Brzezinski on the Iran Debate the Senate Should Hold

On the radar: Costs and consequences; Nuclear language almost scuttles New START, defense bill; Defense delay; How to talk to Iran; CTBT update; Elements of a deal with Iran; Patriots to Turkey; and Doomsday isn’t cheap, thankfully.

January 4, 2013 | Edited by Benjamin Loehrke

Discussion needed - The Senate Foreign Relations Committee should use the upcoming nomination hearings for secretaries of state and defense to discuss the issue of war or peace with Iran, writes Zbigniew Brzezinski in The Washington Post. Such a discussion “may help generate a firmer national consensus that a reckless shortcut to war — which is favored now by neither the American people nor the Israeli public — is not the wisest response to a potentially grave crisis.”

--Zbig’s questions for consideration include: How effective might US strikes be? What would be the consequences? Could the a US attack be justified in keeping with international standards? Could an alternative strategic commitment neutralize the potential Iranian threat without starting a war in the already unstable the Middle East? Full op-ed here.

Tweet - @Gottemoeller: On this day in 2007, “A World Free of Nuclear Weapons” by Kissinger, Shultz, Perry, and Nunn appears in the @WSJ

Two words, big problems - “In all the last minute drama about whether the nation would fall off the ‘fiscal cliff,’ it went largely unnoticed that the [New START treaty] almost took the plunge as well,” writes Tom Collina in Arms Control Now.

--How it happened: A provision in the already passed defense authorization bill would have required the president to certify “that” Russia was in compliance with all arms control agreements it is party to before the US implements nuclear reductions - thereby holding US nuclear policy hostage to longstanding disagreement with Russia over treaties covering biological, chemical, and conventional weapons. Through a quiet veto threat and a two-word fix to the defense bill amended to the fiscal cliff deal, the Obama administration averted legislation that could have blocked New START reductions.

Behind the scenes - “Defense bill saved by fiscal cliff deal” by Kate brannen in Politico.

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Defense budget delay - “With funding levels for 2013 still up in the air despite being more than three months into the fiscal year, DoD might not be able to submit a 2014 budget next month,” reports Marcus Weisgerber in Defense News.

Date and venue - “Iran has agreed to hold talks with six major powers about its atomic program in January but the date and venue has yet to be decided, the country's to nuclear negotiator said on Friday,” reports Reuters.

Expediency and dignity - The foundation of Iran’s post-revolutionary decision making is the pursuit of sovereignty within a framework that balances self-interest and saving face, write Seyed Hossein Mousavian and Mohammad Ali Shabani in The New York Times. Understanding those Persian concepts are key to keeping Iran’s program from spinning out of control, they write.

--The authors suggest that Iran would be open to a deal - within that framework - that includes greater transparency over Iran’s nuclear program, allows Iran to keep limited enrichment capacity, and is implemented in a way that allows Iran to preserve its dignity.

CRS Report - “Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty: Background and Current Developments” by Jonathan Medalia of the Congressional Research Service. January 2, 2013. (pdf)

Elements of a deal - Sayed Hossein Mousavian offers five elements of a deal that could produce a breakthrough in upcoming talks between Iran and the P5+1. I

--Included: 1) Iran halts enrichment at 20% and caps enrichment to 5% at a level commensurate with domestic needs in exchange for EU sanctions relief; 2) Iran implements the Additional Protocol in exchange for P5+1 recognition of Iran’s right to enrichment under the NPT; 3) Iran agrees to address the IAEA’s Possible Military Dimensions concerns in exchange for eventual suspendsion of UN sanctions; and 4) Iran limits enrichment capacity in line with fuel requirements for Bushehr reactor needs. Full post in Al Monitor.

3-step deal - In another proposed deal for Iran, Reza Marashi suggests both sides agree to take three positive steps. Iran stops enrichment to 20%, ships stockpile of 20% to a third country and reduces stocks of 5% enriched uranium. In exchange, the US suspends banking sanctions, the EU suspends its oil embargo, and the US and EU freeze new sanctions initiatives. From The National Interest.

Patriots to Turkey - The Netherlands is set to ship Patriot missile batteries to Turkey, which requested the missile defense systems to defend against potential threats from Syria. Germany and the U.S. are expected to send Patriot batteries in coming weeks, with German and Dutch troops expected to handle logistics for the Patriot deployments. From Global Security Newswire.

Doomsday isn’t cheap - Nuclear weapons are expensive. That might be bad for budgets, but is also a good thing - as the high costs make them much easier to regulate and keep others from acquiring them, writes Alex Wellerstein at Restricted Data.

--The argument: ”Since Doomsday Machines are phenomenally expensive, and thus only open as options to states with serious cash to spend (and probably serious existing infrastructures), the odds of them being built, much less used, are pretty much nil. Hooray for us! But as you slide down the scale of cheapness, you slide into the area of likelihood — if not inevitability.”