Iran probably continuing its nuclear program

When John Kerry negotiated the nuclear arms deal with Iran four years ago, waiving sanctions on Iran in return for their dismantling refinement facilities and cutting back on production of refined nuclear material, I was dubious. I didn’t trust the government of Iran, for after all they would benefit greatly from the cachet of having the Bomb. They’d also scare the bejeesus out of Israel, which would be the first target of an Iranian bomb.  But it wasn’t politically correct to criticize a no-nukes deal negotiated by a Democratic government, so I crossed my fingers, hoped, and remained silent.

Trump decided to scrap that deal, and Iran is considering restarting its old program. Well, that’s not exactly true: it had never kept to the bargain in the first place. In other words, I was right, but take no pride in it. This news comes from the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), and you can find the report and a video here, as well as a transcript here.  This was in fact admitted by the head of Iran’s nuclear program, Ali Akbar Salehi. As the introduction to the video and transcript reports:

Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, was interviewed on Channel 4 TV (Iran) on January 22, 2019. He said that the negotiations surrounding the JCPOA had required Iran to destroy the Arak reactor’s calandria [the core of a nuclear reactor] by filling it with cement, but that Iran had secretly acquired replacement tubes ahead of time so that the reactor’s functionality would not be ultimately affected. He also said that pictures that had circulated that showed the Arak reactor’s pit filled with cement had been photoshopped. He explained that Iran has no intention to build a nuclear weapon, and that the Arak reactor is nonetheless incapable of producing weapons-grade plutonium. In addition, Salehi said that the yellowcake production facilities in Ardakan are operational and that Iran has been authorized to produce two additional IR-8 centrifuges. Salehi added that Iran has advanced rapidly in the field of nuclear propulsion.

Now if Iran lied about destroying the calandria, why should we believe them now when they say they have “no intention to build a nuclear weapon”? If you believe that, I’d call you credulous.

Interviewer: But you did say that you had poured cement into the tubes…

Ali Akbar Salehi: Not into the tubes over there. We poured it into the calandria we pulled out [of the reactor]. Inside the calandria, there are tubes where the fuel goes. We had bought similar tubes, but I could not declare this at the time. Only one person in Iran knew this. We told no one but the top man of the regime [Khamenei]. When our team was in the midst of the negotiations, we knew that [the Westerners] would ultimately renege on their promises. The leader warned us that they were violators of agreements. We had to act wisely. Not only did we avoid destroying the bridges that we had built, but we also built new bridges that would enable us to go back faster if needed. There were a series of tubes, 3 or 4 meters long and 2 or 3 centimeters in diameter. You can imagine there tubes. They have a beginning and an end. We had bought the same quantity of similar tubes. When they told us to pour cement into the tubes, we did…

Now Iran’s excuse that the U.S. would ultimately violate the agreement, and so Iran was justified in cheating, won’t wash. The U.S. wasn’t violating the agreement at the time, nor was there any indication that we’d get a President like Trump who would. Now that Trump has scrapped the deal, Iran can do what it wants. But it was doing what it wanted the whole time, and at the end of that road are nuclear missiles aimed at Israel.

All I can say is, “Oy vey.” Was Trump wrong to scrap the deal? I don’t see how given that the Iranians had scrapped it a long time ago. I haven’t seen anything in the New York Times about this, but it’s certainly news worth reporting. And if the Times didn’t, well, that’s more evidence of deficient and biased reporting. As the kids say, “Whatever.”

93 Comments

  1. Posted January 25, 2019 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

    Reblogged this on The Logical Place.

  2. Mike Anderson
    Posted January 25, 2019 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

    I’d wait for reporting that’s a little more credible than MEMRI before jumping to conclusions. Specifically: let’s see other translations of the damning interview.

    • Posted January 25, 2019 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

      Sorry, but what problem do you have with the credibility of MEMRI? I presume you know that their translations are invariably found to be accurate.

      Do you have independent evidence of MEMRI making up stuff, or do you just not like them revealing malfeasance in the Middle East?

      • Malgorzata
        Posted January 25, 2019 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

        MEMRI exists now for over 20 years. Many individuals, institutions, even governments tried to find distorted or false translations. In 2001 0r 2002 there was even an Arab institute established with quite a huge endownment which was supposed to show every fault in MEMRI’s translation. After a few years without finding anything the institue was quietly closed. There is even a discourse among Arabs (also translated by MEMRI) that one has to be careful what words one uses (for example: never say “Jew”; say a “Zionist”) because MEMRI is listening and accurately translating.
        It is natural, when facts are so very inconvenient, to try to cast suspicions on the messenger.

      • Mike Anderson
        Posted January 25, 2019 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

        There are lots of claims that MEMRI is a propaganda outlet, and that its translations tend to be biased towards . I really can’t track down the validity of these claims, but I would like to hear a second translation.

        • Michael Fisher
          Posted January 25, 2019 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

          MEMRI is a non-profit org based in Washington DC & is run by Israeli ex-intelligence officers. There is nothing wrong with the translations – you are wrong about that, but there is a bias in what they choose to translate & also sometimes the context could do with being clearer. MEMRI would be stupid to pull stunts with the translations – reputation is all.

          • Mike Anderson
            Posted January 25, 2019 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

            “reputation is all” – Good point.

        • Posted January 25, 2019 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

          So you don’t like them because you don’t like what they translate? It’s weird that you pick the “lots of claims that MEMRI is biased. . . ” but then can’t cite a single example of a biased translation.

          I’m sorry, but you seem to be guilty of confirmation bias yourself. You wouldn’t discount this translation if it came from the New York Times, I bet.

          • Posted January 25, 2019 at 5:27 pm | Permalink

            There are lots of claims that MEMRI’s translations are wrong in the Wikipedia article about the group. These claims come with citations to the sources of the claims. I don’t know the languages involved, so cannot come to an independent conclusion, but it seems it would be easy for a speaker of the languages involved to investigate. And of course, as everyone here knows, I don’t trust Wikipedia!

          • Mike Anderson
            Posted January 25, 2019 at 7:35 pm | Permalink

            So you don’t like them because you don’t like what they translate?

            Who said I don’t like them?

            It’s weird that you pick the “lots of claims that MEMRI is biased. . . ” but then can’t cite a single example of a biased translation.

            It’s fairly easy to find such the claims and (less easily) evaluate them. I am not making such claims, just noting they exist.

            I’m sorry, but you seem to be guilty of confirmation bias yourself.

            Skepticism is the opposite of confirmation bias.

            You wouldn’t discount this translation if it came from the New York Times, I bet.

            Maybe not. But I know the NY Times better than I know MEMRI.

            MEMRI’s claim here is a mini-bombshell, and if true will be corroborated soon enough. I’m skeptical of almost any such bombshells without some corroboration.

            • Posted January 26, 2019 at 7:01 am | Permalink

              How about this from the WaPo?

              The head of Iran’s nuclear program said Sunday that the Islamic Republic has begun “preliminary activities for designing” a modern process for 20-percent uranium enrichment for its 50-year-old research reactor in Tehran, signaling new danger for the nuclear deal.

              Restarting enrichment at that level would mean Iran had withdrawn the 2015 nuclear deal it struck with world powers, an accord that President Donald Trump already pulled America out of in May.

              However, Ali Akbar Salehi’s comments to state television appeared aimed at telling the world Iran would slowly restart its program. If it chooses, it could resume mass enrichment at its main facility in the central Iranian town of Natanz.

              • Mike Anderson
                Posted January 26, 2019 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

                That WAPO article doesn’t at all support MEMRI’s most significant claim: “Iran’s Nuclear Chief Salehi: We Had Secretly Purchased Replacements for Nuclear Equipment That the JCPOA Had Required Us to Destroy; Yellowcake Production Facilities are Operational; We Are Advancing in Nuclear Propulsion”

  3. Ken Pidcock
    Posted January 25, 2019 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

    But it wasn’t politically correct to criticize a no-nukes deal negotiated by a Democratic government, so I crossed my fingers, hoped, and remained silent.

    I am genuinely disheartened to learn that you would withhold your perspective out of concern with the reaction of your rather mild-mannered audience here.

    • Posted January 25, 2019 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

      That’s before I got loud and obstreperous! At the time I wasn’t writing that much about politics here, and I’m talking about not saying much about it to my liberal friends, not about withholding comment on this site.

      Sorry you’re disheartened.

      And seriously, what did you hope to accomplish by saying this. Make me ashamed of myself? Sorry, I’m not.

    • Posted January 25, 2019 at 6:26 pm | Permalink

      Based on what little information Prof. Coyne had, I think his decision was all right.
      I applaud him for writing this post. It contains information that I have not found anywhere else.

      • Malgorzata
        Posted January 26, 2019 at 4:21 am | Permalink

        For years now MEMRI documented breaking of this unsigned agreement by Iran: https://www.memri.org/countries/iran. It was just never taken up by mainstream media.

        • BJ
          Posted January 26, 2019 at 9:17 am | Permalink

          Yeah, I think the mainstream media threw it down the MEMRI hole (get it? Eh? Eh? I hate myself) because it made Obamaa’s deal look as naive as Republicans and quite a few Democrats said it was.

    • Mathew Goldstein
      Posted January 27, 2019 at 9:34 am | Permalink

      Black Lives Matters declares that Israel is committing genocide against the Palestinians. So anyone who sides with Israel is a fascist. The proper reaction to fascism is deplatforming, ostracism, etc. A Jewish person who has not publicly disassociated herself from Israel and thus could be a Zionist must be denied a leadership in the woman’s March. This is the game that some on the left engage in to pressure liberals into not publicly supporting Israel. This is why people wait until after they are retired to speak.

  4. Michael Fisher
    Posted January 25, 2019 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

    From my reading, Iran likely doesn’t have the expertise today to build anything except a ‘dirty bomb’ [no fusion or fission occurs in such weapons] delivered by truck, but any nation can do that if they can get hold of nuclear waste materials – which are not as secure as they ought to be! Also they’re short on the cash.

    Iran constantly ‘bigs up’ its capabilities such as their fake stealth aircraft, fake stealth drones & fake missiles, but for the real thing they buy Russian.

    This report looks to me like Iran trying to seem further along than they really are – for political leverage. The real Iran threat is the weapons supply to Hezbollah & Yemen. They are also getting into cyberwarfare – they have realised [like Russia & N. Korea] it’s very cheap war.

  5. Randy Bessinger
    Posted January 25, 2019 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

    I certainly don’t know the answer here, but wasn’t there a guy who convinced the Bush Administration (and really a majority of Americans) that Iraq had wapons of mass destruction? I was dubious of that at the time. I will wait for more information. That said, it would not surprise me if Iran cheated.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted January 25, 2019 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

      The whole world was dubious at the time, except Tony Bliar.

      Didn’t stop Dubya from starting a war of revenge for 9/11 against one nation that had nothing to do with it and ultimately killing hundreds of thousands and leaving the stage open for ISIS…

      If Iran is a bit paranoid, maybe they have reason to be.

      cr

      • Posted January 25, 2019 at 6:32 pm | Permalink

        I wasn’t dubious. I believed the mainstream media, as I did about the Covington students. My government, together with many others, engaged in the war.

        • Posted January 25, 2019 at 6:44 pm | Permalink

          I did not believe they had nukes for a minute.

          • Rita
            Posted January 26, 2019 at 7:49 am | Permalink

            I never thought Iraq had nukes either. I can’t put my finger on any logical reason I thought that,it felt like a very strong intuition! I couldn’t see why anyone would believe the propaganda.

          • Posted January 27, 2019 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

            Neither did I. But I believed Saddam still had chemical weapons, for he had already used them, and not all were accounted for.

            • Posted January 27, 2019 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

              I agree. I hjink he had some of those. I believe we either furnished them to him or helped him obtain them, and may have sold him some of the materials to produce them. We certainly knew about them and probably helped him use them against Iran.

  6. gravelinspector-Aidan
    Posted January 25, 2019 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

    I wouldn’t believe any country whose state-level people said they were going to get rid of their nuclear weapons. That genie is out of the bottle, spreading, and will continue to spread. When it will get used next, I don’t know, but it will be used.
    Personally, I’ve suspected that Iran has had access to nukes – probably Chinese – since some time in the mid-80s. The efforts to build their own system are genuine, but they already have a severe strike-first or strike-back capability.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted January 25, 2019 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

      In the meantime we have the Donald scheduling another summit with Kim Jong-un — apparently for the purpose of the two of them again engaging in mutual frottage on the world stage (and perhaps another page of precatory prose from Kim about how NoKo intends to denuclearize).

      If the DPRK were serious about denuking, we would’ve had after the first such summit an inventory of all North Korea’s nuclear facilities (by which we’d know if Kim were acting in good faith) followed by a timetable for the destruction of those facilities and equipment. That we have received neither demonstrates that Kim is up to his old tricks and that Trump is getting rolled, all in his quest for a yooge “win” (and his resulting expectation of a Nobel Peace Prize).

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted January 26, 2019 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

        I believe the the author of the “art of the Deal” is getting dealt a very bent hand. And he’s too narcissistic to notice, and too lacking in confidence to admit it when it becomes unavoidable.
        And who will be surprised? Apart from that Silverspan (or whatever her name is) mouthpiece ,who is at least being paid to pretend to believe his propaganda.

    • Posted January 25, 2019 at 6:29 pm | Permalink

      To be fair, after what happened to Ukraine, any country with nuclear potential would think thrice before getting rid of it.

      • Nicolaas Stempels
        Posted January 26, 2019 at 1:32 am | Permalink

        I’m not sure it would have made a difference. Nukes are there not to be used, but your opponent must believe you actually will use them. Would Russia have believed the Ukraine would have used them? Especially since -a part from the Crimea- the Russians did not openly invade.

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted January 26, 2019 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

        It beggared (my) belief that the Ukrainians returned the nukes to Russia. Jaw slack, soil getting in my beard, glassy-eyed utter incomprehension.

        • Posted January 27, 2019 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

          I am too lazy to check who was ruling Ukraine at that time, but maybe it were some of those Ukrainians whose true allegiance is to Russia.

          • gravelinspector-Aidan
            Posted January 29, 2019 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

            That is very plausible. Installing puppets in (nominally) foreign governments is … excuse me, there’s a Mueller at the front door.

        • Posted January 27, 2019 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

          And, to be fair, the so-called free world gave the wrong advice (the USA and Britain in the Budapest Memorandum). Then, when Ukraine was attacked, the same free world refused to sell it arms, though it was selling arms to everyone else.

  7. Ken Kukec
    Posted January 25, 2019 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

    Generally, the remedy for a violation of an international agreement is enforcement of that agreement, according to its terms, through appropriate sanctions and demands for performance (such as allowing inspections) — not by the preemptive withdrawal from the agreement before any good-faith effort has been made to enforce it, let alone before any breach has even been discovered.

    I fail to see how the US, or any of its allies, has been benefited — or how the world has been made a safer place — by the US’s unilateral withdrawal from the nuclear agreement with Iran under Donald Trump.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted January 25, 2019 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

      I agree. The US withdrawal was, pretty obviously, motived solely by tRumpian “if Obama did it I’ll destroy it” revenge.

      A bit like ‘weapons of mass destruction’ – the Prez was going to do it, evidence or not.

      cr

    • Posted January 26, 2019 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

      +1. I also don’t see any specification of whether the treaty also outlawed having spare materials (such as metal tubes) on hand with which Iran could in principle rebuild the reactor.

      The Nuclear Threat Initiative website says “On January 16, 2016, the IAEA Board of Governors released a report by the Director General, which confirmed that Iran had removed and “rendered inoperable” the Arak facility’s calandria. [20]”

  8. Posted January 25, 2019 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

    I want to bring up an idea which may not be well received and is certainly not perfect. That is that we could just let Iran and North Korea just go ahead and develop their damn weapons. The way they must see it is that their sworn enemies have them (us and Israel and Japan could develop them), and so what kind of deal is it that they should live under such an unbalanced threat? Their cheating on these deals is exactly consistent with this point of view. Nuclear weapons have long served as a deterrent but that deterrent cuts both ways. With few exceptions any country stupid enough to use them would cease to exist.
    The issues that we can focus on and actually progress on is to develop important economic relations with these rogue nations so that the tensions may defuse.
    A real problem with this view is that weapons proliferation only increases the chances that deadly materials could get smuggled out and fall into the hands of terrorists who have very different views on these matters.

    • BJ
      Posted January 25, 2019 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

      I must say that I often struggle with the same ideas. I wish we could simply help these nations make economic and social progress and, by extension, help them to move past authoritarianism and hatred. There are nations where your suggestion might be possible and perhaps even preferable, but I don’t think Iran and North Korea are among them. Nations that are so ideologically authoritarian and have certain groups of people that they consider enemies worthy of nothing short of death simply can’t be trusted when it comes to such things as nukes.

      I hope we can one day find a way to make your suggestions work, but I think the other side will need to take the first steps before it can be considered.

      • Posted January 25, 2019 at 4:44 pm | Permalink

        I don’t know the answers, but I do work from the standpoint that despotic rulers of rogue states aren’t stupid enough to get themselves vaporized in a mushroom cloud. I gamble on the bet that their possession of such weapons seems like a great threat, but in reality it is not. I have been thinking that it is actually not that great of a gamble.
        Either way, they are getting them, and we can live with that under a tense atmosphere or under a less tense atmosphere.

        • Michael Fisher
          Posted January 25, 2019 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

          You assert that “they [Iran] are getting them”, but I dispute that for reasons already given.

          As darrelle says there’s a strong, large, subdued semi-underground ‘Persian Spring’ potential – the theocracy is reviled & nearly everybody there has relatives doing well abroad since the ’80s diaspora to LA, London & Paris.

          Change will come – the Persians are too much in love with freedom to tolerate present conditions much longer.

          • rickflick
            Posted January 25, 2019 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

            ” the Persians are too much in love with freedom to tolerate present conditions much longer.”

            Let’s hope so.

          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted January 25, 2019 at 5:30 pm | Permalink

            I do hope you’re right and I do hope they manage it without a bloodbath.

            I think sanctions are probably counter-productive in that and I’m not sure there’s anything outsiders can or should usefully do to assist.

            cr

          • Ken Kukec
            Posted January 25, 2019 at 6:14 pm | Permalink

            Yeah, in a sense I think this is another way in which Iran and Saudi Arabia constitute mirror images of each other: In the former, there’s a population that has pro-western (and, in particular, pro-American) sympathies, with a theocratic scum on top. In the latter, there’s an ostensibly pro-American quasi-secular scum atop a population that’s been indoctrinated into a toxic, anti-American Wahhabist ideology.

            • Posted January 25, 2019 at 11:13 pm | Permalink

              Good observation. And the US enables the scum in both cases, in different ways.

          • Posted January 25, 2019 at 6:34 pm | Permalink

            It is very, very difficult to struggle for freedom from inside an authoritarian or totalitarian state.

      • darrelle
        Posted January 25, 2019 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

        I agree with you about NK, but not Iran. I think Iran is a very good case for helping to achieve economic and social progress. The only thing keeping them down is the ayatollahs. We, the US, screwed up big time with Iran and burned attractive looking opportunities to do that at least 2 or 3 times. A significant percentage of the Iranian population wants that, and wants the mullahs out.

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted January 25, 2019 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

          Agreed. NK and Iran are two very different cases.

          cr

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted January 25, 2019 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

      As you suggest & as BJ says – the answer is the economy of these nations. North Korea is trying to cobble together the Wonsan Special Tourist Zone on the east coast in an attempt to get a flow of US dollars inward – the idea is to have a friendly, puppy dog face version of NK in the 400 square kilometre zone while maintaining their rigid, authoritarian system elsewhere.

      I can see this zone leading to further developments all up that coast as more & more citizens get crazy wealthy one way or another. NK will need an outsider like Trump [or someone with real expertise I should say] to deliver such projects to the quality that foreign tourists will expect. And they will need foreign investment as they don’t have the cash nor the cash flow. It is my view that this is why Trump is buddy buddy with the NK psychopath – he knows real developers who could deliver the goods & he’s their messenger boy on 5% or whatever.

      The idea of allowing these nations to get nuclear toys is nuts, sorry. It’s the economy that will unlock doors.

      • Posted January 25, 2019 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

        An old Vulcan saying: Only Nixon could go to China.

      • BJ
        Posted January 25, 2019 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

        I honestly can’t figure out if KJU is a psychopath or a very shrewd politician (perhaps both). Hypothetically, if one was going to try and change NK, how would they go about doing that? Well, first, they would have to get rid of all their enemies as soon as they took power, and do so in brutal ways to deter any future challengers (KJU did this, which made him look like a psychopath, but how else could he maintain power in the NK system?). Then, they would have to continue the insane policies and posturing of the previous regime, all the while very slowly creating projects and connections that could gradually change the course of the country, and very subtly and only occasionally hinting at a desire for better relations with the outside world. I don’t know if this is what KJU is doing, but it’s entirely possible, and there are definitely quite a few actions he’s taken that could be interpreted in this way.

        The entire country of NK, from the politicians to the military to the everyday citizen, is completely brainwashed and has no conception of the real world outside. A ruler can’t change a country like that overnight. It’s possible KJU is just like his predecessors, but it’s also possible that he’s attempting to change his country from within at a pace that’s slow enough to keep his internal enemies from noticing and/or stopping him.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted January 25, 2019 at 5:00 pm | Permalink

        I agree about the economy. And this is where sanctions are counter-productive.

        It’s a chicken-and-egg situation though.

        The leadership is not going to readily give up its nuclear ‘toys’ if it leaves them open to invasion by neighbouring countries. Why are NK and Iran supposed to be the only countries in the world that aren’t permitted to rely on the ‘deterrence’ rationale for nukes?

        But I think it’s misleading to equate NK and Iran, their situations are very different.

        From Kim’s point of view, he needs development but he wants sufficient deterrence that South Korea can’t just walk in.

        Iran doesn’t have a monolithic government, they have an educated population, they want to be recognised as a legitimate country (rather than regarded as some sort of pariah). Evolution is taught in schools, they hosted the 2017 Womens World Chess Championship (remember the fuss about burqas?). I infer a lot of tension between the religious factions and the outward-looking (if I can call it that) factions. I think that side of Iran needs to be encouraged, not penalised with sanctions.

        cr

        • BJ
          Posted January 25, 2019 at 6:11 pm | Permalink

          “From Kim’s point of view, he needs development but he wants sufficient deterrence that South Korea can’t just walk in.”

          Kim already has this. The artillery on the NK side of the DMZ alone is enough to completely destroy Seoul in hours. He also has the world’s largest army. Nobody is walking into NK.

      • Posted January 25, 2019 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

        Our experience in Eastern Europe is, however, quite the opposite: economic collapse was needed to unlock the doors.

  9. BJ
    Posted January 25, 2019 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

    This is one of the few things I thought Trump was right about from the start. We never should have made this deal, nor trusted Iran to keep it. The Obama administration should have been doing everything possible to keep pressure on Iran, including sanctions and sabotage of the program.

    • BJ
      Posted January 25, 2019 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

      In fact, I viewed this deal as a (admittedly far better coordinated and completed) vanity project for Obama in a similar vein of Trump’s attempt to get a “win” on convincing the North Korean government to stop their program. Did anyone in the Obama administration honestly think this would work? If they did, their naivete should be concerning; if they didn’t, then it was all political theater.

  10. Posted January 25, 2019 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

    If Iran got caught cheating on the deal, I still think we would be in a better moral and diplomatic position with the deal in place. As it stands, Iran could (and undoubtedly will) claim that the US also cheated by negotiating the deal in bad faith. If the US was still part of the deal, it could join with the other signatories in taking action against Iran and clearly have the moral high ground and the support of most of the rest of the world.

    • BJ
      Posted January 25, 2019 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

      I think anyone who didn’t already support sanctions and other types of pressure against Iran isn’t likely to suddenly support them because of the deal, and those who supported them before the deal would continue to do so regardless of it. I don’t see how the deal changed the status quo.

      • Posted January 25, 2019 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

        Sorry but the difference is obvious. Iran agreed to the deal. It’s an agreement. Sanctions are one-sided.

        • BJ
          Posted January 25, 2019 at 6:08 pm | Permalink

          The difference is obvious, but it’s also obvious who the deal was with. If Vladimir Putin makes a deal to stop doing something that he feels benefits him/his country, do we or the international community believe he’ll live up to it, or that he’ll secretly continue the practice in question? If it’s the latter, then I don’t think anyone would think differently about Iran/the Ayatollah.

          • Posted January 25, 2019 at 6:43 pm | Permalink

            Yes, they are not to be trusted. Still, as it has been pointed out to Trump over and over again, a deal is still better than no deal. Given the way most Iranians feel about the US, I think our best policy is to bide our time hoping that someday they get a government that wants to join the rest of the world. The deal helped in that regard, IMHO.

            • BJ
              Posted January 25, 2019 at 7:10 pm | Permalink

              “a deal is still better than no deal”

              I disagree that this is some kind of maxim. It depends on the deal, who it’s with, whether the two sides can verify that the other is holding up its end, and myriad other factors.

              “…I think our best policy is to bide our time hoping that someday they get a government that wants to join the rest of the world. The deal helped in that regard, IMHO.”

              How did the deal help in that regard? I’m not necessarily disputing this yet because I don’t know your reason for believing it. I’m genuinely curious.

              • Posted January 26, 2019 at 10:40 am | Permalink

                “A deal is better than no deal.”

                I didn’t intend this as a general maxim though it is. Of course, there may be exceptions.

                As far as whether the Iran deal is better than no deal, it still seems to me that we need to play the good guy role here to give democratic forces within Iran a chance to work. The likelihood of this working in Iran is far greater than in, say, North Korea. In NK, the best chance is for South Korea to increase ties with NK with the hope that eventually one of their leaders sees a bigger advantage in opening up their country.

                Even if Iran cheats, and it sounds like they have, there is the possibility that they thought they wouldn’t get caught and, now they have been, they’ll be forced to stop violating the agreement. They may still do this but it seems more likely with the US still in the deal. With the US reneging, Iran can somewhat legitimately say that both sides cheated.

              • BJ
                Posted January 26, 2019 at 10:53 am | Permalink

                I guess I just don’t understand what it has to do with democracy. The population there may want democracy (or may not, percentage-wise, I’m not sure since it’s hard to do a proper poll of people in an authoritarian country), but it’s the regime that made the deal and has to abide by it, and the regime wants nothing to do with change in any way. They’ve always wanted to be the only other nuclear power in the Middle East, and there’s a good chance they may have become one by now if it wasn’t for the joint Israeli-US covert action that took out the program via a computer virus a few years ago. The regime never had any intention of abiding by this deal. The democratic forces in Iran have no impact on the deal or on whether or not Iran is willing to stop developing nukes. The government is under the full control of the authoritarians and the elite military leaders who support them.

          • Ken Kukec
            Posted January 25, 2019 at 6:50 pm | Permalink

            “Trust but verify” — as a washed-up Hollywood actor once attributed to an old Russian proverb.

            Or, as my dowager aunt who taught me to play poker used to put it, “trust everybody but cut the cards anyway.” 🙂

  11. Torbjörn Larsson
    Posted January 25, 2019 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

    Comments on politics tend to the humorous, no matter what the basis. So we should trust one part of a claim – no core destruction – but not the other – no weapon construction, because of … well, why?

    Of course it is the US of Trump that now has Iran open to continuing its de facto stopped weapon program (whether or not irrevocably stopped). But we don’t know that they have continued.

    Whatever US (and Iran) do, EU is still fighting the good fight here, trying to stop nuclear proliferation.

  12. Posted January 25, 2019 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

    That’s before I got loud and obstreperous! At the time I wasn’t writing that much about politics here, and I’m talking about not saying much about it to my liberal friends, not about withholding comment on this site.

    Sorry you’re disheartened.

  13. Colin Foley
    Posted January 25, 2019 at 6:07 pm | Permalink

    This appears to have been openly discussed back in 2017 (see: https://www.memri.org/reports/head-irans-atomic-energy-organization-only-external-pipelines-arak-reactor-were-filled). I’m not 100% sure this is a violation of the Iran nuclear deal either; there is no evidence of ongoing research, and the concrete pouring did temporarily disable the systems they had and prevent further development.

    The reference to “photoshopping” seems odd, because the articles suggest that what happened is that there was PHYSICAL fakery involved, with the outsides filled with concrete but not the insides. I wonder if the word being translated as “photoshopped” is actually closer to “faked.”

  14. Posted January 25, 2019 at 9:23 pm | Permalink

    Complicating the issue is the fact that Iran is staring down the barrel of umpteen Israeli nukes. With Netanyahu and Bolton threatening strikes, I can understand why Iran might want some counterveiling power.

    • rickflick
      Posted January 25, 2019 at 9:58 pm | Permalink

      Of course, if they’d behave themselves, there wouldn’t be a risk.

      • Posted January 25, 2019 at 10:58 pm | Permalink

        Iran cannot know that. Iraq “behaved itself” and got invaded. Anyway, behaving yourself is just doing what a more powerful country is pressuring you to do.

        • rickflick
          Posted January 25, 2019 at 11:59 pm | Permalink

          Iran cannot know that? I think Iran does know that their support for terrorists and their subjugation of their own population under a theocratic dictatorship is not in humanities best interest.
          Iraq is a rather different situation. They invaded Kuwait and Iran and attacked the Kurds with poisoned gas. These are not reasonable people. Not to justify the US invasion.

    • BJ
      Posted January 26, 2019 at 1:03 am | Permalink

      In addition to what rickflick said, Iran also has a far more formidable military and far more difficult terrain to invade. The US will not be invading Iran.

      And Israel certainly will not be using nukes unless they are invaded to the point that genocide is imminent or already happening. Even then, the chance of them using a nuke is .000001% because the US would help them fend off the invaders. But nobody is going to successfully invade Israel anyway. Their military capabilities are too strong.

      The idea that Israel is suddenly going to nuke some country is rather absurd. And I’d like to see some evidence of Netanyahu threatening a nuclear strike, considering Israel has never even admitted to having nukes. Do you have any such evidence?

      • Posted January 26, 2019 at 10:45 am | Permalink

        I thought that Israel having nukes pointed at Iran was common knowledge. No? Certainly their officials have hinted at it though I suppose they don’t actually come out and say “nukes”. They assume Iran and their allies will put two and two together.

        • BJ
          Posted January 26, 2019 at 10:57 am | Permalink

          Of course, just as we technically have them pointed at Russia. That doesn’t mean we have any intention of using them. darwinwins said that “Netanyahu and Bolton [are/have been] threatening strikes.” There’s no evidence of this. If having nukes is, in and of itself, a constant threat to strike, then there are many countries around the world constantly threatening to strike every other country in the world at any moment. But to say that Netanyahu has actually been threatening to nuke Iran, one has to provide evidence that he’s actually made such a threat.

          I’ve never seen anyone argue that Israel intends to use nukes for anything but self-defense. If there’s an enormous outcry in the media and the UN every time Israel kills a few terrorists, imagine what it would look like if they suddenly used a nuke. They’re not stupid. Nuclear weapons are a last resort.

          • Posted January 26, 2019 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

            I did not say nuclear strikes, I said strikes. In the past, Netanyahu has threatened strikes and has, I believe , encouraged US strikes against Iran. I can imagine this bellicose posturing encourages those in Iran who want a nuclear deterrent available.

            • BJ
              Posted January 26, 2019 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

              “Complicating the issue is the fact that Iran is staring down the barrel of umpteen Israeli nukes. With Netanyahu and Bolton threatening strikes, I can understand why Iran might want some counterveiling power.”

              I thought this very clearly implied that the strike would be nuclear. You mentioned Iran “staring down the barrel of umpteen Israeli nukes,” and then said in the second sentence that strikes are being threatened.

              Anyway, Israel has always said that it would consider airstrikes against sites in Iran where they are trying to produce nukes. That’s the extent of it.

            • Posted January 26, 2019 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

              No one can deny that nuclear weapons give a country an enormous edge. The world would not give Kim Jong-un the time of day if he did not have nukes. When Israel and Iran engage in their frequent sabre rattling, neither country ignores that fact that one of them can wipe the other off the face of the earth. When Israel threatens Iran, there is always the implicit message “Don’t forget, in the end, we have nuclear missiles aimed at the heart of your country.”

            • Posted January 26, 2019 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

              None of Israel’s Muslim adversaries, except distant Pakistan, have nuclear weapons, and its conventional military is by far the strongest in the middle east. So I find the idea that Israel needs them as a deterrent not convincing. Maybe it is why Israel originally developed them, but now they are more a weapon to intimidate its adversaries. And it doesn’t have to rattle them to do that.

  15. Dragon
    Posted January 26, 2019 at 10:53 am | Permalink

    My personal opinion is that the deal was better than not having the deal. Specifically it had significant verification built in. It also locked in a bunch of countries on sanctions if Iran ignored it.
    So, Trump unilaterally leaving the agreement meant that all those other countries were still bound to relieve the sanctions – until it was shown that Iran violated the agreement.
    So, Iran would have been found out, but now Iran can claim the US violated it first (and they were still planning to cement the tubes until the US pulled out – I do not recall a specific timetable for that portion of compliance). This may cause all those other signatories to not reimpose sanctions – which would have been pro forma if Trump hadn’t pulled out.
    Under either Obama or Trump, the business the US did/would do with Iran was meaningless (other than returning Iranian money that was previously locked), so Trump reimposing our sanctions was moot in the eyes of Iran. They needed all those other signatories to do business.

    In effect, Iran got a huge benefit from Trump pulling out. Iran will be able to convince plenty of the other countries to do some business – all the while restarting a nuclear program that just skirts the verification efforts. They push the verification too much and the other signatories may reimpose sanctions and that would actually hurt their economy.

  16. Mathew Goldstein
    Posted January 26, 2019 at 5:47 pm | Permalink

    The deal was for Iran to fill the holes in the calandria, which I assume are the tubes, with cement. That is what Iran did. The dishonesty here will th the way it was reported at the time by Iran and the international community. They all said the cslandria was “filled” with concrete and “destroyed”, when in reality only the replaceable tubes were filled with concrete and destroyed. The negotiated deal itself was weak. It was a compromise and Iran obtained substantial concessions during the negotiations which Iran and the international used deceptive language that covered up how little Iran surrendered.

  17. Posted January 26, 2019 at 7:33 pm | Permalink

    I doubt there us no way to stop a nation like Iran from any Lear program if they want it bad enough. North Korea is an example of that. Pakistan has them. Israel. I need to look up a list to find out how many other countries. Between six and ten and growing. Not sure where this will take us but it does not look promising. Well, it does look promising but it ot promising anything good. Promising misery, death and change. Or maybe I am just having a bad day.

  18. Mathew Goldstein
    Posted January 26, 2019 at 7:52 pm | Permalink

    January 13 2016 Reuter’s quoted Secretary of a state Kerry as saying “Just yesterday, the foreign minister (of Iran) reported to me that the calandria of the plutonium nuclear reactor is now out and in the next hours it will be filled with concrete and destroyed”. That was false, Iran filled only the replaceable pipes with concrete as required by the agreement, the calandria was not filled with concrete and destroyed. Both Kerry and Iran dissembled, but what they said was nevertheless almost universally falsely reported as being true.

  19. Malgorzata
    Posted January 27, 2019 at 3:10 am | Permalink

    It is a tragedy that Western media so sparsely informs people about the openly stated Iranian policy of destroying Israel.

    The false impression of „sabre rattling on both sides” is dominant. All Iranian leaders, including the ”moderate” President Rouhani, call Israel a ”cancerous tumor” which must be excised. They promise that Israel will disappear within 25 years. The highest military commanders boast that Iranian rockets can and will level Israeli towns to the ground. There are Iranian rockets with letters in Hebrew reading ”Death to Israel”. The shout ”Death to Israel” is repeated at every rally and meeting. There are Iranian videos showing simulations of Iranian attacks on Israel with Tel Aviv in ruins. Iran openly says how proud it is that on the Israeli border they have Hezbollah with over 100,000 rockets aimed at Israel and that there is not one square inch of Israel that Iran’s and Hezbollah’s rockets cannot reach. Iranian leaders also boast that they managed to surround Israel thanks to their influence in the Arab capitals of Lebanon, Iraq, Syria and Yemen.

    This announcement by Mr. Salehi is not the first one. For years Iranian officials talked about how they had never allowed and will never allow any kind of inspection of their nuclear military sites. During a very brief visit, lasting only several minutes, of Mr. Yukiya Amano to one of Iranian nuclear sites, he was not allowed to have even his cell phone, not to mention any equipment with which a proper inspection could have been done. He and his staff were not allowed out of the building, though Iranians themselves took soil samples allegedly from this site and gave them to these ”inspectors” from IAEA. There are many documents, videos and printed articles about these issues, but people are more interested (and outraged) when Israel says that it will defend itself==not by leveling Iranian cities to the ground, not by wiping Iran from the map, but by not allowing Iran to acquire a weapon with which it could carry out its threats.

    Here are just a few links I’ve chosen almost randomly from MEMRI’s Iran page. And, in spite of the suspicions of some people here, MEMRI’s translations are absolutely faithful to the originals.

    https://www.memri.org/reports/israels-eradication-%E2%80%93-ideological-and-practical-goal-irans-islamic-revolution-regime

    https://www.memri.org/tv/iran-army-chief-of-staff-mousavi-crush-murderous-america-end-zionist-regime

    https://www.memri.org/reports/senior-iranian-official-mohsen-rezai-threatens-annihilate-tel-aviv-if-israel-takes-smallest

    https://www.memri.org/reports/head-irans-atomic-energy-organization-only-external-pipelines-arak-reactor-were-filled

    https://www.memri.org/reports/iranian-regime-officials-we-will-not-allow-iaea-enter-iranian-military-sites-claim-such

    • Malgorzata
      Posted January 27, 2019 at 3:29 am | Permalink

      And, maybe, some numbers will be illuminating:

      Population of Israel: 8.7 million (of which 6.5 Jews)
      Population of Iran: 81 million
      Population of Syria: 18 million
      Population of Lebanon: 6 million (neither Syria nor Lebanon have a peace treaty with Israel)
      Population of West Bank: 2,8 million
      Population of Gaza Strip” 1,8 million

      All leaders of these countries and most of the population (according to polls) are hostile towards Israel.

      Had Israel not been armed to the teeth it would not exist.

    • Mathew Goldstein
      Posted January 27, 2019 at 9:09 am | Permalink

      Yes, MEMRI has an excellent track record of accurately and honestly translating text and audio. The many, pervasively common assertions otherwise are all false. What has been happening for a long time is that enemies of Israel, unable to defeat the country militarily, pursue their goal by all available methods, and that certainly includes attacks against anything and everyone, all things, including but not limited to MEMRI, that appear to be, or are, associated with the state of Israel. They are certainly not committed to the facts, particularly when the facts conflict with their political goal. The Israeli side is imperfect, they resent being under the microscope and being picked apart in a way that no other country is, but there is still more integrity and honesty on the Israeli side than on the opposing sides.

  20. Ken Kukec
    Posted January 27, 2019 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

    I see Donald Trump has named Elliott Abrams (the quintessential neocon) as his “special envoy” to Venezuela, apparently in an effort to do Bush-style “regime change” on Nicolás Maduro’s ass. I’m guessing the fingerprints of National Security Advisor (and quintessential paleo-warhawk) John Bolton are all over this move.

    Trump’s foreign policy, and more particularly his views on the exercise of military power, are completely incoherent. On the one hand, he wants to play the tough guy by throwing US military might around (so long as it doesn’t contravene the interests of Vladimir Putin or any of the other autocrats Trump is beholden to). On the other, he campaigned on his “America First” slogan and a promise to avoid disastrous and unnecessary foreign military entanglements.

    This latest move increases my concern that, as his presidency crumbles, Trump will do something crazy, like start a war, thinking it will clear the chessboard.

    • Mathew Goldstein
      Posted January 27, 2019 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

      This is an off-topic post. If Coyne comments on Venezuela then it would become appropriate to discuss that here.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted January 27, 2019 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

        If you’re gonna be our self-appointed stickler for enforcement of the Da Roolz, ya might wanna abide by the one concerning our host’s annoyance at being referred to as “Coyne.”

        Just sayin’, man.

  21. Posted January 28, 2019 at 11:48 am | Permalink

    Note also that I would suspect that the Iranians are still miffed that the whole bit was a “special case” too. Under the non-proliferation treaty, from what I understand, civilian nuclear programs are allowed.


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