On the Iran deal

peonyandbee replied to your photoJoyful Iranians dance into the night after nuclear breakthrough:

Saw footage of this last night. I have so many mixed emotions about this whole thing.

I have mixed emotions too, for three reasons: First, this isn’t finalized yet. The negotiators have made significant progress and agreed on the general shape of the deal, but the details have yet to be decided and the deal has yet to be confirmed by all parties involved. So I’m cautious about getting too excited yet.

Second, I’m a bit surprised and impressed that President Obama—who in so many ways has continued and expanded on his predecessor’s hawkish foreign policy—has effectively pursued a deal which looks likely to avoid war and remove sanctions on Iran.

And, to be clear, both of those potential outcomes are very good things. War with Iran would be beyond disastrous, and the heavy sanctions our government has imposed on Iran for years have been far more hurtful to the average Iranian than their leaders. (As I reported back in 2012, as least one Iranian child died from preventable causes because sanctions made it impossible to get him hemophilia medicines.) This is what always happens when sanctions are applied to nations in which citizens have little control over their government: The poor are deprived while the wealthy and well-connected get all the black market imports they want.

But third, I’m incredibly frustrated with those who appear to oppose this deal entirely because Obama supports it. (The alternative motive is that they oppose it because they really want to go to war, but I suppose I hope that petty political reactionism is a more common motivation than sheer blood lust.) I don’t think anyone can make the case that I’m an uncritical cheerleader for the president, particularly where foreign policy is concerned, but from what I know so far this seems to be a case where credit is due: Diplomacy is good. Not going to war is good. Not making life more difficult and expensive for the average Iranian is good. And if this deal successfully shuts down calls for war, I won’t be dancing in the streets too only because I’m not really a dancer.

As Obama’s deal gives Iran pathway to nukes, Russia is giving them missiles

For “defense” purposes only, of course…so say the Russians. 

from LA Times:

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday cleared the way for delivery of sophisticated air defense systems to Iran with a decree that U.S. officials warned could disrupt the emerging deal to prevent Tehran from developing nuclear weapons.

Kremlin officials cited the April 2 framework agreement between Iran and six world powers that is expected to prevent Tehran from developing nuclear weapons as grounds for proceeding with delivery of the S-300 missile systems, which could give Russia a jump on others in resuming trade with the long-isolated Islamic Republic.

The announcement drew immediate criticism from the U.S., where State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said recent “destabilizing actions” on the part of Iran in Yemen, Syria and Lebanon suggest that “this isn’t the time to be selling these kinds of systems to them.”

read the rest

Russia says that the missiles are a token of good will, since the “deal” supposedly unshackles them from engaging in military trades with Iran. 

What a quagmire Obama has created…

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Obama’s Clown-Car Diplomacy

…it’s probably because you don’t have the nuance, subtle, Obama-like intelligence to appreciate the subtle nuances and nuance subtleties to which Obama’s smart diplomacy has transformed this troubled region.

During the non-smart George W. Bush administration, Bush’s reckless cowboy policies dragged the United States into ceaselessly supporting our friends, while attacking our enemies.  Pfft, any idiot can come up with that strategy.

Now, as best we can, given our non-Obama non-smartness, let’s try to comprehend the ever-so-subtleties of the nuance-nuances of Obama’s smarter-than-smart smart diplomacy approach and see just how smartly smart his smart diplomacy is.

Damn does Klavan have a way with words.

This week’s column at Rare would have just been a stream of curse words if I’d written it unfiltered.

[T]hough our news networks practically wallow in the horrific murders, beatings, and other atrocities committed by ISIS, much less is said about the unsavory activities of America’s allies (or, at least, the enemies of our enemies).

For instance, a UN study found that the Iran-associated militias which join the U.S. in opposing ISIS have left their own trail of indiscriminate death and destruction as they move across Iraq. Likewise, Human Rights Watch has discovered these anti-ISIS fighters have “liberated” some Iraqi villages from ISIS only to ransack the towns themselves, looting already-terrorized citizens’ personal property and blowing up their homes and businesses.

In at least one case, a village called Amerli, this so-called liberation occurred with American air support. Refugees and Kurdish fighters who witnessed the destruction said it was “methodical and driven by revenge and intended to alter the demographic composition” of the area—in other words, it was ethnic cleansing done by U.S. allies.

Then there’s Saudi Arabia, a longtime American “battle buddy,” to borrow Stewart’s phrase. The Saudi regime has been a notorious abuser of individual rights for years, placing at the absolute bottom of international watchdog Freedom House’s annual rankings on civil liberties and political rights, a spot shared by the likes of North Korea.

The Saudi government enforces harsh punishments for very minor offenses, like whipping a woman for sending a text message about the “wrong” kind of mosque service. Saudi Arabia even frequently conducts public beheadings of criminals guilty of acts including political dissidence, a trademark move of—you guessed it—ISIS.

Needless to say, these aren’t the greatest partners to have if promoting human rights (and not being total hypocrites) in the Middle East is part of American strategy—and whether an overall strategy exists at all is, at this point, far from clear.

Read the whole thing here.

Cuba responds to Obama’s “normalization” of relations by jailing even more political dissidents

I’m sure Obama is actually jealous of the Castro’s power to jail people who disagree with them. 

from Latin America Herald:

The Cuban Human Rights and National Reconciliation Commission, or CCDHRN, said Thursday that Cuba’s government detained 610 people for political reasons in March, the highest number in the past seven months.

“There is a noticeable trend toward increasing repressive activities of this kind,” the CCDHRN said in its monthly report. “At the same time, we also identify 95 cases of people who suffered other forms of political repression including physical attacks, police harassment and vandalism and hostile demonstrations.”

“The exercise of all civil and political rights is still a crime,” the group said, noting that the Cuban penal code still includes an offense called “pre-criminal social dangerousness,” which is punishable by up to four years in prison.

The country is unlikely to see an improvement in respect for fundamental, civil and political rights “as a result of the government’s inflexible posture and its opposition to any effort or proposal leading to the urgent judicial, economic and political reforms that the Cuban people need and deserve,” the commission said.

read the rest

What Obama is doing by normalizing relations with Cuba is simply giving these Communist dictators a bigger budget with which to oppress their people.

Obama and Castro Shook Hands Last Night. That’s a Big Deal.

President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raúl Castro shared a historic handshake Friday night at the Summit of the Americas, currently taking place in Panama City, Panama. It’s expected the two will meet some time on Saturday, the highest level meetings between the two countries in at least 50 years. Obama and Castro were seated at the same table at dinner on Friday, separated by two people, according to the New York Times’ report.

Today, in a speech at the Summit, Obama said that the U.S. would not be “imprisoned by the past,” although the two countries have sharp disagreements. Speaking later, Castro, in an emotional speech, reminded the Summit of what he believed to be a long history of unjust treatment of Cuba by the U.S. before going on to say that Obama was not responsible for past American action. He also called the president an “honest man,” according to the AP.

(Image via Associated Press)

We explain what’s happening with U.S.-Cuba relations here: http://bit.ly/1tpvKkg

Five days or five weeks or five months, but it certainly isn’t going to last any longer than that.
— 

Then-secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld’s claim in November 2002 about the timeline for war in Iraq. Thirteen years later, of course, the U.S. is still involved in that same war.

I was reminded of this quote today by Sen. Tom Cotton’s recent remark that “several days of air and naval bombing" is all it would take to fix that whole Iran situation. As I wrote at Rare this morning:

Cotton’s claim is even more wrong [than Rumsfeld’s]. Iran is a significantly larger country than Iraq, and even without nuclear weapons we could expect Tehran to put up far more of a fight than Baghdad did.

Cotton may be right that a war with Iran would not have to begin with “150,000 heavy mechanized troops on the ground in the Middle East again as we saw in Iraq,” but it would likely get there somewhere before the ten-year mark.

In short, Cotton’s suggestion that bombing Iran quickly is a good or practical idea is appallingly false, irresponsible, and even dangerous.

Obama “deal” allows Iran to operate underground nuclear reactor without inspections

Iran demands the ability to operate an underground nuclear reactor without having to undergo inspections or disclosing the full scope of their nuclear program…and Obama is going right along with that.

from WFB:

The Obama administration is giving in to Iranian demands about the scope of its nuclear program as negotiators work to finalize a framework agreement in the coming days, according to sources familiar with the administration’s position in the negotiations.

U.S. negotiators are said to have given up ground on demands that Iran be forced to disclose the full range of its nuclear activities at the outset of a nuclear deal, a concession experts say would gut the verification the Obama administration has vowed would stand as the crux of a deal with Iran.

Until recently, the Obama administration had maintained that it would guarantee oversight on Tehran’s program well into the future, and that it would take the necessary steps to ensure that oversight would be effective. The issue has now emerged as a key sticking point in the talks.

Concern from sources familiar with U.S. concessions in the talks comes amid reports that Iran could be permitted to continue running nuclear centrifuges at an underground site once suspected of housing illicit activities.

This type of concession would allow Iran to continue work related to its nuclear weapons program, even under the eye of international inspectors. If Iran removes inspectors—as it has in the past—it would be left with a nuclear infrastructure immune from a strike by Western forces.

“Once again, in the face of Iran’s intransigence, the U.S. is leading an effort to cave even more toward Iran—this time by whitewashing Tehran’s decades of lying about nuclear weapons work and current lack of cooperation with the [International Atomic Energy Agency],” said one Western source briefed on the talks but who was not permitted to speak on record.

With the White House pressing to finalize a deal, U.S. diplomats have moved further away from their demands that Iran be subjected to oversight over its nuclear infrastructure.

read the rest

Basically, Obama is giving Iran his blessing to develop a nuclear bomb.

Six world powers have reached agreement on key elements of a framework to contain Iran’s nuclear program.

Federica Mogherini, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif announced the agreement at a press conference in Lausanne, Switzerland. Mogherini said the negotiators had taken a “decisive step” by reaching “solutions on key parameters of a comprehensive plan of action.”

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This is like when we found out Snape was a good guy. Chris Matthews defending Rand Paul! 

The U.S. government has effectively abandoned its citizens in Yemen.
—  Mokhtar Alkhanshali, a Yemeni American recalls his harrowing escape from Yemen after being stranded there since December 2014. Hear his story on Democracy Now! today.

Will Trade Be Clinton’s 3rd Flip Flop In 6 Days?

When it comes to trade, Hillary Clinton is in a bind.

Congress is set to vote on the giving President Obama fast track authority on trade in a few weeks. Clinton’s political calculation is made more difficult with Republicans and some Democrats siding with President Obama on this issue, while liberal Democrats, whom Clinton is actively trying to convince to support her, oppose the deal.

Our military is fighting in a tacit alliance with Iranian proxies in Iraq, even as it assists in a campaign against Iranian-backed forces in Yemen. We are formally committed to regime change in Syria, but we’re intervening against the regime’s Islamist enemies. Our strongest allies, officially, are still Israel and Saudi Arabia, but we’re busy alienating them by pushing for détente with Iran. And please don’t mention Libya or Al Qaeda — you’ll confuse everyone even more.
—  Ross Douthat, as quoted in my column at Rare today about the sheer ridiculousness of American foreign policy. Read it here: “American foreign policy is so screwed up we’re basically fighting ourselves now.”

They haven’t sponsored terrorism in a whole SIX MONTHS!!!! Congratulations, Cuba! You guys are really making progress! 

When is the last time you sponsored terrorism?  How long do you think it would take the Federal government to forgive you if you did?

A sneak preview of his final deal with Iran, perhaps. Let’s hope he figures out a new negotiating strategy before then because he’s got only two right now. One, a la Cuba, involves goodwill gestures to the other side that gain nothing for the U.S. but plenty of legacy-building oohing and aahing for O from foreign-policy graybeards. The other, a la immigration and war, involves power grabs at Congress’s expense so that he doesn’t have to negotiate with his domestic opponents at all.

I thought it was supposed to be the other way around — negotiation with the other party here and muscle for enemies abroad — but this is what it means, I suppose, to have a “transformational” presidency.

President Barack Obama will remove Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terrorism, the White House announced Tuesday, a key step in his bid to normalize relations between the two countries.

Obama made the final decision following a State Department review of Cuba’s presence on the list. The terror designation has been a stain on Cuba’s pride and a major stumbling block for efforts to mend ties between Washington and Havana.

In a message to Congress, Obama said the government of Cuba “has not provided any support for international terrorism” over the last six months. He also told lawmakers that Cuba “has provided assurances that it will not support acts of international terrorism in the future.”