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Iran P5+1 nuclear deal: Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action — JCPOA (full text) — page 5

Iran P5+1 nuclear deal: Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action — JCPOA (full text) — page 5

Annex I – Nuclear-related measures
1.     The sequence of implementation of the commitments detailed in this Annex is specified in Annex V to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Unless otherwise specified, the durations of the commitments in this Annex are from Implementation Day.
2.     Iran will modernise the Arak heavy water research reactor to support peaceful nuclear research and radioisotopes production for medical and industrial purposes. Iran will redesign and rebuild the reactor, based on the agreed conceptual design (as attached to this Annex) to support its peaceful nuclear research and production needs and purposes, including testing of fuel pins and assembly prototypes and structural materials. The design will be such as to minimise the production of plutonium and not to produce weapon-grade plutonium in normal operation. The power of the redesigned reactor will not exceed 20 MWth. The E3/EU+3 and Iran share the understanding that the parameters in the conceptual design are subject to possible and necessary adjustments in developing the final design while fully preserving the above-mentioned purposes and principles of modernisation.
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
4.     Iran will take the leadership role as the owner and as the project manager, and have responsibility for overall implementation of the Arak modernisation project, with E3/EU+3 participants assuming responsibilities regarding the modernisation of the Arak reactor as described in this Annex. A Working Group composed of E3/EU+3 participants will be established to facilitate the redesigning and rebuilding of the reactor. An international partnership composed of Iran and the Working Group would implement the Arak modernisation project. The Working Group could be enlarged to include other countries by consensus of the participants of the Working Group and Iran. E3/EU+3 participants and Iran will conclude an official document expressing their strong commitments to the Arak modernisation project in advance of Implementation Day which would provide an assured path forward to modernise the reactor and would define the responsibilities assumed by the E3/EU+3 participants, and subsequently contracts would be concluded. The participants of the Working Group will provide assistance needed by Iran for redesigning and rebuilding the reactor, consistent with their respective national laws, in such a manner as to enable the safe and timely construction and commissioning of the modernised reactor.
5.     Iran and the Working Group will cooperate to develop the final design of the modernised reactor and the design of the subsidiary laboratories to be carried out by Iran, and review conformity with international safety standards, such that the reactor can be licensed by the relevant Iranian regulatory authority for commissioning and operation. The final design of the modernised reactor and the design of the subsidiary laboratories will be submitted to the Joint Commission. The Joint Commission will aim to complete its review and endorsement within three months after the submission of the final design. If the Joint Commission does not complete its review and endorsement within three months, Iran could raise the issue through the dispute resolution mechanism envisaged by this JCPOA.
6.     The IAEA will monitor the construction and report to the Working Group for confirmation that the construction of the modernised reactor is consistent with the approved final design.

7.     As the project manager, Iran will take responsibility for the construction efforts. E3/EU+3 parties will, consistent with their national laws, take appropriate administrative, legal, technical, and regulatory measures to support co-operation.
E3/EU+3 parties will support the purchase by Iran, the transfer and supply of necessary materials, equipment, instrumentation and control systems and technologies required for the construction of the redesigned reactor, through the mechanism established by this JCPOA, as well as through exploration of relevant funding contributions.
8.     E3/EU+3 parties will also support and facilitate the timely and safe construction of the modernized Arak reactor and its subsidiary laboratories, upon request by Iran, through IAEA technical cooperation if appropriate, including but not limited to technical and financial assistance, supply of required materials and equipment, state-of-the-art instrumentation and control systems and equipment and support for licensing and authorization.
9.     The redesigned reactor will use up to 3.67 percent enriched uranium in the form of UO2 with a mass of approximately 350 kg of UO2 in a full core load, with a fuel design to be reviewed and approved by the Joint Commission. The international partnership with the participation of Iran will fabricate the initial fuel core load for the reactor outside
Iran. The international partnership will cooperate with Iran, including through technical assistance, to fabricate, test and license fuel fabrication capabilities in Iran for subsequent fuel core reloads for future use with this reactor. Destructive and non-destructive testing of this fuel including Post-Irradiation-Examination (PIE) will take place in one of the participating countries outside of Iran and that country will work with Iran to license the subsequent fuel fabricated in Iran for the use in the redesigned reactor under IAEA monitoring.
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.
11.  All spent fuel from the redesigned Arak reactor, regardless of its origin, for the lifetime of the reactor, will be shipped out of Iran to a mutually determined location in E3/EU+3 countries or third countries, for further treatment or disposition as provided for in relevant contracts to be concluded, consistent with national laws, with the recipient party, within one year from the unloading from the reactor or whenever deemed to be safe for transfer by the recipient country.
12.  Iran will submit the DIQ of the redesigned reactor to the IAEA which will include information on the planned radio-isotope production and reactor operation programme. The reactor will be operated under IAEA monitoring.
13.  Iran will operate the Fuel Manufacturing Plant only to produce fuel assemblies for light water reactors and reloads for the modernized Arak reactor.
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.

16.  Consistent with its plan, Iran will keep pace with the trend of international technological advancement in relying only on light water for its future nuclear power and research reactors with enhanced international cooperation including assurances of supply of necessary fuel.
17.  Iran intends to ship out all spent fuel for all future and present nuclear power and research reactors, for further treatment or disposition as provided for in relevant contracts to be concluded consistent with national laws with the recipient party.
18.  For 15 years Iran will not, and does not intend to thereafter, engage in any spent fuel reprocessing or spent fuel reprocessing R&D activities. For the purpose of this annex, spent fuel includes all types of irradiated fuel.
19.  For 15 years Iran will not, and does not intend to thereafter, reprocess spent fuel except for irradiated enriched uranium targets for production of radio-isotopes for medical and peaceful industrial purposes.
20.  For 15 years Iran will not, and does not intend to thereafter, develop, acquire or build facilities capable of separation of plutonium, uranium or neptunium from spent fuel or from fertile targets, other than for production of radio-isotopes for medical and peaceful industrial purposes.
21.  For 15 years, Iran will only develop, acquire, build, or operate hot cells (containing a cell or interconnected cells), shielded cells or shielded glove boxes with dimensions less than 6 cubic meters in volume compatible with the specifications set out in Annex I of the Additional Protocol. These will be co-located with the modernised Arak research reactor, the Tehran Research Reactor, and radio-medicine production complexes, and only capable of the separation and processing of industrial or medical isotopes and non-destructive PIE. The needed equipment will be acquired through the procurement mechanism established by this JCPOA. For 15 years, Iran will develop, acquire, build, or operate hot cells (containing a cell or interconnected cells), shielded cells or shielded

glove boxes with dimensions beyond 6 cubic meters in volume and specifications set out in Annex I of the Additional Protocol, only after approval by the Joint Commission.
22.  The E3/EU+3 are ready to facilitate all of the destructive and non-destructive examinations on fuel elements and/or fuel assembly prototypes including PIE for all fuel fabricated in or outside Iran and irradiated in Iran, using their existing facilities outside Iran. Except for the Arak research reactor complex, Iran will not develop, build, acquire or operate hot cells capable of performing PIE or seek to acquire equipment to build/develop such a capability, for 15 years.
23.  For 15 years, in addition to continuing current fuel testing activities at the TRR, Iran will undertake non-destructive post irradiation examination (PIE) of fuel pins, fuel assembly prototypes and structural materials. These examinations will be exclusively at the Arak research reactor complex. However, the E3/EU+3 will make available their facilities to conduct destructive testing with Iranian specialists, as agreed. The hot cells at the Arak research reactor in which non-destructive PIE are performed will not be physically interconnected to cells that process or handle materials for the production of medical or industrial radioisotopes.
24.  For 15 years, Iran will not engage in producing or acquiring plutonium or uranium metals or their alloys, or conducting R&D on plutonium or uranium (or their alloys) metallurgy, or casting, forming, or machining plutonium or uranium metal.
25.  Iran will not produce, seek, or acquire separated plutonium, highly enriched uranium (defined as 20% or greater uranium-235), or uranium-233, or neptunium-237 (except for use as laboratory standards or in instruments using neptunium-237) for 15 years.
26.  If Iran seeks to initiate R&D on uranium metal based TRR fuel in small agreed quantities after 10 years and before 15 years, Iran will present its plan to, and seek approval by, the Joint Commission.

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.  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.  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.
30.  For the purpose of this Annex, the IAEA will confirm through the established practice the failed or damaged status of centrifuge machines before removal.
31.  For 15 years, Iran will install gas centrifuge machines, or enrichment-related infrastructure, whether suitable for uranium enrichment, research and development, or

stable isotope enrichment, exclusively at the locations and for the activities specified
under this JCPOA.
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.
43.  Consistent with its plan and internationally established practices, Iran intends to continue R&D on new types of centrifuges through computer modelling and simulations, including at universities. For any such project to proceed to a prototype stage for mechanical testing within 10 years, a full presentation to, and approval by, the Joint Commission is needed.

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Deficiencies in the arguments for a U.S. war on Syria and the perils of military intervention in Syria without UNSC authorization

Deficiencies in the arguments for a U.S. war on Syria and the perils of military intervention in Syria without UNSC authorization

by Ahmed E. Souaiaia*

Answering a reporter’s question if bombing Syria is needed in order to preserve his credibility since he was the one who set a red line, President Obama replied: “First of all, I didn’t set a red line. The world set a red line. The world set a red line when governments representing 98 percent of the world’s population said the use of chemical weapons are abhorrent and passed a treaty forbidding their use even when countries are engaged in war. Congress set a red line when it ratified that treaty…”

It is true that international law and treaties have prohibited the use of certain weapons nearly a century ago. But UN Charter, the backbone of international law, also had established the proper response to any breach of these treaties. Outside the doctrine of self-defense from an imminent threat, no nation should attack another UN member state without authorization of the UN Security Council (UNSC). If nations were to act unilaterally, would U.S. leaders ratify a treaty that would allow, say the Soviet Union or China, to bomb the U.S. for actually using illegal weapons in Vietnam and other places?

The credibility of the President and that of the United States government will be further eroded if the President stubbornly rushes to war without UNSC resolution or making the case for self-defense. Attacking Syria under any other pretext will add to the image of the U.S. as being a bully who acts above the law and for suspect reasons. The UNSC could not act without evidence and part of that evidence was being collected by UN Inspectors who were in Damascus when the chemical attacks took place. Curiously, however, President Obama wanted to attack Syria (some expected an attack on Thursday) when UN Inspectors had just arrived to the scene.

Administration officials will point out that they sought UNSC approval but China and Russia were not supportive. The Chinese and the Russian leaders have argued that military action can be taken only when credible evidence of use of chemical weapons is presented. Russia’s president went further declaring that his country would support military action against any party in Syria should evidence be presented to the UNSC. That position seems more credible and logical than that of someone wanting to act first and ask questions later.

The Administration justified its desire to unilaterally attack Syria by arguing that (1) Russia and China are preventing the UNSC from acting, (2) the U.S. has enough evidence to prove that Assad and only Assad could and have used chemical weapons, (3) the killing of civilians near Damascus is too obscene to ignore, (4) only the regime has the capability to deploy chemical weapons, and (5) military action is the only way to force Assad to come to the negotiating table.

These are utterly weak arguments and grossly inaccurate statements.

First, Russia and China said that they did not see any credible evidence that identify the perpetrators and that they have evidence of their own that the Syrian opposition groups possessed chemical weapons and have used them in the past. In fact, allegations of use of chemical weapons in at least three other places were the reason for sending the UN Inspectors to Syria in the first place.

Second, there is always room for additional evidence to convince responsible members of the UNSC to authorize an extraordinary act, such as attacking a sovereign nation. Moreover, if the UNSC veto system is what is preventing the UNSC to act responsibly, the U.S. should join other nations that are calling for reform. But to complain, now, about the use and abuse of the veto when the U.S. has used and abused it more than the other four nations combined is indeed hypocritical and that is what erodes the President’s credibility and that of the nation’s.

Third, the slaughter of Syrians became obscene when the peaceful uprising was militarized and when Qatar and Saudi Arabia provided dangerous weapons to fighters with sectarian agenda, not today. Administration officials are quick to cite that 100,000 Syrians were killed. But what they will not cite is that 56,000 of 100,000 were killed by the rebels. In fact, 41,000 of the victims are Alawites—Assad’s sect. This disproportional killing of minorities is what sustains the regime: many Syrians belonging to Alawite, Druze, Shi`i, and Christian minorities think that Assad is the only man standing between them and a Taliban-like regime. Just Thursday, al-Qaeda affiliates took over a Christian town forcing frightened residents to flee; a mass slaughter is expected unless government forces retake the town soon. Recently, al-Nusra fighters have attacked Kurdish towns, forcing many residents to seek shelter in Northern Iraq. The Syrian regime could have collapsed during the first three months if the world community provided a credible alternative that will protect minorities from al-Qaeda affiliates and their sponsors.

Fourth, it is not an established fact that only the regime has the capability to deploy chemical weapons. That conclusion is not based on hard evidence; it is based on deductive and inductive reasoning. Be that as it may, it is reasonable to believe otherwise. Briefing leaders from the Friends of Syria group, the leader of the Free Syrian Army stated that he commands more than 80,000 disciplined troops who were members of Syrian armed forces and defected. With that being the case, is it inconceivable that some of the officers who defected know where some of the chemical weapons are and how to deploy them? Given the level of cooperation between the rebels, is it inconceivable that such information and knowledge was passed to extremist groups? Given the determination of Qatar and Saudi Arabia to overthrow the regime at any cost, is it inconceivable that such regimes provided crude chemicals that could be weaponized to rebels? Rebels have overrun many military installations in the past, is it inconceivable that they found some chemical weapons at those sites? Indeed, the brutality of the regime as described by its opponents is matched only by the cruelty of some rebel groups as described by the videos and statements they themselves have released. To romanticize the rebels and deaminize the government is destructive political bias or willful ignorance.

Fifth, the idea that the Syrian regime needs to be convinced by an act of war to attend political talks is factually untrue. It is the so-called National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces that refused to attend the proposed talks known as Geneva-2, not the regime. The U.S. administration is in fact incapable of convincing the opposition groups to attend Geneva-2 because Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Turkey are opposed to a political settlement.

Lastly, the Administration (see Kerry’s statements to Congress) is twisting the fact to support its case for war when it quantified the rebels by stating that “moderates” are stronger than “extremists.” One does not need classified intelligence these days to know that that is not true. Still, the CIA, foreign intelligence communities, and NGOs have all concluded that al-Qaeda-like rebelsare stronger and better equipped than fighters of the Free Syrian Army, the so-called moderate opposition.

For any nation, the only way to start a war against another country without UNSC authorization is in self-defense. The President needs to make the case that the Syrian government is an imminent threat to United States’ national security. He needs to make that case to the American public and Congress. The credibility of the UNSC is in acting within the framework set for it by its member states. Starting a war unilaterally will weaken the only international regime that strives to maintain world peace and security. The President ought to think about the long term effects of his rush to war. After all, public opposition (under 29% support the attack provided that there are evidence that Assad used CW against civilians) to his desire to act in Syria was due, in part, to another U.S. president’s rush to start another illegal war in Iraq. He ought to stop the cycle not perpetuate it.

* Prof. SOUAIAIA teaches at the University of Iowa. Opinions are the author’s, speaking on matters of public interest; not speaking for the university or any other organization with which he is affiliated.

Managing Syrian Conflict through Diplomacy

Managing Syrian Conflict through Diplomacy

by Henelito A. Sevilla, Jr. 
The complexity of issues surrounding the Syrian civil war requires not only diplomatic negotiations at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) but also through multilevel consultations of many important actors that have significantly contributed to either finding the solution or to worsening of the problem. What we have seen in Syrian civil war is not only opposing forces within the country but also outside forces which add to the intricacy of the problem. After months of conflict we found out that arms do not provide security nor it provide venue for more negotiation rather more bloodshed and killing of innocent civilians. This assumption has been reinforced by what happened in Libya. The proliferation of small arms into the hands of Libyan civilians does not only guarantee pity crimes after the overthrown of Khadafy but also the possibility of an increasing rate of organized crimes once small arms are channeled to politically motivated sub-groups such as the Jihadists.  In the case of Syria, small and high powered arms are already in the hands of the opposition forces and some of them are already handled by minors and some undisciplined Syrian who are vulnerable to killings, whereas, the United States, Russia and Iran are supplying arms and helicopters to either opposition or regimes forces.  Arguably this regrettable situation has contributed significantly to the killings of hundreds of civilians including the Syrian refugees fleeing to the borders of Turkey and Lebanon.  Arming the opposition to protect themselves from Bashar’s forces and providing attack helicopters and arms to the regime against the oppositions’ maybe the best option but it does not provide rationality to what really is the idea and intention on why Syrian went to streets to demonstrate. The fact that Bashar’s regime is unacceptable both from American and pro- American Arab regimes point of view, then the beginning of the civil protest was the perfect timing to start the gradual elimination of the US headaches in the Gulf. Syria ‘civil war’ is not just a civil war in its absolute terms. It is also an international geographically confined war with varied competing actors and interests not necessarily Syrians. It is a war about changing the political landscape of the region and finally it is a proxy war between the US, the Arabs and perhaps Turkey in one hand and Russia and Iran and perhaps China on the other hands.

What we have seen in the ground are the manifestations of different interests being carried out by the opposition forces and government forces who served as competing proxies of the two blocks being identified above. The competing interests of external actors have become apparent both at the UNSC, regional organization such as the Gulf Cooperation Council and through official pronouncements of the United States, Russia, China, Iran, GCC and Turkey. 

At the height of the UNSC debate on Syria, permanent members of the United Nations Security Council have already shown disagreement on how to approach the civil crisis in that country. This was the first level where disagreement and conflicting interests of the UNSC members became apparent.  The United States led alliance with Gulf monarchies and European allies has called for an international pressure to end the “Syrian killing Machines” and protect the Syrian citizens from the Bashar’s “abhorrent brutality.”  All would be much happy to see the region without Bashar of Syria and the Ayatollahs in Iran.  As a political journalist Pepe Escobar put it,
“It’s an alliance between NATO basically led by Washington, London and Paris and the six Persian Gulf Monarchies of the Gulf Cooperation Council. Their agenda from the beginning, for months now, is regime change no matter what.”    On the other side, Russia and China have both disagreed with the US back proposal on the ground that the UNSC resolution might result to a coercive change of government not by the Syrian people but by the outsiders. Thus, the conflict in Syria has also manifested a “geopolitical struggles over the future of the Iranian regime, control of the Middle East oil and perpetuation  of the West preponderant influence in the region” an condition that Russia and China feel that they could be “booted out of the region.”
This level of disunity has greatly affected the way diplomacy is being conducted on the ground. Not less than the former Secretary General of the United Nations Kofi Annan acknowledged his disappointment on the superpowers’ disunity and lamented that “any further militarization of the conflict would be disastrous.”   Patrick Scale in his article argues that “the more the opposition resorts to arms, the more the regime will feel justified in crushing it.”  The six-point proposal that Annan negotiated had a backed from the UNSC and the Arab League but was opposed by Russia and China. The Six-point proposal  called for the Bashar’s government to ‘withdraw the use of heavy weapons and deploy troops to populated areas and for the opposition fighters to disarm. It also leads down the mechanics for political transition once Assad is removed from power.’
The second level of disunity can be seen from the Gulf regional actors themselves. The members of the Arab League do not want Iran to be part of the consultation and in the making of the framework for solution in Syria. The denial of Arab Gulf states on the Iranian participation in negotiation process would not only result to a half -cooked resolution but would also trigger the Iranian Islamic regime to participate in non-transparent operations in Syria. The Western Countries in the United Nations have accused Iran as the ‘central party to illicit arms transfers’  to Syria and Hezbollah using the Syrian border. Finally, Iran must have a greater role considering its influence on Syria as Alex Vatanka article argues that since from the beginning, Iran’s relations with Syria is “a marriage of convenience” . Iran being a regional power must be acknowledged by the Arab Gulf States instead of just ignoring it as irrelevant actor.
The third level of disunity comes from completing political interests of the Syrian opposition groups. According to Fawaz Gerges an Expert at the London School of Economics and Political Science, that there are more than 100 armed Syrian groups. These groups are visible both inside and outside Syria. They can be divided into categories such as Muslim Brotherhood, Salafis, moderate Islamist, nationalist, secularist, leftists.  In an article written by Stephen Lendman of The New York City Independent Media Center,  opposition groups in Syria can be divided into nine major groups: 1) The Syrian National Council (SNC), the largest opposition group that ‘favors a violent ousting of Assad’; 2) National Coordination Bureau for the Forces of Democratic Change (NCB), which advocate a “democratic governance”; 3)  Syrian Democratic Platform, an ideologically formed group; 4) Building the Syrian State (BSS), that  discourage ‘armed struggle’; 50  National Change Current (NCC), a group that support the SNC; 6) The ‘loyal opposition’, that supports Assad; 7) ) Syrian Sunni Islamism, the strongest group that includes the Islamic Brotherhood; 8) the Kurdish Opposition; and 9) The independent Dissidents.
These opposition groups are united in replacing the Bashar’s regime, but their ‘approaches are different’.   Apart from these Syria comprised various groups each would like to have greater share in the Transition period in Syria.
Finally, Turkey is also playing a very crucial role especially in the terms of Syrian refugee issues. There had been disagreements within the UNSC on whether Turkish request to put a “buffer zone “inside Syria was practical or not. The Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has announced in August 2012 that his country would not accept more than 10,000 Syrian refugees into Turkish soil and called for the establishment of the buffer zone.  The United States and its allies shown no interest on it and as French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius commented that establishing a buffer zone is a “complicated” issue since it would require a resolution from the United Nations to established a “no-fly zone” in the area, given Russian and Chinese “reluctance” to remove Assad.   Assad also dismisses the idea of a buffer zone saying that it is “unrealistic.”
Different levels of disagreement both inside the country and abroad have all made negotiation a difficult task to achieve, a condition that led to the resignation of Annan as a chief negotiator citing disagreements among the members of the UNSC. A former Algerian Foreign Minister Lakhdar Brahimi replaced Annan and has dubbed his work as “impossible mission.”  But given that the crisis in Syria has already erupted to become a proxy war, there is no other way as of the present yet on how to diffuse the issue than diplomacy. It would mean that the interest of the Libyan nation must be given a top priority before any other political interests, although finding a common ground in the case of Syria is a difficult mission that the UNSC permanent members could achieved given the propensity of their regional interests. 


What is happening now in Syria is a continuation of a political and geostrategic battle on one hand between the permanent members of the UNSC vis –a- vis their regional interests and between the Basher’s regime against the fragmented government opposition groups on the other hand.  It is also a battle for Iran to maintain its ally in Syria and preserve its status as a regional power. In addition, it is an opportunity for Turkey to project itself as a regional power in the region and reasserts its role as a hybrid link between the Middle East and the West.  Each international and regional state-actors involved in Syria have played a dangerous game that would transform the political landscape of the Middle East region to an unknown direction. Each state guided by their strategic interests would love to see their share of influence in future of the Middle East. Instead of focusing on issues such as providing relief goods to Syrian civilian casualties and refugees, many efforts were focused on political and geostrategic concerns. Within this concern, nothing could be a best alternative to diplomacy. Even in the absence of development after many months of conflict, the world, especially contending powers should not overruled diplomacy and negotiation in favor of political and strategic interests of some actors involved. Giving signals to other states to sell arms to either parties in conflict may not only encourage the prolongation of the conflict and loss of lives and properties but may also demeaning our ethical and moral responsibilities not just as members of the international community but most especially as members of human race.


*Henelito A. Sevilla, Jr is an Assistant Professor at the Asian Center, University of the Philippines, Diliman. He holds a Ph.D. in International Relations from the University of Tehran, a Master’s degree in International Relations from the University of Shahid Behesti, Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran and Bachelor of Science in International Relations at the King Faisal Center for Islamic, Arabic and Asian Studies, Mindanao State University, Marawi City, Philippines.

Revolutions and rebellions and Syria’s paths to war and peace

Revolutions and rebellions and Syria’s paths to war and peace

by Ahmed E. Souaiaia*

Another massacre in Syria: click  on image to view video

In less than a month, peaceful Tunisian and Egyptian protesters ousted two of the most authoritarian rulers of the Arab world. The human and economic costs: a total of about 1100 people dead (300 in Tunisia and 800 in Egypt) and some decline in economic growth. These were the dignity revolutions. In contrast, the Syrian peaceful uprising quickly turning into armed rebellion is now 22 months old with over 60,000 people (civilians, rebels, security and military officers, women and children) dead, more than 4,000,000 persons displaced from their homes, and destruction estimated at $70 billion. This is now, without doubt, an ideological/sectarian civil war. Short of a genocidal outcome, the only path to peace is that which relies on reconciliation and dialogue. There can be no preconditions because all sides have blood on their hands at this point. This reality, and the staggering numbers cataloging death and destruction might, forces all sides to reassess their previously held positions. Ideologues who wanted to bend the path of a legitimate peaceful revolution to meet their narrow political and sectarian ends can no longer ignore this reality and the state of the country. The fast emerging developments support these hypotheses.

Earlier this week, the president of the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces (the National Coalition), Mouaz al-Khatib, announced that he is ready to talk directly with representatives of the Syrian regime. He insisted however, that the regime releases 160,000 detainees and renew or extend expired passports for Syrians living outside the country. Meeting on Wednesday in Cairo, some members of the National Coalition slammed al-Khatib, accusing him of straying from the Doha agreement, a document on the basis of which the National Coalition was formed.

In the light of the disagreements, one must ask: why did al-Khatib offer to hold direct talks with representatives of the regime? For answers, we must look at the recent events related to the Syrian crisis. I will highlight some of these events that could reconstitute the National Coalition or force the resignation of its current president.

1. Immediately after the formation of the National Coalition, the U.S. administration placed one of the main Syrian armed groups, Jabhat al-Nusra, on the list of terrorist organizations. The measure created a filter that limited the flow of arms into Syria. The legal implications of the label of terrorism split the opposition and tempered Saudi and Qatari enthusiasm for arming it. The categorization of the opposition into terrorist and non-terrorist groups was further enhanced by France’s intervention in Mali and the French media’s accusation of Qatar of supporting extremist groups in the Maghreb.

2. Three weeks ago, Assad gave a speech in which he called for reconciliation talks that excluded opponents he called “terrorists.” Syrian officials said this week that political opposition figures could return to Damascus for “national dialogue” and that any charges against them would be dropped. In the same speech, Assad announced plans for a reconciliation conference with opposition figures “who have not betrayed Syria.” He totally ignored plans by the UN envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi, who, according to some observers, was close to bridging the gap between Russian and American plan for solving the Syrian crisis. Assad’s speech practically rendered Brahimi’s efforts irrelevant.

3. This week (on Thursday), EU foreign ministers agreed to keep in place the ban on exporting arms to the Syrian opposition. This decision was a upset to efforts by some leaders of the National Coalition who met earlier in the week (Monday and Tuesday) to ask for $500 million and arms. The meeting, which al-Khatib did not attend, failed to provide the National Coalition with any tangible support. Moreover, early last week, France’s foreign minister acknowledged that there is no indication whatsoever that Assad is about to be overthrown and he communicated this new assessment to the so-called “Friends of Syria” when representatives of about 50 countries and organizations met in Paris. Initially, the National Coalition planned to announce the formation of a government in exile during this meeting. But the lack of enthusiasm “delayed” the announcement.

4. Compared to the failed meetings in Paris and Cairo, several other international gatherings about Syria were held around the world and have produced actual results that could help the Syrian people mitigate the economic and political problems they face. One of such meetings was held in Kuwait to raise money for Syrian refugees and displaced civilians. This meeting was not political and perhaps because it was not political it was very successful. More than $1.6 billion was raised in two days. Importantly, the meeting, which was attended by representatives of many countries, including Russia and Iran, highlighted the extent of human suffering and the horror of war. Although the Syrian government was not represented, its authority was nonetheless preserved since the money that is intended to be used to help displaced Syrians inside and outside Syria will be managed by a UN agency, which will coordinate parts of its activities with the Syrian government. This fact could explain al-Khatib’s comment about expired passports. Apparently, he realized that despite France’s (and a handful of other countries’) recognition of the National Coalition as the sole legitimate representative of the Syrian people, Assad’s regime is still the only legitimate government in Syria. A second gathering was held in Geneva and it brought together about 300 representatives of the so-called “civil opposition” and international NGOs. The participants issued a declaration calling on the world community to take steps to end the violence in Syria on the basis of the International Geneva Agreement. Specifically, the participants agreed to “negotiations between the opposition and the regime to implement the International Geneva Agreement, for issuing a constitutional declaration to create a Government with full power to administrate this stage, and work to bring about fair legislature and presidential elections, under international supervision.”

5. This week, too, more shocking images of horror emerged: 80 bodies of Syrian civilians were pulled out of a river near Aleppo. The images showed more victims of summary executions. The Syrian government accused “terrorists” of kidnapping and executing civilians living in neighborhoods known for their support to Assad. The opposition groups accused the regime of the brutal killings. Only an independent investigation could determine the identity of the victims and the perpetrators. Nonetheless, regardless of the identity of those who committed this horrible crime, the images remain shocking. The horrific scene of bodies scattered along the river bank made more people realize that the agony of the Syrians is indescribable.

6. Adding to these crucial developments, a spokesperson for the National Coalition announced today (Friday) that “Syrian National Coalition President Moaz Alkhatib will meet U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, United Nations envoy Lakhdar Brahimi.” Reacting to this announcement, Lavrov’s deputy Gennady Gatilov tweeted, “Media reports about the upcoming Munich meeting… are not true.” It is not surprising that Russia would hesitate in granting al-Khatib a high profile meeting given that the latter, when he was selected to head the National Coalition, demanded that “Russia apologizes to the Syrian people.” Russian officials are unlikely to agree to a multilateral high profile meeting that includes a figure they characterized, then, as “amateur.” In other words, this proposed meeting might turn into a series of one-on-one conversations to assess the situation and suggest a path forward. It is unlikely that such a meeting, even if it were to happen, will result in a breakthrough given the gap between Russia and U.S. positions on Syria and the disagreements within the National Coalition.

Notwithstanding this public dissent, and in the light of all these important developments, it is likely that some leaders on both sides are now convinced that there must be an end to the bloodshed, suffering, and destruction. Al-Khatib might be one of them. After all, and despite being attacked by his colleagues from the National Coalition, al-Khatib appeared on an Arab television after the Cairo meeting and declared that he is master of his own decision. He said that he stands by his statement on talks with the regime. He also said that he was not pressured or enticed by anyone or any country but his stand is based on his personal concern for the lives and welfare of the Syrian people. When asked if he is acting in contravention of consensus among the leaders of the Coalition, he replied, “the Coalition members have agreed always to alleviate the pain and suffering of the Syrian people.”

Indeed, al-Khatib’s new position might be dictated by his realization that Syria could not and should not endure this horror for another 22 months. It is also possible that he finally realized that the support promised by the sponsors of the National Coalition may never materialize. In a sense, his about-face regarding talks with the regime to which he previously vowed not to talk is either an act of political maneuvering or a cry of despair. Perhaps, now, the Syrians can trust each other and rely on one another and put an end to an unwinnable civil war. Relying on the regional and world powers has proven to be a costly participation in a proxy war that is devastating the country and further pushing Syrians to the brink of sectarian and ideological war that will certainly fragment the Syrian society and destabilize the entire region.
* Prof. SOUAIAIA teaches at the University of Iowa. He is the author of a number of books and articles. Opinion herein are the author’s, speaking on matters of public interest; not speaking for the university or any other organization with which he is affiliated.

Top News Story of 2012

Top News Story of 2012

The year 2012, like 2011, was dominated by news from the Arab world. With the profound changes that were produced by the Arab Awakening, the entire world continued to watch political and military developments emerging from that region. Without doubt, for the Arab world, the Syrian crisis, the Second Gaza War, and the vote on the Palestinian observer status were the most critical events of the year. But the UNGA vote, that came days after the Second Gaza War and the continued militarization of the Syrian crisis, is the most telling event. It exposed the interplay between politics, economic interests, and international justice. Most importantly, it exposed the lack of principle in the US foreign policy and weakened it in its claim as a promoter of just causes and human rights. The event also signaled a shift in international politics and international relations.
For these reasons, ISR’s News Story of the Year selection goes to the UNGA vote on the Observer Status for Palestine which went down as follows:
Countries that voted for the resolution:
Afghanistan, Algeria, Angola, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belarus, Belgium, Belize, Benin, Bhutan, Bolivia, Botswana, Brazil, Brunei, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Chile, China, Comoros, Costa Rica, Cuba, Cyprus, Denmark, Djibouti, Dominica, East Timor, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Gabon, Gambia, Georgia, Ghana, Greece, Grenada, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Honduras, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Ireland, Italy, Ivory Coast, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kirghistan, Kiribati, Kuwait, Laos, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Malta, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mexico, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nepal, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, North Korea, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Portugal, Qatar, Russia, Sao Tome and Principe, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Serbia, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Solomon Islands, Somalia, South Africa, South Sudan, Spain, Sri Lanka, St. Kitts and Nevis St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Sudan, Suriname, Swaziland, Sweden, Switzerland, Syria, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Thailand, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Tuvalu, UAE, Uganda, Ukraine, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Vietnam, Yemen, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
Countries that abstained:
Albania, Andorra, Australia, Bahamas, Barbados, Bosnia/Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Colombia, Croatia, Dem. Rep. of Congo, Estonia, Fiji, Germany, Guatemala, Haiti, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malawi, Monaco, Mongolia, Montenegro, Netherlands, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Poland, Korea, Moldova, Romania, Rwanda, Samoa, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Macedonia, Togo, Tonga, United Kingdom, and Vanuatu.
Countries that voted against the resolution:
Canada, Czech Republic, Israel, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, Panama, and the United States. 

Islamic world digest

Islamic world digest

For six days, representatives of member states of the United Nations talked about their most pressing issues. One after one, they addressed mostly an empty hall updating the General Assembly about their achievements and reminding the world about the problems that must be solved. Leaders of the Islamic world were present, although not all key players attended the yearly event.
The kings of Saudi Arabia and Morocco for instance did not attend. Turkey, too, elected to send the foreign minister instead of the prime minister or the president. Syria’s embattled president, too, was understandably unable to attend. But leaders who made it, expressed a wide range of concerns, and most importantly, the new realities emerging as a result of the Arab Spring. However, representatives of two Islamic countries received more attention than the rest: Iran’s president and Egypt’s.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who is serving his last year in office, brought with him a huge entourage. He delivered the usual speech he has been delivering for the past seven years and offered numerous interviews where he faced the same questions about the nuclear program and real and imagined human rights abuses. He offered his radical insight about solving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and sidestepped questions about the two-state solution.
Mohammed Morsi, Egypt’s new president, delivered a speech highlighting the role his country could play in stabilizing the region. He, too, emphasized the need to solve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict but was short on specifics. He brought to the attention of the General Assembly his attempt to end the Syrian crisis based on his vision that requires Assad to step down without foreign intervention.
What was notable about these leaders (as is the case with most Arab leaders), is that fact that it was impossible to distinguish personal opinions from state policies. In the case of the Iranian president, given that he was serving his last term in office, it would have been helpful if the interviewers asked him to distinguish between his personal opinion from the formal policy as established by the various institutions especially that of the supreme leadership.
In the case of Morsi, given that there are currently no other legitimate governing institutions, he is acting and speaking as if he has the final say on all matters. In the absence of an elected parliament and a ratified constitution, he is likely to continue the one-man rule and that must remind the Egyptian people of an era they want to forget.
The other dramatic but not surprising event at the General Assembly debate was Israel’s prime minister’s cartoonish cartoon explaining the threat of a nuclear armed Iran. His emphasis on outside threats and his lack of interest in solving the conflict with the Palestinians destroyed his credibility. After all, even the Iranian president conceded that if the Palestinians were to reach a just settlement with the Israelis, then he will have to respect their decision, which would render the Iranian threat a moot point.
In the end, the numerous speeches and long list of demands only highlighted the impotence of the General Assembly. The UNSC remains the organ of this organization most equipped to deal critical issues. But it, too, suffers from structural deficiencies. 
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