Day: July 12, 2015

What I’ll be looking for

I’ve pledged a piece on the Iran nuclear deal to the Middle East Institute, once it is done. I claim some competence in the matter, as I earned a master’s degree in physical chemistry at the University of Chicago (and a doctorate on the history of radiation protection at Princeton) and spent seven years as a science counselor in American embassies working on non-proliferation issues.

Here are some key things I’ll be looking for:

1. Does the deal meet provisions laid out in the April Parameters for a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action Regarding the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Nuclear Program?

The parameters were unprecedented in what they would require a potential bomb-building country to do. The Americans published them, but the Iranians in the end did not formally object to their contents (and the Iranian Foreign Minister implied the document was accurate). Does the new agreement (presumably called a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) faithfully reproduce and implement its provisions?

2. Are the verification mechanisms sufficiently intrusive to ensure that we will know if Tehran cheats?

This is in some respects the most important issue. The parameters promised inspections at uranium-producing facilities for 25 years and surveillance of centrifuges (and their production) 20. How will these provisions be implemented? What provisions have been made to ensure access to suspicious military sites? There is no history of nuclear nonproliferation using facilities under International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards. Can we be reasonably certain of discovering if Iran initiates a clandestine nuclear program outside the purview of the IAEA?

3. How are sanctions to be lifted?

Does lifting of sanctions follow verified implementation? Which sanctions are to be lifted and how? Will the architecture of sanctions remain in place, as pledged in the parameters?

4. What provisions have been made for “snap-back” of sanctions in the event of violations?

Who decides when there is a violation? How is it decided that sanctions will be reimposed? What is the promised “dispute resolution mechanism”?

5. Will the arms embargo on Iran be lifted?

The parameters promised lifting of all UN Security Council resolutions “on the nuclear issue.” Does this mean the arms embargo, which among other things has blocked Russian sales of advanced air defenses to Tehran, will be lifted and if so how and when?

Other issues

US representation in Tehran: This deal is so far-reaching and complex, it is difficult to see how it can be implemented effectively without an official US presence in Iran. Are provisions being made for return of US diplomats and technical experts? Does this mean re-opening of a US office (if not an embassy), or will the Americans work out of the embassy of Switzerland, which has represented the US there since we broke diplomatic relations in 1980?

Iran’s behavior in the region, support for terrorism and human rights record at home. Both Democrats and Republicans will raise these issues during the 60-day Congressional review period. The Obama Administration has been reluctant to press those concerns as hard as it might while the nuclear negotiations were ongoing. Will that policy now change? Will the US be more prepared to push back against Iran’s forces or their proxies in Iraq, Syria, Bahrain and Lebanon? Will Iran use the funds it gains from sanctions relief to make even more trouble, and how will the Administration react to that.

Regional security: Wars are currently raging in Iraq, Syria and Yemen. Iran and the US are both directly or indirectly implicated in all of them. Can the nuclear deal somehow lead to a regional accord that includes Saudi Arabia and Turkey and enables a more effective effort against ISIS as well as restoration of state integrity and effective governance?

I look forward to getting some answers, maybe tomorrow.

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Peace picks July 13-17

1. The Future of the U.S.-India Partnership: Ten Years After the Civil Nuclear Cooperation Initiative | Monday, July 13th | 8:15-5:00 | Carnegie Endowment | REGISTER TO ATTEND | Join the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and the Confederation of Indian Industry for a conference on the future of the U.S.-India partnership, ten years after the Civil Nuclear Cooperation Initiative. Speakers include: William J. Burns, President, Carnegie Endowment, Chandrajit Banerjee, Director General, Confederation of Indian Industry, Arun K. Singh, Ambassador of India, Nisha Desai Biswal, Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian and Central Asian Affairs, Condoleeza Rice, Senior Fellow, Hoover Institution, R. Nicholas Burns, Professor, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University, Shyam Saran, Chairman, National Security Advisory Board, Indian Government, Philip D. Zelikow, Professor, University of Virginia, Sumit Mazumder, President, Confederation of the Indian Industry, Rajiv I. Modi, Chairman, Cadila Pharmaceuticals, Deep Kapuria, Chairman, Hi-Tech Gears Ltd., Kaushik Basu, Senior Vice President and Chief Economist, World Bank, Stephen J. Hadley, Chairman, Board of Directors, USIP, M.K. Narayanan, Governor of West Bengal in India, Shivshankar Menon, Fellow, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University, Thomas E. Donilon, Vice Chair, O’Melveny & Myers LLP, Robert M. Scher, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Strategy, Plans and Capabilities, Eliot A. Cohen, Professor of Strategic Studies , School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University, Vikram J. Singh, Vice-President, National Security and International Policy, Center for American Progress and Sukaran Singh, Managing Director and CEO, Tata Advanced Systems. Moderators include: Stephen E. Biegun, Corporate Officer and Vice President of International Governmental Affairs, Ford Motor Company, Swaminathan S. Anklesaria Aiyar, Research Fellow, Cato Institute, William J. Burns, President, Carnegie Endowment and David E. Sanger, Chief Washington Correspondent, New York Times.

2. Why Human Rights Matter in Policy toward North Korea | Monday, July 13th | 12:00-2:00 | National Endowment for Democracy | REGISTER TO ATTEND | The 2014 report of the UN Commission of Inquiry (COI) on human rights in North Korea successfully brought international attention to the severity of the Kim regime’s human rights violations and the plight of the North Korean people, and highlighted the need for the international community to do more to address human rights in the isolated country. At the same time, the impact of the COI report on the attitude of the international community is yet to be seen, while nuclear issues remain the primary focus of U.S. policy toward North Korea. In his presentation, Yoshihiro Makino will describe the little understood political situation inside North Korea and discuss how the repression of basic rights is fundamental to the regime’s grip on power. Mr. Makino will base his analysis on information gathered through extensive interviews with North Korea specialists, diplomats, and direct sources with first-hand knowledge. He will then offer suggestions on how the US and the international community can use this knowledge to more effectively address human rights issues in North Korea. His presentation will be followed by comments by Bruce Klingner. Speakers include: Yoshihiro Makino, Expert on East Asian Security, National Endowment for Democracy, Bruce Klingner, Senior Research Fellow, Northeast Asia, Heritage Foundation and Lynn Lee, Senior Program Officer, National Endowment for Democracy.

3. Oil Price Trends and Global Implications | Tuesday, July 14th | 9:00-10:15 | Carnegie Endowment | REGISTER TO ATTEND The sharp drop in oil prices is one of the most important global economic developments over the past year. While oil’s long term price outlook remains highly uncertain, a substantial part of its decline is expected to persist into the medium term. Aasim M. Husain will discuss implications of these developments for the global economy and financial markets, as well as recommended policy responses for key country groups. He will be joined by Mark Finley and Uri Dadush to discuss market trends as well as their economic and political implications for oil-exporting and oil-importing countries. Carnegie’s Michele Dunne will moderate. A light breakfast will be served. Speakers include: Aasim M. Husain, Deputy Director, Middle East and Central Asia Department, International Monetary Fund, Uri Dadush, Senior Associate, Carnegie Endowment, Mark Finley, General Manager, Global Energy Markets and U.S. Economics at BP. Moderators include: Michele Dunne, Senior Associate, Carnegie’s Middle East Program.

4. The Struggle for Democracy in Myanmar/Burma Tuesday, July 14th | 9:30-11:00 | Brookings Institution | REGISTER TO ATTEND | Myanmar/Burma is in the fourth year of a historic transition out of military rule that began after the junta dissolved itself in March 2011, replaced by an elected parliament and the government led by President Thein Sein. New elections are expected in November for its second government under the 2008 constitution. While expressing commitment to holding a free and fair election, the Thein Sein government has left in place a constitutional obstacle to allowing Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD), from becoming the country’s next president. The NLD seems likely to emerge from the new elections with the most seats in the legislature, but may fall short of its landslide victory in the 1990 election, which was not accepted by the ruling military junta.On July 14, the Center for East Asia Policy Studies at Brookings will host a discussion of Myanmar’s progress over the past four years and the prospects for strengthening democratic rule under the next government. Delphine Schrank, a former reporter with The Washington Post, spent four years among dissidents in Myanmar/Burma and has written a narrative nonfiction account about their epic multi-generational fight for democracy. Her book ‘The Rebel of Rangoon; A Tale of Defiance and Deliverance’ (Nation Books, 2015) will set the stage for the discussion. Speakers include: Ted Piccone, Senior Fellow, Brookings Institution, Lex Rieffel, Non-Resident Senior Fellow, Brookings Institution, Priscilla Clapp, Former Chief-Of-Mission, U.S. Embassy in Burma and Richard Bush, Senior Fellow and Director, Center for East Asia Policy Studies.

5. Hearing: Implications of a Nuclear Agreement with Iran (Part III) Tuesday, July 14th | 10:00-1:00 | Rayburn House Office Building | REGISTER TO ATTEND | In announcing the series of hearings, Chairman Royce said:  “As we anticipate a congressional review of the Administration’s possible nuclear agreement with Iran, we’ll be looking to see how the Administration has done on Congress’ red lines.  Did we get anywhere, anytime inspections?  Full Iranian transparency regarding its past nuclear activities? No large-scale, immediate sanctions relief; but guaranteed, workable sanctions snap-backs? Meaningful restraints on Iran’s nuclear program that last decades?  This hearing will be the first in a series the Committee will hold should the Administration strike what might be one of the most significant agreements in decades.  As I have said, no deal is far better than a bad deal.” Speakers include: Joseph I. Lieberman, Co-Chair of the Foundation, Defense of Democracies, General Michael V. Hayden, Former Director, Central Intelligence Agency and R. Nicholas Burns, Professor of Diplomacy and International Relations, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University.

6. Can the IAEA Effectively Verify an Agreement Between Iran and the P5+1? Wednesday, July 15th | 9:30-11:00 | The Atlantic Council | REGISTER TO ATTEND | The Atlantic Council Iran Task Force and Search for Common Ground invite you to a discussion on the capabilities of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to monitor a nuclear agreement with Iran. A key issue arising during nuclear negotiations with Iran is the international community’s ability to verify Iran’s compliance with its non-proliferation obligations.  Former IAEA Safeguards Official Thomas Shea will discuss a new paper on the evolution of techniques used to verify a country’s compliance with nuclear safeguards and other non-proliferation obligations. Panelists will also discuss other potential methods to detect – and thus deter – Iran from violating the terms of an agreement.  Speakers include: William Green Miller, Senior Advisor, US-Iran Program, Search for Common Ground, Thomas Shea, Former Safeguards Official, International Atomic Energy Agency, Jim Walsh, Research Associate, Security Studies Program, MIT. Moderators include: Barbara Slavin, Senior Fellow, South Asia Center, Atlantic Council.

7.  The Kuwait Crisis 25 Years Later Wednesday, July 15th | 10:00-11:30 | Brookings Institution | REGISTER TO ATTEND | Twenty five years ago this summer, Iraq provoked a crisis with Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, demanding debt cancellation and higher oil prices. It proved to be a ruse for a far more daring plan. On August 2, 1990, Iraq invaded and annexed Kuwait. Around the world, people feared that Saddam Hussein’s armies would move on to Saudi Arabia. In response, President George H. W. Bush deployed hundreds of thousands of American troops to the Kingdom, recruited an international alliance to support them, and gained United Nations and U.S. congressional support to liberate Kuwait. The Gulf War fundamentally altered American policy toward the Middle East and laid the foundation for the many successes and failures that followed. Today, Americans continue to wrestle with the legacy of the Gulf War and the dilemma that the Middle East has posed to U.S. foreign policy in the years since. On July 15, the Brookings Intelligence Project will host Brookings Senior Fellows Kenneth Pollack and Bruce Riedel to reflect on the Kuwait crisis a quarter century later, looking back on 1990 and forward from 2015. They will discuss this crucial turning point and its significance for the region and the United States. Riedel, director of the Intelligence Project, will moderate the discussion. Following their remarks, Pollack and Riedel will take questions from the audience. Speakers include: Kenneth M. Pollack, Senior Fellow, Center for Middle East Policy, Brookings Institution and Bruce Riedel, Director, Intelligence Project, Brookings Institution.

8. Considerations and constraints for U.S., EU and Turkish Engagement in the South Caucusus Wednesday, July 15th | 10:30-12:00 | Brookings Institution | REGISTER TO ATTEND | Harsh geopolitical realities and historic legacies have pushed the South Caucasus states of Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia back onto the foreign policy agendas of the United States, the European Union (EU), and Turkey, at a time when all three have pulled back from more activist roles in regional affairs. Western disengagement has exacerbated some of the more negative regional trends by signaling disinterest and a lack of commitment toward resolving ongoing conflicts and challenges. These current dynamics create several policy challenges for the region and beyond, including whether the festering crises in the Caucasus will feed into broader conflagrations; whether the United States, EU, and Turkey re-evaluate their involvement in the region in light of Russia’s assertive new foreign policy; and whether given other priorities, can the West muster sufficient political will to re-engage, within limits, in high-level regional diplomacy?

On July 15, the Brookings Center on the United States and Europe (CUSE) will host a panel to discuss a new report, Retracing the Caucasian Circle, co-authored by Fiona Hill, Kemal Kirişci, and Andrew Moffatt. In the paper, the authors provide an overview of the geopolitical and security issues facing Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia and their consequences for relations with the West. The report advocates that in spite of major challenges these three actors should not give up on their engagement of the region and should adopt realistic approaches which can be sustained. Speakers include: Fiona Hill, Director, Center on the United States and Europe, Brookings Institution, Eric Rubin, Deputy Assistant Secretary, European and Eurasian Affairs, U.S. State Department, Unal Cevikoz, President, Ankara Policy Center and Klaus Botzet, Head of the Political, Security and Development Section, Delegation of the European Union to the U.S. Moderators include: Kemal Kirisci, Director, Turkey Project, Brookings Institution.

9. Religious Freedom: Rising Threats to a Fundamental Human Right| Thursday, July 16th | 9:30-4:15 | Copley Formal Lounge | REGISTER TO ATTEND | According to the Pew Research Center, governmental and social restrictions on religion continue to rise. Today 77 percent of the world’s population lives in religiously repressive countries. This conference will examine the severe and growing challenges facing minority religions around the world—including in the Middle East, Western Europe, Myanmar, and Russia—and will give special attention to how religious persecution affects women and girls. A central question will be whether and how US international religious freedom policy can improve conditions for religious minorities abroad and the societies in which they live. Speakers include: Ken Starr, Baylor University, 

Congressman Keith Ellison,  House of Representatives (D-Minnesota), Katrina Lantos Swett, United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, Engy Abdelkader, Rutgers University and American Bar Association Section of Individual Rights and Responsibilities, Rabbi Andrew Baker, AJC

Thomas Farr, Religious Freedom Project, Georgetown University

, Brian Grim, Religious Freedom and Business Foundation

, Elizabeth Cassidy, United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, Aisha Rahman, KARAMAH, Jacqueline Rivers, Harvard Kennedy School, Frank Wolf, Baylor University and retired House of Representatives (R-Virginia)

, Mark Schickman, American Bar Association Section of Individual Rights and Responsibilities, Timothy Samuel Shah, Religious Freedom Project
. Moderators include: 

Richard Foltin, American Jewish Committee (AJC) and American Bar Association Section of Individual Rights and Responsibilities

 and Claudia Winkler, Religious Freedom Project, Georgetown University.

10. Civil Resistance and Peacebuilding: How They ConnectThursday, July 16th | 10:00-11:00 | United States Institute of Peace | REGISTER TO ATTEND | The rise of nonviolent, people power movements around the world has become a defining feature of the 21st century. While some have deteriorated into violent conflict, organized citizen campaigns using nonviolent methods are challenging formidable opponents: unaccountable governance, systemic corruption, institutionalized discrimination, environmental degradation, dictatorship, foreign military occupation, and violent extremism. Their “weapons” are not guns or bombs, but rather protests, boycotts, sit-ins, civil disobedience, building of alternative institutions, and hundreds of other nonviolent means. Combined with the use of traditional political and legal approaches, these movements continue to shape political, social, and economic change across the globe.

This panel will explore how nonviolent civil resistance and peacebuilding reinforce each other. How does civic mobilization fit into the larger peacebuilding agenda? How have nonviolent campaigns and movements contributed to long-term peace and stability? What are the theoretical and practical linkages that might prevent violent conflict and advance a “just peace”? Speakers include: Nancy Lindborg, President, USIP, Kerri Kennedey, Associate General Secretary for International Porgrams, American Friends Service Committee, Manal Omar, Acting Vice President, Center for Middle East and Africa, USIP. Moderators include: Maria Stephan, Senior Policy Fellow, USIP.

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Containment in the Middle East

Tuesday the Atlantic Council hosted an event on its report “The New Containment: Changing America’s Approach to Middle East Security” featuring Bilal Saab, Fellow for Middle East Security at the Atlantic Council, Barry Posen, Director of the Security Studies Program at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Richard Haass, President of the Council on Foreign Relations. Barbara Starr, Pentagon Correspondent for CNN, moderated the event.

Containment is the best strategy

Saab explained that the report is based on four preconditions:

  1. There will be no lasting security or stability in the Middle East as long as religious hubris, economic mismanagement and abrupt political changes dominate the region.
  2. The US cannot and should not be an agent pushing for change.
  3. Reforms cannot happen without addressing security challenges first.
  4. The US cannot address security challenges alone—it needs partners.

The Iraq invasion in 2003 was proof that the US does not have sufficient economic resources or know-how for nation-building and US presence de-legitimizes this process.

Given these preconditions, the best option is a US containment strategy with six pillars:

  1. Prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
  2. Deter large-scale military conflict. If deterrence fails, then consider military intervention.
  3. Limit escalation between Israel and Hamas and between Israel and Hezbollah.
  4. Reduce the scope and severity of civil wars.
  5. Degrade violent extremist groups and leave the “hard work” to regional stakeholders, so they can develop their own political narrative and ideology.
  6. Limit Iran’s destabilizing influence.

Saab added that though US participation will be limited to containing conflicts, it must help the Middle East develop a new regional security architecture that is conducive to US interests.

Iran nuclear deal

On the Iranian nuclear deal, the three panelists had differing opinions. Haass claimed if there is a deal, it would restrict ‘nuclear Iran,’ not ‘imperial Iran.’ He said lifting sanctions would grant Iran more resources, which would fuel its existing activities and exacerbate the challenges it poses. Additionally, managing the nuclear deal would become a consuming challenge for future American presidents as it would become a permanent part of American statecraft. Elements of the Iranian nuclear program would remain intact, which would allow nuclear activity in a region by a government whose stability is uncertain.

Posen argued that no deal would prolong the arduous task of sustaining the sanctions regime, which requires a lot of side payments. He also warned that if the deal crashes, constituencies in the US and abroad would call for a military strike. The consequence of maintaining the current status quo is more uncertainty about Iranian capabilities than if the deal happened. Furthermore, Posen urged that the US consider its interests first. American partners may frown on good Iran-US relations, but they would benefit the US.

Saab said that there would be uncertainty regardless of whether there is or isn’t a deal. America’s partners do not feel sure about their relationships with Washington. The Saudis have begun talking about launching their own nuclear program.

Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS)

There was more consensus on the security threat ISIS poses. Saab said ISIS does not pose a direct and imminent threat to the homeland. However, rooting ISIS out will be challenging to say the least. ISIS is a byproduct of the ills of the Arab state system, including political decay, economic mismanagement and corrupt governments. It is not just a consequence of Al Qaeda. Degrading ISIS is only the first step—and the US isn’t even good at that—but eliminating ISIS could take years.

Posen talked about ISIS’s expansionist nature—it “grabs” wherever it perceives weakness. ISIS has both ideological affinity and subversive capability, which make it costly to annihilate the group. Nevertheless, the US can spy on it and contain it by supporting coherent groups willing to fight against it.

Saudi Arabia, Posen thought, is paying alarmingly little attention to ISIS, even though the Kingdom is likely high on ISIS’s subversion list. He was surprised by the Saudis’ immense effort in Yemen compared to its actions against ISIS. Haass agreed with this assessment, adding that Saudi Arabia is too focused on Iran and manifestations of Iranian power, which is a misallocation of resources.

Saab claimed that Saudi Arabia does indeed care. Riyadh launched one of the world’s biggest counterterrorism operations against Bin Laden and has undergone many internal changes to be better equipped to deal with the ISIS threat.

Regional security

Haass was cynical about change in the Middle East’s security system, claiming it is premature. He explained the creation of a system requires balance of power and a shared concept of legitimacy—neither of which exists in the Middle East.

Posen doesn’t think the Iranian regional challenge amounts to much. Most of the places where Iran exercises influence are places deeply divided by problems not of Iranian creation. Iran did not create the Yemen civil war, even if it might gain some benefits from it.


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