• Understanding what’s been agreed to or not is rather difficult with conflicting versions coming from too many sides. This New York Times snippet sums up the problem:
On Tuesday, Wendy Sherman, the chief negotiator for the State Department, acknowledged that anyone listening to the descriptions of the agreement in Washington and in Tehran might wonder if they were hearing about the same one.
“We understood that our narratives were likely to be somewhat different but we pledged to try not to contradict each other,” she said on MSNBC.
Indeed, Iran’s Persian statement on ‘deal’ contradicted Obama’s claims, and a French document seen by the Times of Israel raised more discrepancies between US and Iranian explanations of centrifuges, sanctions relief, and access for inspectors.
And while the US says sanctions will be gradually removed as Iran demonstrates compliance, Hassan Rouhani said there will be no deal unless all sanctions are lifted at once. All this left State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke struggling to reconcile the contradictions. More on the conflicting “agreements” at Business Insider.
• President Obama admitted to NPR (video or transcript) that Iran could have an almost “zero breakout point” to nuclear weaponization in 12-14 years according to the understandings reached. This sparked a rare endorsement from Prime Minister Netanyahu. You can skip to the 4:15 point of the NPR video.
What is a more relevant fear would be that in year 13, 14, 15, they have advanced centrifuges that enrich uranium fairly rapidly, and at that point the breakout times would have shrunk almost down to zero.
• While the White House touts “snap back” sanctions that can be quickly reimposed if Iran violates the deal, AP reports problems with all the mechanisms under discussion.
• Iran rules out inspections for military sites.
If accurate, the report makes a mockery of the world powers’ much-hailed framework agreement with Iran, since such a move clearly breaches the US-published terms of the deal, and would dramatically accelerate Iran’s potential progress to the bomb.
• Israel set out a list of key changes to improve the nuclear understanding.
• President Obama sparked further debate while plugging the understandings in an interview with New York Times columnist Tom Friedman. Prime Minister Netanyahu appeared on US talk shows criticizing the deal. The Times of Israel and Khaled Abu Toameh rounded up Arab reactions.
Last but not least, Elliott Abrams wrote a withering response to the Friedman interview, especially Obama’s comment that “If anybody messes with Israel, America will be there.”
• The Washington Post looks at how American-Israeli dual citizens relate to the tensions between their two countries.
• Sparking a lot of buzz, ex-Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and George Shultz panned the understanding, raising serious questions in aWall St. Journal op-ed (click via Google News). Former IAEA deputy chief Olli Heinonen also spoke out against the deal.
By the way, State Department spokesperson Marie Harf got herself into some hot water when she dismissed Kissinger and Shultz’s criticisms as “a lot of big words and big thoughts.”
• During the nuclear talks, the Pentagon upgraded its biggest bunker-busting bombs with improved guidance systems and protection from Iranian jamming. The Wall St. Journal(click via Google News) says the system was most recently tested in mid-January, and that US military officials have shared info about this with their Israeli counterparts.
To destroy or disable the underground facilities, the Pentagon envisages guiding two or more of the bunker busters to the same impact point, in sequence, extending the weapon’s burrowing power, the officials said.