[UPDATE: text now published by Obama's NSC] Neither White House nor State Department have published deal on Iran's nuclear program.

From the IAEA meetings in Vienna this morning, this Tweet noting that the U.S. Government had still not published the text of the deal agreed in Geneva very early on Sunday:
Mark Hibbs @MarkHibbsCEIP — Heard here in Vienna just now that USG still has not published the text of the #Iran deal.

But British journalist Julian Borger of The Guardian replied, by Twitter:
@julianborger — @MarkHibbsCEIP NSC [the U.S. President’s National Security Councii] emailed it [the Joint Plan of Action] a few days ago, but I can’t find it either on the State Dept or White House websites. Just the ‘fact’ sheet.

UPDATE: Now, The full text of the Joint Plan of Action can be found on the National Security Council website here — the posting seemed to have been on November 27.

The full text of the deal was published first by the Fars News Agency here, and then picked up with a caveat by Reuters here. It wasn’t until many hours later that it was also posted on the European Union’s website here.

A full day after the deal, the U.S. State Department Tweeted a link to the EU website for the Joint Plan of Action
Joshua H. Pollack @Joshua_Pollack 25 Nov — This appears to be the best text online MT @StateDept: Read the P5+1 and #Iran Joint Plan of Action [here].

Mark Hibbs [Berlin-based Senior Associate, Nuclear Policy Program, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace] replied, on Twitter:
@MarkHibbsCEIP — @julianborger Maybe they reasoned that if EU-3 felt it owned the Iran negotiation, it could own the document-!

The White House published only a “Fact Sheet”, here, which appears to be a list of U.S. talking points on the first phase of this deal.

From Washington, Joshua Pollack [consultant to the US government, contributor to the Arms Control Wonk blog and to the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists] Tweeted earlier:
@Joshua_Pollack — Iran’s MFA dislikes the White House fact sheet on the Joint Plan of Action: see here … Well, the fact sheet is not diplomatic.

He described what’s wrong, for the Iranians, in the White House Fact Sheet
@Joshua_Pollack — Irritants in the WH fact sheet: triumphal tone, emphasis on Iranian concessions, continuing sanctions, & temporary nature of relief, (1/2)
@Joshua_Pollack — Irritants in the WH fact sheet, ctd: …naming Parchin, Additional Protocol, Modified Code 3.1. Same substance, different spin. (2/2)
@Joshua_Pollack — Both Iran’s govt and the USG need to sell the JPOA at home. But these efforts could “bleed over” to the other side. Spin with care!

Then, Mark Hibbs pointed to the remarks made by Iran’s Foreign Minister to the Majlis as being equally provocative:
@MarkHibbsCEIP — @Joshua_Pollack On other side @JZarif spin on Arak to placate hardliners in #Iran will cause @teaparty heartburn here

Earlier, Iraniah journalist Hassan Soleimani reported:
H.Soleimani @MashreghNews_ir — FM #zarif in parlimnt.: revert to 20% enrichment takes only one hour.

Meanwhile, on 26 November, as Robert Mackey reported here on his New York Times blog, TheLede, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry posted a Youtube explanating the U.S. view of the deal in “simple English”:

And, also thanks to Mackey’s TheLede, here is Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif explaining the deal on Iranian TV [IRIB], with English subtitles:

Iranian Foreign Ministry exasperated: White House didn't publish deal, only its own talking points

Iran FM @JZarif told the Majlis, or Parliament today: “While we were negotiating (in Geneva), the White House released a text as a fact sheet of the negotiations … While they could release the original text..they released that fact sheet because they wanted to make their desired changes in it”. This is reported here.

It was confusing, on Sunday, after the agreement was announced following hours of exhausting negotiations. Why was it so hard to find an authoritative version of the text of the Joint Plan of Action agreed in Geneva?

The full text of the deal was published first by the Fars News Agency here, and then picked up hours later, with a caveat, by Reuters here. Then, many more hours later, it was posted on the European Union’s website here.

Meanwhile, the White House published only a “Fact Sheet”, here, which appears to be a list of U.S. talking points on the first phase of this deal.

Continue reading “Iranian Foreign Ministry exasperated: White House didn't publish deal, only its own talking points”

"We have reached an agreement"

At about 4 in the morning in Geneva, the Foreign Ministers the five Permanent Members of the UN Security Counci [the worlds only recognized nuclear powers], plus Germany, plus the European Union High Representative Catherine Ashton, stood before the press in the Palais des Nations in Geneva to affirm the earlier Tweet by Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif announcing that they had agreed on a deal.
@JZarif 24 Nov — “We have reached an agreement”.

The deal is a six-month first phase in a process that is expected to last about a year…

Continue reading “"We have reached an agreement"”

Geneva talks about Iran's nuclear program end without agreement but on an up-note, will resume 20 November

Talks on Iran’s nuclear program that technically entered a fourth day in Geneva ended just after midnight on Sunday morning,  on an up-note.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif told exhausted journalists that in fact the talks had been very productive and positive.  “We do have our differences”, Zarif said, “but that’s why we’re here…because of our differences”.  But, Zarif indicated, he thought there could be agreement on a resolution at the next meeting, now set for 20 November [also in Geneva].

“What we were looking for was political will and determination, in order to end this phase and move to an end game’, Zarif said at the press conference. “I think we are all on the same wavelength”.

Analysts have said that the failure to agree on a deal tonight, however, will open the way for a campaign with renewed strength by its opponents, including inside Iran, inside the US, and also in Israel — where Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu has vowed to go it alone against the perceived Iranian threat — and even to do “whatever is necessary” to defend the security of the state of Israel.

Iran has been subject to an increasingly tough sanctions regime imposed by the UN Security Council since 2006, and also bilaterally by the US + the EU for refusing to stop its uranium enrichment.   When Iran did not stop its enrichment, the U.S, pushed for several sets of increasingly restrictive and punitive sanctions.  They have  had a biting sting, but Iran has only increased it’s efforts. One of Iran’s main arguments against the sanctions is not about the suffering they’ve caused, but is rather to say that they haven’t worked — and that Iran has despite — and to spite — the sanctions, their scientists and technicians have been able to increase their enriched-uranium production capacity from a couple of hundred enrichment centrifuges, to something like 14,000 now.

Iranian elections earlier this year saw confrontational and “defiant” President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, who’d served the maximum two terms, replaced with “reformist” Hassan Rouhani. [Rouhani is a former nuclear negotiator who had previously tried, but failed — due to the opposition of the US under George W. Bush — to reach a deal with major powers that disapproved of Iran’s Islamic revolutionary tendencies].

The election and inauguration of Rouhani raised hopes of a possibility of accomodation — even as Israel raised heightened alarms about the advance in Iran’s nuclear prowess which Israel Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu argues mean inevitable weaponization, and a severe threat to Israel.

Netanyahu’s warnings have become increasingly strident in recent weeks, as the negotiations with Iran appeared to move forward. Netanyahu is opposed to any deal other than the complete dismantling of Iran’s uranium enrichment program and shutting down some of its nuclears installations [which, yes, does conform with what UN Security Council has demanded].

Haaretz wrote in an editorial that “Netanyahu continues to view the very diplomatic move itself as an existential threat, because it will leave Iran with a nuclear capability that could be transformed within a short period into bomb-making capability. ‘Israel is not obliged by this agreement’, Netanyahu said, nudging Israel toward the status of a country that is threatening the international consensus…Netanyahu can disagree with the American conception of how to best thwart Iran’s aspirations, but boasting of Israel’s ability to thumb its nose at the international diplomatic process is a dangerous threat in itself”.  This is published here.

There was apparently a very difficult meeting between Netanyahu and Secretary of State Kerry at Ben Gurion Airport on Friday, just before Kerry headed off to attend the talks in Geneva.  A joint press conference was cancelled, and Netanyahu came before the cameras to say dramatically and vehemently that the deal being considered in the Geneva talks was “a Very.Bad.Deal.”

Continue reading “Geneva talks about Iran's nuclear program end without agreement but on an up-note, will resume 20 November”

Qaddura Fares: many things are not clear about the pending prisoner release

A slightly different version of this story appeared earlier today on +972 Magazine, here.

****************************

“No, I am not satisfied”, said Qaddoura Fares, crisply, commenting on the Israeli Cabinet vote Sunday — after hours of debate and delay for persuasion of the unconvinced —  to release 104 Palestinian prisoners.

Qaddura Fares photo from Ramallah press conference posted on Israel Radio website - interviewed 28 July 2013
Qaddura Fares photo from Ramallah press conference posted on Israel Radio website - interviewed 28 July 2013

That vote led immediately to a formal invitation from the U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to both Israeli and Palestinian negotiations to come to dinner in Washington the very next day, for 1st direct meetings [since January 2012].  The State Dept officially announced resumption of “direct final-status negotiations”, and on Monday Pres Obama welcomed the arrival of Israeli + Palestinian representatives to “formally resume direct final status negotiations”,

Qaddoura, a Fatah leader [who, years ago, was a member of what was then-known as “Young Fatah”] spent many years of his youth in Israeli jails, and is now head of the Palestinian Prisoners’ Club in Ramallah, which works to help Palestinians being tried in Israeli courts — most often, military — and held in Israeli jails.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had given Kerry a list of the 104 longest-held Palestinian prisoners, and Kerry sent that Palestinian list to Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu.  Kerry reportedly pressed for their release, and pinched hard when Netanyahu tried to strike off Palestinians who are either Israeli citizens or Permanent Residents of East Jerusalem.  Over the weekend, Netanyahu relented but said he would put the matter to a Cabinet vote on Sunday.

Netanyahu said in a statement published on Facebook on Saturday that “heads of state are at times required to make decisions that go against public opinion when matter of national import is at stake”.

But Netanyahu didn’t want to shoulder this responsibility alone, and said he would submit the matter to a vote in the regular meeting of his Cabinet on Sunday.

He also said the release would happen during the negotiations, not before — and he said it would stop if the Palestinians did not behave well.

Then, Netanyahu started making phone calls to try and get  support for the cabinet vote on the prisoner release…

Israeli government officials said that if Mahmoud Abbas could ask for the release of Palestinians with full Israeli citizenship,  this would imply that the PLO, and not Israel, is responsible for these men.

So, did the Israeli Cabinet on Sunday make the decision that the Palestinians awaited, and the Americans pressed for?  It’s not entirely clear.

Continue reading “Qaddura Fares: many things are not clear about the pending prisoner release”

Despite opposition, a Palestinian delegation will go to Washington on Monday to start talks after Israel's Cabinet approves release of 104 Pre-Oslo Prisoners

After hours of deliberation, Israel’s Cabinet voted on Monday to authorize the release of 104 of the longest-held Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.

There was a delay of one and half hours before the start of the cabinet meeting, as Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu moved to shore up his own Likud party and make sure he had enough votes to pass the motion.’

Citizens were protesting outside Netanyahu’s office. A mountain of meanness was being expressed about the prisoner release, and the word “terror” was getting quite a workout.

Dani Dayan, for example, Tweeted this:
@dandayan — Releasing terrorists for peace, is like trying to put out a fire with gasoline, it is dangerous, immoral and irresponsible.
@dandayan — Who did John Kerry set free? My piece at @TimesofIsrael . Releasing terrorists is obscene. http://dlvr.it/3jx4VK
@dandayan — a) I see no reason for any payment for the right to negotiate. b) Release of terrorists is morally flawed

@Marianhouk — Where is the leader who’ll tell his people that both sides have suffered? MT @DanWilliams Netanyahu: “Don’t lecture me abt fighting terror”.

According to Haaretz correspondent @BarakRavid on Twitter, Netanyahu reportedly told Likud ministers that “every Palestinian provocation will result in halting of the prisoner release process”, and also that “every decision to release Arab-Israeli prisoners will be brought back for a vote in the cabinet”…

UPDATE: Barak Ravid later wrote in Haaretz here that this latter proposal was based on a suggestion from Minister Silvan Shalom: “During the debate, Shalom proposed a compromise that eased the way for many Likud ministers to not vote against. Under the proposal, which was adopted by Netanyahu, any decision to release Israeli Arabs would require a new vote by the full cabinet. Based on the tentative schedule of prisoner releases, such a discussion is likely to take place, if at all, only in another nine months”.

Haaretz writer @AnshelPfeffer Tweeted slightly earlier that:
No PM in #Israel ever lost vote on releasing prisoners. #Netanyahu trying to “convince” ministers meant to show how “hard” the decision is

But, this leads to questions:
@Marianhouk — So it can be stopped if there are problems in talks? MT @rcolebourn – #Israel PM: prisoner releases will only happen after talks start + in a staged way…

Meanwhile, Mahmoud Abbas called his Government ministers to the Muqata’a for a [rare] meeting at 2 pm.

And, a protest demonstration was called by the PFLP in Ramallah at noon.
@DaliaHatuqa reported that according to @Addameer:  A Ramallah demo against negotiations was broken up by PA police who beat protesters, including PLC member Khalida Jarrar

@RZabaneh Tweeted an amazing video of the clashes duringt the #PFLP protest against the resumption of negotiations. http://youtu.be/yF-IfN7Uw1Q

@LinahAlsaafin wrote that Demo against negotiations broken up by Palestinian Authority. PA is now arresting injured demonstrators from Ramallah Hospital v @Addameer

During the wait for the Israeli Cabinet vote, @DaliaHatuqa Tweeted that The Palestinian Prisoners’ Society published the list of names of detainees expected to be released = http://bit.ly/1c2lp3g

And, a PLO official told Haaretz that “The release of all the prisoners was an agreement between the U.S. + Israel, not between Israel + the Palestinians…Based on this agreement, the Americans received our consent to renew talks”…

Continue reading “Despite opposition, a Palestinian delegation will go to Washington on Monday to start talks after Israel's Cabinet approves release of 104 Pre-Oslo Prisoners”

Kerry says Tony Blair has 300 businessmen planning to raise $4 billion for the West Bank Palestinians

After the build-up that led to the Swiss-based World Economic Forum’s session at Jordan’s Dead Sea on Saturday and Sunday — it was hard to understand why, at least during the speeches of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli President Shimon Peres.

Abbas waived a copy of the Arab Peace Initiative in the air and asked Israelis to actually read it. It was not clear why. [Later it did become clear that the reason was the incentive it gives to Israel for withdrawing from the West Bank: recognition + full normal relations including trade with the entire Arab and Muslim world.]

Peres spoke about being born in an age of agriculture and living in a world of technology, where all good things could happen to the region if only there were peace. It was not clear why. [Peres contradicted the Israeli government’s current disapproval and said the Arab Peace Initiative was a strategic opportunity…] It was not clear why.  But, his reasons seem to be the same as Abbas’.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry started to talk, and seemed to have not much new to say; he thanked a lot of people and spoke about the Arab Spring. It was not clear why.

Then, Kerry said, he wanted to give ” I want to say a special thank you to the Quartet Representative, former Prime Minister Tony Blair… he is working diligently on a special project that I want to share with you in a few minutes”…

It was all downhill from there…

US State Dept photo - Kerry greets Blair at WEF Dead Sea, Jordan meeting 26 May 2013
US State Dept photo - Kerry greets Blair at WEF Dead Sea, Jordan meeting 26 May 2013

Photo from the US State Dept “Amman and Dead Sea, Jordan” Flikr set, here.

Kerry said: “No one doubts that this is a very complex moment in international relations. But still, I don’t think that there is any secret about the conditions that are necessary for peace and stability to succeed. Those are: good governance, security, and economic opportunity. And so the real question for all of us, for President Abbas, President Peres, Prime Minister Netanyahu, all of us, is a very simple one: Will we, despite the historic hurdles, have the courage to make the choices that we know we need to make in order to break the stalemate and provide a change of life for people in this region?”

Then, Kerry announced the creation of an investment fund to be financed with a possible $4 billion dollars to spur private-sector development in the West Bank [though he did also mention  4 million people, though it was not clear who: if Kerry meant Palestinians only, that would include the West Bank population of some 2.8 million  and Gaza with some 1.5 million…]

It was clear that Kerry’s remarks were the real reason all those people were there, in the meeting at the Dead Sea in Jordan on a Sunday afternoon…and Abbas and Peres were just there to prop up the show.

Kerry then explained the still-vague Blair super-project:
“I have asked Quartet Representative Tony Blair and many business leaders to join together. And Prime Minister Blair is shaping what I believe could be a groundbreaking plan to develop a healthy, sustainable, private-sector-led Palestinian economy that will transform the fortunes of a future Palestinian state, but also, significantly, transform the possibilities for Jordan and for Israel.

It is a plan for the Palestinian economy that is bigger, bolder and more ambitious than anything proposed since Oslo, more than 20 years ago now. And this, the intention of this plan, of all of its participants, is not to make it merely transformative, but frankly, to make it enormously powerful in the shaping of the possibilities of the future so that it is more transformative than incremental and different from anything that we have seen before.

To achieve that, these leaders have brought together a group of business experts, who have donated their time, who have come from around the world over the course of the last six weeks to make this project real and tangible and formidable – as we say, shovel-ready. They have come from all over the world because they believe in peace, and because they believe prosperity is both a promise and a product of peace.

This group includes leaders of some of the world’s largest corporations, I’m pleased to say. It includes renowned investors and some of the most brilliant business analysts out there – and some of the most committed. One of these senior business leaders actually just celebrated his 69th birthday in Jerusalem at the Colony Hotel after spending a 14-hour day in the West Bank trying to figure it out.

When others ask them, all of them, why they’re here, doing this on their own time, the unanimous answer is: ‘Because we want a better future for both Israeli children and Palestinian children’.

Their plan begins with encouraging local, regional and international business leaders to, and to encourage government leaders in various parts of the world. I raised this issue with the President of China, with the Prime Minister of Japan, with all of our European leaders, and everywhere – with the Brazilian Foreign Minister a few days ago, with the New Zealand Foreign Minister. All of them have on the tip of their tongues the idea that we can make peace in the Middle East and need to, and all of them are committed to be part of this effort in order to change life on the ground.

The fact is that we are looking to mobilize some $4 billion of investment. And this team of experts – private citizens, donating their time – are here right now. They’re analyzing the opportunities in tourism, construction, light manufacturing, building materials, energy, agriculture, and information and communications technology.

This group will make recommendations to the Palestinians. They’re not going to decide anything. The Palestinians will decide that in their normal course of governance. But they will analyze and make recommendations on a set of choices that can dramatically lift the economy.

The preliminary results already reported to me by Prime Minister Blair and by the folks working with him are stunning: These experts believe that we can increase the Palestinian GDP by as much as 50 percent over three years. Their most optimistic estimates foresee enough new jobs to cut unemployment by nearly two-thirds – to 8 percent, down from 21 percent today – and to increase the median annual wage along with it, by as much as 40 percent.

Continue reading “Kerry says Tony Blair has 300 businessmen planning to raise $4 billion for the West Bank Palestinians”

Salam Fayyad, still in office, saying that he wouldn't be quitting, if he thought Kerry's efforts had a chance

The former New York Times correspondent in Jerusalem Ethan Bronner, back for a visit [and presumably a friend of Prime Minister Salam Fayyad] reported today here that Fayyad “says Palestinian leaders must acknowledge their failure to deliver on their promises and call new elections. That is not happening. He tells friends that if he believed Mr. Kerry’s efforts had any chance of yielding results, he would not be quitting“…

Mousavian: Iranian officials hid things from Iranian nuclear negotiators

It’s in a book review that AL-Monitor correspondent Barbara Slavin reports that Sayed Hussein Mousavian claims that Iranian officials hid certain things from Iranian nuclear negotiators.

Mousavian’s account is almost too easy an excuse — “we didn’t know”.

Mousavian appears to blame Iranian officials for hiding these significant developments from Iranian negotiators. But, even after Iranian nuclear negotiators [such as himself] became aware of these hidden facts, they appeared to continue to exhibit an excess of trust, and did not seem to press any demands for full disclosure.

And, the question naturally arises: why didn’t Mousavian say so earlier? He was under suspicion in Iran, he was imprisoned and once faced trial. But he was later able to leave for the U.S., and has been there for several years, teaching [and writing his book] at Princeton — during which time he could have mentioned this — he could have even simply given hints.

It has been assumed, at least until now, that despite the mutual disaffection between Mousavian and the current regime, that he was somehow serving as a conduit for discrete U.S.-Iranian contacts.

According to Slavin, Mousavian says in his newly-published book that “Iranian negotiators did not know that Iran had obtained from Pakistan drawings for advanced centrifuges knowns as P2s, along with less sensitive technology. ‘Once again, Iran was acknowledging facts after they had been discovered by others’, Mousavian writes of what happened after the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) revealed the P2 drawings. ‘I more than once heard important news for the first time from IAEA officials or from foreign media and then had to work on reformulating plans to manage the crises that the news gave rise to’.” This is reported in Slavin’s review of Mousavian’s book [Iranian Nuclear Crisis: a Memoir], published on AL-Monitor, here.

Slavin writes that Mousavian says in his book that he only learned of the deep-underground uranium enrichment facility at Ferdow, near Qum, when President Obama mentioned it at a news conference in 2009 [though I think this revelation was in Obama’s speech before the UN General Assembly — not during a news conference].

Talks on Iran's nuclear program to resume on 23 May

After two sessions in one day in Istanbul on Saturday 14 April, six nations agreed to meet again with Iranian delegation on 23 May — in Baghdad.

Baghdad — that’s a strange choice of venue.
[Are we supposed to believe that Iran prefers Baghdad, because it’s annoyed with Turkey?]

Here is a photo of Iranian negotiator Saeed Jalili, speaking to the press after today’s talks. The photo was taken by Turkish journalist Mahir Zeynalov [@MahirZeynalov on Twitter], and posted here:

Iranian negotiator Saeed Jalili speaking in Istanbul after talks on his country's nuclear program - photo by Mahir Zeynalov

Zeynalov Tweeted that in the photo, “Jalili sticks large Iran map above Istanbul, with big “PERSIAN GULF,” assassinated scientists & message to Israel” —

Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi wrote in an opinion piece published Friday in The Washington Post [see below] that “Despite sanctions, threats of war, assassinations of several of our scientists and other forms of terrorism, we have chosen to remain committed to dialogue”.

Persian Gulf is the official name, used by the UN, to refer to that body of water.

Scott Peterson wrote in the Christian Science Monitor that “Above a map of Iran was written a common official slogan: ‘Nuclear energy for all; nuclear weapons for none’….”that slogan, in English,  is visible in the poster above.

Press TV noted here that in the talks, “The secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, Saeed Jalili, says Iran insists on the recognition of its rights as stipulated in the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)”.

Another story by Press TV reported that “Sources close to the Iranian delegation said Iranian negotiators have rejected multiple requests from US for bilateral negotiations both after the first round of talks and before the beginning of the second round. Meanwhile, the EU foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, has met three times with Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council Saeed Jalili over the past 24 hours”.

Scott Peterson wrote in the Christian Science Monitor here that Jalili “described the talks as ‘successful’, and noted that Khamenei’s fatwa was ‘welcomed’ by the P5+1”. Peterson added that Jalili said the statement, “opposing the use and production of nuclear bombs, was highlighted by the other side … They consider it valuable and it creates an opportunity and capacity for cooperation on international disarmament and nuclear nonproliferation”,

Ashton’s role in these six-nation talks with Iran seems more high-profile than that of previous EU High Representatives.

Details of what went on in the series of bilateral and group meetings in Istanbul on Friday and Saturday are scarce, but comments from those involved suggest there might be small steps taken between now and the next round of talks on 23 May.

Zvi Bar’el reported in Haaretz here just after midnight that “Sources close to the talks told Haaretz that the Iranians are demanding an American and European commitment not to carry out a military attack on their country as long as the talks continue”…

Continue reading “Talks on Iran's nuclear program to resume on 23 May”