The Israel-Palestine Conflict

How do you spell COWARDICE in Canada? Answer: C-A-N-A-D-A

OTTAWA — New Democratic Party deputy leader Libby Davies is in hot water in her own caucus over controversial comments she made this month at an anti-Israeli protest when she appeared to question the Jewish state’s right to exist, while also suggesting that she believes it should face a boycott and sanctions.

The remarks, made in Vancouver and captured on a video now circulating rapidly on the Internet, have provoked an angry backlash among members of the NDP caucus, including Leader Jack Layton — who quickly distanced himself from Davies.

“I have spoken to the (Israeli) ambassador (to Canada), to indicate very clearly that those comments were not the position of our party and Ms. Davies has sent a letter indicating that she made a very serious mistake,” Layton said. “I told her it was a serious mistake.”

The video shows Davies answering a series of questions about the situation in the Middle East, starting with comments suggesting that Israel has been occupying territories since 1948, which is the year of its independence.

“(The occupation started in) ’48. It’s the longest occupation in the world,” she said in the video. “People are suffering. I’ve been to the West Bank and Gaza twice, so I see what’s going on.”

Davies also expressed her personal support for an international campaign for a boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel, breaking ranks with her party’s official position.

Thomas Mulcair, the NDP’s other deputy leader, said he found the video online last week and “was very quick to point it out” to some of his colleagues to clarify the party’s support of a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine.

“No member of our caucus, whatever other title they have, is allowed to invent their own policy,” said Mulcair. “We take decisions together, parties formulate policies together, and to say that you’re personally in favour of boycott, divestment and sanctions for the only democracy in the Middle East is, as far as I’m concerned, grossly unacceptable.”

In a letter to the Ottawa Citizen which published an editorial last week criticizing Davies’ comments, the Vancouver-area MP apologized for causing “confusion.”

“My reference to the year 1948 as the beginning of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory was a serious and completely inadvertent error,” she said in the letter, which was also posted on her personal website at

“I have always supported a two-state solution to the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict and have never questioned Israel’s right to exist and the Palestinian’s right to a viable state . . . I reject the allegation that I hate Israel, and I reject the assertion that I said that Israel is illegitimate or an abomination. Neither are true.”

But Mulcair said that Davies, who could not immediately be reached for comment, should also apologize and retract her comments supporting a boycott. He said it is particularly “egregious” since she is a deputy leader of the party.

“As much as it’s difficult, if any individual member of Parliament goes off-script on any issue of policy that is well-defined by the party, it would be a problem,” said Mulcair. “But that problem is of course compounded in the case of someone who putatively, with the title that she holds, would give more weight to these views that are not the views of the party.”

Steve McDonald, a spokesman for the Canada-Israel Committee, a non-profit group that focuses on raising awareness about relations between the two countries, said he was skeptical about whether it was an inadvertent error by Davies — and noted she didn’t apologize for supporting the boycott campaign.

“She is a senior parliamentarian in that party. She’s obviously concerned or passionate about that issue,” said McDonald. “I don’t think someone in that position can hide behind a defence of confusion in this case. Especially when we’re talking about something as fundamental as referring to 1948 as when the occupation began.”

But McDonald added that Mulcair was not the only one upset about Davies’ comments, explaining that the committee’s government relations representative, former Bloc Quebecois MP Richard Marceau, has spoken to “a number of caucus members who thought the video was disgusting.”

“It’s particularly disturbing to see a parliamentarian, who does claim to be educated on the issue, come out and say something that is so far outside the Canadian mainstream,” said McDonald. “It’s so far beyond Canada’s historical position. It’s so far beyond the international consensus of the two-state solution which we all support at this point. These are the types of comments that hurt the two-state solution.”


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Speculating Iran

Iran sanctions cripple the UN
The vote to increase sanctions on Iran might not produce the intended results [AFP]

After six months of intense US and Israeli lobbying, the UN Security Council has voted for a new round of sanctions against Iran.

But most commentators agree that Resolution 1929 is so watered down – as a result of Chinese and Russian efforts – that it will have little or no impact on Iran’s nuclear energy programme or Iranian trade and economic development.

Iran has lived with similar sanctions for more than three decades and with none of the country’s key economic sectors targeted by the new sanctions – and many provisions in the new resolution voluntary rather than mandatory – there is no reason to believe that Iran will face any serious hardship now.

The timing of this latest round of sanctions – coming a few days before the first anniversary of Iran’s controversial presidential elections and a few weeks after what was hailed by many as a landmark nuclear fuel swap deal between Turkey, Brazil and Iran – raises many questions.

Key among these is why did the Americans reject Iran’s fuel swap offer and how could such toothless sanctions be considered a step in the right direction?

Undermined and delegitimised

The only feasible rationale for imposing further sanctions in the face of Iran’s obvious willingness to negotiate must be found not in any wish to reduce the threat posed by nuclear weapons, but instead in the geopolitical interests of a few power-hungry countries – and their allies and client states – who possess an undemocratic veto power in the UN.

The UN, it appears, does not desire a nuclear-free Middle East.

After the Iraq and Afghanistan debacles, such actions by the UN Security Council only serve to further delegitimise the UN and to undermine its charter.

While the first round of sanctions against Iran were unanimously adopted, this latest round – the fourth in as many years – was called “a mistake” by Turkey and Brazil, who voted against the motion, while Lebanon abstained – pointing to the clear lack of consensus within the council.

Glaring contradictions

The senseless nature of the situation was immediately obvious as statements emerged from various quarters.

Ahmadinejad is the most willing partner for rapprochement with the US [GALLO/GETTY]

On the one hand there were the Chinese who argued for negotiations as the best way forward both before and after voting in favour of further sanctions.

This stance may have been intended as a clever public relations exercise, but its inherent contradiction is glaring.

China has gained a far greater share of Iran’s trade and investment opportunities over the past decade and has managed to further boost her opportunities by taking the West for a “voluntary sanctions” ride that is destined to further isolate the latter from Iran’s market.

There are several emerging markets and technological alternatives in the new post-financial crisis world economic order.

While Iran certainly does not need greater economic cooperation with the West, the latter’s insistence on limiting their own trade opportunities with one of the world’s largest economies – and one that owns vast amounts of natural gas and oil – is quite baffling.

It does, however, make good sense to Chinese strategists.

Shrewd geopolitical game

Russia too has played its geopolitical game shrewdly. Iran’s huge gas reserves threaten Russia’s dominance in supplying Europe and others. Further “voluntary sanctions” by the latter help to maintain Russia’s improving position.

Furthermore, closer collaboration between Iran and the US would reduce the Americans’ losses in Iraq and Afghanistan, and reduce Russia’s influence. Russia would much rather keep Iran and the US at each other’s throats.

It is for this reason that Russia can vote for sanctions ostensibly designed to limit Iran’s nuclear capabilities, while at the same time planning to open a new nuclear power station in Iran in August.

Russia is also talking about helping to build new nuclear sites in Iran, and even reserves the right to supply Iran with the kind of weapons that would effectively defend Iran’s nuclear installations against any foreign attack.

All of these “exemptions” were included in a UN resolution allegedly aimed at reducing Iran’s nuclear capabilities.

So a geopolitical game looks set to continue with comical consequences.

‘Nuclear apartheid’

With nothing offered in return for its willingness to negotiate, Iran has no incentive to return to nuclear talks.

With limited options left for talks with Iran, the US will continue to limp along in the Middle East, stuck in quagmires and spending beyond its means while anti-American sentiments are further boosted in the region.

At the same time, the Europeans decline in economic terms and global influence, while the Chinese and Russians continue to rise.

Add to this a shameless display of what may be described as “nuclear apartheid” by the nuclear-armed culprits at the direct expense of the non-proliferation agenda.

After decades of aimless talks, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) recently managed to put Israel’s known illegal nuclear weapons on the agenda.

But what hope can the world really have for a serious debate when it is only Iran – which has no nuclear weapons and which has endured more than 4,000 invasive IAEA inspections to date – that faces sanctions?

Ahmadinejad: A willing partner

It is hard to fathom what real long-term benefits the US is hoping to gain from its obstructionism and exceptionalism when it comes to the nuclear debate.

Perhaps the US administration imagined that by pressing for more sanctions just before the June 12 anniversary, it may undermine the Iranian regime.

But the Iranian opposition’s position on the nuclear issue is no less determined. And no Iranian group can hope to gain power by challenging the Iranian government on the basis of foreign dictates. To imagine otherwise is to misunderstand Iranians.

In fact, and despite the rhetoric, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president, has turned out to be the most willing partner for rapprochement with the US in a long time.

He has made several gestures, starting with a congratulatory letter to Barack Obama, the US president, upon his election, and a daring proposal for a nuclear fuel swap deal that was largely in line with a proposal made by the UN six months earlier.

But Obama has responded with New Year messages to the Iranian people and sanctions against their economy.

On no known occasion has the current – or previous – US administration made any direct approach to the Iranian leaders for talks. Quite the opposite: Whether it is the nuclear issue or Middle East affairs, Iran has been pointedly excluded from the list of invitees.

Irrelevant and biased

So, with the negotiations door firmly shut by the West, Iran has little option but to turn its back on the UN’s nuclear apartheid policies, and to continue to build its economy and strategic relations with the countries of the South, while those of the North continue to isolate themselves.

To the great majority of the people of Iran and the wider world, the UN Security Council is growing increasingly irrelevant and biased.

The US’ games have in effect crippled the UN.

Perhaps this is one of those hidden aims too, not just to elevate the US position versus the UN, but also to ensure that US allies never face the consequences of their excesses, including those on the nuclear issue.

Massoud Parsi is a development economist and commentator on Iranian affairs.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.


First-term Knesset member, 41, joined ships hoping to break Israel’s naval blockade of the Gaza Strip, now accused of treason

Patrick Martin | June 13, 2010

Two weeks ago, she was virtually unknown. But after travelling aboard the Gaza-bound Mavi Marmara, on which nine Turkish citizens were killed when Israeli commandos stormed the boat, Hanin Zoaby, a 41-year-old, first-term Knesset member, has become the most hated person in Israel.

As an Arab Israeli, she also has found herself at the centre of a new political force with which Israel will have to contend.

Accused of treason for supporting the Free-Gaza movement, forbidden by the courts to leave the country for 45 days, Ms. Zoaby was attacked, physically, when she spoke in the Knesset last week to explain her decision to join the flotilla of ships hoping to break Israel’s naval blockade of the Gaza Strip. She said she viewed her action on behalf of 1.5 million “prisoners” in Gaza as a kind of “mitzvah,” a Hebrew term for a religious good deed. The reference only made her Jewish assailants angrier.

On Sunday, Israel proposed that a three-man internal inquiry probe its bloody attack on the flotilla two weeks ago, and that it be headed by a retired Israeli judge and two high-ranking foreign observers, including a Canadian.

Ms. Zoaby has been labelled an enemy, and a supporter of terrorists. Yet the unmarried, Western-dressed Muslim woman hails from one of Israel’s high-profile Arab families, one that has counted a high court judge, a mayor of Nazareth, a long-serving Knesset member and a deputy cabinet minister among its members.

To many in the Knesset today, Ms. Zoaby’s transgression, like that of the four other Arab Israelis who joined the flotilla, is unforgivable. A Knesset committee has recommended the removal of many of Ms. Zoaby’s parliamentary privileges, including her immunity from prosecution and her diplomatic passport. The Interior Minister, leader of Israel’s Ultra Orthodox Shas Party, has asked whether her Israeli citizenship can legally be revoked.

There have been dark days in the past for the Arabs of Israel, such as when six were killed in 1976 protesting the confiscation of large tracts of Arab Israeli land, or in 2000 when 13 were killed in riots that followed Ariel Sharon’s walk about the revered al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem.

And there have been periods when Arab Israelis have been treated as the enemy – during the state’s early years of martial law, and when they protested Israel’s assault on Hamas in Gaza at the end of 2008.

But none has been darker or more hateful than this period, when these five Arab Israelis were seen to be aiding and abetting the enemy.

There have been death threats, hundreds of them.

In the wake of the flotilla incident, a Facebook site, called Execute Haneen Zuabi [sic], was established (and later taken down) and a group calling itself Pulsa Denura , (Aramaic for “lashes of fire”) says it has carried out elaborate death curses on several Arab Israelis, including Ahmad Tibi, a member of Knesset who wasn’t even on the flotilla.

(Pulsa Denura was the name of the group that said it had cursed Yitzhak Rabin shortly before he was assassinated, and cursed Ariel Sharon after he decided to evacuate Israeli settlements in Gaza in 2005.) Despite the threats, for which the Knesset has assigned her two security guards, Ms. Zoaby drove herself to a rally Saturday afternoon in her hometown of Nazareth at which she was being honoured.

Being in Nazareth, there was a mix of dress and attitudes: from conservative Muslim, to anything-goes Christian, with Ms. Zoaby, dressed in an open-neck white blouse and slacks, somewhere in the middle.

She beamed as she received the 400 people filing past her. And the people couldn’t have been more proud. She’s a hero to many of them – as a successful woman, successful Arab and, now, as a successful fighter.

“She did what few people would dare to do,” said Teres Zbidat, a Dutch-born woman who has lived with her husband in nearby Sakhnin for 16 years.

“Which is why Israelis hate her so much,” Ms. Zbidat said. “They see her as a success story that they allowed to happen. Then they say: ‘But you weren’t supposed to become one of them [the Palestinians].’ “

Ms. Zoaby explains the contempt for her as a reaction to the world criticism Israel is experiencing, similar to the backlash against Arab Israelis that followed criticism in the war against Hamas in Gaza.

“I embarrassed them,” she said, referring to Israelis. “I was an easy target for their revenge.”

Would she do it again, would she go on another flotilla? In a heartbeat, she says.

“I was appalled by the Israeli behaviour” on board the ship, she said. “I didn’t expect such violence.”

(Ms. Zoaby is credited by passengers with convincing the Israeli commandos – in her good Hebrew and tenacious style – with getting long-delayed medical treatment for the wounded.) What if doing it again meant losing her citizenship? “Yes,” she said determinedly. “It would just show that what they call citizenship is really just membership in the Zionist movement. It’s not real citizenship.”

“I want to be a full Israeli citizen,” Ms. Zuabi said at the time she was sworn into the Knesset last year, “but it must not come at the expense of my people’s collective rights to an identity and a past.”

Saturday’s Nazareth rally was most striking for the unity among Arab Israelis that it displayed.

The leaders of Israel’s badly divided Islamic movement shook hands and sat together; the head of the country’s anti-religious communist Hadash Party shook hands with the head of the Islamic movement and congratulated him on his participation in the flotilla.

And Raed Salah, that religiously conservative Islamic leader, actually declared Ms. Zoaby, that modern, unobservant Muslim, as “Woman of the Year.”

“We didn’t just break the blockade of Gaza,” Ms. Zoaby said. “We broke the blockade that divided the [19]48 Palestinians,” (an increasingly popular way of referring to Arab Israelis).

It seems they also broke the barrier between Arab Israelis and the Palestinians of the occupied territories, said Hadash leader Mohammed Barakeh.

“We’re no longer a minority,” he crowed.

Mariam Moustafa
Development and Communications Associate
Institute for Middle East Understanding
T: (714) 368-0300

Another day, another crime

Israel Against Extradition of Suspected Mossad Agent to Germany

The arrest in Poland of a suspected Mossad agent is threatening to cause a diplomatic tug-of-war between Israel, Poland, Germany and Dubai. The man was arrested in connection with an investigation into the assassination of a leading Hamas figure in a Dubai hotel in January.

Israel is urging Poland not to extradite to Germany a suspected Mossad agent arrested at Warsaw airport on June 4 on suspicion of being involved in the assassination of a leading figure of Hamas in Dubai in January.

The man was arrested by Polish border guards at the airport as he was trying to enter the country. He is wanted by German authorities for allegedly helping to obtain a German passport used by one of the members of the hit team that killed Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, a founder of the military arm of the Islamist Hamas movement, in a Dubai hotel on January 19.

Germany has applied for the man to be extradited to Germany but members of the Israeli cabinet say he should be repatriated to Israel instead.

"Israel must resist the extradition of one of its citizens to a third country and use all means to make sure that he returns to his home country," said Transport Minister Israel Katz, a close ally of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov said Israel had a functioning legal system and was perfectly able to check the accusations against the man itself. "I’d like to remind people that Poland is not part of Germany and takes its decisions completely independently," said Misezhnikov, a member of the ultranationalist party "Israel is Our Home."

Suspect Accused of Helping to Obtain German Passport

According to Israeli newspaper Haaretz, Israel is worried that the arrested man may end up being put on trial in the United Arab Emirates. Haaretz reported that Warsaw felt caught in an awkward position because it has very good relations with Israel.

According to SPIEGEL, the Israeli citizen had tried to enter Poland with a passport under the name Uri Brodsky. He is alleged to have been involved in the logistical preparations for the al-Mabhouh killing and German investigators had issued an arrest warrant for him via Interpol.

Investigators believe the arrested man accompanied a further suspected Mossad agent who applied for a German passport under the name Michael Bodenheimer at a registry office in Cologne in early 2009. That passport was used by one of the more than 20 alleged assassins who travelled to Dubai to carry out the hit.

The arrest in Poland looks set to further increase diplomatic tensions after Israel drew international condemnation for allegedly using passports from western nations. Police in Dubai are seeking at least 26 people they suspect of involvement in the assassination. Al-Mabhouh was drugged and then suffocated in his hotel room. Twelve British, six Irish, four French, one German and three Australian passports were used by people believed to be linked to the murder, according to the Dubai police. The UK and Australia responded by expelling Mossad representatives.

Brother Wants Extradition to Dubai

Al-Mabhouh’s family demanded on Sunday that Brodsky be extradited to Dubai and be put on trial there. "We call on all countries whose passports were forged and used for the murder of my brother to extradite these criminals to the police in Dubai so that they can be convicted there," the brother of al-Mabhouh, Hussein al-Mabhouh, told German news agency dpa on Sunday.

The authorities in Dubai have also expressed an interest in the arrested man. The newspaper Gulf News reported on its website that Dubai investigators had already been in touch with authorities in Poland and Germany. The newspaper said Dubai may apply for him to be extradited there.

With reporting by SPIEGEL Staff

How do you spell COLLABORATOR in Arabic? E-R-A-K-A-T

For Immediate Release

June 13th, 2010

Negotiations Affairs Department

Palestine Liberation Organization

Dr. Erakat Labels today’s Haaretz Report another Disinformation Attempt to Distort Facts and Deflect Responsibility to End Israel’s Inhuman Siege on Gaza

Chief Palestinian Negotiator Dr. Saeb Erakat denied today’s false media reports as if President Mahmoud Abbas asked President Obama to keep Gaza under siege.

“The report is yet another disinformation attempt aimed at distorting facts and deflecting Israel’s responsibility to end the illegal and inhuman siege on Gaza,” adding that “President Abbas has been demanding complete and unconditional lifting of Israel’s illegal siege over Gaza, which he reiterated during his recent meetings with World leaders.”

“The issue has been and will continue to be the main focus in all our discussions until our people in Gaza are free and the occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem is ended” Dr. Erakat said.

Referring to the fabricated Haaretz report from today, Dr. Erakat said “It is absurd how a baseless so-called report, which lacks any credible source, can be so irresponsibly published”.

He reminded that “the illegal blockade has nothing to do with the Hamas since Gaza has been closed long before Hamas took control. Israel must end its unlawful blockade. Until then, Israel has certain obligations under international law to provide for the local population”.

Chief Palestinian Negotiator reiterated that “Instead of honoring its obligations under international law, Israel is blocking humanitarian aid flotillas from reaching Gaza, and collectively punishing millions of innocent civilians in blatant disregard to international law.”

Dr. Saeb Erakat concluded “we will never countenance this or any other such illegal Israeli conduct and will continue to advocate against it and call for an international investigation.”

For more information, please call + 972 2 2963743

“WE continue to call for the immediate and unconditional arrest of war criminal and “peace process” huckster Tony Blair whose ongoing freedom is totally unjustified.”

For immediate use

13 June 2010

 Statement following Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Cabinet comments

Quartet Representative Tony Blair  said: “I welcome Prime Minister Netanyahu’s clear distinction between Israel’s necessity to protect its security and otherwise to allow Gaza people to get the goods and material they require for ordinary life.

“I hope this will enable us to move decisively to a policy on Gaza which keeps out weapons and other combat related material but lets in as a matter of course those items that Gazan people need to improve their lives. This also will enable the UN projects for re-construction to go ahead.

We continue to call for the immediate and unconditional release of Corporal Shalit whose ongoing detention is totally unjustified.”


You can read Prime Minister Netanyahu’s statement to Cabinet here.

Matthew Doyle

Political Director

The Office of Tony Blair

+44 7976 424 172

Click here to follow Tony Blair on facebook

B(ristish) B(ullshit) C(orporation)

Press Release

150 people have signed an open letter of complaint to the BBC protesting at their biased, selective and ethically dishonest coverage of the murder of at least 9 activists on board the Mavi Marmara, the lead ship of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla.

Matters we have complained about included the use, without comment or even warning, of spliced and selective Israeli video of trained navy seals being ‘attacked’ at the very same time that Israel, by its own admission, confiscated every notebook, camera, mobile and reel of film to prevent its version of events being challenged.

Despite this some footage has got out which shows e.g. that the first navy personnel injured, often from bad falls, were actually medically treated by those on board. So much for the ‘terrorist’ label.

Other film shows the deliberate murder, with 4 shots to the head, of the Turkish-American citizen Furkan Dogan. Naturally the BBC has chosen not to show any footage which directly proves that the Israeli version, whereby its trained navy personnel were subject to a potential lynching by human rights activists, was a lie.

The use of film media by one side, the side that has confiscated the other sides film and recordings, is totally unethical and an invitation to states to repeat the same trick in other situations with journalists.

The letter raises the way the BBC contributes towards a failure to understand the occupation and conflict in Gaza, preferring to engage in mainstream rhetoric about ‘terrorism’. How it mentions Hamas rockets without explaining who broke the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas on 4.11.2008., who has killed over seven thousand people in as many years via its rockets and bombs (Israel) yet it is the puny response that is continually highlighted which has killed 20 Israelis in the same time.

The BBC’s record is so bad and so one-sided that we have initiated this letter – from people like Mike Mansfield QC, Avi Shlaim – an Israeli Professor of International Relations at Oxford University, Moshe Machover, another Israeli Professor at London University and people like the songwriter Leon Rosselson.

Tony Greenstein
Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods

I remember Chuck Schumer from Madison High School. His father was an exterminator: like father, like son.

Think Progress:

This past Wednesday, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) delivered a wide-ranging speech at an Orthodox Union event in Washington, D.C. The senator’s lecture touched on areas such as Iran’s nuclear program, the Israel-Palestinian conflict, and several domestic policy issues.

During one point of his speech, Schumer turned his attention to the situation in Gaza. He told the audience that the “Palestinian people still don’t believe in the Jewish state, in a two-state solution,” and also that “they don’t believe in the Torah, in David.” He went on to say “you have to force them to say Israel is here to stay.”

New York’s senior senator explained that the current Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip — which is causing a humanitarian crisis there — is not only justified because it keeps weapons out of the Palestinian territory, but also because it shows the Palestinians living there that “when there’s some moderation and cooperation, they can have an economic advancement.” Summing up his feelings, Schumer emphasized the need to “to strangle them economically until they see that’s not the way to go, makes sense”

Norman Finklestein on Flotilla Bloodbath


Extending Hands or Clenching Fists?

Obama’s Doublespeak on Iran


On April 12, 2010, President Barack Obama hosted a forty-seven nation Nuclear Security Summit in Washington. He met with dozens of heads of state making his case for a fourth set of crippling sanctions on Iran because of its intransigence on the nuclear issue. His main argument was the refusal of Iran to accept the proposal by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) of transferring the bulk of Iran’s low enriched uranium outside the country in exchange for medical nuclear isotopes.

The following day Obama met with President Luiz Lula Da Silva of Brazil and Prime Minister Recep Tayyib Erdogan of Turkey. Both countries are currently members of the UN Security Council, considered friends of the US and are emerging economic and regional powers.

Lula and Erdogan emphasized to the US president the importance of a diplomatic resolution to Iran’s nuclear issue in an effort to diffuse the crisis and build confidence-building measures for further negotiations. During the meeting Obama not only encouraged them to pursue a diplomatic breakthrough, but he also vowed to be constructive and flexible, as well as promising to send them in writing the parameters of any deal deemed acceptable to the US.

Encouraged by the American response, the Turkish foreign minister Ahmet Davuto?lu flew to Brazil on April 16 to meet with its president in order to coordinate their diplomatic efforts in a last ditch effort to persuade Iran to accept the IAEA proposal. By April 20, the Turkish foreign minister was in Tehran testing the waters regarding a possible resolution to the crisis.

As promised, Obama sent two separate letters on April 20 to Lula and Erdogan detailing the US parameters of a possible deal. He wrote that his proposal represented “a detailed explanation” of his perspective and offered “a suggestion of a way ahead.” He said that his offer was based on the proposal put forth by former IAEA Director General Mohammad ElBaradei, which he characterized in the letter as “fair and balanced,” and would enable “both sides to gain trust and confidence.”

In his letter, Obama detailed four conditions for any resolution to be satisfactory to the US. The first condition was “Iran’s agreement to transfer 1,200 kg of Iran’s low enriched uranium (LEU) out of the country.” He emphasized that this condition was essential and non-negotiable.

Second, he demonstrated his willingness to be “flexible and creative in order to build mutual confidence” by agreeing “to support and facilitate action on proposal that would provide Iran nuclear fuel using uranium enriched by Iran,” a crucial demand by Iran which it has always insisted was its right under the NPT treaty.

Third, Obama offered his acceptance to the compromise suggested by the IAEA last November by allowing “Iran to ship its 1,200 kg of LEU to a third country,” suggesting Turkey as the designated country. He went further by offering assurance to Iran that its fuel would be held “in escrow” in Turkey “as a guarantee during the fuel production process that Iran would get back its uranium if we failed to deliver the fuel.”

His final condition was that Iran has to convey to the IAEA in writing its “constructive commitment to engagement through official channels.”

Armed with the concrete American conditions and after receiving a positive response to negotiate, conveyed to Davuto?lu by the Iranian leadership, the foreign minister of Brazil Celso Amorim flew to Iran a week later on April 27, to prepare for a state visit by Lula to hammer out a final agreement based on the American proposal.

The Brazilian president arrived in Tehran on May 15 and was joined by the Turkish prime minister the following day. In an 18-hour negotiation marathon session, the two world leaders impressed on the Iranian leadership the significance of accepting all four parameters outlined in Obama’s letter.

On May 17, an agreement based on the American and IAEA proposals was signed by the foreign ministers of all three countries.  A week later Iran submitted an official letter to the IAEA acknowledging the pact and stating its intention to transfer its LEU to Turkey within one month once the plan was accepted.

To the complete surprise of Brazil and Turkey, the White House and the State Department dismissed the deal out of hand within 24 hours, rejecting the same principles outlined in Obama’s letter. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton even called it “a ploy” before a hearing in the Senate’s Committee on Foreign Relations on May 18, declaring that a sanctions resolution against Iran in the Security Council is imminent.

In an interview on June 3 in Jornal do Brasil, a major newspaper in Brazil, ElBaradei expressed his profound disappointment and surprise at the American reaction. He explained that the proposal signed in Iran was the same as his proposal, which was accepted by the West in the past.

Further, he explained that “if you remove over half of the material that Iran has to Turkey, that is clearly a confidence-building measure regarding concerns about Iran’s future intentions.” As for the remainder of the nuclear-enriched material in Iran he stated that, “the material that will remain in Iran is under IAEA safeguards and seals. There is absolutely no imminent threat that Iran is going to develop the bomb tomorrow from the material that they have in Iran.”  

The refusal of the Obama administration to embrace its own proposals not only undermines its credibility before its foes but also confuses its friends such as Brazil and Turkey. Obama was elected on the promise of hope and change by offering the international community, especially the Muslim World, new politics based on honesty and mutual respect.

In his inaugural address, repeated in the Cairo speech, Obama said regarding Iran “we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.” But in Elbaradei’s view, it was the US that has clenched its fist when Iran stretched its hand.

The former IAEA head effectively exposed Obama’s doublespeak in the same interview to the Brazilian paper by declaring that the deal signed in Tehran “should be perceived as a first good confidence measure, a first effort by Iran to stretch its hand and say we are ready to negotiate.”

Esam Al-Amin can be reached at

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