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The 159-page final Iran Deal agreement is available online for anyone who's interested in reading it in its entirety. Below is the first part of the document.


Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action

Vienna, 14 July 2015

PREFACE

The E3/EU+3 (China, France, Germany, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom and the United States, with the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy) and the Islamic Republic of Iran welcome this historic Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which will ensure that Iran’s nuclear programme will be exclusively peaceful, and mark a fundamental shift in their approach to this issue. They anticipate that full implementation of this JCPOA will positively contribute to regional and international peace and security. Iran reaffirms that under no circumstances will Iran ever seek, develop or acquire any nuclear weapons. 

Iran envisions that this JCPOA will allow it to move forward with an exclusively peaceful, indigenous nuclear programme, in line with scientific and economic considerations, in accordance with the JCPOA, and with a view to building confidence and encouraging international cooperation. In this context, the initial mutually determined limitations described in this JCPOA will be followed by a gradual evolution, at a reasonable pace, of Iran’s peaceful nuclear programme, including its enrichment activities, to a commercial programme for exclusively peaceful purposes, consistent with international non-proliferation norms.

The E3/EU+3 envision that the implementation of this JCPOA will progressively allow them to gain confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran’s programme.

The JCPOA reflects mutually determined parameters, consistent with practical needs, with agreed limits on the scope of Iran’s nuclear programme, including enrichment activities and R&D. The JCPOA addresses the E3/EU+3’s concerns, including through comprehensive measures providing for transparency and verification. The JCPOA will produce the comprehensive lifting of all UN Security Council sanctions as well as multilateral and national sanctions related to Iran’s nuclear programme, including steps on access in areas of trade, technology, finance, and energy.

Iran seeks post on key U.N. committee, Israel deems it ‘absurd’


Iran is seeking a senior post on a United Nations committee that decides accreditation of non-governmental organizations, a move that Israel on Tuesday compared to gangster Al Capone running the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Iran was elected to the 19-member committee in April for a four-year term from 2015. The United States and Israel are also members of the committee, which acts as a kind of gatekeeper for rights groups and other NGOs seeking access to U.N. headquarters to lobby and participate in meetings and other events.

When Iran was first elected to the committee, the United States sharply criticized it as a “troubling outcome” because of what it said was Tehran's poor human rights record. The U.S. mission to the United Nations did not respond to a request for comment on Iran's bid to become vice chair of the committee.

In a letter obtained by Reuters, Iran presented its candidacy for vice-chair of the committee, which will begin meeting in late January.

Israel, which views Iran and its nuclear program as an existential threat, was clearly displeased by the idea.

“Imagine if Iran ran this committee in the same way it runs its country – human rights activists would be detained, journalists would be tortured, and anyone with a social media account would find himself arrested on fabricated charges,” Israeli U.N. Ambassador Ron Prosor told Reuters.

Iranian officials were not immediately available to comment on Prosor's remarks.

The committee decides which NGOs will be accredited at the United Nations. Conservative developing nations worked to block accreditation of an international gay-lesbian NGO several years ago and the issue was taken to the General Assembly, which voted to accredit the group.

Late last month a U.N. General Assembly committee adopted a resolution condemning Iran's human rights record and urging the government to make good on promises of reform.

Lack of deal with Iran on nuclear talks alarms Russia


Russia expressed alarm on Friday that no date or venue had been agreed for a new round of talks between global powers and Iran over Tehran's nuclear program.

Iran, which denies Western accusations it is seeking to develop a capability to make nuclear weapons, said last week it had agreed to resume talks in January with six powers.

But Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said on Friday there was no final agreement on when or where a meeting would take place.

“This alarms us, because the pause has dragged on,” the Interfax news agency quoted Ryabkov, who is the Russian negotiator, as saying.

“As a nation and a member of the 'group of six' we are working actively to find a solution.”

The European Union, which represents the powers, said last week that it had proposed a date to Iran but Western diplomatic sources said on Friday that Iran had yet to respond.

One source suggested that the date the EU proposed was next Tuesday but said that was now unlikely.

“It is our understanding that Iran has not responded to the Jan. 15 date,” the diplomatic source said.

The six powers – the United States, France, Britain, China, Russia and Germany – were therefore not planning for that, he source said.

Global powers, particularly in the West, want to rein in Iran's uranium enrichment work. Tehran says it is refining uranium for peaceful ends only but enrichment yields material that can be used to make nuclear bombs if processed further.

There was no breakthrough in three rounds of talks last year, the most recent in Moscow in June, and Israel has stepped up talk of pre-emptive attacks on Iranian nuclear sites, lending urgency to diplomacy.

Ryabkov said he hoped the talks will take place this month.

“When we parted in June after the Moscow round, we agreed that the process should continue without substantial breaks,” Interfax quoted him as saying.

SUSPECT SITE

Western diplomats and analysts say it is unclear why Iran has not agreed a date for new talks. Some suggest Tehran may want to wait until after its next meeting with the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency, next Wednesday.

IAEA chief Yukiya Amano said in Tokyo on Friday he was not optimistic about the talks or getting access to a military base Western powers suspect has been used for atom bomb-related work.

“The outlook is not bright,” Amano said.

He was referring to negotiations to be held in Tehran on the framework accord the Vienna-based IAEA hopes will enable it to quickly resume its stalled investigation into suspected atom bomb research.

His remarks contrasted with a more upbeat assessment given by the IAEA after a meeting with Iranian officials last month.

“Talks with Iran don't proceed in a linear way,” Amano said. in Japanese comments translated into English. “It's one step forward, two or three steps back…So we can't say we have an optimistic outlook” for the Jan. 16 meeting.

Russia, which built Iran's first nuclear power plant, has supported four rounds of U.N. Security Council sanctions against Tehran over its nuclear program but opposes further measures and has sharply criticised Western sanctions.

Russia has adamantly warned against attacking Iran and, while it says Tehran must cooperate and dispel concerns about its nuclear program, officials including Ryabkov have suggested Western fears it seeks nuclear weapons are overblown.

Iran reportedly installs hundreds of new uranium enrichment machines


Iran may have installed as many as “hundreds of new” uranium enrichment machines in its underground nuclear facility at Fordow.

“Our basic understanding is that they were continuing to install,” Reuters quotes an unnamed diplomat based in Vienna as saying.

The new centrifuges were not yet operating, according to the Reuters report. Another source spoke of “hundreds of new machines.”

The Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is scheduled to release a report on Iran’s nuclear program next week. Talks between IAEA representatives and Iranian delegates resume on Friday at the agency’s headquarters in the Austrian capital.

If the Reuters report matches the conclusions of the UN atomic watchdog report, the development could be seen as a sign of Iran’s continued defiance of international demands to curb its nuclear program.

The fresh round of talks follow discussions that ended in failure in June.

The IAEA negotiations are separate from talks between Iran and world powers, which have made little progress since restarting in April after a 15-month hiatus.

Israel and other Western countries believe the Iranian nuclear program is aimed at building nuclear weapons. Tehran repeatedly says that its nuclear activity is a domestic energy creating program and for peaceful research.

During next week’s talks in Vienna, the parties also are expected to discuss claims that Iran is cleaning up facilities at its Parchin site near Tehran, allegedly to remove any sign of illicit nuclear activity. In the past, Tehran has dismissed allegations about Parchin, which it says is a normal military site.

The IAEA suspects Iran has conducted tests with a military dimension at Parchin; the talks with IAEA officials are expected to again press Iran for access to the site.

Khamenei dismisses sanctions, says Iran stronger than ever


Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Wednesday dismissed harsher sanctions imposed on Iran this month over its disputed nuclear activity, saying the country was “100 times stronger” than before.

A European Union embargo on Iranian crude oil took full effect on July 1 – a joint effort with the United States to force Tehran to curb nuclear energy work the Western powers say is a camouflaged bid to develop bombs, which Tehran denies.

Prices of goods have soared and the Iranian rial has plunged in value as broader, deeper sanctions have been introduced this year targeting Iran’s financial and energy sectors.

“The Iranian nation, through life, wealth and loved ones, has stood up to all plots and sanctions and has advanced to the extent that today we are 100 times stronger compared with 30 years ago,” Khamenei told a women’s conference in Tehran in a speech that was published on his official website.

“These days Westerners are being sensational about sanctions but they don’t understand that they themselves vaccinated Iran through their sanctions imposed over the last 30 years,” he said. Iran’s Islamic Revolution a little over three decades ago toppled the U.S.-backed shah.

Iranian officials regularly shrug off sanctions, saying they have little or no effect on the country. But a combination of increasing unemployment, substantial price rises and rampant inflation is creating tough new challenges for the government.

Industry sources say Iran’s oil exports have declined in the wake of the EU crude ban and extensive U.S. diplomatic efforts to get Iran’s main customers to cut their imports.

The United States imposed sanctions in 1979, soon after the Islamic Revolution that overthrew its monarchy. Successive U.S. administrations have added to the embargo, effectively creating a near total ban on any trade between it and Iran.

The U.N. Security Council has imposed four rounds of international sanctions specifically targeting Iran’s nuclear activities. Tehran says its uranium enrichment program is for peaceful energy purposes only.

Six world powers and Iran have had several rounds of negotiations on how to defuse concerns over its nuclear ambitions this year but found no common ground for a deal.

Senior diplomats from the EU and Iran will meet on July 24 for technical talks to try to salvage diplomatic efforts to resolve the decade-long standoff.

Reporting by Marcus George; Editing by Mark Heinrich

U.N. nuclear chief holds talks in Tehran, hopes for deal


The U.N. nuclear watchdog chief held rare talks in Tehran on Monday after voicing hope for a deal to investigate suspected atomic bomb research – a gesture Iran might make to try to get international sanctions relaxed and deflect threats of war.

International Atomic Energy Agency Director-General Yukiya Amano began discussions with the head of Iran’s nuclear energy organization, Fereydoun Abbasi-Davani, a few hours after his pre-dawn arrival, according to ISNA news agency.

Amano, who was on his first trip to Iran since taking office in 2009, a period marked by rising tension between the IAEA and Tehran, was also due to meet Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili and Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi on Monday. There was no word on the course of the talks by mid-afternoon.

“I really think this is the right time to reach agreement. Nothing is certain but I stay positive,” Amano, a veteran Japanese diplomat with long experience in nuclear proliferation and disarmament affairs, said before departure from Vienna airport. He added that “good progress” had already been made.

But while Amano scheduled Monday’s talks with Iran at such short notice that diplomats said a deal on improved IAEA access in Iran seemed near, few see Tehran going far enough to convince the West to roll back swiftly on punitive sanctions when its negotiators meet global power envoys in Baghdad on Wednesday.

“We are not going to do anything concrete in exchange for nice words,” a Western diplomat said of the Baghdad meeting, the outcome of a big power session with Iran in Istanbul last month that ended a diplomatic freeze of more than a year.

Two days after seeing Amano, Jalili will hold talks in the Iraqi capital with Catherine Ashton, the European Union foreign policy chief heading a six-power coalition comprised of the five U.N. Security Council permanent members – the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China – plus Germany.

By dangling the prospect of enhanced cooperation with U.N. inspectors, diplomats say, Iran might aim for leverage for the broader talks where the United States and its allies want Tehran to curb works they say are a cover for developing atomic bombs.

Pressure for a deal has risen. Escalating Western sanctions on Iran’s economically vital energy exports, and threats by Israel and the United States of last-ditch military action, have pushed up world oil prices, compounding the economic misery wrought by debt crises in many industrialized countries.

HOPE VIES WITH MISTRUST

Some diplomats and analysts said Amano, given a recent history of mistrustful relations with Iran, would go to Tehran only if he believed a framework agreement to give his inspectors freer hands in their investigation was close. Iran has been stonewalling IAEA requests for better access for four years.

“Amano would not have travelled to Tehran had he not been provided with assurances that progress could be made. If he returns to Vienna empty-handed, the embarrassment will be more damaging for Tehran than the agency,” said Ali Vaez, senior analyst at the International Crisis Group.

“However, if the IAEA is satisfied with Tehran’s cooperation, Iranian negotiators will have a new trump card to play at the negotiating table in Baghdad.”

The U.N. watchdog is seeking access to sites, nuclear officials and scientists and documents to shed light on work in Iran applicable to developing the capability to make nuclear weapons, especially the Parchin military complex outside Tehran.

Two meetings between Iran and senior Amano aides in Tehran in January and February failed to produce any notable progress. But both sides were more upbeat after another round of talks in Vienna last week, raising hopes for a deal.

“We need to keep up the momentum. There has been good progress during the recent round of discussions between Iran and the IAEA,” Amano said, stressing that he did not expect to visit Parchin during his short, one-day stay in Tehran.

“We regard the visit … as a gesture of goodwill,” Salehi said. He hoped for agreement on a “new modality” to work with the IAEA that would “help clear up the ambiguities”.

DOUBTS

Yet while an Iranian agreement on a so-called “structured approach” outlining the ground rules on how to address the IAEA’s questions would be welcome, it remains to be seen how and when it will be implemented in practice.

“We’ll see if the Iranians agree to let the agency visit Parchin. I have my doubts, no matter what any agreement says on paper,” said one Western envoy ahead of Amano’s visit to Iran.

Such a deal would also not be enough in itself to allay international concerns. World powers want Iran to curb uranium enrichment, which can yield fuel for nuclear power plants or for nuclear bombs, depending on the level of refinement.

Iran, to general disbelief from its Israeli and Western adversaries, insists its nuclear program is intended only to generate electricity in a country that is one of world’s top oil exporters and to produce isotopes for cancer treatment.

Unlike its arch-enemy Israel, assumed to harbor the Middle East’s only nuclear arsenal, Iran is a signatory to treaties that oblige it to be transparent with the IAEA.

ISRAEL SKEPTICAL

Leaders of the Group of Eight, worried about the effect of high oil prices on their faltering economies, turned up the heat on Iran on Saturday, signaling readiness to tap into emergency oil stocks quickly this summer if tougher new sanctions on Tehran threaten to dry up supplies of crude.

Israel, convinced a nuclear-armed Iran would pose a mortal threat, has – like the United States – not ruled out air strikes to stop Iran’s atomic progress if it deems diplomacy at an end.

Israel believes Iran is using the talks only to buy time.

In Baghdad, the powers’ main goal is to get Iran to stop the higher-grade uranium enrichment it started two years ago and has since expanded, shortening the time needed for any weapons bid.

“What the powers are proposing right now is a kind of interim arrangement … (but) this certainly is not sufficient to stop the military (nuclear) project in Iran,” said Israeli Vice Prime Minister Moshe Yaalon.

“Our fear is that from Iran’s perspective this is a sort of sacrifice of a pawn in a chess game in order to protect the king. We are not voicing satisfaction with this move, if it is the final move,” he told Israel Radio.

Iran says it needs uranium enriched to a fissile concentration of 20 percent for its medical isotope reactor. Enrichment to 5 percent of fissile purity is suitable for power plant fuel, while 90 percent constitutes fuel for bombs.

The IAEA wants Iran to address issues raised by an agency report last year that revealed intelligence pointing to past and possibly ongoing activity to help develop nuclear explosives.

Iran says the intelligence is fabricated, and has so far resisted requests for inspectors to examine Parchin, maintaining that it is a purely conventional military installation outside the writ of nuclear inspectors.

Additional reporting by Justyna Pawlak in Brussels, William Maclean in London, Patrick Markey in Baghdad, Ori Lewis and Dan Williams in Jerusalem; Editing by Mark Heinrich

Iran backs Annan’s Syria peace plan


Iran backs a U.N.-sponsored peace plan for Syria that calls for the withdrawal of troops that are crushing an uprising but does not demand the removal of Tehran ally President Bashar al-Assad, its foreign minister said on Wednesday.

Iran backed popular uprisings that removed leaders in Egypt, Libya and Yemen but has steadfastly supported Syria, a rare ally in the Arab world which is largely suspicious of Tehran’s ambitions for greater regional influence.

“Syria issue should be dealt with patiently,” the official news agency IRNA quoted Salehi as saying, warning that “any hasty approach to the Syrian issue and the creation of a power vacuum in that country could have very damaging consequences for the region.”

He added that Annan would travel to Iran on Monday or Tuesday next week.

Salehi was talking on the sidelines of a meeting with visiting Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan who has called for Assad to step down.

Turkey hosted a conference of Syrian dissidents on Tuesday and will host a “Friends of Syria” meeting of mostly Western and Arab countries on Sunday.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has praised the Syrian leadership’s handling of the year-long uprising in which thousands have died, saying Tehran would do everything it could to support its closest Arab ally.

Tehran has tempered its rhetoric since anti-government demonstrations began in March last year, from wholeheartedly supporting Assad to encouraging him to pursue social and political reforms to take account of popular grievances.

Ahmadinejad accused the West of plotting with Arab countries to overthrow the Syrian leadership and bolster the status of Israel in the region.

Editing by Robin Pomeroy

Get ready, get set, walk out! Protesting Ahmadinejad at U.N


Coordination within the European Union isn’t always easy, but the bloc stayed on message this year when all 27 EU delegations left the U.N. General Assembly to protest the Iranian president’s speech.

The moment came on Thursday, when Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad used his speech to the 193-nation U.N. General Assembly during its annual session in New York City to once again question the Holocaust and suggest that the U.S. government might have been behind the September 11, 2001 attacks.

After listening to a few minutes of Ahmadinejad’s speech, the European, U.S., Canadian and other Western delegations marched out of the General Assembly hall to register what one delegate described as their “disgust at his views.”

The Western walk-out has become an annual ritual in response to Ahmadinejad’s speeches, which one Western diplomat said have become “stale and predictably offensive.”

EU walk-outs haven’t always gone so smoothly. Two years ago, delegations from Sweden and Cyprus stayed in their seats and listened as Ahmadinejad finished his speech, which railed against the United States and “inhuman policies” of Israel.

“Some of us were rather annoyed with the Swedes and Cypriots for staying,” a European diplomat told Reuters on condition of anonymity. “We want to present a unified face by walking out at the same time. It didn’t happen that way.”

Sweden, which was holding the six-month rotating EU presidency at the time, brushed off the criticism, suggesting that it took courage to face down the Iranian president in the General Assembly hall, European diplomats said.

In past years, some Western delegations called journalists to announce that they were the first ones to walk out of the cavernous assembly hall during Ahmadinejad’s speech, but that practice stopped after the disunity of 2009.

“It’s not a race, it’s a protest,” said a European envoy.

RED LINES

Traditionally the EU has had difficulty maintaining unity on issues related to the Middle East. In 2009, it split three ways on a U.N. vote to endorse the Goldstone Report, which said both Israel and Palestinian Hamas militants committed war crimes during Israel’s brief 2008-09 war in the Gaza Strip.

After the apparent disunity during Ahmadinejad’s 2009 speech, European delegations made sure in planning meetings ahead of the annual U.N. General Assembly session to clarify “red lines” that would trigger a mass walk-out during Ahmadinejad’s annual diatribe against Israel and the West.

“They’re what you would expect,” a diplomat said. “Implications that 9/11 was a U.S. conspiracy, Holocaust denial, denial of Israel’s right to exist, and so on.”

There’s no formal coordination with the Americans, Canadians, Australians and others, though “there is a touch-base” ahead of time, a Western diplomat said.

Israel has less of a problem, since it boycotts Ahmadinejad’s U.N. speeches as a rule.

Not all Europeans, however, walk out during Ahmadinejad’s speeches. Norway, which is not a member of the EU, remains in its seat during the Iranian president’s addresses.

In a March 2011 article, Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Store defended Norway’s opposition to walk-outs. He gave as an example the so-called Durban II U.N. anti-racism conference in 2009, which many Western nations boycotted.

“Despite the fact that we found Ahmadinejad’s claims abhorrent, our delegation decided to remain for his address,” Store wrote. “We believed that it was important to listen to his words and then to use our position as the next speaker to directly engage and challenge his hateful claims.”

Editing by Cynthia Osterman

Obama talks Iran with Security Council envoys


President Obama emphasized containing Iran’s nuclear ambitions in a meeting with envoys to the United Nations Security Council.

Obama “underscored the importance of continued Security Council support for non-proliferation, building on the strong work that has been done to hold North Korea and Iran accountable for their failure to live up to their obligations,” a White House statement said after the meeting Monday.

The United States has led the recent effort to intensify sanctions against Iran, through enhanced sanctions passed by the council earlier this year and through supplemental sanctions.

The range of topics discussed at the meeting included “nuclear non-proliferation, the Middle East, Haiti, Somalia, Sudan, Iran, North Korea and our shared efforts to combat terrorism,” the statement said.

Attending the meeting were the 15 members of the current Security Council, including five permanent members – the United States, Russia, China, France and Britain; and the five nations set to assume seats in January. Ten of the council seats are for two-year terms, with five nations ascending to the council annually.

The Security Council is the only U.N. arm with enforcement powers.

China agrees to look into sanctions busting


China agreed to investigate U.S. findings that some of its companies were assisting Iran in its efforts to develop nuclear weaponry.

“We did provide some information to China on specific concerns about individual Chinese companies, and the Chinese assured us that they will investigate,” State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said Monday.

Crowley was addressing a Washington Post report that State Department’s sanctions enforcer Robert Einhorn recently handed China a list of companies that allegedly were helping to advance Iran’s missile program and to make more efficient centrifuges required to process uranium.

On Tuesday, the Associated Press quoted Chinese officials as saying that they were “honest” in their efforts to abide by United Nations sanctions on Iran.

UN Security Council reaffirms Iran sanctions


The U.N. Security Council reaffirmed existing sanctions against Iran but did not expand them.

The resolution, adopted unanimously Saturday, called on “Iran to comply fully and without delay” with three earlier resolutions imposing sanctions until Iran cooperates fully with U.N. nuclear inspectors.

Sanctions passed over the past year-and-a-half ban most types of uranium enrichment dealings with Iran, freeze some Iranian assets overseas, ban travel by Iranian individuals suspected of involvement in Iran’s alleged nuclear program, monitor Iran’s financial institutions and impose inspections of Iranian cargo.

Israel and Western nations want to expand the sanctions to include actual bans on financial institutions and the export of refined petroleum to Iran. That won’t happen without the support of China and Russia, two of the five permanent, veto-wielding members of the Security Council. The failure to tighten the sanctions Saturday is a product in part of recent U.S.-Russia tensions stemming from Russia’s invasion last month of Georgia.

Israel commended the resolution.

“Today’s U.N. Security Council resolution re-emphasizes the severity of the threat emanating from Iran’s nuclear program to world peace and reiterates the urgency of applying drastic and effective international sanctions,” said a statement issued by Sallai Meridor, the Israeli envoy to Washington.

Politicizing Iran: GOP spikes Obama sanctions bill, Dems scuttle Palin’s rally gig


WASHINGTON (JTA)—Just when you thought it was safe to put the issue of Iran back in the bipartisan closet, out it roars into a food fight between the Republicans and Democrats.

The two parties are tussling over who should have appeared at a Jewish-sponsored anti-Iran rally next week and who is responsible for the failure of sanctions legislation in Congress.

Each side accused the other of using a life-and-death issue to politick. Republicans said Democrats got the GOP running mate disinvited from the rally to keep her out of the public eye; Democrats said Republicans trashed the sanctions legislation to keep the Democratic presidential candidate from scoring a major legislative victory.

Caught in the middle are the Jewish organizations that hoped presidential politicking would push forward—not hinder—efforts to shine a spotlight on the nefariousness of the Iranian regime and sanction the Islamic Republic in the hopes of getting it to stand down from its suspected nuclear weapons program.

Just days ago, Jewish groups appeared to have secured two major victories: The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and the other groups behind the rally had scored a superstar from each party to appear at their New York demonstration next Monday, timed to coincide with the visit of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for the opening of the U.N. General Assembly.

Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.), whose bid for her party’s nomination dogged Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) until June, had agreed to appear weeks ago, and on Monday, JTA learned that Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the running mate to Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), would take up the Republican mantle.

Meanwhile, far-reaching legislation in Congress that would facilitate divestment from Iran and enhance existing sanctions had overcome Republican objections in the Senate and was ready for passage.

But within a couple of days, nicey-nice gave way to oh-no-you’re-not: Clinton pulled out of the rally with a plaint that Palin’s participation cast a partisan pallor over the proceedings, setting off a chain reaction culminating in the decision Thursday to move ahead without Palin and any of the other elected officials who had been invited to speak at the event. And on Wednesday night Republicans pulled the rug out from under a sanctions package that had been assured passage in the Senate.

In both cases, presidential campaign politics appeared to have gotten in the way of good will.

The rally flap grabbed the headlines, but the bigger policy setback for Jewish groups came in the Senate.

For months, Democrats have been trying to push through two bills passed overwhelmingly last year in the U.S. House of Representatives. One would lock up loopholes that allow foreign subsidiaries of U.S. companies to deal with Iran, shut down dealings with any company that conducted substantial business with Iran’s energy sector and cut off Iran’s banking system from any U.S.-controlled markets. The other, authored by Obama, would enable pension plans to disinvest from Iran by protecting them from investor lawsuits and publishing a list of companies that deal with Iran.

Republicans had pushed back against the bills for a variety of reasons. The Bush White House jealously guards its foreign policy prerogatives and saw both bills as undercutting delicate negotiations with European nations, Russia and China to coordinate Iran’s isolation; U.S. business interests see the sanctions as a gift to overseas companies; and, according to pro-Israel insiders, Republicans did not want to hand Obama an election-year legislative victory, especially as they try to depict him as lacking experience.

Pro-Israel lobbyists, led by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, wore down the objections, and by this week Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), a close ally of Obama, had wrapped both bills into an amendment to be attached to the Defense Authorization Bill, which must pass this congressional term. Dodd had virtual wall-to-wall backing for the legislation, as well as a Republican co-sponsor, Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.).

Bush still threatened a veto.

“The bills would also serve, if enacted, to divide the multilateral coalition that has come together to oppose Iran’s nuclear programs, by requiring the Administration to submit ‘blacklists’ of foreign companies investing in Iran’s energy sector,” said a Sept. 9 statement from the Office of Management and Budget, an arm of the executive branch.

Still, the legislation was guaranteed a veto-proof majority in the Senate and the House – a victory that would have handed Obama a significant boost just weeks before election day.

Then, Wednesday night, Republicans added several more last-minute amendments to the package, which Democrats saw as a delaying tactic and rejected. In retaliation, Republicans blocked all amendments to the bill, including the one on Iran.

Dodd, undeterred, took the Iran sanctions legislation to the Senate floor in a last-minute plea to allow his Iran amendment, if not the 100 or so others to which both sides had agreed.

“This is the one opportunity for this body to embrace an economic sanctions proposal which would give us tremendous leverage in our efforts to bring Iran to “negotiations to end its weapons program, Dodd said. “To lose that opportunity would be a serious loss of opportunity for this country.”

Sen. John Warner (R-Va.), who is retiring at year’s end and thus faces no political repercussions, rose to exercise his prerogative to block the amendment. He made sure to say he supported the amendment, leaving unanswered the question of why he killed it.

“I, personally, approved of putting in the amendment,” Warner said in a disavowal of his own action—unusual even under the Senate’s arcane traditions. “It had been my hope, I say it is now no longer my hope, my disappointment, that that could not be achieved.”

The Obama campaign cried foul.

“John McCain had a real opportunity today to stand up for Israel’s security, but he refused to stand up to his own party,” it said within hours of Warner’s block. “Instead of supporting Barack Obama’s legislation to pressure Iran by accelerating state and local divestment initiatives, John McCain ignored the very real threat to Israel and took a pass. We cannot afford four more years of this kind of failed judgment that has left Israel endangered and America less secure.”

When asked about the claim that the GOP was sinking the bill for political purposes, McCain’s campaign said it would not accept criticism on the sanctions front, noting that the GOP nominee long had advocated the strategy, if not the specific legislation in question.

“Senator Obama is again playing politics with the truth to cover up his weak and inconsistent record when it comes to Iran,” said campaign spokeswoman Crystal Benton. “While Senator McCain has been calling for divestment from Iran since early 2007, Senator Obama has pledged to meet unconditionally with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and opposed the Kyl-Lieberman amendment that would have designated the Iranian Revolutionary Guard as a foreign terrorist organization.”

Obama has backed away somewhat from his pledge in 2007 for an unconditional meeting with Ahmadinejad and has backed separate legislation labeling the Iranian Revolutionary Guard a terrorist group. Obama also repeatedly has said he objected to the amendment by Sens. John Kyl (R-Ariz.) and Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) because it included language that linked Iran to attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq—language that some Democrats said could be misused by the Bush administration to justify military action against Iran.

Left unexplained was why McCain, whose indeed has vociferously backed sanctions, did not support Dodd’s amendment.

Dodd blamed politics.

“Clearly, the idea of giving Barack Obama credit for having authored a critical section of the amendment was on the minds of some,” he told JTA. “I guarantee that was part of it.”

At the same time that the sanctions deal was breaking down in the Senate, the high-profile plans for the New York rally also were unraveling.

On Monday, Clinton pulled out, with her aides saying she was blindsided by Palin’s booking for the same event. Palin, the first woman on a Republican ticket, has been hankering after the women who had pledged allegiance to Clinton; the New York senator was not about to hand over that photo op.

Additionally, Clinton had been invited as a lawmaker and Palin as a candidate—an imbalance that Democrats said would tip the rally from a nonpartisan event to a partisan rally.

Democrats were furious with the Conference of Presidents, accusing the Jewish group of being manipulated in a bid by Republicans to shine some foreign policy experience on Palin.

The political accusations flew back and forth, all but burying the aim of the rally.

Palin spokeswoman Tracey Schmitt said Palin “believes that the danger of a nuclear Iran is greater than party or politics.”

Democrats countered that it was the Republicans that seeded the partisanship by offering a candidate and not another lawmaker. Officials at the Conference of Presidents said they had tried to get Republican lawmakers to come to the rally but had been rebuffed.

Ann Lewis, a close adviser to Clinton who was a key figure in her Jewish outreach operation during the Democratic primaries, told JTA that “the way to keep it non-partisan, in our mind, is you invite both candidates.”

On Wednesday morning, following Clinton’s decision to back out and in the face of mounting criticism over the decision to tap Palin, the Presidents Conference did just that, extending an invitation to the Obama campaign. The Obama camp agreed to send Rep. Robert Wexler (D-Fla.), one of the Democratic nominee’s top Jewish backers.

By Thursday afternoon, the conference had withdrawn the invitation to Palin and all other elected officials.

One of the impetuses: 20,000 Jews signed a petition organized by J Street, the dovish pro-Israel lobby, urging the conference to ask Palin to pull out. The National Jewish Democratic Council issued a similar call after its own executive director, Ira Forman, criticized the top professional at the Presidents Conference, executive vice chairman Malcolm Hoenlein.

Hoenlein and others involved in planning the rally insisted that they simply had been motivated by a desire to focus as much attention as possible on the rally against Ahmadinejad—while also keeping the event bipartisan.

On Thursday, the Conference of Presidents acknowledged a shift in planning was needed.

“In order to keep the focus on Iranian threats and to ensure that this critical message not be obscured, the organizers of the rally have decided not to have any American political personalities appear,” the group said in a statement. The organization also announced that Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel and Israeli Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik would address the demonstration.

Following the announcement, McCain’s campaign lashed out at Democrats.

“Gov. Palin was pleased to accept an invitation to address this rally and show her resolve on this grave national security issue,” it said in a statement. “Regrettably that invitation has since been withdrawn under pressure from Democratic partisans.”

Ahmadinejad at the UN: Palin, elected officials disinvited from rally amid controversy


NEW YORK (JTA)—Sarah Palin is being disinvited from the

Jewish groups gear up for Ahmadinejad’s trip to N.Y.


NEW YORK (JTA) — With hundreds of world leaders, including Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, slated to come here next week for the annual opening of the U.N. General Assembly, Jewish groups will be campaigning both privately and publicly against the Iranian regime.

The centerpiece of the public effort will be a mass protest rally Sept. 22 at Dag Hammarskjold Plaza, across from the United Nations.

Sarah Palin, the Republican vice-presidential nominee, will be among the featured speakers, according to the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, which is organizing the demonstration.

Meanwhile, behind closed doors, leaders of a handful of Jewish groups will take advantage of the opportunity to meet with presidents, prime ministers and top diplomats to press issues of concern to Jews.

“It’s an annual diplomatic marathon with leaders who descend on New York each year for the opening of the G.A.,” said David Harris, the executive director of the American Jewish Committee. “We have 60 to 70 private individual meetings scheduled. At each meeting, the Iran question is at the top of the agenda.”

The efforts come as chances dim for a fourth round of U.N. sanctions against Iran, given that Russia and China, both veto-wielding members of the Security Council, oppose new sanctions.

Jewish groups will be lobbying world leaders to enforce existing U.N. sanctions and take further steps against Iran wherever possible. They will urge countries to cut trade with the Islamic Republic, pass new laws against doing business with Iran and strengthen the coalition of nations actively trying to keep Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

The effort already is under way in Washington, where Jewish groups are lobbying Congress to close legal loopholes that allow U.S. businesses to conduct some trade with Iran.

Concomitant with the behind-the-scenes diplomacy, which is also conducted throughout the year, in part with visits by Jewish organizational leaders to capitals around the world, Jewish groups are going public, too.

They are trying to publicly shame oil companies that do business with Iran in a bid to cripple the oil trade that helps sustain the Tehran regime, highlight what Jewish groups say is Ahmadinejad’s genocidal threats, and educate the general public about Iranian-sponsored terrorism and the threat of a nuclear Iran.

The Anti-Defamation League has been waging a public campaign against oil companies with business in Iran by issuing a steady stream of news releases highlighting their activities. Among the companies are Shell and the Austrian energy giant OMV, which are planning to be part of a conference in Tehran in October to promote gas export opportunities with Iran. The Swiss government also is actively increasing its oil trade with Iran.

On the genocide issue, the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs will host a half-day conference in Washington on Sept. 23 highlighting Tehran’s abysmal human rights record and the forecasts of Israel’s destruction by Ahmadinejad, who is scheduled to address the General Assembly that day.

Though attendance at the Washington event, “Conference on State-Sanctioned Incitement to Genocide: What Can Be Done?” will be limited to approximately 120 participants, organizers are hoping the invitation-only crowd of members of the U.S. Congress and their staffers, the media and Washington’s foreign diplomatic corps will help sway those in positions of power to join the coalition of nations actively opposing the Iranian leader’s genocidal incitement.

“The idea is that Ahmadinejad is in violation of the most important human rights convention, the genocide convention, and as a result should be treated accordingly,” said Dore Gold, the president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. “There has been a growing number of voices who accept this determination.”

That same argument will be made much more publicly a day earlier when thousands of people are expected to converge on midtown Manhattan for a rally to protest Iran’s policies. In addition to Palin, featured speakers are expected to include U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.), Iranian dissidents, black ministers and Jewish leaders.

Organizers will be busing in demonstrators from as far away as Toronto and Montreal, and synagogue groups, schools and community groups all have been broadcasting the message to constituents to come out for the rally, which is scheduled to kick off at 11:45 a.m. The Jewish Community Relations Council of New York is organizing the event in conjunction with the Presidents Conference.

Jewish groups held a similar demonstration last year during Ahmadinejad’s visit to New York for the 2007 General Assembly. During the visit he also spoke at a forum at Columbia University.

Ahmadinejad this year is expected to attend a Sept. 25 break-fast Ramadan dinner, known as an iftar, hosted by the American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker organization.

The Quaker group and the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York City, where the iftar is to be held, did not respond to JTA inquiries about the event.

Malcolm Hoenlein, the executive vice chairman of the Presidents Conference, said the point of the rally is to send a message to world leaders and to Ahmadinejad himself.

“He knows all about it; last year in every television interview he made reference to it,” Hoenlein said of last year’s protest. “It was covered pretty widely in Iran, which is very important for us. We’re not going to be silent when someone threatens to destroy the United States and Israel, when his country engages in the persecution of women, minorities, human rights and children.”

When Ahmadinejad delivers his speech at the General Assembly the following day, Israel’s representatives likely will exit the plenum but leave a note taker behind, as they did last year.

Israeli President Shimon Peres will address the General Assembly the next day, on Sept. 24. Israeli officials declined to discuss the details of his speech.

For all their efforts, Jewish groups’ ability to get governments around the world to tighten the screws on Iran has its limits.

“What leverages are there to apply against these governments except moral suasion?” said the secretary-general of the World Jewish Congress, Michael Schneider. “We don’t have a big stick that we can use.”

Harris said the argument to make is not that stopping Iran is a moral imperative for Israel or the Jewish people, but that a nuclear-armed Iran threatens the world.

“A key to diplomacy is to try to persuade someone else not that it’s in your interest, but why it’s in their interest to act,” Harris said.

“On Iran, we think there’s an abundance of evidence of why this is a regional and global problem: A nuclear Iran would create an entirely different and more dangerous geo-strategic environment generally, and a nuclear Iran would surely trigger a collapse of the nonproliferation treaty, and a number of other countries would go down the nuclear road in response to Iran,” he said. “Those arguments are compelling arguments whether you’re Israel’s closest friend or not.”

Iran files complaint over Mofaz threat, Hamas claims 2002 bombings


Iran Files Complaint Over Mofaz Threat

Iran filed a U.N. Security Council complaint after an Israeli official threatened to attack its nuclear facilities. Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz, a former defense chief, told the daily Yediot Achronot last week that Israel would have no choice but to attack Iran given the failure of U.N. Security Council sanctions in curbing its nuclear program. The comments contributed to a record 9-percent hike in the price of oil, though they were disavowed by Jerusalem. Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations, Mohammad Khazaee, wrote to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon demanding a Security Council condemnation of Israel.

“Such a dangerous threat against a sovereign state and a member of the United Nations constitutes a manifest violation of international law and contravenes the most fundamental principles of the Charter of the United Nations, and, thus, requires a resolute and clear response on the part of the United Nations, particularly the Security Council,” Khazaee wrote.

Ban’s office had no immediate response.

Egyptian Jews Seek U.N. help

An Egyptian Jewish group asked the United Nations to help it recover the community’s historic archives. The Historical Society of Jews from Egypt says the government has refused to release the documents due to fear of restitution claims, the Jerusalem Post reported. The society has written to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization asking it to intervene in the matter.

“It’s our history, everything we own going back hundreds and hundreds of years,” said Desire Sakkal, the society’s president.

The Egyptian Embassy would not comment on the matter. The society’s letter was prompted by comments from Egyptian Culture Minister Farouk Hosni, who said last month that he “would burn Israeli books myself if found in Egyptian libraries.”

Hosni, who hopes to become the next head of UNESCO, subsequently claimed the statement was hyperbole and that he did not condone the burning of books. A UNESCO spokesperson said the organization had not yet received the society’s letter and could not comment.

Hamas Claims 2002 Bombings

Hamas claimed responsibility for two Palestinian suicide bombings in Israel in 2002. The Islamist group’s armed wing issued a statement over the weekend saying it was behind two suicide bombings that killed 26 Israelis in 2002. The first, in May of that year, took place in a Rishon Lezion pool hall. The second, four months later, was on Tel Aviv’s Allenby Street. Israel blamed Hamas for the attacks, but the group declined to confirm its involvement. Both suicide bombers had Jordanian citizenship, suggesting that Hamas wanted to avoid drawing censure from Amman. In its statement, Hamas also claimed responsibility for Hebron-area shootings that killed six Israelis, as well as attempts to bomb a fuel depot and rail line inside the Jewish state.

Diplomat Documents Shanghai Jewish Community

An Israeli diplomat in China is compiling a database of Shanghai’s historic Jewish community. The Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum, a former synagogue in the Hangkou District of the city, has begun documenting the influx of tens of thousands of Jews fleeing Nazi persecution in Europe. Many of the refugees were Austrians who received emergency travel visas from Ho Fengshen, the Chinese consul general in Vienna in the late 1930s who ignored orders from Beijing to desist. The database project is being led by Uri Gutman, Israel’s consul general in Shanghai, with help from survivors and descendants of the city’s Jewish community, most of whom immigrated to Australia, Israel or the United States after World War II.

“This is a vanishing generation,” Gutman said.

Playwright Roisman Dead at 70

American poet and playwright Lois Roisman, who wrote frequently on Jewish themes, has died. Roisman, who was active in progressive Jewish causes, died June 2 at her home in Lyme, N.H. She was 70. Roisman’s plays included “Nobody’s Gilgul,” which won the Outstanding New Play award at the 1993 Source Theater Festival in Washington, D.C., and was anthologized in the book “Making A Scene: The Contemporary Drama of Jewish Women.” Born in Texas, Roisman lived for many years in Washington before moving to New Hampshire in 1995. She was the founding executive director of Jewish Funds for Justice, a group that sought to expand Jewish philanthropy beyond its traditional concerns. One of its first grants was to a young Chicago activist named Barack Obama.

At the time of her death, Roisman was a research associate at the Brandeis Women’s Institute at Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass., and was completing a series of poems she described as a personal dialogue with the tales of the Chasidim.

British Jewry Increasingly Haredi

One-third of British Jews under age 18 are ultra-Orthodox, according to a new study. A study published Friday by the umbrella group of British Jewry, the Board of Deputies, found that the British haredi community has grown at an annual rate of about 4 percent over the last two decades. The study, by demographers David Graham and Daniel Vulkan, estimates the current size of Britain’s “strictly Orthodox” population at between 22,800 and 36,400 people. There are an estimated 300,000 Jews in Britain. Although the ultra-Orthodox represent just 10 percent of the overall Jewish population in the country, one-third of British Jews under age 18 are ultra-Orthodox, the study noted.

“This is an exceptional statistic given the oft-heard assertion that British Jewry, like many Diaspora communities, is in a permanent state of decline,” Graham said.

Al-Qaeda Terrorists Arraigned

Five al-Qaeda terrorists accused of involvement in the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks refused lawyers at their arraignment. The 10-hour session held Thursday before a military tribunal at the U.S. military base at Guantanamo Bay was the first time the five defendants have been together in the five years since their capture. Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks, told the tribunal’s chief judge, Marine Col. Ralph Kohlmann, that he wanted to die as a martyr.

The defendants, in refusing their right to counsel, said they only recognized Islamic law. The five, who had been held in secret CIA custody, were transferred to the Cuban military prison in September 2006. Charges include murder and various counts of terrorism. The men were indicted in May. Prosecutors have requested a September start for a trial, though it is likely many more months away.

Briefs courtesy Jewish Telgraphic Agency.

Briefs: Rice pushes for renewed peace talks, U.N. votes new Iran sanctions


Rice Pushes to Resume Peace Talks

Israeli-Palestinian peace talks must resume, Condoleezza Rice said en route to the region.

“Negotiations ought to resume as soon as possible,” the U.S. secretary of state said Tuesday before beginning a troubleshooting trip to Israel and the Palestinian Authority. “I will be talking about how we can get negotiations back on track.”

The United States, which wants Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to clinch a peace accord by year’s end, has voiced concern at Abbas’ decision to suspend talks in protest at recent violence in the Gaza Strip. Rice made clear that the Bush administration holds Hamas and its cross-border rocket salvoes chiefly responsible for the bloodshed.

“Hamas is doing what might be expected, which is using rocket attacks on Israel to arrest a peace process in which they have nothing to gain,” she said.

But Rice was also expected to heed Abbas’ calls for U.S. pressure to be applied on Israel to ease conditions for Palestinians in the West Bank.

New U.N. Sanctions Against Iran

By a vote of 14 in favor and one abstention, the U.N. Security Council decided Monday to impose a third round of sanctions against Tehran, including financial blacklisting and an expanded ban on selling technologies to Iran that could be used for military projects.

Israel welcomed the escalation in diplomatic pressure, voicing hope that it would succeed in getting Iran to abandon its uranium enrichment efforts.

“The third Security Council resolution is another key step manifesting the understanding that the international community must not give up and stand idly by as Iran tries to become a nuclear-armed power,” Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said in a statement. “Any additional decision by any nation, company or group will contribute to the mass of sanctions required to stop Iran.”

Iran defied the two previous sanctions resolutions, in 2006 and 2007, though independent analysts said its economy was hit hard by the measures.

Bush Waives Direct Transfer Ban for P.A.

President Bush waived congressional restrictions to directly transfer $150 million to the Palestinian Authority. The transfer ordered Friday is part of a package of more than $500 million in Palestinian assistance earmarked for use this year.

Most of the money is project based and to be funneled through the U.S. Agency for International Development, the U.N. Relief and Works Agency and nongovernmental organizations. Such transfers are subject to relatively light congressional oversight.

However, Congress in recent years has banned direct transfers of cash because of fears that the money could end up in terrorist hands and because of concerns about P.A. corruption. Much of the pro-Israel community also strongly opposes direct transfers.

The Bush administration says the Palestinian Authority needs the cash to leverage loans at a time that it is confronting extremists and pursuing peace talks with Israel. A U.S. official said that the assistance was “critical” and added that it will “help avert a serious and immediate financial crisis for the P.A., ensure its continued operation, and further the United States’ longstanding and bipartisan goal of a just and lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians.”

Poland Reaches Out to Expelled Jews

Poland will ease the way for Jews to reclaim citizenship 40 years after the start of massive expulsions. In a letter released Monday, Polish Interior Minister Grzegorz Schetyna said he would “order the implementation of the appropriate procedures today.”

Piotr Kadlcik, the president of the Union of Religious Jewish Communities in Poland, said he had already received verbal confirmation that Schetyna endorsed the plan to re-naturalize Jews who fled between 1968 and 1970. Some 15,000 Polish Jews were deprived of their citizenship.

Historians today look upon the period as a vast anti-Semitic campaign borne of Soviet anti-Israel policies. In fact, Kadlcik said, it has been agreed that these former Poles actually never legally lost their citizenship. Once the decision is formalized, Jews who fled Poland can go to a Polish consulate in their new home country and “reconfirm their citizenship” as if they had never lost it, he said.

The decision to repatriate Polish Jews follows recent stepped-up pressure by Kadlcik and Jewish advocacy groups in Poland.

Golda Tencer, the head of Poland’s Shalom Foundation, recently told the Polish newspaper Dziennik that President Lech Kaczynski had not yet answered her request of last October. Schetyna said the problem could have been solved by Kaczynski, but “he did not take that opportunity.” Kadlcik said the policy would apply particularly to Polish Jews who went to Israel, “because those who went to other places had no problem getting back their citizenship” up to now.

Shabbat Across America Goes Virtual

Shabbat Across America is offering an online option. The annual synagogue outreach program, which is scheduled for this weekend, is featuring Shabbat Across America 2.0 (www.shabbatacrossamerica20.org), which allows hosts to create virtual Shabbat tables for real or fictional guests.

Shabbat Across America, which has been sponsored annually since 1997 by the National Jewish Outreach Program, is celebrated in approximately 700 synagogues across North America. It usually involves a Friday night service and festive meal, with an eye toward nonmembers.

This year’s 2.0 option is reaching out particularly to younger, unaffiliated Jews. Based on the Facebook model, organizers say it is designed to appeal to a generation used to interacting in a global, virtual framework. As of Feb. 28, several dozen online tables are listed, about evenly split between real and virtual events. Most of the real tables are in the greater New York area, either at individual homes or synagogues. The virtual “tables” have invited guests including Albert Einstein, Emma Lazarus and “Star Trek’s” Mr. Spock.

The site also lists Shabbat resources, including things to do at your Shabbat table ranging from lighting candles to planning good deeds.

Briefs: Palestinians riot near Jerusalem dig; Brandeis threatened with loss of donations


Palestinians Riot Around Jerusalem

Palestinians rioted at entry points to Jerusalem to protest a ban stemming from previous riots over an Old City dig. Police banned Palestinian males under age 50 from attending Friday prayer services at mosques on the Temple Mount, and extended a ban on Raed Salah, leader of Israel’s Islamic Movement. Police arrested 15 people in scuffles in and around the city. Worshipers have rioted in recent weeks to protest a construction project near the Temple Mount.

Israeli authorities say the renovation of a staircase leading to the Temple Mount does not threaten the integrity of the site, but Salah, who has frequently concocted imaginary Jewish plots against the Temple Mount to incite his public against Israel, has led protests at the site and scuffled with police officers. Last Friday, he called for a Muslim intifada to “save” the mosque from the Jews. The Israelis “want to build their Temple while our blood is on their clothing, on their doorposts, in their food and in their water,” Salah said.

Israeli Public Security Minister Avi Dichter asked the attorney general to investigate whether Salah’s comments constitute incitement and sedition.

Brandeis Threatened With Loss of Donations

Mideast scholar Daniel Pipes called on donors to reconsider their support of Brandeis University. In an op-ed published Tuesday in the Brandeis student newspaper, The Justice, Pipes claimed that his planned appearance at the university had been put on hold pending approval from a new committee created to vet potential speakers on the Middle East.

The committee also reportedly is holding up an appearance by Norman Finkelstein, a noted critic of Israeli policy who has argued that the Jewish state exploits the Holocaust for political purposes. Evidence that pressure on the university may be intensifying came from a report Friday in the New York Jewish Week that “more than a handful” of major donors told Brandeis they would no longer contribute following a recent controversial visit by former President Carter, who discussed his book, “Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid,” which is harshly critical of Israel. A Brandeis spokeswoman told the Jewish Week that she wasn’t aware of any communication from donors.

Hezbollah Seen Expanding Arsenal

Hezbollah aims to stockpile more weapons than it had before last year’s war with Israel, a top Israeli intelligence analyst said.

Brig. Gen. Yossi Baidatz, chief of research in Israel’s Military Intelligence, told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee in a briefing Monday that the Lebanese terrorist group was smuggling in rockets to replace the thousands it lost fighting Israel during the summer war. Once it receives new shipments from neighboring Syria, Baidatz said, Hezbollah will have a larger rocket arsenal than it did before the war.

Defense Minister Amir Peretz interjected that this should not be a gauge of the threat posed to Israel by Hezbollah. Peretz noted that Hezbollah deprived of its border positions was in far less of a position to launch attacks.

Hezbollah admitted it has resumed stockpiling arms on Lebanon’s frontier with Israel.

“We can reveal that we have arms, and of all kinds,” Hezbollah chief Sheik Hassan Nasrallah said last Friday in a speech. “We move them covertly, and Israel does not know about it.”

Nasrallah said the smuggling would continue in defiance of Israel, foreign peacekeepers and the Lebanese army, which deployed in southern Lebanon as part of the U.N.-brokered cease-fire that ended last year’s war.

“We are not a burden to the Lebanese army but rather a supporter of its mission,” Nasrallah said.

Iran Defies U.N. Demands

Iran signaled that it will not honor a demand by the United Nations to halt sensitive nuclear projects. The Foreign Ministry in Tehran announced Sunday that Iran has no intention of meeting a Feb. 21 deadline set by the U.N. Security Council for suspending uranium enrichment. Under Security Council Resolution 1737, which was passed in late December, Iran was subjected to limited international sanctions that could be expanded if it defied the 60-day deadline on uranium enrichment, a key potential process for making nuclear bombs.

While China and Russia surprised other Security Council members by backing the original resolution, it was unclear whether they would support further sanctions given their robust trade ties with Tehran and public skepticism over whether the Iranians are seeking nuclear weapons.

Feinstein Reintroduces Cluster Bomb Bill

California Sen. Dianne Feinstein cited Israeli cluster bombs left behind in Lebanon in introducing legislation to restrict the sale of the devices.

“What gives rise, in part, to my bill are recent developments in Lebanon over alleged use of cluster bombs by Israel,” Feinstein, a Jewish Democrat who is seen as strongly pro-Israel, said last week in introducing the legislation with Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.). Israel dropped some 4 million bomblets in southern Lebanon during last summer’s war with Hezbollah, and 1 million failed to explode, she said.

“As Lebanese children and families have returned to their homes and begin to rebuild, they have been exposed to the danger of these unexploded bomblets lying in the rubble. Twenty-two people, including six children have been killed and 133, including 47 children, injured.”

Israel said it used the weapons in areas where civilians had already fled, and says the postwar casualty rate is due to U.S.-made bombs that have a high rate of delayed explosion.

Human-rights groups have noted that Hezbollah also used cluster bombs during the war, firing them directly into Israeli cities. Feinstein and Leahy introduced similar legislation immediately following the war, but it failed.

Jerusalem Opens Alcohol-Free Bar

An alcohol-free bar opened in Jerusalem with municipal funding. Lugar opened its doors in central Jerusalem on Monday with a teetotaling format geared toward minors.

The initiative was conceived by Mayor Uri Lupolianski following growing evidence that youths in Jerusalem, including many foreigners on study visits, were increasingly abusing lax controls on alcohol consumption in public places.

Lupolianski said he hoped other cities in Israel would emulate the Lugar pilot.

Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency

Groups hope new U.N. Secretary General will be fairer toward Israel than Kofi Annan


Jewish officials are greeting the selection of Ban Ki-moon as the next U.N. secretary-general with cautious optimism, hopeful that the South Korean foreign minister will use the office to push for fairer treatment of Israel and more equitable application of international human rights standards.

The Security Council endorsed Ban, 62, by acclamation, choosing him from a field of seven candidates. The General Assembly confirmed him Oct. 13.

“If the selection process is any indicator, then the journey of his tenure might be smoother than what we’ve seen until now,” said Rabbi Levi Shemtov, director of American Friends of Lubavitch and Chabad’s chief envoy in Washington, who met with Ban and other U.N. candidates. “There’s something smooth, quiet, yet effective about him, and as we get to know him better, I hope it’s going to bring us closer to a better and more peaceful world.”

Ban will replace Kofi Annan of Ghana, who has a mixed record on issues of Jewish concern. U.N. observers say it’s difficult to predict whether Ban will fare any better, particularly given his reputation as a moderate who prizes consensus-building.

Hillel Neuer, executive director of the Geneva-based U.N. Watch, says powerful groups like the Non-Aligned Movement — an alliance of developing countries that includes the 56-member Muslim bloc — could obstruct any significant changes Ban seeks to implement.

“It would be naive to expect radical change,” Neuer said. “The most important decisions are made by member states which are organized into certain powerful alliances.”

If the Non-Aligned Movement “wants to play the spoiler role, the secretary-general is limited in what he can accomplish,” he said.

Neuer’s skepticism echoes criticism aimed at Ban ahead of his selection. Some said he was too weak for the U.N.’s top job, chosen more for his inoffensiveness than his potential to reform an organization still tarnished by the oil-for-food scandal and allegations of sexual misconduct by U.N. peacekeepers.

As Ban emerged as front-runner, U.N. staff reportedly worried that the career diplomat lacked the mettle to take the organization out from under the cloud of controversy that has marred Annan’s second term. Annan will step down as secretary-general Dec. 31.

Ban earned a B.A. in international relations from Seoul National University in 1970, and holds a master’s degree in public administration from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.

Often described as soft-spoken and lacking charisma, Ban rose steadily through the ranks of South Korea’s Foreign Ministry, becoming foreign minister in January 2004. His previous postings include New Delhi, Washington, Vienna and New York, and in 2005 he became the first South Korean foreign minister to visit Israel.

“He seems to be a good man and has all the necessary qualifications to be a good secretary-general,” said Aaron Jacob, associate director of international affairs for the American Jewish Committee (AJCommittee), who met with Ban in late September.

At the meeting, Ban was noncommittal in response to AJCommittee concerns about Iran, human rights and reports that U.N. peacekeepers in southern Lebanon are narrowly interpreting their mandate. Given the Security Council’s imminent vote on his nomination, however, that reticence was to be expected, Jacob said.

“He said that he understood our concerns, but understandably did not go into details,” Jacob said.

Ban has said he would make a top priority reforming the United Nations — a cause close to the hearts of Jewish organizations over the way the world body treats Israel. He also has pledged to try to broker a settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The U.N. Charter “was crafted to give the member states ample flexibility in adapting the U.N. machinery to respond to novel threats in a changing world,” Ban told world leaders in September at the opening of the U.N. General Assembly in New York. “But our tools need sharpening.”

Unlike Neuer, who would like the new secretary-general to take a bold stance on key issues, many of those who have met Ban believe a more subdued approach — unlike the very public pronouncements that have been a hallmark of Annan’s tenure — may be more effective in achieving long-term change.

“Although he doesn’t come across as a high-profile champion of causes, he does have a human rights background and has been able to advance some of those issues behind the scenes,” said Shai Franklin, director of international organizations for the World Jewish Congress. “It would be a mistake to dismiss his low-key public style as a lack of interest or resolve on human rights or other issues that we as Jews take very seriously.”

“I think he’s going to surprise the skeptics,” agreed Michael Landau, who heads the Coalition of Orthodox Jewish Organizations of the West Side, a Manhattan-based umbrella group representing 27 groups, and who attended the AJCommittee meeting with Ban. We see Kofi Annan “as being more vocal a leader than Ban Ki-moon, who will speak less and do a lot.”

Letters to the Editor


Chamberlain Ad

I do not know if I can communicate how deeply offended I was by the Republican Jewish Coalition’s (RJC) Neville Chamberlain ad on page 6 of the Sept. 8 Jewish Journal. Besides the complete lack of intellectual honesty, the appalling lack of logical reasoning fails beyond the pale to measure up to the traditions of Judaism specifically and humanity in general:

Rather than deal with the threat that Al Qaeda actually presents to our national security, President Bush has chosen to waste hundreds of billions of dollars on a personal vendetta in Iraq washed in five years of the blood of the Iraqi people and citizenry of our great nation.

Rather than communicating with a government seeking to open communication between the United States, President Bush consciously closed all potential paths of dialogue and continuously vilified and threatened a sovereign nation in a tinhorn cowboy attempt to force Iran into a diplomatic mistake of nuclear proportions.

Rather than assist Israel to defend itself against continuing malicious attacks from Hezbollah or Hamas, Bush specifically chose to do absolutely nothing for five years, and more importantly, two weeks of Israel’s invasion into Lebanon, then sent the single most ineffectual secretary of state within the last century to negotiate a failed cease-fire proposal.

If The Journal is so strapped for cash, it would be a far better use of its ad space to place a plea for donations and financial support from its readership, rather than compromising all dignity and integrity by running further tripe from the RJC.

Richard Adlof
North Hollywood

Shame on the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) for running two ads which desperately tried to denigrate the Democratic Party.

First, shame on the RJC for taking an issue of great bipartisan agreement — support for a strong U.S.- Israel relationship — and turning it into a wedge issue for tawdry partisan political advantage. Any objective observer of U.S. politics has to agree that both of our major political parties are remarkably supportive of Israel. This fact is crucial in maintaining the strong relationship between the United States and Israel. For the RJC, however, it appears that twisting the truth for some petty partisan gain is apparently more important than maintaining bipartisan support for the Jewish state.

It is true that in both parties there are a handful of politicians who are not part of this bipartisan consensus. Carter is one of these outsiders who find no support for their positions on the Arab-Israeli conflict within their own parties.

Jewish newspapers, like all newspapers, have an obligation to not print false and misleading ads. We hope in the coming weeks, as RJC slings more mud, this newspaper will fact-check their ad copy to make sure the RJC doesn’t continue to use these pages to violently twist the truth.

Marc Stanley
First Vice Chair
National Jewish Democratic Council

The Republican obsession with Iraq has left Israel open and vulnerable to the possible nuclear overtures of a Holocaust-denying Iran. The Republican obsession with the Cold War almost led to a military defeat for Israel in the 1973 Yom Kippur War (and did lead to a country-permeating malaise). The Republican obsession with a fundamental Christian theology that is based on the apocalyptic demise of not only Israel but Jews everywhere is too eviscerating and too self-evident to even require an elaboration.

Does any Jew still believe that the Republican party has their true interests at heart?

Marc Rogers
Thousand Oaks

We applaud the recent public discussion about the support for Israel by the political parties (“GOP Sees Israel as Way to Woo Democratic Jews,” Sept. 1).All who are pro-Israel should appreciate the positive influence our growing Jewish Republican community is having on the GOP. Our access to senior GOP leaders is warmly encouraged, and, in return, the Jewish community is increasingly impressed by an administration and a Republican Congress that have been deeply pro-Israel.

The example of U.N. Ambassador John Bolton is instructive. The Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) was virtually alone among national Jewish organizations in supporting the nomination of this hero of the Jewish people, who not only helped to defeat the odious “Zionism is racism” resolution years ago, but who now vigorously defends Israel at the United Nations against unfair demonization and delegitimization. Many Jewish Democrats now see that Bolton is the right man at the United Nations.

Putting aside the issue of Israel, moderate Jews might approach 21st century American politics with an open mind on who is best on both national security and domestic public policy issues. It is time that respectful attention be paid by Jews to positive GOP ideas about economic growth, welfare and entitlement reform, medical liability and tort/legal reform, energy independence and educational choice and competition to best serve children.

To the benefit of Israel and the United States, the days of one-party Jewish voting are, thankfully, over.

Joel Geiderman
Chairman
Larry Greenfield
Director
Republican Jewish Coalition, California

Illegal Jewish Immigrants

Your articles focused on illegal Israeli immigrants who are not terrorists and do not take low-paying jobs away from minorities (“Living and Working [IL]Legally in America,” Sept. 8). Instead they engage in commercial activity that is beneficial to Israel.

Thanks to your article calling attention to them, perhaps immigration officials will divert attention from terrorists to crack down on these Israelis.

Are you The Jewish Journal or the anti-Jewish Journal?

Marshall GillerWinnetka

The Jews Didn’t Do It

Not all conspiracy theories are equal (“The Lie That Won’t Die,” Sept. 1). Richard Greenberg’s article asks us to believe otherwise, holding out only two possibilities to the American public: Either you accept the government version of Sept. 11 or you are a “conspiracist.”

But the world is much more complex than these two positions allow, and the democratic process itself depends on citizens who question official stories. David Griffin, author of “The New Pearl Harbor” and three additional books on Sept. 11, raises important questions about the adequacy of the Kean Commission report.

Lebanon War: Mission Accomplished


Contrary to what is now the accepted wisdom in the media, Hezbollah, in its recent offensive against Israel, neither badly bloodied the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) nor fought it
to a standstill.

In fact, the opposite is the case.

By any legitimate measure, the IDF handed a resounding military defeat to Hezbollah, and while Israel’s soldiers did not cure the cancer that is Hezbollah, they did send it into remission.

From a military perspective, there can be absolutely no doubt as to the results of Hezbollah and Iran’s offensive against Israel. It was a defeat. Every part of their war plan, except the manipulation of the media, failed.

Hezbollah expected and planned for a massive charge of Israeli armor into Southern Lebanon. The amounts and types of anti-tank weapons they acquired and had operationally deployed in their forward positions, as well as their secondary and tertiary bands of fortresses and strongholds through southern Lebanon, attest to this fact. They intended to do in mountainous terrain what Egypt had so effectively done in the Sinai Desert in the Yom Kippur War.

In that war, Sinai indeed became a graveyard for Israeli armor. Egypt destroyed hundreds of Israeli tanks. Whole brigades were decimated in single battles by the Egyptians’ highly effective anti-tank missile ambushes. In that war, almost 3,000 Israeli soldiers were killed. That was Hezbollah’s plan. It was a good one. And it failed.

Just prior to the cease-fire, Israel suffered 29 tanks hit. Of those, 25 were back in service within 24 hours. Israel suffered 117 soldiers killed in four weeks of combat. As painful as those individual losses were to their families and to the Israeli collective psyche, which views all its soldiers as their biological sons and daughters, those numbers in fact represent the fewest casualties suffered by Israel in any of its major conflicts.

In 1948, Israel suffered 6,000 killed. In 1967, in what was regarded as its most decisive victory, Israel lost almost 700 killed in six days. In 1973, Israel lost 2,700 killed, and in the first week of the first war in Lebanon, Israel suffered 176 soldiers killed.

Why then the impression of massive Israeli casualties in clear contrast to the actual numbers of those killed? It is because the Israeli army is a citizen’s army. It is made up of everyone’s child, everyone’s brother or sister, aunt or uncle. The nation, as a whole, mourned the loss of its children quite literally, as if they were the sons and daughters of each and every family.

Were I, as an Israeli officer in the military spokesperson’s unit, to have made a statement to the Israeli press about the actual lightness of Israel’s casualties, I would, at the least, have been relieved of duties, if not also of rank.

Indeed, members of my unit volunteered to a man to go into Lebanon under fire to help retrieve the bodies of four fallen soldiers and make sure that reporters (who by that time were reported to be simply driving into Lebanon) could not broadcast pictures before the families were notified. We provided an additional covering force, as well, against Hezbollah, while medics and a rabbi safeguarded the sanctity of the remains of four kids, younger than my 22-year-old son. We did so not only not under orders but in violation of orders, because we were all of us fathers, as well as soldiers, and these were not only our comrades in arms but our sons. We were there to bring them home.

That is the emotion. But the numbers are different. They are the lightest casualties suffered by the IDF in all of its wars.

Military historians will spend years deciphering why exactly this was so. Was Israel’s government and its general staff, by its refusal to commit large numbers of forces for the first three weeks of combat, in fact making a highly intelligent strategic choice? Possibly.

Possibly it was dumb luck or divine intervention. Either way it meant three things:

  1. Hezbollah’s ambush never happened, because Israel didn’t take the bait. Instead, it used air power and then a series of probing raids, primarily by infantry, to methodically, slowly identify and root out the enemy positions.

  2. It meant that those small numbers of troops deployed into Lebanon in the first weeks of fighting had to do more with less than perhaps any other Israeli fighters in any other war. Certainly in other wars, there were many individual battles in which so much was expected of and accomplished by so few. But no war comes to mind in which so few soldiers were deployed across an entire front.

    They performed brilliantly and with uncommon courage in the face of withering fire from heavily fortified and prepared positions. These were draft-age soldiers: 18- and nineteen-year-olds, commanded on the platoon and company levels by 20-somethings, none of whom had ever faced anything remotely like the combat against Hezbollah’s terrorist army. In spite of what many see as the logistical and command failures of their superiors, they performed brilliantly and achieved their objectives.

  3. When the vast bulk of Israel’s force was finally deployed, made up primarily of its reservists, these soldiers achieved in 48 hours what many believe they should have been given weeks to accomplish. Despite logistical failures, some times fighting without food or water, Israel’s soldiers, regular army and reserves alike, handed Hezbollah a decisive military defeat.

All of Hezbollah’s Siegfried Line-like system of fortresses and strongholds, their network of command and control bunkers along Israel’s northern border were destroyed, abandoned or under the control of the IDF by the end of the hostilities. Hezbollah’s miniterrorist state within a state south of the Litani had been dismantled.

Its terrorist capital within a capital in Beirut, its command and control center and infrastructure were in ruins. In the end, it sought and accepted a cease-fire resolution in the United Nations that provided the framework for Israel to achieve all of its stated war aims. This last point is of no minor consequence both in terms of what Israel achieved and failed to achieve in the counteroffensive it waged against Hezbollah.

I can speak to this subject with some degree of expertise, since I was one of the people tasked with putting into a simple declarative sentence what the IDF’s mission was as handed down to it by Israel’s democratically elected political leaders. The sentence defining the IDF’s mission read as follows:

U.S. Must Act on Iran Nuclear Threat


Outrageous statements by Iran’s president calling for Israel’s destruction put Iran back on the front page for a few days in October. Such belicose rhetoric should surprise no one; the destruction of Israel has been Iranian state policy since the 1979 revolution.

What should be surprising is that even after the Sept. 11 wakeup call, we still have no effective policy for dealing with Iran. After a series of revelations regarding the advancement of Iran’s nuclear program in 2002 and after the revelation of Tehran’s significant assistance to Al Qaeda, we still have no policy for stopping Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

Our latest intelligence guesstimates that Iran is about six to 10 years from developing a nuclear weapon. We must take action now, however, if we are going to have any hope of delaying and hopefully stopping Iran’s nuclear weapons program.

For five years, the Bush administration has been deadlocked and immobilized on our Iran policy. The purpose of this article is to outline steps we can take — short of war — to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. These same measures should be used to stop Iran’s massive support for international terror and improve its abysmal human rights record.

Our current strategy, to the extent we have one, has relied on European — and now Russian — negotiations with Iran. Hanging over Iran is the threat that should negotiations fail, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will refer it to the U.N. Security Council for possible sanctions. But when the IAEA board met over the Thanksgiving holiday, the United States and Europe chose not to force the issue of referral, due to opposition from Russia and China.

That’s the fatal flaw in the strategy. Even if Iran were referred to the Security Council, Russia, and especially China, are likely to veto any meaningful sanctions, no matter how blatant Iran’s continuing violation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

In order to secure future sources of energy, China plans to invest $70 billion in Iranian oil fields. This creates an imperative on the part of the Chinese to use their veto in the Security Council to benefit their “partner.” So relying on the United Nations as the exclusive forum for pressuring Iran is a dead end.

President Bush has not only failed to take action against Iran; he also has made unilateral concessions to Tehran that are baffling. Earlier this year, he agreed to drop U.S. objections to Iran joining the World Trade Organization (WTO), which is critical to Iran’s economy. The Bush administration also announced that it will allow the sale of Boeing parts, so that Iran can repair its aging commercial aircraft fleet.

So for five years, we have done nothing to pressure Iran, save our still unsuccessful efforts to get the IAEA to refer the matter to the U.N. Security Council, a forum Iran would like to avoid. Instead, we must use every available stick and offer some major carrots to stop Iran’s nuclear program.

Among our nonlethal resources are:

1) Economic pressure on oil companies to deter investment in Iran’s aging oil fields.

2) The hint of economic pressure on China to secure cooperation at the United Nations.

3) Ending our trade with Iran.

4) Conditioning Iran’s entry into the WTO on a change in its nuclear policy.

5) Expanded support for Iranian pro-democracy forces

6) Broadcasting designed to influence the Iranian people.

7) Continued refusal to take the military option off the table.

We need to aim these resources at two separate targets. The first is the leadership in Tehran, which needs to conclude that it is simply too expensive to continue its nuclear program. The second target is the people of Iran.

Although pork may not be halal, any government that wishes to be popular with its people, even dictatorships like Iran, has to bring home the bacon. Iran’s population tops 68 million, while oil revenues total $602 per capita annually; so oil cannot alone substitute for a functional economy. We must convince the people of Iran that their already bad economy will get worse if government policies remain unchanged.

I will soon be introducing tough legislation designed to prod the Bush administration into adopting an effective position on Iran. First, my bill would close loopholes in a current law, the Iran Libya Sanctions Act, which was passed by Congress in 1995.

Under this law, European and Asian firms that invest in Iran’s oil sector are subject to U.S. sanctions. The infrastructure in Iran’s oil fields is aging and crumbling, and Iran’s capacity to bring oil to market is eroding. Western technology is badly needed if the Iranians are going to avoid a serious decline in oil production in the coming years. If these firms fear sanctions in the United States, they are likely to forgo investment.

Instead, the Clinton and Bush administrations turned a blind eye to every foreign investment in Iraq. My legislation would end this practice and require the president to impose sanctions.

My legislation also would impose a total embargo on Iranian goods in the United States. Unbelievably, we currently buy about $150 million a year in Iranian carpets, caviar, nuts and fruits. It would require us to oppose WTO membership for Iran and stop the export of Boeing parts to Iran.

It would allow the president to reduce U.S. contributions to the World Bank and other financial institutions should they loan money to the Iranian government. Since 2000, the World Bank has approved loans of more than $1 billion to Tehran. My bill also would end the reprehensible practice of U.S. companies doing business in Iran through their foreign subsidiaries.

I remain hopeful that this type of nonlethal leverage will cause Iran to abandon its nuclear program and support for terrorism and to improve its human rights record.

If necessary, military force must remain an option. A full-scale invasion of Iran is not possible, but a bombing raid or covert action to destroy Iranian nuclear facilities has been discussed in Washington and Jerusalem.

There are many problems with a military approach. In any event, we should not consider the use of force until we have exhausted our other options.

We need to act now. Forcing the Bush administration to adopt a tough policy on Iran — one that uses all economic, political and diplomatic measures at its disposal — should be the highest priority of Congress.

Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks) is a senior member of the House International Relations Committee.

 

Iran Nuclear Cooperation Must Be Pushed


The United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has given the Islamic republic of Iran a firm warning to cooperate on its nuclear issue or face trouble. After running a nuclear program in secret for 20 years, Iran has been put under the spotlight.

Last month, a resolution approved by the 35-member board of directors of the agency clearly expressed unease with Iran’s foot-dragging in meeting its Nuclear Proliferation Treaty obligations. Most important is that the warning comes from a broad consortium, including European countries not considered particularly in line with U.S. Middle Eastern policies, notably France and Germany, with Russia and China going along with the others.

Externally, the clerics ruling Iran tried to split the ranks inside the IAEA with no success. They even were not able to count on American internal conflicts, with Sen. Ted Kennedy pointing on June 22 to the “real threat of Iran’s nuclear program,” adding that John Kerry “has pledged to make preventing nuclear terrorism an absolute priority.”

Internally, Iranian clerics try to play at the same old game of the region. Acting in concert, prominent leaders of the regime, including the spiritual leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, President Mohammad Khatami and Chief Justice Mohammad Shahroudi, have insisted that they were not going to abandon their “legitimate right to the peaceful use of nuclear energy.”

Occasionally, lower-ranking mullahs go a bit further, claiming that while Israel keeps a big stockpile of nuclear weapons, Muslim countries such as Iran should have the right to do the same. Both approaches are mainly for domestic use, but none has gained any significant momentum inside.

When the government tried to organize “popular” demonstrations around nuclear research centers to show popular support for such projects, the whole issue did not gather more than a hundred Bassij — paramilitary forces of the regime — students in the city of Arak to cry out old, rusty anti- Western slogans.

On the other hand, on June 22, a general strike broke out at the very controversial Bushehr nuclear center under construction by the Russians. Although internal difficulties concerning payments and union rights were put forward by the regime as the reason, the mere fact showed there were no patriotic or nationalistic feelings toward the nuclear program.

Generally speaking, the regime’s nuclear endeavor has very little, if any, support among the Iranian people. In fact, the whole secret program came to light in August of 2002, thanks to the Iranian opposition, which, for the first time, revealed precise information of the then-unknown — now well-known — Natanz and Arak enrichment and heavy-water facilities.

Just compare this cold-shoulder attitude inside the country to the million-strong demonstrations in Pakistan in May 1998, after the nuclear arm-wrestling between Pakistan and India, when Pakistani nuclear scientists were greeted by the people as “national heroes” challenging “infidels” in the nuclear arena.

Politically, Iran has clearly moved toward a more radical, hardened and conservative rule of the clergy. Last February’s parliamentary elections turned into the goodbye party for President Khatami’s supporters, the man once seen as West’s favorite in Iran.

The die-hard Revolutionary Guards Corps, set up more than two decades ago as a counterweight to the regular army inherited from the shah, has obviously acquired a lot more authority in the country. This seems more a lineup for confrontation, not concession.

Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security John Bolton told U.S. lawmakers that “the government of Iran has informed the United Kingdom, Germany and France that it is resuming production of uranium centrifuge parts.”

The mere resolution by the board, although a positive step, is not sufficient. Iran should clearly be told that the issue would go beyond the U.N. Security Council for the harshest possible sanctions.

There is more to the issue than just making a rogue state comply. On the international scene, this is an unprecedented occasion for the world community to make international treaties work.

With the Iraqi experience not yet having played out to its full extent, unilateral military action can hardly be considered a solution for such problems. Contrary to President Bush’s belief that military action in Iraq will intimidate Iran’s clerics into compliance, the presence of U.S. forces in neighboring Iraq has left the United States vulnerable to Iranian efforts aimed at sowing instability in Iraq.

Back at home, the Iranian people see this peaceful challenge as a first step for containing a regime which has no respect for its own people and internationally recognized conventions on a variety of rights.

Unlike the Iraqi situation before the war, there is worldwide consensus on standing firm in the face of the regime’s wrongdoings. The world should not let the dangerous 20-year pattern continue, with the cunning mullahs slipping away, albeit with the bomb.

Nooredin Abedian taught in Iranian higher-education institutions before settling in France as a political refugee in 1981. He writes for a variety of publications on Iranian politics and issues concerning human rights.

Israel Backs Tough U.N. Line on Iran


These days, it’s unusual to get the United States and Britain to agree with France and Germany on any Middle East-related U.N. resolution.

When Israel also is on board, it’s downright extraordinary.

Israeli officials are elated at the tough language in a resolution passed last week by the board of the U.N. nuclear watchdog rebuking Iran for not cooperating with nuclear inspectors. Last week’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) resolution "deploring" Iranian stonewalling of IAEA inspectors has far-reaching implications for containment of a radical Islamic regime that successive Israeli administrations have called the greatest threat to the Jewish state.

The resolution, drafted by Britain, France and Germany, expresses special concern about Iran’s refusal to end its uranium-enrichment activities, a condition for European assistance to Iran in developing a peaceful nuclear program.

Adding to U.S. and European frustration was confirmation this year that Iran tried to buy black market magnets necessary for the centrifugal process that enriches uranium.

The single area of disagreement between the United States and the European nations was over a deadline for Iranian compliance. The Europeans kept mention of a deadline out of the resolution, but Mohammed ElBaradei, the IAEA’s director-general, suggested that Iran does not have an endless amount of time to come clean.

"I have been asking, as the board also has been asking, Iran to become proactive, to become transparent and to be fully cooperative, and I hope I’ll see that mode of cooperation in the next few months," ElBaradei said Monday after meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell. "I think the international community is urgently seeking assurance from the agency that Iran’s program is exclusively for a peaceful purpose."

The IAEA board is set to meet again in September, and U.S. officials have suggested that it could decide on further action if Iran doesn’t give way.

The resolution was a success for the Bush administration, which has been urging greater scrutiny of Iran. A number of congressional initiatives also are under way.

Getting on board the same wealthy Western European states that Iran hopes will sustain its faltering economy means that the Islamic republic is spending time fighting diplomatic battles that divert its attention from backing terrorist operations against Israel.

Not that Ariel Sharon’s government wants to make a lot of noise about the IAEA resolution — a high Israeli profile in any rebuke of Iran could galvanize Arab support for a regime that most Arab leaders revile — but much of Israel’s defensive activity is taken with Iran in mind.

Israel is spending hundreds of millions of dollars to expand its Arrow missile defense program to cover the entire country by the end of the decade, primarily because of Iranian missiles that are capable of delivering nonconventional materials to the Jewish state.

Israel long has taken such long-term threats into account in dealing with Iran. In recent years, however, Iran’s influence has seeped into even the day-to-day threats Israel faces.

Hamas and Islamic Jihad have looked to Iran for greater support now that their traditional sources of funding in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere have dried up because of tough scrutiny of terrorist financing and an increased willingness, after Sept. 11, to avoid groups the U.S. government deems as terrorists.

Israeli intelligence believes Hezbollah, a Lebanese terrorist militia that gets strong Iranian support, now is behind up to 80 percent of terrorist activities against Israel, and is particularly active in recruiting Israeli Arab citizens — a development Israeli officials consider especially troubling.

Of course, not all the impetus for the tough language has to do with the threat Iran poses to Israel.

Bush administration officials increasingly are frustrated with the support Iran has given to Shi’ite Muslim insurgents in U.S.-occupied Iraq, and working for a nuclear-free Middle East long has been part of European strategy.

Still, it’s significant that Iran’s nuclear potential is seen as posing a greater threat than Israel’s, and that this realization is penetrating even international forums, which traditionally are bastions of moral equivalence.

Hans Blix, the former top U.N. arms inspector, suggested that Israel’s reported nuclear arsenal could prove to be an important element in the effort to get the Iranians to back down.

"Looking at the rationales and incentives at work, it must be assumed that Tehran is aware not only that Israel has nuclear weapons and that a sovereign Iraq would inherit the know-how to make them, but also that Iranian enrichment, even if it were to remain consistent with the Non-Proliferation Treaty, would further exacerbate the situation," Blix said Monday at a Carnegie Endowment conference he attended with ElBaradei, his old friend.

For the moment, Iran is hardly acting conciliatory.

Learning of the draft resolution last week, Iranian President Mohammed Khatami warned that "if Europe has no commitment toward Iran, then Iran will not have a commitment toward Europe."

Iran appeared to back up the threat Monday when it seized three British naval vessels and eight crewmen who were in the area to help train Iraqi police.

Given the toughness of the IAEA resolution, such grandstanding is unlikely to have much impact. The United States is maintaining its pressure, as President Bush heads to NATO meetings in Europe this weekend, where he is likely to make containment of Iran a priority, backed by a letter signed by 66 senators and 208 House members.

The message from the West is clear, Powell said Monday.

"With respect to Iran," he said, "they have been put on notice once again rather firmly and strongly in this new resolution that the international community is expecting them to answer its questions and to respond fully."