News Roundup and Notes: November 11, 2013

Before the start of business, Just Security provides a curated summary of up-to-the-minute developments at home and abroad. Here’s today’s news.

Iran

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Iran signed a joint statement earlier this morning on future cooperation to resolve nuclear issues [Reuters and Haaretz’s Barak Ravid]. The agreement allows IAEA inspectors to visit the Arak heavy water site and Gachin uranium mine, and for other measures requested by the IAEA to be implemented.

And ICYMI, earlier this weekend, three days of intense negotiations in Geneva on Iran’s nuclear program ended without an agreement “after France blocked a stopgap deal aimed at defusing tensions and buying more time for negotiations” [The Guardian’s Julian Borger and Saeed Kamali Dehghan]. EU foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton maintained, “A lot of concrete progress has been achieved, but differences remain.” And Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif similarly played down tensions, stating:

It was natural when we started dealing the details there could be differences of views. But we are working together and hopeful we will be able to reach agreement when we meet again. What we were looking for was political will and determination, in order to end this phase and move to an end game. I think we are all on the same wavelength.

However, privately, other diplomats accused French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius of “breaking ranks” by revealing details of the negotiations and announcing the results before Ashton and Zarif had arrived at the press conference.

On Saturday, Fabius spoke to French radio, France Inter warning against a “fool’s bargain” and stated that negotiators were “not satisfied” about several issues, including a nuclear reactor in Arak and uranium enrichment [RFI]. Fabius also stressed that Israel’s “concerns” be taken into account.

Reportedly, a French member of parliament, Meyer Habib telephoned Fabius in Geneva at the weekend to warn him that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would attack Iran if the P5+1 did not “toughen” their positions on Iran, according to Israel’s Channel 2 News [Times of Israel].

After the talks, Fabius told reporters, “The Geneva meeting allowed us to advance, but we were not able to conclude because there are still some questions to be addressed” [New York Times’ Mark Landler and Michael R. Gordon].

And Secretary of State John Kerry maintained optimism, claiming “There’s no question in my mind that we are closer now, as we leave Geneva, than when we came.”

According to a senior American official, despite France’s reservations, Iranian officials were the ones to express concern over the language of the draft agreement and stated they required additional consultations in Tehran before moving ahead [New York Times’ Michael R. Gordon et al.].

The Washington Post (Karen DeYoung and Joby Warrick) also covers how the P5+1 and Iran failed to reach an interim deal despite a “tumultuous day of bargaining.” And AFP provides an outline of the basic requirements of the deal and the issues that are still being debated.

The negotiating powers have agreed to resume talks on November 20, but at the political director level – “a sign perhaps of how much work still needs to be done before an interim agreement can be reached” [BBC’s Kim Ghattas].

Kerry, speaking to NBC’s David Gregory on “Meet the Press” yesterday, downplayed disagreement at Geneva, stating:

A number of nations, not just the French, but ourselves and others wanted to make sure that we had the tough language necessary, the clarity in the language necessary to be absolutely certain that we were doing the job and not granting more or doing something sloppily that could wind up a mistake.

Kerry said, however, that the nations had to demonstrate “some good faith” by easing some sanctions.

The Wall Street Journal (Jay Solomon and Laurence Norman) covers how “Washington sought to take the developments in stride, quickly moving to salvage a deal by dispatching senior American diplomats to Israel and the Persian Gulf to try to win over skeptical allies and show the delay could lead to a better agreement with Tehran.”

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman, Bob Menendez has stated that the committee will move ahead with additional sanctions on Iran to maintain pressure on the regime as negotiations are set to continue [Reuters’ Andy Sullivan and Stephanie Nebehay]. Politico (Burgess Everett) reports that the Senate Banking Committee chairman, Tim Johnson will defer a decision on whether his committee will pursue additional economic sanctions until the Senate is briefed by Kerry this week, according to a committee aide.

Following the conclusion of the talks, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani told Iranian parliamentarians, “A successful negotiation is the one which would benefit both sides and this is what we call a win-win game” [The Hill’s Kyle Balluck]. However, Rouhani clarified that his country has some “red lines”:

Meanwhile, Iranians have accused French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius of defending Israel [The Local]. Hossein Naqavi Hosseini, spokesman of the parliamentary foreign affairs committee stated this weekend, “While the French people want better ties between Tehran and Paris, unfortunately the French government prefers the will of Zionist regime.”

On the other hand, France’s position has been welcomed by some in the U.S.:

However, Fabius expressed some optimism on a deal with Iran on Europe 1 radio this morning [Reuters]:

We are not far from an agreement with the Iranians, but we are not there yet…We are firm, but not rigid. We want peace, and we want to reach the end.

Israel continued to protest against a deal with Iran. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told NBC’s “Meet the Press” yesterday that Iran “might hit the jackpot” with respect to the proposed deal [The Hill’s Jonathan Easley]. Netanyahu stated:

So Iran effectively becomes a threshold nuclear power nation, makes a minor concession and in exchange for that, the P5+1 reverses the direction of sanctions, and gives Iran several billion dollars worth of direct assistance.

And the Wall Street Journal (Joshua Mitnick) covers how Israel has turned to the U.S. domestic audience to pressure the White House for a tougher stance on Iran.

In contrast, the former chief of Israel’s domestic security service expressed support for the deal with Iran in an interview with Chicago Sun-Times, stating, “The American policy is a policy of wisdom.”

As media analysis continues, Foreign Policy’s The Cable (Colum Lynch and Yochi Dreazen) covers “how France scuttled the Iran deal at the last minute” as well as the reactions to the French position. The Times of Israel’s Raphael Ahren explains why France “stood alone” on Iran, including France’s desire to play a larger role in global affairs, its “lucrative arms deal with the Saudis” and its “flourishing defense cooperation with Israel.” The Wall Street Journal editorial is grateful that “François Hollande’s Socialist government has saved the West from a deal that would all but guarantee that Iran becomes a nuclear power.”

The Guardian editorial warns that “ending up with no deal would be a disaster for everyone living in the region, including Israel.” And Politico’s Josh Gerstein notes that Obama’s push to conclude a deal with Iran “could spell doom for his other Mideast priority: settling the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

Surveillance

According to European and U.S. officials, the U.S. and Germany are discussing a new spy agreement [Reuters’ Mark Hosenball]. U.S. officials have said that the U.S. is likely to accept an agreement that prevents American agencies from engaging in industrial or commercial spying against German targets, but that the U.S. is unlikely to make the same pledge to other allies, including France.

A former administration official has told The Hill (Brendan Sass) that the White House has drafted a list of possible civilian candidates for the position of NSA director, but no decision has yet been made.

Politico’s Tony Romm reports that Congress could seek the process of Senate confirmation for future leaders of the NSA, which the White House has warned in the past could harm intelligence operations.

In an interview with Der Spiegel’s Marc Hujer and Holger Stark on the NSA spying scandal, Senator John McCain called for NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander to “resign or be fired.”

Glenn Greenwald has hinted that Canada will be the “next target of his carefully orchestrated document leaks exposing the massive, intrusive spying operations” [The Atlantic Wire’s Connor Simpson].

Public Intelligence has published a draft order from the Russian Ministry of Communications that will require Russian internet service providers to monitor all internet traffic  and retain information for 12 hours after the data is collected, including phone numbers, IP addresses, account names, social network activity and e-mail addresses. Some Russian telecommunications providers allege that the order will violate the Russian constitution.

Syria

The Syrian National Coalition voted earlier this morning, agreeing to attend the proposed Geneva II peace conference [Al Jazeera America]. According to a statement of the coalition, representatives will attend as long as the Syrian regime allows the creation of humanitarian corridors to deliver aid, women and children detainees are released, and President Bashar al-Assad has “no role in the transitional period and the future of Syria.”

Human Rights Watch has released a report documenting at least 56 attacks by the Syrian regime using incendiary weapons since November 2012, and will present its concerns at the Convention on Conventional Weapons in Geneva this week.

Drones

The Verge’s Russell Brandom covers why the CIA has failed to hand over its drones operations to the military, noting that “the CIA faces fewer checks and less accountability than the Pentagon.”

And Al Jazeera’s Sam Bollier questions whether the “‘blowback’ from using drones outweigh the benefits claimed by U.S. leaders.”

Benghazi

CBS News’ Lara Logan has issued an apology over the channel’s Benghazi program, stating that one of the main witnesses, Dylan Davies misled the program staff [New York Times’ Brian Stelter and Bill Carter]. And despite CBS acknowledging that it was wrong to trust the source, Sen. Lindsey Graham’s position on demanding access to survivors of the Benghazi attacks remains unchanged [Fox News].

Other developments

Navy officials have announced that two U.S. admirals, including the director of naval intelligence, are under investigation as part of the bribery scandal involving a foreign defense contractor, with a spokesperson stating that “other naval officers will likely be implicated in this scandal” [Washington Post’s Craig Whitlock].

Two Senators are set to clash on how to address sexual assault in the military as debate begins this week on reforming the military justice system [Wall Street Journal’s Julian E. Barnes]. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D., N.Y.) has been pushing to move the power to decide whether assault cases can proceed from commanders to military prosecutors. While Sen. Claire McCaskill (D., Mo.) opposes the approach, stating that commanders need to be involved in trying to address the problem.

The Washington Post (Kevin Sieff) reports that an increasing number of Afghan interpreters who supported U.S. troops are being denied U.S. visas, with the State Department discounting claims that there is a serious threat against their lives.

South African President Jacob Zuma told parliamentarians last week that the AU request to the ICC to defer cases against sitting heads of state was not made to shield leaders from prosecution, but motivated instead by “Africa’s quest for an equitable world order” [IOL News]. Zuma claimed:

It is also based on the need to cement hard-won peace and stability in areas which have been ravaged by conflict.

In the U.K.’s first conviction for murder arising from the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, a Royal Marine has been sentenced to life imprisonment after being convicted of murdering a badly wounded Taliban captive in a “field execution” [The Telegraph’s Ben Farmer].

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About the Author(s)

Ruchi Parekh

Former Associate Editor at Just Security Follow her on Twitter (@RParekh88).