Saturday, August 22, 2015

Not Every California Democrat Backs Peace-- Brad Sherman And Juan Vargas Back The GOP's War Plans Against Iran


The war party-- Cheney and Lieberman (again)

Democratic Members of Congress are under tremendous pressure from AIPAC to vote against the Iran deal. Here in California, both the state's senators, the liberal Barbara Boxer and the more conservative Dianne Feinstein, have already announced in favor of the deal. And so has Nancy Pelosi. So far only two California Democrats have come out in opposition: AIPAC shill Brad Sherman, who represents much of L.A.'s San Fernando Valley (Studio City, Toluca Lake, Sherman Oaks, Reseda, Canoga Park, Woodland Hills, Northridge, Granada Hills, Chatsworth), and conservaDem Juan Vargas, who represents Imperial County, southeast San Diego, Chula Vista and the entire California border with Mexico right to the outskirts of Yuma, Arizona. Orange County Blue Dog Loretta Sanchez, who's running for the open U.S. Senate seat, is leaning against the deal.

The California Democrats who have already announced they are backing the deal:
Lois Capps
Anna Eshoo
Sam Farr
John Garamendi
Mike Honda
Barbara Lee
Doris Matsui
Jerry McNerney
Nancy Pelosi
Adam Schiff
Jackie Speier
Eric Swalwell
Mark Takano
Mike Thompson
Maxine Waters
Three others are leaning towards voting for it: Karen Bass, Alan Lowenthal and Mark DeSaulnier. And then there are the Members still struggling with making up their minds:
Pete Aguilar
Xavier Beccera
Ami Bera
Julia Brownley
Tony Cárdenas
Jim Costa
Judy Chu
Susan Davis
Janice Hahn
Jared Huffman
Ted Lieu
Zoe Lofgren
Grace Napolitano
Scott Peters
Lucille Roybal-Allard
Paul Ruiz
Linda Sánchez
Norma Torres
New Dem Adam Schiff, who backed Bush's catastrophic invasion of Iraq, represents the district I live in. He's Jewish, he's closely aligned with the Democratic Party's Sheldon Adelson, Israeli-American billionaire Haim Saban, and he's the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee. Many people were surprised when he announced he would back the Iran deal.
In an interview, Schiff said that "at the end of the day, I could not see an alternative" to a deal that curbs Iran's nuclear program in exchange for easing sanctions.

Schiff said he decided to support the agreement after long deliberation as "an American and as a Jew who is deeply concerned about the security of Israel."

Schiff's announcement is "a significant development...given his position on the intelligence committee, and his ties to the pro-Israel community," said Dylan Williams, head of government relations for J Street, a liberal pro-Israel group.

...Schiff said rejection of the deal by Congress would be a major setback to international efforts to constrain Iran's nuclear threat.

International sanctions almost certainly would weaken as some major countries restore business and trade ties to Iran. Iran would gain an economic boost and would have free reign to resume enrichment and other nuclear activities, he said.

Iran would go "much faster and further" with its program "and then you're in a precarious place whether either Iran crosses a red line or it doesn't...and the opportunities for miscalculation there are significant."
Across the country in New York, Jerry Nadler is admired for more intellectual heft than your garden-variety congressmember. He is also Jewish and represents a pretty Jewish district that spans the West Side of Manhattan from Morningside Heights through the Village and Soho to the Financial District and into Brooklyn to Borough Park, Bensonhurst and Midwood. His statement on why he decided to back the Iran deal is something that anyone still on the fence should read carefully. Some highlights:
I believe there is one overriding objective against which we must judge the P5+1 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA): preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear bomb.

Although we know that Iran will remain a major menace to the region and the world, even without nuclear weapons, a nuclear armed Iran would represent an unacceptable threat to the United States, to Israel, and to global security. With respect to this objective, the interests of the United States and of Israel are identical, even as there are different views on how to achieve it.

I bring to my analysis the full weight of my responsibilities as a member of Congress, and my perspective as an American Jew who is both a Democrat and a strong supporter of Israel. I have sought to ignore the political pressures, as well as the demagoguery and hateful rhetoric on both sides that I think has been harmful to the overall political discourse.

After carefully studying the agreement and the arguments and analyses from all sides, I have concluded that, of all the alternatives, approval of the JCPOA, for all its flaws, gives us the best chance of stopping Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. Accordingly, I will support the agreement and vote against a Resolution of Disapproval.

I am satisfied that the JCPOA components, including its inspections and verification provisions, are sufficient and are not based on trusting Iranian compliance. While I am concerned that many of the key elements expire in the 10–15 year timeframe, our debate must center on whether the deal is preferable to the available alternatives. The only decision that matters at this moment is whether to support or reject the agreement that is on the table now, not on whether we could or should have gotten a better deal. It has been my duty, therefore, to consider the consequences of supporting or rejecting the JCPOA, and having decided that, to continue to pursue ways to further guarantee the security of the United States and our allies.

...The JCPOA shuts off both the plutonium and uranium pathways to a nuclear bomb. By reconfiguring the Arak reactor so it can produce only minute amounts of plutonium, requiring that all spent fuel rods be shipped out of the country, prohibiting the construction of a reprocessing plant to extract plutonium from the spent fuel rods, and banning the construction of any other reactors that can produce significant amounts of plutonium, the agreement blocks all routes to a plutonium weapon. The agreement blocks the uranium pathway by requiring that the bulk of Iran’s stockpiles of low-enriched uranium be shipped out of the country, reducing it by 98 percent-- from 12,000kg to 300kg. Iran’s future enrichment of uranium will be limited to 3.67 percent, far below the 90 percent necessary for weapons-grade material, and they will be not be permitted to exceed 300kg-- far less than is needed for one nuclear bomb--  for 15 years. To further guarantee this, Iran will be required to disconnect 14,000 of their 19,000 centrifuges and store them, subject to constant observation and verification, to be used solely for spare parts.

All of their nuclear facilities-- reactors, enrichment plants, centrifuges, storage sites, etc.-- as well as the entire nuclear supply chain, will be under 24/7 human, photographic, and electronic surveillance for 25 years. This will give the United States and our partners more access, more intelligence, more time, and more options to respond appropriately should there be any suspicion of Iran’s violation of the agreement.

International sanctions will be suspended only after Iran’s compliance with these required steps, a process that is likely to take 6–9 months. If Iran violates the terms of the deal, sanctions can be re-imposed at any time by the United States, through our veto of the continued suspension of sanctions. This so-called “snap-back” mechanism will enable the U.S. to compel sanctions unilaterally, even without the agreement of any other country.

If Iran fulfills its obligations, and sanctions are suspended, about $56 billion of Iranian funds, which are currently blocked in foreign banks, will be released to them. If Iran remains in compliance, the international weapons ban against Iran will be lifted in 5 years and the ballistic missile ban in 8 years. These provisions are the focus of many of the objections to the JCPOA. However, for reasons I will discuss, I do not believe they provide sufficient cause to reject the agreement... The key is to stop a nuclear Iran.

In order to fairly evaluate the deal, there are a number of key criticisms that must be addressed:

1. We shouldn’t lift sanctions because that would provide a multi-billion dollar windfall to Iran, much of which would be used to support terrorism and continue illicit conduct. Nor can we allow the lifting of critical bans on conventional and ballistic weapons sales to such a dangerous regime.

Saying we should never lift sanctions is saying that we should never negotiate-- that any deal, whatever its terms, is unacceptable. Multilateral sanctions were imposed, with international cooperation, to force the Iranians to the negotiation table to reach a deal that would prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. The P5+1 countries and Iran have now successfully concluded such an agreement, and Congress can either support or reject the agreement. The lifting of the sanctions was always expected if we reached a deal. If we rule out the lifting of sanctions in exchange for any deal to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear bomb, there can be no conceivable incentive for Iran to agree to anything--  no quid for the quo--  and the only option left would be military action.

In addition, the Iranians will almost certainly get this money whether Congress approves the JCPOA or not. These funds are held in foreign banks-- mostly in China, India, South Korea, Japan, and Hong Kong. If the Iranians fulfill their obligations over the next 6–9 months, these countries, which are eager to do business with Iran again, will almost undoubtedly lift their sanctions in accordance with the terms of the deal, and the Iranians will get their money, regardless of Congressional support or rejection of the JCPOA. Congress can only reject the lifting of American, not foreign, sanctions.

Because of the multilateral sanctions, the Iranian economy has declined by more than 20 percent. The bulk of the money from this sanctions relief will have to be used to improve their suffering economy, lest there be popular unrest that might threaten the regime. Nonetheless, it is reasonable to assume that some percentage of the money might be used for illicit purposes.

Similarly, we know that the lifting of the conventional weapons and ballistic missile embargos will add additional resources to an already dangerous regime.

It is clear that these are dangerous consequences. The United States will have to provide additional military and other aid to Israel and our other allies in the region. It should also be noted that the embargos on conventional weapons and ballistic missiles were established along with the nuclear sanctions. The Chinese and Russians, along with Iran, argued that, as part of the nuclear sanctions, the embargoes should be lifted after the Iranians fulfill their initial obligations in 6–9 months. This was a hotly contested issue in the negotiations, and a surprising issue for those not involved in the talks when it emerged in the final JCPOA. American negotiators, however, managed to delay the lifting of these bans to 5 and 8 years, respectively. Given the imperative of preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon--  an existential threat that would make Iran’s conventional threats fundamentally more dangerous and difficult to counter--  such sanctions relief, while a heavy cost, must be considered part of what is necessary to prevent an Iranian nuclear bomb.

2. We should not trust the Iranians. They will attempt to covertly develop a nuclear bomb.

This agreement is not built on trust. It is built on inspections and monitoring to verify compliance, and to detect any violations or cheating. While criticisms have been made of the monitoring and inspection provisions, they are more thorough and intrusive than in any previous agreement. More importantly, they are strong enough to guarantee that Iran will not be able to illicitly produce any fissionable material-- either through uranium enrichment or plutonium production-- without our knowing about it.

In addition to the 24/7 monitoring of the full nuclear supply chain, the JCPOA has two categories of inspection: declared sites and undeclared sites. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will have full and complete access to all declared sites-- round-the-clock human, photographic, and electronic surveillance. Inspectors will know immediately of any violations.

The agreement also provides access to any undeclared site. If the IAEA suspects that illicit activity is taking place at an undeclared site, it can demand access to that site with as little as 24-hour notice. The Iranians, under certain circumstances, can delay the inspection for up to 24 days. But if uranium enrichment were taking place at that site, and the Iranians somehow managed to remove thousands of centrifuges, miles of piping, and all of the necessary uranium handling equipment within 24 days, without being observed, there would still be, for years, un-removable trace elements and other radioactive isotopes that would expose the covert enrichment. It is almost inconceivable that the Iranians could divert thousands of kilograms of uranium and thousands of centrifuges from the supply chain unobserved, could construct a massive secret enrichment facility unobserved, could bring in the uranium and centrifuges on fleets of trucks or barges unobserved, could supply massive amounts of electricity through secret power transmission lines, and could then dismantle that plant and the transmission lines and remove all traces within 24 days, all unobserved. It is also inconceivable that the Iranians could operate a totally secret supply chain without our noticing the secret mines and mills. I am convinced, therefore, that it would be almost impossible for the Iranians to cheat on uranium enrichment.

They could not cheat on production of plutonium because this can only be accomplished in a nuclear reactor. Nuclear reactors are declared sites subject to constant inspection. Any attempt to use a potential secret reactor would be exposed because of the necessary diversion of uranium fuel for the reactor from the fully monitored supply chain.

There are certain violations, however, such as computer modeling of bomb design or other weaponization research, that would be less easily detectable. The JCPOA is not foolproof in this regard, nor could any agreement be. But as long as the limits on production of fissionable materials-- enriched uranium or plutonium-- are rigorously enforced and monitored, other violations cannot lead to development of a nuclear bomb.

Having spoken with experts and officials at the highest levels, I am convinced that the deal will stop Iran’s nuclear development from approaching weapons-grade levels for at least 15 years. Any violation will be quickly uncovered because the inspection and verification elements of the agreement are exhaustive, and, while not perfect, effective.

3. While the JCPOA may do an effective job at delaying Iran from developing a nuclear bomb for 15 years, it “paves the way” for an Iranian bomb afterwards.

The agreement certainly does not “pave the way” for an Iranian bomb. But there is cause for concern starting in the 10–15 year period. While under the terms of the deal, Iran is prohibited from ever developing a nuclear bomb and any actions clearly for that purpose would constitute a violation of the agreement, the provisions designed to enforce this will begin to be cut back after 10 years. Iran would then be permitted to install more advanced centrifuges, and the breakout timeline would begin to shrink. After 15 years, the limit of 300kg of 3.67 percent low-enriched uranium will sunset. Iran will be permitted higher levels of enrichment and greater quantities of enriched uranium overall, provided they submit an annually updated plan to the IAEA which justifies these levels and amounts for peaceful, civilian use. Legitimate civilian purposes-- such as generating electricity-- require no more than 5 percent enrichment, while a bomb requires 90 percent. If Iran began to produce higher grade uranium or greater quantities than necessary for civilian use, the inspectors would know it instantly.

The problem is that, in 15 years, the Iranians may be legally permitted to deploy so many advanced centrifuges--  for “peaceful” purposes-- that, if they then decide to develop a bomb, they could enrich sufficient uranium quickly. However, to switch from producing 5 percent uranium to 90 percent, they would first have to reconfigure the centrifuge cascades-- a process that requires time to implement. We would, fortunately, observe this conversion process instantly. So, in 15 years, if Iran begins to aggressively pursue the necessary nuclear material for a bomb, the breakout timeline, after being extended to over a year by the JCPOA, would shrink back down to 2–3 months.

The only practical way, in such a short timeframe, to prevent them from developing a bomb at that point would be military action.

Critics are right in their concern about a short breakout timeline and the limited options available. This appropriately makes many people, including me, uneasy. It is why I have struggled with this decision, why I have pressed the Administration and security experts with my concerns, and why many of my colleagues are unable to bring themselves to support the JCPOA. However, the very same concern exists today, in the absence of a deal.

After examining the provisions and the shortcomings, we must decide if, on balance, the JCPOA gives us better odds of averting an Iranian nuclear bomb than any other available option.

If the agreement is adopted, it will reliably prevent development of an Iranian nuclear bomb for at least 10–15 years. Even after 15 years, the options available to a future President to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear bomb would be, at worst, no different or more restrictive than the options available now. This conclusion follows from a sober assessment of the alternatives being suggested and the likely consequences of a rejection of the JCPOA.

...The alternative being suggested by many, however, posits that the United States, after rejecting the agreement, can, through our banking system, coerce the rest of the world into unwillingly boycotting Iranian banks. This scenario envisions use of such “secondary sanctions” to force the Iranians back to the negotiating table, where we would get a better deal. In other words, we would take on essentially the rest of the world, including all our closest economic and diplomatic allies, and, by threatening to cut off their access to the American economy through our banks, would coerce them into re-imposing sanctions when they believe the United States, not the Iranians, caused the problem by rejecting the JCPOA.

When anyone says we can get a “better deal,” this is the alternative to which they are referring.

There are several problems with this scenario: First, it is far-fetched, unlikely to work, and would create an economic disaster. The countries we would have to coerce are among the biggest economies in the world. As Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said in a recent piece; “If we were to cut them off from the American dollar and our financial system, we would set off extensive financial hemorrhaging, not just in our partner countries but in the United States as well.”

As Secretary Lew pointed out, 40 percent of our exports go to these countries, and those exports could not survive a cut-off of U.S. connections to their banking systems. Our trading partners know that we are not going to shut down our exports--  with all the job loss and economic havoc that would entail here at home--  nor are we going to cut off countries that hold 47 percent of foreign-held American treasuries.

I agree with this analysis that such a threat is too risky and not credible.

Second, the Administration has stated loudly and clearly that it believes cutting off banking relations in this fashion would create an economic disaster. Because of this belief, the Administration would not do it-- they will neither threaten nor carry out such an action, and this alone removes this alternative from consideration, at least for the next 18 months.

And I do not believe that any new Administration, no matter what candidates may say in an election campaign, would really run the huge risk of causing a domestic and global economic collapse.

In summary: U.S. rejection of the JCPOA would almost certainly result in a far greater likelihood of Iran developing a nuclear bomb in relatively short order. This would leave us with only the terrible choice between military action-- which would still only temporarily delay Iran’s nuclear weapons program-- and accepting a nuclear-armed Iran. Accepting the JCPOA is clearly preferable to accepting the consequences of its rejection. This is a conclusion I have not reached alone--  the overwhelming majority of military, security, intelligence and nuclear proliferation experts agree that the Iran deal is the best course available for achieving our objective. The JCPOA prevents an Iranian nuclear bomb for at least for 15 years, and perhaps indefinitely. This is clearly in the interests of the United States, Israel, and our other Middle East allies. The alternatives are either totally unrealistic or leave us with a likelihood of an Iranian nuclear bomb well before 15 years.
Thursday the San Francisco Chronicle reminded its readers that "Nancy Pelosi couldn’t stop the war in Iraq, but she’s determined to stop one with Iran." And she expects she has enough Democrats-- she needs 144-- to make sure the GOP and their Democratic warmonger allies cannot override President Obama's veto.

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