In a speech on Thursday, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei issued a series of new and provocative statements that undercut the parameters reached between the P5+1 and Iran. He declared, “What has been done so far does not guarantee an agreement, nor its contents, nor even that the negotiations will continue to the end.” In stark contradiction to what the U.S. claimed was agreed upon in Lausanne, Switzerland, Khamenei said that the day a final agreement is reached, all sanctions should be lifted. He then asked, “If the sanctions removal depends on other processes, then why did we start the negotiations?" The President of Iran, Hassan Rouhani, told Iranian audiences, “We will not sign any agreement unless all economic sanctions are totally lifted on the first day of the implementation of the deal.” In the State Department Daily Press Briefing, Acting Deputy Spokesperson Jeff Rathke reiterated that “the process of sanctions suspension or relief will only begin after Iran has completed its major nuclear steps…so that’s consistent with what we’ve said over the last week or so and that was agreed upon by all the parties in Lausanne.”
Top Iranian leaders came out this week and issued unyielding positions that contradict the Joint Statement made by the P5+1 and Iran and the fact sheet issued by the White House. The Supreme Leader announced that the inspection of Iran’s sensitive military sites will not be allowed. Iranian Defense Minister Brig. Gen. Hossein Dehghan said that “[P]rincipally, visiting military centers are among [Iran’s] redlines and no such visit will be accepted." When asked by veteran Associated Press reporter Matt Lee if the IAEA’s outstanding questions on Iran’s past work on the military dimensions of its nuclear program could be resolved without access to those military and security sites, Rathke said that he would have to check with technical experts.
Then on Tuesday, Foreign Minister Javad Zarif told the Iranian parliament that Iran would not allow cameras to be installed at its nuclear sites. Later that day, when asked about the progress made on transparency, Acting Spokesperson Marie Harf declared, “When it comes to the three covert – or, excuse me, overt facilities – Arak, Natanz, and Fordow – we’ve already worked out with them a very serious inspections regime to include technological things like cameras.”
In an exchange between Lee and Rathke on Khamenei and Rouhani’s recent statements, Lee said, “On any number of points the President but more specifically the Supreme Leader appeared to have just simply restated Iran’s opening position from two years ago. Is that your read on it?” Rathke responded, “From what I understand, I think each of these speeches was rather long, and I haven’t read them in their entirety so I don’t want to characterize them.”
Pushing back against claims that the alternative to the current nuclear negotiation framework with Iran is war, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon argued in an op-ed published Wednesday in The Washington Post that the protocols announced last week actually make war more likely.
As Israel’s minister of defense, as a former Israel Defense Forces chief of general staff and as a combat veteran forced to bury some of my closest friends, I know too well the costs of war. I also know that Israelis are likely to pay the highest price if force is used — by anyone — against Iran’s nuclear program. No country, therefore, has a greater interest in seeing the Iranian nuclear question resolved peacefully than Israel. Our opposition to a deal based on the framework is not because we seek war, but because the terms of the framework — which will leave an unreformed Iran stronger, richer and with a clear path to a bomb — make war more likely.
The framework is supposed to prevent or detect Iranian denials and deception about their nuclear program by means of inspections and intelligence. Unfortunately, the track record of inspections and intelligence makes the framework’s outsize reliance on them both misguided and dangerous.
In many ways, the Iranian nuclear crisis began and intensified after two massive intelligence failures. Neither Israeli nor other leading Western intelligence agencies knew about Iran’s underground enrichment facilities at Natanz and Fordow until it was too late. As good as our intelligence services are, they simply cannot guarantee that they will detect Iranian violations at all, let alone in time to stop a dash for a bomb.
Ya’alon also drew a parallel to the agreement reached with North Korea in the 1990’s, which depended on inspections to prevent that nation from developing nuclear weapons. As Ya’alon writes, “Today, North Korea is a nuclear weapons state.” Furthermore, the parameters of the current deal would leave Iran’s nuclear infrastructure in place “to produce a nuclear arsenal.”
Ya’alon concluded by arguing that a “better deal” could force Iran to roll back its nuclear program and end “Iran’s aggression in the region, its terrorism across the globe and its threats to annihilate Israel.”
Ya’alon’s conclusion is consistent with the argument made by former Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and George Schultz Wednesday in The Wall Street Journal that a deal that isn’t linked to Iran accepting “restraint on its ability to destabilize the Middle East” won’t be effective. (via TheTower.org)
The Salad Trail in the Negev encourages visitors to get a feel for the land and its produce. Can you name 15 varieties of cherry tomatoes? What about four types of carrots? Have you ever tasted an Uri Kaduri orange? And do you know the difference between the seven varieties of mint leaves? A three-hour visit to the Salad Trail, a unique touch-and-taste farm in the Hevel Habesor region of the northern Negev, will turn you into an expert grower for the day. Pick-your-own produce farms are commonplace. But agronomist Uri Alon has upped the ante with his complete senses-and-learning experience at his farm in the northern Negev. “If you want to see how the real vegetables grow, and taste the best vegetables in the world, that’s reason enough to come visit,” Alon, the brainchild of this blossoming oasis in the middle of the sandy desert, tells ISRAEL21c. “If you want to see the real Israel and see how you can take a desert and change it and make it bloom, it’s enough reason to drive 1.5 hours from Tel Aviv.” Alon, who grew up in Rehovot and always dreamed of being a farmer, started the Salad Trail 11 years ago and says it is unique in Israel for its range of produce and educational component. “This is the only farm with a professional tour,” he says. “It’s not only about coming here to pick vegetables but also to understand how they grow, learn about the environment and understand the agricultural innovations and technologies.” Each year, some 45,000 people – mostly tourists – make the trip out to Moshav Talmei Yosef, where his farm is located, to roam the fields, pick, touch, taste and learn about the crops they eat. (via Israel21c)