Don’t alter the Iran nuclear deal — it’s working, says Kerry

Former US Secretary of State John Kerry gestures as he is introduced at the start of a discussion titled “The Iran Nuclear Deal: Reflections on the First Two Years” at Chatham House in London on Monday, Nov. 6, 2017. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
Updated 07 November 2017

Don’t alter the Iran nuclear deal — it’s working, says Kerry

LONDON: Former US Secretary of State John Kerry said the Iran nuclear deal “is working” and that the world risks becoming a “less safe” place if the US lets it fall apart after President Donald Trump’s decision last month to not re-certify the agreement.
“It is important to note the simple things. The Iran nuclear agreement is working. It is doing precisely what it is set up to do,” he said on Monday in London.
Kerry was the key US representative alongside diplomats from the UK, France, Russia, Germany and China in the negotiations that led up to the Iran deal, or the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), signed in 2015. The deal placed limits on Iran’s nuclear program in return for the easing of economic sanctions on the country.
The decision on the agreement’s future now rests with the US Congress, which has 60 days from Oct. 15, to decide whether to uphold the deal as it stands or demand amendments to it.
Kerry warned an audience at Chatham House that if congress does not re-certify the deal, the US could lose its credibility internationally; Iran may potentially return to its nuclear enrichment program and it could result in Arab countries in the region embarking on an arms race.
“As a child of the Cold War,” he said, “it is really sad for me to see our country and our president putting this issue in such peril.”
Trump has frequently referred to the Iran deal as the “worst deal” he’s ever seen, arguing that the ability to monitor and inspect whether Iran was keeping to the terms of the deal was “weak”. He has been critical of “sunset clauses” that expire after a certain time period which he said would allow Iran to eventually develop its own nuclear weapons.
“We got weak inspections in exchange for no more than a purely short-term and temporary delay in Iran’s path to nuclear weapons,” he said in a statement on Oct. 13.
Kerry said Trump’s stance is not based on any evidence at all, saying the IAEA has asserted that Iran is compliant with the terms of the deal. “The decision to de-certify was made without relevance to any fact whatsoever in respect to this agreement,” he said.
“There is no evidence that merits de-certification,” he said, adding “it is beyond me” how congress — which was not part of the original negotiations — is now being called upon to “fix” the deal.
Kerry has previously referred to Trump’s decision as “dangerous”, accusing him of creating an “international crisis”, in a statement on Twitter last month.
While answering audience questions, Kerry also criticized Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s hard-line opposition to the Iran deal, saying that the Israeli leader had previously urged Barack Obama during his presidency to bomb Iran.
“Bombing Iran doesn’t necessarily stop Iran having a nuclear bomb,” he said, adding that such a move would only give Iran a reason for wanting a weapon to defend themselves.
“What is this rush for war? It doesn’t make sense,” Kerry said.
Netanyahu shifted his stance last week during his visit to the UK, calling for “flaws” in the deal to be fixed, rather than demanding the outright cancelation of the agreement.
Kerry said that the nuclear deal does not mean the international community is ignoring the “serious problems” it has with some of Iran’s policies, such as its interference in Yemen; its human rights track record or the country’s attempts to import equipment for its rock and missile development.
“It is better to deal with a country that doesn’t have a nuclear weapon, than if it does. It’s a simple proposition,” Kerry said.
“You are better off with it (the deal) than without it. We are moving in the right direction and we have to keep moving in the right direction.”


Water-scarce Gulf states bank on desalination, at a cost

Updated 12 December 2019

Water-scarce Gulf states bank on desalination, at a cost

  • For Oman and other Gulf states dominated by vast deserts, obtaining fresh water from the sea comes at a high cost
  • In Sur, water for residents and businesses comes from a large desalination plant

SUR, OMAN: “We have water, and it’s the most important thing in a house,” says Abdullah Al-Harthi from the port city of Sur in Oman, a country that relies on desalination plants.
But for Oman and the other Gulf countries dominated by vast and scorching deserts, obtaining fresh water from the sea comes at a high financial and environmental cost.
In Sur, south of the capital Muscat, water for residents and businesses comes from a large desalination plant that serves some 600,000 people.
“Before, life was very difficult. We had wells, and water was delivered by trucks,” the 58-year-old told AFP. “Since the 1990s, water has come through pipes and we’ve had no cuts.”
But these benefits — relying on energy intensive processes that produce carbon emissions — do not come without a cost, particularly as global temperatures rise.
The United Nations says 2019 is on course to be one of the hottest three years on record.
And there is another impact: the desalination plants produce highly concentrated salt water, or brine, that is often dumped back into the ocean.
Researchers say more than 16,000 desalination plants around the globe produce more toxic sludge than freshwater.
For every liter of freshwater extracted from the sea or brackish water, a liter-and-a-half of salty slurry is deposed at sea or on land, according to a 2019 study in the journal Science.
All that extra salt raises the temperature of coastal waters and decreases the level of oxygen, which can conspire to create biological “dead zones.”
The super-salty substance is made even more toxic by the chemicals used in the desalination process.
Oman’s bigger neighbors produce the bulk of the brine.
More than half comes from just four countries — Saudi Arabia, at 22 percent, United Arab Emirates with 20 percent, and smaller shares by Kuwait and Qatar, according to UN data.
“Brine production in Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kuwait and Qatar accounts for 55 percent of the total global share,” according to the United Nations University Institute for Water, Environment and Health.
It said new strategies are needed “to limit the negative environmental impacts and reduce the economic cost of disposal.”
This would help “to safeguard water supplies for current and future generations.”
At the Sur plant, “almost no chemicals” are used during the pre-treatment phase, as the water is naturally filtered through the cracks of karst rocks, said Mahendran Senapathy, operations manager at French company Veolia which runs the plant along with an Omani firm.
There are other ways to safeguard freshwater supplies, from encouraging savings and efficiently to recycling wastewater.
Antoine Frerot, chief executive of Veolia, said wastewater recycling will help resolve the problem of water scarcity.
He also pointed out that “reused water is less costly,” nearly one third less than that won through desalination.
Omani authorities continue to mount campaigns urging people to use water wisely, mindful that other demands — especially the energy sector — also guzzle up large amounts.
Across the Gulf, huge amounts of water are used not just for homes, gardens and golf courses, but also for the energy sector that is the source of the region’s often spectacular wealth.
On the edge of the Arabian peninsula’s “Empty Quarter,” the world’s largest expanse of sand, lies the Khazzan gas field, operated by BP and the Oman Oil Company.
The method used to extract the gas here is hydraulic fracturing — more commonly known as fracking — said Stewart Robertson, operations manager at the site.
The method requires huge amounts of water. The site is supplied by a facility that provides 6,000 cubic meters of water a day, extracted from an underground aquifer 50 kilometers (30 miles) away.
Fracking involves directional drilling and then pumping water, sand and chemicals at high pressure to fracture rock and release the hydrocarbons.
The rock formations that hold the gas are “like a big sponge with lots of little holes in it,” said Robertson, explaining that fracking is the process “to open those holes slightly to take the gas out.”
So the more the region extracts oil and natural or shale gas, “the more they need water,” said Charles Iceland of the World Resources Institute.
“The Middle East is projected to need more and more energy,” he said. “So that means the situation is going to get worse.”
“On the other hand,” he said, “if they can produce power using solar photovoltaic technologies, which are getting reasonably priced in the Middle East, that would take care of a lot of the problem because solar PV doesn’t need much water.
“You need just some water to clean the solar panels.”