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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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”

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CIA believes Iran will use new revenue at home, not abroad

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

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Haaretz (Israel): “CIA: Iran unlikely to significantly boost post-sanction funds on militant groups”

Iran will pump most of the revenue it receives from the lifting of international sanctions – expected to reach some $100 billion – into its limping economy and won’t significantly boost funding for militant groups in the Middle East, according to an intelligence assessment by the Central Intelligence Agency.
[…]
The CIA analysts concluded that even if Tehran increases its support for Hezbollah in Lebanon, Houthi rebels in Yemen and the embattled regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad, the additional funding is unlikely to tip the balance of power in the world’s most volatile region.
[…]
The Obama administration is banking on Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and other moderates in Iran’s leadership investing most of the anticipated money into domestic infrastructure and other social investments, to quell growing public frustration over unemployment, the high inflation rate and a shortage of imported goods.

 

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.

Fmr. Israeli mil. intelligence chief: Iran deal an “achievement”

We have a U.S. president who “immersed himself” in the details of nuclear enrichment technology to understand any proposed deal, we have a U.S. Secretary of State who has never done anything in his career to endanger Israel’s safety and has worked for many years to build a more secure and multilateral world, and we have a U.S. Secretary of Energy who is a nuclear physicist and assures the president and the public that the draft deal will ensure Iran would not be able build a nuclear weapon for more than a decade without being caught and stopped.

Nevertheless, according to Prime Minister Benjamin ‘Boy Who Cried Wolf Since the Early 1990s’ Netanyahu, “The deal which is proposed presents a real threat to the region and to the world, and will endanger the existence of Israel.” As usual, his overblown and hysterical political assessments are not backed up by the security establishment in Israel.

Ben Caspit, an Israeli political analyst, interviewed General Amos Yadlin on the Iran/P5+1 nuclear talks framework, for Al Monitor’s Israel Pulse:

On the evening of April 2, when Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and the European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini faced the press, Jerusalem was shocked into silence.

First, the very fact that a framework agreement had been reached ran counter to all Israeli assessments, according to which the deadline would be postponed once again to the end of June (the original deadline). Second, the principles of the agreement surprised Israeli officials and especially the political echelon.
[…]
On the morning of April 3, the day following the news of the agreement, Al-Monitor spoke with Maj. Gen. (Res.) Amos Yadlin, formerly the head of military intelligence. Yadlin was the Zionist Camp’s candidate for defense minister, but after the party’s loss he has gone back to his job as head of the Institute of National Security Studies. Yadlin has dealt during his career with three nuclear programs of states considered Israel’s bitter enemies. He was one of the pilots to bomb the Osirak nuclear reactor in Iraq in 1981; head of military intelligence at the time that Israel destroyed, according to foreign media reports, the secret Syrian nuclear reactor at Deir ez-Zor in 2007; and head of military intelligence in 2006-10, the peak years of the secret war between Israel and Iran over the Iranian nuclear program.
[…]
Al-Monitor asked Yadlin whether the agreement was good or bad. “It depends on how you look at it,” he said. “If we aspire to an ideal world and dream of having all of Israel’s justified demands fulfilled, then of course the agreement does not deliver. It grants Iran legitimacy as a nuclear threshold state and potential to eventually achieve nuclearization. It leaves Iran more or less one year away from a nuclear weapon, and Israel will clearly not like all of this.

“But there’s another way to look at it that examines the current situation and the alternatives. In this other view, considering that Iran now has 19,000 centrifuges, the agreement provides quite a good package. One has to think what might have happened if, as aspired to by Netanyahu and Steinitz, negotiations had collapsed. Had that happened, Iran could have decided on a breakout, ignored the international community, refused to respond to questions about its arsenal, continued to quickly enrich and put together a bomb before anyone could have had time to react. And therefore, with this in mind, it’s not a bad agreement.”
[…]
“Let’s not forget that Israel dubbed the interim deal reached in Geneva a ‘tragic agreement,’ and eventually it turned out to be a good interim deal. When there was talk of its abrogation, Israel was opposed. And another thing must be said: Contrary to Israeli assessments, the Iranians have adhered to all the conditions of the interim agreement, in letter and spirit, down to the last detail. That’s something one should also keep in mind. If they implement the principles of the agreement presented yesterday in the same way, then for the next 15 years they will be frozen at a point of being one year away from a nuclear bomb, and I think this is not a negligible achievement.”

 
Even so, as summarized in a current Haaretz headline, “Netanyahu tells U.S. TV networks he’s ‘trying to kill a bad Iran deal’“. Yep, he’s not even pretending to do anything but try to sink this deal.

Benjamin Netanyahu is a danger to international security and might just be a madman. At best, he’s a ruthless cynic who doesn’t care about how often he is proven wildly wrong about world affairs as long as he gets re-elected stirring up panic.

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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.

من یک عشق بزرگ برای مردم ایران است

Before Iran, Benjamin Netanyahu to Congress on Iraq

The following was originally published in The Globalist.

On March 3, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed a joint session of the U.S. Congress to speak on what he believes to be the threat of Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program. It is a theme he has hit often in his career, going back at least as far as the early 1990s.

His concern about Iran – and accompanying determination that Israel and the United States should strike preemptively – was only put on hold briefly around 2002 and early 2003, when he turned his attention instead to Iraq.

Missing the mark

In September 2002, ahead of the U.S. Congress’s October 2002 authorization for the use of military force in Iraq, the then-former Prime Minister offered testimony to members of the U.S. House and Senate at a hearing on Iraq’s purported nuclear weapons program capabilities.

Benjamin Netanyahu testifying to Congress on Iraq in September 2002.

Benjamin Netanyahu testifying to Congress on Iraq in September 2002.

In addition to providing an extremely incorrect account of the program itself, as it turns out, Mr. Netanyahu’s forecasts of the implications of the war he was calling upon the United States to wage were also badly misguided.

In his own words, transcribed from C-SPAN clips, here is why Mr. Netanyahu believed the United States should invade Iraq back in 2002 and what would happen as a result:

And today the United States must destroy the same regime, because a nuclear-armed Saddam will put the security of our entire world at risk. And make no mistake about it: if and when Saddam has nuclear weapons, the terror network will have nuclear weapons.

 

Two decades ago, it was possible to thwart Saddam’s nuclear ambitions by bombing a single installation. Today, nothing less than dismantling his regime will do…

 

The first victory in Afghanistan makes the second victory in Iraq that much easier. The second victory in Iraq will make the third victory that much easier too, but it may change the nature of achieving that victory. It may be possible to have implosions taking place – I don’t guarantee it, Mr. Tierney, but I think it makes it more likely and therefore I think the choice of Iraq is a good choice. It’s the right choice.”

 
As it turned out, the conflict in Iraq – a war of choice as he himself characterized it – was not easy. And the only regional effect it had was to increase transnational religious terrorism and provide opportunities to boost the stature, influence, and military strength of Iran and its proxies. It also likely hardened Iranian interest in nuclear deterrence.

The 2003 Iraq War was bad for Israel’s long-term security. A war with Iran would be far worse. The Israeli Prime Minister has been very loud on military affairs in the Middle East, but he has also been very wrong more often than not.

The United States government would be wise to disregard his counsel on Iran now, for the sake of all countries involved – including Israel.