November 26/2013


Bible Quotation for today/Our Victory over the World
01John 05/01-05: "Whoever believes that Jesus is the Messiah is a child of God; and whoever loves a father loves his child also.  This is how we know that we love God's children: it is by loving God and obeying his commands.  For our love for God means that we obey his commands. And his commands are not too hard for us,  because every child of God is able to defeat the world. And we win the victory over the world by means of our faith. Who can defeat the world? Only the person who believes that Jesus is the Son of God

Latest analysis, editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from miscellaneous sources For November 26/13
Analysis: Iran deal bears Obama's personal stamp/By Matt Spetalnick/Reuters/November 26/13

Iran nuclear deal a relative win/By: Davoud Hermidas-Bavand/Asharq Alawsat/November 26/13
Making the Iran Nuclear Deal Work /By: Patrick Clawson/Washington Institute/November 26/13


Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources For November 26/13
Lebanese Related News
Geagea Lashes Out at Security Forces over USJ Standoff, Says Officials 'Destroying' the State

Sami Gemayel Slams Hizbullah's Actions at USJ: We Won't Remain Silent against Those Who Provoke us
Suleiman on USJ Incident: Simplest Rules of Democracy Oblige Everyone to Accept Vote Results

Army, ISF defuse sectarian standoff at university in Beirut
Berri hopes Iran deal boosts Arab ties

Berri Meets Khamenei, Rouhani in Tehran Visit, Lauds Iran's Nuclear Deal
Mistake to link bombing, Hezbollah role in Syria: Jumblatt
Raad says Iranian-Western deal ‘not final’
Int'l Support Group for Lebanon Regrets Delay in Govt. Formation, Urges Respect of Baabda Declaration

Hizbullah Says Nuke Deal an 'Exemplary Victory' for Iran, Defeat for Enemies
Syrian Activists Publish Pictures Showing 'Hizbullah Captives'
Jumblat Rejects Claims that Iranian Embassy Bombing Linked to Hizbullah's Fighting in Syria
Army Ends Standoff between Hizbullah, March 14 Supporters at USJ Huvelin Campus
Owaidat Issues Arrest Warrant against Bashir's Hospitalized Wife

Russia to Send Additional Humanitarian Aid for Syrian Refugees in Lebanon
Syrian Trucks Come under Fire in Tripoli, Driver Wounded

Miqati to Kick Off Arab, European Tour over Burden of Syrian Refugees
Miscellaneous Reports And News
Obama defends Iran nuclear agreement, pans 'tough talk' of deal's critics

Jerusalem, Riyadh stunned: Obama makes Iran 7th world power on regional issues, including Palestinians
Middle East cautiously welcomes Iran nuclear deal
France: EU Will Likely Lift some Iran Sanctions in December
Saudi Arabia Cautiously Welcomes Iran Nuclear Deal
France: Israel will not launch Iran attack

EU Envoy Seeks to Placate Israel on Iran Deal
Jordan Says Iran Deal Step in 'Right Direction'
Syria: Geneva II to begin on January 22

11 Dead in Mortar Fire on Aleppo
Obama Defends Iran Deal, Rejects 'Tough Talk, Bluster'
Putin, Pope Back Negotiated Solution to Syria Conflict
Brahimi: 'No List' so Far of Participants in Syria Talks
Kerry Says Syria Peace Talks 'Best Opportunity' for New Government, Ending War
Syria: Rebels advance on Damascus upon talks


Geagea Lashes Out at Security Forces over USJ Standoff, Says Officials 'Destroying' the State
Naharnet Newsdesk 25 November 2013/Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea criticized security forces' behavior during Monday's standoff at Universite Saint Joseph in the Beirut neighborhood of Huvelin, accusing Lebanese officials of “destroying the state.” "Despite the presence of security forces since 11:00 am, the situation did not change until 4:00 in the afternoon when reinforcements were brought,” Geagea said at a press conference he held to comment on USJ's events. “Is it possible that security forces that were present at the scene did not take any immediate step?” he asked addressing caretaker Interior Minister Marwan Charbel. The LF leader continued: “How can they refrain from acting just to avoid a standoff against Hizbullah? How can Charbel justify the security forces not asking Hizbullah supporters to leave although they were violating the laws?”“How could Lebanese citizens believe in the state after this?”Geagea lashed out at officials in power, accusing them of “destroying the state.”He said: “Those in power are marginalizing the state and destroying it with their behavior.”“What happened today is a big deal. There is a plan to take over Lebanon so do not bring up the issue of national dialogue,” Geagea stated. The Christian leader called on USJ's administration to open a probe in the incident. “We demand the General Prosecution to ask security bodies about the names of the protesters and prosecute them,” he added, “It is not acceptable for Hizbullah students at the USJ to ask party supporters that are not enrolled at the university to join them in their actions just because March 14 won the elections,” he commented. Earlier on Monday, media reports said that the tensions at USJ were as a result of Hizbullah students' protests against recent student elections. They said that the students had surrounded the USJ campus at Huvelin neighborhood, resulting in a stand off with rival March 14 students that could have escalated into a clash had it not been for the intervention of security forces and the army.

Suleiman on USJ Incident: Simplest Rules of Democracy Oblige Everyone to Accept Vote Results
Naharnet Newsdesk 25 November 2013/President Michel Suleiman on Monday stressed that “the simplest rules of democracy oblige everyone to acknowledge and accept the results” of elections, following a standoff between rival students at Universite Saint Joseph in Beirut.Suleiman held phone talks with caretaker Interior Minister Marwan Charbel, Army chief General Jean Qahwaji, USJ president Father Salim Daccache and security officials to inquire about the incident, the National News Agency reported. The president said the democratic spirit must prevail “instead of denial, defiance, questioning the winner's victory and provoking the defeated.”He called on students to “practice democracy and engage in democratic electoral competition which are aimed at improving their situations,” underlining that “elections at universities must remain an example for what democracy should be like in our country.”Earlier on Monday, tensions surged at the USJ-Huvelin campus in Beirut as Hizbullah supporters protested against recent student elections results, according to MTV. It said that the supporters surrounded the campus in protest, sparking tensions between them and the March 14 students. The army soon intervened however averting any clash between the rival camps.The student elections were held at USJ last week.An alliance between the Lebanese Forces and March 14 forces won the majority of seats at three of the campus' four faculties, while independent students swept the last faculty. Phalange bloc MP Sami Gemayel later revealed during a press conference that the standoff began when Hizbullah supporters at the campus painted graffiti hailing Habib al-Shartouni, who was convicted of the assassination of former President Bashir Gemayel in 1982.

Sami Gemayel Slams Hizbullah's Actions at USJ: We Won't Remain Silent against Those Who Provoke us

Naharnet Newsdesk 25 November 2013/Phalange Party MP Sami Gemayel slammed on Monday the actions of Hizbullah supporters at Universite Saint Jospeh, questioning the purpose of the party's provocations at the campus. He declared: “The identity of USJ will not be altered and we will not remain silent against those who provoke us.”He made his remarks during a press conference to address recent developments at the university's Huvelin campus in Beirut on Monday morning. He revealed that Hizbullah supporters had written graffiti on the walls of the university hailing Habib al-Shartouni, who was convicted with the assassination of former President Bashir Gemayel in 1982. “The graffiti provoked all students at USJ regardless of their affiliations,” added Gemayel. Moreover, he said that the Hizbullah supporters continued on provoking the students for several hours until the security forces and army intervened. He criticized the security forces' late response in containing the tensions, warning that the situation could have gotten out of hand.
“A major problem was averted in Ashrafiyeh today,” he stated. “The situation could have been contained as soon as the tensions began, but for some reason the security forces took at least four hours to intervene,” remarked the MP. “The army only intervened when it seemed that a clash was going to take place, which demonstrates that the state does not take immediate action to contain any tensions. Why do we leave matters to reach such a tense stage?” he wondered. “We thank the army and security forces for containing the situation, but they could have been faster in doing so,” he noted. Addressing Hizbullah, Gemayel asked angrily: “Why are you creating hate among the people against you? What do you have to do with Habib al-Shartouni? What are the purposes of your provocations? What is the reason for this spite?”“Do you seek to separate yourselves from the rest of the state? You must state your intentions openly,” he demanded. “Do we provoke you when it comes to your resistance and martyrs?” he added. “Why are you provoking and challenging us?” he wondered. “I do not understand how Hizbullah is allowing its supporters to create such divisions among the people, instead of working on uniting them,” he said. “USJ is a symbol of civility and Lebanon and we will not allow anyone to alter its identity. We urge the administration to also preserve its identity,” urged Gemayel. “We will no longer remain silent over any provocation,” he warned. Later on Monday, the Army Command issued a statement clarifying that "the dispute that erupted at one of the universities over student elections did not involve any violation of security that requires the intervention of army units," noting that "the army's entry into any university requires a prior request from its administration or from the security forces tasked with protecting it. “Although this did not happen, an army force arrived on the scene to prevent any escalation,” the statement added.
Earlier on Monday, media reports said that the tensions at USJ were a result of Hizbullah students' protests against recent student elections. They said that the students had surrounded the USJ campus at Huvelin neighborhood, resulting in a standoff with rival March 14 students that could have escalated into a clash had it not been for the intervention of security forces and the army. The student elections were held at USJ last week. An alliance between the Lebanese Forces and March 14 forces won the majority of seats at three of the campus' four faculties, while independent students swept the last faculty.

Army, ISF defuse sectarian standoff at university in Beirut
November 26, 2013/By Rayane Abou Jaoude, Ilija Trojanovic/The Daily Star
BEIRUT: The Army and Internal Security Forces defused Monday a sectarian standoff between students affiliated with the rival March 8 and March 14 parties at the Université Saint Joseph after tensions on campus drew calls for intervention and condemnation from political officials. The incident appears to have been sparked by some students graffitiing the name of Habib Chartouni, the assassin of President-elect Bashir Gemayel, with a heart under it. March 14 students blamed Hezbollah students for the graffiti, prompting a minor scuffle between a Hezbollah supporter and a Future Movement partisan. According to third-year student Adib Boustany, a Kataeb supporter, a brawl ensued between a student belonging to the Hezbollah party and another youth affiliated with the Lebanese Forces. The former challenged the latter to “take it outside,” Boustany said. Dozens of other Hezbollah-affiliated students rallied outside the university’s main gate on Huvelain Street in Beirut’s Monnot to watch the fight. Many of them were not university students, Boustany claimed. Media reports said several came from the Beirut neighborhood of Al-Khandaq al-Ghamiq and other nearby areas.
The incident follows tensions over the results of last week’s student elections, in which the March 14 student coalition, led by the Lebanese Forces, emerged as victors.
The coalition won 130 out of more than 200 seats in the student council and dominated the largest faculty, the Campus of Social Sciences. March 8 won 93 seats, while independent candidates took 12.
The crowds of angered outside the university people prompted the Army and the Internal Security Forces to deploy units. According to March 14 members, Hezbollah members also yelled profanities during the protest. Kataeb MP Sami Gemayel contacted both university President Father Salim Daccache and Army commander Gen. Jean Kahwagi, asking them to take full responsibility and contain the situation.Student Boustany said he thought the graffiti was “disrespectful.”“They [Hezbollah] can’t enter Ashrafieh and do this, if we did the same thing about [Sayyed Hassan] Nasrallah in their neighborhood things would be different,” he said. No incidents of physical violence were reported outside the university, as the Army attempted to quell the situation. The Internal Security Forces were also deployed soon afterward, putting the university on lockdown. Students could not leave campus until the situation was stabilized in the afternoon.
The university released a statement saying it would not hold classes at its Campus of Social Sciences Tuesday, taking full responsibility for the incident and adding that it was important to “renew its commitment to the historical adages of its charter, and its commitment to the application of these principles to be a university for all of Lebanon and all Lebanese across sects and political affiliations.”
MP Sami Gemayel said at a news conference that the spat was part of an ongoing series of provocations being carried out by Hezbollah. According to Gemayel, the Army and the Internal Security Forces were slow to assemble at the university. “We contacted all the security officials and nobody intervened, this is proof that the Lebanese government does not act on its own, and we have promised that we will not keep silent about such provocations,” he said. Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea also condemned the Internal Security Forces, saying they were mostly passive during the protest, and complaining that students were prevented from leaving the university campus for hours. “This situation is unacceptable,” Geagea said at a news conference, saying members of Hezbollah were dispersed around the university after the protest ended.
“I hope the university administration will open an investigation into the Hezbollah-affiliated students,” the LF leader said. Geagea said that approximately 150 Hezbollah members had surrounded the university, many of whom were “thugs” not enrolled at the college. The Army released a statement defending its response, saying the protest at the university was not a security transgression and therefore did not require the its intervention, adding that the altercations were a result of political differences. Nevertheless, the statement said, the military decided to deploy.
The Future Movement also released a statement condemning the events, calling on students “to be aware of the seriousness of being dragged into provocations” and “maintain their university’s reputation for democracy and tolerance.” Students from the National Liberal Party’s circle of Francophone Universities released a statement Monday stressing that such altercations were not welcome and vowing to “stand in the face” of similar incidents. A Hezbollah-affiliated student who requested anonymity told The Daily Star that the March 14 students were to blame for the brawl.
He said university students often discriminated against Hezbollah members, telling them “this is a Christian university,” and that it was Bashir Gemayel’s alma mater, implying that they were not welcome.
“We understand it’s a Christian university, but we pay the same tuition and we attend the same courses, so why should we be singled out?” he asked. In a statement, March 8-affiliated Free Patriotic Movement’s youth bloc “strongly condemned” the graffiti meant to insult Bashir Gemayel. It called on the university’s administration to investigate the issue and punish the perpetrators “no matter which party they belong to.”President Michel Sleiman telephoned caretaker Interior Minister Marwan Charbel, as well as Daccache and Kahwagi, about the incident, stressing that students should practice “sportsmanship” in elections.


Bkirki Denies al-Rahi Resignation Report
Naharnet Newsdesk 25 November 2013/Bkirki spokesman Walid Ghayyad and the head of Lebanon's Catholic Information Center denied on Monday that Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi would resign in the coming weeks. In remarks to the National News Agency, Ghayyad said: “The issue is out of the question.”Father Abdo Abu Kasam, the head of the center, made similar remarks to Voice of Lebanon (93.3) radio, saying: “We have heard about the reports and they are not true.”Their denial came after El-Sharq newspaper said al-Rahi would resign to get the post of Cardinal Leonardo Sandri at the Vatican. Al-Rahi, himself a Cardinal, would be the prefect of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches, the daily said. “It was decided at the Vatican for the prefect of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches to be from the Orient so the choice fell on the head of the most important and effective church in the Orient,” said El-Sharq. But Abu Kasam told VDL (93.3) that the reports about a decision to relieve Sandri of his post were not true. “We heard about the news when we were in Rome,” he said. “Such reports harm the Vatican.”Al-Rahi is in Rome along with other Catholic patriarchs for a summit meeting for the leaders of the Eastern churches in communion with Pope Francis. The meeting took place at the Vatican last week.

Berri hopes Iran deal boosts Arab ties

November 26, 2013/The Daily Star
BEIRUT: Speaker Nabih Berri expressed hope Monday that Iran’s recent nuclear agreement with western powers would improve the country’s ties with its Arab neighbors, he said after holding talks with Iran’s supreme leader and other top Iranian officials. “The deal of the century that was reached yesterday [Sunday] is a very important opportunity that Iran reached with patience, courage, efforts, wit, strength and steadfastness, this chance [allowed] Iran to overcome many issues,” Berri told reporters during a joint news conference with his Iranian counterpart Ali Larijani at Tehran’s Parliament. “I had a frank discussion [with Larijani] and I will discuss with other Iranian officials how to top this achievement in other areas, that of internal agreements ... particularly over Syria, and in [enhancing] Arab ties [with Iran],” Berri added. An interim deal to restrict Iran’s nuclear program was reached Sunday after five days of top-level talks in Geneva, involving Iran and world powers. The agreement was welcomed by Qatar and Kuwait, and Iran’s only two Arab allies – Iraq and Syria – while Saudi Arabia cautiously welcomed the deal. Prior to the news conference, Berri, who arrived in Tehran Sunday on an official visit, held talks with Larijani in the presence of several Iranian MPs.
Berri said they had discussed matters of mutual concern, joint parliamentary work and hot political issues. Berri also addressed last week’s deadly attacks on the Iranian Embassy in the Beirut neighborhood of Bir Hasan, saying they were condemned by all Lebanese parties and sects. “The explosion was carried out by two terrorists from Al-Qaeda and they were identified as a Lebanese and a Palestinian national,” Berri explained.
Over the weekend, Lebanese authorities identified the two suicide bombers responsible for the attack that killed at least 29 people and wounded 150 others outside the Iranian Embassy in Beirut.
Al-Qaeda-linked Abdullah Azzam Brigades claimed responsibility for the double suicide attack, the first to target an embassy since Lebanon’s Civil War. For his part, Larijani said that he had agreed with Berri’s proposal, and that Iran should seize the opportunity to bolster its ties with its Arab neighbors. “What Speaker Berri suggested reflects a deep vision that should be taken into consideration,” he said. “Iran’s vision is based on laying the foundations of friendship between Iran and Arab and Muslim countries,” Larijani said, according to a live translation. Larijani added that some sides were trying to spark disputes between Iran and its Arab neighbors, but said that the Islamic Republic and Arabs in Muslim countries were capable of having “solid long-term” ties, and could prevent others from interfering in these relations. “ Iran widely welcomes such relations,” he stressed. Larijani said Iran considered Lebanon a friendly and brotherly state. “We held constructive talks [with Berri] amid this sensitive and delicate phase the region is witnessing and we had similar opinions regarding the need to boost the capabilities of the resistance and cooperation in the region,” he said. During the meeting, Larijani expressed surprise that some countries in the region were worried about the nuclear agreement, saying negotiations between Iran and the world powers had never led to problems with other Arab states. Berri’s first meeting Monday was with Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The meeting which lasted for over an hour was attended by Larijani and the delegation of Lebanese MPs accompanying Berri. It also included closed-door talks between Berri and Khamenei. The discussions tackled regional developments primarily.
Berri also held talks with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, focusing on regional and international developments along with Iran’s nuclear deal.
Rouhani welcomed Berri and hoped the speaker’s visit would enhance ties between the two countries. The speaker concluded the first day of his visit by meeting Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who extended his condolences for the victims who died in the attack that targeted the Iranian Embassy. “This indicates that we can all fall victim to extremism and terrorism and that we have to cooperate with each other,” Zarif said. Sources from the delegation accompanying Berri said the visit was successful, according to the National News Agency. “The Iranians responded positively to Speaker Berri’s proposals, particularly in confronting the conspiracy of sparking strife and efforts for an Iranian-Arab rapprochement,” one source said.


Mistake to link bombing, Hezbollah role in Syria: Jumblatt
November 25, 2013/The Daily Star/BEIURT: Linking last week’s two suicide bombings near the Iranian Embassy in Beirut and Hezbollah’s military involvement in Syria is erroneous, Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblatt said Monday. “For those who insist on linking the Iranian Embassy bombing to Hezbollah’s interference in Syria, such a link is a mistake,” Jumblatt said in his weekly stance published on Al-Anbaa daily’s website. “Those claiming such a link lack the ability to control the so-called Takfiri [jihadist] groups,” he said, adding that “we should also recall who created the Takfiri approach and then turned against it, so be careful of dragging in such a sensitive issue,” Jumblatt said. In a front-page editorial published in Al-Mustaqbal Sunday, former Prime Minister Saad Hariri slammed Hezbollah’s continued military role in Syria, blaming the group for the infiltration of terrorism and suicide bombings into Lebanon. On Nov. 19, a double suicide bombing targeted the Iranian Embassy in Beirut killing at least 29 people and wounding scores more. Lebanon identified Saturday a Lebanese and a Palestinian, allegedly followers of Sidon-based Islamist preacher and outlaw Ahmad al-Assir, as the two suicide bombers involved in the attack. The Abdullah Azzam Brigades, a Lebanon-based Al-Qaeda affiliate, claimed responsibility for the attack, one of the deadliest in a string of bombings targeting Hezbollah’s strongholds, south of Beirut, in recent months. The attack was widely seen as retaliation for Iran and Hezbollah’s military support for the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad against the main Sunni rebels fighting to overthrow his regime. Jumblatt said more coordination between various security agencies in Lebanon was needed to limit the risk of Al-Qaeda in the country. “It is necessary to raise the level of coordination between the security agencies to the highest level, especially with growing indications of the deep presence of Al-Qaeda in Lebanon and with the unprecedented security and political deterioration [in the country],” he said. Jumblatt also expressed hope that the recent Western-Iranian nuclear deal would open “new horizons over the Arab and Islamic east and lead to an Arab-Iranian dialogue to escape the violence and counter-violence sphere.”He added that such violence is “sectarian and tearing down the Muslim entity.”


Raad says Iranian-Western deal ‘not final’
November 25, 2013/The Daily Star/BEIRUT: A historic nuclear agreement between Western powers and Iran is not final yet, said a Hezbollah MP as he noted that Iran’s right to nuclear enrichment is now recognized internationally. “There has been an agreement between the Islamic Republic of Iran and most western nuclear countries that dominate the world, and this is a framework agreement, not a final one,” MP Mohammad Raad who heads the Loyalty to the Resistance bloc said Monday in a commemoration ceremony at the southern town of Yehmor. “There are still rounds of negotiations over the agreement in order to complete all the items on its agenda, but the foundation which [the agreement] was based upon [represents] the world’s recognition of Iran’s right to nuclear enrichment for peaceful purposes.”An interim deal to restrict Iran's nuclear program was reached after five days of top-level talks in Geneva, Switzerland on Sunday. The deal represents a historic breakthrough in the world's decade-long nuclear standoff with Iran. Meanwhile, Hezbollah MP Hasan Fadlallah described last week’s suicide attack outside the Iranian Embassy in Lebanon as an assault that reflects failure to bring down the resistance. “The terrorist takfiri explosion that matches the Israeli aggression against our country will never be able to change the equation inside Lebanon or in the region,” Fadlallah said during a ceremony for the resistance’s martyrs in Bint Jbeil, south Lebanon. “The attack that hit the vicinity of Iran’s Embassy is a desperate attempt that reflects disappointment due to the steadiness of the equation of the resistance in the region and the failure of the conspiracy against Syria and the resistance.” A double suicide attack outside Iran’s embassy in Lebanon last week led to the killing of at least 29 people, including an Iranian official.


Jerusalem, Riyadh stunned: Obama makes Iran 7th world power on regional issues, including Palestinians

DEBKAfile Exclusive Report November 25, 2013/ debkafile’s exclusive Washington sources reveal exclusively: President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry secretly agreed to elevate Iran to the status of seventh world power, as a strong inducement for signing the interim nuclear accord in Geneva Sunday, Nov. 24, for living up to its obligations in the coming six months and for then signing a comprehensive agreement. While Iran has always demanded respect and equal standing as a regional power, never in their wildest dreams had the ayatollahs expected to be granted big power standing, with an authoritative role recognized by the six big powers for addressing issues in a broad region spanning the Persian Gulf, the Middle East and Western Asia, including Afghanistan. debkafile’s Iranian sources report that President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Javad Zarif presented this awesome achievement Monday to their hard-line critics at home, who accused them of giving away too much in terms of Iran’s nuclear program for the sake of a deal with the West. We come home from Geneva with recognition as a world power, they replied. The small print of Iran’s new rating is not yet in place, but Western sources familiar with the new US-Iranian understandings say they would not be surprised to find President Rouhani sitting in future summits on the same side of the table as the six powers who faced Iran in the Geneva negotiations. Zarif would also attend future foreign ministers’ meetings as an world-class equal.
Jerusalem and Riyadh are aghast at this development. Our Jerusalem sources report that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who has kept it back from his cabinet colleagues, has been holding back-to-back confidential consultations with the heads of Israel’s security and intelligence services and the high IDF command to decide how to handle Obama’s sudden replacement of Israel with Iran as America’s No. 1 ally in the region. Most immediately, a hostile Iran with a role in the ongoing US-sponsored negotiations with the Palestinians does not bear thinking off. The Saudi royal house is deep in similarly anxious and angry discussions. Some of debkafile’s Western and Israeli sources in the two capitals say Israel and Saudi Arabia both find Iran’s promotion to world status more shocking and deleterious even than its pretensions to a nuclear weapon. Neither had imagined the Obama administration capable of an about face so extreme. debkafile has obtained full details of the secret US-Iranian deal as concluded between Kerry and Zarif in Geneva and endorsed by the Russian and Chinese foreign ministers. They will be revealed in the coming DEBKA Weekly Issue No. 613 out next Friday, Nov. 29. If you are not already a subscriber to our premier publication, click here to sign on.

Analysis: Iran deal bears Obama's personal stamp
By Matt Spetalnick | Reuters – By Matt Spetalnick
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - When push came to shove in the closing hours of marathon negotiations in Geneva on Iran's nuclear program, it was President Barack Obama, back at the White House, who approved the final language on the U.S. side before the historic deal was clinched. It was perhaps only fitting that Obama had the last say. His push for a thaw with Tehran, a longtime U.S. foe, dates back to before his presidency, and no other foreign policy issue bears his personal stamp more since he took office in early 2009. Behind the risky diplomatic opening is a desire for a big legacy-shaping achievement and a deep aversion to getting America entangled in another Middle East conflict - motives that override misgivings to the Iran deal expressed by close allies Israel and Saudi Arabia.
That may explain why Obama, even as he left the troubleshooting to Secretary of State John Kerry and gave him much of the credit for securing the diplomatic coup, has taken "ownership" of the Iran issue like no other.
His engagement - both in private and in public and according to aides, at a level of minute detail - is in contrast to a more aloof approach as Egypt came under military rule and Syria descended into civil war.
"It's the top item on his foreign agenda for the rest of his term," a source close to the White House's thinking said of the Iran issue. "He doesn't want to leave anything to chance."
The stakes are enormous for Obama. If the talks break down and Iran dashes to build an atomic bomb before the West can stop it, he could go into the history books as the president whose naivete allowed the Islamic Republic to go nuclear. The breakthrough with Iran is also worrying the many pro-Israel members of Congress, including heavyweights in his own Democratic Party like Senator Charles Schumer.
Last weekend's Iran pact - a preliminary agreement on modest sanctions relief in exchange for temporary curbs on Iran's nuclear activities - was no case of accidental diplomacy.
Obama promised to seek direct engagement with Iran and other U.S. enemies during the 2008 presidential campaign, drawing accusations from Republicans that he was promoting appeasement.
He then used his first inaugural address in 2009 to offer to extend a hand if the Iranian leadership would "unclench their fist." After being snubbed, he galvanized international support for crippling sanctions that ultimately forced Tehran into the latest negotiations. Obama instructed his aides to arrange the historic telephone conversation he had with Iran's relatively moderate new president, Hassan Rouhani, in September, and authorized secret bilateral talks that laid the groundwork for the more formal Geneva rounds between Iran and world powers, U.S. officials say.
On Saturday, Kerry spoke by phone to Obama from Geneva to discuss the outstanding issues in the final tense stages of negotiations, a senior State Department official said. "This went all the way up to (Obama) personally approving the final language," the official said. While it may not be unusual for Obama to cast his trained legal eye on government-to-government agreements, his close attention to the wording of the deal-in-the-making underscored the sensitivity of the breakthrough document and his determination to get it right. Once the deal was signed in Switzerland, Obama stepped in front of the cameras at the White House in a rare late-night appearance and hailed it as "an important first step toward a comprehensive solution that addresses our concerns."It was a chance to tout a foreign policy accomplishment at a time when Obama is struggling with a flawed healthcare rollout and low approval ratings at home.
Obama's words on Saturday night were also infused with an appeal for patience, reflecting the hope that he can escape any decision on going to war with Iran by doing everything possible diplomatically to prevent it from developing a nuclear weapon. "I have a profound responsibility to try to resolve our differences peacefully, rather than rush toward conflict," Obama said.
Shaping Obama's thinking are the shadows of long, costly wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. His own aversion to new military interventions - underscored by his last-minute refusal to attack Syria in September - is matched by war-weariness that most polls show has permeated the American public. There can be little doubt that Obama - who meets with presidential scholars and is said to be keenly interested in his place in history as America's first black president - also feels the allure of detente with Iran as a crowning achievement in what has been widely perceived as a less-than-stellar foreign policy record.
"Resolving the Iran issue would be a huge boon to his legacy," said Colin Kahl, a former Pentagon official involved in Iran policymaking who now teaches at Georgetown University.
Iran has long been a key part of Obama's nuclear disarmament agenda - a diplomatic push that helped him win a Nobel Peace Prize so early in his presidency that many questioned whether he deserved it.
There is no guarantee that Obama will be able to sustain the momentum of the Geneva talks as critics at home and abroad accuse the president of giving up too much for too little.
Conservative critics say Obama's distaste for intervention, in particular his shying away from the bombing of Syria over chemical weapons use, has hurt U.S. credibility with Iran, a key ally of Damascus, and across the Middle East. "One has to wonder if a better deal would have been possible ... had Iran believed there was a real military threat and had the United States not seemed to be so very desperate for a deal," said Elliott Abrams, a foreign policy aide under Obama's predecessor, George W. Bush. Foremost among Obama's motives for a deal with Iran is to keep Washington from facing the prospect of another war in the Muslim world should there be no other way to keep Tehran from getting the bomb. Iran denies it seeks a nuclear weapon. Obama was elected on a platform of opposition to the Iraq war, and many of the foreign policy decisions he has made in nearly five years in office have demonstrated a deep wariness of letting America get militarily involved in foreign crises. "What we're seeing again with Iran is a kind of ‘Obama doctrine' - get America out of old wars and don't get us into risky new ones," said Aaron David Miller, a former Middle East negotiator now at the Woodrow Wilson International Center. Obama also needs to convince anxious Middle East allies to at least tolerate efforts to hammer out a comprehensive deal. "For the Saudis and Israelis, the key will be knowing that the pressure of the existing sanctions will be maintained, that evasion will be blocked, and that we have a clear idea of what we will not permit in any end-game deal," said Dennis Ross, a former Middle East adviser to Obama. The White House denies insinuations from friends and foes in the Middle East that Obama does not have the stomach to use force in the region and points to the overthrow of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. Even in that case, Obama was accused of "leading from behind" when he opted for a mostly backup role in the NATO air assault there.
(Additional reporting by Jeff Mason and Arshad Mohammed; Editing by Alistair Bell, Ross Colvin and Peter Cooney)

Iran nuclear deal a relative win

By: Davoud Hermidas-Bavand/Asharq Alawsat
The Geneva marathon ended with foreign ministers of the P5+1 group of world powers announcing a nuclear deal with Iran. The presence of the ministers at the InterContinental Hotel in the Swiss city was indicative of an imminent deal. The group was reported to have reached 90 percent of its objectives and the talks were going on about the remaining 10 percent. An agreement was predicted to occur. Six months may still be needed before the problems are resolved, but the agreement is a primary step which provides a positive atmosphere in view of an effective outcome. A favorable atmosphere dominated talks in Geneva, signaling a hopeful and positive result. Such a change is an important measure which may not end in an accord, but will definitely lead to entente. During the last round of talks, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu posed obstacles through the French government. Despite its significant achievements, the previous round of talks was adjourned after French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius killed a possible deal.  But this time, US Secretary of State John Kerry, Fabius as well as Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov held talks together in a bid to prepare the grounds for an accord. They were trying to convince one another to tone down their rhetoric. These efforts contributed greatly to the final deal. Meanwhile, US President Barack Obama has frequently said that Iran is entitled to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes. All these stances promised a sort of entente and accord during this round of talks. The agreement was finally reached at a time when Iran is facing tough economic conditions. The international community’s mobilization had put the country in such a tough position that it would have faced even more damaging consequences had it not joined diplomatic talks.
After the agreement was reached, numerous reactions came from inside and outside the country. Regardless of its economic, social and psychological reflections, this agreement shows that Iran is still at the beginning of the road. The advantages of this agreement will be first seen in the economy. Then, social impacts will be seen. The agreement will also significantly affect the country’s political atmosphere.
The new administration, which came to office with 18 million votes more than its nearest rival, was determined to change the political conditions and provide a more open atmosphere in society under tight security. All expectations from the new administration were not met, but the agreement reached in Geneva will positively affect economic, social and to some extent political domains.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohamad Javad Zarif politely and diplomatically spoke about win-win talks. Throughout the four days of negotiations, we saw that the Americans also reached their objectives. Despite repeating that all options were on the table, they regularly insisted on diplomatic dialogue.
Now, we have to be careful regarding the behavior and performance of hardliners in Iran and abroad. Unfortunately, extremists always pursue their factional interests. On the second day of talks, Israel and hawks in the White House and the US Senate raised the idea of tougher sanctions. But they are now obliged to move within the framework of this agreement so that nobody will veer off the diplomatic path. Iranian hardliners, devoid of any global perspective, will move ahead with their harsh reactions and criticisms, but these reactions depend on the performance of senior officials. The messages sent by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani following the signing of the agreement show their satisfaction with Iran’s diplomatic system. We have to take into account the fact that we are currently in a “relative win” situation and we have the opportunity to push the game into a “definite win.” The main sanctions are still in effect. We have to see what fate will befall Iran’s petrodollars stuck in Asian countries like China, India, Japan and South Korea.
Since the Geneva talks could still be said to be the early stages of a phased agreement, everyone has to be optimistic about these talks and Iran must push the game towards a “definite win” during the coming six months.
**Davoud Hermidas-Bavand is a professor of international law and international relations and a member of the National Front of Iran.

Middle East cautiously welcomes Iran nuclear deal
Gulf states welcome Geneva deal but stress it must lead to a Middle East free of all weapons of mass destruction. Israel continues to protest deal.
Saudi Vice Foreign Minister Abdulaziz bin Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, right, talks to an aide during an Asia Cooperation Dialogue ministerial meeting in Manama, Bahrain, on November 25, 2013. (AP Photo/Hasan Jamali)
London, Asharq Al-Awsat—The Middle East has cautiously welcomed the nuclear agreement signed in Geneva between Iran and the P5+1 on Sunday. The historic deal limits Tehran’s nuclear program and eases the tough international sanctions that have long been imposed on the country.
Saudi Arabia has said that it views the Geneva agreement between Iran and the P5+1 group of world states as a “primary step” towards a solution to the Iranian nuclear issue.
The statement carried by the official Saudi Press Agency on Monday said: “The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia views the agreement as a primary step towards a comprehensive solution to the Iranian nuclear program so far as good intentions are provided and as long as it leads to a Middle East and Gulf region free of all weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons.”
It added that Riyadh “hopes that this step will be followed by more important steps leading to guaranteeing the right for all countries in the region to peacefully use nuclear energy.”
The statement was issued following a Cabinet session held at Al-Yamamah Palace in Riyadh on Monday afternoon chaired by Crown Prince Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Deputy Premier and Minister of Defense.
For its part, Qatar described the nuclear agreement as “an important step towards safeguarding peace and stability in the region,” in a statement released by the Foreign Ministry.
“The State of Qatar calls for making the Middle East a nuclear weapons-free zone,” the statement added.
Kuwait announced that it “welcomes” the agreement between the P5+1 and Iran in Geneva. Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Khaled Al-Jarallah told state news agency KUNA that he hopes the agreement “would pave the way for a permanent accord that would defuse tension and preserve the stability and security of the region.”
Bahrain also welcomed the Geneva deal on Sunday. The Bahraini Foreign Ministry said: “The agreement is in line with the positions of the Kingdom of Bahrain and its steady policy that diplomatic solutions are the right way to ensure stability, achieve international peace and security and make the Middle East a zone free of nuclear weapons.”
The statement emphasized that the Geneva agreement “complies with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the objectives and principles enshrined in international conventions and the resolutions of the United Nations, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation and the Arab League.”
The UAE also welcomed the deal, according to state news agency WAM. “The cabinet hopes this would represent a step towards a permanent agreement that preserves the stability of the region and shield it from tension and the danger of nuclear proliferation,” reported WAM.
Syria, which enjoys longstanding ties with Tehran, immediately welcomed the deal. Syrian state news agency, SANA, quoted an unnamed foreign ministry official who hailed the deal as a “historic agreement.”
The Foreign Ministry official added that “Syria believes that reaching such an agreement is evidence that political solutions to the crises of the region are the best means to ensure the security and stability of the region, away from foreign intervention and threats of using force,” in an implicit reference to the Syrian crisis.
“Syria congratulates the brotherly Iranian people and their wise leadership on this historic achievement which reiterates Iran’s role in the stability and security of the region,” the Syrian official concluded.
For his part, Lebanon’s caretaker foreign minister, Adnan Mansour, also celebrated the “positive” historic nuclear agreement. “This agreement dispelled the tense relations between Iran and the West. It represents a step forward in making the Middle East a zone free of weapons of mass destruction,” Mansour said.
However, the caretaker foreign minister criticized Tel Aviv’s stance on the deal, saying: “Israel is rejecting the US-Iranian nuclear deal because it wants to create a scarecrow out of the Iranian nuclear program.”
Israel has reacted angrily to the deal, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu telling his cabinet that the world has become a “more dangerous place” following the Geneva agreement. “What was concluded in Geneva last night is not a historic agreement, it is a historic mistake,” he said.
On Monday, Netanyahu announced that he will send a team to Washington, led by national security adviser Yossi Cohen, “to discuss with the United States the permanent accord with Iran,” in a statement made before members of his right-wing Likud party.

Syria: Geneva II to begin on January 22

More than 11,000 Syrian children have been killed in the crisis, according to UK-based research group
UN Joint Special Representative for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi delivers a press conference at the European headquarters of the United Nations, in Geneva, Switzerland, on November 5, 2013. (EPA/JEAN-CHRISTOPHE BOTT)
Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat—Syria’s government and opposition will sit down at the negotiating table in Geneva on January 22, 2014, for the first time since the eruption of the civil war, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced on Monday. In a statement declaring the official start date of Geneva II, the UN Secretary-General said: “The conflict in Syria has raged for too long. It would be unforgivable not to seize this opportunity to bring an end to the suffering and destruction it has caused.”
Ban hailed the efforts exerted by the United States and Russia, as well as UN and Arab League mediator Lakhdar Brahimi, in paving the way for the peace conference.
“We will go to Geneva with a mission of hope. The Geneva conference is the vehicle for a peaceful transition that fulfills the legitimate aspirations of all the Syrian people for freedom and dignity, and which guarantees safety and protection to all communities in Syria,” Ban said.
The latest news—with Geneva II being pushed back from an expected mid-December start but the conference being given a firm date for the first time—emerged after a meeting between the Syrian National Coalition and Brahimi. The meeting was also attended by Coalition Secretary-General Badr Jamous, senior leadership figures Abdel-Hakim Bashar, Abdulahad Astepho, and Nazir Al-Hakim, as well as US Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford. Leading Syrian National Coalition figure Ahmad Ramadan informed Asharq Al-Awsat that the delegation “sensed an understanding from Brahimi of the circumstances which could lead to the success of Geneva II, the most important of which being a peaceful transition of power in Syria instead of futile negotiations.”
Ramadan said the Coalition would wait to see the level of commitment expressed by some countries—particularly the US and Russia—to the decisions set out by the Friends of Syria meeting, Geneva I, and UN Resolution 2118. Given that the UN has now officially announced that Geneva II will be going ahead in January, it appears that the Coalition has reacted favorably to the latest diplomatic push to secure the holding of the peace conference. Alternatively, some analysts view the announcement as an attempt to exert further pressure on the opposition parties to attend.
Coalition member Samir Al-Nashar told Asharq Al-Awsat that the meetings held by the Coalition over the last two days in Geneva aimed to “clarify and confirm the position on participating in the conference.”
He added that this followed confusion resulting from the announcement that the Coalition was prepared to attend Geneva II if specific conditions were met, with some viewing this statement as explicit agreement that the Coalition would attend. Nashar said that the meetings in Geneva aimed to send the message that “the Coalition is not ready to participate in the conference and will not participate even if a date is set, unless it receives clarifications and guarantees which forces the Assad regime to commit to the decisions of the conference.”
Nashar added: “The Syrian National Coalition wants clear answers to fundamental questions, most importantly regarding Assad’s position and future role during the transitional phase…and Iran’s participation in the conference.”
He added that the Coalition strongly rejects Tehran’s attendance at Geneva II as long as the Iranian military is participating in the “war against the people of Syria.”
Syrian National Coalition Secretary-General Badr Jamous said the aim of the latest visit to Geneva was to “consult with active parties to prepare a suitable atmosphere to hold Geneva II, by pressuring the Syrian regime to end its attacks on civilians, lift the siege, and release Syrian detainees.”
The Syrian National Coalition has agreed to attend Geneva II on condition that the conference will lead to the formation of a transitional ruling body with full powers, including presidential, military and security powers, in addition to guarantees that President Assad and his aides will play no role during the transitional phase.
Nashar told Asharq Al-Awsat that there has been no direct contact between the Syrian National Coalition and the “domestic opposition”, such as the National Coordination Committee for Democratic Change and former Deputy Prime Minister Qadri Jamil, in order for the opposition to attend Geneva II as part of a single unified delegation, which had been a Russian demand.
Moscow has refused to consider the Coalition as the sole representative of the Syrian people, and accused it of monopolizing the opposition.
In another development, a new report by the London-based Oxford Research Group, entitled Stolen Futures—the Hidden Toll of Child Casualties in Syria, has said that more than 11,000 Syrian children have been killed in the crisis. The report said that of the 11,420 victims aged 17 and under, more than 70 percent died from “explosive weapons”, air strikes and artillery shells fired on civilian areas, while hundreds were summarily executed, killed by torture or sniper fire.

Making the Iran Nuclear Deal Work

Patrick Clawson/Washington Institute
Now that an Iran nuclear deal has been signed, the next challenge is implementation. This step will entail at least two major challenges: interpreting the agreement and progressing toward what the deal calls "the final step of a comprehensive solution."
Press reports suggest that in recent months, the United States, in the person of Deputy Secretary of State William Burns, has had extensive secret bilateral discussions with senior Iranian officials. Hopefully, such high-level talks have actually occurred and will continue. They provide the perfect venue for discussing steps each side might take now that an accord has been signed, including the interpretation of provisions left intentionally vague in the document released to the public.
In the nuclear accords signed in 2003 and 2004, Iran interpreted the terms expansively, claiming that the deals permitted activities thought to be clearly banned by the other parties. Ultimately, Iran backed out of the deals, contending that the West was not following through on its obligations as Tehran understood them. The reality, of course, may have been that Iran was simply using such reasoning as an excuse to back out of agreements it had come to dislike. This experience illustrates some of the challenges of implementing any such accord, wherein the possibility always exists of differing interpretations.
Despite Tehran's many obligations under the Joint Action Plan (JAP), these obligations are not linked to time lines. Tehran, for example, would be within its rights to wait five months before following through on the requirement to dilute half its stock of 20-percent-enriched uranium to 5-percent-enriched uranium -- assuming the regime allows International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors access to centrifuge-manufacturing facilities, agrees with the IAEA on safeguards for the Arak reactor, or gives IAEA inspectors daily access to the Fordow and Natanz plants.
This is one area in which continued back-channel talks could be particularly useful -- that is, to raise any concerns and clarify reasons for the inevitable delays that will occur on some fronts. In such talks, Washington should note vigorously that its own actions in the JAP's implementation will be linked to Iranian compliance. For instance, the JAP text establishes no time line for suspension of U.S. sanctions on Iran's petrochemical exports, gold trade, and auto industry imports. These sanctions should not be lifted based on good faith that Iran will ultimately fulfill its side of the deal. Better negotiating practice calls for an agreed understanding on each side's pace of implementation.
A number of other provisions in the JAP are ambiguous. In particular, the text states, "The U.S. Administration, acting consistent with the respective roles of the President and the Congress, will refrain from imposing new nuclear-related sanctions." That language seems clear enough, but it leaves key questions unaddressed. Perhaps the most important of these is U.S. enforcement of its existing sanctions. Such enforcement has required frequent designation of additional entities and individuals within and associated with the Islamic Republic, often because Iran turns to new subterfuges to avoid the U.S. sanctions. If Washington continues to designate additional sanctions-busters, Tehran may complain that the United States is reneging on its side of the deal by enacting new sanctions. But if Washington turns a blind eye to Iran's new schemes to evade restrictions, then the existing sanctions will be eroded and the Islamic Republic will have less incentive to continue negotiations or even to observe the Geneva accord.
Just as the JAP is silent on new measures to enforce existing sanctions, it also says nothing about threats of eventual additional sanctions if talks fail; the text only bans "imposing new" sanctions. In the sanctions legislation being considered in the U.S. Senate, by comparison, new sanctions would be imposed if no full accord is reached within 180 days after the signing of the Geneva deal. Proponents of the Senate bill argue that this provision is a spur to reaching a comprehensive solution, rather than a lever to impose new sanctions that contravenes the JAP. That said, Tehran will surely scream if the Senate bill is approved. For its part, the Geneva text does carve out space for new sanctions on Iran for nonnuclear causes, such as human rights violations, support for terrorism, or drug trafficking -- all of which have been cited to justify some of the sanctions on Iran. In practice, Tehran is likely to complain about any such sanctions. The Geneva deal is more likely to be implemented if the Obama administration clarifies to Tehran the limited nature of U.S. commitments under the accord. If Iran, correspondingly, wants quiet reassurance of U.S. steps beyond those delineated, then Tehran must demonstrate concretely its own willingness to take further steps.
U.S. officials have stressed that the Geneva accord is only a first step. The JAP adopts the same language used in a November 6 background briefing by a "senior administration official" about "a first step and then a comprehensive solution." That administration official, referring to the accords then under discussion, argued, "It's not an interim deal, sort of like, well, you may never get to the rest of it. It is a first step that ought to lead you towards what you are trying to resolve in a comprehensive agreement."
But the timetable set for reaching a comprehensive solution is looser than the often-cited six months. The JAP text states, "The first step would be time-bound, with a duration of 6 months, and renewable by mutual consent, during which all parties will work to maintain a constructive atmosphere for negotiations in good faith." This language only commits Tehran to negotiate in good faith during those six months. Indeed, the section titled "Elements of the Final Step of a Comprehensive Solution" outlines "the final steps of a comprehensive solution, which the parties aim to conclude negotiating and commence implementing no more than one year after the adoption of this document" -- implying that negotiations may last a year rather than six months.
In practice, it is difficult to see circumstances under which the P5+1, as the nations negotiating with Iran are known, would refuse to renew the Geneva deal. Indeed, it would be near impossible for the P5+1 to explain why a deal that was good enough for six months is not good enough for six years -- or permanently. Yet Iran's commitments on two key fronts only last six months: "Iran announces that it will not enrich uranium over 5% for the duration of the 6 months," and "Iran has decided to convert to oxide [a form less easily enriched further] UF6 [uranium] newly enriched up to 5% during the 6 month period." Nothing in the JAP text dictates whether these commitments will be extended if the agreement is extended.
The main mechanism in the Geneva deal pushing Iran toward a comprehensive solution is the partialness of the sanctions relief, with an important element (the release of some funds held in banks outside Iran) being time limited. So the pressure on Iran will depend primarily on how vigorously the existing sanctions are enforced. Yet, as noted above, Tehran is likely to object to enforcement actions by identifying them as new sanctions. This is another issue on which a side understanding, out of the public eye, is needed.
Were the Geneva accord to fall apart as did the 2003, 2004, and 2009 nuclear deals with Iran, a grave crisis would ensue. The failure of the agreement could strengthen Iranian suspicions of the West, suspicions that Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei continues to voice in his guarded approval of the nuclear talks. Were Iran to ultimately thwart the restrictions it has now accepted, such a move would feed concerns in the West and in the region -- especially the Gulf monarchies and Israel -- that Iran was preparing to "break out," or take the last steps before a dash to nuclear weapons capability. The scenario the world community had sought to avoid through a deal would thus have unfolded, and the options would be accepting an Iranian bomb or bombing Iran.
Therefore, the temptation for Washington will be to insist that all is well: to emphasize uncertainties about intelligence on transgressions, to characterize any problems as minor and readily fixable. Add to this the professional instinct of diplomats that they have the tools to resolve differences. The irony is that a relatively permissive attitude like this could put at risk the peaceful resolution of the nuclear impasse, because concealed shortcomings will be perceived by critics as cover-ups and proof that the deal is not working. Much better would be to disarm critics by readily, openly, and regularly acknowledging that the nuclear accord is a work in progress, that not everything will go according to plan, and that unexpected issues will arise requiring further agreement. Facing reality is tough, but pretending is rarely a sustainable alternative.
**Patrick Clawson is director of research at The Washington
Obama defends Iran nuclear agreement, pans 'tough talk' of deal's critics

US president says America cannot commit itself to an endless cycle of violence: "We cannot rule out peaceful solutions to the world's problems"; senators weigh sanctions legislation that would respect six-month deadline.
US President Barack Obama at the White House Photo: Reuters
WASHINGTON – The Obama administration continued on Monday to defend the breakthrough deal cut over the weekend between world powers and Iran – effectively freezing its expansive nuclear program for a period of six months – as a positive development in the national interests of the United States.
On a tour of the West Coast, US President Barack Obama directly addressed critics of the deal as "blusterous" players all too comfortable living under a perpetual threat of confrontation.
Related: Deal on Iran sanctions relief strikes good balance, experts sayBritain's Hague urges Israel: Do not undermine Iranian nuclear deal"We cannot commit ourselves to an endless cycle of violence, and tough talk and bluster may be the easy thing to do politically, but it's not the right thing for our security," Obama said in San Francisco. "we cannot rule out peaceful solutions to the world's problems."
In London, US Secretary of State John Kerry gave UK Foreign Minister William Hague a pat on the back for a job well done in Geneva, where the interim deal was cut with the Islamic Republic in the early hours of Sunday morning.
Pushback from lawmakers on Capitol Hill has been cautious and measured.
While the deal has been recognized by members of both parties as a potentially positive step forward, critics in the US Senate – still considering a harsh new sanctions bill against Iran that its government says would nullify the agreement – have all cited contempt for the deal from regional governments as a source of concern.
“It does appear that, if implemented, this agreement could modestly slow Iran’s nuclear ambitions during the next six months,” John McCain (R-Arizona), a leader on foreign policy matters in the Senate, said in a statement.
But “I am concerned this agreement could be a dangerous step that degrades our pressure on the Iranian regime without demonstrable actions on Iran’s part to end its pursuit of a nuclear weapons capability.”
“For this reason,” McCain continued, “I will continue working with my colleagues in Congress to keep the pressure on the Iranian regime, including by action on additional sanctions.”
Procedurally, it will be difficult if not impossible for new sanctions to pass through the Senate beyond committee rooms without the support of Democratic leadership in the upper chamber. Sen. Robert Menendez, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee and a member of the Senate Banking Committee, has already said new legislation would respect the six-month time frame built into the Geneva deal.
“I expect that the forthcoming sanctions legislation to be considered by the Senate will provide for a six-month window to reach a final agreement before imposing new sanctions on Iran,” said Menendez, “but will, at the same time, be immediately available should the talks falter or Iran fail to implement or breach the interim agreement.”
Announcing the deal from the State Dining Room of the White House on Saturday night local time, US President Barack Obama pressed Congress to hold off on further action until the next round of talks, aimed at forging a final-status agreement, has been completed.
“Now is not the time to move forward on new sanctions,” Obama said, “because doing so would derail this promising first step, alienate us from our allies and risk unraveling the coalition that enabled our sanctions to be enforced in the first place.”
The administration of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has not said whether such a bill – respecting the six-month deadline but passed by Congress intending to loom over talks – would be acceptable.
The deal hammered out in Geneva imposes a political construct on the Obama administration that did not exist before: a fixed deadline concerning the Iranian nuclear program.
Timelines have been elusive in the Iranian nuclear saga, which has lasted for more than a decade, since then-president George W. Bush listed Iran as part of an “axis of evil” for attempting to build weapons of mass destruction.
The president now publicly acknowledges that his administration and the international community have six months to test whether a lasting, comprehensive and peaceful diplomatic solution is attainable with Iran.
Failure after mid-May – which also happens to be the self-imposed deadline on US-brokered negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians – would put significant pressure on the White House.
“I think Israel would’ve preferred not to do this first step,” Tony Blinken, deputy national security adviser to the president, told CNN on Monday morning. “If we could’ve negotiated a comprehensive deal right away in a matter of days, we would’ve done that.”
Israel has been unusually vocal in its opposition to the deal, with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu calling the agreement a “historic mistake” on Sunday.
“Some of our Arab friends, for example, are concerned that if we get a deal with Iran on its nuclear program, a comprehensive deal, then we’ll be satisfied and we’ll forget about all of the other things Iran does that they don’t like and that we don’t like,” Blinken said. “And the fact is we won’t. We’ll continue to confront what Iran is doing around the world that is a problem for us and a problem for some of our partners.
But that’s their concern; we’ve reassured them that’s not the case.”
Initially silent, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia finally came out with a statement on the deal on Monday.
The deal could produce positive outcomes for the region, the kingdom said, should all parties stick to its tenets.
“If there was goodwill,” Saudi Arabia’s cabinet said in a released statement, “this agreement could represent a preliminary step towards a comprehensive solution to the Iranian nuclear program.”
Reuters contributed to this report