Decertification Of Iran?

October 13, 2017 2:27 pm In Foreign Affairs, Iran, Trump & Administration
These tweets are two hours apart. I guess (?????) it's going to happen. Maybe? The problem is that Iran is complying. He has no basis to withdraw other than the fact that it is (in his view) "a bad deal". And that creates a huge problem in the long term. How can any country enter ANY kind of deal with the United States if some president comes along in four years and breaks the deal FOR NO REASON? France, Germany and the UK respond: Trump’s decision to decertify the deal by mid-October will start a 60-day clock for lawmakers to decide whether to reimpose U.S. sanctions on Iran. Tillerson said that Trump would decertify it on the grounds that he does not believe the sanctions relief that Iran is getting is proportional to benefits that come from Iran’s efforts to curb its nuclear program. In other words, Trump makes a mess (again) and then puts it on Congress to fix it. UPDATE:  Joe Biden on Facebook writes:
Two years ago, the United States, Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Russia, and China reached an historic agreement with Iran to block its pathways to a nuclear weapon. That agreement is working. It is making the United States and our allies, including Israel, more secure. And the truth of the matter is, Iran is holding up its end of the deal. The International Atomic Energy Agency has said so. Our allies in Europe have said so. Even the Trump administration has twice certified Iran's compliance. So President Trump's decision today to decertify the nuclear deal goes aganst reason and evidence. It constitutes an unfounded and unnecessary threat to America's national security—one that inflicts lasting damage to American global leadership. Unilaterally putting the deal at risk does not isolate Iran. It isolates us. Just last week, Secretary of Defense Mattis testified to Congress that it is in the national security interests of the United States to remain in the deal. In announcing his decision, President Trump did not present a credible case to contradict that assessment—because he can’t. Instead, he is playing politics at the expense of the safety of every single American citizen. The Iran deal does one thing: remove the immediate threat that a nuclear-armed Iran would present to the region, Israel, and the United States. It was never meant to be a catchall solution. Nor does it prevent us from taking steps to address Iran’s continued provocations and destabilizing actions in the region. Only now, President Trump has worsened our negotiating position. This decision will cost us leverage. It will weaken our unity with our allies. It will damage our credibility. The detrimental effects of this step today will also ripple outward and cripple our ability to resolve other challenges. After today, what incentive would the leadership in North Korea have to sit down with the United States, China, and other partners to negotiate a diplomatic resolution to the escalating nuclear crisis? After today, why would the rest of the world join us in pushing for a diplomatic solution we might not uphold? After today, what is America's word worth in the world? Now, responsibility for America’s leadership and reputation rests with Congress. It is my hope that rational heads will prevail—that members will listen to the testimony of experts and our own national security establishment; that they will recognize the damage reimposing sanctions on Iran, in violation of our own obligations under the deal, will cause. And I hope Congress will do something the president is unwilling to do: ensure our actions contribute to the international consensus on how best to address the challenge posed by Iran instead of putting that consensus in jeopardy. The United States has earned our position of respect in the world through generations of sacrifice and selfless leadership—we must not abandon that so casually.

A Tweet From 2009 Could Haunt Rubio

October 13, 2015 4:35 pm In Election 2016, Gun Control, Iran
I've always seen Marco Rubio as one of the few "serious" GOP candidates and one who could pose an actual challenge to HRC.  But this tweet of his from 2009 is very... uh... Carsonesque. CROWKHSWsAA8Mvu What a dumb thing to tweet.  It originally was published in the midst of the June 2009 protests stemming from allegations of elections fraud and the violent Iranian government crackdown that followed.  

Michael Stipe Loses His Religion

September 11, 2015 10:23 am In Election 2016, Iran
There was a poorly-attended Tea Party rally against the Iran nuclear deal Wednesday, and at the rally, Donald Trump used the R.E.M. song, “It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)” as his walk-on music. The band was not amused: R.E.M. Slam Trump: ‘Go Fuck Yourselves’.
“Go fuck yourselves, the lot of you — you sad, attention-grabbing, power-hungry little men,” [Michael] Stipe said in a quote emailed to The Daily Beast. (He was likely referring to Trump and Cruz, two Republican presidential contenders who spoke at the rally.) “Do not use our music or my voice for your moronic charade of a campaign.” On Wednesday evening, the band posted the following statement on their Facebook page: “While we do not authorize or condone the use of our music at this political event, and do ask that these candidates cease and desist from doing so, let us remember that there are things of greater importance at stake here.”

Why Is Anybody Listening To Dick Cheney On Foreign Policy?

September 8, 2015 12:01 pm In Bush & Co., Iran, Iraq
First of all, Dick Cheney was the architect of the Iraq invasion after 9/11, which even conservatives agree (including all the GOP candidates) was a huge mistake.  Cheney says we had faulty intelligence and that Saddam was a bad guy, both of which are/were true.  But as this blog has attested, it was easy to see that the intelligence in Iraq was faulty, if not actually manipulated by Cheney and his cronies.  When it comes to the Middle East, the man is simply wrong, at best -- a liar at worst. Which is why it is odd that he bothers to go out an public and opine about the Iran nuclear deal.  But he does.  And he is so... evil...  that even Chris Wallace at Fox News -- at Fox News -- catches him behaving badly:
Wallace pointed out that Cheney had eight years to deal with Iran’s nuclear program and failed to do it. “You and President Bush, the Bush-Cheney administration, dealt with Iran for eight years, and I think it was fair to say that there was never any real, serious military threat,” Wallace noted. “Iran went from zero known centrifuges in operation to more than 5,000.” “So in fairness, didn’t you leave — the Bush-Cheney administration — leave President Obama with a mess?” the Fox News host asked. “I don’t think of it that way,” Cheney replied. “There was military action that had an impact on the Iranians, it was when we took down Saddam Hussein. There was a period of time when they stopped their program because they were scared that what we did to Saddam, we were going to do to them next.” “But the centrifuges went from zero to 5,000,” Wallace pressed. “Well, they may have well have gone but that happened on Obama’s watch, not on our watch,” Cheney wrongly insisted. “No, no, no,” Wallace fired back. “By 2009, they were at 5,000.” “Right,” Cheney grumbled. “But I think we did a lot to deal with the arms control problem in the Middle East.”
Is it dementia?  Or some sort of severe cognitive dissonance that is causing him to double down on the Bush Administration's persistent foreign policy failures?   As John Cole says, Cheney "has since passed that stage and now his only argument is 'things were better when we were in charge.' That’s it. That’s all he’s got."  Indeed. We should remember that the Iran was encouraged to continue to develop its nuclear weaponization because of the Bush-Cheney invasion of Iraq. As one of the three countries in the so-called axis of evil, they saw what happened to Iraq -- a country that stopped pursuing WMD and destroyed most of theirs to make us happy.  And they saw what didn’t happen to the nuclear armed North Korea - a country that continues to develop WMD unabated for the most part.  And Iran decided it wanted to be more like North Korea.  Yet, another by-product of the Iraq war.  This is what happens when you destabilize a region: you throw the cards up in the air and they might not come down in a way that is an improvement. danzcolorplus6471-668x501But Cheney's going to talk anyway. Maybe it has something to do with Colin Powell speaking in favor of the Iran Nuclear Agreement last week. You know who should not be speaking at all on the agreement?  Trump:
Donald Trump says the Iran nuclear deal would force the United States to defend Iran if it were attacked by Israel.
False on the Truth-O-Meter:
"One of the clauses in the nuclear deal reached between world powers and Iran last week guarantees that the world powers will assist Iran in thwarting attempts to undermine its nuclear program," Israel Hayom, a newsletter, said July 20. But experts told PolitiFact Florida in late July that such interpretations are, at best, exaggerated. The aim of the provision, they said, is to protect nuclear materials from theft (say, if terrorists tried to steal Iranian assets) or from sabotage (with the intent of causing a hazardous-materials threat to health). For years, in both Republican and Democratic administrations, the United States has pushed countries around the world to improve security for their nuclear material and facilities, said Matthew Bunn, a professor at Harvard and an expert on nuclear theft and terrorism. This agreement furthers that goal, he said. "It has nothing to do with helping Iran protect its nuclear facilities from a military attack" of the kind that Israel or Egypt might carry out, Bunn said. "It’s about protecting against thieves and terrorists who might want to steal nuclear material or sabotage a nuclear facility."
Of course it is false.  All you have to do is apply common sense. P.S.  For what it is worth, the deal is going to pass Congress by a veto-proof majority....
All summer long, the question in the congressional debate over the Iran deal has been whether opponents could muster a veto-proof majority to block the agreement from taking effect. Now it looks like President Obama might not have to use his veto pen at all. Within minutes of each other Tuesday, three more Senate Democrats—Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Gary Peters of Michigan, and Ron Wyden of Oregon—all came out in favor of the nuclear deal, bringing the total number of supporters in the Senate to 41. That means Democrats have enough votes to filibuster a resolution of disapproval and block it from coming to a final vote.
UPDATE: The White House just came out with this video.... Yes a thousand times.

Obama Calls Out The Iraq War Prevaricators

August 6, 2015 11:16 am In Iran, Iraq
President Obama’s speech on the Iran nuke deal was a classic. He made a convincing argument for supporting the agreement and provides a plausible overview of what will happen if Congress doesn’t approve it. But he also talked about those opposing the deal, pointing out that these people are the same ones who got us into a costly and pointless war in Iraq.  In other words, when it comes to foreign policy, why should we listen to those who failed at it?  It was a nice "drop the mic" moment:
Between now and the congressional vote in September, you are going to hear a lot of arguments against this deal, backed by tens of millions of dollars in advertising. And if the rhetoric in these ads and the accompanying commentary sounds familiar, it should, for many of the same people who argued for the war in Iraq are now making the case against the Iran nuclear deal. Now, when I ran for president eight years ago as a candidate who had opposed the decision to go to war in Iraq, I said that America didn’t just have to end that war. We had to end the mindset that got us there in the first place. It was a mindset characterized by a preference for military action over diplomacy, a mindset that put a premium on unilateral U.S. action over the painstaking work of building international consensus, a mindset that exaggerated threats beyond what the intelligence supported. Leaders did not level with the American people about the costs of war, insisting that we could easily impose our will on a part of the world with a profoundly different culture and history. And, of course, those calling for war labeled themselves strong and decisive while dismissing those who disagreed as weak, even appeasers of a malevolent adversary. More than a decade later, we still live with the consequences of the decision to invade Iraq. Our troops achieved every mission they were given, but thousands of lives were lost, tens of thousands wounded. That doesn’t count the lives lost among Iraqis. Nearly a trillion dollars was spent. Today, Iraq remains gripped by sectarian conflict, and the emergence of al-Qaida in Iraq has now evolved into ISIL. And ironically, the single greatest beneficiary in the region of that war was the Islamic Republic of Iran, which saw its strategic position strengthened by the removal of its long-standing enemy, Saddam Hussein. *** I recognize that resorting to force may be tempting in the face of the rhetoric and behavior that emanates from parts of Iran. It is offensive. It is incendiary. We do take it seriously. But superpowers should not act impulsively in response to taunts or even provocations that can be addressed short of war. Just because Iranian hardliners chant “Death to America” does not mean that that’s what all Iranians believe. In fact, it’s those… In fact, it’s those hardliners who are most comfortable with the status quo. It’s those hardliners chanting “Death to America” who have been most opposed to the deal. They’re making common cause with the Republican Caucus.
The full text and the video of the speech is here.

The Iran Deal

July 14, 2015 1:54 pm In Iran
Iran (on the one hand) and the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China plus Germany (together with EU foreign policy chief)(on the other hand) finally reached an agreement to end the sanctions against Iran this morning after 22 months of intensive talks. As a result of the agreement sealed within the Islamic Republic’ outlined framework and red lines, the following achievements have been obtained in the field of nuclear and sanctions removal. Under the accord, which runs almost 100 pages, Here are the main points:
Enrichment: Iran will reduce the number of uranium-enriching centrifuges it has from almost 20,000 to 6,104, and reduce the number of those in use from nearly 10,000 to half that. It also commits to using only its current models, rather than more advanced centrifuges it had wanted to install.
I think this is okay.  Critics might insist that Iran not have any centrifuges, but that's unrealistic in the 21st century.  We should remember that Iran isn't some back-desert country like Afghanistan.  It fact, it is much different that Iraq.  Look at Tehran -- it could be any city in Europe or the U.S. Tehran
Stockpile: Iran committed to reducing its stockpile of enriched uranium from about five tons to 300 kilograms (less than 700 pounds) for 15 years. US officials say that at this level it would take Iran more than a year to enrich enough uranium for a nuclear weapon.
This is the issue where you are going to hear some of the deal critics just speak from a position of ignorance.  Both sides of the debate should listen to nuclear physicists on this issue.
Underground site: Iran committed to convert its Fordow enrichment site - dug deep into a mountainside and thought impervious to air attack - into a research center.
Presumably, we want the thing above-ground in case we have to bomb it.  I'm guessing.
Transparency: Iran will give more access to its nuclear program to the UN nuclear agency. If that agency identifies a suspicious site, an arbitration panel with a Western majority will decide whether Iran has to give the agency access within 24 days.
The inspection issue was something that the country's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, had long vowed to oppose. So it is kind of a win.  But... access isn't guaranteed and could be delayed, a condition that critics of the deal are sure to seize on as possibly giving Tehran time to cover up any illicit activity.  How?  Tehran would have the right to challenge the UN request and an arbitration board composed of Iran and the six world powers would then decide on the issue.   That would take time.
Reactors and reprocessing: Iran must redesign its nearly built reactor at Arak so it can't produce plutonium for nuclear weapons.
That's nice.
Sanctions: All US and European Union nuclear-related sanctions will be suspended after experts have verified that Iran is hewing to its commitments. If at any time Iran fails to fulfill its obligations, those sanctions will snap back into place.  Iran agreed to the continuation of a UN arms embargo on the country for up to five more years, though it could end earlier if the International Atomic Energy Agency definitively clears Iran of any current work on nuclear weapons. A similar condition was put on UN restrictions on the transfer of ballistic missile technology to Tehran, which could last for up to eight more years, according to diplomats.
This was apparently a tough negotiation point.  Naturally, it was the reason Iran came to the table in the first place, so they HAD to get something.  Washington had sought to maintain the ban on Iran importing and exporting weapons, concerned that an Islamic Republic flush with cash from the nuclear deal would expand its military assistance for Syrian President Bashar Assad's government, Yemen's Houthi rebels, the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah and other forces opposing America's Mideast allies such as Saudi Arabia and Israel. Iranian leaders insisted the embargo had to end as their forces combat regional scourges such as ISIS. And they got some support from China and particularly Russia, which wants to expand military cooperation and arms sales to Tehran, including the long-delayed transfer of S-300 advanced air defense systems - a move long opposed by the United States. So when does all this happen?  The following is a summary the timeline for the implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.  There are no specific dates. It begins "upon conclusion of the negotiations".
Finalization Day:
  • Iran and the major powers "endorse" the plan, known as JCPOA.
  • The "promptly" submit it to the United Nations Security Council for adoption "without delay".
  • The European Union will "promptly" endorse the resulting United Nations Security Council resolution.
  • Iran and International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will start developing arrangements to implement all transparency measures so that they are ready for Implementation Day.
Adoption Day:
  • Takes place 90 days after endorsement by the UN Security Council, or earlier by mutual consent of all the parties.
  • JCPOA participants will begin making necessary arrangements and preparations for the implementation of commitments.
  • Iran notifies IAEA that it will apply the Non-Proliferation Treaty's Additional Protocol (enhanced inspection regime) provisionally with effect from Implementation Day.
  • Iran starts implementing commitments relating to past nuclear activities.
  • EU will adopt a regulation lifting nuclear-related sanctions with effect from Implementation Day "simultaneously" with IAEA verification of agreed nuclear-related measures by Iran.
  • The president of the United States will issue sanctions waivers to take effect on Implementation Day.
Implementation Day:
  • Occurs when IAEA verifies Iran has complied with nuclear-related measures.
  • The EU suspends or terminates nuclear-related sanctions specified in Annex II of the JCPOA
  • The United States ceases application of nuclear-related sanctions specified in Annex II.
  • The United Nations terminates sanctions.
Transition Day:
  • Takes place eight years from Adoption Day, or earlier upon a report from the IAEA director-general stating the IAEA has reached a conclusion that all nuclear material in Iran remains for peaceful activities.
  • The EU terminates any remaining sanctions.
  • The United States terminates or modifies remaining sanctions including seeking necessary legislative changes.
  • Iran will ratify Additional Protocol on enhanced inspections.
Termination Day:
  • Takes place 10 years from Adoption Day provided no UN sanctions have been reinstated.
  • UN will pass resolution approving termination of JCPOA.
  • The UN Security Council "would no longer be seized of the Iran nuclear issue", or close the file.
So now this is going to be all we talk about.  I'm already annoyed at the politicians who are demonizing the deal.  Some are saying we are "rewarding" Iran.  Well, yeah.  That's what deals are.  They get something, we get something.  You have to be wary of those who are against the deal because they are against anything Obama does and/or they are against the idea of a deal at all.  Netanyahu, who has already called the deal an "historic mistake for the world"  falls into that latter category.  He thinks a deal (in this situation) is one where Iran loses and Isreal wins.  Netanyahu also states (correctly) that Israel is not bound by the deal. Already the GOP candidates and pundits are giving over-the-top hyperbolic statements.  This reaction by Lindsey Graham is hysterical and bizarre:
“Iran Deal ‘Akin to Declaring War’ on Israel'”
Yeah, it’s just like that. Except for the "declaring war" part. Mike Huckabee says:
”Shame on the Obama administration for agreeing to a deal that empowers an evil Iranian regime to carry out its threat to ‘wipe Israel off the map’ and bring ‘death to America.'"
He's Mr. Happy Fun Guy. Scott Johnson of the PowerTools calls it...
Munich for our time...”
....but of course he would say that if President Obama deigned to accept Pepsi in lieu of Coke. I am not saying I support the deal.  Like many Democrats, I am wary [UPDATE: Hillary Clinton's endorsement of the deal is "cautious"].  But I think the thing to remember is... we can always go back to the way it is now.  Heck, we can always bomb if we have to.  This is, I'm sure, the best we can get, and I think we're better off just trying it.

Breaking: Tentative Iran Deal Reached

April 2, 2015 3:21 pm In Breaking News, Iran
Both Iranian and European Union officials are announcing that a deal has been reached regarding Iran’s nuclear program. The announcement comes as talks in Lausanne, Switzerland between Iran and the P5+1 passed the March 31 deadline to come to an understanding before a final comprehensive agreement is completed by June 30th. Iran President Hassan Rouhani tweeted: ”Solutions on key parameters of Iran nuclear case reached. Drafting to start immediately, to finish by June 30th.” Secretary of State John Kerry tweeted: “Big day: EU, P5+1, and Iran now have parameters to resolve major issues on nuclear program. Back to work soon on a final deal.” Confirming that the US agreed to the framework. In a joint press conference a representative of the EU and Foreign Minister of Iran announced the deal with Reuters reporting that “Powers, Iran agree that over two-thirds of Iran’s current enrichment capacity will be suspended, monitored for 10 years: source,” and that “Iran, powers agree that most of Iran’s enriched Uranium stocks will be diluted or shipped abroad.” Here is the State Department statement on the agreement. At a quick glance, it appears that Iran has basically given the other side pretty much everything that they were asking. And sanctions are being lifted only after Iran has met its committments -- which should (but probably won't) address the concerns expressed by some members of the US Congress. Now the domestic political circus can begin in earnest.

“Isn’t This The Ultimate Degree of the Collapse of Political Ethics and the US System’s Internal Disintegration?”

March 12, 2015 12:53 pm In Congress, Iran, Obama Opposition, Republicans
That's a direct quote from the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, in reference to letter written to Iran and signed by 47 Republican senators essentially trying to sabotage negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program. Thanks, GOP, for showing how divided and unreliable and unresolute America is.

47 Traitors Get Schooled By Iranian Foreign Minister, Who Understands The US Constitution

March 10, 2015 12:55 pm In Congress, Iran, Obama Opposition, Republicans

A GOP letter from Senate Republicans to Iran about the pending nuclear deal warns Iranian leaders that any agreement between Washington and Tehran could be voided by Congress and simply not upheld once Obama leaves the White House in 2017.  The letter was spearheaded by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.).

Naturally, it received some backlash.  White House press secretary Josh Earnest was unusually blunt in ripping the Senate GOP, saying “it’s surprising to me there are some Republican senators who are seeking to establish a backchannel with hardliners in Iran to undermine an agreement with Iran and the international community.”

Earnest said Republicans have a “long and rather sordid history" of putting military options ahead of diplomatic ones, and called the letter, signed by 47 GOP lawmakers, “the continuation of a partisan strategy to undermine the president’s authority."

NYDNIt’s not just the president, the vice president, and fellow Senate Republicans appalled at the open letter to Iran. The New York Daily News, for instance, endorsed Mitt Romney in 2012, but ran the cover you can see at the left. The Wall Street Journal is … the Wall Street Journal, but it editorialized that “The problem with the GOP letter is that it’s a distraction from what should be the main political goal of persuading the American people.” But it’s worth remembering that, for Tom Cotton at least, this letter wasn’t the first step off the deep end on Iran. In 2013, Cotton offered an amendment that would have harshly punished people violating sanctions on Iran. Actually, Cotton wouldn’t have stopped at harshly punishing the violators themselves. Cotton also seeks to punish any family member of those people, “to include a spouse and any relative to the third degree,” including, “parents, children, aunts, uncles, nephews, nieces, grandparents, great grandparents, grandkids, great grandkids,” Cotton said. Yes, Cotton thinks that the great grandchildren of people who violate Iran sanctions should be imprisoned. Which, by the way, is completely unconstitutional. But this is someone who got the vast majority of his Republican colleagues in the Senate, including leadership, to sign onto a letter to Iran trying to torpedo American diplomacy. Congressional Republicans listen to this man. That’s terrifying—but if this open letter has helped discredit him publicly, it may be one good outcome of the whole mess. Perhaps my favorite criticism comes from Iran itself. Asked about the open letter, the Iranian Foreign Minister, Dr. Javad Zarif, responded that “in our view, this letter has no legal value and is mostly a propaganda ploy. It is very interesting that while negotiations are still in progress and while no agreement has been reached, some political pressure groups are so afraid even of the prospect of an agreement that they resort to unconventional methods, unprecedented in diplomatic history. This indicates that like Netanyahu, who considers peace as an existential threat, some are opposed to any agreement, regardless of its content.”Zarif expressed astonishment that some members of US Congress find it appropriate to write to leaders of another country against their own President and administration. He pointed out that from reading the open letter, it seems that the authors not only do not understand international law, but are not fully cognizant of the nuances of their own Constitution when it comes to presidential powers in the conduct of foreign policy.Foreign Minister Zarif added that "I should bring one important point to the attention of the authors and that is, the world is not the United States, and the conduct of inter-state relations is governed by international law, and not by US domestic law. The authors may not fully understand that in international law, governments represent the entirety of their respective states, are responsible for the conduct of foreign affairs, are required to fulfil the obligations they undertake with other states and may not invoke their internal law as justification for failure to perform their international obligations."The Iranian Foreign Minister added that "Change of administration does not in any way relieve the next administration from international obligations undertaken by its predecessor in a possible agreement about Iran`s peaceful nuclear program." He continued "I wish to enlighten the authors that if the next administration revokes any agreement with the stroke of a pen, as they boast, it will have simply committed a blatant violation of international law.He emphasized that if the current negotiation with P5+1 result in a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, it will not be a bilateral agreement between Iran and the US, but rather one that will be concluded with the participation of five other countries, including all permanent members of the Security Council, and will also be endorsed by a Security Council resolution. Zarif expressed the hope that his comments "may enrich the knowledge of the authors to recognize that according to international law, Congress may not modify the terms of the agreement at any time as they claim, and if Congress adopts any measure to impede its implementation, it will have committed a material breach of US obligations." The Foreign Minister also informed the authors that majority of US international agreements in recent decades are in fact what the signatories describe as "mere executive agreements" and not treaties ratified by the Senate. He reminded them that "their letter in fact undermines the credibility of thousands of such mere executive agreements that have been or will be entered into by the US with various other governments. Zarif concluded by stating that "the Islamic Republic of Iran has entered these negotiations in good faith and with the political will to reach an agreement, and it is imperative for our counterparts to prove similar good faith and political will in order to make an agreement possible." He's right about all that of course.  What's particularly odd about the letter is that the reasoning there would apply to ANY international treaty, not just the current one being negotiated.  Basically, Republicans are hanging out a sign to ALL countries saying, "Don't enter into any treaties or trade agreements of anything like that with the current president, because we Republicans might not honor it". Scary.

Senate Republicans Overstepping Their Authority

March 9, 2015 3:15 pm In Congress, Constitution, Iran, Republicans
Can you imagine if this was 2006 and the Democrats did this to Bush?
A group of 47 Republican senators has written an open letter to Iran’s leaders warning them that any nuclear deal they sign with President Barack Obama’s administration won’t last after Obama leaves office. Organized by freshman Senator Tom Cotton and signed by the chamber’s entire party leadership as well as potential 2016 presidential contenders Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and Rand Paul, the letter is meant not just to discourage the Iranian regime from signing a deal but also to pressure the White House into giving Congress some authority over the process. “It has come to our attention while observing your nuclear negotiations with our government that you may not fully understand our constitutional system … Anything not approved by Congress is a mere executive agreement,” the senators wrote. “The next president could revoke such an executive agreement with the stroke of a pen and future Congresses could modify the terms of the agreement at any time.” Arms-control advocates and supporters of the negotiations argue that the next president and the next Congress will have a hard time changing or canceling any Iran deal — — which is reportedly near done — especially if it is working reasonably well.
It appears from the letter that the Senators do not understand our constitutional system or the power to make binding agreements. The letter states that “the Senate must ratify [a treaty] by a two-thirds vote.”  But as the Senate’s own web page makes clear: “The Senate does not ratify treaties. Instead, the Senate takes up a resolution of ratification, by which the Senate formally gives its advice and consent, empowering the president to proceed with ratification” (my emphasis).  Or, as this outstanding  2001 CRS Report on the Senate’s role in treaty-making states (at 117):  “It is the President who negotiates and ultimately ratifies treaties for the United States, but only if the Senate in the intervening period gives its advice and consent.”  Ratification is the formal act of the nation’s consent to be bound by the treaty on the international plane.  Senate consent is a necessary but not sufficient condition of treaty ratification for the United States.  As the CRS Report notes: “When a treaty to which the Senate has advised and consented … is returned to the President,” he may “simply decide not to ratify the treaty.” So, Republicans -- in telling a foreign country not to trust the Unites States -- are wrong on the law (not to mention condescending -- eleven members of the Iranian government's cabinet were educated in the United States and are probably smarter than your typical GOP senator).  But more importantly, they are actively impeding the negotiation -- clearly and exclusively in the executive branch's domain -- and attempting to subvert the foreign policy of the country they allegedly represent.

Iran Bans The Mullet

July 13, 2010 10:07 am In Iran

They really did.  Also long hair, ponytails.  Basically, anything "western" in terms of hairstyles.

Banning the mullet -- that'll show us they mean business.  Well, business in front.

Ironically, the mullet may not have originated in Western civilization:

The haircut may have originated in the Middle East, but Alan Henderson, author of Mullet Madness!: The Haircut That's Business Up Front and a Party in the Back, wonders whether prehistoric peoples wouldn't have discovered the benefit of trimming hair short in the front to keep it out of their eyes while letting it grow long in the back to insulate the neck from rain and cold. Archaeological evidence confirms the existence of ur-mullets in the ancient civilizations of Mesopotamia, Syria, and Asia Minor, writes Henderson. Hittite warriors from the 16thcentury BCE sported mulletlike cuts, as did the Assyrians and Egyptians.


Palin’s Lackluster Reading Skills Exposed

February 9, 2010 11:48 am In Election 2012, Iran
From an interview with Fox News' Chris Wallace:
WALLACE: I know that three years is an eternity in politics. But how hard do you think President Obama will be to defeat in 2012?

PALIN: It depends on a few things. Say he played, and I got this from Buchanan, reading one of his columns the other day. Say he played the war card. Say he decided to declare war on Iran, or decided to really come out and do whatever he could to support Israel, which I would like him to do. But that changes the dynamics in what we can assume is going to happen between now and three years. Because I think if the election were today, I do not think Obama would be re-elected.

But three years from now things could change if on the national security threat --

WALLACE: You're not suggesting that he would cynically play the war card.

PALIN: I'm not suggesting that. I'm saying, if he did, things would dramatically change if he decided to toughen up and do all that he can to secure our nation and our allies. I think people would perhaps shift their thinking a little bit and decide, well, maybe he's tougher than we think he is today. And there wouldn't be as much passion to make sure that he doesn't serve another four years --

So there it is.  Palin read a Pat Buchanan article, and thinks that Obama would be well-advised to start a war with Iran.

The problem?  Well, here is the Pat Buchanan article, entitled "Will Obama Play The War Card?"

And guess what?  Buchanan argued against war with Iran.

Palin apparently didn't read beyond the headline.

A Nobel Peace Prize For….. Twitter?

July 8, 2009 10:07 am In Iran

There's some serious discussion about it, mostly because of the role it played in involving the world in the Iranian revolt.

Of course, what did Twitter actually do?  It provided the platform.  It was the people using Twitter that really "done good".  So giving the Nobel Peace Prize to Twitter is kind of like Time magazine making "you" the Person of the Year.

The Actor And The “Bullet Fee”

June 23, 2009 2:38 pm In Iran

A37282898f2e5e975c110bbd5985f2ea If you were following the situation in Iran this weekend, you no doubt already know about Neda Agha-Soltan, the young woman shot and killed in Iran on Saturday, who has since become an international symbol from the time the gruesome video of her death went online. [I won't post the Neda video here -- too disturbing even for me -- but you can see it here]

Of course, hers isn't the only story of cruelity inflicted by the Iranian regime on its own people.  Here is a story about another young person -- an innocent bystander again -- killed in Iran this past weekend, a 19 year old named Kaveh Alipour

On Saturday, amid the most violent clashes between security forces and protesters, Mr. Alipour was shot in the head as he stood at an intersection in downtown Tehran. He was returning from acting class and a week shy of becoming a groom, his family said.

The details of his death remain unclear. He had been alone. Neighbors and relatives think that he got trapped in the crossfire. He wasn't politically active and hadn't taken part in the turmoil that has rocked Iran for over a week, they said.

"He was a very polite, shy young man," said Mohamad, a neighbor who has known him since childhood.

When Mr. Alipour didn't return home that night, his parents began to worry. All day, they had heard gunshots ringing in the distance. His father, Yousef, first called his fiancée and friends. No one had heard from him.

At the crack of dawn, his father began searching at police stations, then hospitals and then the morgue.

Of course, we now know that Kaveh Alipour was killed.  And to add insult to, uh, injury....

Upon learning of his son's death, the elder Mr. Alipour was told the family had to pay an equivalent of $3,000 as a "bullet fee"—a fee for the bullet used by security forces—before taking the body back, relatives said.

The Alipour family refused to pay the fee, and morgue officials eventually caved, but "demanded that the family do no funeral or burial in Tehran."

It's no wonder there is an uprising against the Iranian government.

On Obama’s Silence on Iran

June 15, 2009 3:16 pm In Iran

This is typical of the rightwing reaction to what's happening in Iran -- Bill Kristol:

This isn’t September 1939. But the developments in Tehran are a potentially big moment, signaling the possible transformation or at least reformation of the Iranian regime. American principles and American interests argue for support of the Iranian people in this crisis.

And where is the American president? Silent.

Of course he's silent.

What's he going to do? 

Condemn post-election violence?  Can't we take that as a "given"?  Does he need to come out and say this right away?

Tell everyone Mousavi won?  Well, we don't know that.  Not yet.

Express support for the protesters?  No.  The last thing Obama should do right now is come out in favor of the protesters.  As Spencer Ackerman notes, any expression of political support for the protesters would only “instigate the cry that the reformers are somehow driven and directed by the United States, whether under [former President George W. Bush] or under Obama, and there’s no reason to give that unfounded allegation” any chance to spread. 

Ultimately, the Iranian people have to choose their destiny.  And we should support them.  But not lead them.  Be two steps behind the reformists; not two steps in front of them.  And, to the extent we get involved, it should be as a somewhat muted member of the international community.

Obama is right to remain silent, and when he speaks on this issue, he should speak on the human rights and violence angle.  Conservative critics of Obama don't seem to think about this: they would rather have a President who shoots from the hip, instead being the President that we elected -- a serious man who contemplates the outcomes of his actions.