Thursday, August 27, 2015

iSideWhiff: Presidential Poll Site Gets Iran Deal Totally Wrong

You've probably heard of; it's the site with that helpful quiz that tells you which of the presidential candidates you most agree (and disagree) with on a range of political and social issues.

The efficacy of the quiz, however, requires the asking of questions based on accurate information. Unfortunately, the single Iran-related query in the poll and the accompanying explanatory information are rife with factual errors. These errors and misinformation undoubtedly shape the ways in which less-informed users understand the issue and how they will respond.

Here's the Iran question:
Should the U.S. conduct targeted airstrikes on Iran’s nuclear weapons facilities?
The iStandWith poll, in its framing of the Iran question, repeats an egregious error. Iran does not have any "nuclear weapons facilities" for the United States (or anyone else, for that matter) to "conduct targeted airstrikes on." Why not? Well, quite simply, because – as affirmed by all American, European and Israeli intelligence communities and others for years now, including the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) – Iran has no nuclear weapons program. All 16 U.S. intelligence agencies have collectively concurred since 2007 that, even if Iran had conducted research into nuclear weaponry in the past, this research (which is not itself prohibited under international law) ceased in 2003 and has not resumed. This assessment has been reaffirmed multiple times since.

Not only this, the Iranian leadership is judged time and again not to have even made a decision on whether to embark on a nuclear weapons program (unless, of course, you count the decades-long repetition by the Iranian government that they have indeed made such a decision: and that decision is to never build or acquire a nuclear weapon).

So iStandWith's entire contention is faulty from the start. The U.S. can't bomb Iran's "nuclear weapons facilities" because they don't actually exist. Such a flawed question is sure to elicit mistaken comprehension by respondents unfamiliar with these facts, who are led to believe that Iran is doing something it's not actually doing at all.

For those less informed on this issue, however, iStandWith provides a brief primer for interested users. By clicking a "learn more" button, this paragraph of text is revealed:
In July 2015 the U.S. reached an accord with Iran to limit their ability to put uranium or plutonium in weapons. Iran agreed to turn one nuclear plant into a scientific research facility and shut another one down. Iran agreed to let the International Atomic Energy Agency inspect these sites. Critics argue that the deal gave too many concessions to the Iranians including a provision that gives them up to 24 days to grant inspectors access to their facilities. Proponents argue that the deal makes the possibility of Iran developing a nuclear weapon in the next 25 years extremely remote.
The first sentence – like the last – is reductive, speculative, and incomplete, but okay, fine. It's the stuff in the middle that's extremely problematic and, unfortunately, the mistakes compound rapidly.

iSideWith says: Iran agreed to turn one nuclear plant into a scientific research facility and shut another one down.

The facility at Fordow, which iStandWith describes as a "nuclear plant," is actually a uranium enrichment facility, which, yes, Iran has agreed to convert into an international nuclear, physics, and technology research lab. The installed and operational centrifuges at Fordow will no longer enrich uranium, but will be used for experiments involving non-fissile material.

The other facility referenced above is the Arak heavy-water research reactor, which will not be "shut down," as iStandWith claims. Actually, it is still under construction and, as such, has never been operational, so there’s nothing to "shut down." The Arak reactor, far from being shuttered or dismantled under the agreement, will be reconfigured with international support and will operate under full safeguards as planned.

iSideWith says: Iran agreed to let the International Atomic Energy Agency inspect these sites.

The sites mentioned by iStandWith above – Fordow and Arak – have already been inspected regularly by the IAEA for years: Fordow since it was declared in 2009 and Arak since it was declared in 2002. They are fully-safeguarded facilities, under constant IAEA containment and surveillance. Inspections are not the result of the new deal. Many other sites related to Iran's nuclear program are also routinely inspected and have been for years. All nuclear material remains under agency seal, containment and surveillance and no diversion of nuclear material to military purposes has ever been reported.

iSideWith says: Critics argue that the deal gave too many concessions to the Iranians including a provision that gives them up to 24 days to grant inspectors access to their facilities.

This is just all kinds of wrong. All of Iran's declared nuclear facilities and sites (including hospitals that use radioisotopes to treat cancer patients) are already open and accessible to inspectors at all times. This is not a function of the agreement, this is standard practice under Iran's safeguards protocol with the IAEA, in place since 1974. This constant and consistent access now includes, under the new deal, inspections and monitoring of all aspects of Iran's nuclear supply chain, such as centrifuge workshops and uranium mines and mills. These kinds of non-nuclear facilities are not safeguarded anywhere else on Earth. Inspectors have daily access to all of these sites; no provision in the deal limits this. This fact alone is proof of the massive concessions Iran has agreed to to try and end this absurd decades-long charade.

(By the way, no other nation involved in these negotiations has relinquished any aspect of their own sovereignty, inalienable rights or self-determination to achieve this deal. The lifting of sanctions, designed specifically to force Iranian capitulation to American demands, the abrogation of internationally-recognized and guaranteed national nuclear rights, and exact suffering upon the Iranian people, is not a concession - it is the inevitable, and theoretically desired, result of successful diplomacy and voluntary Iranian compromise.)

The specific bone of contention mentioned by iSideWith - the so-called 24-day delay - is also completely misunderstood. For one, the claim has to do with undeclared - non-nuclear - sites where the IAEA may suspect Iran is engaged in proscribed activities. Undeclared sites, such as military bases and research installations, are legally off-limits to inspectors. The seven parties to the deal - Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia, the United States and Iran - have attempted to square this circle through a reasonable review process.

Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, has explained that, rather than 24 days, "the IAEA will need to give only 24 hours' notice before showing up at a suspicious site to take samples. Access could even be requested with as little as two hours' notice, something that will be much more feasible now that Iran has agreed to let inspectors stay in-country for the long term. Iran is obligated to provide the IAEA access to all such sites..."

"What happens if Iran tries to stall and refuses to provide access, on whatever grounds?" Lewis continues, before laying out the parameters of the process:
There is a strict time limit on stalling. Iran must provide access within two weeks. If Iran refuses, the Joint Commission set up under the deal must decide within seven days whether to force access. Following a majority vote in the Joint Commission — where the United States and its allies constitute a majority bloc — Iran has three days to comply. If it doesn't, it's openly violating the deal, which would be grounds for the swift return of the international sanctions regime, known colloquially as the "snap back."
This arrangement is much, much stronger than the normal safeguards agreement, which requires prompt access in theory but does not place time limits on dickering.
What opponents of the deal have done is add up all the time limits and claim that inspections will occur only after a 24-day pause. This is simply not true.
Unfortunately, the guys running iSideWith - Taylor Peck and Nick Boutelier - don't seem to know any of this. But they should, especially since they're claiming to be providing context upon which their users can make informed decisions about supporting an unprovoked and illegal military assault on a country of 80 million people.

It appears that iSideWith should first inform itself before siding with discredited allegations and base propaganda over clear facts. Without a doubt, the Iran poll question should be updated to reflect reality.


Sunday, August 23, 2015

USA Today Shills For Anonymous Pentagon Officials on Fantasy Iran Attack

Tom Vanden Brook (USA Today)

USA Today's Pentagon correspondent Tom Vanden Brook reports today that an American attack on Iranian nuclear facilities would set the program back about two years, and would have to be carried out "with as many as 1,000 aircraft sorties over several days to a week" and employ the constantly-hyped Massive Ordnance Penetrator, a 30,000 pound bunker buster bomb designed to destroy heavily-fortified underground facilities, according to a couple of anonymous "senior officers involved in planning potential Iran attacks."

Vanden Brook seems to have a curious understanding of the Iranian nuclear program. He writes that one of the unnamed officers told him that "[t]he location of Iran's nuclear facilities are not much of a secret" and that "[s]py satellites and other means, including monitoring of social media, result in an assessment known as 'all-source fused intelligence.'"

The reason Iran's nuclear facilities aren't a secret isn't because of U.S. surveillance or someone in the Pentagon scouring Facebook and Instagram - it's because all nuclear facilities in Iran are declared and safeguarded by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). You can find them all on Google Maps. There's a public bus stop in Natanz called "Atomic Station." The IAEA routinely reports on all of these facilities and affirms consistently that they have no military dimension whatsoever. Nevertheless, Vanden Brook writes, "There are about 20 nuclear facilities in Iran that would need to be attacked, some with as many as 60 individual strikes."

Nowhere, of course, does Vanden Brook point out that such an attack on Iran would undoubtedly be a massive war crime. The only hint of humanity that Vanden Brook lends to the people who live under the falling bombs is when he mentions that "pinpointing the labs and factories that manufacture the means to deliver the nuclear weapon" can be difficult since "building warheads, engines and guidance systems for a missile can be done in scattered locations, including populated areas," and therefore "civilian casualties would be nearly impossible to avoid." Though not completely impossible, of course, since not dropping bombs on people for no reason is a great way to avoid killing them.

Buried at the tail-end of his article, Vanden Brook notes that "airstrikes in Iran make little sense — and could be counterproductive," according to retired Air Force General David Deptula. But even this admission is marred by bad analysis. Deptula tells Vanden Brook that unless Iranian leaders' "desire for a bomb" is changed, "a U.S. attack is a temporary solution at best."

The problem here is that is putative "desire" doesn't actually exist. For decades now, Iranian leaders have condemned and prohibited the manufacturing, acquisition, and stockpiling of nuclear arms on religious, strategic, ethical, legal and political grounds. There is historical precedent for Iran's serious opposition to building and using weapons of mass destruction, even in the face of war and suffering.

United States intelligence community and its allies, including Israel, have long assessed that Iran does not have a nuclear weapons program and, even in the abstract, that its leadership has not made any decision to build nuclear weapons, despite the technical capacity to do so inherent in having a functional nuclear energy program.

The preface to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action - the nuclear agreement signed in July by six world powers (Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States) and Iran, and endorsed unanimously by the United Nations Security Council - states clearly in its first paragraph: "Iran reaffirms that under no circumstances will Iran ever seek, develop or acquire any nuclear weapons." This precise statement is also reiterated early in the agreement's preamble.

More than anything else, unfortunately, Vanden Brook's own desire to boost bellicose voices and further promote long-debunked propaganda in USA Today is undeniable.


Originally published as UPDATE XXI on "The Forever Threat: The Imminent Attack on Iran That Will Never Happen."


Saturday, August 22, 2015

Barak's Iran Attack Hype: More Anti-Deal Bluster With No Substance

The New York Times' Jodi Rudoren has published an article claiming Israel was on the brink of attacking Iran at least three times between 2010 and 2012, according to recordings released publicly by biographers of former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, who also served for years as Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu's Defense Minister.

Here's the headline:

The broadcast of taped recordings of Barak, which aired on Israeli television to the alleged chagrin of Barak (who claims he tried unsuccessfully to prevent their release), appears to be one more desperate tactic of those opposed to the recently-agreed nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers to make Israel seem ready and willing to conduct illegal airstrikes against Iranian nuclear and military facilities and infrastructure. All Israel needs, the report would have us believe, is the right opportunity and a longer leash from Washington and bombs would blissfully fall on Iranian buildings and humans.

The revelations in Barak's admissions are, in fact, hardly any revelation at all. For instance, the same station - Israel's Channel 2 - that aired the Barak interview on Friday has previously exposed some of the same claims. In 2012, Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth reported on a Channel 2 investigation that exposed a rift in the Israeli leadership over any potential strike on Iran that had occurred in 2010. According to the story, while Netanyahu and Barak were eager to prepare the military for a potential strike on Iran, IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi and Mossad director Meir Dagan were not, with Ashkenazi referring to an Israeli attack on Iran as a "strategic mistake." During a May 2011 appearance, Dagan, who had retired in September 2010, famously called the idea of bombing Iran "the stupidest thing I have ever heard" and "patently illegal under international law."

Furthermore, it should be noted that, though no stranger to alarmism and warmongering, Barak himself was actually actively undermining the supposed move toward war at the same time he claims he was advocating for it.

Back in September 2009, Barak, who was then head of Israel's Labor Party, told Yedioth Ahronoth that "Iran does not constitute an existential threat against Israel," adding later, "Right now, Iran does not have a bomb. Even if it did, this would not make it a threat to Israel's existence." Countering Netanyahu-inspired rhetoric that absurdly conflates Iran with Nazi Germany, Barak said plainly, "I don't think we are on the brink of a new Holocaust."

Speaking at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, the AIPAC-spinoff think tank, in February 2010, Barak stated, "I don’t think that the Iranians, even if they got the bomb, they are going to drop it immediately on some neighbor. They fully understand what might follow. They are radicals but not total meshuganas." He further noted his belief that Iranian leaders "have quite sophisticated decision-making process and they understand realities."

The next year, Barak repeated the assessment that even a nuclear-armed Iran would pose very little threat to Israel. In May 2011, he told Ha'aretz that "[i]f Iran succeeds in developing nuclear weapons, it is unlikely to bomb Israel," and said that "Israel should not spread public panic about the Iranian nuclear program." When asked directly whether he believed Iran would ever launch a nuclear attack on Israel, Barak replied: "Not on us and not on any other neighbor."

Later that same year, Barak told an Israeli radio station that the Israeli leadership "has not yet decided to embark on any operation," and dismissed as "delusional" that constant media speculation that he and Netanyahu were about to launch an attack.

In early 2012, during an interview with Israeli Army Radio, Barak said that Iran would most likely never decide to build a nuclear bomb, since such a decision would inevitably lead to either harsher international opprobrium and sanctions, or even military action. When asked whether the Israeli leadership had decided to launch its own assault on Iran, Barak answered, ""We haven't made any decision to do this," adding, "This entire thing is very far off." When pressed further, he said, "It's certainly not urgent. I don't want to relate to it as though tomorrow it will happen."

Granted, such denials in the media could always have been just a political and strategic gambit to reduce attention on Israeli military machinations and set the stage for a surprise assault. As former Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer told a Labor Party meeting in late 2011, "Every citizen in the country has to be worried that these two fools, Netanyahu and Barak, are planning an attack on Iran."

More likely, however, is the fact that no Israeli leader - not Netanyahu, not Barak, no one - will ever actually attack Iran through air strikes. The reports, the denials, the predictions, the investigations are all part of Israeli theatrics meant to scare American and European leaders into applying pressure on Iran through sanctions, sabotage, assassinations and military threats in an effort to stave off the hypothetical Israeli attack that will never actually happen.


Originally published as UPDATE XX on "
The Forever Threat: The Imminent Attack on Iran That Will Never Happen."


Thursday, August 13, 2015

Kerry on Iran's Right to Enrich: Return of the Flip-Flopper

Remember the ugly 2004 presidential campaign when the Bush camp accused challenger John Kerry of being a flip-flopper on a great many consequential political issues? Well, in his tireless efforts to advocate in favor of the Iran deal - perhaps the signature political and diplomatic achievement of Kerry's long career - the flip-flopper charge can once again be levied (and more accurately), this time regarding Kerry's personal consideration of Iran's right to a domestic uranium enrichment program, as affirmed under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT).

Defending the agreement reached in Vienna last month by the P5+1 (the five permanent, nuclear-armed members of the UN Security Council plus Germany) and Iran, U.S. Secretary of State trotted out a lot of conventional wisdom and long-discredited narratives about Iran's program and progress during a Reuters Newsmaker event Tuesday.

Among others things, Kerry declared that, with regard to Iran's right to domestically enrich uranium, "they don’t have a right to enrich," arguing that "under the NPT there is no right." Using rather tortured logic, Kerry pleads this case:
The NPT is silent on the right to enrich. It doesn't grant people automatically a right to enrich. But the NPT also doesn't ban it. It doesn't say you can't enrich. And there are about 12 NPT countries, we among them, who enrich. At the moment we're not doing that, but others are. I think you have Brazil – there are a group of countries that use enrichment.
The prohibited by omission is a dubious stance for the United States to take, especially when it has absolutely no problem with its own enrichment capabilities, let alone those of nations like, as Kerry noted, Brazil, but also Argentina, the Netherlands, Japan, Germany, all nuclear-armed permanent members of the UN Security Council, not to mention rogue states like Israel, India and Pakistan, which all developed nuclear enrichment and weapons programs outside the auspices of the NPT and monitoring of the IAEA.

This has been the steadfast U.S. position for quite some time, and certainly throughout these most recent negotiations, as often articulated by Obama administration officials involved in the talks. Kerry himself said at a press conference in Abu Dhabi in November 2013, before the interim agreement was signed in Geneva, "There is no existing right to enrich for anybody. The NPT does not grant a right and it does not prohibit a right."

Yet, Kerry and his State department gets the rights afforded by NPT, and international law at large, all wrong here. Not only is it a hypocritical stance, considering the historical record, but simply claiming that no language in the NPT specifically guarantees Iran the right to enrich uranium is also wholly disingenuous, as international law scholar, nonproliferation expert and law professor Dan Joyner has long pointed out.

Yet the United States didn't always hold this particular position, and namely had a distinctly different  - and contradictory - perspective and analysis at a critical point in nuclear nonproliferation history. On July 10, 1968, nine days after the NPT had been opened for signature (and signed, that day, by both the United States and Iran), Arms Control and Disarmament Agency Director William Foster testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee about the new treaty. Foster specifically identified "several activities which the United States would not consider per se to be violations of the prohibitions in Article II," continuing:
Neither uranium enrichment nor the stockpiling of fissionable material in connection with a peaceful program would violate Article II so long as these activities were safeguarded under Article III. Also clearly permitted would be the development, under safeguards, of plutonium fueled power reactors, including research on the properties of metallic plutonium, nor would Article II interfere with the development or use of fast breeder reactors under safeguards.
However, most striking, as I've noted before, is perhaps Kerry's own devolution on this particular issue.

In a 2009 interview with the Financial Times, Kerry, then a Massachusetts Senator, stated that the demand that Iran have no enrichment capability is "ridiculous" and "unreasonable." His explanation was unequivocal: "They have a right to peaceful nuclear power and to enrichment in that purpose," Kerry said. To claim otherwise was "bombastic diplomacy."

While these past few months Kerry has convincingly argued the Obama administration's case for Congress to approve the Iran deal this September, he still unfortunately relies on a great deal of false narratives to sell the agreement. His comments on Tuesday were no departure from this norm.

For instance, Kerry claimed that U.S. government officials "have no doubt" that, prior to 2003, Iran was "chasing a nuclear weapon," despite there being no authenticated evidence to support this allegation. Not even the collective judgment of 16 American intelligence agencies, whose 2007 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) Kerry is clearly referring to, makes that case. While the news media has long assumed that the 2007 NIE dispelled all doubt about the military nature of Iran's nuclear program before 2003, this is a wholesale misreading of the actual report.

False claims and predictions about Iran's nuclear program and intentions go back decades, to at least 1984.

Nevertheless, the key finding of the NIE, noted throughout the media as proof Iran had - then halted - a dedicated atomic bomb project, is this: "We assess with high confidence that until fall 2003, Iranian military entities were working under government direction to develop nuclear weapons."

While sounding mighty authoritative, this finding is on less stable ground that it may seem, and not just because evidence for a pre-2003 nuclear weapons program is dubious and most likely completely fabricated.

The "estimative language" used - and defined - by the U.S. intelligence community makes clear that even high confidence assessments are not to be confused with proof. The 2007 NIE itself notes that "phrases such as we judge, we assess, and we estimate" are meant "to convey analytical assessments and judgments. Such statements are not facts, proof, or knowledge." Indeed, the NIE adds, all "assessments and judgments are not intended to imply that we have 'proof' that shows something to be a fact."

Beyond this, the term "high confidence" is also loaded. The NIE explains that it refers to a "solid judgment" based upon "high-quality information," but still hedges considerably: "A 'high confidence' judgment is not a fact or a certainty, however, and such judgments still carry a risk of being wrong."

So, even for the most advanced, intrusive, and sophisticated intelligence apparatus on the planet, all that glitters ain't gold.

The lack of real evidence is no secret, despite being seldom reported. After publicizing the 2007 NIE and its conclusions, then-IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei received a special briefing by U.S. intelligence. But, as ElBaradei recounts in "Age of Deception," his 2011 memoir, "They did not share the supposed evidence that had led them to confirm the existence of a past Iranian nuclear [weapons] program, other than to refer to the same unverified set of allegations about weaponization studies that had already been discussed with the Agency."

Years earlier, ElBaradei had publicly questioned the authenticity of these "alleged studies" that Israel and the United States accused Iran of conducting. In a September 17, 2009 IAEA press release, ElBaradei noted that the agency "has no concrete proof that there is or has been a nuclear weapon programme in Iran." A few weeks later, in an interview with The Hindu, ElBaradei remarked, "The IAEA is not making any judgment at all whether Iran even had weaponisation studies before [2003] because there is a major question of authenticity of the documents."

None of this seems to matter in the mainstream debate over Iran and its nuclear program.

During his Reuters Newsmaker interview, Kerry also said of Iran that, in 2003, "we found them red-handed with facilities they shouldn't have had and material they shouldn't have had, and of course, we blew the whistle on them as everybody knows with respect to the underground facility at Fordow [in 2009]."

As I have documented before, claiming that Iran's enrichment plants at Natanz and Fordow, and the heavy-water reactor at Arak, were "facilities they shouldn't have" is utterly bogus.

The Reuters chat with Kerry was entitled "Iran: The Moment of Truth." It's shame that even the deal's most staunch and passionate advocates are still peddling falsehoods about the history and legality of Iran's nuclear program and a threat that doesn't exist in order to make their case.


Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Obama is Wrong About Iran's Level of Uranium Enrichment

In a new interview with Mic, President Barack Obama spoke extensively about the Iran deal and addressed questions posed to him by youth people from the United States, Israel and even Iran itself.

While the arguments Obama made in favor of the landmark, multilateral agreement have all been heard before, the president made one extremely curious claim about Iran's uranium enrichment that should be corrected.

Speaking to the benefits of the deal - known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and reached after nearly two years of dedicated diplomacy between Iran and six world powers - Obama said the following:
Now the good news is that under this deal, if Iran abides by the agreement, if they get rid of their stockpiles of highly enriched uranium and they shut down or modify a number of the facilities they already have and they subject themselves to inspections so that we are sure that they’re not developing a nuclear weapon, then the sanctions come down.
Obama made a similar comment during an interview with NPR this past in April, telling Steve Inskeep that that deal then still being negotiated with Iran would contain "assurances that their stockpile of highly enriched uranium remains in a place where they cannot create a nuclear weapon."

Here's the thing: Iran doesn't have any stockpiles of highly enriched uranium. In fact, Iran has never enriched uranium above 19.75% U-235, which is defined by the IAEA itself as "low enriched uranium."

Beyond the findings of IAEA inspectors, Obama's own Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, has said as much. During testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee in April 2013 - months before the election of moderate Iranian president Hassan Rouhani, renewed nuclear negotiations and the signing of the interim agreement that curbed Iran's enrichment - Clapper made sure to note that Iran has not produced any highly enriched uranium, let alone to the level needed for use in a nuclear bomb.

In response to a nonsensical, misinformed, and purposely leading question from South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, Clapper was forced to state the obvious. "Over the last six months, as we've been imposing sanctions and been negotiating with the P5+1 regime, [does Iran] have more or less enriched uranium for a nuclear bomb?"

Before waiting for an answer, Graham added, "Can I just say it's more?"

"Not highly-enriched," corrected Clapper, "but up to the 20% level."

Never mind the truth, Congress members and media outlets - from the BBC to MSNBC to ABC - continue to get this particular fact wrong, which is bad enough. But, at this point, the President of the United States shouldn't.


Wednesday, August 5, 2015

David Albright: Congress' Favorite Fear-Monger

This just in! David Albright of the Washington-based propaganda factory Institute for Science and International Security is making predictions about Iran's nuclear program again.

After years and years of his utter nonsense, how can anyone take this guy and his ridiculous analysis seriously?

Here's a quick trip - just using his own reports, not his endless appearances spouting disingenuous garbage in the media - down memory hole lane:

But don't worry, Albright will never pay any professional price for his endless, agenda-driven drivel. And he'll surely be back soon with more scary predictions and alarming speculation. We won't have to wait long.


Benjamin Netanyahu: War Criminal, Alarmist, Punster

In his ever-desperate attempt to appear relatable to the American audiences he so often lies to, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu often employs puns. Yes, puns.

Yesterday, in a live webcast directed at persuading a Jewish American audience to oppose the Iran deal, Netanyahu employed one of his favorite punchlines for the benefit of the Borscht Belters watching: Iran, he said, wants to "have its yellowcake and eat it too."

Get it? Because "have your cake and eat it too" is a popular English-language idiom and "yellowcake" is milled uranium oxide, material converted from its raw state into a form prepared for enrichment. So clever.

But, like most things Netanyahu does, it's not a particularly original line.

Fulminating about the deal to CBS Evening News' Scott Pelley the day after it was announced, Netanyahu said on July 15 that the agreement would give "the preeminent terrorist state of our time access to nuclear technology that they will ultimately turn into an arsenal of nuclear weapons and hundreds of billions of dollars to finance their terror machine." Hyperbolic enough?

"Don't let them have their yellowcake and eat it too," Netanyahu warned.

Back in October 2013, Netanyahu used the same line during his furious rant before the United Nations General Assembly. "Ahmadinejad was a wolf in wolf's clothing. Rouhani is a wolf in sheep's clothing," Netanyahu declared, recycling yet another line he had been trotting around for months. Deriding the renewed effort, following Rouhani's August inauguration, to end the diplomatic impasse over Iran's nuclear program, Netanyahu huffed, "Rouhani thinks he can have his yellowcake and eat it too."

Hey, when you've got a humdinger like that, it makes sense to repeat it. But here's the thing: it's not even Netanyahu's own line. He stole it from David Harris, the Israel-Right-or-Wrong executive director of the American Jewish Committee, who titled a propaganda-laden oped for The Jerusalem Post and Huffington Post in 2010, "Iran: we can have our (yellow) cake and eat it, too."

From stealing Palestinian land to stealing snappy one-liners from Israel lobbyists?

What a statesman.