Archive for the ‘Sanctions and Security’ Category

Hats off to Joe Cirincione, President of the Ploughshares Fund, for his brilliant take down of David Samuels’ recent New York Times Magazine article and attack against the Iran nuclear deal.  Cirincione counters Samuels’ distortions about the negotiated agreement and shows the importance of defending it against those who would tear it up.

Samuels’ article is mostly about Ben Rhodes, the influential speech writer and communications guru in the National Security Council who has helped to shape President Obama’s thinking on foreign policy over the past seven years. Rhodes also played an important role in winning support for the Iran deal. When the official implementation process began earlier this year many of us hailed the agreement as a triumph of diplomacy over war.

Not Samuels. He portrays it as a White House propaganda coup engineered by Rhodes and a step toward U.S. disengagement from the Middle East. As Cirincione writes, the Samuels critique is “utter nonsense.”

So far the agreement has produced positive benefits. Iran has removed two-thirds of its uranium enrichment capacity, shipped almost all of its enriched uranium fuel out of the country, completely dismantled its plutonium production reactor, and accepted “an airtight inspection regime tougher than any ever negotiated.” In return the U.S. and the European Union have lifted nuclear-related sanctions. As long as the deal remains in force and implementation continues, Iran cannot develop a nuclear weapon.

The expectation of this outcome is why hundreds of retired generals and admirals, former diplomats, nonproliferation experts, scientists and religious leaders endorsed the Iran deal. Several Israeli former military and intelligence leaders and former U.S. ambassadors to Israel also supported the agreement.

The Ploughshares Fund, the Iran Project, the National Iranian American Council, the Arms Control Association, the Win Without War coalition and many other progressive foreign policy groups in the U.S. mounted substantial educational and advocacy efforts in support of the agreement.

The debate generated by the Samuels article reminds us that in the policy world we must not only fight to achieve victories but also work to defend those victories against counterattack. Right wing political forces in Israel and the U.S. have not abandoned their opposition to the Iran deal. They are continuing to mobilize against it. The opponents of diplomacy want to turn back the clock toward a policy of greater confrontation with Iran.

Diplomacy worked in limiting Iran’s nuclear program. That important accomplishment needs to be understood and defended, so that diplomacy can be applied again in other settings as a viable alternative to war.

Read Full Post »

It was a landmark event last week when the International Atomic Energy Agency officially certified Iran’s compliance with the nuclear deal. The news received some press coverage, but it deserved much more.

Tehran has now exported 97% of its enriched uranium, disassembled 13,000 centrifuges (two thirds of its total), and poured concrete into the core of its former plutonium reactor. In return the US has lifted nuclear proliferation-related sanctions and returned frozen assets. Germany and other European states have done likewise and are already moving to renew investments.

Iran has dismantled its infrastructure in record time, at a faster pace than other cases of denuclearization. The experience with Iran stands in sharp contrast with the prolonged and confrontational disarmament process in Iraq after 1991. The disarmament approach with Iran has been much quicker, smoother and also more effective because it includes unprecedented inspection access.

Some of the most rigorous monitoring protocols ever established are now coming into place in Iran, all with the full consent and cooperation of Iranian authorities. It’s the most comprehensive nonproliferation agreement ever negotiated.

Now that’s something to celebrate. Let’s make “Implementation Day” an annual holiday as a tribute to effective diplomacy and peaceful nuclear nonproliferation.

Plan now for your local party on the date next January!

In the meantime, let’s keep vigilant and do what we can to ensure that the compliance process continues to run along smoothly.

Read Full Post »

The adoption last week of new UN sanctions on ISIL marks an important step forward in the international campaign to isolate, weaken and suppress the so-called Islamic State.

On Thursday the UN Security Council approved Resolution 2253, a landmark measure that consolidates and strengthens international sanctions against ISIL and gives greater strategic focus to the global fight against the threat.

The 28-page resolution is perhaps the longest sanctions resolution ever adopted. It includes 34 preambles, 99 operative paragraphs and two extensive technical appendices each with dozens of specifications for implementation. If length is a measure of political intention, this is a serious resolution.

With the passage of Resolution 2253 the Security Council has finally renamed its main counterterrorism sanctions committee the “ISIL (Da’esh) and Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee.” Previously it was known as the Al-Qaida and Taliban Committee and then the Al-Qaida Committee. The name change is long overdue and means that the Committee can now concentrate on ISIL as the main international terrorist threat.

The resolution reiterates the obligation of all states to freeze the financial assets, prohibit entry or transit, and prevent the supply of arms or military equipment for all individuals and entities associated with ISIL.  It prohibits a wide range of specific forms of financial interaction with ISIL or its supporters and obligates all states to cooperate in implementing these restrictions. It calls for more vigorous compliance with Financial Action Task Force provisions against the financing of terrorism.

The resolution urges states to submit the names of individuals and entities to be targeted for sanctions and includes the usual provisions for listing and delisting those designated for UN sanctions. It also maintains and extends the mandate of the Office of the Ombudsperson, which receives and processes requests for delisting in the event of inadvertent listing.

The resolution directs the Sanctions Committee and its Monitoring Team (the most vigorous of the Security Council’s expert panels) to report on specific instances and general patterns of non-compliance, and to recommend corrective actions that the Council could take in response. It also authorizes the Committee to hire additional experts to focus on ISIL and to recommend capacity-building assistance for states that need help to enforce the sanctions.

The resolution requests the UN Secretary General to provide within 45 days an initial “strategic-level report that demonstrates and reflects the gravity” of the threat from ISIL and the range of Member States efforts to counter that threat, and to provide updates every four months thereafter. It calls for the Monitoring Team to cooperate with other UN counterterrorism bodies to submit recommendations for strengthening global enforcement of sanctions against ISIL.

The resolution breaks new ground in three respects.

It was jointly sponsored by the United States and Russia, indicating the ability of Washington and Moscow to work together on countering ISIL despite their many differences on other issues. This should give greater impetus to the global fight against the group.

It focuses Security Council counterterrorism sanctions on ISIL and provides additional mandates and resources for the Council’s Sanctions Committee and Monitoring Team to do a better job of identifying and correcting problems of noncompliance.

It calls on the Secretary General and UN counterterrorism bodies to provide greater strategic-level focus on the threat from ISIL and measures to counter it.

Progress in implementing the provisions of Resolution 2253 would go a long way toward reducing the global threat from ISIL and cutting off its vital sources of money and supply. The United States, Russia and other powers should continue working together through the Security Council to assure effective implementation of these measures and to generate steadily increasing pressures against ISIL.

Read Full Post »

I am an enthusiastic supporter of the nuclear deal with Iran. The morning the agreement was announced I wrote an op-ed endorsing the agreement that was published by Fox News, which you can access here.

The nuclear deal has many obvious benefits. It blocks Iran’s ability to manufacture weapons-grade uranium and plutonium. It establishes the most rigorous nuclear inspections regime ever negotiated. It calls for lifting sanctions against Iran as it accepts enhanced monitoring and begins to implement nuclear reductions.

The success of the Iran negotiations confirms the value of sanctions as a tool of diplomacy. In our book The Sanctions Decade, George Lopez and I offered a bargaining theory of sanctions. Sanctions are means of applying pressure, but their effectiveness depends on offering to lift sanctions as an incentive for reaching a negotiated settlement.

Sanctions are best understood as tools of persuasion not as instruments of punishment. They are useful for persuading an adversary to come to the bargaining table, but they must be accompanied by meaningful incentives for cooperation.

In the case of the Iran deal it is obvious that sanctions played a decisive role in driving Iran to the bargaining table. President Hassan Rouhani of Iran stated quite bluntly last week that he was elected two years ago to remove the sanctions. Without the nuclear deal, he said, Iran would face an economic “Stone Age.”

Especially important in the Iran sanctions regime has been the unanimous support for targeted measures by the UN Security Council, including Russia and China. Also significant has been the strong financial and commercial restrictions imposed by the European Union.

The combined pressure of UN, European and U.S. sanctions applied effective persuasive pressure. The U.S.-led negotiating team offered to lift that pressure in exchange for Iran’s commitments to restrict its nuclear program. It’s a classic formula for how sanctions are supposed to work.

Read Full Post »

The violent extremists of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) have seized major cities and swaths of territory in Syria and Iraq and are seeking to create a caliphate over the entire Muslim world. The group poses a threat not only to the region but to global security. The battle-hardened forces of ISIL include hundreds of fighters from Europe and Chechnya and even some from the United States. Some of these fighters will likely take their warped ideology and violent skills with them when they return home.

Why then, in the face of this clear and present danger to global security, has the United States not joined with other countries in bringing this matter to the UN Security Council? Isn’t that why the UN was created, to mobilize cooperative action in response to international security threats? The failure to work through the UN diminishes the prospects for building an effective international coalition against ISIL. It reduces the repertroire of potential responses to the crisis and contributes to the atrophy of the UN and of multilateralism in general.

Thirteen years ago, in response to the 9/11 attacks, the response was very different. The Security Council met immediately and adopted a wide range of measures to harness international action against al-Qaeda. Most significant was Security Council Resolution 1373, which required every country to freeze the financial assets of al-Qaeda terrorists and their supporters, deny them travel or safe haven, prevent terrorist recruitment and weapons supply, and cooperate with other countries in information sharing and criminal prosecution. In its response to 9/11, the Council also expanded existing sanctions on al-Qaeda and the Taliban, created new bodies to monitor and assist compliance with counterterrorism measures, and established a wide range of counterterrorism programs that have helped, along with U.S. military pressures, to diminish the global threat from al-Qaeda.

Contrast that robust response to the meager efforts of today. The Security Council Al Qaeda Sanctions Committee recently added names of ISIL leaders to its existing sanctions list, but it has not taken effective action to ensure compliance with those measures. Although ISIL is mercilessly pursuing its aim of creating a terrorist quasi-state in Iraq and Syria, the Council has not met to address the growing threat. It has not adopted new measures to suppress ISIL and cut off its supply of money and recruits. It has not discussed needed diplomatic efforts to encourage more inclusive political governance in Iraq and Syria.

It’s time to mount a vigorous global response commensurate with the magnitude of the threat. Here are some of the diplomatic and political steps the United States and other states might consider through the UN:

  • Impose an arms embargo along with rigorous financial and travel sanctions against the leaders of ISIL and their supporters and prohibit any form of assistance for the organization and its operations. Create a special sanctions committee and panel of experts to facilitate and monitor compliance and to recommend further measures to isolate and suppress the organization.
  • Join with neighboring states in convening an international conference for Iraq, to assess the current security and political challenges facing the country and the region and to develop appropriate diplomatic, political, and if necessary security responses. Work with the government of Iraq to implement the recommended responses.
  • Re-convene the Geneva diplomatic process on Syria, with the full participation of Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and other neighboring states, to renew the search for a negotiated solution to the Syrian civil war and enhanced security for neighboring states.

The proposed actions are no panacea for peace. UN engagement will not magically resolve the deep crises afflicting Iraq, Syria and the region. More concerted multilateral action can help, however, and at a minimum can heighten global involvement and help to broaden the global alliance against ISIL.

Read Full Post »

The response to the Iranian nuclear deal in the United States has been surreal. The media is talking about the risks of the deal, but as I point out in my blog today for Sojourners, the terms of the agreement favor the U.S.

Under the terms of the deal Iran agrees to:

  • freeze its stockpile of low enriched uranium and halt the installation and operation of additional centrifuges;
  • halt enrichment to higher levels and render its existing supplies of higher enriched uranium unsuitable for further enrichment; and
  • halt the development of its heavy water reactor at Arak.

Verification and monitoring of the Iran nuclear program will increase significantly. The sanctions relief offered to Iran is temporary and can be reversed if Tehran reneges on any part of the deal.

The agreement limits Iran’s nuclear program and increases its transparency. From a U.S. perspective, what’s not to like?

Let’s contact our Senators and demand that they give diplomacy a chance. Urge them to oppose any further sanctions as long as Iran complies with the agreement.

Read Full Post »

As we witness the unseemly blame game between the U.S. and Iran over who was responsible for the failure to reach a nuclear agreement last week in Geneva, several points are worth considering.

  • The powerful international anti-Iran coalition (Israel and the Gulf states) can exert significant influence and seems determined to wreck any possibility of rapprochement between Iran and the West.
  • The inside story of what happened in Geneva last weekend is not known yet, but it seems that the government of France was chiefly responsible for scuttling the deal. France’s motivations are unclear, but the prospect of lucrative arms deals with the Gulf states could be a factor.
  • The bash-Iran caucus in the U.S. Congress has been given a boost and seems determined to rush ahead with additional sanctions legislation that could further endanger the prospects for a negotiated solution.
  • The negative statements and accusations between U.S. and Iranian officials this past week do not augur well for building the atmosphere of respect and trust that is necessary to reach political agreement.

The latter point is especially important. Arms control agreements depend upon political trust and the willingness of states to cooperate for mutual advantage. Objectively the United States and Iran have plenty of self-interested reasons for working together to advance security in the region, as Thomas Friedman wrote the other day in the New York Times. Whether they can overcome the legacy of mistrust and the organized resistance of the anti-Iran coalition remains to be seen.

Meanwhile the question needs to be asked, what is the alternative? Military strikes that would be disastrous and make matters much worse? Continued sanctions that weaken the Rouhani government domestically and impose further hardship on the Iranian people?

Diplomacy is the only option and it must be continued until a nuclear deal is reached.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »