Thursday, 19 March 2015

Netanyahu "Mr Security" Strategy helps secure victory

The two-state solution is here already:

News Edited By:           KANWAL ABIDI
                             *Journalist & Political Analyst

*Two thriving states exist in Israel, one alongside the other. The problem is, these are two states for one nation. There is the state of Tel Aviv and its metropolitan areas — Gush Dan and the Sharon region — this is the European state. It is characterized by a very high gross national product, liberal values, diplomatic moderation, pragmatic security viewpoint and very lively social-cultural life. Its capital is Tel Aviv. Next to it is the Judean state, the Middle Eastern state. This state is haunted by archaic fears; it is prickly, isolationist and conservative. It is a state that prefers religious values over democratic ones, a state that is (justly) suspicious of its neighbors. With one hand it grasps a firearm; with the other, a weapon. This Middle Eastern state, whose capital city is Jerusalem, was victorious in Israel's March 17 elections and defeated its European neighbor state.
-----------------------> True, Israel is a member of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development but in reality it has other affiliations. By the way, sometime in the future, history will demonstrate which of these states was more appropriate for the country’s residents. Will the survival instincts of Israel’s residents in the violent Middle East neighborhood emerge as justified over the arrogant cultural bubble created by the residents of Israel’s “Europe”?
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s political exploits in the last four days of his electoral campaign shaped one of the most amazing and successful campaigns in the history of Israeli politics. According to all the polls, at the end of the week he lagged behind the Zionist Campby a steady disparity of four seats. There were days last week when, in internal polls, it seemed Bibi might get even fewer than 20 Knesset seats. The feeling was that Netanyahu was losing his touch. That the Israeli public was tired of him and his spins.
Netanyahu embarked on a massive intimidation campaign, took off his kid gloves, voraciously fell upon the parties to his right — Naftali Bennett's HaBayit HaYehudi, Avigdor Liberman's Yisrael Beitenu and Eli Yishai's Yachad — and ate them for breakfast. On the way, he left scorched earth behind him.
Netanyahu retracted his Bar Ilan speech, in which he accepted the establishment of a Palestinian state — he will soon have to deal with the results of that retraction — and announced that a Palestinian state would not arise. He incited the Arab electorate in Israel, insulted Kulanu Party head Moshe Kahlon, transformed Israel’s political left and center into “destroyers of the nation” and promised the moon to everyone — just to remain in power. Netanyahu is a no-holds-barred politician but an effective one. What wins is his tremendous, unconquerable desire to continue to be premier. Opposite him stood a colorless politician, uncharismatic and lacking claims to any security-defense credentials. A candidate who, we see after the fact, could not have won.
Now the lesson is final: Israelis love to talk about socio-economic issues, but they will vote for the security ticket. It’s a fact.
Two sectors must do some soul-searching. First, the pollsters. We have not seen a setback like this for a long time. Only one pollster, the American Mark Mellman, who works for Yair Lapid and Yesh Atid, foresaw victory for the Likud the entire time. A week before the elections, when all the other pollsters predicted a four-seat lead for Zionist Camp leader Isaac Herzog over Netanyahu, Mellman predicted a four-seat lead for Netanyahu. No one, including the writer of this article, took him seriously. Only one pollster versus all the rest.
An entire industry of polls went bankrupt on March 17. Not only did they mess up throughout the entire campaign, they even failed at the moment of truth, with highly publicized, deluxe television mockups. Channels 10 and 1 declared a tie of 27; Channel 2 determined 27 for Herzog and 28 for Netanyahu. The final results were completely different: a resounding 30 seats for the Likud and 24 for the Zionist Camp (prior to counting the soldiers’ votes).
Netanyahu enlarged his pool of voters by about 60% in three to four days. This points to the survival instincts and the strong life wish of the ideological right-wing electors who told themselves: "Yes, we love Bennett, we cling to Liberman — but if we don’t vote Netanyahu, the left will return to power and it will all be over." So they returned to Netanyahu. Not for love so much as for lack of choice. He knew how to play all the right chords at the right time, and win.
The second sector in need of some soul-searching is the media, including the writer of these lines. We will have to enrich our toolbox; our addiction to polls turned out to be ruinous. Just imagine someone getting into your cell phone and stealing your Waze application, or any other GPS you use. Suddenly you’d have to navigate on your own. To go back to the streets, the alleyways, the strange names, directions, left-right and spatial orientation. The more the polling/sampling industry and the surveys have grown and improved, the more we have gotten rusty and out of practice. Instead of looking for the people, we found the pollsters. So, now it’s over. The TV samples also won’t go back to what they used to be, once upon a time. Now, we will also have to get used to working with our feet again.
There is someone else who has to re-examine himself on the morning of March 18: US President Barack Obama. This morning, a highly placed Israeli personality who is well versed in US-Israel relations over the generations (but understandably asked to remain anonymous) told me: “The American administration is also to blame for Netanyahu’s progression to exaggerated dimensions,” she said.
“President Obama allowed Netanyahu to reach the heart of the administration’s nerve center and stand there, to deliver a speech to both houses of Congress, as if he was the American president and not the head of a tiny country dependent on the US. Next to Netanyahu, Obama suddenly seemed like Isaac Herzog. He publicly hazed the president, and got home safe and sound. The Americans should have made Netanyahu pay a price, but they did not do this. It’s a shame they didn’t look into what happened in 1975, when President Gerald Ford wanted to teach the Israeli government a lesson, announcing a 'reassessment of relations' between the countries.
"It took the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin only a few short months before he gave in. The Israelis are a nation dealing with survival, and the most important thing to them is not to be taken for suckers. They watched their prime minister take the strongest person in the world to task; they also watched as Netanyahu’s patron, right-wing Republican gambling magnate and billionaire Sheldon Adelson, also humiliate the president whenever he wants. They understood that, although Israel’s ambassador to Washington Ron Dermer is persona non grata in the administration, he continues to circulate in the US as much as he wants. They understood that Bibi defeated Obama. This deepens the tragedy with everything regarding the functioning of the American administration in the Middle East arena in general and the Israeli arena in specific, from the first minute.”
What will happen now? The educated guess is that Netanyahu will establish the government he committed himself to, with the right wing and the ultra-Orthodox. Then afterward he will try to attach Herzog or Lapid to it, to provide the fig leaf to help him deal with the many hardships waiting for him in the international arena.
The current kingmaker is Kahlon, the man who came from nowhere and raked in 10 seats. While these very words are being written, political feelers are underway between Kahlon and Liberman (who succeeded in surviving against all odds) to establish a joint political bloc. Together, with 16 seats, they would be able to leverage themselves and hint to Netanyahu that all options are open.
Kahlon wants to be finance minister. Liberman wants to be defense minister. An alliance with Kahlon would give Liberman a one-up over Bennett, who also wants the Defense Ministry portfolio (an article printed recently here in Al-Monitor covered the anticipated scuffle over the security post). When we add to this mix the fact that current Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon really does not want to leave his job, we uncover Netanyahu’s first headache. And we haven’t even talked about what kind of reception Netanyahu’s government will receive if its defense minister is Bennett or even Liberman.
In the center-left arena: deep mourning. Herzog was a colorless candidate, and the addition of Tzipi Livni as co-chair did not help things much. Israel in 2015 is much more right-wing and religious than a decade or two prior. Demography has had a share in this (the natural increase in followers of the National Religious Party and ultra-Orthodox Jews is much higher than that of secular Jews). But the “wonders” of the “new Middle East” and the “Arab Spring,” including the second intifada, also had an effect.
No, the game isn’t over yet. Someday it will be possible to change Israel’s government, but for that the left will have to equip itself with a real “Mr. Security” — a candidate with a strong security background. Only two such persons from the left took over the government in the last 25 years: Yitzhak Rabin and Ehud Barak. Both were former chiefs of staff. In the current era, Netanyahu operates a predatory propagandist political machine that neutralizes any such potential threat. The last was former Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi. Ashkenazi is now waiting for the decision of the legal adviser to the government; the latter is expected to close the case against him. When that happens, Ashkenazi is expected almost overnight to become the Great White Hope of the center-left. Another in a series of hopefuls who usually turn into false hopes on their way up.

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

End of Iran Nuclear Deal

Would 'sunset' of nuclear deal end restrictions on Iran?

How the Nuclear Non - Proliferation Treaty would restrain Iran's actions in several ways after the terms of a prospective nuclear deal expire? Read on the blog.

News Edited By: KANWAL ABIDI 
                            *Political Analyst & Journalist

Fans and foes of the nuclear talks with Iran are offering sharply divergent views of what the not-so-distant future will look like. 
To hear the Obama administration tell it, once Iran submits to rigid restrictions on its nuclear program for a decade or more, the country will still end up confined to a legal straitjacket. 
"Iran is forever forbidden from building a nuclear weapon," Secretary of State John Kerry told lawmakers at a Feb. 25 hearing. "That is the nature of membership in the Non-Proliferation Treaty which they are a member of."
Critics counter that the international nonproliferation architecture looks more like a loose shirt baggy enough to conceal a nuclear warhead.
“This deal has two major concessions: one, leaving Iran with a vast nuclear program and two, lifting the restrictions on that program in about a decade,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Congress last week. “That's why this deal is so bad. It doesn't block Iran's path to the bomb; it paves Iran's path to the bomb.”
To help make sense of the debate, here’s a primer on the requirements — and limitations — of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) that will continue to apply to Iran even after other restrictions "sunset."
What does it mean when the deal sunsets? Does that mean Iran can do what it wants after that?
No. Iran will be bound by the NPT Safeguards Agreement that it signed with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) back in 1974. That agreement requires Iran to agree to intrusive inspections aimed at verifying that Iran isn't diverting nuclear materials from its declared peaceful activities to a possible weapons program.
What if inspectors do find something suspect — what then?
That's what has critics so concerned. 
For the first few years of a deal, sanctions would be gradually lifted but would remain on the books, ready to be reinstated in full if Iran violates its commitments. Once Iran is back to being a member in good standing, however, sanctions would be removed and Iran could go back to building up its nuclear infrastructure — as long as it keeps the IAEA up to date.
"Safeguards are not intended to prevent a state from gaining nuclear weapons; what they’re intended to do is provide timely detection of diversion of a significant quantity of material," William Tobey of Harvard's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs told Al-Monitor. "So basically it’s an alarm bell if somebody tries to get a nuclear weapon, but it isn’t a barrier to it."
What would happen if the IAEA pulls that alarm bell? 
Once the IAEA detects a problem, it may have to visit a site, take and analyze samples, study the results and present its findings to the agency's Board of Governors. That board could then refer the matter to the UN Security Council, which would need to schedule a meeting before voting on any sanctions — which could then be vetoed by countries such as Russia and China.
After Iranian violations were first divulged in 2002, it took four years for the first UN sanctions to hit Tehran. Democrats who are on the fence about the talks and want a vote know that history — and they're worried.
"The question is, is there a timely way to enforce international resolve if Iran starts to deviate from its commitments? That's the issue. So that you can block it effectively on an economic front before they have acquired a nuclear weapon," Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., told Al-Monitor. "There are ways that you can answer this, but to me you've got to have that nailed down in this agreement — you can't rely upon just the previous documents, because just the treaties themselves have not been effective."
What if Iran does have a covert program that it doesn't want the world to know about? 
Good question. The original NPT agreements were "limited to facilities and activities that have been declared by the government." But after revelations in the 1990s that Saddam Hussein had been "clandestinely conducting a nuclear weapons program in parallel with its IAEA-inspected peaceful program," the Additional Protocol was created in 1997 that expanded inspectors' powers. It includes the ability to visit more facilities, conduct short-notice inspections and take environmental samples at declared and undeclared sites.
Think of it this way: While the Safeguards Agreement aims to prevent a "breakout" to the bomb, the Additional Protocol is focused on a "sneak out." 
Iran signed the Additional Protocol in 2003 but stopped adhering to it three years later. It has never ratified it.
Will Iran have to submit to that extra scrutiny?
It sure looks that way.
The Joint Plan of Action (JPA) agreed to in November 2013 requires Iran to: "Fully implement the agreed transparency measures and enhanced monitoring. Ratify and implement the Additional Protocol, consistent with the respective roles of the President and the Majlis (Iranian parliament)."
Some experts, however, point to Iran's failure to abide by such commitments in the past is cause for concern.
"This is an important issue because Iran has, in the past, agreed to implement the Additional Protocol and then revoked that agreement," Tobey said. "This is a provision that, in my view, must be seen to be believed."
It looks like inspectors will be able to probe both declared and undeclared aspects of the nuclear program far into the future. So why are negotiators worried about Iran's past activities? 
A key stumbling block for a deal remains Iran's failure to answer the IAEA's questions about "the possible military dimensions" of its nuclear program. The agency still has 12 questions — 11 of which remain unanswered — about activities that seem to indicate Iran has worked on creating an atom bomb.
The 2013 JPA requires Iran to "fully implement the agreed transparency measures and enhanced monitoring." But negotiators acknowledge that this issue is one of the toughest to resolve. 
"Is it worth blowing up a potential agreement in the name of forcing a confession?” one former US negotiator told The New York Times.
How does this affect future oversight?
Experts like Tobey argue that without a full accounting of past Iranian practices, the IAEA inspectors can't do their jobs. 
“If you don’t get to the bottom of those — if you don’t know who did what, where and when — you don’t have a baseline from which to monitor going forward,” Tobey said. “So the probability that the IAEA would be able to detect undeclared activity goes down.”
What’s the proper time to wait before treating Iran like any other non-nuclear state?
It depends who you ask. 
The Obama administration say it wants to be assured that Iran’s program is “exclusively peaceful” before the current restrictions and sanctions sunset. Recent reporting by the Associated Press and others suggests nuclear restrictions could start to be lifted in about a decade. President Barack Obama himself has talked of a number of years in the "double digits."
Others say a wholesale change of attitude in Tehran is in order first.
"Before lifting those restrictions, the world should demand that Iran do three things," Netanyahu told Congress. "First, stop its aggression against its neighbors in the Middle East. Second, stop supporting terrorism around the world. And third, stop threatening to annihilate my country, Israel."
Isn't there a middle ground — one that's focused solely on the nuclear issue?
Tobey seems to think so.
"What we should be looking for is evidence of an Iranian strategic decision not to pursue nuclear weapons," he told Al-Monitor. "If we were assured that we knew exactly what they had done and that it has stopped, and were in a position to monitor that it was not recurring, that would give me some confidence.”
Some critics make the case that treating Iran like other "normal" actors could unravel the nonproliferation system. What's their argument?
In a word: trust.
If other countries in the region (cough, Saudi Arabia) see Iran start to ramp up its nuclear production, even if it's all above board, they may feel compelled to follow suit. Under the NPT, Iran could theoretically once again enrich uranium so that it gets within a couple months of being able to break out to a bomb, and its rivals may well decide that they can't afford to risk being left behind in the race to a bomb.
"The NPT is really a collection of different bargains, and one of the bargains is among non-nuclear weapons states that it would provide some transparency — some assurance — that one’s neighbors aren’t pursuing a nuclear weapon. So that means you don’t have to ramp up your program,” Tobey said.
 “It may be that some countries in the region say, 'OK, if in 10  years Iran can be two months away from a nuclear weapon, I’m going to put myself in the same position.' So then you’ve got the equivalent of a bunch of cowboys walking down the street with their hands poised just above their pistol ready to draw".

..................................the end...................... 

Editor's Note: KANWAL ABIDI

Whatever the end, the conclusion of the world will be "Nuclear Begets Doomsday"

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Pakistan & India Foreign Secretarys' Meeting

Office of the Spokesperson
Press Release

*Journalist & Political Analyst

Statement of the Foreign Secretary to Media after FS-Level meeting between Pakistan and India

Pursuant to the telephone call by Prime Minister Modi to the Prime Minister on 13thFebruary 2015, the Foreign Secretary of India, Mr. S. Jaishankar, is on a visit to Islamabad today.

2.       I held detailed discussions with Mr. Jaishankar today in a cordial and constructive atmosphere.

3.       Our side was guided by the vision of the Prime Minister of Pakistan which envisages a peaceful and stable South Asia. Both sides recognized that the two countries need to work together to address mutual concerns and make efforts to promote peace and development.

4.       My discussion with the Indian Foreign Secretary covered bilateral and regional issues of mutual concern and common interest, including the Jammu & Kashmir dispute. I told my Indian counterpart that the leadership and people of Pakistan were deeply attached to the cause of Jammu & Kashmir and we need to make a concerted effort to resolve this dispute and indeed other disputes like Siachen, Sir Creek and water issues that could also be addressed through dialogue.

5.       I underlined that we needed to work together in areas of convergences and address each other’s concerns in areas of divergences. The importance of maintaining dialogue was also stressed.

6.       The issue of the situation at the Line of Control and Working Boundary was also raised. I underscored Pakistan’s firm commitment to the 2003 ceasefire, and the need to make optimal use of existing mechanisms to maintain ceasefire.

7.       I underlined that the global phenomenon of terrorism poses a continuing threat to peace and security. I reaffirmed Pakistan’s strong commitment to eradicate the menace. I underlined that Pakistan was desirous of cooperation from its neighbours, in particular. Indian side raised its concerns. We also raised the issue of Samjhota Express terrorist attack and Indian involvement in FATA and Balochistan.

8.       On bilateral trade and economic relations, I affirmed Pakistan’s commitment to enhancing mutually beneficial trade and economic relations. 

9.       I also underlined the importance of greater people to people contacts and friendly exchanges in building a relationship of trust and friendship between the two countries. In this regard, I suggested that the two sides should encourage increased people to people exchanges; promote cooperation in various fields including religious tourism; and discourage hostile propaganda against each other.

10.     I also emphasized the need to promote media and sports contacts.

11.     I conveyed to the Indian Foreign Secretary that Pakistan attached high importance to SAARC, which is an important vehicle for promoting regional cooperation. Both of us agreed on the need to work together to develop the potential of regional cooperation.

12.     Discussing the next SAARC Summit, I mentioned to Foreign Secretary Jaishankar that Pakistan is preparing to host the 19th SAARC Summit and was looking forward to welcoming the SAARC Leaders.

13.     Overall, the visit provided an opportunity to discuss bilateral relations and to understand each other’s concerns and interests. It was agreed to work together to find common ground and narrow differences. 

14.     The Foreign Secretary of India called on the Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs, Syed Tariq Fatemi, and Adviser to the Prime Minister on National Security and Foreign Affairs, Mr. Sartaj Aziz.

15.     Later, the Foreign Secretary of India also paid a courtesy call on the Prime Minister.

March 3, 2015