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In his famous 1897 essay, “The Path of the Law,” Oliver Wendell Holmes said that to understand the law, it would be necessary to adopt the perspective of the famous “bad man,” the one “who cares only for the material consequences” of his actions, but “does not care two straws for the axioms or deductions” of natural law. Our bad man just wants “to know what the Massachusetts or English courts are likely to do in fact.”
Today, Holmes’s quintessential bad man is Iran, as it only cares about what happens if it gets caught,—caught, in this case, developing nuclear weapons. With most contracts, people work overtime to avoid that problem by choosing the right business partners. But there is no such luxury in international affairs.
Last week, Iran and the six world powers—the United States, China, Russia, Great Britain, France, and Germany—plus the European Union signed a nuclear deal called the “Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.” Any examination of this deal has to start with the ugly but accurate assumption that Iran will, at every opportunity, act in bad faith.
The agreement starts off on a grand note: “The goal for these negotiations is to reach a mutually-agreed long-term comprehensive solution that would ensure Iranˈs nuclear program will be exclusively peaceful. Iran reaffirms that under no circumstances will Iran ever seek or develop any nuclear weapons.” But it is straight downhill from there.
Worse still, China and Russia should not be understood as adverse to Iran, their present and future ally. They are better understood as a Fifth Column against the West, and Iran’s many other foes, whose role in the negotiations is akin to the role that Vladimir Putin played in the embarrassing negotiations over chemical weapons in Syria that all but destroyed Obama’s credibility in foreign policy. Putin will be happy to take any excess uranium ore off the hands of the Iranians. But at the most opportune time, he might be prepared to return it to Iran if doing so would benefit Russia. The Chinese, for their part, also sense weakness in the United States and the West, as they build up illegal islands in the South China Sea subject to our diplomatic objections that accomplish nothing.
The remaining parties are our nominal allies who must believe that this nuclear deal represents a retreat from the basic proposition of Pax Americana—the guarantee that the U.S. will provide meaningful guarantees for the security of its allies. Our allies may well become less hostile to Russia and China precisely because they cannot count on U.S. leadership in tough times. The situation is starker still for the Israelis, who fear that the deal will embolden the Iranians to create more mischief in the Middle East and elsewhere. The Saudis are probably next in line in this belief. And both are surely right.
Iran’s promises count for nothing. Iran is quite happy to fund Bashar al-Assad in Syria, to back Hamas, and to launch terrorist attacks throughout the Middle East. It is eager to confront its Sunni rivals, most notably Saudi Arabia, by supporting their enemies. It is eager to annihilate Israel. Indeed now that the agreement seems in place, the Ayatollah says flat out that deal or no deal, “we will never stop supporting our friends in the region and the people of Palestine, Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Bahrain and Lebanon.”
Why then would anyone be surprised that Iran would be willing to make high-sounding promises that it has every intention to quickly break? Does anyone really agree with the President’s rosy view that Iran will reciprocate our respect with its respect? Putting our best foot forward makes sense with ordinary business deals where reputations count. It makes no sense when dealing with a Holmesian bad man who has no need or intention of reciprocating good will with good will.
In this sort of negotiating environment, reviewing the counterparty’s track record is a must, and Iran’s is far from laudable. Hence the guts of this deal lie not in lofty preambles, but in its gritty details of enforcement and sanctions, two issues which should be non-negotiable—a word that President Obama never invokes to defend our position.
One issue concerns the sequence in which the various stipulations of the agreement go into play. The black mark against this agreement is that it virtually guarantees immediate removal of the full set of economic sanctions against Iran, which will lead to an infusion of cash, perhaps in excess of $150 billion, into the country, some fraction of which will promptly flow to affiliate groups that cause mayhem around the world. But what does the President say about this substantial negative? Nothing. He just ignores it.
In his much-ballyhooed interview with Thomas Friedman of the New York Times, he stated: “Don’t judge me on whether this deal transforms Iran, ends Iran’s aggressive behavior toward some of its Arab neighbors or leads to détente between Shiites and Sunnis. Judge me on one thing: Does this deal prevent Iran from breaking out with a nuclear weapon for the next 10 years and is that a better outcome for America, Israel and our Arab allies than any other alternative on the table?”
In fact, we should judge President Obama and his treaty harshly on each of these points. By providing Iran with billions of dollars of immediate cash, this agreement will help Iran fund wars and terrorist attacks that could take thousands of lives. To offset this possibility, the President has indicated that he will try to bolster American assistance to the various countries that will be affected by Iranian aggression, but none of our allies can have much confidence in the leadership of a President who has made at best negligible progress in dealing with ISIS. His public vow to never put American ground forces in the Middle East turns out to be the only promise that he is determined to keep—for the benefit of our sworn enemies who have greater freedom of action given his iron clad guarantee. The objection to the President here is not that he has merely failed to curb Iranian mischief. It is that his clumsy deal will massively subsidize it.
Second, there is no more “snap back” here. Once the sanctions set out explicitly in the agreement are lifted from Iran, they won’t be reinstated any time soon. Gone are the days of anytime, anywhere inspections. In stark contrast, Articles 36 and 37 of the agreement outline a tortuous review process to reinstate any sanctions. First the Joint Commission must act, then the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, and then a nonbinding opinion by a three-member Advisory Board must be issued. If the matter is not resolved to mutual satisfaction after this process runs its course, any participant “could treat the unresolved issue as grounds to cease performing its commitments under this ICPOA.”
Section 37 then contains a murky provision under which the UN Security Council might possibly reimpose sanctions in part. But the entire procedure could take months, and at the end of this process Iran is free to walk if it does not like the outcome. Iran would also know that reassembling the original set of sanctions would be extremely difficult. Putting this agreement in place will likely end collective sanctions irreversibly.
And what do we get in exchange for all of the added risks we assume? The President claims that we have secured the best path possible to slow down the ability of the Iranians to make a nuclear weapon for at least ten years. But why should anyone believe that that will be the result when we are dealing with the quintessential bad man? The only safe way to slow down Iran’s nuclear capabilities is to do what the President claimed was necessary earlier, which is to knock out Iran’s total production of enriched uranium, subject to constant supervision.
It is all too clear that what Obama has offered today is a far cry from the deal he outlined to the country before these negotiations. It was easy for the President to talk tough to Mitt Romney in the course of their 2012 debates by then claiming it was “straightforward” that Iran has to “give up” its nuclear program in its entirety. As the President once recognized, there are no peaceful ends for which Iran needs a nuclear program. It is awash in oil, and it can satisfy any desire for medical isotopes by buying off-the-shelf products from any of a dozen nations that would be thrilled to supply them for free.
The agreement dramatically changes Iran’s status as an international aggressor. Elliott Abrams gives us the grim tally. Right off the bat, Iran’s nuclear program has gone from illegal to legal. The new agreement lets Iran keep 6,000 centrifuges and it allows the country to continue to do its own weapons research. It is likely that it can do a lot more outside the agreement as well. In five years the agreement lifts an arms embargo and in eight years all restrictions on ballistic missiles will be lifted.
It is often said that negotiation involves the process of give and take, by which it is not meant that the United States and its allies give and Iran takes. Unfortunately, that pattern has been observed in this recent deal. Iran had no hesitation in stating in the eleventh hour that various limitations on its sovereignty, e.g. inspections, were “unacceptable.” Today its position is that the sanctions must be lifted immediately. But the Obama administration was extraordinarily reluctant to say that any Iranian proposal was unacceptable. The drama in the negotiation was how far the Iranians would push the agreement to their side of the table—which is exactly what to expect from any negotiation that relies exclusively on carrots and disdains all sticks.
This agreement does not require detailed study to conclude that it is a dead loser. Nonetheless, the United States has put it forward in the United Nations for approval before Congress has spoken, and the President, incorrigible as ever, has announced that he will veto any Congressional legislation that seeks to block the treaty. Many members of his own party do not share the President’s unfailing instinct for self-destruction. They should join the Republicans to reject the treaty by veto-proof majorities in both houses before the President and his team can do any further harm.
Sergei Ryabkov, Russia’s deputy foreign minister, has said the U.S. risks a “direct confrontation” with Moscow over Ukraine, suggesting that a nuclear arms control treatymay not be renewed.
Ryabkov made the comments during an interview with the RIA news agency when asked about the prospect of resuming inspections under the new START treaty. The treaty expires in 2026 but inspections were called off in November 2022 as the war in Ukraine raged.
He said that the treaty aimed to strengthen strategic relations based on “mutual trust” and the principle of security. However, these provisions have been “violated in the most rough and cynical way by American actions at resolving the so-called ‘Russian question’ through aggressive containment.”
Ryabkov said this meant that we are “on the verge of a direct collision between the U.S. and NATO with Russia.” He described as a “very possible scenario” that there may be no arms control treaty with the U.S. after 2026.Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov in Moscow on March 15, 2022. In an interview published on January 30, 2023, he told RIA news agency about the prospect there would be no renewal of the START nuclear weapons treaty with the U.S.MAXIM SHEMETOV/Getty Images
“We are ready for such a scenario,” he said, insisting that the ending of the treaty “is not our choice and it would be optimal to move on a different path.”
The deal, signed in 2010, limits the strategic warheads and launchers in the arsenals of the two top nuclear powers and lets them to inspect one another’s stockpiles.
When contacted by Newsweek for comment, a U.S. State Department spokesperson said: “We are in the process of completing our congressionally-mandated annual assessment of Russian compliance with the New START Treaty, as we do every year.”
The spokesperson said that the provision of Abrams tanks showed that the U.S. was “committed to getting Ukraine what it needs as it defends itself from Russia’s brutal and barbaric war, for as long as it takes.”
With the new U.S. ambassador to Moscow, Lynn Tracy, taking up her post, Ryabkov said that the relations between the countries “have been brought to this dead-end by Washington’s anti-Russian line, which has become tougher year on year.”
Ryabkov’s interview followed the announcement by the U.S. last week it would provide Ukraine with Abrams tanks as part of a Western package to fight Russian aggression.
Ryabkov said there was “no doubt that this is an extremely destructive step” that pointed to a “pronounced escalation” in Ukraine.
“Paradoxically, U.S. officials are arguing that delivering a wider range of increasingly advanced systems, including heavy systems to Ukraine, is not an escalation.”
He said the international community was becoming more concerned about where “irresponsible” western politicians were “pushing the world.
Ryabkov also said that the negotiation process about Ukraine’s Russia-controlled Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant “is not progressing easily” amid consultations with the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] about creating a safety zone around the site.
Meanwhile, he said that talks about prisoner swaps between Russia and the U.S. will “definitely continue.” Last month, American basketball star Brittney Griner, who had been arrested for bringing cannabis oil into the country, was freed in exchange for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout.
Update 01/30/23, 03:30 a.m. ET: This article has been updated with further information.
Update 01/31/23, 04:30 a.m. ET: This article has been further updated with a U.S. State Department response.
The US has shot down a giant Chinese balloon that it says has been spying on key military sites across America.
The Department of Defence confirmed its fighter jets brought down the balloon over US territorial waters.
China’s foreign ministry later expressed “strong dissatisfaction and protest against the US’s use of force to attack civilian unmanned aircraft”.
Footage on US TV networks showed the balloon falling to the sea after a small explosion.
An F-22 jet fighter engaged the high-altitude balloon with one missile – an AIM-9X Sidewinder – and it went down about six nautical miles off the US coast at 14:39 EST (19:39 GMT), a defence official told reporters.
Defence officials told US media the debris landed in 47ft (14m) of water – shallower than they had expected – near Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
The military is now trying to recover debris which is spread over seven miles (11km). Two naval ships, including one with a heavy crane for recovery, are in the area.
“We were able to study and scrutinise the balloon and its equipment, which has been valuable,” the official added.
US President Joe Biden had been under pressure to shoot the balloon down since defence officials first announced they were tracking it on Thursday.
After the balloon was shot down, Mr Biden said: “They successfully took it down, and I want to compliment our aviators who did it.”
In a statement a few hours later, the Chinese foreign ministry said: “The Chinese side has repeatedly informed the US side after verification that the airship is for civilian use and entered the US due to force majeure – it was completely an accident.”
The Chinese authorities have denied it is a spying aircraft, and instead said it was a weather ship blown astray.
Reacting to the incident, Taiwan’s foreign ministry said in a statement: “The Chinese Communist Party government’s actions that violate international law and violate the airspace and sovereignty of other countries should not be tolerated in a civilised international community.”
China considers self-ruled Taiwan a breakaway province that will eventually be under Beijing’s control. President Xi Jinping has not ruled out the possible use of force to achieve this.
But Taiwan sees itself as independent, with its own constitution and democratically-elected leaders.
President Biden first approved the plan to down the balloon on Wednesday, but the Pentagon said it had decided to wait until the object was over water so as not to put people on the ground at undue risk.
Groundwork for the operation was laid when the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) briefly paused all civilian flights at three airports around the South Carolina coast on Saturday afternoon because of a “national security effort”.
The coast guard also advised mariners to leave the area due to military operations “that present a significant hazard”.
Watch: BBC security correspondent Gordon Corera explains the US/China row
One senior military official told CNN the recovery of debris should be “fairly easy” and could take “relatively short time”. The official added that “capable Navy divers” could be deployed to assist in the operation.
Defence officials also revealed on Saturday the balloon had first entered US airspace on 28 January near the Aleutian Islands, before moving to Canadian airspace three days later, and re-entering the US on 31 January. The object was spotted in the US state of Montana, which is home to a number of sensitive nuclear missile sites.
Relations between China and the US have been exacerbated by the incident, with the Pentagon calling it an “unacceptable violation” of US sovereignty.
But China sought to play down the cancellation of his visit, saying in a statement on Saturday that neither side had formally announced a plan for a trip.
China’s foreign ministry said Beijing “would not accept any groundless conjecture or hype” and accused “some politicians and media in the United States” of using the incident “as a pretext to attack and smear China.”
On Friday, the Pentagon said a second Chinese spy balloon had been spotted – this time over Latin America with reported sightings over Costa Rica and Venezuela.
Colombia’s Air Force says an identified object – believed to be a balloon – was detected on 3 February in the country’s airspace at above 55,000ft.
It says it followed the object until it left the airspace, adding that it did not represent a threat to national security.
China has not yet commented publicly on the reported second balloon.
Why Iran Could Be the Real Loser in Iraq’s Intra-Shiite Struggle
By Mohamad Bazzi
September 13, 2022
On August 29, the Iraqi Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr announced that he would withdraw from politics after months of failed attempts to form a new government. Thousands of supporters of the nationalist leader, who has emerged as a staunch opponent of Iranian-backed militias in Iraq, surged into the streets in anger, clashing with Iraqi security forces, breaching concrete barriers around Baghdad’s Green Zone, and storming the seat of government. After dozens of people were killed, Sadr went on television and instructed his supporters to go home, easing—for the moment, at least—a political crisis that has paralyzed Iraq’s caretaker government for months.
Iraq’s political system has been deadlocked since last October, when the country held its fifth parliamentary elections since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. Sadr’s alliance won the most seats, but neither his bloc nor any other has managed to form a government. The conflict has played out not between rival sects or ethnic groups but within Iraq’s largest community, the Shiites, who are divided over their country’s relationship with Iran. The Sadrists, whose leader was once Tehran’s close ally, argue that Baghdad should distance itself from all foreign powers, including Iran; other factions remain more closely aligned with Iraq’s powerful neighbor.
Although Sadr claims to have retired from politics, he is likely working to leverage this latest cycle of brinkmanship and street protests to gain the upper hand over his rivals. Sadr has made similar pronouncements in the past but has never truly withdrawn from the political realm. He seeks to establish himself as Iraq’s undisputed Shiite power broker and to dominate the sectarian power-sharing system that has been in place since shortly after the United States toppled Iraqi President Saddam Hussein’s Baathist regime. Although Sadr has couched his power play as a crusade against a corrupt political class that is beholden to Iranand other foreign powers, his gambit poses another risk to the fragile Iraqi state: Baghdad could be overpowered not by Iranian-backed political factions but by a Shiite Islamist cleric who once commanded one of Iraq’s most feared militias. That may seem like a long shot in the wake of Sadr’s failed street protests. But as the heir to one of the Shiite world’s most renowned clerical families, Sadr has proved remarkably adept at parlaying his religious pedigree into hard power. His opponents should think twice before counting him out.
GOD AND COUNTRY
Sadr embodies a rebellious and nationalist brand of Shiism in Iraq. Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the country’s most revered cleric, and other senior Shiite theologians eschew direct political involvement. In so doing, they have created a power vacuum within the Shiite community—one that Sadr has worked for two decades to fill.
A brash, little-known cleric who first emerged in 2003 in Najaf, Iraq’s center of Shiite theology, Sadr went on to become one of Washington’s most vexing enemies in Iraq. His militia, the Mahdi Army, fought against U.S. forces for years, killing hundreds of American soldiers. From the beginning, he sought to combine political power with religious authority, despite having limited theological credentials and an apparent disdain for the years of study under senior clerics required to attain the title of ayatollah. Without such qualifications, Sadr could not issue religious rulings or serve as a marja, an example for the Shiite faithful to emulate. But as the only surviving son of Grand Ayatollah Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr, a leading Shiite scholar who challenged the Baathist regime until he was assassinated in 1999, the younger Sadr was able to follow in his father’s footsteps as the political leader of the Sadrist movement.
Since the U.S. invasion, Sadr has been the Iraqi leader most adept at navigating the intersection of politics and religious authority, a fact that could explain his latest maneuver. Iraq’s political crisis has lasted nearly 11 months. Yet Sadr did not initiate bloody street protests until he confronted a threat beyond politics: one to his religious legitimacy. A day before Sadr declared his retirement from politics, Grand Ayatollah Kadhim al-Haeri, an aging Iraqi cleric based in Iran who had served as a spiritual guide to many members of the Sadrist movement, announced that he was stepping down because of poor health. But instead of calling on his followers to transfer their allegiance to another Iraqi Shiite cleric—one who might be sympathetic to Sadr—Haeri advised them to follow Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. It was an unusual move, since most grand ayatollahs instruct their followers to emulate other senior clerics only after the clerics have died. And the pronouncements of grand ayatollahs are typically filled with religious invocations and platitudes, whereas Haeri’s was implicitly critical of Sadr. Without naming him, Haeri said that Sadr risked tearing apart Iraq and its Shiite majority. He also suggested that Sadr lacked the necessary qualifications for religious leadership and challenged the younger cleric’s status as heir to his family’s legacy. In his own speech calling for an end to the recent demonstrations, Sadr claimed that Iranian officials and his Iranian-backed Shiite rivals were behind Haeri’s criticism.
This backstabbing reflects a growing power vacuum within Iraq’s Shiite community, one that has opened up as Iran’s influence in the country has waned. For years, Iran’s supreme leader sent General Qasem Soleimani, the head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’s foreign operations unit, to Iraq to keep Tehran’s Shiite supporters in line. But after the United States killed Soleimani in a drone strike in 2020, Iran lost an important lever of power over its Iraqi allies. Soleimani’s successor has been less successful at keeping Iraq’s Shiite factions—especially the Sadrists—from challenging Tehran. Although Sadr has portrayed himself as an Iraqi nationalist who seeks to stamp out foreign meddling, he lived in Qom, Iran’s center of Shiite scholarship, during some periods of Iraq’s civil war and was once allied with Tehran. But Iran’s leaders grew exasperated with Sadr’s unwillingness to work with their Iraqi allies, and they likely tried to increase the pressure on Sadr by convincing Haeri to question his religious legitimacy.
More political machinations are likely. Sistani, the most powerful cleric in Iraq, is in his 90s and believed to be in poor health. His statements are becoming rare. Shiite leaders in Iraq and Iran are preparing for his death and a potential rupture if more than one successor emerges from Najaf. Despite his limited credentials, Sadr is positioning himself for the post-Sistani period, hoping to play a role in choosing a successor or consolidating support in case there are competing heirs.Sadr’s drive for greater political influence in Iraq is part of this campaign: with more sway over the government in Baghdad and a greater share of its spoils, Sadr will be able to exert even more influence over Iraq’s religious establishment.
TO THE VICTOR, THE SPOILS
Iraq’s current political crisis stems from Sadr’s failure to form a government after winning the largest share of seats in the country’s 329-seat parliament. Historically, Iraq’s Shiite factions have coalesced after elections—often with help from Iran—to form a large bloc and distribute top government ministries, eventually bringing in the Sunni and the Kurdish parties. But with the support of just 73 lawmakers, Sadr tried to form a coalition government with the Sunni and the Kurdish factions and freeze out his Shiite opponents. Had he succeeded, his supporters would have claimed that Sadr upended the highly unpopular ethnosectarian power-sharing system—known as muhasasa—that the United States and its Iraqi allies imposed after the invasion. But Sadr is actually trying to further consolidate that system under his control, not destroy it.
Sadr is particularly loath to ally with Nouri al-Maliki, whose bloc won 33 seats in last year’s elections, the second highest among Shiite factions after the Sadrists. Maliki, who served as prime minister from 2006 to 2014, was responsible for many of the disastrous policies that alienated the Sunnis, weakened the Iraqi security forces, and allowed the Islamic State (or ISIS) to capture nearly one-third of the country. But Sadr’s rivalry with the former prime minister isn’t just about Maliki’s record; it is personal: in 2008, Maliki, with support from U.S. officials, ordered Iraqi security forces to fight Sadr’s militia in southern Iraq. The cleric never forgave Maliki for damaging his movement at the height of Iraq’s civil war.
The muhasasa system of doling out the spoils was modeled on Lebanon’s dysfunctional arrangement, which sought to guarantee the rights of religious minorities but ended up creating endemic corruption, political instability, and economic collapse. Under Iraq’s scheme, the prime minister must be a Shiite, the speaker of parliament a Sunni, and the (largely ceremonial) president a Kurd. The system extends through most layers of government and the civil service. After each parliamentary election, sectarian parties divide up the ministries, causing long delays in cabinet formation, as they jockey for the offices with the most lucrative government contracts and other sources of patronage. As a result, the number of public workers in Iraq has tripled since 2004, and the government now pays 400 percent more in salaries than it did then. In 2020, nearly three-quarters of Iraq’s budget went to paying salaries and pensions for the bloated public sector.
Most Iraqi parties and factions that came to power after 2003 benefit from this system of sharing the spoils and are reluctant to abandon it, even as they drive their oil-rich country toward financial ruin and fail to provide electricity, clean water, health care, and other basic services to the Iraqi people. Sadr’s movement and its allies also gain from the current system, despite the cleric’s best efforts to portray himself as a reformer. His power stems from a combination of religious and populist appeal and the fruits of state patronage. Like other members of the Iraqi elite, Sadr has maneuvered his aides and supporters into senior government positions. Dramatic reform would not serve his interests, which is why he doesn’t seek to abolish the power-sharing scheme but rather to position himself atop it as kingmaker.
DOWN BUT NOT OUT
In trying to solidify his control over the system after last year’s elections, Sadr may have overplayed his hand. After months of negotiations with the Sunni and the Kurdish parties, the Sadrists cobbled together a parliamentary majority that would have been able to elect a president, who in turn could have nominated a prime minister to form a cabinet. The parliament would then have had to approve the cabinet before the ministers took their posts. But in February, Iraq’s Supreme Court, whose judges were appointed by pro-Iranian Shiite factions, ruled that the legislature must convene with at least a two-thirds majority to elect a president, as opposed to the simple majority required in previous years. Shiite factions that oppose Sadr boycotted the parliamentary session, denying him the supermajority needed to hold a vote.
Sadr tried to peel away some rival Shiite factions by offering them control of various ministries, but he refused to negotiate with Maliki and failed to gain a supermajority. In June, Sadr’s candidate for prime minister, Jaafar al-Sadr, the cleric’s cousin and the current Iraqi ambassador to the United Kingdom, withdrew his candidacy. Sadr then ordered his 73 lawmakers to resign from parliament en masse, hoping to force his rivals to lift their boycott and reconvene the chamber.
Sadr may have overplayed his hand.
But Sadr’s gambit backfired, as his Shiite opponents quickly moved to fill the seats, which by law go to the runner-up in each district when the winner resigns. With his rivals commanding a new parliamentary majority, Sadr feared he could be excluded from a government that could stay in power for three years. In July, he responded by urging his followers to breach the Green Zone and blockade parliament with a sit-in protest to prevent a vote on a new president and cabinet. Thousands of Sadrists packed a tent encampment, demanding the dissolution of the current parliament and early elections.
The Sadrist siege of parliament ended on August 30, after Sadr ordered his supporters to leave the streets to avoid more violence. In reacting to Haeri’s religious challenge, Sadr may have miscalculated by instigating violent protests without a clear plan to break Iraq’s political deadlock. But Sadr has a way of recovering from political setbacks and emerging with even greater power. Despite his reputation as a tempestuous and erratic leader, Sadr has played a long game, outlasting the U.S. occupation and some aging members of the Najaf religious hierarchy. He built a formidable social and political movement that can deliver votes and take advantage of Iraq’s corrupt patronage system. For years, Sadr showed greater political skill than the United States and his Iraqi rivals gave him credit for—and he consistently outmaneuvered them.
So far, Sadr has fallen short in his campaign to contain Iran’s influence, weaken other Shiite factions in Iraq, and exert control over the country’s power-sharing arrangement. The question now is whether Sadr’s opponents will try to exclude him from the government entirely—and risk unleashing a new cycle of bloodshed—or attempt to reach a compromise and thereby delay his grand ambition to become Iraq’s most powerful Shiite leader.
The UN nuclear watchdog criticised Iran for making an undeclared change to the interconnection between the two clusters of advanced machines enriching uranium to up to 60% purity, close to weapons grade, at its Fordow plant. (File/AFP)
Updated 01 February 2023
IAEA found the change during an unannounced inspection on Jan. 21 at the Fordow Fuel enrichment Plant
VIENNA: The UN nuclear watchdog criticized Iran on Wednesday for making an undeclared change to the interconnection between the two clusters of advanced machines enriching uranium to up to 60 percent purity, close to weapons grade, at its Fordow plant. The International Atomic Energy Agency found the change during an unannounced inspection on Jan. 21 at the Fordow Fuel enrichment Plant (FFEP), a site dug into a mountain where inspectors are stepping up checks after Iran said it would dramatically expand enrichment. Fordow is so sensitive that the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and major powers banned enrichment there. Since the United States pulled out of the deal in 2018 and re-imposed sanctions against Iran, the Islamic Republic has breached many of the deal’s restrictions on its nuclear activities. In a confidential report to member states seen by Reuters, the IAEA did not say how the interconnection between the two cascades of IR-6 centrifuges had been changed except that “they were interconnected in a way that was substantially different from the mode of operation declared by Iran (to the IAEA).” In a public statement summarising that confidential report, the IAEA said its chief Rafael Grossi “is concerned that Iran implemented a substantial change in the design information of FFEP in relation to the production of high-enriched uranium without informing the Agency in advance.” “This is inconsistent with Iran’s obligations under its Safeguards Agreement and undermines the Agency’s ability to adjust the safeguards approach for FFEP and implement effective safeguards measures at this facility.” The IAEA has had regular access to Fordow to carry out verification activities like inspections and it is in talks with Iran on stepping up those activities, the report said. “The Agency and Iran have continued their discussions. The Agency has increased the frequency and intensity of its verification activities at FFEP. However, some other safeguards measures are still required and are being discussed with Iran,” the report added.