- Analysis highlighting loss of U.S. leverage fuels calls for new Congressional sanctions
- Domestic, regional polls show deepening disapproval of Turkey foreign policy
- Human rights groups and dissidents call for focus on Iran arrest sweeps, execution spike
- Palestinian leadership rejects Kerry proposal as Jordan reportedly backs Israeli security concerns
What we’re watching today:
- Analysts, diplomats, and journalists are continuing to pile on concerns regarding structural asymmetries in a recently signed agreement between the P5+1 powers and Iran, with attention increasingly turning toward how the imbalances between what Iran got and what Iran gave up may disadvantage the United States and its allies heading into comprehensive negotiations over Iran's nuclear program. Pointing to language in the Geneva deal that seems to envision Iran being allowed to continue enriching uranium indefinitely, coupled with language under which constraints on such enrichment would be time-bound, the Washington Post had already worried late last month that "the agreement leaves the United States and its partners at a disadvantage in negotiating the comprehensive settlement." The Post's broad concerns were subsequently echoed by former Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and George Shultz, who wrote in the Wall Street Journal this week that "the major American negotiating leverage - the threatened reimposition and strengthening of sanctions - risks losing its edge," even as Iran's continued permitted enrichment "add[s] to its leverage in the follow-up negotiations." Kissinger and Shultz gestured toward a scenario, sketched out early by critics but dismissed as "fanciful" by analysts with ties to the Obama administration, under which a reduction in sanctions triggers a feeding frenzy that would badly erode the entire sanctions regime, as companies and nations rushed to be first back into the Iranian market. Movements in currency and oil markets immediately after the deal was announced were in line with the concerns of critics, and yesterday the Associated Press noted that Iran was preparing both diplomatically and economically for a surge in oil production. Today the Washington Free Beacon published Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL) similarly worrying that the Geneva deal deprived the U.S. of leverage, and describing new sanctions - which he called on Congress to pass - as "the single most significant thing we can do to help stop a nuclear weapons capable Iran."
- Turkish figures are scrambling to halt a slide in Ankara's regional stature and in the domestic position of its ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government, amid new polls showing declines in how people inside and outside Turkey view the country and the AKP. Hurriyet Daily News reported today that the percentage of Turks who feel that AKP's foreign policy is "successful" has dropped 11 points since 2011, to 26.7 when measured last month. Asked more specifically about the AKP's policy toward Egypt - Prime Minister Recept Tayyip Erdogan and his administration have fiercely lashed out against the army-backed government that replaced the Muslim Brotherhood-linked government of former Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi - 48 percent of Turks rated Ankara's approach unsuccessful vs. 29.8 percent who rated it successful. The Daily Star yesterday conveyed polling results showing a similar trend regionally, describing how "Turkey's popularity in the Middle East has dropped sharply over the past two years" in light of what the outlet described as "Ankara's sometimes controversial foreign policy strategy." Erdogan's support for the Brotherhood is widely viewed as a function of a more basic regional gamble made by the AKP, under which the Islamist party allied Turkey with the Brotherhood and Qatar to anchor one of three emerging regional camps. That bloc aligned itself against a second camp - compromised of the U.S.'s traditional Sunni allies and Israel - as well as against a Shiite camp dominated by Iran and its Lebanese and Syrian proxies. Turkey and Qatar this week signed a pact designed to boost energy cooperation between the two countries.
- The Associated Press yesterday conveyed reports from Iranian state media describing an arrest sweep conducted by the country's Revolutionary Guard, in which at least 16 anti-government activists were arrested. The IRNA news agency quoted a prosecutor explaining that the arrested had confessed to their crimes - cooperating with the West - under 'interrogation.' The announcements come as human rights activists are leveling increasingly pointed criticism against the U.S. and its allies for focusing on Iran's nuclear program to the exclusion of its institutionalized human rights atrocities, its global terrorist activities, and its critical support for regimes such as that of Syria's Bashar al-Assad. Earlier this week David Keyes and Ahmad Batebi - respectively the executive director of Advancing Human Rights and a former Iranian political prisoner - took to the Daily Beast to declare that "human rights are the biggest victim of the Iranian nuclear deal" announced recently in Geneva and that "the West has abandoned the issue of human rights inside Iran." The two called on global powers to "refocus their attention to human rights in Iran." Evaluating recent events in Iran, Ilan Berman and Mollie Adatto - respectively the vice president of the American Foreign Policy Council and a researcher at the organization - noted today that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani's election-time pledge "to defend ordinary citizens was campaign propaganda." Rouhani had already come in for sustained criticism over his appointment of Mostafa Pour-Mohammadi to be Justice Minister. Pour-Mohammadi is notorious in the country as one of three revolutionary-era figures who sat on a panel that condemned literally tens of thousands of political prisoners to death. A wave of executions has taken place since Rouhani's election, causing the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Iran to assess that there has been no fundamental domestic reform since the transition from the administration of former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Rouhani's administration.
- The Palestinian leadership today rejected a proposal presented by Secretary of State John Kerry designed to boost peace talks between them and their Israeli counterparts, asserting that the plan - which among other things would divide Jerusalem and cede some of the city to the Palestinians - would only end up "maintaining the occupation." An anonymous official told Reuters that the Palestinians in particular rejected security arrangements aimed at assuring Jerusalem that stability would be maintained in the aftermath of an Israeli withdrawal from most of the West Bank and the subsequent creation of a Palestinian state. Israel has insisted that it be allowed to maintain a medium-term presence in the geo-strategically critical Jordan Valley along the Israeli-Jordanian border, while Palestinians have demanded the opposite. The Times of Israel reported today that Jordan is siding with the Israelis. Both Amman and Jerusalem are known to be worried that a future Palestinian state would be unable to prevent extremists from moving materials and personnel back and forth across the Jordanian border. There is a growing Salafist presence in the West Bank, and it is not at all clear that Palestinian security forces would on their own be able to contain violent extremism in the territory.
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