Iran Nuclear Talks: Is This The End Game?

800px-Iran_Talks_14_July_2015_(19680862152)(Photo Source: Wikipedia Commons)

For decades, the international community has been living in fear of Iran’s nuclear capabilities. The West has shown its frustration in the clandestine nuclear operations stemming from Tehran by establishing extensive economic sanctions against Iran. This summer, however, the world has been anxiously awaiting a deal to come from negotiations between Iran and six world powers (P5+1) in Vienna. Failing to meet deadline after deadline, it appeared to many that the diplomatic process would fail to result in any meaningful agreement between the two sides, but President Obama announced last Tuesday that a landmark deal has been reached.

Although Western powers like the US, France, and Germany once provided assistance and even a nuclear reactor to Iran for the purpose of developing nuclear energy, opposition to its nuclear program led by the US broadened after Iran’s Islamic Revolution and its role in the hostage crisis gave way to doubts about the peaceful intent of the program. This opposition quickly drove the program underground, though it continued to grow as the more nuclear-friendly Ayatollah Khamenei took power.

Over the years, Iran has built a vast network of enrichment plants, conversion sites, and research reactors, all of which the country attributes to nuclear energy usage despite vast, incriminating evidence that it has its sights set on building nuclear weapons. In August 2002, a London-based Iranian opposition group disclosed details about a secret heavy-water production plant at Arak. In 2003, the IAEA first reported that Iran had not disclosed sensitive enrichment and reprocessing materials. The CIA in 2008 discovered Iran’s Green Salt project, a secret uranium-processing program which featured high-explosives testing. Finally, in February of 2010, Iran announced plans to heighten the enrichment levels of existing uranium stockpiles, prompting president Ahmadinejad to declare the country to be a “nuclear state.” Iran has consistently denied its intentions to develop a nuclear arsenal despite this kind of damning evidence and various findings by inspectors like the IAEA, who in February of 2010 confirmed Iran’s nuclear capabilities and its plans for building a missile-ready warhead.

The UN Security Council began imposing sanctions in 2006 after Iran refused to suspend its uranium enrichment program, though the US and EU join the Council in attempting to cut off global economic ties to Iran. These sanctions have been at least partly successful, prompting Iran to join the negotiating table in hopes for a reprieve on many of them. Last week’s negotiations mark the culmination of these talks, as the P5+1 and Iran have reached a deal that would prevent Iran from gaining a nuclear weapon. Iran is set to dismantle most of its nuclear infrastructure in exchange for a suspension or cancellation of the various sanctions brought upon the country by the UN, EU, and US.

In Obama’s address to the public, he claimed that the deal will eliminate “every pathway” for Tehran to build nuclear weapons and said the deal demonstrates how American diplomacy can bring about real and meaningful change. He added that the deal will implement an inspection and transparency regime in Iran and will eliminate the possibility of Iran producing the highly-enriched uranium and weapons-grade plutonium necessary for a nuclear bomb. Specifically, the deal requires Iran to remove 2/3 of its installed centrifuges, machines to produce highly-enriched uranium, and prohibits Iran from using its centrifuges to produce highly-enriched uranium for 10 years. Iran will also get rid of 98% of its stockpile of enriched uranium for 15 years, alter its major nuclear reactor in Iraq so it will not produce weapons-grade plutonium, and will not build any new heavy water reactors for 15 years. Throughout his speech, Obama made it clear that this deal will not rely on trust of Iran and its government but rather on verification by outside officials and inspectors who will assure that Iran complies with the agreement. These transparency measures will be in place for 25 years, and they allow inspectors from the IAEA 24/7 access to Iran’s key nuclear facilities.

Although a nuclear deal with Iran seems long overdue to many, it has not been met with universal acclaim. Critics include many in Congress, primarily Republicans, as well as Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu, who claims the deal is a “capitulation.” To be sure, the deal is not perfect. The agreement has given into many of Iran’s demands in that the West will essentially eliminate its sanctions, an action that will empower Iran economically, perhaps giving the country the wealth it needs to continue to covertly build its nuclear arsenal. Furthermore, the deal will only temporarily stop Iran’s nuclear operations and will almost assuredly require further negotiation in the near future, for many of the actions Iran will take to dismantle its program are only mandated for the next 10-25 years.

Perhaps the most glaring omitted element of the agreement is that Iran’s major nuclear facilities remain in place, infrastructure critical to its nuclear capabilities. Obama will have only 60 days to convince a skeptical congress to accept this deal, though he has promised that he will veto any attempt to undermine its implementation. The world unanimously agrees that the deal from Vienna is historic, but the verdict is still out on its potential efficacy. For now, its future remains uncertain, and the international community must again wait to see how events in Washington play out.

Written by Cole Blum, Sophmore, UNC Chapel Hill (WACC Intern – Summer 2015)

Sources:

Greece: The Unexpected Eurozone Conundrum

greeceThe current economic situation in Greece has made headlines for weeks now. The deadline for Greece to pay back its creditors passed in June, and now talks of another bailout package are underway. Greece owes money to the International Monetary Fund, European Central Bank, and other Eurozone members, mainly Germany. In total Greece owes about 330 billion euros to its creditors.

Prime Minister, Alexis Tspiras, who won the election on an ‘anti-austerity’ platform in January, held a referendum last Sunday where Greek citizens voted on the new austerity measures proposed by the Eurozone. Greece voted ‘No’ on Sunday to pension cuts, tax increases, and spending cuts. This does not mean Greece is officially ousted from the Eurozone, it does mean that there will be more negotiations. Tsipras has promised the creditors a detailed plan on how Greece plans to repay its debt, due Thursday. This new plan, created by Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos, would be a three-year program in which Greece would commit to major reforms in order to create greater stability and long-term economic prosperity.

The next round of negotiations between Greece and the creditors will potentially determine the whether Greece stays in the Eurozone or not. No country has ever left the Eurozone and there is no clear-cut plan for an exit. There are many potential outcomes to the current economic situation; unfortunately none of them appear to be favorable towards Greece. The next deadline that Greece must meet in order remain in the Eurozone is July 20, where they must pay the European Central Bank 3.5 billion euros. If Greece does not pay, the European Central Bank is expected to stop all funds to Greek banks immediately. If Greece leaves the Eurozone they will revert back to their former currency, the Drachma.

There are many unknowns about the future of Greece and the Eurozone. The original plan of the Eurozone was that many countries cooperating together economically would provide greater stability to each individual country. However, in this case it seems that one country’s economic uncertainties can destabilize the entire Eurozone. What will happen next depends on what Greece is willing to sacrifice to shore its ailing economy. The new 3 year rescue plan will be discussed this coming Sunday, and will hopefully be able to shed more light on what comes next for Greece and its fellow Eurozone members.

Additional Reading:

Joseph Stiglizt: The U.S. Must Save Greece 

Written by Morgan Houchins, Bucknell University (Summer 2015 Intern, World Affairs Council of Charlotte)

Introducing Lauren Osga, Assistant Director, Programs & Development

The World Affairs Council of Charlotte is proud to welcome Laura Osga as our new “Assistant Director of Programs and Development.” She will manage all programming related initiatives including planning, logistics and marketing for our fall and spring programming. In addition, she will administer the Council’s membership program for our new and current corporate  members.

laurenosga1Lauren Osga grew up in San Diego, CA and attended California Lutheran University, earning her B.A. in International Studies and French, with a minor in Religion. During her time at CLU, she took a travel course to Jamaica, toured Italy with the university choir and studied abroad in Dakar, Senegal.

She completed a dual masters degree program in Macro Social Work and Theological Studies at Boston University in May 2015, with a focus on non-profit development and program planning. During her time at BU, she participated in travel seminars to Israel, Palestine and Turkey.

She previously interned and worked at DOVE, a small non-profit in Boston as the Development Assistant. Lauren recently moved to Charlotte with her husband from Boston. She enjoys performing arts, hiking, camping and snowboarding.

Summary: Nawaz Sharif Tries to Do the Right Thing During Ramadan – Pause Hangings (Cole Blum)

For a leader who has become infamously associated with executions, Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has shown a great deal of mercy in recent weeks towards the inmates who represent the world’s greatest number of people on death row. Sharif declared a moratorium on executions for 30 days due to the “sanctity of the holy month” of Ramadan, a shocking move simply because Pakistan has more than 8,000 people on death row and has hanged more than 170 since December. The international community has long chided Sharif and his administration for being so keen on using capital punishment on inmates, that so many are stunned that the Prime Minister has made such a request.

The Sharif government assumed power in 2013, and the prime minister was immediately pressured by the European Union to extend the unofficial ban on capital punishment that had been established by former President Asif Ali Zardari. In 2008, Zardari issued an unofficial moratorium on executions even though the Pakistani executive branch did not have enough authority to truly mandate such an order. Despite the “unofficial” moratorium, local law enforcement still executed 276 people in 2009 and 365 people in 2010. Sharif never truly saw much merit in Zardari’s efforts, and he cemented these views after Tehrik-i-Talibal militants attacked a Peshawar school in December of 2013, killing 148 people, most of whom were children. He responded by revoking the moratorium on executions for “terrorist” cases, though in March of 2014 he simply lifted it altogether.

Flash forward to today, and Pakistan has the largest backlog of inmates on death row in the world. Furthermore, Pakistani police have often been accused of using torture on its inmates to obtain confessions, such as electric shock and burnings. Whether these actions will continue into the future after this brief moratorium is unclear, though the British human rights organization Reprieve reported that Pakistani officials are determined to clear the backlog of inmates on death row. Capital punishment will likely remain a cornerstone of the Pakistani justice system, but Sharif’s declaration displays a progressive step and an interestingly uncommon display of mercy.

Original Article: http://foreignpolicy.com/2015/06/19/nawaz-sharif-pakistan-execution-ramadan/

Summarized by Cole Blum, soon-to-be UNC Chapel Hill sophomore, currently interning with the World Affairs Council of Charlotte

Welcome: Introduction – Cole Blum (Summer 2015 Intern)

coleblumI am very excited and anxious to take on my role as intern for the World Affairs Council of Charlotte this summer. I have lived in Charlotte my entire life, but my hope for this summer is that I will finally embrace the city’s international community.

After graduating with both a high school diploma and Global Studies Diploma from Providence Day School, I realized that I wanted to target my career towards international affairs. After one year at Wake Forest University, I have decided to transfer to UNC Chapel Hill in the fall, where I plan on majoring in Peace, War, and Defense with a concentration in National and International Defense and Security as well as minor in Arabic.

From my field of study, it may seem obvious that my area of focus is the Middle East, and I hope my career will feature some form of diplomacy or international security. I have already studied abroad in Spain and plan to study abroad in an Arabic speaking country in the near future, as I plan on becoming fluent in both Spanish and Arabic someday. I am confident that my time at World Affairs Council this summer will get me well on my way towards my future goals. As intern, I hope to put my passion for international affairs as well as my global perspective to work in any way I can.

Welcome to Summer: Panzanella and Stuffed Grape Leaves Recipes

As part of The Magellan Society (Young Professionals of the World Affairs Council of Charlotte) “Adventures In Dining” cooking class, Dr. Marie-Claire Marroum shared her extensive culinary knowledge by showing our young professionals how to make panzanella and stuffed grape leaves.

La_panzanella_a_la_toscana(Image Source: Wikipedia)

Panzanella

A summer tomato, red onion, olive, and basil salad

Ingredients:

  1. A loaf of ciabatta bread
  2. Five to six large tomatoes (preferably heirloom). You can mix colors and use purple, red, and yellow tomatoes
  3. A large red onion
  4. A bunch of basil (enough to make to cups of leaves)
  5. 2 cups of pitted kalamata olives
  6. Red wine vinegar
  7. Olive oil
  8. Salt and pepper to taste

Method:

  1. Cube the Ciabatta bread, spread on a tray and set aside (you can do this an hour or 2 before so the bread gets dry and ‘stale’)
  2. Peel and slice the red onion very thinly into circles that you can cut in half and place in a salad bowl
  3. Cube the tomatoes in 1/2 inch pieces (keep them chunky) and add to onions
  4. Cut the pitted kalamatas in half and add to the bowl
  5. Wash basil and detach the leaves. If the leaves are too big, stack them and cut in half with kitchen shears or tear by hand
  6. Mix the dressing: start with 1/2 cup of vinegar and 1/2 cup of olive oil, add salt and mix well
  7. Add the cubed Ciabatta bread to the bowl, the prepared dressing and grated fresh pepper. Gently toss all ingredients (I usually do it with my hands so as not to bruise the ingredients) taste and add salt or pepper if needed, or even more dressing

grapeleavesMAIN COURSE: Stuffed Grape Leaves

Ingredients:

  1. One jar of grape leaves in brine or fresh grape leaves if available (recommend Orlando)
  2. Half a pound of ground beef
  3. Half a pound ground lamb if desired (otherwise use ground beef)
  4. One to two cups of short grain rice (Watermaid)
  5. One medium onion, chopped fine
  6. One cup of chopped tomatoes (fresh or from a can)
  7. Shortening (I use Crisco) 4 tbsp
  8. Salt 1 tbsp
  9. Pepper 1 tbsp
  10. Dried oregano 2 tbsp
  11. Half a cup of lemon juice

Method:

  1. Get a fairly large bowl into which you will place the meat, the onion, the shortening, the chopped tomatoes, the salt, pepper, and oregano
  2. Place the rice in another bowl and wash 2 or 3 times with cold water until water is clear (you do not want the rice starchy). Add the washed rice to the other ingredients
  3. With clean hands, mix all the ingredients together until the mixture looks homogenous
  4. Remove the grape leaves carefully from the bowl and place in a pot and bring to a boil for a minute or 2. Dump the boiled leaves in sieve and wash with cold water. (The grape leaves were in brine and you want to get rid of too much salt).

Assembling your dish:

  1. In a medium pot (nonstick preferable) place thinly sliced cuts of lemon and tomatoes
  2. Sit at a table or counter and use a cutting plastic board or a large pieces of foil as your work area
  3. Spread the grape leaf in front of you with the base towards you (if it has a stem cut it) and place a roll of the stuffing on it. See demo)
  4. Fold over the side closest to you then the right and left sides and roll “like a cigar”
  5. Place stuffed grape leaf in the pot and continue until pot is 3/4 full alternating the direction you place them in (see demo)
  6. Place an ovenproof dish on top of grape leaves so they do not unravel and add water to the level of that dish and bring to a boil
  7. Cook on a range for 30 minutes and tip the pot to see if the fluid is all gone. If it is, add another cup of water and simmer until the fluid level is low. Make sure there is some liquid at the bottom otherwise you will scorch the grape leaves
  8. Right before serving pour the reserved lemon juice in the pot (do not let lemon juice overcook it makes the dish bitter)
  9. When ready to serve place the pot on a heatproof dish and flip it over (see demo). The presentation is nicer although you can remove the grape leaves in small batches and place them on the serving dish

Enjoy!

Marie-Claire Marroum

Charlotte, North Carolina

September 17, 2014

Op-Ed: Export-Import Bank driving growth in N.C. (Charlotte Observer)

Wayne CooperN.C. exports are on the rise. No one knows this better than Ethel Torres, the owner of National Drug Source in Concord.

Last year, Torres wanted to expand her medicine distribution business overseas. As a small business owner, Ethel would have to rely on cash-advance payments for any overseas sales, putting her at a competitive disadvantage. So she turned to the Export-Import Bank, a federal agency that provides support to businesses looking to break into foreign markets. Today, thanks to Ex-Im’s support, National Drug Source exports to more than 22 countries.

There are many other firms across North Carolina that are expanding because of Ex-Im. That’s why Congress must reauthorize it.

Despite its name, Ex-Im focuses almost exclusively on exports.

The bank offers low-cost export credit insurance, covering small businesses if a foreign buyer fails to pay. That lowers risk, empowering companies to expand overseas. To further encourage exports, the bank offers loans and guarantees to foreign buyers of U.S. goods. The bank doesn’t compete with private lenders; it fills in market gaps that would prevent such sales.

In the 80 years since its founding, Ex-Im has developed a stellar track record. Last year, less than 1 percent of loans were in default, besting most private lenders. And Ex-Im makes money for taxpayers, mainly through the fees it charges to foreign buyers. Over the past two decades, it has brought in almost $7 billion in fees.

Despite this success, Ex-Im is at risk. Its charter, which Congress has regularly renewed since 1934, expires this month. If lawmakers don’t reauthorize Ex-Im, it will be forced to close. That would spell big trouble for North Carolina’s economy. This state was hit hard by the recession but has managed to recover, in large part because of its growing export business.

Since 2009, the Ex-Im Bank has helped 137 local small businesses – and 47 larger companies – export $3 billion in goods and services to countries ranging from Mexico to China. Despite claims that Ex-Im only helps big multinationals, 90 percent of its transactions directly support small companies. These transactions have translated into nearly 19,000 new jobs for North Carolina.

The Bank supports companies across North Carolina.

Consider Statesville-based Slade, which makes sealing products for industrial equipment. It started working with Ex-Im in 1997 and now counts on exports to 60 countries for two-thirds of its sales. Or look at Miss Jenny’s Pickles in Kernersville, which turned to Ex-Im Bank for help a couple years ago to sell its gourmet pickles around the world, creating 14 jobs in the process.

The future of America’s economy is overseas. Roughly 95 percent of the world’s customers live abroad.

The Export-Import Bank has been a boon to N.C. businesses. Lawmakers must approve legislation to reauthorize it immediately. If they don’t, our economy will suffer.

Wayne Cooper is Chairman of the North Carolina District Export Council.

Reposted with permission from the Charlotte Observer.