Commentary Magazine


Topic: IAEA

Iran Wins if Obama Extends Nuclear Talks

President Obama showed a bit of spine today when he said on ABC’s This Week that he would not roll back all the sanctions on Iran immediately if it signed a nuclear agreement with the West. But outside of that one sensible statement, the president’s comments should only strengthen Iran’s belief that they are winning any negotiation and getting closer to becoming a threshold nuclear power. Obama was otherwise all carrots and no sticks about the threat in keeping with the other news coming out of the talks. While Iran was not budging on any important issue, Western negotiators have indicated that they will not insist on Tehran divulging information about its military nuclear research program and were also saying they might extend the talks beyond Monday’s deadline. If true, either option would mark a signal victory for Iran and a blow to any hopes of stopping them from eventually going nuclear.

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President Obama showed a bit of spine today when he said on ABC’s This Week that he would not roll back all the sanctions on Iran immediately if it signed a nuclear agreement with the West. But outside of that one sensible statement, the president’s comments should only strengthen Iran’s belief that they are winning any negotiation and getting closer to becoming a threshold nuclear power. Obama was otherwise all carrots and no sticks about the threat in keeping with the other news coming out of the talks. While Iran was not budging on any important issue, Western negotiators have indicated that they will not insist on Tehran divulging information about its military nuclear research program and were also saying they might extend the talks beyond Monday’s deadline. If true, either option would mark a signal victory for Iran and a blow to any hopes of stopping them from eventually going nuclear.

The significance of the concession about full disclosure of Iran’s past research isn’t merely a matter of historical interest. Without a complete accounting of everything the Iranians have or are currently working on with respect to military applications for its nuclear program, there is simply no way of knowing how close they are to a bomb or whether there is any chance of preventing a “break out” or a “sneak out” to a bomb.

A breakout would involve the Iranians reconverting their stockpile of enriched uranium to a form that could be employed for a bomb. The U.S. strategy in the talks, which abandoned President Obama’s previous promises to dismantle Iran’s program and United Nations resolutions that demanded it halt enrichment, is to plea for terms that would lengthen a breakout period to one that would give the West time to react to stop a bomb from being produced. But without full knowledge of what Iran has been doing, all estimates about breakout time are completely unreliable, leaving open the very real possibility that a deal will not only fail to halt the Iranian project but set it up for success without a viable Western response.

Iran’s successful effort to wring this concession about non-disclosure dovetails with its continued and equally successful stonewalling of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s efforts to gain access to their entire nuclear infrastructure including those places where it is suspected of conducting military research. As the New York Times makes clear in a front-page article in today’s edition, the danger of a covert nuclear program is just as great, if not greater, than that emanating from its known facilities where the West has already failed to keep their efforts in check.

Just as dangerous is the chance that rather than take Iran’s refusal to say yes to what appears to be another weak Western offer, such as the interim deal signed a year ago, President Obama appears open to another extension of the talks.

The justification for sending the negotiations into what would amount to a second overtime period after the expiration of a previous deadline over the summer would grant Iran even more time to push closer to its nuclear ambition with not even the flimsiest of Western checks on its ability to advance its goals. Moreover, last year’s deal has not been scrupulously observed by Iran and, contrary to the president’s assurances, has neither stopped their program nor provided anything more than a flimsy obstacle to a break out or a sneak out.

The problem is not just that the U.S. seems to lack the will to get Iran to take seriously the consequences of a refusal. It’s that the president is still far more eager to inaugurate a new period of détente with Tehran than to take the sort of minimal actions required for making the Iranians see reason. Again today, Obama reiterated his desire for starting a new relationship with the Islamist regime while refusing to state his willingness to increase sanctions to end its continuing flow of oil revenue that keep the regime afloat. That’s exactly the kind of rhetoric inclined to reconfirm the Iranian leadership’s evaluation of the president as a weak leader who lacks the stomach for the kind of confrontations that they relish. With Western diplomats openly speculating about another 6-12 months being allowed for more negotiations, that not only makes the Iranians less inclined to yield but also should increase their covert activity while keeping the IAEA out of crucial sites.

While Iran sticks to its positions that protect its nuclear option, President Obama continues to show the world that his zeal for a deal far exceeds his intention to stop the Islamists from achieving their nuclear goal. Barring a last-minute change of heart on the part of the president, it appears that no matter whether they sign the weak deal offered or continue to hold out for an even weaker one at some point in the future, Iran wins and the security of the West and allies like Israel and moderate Arab states lose.

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Obama’s Wrong: Iran’s Already Cheating

When he met with the press last Wednesday, President Obama gave a vote of confidence to his Iranian negotiating partners as having upheld their end of the interim nuclear deal they signed with the U.S. last year. But as much as the revelations about the president’s secret correspondence with Iran’s supreme leader that were published in the Wall Street Journal on Friday undermined the credibility of his promises about his willingness to get tough with the Islamist regime, it turns out that his assurances about Iranian compliance were also untrue. As Reuters reports, there is now good reason to believe that the Iranians have already violated the deal.

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When he met with the press last Wednesday, President Obama gave a vote of confidence to his Iranian negotiating partners as having upheld their end of the interim nuclear deal they signed with the U.S. last year. But as much as the revelations about the president’s secret correspondence with Iran’s supreme leader that were published in the Wall Street Journal on Friday undermined the credibility of his promises about his willingness to get tough with the Islamist regime, it turns out that his assurances about Iranian compliance were also untrue. As Reuters reports, there is now good reason to believe that the Iranians have already violated the deal.

According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, while U.S. diplomats have spent 2014 offering even more concessions to Iran, the ones Tehran pocketed last year are already worthless:

Western officials were not immediately available to comment on the allegation by the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS), which closely tracks Iran’s nuclear program. There was no immediate comment from Tehran. ISIS, whose founder David Albright often briefs U.S. lawmakers and others on nuclear proliferation issues, cited a finding in a new report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) about Iran. The confidential document, issued to IAEA member states on Friday, said that since the U.N. agency’s previous report in September, Iran had “intermittently” been feeding natural uranium gas into a single so-called IR-5 centrifuge at a research facility.

The IR-5 is one of several new models that Iran has been seeking to develop to replace the erratic, 1970s vintage IR-1 centrifuge that it now uses to produce refined uranium. Unlike other advanced models under development — IR-2m, IR-4 and IR-6 — at a research site at its Natanz enrichment plant, Iran had until now not fed the IR-5 with uranium gas.

“Iran may have violated (the interim accord) by starting to feed (natural uranium gas) into one of its advanced centrifuges, namely the IR-5 centrifuge,” ISIS said in an analysis.

This is significant for two reasons.

The first is that this piece of information uncovered by the IAEA shows that Iran is actively working to circumvent the already loose restrictions on uranium enrichment that were part of the interim deal. Even had Iran kept their word, it wouldn’t have taken much for the Iranians to reverse the measures that rendered their stockpile of nuclear fuel harmless. But if even the IAEA, whose efforts to monitor the Iranian nuclear program have been stymied by Iranian obstructionism, has been able to discover this deception, it’s clear the regime has been working all out to get around even the loose restrictions imposed by the interim deal.

It is true that, as Reuters also reports, advocates of appeasement of Iran are arguing that none of this constitutes a technical violation of the agreement. But their arguments sound like hair splitting. Whether or not Iran has introduced a new kind of centrifuge, it’s obvious that the effort noted by the IAEA is seeking a way around the rules and may well have already found it. The interim deal gave tacit recognition to an Iranian “right” to enrichment that had already been denied by an international consensus that realized Tehran’s goal was to build a nuclear weapon, not provide for their “peaceful energy needs.”

Just as important is that the Iranian effort to get around the interim deal explodes not only the president’s assurances but also calls into question the entire negotiating process. If the Islamist regime can violate the weak interim deal, which only sought ineffectively to freeze the dangerous nuclear program in place, how can anyone possibly expect a new and more far-reaching agreement to be credible, let alone adequately enforced?

We already know that the administration’s zeal for a deal caused it to discard the considerable economic and military leverage it had over Iran before the interim deal began the process of unraveling the international sanctions. Despite the president’s tough rhetoric, the Iranians believe his desire to create a new détente with their despotic, terror-sponsoring government—what Deputy National Security Director Ben Rhodes called the ObamaCare of the president’s second term—has put them in a strong negotiating position. That’s why they’ve spent this year demanding more concessions from the West without fear that the U.S. will call them to account on their violations or their stalling. They are confident that Obama’s lust for an agreement and pressure from Europe to end the concessions will obtain for them an even weaker nuclear deal or the time and leeway to achieve their nuclear ambition without even bothering to sign a deal.

The reaction from the administration and its apologists should confirm them in this belief. But the news about the violation should give Congress even more reason to pass tougher sanctions to increase the pressure on Iran. Iran’s cheating strengthens an already strong case for more sanctions, not more concessions from Obama.

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Obama’s Parchin Nuclear Wake-Up Call

Sunday night, the residents of Tehran got a light show when an explosion at a military complex east of the city shook the Iranian capital. According to the New York Times, an orange flash lit up the city, but officials denied that the incident occurred at Parchin–though how exactly an “ordinary fire” would create such a display was left unsaid. But whatever it was that happened at the place where Iran has been conducting military nuclear research, the incident is a reminder that despite the all-out push for détente with the Islamist regime being conducted by the Obama administration, its nuclear program presents a clear and present danger to the world.

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Sunday night, the residents of Tehran got a light show when an explosion at a military complex east of the city shook the Iranian capital. According to the New York Times, an orange flash lit up the city, but officials denied that the incident occurred at Parchin–though how exactly an “ordinary fire” would create such a display was left unsaid. But whatever it was that happened at the place where Iran has been conducting military nuclear research, the incident is a reminder that despite the all-out push for détente with the Islamist regime being conducted by the Obama administration, its nuclear program presents a clear and present danger to the world.

Parchin is famous because it is not just another of Iran’s many nuclear facilities. What makes it special is the fact that the regime has consistently denied inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency access to it. Western and Israeli intelligence agencies as well as the UN monitoring group believe Parchin is where Iran has conducted high-explosive experiments related to nuclear-weapons research. In other words, Parchin is the locus of some of the world’s worst fears about Iran’s nuclear ambitions as well as of its government’s most egregious lies and deceptions of the international community.

Speculation about the cause of the incident is inevitable. Was it American or Israeli sabotage? From 2010 to 2012, there were a number of suspicious incidents at Iranian nuclear facilities, computer viruses aimed at knocking out their infrastructure, as well as assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists. But in the last year as the Obama administration shifted away from sanctions and attempts to stop Iran to a campaign of appeasement, we’ve heard very little about any action to forestall their nuclear progress. The explosion could have been a Western covert operation aimed at pressuring the Iranians to be more reasonable in the ongoing nuclear talks or it could be an Israeli effort to knock out Iranian capabilities or to refocus U.S. attention on the threat.

But it could just as easily be another “work accident,” such as many other occurrences that illustrated the dangerous nature of the work being conducted at Parchin.

The truth is we don’t yet know the truth about what happened in Parchin. But the precipitate cause of the explosion is not as important as what the facility represents and why the West should not be blindly assuming that everything Iran says about its program is the truth.

Until UN inspectors have gone over every inch of the place without allowing the Iranians to try to clean up and erase all evidence of their nuclear research, as they have repeatedly tried to do, we simply don’t know how close Tehran is to realizing their nuclear goal. But while the interim deal signed by the West with Iran last year paid lip service to the principle of transparency, the fact that the IAEA still hasn’t gotten into Parchin and is not even negotiating about Tehran’s ballistic missile program and other aspects of the threat undermines confidence in a process that is already based more on Western hopes than Iranian reality.

This is important because the current compromise proposals on the table in the Iran talks seem to be based more on trust than on verification. The idea that Iran could be allowed to keep thousands of centrifuges for producing nuclear fuel for weapons on condition that the pipes were disconnected between them is farcical on its face. But even if we thought that this made a smidgeon of sense (and the idea that such a provision was a serious obstacle to an Iranian nuclear breakout is ludicrous even by the debased standards of Obama administration foreign policy) it would have to be based on a foundation of rigorous and intrusive surprise inspections that the Iranians have never allowed at any crucial site.

Whether Parchin is being sabotaged—a prospect that would renew one’s faith in the smarts of whichever government, be it American or Israeli, that sponsored the attack—or has suffered an accident unrelated to international concerns, the IAEA must be allowed in immediately.

While there is little reason to believe that any nuclear deal would be observed by Tehran, until the inspectors get in there and other facilities, President Obama is doing nothing more than gambling the future of the world on Iranian promises. The Parchin explosion is a reminder of how dangerous such a premise would be.

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Inspections? Kerry’s False Iran Promises

When Secretary of State John Kerry defended the deal he signed with Iran on November 24, he was particularly exasperated with the arguments that asserted that Iran would cheat on its promises to “hit the pause button” on its nuclear program. He said the deal was not only a vital first step in the administration’s efforts to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon but that any fears about Tehran deceiving the West were absurd. Kerry promised its facilities would be subjected to rigorous inspections that exceeded anything that had hitherto been imposed on the country. After nearly two months of further wrangling, that interim accord was finalized yesterday and Iran is now to enjoy substantial sanctions relief during a six-month negotiating period that will give it plenty of opportunities to continue its stalling tactics. But amid the orgy of self-congratulation from the administration on its successful effort to avoid taking tougher action against the nuclear threat, we are also learning more about the inspections Kerry bragged about, and these details give the lie to his assurances.

As the New York Times reports, the International Atomic Energy Agency, which is tasked with carrying out the inspections, is glad that the deal will expand its ability to monitor some of Iran’s facilities. But, like the deal itself, the inspections regime turns out to be nothing more than what one nuclear inspector described to the Times as “an appetizer.” While the inspectors will be able to look in on the centrifuges that continue to enrich uranium–a “right” tacitly acknowledged by the West in the deal–it says nothing about the regime’s military research that is necessary for it to complete a bomb. Without such inspections, the notion that the West has any real idea about how close the Iranians are to a bomb is a joke. Far from making it harder for them to achieve their nuclear ambition, the interim accord is, like previous negotiations, enabling the Iranians to go on pursuing it.

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When Secretary of State John Kerry defended the deal he signed with Iran on November 24, he was particularly exasperated with the arguments that asserted that Iran would cheat on its promises to “hit the pause button” on its nuclear program. He said the deal was not only a vital first step in the administration’s efforts to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon but that any fears about Tehran deceiving the West were absurd. Kerry promised its facilities would be subjected to rigorous inspections that exceeded anything that had hitherto been imposed on the country. After nearly two months of further wrangling, that interim accord was finalized yesterday and Iran is now to enjoy substantial sanctions relief during a six-month negotiating period that will give it plenty of opportunities to continue its stalling tactics. But amid the orgy of self-congratulation from the administration on its successful effort to avoid taking tougher action against the nuclear threat, we are also learning more about the inspections Kerry bragged about, and these details give the lie to his assurances.

As the New York Times reports, the International Atomic Energy Agency, which is tasked with carrying out the inspections, is glad that the deal will expand its ability to monitor some of Iran’s facilities. But, like the deal itself, the inspections regime turns out to be nothing more than what one nuclear inspector described to the Times as “an appetizer.” While the inspectors will be able to look in on the centrifuges that continue to enrich uranium–a “right” tacitly acknowledged by the West in the deal–it says nothing about the regime’s military research that is necessary for it to complete a bomb. Without such inspections, the notion that the West has any real idea about how close the Iranians are to a bomb is a joke. Far from making it harder for them to achieve their nuclear ambition, the interim accord is, like previous negotiations, enabling the Iranians to go on pursuing it.

The Geneva deal does allow the IAEA to make daily visits to Iran’s enrichment facilities at Natanz and Fordow, an increase over what had previously been allowed. That will permit the West to see if the regime is exceeding the level of enrichment it has been permitted. But even if Iran keeps its word and doesn’t enrich above a level of five percent, all that will achieve is a delay in the period needed for a “breakout” that would get them a bomb. The low-level enriched uranium they are now producing as well as the stockpile they have already acquired can always be converted to weapons-grade material.

But Kerry and other Western leaders already know this. What they and the IAEA don’t know is how far the Iranian bomb research has progressed, and they can only learn this by the kind of inspections that the interim deal won’t provide. As the Times reports:

The agreement between Iran and the United States, France, Germany, Britain, China and Russia – meant to buy time for talks on a final settlement of the decade-old nuclear dispute – only vaguely refers to the IAEA’s investigation.

It does not, for example, say anything about the U.N. agency’s repeated requests to visit the Parchin military base.

The IAEA suspects that Iran has carried out explosives tests relevant for nuclear bomb development at the facility southeast of Tehran, possibly a decade ago. Iran denies this and has so far refused to open it up for the inspectors.

The watchdog also wants to see other locations, interview officials and study relevant documents for its inquiry into what it calls the “possible military dimensions” to Iran’s nuclear program, known under the acronym PMD.

In other words, Kerry and the rest of the P5+1 group about to resume their diplomatic dance with the Iranians have done nothing to effectively curb research on a bomb even as their enrichment deal does just as little to stop Tehran from stockpiling more nuclear fuel.

The sanctions relief the Iranians are getting during the six-month interim period that, thanks to the delay, actually became an eight-month respite are by no means trivial. While much of the coverage of this aspect of the deal spoke only of the release of frozen assets by the West in the amount of a few billion dollars, the U.S. is also relaxing its efforts to curb Iran’s sale of oil to its remaining customers, a lucrative trade that continues to keep the despotic regime fiscally solvent. The European Union also is suspending some of its sanctions on oil and other exports. While the bulk of the sanctions remain in place, now that the restrictions are starting to unravel there is little likelihood that they can be re-imposed in an atmosphere in which the administration seems bent on pursuing détente with Iran rather than pressure.

Kerry will get the time he wanted to negotiate another nuclear deal with Iran, and thanks to the president’s veto threats and the machinations of Majority Leader Harry Reid that Seth wrote about here earlier, there seems little chance that Congress will be able to heighten the pressure with new sanctions that would not go into effect until after diplomacy fails. But given the lack of inspections on Parchin as well as the Iranians’ track record in pulling the rug over the eyes of credulous Westerners like Kerry, that failure is only a matter of time.

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Iran’s Mixed Signals Designed to Mislead

Is Iran backing down on its plans to build a nuclear weapon? Some Western observers may be encouraged to think so after reading reports saying that Iran has decided to resume negotiations with the International Atomic Energy Agency about monitoring its program. Iran has been stonewalling the United Nations Agency for months and has prevented inspectors from visiting the Parchin site where military nuclear research has been conducted. As the New York Times reports, an Iranian news agency has also claimed that new and more sophisticated devices for enriching uranium being installed at the Natanz site have been designed so as to ensure that the product created by the process won’t be useable for weapons.

If true, both developments could be considered hopeful signs that Iran is responding to the pressure created by international economic sanctions in a way that may lead to a solution to the nuclear impasse. Even if that is a bit optimistic even for those who are still convinced that a window of diplomacy exists to end the dispute, it could at least mean that Iran is desirous of slowing down the pace of escalation of the conflict leaving more time for a deal to be worked out.

But after a decade of Iranian deceptions and diplomatic dead ends, taking this information at face value is the sort of mistake that Tehran has come to count on the West making on a regular basis. The one thing we know for sure is that Iran is installing more centrifuges and that the commitment of the Islamist regime to achieving its nuclear goal is undiminished. Moreover, the refusal of the Iranians to engage in direct talks with the United States shows that the only kind of diplomatic process it wants is a multilateral one with weak-willed Europeans like EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton that will let it get away with more delay. That’s why these mixed signals are far more likely to be just the latest in a long series of prevarications designed to convince the West that it has more time than actually exists before it is too late to do anything about the Iranian nuclear threat than a genuine breakthrough.

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Is Iran backing down on its plans to build a nuclear weapon? Some Western observers may be encouraged to think so after reading reports saying that Iran has decided to resume negotiations with the International Atomic Energy Agency about monitoring its program. Iran has been stonewalling the United Nations Agency for months and has prevented inspectors from visiting the Parchin site where military nuclear research has been conducted. As the New York Times reports, an Iranian news agency has also claimed that new and more sophisticated devices for enriching uranium being installed at the Natanz site have been designed so as to ensure that the product created by the process won’t be useable for weapons.

If true, both developments could be considered hopeful signs that Iran is responding to the pressure created by international economic sanctions in a way that may lead to a solution to the nuclear impasse. Even if that is a bit optimistic even for those who are still convinced that a window of diplomacy exists to end the dispute, it could at least mean that Iran is desirous of slowing down the pace of escalation of the conflict leaving more time for a deal to be worked out.

But after a decade of Iranian deceptions and diplomatic dead ends, taking this information at face value is the sort of mistake that Tehran has come to count on the West making on a regular basis. The one thing we know for sure is that Iran is installing more centrifuges and that the commitment of the Islamist regime to achieving its nuclear goal is undiminished. Moreover, the refusal of the Iranians to engage in direct talks with the United States shows that the only kind of diplomatic process it wants is a multilateral one with weak-willed Europeans like EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton that will let it get away with more delay. That’s why these mixed signals are far more likely to be just the latest in a long series of prevarications designed to convince the West that it has more time than actually exists before it is too late to do anything about the Iranian nuclear threat than a genuine breakthrough.

The claim that Iran is pulling back on its enrichment activities and diverting more of its fuel to research reactors may or not be true. If that is the case, then this would justify the continued patience of the Obama administration which has refused to set red lines about the nuclear threat that might give teeth to the threats it has issued about leaving nothing off the table when it comes to stopping the Iranians. A longer timeline before the Iranian stockpile of weapons-grade nuclear material would allow the P5+1 diplomatic process to be restarted and conducted with the sort of patience that the Europeans have always demonstrated when it comes to dealing with the Iranians.

But the very fact that this is exactly what Iran has always wanted the West to believe calls for some skepticism about the fuel conversion story. Without full access to all the relevant nuclear sites in Iran, it is impossible to be sure whether promises about enrichment are real or not. But even if some limited inspections are resumed with the IAEA, that can’t be considered a guarantee of progress since the Iranians have already shown their desire to conceal their actions as well as to deceive the inspectors.

Whether or not the enrichment process has slowed, there is no denying that the Iranians are still building their uranium stockpile and that sooner or later — with the emphasis on sooner — they will have enough to build a bomb.

In his State of the Union speech last night, President Obama devoted but one line to the issue that could prove to be the most fateful in his second term:

The leaders of Iran must recognize that now is the time for a diplomatic solution, because a coalition stands united in demanding that they meet their obligations, and we will do what is necessary to prevent them from getting a nuclear weapon.

These are fine words but the problem is that everything this administration and its European partners have done up until now has convinced the Iranians that they have nothing to worry about. The foolish attempts at engagement and the watered down sanctions that were belated implemented have done little to impress upon the ayatollahs the stern resolution that the president claims exists to halt their nuclear gambit. If the president buys into these latest mixed that may be exactly the mistake the Iranians are hoping for. 

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IAEA: Bibi’s Red Line Warnings Were Right

Hamas’s decision not to go along with their patron Iran’s determination to keep Bashar Assad in power in Syria broke up a profitable alliance that had worked well for both parties. But though the two may no longer be working in tandem, Hamas’s decision to launch a rocket offensive against Israel did a favor for the country that had supplied the terror group with cash and weapons for a decade: it diverted international attention away from the release of a new report from the International Atomic Energy Agency about the Iranian nuclear program.

That’s fortuitous for Iran, since the IAEA’s latest findings about Tehran’s project more or less confirm the warnings that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued from the podium of the General Assembly of the United Nations in September. As Britain’s Guardian reports, all those pundits and kibitzers who mocked Netanyahu’s rhetoric and graphic display at the UN may need to rethink their position:

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Hamas’s decision not to go along with their patron Iran’s determination to keep Bashar Assad in power in Syria broke up a profitable alliance that had worked well for both parties. But though the two may no longer be working in tandem, Hamas’s decision to launch a rocket offensive against Israel did a favor for the country that had supplied the terror group with cash and weapons for a decade: it diverted international attention away from the release of a new report from the International Atomic Energy Agency about the Iranian nuclear program.

That’s fortuitous for Iran, since the IAEA’s latest findings about Tehran’s project more or less confirm the warnings that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued from the podium of the General Assembly of the United Nations in September. As Britain’s Guardian reports, all those pundits and kibitzers who mocked Netanyahu’s rhetoric and graphic display at the UN may need to rethink their position:

Iran has expanded its enrichment capacity and is enriching uranium at a pace that would bring it to what Israel has declared an unacceptable red line in just over seven months, according to a report by the UN nuclear watchdog. The red line drawn by Israel’s prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, during his UN appearance in September, represented 240kg of 20%-enriched uranium, enough to make a warhead if further enriched to weapons grade.

The sensitivity of 20% uranium figure is that it can be turned into weapons grade relatively fast and easily. The last time the IAEA inspectors drew up a report, three months ago, Iran had made 189kg of 20% uranium. but had used nearly 100kg for civilian purposes, leaving an outstanding 96kg.

In the last three months, that stockpile has grown by 43kg and Iran has not diverted any more of it to civil uses. At the current steady rate of production, that would bring Iran to the Israeli red line by mid-June. But it also installed new centrifuges at its underground enrichment plant in Fordow, with which it could double its rate of production if it chose to do so.

The IAEA report should concentrate American minds on the fact that although the erratically enforced international economic sanctions imposed on Iran have caused great pain to the country, they have done nothing to weaken the resolve of the ayatollahs to stick to their nuclear plan. The June red line date gives President Obama only a few months to do something to vindicate his insistence that diplomacy can work to persuade the Iranians to give up their nuclear ambition. Though the attention focused on Hamas’s war has diverted the press and the public from the question of Iran this week, Washington shouldn’t count on the Israelis being similarly distracted.

The fact that the Iranians understand this all too well is apparent in their attitude toward the fighting going on along the Israel-Gaza border. Though Iran’s vilification of Israel is second to none, it has not sought to do anything to ease the pressure on their former allies. While the Israelis are pounding Hamas, Iran’s Hezbollah auxiliaries have been suspiciously quiet. Iran could order Hezbollah to start firing its own rockets at northern Israel–something that could put a terrible strain on the Jewish state’s already heavily burdened missile defense systems. But they haven’t done so. The reason for this is that they know that if they did unleash Hezbollah, it would give the Israelis an excuse to launch an all-out offensive aimed at knocking out the Lebanese terror group’s offensive capabilities. That would mean that Iran would be deprived of a major deterrent to an Israeli attack on its nuclear facilities.

Nevertheless, the bottom line here is that the UN group has confirmed that Netanyahu’s calculations about the moment when Iran would have the ability to create a weapon were largely accurate. That leaves the ball firmly placed in President Obama’s court. The clock is ticking down the moments until Iran passes the red line that will mark them as a potential nuclear power. It is also counting down the time that the president has left before he will be forced to choose between taking action against Iran or reneging on his campaign promises to stop them.

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Iran’s Lies Are Matched by Obama’s

Yesterday, we discussed the latest attempt by the West to entice Iran to resume negotiations over the future of their nuclear program. Those talks, being conducted by European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, the head of the P5+1 group that includes the United States, were described as “useful and constructive” and were thought to be the prelude to further efforts to break the impasse over Tehran’s push for nuclear weapons later this month in New York, when the United Nations General Assembly convenes. But the same day that Lady Ashton was breaking bread with a representative of the Islamist regime in Istanbul, the head of Iran’s nuclear project was quoted in the London daily Al Hayat as confessing, or should we say bragging, that his country has repeatedly lied to the West in past exchanges about the subject.

As Haaretz reports, Fereydoun Abbasi-Davani, the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran told Al Hayat that the regime had provided false information to the International Atomic Energy Agency in order to protect their “nuclear facilities and achievements.”

“Sometimes we provided false information since there was no other choice but to mislead other intelligence agencies; sometimes we made ourselves appear weak and at other times we reported issues that made us appear strongly than we really were, he said, adding: “Ultimately it became exposed when inspectors directly asked us about these issues.”

He said such deceptions were necessary in order to prevent the IAEA’s investigation from aiding efforts to isolate and sanction Iran. These motivations are quite obvious and even understandable. The Iranians know the world is on to their plans for nuclear weapons and wish to do everything they can to throw the IAEA off the scent. What isn’t understandable is why the United States and its European partners would choose to enter into any diplomatic process with Iran that is predicated on Iran telling the truth about its facilities and keeping their word should any compromise deal ever be reached. That is why the insistence of President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton that diplomacy be given even more time is inexplicable if they mean what they say about wanting to stop Iran.

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Yesterday, we discussed the latest attempt by the West to entice Iran to resume negotiations over the future of their nuclear program. Those talks, being conducted by European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, the head of the P5+1 group that includes the United States, were described as “useful and constructive” and were thought to be the prelude to further efforts to break the impasse over Tehran’s push for nuclear weapons later this month in New York, when the United Nations General Assembly convenes. But the same day that Lady Ashton was breaking bread with a representative of the Islamist regime in Istanbul, the head of Iran’s nuclear project was quoted in the London daily Al Hayat as confessing, or should we say bragging, that his country has repeatedly lied to the West in past exchanges about the subject.

As Haaretz reports, Fereydoun Abbasi-Davani, the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran told Al Hayat that the regime had provided false information to the International Atomic Energy Agency in order to protect their “nuclear facilities and achievements.”

“Sometimes we provided false information since there was no other choice but to mislead other intelligence agencies; sometimes we made ourselves appear weak and at other times we reported issues that made us appear strongly than we really were, he said, adding: “Ultimately it became exposed when inspectors directly asked us about these issues.”

He said such deceptions were necessary in order to prevent the IAEA’s investigation from aiding efforts to isolate and sanction Iran. These motivations are quite obvious and even understandable. The Iranians know the world is on to their plans for nuclear weapons and wish to do everything they can to throw the IAEA off the scent. What isn’t understandable is why the United States and its European partners would choose to enter into any diplomatic process with Iran that is predicated on Iran telling the truth about its facilities and keeping their word should any compromise deal ever be reached. That is why the insistence of President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton that diplomacy be given even more time is inexplicable if they mean what they say about wanting to stop Iran.

Davani’s taunting of the West reflects an interesting dynamic in the ongoing negotiations with Iran. In a diplomatic dance that started before President Obama took office, we have repeatedly seen Western efforts to broker an agreement with Iran on nuclear issues founder on this same problem. Iran pretends to want to talk. Iran lies to the West about what it is doing on the ground and about what it may be willing to agree to and then reneges on any agreement and announces further progress toward its nuclear goal.

In the course of just the last year, the IAEA has found that Iran has doubled the number of centrifuges enriching uranium that can be used for a bomb and that these machines are now operating in hardened underground bunkers that may be invulnerable to attack. This “achievement” was bought with Iranian lies and Western diplomacy that allowed the process to be strung along while Western leaders said they were working to end the nuclear threat.

Even now, as Iran again starts the dance with Ashton and Obama, they are refusing to give the IAEA permission to inspect their nuclear weapons research site at Parchin and as, Davani noted, “obstruct efforts to bar aerial or satellite photos of these sites.”

But as outraged as the world should be about Iran’s brazen deceptions, it must be admitted that the ayatollahs’ representatives are not the biggest liars in this drama. Western leaders who continue to insist they are working to stop Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons but nevertheless play along with Iran’s deceptions are the real deceivers here.

It is one thing for Iran to tell open and obvious lies about what all the world knows to be true about their nuclear project. It is quite another for President Obama and Secretary Clinton to play along while telling the American people that a “window of diplomacy” still exists to end the nuclear threat, or to chide Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu for sounding the alarm about the refusal of the United States to declare “red lines” that will trigger action rather than further talk about the problem.

The longer the United States allows its representatives and surrogates to play a part in this diplomatic farce, the less likely it is that there is any chance to stop Iran. The falsehoods being pronounced on this issue in Washington by leaders who pretend to be steadfast in their determination to halt the nuclear threat are no less reprehensible than those emanating from Tehran.

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Obama Doesn’t Care He’s Been Proven Wrong About Iran

The release yesterday of a new report on Iran’s nuclear program by the International Atomic Energy Agency effectively vindicates everything Israel’s leaders have been saying in recent months. The report says Iran has doubled the number of centrifuges it could use to make the core of nuclear warheads at its underground bunker at Fordow. It has also effectively shut down the IAEA investigation of their work at Parchin, where the Islamist regime has been conducting work on nuclear weapons development.

Fordow is the “breakout” facility where it can convert any civilian nuclear activity into military applications safe from air attack. As even the New York Times admits today, far from the Obama administration’s strategy of using diplomacy and sanctions slowing down Iran’s progress, “if anything, the program is speeding up.” It goes on to point out:

But the agency’s report has also put Israel in a corner, documenting that Iran is close to crossing what Israel has long said is its red line: the capability to produce nuclear weapons in a location invulnerable to Israeli attack.

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The release yesterday of a new report on Iran’s nuclear program by the International Atomic Energy Agency effectively vindicates everything Israel’s leaders have been saying in recent months. The report says Iran has doubled the number of centrifuges it could use to make the core of nuclear warheads at its underground bunker at Fordow. It has also effectively shut down the IAEA investigation of their work at Parchin, where the Islamist regime has been conducting work on nuclear weapons development.

Fordow is the “breakout” facility where it can convert any civilian nuclear activity into military applications safe from air attack. As even the New York Times admits today, far from the Obama administration’s strategy of using diplomacy and sanctions slowing down Iran’s progress, “if anything, the program is speeding up.” It goes on to point out:

But the agency’s report has also put Israel in a corner, documenting that Iran is close to crossing what Israel has long said is its red line: the capability to produce nuclear weapons in a location invulnerable to Israeli attack.

The Times is right about that. Being proven right about the failure of Obama’s policy is cold comfort for Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu since the administration refuses to recognize the failure, either publicly or privately. The Times of Israel reports that a meeting last week between Netanyahu and U.S. Ambassador Dan Shapiro resulted in hostile exchanges with the diplomat “breaking protocol” and angrily scolding the prime minister for pushing too hard for U.S. action.

Israel’s problem is that the Obama administration doesn’t care that it has been proven wrong and feels no inclination to engage in a conversation with the leaders of the Jewish state about taking action to either reverse course or head off a catastrophe. Instead, it just sticks to its line about giving more time for diplomacy even though no one in Washington, let alone anywhere else, believes that it is possible to talk the Iranians into giving up their nuclear ambitions. The president wants no back talk from the Israelis about this. But even more than that, he desires no trouble in the Middle East in the next two months as he fights for re-election.

That leaves the Israelis with a difficult choice. It can, as most foreign policy mavens keep telling them to, simply shut up and hope that either a re-elected Obama will keep all the promises he’s made on the subject or that a President Romney will make good on the tough statements he’s made about the peril from an Iranian nuke. But given the speed of the Iranians’ progress and the possibility that by next year it could already be too late for an attack on their nuclear facilities to do much good, waiting may not be an option consistent with Netanyahu’s responsibility to spike any existential threat to his nation’s future.

The administration’s silence about the latest troubling IAEA report, as well as the insolent attitude of its envoy to Israel, seems to indicate the president thinks the Israelis are bluffing about acting on their own. He has good reason to think so.

Despite the assertions that Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak are alone in their convictions about the Iranian threat, there’s a consensus in the Israeli defense and intelligence establishment that Iran must be stopped. But many there fear the consequences of a unilateral Israeli military campaign. They are right that only the United States has sufficient resources to do the job right. Moreover, the consequences of launching a strike and the inevitable retaliation from Iran’s terrorist auxiliaries are extremely grave. If the United States does not back up Israel in the aftermath of such a strike, it could materially damage the country’s security as well as leading to its complete diplomatic isolation.

On the other hand, if Israel meekly accepts Obama’s dictat to stand down, it may lead to a nuclear Iran, which is something that may be far worse than the blowback from an attack. It would place the security and the future of the Jewish state solely in the hands of a president who has shown little interest in the country’s welfare.

President Obama clearly seems to think there is no pressure Israel could put on him short of an actual attack on Iran that can move him to do something about the situation. And he believes, not without reason, that even if his Republican opponent steps up his criticism of the administration on Iran — a topic that rated a strong mention in Mitt Romney’s acceptance speech last night — he is not politically vulnerable on the issue.

In other words, Netanyahu has no good options available to him. No matter which way he goes on Iran in the coming weeks, thanks to President Obama’s complacent stand, danger lurks.

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Can Obama Solve Iran By “Going Big?”

Since the P5+1 negotiations with Iran began much of the speculation about the diplomatic activity centered on the fact that it was clearly in the interests of both sides to keep talking for as long as possible rather than to allow an impasse to break talks off. The Iranians, the Obama administration and its diplomatic partners share a desire to keep diplomacy alive so as to make it impossible for Israel to launch an attack on Tehran’s nuclear facilities. But even if a deal is possible, the incremental arrangement offered by the West is worrisome for those who fear any such agreement will almost certainly be evaded and ultimately lead to a nuclear Iran.

The Iranians have balked at the West’s terms that would have allowed them to keep their nuclear program. However, as Laura Rozen reports on Al Monitor, there is another possibility in the works that may present an even greater danger of letting Iran off the hook. Rozen writes that the Obama administration is considering putting forward a grand proposal that would try for a permanent fix rather than a gradual process that might put in place an interim deal that could never be followed up. But it is far from clear whether “going big” with Iran will get the United States any closer to permanently removing the nuclear threat than the less ambitious P5+1 approach.

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Since the P5+1 negotiations with Iran began much of the speculation about the diplomatic activity centered on the fact that it was clearly in the interests of both sides to keep talking for as long as possible rather than to allow an impasse to break talks off. The Iranians, the Obama administration and its diplomatic partners share a desire to keep diplomacy alive so as to make it impossible for Israel to launch an attack on Tehran’s nuclear facilities. But even if a deal is possible, the incremental arrangement offered by the West is worrisome for those who fear any such agreement will almost certainly be evaded and ultimately lead to a nuclear Iran.

The Iranians have balked at the West’s terms that would have allowed them to keep their nuclear program. However, as Laura Rozen reports on Al Monitor, there is another possibility in the works that may present an even greater danger of letting Iran off the hook. Rozen writes that the Obama administration is considering putting forward a grand proposal that would try for a permanent fix rather than a gradual process that might put in place an interim deal that could never be followed up. But it is far from clear whether “going big” with Iran will get the United States any closer to permanently removing the nuclear threat than the less ambitious P5+1 approach.

As Rozen presents the debate within the administration, the Defense Department is pushing for presenting a final proposal to Iran that would be accompanied by a military threat that would be the alternative if Tehran balked. The State Department wants to stick with the existing process. The argument for the “go big” approach is that even if Iran went along with the West’s current offer via the P5+1 group, such a deal would not be definitive and would probably never be followed up as the circumstances that brought the West together for the talks will not be replicated. Once there is an agreement in place the urgency that led to increased sanctions and diplomacy will be lost, and the West will probably go to sleep on the issue in the same manner that allowed the North Koreans to exploit the six-party talks on their program into a path to nuclear capability.

As Rozen’s sources note, the P5+1 deal offered the Iranians involves “reversible steps” that would be no bar to a determined effort to go nuclear. But missing from the story is any idea of how much tougher the “go big” solution would be. The notion of scrapping the current process is tempting because it would mean a direct U.S.-Iran negotiation rather than the dance being led by European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton. Yet if the “big” American proposal also lets the Iranians keep their nuclear program and grants them the right to go on refining uranium, albeit at low rates, then it may turn out to be just as reversible as the P5+1 diplomacy.

Even more to the point, going big is just as dependent on a belief that Iran would ever be willing under any circumstances to give up hope of attaining a nuclear weapon. If the pace of the current talks and the willingness of the Europeans to settle for an unsatisfactory deal frustrate U.S. officials, there is no guarantee they can do better themselves. It is just as easy to imagine the Iranians snookering the Obama administration in direct talks as it is to see them doing so to Ashton.

With Tehran stalling the International Atomic Energy Agency on inspections again and with the P5+1 talks giving every impression they are merely a delaying tactic, a change in diplomatic tactics is clearly necessary. A U.S. ultimatum to Iran is a good idea in principle. If the president embraces such a strategy once it is widely apparent (as it is already to anyone who’s really paying attention), it might provide the shock treatment the Iranians need. The problem is, they don’t believe the president is any more willing to credibly threaten a military attack on Iranian nuclear facilities than the Europeans. And with divided counsels in Washington making it unlikely that the president will go big anytime soon on Iran, the prospect of a year of ineffective diplomacy that will only bring us closer to the day when the ayatollahs have a nuke is still the most likely outcome.

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Film Review: “U.N. Me” — Everything the Left Doesn’t Want to Know About the UN

Those who view his films as compendiums of distorted propaganda may rightly despise Michael Moore, but there’s no denying that his work re-popularized the documentary as an independent art form while effectively promoting his views. Moore and others who followed in his footsteps, such as Morgan Spurlock, whose “Super Size Me” lambasted the fast food industry, created a popular template in which the filmmaker’s personal narrative, interspersed with humor and relentless attempts to expose and thereby belittle the objects of their scorn, set the standard for the genre. But the question for viewers of a newly released film that was created in the spirit of “Roger and Me, ” “Bowling for Columbine” or “Super Size Me” is whether there is an audience for this sort of work if the subject matter is not one that liberals and leftists love to hate.

In “U.N. Me,” Ami Horowitz and Matthew Grof have done just that. Horowitz, the on-screen personality and narrator, takes his audience on an international tour intended to show that the United Nations is a corrupt talking shop that has made a mockery of the ideals that it was created to promote. As “U.N. Me” makes clear, the world body has criminal peacekeepers who fail to protect the innocent, purposely-blind nuclear inspectors, thieves in charge of food programs, and has a Human Rights Council that is a forum for tyrants and murderers.

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Those who view his films as compendiums of distorted propaganda may rightly despise Michael Moore, but there’s no denying that his work re-popularized the documentary as an independent art form while effectively promoting his views. Moore and others who followed in his footsteps, such as Morgan Spurlock, whose “Super Size Me” lambasted the fast food industry, created a popular template in which the filmmaker’s personal narrative, interspersed with humor and relentless attempts to expose and thereby belittle the objects of their scorn, set the standard for the genre. But the question for viewers of a newly released film that was created in the spirit of “Roger and Me, ” “Bowling for Columbine” or “Super Size Me” is whether there is an audience for this sort of work if the subject matter is not one that liberals and leftists love to hate.

In “U.N. Me,” Ami Horowitz and Matthew Grof have done just that. Horowitz, the on-screen personality and narrator, takes his audience on an international tour intended to show that the United Nations is a corrupt talking shop that has made a mockery of the ideals that it was created to promote. As “U.N. Me” makes clear, the world body has criminal peacekeepers who fail to protect the innocent, purposely-blind nuclear inspectors, thieves in charge of food programs, and has a Human Rights Council that is a forum for tyrants and murderers.

This may be familiar territory for readers of COMMENTARY, but if the intended audience is the crowd who enjoys the politically skewed humor of Moore and Spurlock’s movies, a great many eyes will be opened. Judging their effort by the standard set by those two, “U.N. Me” must be considered a resounding success. The film combines a low-key sense of righteous indignation at the outrageous behavior it uncovers with humor and paints its subjects as hypocrites and scoundrels. Yet even as we laugh along with Horowitz’s disingenuous attempts to get UN officials to tell the truth about what they are doing, one can’t help but wonder if this is a story most lovers of indie documentaries want to hear, because its point is to debunk an institution deeply loved by liberals and President Obama.

To get past the prejudices of filmgoers predisposed to dismiss criticism of the U.N., Horowitz concentrates his fire on the causes that most appeal to liberal sensibilities, such as the genocide in Darfur. That means the number one object of U.N. perfidy — the state of Israel — is conspicuous by its absence in the film. Though so much of what is wrong about the U.N. is illustrated by the widespread anti-Semitism given a hearing in its halls and the double standard by which the democratic State of Israel is subjected to most of the resolutions adopted by the institution, the Jewish state is mentioned only in passing throughout “U.N. Me.” Though this may disappoint some viewers, it’s not a mistake. While it eliminates many of the most egregious instances of U.N. misbehavior, the tactic also allows Horowitz to make his point about its failures without miring his narrative in the rhetorical battlefield of the Middle East conflict.

But even without a discussion of the U.N.’s unfair obsession with Israel, there is more than enough scandalous material to fill several hours, let alone the 90 minutes of “U.N. Me.”

In the Ivory Coast, Horowitz delves into the scandal of “peacekeepers gone wild” where the “blue helmets” are not only pleasure-seeking thieves who don’t protect the people of that war-torn nation but have themselves committed massacres.

The direct failure of the U.N. to do anything to stop the genocide in Rwanda though it had the forces on the spot and the intelligence to do so is a heartbreaking story, and here, Horowitz goes easy on the humor. But he makes up for that with his exploration of the U.N.’s failures to deal with genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan during which a Sudanese diplomat asserts that “climate change” is the reason so many were massacred by his government, prompting Horowitz to suggest that more Priuses is the answer to the problem.

The film also goes into great depth to describe the way ordinary corruption is part of business as usual at the U.N.. The “oil for food” scandal in which Saddam Hussein skimmed more than $10 billion from the world body in exchange for millions in bribes to U.N. officials is a central part of the story. At its core is the role of former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, demonstrating that this scheme was ordinary practice and not an exception.

And though the documentary doesn’t go into the bizarre way the United Nations Relief Works Agency (UNRWA) has helped perpetuate the plight of the Palestinians (the U.N. has one agency for all other refugees and one devoted to the Palestinians), it is shown as employing terrorists in Gaza and allowing their ambulances to be used as getaway vehicles.

The film, which was first shown at film festivals in 2009 but only gained a general release on June 1 of this year, suffers in one respect from the delay. During the past three years, one of the U.N. agencies that Horowitz spoofs has changed for the better. Though the International Atomic Energy Agency was rightly seen as a body that was determined to “see no evil” when inspecting Iran under its previous leader, the Egyptian diplomat Mohamad El Baradei, his successor Yukio Amano has altered its course. Whereas in the past, the IAEA aided proliferation, these days, it is a thorn in the side of the Iranians and its release of incriminating evidence about their work on military applications of nuclear power have prodded the West to step up sanctions.

It may be that what Amano did with the IAEA shows the failure of the “new” U.N. Human Rights Council and other agencies need not have happened. With the right sort of leadership and an application of the principles of the original U.N. Charter, it is theoretically possible that all of the abuses and scandals Horowitz discusses in “U.N. Me” can be corrected. Yet given the deep-seated nature of the problems that are put on display here it could be that the reform of the IAEA is the exception that proves the rule. An institution where accountability is almost always absent, where Third World politics dictates that horrible crimes must be excused if not rationalized or sanitized may be beyond redemption. As journalist Claudia Rosett notes in the film, “avoiding the truth is in the DNA of this organization.”

In one of the concluding scenes, Horowitz escalates his reportorial hijinks. Not content with interviews with Iranians, Syrians and Sudanese who expose their contempt for human rights, the narrator jumps up on the stage of the U.N. hall in Geneva and attempts to address the delegates about their hypocrisy. While this can be dismissed as nothing more than a silly stunt, the fact that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Holocaust-denying president of Iran had opened the conference on human rights that Horowitz crashed makes it all too clear that the line between satire and truth has long since been erased at the U.N.

Horowitz and Groff have produced a documentary that may at times be a little too jocose for its serious subject matter, but is nevertheless always watchable and infused with genuine wit. It remains to be seen whether their praiseworthy effort to tell this important story will get the exposure it deserves, but anyone who takes the time to watch “U.N. Me” cannot help but walk away sharing the filmmaker’s frustration and disgust with the U.N.

“U.N. Me” is available in select theaters around the country as well as via on demand cable services and iTunes.

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In Nuclear Talks, Iran Plays the Victim Card

With the third round of nuclear talks approaching, Iranian senior figures are taking turns to the airwaves to present a well-rehearsed, grievance-filled version of the issues at stake in their current nuclear standoff with the international community. This time, speaking out is former Iranian minister of foreign affairs, Ali Akbar Velayati – currently a diplomatic adviser to the Supreme Leader. Velayati, who is wanted in Argentina for the 1994 Iran-orchestrated terror attack against the AMIA Jewish Cultural Center in Buenos Aires, announced in an interview with the Iranian news agency IRNA that he hoped that “the P5+1 group recognizes Iran’s inalienable nuclear right within the framework of the [United Nations Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty] NPT and refrains from sitting on the sidelines.” He added, “By accepting Iran’s right to use peaceful nuclear energy, the forthcoming talks in Moscow should reach a favorable result.”

Iran has been spinning this tale for years now – and its propaganda is making considerable gains with Western leftists and among non-aligned movement members.

Iran is basically playing the victim card, darkly evoking an American-led and Zionist-orchestrated plot to deny Iran, alone among nations, the right to peacefully develop nuclear energy. The demand by the P5+1 to suspend all uranium enrichment and uranium reprocessing activities, Iran says, is an attempt to deny a right guaranteed under the Non-Proliferation Treaty to all its members. It is an unfair attempt, says Iran, because it is infused with a double standard where nuclear-weapons states and Israel are ganging up on Iran to preach to Tehran what they don’t practice. And it is a dangerous precedent, concludes Iran, because if legitimized, this mechanism can be adopted later to frustrate the legitimate nuclear ambitions of any other nation that is not a Western country and a friend of the United States.

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With the third round of nuclear talks approaching, Iranian senior figures are taking turns to the airwaves to present a well-rehearsed, grievance-filled version of the issues at stake in their current nuclear standoff with the international community. This time, speaking out is former Iranian minister of foreign affairs, Ali Akbar Velayati – currently a diplomatic adviser to the Supreme Leader. Velayati, who is wanted in Argentina for the 1994 Iran-orchestrated terror attack against the AMIA Jewish Cultural Center in Buenos Aires, announced in an interview with the Iranian news agency IRNA that he hoped that “the P5+1 group recognizes Iran’s inalienable nuclear right within the framework of the [United Nations Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty] NPT and refrains from sitting on the sidelines.” He added, “By accepting Iran’s right to use peaceful nuclear energy, the forthcoming talks in Moscow should reach a favorable result.”

Iran has been spinning this tale for years now – and its propaganda is making considerable gains with Western leftists and among non-aligned movement members.

Iran is basically playing the victim card, darkly evoking an American-led and Zionist-orchestrated plot to deny Iran, alone among nations, the right to peacefully develop nuclear energy. The demand by the P5+1 to suspend all uranium enrichment and uranium reprocessing activities, Iran says, is an attempt to deny a right guaranteed under the Non-Proliferation Treaty to all its members. It is an unfair attempt, says Iran, because it is infused with a double standard where nuclear-weapons states and Israel are ganging up on Iran to preach to Tehran what they don’t practice. And it is a dangerous precedent, concludes Iran, because if legitimized, this mechanism can be adopted later to frustrate the legitimate nuclear ambitions of any other nation that is not a Western country and a friend of the United States.

So, as talks approach, it is useful to remind Western audiences of the basic facts around this matter.

First, Iran is a member of the NPT, and it is thus entitled to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes only as long as it meets its obligations under the NPT. But the International Atomic Energey Agency (IAEA) regards Iran as being in breach of its treaty obligations. This was stated explicitly and forcefully by the IAEA on September 24, 2005:

… Iran’s many failures and breaches of its obligations to comply with its NPT Safeguards Agreement … constitute non-compliance in the context of Article XII.C of the Agency’s Statute … [T]he history of concealment of Iran’s nuclear activities referred to in the Director General’s report, the nature of these activities, issues brought to light in the course of the Agency’s verification of declarations made by Iran since September 2002 and the resulting absence of confidence that Iran’s nuclear program is exclusively for peaceful purposes have given rise to questions that are within the competence of the Security Council, as the organ bearing the main responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security.

The Security Council has passed six UN Security Council resolutions under Chapter VII (1696, 1737, 1747, 1803, 1835, and 1929), which makes them mandatory and binding on all nations according to international law, commanding Iran to suspend uranium enrichment and uranium reprocessing activities.

The IAEA has reaffirmed this point in every report it published since Ambassador Yukiya Amano became its director general in early 2010.

And the June 2008 proposal to Iran, signed by the P5+1, further states that, provided Iran complies with its obligations under the NPT and with the aforementioned resolutions, “China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States and the European Union High Representative state their readiness: to recognize Iran’s right to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes in conformity with its NPT obligations; to treat Iran’s nuclear program in the same manner as that of any non-nuclear weapon state party to the NPT once international confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program is restored.”

This text is now an integral part of UNSCR 1929 – and the details it offers (including detailed aspects of technological assistance) should leave no doubt to the following simple facts:

Iran’s right to peaceful nuclear energy, including the right to enrich for peaceful purposes, was never denied in principle and has been affirmed ad nauseam by Iran’s interlocutors. All Iranian protestations and lamentations to the contrary are lies, smokes and mirrors.

Iran’s right is suspended because Iran has failed to comply with the obligations that make it possible for Iran, and indeed any other nation who wishes to have a nuclear program, to pursue nuclear energy within the NPT framework.

Iran’s behavior is illegal. Iran’s non-compliance demands concrete steps sanctioned by UN Chapter VII binding resolutions.

No concession should be made, therefore, on these matters, and no compromise should be offered on enrichment suspension.

This provision, far from being a punishment, is the only remaining guarantee against the collapse of an already shaky non-proliferation regime.

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Iran Provides New Test of Obama’s Mettle

Just hours after an announcement that an agreement between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency on access for inspectors was imminent comes a new bit of news that could render the entire diplomatic process moot. As the Associated Press reports via the Times of Israel:

Iran announced Tuesday that it had delivered its first two batches of domestically produced nuclear fuel to a Tehran research reactor. The move comes on the eve of talks between Tehran and six Western powers over the future of the country’s nuclear program. The move is widely seen as an attempt by Iran to boost its bargaining position by exaggerating its nuclear technology.

Tehran had tentatively agreed to ship its enriched uranium abroad in order to produce such fuel in 2009. By moving the fuel rods to its own reactors, Iran will effectively put the kibosh on a deal by which it would send the fuel abroad.

While one has to applaud the sheer chutzpah of the Iranians in conducting this maneuver on the very day that IAEA chief Yukio Amano was in Tehran to negotiate with them, it does speak volumes about their utter contempt for their Western negotiating partners. Do they really think they can get away with this? But an even better question would be to ask whether the P5+1 negotiators led by EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton are so desperate for an accord as to go forward with the talks even as the Islamist regime contradicts the terms of the proposed deal.

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Just hours after an announcement that an agreement between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency on access for inspectors was imminent comes a new bit of news that could render the entire diplomatic process moot. As the Associated Press reports via the Times of Israel:

Iran announced Tuesday that it had delivered its first two batches of domestically produced nuclear fuel to a Tehran research reactor. The move comes on the eve of talks between Tehran and six Western powers over the future of the country’s nuclear program. The move is widely seen as an attempt by Iran to boost its bargaining position by exaggerating its nuclear technology.

Tehran had tentatively agreed to ship its enriched uranium abroad in order to produce such fuel in 2009. By moving the fuel rods to its own reactors, Iran will effectively put the kibosh on a deal by which it would send the fuel abroad.

While one has to applaud the sheer chutzpah of the Iranians in conducting this maneuver on the very day that IAEA chief Yukio Amano was in Tehran to negotiate with them, it does speak volumes about their utter contempt for their Western negotiating partners. Do they really think they can get away with this? But an even better question would be to ask whether the P5+1 negotiators led by EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton are so desperate for an accord as to go forward with the talks even as the Islamist regime contradicts the terms of the proposed deal.

As this report reminds us, the West has actually been down this same road in 2009 when the Iranians agreed to a flimsy deal to ship out their nuclear fuel only to refuse to back away from the agreement once the West signed off on it. By moving the fuel to one of its reactors in this fashion, the Iranians are not just advancing their nuclear agenda. They are testing the mettle of President Obama and the international coalition he takes such pride in having put together.

That this would happen now when Western negotiators were attempting to pressure Israel to pipe down about its cynicism about the P5+1 talks is telling. The point of the leaks coming from both Washington and the negotiators is to signal Israel that it and not Iran will be the party that will be isolated in the coming months if it doesn’t stop criticizing the talks. But the fact that Israel’s cynicism is being justified by Iran’s actions may count for nothing if the West simply accepts this Iranian insult and proceeds to Baghdad for more negotiations as if nothing had happened.

Unless the president or Ashton publicly call out the Iranians on this treachery immediately, the ayatollahs will assume they will be able to do as they like no matter what deals they sign in the future. Despite the West’s optimism about a deal and the breakthrough with the IAEA, silence on the matter will be a virtual guarantee that Iran will move ahead toward a weapon regardless of the result of the diplomatic process.

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Iran’s Nuclear Shell Game

Iran took another step toward convincing the West it is showing flexibility about its nuclear program this week by inviting the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency to Tehran. IAEA chief Yukio Amano has been a thorn in the side of the Iranians as his agency has reported clear evidence of their work on military applications of nuclear power and their refusal to allow inspectors access to vital sites. But by signing an agreement with Amano to belatedly allow IAEA personnel entry into their facilities, the Islamist regime is creating the impression that it has turned over a new leaf of cooperation that will make it easier for the West to allow it to keep its nuclear program. Though the talks with the IAEA are separate from the P5+1 negotiations that will soon resume in Baghdad, by seeming to give in to the international community on inspection issues, Iran is hoping to strengthen those in the West who are inclined to ease up on them.

But this move, like other alleged concessions on Iran’s part, must be viewed with extreme suspicion. Like the idea of removing their stockpile of refined uranium to another country, the new inspections cannot conclusively allay our fears about Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Deceptions are possible on both scores, especially as long as Iran’s nuclear infrastructure is left intact. Given the limited and belated nature of these alleged compromises, it is impossible to disregard or discount the very real possibility that the West is once again being played for suckers by Iran.

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Iran took another step toward convincing the West it is showing flexibility about its nuclear program this week by inviting the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency to Tehran. IAEA chief Yukio Amano has been a thorn in the side of the Iranians as his agency has reported clear evidence of their work on military applications of nuclear power and their refusal to allow inspectors access to vital sites. But by signing an agreement with Amano to belatedly allow IAEA personnel entry into their facilities, the Islamist regime is creating the impression that it has turned over a new leaf of cooperation that will make it easier for the West to allow it to keep its nuclear program. Though the talks with the IAEA are separate from the P5+1 negotiations that will soon resume in Baghdad, by seeming to give in to the international community on inspection issues, Iran is hoping to strengthen those in the West who are inclined to ease up on them.

But this move, like other alleged concessions on Iran’s part, must be viewed with extreme suspicion. Like the idea of removing their stockpile of refined uranium to another country, the new inspections cannot conclusively allay our fears about Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Deceptions are possible on both scores, especially as long as Iran’s nuclear infrastructure is left intact. Given the limited and belated nature of these alleged compromises, it is impossible to disregard or discount the very real possibility that the West is once again being played for suckers by Iran.

Getting the nuclear inspectors back into Iran is certainly a good thing and would never have happened without the tough sanctions that have been put in place and the threat of an oil embargo hanging over the ayatollahs. Yet no one should regard the mere presence of IAEA personnel on the ground as a panacea. Inspectors have been in Iran before and proved helpless to stop the growth of the program as nuclear facilities went on line, the centrifuges started spinning to create weapons grade uranium and work on military applications of the technology began. Even after the inspectors return, there is no guarantee the Iranians cannot shift their stockpiles or equipments to places not designated as searchable in their IAEA agreement.

Even more to the point, like the proposed agreements on the uranium and future refining that it appears EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton is willing to allow, Iran’s primary goal is to drag out the diplomatic process. The long, drawn out negotiations not only serve to give the Iranians more time to get closer to their goal of a weapon. They also provide an opportunity to set in place deceptions that will allow them to claim they are complying with the West’s demands while actually flouting them. Given their history of mendacity when it comes to dealing with the West on this issue, the burden of proof should be on those who believe what the Iranians are saying now, not those who believe they are not to be trusted.

It should be remembered that both Iran and some members of the international coalition that President Obama has helped to assemble to stop their nuclear program have some common goals. The West and the Iranians are both desperate to avoid an Israeli attack on Iran that could set off a regional conflict. Even more to the point, both sides in the talks don’t want to see an oil embargo on Iran. An embargo could cripple the Iranian economy, but it would also cause a spike in oil prices that would upset the Europeans as well as harm President Obama’s chances of re-election. An agreement to end the crisis, even if it were one the Iranians could easily bypass in the coming years, would serve the president’s purposes as well as those of his European allies.

The administration’s optimism about the possibility of a deal with Iran can, if not checked by realism about the regime’s intentions, be a self-fulfilling prophecy. The president needs to be reminded that the objective is not so much the achievement of an agreement but the removal of the Iranian nuclear threat. So far there is not much indication that the Western optimists are intent on achieving that goal.

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Live from the State Department, It’s Friday Afternoon Live!

State Department spokesman Robert Wood began this afternoon’s press conference by providing an update on the P-5+1 meeting from earlier in the day in Brussels. He reread the statement that the P-5+1 had issued on September 23 — in which they had anticipated that the October 1 meeting with Iran would provide an opportunity to seek a “comprehensive, long-term, and appropriate” solution (great adjectives). But unfortunately:

Iran has not engaged in an intensified dialogue and, in particular, has refused to have a new meeting before the end of October to discuss nuclear issues. Iran has not responded positively to the IAEA proposed agreement for the provision of nuclear fuel for its Tehran research reactor.

Given the absence of an intensified dialogue, the refusal to hold a new meeting, and the failure to respond to the IAEA proposal, Wood wanted to convey the U.S. position that Iran should . . . “reconsider the opportunity.”

Message: “Give it to us straight, Mahmoud!”

Wood also announced that the U.S. had agreed that the P-5+1 would hold another meeting shortly to decide about the next steps. One of the reporters mistakenly thought this might be a serious moment, that this might finally be it:

QUESTION: But it sounds like this is a very serious moment then, because you were saying one more meeting, that’s it.

MR. WOOD: No, I didn’t say that at all. I didn’t mean to say that that was it. I said at the next meeting we would take a look at – based on Iran’s response, up until that – at that time, or lack thereof, and take a look and see what new measures we may have to take. But I’m not saying that the next meeting is it – that’s it and then we start moving to the pressure track.

QUESTION: Then why stretch it out? I mean, isn’t it quite clear that they’re not going to do this?

MR. WOOD: Look, we are – we have said from the beginning, we’re willing to go the extra mile with regard to diplomacy. The President and the Secretary have been very clear about that. …

At the next meeting, the P-5+1 may decide that the next step is to ask Mahmoud to give it to them straight.

State Department spokesman Robert Wood began this afternoon’s press conference by providing an update on the P-5+1 meeting from earlier in the day in Brussels. He reread the statement that the P-5+1 had issued on September 23 — in which they had anticipated that the October 1 meeting with Iran would provide an opportunity to seek a “comprehensive, long-term, and appropriate” solution (great adjectives). But unfortunately:

Iran has not engaged in an intensified dialogue and, in particular, has refused to have a new meeting before the end of October to discuss nuclear issues. Iran has not responded positively to the IAEA proposed agreement for the provision of nuclear fuel for its Tehran research reactor.

Given the absence of an intensified dialogue, the refusal to hold a new meeting, and the failure to respond to the IAEA proposal, Wood wanted to convey the U.S. position that Iran should . . . “reconsider the opportunity.”

Message: “Give it to us straight, Mahmoud!”

Wood also announced that the U.S. had agreed that the P-5+1 would hold another meeting shortly to decide about the next steps. One of the reporters mistakenly thought this might be a serious moment, that this might finally be it:

QUESTION: But it sounds like this is a very serious moment then, because you were saying one more meeting, that’s it.

MR. WOOD: No, I didn’t say that at all. I didn’t mean to say that that was it. I said at the next meeting we would take a look at – based on Iran’s response, up until that – at that time, or lack thereof, and take a look and see what new measures we may have to take. But I’m not saying that the next meeting is it – that’s it and then we start moving to the pressure track.

QUESTION: Then why stretch it out? I mean, isn’t it quite clear that they’re not going to do this?

MR. WOOD: Look, we are – we have said from the beginning, we’re willing to go the extra mile with regard to diplomacy. The President and the Secretary have been very clear about that. …

At the next meeting, the P-5+1 may decide that the next step is to ask Mahmoud to give it to them straight.

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