What Is This “Re-Establish Deterrence” They Keep Talking About?

I have a short piece up at Inkstick Media. It’s short enough that I won’t quote it here, except to say that I have found the claims that the Trump administration killed Qassem Soleimani to “re-establish deterrence” annoying in multiple dimensions.

Besides, Inkstick is a new enterprise, trying to make this stuff more understandable, and I support that goal. If you like what I write here, you’ll probably like Inkstick. Go ahead, give them some clicks!

Iran’s Action On The Nuclear Agreement

A lot of claims are flying around about Iran’s actions with regard to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. Some things are not yet clear. Here’s the official statement and interpretation by Mehr News:

“The Islamic Republic of Iran, in the fifth step in reducing its commitments, discards the last key component of its operational limitations in the JCPOA, which is the “limit on the number of centrifuges.”

As such, the Islamic Republic of Iran’s nuclear program no longer faces any operational restrictions, including enrichment capacity, percentage of enrichment, amount of enriched material, and research and development.

From here on, Iran’s nuclear program will be developed solely based on its technical needs.

Iran’s cooperation with the IAEA will continue as before.

If the sanctions are lifted and Iran benefits from its interests enshrined in the JCPOA, the Islamic Republic is ready to return to its commitments.

The Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) is obliged to take the necessary steps and arrangements in coordination with the President.”

US President Donald Trump unilaterally pulled Washington out of the JCPOA in May 2018, and reimposed “toughest ever” sanctions against the Islamic Republic in defiance of global criticism.

In response to the US unilateral move, as well as the European signatories’ failure to safeguard Iran’s economic interests in the face of US sanctions, Tehran rowed back on its nuclear commitments step-by-step in compliance with Articles 26 and 36 of the JCPOA, but stressed that its retaliatory measures will be reversible as soon as Europe finds practical ways to shield the mutual trade from the US sanctions.

As a first step, Iran increased its enriched uranium stockpile to beyond the 300 kilograms set by the JCPOA.

In the second step, Tehran began enriching uranium to purity rates beyond the JCPOA limit of 3.76 percent.

In the third phase, after the Europeans failed to meet a 60-day deadline to meet Iran’s demands and fulfill their commitments under the deal, Iran started up advanced centrifuges to boost the country’s stockpile of enriched uranium and activated 20 IR-4 and 20 IR-6 centrifuges for research and development purposes.

In November, Iran began injecting gas into centrifuges at the Fordow plant as part of its fourth step away from the JCPOA under the supervision of the IAEA.

Iran will continue to cooperate with IAEA inspections. This is important, because it keep us informed of what is happening in Iran’s nuclear complex. Iran remains within the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, which is their commitment not to build nuclear weapons.

Worth requoting from above:

If the sanctions are lifted and Iran benefits from its interests enshrined in the JCPOA, the Islamic Republic is ready to return to its commitments.

This has been Iran’s position all along. They have acted in a measured and predictable way. In fact, they have done less than they might have; a number of experts expected today’s announcement to be that they were enriching uranium up to 20% U-235, which would have been worse than that they are removing limits on numbers of centrifuges.

There are fine points that are still not clear, like what will happen to the Arak reactor and to the international cooperation they have been participating in to convert their nuclear installations to peaceful use.

Here are a couple of threads from people involved in the negotiations and implementation of the JCPOA.

Cross-posted to Balloon Juice

A Tale Of Two Red Lines

Let’s get this out of the way first: President Donald Trump didn’t actually say the words “red line.” In fact, he, his National Security Advisor, and his Secretary of State say so many different things that it can be hard to tell whether there are red lines, let alone where they are.

In August 2012, President Barack Obama explicitly laid down a red line to President Bashar al-Assad of Syria: Move chemical weapons around, and we will strike. A few days later, Assad brutally killed over a thousand people in Ghouta with sarin. Congress and allied nations were reluctant to back a military strike in response. But then Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov offered another response: Syria would join the Chemical Weapons Convention and give up its stock of chemical weapons and the means to make more. Read More

Questions To Ask Before Going To War

A hard pushback on the dicey “evidence” the Trump administration didn’t quite present – it’s classified y’know – slowed down John Bolton’s rush to war, but something bit Donald Trump and he has tweeted another implied nuclear threat at Iran. Here are questions that should be considered in going to war. Read More

Beating The War Drums

National Security Advisor John Bolton still thinks that the Iraq war was a good idea. He has never met a war he didn’t like or a treaty that he did. Now, as Donald Trump’s National Security Advisor, he has a great deal of power to make war against Iran. Bolton has given speeches for the MEK, a cultish organization that wants regime change in Iran.

Trump pulled the United States out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA, Iran deal) a year ago, under the fiction that his great deal-making skills and “maximum pressure” would force Iran into a deal where they would change their government, stop supporting Hamas, end all nuclear work, and, probably, build a Trump Tower Tehran. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has listed twelve points that Iran must meet to become a good world citizen in his eyes. Presumably, as in the case of North Korea, Iran must meet all those points before sanctions will be removed.

The JCPOA covers the possibility of Iran’s making nuclear weapons in full detail. Iran is complying with the agreement. But that’s not enough for a faction in the United States and Israel who opposed the JCPOA from the beginning and have continued to agitate for withdrawal from it. Read More

The Donald Trump Worldwide Threat Assessment

This morning’s Presidential tweet storm confirmed a trend I’ve discerned recently.

I’ve had a running (good-natured) argument with other nuke nerds on Twitter about the President’s delusions with regard to North Korea. His tweets and much of the administration action and speech, particularly Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s, seem to revolve around an assumption that Kim Jong Un is ready to give up his nuclear weapons.

However, every official statement from North Korea says otherwise. Kim sees those nuclear weapons as the foundation of his country’s security from meddling by outside powers. North Korea has long used the word “denuclearization” to indicate a state in which they no longer fear attack and thus can give up their nuclear arsenal.

This disjunction is dangerous. It appears that Kim is playing Donald Trump, and Trump is responding. It may mean that Trump will give up alliances with South Korea and Japan for meaningless actions from North Korea. It may mean that at some point he will recognize the disjunction and feel that he has been betrayed by Kim and will allow John Bolton his desire for a war. Read More

A Lovely Day For War With Iran

Hey, what better way to spend the holiday weekend than pushing for yet another war?

I can’t imagine why anyone would think that a war with Iran is a good idea. We are already involved in two wars in the region, one of them a direct consequence of the 2003 war on Iraq. Iran is a larger country, in a more strategic geographic position. As I continue to read material from the warmongers, I recall a saying attributed to Michael Ledeen:

Every ten years or so, the United States needs to pick up some small crappy little country and throw it against the wall, just to show the world we mean business.

This, presumably, is consistent with the swagger Mike Pompeo wants to bring to the State Department. Read More

John Bolton Is Worried About His War

Donald Trump says he told John Bolton when he hired him as National Security Advisor, “No, no wars.” But Bolton is a smart man who knows how to operate in the government to get his way. And his way is unabated hostility to the rest of the world. He has recently condemned the International Court of Justice. He supported the Iraq war. He is an advocate of preventive war against Iran and North Korea.

But the Jamal Khashoggi murder is standing in the way of a war against Iran. John Bolton must be sad. And, probably, working hard to find a way through this crisis. Read More

Links – May 8, 2018

What Russia wants most – derzhavnost means both being a great power and being recognized as such by others. It explains a lot.

What North Korea needs to give up for peace with South Korea. This seems analogous to the Soviet Union’s foreign policy before 1989. This is what would be necessary to monitor a deal with North Korea – much more complex than Iran’s agreement, which Trump is now savaging. Top photo from hereA nuclear inspection team from the International Atomic Energy Agency in Iran in 2014. CreditKazem Ghane/European Pressphoto Agency

Probably the best piece around on Benjamin Netanyahu’s spectacle on the Iran deal.

The OPCW concluded that the chemical agent used on the Skripals in Salisbury, England was “concluded that the chemical substance found was of high purity, persistent and resistant to weather conditions.”

How they do it – open source intelligence at Middlebury’s Center for Nonproliferation Studies.

The Opposition To The Iran Deal Is Intellectually and Morally Bankrupt

Reuel Marc Gerecht has an article titled “The Iran Deal Is Strategically and Morally Absurd” at the Atlantic website. It is a good example of the repetitive and tendentious tripe that the opponents consistently offer up.

I am not fond of the bloggy format of dissecting a piece of writing sentence by sentence by sentence, although Gerecht’s piece could easily provoke such a response. Each sentence presents a misrepresenation or other ugliness that it seems wrong to allow to pass. But I’d like to make my response more succinct.

Since the title begins with “The Iran Deal,” one might expect that that would be the subject of the article. But few words are expended on the substance of the deal compared to, for example vituperation against Barack Obama. The personalization of Gerecht’s argument is typical of criticism by opponents on Twitter and elsewhere. Read More