Saturday, August 8, 2015

Screwing the Ayatollah

The Obama administration’s Iran deal seems to be in trouble, though it probably not in that much trouble. One suspects that if Chuck Schumer will vote against it, he knows that the Democrats have enough votes to let it stand.

Be that as it may, recent polls suggest that public opinion is running strongly against the deal. Most people consider it an abject surrender to the ayatollahs. We are immediately giving them $150 billion to foment terrorism and destabilize the region. Then we are allowing them to acquire nuclear weapons openly within a decade.

We are assuming that they will respect the terms of the deal. And we are assuming that the side-deals made with the IAEA will work to our benefit. You know, the ones that no one has seen.

Apparently, only Barack Obama and John Kerry are sufficiently naïve to believe that.

Obama and Kerry think that they have made history. Both are exasperated to see that so many people think they are cowards and sellouts. For his part Obama compared those who rejected his deal with Iranian hardliners who hate America. The sad part is, one suspects that he truly believes it.

Many people have suggested that it's Obama's Nixon in China moment. To me it more closely resembles Woodrow Wilson and the League of Nations.

For his part Kerry has defended himself with some very peculiar language. A number of commentators have drawn attention to this statement, but a little extra attention is merited.

In the course of an interview with Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic, Kerry said this:

The ayatollah constantly believed that we are untrustworthy, that you can’t negotiate with us, that we will screw them. This will be the ultimate screwing. We cut a deal, we stand up, it’s announced, five other countries believe in it—six other countries, because Iran signs off, and we’re the seventh—but you know, China, Russia, France, Germany, Britain, all sign off. Now the United States Congress will prove the ayatollah’s suspicion, and there’s no way he’s ever coming back. He will not come back to negotiate. Out of dignity, out of a suspicion that you can’t trust America. America is not going to negotiate in good faith. It didn’t negotiate in good faith now, would be his point.

The ayatollah is afraid that we will screw him—whatever could that mean? Why are we so worried about the ayatollah’s rich fantasy life?

We do not know whether Kerry is letting slip his own personal views about the negotiations or whether he is exposing the Obama administration rationale for selling out to the ayatollahs.

Kerry appears to have taken a subservient and docile attitude in the negotiations. He must have felt that he was negotiating a surrender. Surely, the remark suggests that, for the Obama administration, America is more the problem than the solution.

On other occasions, Kerry did admit that perhaps the Iranians were not the most trustworthy negotiating partners, but what should we make of the fact that the United States government feels that it needs to prove itself as a worthy negotiating partner to the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism?

Iran has long been in the business of killing Americans and of holding Americans hostage. It sees itself as a bulwark against advancing Western and Judeo-Christian hegemony. It has always been clear and consistent on these points.

Now, the Obama administration, looking these facts square in the eye, has decided that the real problem is that the ayatollah does not believe he can trust us to make and keep a deal. That’s why he has been forced to resort to terrorism and why he wants to have a nuclear weapon.

Kerry also seems to believe that if Congress rejects the deal—none dare call it a treaty—it will be humiliating both Kerry and Obama. Which might be as good a reason as any for rejecting the deal.

John Kerry effectively presented himself to Iran as a supplicant. He is acting as though he has no leverage, that he is leading a defeated army. It is sad and demoralizing.

He has convinced himself that if we make and keep a deal with Iran then, presto changeo, Iran will change its ways and become a responsible party to negotiated solutions to all the region’s problems.

Note the comments made by David Brooks, who seems to have come to his senses:

Wars, military or economic, are measured by whether you achieved your stated objectives. By this standard the U.S. and its allies lost the war against Iran, but we were able to negotiate terms that gave only our partial surrender, which forces Iran to at least delay its victory. There have now been three big U.S. strategic defeats over the past several decades: Vietnam, Iraq and now Iran.

The big question is, Why did we lose? Why did the combined powers of the Western world lose to a ragtag regime with a crippled economy and without much popular support?

The first big answer is that the Iranians just wanted victory more than we did. They were willing to withstand the kind of punishment we were prepared to mete out.

Further, the Iranians were confident in their power, while the Obama administration emphasized the limits of America’s ability to influence other nations. It’s striking how little President Obama thought of the tools at his disposal. He effectively took the military option off the table. He didn’t believe much in economic sanctions. . .

I don’t think that we lost because the Iranians wanted victory more than we did. We may have lost because the Iranians were confident that, with Allah on their side, they could not lose. But, then again, it seems that the Obama administration held very similar beliefs… not that Allah was on our side, but that the side that worshipped Allah was bound to win.

5 comments:

Ares Olympus said...

Stuart: We are immediately giving them $150 billion to foment terrorism and destabilize the region.
Brooks: Iran will use its $150 billion windfall to spread terror around the region and exert its power.

From these quotes it wasn't clear exactly what this money was. If we're "giving them", it sounds like a bribe. Brooks calls it "windfall" which sounds more like an inheritence.

This article suggests it is money they already have, but that sanctions prevented them from accessing.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/treasury-iran-150-billion-nuclear-deal_55b8dc41e4b0224d88348e1c
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“There is a lot of discussion out there that Iran is going to somehow get $150 billion as soon as sanctions are lifted. That is incorrect,” said Lew, speaking at a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor on Wednesday. He explained that Iran will not be able to access much of its money that has been locked up overseas due to sanctions because the money has already been committed elsewhere.

On Wednesday, Lew estimated that Iran’s demand for domestic investment surpasses $500 billion, and that it will cost between $100 billion and $200 billion to restore production levels in its oil and gas sector.

“I have never argued that a penny can’t be put to a malign purpose,” Lew said. “But this is not going to change the shape of Iran’s resources for good or bad purposes.”
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Modern economic sanctions are apparently a curiously effective form of warfare. And we can lament the possibility that ending sanctions will allow their own money to go to bad purposes, but on the other side, trying to control a soverign country is risky business, just like we helped Castro stay in power for decades, and helped Saddam keep control over Iraq between the 1991 first gulf war and the 2003 second gulf war. Both dictators could do whatever they want, and blame US for the deprivation of their people.

So it would seem to me that some people don't just want to use sanctions to punish countries like Iran, but prefer them to be applied continuously for as long as it takes, even decades if necessary, on the imagined ideal that this makes their enemies less likely to promote their evil doings. Is that really true? Can you contain evil in this way? Does evil eventually wither away if you can just be patient enough?

Other people might observe this expression of economic sanctions as a sort of evil in itself, allowing some to be punished, and others to be free, not based on objective measures of dangers, but by political alliances that pay off some evil while containing other evil, and who knows where all that leads?

Some people observe that a government that can freeze accounts of countries can also freeze accounts to individuals, who do or say the wrong thing, and whatever trumped up charges they want to offer.

Consider stories like this:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonkblog/wp/2015/05/15/how-the-irs-seized-a-north-carolina-businessmans-life-savings-without-ever-charging-him-with-a-crime/
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As a DEA agent succinctly described ..."We don’t have to prove that the person is guilty. It’s that the money is presumed to be guilty."
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I'm not one for conspiracy, but when you look at the power of computers and information that control our lives and our bank accounts, you might reconsider when some people call the U.S. Government "The Beast", we might be in the heart of evil and not know it yet, because it's not "screwed with us", yet.

1984 might be closer than we think, and whether the IRS, or NSA, or militarized police, what's being used against imagined evil of people far way will come home to roost, even against our best intentions.

So maybe I'd consider being for ending sanctions whatever the deal because "being busibodies on projected future behavior of others" may be itself evil, and increasing the evil in the world rather than reducing it.

priss rules said...

"We are immediately giving them $150 billion to foment terrorism and destabilize the region."

I think US did this by destabilizing Iraq and allowing a Shia government to come to power over there.

And Hillary really messed up Libya.

Larry Sheldon said...

Amazing how some people can be so right about somethings (article and commenters in the instant case) and so wrong about others.

Ahh. Humans, the Complex Animal.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

Larry Sheldon @August 8, 2015 at 6:54 PM:

Indeed.

Sam L. said...


"Apparently, only Barack Obama and John Kerry are sufficiently naïve to believe that." Nay, say I; this was and is their intent.

"But, then again, it seems that the Obama administration held very similar beliefs… not that Allah was on our side, but that the side that worshipped Allah was bound to win."
Obama wanted them to win.