June 8, 2012
Number 06/12 #02
This Update leads with two important pieces discussing the claims and counter-claims being made as part of the Iranian nuclear talks.
First up, Iran scholar and recent visitor to Australia Emanuele Ottolenghi offers a good de-bunking of the constant Iranian refrain that their right to peacefully develop nuclear energy is being denied them. Ottolenghi makes it clear that the key point to understand is that Iran, as a Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty signatory, has this right only as long as it meets its NPT obligations – but the International Atomic Energy Agency has been very clear that Iran is not doing so. Furthermore, Ottolenghi notes that, contrary to Iranian claims, Iran’s interlocuters from the P5+1 have repeatedly acknowledged Iran’s right to “peaceful nuclear energy”, once it complies with NPT and UN Security Council obligations. For Ottolenghi’s deconstruction in full of a false Iranian claim all too often repeated by Western commentators, CLICK HERE.
Next up, Dr. Efraim Asculai, Israel’s top nuclear proliferation specialist and a former IAEA employee, takes on the recent on again-off again news story about IAEA-Iranian agreement to inspect the Iranian military base at Parchin, which is suspected of housing a facility where explosives research related to nuclear weapons is carried out. He notes reports of a clean-up at the site and argues that what appears to be going on looks like a repeat of an incident in 2004 at the Tehran Lavizan- Shian, where a research facility was razed to the ground and cleaned up before inspections were allowed. He says Iran will have learned the lesson of that experience – the IAEA still found nuclear evidence in 2004 via environmental samples – and the IAEA should anticipate that Teheran will only allow a Parchin inspection when it can guarantee no suspect results and gain a propaganda victory, and the IAEA must not fall into the trap of allowing this. He further explains what the IAEA should now be demanding of Iran, and to read it all, CLICK HERE.
Finally, noted Israeli academic Barry Rubin, who has frequently studied and worked in Turkey, discusses evidence that Turkey has effectively become an Islamist state. The tipping point, he says, has been a court decision to approve prosecution of a world-renowned classical pianist, Fazil Say, for posting some tweets asking irreverent questions about elements of Islamic religious belief – something which could not possibly be a crime in any secular state. But Rubin also documents a mass of other evidence in terms of large numbers of political prisoners – many held for years without charges – and a lack of freedom of speech which make it clear that Turkey is not only becoming Islamist, but also ceasing to be a democracy. For this important piece on these worrying trends in a major Middle Eastern country, CLICK HERE. More on the case of Fazil Say here.
Readers may also be interested in:
- A new analysis of the consequences of a military strike on Iran’s nuclear program from Washington Institute military experts Michael Eisenstadt and Michael Knights.
- A warning by a German expert that Iran may be pursuing a new, very difficult to detect, form of uranium enrichment using lasers.
- Israeli analyst Guy Bechor argues Iran seems to be heading for economic disaster.
- Lebanon expert Tony Badran arguing the latest massacres in Syria make it appear the Assad regime is deliberately attempting to turn the civil war into a sectarian conflict in a bid to shore up its sectarian base.
- A critique of realist approaches to Syria from Lebanese writer Michael Young.
- Two articles arguing that Iran gives a reason why, from a realpolitik point of view, the US should be doing more to remove the Assad regime in the wake of recent bloodshed from Daniel Pletka and Cliff May.
- A good post on why Israeli PM Binyamin Netanyahu’s Knesset win yesterday over right-wing forces which wanted to legalise the outpost of Ulpana (which the Israeli Supreme Court has ordered dismantled) is a major political victory for him.
- Some examples from the many stories and comments now appearing at AIJAC’s daily “Fresh AIR” blog:
- A post on the UN’s devastating verbal response to the latest massacre in Syria.
- A post on Israeli musicians breaking the boundaries of conflict to win fans across the Middle East.
- A post on what can be learned from the failure of a pro-Hamas convoy to Gaza.
- A post on the backlash anti-Israel demonstrators unleashed in Melbourne on Tuesday.
- A post dissecting an Australian academic’s poorly informed claims about Islamist parties in the Middle East.
- Allon Lee’s latest Media Week column.
With the third round of nuclear talks approaching, Iranian senior figures are taking turns to the airwaves to present a well-rehearsed, grievance-filled version of the issues at stake in their current nuclear standoff with the international community. This time, speaking out is former Iranian minister of foreign affairs, Ali Akbar Velayati – currently a diplomatic adviser to the Supreme Leader. Velayati, who is wanted in Argentina for the 1994 Iran-orchestrated terror attack against the AMIA Jewish Cultural Center in Buenos Aires, announced in an interview with the Iranian news agency IRNA that he hoped that “the P5+1 group recognizes Iran’s inalienable nuclear right within the framework of the [United Nations Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty] NPT and refrains from sitting on the sidelines.” He added, “By accepting Iran’s right to use peaceful nuclear energy, the forthcoming talks in Moscow should reach a favorable result.”
Iran has been spinning this tale for years now – and its propaganda is making considerable gains with Western leftists and among non-aligned movement members.
Iran is basically playing the victim card, darkly evoking an American-led and Zionist-orchestrated plot to deny Iran, alone among nations, the right to peacefully develop nuclear energy. The demand by the P5+1 to suspend all uranium enrichment and uranium reprocessing activities, Iran says, is an attempt to deny a right guaranteed under the Non-Proliferation Treaty to all its members. It is an unfair attempt, says Iran, because it is infused with a double standard where nuclear-weapons states and Israel are ganging up on Iran to preach to Tehran what they don’t practice. And it is a dangerous precedent, concludes Iran, because if legitimized, this mechanism can be adopted later to frustrate the legitimate nuclear ambitions of any other nation that is not a Western country and a friend of the United States.
So, as talks approach, it is useful to remind Western audiences of the basic facts around this matter.
First, Iran is a member of the NPT, and it is thus entitled to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes only as long as it meets its obligations under the NPT. But the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) regards Iran as being in breach of its treaty obligations. This was stated explicitly and forcefully by the IAEA on September 24, 2005:
… Iran’s many failures and breaches of its obligations to comply with its NPT Safeguards Agreement … constitute non-compliance in the context of Article XII.C of the Agency’s Statute … [T]he history of concealment of Iran’s nuclear activities referred to in the Director General’s report, the nature of these activities, issues brought to light in the course of the Agency’s verification of declarations made by Iran since September 2002 and the resulting absence of confidence that Iran’s nuclear program is exclusively for peaceful purposes have given rise to questions that are within the competence of the Security Council, as the organ bearing the main responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security.
The Security Council has passed six UN Security Council resolutions under Chapter VII (1696, 1737, 1747, 1803, 1835, and 1929), which makes them mandatory and binding on all nations according to international law, commanding Iran to suspend uranium enrichment and uranium reprocessing activities.
The IAEA has reaffirmed this point in every report it published since Ambassador Yukiya Amano became its director general in early 2010.
And the June 2008 proposal to Iran, signed by the P5+1, further states that, provided Iran complies with its obligations under the NPT and with the aforementioned resolutions, “China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States and the European Union High Representative state their readiness: to recognize Iran’s right to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes in conformity with its NPT obligations; to treat Iran’s nuclear program in the same manner as that of any non-nuclear weapon state party to the NPT once international confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program is restored.”
This text is now an integral part of UNSCR 1929 – and the details it offers (including detailed aspects of technological assistance) should leave no doubt to the following simple facts:
- Iran’s right to peaceful nuclear energy, including the right to enrich for peaceful purposes, was never denied in principle and has been affirmed ad nauseam by Iran’s interlocutors. All Iranian protestations and lamentations to the contrary are lies, smokes and mirrors.
- Iran’s right is suspended because Iran has failed to comply with the obligations that make it possible for Iran, and indeed any other nation who wishes to have a nuclear program, to pursue nuclear energy within the NPT framework.
- Iran’s behavior is illegal. Iran’s non-compliance demands concrete steps sanctioned by UN Chapter VII binding resolutions.
- No concession should be made, therefore, on these matters, and no compromise should be offered on enrichment suspension.
This provision, far from being a punishment, is the only remaining guarantee against the collapse of an already shaky non-proliferation regime.
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Even prior to the IAEA report, there have been reports that Iran was carrying out cleaning operations at the Parchin site, apparently with the aim of removing any evidence of work related to the development of nuclear weapons. A later report by the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) presented satellite evidence that two small buildings, in the vicinity of the suspect larger test building, were razed. This, the report said, was reminiscent of the 2004 activity that took place at the Tehran Lavizan- Shian site, where a complete R&D site was razed to the ground and all topsoil removed to an unknown site. This happened because the IAEA had proven its ability to take environmental samples that proved that Iran was conducting illicit, undeclared activities that proved its non-compliance with its NPT obligations.
It is therefore reasonable to assess that the Iranians had learned their lessons, and will not permit any visits to any suspect site until it is convinced that no negative evidence would be uncovered as a result of that visit. They would also delay signing the agreement with the IAEA on the “structured approach” until all cleanup operations were completed.
Moreover, it is reasonable to guess that the Iranians would use these negative results, if the visit took place, to demonstrate their cooperation, and to claim that they convincingly proved that Iran had no military nuclear program.
This would become a no-win situation for the IAEA, with a certain win for Iran.
The IAEA must avoid this.
But this is not the only pitfall for the IAEA and the international community. A very old statement used by the previous director-general, picked up by the international organizations, and by many politicians the world over, including US politicians, is the reference to the need of Iran “to establish international confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear programme.”
This is a tongue-in-cheek expression that is illusionary and useless at the same time. At this late stage of the game, recalling the director-general’s report of November 2011, with all its evidence of a military nuclear program, and recalling all the auxiliary evidence that has appeared from time to time in the media, this call must be changed. The call must be now to dismantle all the components of the Iranian military-related nuclear program, to convincingly prove that all components have been done away with and only then assume that Iran’s nuclear program is probably dedicated to peaceful uses.
In order to achieve this, Iran must agree, unconditionally, to provide access to all suspect facilities, those known at present and those that will be uncovered in the future, and to all documentation and personnel involved in these programs.
To be realistic, Iran will never permit this. Iran will try to avoid this sort of inquiry and will try to convince the world of its peaceful intentions, while avoiding the need to answer uncomfortable questions. A visit to Parchin that will discover no untoward evidence will certainly help Iran in this attempt. With all the overwhelming evidence against it, Iran must not be given the chance to again mislead the world and go on its way toward achieving the potential of producing nuclear weapons in short order when it so desires.
The ongoing uranium enrichment program will certainly let it achieve this.
The writer is a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS).
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by Barry Rubin
Pajamas Media, June 7, 2012
“My people are going to learn the principles of democracy the dictates of truth and the teachings of science. Superstition must go. Let them worship as they will, every man can follow his own conscience provided it does not interfere with sane reason or bid him act against the liberty of his fellow men.” — Mustafa Kemal Atatürk
Hardly surprising, deeply upsetting, and geostrategically catastrophic, it’s official. Turkey has now passed over towards being an Islamist state. That turning point is marked by a tiny event of gigantic importance.
Fazil Say is an internationally acclaimed Turkish classical pianist. He has performed with prestigious symphony orchestras such as the New York Philharmonic, Berlin, Israel Philharmonic, France, and Tokyo, and is a European Union cultural ambassador. The Turkish state is now going to put him on trial, as an Istanbul court has accepted the prosecutor’s charge, which amounts to heresy. Specifically: he is accused of insulting Islam because of tweets he sent.
Say suggested that since the Koran says there are rivers of drinks in heaven, that makes it sound like a pub, while the beautiful women available there make it sound like a brothel. A number of his tweets are quoted here. That’s his crime — writing a couple of sentences to describe his thoughts.
We are not talking of someone criticizing Say or disagreeing with him. We are talking about the power of the Turkish state being used to charge a man with a crime and to send him to prison for exercising free speech. True, they are only asking for a sentence of eighteen months in prison, but once the precedent is set their ambitions will expand.
There are already hundreds of political prisoners in Turkey today who have been in prison for over three years without any trial. Now, if criticizing Islam in Turkey is a crime, Turkey is not a secular state. And with all of those innocent people already thrown in jail by the regime on trumped-up charges of treason and terrorism, Turkey is no longer a democratic state, either. (For a study of the conspiracy charges — actually a wave of repression and intimidation seeking to quell opposition to Turkey’s fundamental transformation — see this detailed article by Gareth Jenkins in MERIA Journal.)
This is the country that the Obama administration views as a role model for other Muslim-majority countries. In fact, though, Turkey is going down the same road of repression. In Saudi Arabia, a young man was recently indicted, extradited back from Malaysia, and put on trial for a similar offense. But we know where Saudi Arabia stands. Islamists in Egypt wanted to do the same to a leading Christian businessman for posting a picture of Mickey and Minnie Mouse in “Islamic” garb.
They acted too soon, while the military is still in power. Let them try it again in a few months.
In Kuwait, Hamad al-Naqi received a 10-year sentence, the maximum, for allegedly insulting Muhammad, his wife, and their friends. Al-Naqi claimed his Twitter account was hacked and someone else sent the messages. If true, that would be a very deadly way of getting someone else into trouble, right? Elsewhere, on the “Arab Spring” front, the Tunisian minister of religious affairs has sought indictment on blasphemy charges of Jelil Brick, a long-time dissident fighter against the former dictatorship who lives in Paris and makes YouTube videos. Brick previously survived an Islamist assassination attempt.
But unlike those Arab countries, Turkey has been a secular republic for decades. It’s “progress” toward Islamization could not have been more obvious for the last few years, but the Western mass media generally ignores the evidence. The only thing that would save Turkey is if the current regime gets voted out of office before things go beyond a point of no return, and such an electoral defeat is not on the horizon.
I’d address this issue in my regular column in a Turkish newspaper — but I can’t since that was cancelled within a few minutes of my sending in an article (not published) that criticized the government.
I’d have a correspondent in Turkey write about this for you, but my Turkish friends — even ones who have historically been courageous — are now all too afraid to do so. I could possibly publish something about it in the journal I edit, Turkish Studies, but only because a Turkish government-inspired effort to get me removed as editor failed miserably.
Meanwhile, the court system in Turkey is — as you can see, above — being undermined. Tens of thousands of graduates of Islamic madrassas are now recognized as holding the equivalent of a college degree so they can be put into high civil service posts from which they will administer the state with as much Shariah as they dare implement this week.
For a decade now the Justice and Development Party has been in power, marching toward Islamism with far greater patience than the Muslim Brotherhood could ever muster. It has now crossed the point of no return. I could provide scores of other examples. Here’s one: a liberal Turk who was extolling the ruling party not long ago explained that his family’s babysitter wears “Islamic” garb, even though she isn’t a believer. Why? Because if she didn’t wear those clothes in her Istanbul neighborhood when she’s walking to work at his house, she’d be beaten.
Ponder on what Ataturk, the founder of the Turkish republic, warned:
Those who use religion for their own benefit are detestable. We are against such a situation and will not allow it. Those who use religion in such a manner have fooled our people; it is against just such people that we have fought and will continue to fight.
But now in Turkey that fight is a distinctly uphill one.