November-December 2006

P.O. Box 190, Mount Holly, Virginia 2252
Volume 36, Number 5, Jerry Strope, Editor


  “We’re relying upon others because we’ve sanctioned ourselves out of influence with Iran. In other words, we don’t have much leverage with the Iranians right now."

                                                President George W. Bush, December 20, 2004


What Will Iran Do Next?
Talking With North Korea
Post-Katrina  FEMA


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What Will Iran Do Next?

  As the year 2006 comes to a close, a careful review of the five ASDA Newsletters issued so far this year leads us to conclude that President Bush’s “quotable quote”  of two years ago is still valid. So there it is at the top of the page. The diplomatic arena, however, has new key players and a big new issue to complicate things.

  A year ago, Britain, France, and Germany, were still attempting to negotiate with Iran some arrangement that will assure the world that Tehran will not develop nuclear weapons. Last Spring, the Europeans gave up and referred Iran’s intransigence to the UN Security Council, recommending sanc-tions. On June 1, the five permanent members of the Security Council—the US, Britain, France, Russia and China, together with Germany, offered Iran a package of incentives if Iran suspended its enrichment program, demanding an answer by July 31st.

  Iran ignored the deadline. With no answer, the Security Council passed a resolution threatening sanctions and giving a new deadline of August 31. The mullahs of Iran thumbed their noses at this deadline, too. 

  Then the matter of North Korea’s threat of a nuclear bomb test occupied the attention of the Security Council and it was near the end of October that the Council got back to negotiating a draft resolution on Iranian sanctions. Proposed sanctions include a ban on selling missile and nuclear technology to Iran, ending of UN help on nuclear power programs, and travel restrictions on Iranian technicians. Iran responded at last with a 21-page answer to the incentive proposal that was complex and confusing. One diplomat complained that they didn’t say “yes” and they didn’t say “no.” Another noted that Iran offered to further negotiate the “carrots” but not the “sticks.” Most recently, the Iranian leadership has reiterated that they will not stop uranium enrichment “under any circumstances” and staged celebrations of successful enrichment and plans to add thousands of additional enrichers. In mid-November, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad declared that “many countries have agreed to live with an Iran that has mastered enrichment.” Meanwhile, the original confrontation has been pretty much overtaken by events.

  By far the biggest change has been the injection of the Iraq situation into the Iran matter. This began during the recent campaign and was brought into sharp focus in the report of the Iraq Study Group (IRG) that became public in early December. The IRG is a bipartisan commission of distinguished foreign policy folk chaired by James Baker and Lee Hamilton. One of their 79 recom-mendations was to approach Iran and Syria for help in creating a stable Iraq. While this recommendation was greeted with snickers by some (after all, Iran and Syria have been doing their best to create instability in Iraq,) it was taken seriously by some, including Israel.

  It so happened that the Iranians chose to stage at this particular time a two-day convocation of those who deny the existence of the Holocaust. In a speech to this group, President Ahmadinejad said that Israel will one day be “wiped out” as the Soviet Union was. The conference participants applauded. What, Israelis ask, could the US possibly offer the Iranians to obtain their help in Iraq? One obvious answer is to stop objecting to their nuclear ambitions. With tensions high between Iran and Israel, President Bush felt called upon to reassure visiting Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that the US would continue  to isolate Iran until “it gives up its nuclear ambitions.” Moreover, Bush repeated his threat of unspecified “serious consequences” if Iran does not suspend uranium enrichment. The Iranian threat has taken on new urgency in Israel since Ahmadinejad has been telling government ministers that Israel’s “disappearance and destruction” is imminent. Israel deputy defense minister, Ephraim Sneh, suggested Israel might be forced to launch a military strike against Iran’s nuclear program as a “last resort.” An Israeli spokesman said Sneh’s comments “did not necessarily” reflect Olmert’s position, but a few days later Olmert used a turn of phrase that could be construed as an admission that Israel has nuclear weapons, which Israel has never admitted. 

  All this verbal nuclear jousting has not gone unnoticed. The Gulf Cooperation Council consisting of six oil-rich Arab states—Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrein and Oman—held a meeting and announced that they will consider starting a joint nuclear program for peaceful purposes. President Ahmadinejad’s warlike talk also has been noticed inside Iran. As we went to press, Iranians voted in nationwide local elections. Not a single candidate backed by the government won  Finally, the UN Security Council noticed. On December 23, it passed unanimously a resolution demanding that Iran cease enriching uranium and in-voking sanctions until it complies. As the year closed, Iran was denouncing the United Nations and vowing to speed up its uranium enrichment.

Talking With North Korea

  As noted in the last newsletter, the North Koreans startled everyone by agreeing to rejoin the six-nation talks that they had walked away from about a year ago. A number of guesses were made in the mass media as to what motivated them to abandon their walkout. The most popular of these was that the Chinese made them do it. This is a reasonable guess as the Chinese could threaten to stop providing the food and fuel that the North depends on for its survival. Yet, there is something about the circumstances that does not fit that explanation. For one thing, the Chinese seemed as surprised at the turnabout as was everyone. Also, China has been making that sort a threat for some time now without effect.

   What fits the circumstances best is the following explanation: Kim Jong Il has lost confidence in his technicians. His PR types have put a good face on it but his nuclear test bomb was a failure, a fizzle. Sure, the technicians might get it right next time maybe. On July 4, the three-stage rocket that was supposed to carry the nuclear warhead lasted only 42 seconds before splashing. That left egg on Kim’s face, too. Perhaps Kim has decided it is time to cut his losses. Go back to the six-nation talks. Try to squeeze out more goodies than he agreed to last year. Get as much as he can before the bubble bursts.

   This explanation can be tested by following closely what transpires at the reactivated six-nation talks. Recall that after intense negotiations during the summer of 2005,  the six nations—China, Japan, Russia, North Korea, South Korea and the US—had signed a draft accord on September 19, 2005, in which North Korea agreed to de-nuclearize, rejoin the Nonproliferation Treaty, and host IAEA inspectors in return for a peace treaty that guarantees its borders (to replace the armistice that has been in place for more than 50 years), free electric power from South Korea, and a basket of goodies, including a light-water nuclear power plant of substanbtial size. 

  The day after the agreement was signed, North Korea announced it would not begin to dismantle its nuclear weapons program until the United States first completed the nuclear power plant. That could be several years away at best. Chris Hill, the US negotiator, indicated there would not be a start on the nuclear power plant until the North rejoined the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and let in the inspectors. Clearly, the signed agreement must be followed by an agreed schedule for accomplishment of the terms of the agreement. That never happened because North Korea walked out of the next meeting, citing financial sanctions placed by the US in response to counterfeiting and money laundering activities of the North.      

  On December 18, the first six-nation talks since the North Korean walkout began in Beijing. They ended four days later with so little accomplished that the mass media called it an “impasse.” That perception was because the North “refused to discuss abandoning its nuclear weapons until the US lifts financial sanctions.” Actually, quite a bit was accomplished in this first meeting. Host China’s envoy Wu Dawei noted that the talks included a “candid and in-depth exchange of views.” Further, he noted that all six nations had reaffirmed the goal of seeking the peaceful denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. Probably last year’s draft agreement was reaffirmed. Not noted was the fact that the US had signaled a flexibility regarding the financial sanctions by setting up a bilateral working group with Pyongyang to discuss the sanctions. The working group met for two days during the week and agreed to resume discussions early in January. Christopher Hill told reporters that the six-nation talks are likely to restart within “weeks, not months.”

Post-Katrina FEMA

  The 109th Congress died at the end of the year, leaving most of the federal government continuing at last years budget level. Only two appropriations acts—defense and homeland security —were passed and sent to the President for signature. President Bush signed the Fiscal Year 2007 Homeland Security Appropriations Act in early October 2006. Part of this Act is the Post-Katrina Emergency Management Reform Act of 2006 that calls for a comprehensive overhaul of FEMA. The FEMA Director is elevated to the level of deputy secretary and required to have extensive emergency response experience. Other sections of the Act prevent the diversion of FEMA funds to other agencies, require clearer coordination among federal, state and local emergency preparedness and response entities, and nullifies the separation of emergency preparedness functions from those of emergency response as Secretary Chertoff has done.

  By and large, the inclusion of the Post-Katrina Reform Act in the Appropria-tions Act was a direct slap at Chertoff. It increases FEMA’s clout and reverses Chertoff’s efforts to minimize FEMA’s role. That organization chart for the Department of Homeland Security that we published a few months ago is now out of date. It will be interesting to see how DHS handles the mandated changes.

The appropriations act, of course, follows the old (Chertoff) organization. A total of $6.5 billion is provided for preparedness and recovery activities. Of this amount, $2.5 billion is provided for FEMA, of which $1.5 billion is for disaster relief. Most of the total ($3.4 billion) is provided to the Office of Grants and Training. While called “preparedness”, most deal with terrorism prevention activities.