Archive for the ‘Iran Nuclear Deal’ category

The Week That Wasn’t

June 24, 2019

If one looks and listens closely, there is evidence that President Trump is getting his “number” called fairly often. In addition, it appears his rhetoric is not as effective as in the past to get the public’s eye off his mistake. 

China is sinking the President’s ship without much effort.  China’s selective tariffs have hurt farmers and Trump’s tariffs have hurt untold businesses and are now hurting Americans in their pocketbooks.  The President claims China is hurting big time but where is the evidence to support that claim?

The southern border continues to be a joke where each blustery Trump statement acts like a puff of smoke.  When the air clears, the immigrant situation is the same or worse.

This past week the President struck new colors with Iran and diplomacy.  Chicken hawks such as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Advisor John Bolton, both whooping up a war cry against Iran (recognize that it will be other Americans sons and daughters going off to fight), the President talked tough and then he didn’t.  The President blinked and called off punitive airstrikes at the last minute showing his own “red line” was mostly pink or white.

The President offered a humanitarian justification for choking at the last minute.  Hmmm.  From someone who doesn’t know how to tell the truth, and believing now the President suddenly tell the truth, is a big pill to swallow.   Most Americans assume Trump was telling another falsehood.  Americans were relieved since there is little stomach in the nation for another Middle East conflict. 

Why the pull back?  Maybe, the President got concerned about getting involved in a Middle East War, this one on his watch.   And, without a doubt, President Trump was cognizant of the 2020 campaign and the promises of no interventions.  While voters can’t be sure what the President’s reasoning really was, past experience strongly suggests Trump wanted no parts of anything that could blow back on him.

Not to be outdone by foreign affairs, the President hyped a stepped up ICE campaign to “round up millions” of illegal residents.  The tough guy had spoken.  At the last minute, once again the President blinked and called off the program for at least two weeks.

“The program”, even in its suspended state, is unclear.  News reports identified up to a million refugees who sought asylum, were given a court date, released, and then disappeared.  Pundits, however, suggest that ICE lacks the capability to find a million people as well as the resources to deport them. 

Just the same, the President probably thinks he scored a victory with his supporters with his threat and by not following through, never revealed how hollow a threat he had made.

The lesson involved in these two situation is sadly that both never should have occurred and calling them off at the last minute teaches all others how to call the President’s bluff.  Hmmm.

Iran is a bad regional actor and as a theocracy, should be carefully watched and even more carefully approached.  As a theocracy, Iran can always justify its action (no matter how devastating to Iranians) because god (Allah) said so.

There is practically nothing this President or any one else can do to shut off the flood of refugees and undocumented immigrants… at the border.  Central America is poor and America is wealthy.  If the President, instead, devoted his attention to finding a political solution with a comprehensive immigration reform, there is hope that undocumented immigration could be controlled.  But it is clear that a solution does not fit the President’s needs and he will continue to use the border as a campaign prop.   

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Nuclear Blackmail

June 18, 2019

This past week Iran announced it might soon exceed some of the agreed upon limits to its nuclear development program.  Of course this statement should come as no surprise since the US unilaterally pulled out of the 6 nation agreement and reimposed severe sanctions on Iran.  But, one must wonder given the statement issued by the US National Security Council what the NSC is thinking.

“Iran’s enrichment plans are only possible because the horrible nuclear deal left their capabilities intact,” NSC spokesman Garrett Marquis said. “President Trump has made it clear that he will never allow Iran to develop nuclear weapons. The regime’s nuclear blackmail must be met with increased international pressure.”   Hmmm.

There is no secret that many Republicans and conservatives, for various reasons, strongly opposed the Iran Nuclear Agreement (formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan For Action).  The JCPFA, however, did provide a verifiable path to a cessation in Iran’s nuclear weapons development.  The JCPFA did not provide for all the demands conservatives were making.  So was half a loaf better than none?

As is happening now with North Korea, some Administration people want complete disarmament and proof positive of denuclearization as a basis for negotiation or nothing.  These demands are not going to happen with North Korea.  And it is not going to happen with Iran either.

Behind the scenes, Israel has been a vocal supporter of a tough line with Iran and even recommending “regime change”.  (Remember Israel also pushed a similar line with Iraq’s Saddam Hussein.)

This tough as nails position has the advantage of never being wrong in any foreign affairs discussion.  Unless Iran throws open its doors and throws out all nuclear weapons, research papers and files, and proves that former nuclear scientists are no longer employed, how can America be sure Iran does not have secret programs?  But this extreme position is a non-starter.

An honest NSC and State Department would have said that Iran’s decision to exceed certain previously agreed to limits was regrettable but understandable since the US was no longer abiding by its agreements either.  But who said the Trump Administration is any more clear eyed or honest in its rhetoric that the President himself.   

Foreign Relations, Bush League

October 11, 2018

The Trump Administration following the inspiration of their commander in chief have racked up quite a score card for foreign affairs.  Everything in the foreign affairs arena done in the Obama Administration was prima facia wrong (how about worst ever).  With this view, abandoning, walking away from, or reversing any and all Obama Administration policies was the Trump option of choice.

So, we have ended NAFTA (worst treaty ever), thumbed our nose at the Europeans by withdrawing from the Paris Climate Agreement, and roundly distanced the US from almost all other countries with our America First and indiscriminate use of new tariffs attitude.  President Trump said he expected each other country to act similarly, that is in the best interest of themselves.  Hmmm.

It is relatively easy to look good or at least get away with new policies regardless of how short sighted they may be, if you have actually inherited a good economy and a well defined foreign policy.  Deconstructing is much easier and for the short run less risky than for proposing and implementing sound, constructive longer term policies.  President Trump has and continues to show us how true that observation is.

Someone, however, with a “one off” set of tactics, runs a far ranging risk of “what goes around, comes around”.  Case in point, withdrawing from the Iran Nuclear Agreement.

A group of neoconservative hawks combined with far right Israeli supporters (remember the Iraq invasion in pursuit of non-existent WMDs) lobbied hard for President Trump to reverse the Obama Administration negotiated agreement with Iran.  With the most bellicose rhetoric the President could muster, with draw from the Iran Nuclear Agreement he did. 

Proud as a peacock, the President labeled the agreement “the worst ever”.  Hmmm.

The President then reimposed the economic sanctions which existed prior to Iran agreeing to halting their nuclear development.  Regime change (which Israel predicted) was just around the corner.  But…

The “but” is that the rest of the signatories (Germany, France, the UK, Russia, and China) did not wish to see Iran restart its testing.  The US cajoled and then threatened that dire consequences would befall them if they traded in violation of US sanctions.  For many businesses, the US market is extremely important and understandably these companies hesitated.

Making a straight up choice between the US and Iran as a trading partner would seem a no brainer.  The complication, however, was the US was not acting very trustworthy in its dealings with any other country forgetting about Iran.  Hmmm.

America First (or America Alone as it is practiced) will not work in todays global economy.  Supply chains are too intertwined to simply take a unilateral position unless one is willing to accept sharply higher costs of doing business and substantially lower economic growth.  So where does the US stand?

Russia and China are strategically challenging the US for world economic growth and strategic national interests.  Europe (the UK, France, and Germany) are simply unwilling to turn down trade with Iran on the basis of an unfriendly country asking them to.  Hmmm.

Reports this week that the other signatories to the Iran Nuclear Agreement were exploring a “barter” system with Iran as a means of out flanking the US squeeze on monetary based trades.  The details are not important but the fact that three important allies are openly discussing ways to circumvent US sanctions should send a huge message.

I wonder if anyone is listening?

The Iran Reveal

May 10, 2018

This post requires the reader to remember (or research) the early years of George W Bush’s Presidency.  “W” was only slightly more prepared to become President than our current President.  “W” possessed an amazing lack of curiosity and an utter disinterest in details.  DJT has, he thinks, an intellect that does not need details which effectively puts him in the  same league as “W”.  But in a side by side comparison, “W” stands taller.

So, going back to the beginnings of the Bush years, one finds his White House full of neo-conservatives.  This group’s core were signators to PNAC (Project for the New American Century) and they were sure they knew how the Country should apply American military and economic strength towards any country that stood in the America’s way.

From PNAC, America inherited the likes of Dick Cheney, Scooter Libby, Donald Rumfled, and a few more.  From this group, America received wholesale collection of American citizen telephone data, the tragic and unexplainable Iraq invasion and occupation, and a photo black out on returning dead servicemen. 

The prosecution of the Iraq War was initially brilliant but once the Iraq military collapsed, the American occupation was exposed for what it was, wholly unprepared to administer Iraq and apparently ignorant of the Sunni/Shiite complexities.

President Trump has simplified America’s Middle East policy.  Israel and Saudi Arabia are good, Iran and Syria are bad.  From this shallow perspective, President Trump concluded, despite much advice to the contrary, that withdrawing from the Iran Nuclear Deal was not only in America’s best interest, but Trump thought it strange that Britain, France, Germany, Russia, and China did not see it his way and withdraw also.  Hmmm.

Trumpian logic rest on the assumption that the world needs the US militarily and economically and the US can simply dictate to the rest the terms the US finds acceptable.  There is no doubt that most countries seek protection based upon America’s military and economic strength, but this ignores political reality.

There are factions is most all other countries as divided and vehemently opposed to other political groups as Tea Partiers are to Progressives.  Consequently, finding unity of purpose alone is very difficult.  The Iran Nuclear Agreement represents a tremendous accomplishment.  To simply trash the Iran Nuclear Agreement, especially when Iran was in compliance, demonstrates a woeful knowledge deficiency in international affairs.

Trump and his anti-Iran advisors hold the view that the US can push back the hands of time and reimpose leak proof sanctions.  Not going to happen.  Until Iran restarts its nuclear weapons projects, the rest of the world will buy Iran’s oil and other goods and pay for them with Euros and Yuan.  Investment in Iran will follow a similar path.  And Iran will continue to fund Hamas and Hezbollah.

Sheldon Adelson, Benjamin Netanyahu, John Bolton, and a host of other conservative intervention-ers will cheer President Trump’s decision and along with other draft avoiders, wave the flag when the US is forced to send troops back to the Middle East. 

Strategic Thinking?

October 6, 2017

President Trump has signaled that he plans to “decertify” (not recertify in terms of the agreement with Congress) the Iran Nuclear deal. This Presidential act is expected to add this mind boggling foreign policy move to walking away from the Paris Climate Agreement and the abrupt withdrawal from the Trans Pacific Trade Pact. The President seems to be steadily making progress isolating America from the rest of the world.

It might not be difficult to understand why the Iran Nuclear Deal might not seem such a great success. Iran promised to side line its nuclear development activities in return for an end to crippling economic sanctions. Iran, however, did not agree for ever and explicitly did not agree to change its ways beyond the narrow scope of the agreement.

For the John Boltons of this world, this was a weak, maybe useless, agreement.  Israel thought much the same.  Drive for a “better deal” was the conservative mantra.  Hmmm.

The preposterous justification for stretching out Iran negotiations was that their economy was failing and soon there might be a regime change.  What makes anyone think a new Iranian regime would be better than the one that currently exists? Recent history would strongly suggest that Iran would tend towards even greater extremes and regional destabilization. And which Middle East country might lead a better power than Iran? Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia Egypt, or Turkey?

Should the US impose economic sanctions and effectively refute the agreement, most foreign policy experts foresee a global realignment with China and Russia supporting Iran.

If the Trump Administration is expecting Europe to stand solidly behind US policy, this may be a short sighted view. From all technical reports, Iran has abided by the terms of the 6 nation agreement. How could Germany, France, or England convince its citizens that reimposing sanctions was now the right thing to do?

Of course being tough on Iran does play well with many Trump supporters and is music to the Bush era chicken hawks. But this does not answer the question, what is or would be President Trump’s strategy?

One could conclude the President could initiate some new round of negotiations where his self proclaimed deal making skills would come out on top. This is not a strategy.  One could also conclude that there might be some other motivation for what appears to be illogical behavior.

For example, President Trump could be so insecure that he will not rest until he has dismantled every policy established during the Obama years. The President may be so blinded that he can not grasp the advice aides are providing unless the advice reinforces his instincts.

One could also conclude that the President seeks an isolationist USA, separated from other world alliance by self inflicted decisions.  President Trump could see such a situation as producing a ripe set of financial opportunities for the Trump brand.

With no permanent alliances where there were implied mutual behaviors placed upon the US and the other country, the Trump enterprises (and its supporters) could forge all sorts of “one off” deals around the world without fear of breaking some treaty or international understanding. Hmmm.

President Trump is our President thanks to an open election. Although the outcome was close, as Americans we are expected to abide by the results. The implication here is that the President is free to disengage from, refute, or even form, new bilateral arrangements which may not be good for most Americans. Elections have consequences.

There is a picture emerging around the Trump Presidency. President Trump is combining the worst elements of the Republican Party (petty and selfish interests) with his own turmoil loving tendencies to turn the US into a country others do not understand and certainly do not trust. Previous Administrations gave far more attention to both domestic and foreign events, especially as they related to the overall strength of the US economy.

Today, the stock market is at all time highs. The President may think that this is the vote of confidence and high Dow Jones averages protects him from any unanticipated blow back from his policies. Think again Mr President. If big money, pension funds, and hedge fund managers. lose confidence when the market crashes, the Trump Presidency will be a lame duck if it even last to 2020.

Whether it be unpaid tax reform, cheapened healthcare, or discrimination under the name “religious beliefs”, history will quickly show how devastatingly poor the Trump Administrations choices have been.

And then someone will again ask, what was the President’s strategies? What was he thinking?  Did it consider the average American, or just himself?

Dick and Liz, Truly Exceptional

August 30, 2015

Saturday’s Wall Street Journal carries a half page op-ed column by Liz and Dick Cheney. The father daughter team went way beyond attempting to rewrite history in their piece. One is tempted to believe their column was really an attempt to hawk their new book due out in September. Seeing it in any other light would either bring further discredit to former Vice President Dick Cheney’s long years of public service, or more cynically, underscore the failings of those who cannot bridge world changes and insist upon living in the past.

The Cheney’s column, titled “Restoring American Exceptionalism”, is roughly constructed in three parts. They open with a claim that American Exceptionalism has its roots in the founding days of our Country. Hmmm. The Cheneys do not belabor this claim and immediately move on to slamming President Obama for abandoning Iraq and making a “bad” deal with Iran.

The Cheneys omit any explanation why President Obama was in a position to remove US troops from Iraq in the first place, and say nothing about what a mess Iraq became after President George W Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney invaded and occupied Iraq, thereby opening Pandora’s Box. Probably just a minor detail in Dick and Liz’s opinion (or an inconvenient truth in many other’s minds).

By this point, Dick and Liz are full throated in their denunciation of President Obama over the Iran nuclear deal. Their argument reads like the words were from AIPAC or maybe even Prime Minister Netanyahu. As you might guess, the Cheneys offer no alternative path or explanation why no agreement does not lead to war while an agreement does. Hmmm.

After making a “President Obama – Neville Chamberlain” comparison, the Cheney’s catch their breath on reminisce over the successes of WWII and post war recovery, and of course, the winning of the cold war. I guess these are things “exceptionalsim” is made of.

It is doubtful any one can accuse the Cheneys of being unsure of their visions nor hampered with too many facts. Simply check out PNAC (Project for the New American Century) begun in 1997.  Cheney’s view of the world (especially the Middle East) and the unbridled use of American military power is on display. What’s so wrong with using other people’s children to fight on the ground? It’s called an all volunteer Army and a great thing when there are not so many other civilian jobs.

The kindest light that can be put on this column is it represents a crass attempt to merchandize a book. The Cheneys show complete ignorance of true American Exceptionalism and instead attempt to conceal America’s foremost foreign policy failure (Iraq War) with shameful comparisons to former great Americans. George Marshall, Dwight Eisenhower, and Harry Truman would spin in their graves if they could read this column.

The Middle East (especially Iran), China, and Russia all represent complex challenges for America foreign policy. One foreign policy approach is unlikely to work for all. Selecting the best approach for each will be both difficult but critical to maintaining a peaceful world. Negotiating by laying down ultimatums is the quickest way to failure. Negotiating in good faith may not always produce desired results also but good faith is the only way win-win outcomes can be forged.

The Cheneys don’t recognize this alternative.