August 12, 2015 – Arsenal For Democracy 138

Posted by Bill on behalf of the team.

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Topics: Key news stories from Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and Iran (and how it all relates to or affects U.S. policy in the region). People: Bill, Kelley, Nate. Produced: August 10th, 2015.

Discussion Points:

– Syria: The U.S. bombs fictional terror groups and Turkey bombs the Kurds.
– Iraq: On air conditioners and nation-building.
– Yemen: Saudi Arabia’s war and a horrific humanitarian crisis.
– Iran: Will the Iran Deal survive Congress? Will it change US-Israeli relations?

Episode 138 (56 min):
AFD 138

Related Links

AFD: Syria Archives
AFD: Iraq’s air conditioner uprising
AFD: Yemen War Archives
AFD: Iran Archives

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iTunes Store Link: “Arsenal for Democracy by Bill Humphrey”

And don’t forget to check out The Digitized Ramblings of an 8-Bit Animal, the video blog of our announcer, Justin.

Make peace, not war, easier in Congress

The anti-Iran hawks will get to vote against the nuclear deal, without sinking it – The Globalist:

To nix the deal, the Senate must ultimately be able to vote through a resolution against it by a veto-proof majority. And that would require 67 out of the 100 US senators coming out to vote against it (along with 290 U.S. House members).
[…]
As a general principle, of course, this is probably not a strategy to be recommended. The people’s representatives should, after all, be taking meaningful votes on most international agreements.

But for a particularly delicate multilateral negotiation involving war and peace, it is an ideal setup to stack the deck against the former and in favor of the latter.

Remarkably, even the United States Constitution did not set a two-thirds threshold for Congress in making declarations of war – a feature seemingly rendered moot since World War II. A mere majority in each chamber could plunge the country into war.

It has been far too easy for the United States to choose the path of war casually. The structure of the Congressional role on the Iran Deal fortunately makes it much harder in this one instance – while still letting the “bomb bomb bomb” caucus formally register its hawkish preferences.

It might not look it to the rest of the world, but by U.S. political standards in 2015, that’s a win-win.

 
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Only more fighter jets can calm Gulf state nerves now

Arsenal Bolt: Quick updates on the news stories we’re following.

“The Iran Deal: Just Another Sales Opportunity” – The Globalist
The Gulf countries are lusting for more U.S. military hardware. Washington’s influence peddlers love that. By Stephan Richter:

[…] the deal has actually turned into a major business opportunity for him and his firm. “Take the Gulf states, for example,” he said.

“They are obviously very nervous about the U.S. government doing a deal with Iran, which they consider their arch enemy – not least because of the Shiite connection. Same for the Saudis. And that’s a good thing.

“Why then worry about what’s in it for Iran or not? While these Gulf nations complain about the deal very publicly and very loudly, all this translates into in the real world is an ardent desire on the part of these countries to buy even more arms from the United States. What’s not to like about that?”

Obviously, the man’s “consulting” firm was operating as an eager facilitator for such transactions. Those deals all translated into very nice sales commissions, which would boost his and other senior managers’ annual salaries big time.

 

A Royal Saudi Air Force F-15 Eagle fighter aircraft, May 1992, Operation Desert Shield. (Credit: U.S. Department of Defense / TECH. SGT. H. H. DEFFNER)

A Royal Saudi Air Force F-15 Eagle fighter aircraft, May 1992, Operation Desert Shield. (Credit: U.S. Department of Defense / TECH. SGT. H. H. DEFFNER)

July 22, 2015 – Arsenal For Democracy 135

Posted by Bill on behalf of the team.

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Topics: Wages in America; Iran nuclear deal. People: Bill, Kelley, Nate, and Greg. Produced: July 20th, 2015.

Discussion Points:

– A unified econo-moral argument for the necessity of dramatically higher U.S. wages tied to productivity gains.
– Why the Iran deal is a good one (and why Iran’s nuclear program is not our biggest concern in the region).

Episode 135 (55 min):
AFD 135

Related Links

The Globalist: “Americans Need Better Pay Before Longer Hours”
Mic: “How Many Hours You Need to Work Minimum Wage to Rent an Apartment in Any State”
– Clinton Campaign on Twitter: “Hillary called on companies to share profits with workers…”
LA Times: “Who gave up what in the Iran nuclear deal”
New York Times: “Congress to Start Review of Iran Nuclear Deal”
Haaretz: “Lapid: Knesset must investigate Netanyahu’s failure to thwart Iran deal”

Subscribe

RSS Feed: Arsenal for Democracy Feedburner
iTunes Store Link: “Arsenal for Democracy by Bill Humphrey”

And don’t forget to check out The Digitized Ramblings of an 8-Bit Animal, the video blog of our announcer, Justin.

Iran deal reached!

Arsenal Bolt: Quick updates on the news stories we’re following.

So far this sounds like a really good deal.

Los Angeles Times: “Iran nuclear deal: Who gave up what”

World leaders announced a landmark agreement Tuesday designed to curb Iran’s nuclear program and lift economic sanctions that have left the country isolated for years. U.S. officials say the deal would prevent Iran from developing a nuclear bomb for at least a decade.

President Obama said that the deal would stop the spread of nuclear weapons to Iran and that it is “not built on trust, it is built on verification.”

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said in a televised address announcing the deal that “our prayers have come true.”

LAT summarizes key points as follows (details for each at link above):

– Iran will eliminate nearly all of its uranium stockpile
– Iran will decrease its capacity to enrich uranium
– Iran will allow robust inspection of known and suspected nuclear sites, including military areas
– Iran will need to disclose some information about its past nuclear program
– The United Nations, United States and European Union will lift crippling economic sanctions against Iran
– The Western powers retain the ability to reinstate the sanctions if they suspect Iran is cheating
– The United Nations has set a timeline to lift embargoes on Iran’s ballistic missile and conventional arms trade

 
According to the New York Times, the Obama Administration must now win approval from Congress for the deal (or at the very least win support from more than a third of each chamber to fend off a veto-proof resolution against it).

Israel’s Netanyahu-led far-right coalition government would not have accepted any deal whatsoever, so I don’t take their view into account. This deal remains a critical achievement for global security and stability, including for Israel.

A photo from the early phases of the recent Iranian nuclear talks, which ran from 2013 to 2015.

A U.S. government photo from the early phases of the recent Iranian nuclear talks, which ran from 2013 to 2015.

Is Colombia any closer to a meaningful peace deal?

The Colombian government and FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia) have been at the negotiation table in Havana since November 2012. While progress has been made – the two sides agree on the need for more economic and social development in rural areas of the country and on the rebels’ political participation if a peace deal is brokered – a permanent peace still appears to be a long way off.

FARC, a leftist group involved in the armed Colombian Conflict since 1964, has been labeled by the United States and other governments as a terrorist organization.  In fact, many Colombians believe that their country’s leaders should not be negotiating with them at all. Colombia’s National Center for Historical Memory reports that 220,000 people have been killed in the armed conflict, 80% of those killed have been civilians. FARC is not responsible for all of the deaths directly, but their presence has led to violence and instability in the country for decades. The National Center for Historical Memory reports that more than half of the deaths are a result of the right-wing forces originally intended to stop FARC.

Still, there might have been a hint of a breakthrough in recent days. FARC has been insisting that the Colombian government enters into a bilateral cease-fire. July 5th Colombian officials indicated for the first time that they are open to the idea of a bilateral ceasefire. 

Lesser measures have not been successful in reaching peace. Last December, FARC entered into a unilateral ceasefire, which lasted until mid-April, when a FARC ambush left 11 dead. Since then 30 rebels have been killed, making peace a more distant dream. FARC’s announcement of another unilateral ceasefire beginning on July 20, independence day, probably won’t go far enough, but maybe it opens the door to new possibility of a bilateral truce.

While violence has declined in Colombia in the past decade (2014 was the most peaceful year in Colombia since 1984) and FARC has not been able to recruit as many rebel soldiers in recent years, there is still a long road ahead for Colombia as they deal with ever-present drug wars and the challenge of helping rebels to reintegrate into their country, should peace even be negotiated.

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Things Bill predicted correctly 21 months earlier

Bill Humphrey (yours truly) for The Globalist magazine, June 20, 2013, just after the surprise election of Hassan Rouhani as President of Iran: “Rohani’s Presidential Pulpit”

The Iranian people and the hard-line theocrats alike support nuclear development as a matter of sovereignty and independence from Western interference. But they also recognize that belligerency on the issue has brought only misery and the constant risk of attack. Now would be a good time for a conciliatory approach and a fresh start in nuclear talks with the West.

Hassan Rohani seems to be the man for the job of resetting Iran’s foreign image and stance. He can thread the high-stakes needle of being diplomatic and open to compromise while also standing firmly (but not aggressively) behind a civilian nuclear development program.
[…]
If Rohani wants to have a big impact as Iran’s president, his best bet is to use the power of rhetoric to re-shape Iran’s global and regional posture. In doing so, he could ease the pressure of sanctions and spare Iran from war. That’s where he can make a big difference.

If a disempowered fanatical blowhard can, with the power of his speeches alone, make Iran appear to be an imminent horseman of the nuclear apocalypse, then a disempowered reformist who wants reconciliation with the West can use friendlier rhetoric to climb Iran back down off the ledge.

 
There were a lot of naysayers at the time who were saying that President-elec Rouhani couldn’t possibly change things, either in Iran or with how the P5+1 countries were reacting to Iran. Obviously he’s not solely responsible for the shift; a lot of the internal credit for that goes to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei himself. And the negotiations hinged on the skill of Javad Zarif, appointed by Rouhani to be Foreign Minister, reinforcing Rouhani’s other positive role (assembling a negotiating team that didn’t constantly blow up the talks like the previous teams).

Hassan-RohaniBut my analysis centered more narrowly on the role that calmer and reframed rhetoric could play in tamping down tensions and climbing “Iran back down off the ledge” that Rouhani’s predecessor Ahmadinejad had helped put it on. Careful and precise political communication, as I suggested then that it could, was indeed able to transcend some of the official political landscape (at home and abroad) and bring the powers and Iran close enough together to find a way toward a deal.

As much as I’m a procedural analyst — something which also helps me see impending developments many other U.S. commentators miss — I think that kind of intangible and procedure-overriding adroitness tends to be overlooked as well.

And now another shameless plug for my 2012 book on the presidential nomination acceptance speeches at the Democratic and Republican national conventions, which is also about the redefining power of leader rhetoric. It’s available for download from Amazon for just $2.99!

On to the remainder of the negotiations, to secure a final deal by the end of June. I wish the Iranian people all the best, so that they can live in peace and prosperity — and eventually re-take their rightful place among the great and enlightened nations of the world.

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