January 24, 2021 / by 

 

Child Rapist George Nader Introduced Dick Cheney and Ahmad Chalabi

Last night, BuzzFeed released the second-to-last dump of 302s in their Mueller FOIA. There’s a ton that’s interesting in it (and I’m just skimming much of it). But — as I said to Jason Leopold — this George Nader interview, by itself, made the FOIA dump worth the price of admission.

There’s a ton of details about how he brokered meetings between Erik Prince and Kirill Dmitriev and lots of significantly redacted discussions of meetings with Don Jr. There’s great theater where, several times, Nader denied something, including meeting “any” Russian government officials at a trip to the St. Petersburg Economic Forum in June 2016, only to have Mueller’s team show him a picture (in the case of Putin) or a text (in the case of his denials that he had met Steve Bannon) that forced him to immediately backtrack off his claims. Nader describes how he — a convicted pedophile during this entire period — could get along with all sides: Clinton and Trump, Iran and Saudi Arabia. Everyone’s favorite child rapist.

But by far the craziest part of this amazing interview — the thing that has my brain reeling this afternoon — has nothing to do with Russia.

In describing his background, you see, Nader claimed that he’s the one who introduced Ahmad Chalabi to Dick Cheney.

For those who don’t remember, Chalabi had a significant role in drumming up the Iraq War (here’s what I wrote after he died in 2015, and here’s a piece I wrote about him 10 years earlier, in advance of my book on such things). So by introducing Chalabi to Cheney, Nader played some role — how big, it’s unclear — in perhaps the single greatest American foreign policy debacle of all time.

And now he’s rotting away in prison for trafficking a boy.


The StuxNet Team Reunion

On Thursday, DOJ had a big dog and pony show over the indictment of 7 Iranians in connection with cyberattacks on US banks and a small dam in suburban NY.

A grand jury in the Southern District of New York indicted seven Iranian individuals who were employed by two Iran-based computer companies, ITSecTeam (ITSEC) and Mersad Company (MERSAD), that performed work on behalf of the Iranian Government, including the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, on computer hacking charges related to their involvement in an extensive campaign of over 176 days of distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks.

Ahmad Fathi, 37; Hamid Firoozi, 34; Amin Shokohi, 25; Sadegh Ahmadzadegan, aka Nitr0jen26, 23; Omid Ghaffarinia, aka PLuS, 25; Sina Keissar, 25; and Nader Saedi, aka Turk Server, 26, launched DDoS attacks against 46 victims, primarily in the U.S financial sector, between late 2011 and mid-2013.  The attacks disabled victim bank websites, prevented customers from accessing their accounts online and collectively cost the victims tens of millions of dollars in remediation costs as they worked to neutralize and mitigate the attacks on their servers.  In addition, Firoozi is charged with obtaining unauthorized access into the Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems of the Bowman Dam, located in Rye, New York, in August and September of 2013.

I agree with Jack Goldsmith about this: It’s pretty comical that the country that disrupted major installments in Iran is now indicting Iranians for DDOS attacks on instruments of power that the US used to attack Iran, the nation’s banks. It invites a similarly theatrical indictment of Keith Alexander.

The U.S. indictment is not premised on an international law violation. It is based on violation of U.S. law for harm the Iranians caused inside the United States. The Iranians could invoke precisely the same principle: An Iran indictment for the U.S. cyberattacks would be based on a violation of Iranian domestic law for harm caused in Iran by U.S. officers. In short, the cyberattacks from each nation violated the criminal laws of the other nation.

The United States is likely less concerned with charges of hypocrisy than with deterring attacks on its financial infrastructure. Attorney General Lynch said yesterday that the indictment sends “a powerful message: that we will not allow any individual, group, or nation to sabotage American financial institutions or undermine the integrity of fair competition in the operation of the free market.” FBI Director James B. Comey added: “By calling out the individuals and nations who use cyber-attacks to threaten American enterprise, as we have done in this indictment, we will change behavior.”

But will the indictments change behavior? The Iranians will almost certainly never appear in the United States and thus never go to trial. John Carlin, the Justice Department’s top national security lawyer, argued late last year that indictments for cybercrimes can contribute to deterrence even if the defendants are never prosecuted because they expose the responsible actors and demonstrate more broadly that the United States has powerful tools to discover and identify those behind cyberattacks. “The world is small, and our memories are long,” Director Comey said yesterday, explaining the government’s deterrence logic. “People often like to travel for vacation or education, and we want them looking over their shoulder.”

It is hard to assess whether the deterrence effect of the indictments will be large enough to stop further attacks on financial infrastructure or so small that they invite more attacks. Moreover, any deterrence achieved by the indictments comes at the cost of exposing U.S. intelligence capabilities and inviting similarly theatric retaliatory indictments.

The timing of this particular theatrical indictment is all the more interesting given that — as Josh Gerstein points out — the actual indictment was handed up in January, just after the nuclear deal and prisoner swap with Iran was finalized.

The indictment, handed up by a grand jury in Manhattan on Jan. 21 and unsealed Thursday, charges seven Iranian nationals with launching a cyber assault that impaired the computer systems of major U.S. financial institutions in 2012. One of the defendants is also charged with attempting to take over the controls of a dam in Rye, N.Y.

On the weekend of Jan. 16, the U.S. and Iran implemented the intensely negotiated nuclear deal and carried out a prisoner swap. Under the pact, at least four Americans were released from Iranian prisons, including Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian. President Barack Obama signed pardons or commutations for seven Iranian nationals who were the subject of U.S. criminal cases alleging export violations. Cases were dropped against 14 other Iranians U.S. officials said were unlikely ever to be brought to justice in American courts.

All the more so given this news: last week (apparently after Thursday), Admiral Mike Rogers had a “secret” meeting with Israel’s Intelligence Corps Unit 8200, the unit CyberCom partnered with on the StuxNet attack.

The senior Israeli official noted that one of the subjects that Rogers discussed in Israel was cooperation in the field of cyber defense, particularly in the face of attacks from Iran and Hezbollah. A few days before Rogers’ arrival in Israel, the U.S. Justice Department filed indictments for the first time against a group of Iranian hackers on charges of carrying out cyber attacks on banks and essential infrastructure in the U.S. three years ago at the behest of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. Israel has also faced cyber attacks from Iran and Hezbollah, which according to senior IDF officers were prominent during the fighting with Hamas and its allies in Gaza in the summer of 2014, but have risen in intensity in recent months.

It seems, then, unsealing the indictment is not so much about deterrence, as it is a show (though I’m unclear on the audience — the international public? or the Israelis themselves?) as Israel and the US prepare to ratchet up the cyberwar against Iran.

Reminder: We shut down some functionality in an attempt to isolate the issues that crashed the site last Thursday. We’re getting closer but still have comments shut down. Bear with us! 


The Latest 60 Minutes Propaganda: We Need a Crypto Back Door because ISIS Is “Coming Here” with WMD

It has been clear for several years now that 60 Minutes has become a propaganda vehicle for the intelligence community (postpost, post). So it was unsurprising that John Brennan was given an opportunity to fearmonger last night without pesky people like Ron Wyden around pointing out that CIA itself poses a threat, even according to the terms laid out by the Intelligence Community.

I find the timing and content of John Brennan’s appearance of note.

The first segment (indeed the first words!) of the appearance did two things: first conflate ISIS-inspired attacks with ISIS-directed ones to suggest the terrorist organization might strike in the US.

Scott Pelley: Is ISIS coming here?

John Brennan: I think ISIL does want to eventually find it’s, it’s mark here.

Scott Pelley: You’re expecting an attack in the United States?

John Brennan: I’m expecting them to try to put in place the operatives, the material or whatever else that they need to do or to incite people to carry out these attacks, clearly. So I believe that their attempts are inevitable. I don’t think their successes necessarily are.

Here’s how the global threat testimony from last week, which really serves as temporal justification for Brennan’s appearance, carried out a similar though more nuanced conflation of ISIS’ aspirations with the aspirational plots here in the US.

The United States will almost certainly remain at least a rhetorically important enemy for most violent extremists in part due to past and ongoing US military, political, and economic engagement overseas. Sunni violent extremists will probably continually plot against US interests overseas. A smaller number will attempt to overcome the logistical challenges associated with conducting attacks on the US homeland. The July 2015 attack against military facilities in Chattanooga and December 2015 attack in San Bernardino demonstrate the threat that homegrown violent extremists (HVEs) also pose to the homeland. In2014, the FBI arrested approximately one dozen US-based ISIL supporters, in 2015, that number increased to approximately five dozen arrests. These individuals were arrested for a variety of reasons, predominantly for attempting to provide material support to ISIL.

Both Brennan and the threat testimony slide carefully from ISIS overcoming the logistical problems to attack themselves with attacking here to the ISIS-inspired far smaller attacks.

After having suggested ISIS wants to attack the US, Pelley then led Brennan to overstate the degree to which the Paris attackers hid behind encryption.

Scott Pelley: What did you learn from Paris?

John Brennan: That there is a lot that ISIL probably has underway that we don’t have obviously full insight into. We knew the system was blinking red. We knew just in the days before that ISIL was trying to carry out something. But the individuals involved have been able to take advantage of the newly available means of communication that are–that are walled off, from law enforcement officials.

Scott Pelley: You’re talking about encrypted Internet communications.

John Brennan: Yeah, I’m talking about the very sophisticated use of these technologies and communication systems.

From all the reports thus far, ISIS achieved what little obscurity they had primarily through burner devices, not through encryption (not to mention the fact that French authorities got an encryption key from someone who had decided against carrying out an ISIS attack the summer before this attack). And while Jim Comey revealed that FBI had not yet cracked one of several phones used by the San Bernardino attackers (who were not directed by ISIS and may have only invoked it for their own obscurantist purposes), the threat testimony pointed to social media as as big a concern as encryption (most of what ISIS uses is fairly weak).

Terrorists will almost certainly continue to benefit in 2016 from a new generation of recruits proficient in information technology, social media, and online research. Some terrorists will look to use these technologies to increase the speed of their communications, the availability of their propaganda, and ability to collaborate with new partners. They will easily take advantage of widely available, free encryption technology, mobile-messaging applications, the dark web, and virtual environments to pursue their objectives.

Finally — still in the first segment!!! — Pelley invites Brennan to suggest that limited reports that ISIS has used chemical weapons in Syria mean they might use them here.

Scott Pelley: Does ISIS have chemical weapons?

John Brennan: We have a number of instances where ISIL has used chemical munitions on the battlefield.

Scott Pelley: Artillery shells.

John Brennan: Sure. Yeah.

Scott Pelley: ISIS has access to chemical artillery shells?

John Brennan: Uh-huh (affirm). There are reports that ISIS has access to chemical precursors and munitions that they can use.

The CIA believes that ISIS has the ability to manufacture small quantities of chlorine and mustard gas.

Scott Pelley: And the capability of exporting those chemicals to the West?

John Brennan: I think there’s always the potential for that. This is why it’s so important to cut off the various transportation routes and smuggling routes that they have used.

Compare Brennan’s suggestion that ISIS may be manufacturing CW with the threat testimony note that two people have been exposed to mustard gas, though with far more widespread allegations of such use.

We assess that non state actors in the region are also using chemicals as a means of warfare. The OPCW investigation into an alleged ISIL attack in Syria in August led it to conclude that at least two people were exposed to sulfur mustard. We continue to track numerous allegations ofISIL’s use of chemicals in attacks in Iraq and Syria, suggesting that attacks might be widespread.

Now, I’ll grant you that Brennan much more carefully dodges here than Dick Cheney ever used to. But it’s pure fear-mongering — especially in the wake of the Oregon standoff that makes it clear domestic extremists are not only every bit as motivated as ISIS wannabes, but better trained and equipped. And fear-mongering using Dick Cheney’s favorite techniques (albeit with the added kicker of crypto fear-mongering).

And it all happened as Brennan’s buddies the Saudis are pretending to (finally) join the fight against ISIS in what is a fairly transparent attempt to prevent Russian-backed Syrian forces from gaining a crucial advantage in Syria. That is, this fairly crass fear-monger is likely directed at Assad as much as it is ISIS.


Implementation Day Fallout: Neocons Have Nuclear Meltdown Over Prisoner Exchange

The main editorial in today’s New York Times puts into proper prospective the momentous events of this past weekend. The declaration of Implementation Day for the deal negotiated over the past two years between the P5+1 group of nations and Iran merits the title of the editorial: “A Safer World, Thanks to the Iran Deal“. Just consider the import of what has been accomplished through this incredible feat of diplomacy:

This is a moment many thought would never come: Iran has delivered on its commitment under a 2015 agreement with the United States and other major powers to curb or eliminate the most dangerous elements of its nuclear program. The world is now safer for this.

The International Atomic Energy Agency verified on Saturday that Iran has shipped over 8.5 tons of enriched uranium to Russia so Iran can’t use that in bomb-making, disabled more than 12,000 centrifuges and poured concrete into the core of a reactor at Arak designed to produce plutonium.

On Sunday, President Obama hailed these steps as having “cut off every single path Iran could have used to build a bomb” and noted that engagement with Iran has created a “window to try to resolve important issues.” Most important of all, he said, “We’ve achieved this historic progress through diplomacy, without resorting to another war in the Middle East.”

Yet, as long-time commenter lefty665 pointed out this morning, in response to Implementation Day and the exchange of prisoners between the US and Iran, most of the chatter in the press (and especially its dominant conservative voices) dealt with the prisoner exchange:

Can you believe that most of the chatter has been about prisoner exchange and not the actualization of the nuclear deal and dropping of sanctions on Iran? Suppose they just happened in conjunction during a weekend news vacuum? Or was it a conscious, “Here, watch this hand” to distract attention. Either way we sure got a boatload of plain old American bozos baying at the moon as usual.

Perhaps peak “American bozos baying at the moon” over the prisoner exchange came in this editorial from the Wall Street Journal:

Now we know that Washington Post correspondent Jason Rezaian and three other Americans were hostages held by Iran in return for U.S. concessions, in case there was any doubt. And on Saturday we learned the ransom price: $100 billion as part of the completed nuclear deal and a prisoner swap of Iranians who violated U.S. laws. Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps should call this Operation Clean Sweep.

The timing of Iran’s Saturday release of the Americans is no accident. This was also implementation day for the nuclear deal, when United Nations sanctions on Tehran were lifted, which means that more than $100 billion in frozen assets will soon flow to Iran and the regime will get a lift from new investment and oil sales. The mullahs were taking no chances and held the hostages until President Obama’s diplomatic checks cleared.

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All of this shows that the nuclear accord is already playing out as critics predicted. The West will tread gingerly in challenging Iran’s nonnuclear military and regional ambitions lest it renege on its nuclear promises. Iran has again shown the world that taking American hostages while Barack Obama is President can yield a diplomatic and military windfall.

Ah, but the Wall Street Journal is far from alone. Consider this fine baying at the moon from Senator Tom Cotton:

But in our elation over their safe return we must be careful not to forget the dangerous circumstances of their release. President Obama has appeased Iran’s terror-sponsoring ayatollahs, this time with a ‘prisoner’ swap to secure the overdue release of four innocent American hostages in return for which Iran gets seven lawfully convicted terrorists and criminals, fourteen terrorism prosecutions halted, $100 billion in sanctions relief, and an industrial-scale nuclear program-and Iran gets to keep Americans Siamak Namazi and Robert Levinson to extract future concessions. While we exult in the return of American hostages, one must also wonder how many more Americans will be taken hostage in the future as a result of President Obama’s shameful decision to negotiate with these terrorists.

Clearly, nothing but all-out war and the deaths of hundreds of thousands will appease Cotton and his blood-lust for Iran.

The anti-Iran echo chamber also fired up against the deal and even moved beyond just the prisoner exchange. Consider this fine bit of echo, which I found when United Against Nuclear Iran retweeted David Albright’s “The Good ISIS” retweeting Josh Rogin promoting an article he wrote (by himself this time, rather than with his usual Partner in Keeping the Neocon Flame Alive Eli Lake) warning us that now Iran is going to arm Assad (somehow I can’t get the full level of retweeting echo to embed…):

Remarkably, though, there were a couple of usually reliable voices in the anti-Iran rhetoric who did not come through. AP’s George Jahn seemed fresh out of “diplomatic sources” to smear Iran, as he co-authored a piece of straight up reporting on Implementation Day. Similarly, fear-monger Joby Warrick briefly returned from his Washington Post exile to environmental reporting this morning to write about the deal, but gave as much of his analysis to a likelihood of reformers forging ahead in Iran as hardliners bringing more peril. As with Jahn, David Sanger also wound up only writing straight reporting of Implementation Day without finding much smear material to leak against Iran.

Essentially simultaneous with the lifting of sanctions against Iran due to its nuclear technology, the US imposed new sanctions because of Iran’s recent testing of ballistic missile technology. I confess to not having followed the ballistic missile controversy as closely as the nuclear technology issue, but it did strike me as unfortunate to implement new sanctions right away. This could be an attempt by Obama to provide a bit of comfort to Iran haters in our government. I also haven’t looked deeply, but these sanctions are likely to be much more limited in scope and shouldn’t produce the same widespread damage to Iran’s economy as the nuclear sanctions.

Finally, we also saw a demonstration that Hillary Clinton is indeed now a candidate running for office and no longer the diplomat she was as Secretary of State. Her statement this weekend, published after the announcement of the prisoner exchange but before the prisoners actually left Iran, was overly belligerent in its call for the new ballistic missile sanctions. She almost certainly had to have known that the ballistic missile sanctions had been held in abeyance to finish the prisoner exchange negotiations, so her statement could be seen as a late threat to the prisoners actually being allowed to leave Iran.


Implementation Day: Full Description From JCPOA Text

It is now just over six months to the day since the historic P5+1 agreement with Iran was reached, dramatically decreasing Iran’s pathways to a nuclear weapon in return for dropping economic sanctions. Although some small amounts of cash have been freed up for Iran in this intervening period, this period has consisted almost exclusively of actions by Iran while the P5+1 group of nations awaits IAEA certification that Iran has met its obligations under the agreement. Only once this certification is in place will the sanctions against Iran be dropped. Removal of many of the existing sanctions (some that don’t relate to nuclear technology will remain in place and hawks in Congress are doing their best to keep or replace the ones due to be dropped) will be a huge development for Iran, as the sanctions have devastated Iran’s economy. We are hearing that Implementation Day will arrive any moment now, perhaps later today or tomorrow (maybe even before I finish writing this overdue post).

We are now over two years into the P5+1 process, and so it should come as no surprise that an agreement this long in the making is very long and quite detailed. This post will be quite long and dry, as what it will do is to set out the language from the agreement that describes just what has taken place to get us to Implementation Day and what will take place as a result. Many steps have been taken to get us to this pivotal moment, and it is important that we see them laid out in orderly fashion.

Implementation Day

From the White House document (pdf) providing us excerpts of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), we have this:

Implementation Day is the date on which, simultaneously with the IAEA report verifying implementation by Iran of the nuclear-related measures described in Sections 15.1 to 15.11 of Annex V, the EU and the United States takes the actions described in Sections 16 and 17 of Annex V.

Links to the various documents that make up the text of the agreement itself can be found here.

Iran’s Actions Under JCOPA

As mentioned above, sections 15.1 to 15.11 describe the actions by Iran that the IAEA will certify to have been completed. I have put the topic for each of these entries into bold text and then provide the referenced material from the other parts of the agreement:

Section 15 begins with:

Iran will implement the nuclear-related measures as specified in Annex I:

It then moves to the details:

15.1. Paragraphs 3 and 10 from Section B on “Arak Heavy Water Research Reactor“;

Which reads:

3. Iran will not pursue construction at the existing unfinished reactor based on its original design and will remove the existing calandria and retain it in Iran. The calandria will be made inoperable by filling any openings in the calandria with concrete such that the IAEA can verify that it will not be usable for a future nuclear application. In redesigning and reconstructing of the modernized Arak heavy water research reactor, Iran will maximise the use of existing infrastructure already installed at the current Arak research reactor.

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10. Iran will not produce or test natural uranium pellets, fuel pins or fuel assemblies, which are specifically designed for the support of the originally designed Arak reactor, designated by the IAEA as IR-40. Iran will store under IAEA continuous monitoring all existing natural uranium pellets and IR-40 fuel assemblies until the modernised Arak reactor becomes operational, at which point these natural uranium pellets and IR-40 fuel assemblies will be converted to UNH, or exchanged with an equivalent quantity of natural uranium. Iran will make the necessary technical modifications to the natural uranium fuel production process line that was intended to supply fuel for the IR-40 reactor design, such that it can be used for the fabrication of the fuel reloads for the modernised Arak reactor.

15.2. Paragraphs 14 and 15 from Section C on “Heavy Water Production Plant“;

Which reads:

14. All excess heavy water which is beyond Iran’s needs for the modernised Arak research reactor, the Zero power heavy water reactor, quantities needed for medical research and production of deuterate solutions and chemical compounds including, where appropriate, contingency stocks, will be made available for export to the international market based on international prices and delivered to the international buyer for 15 years. Iran’s needs, consistent with the parameters above, are estimated to be 130 metric tonnes of nuclear grade heavy water or its equivalent in different enrichments prior to commissioning of the modernised Arak research reactor, and 90 metric tonnes after the commissioning, including the amount contained in the reactor.

15. Iran will inform the IAEA about the inventory and the production of the HWPP and will allow the IAEA to monitor the quantities of the heavy water stocks and the amount of heavy water produced, including through IAEA visits, as requested, to the HWPP.

15.3. Paragraphs 27, 28, 29, 29.1 and 29.2 from Section F on “Enrichment Capacity“;

Which reads:

27. Iran will keep its enrichment capacity at no more than 5060 IR-1 centrifuge machines in no more than 30 cascades in their current configurations in currently operating units at the Natanz Fuel Enrichment Plant (FEP) for 10 years.

28. Iran will keep its level of uranium enrichment at up to 3.67 percent for 15 years.

29. Iran will remove the following excess centrifuges and infrastructure not associated with 5060 IR-1 centrifuges in FEP, which will be stored at Natanz in Hall B of FEP under IAEA continuous monitoring:

29.1. All excess centrifuge machines, including IR-2m centrifuges. Excess IR-1 centrifuges will be used for the replacement of failed or damaged centrifuges of the same type on a one-for-one basis.

29.2. UF6 pipework including sub headers, valves and pressure transducers at cascade level, and frequency inverters, and UF6 withdrawal equipment from one of the withdrawal stations, which is currently not in service, including its vacuum pumps and chemical traps.

15.4. Paragraphs 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41 and 42 from Section G on “Centrifuges Research and Development“;

Which reads:

32. Iran will continue to conduct enrichment R&D in a manner that does not accumulate enriched uranium. For 10 years and consistent with its enrichment R&D plan, Iran’s enrichment R&D with uranium will only include IR-4, IR-5, IR-6 and IR-8 centrifuges. Mechanical testing on up to two single centrifuges for each type will be carried out only on the IR-2m, IR-4, IR-5, IR-6, IR-6s, IR-7 and IR-8. Iran will build or test, with or without uranium, only those gas centrifuges specified in this JCPOA.

33. Consistent with its plan, Iran will continue working with the 164-machine IR-2m cascade at PFEP in order to complete the necessary tests until 30 November 2015 or the day of implementation of this JCPOA, whichever comes later, and after that it will take these machines out of the PFEP and store them under IAEA continuous monitoring at Natanz in Hall B of FEP.

34. Consistent with its plan, Iran will continue working with the 164-machine IR-4 cascade at PFEP in order to complete the necessary tests until 30 November 2015 or the day of implementation of this JCPOA, whichever comes later, and after that it will take these machines out of the PFEP and store them under IAEA continuous monitoring at Natanz in Hall B of FEP.

35. Iran will continue the testing of a single IR-4 centrifuge machine and IR-4 centrifuge cascade of up to 10 centrifuge machines for 10 years.

36. Iran will test a single IR-5 centrifuge machine for 10 years.

37. Iran will continue testing of the IR-6 on single centrifuge machines and its intermediate cascades and will commence testing of up to 30 centrifuge machines from one and a half years before the end of year 10. Iran will proceed from single centrifuge machines and small cascades to intermediate cascades in a logical sequence.

38. Iran will commence, upon start of implementation of the JCPOA, testing of the IR-8 on single centrifuge machines and its intermediate cascades and will commence the testing of up to 30 centrifuges machines from one and a half years before the end of year 10. Iran will proceed from single centrifuges to small cascades to intermediate cascades in a logical sequence.

39. For 10 years, Iran, consistent with the established practice, will recombine the enriched and depleted streams from the IR-6 and IR-8 cascades through the use of welded pipework on withdrawal main headers in a manner that precludes the withdrawal of enriched and depleted uranium materials and verified by the IAEA.

40. For 15 years, Iran will conduct all testing of centrifuges with uranium only at the PFEP. Iran will conduct all mechanical testing of centrifuges only at the PFEP and the Tehran Research Centre.

41. For the purpose of adapting PFEP to the R&D activities in the enrichment and enrichment R&D plan, Iran will remove all centrifuges except those needed for testing as described in the relevant paragraphs above, except for the IR-1 cascade (No. 1) as described below. For the full IR-1 cascade (No. 6), Iran will modify associated infrastructure by removing UF6 pipework, including sub-headers, valves and pressure transducers at cascade level, and frequency inverters. The IR-1 cascade (No. 1) centrifuges will be kept but made inoperable, as verified by the IAEA, through the removal of centrifuge rotors and the injection of epoxy resin into the sub headers, feeding, product, and tails pipework, and the removal of controls and electrical systems for vacuum, power and cooling. Excess centrifuges and infrastructure will be stored at Natanz in Hall B of FEP under IAEA continuous monitoring. The R&D space in line No. 6 will be left empty until Iran needs to use it for its R&D programme.

42. Consistent with the activities in the enrichment and enrichment R&D plan, Iran will maintain the cascade infrastructure for testing of single centrifuges and small and intermediate cascades in two R&D lines (No. 2 and No. 3) and will adapt two other lines (No. 4 and No. 5) with infrastructure similar to that for lines No. 2 and No. 3 in order to enable future R&D activities as specified in this JCPoA. Adaptation will include modification of all UF6 pipework (including removal of all sub headers except as agreed as needed for the R&D programme) and associated instrumentation to be compatible with single centrifuges and small and intermediate cascade testing instead of full scale testing.

15.5. Paragraphs 45, 46, 46.1, 46.2, 47.1, 48.1 from Section H on “Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant“;

Which reads:

45. Iran will not conduct any uranium enrichment or any uranium enrichment related R&D and will have no nuclear material at the Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant (FFEP) for 15 years.

46. For 15 years, Iran will maintain no more than 1044 IR-1 centrifuge machines at one wing of the FFEP of which:

46.1. Two cascades that have not experienced UF6 before will be modified for the production of stable isotopes. The transition to stable isotope production of these cascades at FFEP will be conducted in joint partnership between the Russian Federation and Iran on the basis of arrangements to be mutually agreed upon. To prepare these two cascades for installation of a new cascade architecture appropriate for stable isotope production by the joint partnership, Iran will remove the connection to the UF6 feed main header, and move cascade UF6 pipework (except for the dump line in order to maintain vacuum) to storage in Fordow under IAEA continuous monitoring. The Joint Commission will be informed about the conceptual framework of stable isotope production at FFEP.

46.2. For four cascades with all associated infrastructure remaining except for pipework that enables crossover tandem connections, two will be placed in an idle state, not spinning. The other two cascades will continue to spin until the transition to stable isotope production described in the previous subparagraph has been completed. Upon completion of = the transition to stable isotope production described in the previous subparagraph, these two spinning cascades will be placed in an idle state, not spinning.

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47.1. remove the other 2 cascades of IR-1 centrifuges from this wing, by removing all centrifuges and cascade UF6 pipework, including sub headers, valves and pressure transducers at cascade level, and frequency inverters.

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48.1. remove all excess centrifuges and uranium enrichment related infrastructure from the other wing of the FFEP. This will include removal of all centrifuges and UF6 pipework, including sub headers, valves and pressure gauges and transducers, and frequency inverters and converters, and UF6 feed and withdrawal stations.

15.6. Paragraphs 52, 54 and 55 from Section I on “Other Aspects of Enrichment“;

Which reads:

52. Iran will abide by its voluntary commitments as expressed in its own long term enrichment and enrichment R&D plan to be submitted as part of the initial declaration described in Article 2 of the Additional Protocol.1 The IAEA will confirm on an annual basis, for the duration of the plan that the nature and scope and scale of Iran’s enrichment and enrichment R&D activities are in line with this plan.

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54. An agreed template for describing different centrifuge types (IR-1, IR-2m, IR-4, IR-5, IR-6, IR-6s, IR-7, IR-8) and the associated definitions need to be accomplished by implementation day.

55. An agreed procedure for measuring IR-1, IR-2m and IR-4 centrifuge performance data needs to be accomplished by implementation day.

15.7. Paragraphs 57 and 58 from Section J on “Uranium Stocks and Fuels“;

Which reads:

57. All enriched uranium hexafluoride in excess of 300 kg of up to 3.67% enriched UF6 (or the equivalent in different chemical forms) will be down blended to natural uranium level or be sold on the international market and delivered to the international buyer in return for natural uranium delivered to Iran. Iran will enter into a commercial contract with an entity outside Iran for the purchase and transfer of its enriched uranium stockpile in excess of 300 kg UF6 in return for natural uranium delivered to Iran. The E3/EU+3 will facilitate, where applicable, the conclusion and implementation of this contract. Iran may choose to seek to sell excess enriched uranium to the IAEA fuel bank in Kazakhstan when the fuel bank becomes operational.

58. All uranium oxide enriched to between 5% and 20% will be fabricated into fuel plates for the Tehran Research Reactor or transferred, based on a commercial transaction, outside of Iran or diluted to an enrichment level of 3.67% or less. Scrap oxide and other forms not in plates that cannot be fabricated into TRR fuel plates will be transferred, based on a commercial transaction, outside of Iran or diluted to an enrichment level of 3.67% or less. In case of future supply of 19.75% enriched uranium oxide (U3O8) for TRR fuel plates fabrication, all scrap oxide and other forms not in plates that cannot be fabricated into TRR fuel plates, containing uranium enriched to between 5% and 20%, will be transferred, based on a commercial transaction, outside of Iran or diluted to an enrichment level of 3.67% or less within 6 months of its production. Scrap plates will be transferred, based on a commercial transaction, outside Iran. The commercial transactions should be structured to return an equivalent amount of natural uranium to Iran. For 15 years, Iran will not build or operate facilities for converting fuel plates or scrap back to UF6.

15.8. Paragraph 62 from Section K on “Centrifuge Manufacturing“;

Which reads:

62. Consistent with its plan, Iran will use the stock of IR-1 centrifuge machines in storage, which are in excess of the remaining 5060 IR-1 centrifuges in Natanz and the IR-1 centrifuges installed at Fordow, for the replacement of failed or damaged machines. Whenever during the 10 year period from the start of the implementation of the JCPOA, the level of stock of IR-1 machines falls to 500 or below, Iran may maintain this level of stock by resuming production of IR-1 machines at a rate up to the average monthly crash rate without exceeding the stock of 500.

15.9. Complete the modalities and facilities-specific arrangements to allow the IAEA to implement all transparency measures provided for in Annex I;

Which seems to entail 15.10 and 15.11 below.

15.10. Paragraphs 64 and 65 from Section L on “Additional Protocol and Modified Code
3.1
“;

Which reads:

64. Iran will notify the IAEA of provisional application of the Additional Protocol to its Safeguards Agreement in accordance with Article 17(b) of the Additional Protocol pending its entry into force, and subsequently seek ratification and entry into force, consistent with the respective roles of the President and the Majlis (Parliament).

65. Iran will notify the IAEA that it will fully implement the Modified Code 3.1 of the Subsidiary Arrangement to Iran’s Safeguards Agreement as long as the Safeguards Agreement remains in force.

15.11. Paragraphs 80.1 and 80.2 from Section R on “Centrifuge Component
Manufacturing Transparency
“; and

Which reads:

80.1. Iran will provide the IAEA with an initial inventory of all existing centrifuge rotor tubes and bellows and subsequent reports on changes in such inventory and will permit the IAEA to verify the inventory by item counting and numbering, and through containment and surveillance, of all rotor tubes and bellows, including in all existing and newly produced centrifuges.

80.2. Iran will declare all locations and equipment, namely flow-forming machines, filament-winding machines and mandrels that are used for production of centrifuge rotor tubes or bellows, and will permit the IAEA to implement continuous monitoring, including through containment and surveillance on this equipment, to verify that this equipment is being used to manufacture centrifuges only for the activities specified in this JCPOA.

European Union Actions

16. The European Union will:

16.1. Terminate the provisions of Council Regulation (EU) No 267/2012 and suspend the corresponding provisions of Council Decision 2010/413/CFSP specified in Sections 1.1.1- 1.1.3; 1.1.5 – 1.1.8; 1.2.1 – 1.2.5; 1.3.1, 1.3.2 (in so far as it concerns Articles 16 and 17 of Council Decision 2010/413/CFSP) and 1.3.3; 1.4.1 and 1.4.2; 1.10.1.2 (in so far as it concerns Articles 39, 43, 43a of Council Regulation (EU)No 267/2012) of Annex II. EU Member States will terminate or amend national implementing legislation as required.

It appears that the text of Council Regulation (EU) No 267/2012 can be found here and the text of Councile Decision 2010/413/CFSP is here.

16.2. Amend the provisions of Council Regulation (EU) No 267/2012 and the corresponding provisions of Council Decision 2010/413/CFSP specified in Sections 1.6.1 – 1.7.2 of Annex II, in connection with activities consistent with this JCPOA.

16.3. Remove individuals and entities set forth in Attachment 1 to Annex II of this JCPOA from Annexes VIII and IX to Council Regulation (EU) 267/2012. Suspend the provisions of Council Decision 2010/413/CFSP specified in Section 1.9.1 of Annex II in relation to individuals and entities set forth in Attachment 1 to Annex II.

The list of of those being dropped from the EU sanctions in question can be found here (pdf).

16.4. Amend the provisions of Council Regulation (EU) No 267/2012 and Council Decision 2010/413/CFSP specified in Sections 1.5.1 and 1.5.2 of Annex II to implement the relevant provisions of the UN Security Council resolution referred to above.

United States Actions

17. The United States will:

A footnote attached here states:

The sanctions that the United States will cease to apply are those directed towards non-U.S. persons, as described in Section 4 of Annex II.

Section 4 of Annex II is quite long and has many footnotes. It can be found by scrolling down from here (pdf).

17.1. Cease the application of the sanctions set forth in Sections 4.1 – 4.5 and 4.7 of Annex II, with the exception of Section 211(a) of the Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act of 2012 (TRA);

17.2. Cease the application of the sanctions set forth in Section 4.6 of Annex II, in connection with activities consistent with this JCPOA, including trade with individuals and entities set forth in Attachment 3 to Annex II;

For Attachment 3 to Annex II, look here (pdf) and scroll down.

17.3. Remove individuals and entities set forth in Attachment 3 to Annex II from the Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List (SDN List), the Foreign Sanctions Evaders List (FSE List), and/or the Non-SDN Iran Sanctions Act List as set forth in Section 4.8.1 of Annex II;

17.4. Terminate Executive Orders 13574, 13590, 13622, 13645 and Sections 5-7 and 15 of Executive Order 13628 as set forth in Section 4 of Annex II; and

Links to those Executive Orders: 13574, 13590, 13622, 13645 (pdf), and 13628 (pdf).

17.5. License activities as set forth in Section 5 of Annex II.

Which reads:

5.1. The United States commits to:

5.1.1. Allow for the sale of commercial passenger aircraft and related parts and services to Iran by licensing the (i) export, re-export, sale, lease or transfer to Iran of commercial passenger aircraft for exclusively civil aviation end-use, (ii) export, re-export, sale, lease or transfer to Iran of spare parts and components for commercial passenger aircraft, and (iii) provision of associated serviced, including warranty, maintenance, and repair services and safety related inspections, for all the foregoing, provided that licensed items and services are used exclusively for commercial passenger aviation;

5.1.2. License non-U.S. entities that are owned or controlled by a U.S. person to engage in activities with Iran that are consistent with this JCPOA; and

5.1.3. License the importation into the United States of Iranian-origin carpets and foodstuffs, including pistachios and caviar.

There are additional footnotes to this section which can be read at the link specified previously.

Anyone who has managed to read through all the way to this point is certainly entitled to celebrate by eating Iranian pistachios and caviar while sitting on a new Iranian carpet.

Conclusion

As can be seen from the incredibly long and detailed list of actions Iran has taken to dismantle much of its nuclear technology, Implementation Day represents a remarkable movement away from any capability to produce a nuclear weapon. A devastating array of economic sanctions has been put into place by the West, and many of these are dropped on this historic occasion.

Diplomacy has won.

Postscript

Normally, my final edit of a post consists of going back to test each link. Due to the huge number of them in this post, I won’t be checking all of them, so please point out any errors in comments and I will correct them.

Update

It seems appropriate to add this illustration the White House prepared, showing us how Netanyahu’s cartoon bomb has changed as of Implementation Day:

Update 2 (Saturday afternoon)

And here we go, it looks like IAEA has signed off on Iran’s actions:


Why Tell the Israeli Spying Story Now?

“Intelligence professionals have a saying: There are no friendly intelligence services,” the WSJ describes former House Intelligence Chair Mike Rogers saying, on the record. While there’s no way of telling — particularly not with WSJ’s described “more than two dozen current and former U.S. intelligence and administration officials” sources behind it’s blockbuster story on US spying on Bibi Netanyahu and other Israelis, Rogers is a likely candidate for some of the other statements attributed to “former US officials,” a moniker that can include agency officials, consultants, and members of Congress.

Which is awfully funny, given that two of the people squealing most loudly in response to the story are Rogers’ immediate predecessor, Crazy Pete Hoekstra, who called it a “Maybe unprecedented abuse of power,” and successor, Devin Nunes, who has already started an investigation into the allegations in the story.

It is the height of hypocrisy for these men, who have been privy to and by their silence have assented to this and, in Crazy Pete’s case, far worse patently illegal spying, to wail about a story that shows the Administration abiding by NSA minimization procedures they’ve both celebrated as more than adequate to protect US person privacy. If NSA’s minimization procedures are inadequate to protect US persons, the first thing Nunes should do is repeal FISA Amendments Act, which can expose far more people than the tailored, presumably EO 12333 tap placed on Bibi, not to mention OmniCISA, which can be targeted at Americans and will have even fewer protections for US persons.

The immediate attempt by a bunch of surveillance maximalists to turn compliant spying into a big scandal raises the question of why this story is coming out now, not incidentally just after Iran turned over its uranium stockpile over to Russia and in the process achieved another big step of the Iran deal.

I’m not in any way meaning to slight the WSJ reporting. Indeed, the story seems to show a breadth of sources that reflect a broad range of interests, and as such is not — as would otherwise be possible — Mike Rogers attempting to leak something to the WSJ so his fellow Republicans can make a stink about things.

This story includes “current and former U.S. officials” providing a list of leaders they claim were detasked from spying in 2014 — François Hollande, Angela Merkel, and other NATO leaders — and those they claim were not — along with Bibi Netanyahu, Turkey’s leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Of course, like James Clapper’s claim that Edward Snowden’s leaks forced the NSA to shut down its full take spying on Afghanistan, this “confirmation” may instead have been an effort to cover for collection that has since been restarted, especially given the story’s even more revealing explanation that, “Instead of removing the [surveillance] implants, Mr. Obama decided to shut off the NSA’s monitoring of phone numbers and email addresses of certain allied leaders—a move that could be reversed by the president or his successor.” Obama did not eliminate the infrastructure that allows him to request surveillance (in actually, monitoring of surveillance going on in any case) to be turned on like a switch, and this WSJ article just conveyed that detail to Hollande and Merkel.

So the story could serve as disinformation to cover up restarted surveillance, and it could serve as a cue for the bogus, unbelievably hypocritical political scandal that Crazy Pete and Nunes appear to want to make it.

But I’m just as interested in the dick-waving in the story.

Some of the most interesting details in the story — once you get beyond the wailing of people like Crazy Pete and Devin Nunes probably swept up in intercepts described in the story — pertain to what NSA did and did not learn about Bibi’s efforts, largely executed through Israeli Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer, to thwart the Iran deal. A key detail here is that while (it is implied) NSA destroyed most or all of the intercepts involving members of Congress directly with Bibi, they passed on (with US person identities masked) the reports back through foreign ministry channels of discussions with or on behalf of Bibi.

The NSA has leeway to collect and disseminate intercepted communications involving U.S. lawmakers if, for example, foreign ambassadors send messages to their foreign ministries that recount their private meetings or phone calls with members of Congress, current and former officials said.

“Either way, we got the same information,” a former official said, citing detailed reports prepared by the Israelis after exchanges with lawmakers.

In other words, NSA might not pass on the intercepts of calls members of Congress had with Bibi directly, but they would pass on the reports that Dermer or Bibi’s aides would summarize of such discussions. And according to “a former official” (curiously not described as high ranking) by passing on the reports of such conversations, “we got the same information.”

Usually, but not always, according to the story.

It describes that “Obama administration officials” (which may but probably doesn’t include intelligence officials) didn’t learn about John Boehner’s invitation to Bibi to address Congress ahead of time, even though Boehner extended that invite through Dermer.

On Jan. 8, John Boehner, then the Republican House Speaker, and incoming Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell agreed on a plan. They would invite Mr. Netanyahu to deliver a speech to a joint session of Congress. A day later, Mr. Boehner called Ron Dermer, the Israeli ambassador, to get Mr. Netanyahu’s agreement.

Despite NSA surveillance, Obama administration officials said they were caught off guard when Mr. Boehner announced the invitation on Jan. 21.

According to the description of the article, this call should have been fair game to be shared with the White House as a report through the foreign ministry, but either wasn’t reported through normal channels on the Israeli side or NSA didn’t pass it along.

But, according to the story, the White House did get many of the details about Dermer’s attempt to scotch the Iran deal.

The NSA reports allowed administration officials to peer inside Israeli efforts to turn Congress against the deal. Mr. Dermer was described as coaching unnamed U.S. organizations—which officials could tell from the context were Jewish-American groups—on lines of argument to use with lawmakers, and Israeli officials were reported pressing lawmakers to oppose the deal.

[snip]

A U.S. intelligence official familiar with the intercepts said Israel’s pitch to undecided lawmakers often included such questions as: “How can we get your vote? What’s it going to take?”

Let me interject and note that, if the people squealing about these intercepts weren’t such raging hypocrites, I might be very concerned about this.

Consider the Jane Harman case. In 2009 it got reported that NSA and FBI collected conversations Jane Harman had (probably on an individual FISA wiretap) with AIPAC suspects in which Harman allegedly agreed to help squelch the criminal investigation into the organization in exchange for help getting the Chairmanship of the House Intelligence Committee. The position, not incidentally, that all the people (save Mike Rogers, who seems to have had no problem with them) squealing about these intercepts have held or currently hold. At least according to 2009 reports on this, lawyers in then Attorney General Alberto Gonzales’ DOJ considered criminal charges against Harman, but chose not to pursue them, because Gonzales — who had criminally, personally authorized the Stellar Wind program in March 2004 — needed Harman’s support in advance of NYT breaking the Stellar Wind story at the end of 2005. That suggests (if these stories are to be believed) Gonzales used Harman’s purported criminal exposure to get protection against his own.

Now, Crazy Pete was out of power well before these particular intercepts were described (though may have his own reason to be concerned about what such intercepts revealed), but in the same period, Devin Nunes got himself appointed HPSCI Chair, just like AIPAC was allegedly brokering with Harman. He got himself appointed HPSCI Chair by the guy, Boehner, who invited Bibi to address Congress.

And what were AIPAC and other groups — who allegedly were offering congressional leadership posts back in 2005 — offering lawmakers last year to oppose the Iran deal? “What’s it going to take?” the intercepts apparently recorded.

What were they offering?

This is the reason permitting lawmakers’ communications to be incidentally collected is such a risk — because it collects the sausage-making behind legislative stances — but also defensible — because it might disclose untoward quid pro quo by foreign governments of members of Congress. It is a real concern that the Executive is collecting details of Congress’ doings. More protections, both for Members of Congress and for regular schlubs, are needed. But wiretapping the incidentally collected communications with foreign leaders is not only solidly within the parameters of Congressionally-approved NSA spying, but may sometimes be important to protect the US.

That’s the kind of the thing the White House may have seen outlines of in the reports it got on Darmer’s attempts — though the report indicates that Democratic lawmakers and Israelis who supported the Iranian deal (probably including former Mossad head Efraim Halevy, who was criticizing Bibi and Darmer’s efforts in real time) were sharing details of Darmer’s efforts directly with the White House.

In the final months of the campaign, NSA intercepts yielded few surprises. Officials said the information reaffirmed what they heard directly from lawmakers and Israeli officials opposed to Mr. Netanyahu’s campaign—that the prime minister was focused on building opposition among Democratic lawmakers.

Which brings me to the dick-waving part. Here’s the last line of the WSJ story.

The NSA intercepts, however, revealed one surprise. Mr. Netanyahu and some of his allies voiced confidence they could win enough votes.

Some of this story is likely to be disinformation for our allies, much of this story seems to be warning (both friendly and unfriendly) to those likely implicated by the intercepts. But this just seems like dick-waving, the spook-and-politician equivalent of spiking the football and doing a lewd dance in the end zone. The Israelis surely knew all the monitoring was going on (even if members of Congress may have been stupid about them), especially given the way John Kerry, as laid out in the story, raised concerns about Israeli spying during negotiations. But this line, the final reveal in the story, mocks the Israelis and their American interlocutors for assuming they had enough to offer — “What’s it going to take to get your vote?”– to kill the Iran deal.

This may, in part, be an effort to get those implicated in the intercepts to exercise some more caution. But it also seems to be a victory dance, just as Russia ships away Iran’s uranium stockpiles.


Jahn’s AP Report Was Wrong. Was He Manipulated or Did He Intend to Mislead?

On August 19, AP’s George Jahn set off a firestorm of controversy when he published an article on how Iran’s Parchin site would be inspected as part of the P5+1 agreement reached earlier on Iran’s nuclear technology. Iran deal opponents jumped onto the story instantaneously and quickly claimed that Iran would be doing its own inspections of the Iran site.

In the intervening time, much has happened on the issue of the story and Jahn’s reporting of it. Jahn claimed to base the story on a draft of an agreement between the IAEA and Iran on how the inspections would take place and AP even eventually published what it said was a hand transcription of the document shown to Jahn. The link I used in my original post now goes to a short “correction” of Jahn’s story.

On August 20, I wrote a post with the title “Washington Shocked! Shocked That AP’s George Jahn Is a Tool for Iran Deal Opponents“. Based on several years of reading and commenting on Jahn’s reporting on Iran’s nuclear technology and the diplomacy surrounding it, I pointed out how the article fit Jahn’s usual pattern of being told something by “diplomats”, with that something always seeming to put Iran in the worst possible light. In other words, his stories usually consist of him being used as a tool to put out information that makes Iran look bad.

Today, we have a story from Louis Charbonneau and John Irish of Reuters that informs us (via diplomats, presumably not the ones Jahn listened to) that IAEA inspectors will in fact be present when Iran takes samples from the Parchin site, so Iran will in no way be inspecting itself:

United Nations inspectors will be present with Iranian technicians as they take samples from a key military site, two Western diplomats said, undercutting an objection by U.S. Republicans to the nuclear deal between Iran and world powers.

Irish and Charbonneau waste little time in pointing out that Jahn was wrong:

An August report by the Associated Press, in its original version, said the agreement on Parchin suggested that IAEA inspectors would be barred from the site and would have to rely on information and environmental samples provided by Iranian technicians. The AP later published what it said was the text of an early draft of the agreement that remains unconfirmed.

The report was seized on by Republicans in the U.S. Congress as proof that President Barack Obama’s administration gave in to Iran on the sensitive issue of inspections to check on Tehran’s suspected ambition to build a nuclear bomb.

Iran says its nuclear programme is entirely peaceful.

IAEA chief Yukiya Amano rejected the report as “a misrepresentation”, though he declined to provide details of what some Republicans described as a “secret side deal” between Iran and the IAEA on Parchin. Amano said on Aug. 20 that the arrangements with Iran were technically sound.

If we want to go as far as we can to see how Jahn could have been acting in good faith, it is worthwhile to concentrate on the fact that he said from the start that the document he was shown was an early draft of the agreement between the IAEA and Iran. Then, when we get to this in the Reuters report, we can see that perhaps the IAEA inspectors being present was a later addition (or a filling in of detail as Cheryl Rofer seems to suggest) to the agreement:

But the Western diplomats told Reuters that while Iranians would be allowed to take the samples themselves, the agency’s inspectors would be physically present and would have full access to their activity.

“There was a compromise so the Iranians could save face and the IAEA could ensure it carried out its inspections according to their strict requirements,” said one of the diplomats.

If Jahn was shown a document that differed so substantially from the final arrangement, it is at least possible that he was completely manipulated by whoever showed him the document. He can save a considerable amount of face by publicly identifying who brought the document to him. His promise of confidentiality should not apply to information that turned out to be false. If he stands by his reporting, however, then we must seriously consider that he intentionally put Iran in the worst possible light and assumed he would never be called out on it.


AIPAC and Bibi: The Reckoning

Faced with what will be its biggest legislative defeat ever — the passage of the Iran deal, possibly by upholding Obama’s veto — AIPAC is lashing out, blaming Bibi.

An official from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the leading pro-Israel lobby in the US, on Thursday blasted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for harming the opposition to the Iran nuclear deal by insisting on addressing Congress on the issue in March.

“Netanyahu’s speech in Congress made the Iranian issue a partisan one,” the AIPAC official told Israel’s Walla news. “As soon as he insisted on going ahead with this move, which was perceived as a Republican maneuver against the president, we lost a significant part of the Democratic party, without which it was impossible to block the agreement,” said the official, who asked not to be named.

Of course AIPAC has plenty to own in its loss of influence too, in part by backing Bibi’s hard right policies rather than policies that support Israel’s security.

Bibi and AIPAC deserve each other.

But if they want to start taking out each other to avoid taking responsibility for how ridiculously hard right their views have become, I can live with that.


John Yoo’s Assistance in Starting Iraq War Might Help Obama Avoid an Iran War

Last week, Steven Aftergood released a January 27, 2003 OLC memo, signed by John Yoo, ruling that the Executive Branch could withhold WMD information from Congress even though 22 USC § 3282 requires the Executive to brief the Foreign Relations committees on such information. I had first noted the existence of the memo in this post (though I guessed wrong as to when it was written).

The memo is, even by Yoo’s standards, inadequate and poorly argued. As Aftergood notes, Yoo relies on a Bill Clinton signing statement that doesn’t say what he says it says. And he treats briefing Congress as equivalent to public disclosure.

Critically, a key part of the Yoo’s argument relies on an OLC memo the Reagan Administration used to excuse its failure to tell Congress that it was selling arms to Iran.

Fourth, despite Congress’s extensive powers under the Constitution, Its authorities to legislative and appropriate cannot constitutionally be exercised in a manner that would usurp the President’s authority over foreign affairs and national security. In our 1986 opinion, we reasoned that this principle had three important corollaries: a) Congress cannot directly review the President’s foreign policy decisions; b) Congress cannot condition an appropriation to require the President to relinquish his discretion in foreign affairs; and c) any statute that touches on the President’s foreign affairs power must be interpreted, so as to avoid constitutional questions, to leave the President as much discretion as possible. 10 Op. O.L.C. at 169-70.

That’s one of the things — a pretty central thing — Yoo relies on to say that, in spite of whatever law Congress passes, the Executive still doesn’t have to share matters relating to WMD proliferation if it doesn’t want to.

Thus far, I don’t think anyone has understood the delicious (if inexcusable) irony of the memo — or the likely reasons why the Obama Administration has deviated from its normal secrecy in releasing the memo now.

This memo authorized the Executive to withhold WMD information in Bush’s 2003 State of the Union address

First, consider the timing. I noted above I was wrong about the timing — I speculated the memo would have been written as part of the Bush Administration’s tweaks of Executive Orders governing classification updated in March 2003.

Boy how wrong was I. Boy how inadequately cynical was I.

Nope. The memo — 7 shoddily written pages — was dated January 27, 2003.The day the White House sent a review copy of the State of the Union to CIA, which somehow didn’t get closely vetted. The day before Bush would go before Congress and deliver his constitutionally mandated State of the Union message. The day before Bush would lay out the case for the Iraq War to Congress — relying on certain claims about WMD — including 16 famous words that turned out to be a lie.

The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.

This memo was written during the drafting of the 2003 State of the Union to pre-approve not sharing WMD information known by the Executive Branch with Congress even in spite of laws requiring the Executive share that information.

Now, we don’t know — because Alberto Gonzales apparently didn’t tell Yoo — what thing he was getting pre-authorization not to tell Congress about. Here’s what the memo says:

It has been obtained through sensitive intelligence sources and methods and concerns proliferation activities that, depending upon information not yet available, may be attributable to one or more foreign nations. Due to your judgment of the extreme sensitivity of the information and the means by which it was obtained, you have not informed us about the nature of the information, what nation is involved, or what activities are implicated. We understand, however, that the information is of the utmost sensitivity and that it directly affects the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States. You have also told us that the unauthorized disclosure of the information could directly injure the national security, compromise intelligence sources and methods, and potentially frustrate sensitive U.S. diplomatic, military, and intelligence activities.

Something about WMD that another nation told us that is too sensitive to share with Congress — like maybe the Brits didn’t buy the Niger forgery documents anymore?

In any case, we do know from the SSCI Report on Iraq Intelligence that an INR analyst had already determined the Niger document was a forgery.

On January 13, 2003, the INR Iraq nuclear analyst sent an e-mail to several IC analysts outlining his reasoning why, “the uranium purchase agreement probably is a hoax.” He indicated that one of the documents that purported to be an agreement for a joint military campaign, including both Iraq and Iran, was so ridiculous that it was “clearly a forgery.” Because this document had the same alleged stamps for the Nigerien Embassy in Rome as the uranium documents, the analyst concluded “that the uranium purchase agreement probably is a forgery.” When the CIA analyst received the e-mail, he realized that WINP AC did not have copies of the documents and requested copies from INR. CIA received copies of the foreign language documents on January 16, 2003.

Who knows? Maybe the thing Bush wanted to hide from Congress, the day before his discredited 2003 State of the Union, didn’t even have to do with Iraq. But we know there has been good reason to question whether Bush’s aides deliberately misinformed Congress in that address, and now we know John Yoo pre-approved doing so.

This memo means Obama doesn’t have to share anything about the Iran deal it doesn’t want to

Here’s the ironic part — and one I only approve of for the irony involved, not for the underlying expansive interpretation of Executive authority.

By releasing this memo just a week before the Iran deal debate heats up, the Obama Administration has given public (and Congressional, to the extent they’re paying attention) notice that it doesn’t believe it has to inform Congress of anything having to do with WMD it deems too sensitive. John Yoo says so. Reagan’s OLC said so, in large part to ensure that no one would go to prison for disobeying Congressional notice requirements pertaining to Iran-Contra.

If you think that’s wrong, you have to argue the Bush Administration improperly politicized intelligence behind the Iraq War. You have to agree that the heroes of Iran-Contra — people like John Poindexter, who signed onto a letter opposing the Iran deal — should be rotting in prison. That is, the opponents of the Iran deal — most of whom supported both the Iraq War and Iran-Contra — have to argue Republican Presidents acted illegally in those past actions.

Me? I do argue Bush improperly withheld information from Congress leading up to the Iraq War. I agree that Poindexter and others should have gone to prison in Iran-Contra.

I also agree that Obama should be forthcoming about whatever his Administration knows about the terms of the Iran deal, even while I believe the deal will prevent war (and not passing the deal will basically irretrievably fuck the US with the international community).

A key thing that will be debated extensively in coming days — largely because the AP, relying on an echo chamber of sources that has proven wrong in the past, published an underreported article on it — is whether the inspection of Parchin is adequate. Maybe that echo chamber is correct, and the inspection is inadequate. More importantly, maybe it is the case that people within the Administration — in spite of IAEA claims that it has treated that deal with the same confidentiality it gives to other inspection protocols made with inspected nations  — know the content of the Parchin side agreement. Maybe the Administration knows about it, and believes it to be perfectly adequate, because it was spying on the IAEA, like it long has, but doesn’t want the fact that it was spying on IAEA to leak out. Maybe the Administration knows about the Parchin deal but has other reasons not to worry about what Iran was allegedly (largely alleged by AP’s sources on this current story) doing at Parchin.

The point is, whether you’re pro-Iran deal or anti-Iran deal, whether you’re worried about the Parchin side agreement or not, John Yoo gave Barack Obama permission to withhold it from Congress, in part because Reagan’s OLC head gave him permission to withhold Iran-Contra details from Congress.

I believe this document Yoo wrote to help Bush get us into the Iraq War may help Obama stay out of an Iran war.


Washington Shocked! Shocked That AP’s George Jahn Is a Tool for Iran Deal Opponents

Greg Sargent this morning walks us through the latest math from the Washington Post on Congressional war hawks trying to obstruct the breakthrough P5+1 agreement with Iran limiting its nuclear technology. Not only does the Post find that Congress has very little chance of overriding a Presidential veto of a vote of disapproval, but as Sargent notes:

It’s not out of the question at this point that opponents will fail to muster 60 votes in the Senate to stop the deal — which would mean that President Obama would not even need to veto the expected measure disapproving of the accord, sparing us a veto-override fight.

So, of course, with the deal looking like it has smoother than expected sailing, opponents have been forced into a desperation move. That hit yesterday afternoon, when known tool of Iran opponents George Jahn (see my posts about his dismal track record here) published an AP story (try that link, but God knows what version of the story you’ll get, see below) that fits his normal pattern. He cites a “draft” of an agreement between the IAEA and Iran on inspection of the Parchin site. Much controversy has surrounded allegations of previous work there. Jahn describes what he saw in the draft agreement and says that “one official familiar with its contents said [it] doesn’t differ substantially from the final version”.

Further complicating matters, Jahn’s story went through several changes in the hours after its release. Fortunately, I don’t have to walk you through all of that or the details of what Jahn claimed. This excellent piece by Max Fisher at Vox walks you through the baffling evolution of the story. The Fisher piece relies heavily on Jeffrey Lewis, who was very quick to note the level of duplicity coming from Jahn even before Fisher talked to Lewis:

In the Fisher piece, Lewis provides us with the perspective that is needed to understand Jahn’s move:

“The oldest Washington game is being played in Vienna,” Lewis said. “And that is leaking what appears to be a prejudicial and one-sided account of a confidential document to a friendly reporter, and using that to advance a particular policy agenda.”

What Fisher completely missed, though, is that George Jahn is the poster child for this behavior that Lewis describes. At the end of the piece, Fisher expresses shock that AP would take part in such a ruse:

But it is disturbing that the AP allowed itself to be used in this way, that it exaggerated the story in a way that have likely misled large numbers of people..

Jahn has been playing precisely this game at AP for years, so it has “allowed itself to be used in this way” many times before by Jahn.

In reading about how events evolved after Jahn put up the first version of the story, it pays to look at these events in the light of the usual process of hurling the lopsided accusation out there and then watching the propaganda develop around it. Iran deal opponents were so fast to to jump on the story that we are left to wonder if they had a heads up as to when it would go live. Republicans in Congress were able to get their condemnation of this “secret side deal benefiting Iran” into some of the earliest revisions of Jahn’s article. And that was the precise reason Jahn was given the copy of the draft agreement in the first place, because it was seen as the last and best chance for Congress to disrupt the deal.

One more point needs noting in this context. Deal opponents, as mentioned above, are quick to spin the agreement between the IAEA and Iran as being kept secret because it is such a sweet deal for Iran. That paints the picture that the IAEA is on Iran’s side. As noted in the Vox piece, though, confidentiality in agreements of this type are the norm. Further, as virtually nobody discussing these developments points out, the Director General of the IAEA, according to WikiLeaks documents, made it known while he was being considered for the position that he “was solidly in the U.S. court on every key strategic decision, from high-level personnel appointments to the handling of Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program”. [Note that the cable is from July, 2009, so early in the Obama Administration that US strategy on Iran’s nuclear weapons was primarily still that of the Bush Administration.] So, far from being someone to cut a sweetheart secret deal with Iran, perhaps we might want to see Amano more in the light Iran sees him when they accuse the IAEA of leaking the identifying information on Iranian nculear scientists that allowed them to be targeted for assassination.

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