares the potential with what in fact will be permitted, one can only be dismayed at what the P5+1 negotiators let get away from them.

    Second, as several observers have pointed out, Rob Satloff perhaps first and most effectively, the agreement allows the Iranians up to 24 days to fend off an IAEA demand inspection. That is plenty of time to hide or clean up after most kinds of violations. Moreover, one has to assume the possibility that the Russians will act as mole for Iran inside the P5+1 consensus machine, as they did on behalf of Iraq back in another time. So, for both reasons, catching the Iranians cheating will not be easy, and one has to assume based on past behavior that the Iranians will cheat if they think they can get away with it for long enough as to constitute a de facto fait accompli.

    It gets worse. Even if the IAEA can catch the Iranians in a violation, or we can do so through what is euphemistically referred to as “national technical means”, and even if then we can get the P5+1 to agree to seek redress, the agreement has only a single gear for penalizing infractions: a sanctions snap-back. This means that a violation or a series of violations would have to be of major dimensions to warrant making the effort, and if the effort anyway failed to shove the Iranians back into compliance, two things would happen, both of them bad. The lesser bad consequence is the precedent that a failed effort would set. The very bad consequence is that if and when confronted, the Iranians have the option, according to the agreement, of simply walking out of the deal and daring us to snap back the sanctions regime.

    Let us understand clearly what this really means. Suppose the Iranians cheat here, there, and perhaps everywhere for several years, but at less-than-critical levels, before we finally get up the moxie to confront them. Suppose the cheating involves more R&D on IR-6 or IR-8 centrifuges than is allowed, and not turning over the fissile material that work produces. Or suppose they take mothballed centrifuges out of storage and ship them to an unmonitored facility for reinstallation. Note that the agreement makes no reference to SWUs (separation work units), only to the number of centrifuges—which seems unfortunate. Suppose we confront them over such transgressions and they walk out of the agreement. That would validate the military utility of all the cheating that has gone before. Suppose the walkout happens in year five of the agreement, timed to coincide with the lifting of the arms embargo. Do I really need to spell this out further?

    Never mind for now that a sanctions snap back could not re-freeze $150 billion in assets and, worse, would not apply to “grandfathered” deals signed between the implementation date and the hypothetical walk-out date. The point is not really about money. It is that if the Iranians can pocket the cumulative military value of their violations and still walk out of the agreement anytime they judge it to be propitious, then the claim that the deal buys us at least 15 years of calm, non-crisis strategic oxygen is completely bogus. In just five years or even less, we could easily be back in the stark position the President described yesterday: diplomacy or war.

    Now, worst of all, this being the case—and this will dawn on American officials sooner or later—who is really deterred by the verification provisions? As time passes, we will very likely be deterred more than the Iranians. We will justifiably fear to push accusations of militarily-significant cheating because it would probably crash the deal and put us right back where we started, except with the Iranians richer and much further along in their program. How will that look to the world? One can already hear the echoes of the Ayatollah Khomeini at a tender moment in the history of the bilateral relationship: “The Americans cannot do a damned thing.”

    The Iranians will certainly know this, and likely feel reasonably free to cheat as a result. Now what kind of verification package is it that, in practice, deters us more than it deters them?

    And this is just considering issues of proliferation. Very few people are talking about the immediate, ghastly consequences: Syria has now been abandoned to the tender mercies of ISIS and the IRGC-Quds force. Many of us have spoken of the betrayal of the Israelis, but at least Israelis have a hope of defending themselves; Syrian civilians will be slaughtered like animals in a charnel house, and by the time this agreement expires, Syria will long since be dead, with no hope, ever, of putting together the pieces. As will Iraq.

    • #11
  12. Ontheleftcoast Member
    Ontheleftcoast
    @Ontheleftcoast

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.:

    It will be interesting to see what French defense budgets look like in the coming few years.

    Probably much like ours if (D) wins the Presidency.

    • #12
  13. Eric Hines Inactive
    Eric Hines
    @EricHines

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.: Don’t you fear Iran could use the substantial funds it will obtain with the lifting of the sanctions to reinforce the Shia militias in the Middle East? It will be one of the tests. And we will be particularly watchful.

    Just to pick out one thing from Fabius’ interview, noting that he offered nothing in the way of useful response to such a…misuse.

    One of my assignments in the USAF was at a radar station in remote northern Alaska.  Our mission was twofold:

    1) be particularly watchful for Soviet attack and report to HQ minute-by-minute on the lack thereof.

    2) Die.  The cessation of our reporting would be HQ’s first indication that the attack was underway.

    We can watch the H__ out of Iranian behavior.  The money still will be in the hands of the Shia and the hands of their terrorist client network entities, and the initial indications of that will be their stepped up efforts and success rates.

    Eric Hines

    • #13
  14. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    Eric Hines: Claire Berlinski, Ed.: Don’t you fear Iran could use the substantial funds it will obtain with the lifting of the sanctions to reinforce the Shia militias in the Middle East? It will be one of the tests. And we will be particularly watchful. Just to pick out one thing from Fabius’ interview, noting that he offered nothing in the way of useful response to such a…misuse.

    Agree. Nothing in the agreement is tied to the cessation of funding of those militia, so even if they watch them being funded very carefully, there’s nothing to which they can appeal, at least not in terms of the deal, to trigger sanctions.

    • #14
  15. MikeHs Inactive
    MikeHs
    @MikeHs

    Thank you, Claire, and others, for this analysis.  It is amazing (and frightening) to think where we have come since 2002.  It will certainly be interesting to hear what various French officials have to say about this in the coming days, hopefully, some with some candor (and, dare I hope, embarrassment for the light-worker administration).

    • #15
  16. Eric Hines Inactive
    Eric Hines
    @EricHines

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.:

    Eric Hines: Claire Berlinski, Ed.: Don’t you fear Iran could use the substantial funds it will obtain with the lifting of the sanctions to reinforce the Shia militias in the Middle East? It will be one of the tests. And we will be particularly watchful. Just to pick out one thing from Fabius’ interview, noting that he offered nothing in the way of useful response to such a…misuse.

    Agree. Nothing in the agreement is tied to the cessation of funding of those militia, so even if they watch them being funded very carefully, there’s nothing to which they can appeal, at least not in terms of the deal, to trigger sanctions.

    Even if there were something in the agreement, money is too fungible.  The existence of the money is the problem, for an enormous number of reasons.

    On a separate, but related note, our Guy Who Sits in the State Department’s Chair has confessed–proudly–that the status of our four hostages currently held by Iran was a topic of discussion at every single one of the “negotiation” sessions regarding Iran’s nuclear weapons program.  They’re still hostages, but Kerry is hopeful Iran will “do the right thing” and release them “soon.”

    Eric Hines

    • #16
  17. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    Eric Hines: They’re still hostages, but Kerry is hopeful Iran will “do the right thing” and release them “soon.”

    They might well. They’re pretty good at this game. They wouldn’t want anything unfortunate to happen in Congress.

    • #17
  18. Eric Hines Inactive
    Eric Hines
    @EricHines

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.:

    Eric Hines: They’re still hostages, but Kerry is hopeful Iran will “do the right thing” and release them “soon.”

    They might well. They’re pretty good at this game. They wouldn’t want anything unfortunate to happen in Congress.

    They’ve already disparaged Congress as an arm of government; recall their reaction to the letter from 47 Senators presuming to instruct the Supreme Leader on the matter.

    They also haven’t any reason to fear the Congress.  They know there aren’t 13 Democrat Senators (or even 6…) who will vote in the country’s interest rather than Obama’s interest.

    They simply expect our own Supreme Leader (as they perceive him to be) to deliver the goods.  They have no incentive to release the hostages, except, perhaps, to impress the querulous masses.

    If it happens sooner, or different from that (your call), I’ll buy you dinner in the restaurant of your choice the next time you’re in the Metroplex.

    Eric Hines

    • #18
  19. MikeHs Inactive
    MikeHs
    @MikeHs

    Off topic, but speaking of France, Breitbart just added this story about bad things going on there pretty recently (possibly a subject for another thread – I don’t mean to hijack this one; this is just FYI:

    http://www.breitbart.com/national-security/2015/07/15/there-was-a-significant-terrorist-attack-in-france-this-week-and-the-mainstream-media-hasnt-even-bothered-telling-you/

    • #19
  20. Pugshot Member
    Pugshot
    @Pugshot

    Adam Garfinkle’s analysis, set out by Claire, seems to me to be spot-on. The Iranians are total winners in these negotiations and the P5+1 are almost complete losers. Even if the Iranians have no intention of building an atomic bomb (a slim possibility), their use of the implied threat of building a bomb has scared the US and other western nations into giving the Iranians everything they could have wanted. The end of sanctions, with the resultant freeing of over $1B, combined with a weak enforcement protocol, ensures the Iranians can do pretty much whatever they want with little or no likelihood that the P5+1 can do anything about it. Every time the Iranians threatened, the P5+1 blinked. The Iranians were always willing to go to the wall for what they wanted – or, at least, they successfully convinced the US and its allies they were; the US was never willing to go to the wall (use military force to stop Iran), and the Iranians were always aware of that. With respect to domestic politics, the mullahs can trumpet to the populace thaing to go to the wall (use military force to stop Iran), and the Iranians were always aware of that. With respect to domestic politics, the mullahs can trumpet to the populace that they’ve faced down the Great Satan and secured the right to enter the nuclear community. The US will be hard-pressed to even get Congress to support the agreement, and the long-term downside suggests that at some point during the next five to ten years, the pessimists will be proved right – but by then, Obama will be long out of office. Once again, the lack of a viable long-term strategy bites the US in the backside.t they’ve faced down the Great Satan and secured the right to enter the nuclear community. The US will be hard-pressed to even get Congress to support the agreement, and the long-term downside suggests that at some point during the next five to ten years, the pessimists will be proved right – but by then, Obama will be long out of

    • #20
  21. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    MikeHs: http://www.breitbart.com/national-security/2015/07/15/there-was-a-significant-terrorist-attack-in-france-this-week-and-the-mainstream-media-hasnt-even-bothered-telling-you/

    Oh, yes — remember Chekhov’s midnight raid?

    I was thinking of mentioning it, but — probably much like the mainstream media and indeed even the French media — it seemed a “low-priority news item.” I didn’t realize no one in the US had even reported it.

    Did anyone bother to tell report any of the rest of it? Frankly, though, that is a low-priority news item compared to everything else that’s happening. I wouldn’t have put it on the front page or even the first few pages of a US newspaper, either — even an imaginary, rationally-prioritized one.

    • #21
  22. MikeHs Inactive
    MikeHs
    @MikeHs

    Oh well…. Vacances!!!

    • #22
  23. user_75648 Thatcher
    user_75648
    @JohnHendrix

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.: I agree with you that France understands it’s a ghastly and very risky deal. But I don’t see the logic of the next sentence: France is much closer to the region, and much more vulnerable to the consequences of a regional nuclear exchange. The United States is at least an ocean away (small comfort though this may be in an era of ICBMs.)

    Your points have merit.

    One factor you pointed out–one that was completely unexpected by me–was that France would collaborate with the U.S. on an attack on Iranian nuclear facilities.I guess I am so accustomed to France defending the Middle East’s mad dogs (e.g., Saddam) that it didn’t occur to me that they would collaborate in a raid. I guess my anti-frog bigotry impaired my thinking.

    Anyway, regarding my logic.

    I reasoned that France has less imminent threat from Iran because Iran views the U.S.–not France–as her strategic adversary. I base this assertion on The Persian Puzzle, a book by Kenneth Pollack, a former member of the National Security Council.

    As an analyst Pollack was responsible for monitoring both Iraq and Iran.  During Iran’s reconstruction following the Iraqi-Iranian war he noted–with surprise–that Iran began designing a military suitable for a conflict with the U.S.–instead of the country with which Iran just lost a decade long war: Iraq. This signaled that Iran regarded the U.S. as her primary adversary and strategic threat.

    I am assuming that Kenneth Pollack’s conclusions are conventional geopolitical wisdom.  If so, then I was reasoning that France is hoping to remain on the sidelines while that the primary geopolitical friction occurs between the U.S. and Iran.

    I didn’t believe that France is off the hook, not threatened or whatnot, I would just mean that France is not first. I saw this is another version of can-kicking; maybe something unexpected would happen to make the problem go away.  Like the next American President U.S changing Iran’s regime.

    • #23
  24. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    John Hendrix: I was reasoning that France is hoping to remain on the sidelines while that the primary geopolitical friction occurs between the U.S. and Iran. I didn’t believe that France is off the hook, not threatened or whatnot, I would just mean that France is not first. I saw this is another version of can-kicking; maybe something unexpected would happen to make the problem go away.  Like the next American President U.S changing Iran’s regime.

    I think that sounds closer-to-right: I think they’re figuring the strategic advantage of following our lead, and staying on our good side, for now, outweighs the disadvantages of blowing up their relationship with us, having no influence at all on either the inspections or the snapback process, and getting locked out of key intelligence — all the things Israel will be punished with for standing up to us. And I think they’re so overwhelmed with other problems that they can’t, politically, prioritize this: Their priority is domestic terrorism, the Sunni refugee wave washing up on Europe, and trying to stabilize North Africa. They think the US can’t pull off a military operation anyway, and if it tried would only further destabilize the region, and they figure the sanctions were going to collapse anyway. So they’d best just stick tightly to the US, do their best to get chummy with the Iranians, and pray– you can’t be messing with your (maybe) protector when Putin’s at the door and you’re on the outs with Germany. Not if you’re a little country like France.

    • #24
  25. Eric Hines Inactive
    Eric Hines
    @EricHines

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.: They think the US can’t pull off a military operation anyway, and if it tried would only further destabilize the region

    On what basis do the French think the region is stable today?  Syria is playing its role in the collapse of regional stability.  Lebanon is on the verge of collapse.  Jordan is hanging on by its fingers.  Iraq exists on paper maps only.  Daesh is on the march, including apparently moves into and from the territory of Egypt, some minor pushbacks notwithstanding.  Al Qaeda is in recovery.

    I’m not sure how the Middle East could get much more unstable.  The collapse of the Saudi monarchy?  The realization of the destabilization of Jordan?  Iran’s destruction of Israel?

    Eric Hines

    • #25
  26. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    Eric Hines:

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.: They think the US can’t pull off a military operation anyway, and if it tried would only further destabilize the region

    On what basis do the French think the region is stable today? Syria is playing its role in the collapse of regional stability. Lebanon is on the verge of collapse. Jordan is hanging on by its fingers. Iraq exists on paper maps only. Daesh is on the march, including apparently moves into and from the territory of Egypt, some minor pushbacks notwithstanding. Al Qaeda is in recovery.

    I’m not sure how the Middle East could get much more unstable. The collapse of the Saudi monarchy? The realization of the destabilization of Jordan? Iran’s destruction of Israel?

    Eric Hines

    All of the latter, and the total destabilization of north Africa through the Sahel; the fragmentation of Egypt; the complete collapse of Lebanon, the Gulf states could unravel; it could spread well into the ‘Stans … oh, yes, there’s still worse it could get. If you’d told me five years ago it could get this bad, I wouldn’t have believed it, but now I think hell’s the limit. Oh, and Turkey could break up. Yes, it still makes sense to speak of “further destabilization.” Although I understand why phrases like that prompt bitter laughter. Whenever I read that “This [Iran] deal makes war less likely,” I want to weep — what are all those dead bodies we’ve been seeing then, stunt extras on a movie?

    • #26

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