Jonathan Pollard Should Remain in Prison, and the Obama Administration Should Stop Insulting Our Intelligence

Jonathan Pollard Let’s be abundantly clear about something. Jonathan Pollard is a traitor to the United States of America, and should spend the rest of his life paying for his crimes. He inflicted catastrophic damage on American national security, he betrayed the trust of those who thought well of him and gave him access to sensitive intelligence, and if he is at all remorseful about his actions, I have yet to hear of it. And even if I do hear about it, I’ll have no reason whatsoever to believe it. [Read more…]

More Reasons to Dislike the Nuclear Deal with Iran

now-the-really-hard-part-starts-after-landmark-iran-nuclear-deal My desperate attempt to convince myself that the nuclear deal with Iran is a good one is–I am sorry to report–in the process of failing miserably. I wish that I could report otherwise, but alas, those accursed facts keep getting in the way, and keep me from liking this deal.

Oh, don’t think that I will give up on my effort to feel optimistic that the nuclear agreement with Iran is a triumph of American diplomacy. I am not a quitter, after all. But stubborn as I am, and as much as I would like to persevere in my effort to become a fan of the deal, I can see the handwriting on the wall, and that handwriting has produced the following words: “This is a bad deal.” [Read more…]

Yes, I Most Certainly Have Concerns about the Nuclear Deal with Iran

now-the-really-hard-part-starts-after-landmark-iran-nuclear-deal

I would like to think that the nuclear deal with Iran is a good one. I would like to think that it will succeed and prevent Iran from ever becoming a nuclear power. I would like to think that it will increase regional stability and security, and that in doing so, it will increase global stability and security. I would like to think that those who staff the Obama administration–from the president on down–will be able to point to the agreement decades from now and say “we did good. We made the world safer. We have every reason to be proud.” And I would like to think that Americans and people across the world will have every reason and every justification to agree with such a statement.

But as of this writing, I have my doubts that this is a good deal. [Read more…]

Another Diplomatic Setback (Saudi Arabia Edition)

Putin and Saudis

We have known for some time that American relations with Saudi Arabia are less than ideal. Despite Barack Obama’s promise back in 2008 that he would cause people the world over–especially those people located within the borders of nation-states allied with the United States–to like us once again (presuming that we were as hated as the current president of the United States and his political friends claim we were), the Obama administration’s charm offensive clearly has not worked when it comes to Saudi Arabia. And while it is bad enough that the Saudis no longer trust us as they once did, it is even worse that they may well be cozying up to the Russians. [Read more…]

Quote of the Day

It seems that not one single thing escapes the attention of hardliners in Iran, bent on using the extraordinary powers they hold to suppress every effort by Iranians to exercise their right to freedom of expression. They have even decreed that men should refrain from sporting various hairdos and—yes I am not kidding—from plucking their eyebrows, because those are considered to be indications of “devil worshipping” and homosexuality.

Although such preoccupations may seem risible to some, the people who are caught up in this dragnet are suffering very real and harsh consequences.

Atena Farghadani is a 28-year-old artist and women’s rights activist. She drew a cartoon depicting some members of Iran’s Majles (Parliament) with animal heads, as a form of protest against bills that are in different stages of moving through the parliamentary process that, in an effort to boost child-bearing, would among other things, restrict access to contraception and establish preferences in hiring for married women over single women.

We just learned that she has been sentenced to an astonishing twelve years and nine months in prison on spurious charges of “spreading propaganda against the system,” “insulting members of the parliament through paintings” and “insulting the Supreme Leader” because of her cartoon. She is also being charged with “gathering and colluding with deviant groups” because she has met with the families of those killed by government agents in the unrest following the 2009 presidential elections and because of an art exhibition she held which was attended by members of Iran’s persecuted Baha’i community.

Elise Auerbach. Still more proof that the Iranian “leadership” class is unworthy of the Iranians it purports to lead.

(Cross-posted.)

How to Be Smarter about Dealing with Iran

Iran Human Rights Abuses

I was struck by the following in Aaron David Miller’s piece, which argues that Iran is outwitting and outmaneuvering the United States in the Middle East: [Read more…]

“This Deal Is Getting Worse All the Time”

The tentative nuclear agreement with Iran was initially hailed as a triumph of diplomacy on the part of the Obama administration. But the more one examines the deal, the more one ought to be concerned about its terms. [Read more…]

More on the Nuclear Deal with Iran

I like to think that I am a fair-minded fellow, so in the interests of fairness and presenting both sides on the Iran nuclear deal, here is Fred Kaplan telling us that the framework for a nuclear deal with Iran is really and that we should be very glad indeed to have it as we work towards a comprehensive negotiated settlement. Read the whole thing, but note that even Kaplan is forced to admit that there are ways in which the new framework leaves us with more questions than answers: [Read more…]

The Tentative Nuclear Deal with Iran

It is just that–tentative. The details of the deal have to be worked out later, and the parties to the talks have given themselves until June 30 to do so. (One wonders whether they will stick to that timeline.) The outlines of the deal can be read here. Note that there is absolutely no provision whatsoever in the deal to limit or control the production of ballistic missiles; indeed, sanctions for ballistic missile production remain in place, as Iran has apparently not done anything to alleviate the concerns of the international community regarding that issue.

This report is of concern:

Negotiators working on a nuclear accord with Iran are discussing a secret annex that would contain detailed commitments by both sides, diplomats from three countries involved said, as talks entered their final hours.

The negotiations in Lausanne, Switzerland, which stretched into a diplomatic marathon amid missed deadlines and all-night sessions, appeared set to end with Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini expected at a 7 p.m. press conference.

The goal of the diplomacy is an agreement to end the 12-year standoff over Iran’s nuclear program, restricting its atomic work and easing the sanctions that have isolated its economy and slashed exports of oil. But with consensus on key issues elusive, diplomats have scaled back expectations of what they can achieve this week. Another three months are envisaged to reach a detailed final accord.

If the six powers negotiating with Iran reach accord on major principles, a general public statement will be released while specific commitments will be enshrined in a confidential annex, according to officials from a European nation, Russia and a third country, who declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the talks.

Such a document would help U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to persuade Congressional skeptics that tangible progress had been made, while Iranian leaders would also have something to show to domestic hardliners, the diplomats said.

I can appreciate the need for negotiations to remain secret, but if we have some kind of tentative deal, then we ought to know what the details are of that deal. It is not right that the United States should be able to spin the deal one way, while the Iranians are able to spin the deal another way, and the rest of the world is left in the dark as to who is right simply because the details of the deal are contained in a “secret annex.” If “trust us, we negotiated a good deal and you don’t need to worry your pretty little heads about the details” is the line of the day, then all of us have reason to worry.

This analysis should worry us as well:

THE “KEY parameters” for an agreement on Iran’s nuclear program released Thursday fall well short of the goals originally set by the Obama administration. None of Iran’s nuclear facilities — including the Fordow center buried under a mountain — will be closed. Not one of the country’s 19,000 centrifuges will be dismantled. Tehran’s existing stockpile of enriched uranium will be “reduced” but not necessarily shipped out of the country. In effect, Iran’s nuclear infrastructure will remain intact, though some of it will be mothballed for 10 years. When the accord lapses, the Islamic republic will instantly become a threshold nuclear state.

That’s a long way from the standard set by President Obama in 2012 when he declared that “the deal we’ll accept” with Iran “is that they end their nuclear program” and “abide by the U.N. resolutions that have been in place.” Those resolutions call for Iran to suspend the enrichment of uranium. Instead, under the agreement announced Thursday, enrichment will continue with 5,000 centrifuges for a decade, and all restraints on it will end in 15 years.

I’d like to think that my skepticism concerning this deal is unwarranted. But while there are many who are celebrating today’s agreement, there is much about it that will–and should–give us pause.

Waiting for a Nuclear Godot

I am not one of the people advocating war with Iran in order to eliminate Iran’s ability to manufacture a nuclear arsenal. I don’t believe that military action is feasible at this point without a large scale invasion and an Iraq-style takeover of the country, which would bring even larger headaches for the occupation forces. That having been written, I’d like to know precisely what the Obama administration thinks will change if negotiators hang around in Switzerland and continue to press for a nuclear deal. There has been no give from the Iranian delegation regarding the remaining stumbling blocks to a deal; if anything, there has been retrenchment on Iran’s part that will only serve to sabotage hopes for a workable deal. The March 31 deadline for the completion of a deal represents yet another allegedly firm Obama administration negotiating stance that got tossed to the side once the administration’s bluff was called. If members of the international community have not yet learned that they should not take the administration’s red lines seriously, then they frankly have not been paying attention.

There is no one in firm control of American foreign policy. The design and implementation of policy is a complete and tangled mess. Allies no longer trust us and adversaries simply do not take us seriously; it’s not for nothing that the Saudis are now freelancing in the realm of foreign affairs, convinced that they cannot trust the United States to lead, or to support those who are willing to lead in America’s stead.

In 2008, candidate Obama promised us a smart foreign policy if only we would be enlightened enough to elect him to the presidency. In 2012, President Obama assured us that we were getting a smart foreign policy, and that we would continue to get one if only we would be enlightened enough to re-elect him. Political promises get broken often. Few have been broken as dramatically.

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