Thursday, May 29, 2008

Final Language on Iran in the House Defense Authorization Bill

On May 22, the House of Representatives voted 384-23 to pass the Fiscal Year 2009 Duncan Hunter National Defense Authorization Act. Section 1224 of the bill requires that the Director of National Intelligence submit to Congress an update of the National Intelligence Estimate not later than 180 days after the legislation is enacted and then annually thereafter. Below is the full finalized text of Section 1224. The Senate must still debate its version of the bill and is expected to take it up on the floor in June.


(a) Requirement- Not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act , and annually thereafter, the Director of National Intelligence shall submit to Congress an update of the National Intelligence Estimate, entitled `Iran: Nuclear Intentions and Capabilities' and dated November 2007. Such update may be submitted in classified form.

(b) Elements to Be Considered- Each update submitted under subsection (a) shall include the following:
(1) The locations, types, and number of centrifuges and other specialized equipment necessary for the enrichment of nuclear material and any plans to develop and operate such equipment in the future.
(2) An estimate of the amount, if any, of enriched to weapons-grade uranium materials acquired or produced to date and plutonium acquired or produced and reprocessed into weapons-grade material to date, an estimate of the amount of plutonium that is likely to be produced and reprocessed into weapons-grade material in the near- and midterms and the amount of uranium that is likely to be enriched to weapons-grade levels in the near- and midterms, and the number of nuclear weapons that could be produced with each category of materials.
(3) A description of the security and safeguards at any nuclear site that could prevent, slow, verify or monitor the enrichment of uranium or the reprocessing of plutonium into weapons-grade materials.
(4) A description of the weaponization activities, such as the research, design, development, or testing of nuclear weapons or weapons-related components.
(5) A description of programs to construct, acquire, test, or improve methods to deliver nuclear weapons, including an assessment of the likely progress of such programs in the near- and mid-terms.
(6) A summary of assessments made by other allies of the United States of Iran's nuclear weapons program and nuclear-capable delivery systems programs.

(c) Notification- The President shall notify Congress, in writing, within 15 days of determining that--
(1) the Islamic Republic of Iran has met or surpassed any major milestone in its nuclear weapons program; or
(2) Iran has undertaken to accelerate, decelerate, or cease the development of any significant element within its nuclear weapons program.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

New Sanctions Resolution Introduced into the House of Representatives

Representatives Gary Ackerman (D-NY) and Mike Pence (R-IN) are circulating a “Dear Colleague” letter on the hill to drum up co-sponsors for H.Con.Res. 362, introduced on May 22, 2008. The legislation expresses “the sense of Congress regarding the threat posed to international peace, stability in the Middle East, and the vital national security interests of the United States by Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons and regional hegemony, and for other purposes” and urges the President to impose new sanctions on Iran.

H.Con.Res. 362 resolves that Congress:

(1) declares that preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability, through all appropriate economic, political, and diplomatic means, is vital to the national security interests of the United States and must be dealt with urgently;

(2) urges the President, in the strongest of terms, to immediately use his existing authority to impose sanctions on--
(A) the Central Bank of Iran and any other Iranian bank engaged in proliferation activities or the support of terrorist groups;
(B) international banks which continue to conduct financial transactions with proscribed Iranian banks;
(C) energy companies that have invested $20,000,000 or more in the Iranian petroleum or natural gas sector in any given year since the enactment of the Iran Sanctions Act of 1996; and
(D) all companies which continue to do business with Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps;

(3) demands that the President initiate an international effort to immediately and dramatically increase the economic, political, and diplomatic pressure on Iran to verifiably suspend its nuclear enrichment activities by, inter alia, prohibiting the export to Iran of all refined petroleum products; imposing stringent inspection requirements on all persons, vehicles, ships, planes, trains, and cargo entering or departing Iran; and prohibiting the international movement of all Iranian officials not involved in negotiating the suspension of Iran's nuclear program; and

(4) urges the President to lead a sustained, serious, and forceful effort at regional diplomacy to support the legitimate governments in the region against Iranian efforts to destabilize them, to reassure our friends and allies that the United States supports them in their resistance to Iranian efforts at hegemony, and to make clear to the Government of Iran that the United States will protect America's vital national security interests in the Middle East.

Below is the full “Dear Colleague” letter requesting co-sponsorship of the legislation.

Take a Stand Against Iranian Bullying:
Co-Sponsor H. Con. Res. 362

May 28, 2008

Dear Colleague:

We write to encourage you to join us as sponsors of H.Con.Res.362, a resolution expressing the sense of Congress regarding the threat posed to international peace, stability in the Middle East, and the vital national security interests of the United States by Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons and regional hegemony.

As the Chairman and Ranking Minority Member of the House Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia, we have been monitoring with growing concern Iran's manifest efforts to destabilize and reshape the Middle East, to block efforts to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict and, worst of all, to acquire the means to produce enriched uranium, the key to producing nuclear weapons.

Iran is backing and arming militias and terrorists fighting the United States and our allies in both Iraq and Afghanistan; it is the proud patron of both the Hamas take-over in Gaza and the Hezbollah insurrection against the Lebanese government; it is the major funding source for numerous terrorist groups and, increasingly, its fellow state-sponsor of terrorism, Syria; it is supporting Islamist sectarian groups in places like Kuwait, Bahrain and Yemen; and, it is radically reorienting regional security calculations (e.g., the sudden interest among Sunni Arabs in commercial nuclear power).

In various public statements, Iranian leaders proudly take ownership of these policies and promise more of the same. Meeting the threat posed by Iran is an urgent requirement for the United States, and a challenge that will require us to work closely with the international community, and especially with partners in the Middle East. Though the stakes are high and time is short, the resolution is explicit in stating that meeting the challenge from Iran must be done using all appropriate political, diplomatic and economic levers, and that "nothing in this resolution shall be construed as an authorization of the use of force against Iran."

The threat from Iran is real and growing, and Congress needs to sound the alarm to ensure that today's efforts by Iran at subversion and proliferation do not, tomorrow, become the seeds of new and more terrible conflict in the Middle East.

Please contact Dalis Blumenfeld ( at the House Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia at 202-225-3345 if you'd like to be added as a sponsor.


s/ Gary L. Ackerman s/ Mike Pence

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Iran's Offer

On May 13, Iranian Foreign Minister Manoucher Mottaki delivered a letter and “Proposed Package for Constructive Negotiations” to United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. The letter and offer was delivered just before European Union Foreign Policy Chief Javier Solana is set to travel to Iran to deliver a “not-so-new package of incentives” from the so-called P5+1 (Britain, China, France, Germany, U.S. and Russia) meant to convince the country to abandon its nuclear enrichment activities.

The English translation of the Iranian offer available is unofficial and very crude and thus may accurately reflect what the offer is actually meant to convey. However, a few observations can still be made. Perhaps of most significance, the letter and offer delivered by Foreign Minister Mottaki stresses a long-standing issue for the Iranians of the need to approach negotiations with mutual respect.

The Iranian offer may also be viewed as a preemptive measure to the “new package of incentives” to be delivered by the P5+1. Though there are some additional incentives in the P5+1 offer, including enhanced nuclear cooperation, it does not include U.S.-backed security assurances that it will not attack Iran. Most importantly, the U.S. adamantly maintains the precondition that Iran suspend its uranium enrichment activities before negotiations can even begin, which Iran refuses to do.

The Iranian offer is likely a reflection of the view inside the government that they will just wait out the current U.S. administration because they do not see the possibility for real dialogue at present. In light of this, the Iranian government has perhaps made this offer mostly for media purposes.

In the offer, the Iranian government presents itself as a global player, equal to all of the members of the P5+1. Iran says it is willing to enter into talks with the P5+1 “on cooperation to strengthen a just peace and bolster the stability and the advancement of democracy in regions that suffer from instability, militarism, violence and terrorism. Such cooperation can take place in different parts of the world- more specifically in the Middle East, the Balkans, Africa, and Latin America. Cooperation to assist the Palestinian people to find a comprehensive plan- one that is sustainable, democratic and fair- to resolve the 60-year old Palestinian issue can become a symbol of such collaboration.” There is no mention of security guarantees in the Iranian offer.

The offer also calls for talks between the P5+1 and Iran to include cooperation on Economic issues, including in the energy sector, trade and investment, common effort to help fight poverty in less developed countries and reducing the impact of sharp price fluctuations and retooling global monetary and financial arrangements.

In regards to the nuclear issue, the Iranian offer does not mention its own nuclear program and instead proposes discussing the nuclear issue in the global context and a focus on disarmament. The offer calls for talks to include:

  • Obtaining a further assurance about the non-diversion of the nuclear activities of different countries.
  • Establishing enrichment and nuclear fuel production consortiums in different parts of the world- including in Iran.
  • Cooperation to access and utilize peaceful nuclear technology and facilitating its usage by all states.
  • Nuclear disarmament and establishment of a follow up committee.
  • Improved supervision by the IAEA over the nuclear activities of different states.
  • Joint collaboration over nuclear safety and physical protection.
  • An effort to encourage other states to control the export of nuclear material and equipment.

The failure of the P5+1 to produce a credible offer to Iran without preconditions and with security assurances has essentially ensured that substantive talks over Iran’s nuclear program are not going anywhere anytime soon. The Iranian position has only further hardened and as the Iranian offer demonstrates, it has only become more difficult to break the impasse. Tough-minded resolve from all parties to engage in difficult give-and-take of diplomacy, as well as creative diplomatic solutions are urgently needed to prevent the situation from further deterioriating.

Udpate on Iran Amendments to Defense Authorization Bill

Of the major amendments proposed on Iran to the Fiscal Year 2009 Defense Authorization Act, only the Spratt amendment was ruled germane by the Committee Rule, which passed on Wednesday, May 21. The House of Representatives is expected to complete debate and vote on the Defense Authorization bill before the Memorial Day recess.

The Spratt (SC) amendment would require the Director of National Intelligence, on an annual basis, to submit to Congress an update of the National Intelligence Estimate entitled "Iran: Nuclear Intentions and Capabilities" and dated November 2007. Such update may be submitted in classified form. The President shall notify Congress in writing within 15 days of determining that Iran has met or surpassed any major milestone in its nuclear weapons program or that Iran has undertaken to accelerate, decelerate, or cease the development of any significant element within its nuclear weapons program.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Summary and links to Text of Major Amendments on Iran in the Defense Authorization Bill

Summary and links to Text of Major Amendments on Iran
Submitted to the Rules Committee for the Defense Authorization Bill
As of May 20, 2008 7:59 PM

Franks (AZ) #53
States the Sense of Congress that the Department of Defense should develop and maintain a viable military option to prevent the Islamic Republic of Iran from successfully developing or deploying a nuclear weapons capability.

Lee (CA) #71 (Ed. note: this amendment could be construed as Iran-related by prohibiting funding for Iraq war to extend beyond Iraq)
(REVISED) Provides that funds appropriated for Operation Iraqi Freedom or otherwise made available to DOD pursuant to an authorization of appropriations may be obligated and expended within Iraq only (1) to protect service members participating in Operation Iraqi Freedom and (2) to accomplish the safe and complete redeployment of service members and contractors pursuant to a plan that provides for their complete redeployment within one year of enactment. Nothing shall prohibit diplomatic efforts or social and economic reconstruction activities in Iraq.

McDermott (WA) #91
States the Sense of Congress that the United States should seek open communication and responsible diplomacy with certain key state actors in order to reduce regional and global tensions.

Spratt (SC) #128
Requires the DNI, on an annual basis, to submit to Congress an update of the National Intelligence Estimate entitled "Iran: Nuclear Intentions and Capabilities" and dated November 2007. Such update may be submitted in classified form. The President shall notify Congress in writing within 15 days of determining that Iran has met or surpassed any major milestone in its nuclear weapons program or that Iran has undertaken to accelerate, decelerate, or cease the development of any significant element within its nuclear weapons program.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Iran's Offer

The Institute for Science and International Security has obtained and posted a copy of Iran's May 13, 2008 letter to the United Nations Secretary General and accompanying document titled "The Islamic Republic of Iran’s Proposed Package for Constructive Negotiations." Read it here.

Even More on the 123 Agreement for Nuclear Cooperation with Russia

Ivan Oelrich has an excellent posting on the Federation of American Scientists blog today regarding the proposed 123 Agreement for nuclear cooperation between the U.S. and Russia. I wholeheartedly agree with Ivan’s analysis on Iran, “that the Russians have, overall, been responsible in dealing with Iran’s nuclear program and have come up with some innovative ideas.” I also agree that there are much better arguments than Iran for opposing the agreement, as I have said in previous postings here and here.

In his analysis, Oelrich points out that the 123 agreement with Russia may be part of an effort to bolster the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership. In addition to Russia, the U.S. is pushing agreements for nuclear cooperation with all of the Middle East countries that have expressed interest in developing a nuclear program since the 2006 appeal from Secretary General of the Arab League and former Egyptian Foreign Minister Amr Musa to the Arab world, “to quickly and powerfully enter the world of using nuclear power.” In the memoranda of understanding with Middle Eastern countries signed thus far, the U.S. is tying GNEP to nuclear cooperation with these countries. This, I think, bolsters Oelrich’s argument for fighting GNEP directly, rather than individual agreements for cooperation.

In an article for the Middle East Report on this subject to be published this summer, I argue, among other things, that the U.S. is selling GNEP as part of the nuclear cooperation packages in part because it needs a lucrative market to sell a new generation of reactors and fuel. Convincing countries in the Middle East to forego domestic reprocessing and enrichment also bolsters U.S. plans to reprocess fuel from domestic and foreign reactors for use in a new generation of reactors. However, this is a highly unstable and hypocritical policy that will only widen the gap between the nuclear haves and have-nots. Addressing the deep-seeded inequalities of the nonproliferation and disarmament regime is far more likely than nuclear cooperation agreements to mitigate proliferation concerns in the Middle East and around the world.

Jerusalem Post Article on Potential U.S. Military Attack

The Jerusalem Post originally published an article at this url ( on May 20 with the headline "Bush intends to attack Iran before the end of his term." The article read:

"US President George W. Bush intends to attack Iran in the upcoming months, before the end of his term, Army Radio quoted a senior official in Jerusalem as saying Tuesday.

"The official claimed that a senior member of the president's entourage, which concluded a trip to Israel last week, said during a closed meeting that Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney were of the opinion that military action was called for.

"However, the official continued, 'the hesitancy of Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice' was preventing the administration from deciding to launch such an attack on the Islamic Republic, for the time being.

"The report stated that according to assessments in Israel, recent turmoil in Lebanon, where Hizbullah de facto established control of the country, was advancing an American attack.
Bush, the officials said, opined that Hizbullah's show of strength was evidence of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's growing influence.

"They said that according to Bush, 'the disease must be treated - not its symptoms.' In an address to the Knesset during his visit here last week, Bush said that 'the president of Iran dreams of returning the Middle East to the Middle Ages.'

"'America stands with you in firmly opposing Iran's nuclear weapons ambitions,' Bush said. 'Permitting the world's leading sponsor of terror to possess the world's deadliest weapon would be an unforgivable betrayal of future generations. For the sake of peace, the world must not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon.'"

Curiously, upon re-accessing the same url ( the article had been changed to a report of the White House denying the claims articulated in the previous article. The new article reads:

"The White House on Tuesday flatly denied an Army Radio report that claimed US President George W. Bush intends to attack Iran before the end of his term. It said that while the military option had not been taken off the table, the Administration preferred to resolve concerns about Iran's push for a nuclear weapon 'through peaceful diplomatic means.'

"Army Radio had quoted a top official in Jerusalem claiming that a senior member in the entourage of President Bush, who concluded a trip to Israel last week, had said in a closed meeting here that Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney were of the opinion that military action against Iran was called for.

"The official reportedly went on to say that 'the hesitancy of Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice' was preventing the administration from deciding to launch such an attack on the Islamic Republic for the time being.

"The Army Radio report, which was quoted by The Jerusalem Post and resonated widely, stated that according to assessments in Israel, the recent turmoil in Lebanon, where Hizbullah has de facto established control of the country, was advancing an American attack.

"Bush, the official reportedly said, considered Hizbullah's show of strength to constitute evidence of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's growing influence. In Bush's view, the official said, 'the disease must be treated - not its symptoms.'

"However, the White House on Tuesday afternoon dismissed the story. In a statement, it said that '[the US] remain[s] opposed to Iran's ambitions to obtain a nuclear weapon. To that end, we are working to bring tough diplomatic and economic pressure on the Iranians to get them to change their behavior and to halt their uranium enrichment program. '

"It went on: 'As the President has said, no president of the United States should ever take options off the table, but our preference and our actions for dealing with this matter remain through peaceful diplomatic means. Nothing has changed in that regard.'

"In an address to the Knesset during his visit here last week, Bush said that 'the president of Iran dreams of returning the Middle East to the Middle Ages.'

"'America stands with you in firmly opposing Iran's nuclear weapons ambitions,' Bush said. 'Permitting the world's leading sponsor of terror to possess the world's deadliest weapon would be an unforgivable betrayal of future generations. For the sake of peace, the world must not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon.'"

Ashton Carter: Military action must be viewed as a component of a comprehensive Iran strategy

Ashton B. Carter, Co-Director of the Preventive Defense Project at Harvard and Stanford Universities, has a new paper in which he argues: "Military action must be viewed as a component of a comprehensive strategy rather than a stand-alone option for dealing with Iran's nuclear program. But it is an element of any true option. A true option is a complete strategy integrating political, economic, and military elements and seeing the matter through to a defined and achievable end. For any military element, the sequel to action must be part of the strategy because the military action by itself will not finish the problem of Iran's nuclear ambitions once and for all." The paper is part of a series published by the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) on alternative strategies for dealing with Iran's nuclear program called "Iran: U.S. Strategic Options." Read the full paper here.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Iran in the HASC Committee Report on FY'09 Defense Authorization Bill

The House Armed Services Committee Report 110–652 on the Fiscal year 2009 Duncan Hunter National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 5658) is now available online. Below are the Iran-relevant excerpts.

Ballistic missile defense discrimination radar in Israel (Page 257)

The committee notes that the State of Israel faces a real and growing threat from short- and medium-range ballistic missiles from states such as the Syrian Arab Republic and the Islamic Republic of Iran. The committee believes that the deployment of a U.S. Army-Navy/Transportable–2 (AN/TPY–2) missile defense discrimination radar to Israel would greatly increase the capabilities of both Israel and U.S. forces deployed in support of Israel to defend against ballistic missile threats. Therefore, the committee urges the Department of Defense to begin discussions with Israel about the possibility of deploying an AN/TPY–2 radar on its territory at the earliest feasible date.

European Ground-based Midcourse Defense component (Page 258-259)

The budget request contained $2.1 billion in PE 63882C for the Ground-based, Midcourse Defense (GMD) program, of which $317.0 million is for the proposed GMD interceptor site in the Republic of Poland and associated equipment. In January 2007, the Administration announced negotiations with Poland and the Czech Republic about the possibility of deploying long-range missile defense interceptors and radars in their respective territories to defend against a potential long-range missile threat from the Islamic Republic of Iran. While the Administration reached a tentative agreement in April 2008 with the Czech Republic, it has not concluded negotiations with Poland. The committee remains concerned about the potential effectiveness of the two-stage GMD interceptor to perform its mission in the European theater. The committee notes that the Director of Operational Test and Evaluation (DOT&E) has observed that the employment of the proposed two-stage interceptor in European defensive operations is not well understood, and has recommended additional testing of the two-stage interceptor, including against multiple, threat representative targets…

The committee notes that the proposed long-range interceptors in Poland would not be able to protect the southern portions of Europe against existing Iranian short- and medium-range ballistic missiles. The committee is concerned that it may be premature to move forward at the pace recommended by the administration given the fact that the long-range missile threat from Iran has yet to emerge and neither the United States nor our North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies have sufficient regional missile defense capabilities to meet current short-and medium-range Iranian ballistic missile threats.

Oversight of Department of Defense Policies on Iran (Page 445)

The committee remains seriously concerned about certain activities undertaken by the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran and believes that many of Iran’s policies and actions threaten the internal security of its neighbors and the collective stability of the Middle East region. The committee notes that it has held briefings and hearings throughout the last year on a range of security issues involving Iran, including:
(1) Coalition measures to stop Iranian support for insurgents and militias in the Republic of Iraq;
(2) Efforts under the Gulf Security Dialogue to help build stability and security in the Middle East region;
(3) The activities of Iranian Navy’s patrol craft in close proximity to U.S. military ships in the Strait of Hormuz;
(4) Iranian conventional military capabilities: and
(5) Iranian nuclear intentions and capabilities as assessed in the November 2007 National Intelligence Estimate.
The committee appreciates the information that has been provided by the Department of Defense, the Department of State, and other federal agencies on Iran. The committee encourages the Department of Defense and other agencies to remain actively engaged with the committee on security matters involving Iran, and to keep the committee fully informed on these matters.

Section 1224—Sense of Congress and Congressional Briefings on Readiness of the Armed Forces and Report on Nuclear Weapons Capabilities of Iran (Page 457)

This section expresses the sense of Congress that the Secretary of Defense should return the armed forces to a state of full readiness so that they are fully prepared to execute the National Military Strategy. It would require the Secretary of Defense to provide semiannual briefings to the Senate Committee on Armed Services and the House Committee on Armed Services on matters pertaining to the preparation for the full range of contingencies that could occur in the Middle East region. The provision would also require the Secretary to submit a detailed annual report addressing the current and future nuclear weapons capabilities of the Islamic Republic of Iran and provide a notification to Congress when Iran has produced enough enriched uranium or plutonium for a nuclear weapon.

Global Initiatives for Proliferation Prevention (Page 569)

The budget request contained $23.8 million for Global Initiatives for Proliferation Prevention (GIPP) from within Nonproliferation and International Security.

The committee has been conducting vigorous oversight on the GIPP program and the program’s funding of Russian institutes, which are involved with separate work on nuclear projects in the Islamic Republic of Iran. The committee appreciates the information provided by the National Nuclear Security Administration
(NNSA) on the GIPP program to date and recognizes the important nonproliferation objectives of the program.

The committee encourages NNSA to continue strengthening the management and implementation of the GIPP program as necessary to ensure that the program achieves its intended nonproliferation objectives and in no way undermines U.S. national security interests. The committee expects that NNSA will continue to
keep it fully informed of significant developments involving the program.

The committee also directs the Secretary of Energy to submit to the congressional defense committees, within 120 days after the date of enactment of this Act, a report on the funding for GIPP projects. The report should include:
(1) the amount of authorized and appropriated funds to be obligated or expended for each GIPP project for fiscal year 2009; and
(2) the purposes for which these amounts will be obligated or expended.

The committee recommends $18.8 million, reflecting a transfer of $5.0 million to high-priority activities within International Nuclear Materials Protection and Cooperation.

Page 645
"In addition, we commend the insertion of a provision that would require the Secretary of Defense to provide an annual report on the Islamic Republic of Iran’s nuclear capabilities. We observe that Iran continues to enrich uranium—a pacing item for a nuclear weapons capability—and expand its enrichment capability, but we do not have insight into these activities. Our national and international security depends upon a transparent understanding of Iran’s nuclear enrichment capabilities and intentions."

Page 646
"Rogue nations such as Iran and North Korea are expanding their arsenals of ballistic missiles and proliferating both missile and nuclear technology. Our North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies recognize this threat and in April 2008 provided unanimous endorsement of the ‘substantial contribution to the protection of Allies from long-range ballistic missiles to be provided by the planned deployment of European-based United States missile defence assets.’ This initiative would also protect the American people and our forward-deployed forces, and complement other U.S. and NATO missile defense systems.

"The Administration and our NATO allies have committed to our collective security, the Congress has demanded it, and yet this legislation significantly reduces funds for the European missile defense initiative. We believe this sends a terrible signal to our allies and emboldens Iran. This is a crucial time for the U.S. to continue its leadership; in addition to NATO, we have key allies such as Israel and Japan who are relying on U.S. commitments to missile defense."

Thursday, May 15, 2008

HASC Passes Iran Amendment to Defense Authorization Bill

In the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) markup on May 14, 2008 of the Fiscal Year 2009 Defense Authorization Act, HASC Ranking member, Representative Duncan Hunter (R-CA), and Representative Trent Franks (R-AZ) introduced an amendment that would have required the Department of Defense to develop and maintain a military option against Iran and require the Department of Defense to report on Iran’s achievements in uranium enrichment efforts.

In his statement introducing the amendment, Rep. Franks called Iran a “regime gone rogue” and said that despite the release of the National Intelligence Estimate, Iran is not one less day shorter of gaining a nuclear weapons capability. He also said, “I truly believe in doing everything diplomatically, economically, in terms of sanctions, informational options, that we can possibly do, to prevent Iran from successfully gaining nuclear weapons. But my amendment also expresses the sense of Congress that the Department of Defense should develop and maintain a military option against Iran alongside of these measures. The amendment also establishes a reporting requirement for the Department of Defense as Iran achieves key milestones in its uranium enrichment efforts. Mr. Chairman, our best chance to avoid war with Iran is to make sure that Mr. Khomeini [sic] and Mr. Ahmadinejad know that all options, including the military option, Mr. Chairman, are on the table, should they continue to defy those standards of behavior that all responsible members of the international community must respect in order to coexist…” Mr. Franks also said during the debate that Iran was “hell-bent” on acquiring nuclear weapons and that some day our children could be faced with “nuclear jihad.”

Behind the scenes, there was an agreement negotiated with Representatives Hunter and Franks to combine their amendment with one offered by Representative Silvestre Reyes (D-TX). In describing the compromise, Rep. Reyes clarified for the committee that Mr. Frank’s amendment actually started off as two amendments from the Minority side. Representative Hunter had introduced the first amendment that contained language requiring an annual report on Iranian nuclear capabilities. Representative Franks introduced a Sense of Congress provision “calling on the Department of Defense to develop and maintain viable nuclear options to prevent the Islamic Republic of Iran from successfully developing or deploying a nuclear weapons capability.” Representatives Franks and Hunter submitted a revised amendment combining the two amendments.

In introducing his substitute amendment to the combined minority amendment, Representative Reyes added said the minority amendment “ignores the state of readiness of the armed forces and its possible inability to execute a national military strategy. Additionally, the administration has been less than forthcoming on its planning for a preemptive strike on Iranian nuclear facilities.” Rep. Reyes explained his revised amendment as follows: “The second order amendment now being offered expresses concern over the readiness of the armed forces to carry out the full range of contingencies to include those in the Middle East. It also maintains the requirement for the Defense Department to report on matters pertaining to the preparation of contingencies for the Middle East in general and regarding Iran and its nuclear facilities in particular, and to also include a comprehensive description of information used in their preparation.”

Following Mr. Reyes’ introduction of his substitute language, Representative Hunter introduced a second degree change to the amendment adding a few more details to the Department of Defense reporting requirement on Iran’s nuclear program, including information on the number of centrifuges and the number of weapons that could be built, etc. to be delivered in March of every year. The language was worked out with Rep. Reyes.

Representative Neil Abercrombie (D-HI) opposed the perfected amendment calling it more egregious than the first one. He said “Take a look at what is being proposed here. Why don’t you just go ahead and declare war on Iran? I mean that is what this is all about. You want to talk about targeting destruction? The language in [Rep. Franks’] amendment and the language in Mr. Hunter’s amendment in effect is a declaration of war on Iran. We seem to have forgotten in the process that we overthrew the government of Iran. If you want to talk about terrorism, if you want to talk about attacking other nations, if you want to talk about interfering with the governments of other nations, this goes back more than half a century where this country has systematically interfered with various governments in Iran. Whether you think that’s a good idea or a bad idea, the fact of the matter is that our relationship with Iran for the past half century has been one of constant opposition and interference in the government…”

He said if the issue is terrorism, then we have to bring India, China and Pakistan into it because they’ve signed contracts for oil with Iran. He also noted that the building of nuclear power plants is taking place all over the Middle East. “So if the idea is about centrifuges, if the idea about enriched uranium, for plutonium and so on is going to be an issue, then you’re going to have to add a lot more countries in the Middle East to this than Iran. This [amendment] is something where we’re going off on a tangent that has very serious, very deep implications for extending the United States into a position where it will be seen as literally threatening Iran with destruction.” He noted that there is an entirely new social context in Iran. He said we need to be reaching out to Iranians and creating a new reality for them, not threatening them.

Representative Joe Sestak (D-PA) said as someone who actually did planning at the Defense Department that the reporting requirement on Iran’s nuclear program as stipulated in the amendment, “We don’t do those things in the Pentagon. You just tell us to drop the bomb and we do that. Doesn’t this have to go through the Intelligence Committee? This is Intelligence work.” Rep. Franks interjected, “Under the [International Atomic Energy Agency] IAEA, we already have inspections that take place all the time in these facilities” and called Iran’s progress on a new generation of centrifuges “astonishing.” Despite Mr. Sestak argument that the amendment was articulating intelligence work, not Pentagon work, the amendment was cleared by Parliamentarians because it required the reporting from the Pentagon and not from the Intelligence Community.

Rep. Ellen Tausher (D-CA) spoke against Rep. Hunter’s perfecting amendment, which she said essentially called for a National Intelligence Estimate on Iran. She reiterated Rep. Sestak’s concerns that it was something for the Intelligence community and argued the amendment went beyond the purview of HAS

Rep. Geoff Davis (R-KY) said the question at the end of the day is whether we are going to be provocative and have a policy that focuses on the needs of this country in the long run. He called the amendment “questionable” in terms of what it would add to U.S. national defense.

After debate concluded, the Hunter perfecting amendment to the Reyes amendment passed by a voice vote, followed by the Reyes amendment, as amended by the Hunter amendment. The Franks amendment, as substituted by Mr. Reyes and amended by Mr. Hunter, then also passed by a voice vote. There were no roll call votes.

The full debate over the Franks amendment and the subsequent perfecting amendments can be viewed online at the HASC website (Part VII, 2:59:16-3:32:45).

Special thanks to Lara Friedman for sending the timing of the debate (HASC mark-up lasted for more than 17 hours).

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

More on the 123 Russian Nuclear Agreement

Members of Congress are getting energized to oppose the 123 Agreement for nuclear cooperation with Russia that President George W. Bush submitted yesterday. Unfortunately, their reasons for the opposing the 123 agreement are misplaced.

Most members are focusing on Russia’s cooperation with Iran as the central reason why they should not allow the agreement to go through. In the House of Representatives, Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) has prepared and is circulating a resolution of disapproval that I have been told focuses on Russia’s cooperation with Iran. In the Senate, there is a renewed push for S. 970, the Iran Counter-Proliferation Act, with the reasoning that Section 6 of the bill would make it possible to block such agreements with Russia. As Bill Reinsch, head of the National Foreign Trade Council, noted in an April Senate Finance Committee hearing, S.970’s passage would come at a hefty price and “have serious unintended consequences which will be manifested rather quickly, and which would make our efforts to change Iran's behavior significantly more difficult.” S. 970 has 70 co-sponsors and is the house version of H.R. 1400, which passed 397-16 on September 25, 2007.

As a senior Senate committee staffer said today, it is not helpful to focus on Russia’s cooperation with Iran as a reason to disapprove of the agreement. Instead, Congress should be focusing its efforts on the real concerns that the agreement will enable a costly, proliferation-prone program - the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership.

Rep. Franks to Offer to Iran Amendment to the Defense Authorization Bill

This just in...

A veteran hill lobbyist who is closely watching today's House Armed Services Committee markup of the Fiscal Year 2009 Defense Authorization Act says that Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ), one of the most conservative members in the House, will offer an amendment to the bill this evening with language to the effect that all options are on the table with respect to Iran. Committee markup of the is expected to go late into the evening. The bill is expected to be on the House floor next week.

New Iran Video

Agit Pop has created an edgy new video on preventing war and calling for diplomacy with Iran. The project was funded by the Lee and Gund Foundation.

Iraq, the Nuclear Issue, Aghanistan and the Gulf: The View from Tehran

Selig Harrison, Director of the Asia Program at the Center for International Policy, gave a briefing today at the Woodrow Wilson Center where he is also Senior Scholar. Harrison reported on the view from Tehran based on two trips there in the past nine months, most recently in February. His trips were funded by the Trust for Mutual Understanding. Harrison prefaced his remarks with the fact that he went to Iran with the specific objective to see what is possible in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Persian Gulf. He was not able to meet one-on-one with either President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad or with Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, but he did meet with many of their key advisors. Most signicanlty, the Iranian Foreign Ministry arranged a meeting with 15 experts that work on Iraq.

Harrison focused most of his remarks on Iran’s view of Iraq beginning with an apropos comment from Mahmoud Vaezi, Deputy of Foreign Policy Research at Center for Strategic Research in Tehran. Vaezi told Harrison, “We have been waiting for this moment since 1639,” meaning that Iran has been waiting for the day when Sunni minority rule would end in Baghdad and Iran would restore its influence.

Harrison said that President Bush clearly did not have the Shi’a connection on his mind when he toppled Sadam Hussein and he pointed to comments by Douglas Feith who has said he believed in 2003 that invading Iraq might speed up the collapse of the Islamic Republic of Iran. According to Feith, “It was unclear to us how it would all net out and it is still unclear.” He thought that Iranians would be inspired by the “Iraqi revolution.” Feith still calls what’s happening in Iraq a revolution. Paul Wolfowitz was more realistic and believed a Shiite dominated Iraq would never be a puppet of Iran.

But what about an Iraq that is closer to Iran than any other external power? The U.S. was slow to learn that the politicians in power in Iraq have had close ties to Iran.

Harrison thinks it’s obvious the U.S. has embarked on a new military strategy in Sadr City. Iran has carefully avoided playing favorites in Iraq, but the U.S. has not. Harrison said he has heard Iranian anger over the U.S. role in Sadr City and said the timing of the escalation in Hizbollah attacks in Lebanon might be linked to the U.S. decision to step up military action against the Mahdi army. Harrison also said the Iranian suspension of a fourth round of talks with the U.S. over Iraqi security is also a result of situation in Sadr City. Many Iranians asked Harrison, “How can the U.S. accuse us of interfering in Iraq?”

The U.S. has to give serious attention to Iran’s view of what must be done in Iraq. There can be no graceful withdrawal from Iraq without Iranian cooperation. Iran wants a stable Iraq, what they define as a “friendly Iraq.” Their effort is to keep a hand in with all actors so they end up with friends in power. Harrison said the importance of Iran-Iraq war can not be overemphasized enough as the basic context for Iran’s view of the situation in Iraq and in context of the nuclear issue.

Iran is ready to cooperate in stabilizing Iraq, but only if U.S. is willing to set a timetable for the gradual withdrawal of U.S. forces in Iraq. In return for stabilizing Iraq, the basic U.S. quid pro quo would be accepting Iran’s right to be a major player in Iraq. Acceptance by Saudi Arabia is also implicit.

Iran has carefully avoided taking sides in current Shiite internal struggle and wants the U.S. to do the same. It has also attempted to keep on good terms with all Shia factions. They do prefer al-Hakim as the preeminent force in the Shi’a community in Iraq, but they are being careful to keep their Revolutionary Guard relationships with Muqtada al-Sadr. Essentially, they are hedging their bets in Iraq. It is important to stop the slaughter in Sadr City because it puts Iran in an awkward position, particularly as it has been restraining Muqtada al-Sadr, so far, something Harrison was repeatedly told. It is pretty clear that the March 2008 truce was brokered by an Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp general. A Shiastan in the South is also a very important question.

The safest way to predict what would come out of any Modus Vivendi between the U.S. and Iran over Iraq is when withdrawal is completed. But, according to Harrison, in a Modus Vivendi, Iran would pledge not to give missiles capable of hitting green zone. It would end aid to militias in Iraq when U.S. forces are withdrawn and it would help with eliminating al Qaeda in Iraq. Iranians also focus on security guarantees that U.S. bases in Iraq will not be used to attack Iran. Iran also does not want an independent Kurdistan. For a graceful U.S. withdrawal, Iran expects the U.S. to end aide to Party for a Fee Live in Kurdistan (PJAK) and other groups, in particular separatist groups in Balouchistan.

Two Iranian demands would be particularly difficult to get through U.S. policy process. Iran wants the U.S. to end support for Mujahideen al Khalq (MEK) fighters who have been kept at Camp Ahsraf in Iraq for the last five years. Iran wants the U.S. to put MEK fighters through a Red Cross screening process so they can return to Iran.

Iranians are very angry now about what they see as a shift in U.S. policy since the 2005 Iraqi elections. In their perception, they see the Sunni Awakening as an abandonment of support for a Shiite dominated Iraq that resulted from the 2005 elections. Iran wants the U.S. to stop building up Sunni militias, but it is not going to be easy to roll back the Sunni Awakening. As Steven Simon points out “The Price of the Surge” the U.S. made deals “mediated by tribal leaders and consisted of payments of $360 per month per combatant in exchange for allegiance and cooperation… The total number [of combatants] across Iraq is estimated at over 90,000… The Sunni sheiks, meanwhile, are getting rich from the surge. The United States has budgeted $150 million to pay Sunni tribal groups this year, and the sheiks take as much as 20 percent of every payment to a former insurgent -- which means that commanding 200 fighters can be worth well over a hundred thousand dollars a year for a tribal chief.”

The U.S. has started something that will be difficult to stop. Ending the Sunni Awakening is important to re-establishing stability. As George Packer pointed out in an article for the New Yorker, Sunni awakening policy is seen as indicative of the long-range goals of the U.S. in Iraq.

But, what will happen to the Sunnis? They will have to accept rule by the Shiite majority, just as Shiites had to accept Sunni rule for the last five centuries. President Bush assigned the Sunnis to this status when he overthrew Saddam Hussein.

For this reason, a U.S.-Iran agreement must be accompanied by a broader regional agreement. Iran is ready for a regional approach. The U.S. media has given little attention to Iran’s efforts to work on regional cooperation.

Regarding Iranian views of cooperation over Afghanistan, Harrison said his best meeting was with Alaeddin Boroujerdi, head of Majlis, who like many other Iranians, said that Iran cooperated with the U.S. to defeat the Taliban after the September 11, 2001 attacks. “Our reward was membership in the Axis of Evil,” Boroujerdi said. Harrison said there is a tremendous feeling of unreciprocated overtures in Iran.

Iranians still believe there are areas for serious cooperation with the U.S. over Afghanistan, particularly with halting narcotics trafficking. Iranians dismissed U.S. claims their helping the Taliban and completely are with U.S. in opposing them. Harrison said it is interesting to note that U.S. accusations on this have died down.

Regarding the Gulf, Harrison said the Iranians have a very pragmatic attitude. No one expects the U.S. to completely withdraw militarily from the gulf. But the carriers represent the biggest threat, especially as they are equipped with tactical nuclear weapons. Removal of carriers from the Gulf would be Iran’s first demand.

Harrison said there was a good reception in Iran for the idea of a reduction of U.S. military presence in the Gulf as proposed by Kenneth Pollack from Saban Center at the Brookings Institution. Pollack argues, “The best way for the United States to address the rise of terrorism and the threat of internal instability in Saudi Arabia and the other [Gulf Cooperation Council] states would be to reduce its military presence in the region to the absolute minimum, or even to withdraw entirely.” The Navy could remain in Bahrain, but there must be fewer American warships. Harrison notes the difficulty comes with Iran’s desires for expansion.

Harrison said the U.S. media portrays Iran as trouble-maker in the Gulf. However, since King Abdullah came to power in Saudi Arabia and since Rafsanjani’s haj when he was president, there has been a marked Saudi-Iran bi-polar balance. Saudi-Iranian political tensions can be serious, but that does not mean that Saudi Arabia is willing to engage militarily.

Finally, regarding the nuclear program, Harrison said the U.S. is not serious about a negotiated settlement otherwise it would not be insisting on suspension of uranium enrichment as a precondition. He noted that nuclear negotiations between Iran and the European Union in 2004-05 were based on a bargain that the EU failed to honor. Iran did suspend enrichment efforts for more than half a year. The EU promised to put forward security guarantees and economic incentives, but it could not produce the security guarantees. Many Iranians, including former Iranian Ambassador to the United Nations Javad Zarif, put their reputations on the line to convince the powers in Iran to suspend and the U.S. was unwilling to cooperate on security assurances. All factions in Iran agree that they should not be conned again.

Is a nuclear settlement possible? Harrison argues that given a settlement in Iraq, it would be possible to get a freeze at some point in future negotiations under International Atomic Energy Agency inspections. But reciprocity would be required and the U.S. would have to make a commitment not to use nuclear weapons against Iran. Harrison believes establishing a Nuclear Weapons Free Zone agreement in the Persian Gulf should be part of the settlement. He said no one in Tehran talked about a security agreement extending beyond the Gulf into the Middle East. He said the U.S. could rule out using nuclear weapons in gulf without doing so in the Middle East and this would not hurt its policy on Israel.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

U.S.-Russian Nuclear Cooperation Agreement Submitted to Congress

Today, the Bush administration formally submitted to Congress an agreement on civil nuclear cooperation (also known as a 123 Agreement) between Russia and the United States that was signed last week. The agreement will become effective unless both chambers of Congress pass a joint resolution of disapproval within 90 days to block it.

Iran has become a central point in the debate over the U.S.-Russia nuclear agreement as expressed in letters from members of Congress from both the Senate and House. Rep. Howard L. Berman (D-CA), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said the following in response to being notified of the agreement:

“I am very concerned about the implications of an extensive new agreement for nuclear cooperation with Russia at a time when Russia has not been fully supportive of tough and far-reaching multilateral sanctions to convince Iran to cease its dangerous uranium enrichment activities. The Bush Administration has not received enough support from Russia in dealing with Iran to justify moving forward with this agreement at this time. Administration officials briefed our committee last week, but they were unable to offer convincing answers to our questions; we will give them a further opportunity in hearings on this subject next month.”

Just before stepping down last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin issued a presidential decree singing into law economic sanctions agreed to by the United Nations Security Council in March (Resolution 1803). This may have been a result of pressure from the U.S. to implement the sanctions in exchange for the 123 Agreement, but it also may have simply been for internal political reasons. Russia was after all one of the original authors of Resolution 1803.

While the U.S.-Russia 123 agreement is questionable because it will pave the way for the controversial Global Nuclear Energy Partnership, Congressional concerns over Russia’s cooperation with Iran on the Bushehr reactor are misplaced. Last week, Senators Norm Coleman (R-MN) and Evan Bayh (D-IN) spearheaded a letter to President Bush expressing concerns over Russia's exports of nuclear fuel to Iran for the Bushehr nuclear power plant. In the letter, the Senators argue that the U.S.-Russian 123 agreement “would pave the way for the increased commercialization of Russia's nuclear energy sector and could be construed as U.S. approval of its proliferation activities in Iran.”

But, the Bush administration points to the Bushehr program to support arguments that Iran does not need a uranium enrichment program. The Bush administration changed its position last year on Bushehr in order to get Russian support for United Nations sanctions on Iran. The reversal in the U.S. position on the Bushehr reactor also followed Iran’s agreement to return spent nuclear fuel from the reactor back to Russia to ensure it doesn't extract plutonium to make nuclear weapons.

In a separate letter raising questions about the 123 Agreement sent to President Bush on May7, Representatives John Dingell (D-MI) and Bart Stupak (D-MI) said that Congress needs a “detailed assessment of Russian assistance to all aspects Iran’s nuclear and missile programs.” More importantly, the Dingell-Stupak letter raises very legitimate concerns regarding how the 123 Agreement will encourage greater cooperation on the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP), particularly given the fact that the Department of Energy has yet to develop a proliferation assessment of the program.

Representatives Dingell and Stupak cite their Committee on Energy and Commerce’s jurisdiction over civilian nuclear energy and its ongoing investigation of GNEP, a program to reprocess spent nuclear fuel from both domestic and foreign reactors for use in a new generation of reactors. The Committee’s investigation has so far revealed that there is not consensus on whether the U.S. should abandon its 30-year nonproliferation policy that prohibits the reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel. Representatives Dingell and Stupak note that GNEP program would have the same results as commercial reprocessing in other countries including the U.K., France, Japan and Russia where there is an accumulation of 150 metric tons of separated plutonium that could be used to make nuclear weapons, representing a significant proliferation risk. And as an April 24, 2008 letter from nine U.S. senators urging funding cuts to GNEP demonstrates, there are other wide-ranging concerns about the program ranging from cost, to nuclear proliferation risks, to environmental contamination dangers.

The U.S.-Russia nuclear cooperation agreement certainly raises many questions about nonproliferation policy and double-standards and the agreement should be subject to scrutiny. U.S. plans to reprocess spent nuclear fuel would be particularly hypocritical when it is seeking to prevent the spread of reprocessing technology and expertise to other countries. Hopefully the agreement will also raise the debate about whether it is good policy for the U.S. to base strengthening its relationships with other countries on nuclear cooperation agreements and the implications it has for the nonproliferation and disarmament regime.

Members of Congress Asks President to Fully Integrate Israel into U.S. Missile Defenses

Last week, nearly seventy members of Congress signed a letter that was sent to President Bush calling on him to deliver full missile defenses to Israel and deploy an X-Band ground-based warning radar fully integrated with the U.S. Ballistic Missile Defense program to maximize Israel’s defense against an Iranian missile strike. The letter was spearheaded by Representatives Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Jane Harman (D-CA).

The letter cited the Iranian threat as the key justification behind the call for the Israel’s integration into the U.S. missile program. “Given the Iranian President’s threat to ‘wipe Israel off the map,’ we should put the full weight of the U.S. Ballistic Missile Defense system behind our democratic ally,” the letter said.

“Iranian President Ahmadinejad calls for Israel to be wiped off the map and talks of the Jewish people’s annihilation. America should send a message to the Iranian dictator – Israel will have the full weight of America’s missile defense system to defend herself,”Rep. Kirk said.

“Israel’s security is in constant jeopardy. As an important ally and shining democratic example in the Middle East, her protection is a top U.S. priority,” Rep. Harman said. “The threat from Iran is real – both to her security and to the stability of the region. Sharing our BMD capability with Israel is smart policy and an effective deterrent against an increasingly volatile neighbor.”

Hyping Iran’s ballistic missile threat is nothing new. Some may recall that the primary justification for the designation of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a “proliferator of weapons of mass destruction” in October 2007 actually had less to do with nuclear materials, and more to do with ballistic missiles. Iran’s ballistic missile program remains largely in its nascent stages, however. The US intelligence community has consistently estimated since 1999 that Iran will not have mastered the science of intercontinental ballistic missiles until 2015. At that point, Iran would still have to manufacture an arsenal of missiles and weapons to fit the missiles, putting the actual deployment date even further into the future. Also, though the International Code of Conduct Against Ballistic Missile Proliferation and the Missile Technology Control Regime are voluntary mechanisms intended to discourage states from proliferating missile technology, there is no binding international treaty that prohibits Iran from developing its ballistic missile capability.

Since Iran lacks the ability to reach the U.S., members of Congress and the Bush administration have tried to focus attention on the “threat” of Iran’s shorter-range ballistic missiles that are capable of striking Israel and Turkey, as well as American troops based in the Persian Gulf as a means to justify heavier U.S. military presence and sell the deployment of missile defenses in Eastern Europe and the Middle East.

The full letter is below. A full list of signatures can be obtained by contacting Eric Elk (Kirk) at 847-940-0202 or Max Weihe (Harman) at 202-225-8220.

May 5, 2008
President George W. Bush
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave, NW
Washington, D.C.

Dear Mr. President:

On January 28, 2008, you signed the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008 into law. This legislation included a mandated report by the Secretary of Defense on future coordination, interoperability, and integration of Israel into the U.S. Ballistic Missile Defense program.As you know, the Iranian ballistic missile program is expanding. In November, the Iranians tested a new Ashura long-range ballistic missile – an upgrade to the Shahab-3 capable of hitting Israel and Europe.

Given the Iranian President’s threat to “wipe Israel off the map,” we should put the full weight of the U.S. Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) system behind our democratic ally. We urge you to work with the Government of Israel to install an upgraded U.S. BMD ground-based early warning radar site in Israel that is fully integrated with the U.S. BMD architecture.

In 2001, the United States granted Israel access to the U.S. Defense Support Program (DSP), the principal component of our Satellite Early Warning System. This watershed cooperative program established the precedent for U.S.-Israel cooperation on early warning.DSP, however, only solves one challenge: missile launch detection. It does not contribute significantly to target discrimination and intercept capability. To reduce the Iranian threat, we should deploy a U.S. BMD-linked X-Band ground-based warning radar to Israel to maximize her defenses.

A U.S. BMD early-warning radar site in Israel would improve target discrimination, imaging, modeling, and battle management. An X-Band radar linked to the U.S. BMD system would work in concert with the DSP support we already provide Israel to fully target any incoming threat and increase the likelihood of successful intercepts.

Thank you for your continued support of a strong U.S.-Israel defense relationship.


Sanctions: Another Real Live Episode

A European national living in Iran wrote to me again with their newest story about how U.S. sanctions is affecting life in the Middle East. The European national told me they had recently transferred a sum of money in U.S. dollars from their European bank account last month to a friend’s bank account in the Middle East with the message “deposit for Ali.” All U.S. dollar transactions, even for $1, must be cleared by a bank in the U.S. Ever since 9/11, these clearances have been subjected to more severe scrutiny, presumably in order to combat and trace the roots of terrorism.

The money left the account of the European national but was never received in the friend’s account. About a week ago, the European bank contacted the European national who initiated the transaction to say that the money was being blocked in the U.S. The reason? The name “Ali” is suspicious for the U.S. clearing system. The problem was resolved after the European national provided general personal information on the said friend.

With “Ali” just about as common as “Tom, Dick or Harry”, just imagine the number of people who have had a similar experience. This newest episode provides a small insight into how difficult it must be for anyone named Ali or any other Muslim or “suspicious” name to conduct transactions in U.S. Dollars ever since the anti-terror guidelines (and not just in the banking sector) were enacted.

According to the European national, the European bank did “apologize profusely and sought to distance themselves from ‘crazy U.S. policy.’”

Conyers Threatens Impeachment Hearings if President Attacks Iran

On May 8, Representative John Conyers (D-MI) circulated a “Dear Colleague” letter asking other members of Congress to join him in sending a letter to President George Bush to register “strong opposition to possible unilateral, preemptive military action against other nations by the Executive Branch without Congressional authorization.”

The letter to the President cites Senator Joseph Biden who stated unequivocally last year that “the president has no authority to unilaterally attack Iran, and if he does, as Foreign Relations Committee chairman, I will move to impeach” the president. According to the letter, “We agree with Senator Biden, and it is our view that if you do not obtain the constitutionally required congressional authorization before launching preemptive military strikes against Iran or any other nation, impeachment proceedings should be pursued.”

Below is the full text of both letters.

May 8, 2008

Join Me in Calling on President Bush to Respect Congress’ Exclusive Power to Declare War

Dear Democratic Colleague:

As we mark five years of war in Iraq, I have become increasingly concerned that the President may possibly take unilateral, preemptive military action against Iran. During the last seven years, the Bush Administration has exercised unprecedented assertions of Executive Branch power and shown an unparalleled aversion to the checks and balances put in place by the Constitution’s framers. The letter that follows asks President Bush to seek congressional authorization before launching any possible military strike against Iran and affirms Senator Biden’s statement last year that impeachment proceedings should be considered if the President fails to do so.

I hope that you will join me in calling on the President to respect Congress’ exclusive power to declare war. To sign the letter below, please contact the Judiciary Committee staff at 225-3951.

John Conyers, Jr.

May 8, 2008
The Honorable George W. Bush
President of the United States
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear Mr. President:

We are writing to register our strong opposition to possible unilateral, preemptive military action against other nations by the Executive Branch without Congressional authorization. As you know, Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution grants Congress the power “to declare war,” to lay and collect taxes to “provide for the common defense” and general welfare of the United States, to “raise and support armies,” to “provide and maintain a navy,” to “make rules for the regulation for the land and naval forces,” to “provide for calling forth the militia to execute the laws of the Union, suppress insurrections and repel invasions,” to “provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the militia,” and to “make all laws necessary and proper for carrying into execution ... all ... powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States.” Congress is also given exclusive power over the purse. The Constitution says, “No money shall be drawn from the Treasury but in consequence of appropriations made by law.”

By contrast, the sole war powers granted to the Executive Branch through the President can be found in Article II, Section 2, which states, “The President shall be the Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into actual Service of the United States.” Nothing in the history of the “Commander-in-Chief” clause suggests that the authors of the provision intended it to grant the Executive Branch the authority to engage U.S. forces in military action whenever and wherever it sees fit without any prior authorization from Congress. In our view, the founders of our country intended this power to allow the President to repel sudden attacks and immediate threats, not to unilaterally launch, without congressional approval, preemptive military actions against foreign countries. As former Republican Representative Mickey Edwards recently wrote, “[t]he decision to go to war ... is the single most difficult choice any public official can be called upon to make. That is precisely why the nation’s Founders, aware of the deadly wars of Europe, deliberately withheld from the executive branch the power to engage in war unless such action was expressly approved by the people themselves, through their representatives in Congress.”1

Members of Congress, including the signatories of this letter, have previously expressed concern about this issue. On April 25, 2006, sixty-two Members of Congress joined in a bipartisan letter that called on you to seek congressional approval before making any preemptive military strikes against Iran.2 Fifty-seven Members of Congress have co-sponsored H. Con. Res. 33, which expresses the sense of Congress that the President should not initiate military action against Iran without first obtaining authorization from Congress.3

Our concerns in this area have been heightened by more recent events. The resignation in mid-March of Admiral William J. “Fox” Fallon from the head of U.S. Central Command, which was reportedly linked to a magazine article that portrayed him as the only person who might stop your Administration from waging preemptive war against Iran,4 has renewed widespread concerns that your Administration is unilaterally planning for military action against that country. This is despite the fact that the December 2007 National Intelligence Estimate concluded that Iran had halted its nuclear weapons program in the fall of 2003, a stark reversal of previous Administration assessments.5

As we and others have continued to review troubling legal memoranda and other materials from your Administration asserting the power of the President to take unilateral action, moreover, our concerns have increased still further. For example, although federal law is clear that proceeding under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) “shall be the exclusive means by which electronic surveillance” can be conducted within the U.S. for foreign intelligence purposes, 18 U.S.C. 2511(2)(f), the Justice Department has asserted that the National Security Agency’s warrantless wiretapping in violation of FISA is “supported by the President’s well-recognized inherent constitutional authority as Commander in Chief and sole organ for the Nation in foreign affairs”.6 As one legal expert has explained, your Administration’s “preventive paradigm” has asserted “unchecked unilateral power” by the Executive Branch and violated “universal prohibitions on torture, disappearance, and the like.”7

Late last year, Senator Joseph Biden stated unequivocally that “the president has no authority to unilaterally attack Iran, and if he does, as Foreign Relations Committee chairman, I will move to impeach” the president. 8

We agree with Senator Biden, and it is our view that if you do not obtain the constitutionally required congressional authorization before launching preemptive military strikes against Iran or any other nation, impeachment proceedings should be pursued. Because of these concerns, we request the opportunity to meet with you as soon as possible to discuss these matters. As we have recently marked the fifth year since the invasion of Iraq, and the grim milestone of 4,000 U.S. deaths in Iraq, your Administration should not unilaterally involve this country in yet another military conflict that promises high costs to American blood and treasure.


1. Mickey Edwards, Dick Cheney’s Error, Wash. Post, March 22, 2008, at A13.
2. Letter from Rep. Peter DeFazio, Rep. John Conyers, Jr., and 60 other Members of Congress, to President George W. Bush (Apr. 25, 2006) (on file with the Committee on the Judiciary).
3. H. Con. Res. 33, 110th Cong. (2008)
4. Thomas E. Ricks, Top U.S. Officer in Mideast Resigns, Wash. Post, March 12, 2008, at A1.
5. Dafna Linzer and Joby Warrick, U.S. Finds That Iran Halted Nuclear Arms Bid in 2003, Wash. Post, Dec. 4, 2007, at A1.
6. Department of Justice, Legal Authorities Supporting the Activities of the National Secuirty Agency Described by the President, Jan. 19, 2006 at 1.
7. David Cole, Less Safe, Less Free: Why America is Losing the War on Terror, 2007 at 2.
8. Adam Leach, Biden: Impeachment if Bush Bombs Iran, PORTSMOUTH HERALD, Nov. 29, 2007.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Has the War Already Started?

On May 7, Iran said a blast in a mosque that killed 13 people and wounded more than 200 in Shiraz in April was a bombing and the suspects responsible are believed to have links to the U.S. and Britain.

Fars News Agency quoted Intelligence Minister Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejeie as saying, “Through the efforts of the law enforcement forces... the main person involved in the Shiraz mosque explosion was arrested in one of the northern cities of the country. The main agent, who was directly an accomplice in the bombing, was arrested during an attempt to leave the country. The person was armed when arrested.” He also said that five other suspects had also been detained and that explosives and cyanide had been confiscated from them.

According to Ejeie, "This terrorist group had relations with Britain and the United States and these countries were notified about this matter by the foreign ministry. But they did not take any measure to prevent (this group's) terrorist actions and rather supported them. These people are all Iranians." He said that the group had plans to carry out similar operations in different places after the Shiraz bombing.

This new Iranian claim could bolster the theory that the U.S. and Iran are already engaged in a proxy war. Reporter Borzou Daragahi makes the case in an April 15 Los Angeles Times article that alleged Iranian attacks against the U.S. in Iraq may be an response to alleged U.S. support for various rebel groups along Iran’s border that are systematically killing Iranians.

If the U.S. and Iran are engaged in proxy wars, then Congress should take the advice of Patrick J. Buchanan who recently called for hearings to determine whether President Bush has already authorized funding or arming guerrillas to attack Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp, and to determine what is behind attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq. Even before such hearings, Buchanan urges both Houses to “pass a joint resolution declaring that no appropriated funds may be used for any pre-emptive U.S. air strikes on Iran – unless and until Congress has authorized such acts of war.”

An even more salient approach would be for the U.S. and Iran to engage in direct, unconditional, bilateral, comprehensive talks to quickly resolve tensions and to stabilize relations. The time has come to talk it out, not fight it out.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Bolton Calls for U.S. Military Strikes on Iranian Camps

The UK Telegraph has an article today by Damien McElroy in which former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton calls for US air strikes on Iranian camps where the U.S. administration alleges insurgents are trained to fight in Iraq. According to the article, Bolton acknowledged that the risk of a hostile Iranian response harming American's overseas interests existed, he said the damage inflicted by Tehran would be "far higher" if the U.S. took no action. "This is a case where the use of military force against a training camp to show the Iranians we're not going to tolerate this is really the most prudent thing to do," he said. "Then the ball would be in Iran's court to draw the appropriate lesson to stop harming our troops."

According to the article, Bolton also dismissed as “dead wrong” British intelligence conclusions that the U.S. has overstated the support that Iran is providing to Iraqi fighters.

In an opinion editorial published on May 5 by the Wall Street Journal entitled “Iran Must Finally Pay a Price,” Fouad Ajami, an outspoken Iraq War supporter and advisor to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, concludes: “The hope entertained a year or so ago, that Iran would refrain from playing with fire in Iraq, has shown to be wishful thinking. Iran's nuclear ambitions are of a wholly different magnitude. But before we tackle that Persian menace, the Iranian theocrats will have to be shown that there is a price for their transgressions.”

Monday, May 05, 2008

The Not-so-new Package of Incentives

On May 2, Britain, China, France, Germany, U.S. and Russia (the so-called Permanent Members of the United Nations Security Council and Germany or P5+1) announced they would offer a “new package of incentives” to Iran meant to convince the country to abandon its nuclear enrichment activities. Though the text of the package has not been revealed, all press reports indicate that the package is not so “new” and not much has changed from previous offers to Iran. If the “new package of incentives” does not include U.S.-backed security assurances and if it does contain any precondition before negotiations can begin, then it is not an offer Iran is likely to accept.

According to diplomats familiar with the process, the “package of incentives” has been “refreshed” from the last offer delivered in May 2006 to include enhanced nuclear cooperation. According to one U.S. official, Russia and China had pushed for “troublesome” additions to the package, including “more political facilitation” and “more flexibility on certain aspects of nuclear cooperation,” but these were not included.

It is still unclear when the “new package of incentives” will be delivered to Iran as well as it is unclear who will deliver it and who it will be delivered to on the Iranian side. It is also unknown whether this package of incentives will have a deadline for response as the May 2006 offer did. Although U.S. officials accuse Iran of rejecting the offer before it has even been delivered, Iran has neither received nor responded to the “new package of incentives.”

Iran officially maintains it will not suspend uranium enrichment activities. Though he did not specifically mention the nuclear program, in a speech given in Fars Province on May 4, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said “threats will not force the Iranian nation to retreat” and stated, “Have you not tested the Iranian nation? We will forcefully continue on our path and will not allow the oppressors to step on our rights.” Meanwhile, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said he warned British Foreign Minister David Miliband when they recently met at a multilateral meeting on Iraq in Kuwait not to cross any “red lines” in preparing an offer to Iran.

If the P5+1 wants the incentives package to truly entice Iran to the negotiating table, then it should drop preconditions requiring Iran suspend uranium enrichment before talks can even begin. This precondition only undermines the sincerity of the offer to enter into talks that are aimed at achieving the precondition. Any serious “new package of incentives” offered by the P5+1 must also include U.S.-backed security assurances it will not attack Iran. Without these measures, the “new package of incentives” remains a vapid gesture that Iran is not likely to accept.

LA Times Interviews Mohsen Hakim on Iran's Role in Iraq

Los Angeles Times reporter Ramin Mostaghim interviewed Mohsen Hakim, son of leader of the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council (SIIC) Abdelaziz Hakim, in Tehran on May 3, 2008. The whole interview is transcribed on the Los Angeles Times blog on Middle East issues, “Babylon and Beyond.” Below are key excerpts from the interview regarding Iran’s role in Iraq.

LAT: Do you believe the recent increasing accusations against Iran by the U.S. are a prelude for a U.S. attack to Iran?

HAKIM: Look, the disputes between Iran and U.S. are not new. In fact, they are 30 years old, unfortunately. We see the signs of these kinds of disputes in Lebanon, Palestine, Afghanistan and Iraq. Even some other places in the world.

LAT: You mean they are fighting proxy wars in those places?

HAKIM: I do not know. For us, as the citizens of Iraq, we only care about our elected, legal and legitimate government in Iraq. Whatever the government in Iraq says is valid for us. There is no doubt that between Iraq and neighboring countries there were some disputes dating back to the time of Saddam. These disputes are financial debts, territorial disputes, economic disagreements and some of these problems popped up in the aftermath of Saddam's collapse. The disputes between Iraq and other countries should be managed the way crises are managed and engineered so that the security of Iraq is not jeopardized.

LAT: How much influence does Iran have on the Mahdi Army?

HAKIM: In fact, I do not how influential Iran is. Yes, we can feel that Iran, given the deep relations between the Islamic Republic of Iran with other groups in Iraq… I can say Iran has effective influences among all ethnic, religious and political factions, even among Sunni Arabs in Iraq. You can see the influences by tracing the trips of leaders from different factions to Iran. Iran's relations with Iraq is very complicated. It has religious, political, historic and civilizational aspects. The holy sites and all the top sources of emulation are connected to Iran, and it is not limited to one group or army. Bear in mind, from Qaradagh Valley in [the northernmost] Iraqi Kurdistan until estuary or mouth of Faw Peninsula [in southern Iraq], there is an 1,336-kilometer [800-mile] border with Iran.

LAT: So Iran effectively has relations with all factions in Iraq?

HAKIM: Yes with Kurds, Shiites and others."

LAT: Does SIIC worry about the close ties between Iran and the Mahdi Army led by Moqtada Sadr?

HAKIM: Look, if you mean Moqtada Sadr, it is one thing. The Mahdi Army is different. The Mahdi Army is a military faction, but Moqtada Sadr has a political faction and without a doubt the Islamic Republic of Iran has good relations with Moqtada Sadr and his political faction. And we are not worried about that relationship of the political faction of Mr. Sadr with Iran. The government of Iraq should comment on that if there is a worry about that or not. So far the government of Maliki has not said so."

LAT: What is the relationship between Iran and SIIC right now? How much access do you have to authorities and to whom?

HAKIM: We have developed good relationship with all factions. But all official contacts are through our embassy here. I can say our relations with the civil society of Iran and political factions, parties, academic and research centers are strong. Our office here is more in contact with the Iraqi grass roots, refugees and repatriated Iranians who were deported in the late 1960s and early 1970s to Iran."

LAT: Are the Hakims worried about a war between the U.S. and Iran?

HAKIM: In my opinion, all over the region, in fact, there is a worry about tensions between Iran and U.S. You can call it tension, crisis or war, whatever. Everybody in the region is worried. It is not important what you call it. The tension is most dangerous for Iraq. Not war, this very tension, if it continues, not war, is very bad for Iraq. If you remember, Mr. Abdelaziz Hakim was the first person to call for direct talks between Iran and U.S. over Iraqi security issue."

Friday, May 02, 2008

Formatting Errors

Apologies to INW readers. For some reason, there were serious formatting errors in "Reliance on Military Force to Prevent Proliferation Is Risky Business." The issues have been resolved.