8/05/2015

Notations On Our World: On #Syria & the #IranDeal (Brief Updates)

President Bashar al-Assad
#Syria has not been in the headlines in a major way over the past number of weeks.    The war, though, continues with no end in sight as apparently Bashar Assad has finally seen the light.   What is so tragic is that Syria is no more--and the cost to the millions of Syrians and the World has been horrendous.

During our daily roundup, our team ran across a very perceptive commentary by the BBC's Jim Muir.   He laid out a true reality check on Syria today.     Here is the link to the full article.  For us, the most perceptive comment was this quoting a well-placed diplomat, "..."But a phase is ending, and things have to change. He has no more rabbits left in his hat."   This is critical because Iran has a large vested interest in Syria and can be a catalyst for change so that a more credible Anti-Daesh (IS) force can be assembled.

Meanwhile, in Washington, the debate over the #IranDeal proves to be ever so challenging.   One of the Washington "Think Tanks" that has come out in opposition to the deal had members of it testify before the US Senate Armed Services Committee and excerpts of their testimony were received at our offices for review and is hereby noted below--The Full Text is available by clicking on the "link" below as the perilous #Vote4Peace quest continues in Congress: 


Gemunder Center Iran Task Force Co-Chair Amb. Edelman Testifies Before the Senate Committee on Armed Services

Hearing to Examine the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and the Military Balance in the Middle East

United States Senate Committee on Armed Services
Room SD-G50, Dirksen Senate Office Building
August 4, 2015

Introduction

Mr. Chairman, Ranking Member Reed, Members of the Committee, thank you for giving me the opportunity to appear before you today to discuss the full range of issues connected with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) to resolve the Iranian nuclear issue, including regional security and U.S. defense policy in the Middle East. I have followed this issue for more than a decade as the U.S. Ambassador to Turkey and then as Under Secretary of Defense for Policy. Since retiring from government service in 2009 I have continued to track the progress of Iran's nuclear program and the negotiating effort to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapons capability.  I have worked with several of my colleagues at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments on the broader threat that the program presents to the nuclear non-proliferation regime and regional security in the Middle East.  I am also the co-chair with Ambassador Dennis Ross of a bipartisan Iran Task Force sponsored by the Gemunder Center for Defense and Strategy that has produced a series of detailed appraisals of the negotiations and now the JCPOA, but I want to stress that my comments today reflect only my own views.

First, let me say that I appreciate the care and deliberation that you and your colleagues are taking in examining this agreement.  Major arms control agreements that bind the nation in matters vital to the national interest should rest on a broad public consensus and not purely on the preferences and actions of one individual.  That is why the Founders required treaties to be ratified by a two-thirds majority of the Senate.  As Constitutional scholar George Anastaplo observed many years ago,

"the arrangements in Section 2 with respect to treaties and appointments take it for granted that the Senate can be depended upon to be as well equipped as the President to know, or at least to be told, what is needed by the Country from time to time.  The Senate shares the Executive power here, however convenient it may be to vest in a single man the negotiation of treaties....  The President is not assumed to know things the Senate does not know or that the Senate cannot be told in appropriate circumstances."

Although this agreement is not a treaty I believe the general proposition remains sound.

As I wrote with my colleague and Iran Task Force member Ray Takeyh inThe Washington Post last month, a careful examination of the JCPOA reveals that it is deeply flawed because "it concedes an enrichment capacity that is too large; sunset clauses that are too short; a verification regime that is too leaky; and enforcement mechanisms that are too suspect." The Institute for Science and International Security, one of the most respected non-partisan authorities on non-proliferation in general and Iran's nuclear program in particular, was straightforward in its assessment: "After year 10, and particularly after year 15, as limits on its nuclear program end, Iran could reemerge as a major nuclear threat.  Even if the deal succeeds during the first ten years, it is unknowable whether the agreement will continue to accomplish its fundamental goal of preventing Iran from getting nuclear weapons in the long term."

Given these serious concerns, among many others, I believe the most judicious course is for Congress to disapprove the agreement, which would then allow for a more stringent deal to be renegotiated.  As a career Foreign Service Officer for nearly thirty years, with a strong belief in the role of executive authority in foreign affairs, I have come to this recommendation extremely reluctantly.  A multilateral agreement, negotiated over many years, should not be rejected for light or transient causes.  The only legitimate grounds for doing so is when one believes that an agreement is so manifestly deleterious to the national security that it warrants rejection and renegotiation. In this case, I believe this agreement will put the imprimatur of the international community on an industrial-scale enrichment program that will leave Iran - even if the negotiated limits on enrichment are adhered to scrupulously - as a threshold nuclear state when the various provisions expire.  President Obama conceded as much in an interview with NPR in April, when he observed "in year 13, 14, 15, they have advanced centrifuges that enrich uranium fairly rapidly, and at that point the breakout times would have shrunk almost down to zero."  The Institute for Science and International Security  analysis cited above confirms the President's judgment, noting that after 15 years "Iran's breakout timelines could shrink to just days."

This agreement reverses almost 50 years of U.S. non-proliferation policy.  As my colleague at Johns Hopkins SAIS, Michael Mandelbaum has noted, the agreement abandons the "policy of prohibiting the spread of enrichment technology even to friendly democratic governments ... as a result, it will henceforth be extremely difficult to prevent other countries, at first in the Middle East but ultimately elsewhere, particularly in East Asia, from equipping themselves with the capacity for enrichment.

It is likely, in my view, that the prospect of Iranian nuclear latency will, in turn, put the Middle East on the path to a catastrophic arms race.  Five to ten or twelve years down the road, such an arms race is likely to result in a more proliferated region, with multiple adversaries, each armed with small and vulnerable nuclear arsenals struggling to co-exist in an inherently unstable strategic environment.  The flight times between the competitors will be mere minutes, and hence the decision-making space will be quite constrained and short.  This would present an unprecedented challenge for the region, the United States, and the world at large with every possibility that the ultimate weapons actually will be used by accident or miscalculation for the first time since 1945.

Click to read the full testimony
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