Saturday, November 30, 2013

Risk of conflict in East China Sea

Risk of conflict in East China Sea

By Jonathan Marcus
BBC diplomatic correspondent
Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force's PC3 surveillance plane flies around the disputed islands in the East China Sea, known as the Senkaku isles in Japan and Diaoyu in China, in this October 13, 2011 file photo Tensions between China and Japan are just one aspect of wider regional strains
Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force’s PC3 surveillance plane flies around the disputed islands in the East China Sea, known as the Senkaku isles in Japan and Diaoyu in China, in this October 13, 2011 file photo Tensions between China and Japan are just one aspect of wider regional strains
China’s declaration of an “air-defence identification zone” that extends over disputed islands in the East China Sea is just the latest step in Beijing’s effort to assert its claims over the islands, known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China.
US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel described the move as “a destabilising attempt to alter the status quo in the region”.
And on Saturday, almost as if to underline the risks involved, the Japanese authorities say that they scrambled two F-15 fighters to intercept two Chinese surveillance planes that were approaching the islands.
China’s more assertive policy and Japan’s apparent willingness to push back against it raises the possibility of sparking a wider conflict, albeit by accident perhaps, rather than by design.
All of the necessary points of friction are there. Last January, Japan insisted that a Chinese frigate locked its targeting radar on to a Japanese warship near the disputed islands. China denied it.
Map of east china sea and declared air defence zone
Map of east china sea and declared air defence zone
In the year ending last March, Japan scrambled aircraft to intercept what it regards as Chinese intruders a record number of times. And both China and Japan have mounted exercises that encompass the seizure or the defence of remote islands.
Having sought to draw lines at sea, Beijing is now seeking to draw lines in the air.
The upshot could be greater instability, with the ever-present danger that an incident between warships or aircraft could precipitate a localised conflict between China and Japan.
The consequences of such an encounter risk an escalation that could ultimately draw in other powers.
‘Trump card’
While China is pursuing the rapid modernisation of its air and naval forces, in any localised conflict it might be at a disadvantage compared to the modern and probably more capable Japanese.
But drawing up a military balance between Japan and China is not really the issue here. The real question is how might such a crisis be managed? How might it be contained? Indeed is containment actually possible?
For there is a growing concern that the traditional tools of crisis management may be less useful than in the past.
Earlier this month a wargame was held at the US think tank, the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, acting out just such a scenario involving China and Japan.
It focused on how the US might respond to such a crisis. As matters got increasingly fraught between China and Japan the players acting out the roles of senior US officials resisted the deployment of US military muscle for fear of worsening the drama.
But then the Chinese actors in the wargame escalated significantly. Long-range Chinese anti-shipping missile units were moved to high-alert. Forces were despatched towards the islands in contention. The US was forced to act; the recommendation was made to send two aircraft carrier strike groups to the East China Sea.
At this point the wargame apparently ended; the US having played its trump card, and with the heavyweights of US naval power on the way the assumption was that the crisis would die down.
But one US strategic expert who follows events in this region closely – Robert Haddick – has warned that such assumptions may be outdated.
In the past, he notes, the despatch of a US carrier battle group was seen as the escalatory trump card, because there was very little that potential adversaries could do against them.
However, China’s growing area-denial or access-denial strategy seeks explicitly to put such US assets in jeopardy. Long-range anti-ship ballistic missiles are intended specifically to take out US carriers.
Escalating by despatching a carrier or two might in future not calm a crisis, warns Mr Haddick. It could actually encourage the Chinese to strike out against them.
The growing tensions between China and Japan are just one aspect of the wider strains in the region, which both Chinese and US strategy may actually be making worse.
One antidote is for better understanding between the US and Chinese militaries and there has been some recent progress here.
But in a broad sense the whole US strategic doctrine in the region – dubbed Air-Sea Battle – seems designed to contain China’s rising military might, while China’s area-denial strategy seems intent on hampering the ability of US air and naval forces to make significant interventions in waters that it regards as its strategic backyard.
This is why an unwanted Sino-Japanese clash puts so many experts’ teeth on edge.

Safety in Numbers: Problems of a Smaller U.S. Arsenal in Asia

This RSIS Working Paper issue no. 264 dated 28 November 2013 by Christine M. Leah entitled  Safety in Numbers: Problems of a Smaller U.S. Arsenal in Asia can be accessed by clicking:

No. 264 dated 28 November 2013

Safety in Numbers:
Problems of a Smaller U.S. Arsenal in Asia

By Christine M. Leah

This paper argues that the Asia Pacific region is not ready for further nuclear reductions by the United States. After the end of the Cold War, the United States was able was reduce its nuclear and conventional forces and take an intellectual “holiday” from the demands of END against the Soviet Union. However, that has been changing over the last few years. Nuclear weapons are becoming more central to interstate relations as the centre of global strategic gravity shifts increasingly to the Asia Pacific. With the expansion of Chinese military power and greater uncertainty over its strategic and military ambitions,[1] nuclear weapons remain a relevant instrument in helping to manage proliferation and great power strategic relations. As such, it is not at all clear that a smaller U.S. nuclear force will contribute to greater stability in the Asia Pacific. This paper provides arguments against reductions in the size of the U.S. nuclear arsenal below 1,000 warheads by examining both the effects this will have on allies, and the inherent strategic complications that will arise. In short: Will a reduction in nuclear weapons lead to a more stable Asia? The answer is probably no. To support this claim, I advance the following four claims. First, nuclear weapons are uniquely stabilising instruments of deterrence. Second, that extended nuclear deterrence has always been central to Washington’s alliances. Sometimes this phenomenon has been implicit, at other times it has been explicit. Third, given the geopolitical transformations underway in the Asia Pacific, further nuclear reductions undermine flexibility of response and the concept of escalation control across both the nuclear and conventional realms of warfare. Lastly, that as a consequence, Asia Pacific allies may increasingly doubt the seriousness of Washington’s assurances. If extended nuclear deterrence does not have a future, then serious options come back onto the agenda for those allies.

Click on the following link to download the working paper


Christine M. Leah is a Stanton Post-Doctoral Fellow at MIT. Previously a research intern for Karen News, a summer associate at the RAND Corporation, a research intern/analyst at IISS-Asia, The Australian Strategic Policy Institute, IISS-London, the French Ministry of Defense, and the UMP office of Mr Nicolas Sarkozy. She is an alumna of SWAMOS, PPNT, and the Woodrow Wilson Centre Nuclear Bootcamp. Christine completed her PhD at the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre at the Australian National University.

Monsanto, the TPP, and Global Food Dominance

Controlling production and distribution of the most basic need of human kind - food - is practically controlling the whole world.

“Control oil and you control nations,” said US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in the 1970s.  ”Control food and you control the people.”

Monsanto, the TPP, and Global Food Dominance
Wednesday, 27 November 2013 10:00By Ellen Brown, Web of Debt | News Analysis

“Control oil and you control nations,” said US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in the 1970s.  ”Control food and you control the people.”

Global food control has nearly been achieved, by reducing seed diversity with GMO (genetically modified) seeds that are distributed by only a few transnational corporations. But this agenda has been implemented at grave cost to our health; and if the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) passes, control over not just our food but our health, our environment and our financial system will be in the hands of transnational corporations.

Profits Before Populations

According to an Acres USA interview of plant pathologist Don Huber, Professor Emeritus at Purdue University, two modified traits account for practically all of the genetically modified crops grown in the world today. One involves insect resistance. The other, more disturbing modification involves insensitivity to glyphosate-based herbicides (plant-killing chemicals). Often known as Roundup after the best-selling Monsanto product of that name, glyphosate poisons everything in its path except plants genetically modified to resist it.

Glyphosate-based herbicides are now the most commonly used herbicides in the world. Glyphosate is an essential partner to the GMOs that are the principal business of the burgeoning biotech industry. Glyphosate is a “broad-spectrum” herbicide that destroys indiscriminately, not by killing unwanted plants directly but by tying up access to critical nutrients.

Because of the insidious way in which it works, it has been sold as a relatively benign replacement for the devastating earlier dioxin-based herbicides. But a barrage of experimental data has now shown glyphosate and the GMO foods incorporating it to pose serious dangers to health. Compounding the risk is the toxicity of “inert” ingredients used to make glyphosate more potent. Researchers have found, for example, that the surfactant POEA can kill human cells, particularly embryonic, placental and umbilical cord cells. But these risks have been conveniently ignored.

The widespread use of GMO foods and glyphosate herbicides helps explain the anomaly that the US spends over twice as much per capita on healthcare as the average developed country, yet it is rated far down the scale of the world’s healthiest populations. The World Health Organization has ranked the US LAST out of 17 developed nations for overall health.

Sixty to seventy percent of the foods in US supermarkets are now genetically modified. By contrast, in at least 26 other countries—including Switzerland, Australia, Austria, China, India, France, Germany, Hungary, Luxembourg, Greece, Bulgaria, Poland, Italy, Mexico and Russia—GMOs are totally or partially banned; and significant restrictions on GMOs exist in about sixty other countries.

A ban on GMO and glyphosate use might go far toward improving the health of Americans. But the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a global trade agreement for which the Obama Administration has sought Fast Track status, would block that sort of cause-focused approach to the healthcare crisis.

Roundup’s Insidious Effects

Roundup-resistant crops escape being killed by glyphosate, but they do not avoid absorbing it into their tissues. Herbicide-tolerant crops have substantially higher levels of herbicide residues than other crops. In fact, many countries have had to increase their legally allowable levels—by up to 50 times—in order to accommodate the introduction of GM crops. In the European Union, residues in foods are set to rise 100-150 times if a new proposal by Monsanto is approved. Meanwhile, herbicide-tolerant “super-weeds” have adapted to the chemical, requiring even more toxic doses and new toxic chemicals to kill the plant.

Human enzymes are affected by glyphosate just as plant enzymes are: the chemical blocks the uptake of manganese and other essential minerals. Without those minerals, we cannot properly metabolize our food. That helps explain the rampant epidemic of obesity in the United States. People eat and eat in an attempt to acquire the nutrients that are simply not available in their food.

According to researchers Samsell and Seneff in Biosemiotic Entropy: Disorder, Disease, and Mortality (April 2013):

    Glyphosate’s inhibition of cytochrome P450 (CYP) enzymes is an overlooked component of its toxicity to mammals. CYP enzymes play crucial roles in biology . . . . Negative impact on the body is insidious and manifests slowly over time as inflammation damages cellular systems throughout the body. Consequences are most of the diseases and conditions associated with a Western diet, which include gastrointestinal disorders, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, depression, autism, infertility, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.

More than 40 diseases have been linked to glyphosate use, and more keep appearing. In September 2013, the National University of Rio Cuarto, Argentina, published research finding that glyphosate enhances the growth of fungi that produce aflatoxin B1, one of the most carcinogenic of substances. A doctor from Chaco, Argentina, told Associated Press, “We’ve gone from a pretty healthy population to one with a high rate of cancer, birth defects and illnesses seldom seen before.” Fungi growths have increased significantly in US corn crops.

Glyphosate has also done serious damage to the environment. According to an October 2012 report by the Institute of Science in Society:

    Agribusiness claims that glyphosate and glyphosate-tolerant crops will improve crop yields, increase farmers’ profits and benefit the environment by reducing pesticide use. Exactly the opposite is the case. . . . [T]he evidence indicates that glyphosate herbicides and glyphosate-tolerant crops have had wide-ranging detrimental effects, including glyphosate resistant super weeds, virulent plant (and new livestock) pathogens, reduced crop health and yield, harm to off-target species from insects to amphibians and livestock, as well as reduced soil fertility.

Politics Trumps Science

In light of these adverse findings, why have Washington and the European Commission continued to endorse glyphosate as safe? Critics point to lax regulations, heavy influence from corporate lobbyists, and a political agenda that has more to do with power and control than protecting the health of the people.

In the ground-breaking 2007 book Seeds of Destruction: The Hidden Agenda of Genetic Manipulation, William Engdahl states that global food control and depopulation became US strategic policy under Rockefeller protégé Henry Kissinger. Along with oil geopolitics, they were to be the new “solution” to the threats to US global power and continued US access to cheap raw materials from the developing world. In line with that agenda, the government has shown extreme partisanship in favor of the biotech agribusiness industry, opting for a system in which the industry “voluntarily” polices itself. Bio-engineered foods are treated as “natural food additives,” not needing any special testing.

Jeffrey M. Smith, Executive Director of the Institute for Responsible Technology, confirms that US Food and Drug Administration policy allows biotech companies to determine if their own foods are safe. Submission of data is completely voluntary. He concludes:

    In the critical arena of food safety research, the biotech industry is without accountability, standards, or peer-review. They’ve got bad science down to a science.

Whether or not depopulation is an intentional part of the agenda, widespread use of GMO and glyphosate is having that result. The endocrine-disrupting properties of glyphosate have been linked to infertility, miscarriage, birth defects and arrested sexual development. In Russian experiments, animals fed GM soy were sterile by the third generation. Vast amounts of farmland soil are also being systematically ruined by the killing of beneficial microorganisms that allow plant roots to uptake soil nutrients.

In Gary Null’s eye-opening documentary  Seeds of Death: Unveiling the Lies of GMOs (Preview) ,Dr. Bruce Lipton warns, “We are leading the world into the sixth mass extinction of life on this planet. . . . Human behavior is undermining the web of life.”

The TPP and International Corporate Control

As the devastating conclusions of these and other researchers awaken people globally to the dangers of Roundup and GMO foods, transnational corporations are working feverishly with the Obama administration to fast-track the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade agreement that would strip governments of the power to regulate transnational corporate activities. Negotiations have been kept secret from Congress but not from corporate advisors, 600 of whom have been consulted and know the details. According to Barbara Chicherio in Nation of Change:

    The Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) has the potential to become the biggest regional Free Trade Agreement in history. . . .

    The chief agricultural negotiator for the US is the former Monsanto lobbyist, Islam Siddique.  If ratified the TPP would impose punishing regulations that give multinational corporations unprecedented right to demand taxpayer compensation for policies that corporations deem a barrier to their profits.

    . . . They are carefully crafting the TPP to insure that citizens of the involved countries have no control over food safety, what they will be eating, where it is grown, the conditions under which food is grown and the use of herbicides and pesticides.

Food safety is only one of many rights and protections liable to fall to this super-weapon of international corporate control. In an April 2013 interview on The Real News Network, Kevin Zeese called the TPP “NAFTA on steroids” and “a global corporate coup.” He warned:

    No matter what issue you care about—whether its wages, jobs, protecting the environment . . . this issue is going to adversely affect it . . . .

    If a country takes a step to try to regulate the financial industry or set up a public bank to represent the public interest, it can be sued . . . .

Return to Nature: Not Too Late

There is a safer, saner, more earth-friendly way to feed nations. While Monsanto and US regulators are forcing GM crops on American families, Russian families are showing what can be done with permaculture methods on simple garden plots. In 2011, 40% of Russia’s food was grown on dachas (cottage gardens or allotments). Dacha gardens produced over 80% of the country’s fruit and berries, over 66% of the vegetables, almost 80% of the potatoes and nearly 50% of the nation’s milk, much of it consumed raw. According to Vladimir Megre, author of the best-selling Ringing Cedars Series:

Essentially, what Russian gardeners do is demonstrate that gardeners can feed the world – and you do not need any GMOs, industrial farms, or any other technological gimmicks to guarantee everybody’s got enough food to eat. Bear in mind that Russia only has 110 days of growing season per year – so in the US, for example, gardeners’ output could be substantially greater. Today, however, the area taken up by lawns in the US is two times greater than that of Russia’s gardens – and it produces nothing but a multi-billion-dollar lawn care industry.

In the US, only about 0.6 percent of the total agricultural area is devoted to organic farming. This area needs to be vastly expanded if we are to avoid “the sixth mass extinction.” But first, we need to urge our representatives to stop Fast Track, vote no on the TPP, and pursue a global phase-out of glyphosate-based herbicides and GMO foods. Our health, our finances and our environment are at stake.
This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license. It may not be reproduced in any form without permission or license from the source.

Ellen Brown is an attorney, president of the Public Banking Institute, and author of twelve books including the best-selling Web of Debt. In The Public Bank Solution, her latest book, she explores successful public banking models historically and globally. Her websites are,, and

Obama Blames The GOP for The Mess He Has Created (and It's Getting Worse)

Obama Blames The GOP for The Mess He Has Created (and It's Getting Worse)

Donald Lambro

11/29/2013 12:01:00 AM - Donald Lambro
Soon after President Obama told the White House press corps he was solely responsible for the botched Obamacare rollout, he decided to shift part of the blame on Republicans.
A mea culpa can be hard to deliver in public when you are the kind of politician who thinks he never mistakes and rarely if ever apologizes for anything that went wrong. But Obama's apologies have a brief shelf life, and a few days later they had reached their expiration date.
So at a gathering of business executives on Tuesday, Nov. 19, the president concluded that he had done enough groveling over his utterly false claim that "if you like your health insurance policy, you can keep it" and went on the political attack.
Somehow he decided that the Republicans in Congress were partly to blame for the bungled mess that he and his administration had created. That it wasn't all his fault.
He also said the broken, online, sign-up system was in the process of being fixed and would be up and running at full throttle by the end of November. That doesn't seem to be the case entirely, but more on that in a moment.
Then he turned on the Republicans with a vengeance. He suggested that their intransigent political opposition had inhibited the law's implementation.
"One of the problems we've had is one side of Capitol Hill is invested in its failure," he told the chief financial officers at the Wall Street Journal's CEO Council meeting in Washington last week.
And he also suggested the Republicans' "ideological resistance to the idea of dealing with the uninsured and people with preexisting conditions" was also a factor in what went wrong.
Republicans had their own ideas about how to provide wider access to lower cost health care, but it was not the costly, government-run, top-down bureaucracy Obama wanted and got from the Democrats.
The larger organizational problems that presumably led to the mess the government is still trying to fix stemmed from the political bickering in Washington that threatened to damage his presidency's signature achievement, he further suggested.
Both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue needed to "break through the stubborn cycle of crisis politics and start working together," he said.
Well, I did a little checking with Constitutional scholars, and no one can find any provision in the Constitution that gives lawmakers any role in the executive branch to help implement and/or administer laws passed by Congress.
Obama has made bombastic claims over the course of his presidency that have not proven true. But to blame the Republicans for any part this debacle -- who control only one half of Congress -- is a huge reach, to say the least.
By the way, he also blamed the government's archaic, information- retrieval, computer system, saying the federal government's IT system is "not very efficient."
Well, whose fault is that? He's the chief executive who is in charge of seeing that the laws are carried out in a fair and efficient way and insuring that they work and meet all deadlines.
Judging from the mountain of government audits that have exposed waste, inefficiencies and other skullduggery in his administration, he's not the least bit interested in the details and process of running anything -- least of all his health care mess.
Now, about his claim that Obamacare's online computer system would be fixed and ready for business by Nov. 30. Well, not all of it.
His promise to the CFOs came immediately after an administration official who oversees the technical side of the federal health insurance marketplace told Congress that 30 to 40 percent of the overall system was unfinished and not ready to go.
Henry Chao, deputy chief information officer for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, said major parts of Obama's program, including its accounting and payments to insurance companies, were still incomplete.
"If the business functions are not in place on time, it could create havoc with a system through which billions of dollars in federal tax money will flow to subsidize coverage for consumers who otherwise could not afford it, insurance industry officials said," Reuters news agency reported.
"The upshot is that the (financial management).... appears to be way off track and getting worse," a CMS official said in a July 8 e- mail, obtained by Reuters.
The first payments were due by mid-to-late January, but now we learn that the accounting system is far from ready to process the most critical part of Obamacare.
But bigger financial problems loom on the horizon that could bring Obamacare crashing down before it even gets started.
One is the need to get very large numbers of younger, healthier people to sign up for insurance to pay for older, and poorer beneficiaries. The administration promised the insurance industry this would happen, but now that is very much in doubt.
"I now think there is little hope we are going to get enough younger, healthy people to sign up, and that means that this law is in grave danger of financial collapse," Robert Laszewski, president of Health Policy and Strategy Associates, a health care industry consultant, told the Washington Post.
The number of people who have signed up thus far are relatively small, far from the tens of millions of applicants needed to make it work.
There are also troubling questions about whether the Internal Revenue Service will be ready to carry out nearly four dozen new tasks under the law.
The IRS must figure out who has insurance and who does not, and thus who they will fine for being uninsured, plus begin to distribute trillions of dollars in insurance subsidies.
Meanwhile, five million Americans have had their private insurance policies cancelled, and businesses are laying off employes or reducing hours worked to avoid Obama's unpopular and unworkable insurance mandates.
And Obama has started to blame the Republicans who warned this would happen and voted against it.

'Israel, US To Stage Large-Scale Military Drill When Iran Nuclear Deal Expires'

'Israel, US To Stage Large-Scale Military Drill When Iran Nuclear Deal Expires'
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The US and Israel will hold a large-scale joint military exercise in six months, Time magazine reported on Wednesday.

Israeli officials declined to comment on or confirm the report.

The drill, scheduled for May – which coincides with the deadline for talks between Iran and the international community – will come after a period in which Israel will seek to enhance further the military threat against Iran, the report said, citing an unnamed Israeli officer.

“Israel will likely continue to dissent, while making conspicuous efforts to rehabilitate the military threat that did so much to bring Tehran’s project onto the agenda,” the source was quoted as saying.

“The strategic decision is to continue to make noise,” he added.

The exercise will be part of a message sent by Israel, to both a domestic audience and to Iran, showing that the IDF is maintaining its ability to attack the Iranian nuclear program, the report continued.

But the US European Command told Time the exercise was planned ahead of time and was independent of any current developments. A spokesman for EUCOM added that a decision has not yet been made on the scale of the joint exercise.

Meanwhile, Iran has invited UN inspectors to visit its Arak heavy-water production plant on December 8, the first concrete step under a cooperation agreement to clarify concerns about Tehran’s disputed nuclear program.

Yukiya Amano, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, also said the IAEA was looking into how Sunday’s agreement between Iran and six world powers to curb Tehran’s nuclear activity could be “put into practice” concerning the UN agency’s role in verifying the deal.

The IAEA will expand its monitoring of Iran’s uranium enrichment sites and other facilities under the interim accord, reached after marathon talks between Iran and the United States, France, Germany, Britain, Russia and China.

“This will include the implications for funding and staffing,” Amano told the IAEA’s 35-nation governing board, according to a copy of his speech. “This analysis will take some time. I will consult the board as soon as possible when it has been completed.”

The IAEA’s visit next month to the heavy-water production plant near the town of Arak is part of a separate agreement signed earlier this month between the Vienna-based UN agency and Iran.

The IAEA has not been at the site for about two years, despite repeated requests, but Iran agreed on November 11 to grant access to this facility, as well as to a uranium mine, within three months.

The Arak facility produces heavy water intended for use in a nearby research reactor that is under construction. The West is concerned that the reactor, which Iran has said could start up next year, could yield plutonium for bombs once it is operational. Iran says it will produce medical isotopes.

Iran has agreed to halt installation work at the reactor and to stop making fuel for it.


Thursday, November 28, 2013

The Iran Nuclear Deal: Rewriting the Middle East Map

RSIS presents the following commentary The Iran Nuclear Deal: Rewriting the Middle East Map by James M. Dorsey
. It is also available online at this link. (To print it, click on this link.). Kindly forward any comments or feedback to the Editor RSIS Commentaries, at

No. 217/2013 dated 27 November 2013
The Iran Nuclear Deal:
Rewriting the Middle East Map

By James M. Dorsey

The agreement to resolve the Iranian nuclear programme could rewrite the political map of the Middle East and North Africa, as well as strengthen the US pivot to Asia. It could also reintegrate Iran into the international community as a legitimate regional power.
IF ALL goes well, the preliminary agreement between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council – the United States, Britain, China, France and Russia – plus Germany, would ensure the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear programme and ultimately reintegrate it into the international community. In doing so, it would not only remove the threat of a debilitating war with Iran and prevent a nuclear arms race in the Middle East and North Africa but also return the Islamic republic to the centre stage of the region’s geo-politics.

It would force regional powers such as Israel and Saudi Arabia to focus on their most immediate issues rather than use the Iranian threat as a distraction, while offering the US the opportunity to revert to its stated policy of pivoting from Europe and the Middle East to Asia.

Complex panacea

To be sure, a resolution of the Iranian nuclear issue is not a panacea for the vast array of social, political, economic, ethnic, national and sectarian problems in the Middle East and North Africa. Political and social unrest, boiling popular discontent with discredited regimes and identity politics are likely to dominate developments in the region for years to come.

Nonetheless, Iran’s return to the international community is likely to provide the incentive for it to constructively contribute to ending the bitter civil war in Syria, breaking the stalemate in fragile Lebanon where the Shiite militia Hezbollah plays a dominant role, and furthering efforts to achieve peace between Israelis and Palestinians. That would also take some of the sting out of the region’s dangerous slide into sectarian Sunni-Shiite conflict.

All of that would reduce the number of fires in the Middle East and North Africa that the Obama administration has been seeking to control and that have prevented it from following through on its intended re-focus on Asia.

Countering US policy

A resolution of the nuclear issue offers Iran far more than the ultimate lifting of crippling international sanctions. Iran has over the last decade been able to effectively counter US policy in the Middle East and North Africa through its support of Hezbollah which is the single most powerful grouping in Lebanon; Hamas, the Islamist Palestinian faction in Gaza; its aid to the embattled regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad; backing of restive Shiite minorities in the oil-rich Gulf states and Iraq; and ensuring that the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki looks as much toward Tehran as it does to Washington.

Iran’s incentive to become more cooperative is the fact that resolution of the nuclear issue would involve acknowledgement of the Islamic republic as a legitimate regional power, one of seven regional players - alongside Turkey, Egypt, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Israel and Pakistan - that have the ability or economic, military and technological strength to project power. It would also allow Iran to capitalise on geostrategic gains it has made despite its international isolation.

Iran is likely to be further motivated by an easing and ultimate lifting of the sanctions that will allow it to address boiling domestic social and economic discontent. President Hassan Rouhani’s election earlier this year has for now replaced that powder keg with high expectations that his more moderate policies would ease the heavy economic price Iran was paying for its nuclear programme. This is despite many Iranians feeling disappointed that Iran will reap only US$7 billion in benefits from the freshly concluded agreement in the coming six months. The $7 billion serve, however, as an incentive for Iran to come to a comprehensive and final agreement on its nuclear programme.

From spoiler into a constructive player

What worries opponents of the nuclear deal like Israel and Saudi Arabia most is the potential transformation of Iran from a game spoiler into a constructive player. The nuclear deal removes the Islamic republic as the foremost perceived threat to the national security of Israel and Saudi Arabia. For Israel, this risks peace with the Palestinians reclaiming its position at the top of the agenda, making it more difficult for the Israelis to evade the painful steps needed to end a conflict that is nearing its centennial anniversary.

For Saudi Arabia, it complicates its efforts to fuel regional sectarianism, deflect calls for equitable treatment of its Shiite minority as well as for greater transparency and accountability, and establish itself as the region’s unrivalled leader.

Nowhere is that likely to be more evident than in Iranian policy towards Syria. Contrary to perception and what Saudi Arabia and its allies would like the world to believe, Iranian-Syrian relations are not based on sectarianaffinity but on common interests stemming from international isolation. That reality changes as Iran rejoins the international community.

For the US, a deal means evading at least for now the threat of another Middle East war with potentially catastrophic consequences and enlisting Iran in addressing the region’s problems. That creates space for it to focus on long term goals in Asia.

However, in removing Iran as a regional lightning rod, the US is likely to be forced to clearly define a Middle East policy that balances short term national security with the reality of years of regional volatility and unrest to come that could redraw some national borders and is likely to involve messy political and social transitions, following the toppling in recent years of autocrats in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and Yemen and the civil war in Syria.

James M. Dorsey is a Senior Fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University. He is also co-director of the University of Würzburg’s Institute for Fan Culture, and the author of The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer blog and a forthcoming book with the same title.

Next Steps for the U.S.-Iran Deal


Next Steps for the U.S.-Iran Deal

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Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in Tehran after talks in Geneva on Nov. 24. ARASH KHAMOOSHI/AFP/Getty Images


What was unthinkable for many people over many years happened in the early hours of Nov. 24 in Geneva: The United States and the Islamic Republic of Iran struck a deal. After a decadelong struggle, the two reached an accord that seeks to ensure that Iran's nuclear program remains a civilian one. It is a preliminary deal, and both sides face months of work to batten down domestic opposition, build convincing mechanisms to assure compliance and unthread complicated global sanctions.
That is the easy part. More difficult will be the process to reshape bilateral relations while virtually every regional player in the Middle East seeks ways to cope with an Iran that is no longer geopolitically encumbered.


The foreign ministers of Iran and the six Western powers that constitute the so-called P-5+1 Group clinched a six-month deal that begins the curtailment of Iran's nuclear program while relaxing as much as $6 billion in sanctions -- basically those embargoes that do not require U.S. President Barack Obama to secure approval from Congress. Allowing Iran to enrich uranium to "civilian" levels while making sure the know-how is not diverted to military purposes will be complex.
There will be disruptive events along the way, but the normalization process is unlikely to derail. Both sides need it. The real stakes are the balance of power in the Middle East.
Iran is far more concerned with enhancing its geopolitical prowess through conventional means. Meanwhile, the United States wants to leverage relations with Iran in order to better manage the region in an age of turmoil. Contrary to much of the public discourse, the Obama administration is not facilitating a nuclear Iran.

Washington and the Middle East

The United States is prepared to accept that Iran will consolidate much of the influence it has accumulated over the 12 years since the Sept. 11 attacks. From the point of view of the Iranians, they had reached the limits of how far they could go in enhancing their geopolitical footprint in the U.S. war against Sunni Islamist militancy. The tightening sanctions threatened to undermine the gains the Islamic republic had made. Thus the time had come for Iran to achieve through geopolitical moderation what was no longer possible through a radical foreign policy.
Though the United States is prepared to accept an internationally rehabilitated Iran as a major stakeholder in the Greater Middle East region, it does not wish for Tehran to exploit the opportunity in order to gain disproportionate power. The strategic focus must now shift from nuclear politics to the imperative that the United States balance Iran with other regional powers, especially the Sunni Arab states.
The post-Arab Spring turmoil in the region has plunged U.S.-Arab relations into a state of uncertainty for two reasons: First, the autocratic regimes have become unreliable partners; second, the region is seeing the rise of radical Sunni Islamist forces.
A rehabilitated Iran, along with its Shiite radical agenda, serves as a counter to the growing bandwidth of Sunni radicalism. All strategies have unintended consequences. A geopolitically unchained Iran, to varying degrees, undermines the position of decades-old American alliances in the region. These include Turkey, Israel and the Arab states (the ones that have survived the regional chaos defined by anti-autocratic popular agitation, such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt and others).
Washington is not the only actor anticipating a shift in its regional ambitions. France initially challenged earlier attempts at a U.S.-Iranian accord, placing greater pressure on the Iranians -- much to the enjoyment of regional states such as Israel and Saudi Arabia. Though Paris has been eying the Middle East -- specifically the Sunni monarchies of the Persian Gulf -- as a larger potential market for its energy firms and defense exporters, France stands to gain little from unilaterally opposing a U.S.-Iranian deal. Rather, France sought to shape the talks and regional reactions to the benefit of its domestic industries. Germany and the United Kingdom, the other EU powers present at the talks, are hoping to gain greater exposure for their energy firms and exports to Iran's large domestic consumer base. Germany in particular enjoyed one of the largest non-energy trade relationships with Iran before the most recent sanctions program took effect.

Regional Reverberations

The United States and the rest of the P-5+1 are not the only ones attempting to reset their relationship with Iran. Ankara, though initially opposed to Iranian ambitions in Syria and competing for influence in Iraq, has pursued a warming of ties with Tehran over the past several months. Turkey is a rising regional power in its own right, but domestic infighting within Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party is coinciding with a slump in the national economy. Meanwhile, Ankara is struggling to find a peaceful, political solution to its Kurdish issue. Turkey faces an uphill challenge in moving beyond the ring of Iranian influence on its borders, but a potential normalization of relations between Washington and Iran provides some opportunities for Ankara, even at the risk of empowering Iran's regional ambitions. The two countries face similar challenges from Kurdish separatism in the region, and the Iranian market and potential energy exports could help mitigate Turkey's rising dependence on Russian energy exports and potentially boost its slowing economy.
For all its rhetoric opposing the deal, Israel has very little to worry about in the immediate term. It will have to adjust to operating in an environment where Iran is no longer limited by its pariah status, but Iran remains unable to threaten Israel for the foreseeable future. Iran, constrained by its need to be a mainstream actor, will seek to rebuild its economy and will steer clear of any hawkish moves against Israel. Furthermore, Iran is more interested in gaining ground against the Arab states -- something that Israel can use to its advantage. The report about the Israeli security establishment seeing the deal as a positive development (in contradiction to the position of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government) speaks volumes about the true extent of Israeli apprehension.
That leaves the Arab states, in particular Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies, for whom a U.S.-Iranian rapprochement is a nightmare scenario. Riyadh and its neighboring monarchies are caught in the middle of the Arab Spring, which challenges them from within, and were long concerned with the rise of Iran. But now that their biggest ally has turned to normalizing ties with their biggest adversary, these countries find themselves bereft of good options with which to manage an Iran that will gain more from normalizing relations with the United States than it did with the American response to the 9/11 attacks.
Iran has played a large and visible role in bolstering the beleaguered al Assad regime during the Syrian civil war. Iran's potential reset in relations will bring no easy or quick resolution to Damascus. The Syrian regime will still face the daunting task of having to rout the rebels and secure large swathes of Syrian territory, a difficult task even in the unlikely scenario of a precipitous drop in Sunni Arab backing for the rebels following a more comprehensive agreement between Tehran and the West. Indeed, the Syrian conflict, Iran's support of Hezbollah and the future of Iranian influence in Iraq will form the more contentious, difficult stages of U.S.-Iranian negotiations ahead.
The Saudis, domestically at a historic crossroads, are trying to assert an independent foreign policy given the shift in American-Iranian ties. But they know that such a move offers limited dividends. Riyadh will try to make most of the fact that it is not in Washington's interest to allow Tehran to operate too freely in the region.
Likewise, the Saudi kingdom will try to work with Turkey to counterbalance Iran. But again, this is not a reliable tool, given that Turkish interests converge with those of Iran more than they do with Saudi Arabia's. Quietly working with Israel is an option, but there are limits to that given the Arab-Israeli conflict and the fact that Iran can exploit any such relationship. In the end, the Saudis and the Arab states will have to adjust most to the reality in which American-Iranian hostility begins to wither.

Read more: Next Steps for the U.S.-Iran Deal | Stratfor
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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

China Exerts Control Over Japanese Air Space

China Exerts Control Over Japanese Air Space

Night Watch

11/27/2013 12:01:00 AM

China-Japan: On 23 November,Xinhua published announcements establishing the East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ), which covers the Diaoyou/Senkaku Islands, and the rules for flights in the new zone.
Comment: The new ADIZ overlaps the Japanese ADIZ which Tokyo declared in 1965. It ends 131kms from non-disputed Japanese territory, just as Japan's ends 131kms from non-disputed Chinese territory.
Multiple US commentators have described the announcement as an intensification of the war of words, but they confuse words with actions of the state. This is one of the most destabilizing developments in East Asia in more than ten years. The Chinese asserted theirsovereignty and exercised it with action, flying the first maritime patrol on the 23rd, escorted by fighters and an air warning and control aircraft. This converted the war of words potentially into a war. An ADIZ defines a battle space.
Some commentators have said this increases the chances for accidental clashes. Actually, this is a deliberate action to control and manage planned or expected confrontations in the air. There is nothing accidental about it.
Japan could construe this as an act of war. At a minimum the declaration is a direct military challenge to Japan and a provocation. Unchallenged, this sets the precedent for China to make a parallel declaration of an ADIZ for all of the South China Sea. That would be consistent with President Xi's vision of the Chinese Dream.
Xinhua also published the flight rules for the ADIZ.
"The Ministry of National Defense of the People's Republic of China, in accordance with the Statement by the Government of the People's Republic of China on Establishing the East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone, now announces the Aircraft Identification Rules for the East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone as follows:
First, aircraft flying in the East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone must abide by these rules.
Second, aircraft flying in the East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone must provide the following means of identification:
1. Flight plan identification. Aircraft flying in the East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone should report the flight plans to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People's Republic of China or the Civil Aviation Administration of China.
2. Radio identification. Aircraft flying in the East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone must maintain the two-way radio communications, and respond in a timely and accurate manner to the identification inquiries from the administrative organ of the East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone or the unit authorized by the organ.
3. Transponder identification. Aircraft flying in the East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone, if equipped with the secondary radar transponder, should keep the transponder working throughout the entire course.
4. Logo identification. Aircraft flying in the East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone must clearly mark their nationalities and the logo of their registration identification in accordance with related international treaties.
Third, aircraft flying in the East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone should follow the instructions of the administrative organ of the East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone or the unit authorized by the organ. China's armed forces will adopt defensive emergency measures to respond to aircraft that do not cooperate in the identification or refuse to follow the instructions.
Fourth, the Ministry of National Defense of the People's Republic of China is the administrative organ of the East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone.
Fifth, the Ministry of National Defense of the People's Republic of China is responsible for the explanation of these rules.
Sixth, these rules will come into force at 10 a.m. November 23, 2013.
Comment: A Brilliant and extremely well-informed Reader reported that the rules are consistent with the International Civil Aviation Organization as they apply to civil aircraft, except that the administrative organization is the Chinese Ministry of National Defense. The Ministry's explanation, listed at item "Fifth", should provide clarification as to what extent China is prepared to militarize its disputes with Japan and its other neighbors.
Finally, this declaration helps clarify the intent of Foreign Minister Wang Yi's posted statement on foreign policy issues in which he wrote that China would never again accept disturbances to its development process and threatened violence if Japan opposes China's claims of national sovereignty.
Pakistan-NATO: Pakistani police prevented activists who were protesting US drone strikes from blocking trucks carrying NATO troop supplies to and from Afghanistan on Monday.
Comment: The police intervention ended the blockade that began on Saturday, when thousands of protesters led by Pakistani provincial governor and cricket star Imran Khan blocked a main supply route in northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, which is used to ship goods to and from Afghanistan.
Governor Khan promised the blockade to protest US drone attacks in his province.
Afghanistan-US: The Loya Jirga - the gather of thousands of tribal leaders -- approved the bilateral security agreement on Saturday, but President Karzai said he wanted to delay its signature until after presidential elections next year. He also said he wanted to renegotiate for a better deal.
Comment: Assuming Karzai is stillcompos mentis, this is a bluff. He and his advisors know that without US soldiers his government cannot survive against the Taliban. Even with them, it might not survive.
Iran: On Sunday the US, Iran and the EU announced an agreement that freezes Iran's nuclear programs in return for a limited lifting of sanctions.
In summary, Iran will not install any new centrifuges; start any that aren't already operating, or build new enrichment facilities for six months, though it can continue enriching uranium to 3.5 percent. In exchange, the U.S. will provide up to $7 billion in sanction relief. Negotiations for a more permanent agreement will follow.
Comment: In its quarterly report the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) published on 14 November that Iran significantly had slowed its nuclear program since August. One description said the program had suspended most operations. Thus the agreement essentially rewards Iran for doing what it already had done on its own for its own reasons. The most burdensome provisions seem to be acceptance of more IAEA supervision for six months.
The most important point is that is that this is only for six months.
As stated in NightWatch last week, the Iranian people are the real beneficiaries because they have been the primary victims of sanctions. Iran is on a roll. The situation in Syria has stabilized. Iran's stature in the world has risen. Its people will get some relief. Iran's right to enrich implicitly is recognized in the second voluntary Iranian measure listed on page 1 of the agreement… at the bottom.
It does several other things. It undermines the international consensus on opposition to nuclear proliferation. Apparently a little proliferation is okay. The momentum in favor of sanctions against Iran is broken. The economic advantages of commerce with Iran will overwhelm future diplomacy. The economic considerations listed on page 3 of the agreement appear to have been strong drivers on both sides of the negotiations. President Ruhani looks like a tactical genius again, successfully applying the tactics he used in 2003-2005 to build Western confidence.
Syria: The Syrian government and the opposition will hold their first negotiations in Geneva on 22 January 2014, a United Nations official said Monday after a meeting of American, Russian and United Nations officials. 'We will go to Geneva with a mission of hope,' a spokesman for Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, said in a statement."
Comment: Hope is a tricky basis for foreign policy. The press coverage of just who would attend the meeting, in what capacity and whom they represent that is fighting inside Syria apparently is deliberately sketchy.
The US Secretary of State and the UN spokesman talked of making progress towards establishing a transitional government, meaning one without President Asad.Asad, however, claims he is still considering whether to run for re-election next year. Syrian government and allied forces have had notable battlefield successes in November which have weakened, if not removed, any incentive for the government to compromise much.
Most importantly, there is no ceasefire and none is likely. That makes a peace conference in Geneva an exercise in holding talks for the purpose of holding talks.
End of NightWatch
NightWatch is brought to readers of Townhall Finance by Kforce Government Solutions, Inc. (KGS), a leader in government problem-solving, Data Confidence® and intelligence. Views and opinions expressed in NightWatch are solely those of the author, and do not necessarily represent those of KGS, its management, or affiliates.
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The Iran Deal Moves Tehran Closer to Nuclear Armament

The Iran Deal Moves Tehran Closer to Nuclear Armament

Ransom Notes Radio

11/27/2013 12:01:00 AM

Michael Rubin, foreign security and Middle East expert, joined the program to discuss the faults in Obama’s Iran Deal. Also: Barack Obama makes a stunning 180 when he tells a heckler that we are a “nation of laws”. (Hey, there’s a first time for everything.)
Give the Ransom Notes Listener Line a call at 202-681-1732 or send us an email at
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Michael Rubin, foreign security and Middle East expert, joined the program to discuss the faults in Obama’s Iran Deal.
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Republicans provoked 'nuclear option': Our view

Republicans provoked 'nuclear option': Our view
The Editorial Board, USA TODAY November 21, 2013
Democrats' decision Thursday to change Senate rules so they can confirm presidential nominees without Republican support is sure to worsen partisanship in a body that is already dangerously dysfunctional.
Republicans instantly promised to retaliate, and important national business — the current budget negotiations, for example, or attempts to head off another government shutdown — could suffer.
MITCH MCCONNELL: Democrats' power grab
Even so, the Senate's GOP minority brought the rules change, known as the "nuclear option," on itself. The Republicans' repeated abuse of the filibuster to block highly qualified nominees simply because they were picked by a Democratic president had left Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., with little choice.
When it comes to abusing the filibuster, particularly on judicial nominations, neither party has clean hands. Democrats did it during the George W. Bush administration, and in 2005 then-Sen. Barack Obama was among those denouncing the nuclear option. The two parties shamelessly swap arguments and tactics whenever the majority changes hands.
Little by little, they've eroded an honorable system in which each party acknowledged the president's constitutional right to make appointments, reserving filibusters only for extreme circumstances, where they have important value in encouraging bipartisanship.
This time, Republicans took the filibuster to new levels by making it destructively commonplace. In the past month alone, GOP senators have blocked Obama's nominee to head the Federal Housing Finance Agency, plus three well-qualified nominees to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.
So now, as a result of Thursday's move, all of President Obama's nominees except those for the Supreme Court can be approved by a simple majority, rather than the 60 vote majority required to end a filibuster.
GOP senators' operatic outrage after Thursday's vote belied the fact that they provoked this outcome by refusing to work out the kind of deals that had defused previous confrontations. This year, Republicans twice backed down and agreed to curb their filibusters, and both times they reneged.
The last straw was their effort to prevent Obama from filling open seats on the D.C. Circuit Court, commonly regarded as the second most important court in the nation because it decides pivotal questions of government regulation and often serves as a stepping stone to the Supreme Court.
Republicans accused Obama of court-packing — an allusion to Franklin Roosevelt's attempt to expand a Supreme Court that was blocking the New Deal.
But that claim is ludicrous. Three seats are vacant. Republicans also say the court should be reduced in size because it is underworked. But if they were sincere, they could propose to shrink the court in the next presidency.
It's regrettable that cooler heads couldn't prevail. The Senate's paralysis could get worse in the short run, and when Democrats are back in the minority, which could happen after next year's elections, they'll no doubt regret detonating the nuclear option. All institutions need rules that everyone accepts.
But don't believe Republicans when they say this is all the fault of Democrats. If the filibuster is dying, it's because both parties have conspired to kill it.
USA TODAY's editorial opinions are decided by its Editorial Board, separate from the news staff. Most editorials are coupled with an opposing view — a unique USA

Israelis, Saudis and the Iranian Agreement

Israelis, Saudis and the Iranian Agreement

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By George Friedman
A deal between Iran and the P-5+1 (the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany) was reached Saturday night. The Iranians agreed to certain limitations on their nuclear program while the P-5+1 agreed to remove certain economic sanctions. The next negotiation, scheduled for six months from now depending on both sides' adherence to the current agreement, will seek a more permanent resolution. The key players in this were the United States and Iran. The mere fact that the U.S. secretary of state would meet openly with the Iranian foreign minister would have been difficult to imagine a few months ago, and unthinkable at the beginning of the Islamic republic.
The U.S. goal is to eliminate Iran's nuclear weapons before they are built, without the United States having to take military action to eliminate them. While it is commonly assumed that the United States could eliminate the Iranian nuclear program at will with airstrikes, as with most military actions, doing so would be more difficult and riskier than it might appear at first glance. The United States in effect has now traded a risky and unpredictable air campaign for some controls over the Iranian nuclear program.
The Iranians' primary goal is regime preservation. While Tehran managed the Green Revolution in 2009 because the protesters lacked broad public support, Western sanctions have dramatically increased the economic pressure on Iran and have affected a wide swath of the Iranian public. It isn't clear that public unhappiness has reached a breaking point, but were the public to be facing years of economic dysfunction, the future would be unpredictable. The election of President Hassan Rouhani to replace Mahmoud Ahmadinejad after the latter's two terms was a sign of unhappiness. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei clearly noted this, displaying a willingness to trade a nuclear program that had not yet produced a weapon for the elimination of some sanctions.
The logic here suggests a process leading to the elimination of all sanctions in exchange for the supervision of Iran's nuclear activities to prevent it from developing a weapon. Unless this is an Iranian trick to somehow buy time to complete a weapon and test it, I would think that the deal could be done in six months. An Iranian ploy to create cover for building a weapon would also demand a reliable missile and a launch pad invisible to surveillance satellites and the CIA, National Security Agency, Mossad, MI6 and other intelligence agencies. The Iranians would likely fail at this, triggering airstrikes however risky they might be and putting Iran back where it started economically. While this is a possibility, the scenario is not likely when analyzed closely.
While the unfolding deal involves the United States, Britain, France, China, Russia and Germany, two countries intensely oppose it: Israel and Saudi Arabia. Though not powers on the order of the P-5+1, they are still significant. There is a bit of irony in Israel and Saudi Arabia being allied on this issue, but only on the surface. Both have been intense enemies of Iran, and close allies of the United States; each sees this act as a betrayal of its relationship with Washington.

The View from Saudi Arabia

In a way, this marks a deeper shift in relations with Saudi Arabia than with Israel. Saudi Arabia has been under British and later American protection since its creation after World War I. Under the leadership of the Sauds, it became a critical player in the global system for a single reason: It was a massive producer of oil. It was also the protector of Mecca and Medina, two Muslim holy cities, giving the Saudis an added influence in the Islamic world on top of their extraordinary wealth.
It was in British and American interests to protect Saudi Arabia from its enemies, most of which were part of the Muslim world. The United States protected the Saudis from radical Arab socialists who threatened to overthrow the monarchies of the Arabian Peninsula. It later protected Saudi Arabia from Saddam Hussein after he invaded Kuwait. But it also protected Saudi Arabia from Iran.
Absent the United States in the Persian Gulf, Iran would have been the most powerful regional military power. In addition, the Saudis have a substantial Shiite minority concentrated in the country's oil-rich east. The Iranians, also Shia, had a potential affinity with them, and thereby the power to cause unrest in Saudi Arabia.
Until this agreement with Iran, the United States had an unhedged commitment to protect Saudi Arabia from the Iranians. Given the recent deal, and potential follow-on deals, this commitment becomes increasingly hedged. The problem from the Saudi point of view is that while there was a wide ideological gulf between the United States and Iran, there was little in the way of substantial issues separating Washington from Tehran. The United States did not want Iran to develop nuclear weapons. The Iranians didn't want the United States hindering Iran's economic development. The fact was that getting a nuclear weapon was not a fundamental Iranian interest, and crippling Iran's economy was not a fundamental interest to the United States absent an Iranian nuclear program.
If the United States and Iran can agree on this quid pro quo, the basic issues are settled. And there is something drawing them together. The Iranians want investment in their oil sector and other parts of their economy. American oil companies would love to invest in Iran, as would other U.S. businesses. As the core issue separating the two countries dissolves, and economic relations open up -- a step that almost by definition will form part of a final agreement -- mutual interests will appear.
There are other significant political issues that can't be publicly addressed. The United States wants Iran to temper its support for Hezbollah's militancy, and guarantee it will not support terrorism. The Iranians want guarantees that Iraq will not develop an anti-Iranian government, and that the United States will work to prevent this. (Iran's memories of its war with Iraq run deep.) The Iranians will also want American guarantees that Washington will not support anti-Iranian forces based in Iraq.
From the Saudi point of view, Iranian demands regarding Iraq will be of greatest concern. Agreements or not, it does not want a pro-Iranian Shiite state on its northern border. Riyadh has been funding Sunni fighters throughout the region against Shiite fighters in a proxy war with Iran. Any agreement by the Americans to respect Iranian interests in Iraq would represent a threat to Saudi Arabia.

The View from Israel

From the Israeli point of view, there are two threats from Iran. One is the nuclear program. The other is Iranian support not only for Hezbollah but also for Hamas and other groups in the region. Iran is far from Israel and poses no conventional military threat. The Israelis would be delighted if Iran gave up its nuclear program in some verifiable way, simply because they themselves have no reliable means to destroy that program militarily. What the Israelis don't want to see is the United States and Iran making deals on their side issues, especially the political ones that really matter to Israel.
The Israelis have more room to maneuver than the Saudis do. Israel can live with a pro-Iranian Iraq. The Saudis can't; from their point of view, it is only a matter of time before Iranian power starts to encroach on their sphere of influence. The Saudis can't live with an Iranian-supported Hezbollah. The Israelis can and have, but don't want to; the issue is less fundamental to the Israelis than Iraq is to the Saudis.
But in the end, this is not the problem that the Saudis and Israelis have. Their problem is that both depend on the United States for their national security. Neither country can permanently exist in a region filled with dangers without the United States as a guarantor. Israel needs access to American military equipment that it can't build itself, like fighter aircraft. Saudi Arabia needs to have American troops available as the ultimate guarantor of their security, as they were in 1990. Israel and Saudi Arabia have been the two countries with the greatest influence in Washington. As this agreement shows, that is no longer the case. Both together weren't strong enough to block this agreement. What frightens them the most about this agreement is that fact. If the foundation of their national security is the American commitment to them, then the inability to influence Washington is a threat to their national security.
There are no other guarantors available. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu went to Moscow, clearly trying to get the Russians to block the agreement. He failed. But even if he had succeeded, he would have alienated the United States, and would have gotten instead a patron incapable of supplying the type of equipment Israel might need when Israel might need it. The fact is that neither the Saudis nor the Israelis have a potential patron other than the United States.

U.S. Regional Policy

The United States is not abandoning either Israel or Saudi Arabia. A regional policy based solely on the Iranians would be irrational. What the United States wants to do is retain its relationship with Israel and Saudi Arabia, but on modified terms. The modification is that U.S. support will come in the context of a balance of power, particularly between Iran and Saudi Arabia. While the United States is prepared to support the Saudis in that context, it will not simply support them absolutely. The Saudis and Israelis will have to live with things that they have not had to live with before -- namely, an American concern for a reasonably strong and stable Iran regardless of its ideology.
The American strategy is built on experience in Iraq and Afghanistan. Washington has learned that it has interests in the region, but that the direct use of American force cannot achieve those goals, partly because imposing solutions takes more force than the United States has and partly because the more force it uses, the more resistance it generates. Therefore, the United States needs a means of minimizing its interests, and pursuing those it has without direct force.
With its interests being limited, the United States' strategy is a balance of power. The most natural balance of power is Sunni versus Shia, the Arabs against the Iranians. The goal is not war, but sufficient force on each side to paralyze the other. In that sense, a stable Iran and a more self-reliant Saudi Arabia are needed. Saudi Arabia is not abandoned, but nor is it the sole interest of the United States.
In the same sense, the United States is committed to the survival of Israel. If Iranian nuclear weapons are prevented, the United States has fulfilled that commitment, since there are no current threats that could conceivably threaten Israeli survival. Israel's other interests, such as building settlements in the West Bank, do not require American support. If the United States determines that they do not serve American interests (for example, because they radicalize the region and threaten the survival of Jordan), then the United States will force Israel to abandon the settlements by threatening to change its relationship with Israel. If the settlements do not threaten American interests, then they are Israel's problem.
Israel has outgrown its dependence on the United States. It is not clear that Israel is comfortable with its own maturation, but the United States has entered a new period where what America wants is a mature Israel that can pursue its interests without recourse to the United States. And if Israel finds it cannot have what it wants without American support, Israel may not get that support, unless Israel's survival is at stake.
In the same sense, the perpetual Saudi inability to create an armed force capable of effectively defending itself has led the United States to send troops on occasion -- and contractors always -- to deal with the problem. Under the new strategy, the expectation is that Saudi soldiers will fight Saudi Arabia's wars -- with American assistance as needed, but not as an alternative force.
With this opening to Iran, the United States will no longer be bound by its Israeli and Saudi relationships. They will not be abandoned, but the United States has broader interests than those relationships, and at the same time few interests that rise to the level of prompting it to directly involve U.S. troops. The Saudis will have to exert themselves to balance the Iranians, and Israel will have to wend its way in a world where it has no strategic threats, but only strategic problems, like everyone else has. It is not a world in which Israeli or Saudi rigidity can sustain itself.

Read more: Israelis, Saudis and the Iranian Agreement | Stratfor
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Is the Superpower Afraid of Iran?

Is the Superpower Afraid of Iran?

Pat Buchanan

11/26/2013 12:01:00 AM - Pat Buchanan
"Iran's Nuclear Triumph" roared the headline of the Wall Street Journal editorial. William Kristol is again quoting Churchill on Munich. Since the news broke Saturday night that Iran had agreed to a six-month freeze on its nuclear program, we are back in the Sudetenland again.
Why? For not only was this modest deal agreed to by the United States, but also by our NATO allies Germany, Britain and France.
Russia and China are fine with it.
Iran's rivals, Turkey and Egypt, are calling it a good deal. Saudi Arabia says it "could be a first step toward a comprehensive solution for Iran's nuclear program."
Qatar calls it "an important step toward safeguarding peace and stability in the region." Bahrain, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates have issued similar statements.
Israeli President Shimon Peres calls the deal satisfactory. Former Military Intelligence Chief Amos Yadlin has remarked of the hysteria in some Israeli circles, "From the reactions this morning, I might have thought Iran had gotten permission to build a bomb."
Predictably, "Bibi" Netanyahu is leading the stampede:
"Today the world has become a much more dangerous place because the most dangerous regime in the world has taken a significant step toward attaining the most dangerous weapon in the world."
But this is not transparent nonsense?
In return for a modest lifting of sanctions, Tehran has agreed to halt work on the heavy water reactor it is building at Arak, to halt production of 20-percent uranium, to dilute half of its existing stockpile, and to allow more inspections.
Does this really make the world "a much more dangerous place"?
Consider the worst-case scenario we hear from our politicians and pundits -- that Iran is cleverly scheming to get the U.S. and U.N. sanctions lifted, and, then, she will make a "mad dash" for the bomb.
But how exactly would Tehran go about this?
If Iran suddenly moved all its low-enriched uranium, to be further enriched in a crash effort to 90 percent, i.e., bomb grade, this would take months to accomplish.
Yet, we would be altered within hours that the uranium was being moved.
Any such Iranian action would expose Barack Obama and John Kerry as dupes. They would be discredited and the howls from Tel Aviv and Capitol Hill for air and missile strikes on Natanz, Fordo and Arak would become irresistible. Obama and Kerry would be forced to act.
War with Iran, which would mean a shattered Iran, would be a real possibility. At the least, Iran, like North Korea, would be sanctioned anew, isolated and made a pariah state.
Should Iran test a nuclear device, Saudi Arabia would acquire bombs from Pakistan. Turkey and Egypt might start their own nuclear weapons programs. Israel would put its nuclear arsenal or high alert.
If, after a year or two building a bomb, in an act of insanity, Iran found a way to deliver it to Israel or a U.S. facility in the Middle East, Iran would be inviting the fate of Imperial Japan in 1945.
So, let us assume another scenario, that the Iranians are not crazed fanatics but rational actors looking out for what is best for their country.
If Iran has no atom bomb program, as the Ayatollah attests, President Hassan Rouhani says he is willing to demonstrate, and 16 U.S. intelligence agencies concluded six years ago and again two years ago, consider the future that might open to Iran -- if the Iranians are simply willing and able to prove this to the world's satisfaction.
First, a steady lifting of sanctions. Second, an end to Iran's isolation and a return to the global economy. Third, a wave of Western investment for Iran's oil and gas industry, producing prosperity and easing political pressure on the regime.
Fourth, eventual emergence of Iran, the most populous nation in the Gulf with 85 million citizens, as the dominant power in the Gulf, just as China, after dispensing with the world Communist revolution, became dominant in Asia
Why would an Iran, with this prospect before it, risk the wrath of the world and a war with the United States to acquire a bomb whose use would assure the country's annihilation?
America's goals: We do not want a nuclear Iran, and we do not want war with Iran. And Iran's actions seem to indicate that building an atom bomb is not the animating goal of the Ayatollah, as some Americans insist.
Though she has the ability to build a bomb, Iran has neither conducted a nuclear test, nor produced bomb-grade uranium. She has kept her supply of 20-percent uranium below what is needed to be further enriched for even a single bomb test. Now, she has agreed to dilute half of that and produce no more.
If Iran were hell-bent on a bomb, why has she not produced a bomb?
Just possibly, because Iran doesn't want the bomb. And if that is so, why not a deal to end these decades of sterile hostility?