Week in Review: Iran’s Secret Side Deals May Go Public; A Bad Week for Boycotts

Will Obama (or Trump) Release Secret Iran Documents?

Senators from both parties have called on the White House to release documents pertaining to the Iran nuclear deal that are being stored in secured classified facilities despite not actually being classified.

The documents reportedly contain American promises regarding the opening-up of Iran’s economy, details of a deal signed to release $1.7 billion to Iran in exchange for the release of American hostages, and exemptions from standard nuclear investigation procedures that Iran received from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Those exemptions could allow Iran to possess more enriched uranium than previously thought, which could allow Iran to reduce its “breakout time”—the time it would take to create a single nuclear bomb—to less than a year, a time limit that the deal was supposed to ensure.

Olli Heinonen, a former IAEA deputy director-general, has raised questions about the agency’s current reporting on Iran’s nuclear program. Heinonen criticized the IAEA for “reduc[ing] the level of transparency and details in its reporting,” thereby making it “practically impossible” to confirm that Iran is complying with the terms of the nuclear deal. Heinonen was alarmed by the fact that the most recent IAEA report was not specific about the amount of enriched uranium produced at the Natanz facility, gave few details about Iran’s testing of advanced centrifuges, and failed to provide an inventory of  “yellowcake” uranium ore concentrate. He also noted that Iran has twice been caught violating limits on its heavy water stockpile, showing “disrespect for the nuclear terms of the agreement.”

The concern that the IAEA is covering for Iran rather than ensuring its compliance with its international obligations is also shared by members of Congress. In July, 15 Democratic senators asked President Barack Obama in a letter to pressure the IAEA to be more forthcoming in its inspection reports.

The IAEA issued its final report on Iran’s past illicit nuclear research one year ago this week. The report found that Iran’s nuclear program had been more extensive than previously thought, noting that it had been testing nuclear detonations up to 2009. The report stated that Iran had not been forthcoming or answered all past concerns about its nuclear work, but the Obama administration pressed ahead with implementing the deal anyway. New York Times reporter David Sanger observed at the time that Iran had gotten away with not coming clean about its nuclear history, which had once been an American negotiation demand. Given this, he asked, “will [Iran] be emboldened to stiff-arm inspectors as they seek to enforce the nuclear deal?”


The anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign suffered some setbacks this week. On Wednesday, Germany’s ruling party, the Christian Democratic Union, approved a resolution that stated that BDS is anti-Semitic. Frankfurt mayor Uwe Becker, who submitted the resolution, said that BDS “is nothing more than coarse anti-Semitism, as the National Socialists [Nazis] have already instrumentalized.”

On Thursday, the Ohio Senate passed a measure prohibiting taxpayer funds from being used to do business with individuals and businesses who participate in discriminatory boycotts of Israel. The bill, which had already passed the house, is expected to be signed by Gov. John Kasich (R).

Even beyond the condemnations on two continents, a new study has shown that the boycott is simply not working. The Israeli on Campus Coalition released a study this week showing that academic collaborations between Israel and the United States increased 45 percent from 2006 to 2015. Perhaps an even stronger indication of BDS’s futility is that foreign investment in Israel has nearly tripled since the BDS campaign was formally launched in 2005, hitting a record high of $285 billion last year. “If the idea is that Israel will be isolated, Israel will be sidelined, it’s failing miserably,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday.

However, elements of the movement still present risks, especially on campus. In a Washington Post op-ed on Wednesday, professors Cary Nelson and David Greenberg argued that the BDS campaign’s technique of opposing “normalization” with Israel and shouting down Israeli or pro-Israel speakers “constitutes a dire threat to academic freedom.”

Bernard-Henri Lévy: Israel is a “Model of Democracy”

In an exclusive interview with The Tower, French intellectual Bernard-Henri Lévy expressed his admiration for Israel, calling it “a model of democracy not only for the Middle East but for the world.” Israel’s response to terror compared favorably to that of the United States or France, he observed:

I don’t see any other example in modern history of a country that has had to face a constant state of war, a constant state of emergency, having in its own space a very strong minority who might be tempted to take the path of the adversary, and yet sticks so firmly to its principles….There was never any step towards what might be called a state of exception – depriving this part or that part of society of its democratic and civil rights.

Lévy also praised the openness and inclusiveness of Israeli society. “Israel is people coming from the west, from the east, from the south,” he said. “People coming from Europe, people coming from Russia, people coming from the Arab world. People of every different possible ethnicity. And all of them made so quickly, nearly overnight, a nation! I don’t see any other examples of that.”

The philosopher also discussed his experience with Kurdish fighters in Iraq and his views on the internal struggle within Islam. To read the whole interview, click here.

Feature: I’m a South African Activist Who Used to Fight Against Israel—Until I Went There

South African human rights activist Tshediso Mangope drew upon the history of his country in order to refute many common criticisms of Israel, such as that it is an apartheid state. Jews, he noted, are not foreign conquerors of Israel, but rather its indigenous people; no one could reasonably argue that “returning to your ancestral homeland from whence you were displaced makes you a settler.” He also pointed out that while black South Africans had support from surrounding nations in their struggle, Israeli Jews historically have been shunned by their Arab neighbors, most of whom at some point have “vowed to wipe Israel off the map.” While the central goal of black South African activists was peaceful coexistence, “most Palestinians refuse to recognize Israel’s right to exist,” and even “essentially supported the call for the genocide of Jewish people.” Mangope concludes by writing that “the only way to protect Jewish people from all the hardships they have suffered the world over is to defend their inalienable right to self-determination” in a Jewish state.

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Three Big Questions

In order to ensure his unanimous reelection as leader of the Fatah party, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas barred opponents from attending the long-delayed party convention. If Abbas and those supporting him are “moderate,” as they are often described in the media, then why did convicted murderer Marwan Barghouti win the most votes in the Fatah Central Committee contest at the convention?

Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman suggested this week that Hezbollah had been attempting to acquire chemical weapons. Is this further indication that Iran has an ongoing chemical weapons program in addition to its nuclear program?

British Prime Minister Theresa May pledged her country’s cooperation with Gulf countries in opposing Iran’s aggression in the Middle East. Will we start seeing stronger international cooperation in fighting Iran’s hegemonic designs in the Middle East going forward?

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