The Iranian framework agreement is an astonishingly good deal, and has the potential to become a historic game-changer. As Robert Parry astutely observed, its about much more than sheaving the threat that Iran will get the bomb:
The April 2 framework agreement with Iran represents more than just a diplomatic deal to prevent nuclear proliferation in the Middle East. It marks a crossroad that offers a possible path for the American Republic to regain its footing and turn away from endless war.
The saliency of that observation lies in the fact that there is virtually nothing in the substance of the deal for the War Party to attack. So what they are doing is desperately hurtling the Iranian axis-of-evil narrative at the agreement, claiming that the regime is so untrustworthy, diabolical and existentially dangerous that no product of mere diplomacy is valid. The Iranians are by axiom hell-bent on evil and no mere "scrap of paper" will stop them.
But therein dwells the game-changing opportunity. To defeat the deal, the War Party will have to defend its three-decade long campaign of exaggerations, distortions and bellicose animosity toward the Iranian state. But that is impossible because the axis-of-evil narrative was never remotely true. Indeed, if the truth be told the War Party has never been required to defend its spurious propaganda thanks in large part to a lazy, gullible mainstream press that has been as negligent on the Iranian evil meme as they were on Saddam's weapons of mass destruction.
As will be demonstrated below, the evil Iran narrative rests on repetition and political bombast, not historical fact. Iran was turned into a pariah state not owing to its own deeds and actions, but because it served the domestic political needs of the War Party. That is, Bibi Netanyahu's Israeli branch used it to win elections by mobilizing the right-wing and religious extremists against a purported external peril; and Washington's neo-cons used it to rescue the Pentagon's war machine and the military industrial complex after the cold war ended its reason for being.
So while the whole axis-of-evil narrative is bogus, the War Party is repairing to it in flat-out hysterical tones because it has nowhere else to go. Indeed, it did not take long for a shrill demagogue like GOP Senator Mark Kirk to play the Hitler card:
“I would say that Neville Chamberlain got a lot more out of Hitler than Wendy Sherman got out of Iran.”
No, Senator, what Hitler got out of Munich was the annexation of the Sudetenland which was 85% German; had been part of various German-speaking predecessor states from the Middle Ages until Versailles; and voted by referendum overwhelmingly to return to the fatherland. Whether the greater foolishness occurred in Paris in 1919, when the Sudetenland was handed to the Czech politicians as war spoils, or in Munich in 1938, when Chamberlain badly misjudged his interlocutor, is a topic which will keep the historians busy debating for centuries.
But Munich has absolutely nothing to do with the matter at hand because Iran is not remotely comparable to Nazi Germany. In fact, Iran is a nearly bankrupt country that has no capability whatsoever to threaten the security and safety of the citizens of Spokane WA, Peoria IL or anywhere else in the US of A.
Its $350 billion GDP is the size of Indiana's and its 68,000 man military is only slightly larger than the national guard of Texas. It is a land of severe mountains and daunting swamps that are not all that conducive to rapid economic progress and advanced industrialization. It has no blue water navy, no missiles with more than a few hundred miles of range, and, most significantly, has had no nuclear weapons program for more than a decade.
And unlike Hitler at Munich who got most of what he wanted, the Iranians at Lausanne gave up almost all of what they had. That is, they made huge concessions on nearly every issue that makes a difference including the number of permitted centrifuges at Natanz, the status of Fordow and Arak, the disposition of its enriched uranium stockpiles, the intrusiveness and scope of the inspections regime and on the matter of Iran's so-called "breakout" capacity.
While every signatory of the non-proliferation treaty has the right to civilian enrichment, Iran has agreed to reduce the number of centrifuges by 70% from 20,000 to 6,000. And its effective capacity has been reduced by significantly more. That's because the permitted Natanz centrifuges will consist exclusively of its most rudimentary, outdated equipment------ first-generation IR-1 knockoffs of 1970s European models.
Not only will they not be allowed to build or develop newer models, but even those remaining will be permitted to enrich uranium to a limit of only 3.75% purity. That is to say, to the generation of fissile material that is not remotely capable of reaching bomb grade concentrations of 90%.
Equally importantly, they have agreed to eliminate enrichment activity entirely at Fordow----Iran's one truly advanced, hardened site that could withstand an onslaught of Israeli or US bunker busters. Instead, Fordow will become a small time underground science lab devoted to medical isotope research and crawling with international inspectors. In effectively decommissioning Fordow and thereby eliminating any capacity to cheat-----what Iran got in return was at best a fig leave of salve for its national pride.
The disposition of the reactor at Arak is even more dispositive. For years, the War Party has falsely waved the bloody shirt of "plutonium" because the civilian nuclear reactor being built there was of Canadian "heavy water" design rather than GE or Westinghouse "light water" design; and, accordingly, when finished it would have generated plutonium as a waste product rather than conventional spent nuclear fuel rods.
In truth, the Iranians couldn't have bombed a beehive with the Arak plutonium because you need a reprocessing plant to convert it into bomb grade material. Needless to say, Iran had no such plant, no plan to build one, and no prospect for getting the requisite technology and equipment.
But now even that bogeyman no longer exists. Under the deal, Iran will destroy or export the reactor core of its existing plant; replace it with a core that cannot produced material that can be reprocessed into weapons grade plutonium; and will be required to ship out of the country all spent nuclear fuel. All of these restrictions, in turn, will be subject to rigorous inspection.
As to its already existing enriched stock piles, including some 20% medical-grade material, it will eliminate 97% of what it has. That is, it will hold only 300 kilograms of its 10,000 kilogram stockpile in its current form. Senator Kirk could store what will be left in his wine cellar.
But where the framework agreement decisively shuts down the War Party is in its provision for a robust, comprehensive and even prophylactic inspections regime. All of the major provision itemized above will be enforced by continuous IAEA access to existing facilities including its main centrifuge complex at Natanz---- along with Fordow, Arak and a half dozen other sites.
The real break-through, however, lies in Iran's agreement to what amounts to a cradle-to-grave inspection regime. It encompasses the entire nuclear fuel chain.
That means international inspectors will visit Iran's uranium mines and milling and fuel preparation operations. This even includes its enrichment equipment manufacturing and fabrication plants. For the next 20 years inspectors will have “continuous surveillance at Iran’s centrifuge rotors and bellows production and storage facilities.”
Beyond that, Iran has also agreed to a robust program of inspections to prevent smuggling of materials into the country to illicit sites outside of the framework facilities. This encompasses imports of nuclear fuel cycle equipment and materials, including so-called "dual use" items which are essentially civilian imports that could be repurposed to nuclear uses, even peaceful domestic power generation.
Furthermore, the inspection regime burrows even deeper into the weeds. According to Max Fisher's excellent summary published on Contra Corner earlier today,
"Iran has finally agreed to comply by a rule known as Modified Code 3.1 of the Subsidiary Arrangements General Part to Iran’s Safeguards Agreement, shorthanded as Modified Code 3.1. It says that Iran has to notify inspectors immediately on its decision to build any new facility where it plans to do nuclear work — long before construction starts".
Similarly, it appears Iran has agreed to continuation of inspection provisions with respect to existing UN resolutions restricting conventional arms and ballistic missile capabilities.
In short, not even a Houdini could secretly break-out of the box contemplated in the agreement and confront the world with some kind of fait accompli threat to use the bomb. To do so would take diversion of thousands of tons of domestically produced or imported uranium and the illicit milling and upgrading of such material at secret fuel preparation plants.
It would also involve the secret construction of new, hidden enrichment operations of such massive scale that they could house more than 10,000 new centrifuges; the building of these massive spinning arrays from components smuggled into the country and transported to remote enrichment operations undetected by the massive complex of spy satellites overhead and covert US ands Israeli intelligence agency operatives on the ground in Iran.
Finally, it would require the activation from scratch of a weaponization program which has been dormant according to the National Intelligence Estimates (NIEs) for more than a decade. And then, that the Iranian regime-----after cobbling together one or two bombs without testing them or their launch vehicles----- would nevertheless be willing to threaten to use them sight unseen.
So just stop it!
You need to be a raging, certifiable paranoid boob to believe that the Iranians could break out of this framework box based on a secret new capacity to enrich the requisite fissile material and make a bomb. In the alternative scenario, you have to be a willful know-nothing to think that by repudiating the agreement that Iran could quickly get enough nuclear material from its existing sites to make a bomb from the output of the 5,000 "old and slow" centrifuges that will be left at Natanz a few months after the deal incepts.
At the end of the day, in fact, what you really have to believe is that Iran is run by absolutely irrational, suicidal madmen. After all, even if they managed to defy the immensely prohibitive constraints described above and get one or a even a few nuclear bombs, what in the world would they do with them?
Drop them on Tel Aviv? That would absolutely insure Israel's navy and air force would unleash its 200 nukes and thereby incinerate the entire industrial base and major population centers of Iran. The idea that deterrence would fail even if a future Iranian regime were to defy all the odds, and also defy the fatwa against nuclear weapons issued by their Supreme Leader, amounts to one of the most proposterous Big Lies ever concocted.
There is no plausible or rational basis for believing it outside of the axis-of-evil narrative. So what's really at issue here is not the framework or the diplomacy of the Obama White House and the P5+1 group of nations which negotiated it, but the immense tissue of unwarranted demonization of Iran that the War Party has fabricated over the last three decades.
What obliterates that false picture more decisively than anything else is that Iran has no nuclear weapons program. Period. All the hysteria about the mullahs getting the bomb is based on the wholly theoretically supposition that they want civilian enrichment only as a stepping stone to the bomb. Yet the entirety of the US intelligence complex and America's most dangerous war monger of recent times, George W. Bush, both say it isn't so.
The blinding truth of that proposition first came in the National Intelligence Estimates of 2007. These NIEs represent a consensus of all 16 US intelligence agencies on salient issues each year, and on the matter of Iran's nuclear weapons program they could not have been more unequivocal:
“We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program; we also assess with moderate-to-high confidence that Tehran at a minimum is keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons. … We assess with moderate confidence Tehran had not restarted its nuclear weapons program as of mid-2007, but we do not know whether it currently intends to develop nuclear weapons. …
“Our assessment that Iran halted the program in 2003 primarily in response to international pressure indicates Tehran’s decisions are guided by a cost-benefit approach rather than a rush to a weapon irrespective of the political, economic and military costs.”
Moreover, as former CIA analyst Ray McGovern noted recently, the NIE's have not changed since then.
An equally important fact ignored by the mainstream media is that the key judgments of that NIE have been revalidated by the intelligence community every year since.
Next there is the matter of "Dubya's" memoirs. Near the end of his term in office he was under immense pressure to authorize a bombing campaign against Iran's civilian nuclear facilities. But once the 2007 NIEs came out, even the "mission accomplished" President in the bomber jacket was caught up short. As McGovern further notes,
Bush lets it all hang out in his memoir, Decision Points. Most revealingly, he complains bitterly that the NIE “tied my hands on the military side” and called its findings “eye-popping.”
A disgruntled Bush writes, “The backlash was immediate.......“I don’t know why the NIE was written the way it was. … Whatever the explanation, the NIE had a big impact — and not a good one.”
Spelling out how the Estimate had tied his hands “on the military side,” Bush included this (apparently unedited) kicker: “But after the NIE, how could I possibly explain using the military to destroy the nuclear facilities of a country the intelligence community said had no active nuclear weapons program?”
So there you have it. How is it possible to believe that the Iranian's are hell-bent on a nuclear holocaust when they don't even have a nuclear weapons program?
The truth is, what they do have is a regional political program---some of it accompanied by rhetoric which is bombastic and often unsavory. But the substance of what amounts to the ordinary business of statecraft has been twisted and contorted by the War Party into an utterly false claim that Iran is out to conquer and even destroy its neighbors. But the evidence for that does not exist and the flimsy arguments which are proffered amount to a giant so what!
Thus, Iran has been a stalwart supporter of the Assad regime in Syria. So what? The Assad regime is no more unsavory or brutal than its ISIS and al Qaeda opponents. Its base in the minority Alawite sect of Syria has made it a natural of ally of the its Shiite cousins who rule Iran, and led it to protect the rights of Christians, Druze, Kurds and numerous other minorities against the Sunni majority in Syria for decades.
In any event, the age old sectarian quarrels of the Syrians are none of our business and have no bearing whatsoever on America's security and safety. The alliance of Assad with Iran proves only that Iran sides with the Shiite in these internal sectarian conflicts just as the Saudi and other Persian Gulf states side with their kinsmen on the Sunni side-----including arming and aiding the jihadists among them.
The same is true of the civil war in Yemen. The north has been dominated by a branch of Shiite Islam and the south by Sunni sects for centuries. The current civil war first broke out back in the 1970s when the Shah was still on the throne in Tehran and has virtually nothing to do with the current Iranian regime.
The truth is, in fact, after more than a decade of Washington's intervention, political manipulation and conduct of arms supply and deadly droning campaigns against mainly civilian populations, Yemen is now an utterly failed state and economic hell hole. The Houthi who adhere to an obscure branch of the Shiite faith, were not long ago Washington's ally in the battle against Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Owing to the internal chaos Washington unleashed in Yemen, however, they have now overthrown our latest puppet ruler there, but not with two-bit aid from Iran. Like ISIS in Syria and Iraq, they have conquered half the country with $500 million worth of US arms left behind by hurriedly evacuating US forces.
Did Iran invade Iraq and impose the Shiite dominated government in Baghdad that has essentially fractured the country invented out of whole cloth by British and French diplomats in 1916 as they divided up the spoils of the Ottoman Empire? No, it was Washington's demented "shock and awe" campaign that destroyed the tenuous state of Iraq and unleashed the Sunni furies that have now morphed into ISIS------a rabble of medieval fanatics and butchers that in the final analysis can only be stopped by the very Shiite Crescent that is supposedly the proof that Iran is untrustworthy.
Likewise, it was not Iran which invaded southern Lebanon and gave rise to Hezbollah. More than three decades ago it was Ronald Reagan who mistakenly inserted US forces into Beirut. And while he learned from the tragedy of 241 dead Marines that Lebanon's sectarian conflicts are none of Washington's business, nor are they within its capacity to resolve, that painful lesson did not cause it to restrain the Israelis.
Twice they have invaded Lebanon with Washington's acquiescence. So doing they have inflicted massive destruction, death and undying animosity on the preponderant Shiite population of southern Lebanon.
Thanks to Israel's imperial arrogance, therefore, Hezbollah has been preternaturally empowered, thereby becoming the protector of the Shiite population and the most powerful political party in the Lebanese government.
That Iran chooses to ally with and transfer modest economic aid to its Shiite brethren is certainly not conducive to normalizing relations between Lebanon and Israel. But it is hardly evidence of some grand design of conquest---nor does it constitute an "existential threat" to a state that has vastly superior economic and military capabilities.
And that gets to the heart of the issue. Other than for a few brief months during his first term in office in the late 1990s, Bibi Netanyahu has brazenly, cynically and unremittingly demonized Iran in furtherance of his own brobdingnagian will to political power and absurd pretension that he is some latter day Winston Churchill.
His hysterical opposition to the deal is therefore fully explainable. No demonic state of the nature he has castigated for two decades could possibly embrace the framework which came out of Lausanne. His epic Big Lie is being called out, and no amount of desperate denunciation of the deal can stop its exposure.
So too with the domestic neocons. The historical record of the early post cold war years makes absolutely clear that the Iranian regime was designated as the Soviet successor threat in order to keep the nation's massive war machine in tact. Cheney, Wolfowitz and Robert Gates were all there at the founding------ as Gareth Porter has so brilliantly documented in his indispensable book called "Manufactured Crisis".
Indeed, there could be no more appropriate metaphor than "manufactured" for the War Party's shrill opposition to the Lausanne deal. It is a manufactured case against a manufactured enemy.
By contrast, the actual framework deal could change the course of history by relieving 75 million long-suffering Iranians of the punishing impact of sanctions. It could, in turn, foster further moderation of the Iranian regime and the return of a proud nation which, unlike Washington, has invaded no one for more than a century, to the community of nations.
Indeed, rapprochement with Iran is the gateway to ending Washington's increasingly destructive thrashing about the entire middle east------from Yemen to Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, and in Pakistan and Afghanistan, too. It would permit the natural enemies of ISIS to contain and ultimately extinguish its bloody rampage, while at the same time reducing US dependence upon the corpulent, decadent and sclerotic despotism that rules Saudi Arabia.
With crude oil at $50 and heading much lower for much longer----now is finally the time for US policy to recognize that protecting the Persian Gulf oil supplies has been a drastically erroneous predicate for US policy for more than four decades. In truth, the American economy can live with the free market price of oil, whatever it is; and whoever rules Iran and Saudi Arabia will produce as much as they can in order to meet domestic needs and bolster there own political fortunes. America's energy future does not require the services of the Seventh Fleet in the Persian Gulf, nor marines, cruise missiles or drones in the surrounding oil provinces.
The Sunni-Shiite conflict has been raging on and off for 1300 years now. America has no dog in that hunt and never has.
What the framework deal actually does, therefore, is to open the door to an eventual US withdrawal from its bloody, failed history of intervention in the middle east. So doing, it would pave the way for a drastic shrinkage of an obsolete war machine that has had no purpose since 1991 except to spill American blood and treasure in a region of the world where it has no business meddling.
No wonder the War Party is going hysterical.