Iran

A Tweet From 2009 Could Haunt Rubio

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

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?

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 Newscatches 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

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

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

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?”

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

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

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

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.

TheMullet
 

Palin’s Lackluster Reading Skills Exposed

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?

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”

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

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.

Iranian Election Tragedy

It's all a little hard to digest, so I don't have much to say.  One really hoped for a non-fraudulent election there, with the popular pro-reform candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi emerging victorious, but it really looks like something odd and unsavory occurred. (For example, Mousavi was leading Ahmadinejad by 2 to 1 in Tehran in a poll last week, but Ahmadinejad won Tehran 52% to 46% in the reported election results).

John Cole outlines the top pieces of evidence suggesting election fraud. But see WaPo analysis saying the election results might actually be correct.

Election statistician extraordinaire Nate Silver is stumped and explains why.

Andrew Sullivan has a great collection of photos, YouTubes, and tweets from inside Iran, where upwards of 3 million people are protesting in spite of the ban on public protesting.

Nico Pitney is liveblogging the uprising over at The Huffington Post.

UPDATE: Real-time reporting on Twitter by guys like this one are beating the mainstream media all to hell.  He just tweeted about shootings in Azadi Square.  In fact, mainstream media pretty much has no access to Iran, so it too is following tweets.

Iranelections

Not Funny

John McCain once again "jokes" about his desire to kill Iranians.  And he’s not talking about the Iranian military or anything — he’s joking about killing Iranians.

I guess that’s good red meat for the conservative masses, but the targets of McCain’s blood lust "joke" are ordinary Iranian civilians.

I know it’s easy to think of Iran has some sandy backwater country with occupied by sandy backwater bedouins on camels, but it’s really not.  Here are some people and places in Iran:

Iran_girl

Park_saei_2

Wedding_car_in_tehran

Displayimage

Cinema_azadi_2008_3

Daneshju_park_3

Iran_food_fair_12

Passer_by_bridge_exhibition_7

So when McCain "jokes" about bomb-bomb-bombing Iran, and killing Iranians, these are among the people he’s talking about.  Remember that.

Yglesius writes: "If a major Iranian political leader were to repeatedly joke about bombing the United States and killing Americans, you can just imagine the shit-storm about how Iran isn’t a normal country with normal interests…."

So true.

Fallon Out; War With Iran In?

In a recent article in Esquire, CENTCOM Commander Adm. William "Fox" Fallon openly criticized the idea of a possible war with Iran, which Fallon called an "ill-advised action".  Fallon implied that he would resign rather than go to war against Iran.  (Fallon is not alone on this; most military leaders are opposed to war with Iran).

Breaking news out of the Pentagon (so new there’s no link) — Fallon is stepping down as CENTCOM cammander.

Uh oh….

UPDATE:  Here’s a link; Fallon asked to resign, supposedly….

Lying Or Incompetent?

Joe Biden, on the President’s line that he wasn’t briefed on the new Iran NIE until last week:

“Are you telling me a president who is briefed every single morning, who is fixated on Iran, is not told back in August that the tentative conclusion of 16 intelligence agencies in the United States government said they had abandoned their effort for a nuclear weapon in ’03?” Biden said in a conference call with reporters.

“That’s not believable,” Biden added. “I refuse to believe that. If that’s true, he has the most incompetent staff in … modern American history and he’s one of the most incompetent presidents in modern American history.”

He’s got a point….

UPDATE:  BarbinMD weighs in

Moments ago, speaking in Nebraska, George Bush said:

It is clear from the latest NIE, that the Iranian government has more to explain about its nuclear intentions and past actions.

No, what is clear from the latest NIE is that the Bush administration has more to explain on what they knew and when they knew it. Less than two months ago, when Bush said:

…if you’re interested in avoiding World War III, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing them from having knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon. And I take this very — I take the threat of Iran with a nuclear weapon very seriously.

…did he already know that Iran had suspended their nuclear weapons program in 2003? 

U.S. News reports:

Bush said the new intel “contradicting earlier US assessments…would not prompt him to take off the table the possibility of pre-emptive military action against Iran.”

There was a debate about Iraq once.  The issue was whether the intellengence on WMD was flawed and Bush followed it, or whether the intelligence on WMD was mixed and Bush ignored it because he wanted a war anyway.  Looking back on that debate through the prism of Bush today (ignoring the intelligence estimates of the Iran NIE and keeping his war-drun-beating stance), it looks like Bush doesn’t really care about what our intelligence agencies say — then or now.

Omnibus Post Because Frankly My Plate Is Full

Ugh.  So much to discuss:

(1)  White House egg-on-the-face: After months of beating the war drums to invade Iraq, it turns out that Iran doesn’t have a nuclear bomb program after all.  As Matt says: "Meanwhile, how outrageous is it that the best twelve months of alarmism from Bush & Cheney have come in the context of an environment where they’ve long had access to the intelligence community’s assessment? Answer: Very outrageous."

(2)  Hillary’s drop in the polls:  Look, it’s early yet.  She’s got money, name recognition, etc.

(3)  The stunning CNN expose on bad kissers aka "news of the obvious"

(4)  New England:  The no’reastern and the Pat’s winning last night (only by virtue of the Colts really losing)

(5)  Silly local news

and perhaps best of all…

(6)  The Catholic Church tries to show how anti-child abuse it is . . with a coloring book.  Apparently, it’s easier to teach a child to flee from a priest than to teach a priest to not improperly touch a child.

but there’s too much on my plate. 

So instead, I’m just gonna plug my show, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever — with performances at the Main Street Baptist Church, N. Main Street, Kernersville, NC; Thursday December 6, Friday December 7, Saturday December 8 at 8:00PM and Sunday December 9 at 3:00PM.; Box Office open 10:00AM-2:00PM, Monday-Friday – Phone 993-6556.

We filled the church for last weekend’s shows.  Expect more of the same this weekend.  Audiences seem to be enjoying it, and I’m getting some well-received praise (well-received by me, natch) for the stage direction (from people who I trust to tell me if it sucks).  The kids worked hard, so come and see them.

Also, I might be filling in for one of the small adult roles on Thursday.  Possibly other performances, too.  But come anyway.

Moving To The Iran Desk

Sy Hersh in the New Yorker about the administration’s Iran plans:

I was repeatedly cautioned, in interviews, that the President has yet to issue the “execute order” that would be required for a military operation inside Iran, and such an order may never be issued. But there has been a significant increase in the tempo of attack planning. In mid-August, senior officials told reporters that the Administration intended to declare Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps a foreign terrorist organization. And two former senior officials of the C.I.A. told me that, by late summer, the agency had increased the size and the authority of the Iranian Operations Group. (A spokesman for the agency said, “The C.I.A. does not, as a rule, publicly discuss the relative size of its operational components.”)

“They’re moving everybody to the Iran desk,” one recently retired C.I.A. official said. “They’re dragging in a lot of analysts and ramping up everything. It’s just like the fall of 2002”—the months before the invasion of Iraq, when the Iraqi Operations Group became the most important in the agency. He added, “The guys now running the Iranian program have limited direct experience with Iran. In the event of an attack, how will the Iranians react? They will react, and the Administration has not thought it all the way through.”

That theme was echoed by Zbigniew Brzezinski, the former national-security adviser, who said that he had heard discussions of the White House’s more limited bombing plans for Iran. Brzezinski said that Iran would likely react to an American attack “by intensifying the conflict in Iraq and also in Afghanistan, their neighbors, and that could draw in Pakistan. We will be stuck in a regional war for twenty years.”

Here we go again…

Of course, Oliver Willis is right.  There is no declaration of war against Iran, and any attack on Iran without one is (or, should be) an impeachable offense.

Nuke Iran?

The story about how the Air Force "lost" five nuclear warheads (for a while) has an interesting and unnerving twist:

Why the hubbub over a B-52 taking off from a B-52 base in Minot, North Dakota and subsequently landing at a B-52 base in Barksdale, Louisiana? That’s like getting excited if you see a postal worker in uniform walking out of a post office. And how does someone watching a B-52 land identify the cruise missiles as nukes? It just does not make sense.

So I called a old friend and retired B-52 pilot and asked him. What he told me offers one compelling case of circumstantial evidence. My buddy, let’s call him Jack D. Ripper, reminded me that the only times you put weapons on a plane is when they are on alert or if you are tasked to move the weapons to a specific site.

Then he told me something I had not heard before.

Barksdale Air Force Base is being used as a jumping off point for Middle East operations. Gee, why would we want cruise missile nukes at Barksdale Air Force Base. Can’t imagine we would need to use them in Iraq. Why would we want to preposition nuclear weapons at a base conducting Middle East operations?

His final point was to observe that someone on the inside obviously leaked the info that the planes were carrying nukes. A B-52 landing at Barksdale is a non-event. A B-52 landing with nukes. That is something else.

Now maybe there is an innocent explanation for this? I can’t think of one. What is certain is that the pilots of this plane did not just make a last minute decision to strap on some nukes and take them for a joy ride.

(Disturbing) food for thought.

UPDATE:  The speculation, however, has plenty of dissenters.

Just Call Them Terrorists…

This can’t be good:

Iranian Unit to Be Labeled  ‘Terrorist’

U.S. Moving Against  Revolutionary Guard

By Robin Wright

Washington Post Staff Writer

Wednesday, August 15, 2007; A01

The United States has decided to designate Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, the country’s 125,000-strong elite military branch, as a "specially designated global terrorist," according to U.S. officials, a move that allows Washington to target the group’s business operations and finances.

Calling the military branch of another government a "terrorist" organization also allows Bush to skirt other nasty legal obstacles.  For example, Congress won’t have to declare war on them because now they would fall under the AUMF that was passed in the wake of 9/11.

And assuming we do go to war with Iran, we won’t have to treat the soldiers of the opposing army under the Geneva Conventions. 

So basically, by slapping the label "terrorist" on any person, or group, the Bush Administration can do anything it wants (i.e., attack them) and avoid complying with the U.S. Constitution and international treaties and human rights and stuff like that.

Yglesias adds his profound thought:

It’s taken a few years, but we’ve managed to move now from a situation in the winter 2001-2002 where the US and Iran were cooperating against our mutual deadly foe — al-Qaeda — to one where Iran is officially one of the enemies in an open-ended struggle against God knows whom.

Yikes.

Let Me See If I Get This Straight

Let’s get a timeline:

In 1995, Clinton cuts off all trade and investment with Iran.  U.S. companies were no longer able to do business with Iran.

After that announcement, Halliburton decided that business with Iran, then conducted through at least five companies, would all be done through a subsidiary incorporated in the Cayman Islands.  This way, Halliburton could skirt around the ban.  (Halliburton also did business with Saddam, up through 2000, in this manner.)

When Halliburton made that decision, its chief executive officer was Dick Cheney.

Twelve years later, Halliburton is still working in and for Iran.

Does this make any sense to anybody?  The vice-president of the United States was CEO of a company that did business with our enemies, despite the fact that it was well-known that these countries were dangerous.  Can you imagine a Democratic vice-president getting away with this?

And they call us "traitors"?!?

The Iran Debate

I second Publius’ well-thought-out critique of the "credible threat" tactic we are imposing on Iran.  Publius’ point, in a nutshell, is that by publicly insisting that we are keeping all our options open with respect to Iran — particular the invasion option — we are encouraging Iran to seek deterrent weapons (i.e., nuclear weapons), not discouraging them.

The impetus to protect oneself is so patently obvious that I am somewhat astounded that those on the right — you know, people who think everyone should have a gun in their household — can’t see the wisdom of it.  When people, and by extension, countries, see a credible threat by a far-more-powerful force, they gear up to defend themselves.  A nuclear weapon is the ONLY thing that Iran can possess to deter the threat from us, so of course they’re going to work hard to get the bomb, especially since we make rumblings that we’re a-comin’.

Is The Whole “Surge” Plan A Set-Up?

Andrew Sullivan wonders:

This paragraph, buried by the NYT, leapt out at me this morning:

A Shiite political leader who has worked closely with the Americans in the past said the Bush benchmarks appeared to have been drawn up in the expectation that Mr. Maliki would not meet them. "He cannot deliver the disarming of the militias," the politician said, asking that he not be named because he did not want to be seen as publicly criticizing the prime minister. "He cannot deliver a good program for the economy and reconstruction. He cannot deliver on services. This is a matter of fact. There is a common understanding on the American side and the Iraqi side."

Views such as these — increasingly common among the political class in Baghdad — are often accompanied by predictions that Mr. Maliki will be forced out as the crisis over the militias builds. The Shiite politician who described him as incapable of disarming militias suggested he might resign; others have pointed to an American effort in recent weeks to line up a “moderate front” of Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish political leaders outside the government, and said that the front might be a vehicle for mounting a parliamentary coup against Mr. Maliki, with behind-the-scenes American support. [My italics.]

If this is the case, this president is lying to us once again. It’s one lie too far. If all of this is a ruse to depose Maliki and attack Iran, the constitutional consequences of a runaway, duplicitous president are profound.

Of course, there’s considerable discussion about whether the President can constitutionally attack Iran absent a Congressional authorization.  Clearly he can’t.  But constitutional limitations have not stopped this President before, and it’s pretty clear that the Bush Administration thinks it is not constitutionally required to get Congressional approval — a scary abuse of power that exceeds even the worst from the Nixon Administration.

Washington is full of rumors that Bush has already ordered a "secret war" against Iran.  I tend to doubt that, but I happen to agree with Pat Buchanan and others who say that Bush is trying to provoke an attack from Iran, in order to launch a war there.  After all, if Iran attacks us, then Bush can, under the War Powers Act, attack Iran without Congressional approval.

The Truth Shall [Redacted] Set You Free

This is astounding.

The White House censored an New York Times editorial, telling the Times to redact certain portions.  The censored portions do not contain classified information.  The White House, it seemed, just didn’t like it. (The redacted version of the op-ed is here.)

It should be noted that the CIA normally does these type of things, not the White House.  And the information redacted by the White House was cleared by the CIA when the author published it elsewhere:

The op-ed is based on the longer paper I just published with The Century Foundation — which was cleared by the CIA without modifying a single word of the draft. Officials with the CIA’s Publication Review Board have told me that, in their judgment, the draft op-ed does not contain classified material, but that they must bow to the preferences of the White House.

The White House is demanding, before it will consider clearing the op-ed for publication, that I excise entire paragraphs dealing with matters that I have written about (and received clearance from the CIA to do so) in several other pieces, that have been publicly acknowledged by Secretary Rice, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, and former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, and that have been extensively covered in the media.

These matters include Iran’s dialogue and cooperation with the United States concerning Afghanistan in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks and Iran’s offer to negotiate a comprehensive "grand bargain" with the United States in the spring of 2003.

Emptywheel looks into this deeper, but I find the notion of censuring things already in the public domain to be troubling.

Iran: The New Fake Boogeyman

Here we go again.

Last month, the GOP-run House Intelligence Committee released a report on Iran.  The report was not voted on by the full committee.

Its message?  "Ooooooh, they’re about to bomb us with a nuke!" It got a LOT of play in the press.

Surprise! It’s a fraud!

U.N. inspectors investigating Iran’s nuclear program angrily complained to the Bush administration and to a Republican congressman yesterday about a recent House committee report on Iran’s capabilities, calling parts of the document "outrageous and dishonest" and offering evidence to refute its central claims.

Officials of the United Nations’ International Atomic Energy Agency said in a letter that the report contained some "erroneous, misleading and unsubstantiated statements."

***

Privately, several intelligence officials said the committee report included at least a dozen claims that were either demonstrably wrong or impossible to substantiate. Hoekstra’s office said the report was reviewed by the office of John D. Negroponte, the director of national intelligence.

Negroponte’s spokesman, John Callahan, said in a statement that his office "reviewed the report and provided its response to the committee on July 24, ’06." He did not say whether it had approved or challenged any of the claims about Iran’s capabilities.

"This is like prewar Iraq all over again," said David Albright, a former nuclear inspector who is president of the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security. "You have an Iranian nuclear threat that is spun up, using bad information that’s cherry-picked and a report that trashes the inspectors."

The committee report, written by a single Republican staffer with a hard-line position on Iran, chastised the CIA and other agencies for not providing evidence to back assertions that Iran is building nuclear weapons.

Matt Yglesius reminds us that it was the IAEA who was right when it came to Saddam’s supposed WMDs:

After all the months of debate, lies, hype, more debate, handwringing, warmongering, exaggerations, etc. we came to the moment when IAEA inspectors were back on the ground in Iraq looking into Saddam’s nuclear program. They said there was no nuclear program. They were roundly ignored — the statement simply got no purchase in mainstream media or political circles. The war was on. Months later, everyone was scratching their heads wondering where the WMD were. Years later, people are still debating how the facts were gotten so wrong. The fact remains, though, that before the war, the IAEA was in the country saying the Bush administration was full of shit.

And now the IAEA is saying that the Bush administration is full of shit with respect to Iran.  Will they be listened to this time?

UPDATE:  Apparently not.  Look how the Washington Post treated the two stories: the House Intelligence Committee report (saying that Iran was coming to kill us) got page one treatment a few weeks ago.  The response by the UN inspectors (IAEA) today?  Page 17.

Blog_iran_report_wapo

[Graphic by Kevin Drum]

Still Alive

We were all supposed to die yesterday.  Did you know that?

Here’s a list of gloom-and-doom articles from the right-wing press, foretelling that August 22 was the day in which Iran would wreak nuclear kick-ass on all us Westerners (or, at least, Israelis).

Wall Street Journal: August 22

World News Daily: Iran Cataclysm Forecast Aug. 22

FrontPageMag: Iran’s Day of Terror?

Free Republic: Why Aug 22? Iran Planning To Make A Bigger Splash?

NewsMax: Iran Hints at Aug. 22 Doomsday For Israel

Glenn Beck on CNN (video): Iran v. America

Didn’t happen, of course.

It seems to me that one goal of terrorism is to create terror.  Therefore, I truly believe that these conservative pants-wetters only aid and abet the enemy when they scream (needlessly) that the sky is about to fall.  They’re doing the work of bin Laden.

Why Outing Plame Mattered

Here’s the press release (in its original allcaps):

INTELLIGENCE SOURCES SAY VALERIE WILSON WAS PART OF AN OPERATION THREE YEARS AGO TRACKING THE PROLIFERATION OF NUCLEAR WEAPONS MATERIAL INTO IRAN. AND THE SOURCES ALLEGE THAT WHEN MRS. WILSON’S COVER WAS BLOWN, THE ADMINISTRATION’S ABILITY TO TRACK IRAN’S NUCLEAR AMBITIONS WAS DAMAGED AS WELL.

Interesting.

“Mission Accomplished”: 3 Years Later

Missionaccomplished Three years ago today, Bush gave his Mission Accomplished speech aboard the deck of the USS Lincoln, preclaiming that "Major combat operations have ended. In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed.”

Think Progress looks at the before-and-after numbers:

May 1, 2003 Today
U.S. Troops Wounded 542 17,469
U.S. Troops Killed
139 2,400
Size of U.S. Forces 150,000 132,000
Size of Iraqi Security Forces
7,000-9000 250,500
Number of Insurgents 5,000 15,000-20,000
Insurgent Attacks Per Day 8 75
Cost to U.S. Taxpayers $79 billion $320 billion
Approval of Bush’s Handling of Iraq 75% 37%
Percentage of Americans who Believe The Iraq War Was “Worth Fighting” 70% 41%
Bush’s Overall Job Approval 71% 38%

UPDATE:  Without any sense of irony for the 3 year anniversary, Bush declared today that Iraq is at a "turning point".

The Friend Of My Friend Is My Enemy?

I have a hard time keeping the players stright.

Bush wanted to let the United Arab Emirates to manage our ports.  He said that the UAE is a "committed ally in the war on terror".

So . . . UAE = "good guy", according to Bush.

Meanwhile, we’re all pounding our chests and beating the war drums because Iran is getting all nuked up, and that’s threatening to us.

So . . . Iran = "bad guy".

So far so good.  But then yesterday, according to an Iranian news agency, Iran’s Deputy Minister and the UAE’s Prime Minister met and celebrated the two countries’ great relations, which they both said they were committed to expanding "in all areas":

Deputy Foreign Minister Mehdi Mostafavi and Deputy Emir and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Sheikh Mohammad ben Rashid al-Maktoum stressed Monday expansion of relations between Iran and UAE in all areas.

Mostafavi lauded al-Maktoum on his efforts in strengthening bilateral ties and invited him for a state visit to Tehran.

Mostafavi also briefed the Dubai’s ruler on the Iranians positions on Iraq and Palestinians developments, and described the trend of Iran-Russia talks on Tehran resolve in acquiring peaceful nuclear technology. . . .

Glenn Greenwald asks the right questions:

If Iran were really the Ultimate Terrorist Evil, the new Nazi Germany, would one of our "most committed allies in the war on terror" maintain such friendly relations with them? For a reasonable, moderate, responsible anti-terrorist country like the UAE to maintain such a close alliance with Iran, mustn’t there be some rationality and stability in the Iranian government?

And why is the UAE’s extreme hostility to Israel — to the point where it denies Israel’s right to exist and bans its citizens from entering the country — consistent with our close alliance with the UAE, but Iran’s extreme hostility towards Israel (admittedly with more inflammatory rhetoric) compels us to view Iran as the new Nazi Germany?

Second Verse, Same As The First

Press Conference with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, yesterday:

Q: What planning, if any, has the Pentagon been undertaken for the possibility of military action involving Iran? And has the nuclear strike option been ruled out?

RUMSFELD: You know, someone comes up with an idea, runs it in a magazine or a paper; other papers pick it up and reprint it; editorialists, then, say, Oh, Henny Penny, the sky is falling, and opine on this and opine that.

…But it is just simply not useful to get into fantasyland.

Press Conference with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, 9/22/02:

Q: Sources say the President has a war plan on his desk about attacking Iraq? What types of options were provided to the President?

Rumsfeld: Of course I could and I won’t. I must say I find the people that are talking to the media about war plans are so far out of line and so disgracefully misbehaving that I find it stunning and a weak effort.

First of all I can tell you that anyone who knows anything isn’t talking and anyone with any sense isn’t talking therefore the people that are talking to the media by definition people who don’t know anything and people who don’t have a hell of a lot of sense.

Deja Vu

LA Times:

U.S. intelligence officials, already focused on Iran’s potential for building nuclear weapons, are struggling to solve a more immediate mystery: the murky relationship between the new Tehran leadership and the contingent of Al Qaeda leaders residing in the country.

Some officials, citing evidence from highly classified satellite feeds and electronic eavesdropping, believe the Iranian regime is playing host to much of Al Qaeda’s remaining brain trust and allowing the senior operatives freedom to communicate and help plan the terrorist network’s operations.

And they suggest that new President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad may be forging an alliance with Al Qaeda operatives as a way to expand Iran’s influence or, at a minimum, that he is looking the other way as Al Qaeda leaders in his country collaborate with their counterparts elsewhere.

Change the "n" in Iran to a "q", and this sounds remarkably familiar, oui?

Kevin Drum says only a moron would fall for the same thing twice and demands something called e-v-i-d-e-n-c-e.

Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One Before

Today:

Rice says time for talking with Iran is over

November 2003:

The Bush administration publicly refused to negotiate with Saddam. It demanded that he abide by U.N. resolutions that required Iraq to cooperate unconditionally with U.N. arms inspectors and make a full accounting of its illicit biological, chemical and nuclear weapons programs.

President Bush rejected Saddam’s assertions that he had no illicit weapons programs and declared that only the Iraqi leader’s unconditional surrender or departure from Iraq could avert war.

Iran Is This Year’s Iraq

Iraq_iran_1President Bush, 1/13/06:

Iran, armed with a nuclear weapon, poses a grave threat to the security of the world.

President Bush 10/7/02:

Tonight I want to take a few minutes to discuss a grave threat to peace…The threat comes from Iraq…It is seeking nuclear weapons.

Cheney Vs. The Bees

"Some have suggested by liberating Iraq from Saddam Hussein we simply stirred up a hornet’s nest. They overlook a fundamental fact: We were not in Iraq in September 2001 and the terrorists hit us anyway."

That’s what Dick Cheney said two days ago.  Yes, he’s still making the connection between Saddam Hussein and 9/11.  It’s a sickness, in my view.

And "hornet’s nest"?  If 9/11 was a bee sting, Iraq wasn’t the hive.  That’s the problem, and your critics are right, Dick.

Holly Martins adds more:

So let’s get this straight: If you suggest any policy in Iraq other that the administration-approved "Stay the Course" you are handing a nation over to terrorist control. But if terrorist activity, or the threat thereof, seems sufficiently worrisome to contemplate another policy then. . .it doesn’t matter, because the terrorists will attack us anyway? Withdrawal from Iraq is appeasing the terrorist enemy–but 9/11 demonstrates the mindset of that enemy is irrelevant. Wouldn’t the logic of the latter claim suggest that the terrorists simply might not notice we had withdrawn and/or attack us no matter what? Are they all-powerful evildoers, or Ritalin- deprived ADD cases? Also: There were all sorts of things we weren’t doing in 2001. We hadn’t yet thrilled to the magic of Gigli, or whatever the name of that sucky Coldplay record is. Does this mean if there’s no Gigli sequel, the terrorists win? Please make our head stop hurting like this, Mr. Vice President, Sir!

In related news, the Wall Street Journal provides a rationale for the Iraq war which may surprise some for its candor: the Iraq invasion was about creating a home base from which the United States can launch future wars against Iran and Syria:

The invasion of Iraq was not only about weapons of mass destruction…It was also about establishing a U.S. war-fighting beachhead in the heart of the Middle East, the principal breeding ground of terrorists. The invasion took out one terrorism sponsor, Saddam Hussein, and gave the U.S. a presence for intimidating two others, Iran and Syria.

According to WSJ author Melloan, we need to finish the job in Iraq quickly – not so we can send the troops home – but so we can get ready to fight Iran:

Nowhere is the antipathy toward America and the West more clearly manifested than in Iran…Getting Iraq under control is urgent because of what may be the next threat in the Middle East.

Don’t expect the string of wars to end anytime soon. Melloan concludes that the fight could last “30 years in the view of some analysts.”

That’s a lot of beehives.

Credibility Consequences

With the Bush Administration being cagy about everything from torture to its "evidence" leading up to the Iraq War, it’s no surprise that the world view of America’s credibility has shrunken.  In fact, most countries apparently view our credibility on a scale apar with that of Iran:

[D]oubts about the intelligence persist among some foreign analysts. In part, that is because American officials, citing the need to protect their source, have largely refused to provide details of the origins of the laptop computer beyond saying that they obtained it in mid-2004 from a longtime contact in Iran. Moreover, this chapter in the confrontation with Iran is infused with the memory of the faulty intelligence on Iraq’s unconventional arms. In this atmosphere, though few countries are willing to believe Iran’s denials about nuclear arms, few are willing to accept the United States’ weapons intelligence without question.

"I can fabricate that data," a senior European diplomat said of the documents. "It looks beautiful, but is open to doubt."

And, in what is sure to cause many neo-cons’ head to simultaneously explode, the one country that does believe our intelligence regarding Iran is — wait for it — France:

As a measure of the skepticism the Bush administration faces, officials said the American ambassador to the international atomic agency, Gregory L. Schulte, was urging other countries to consult with his French counterpart. "On Iraq we disagreed, and on Iran we completely agree," a senior State Department official said. "That gets attention."

Condi Thinking About Giving The Silent Treatment To Iran President

From AP:

"Iran needs to get a message from the international community that is a unified message," Rice said at a news conference that focused mostly on talks she plans to hold in New York next week during the special session of the U.N. General Assembly.

She said she might say "hello" to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad if they come across each other in U.N. corridors.

But that’s it.  Just a "hello".  If he’s lucky. 

Or she could just walk past him, like he’s not even there, and go straight to her locker. 

Or maybe she could have a friend give a "secret love test survey" for Ahmadinejad to fill out in study hall.  But no — he’ll probably be all like "what’s this?" and stuff.  It’s not that Condi doesn’t like him, but she doesn’t like him like him, y’know?

“I Don’t Know”

That’s what I was once told to say when I didn’t know.  I re-learned that lesson as a young lawyer: if a judge asks you a question, and you don’t know the answer, admit that you don’t know the answer.  That is how you maintain your credibility.

Sadly, the Bush Administration didn’t do that with respect to WMDs in Iraq.  But perhaps — just perhaps — they have learned how to say "we don’t know".

That’s why this is important (from today’s New York Times):

Data Is Lacking on Iran’s Arms, U.S. Panel Says

By DOUGLAS JEHL and ERIC SCHMITT

WASHINGTON, March 8 – A commission due to report to President Bush this month will describe American intelligence on Iran as inadequate to allow firm judgments about Iran’s weapons programs, according to people who have been briefed on the panel’s work.

The report comes as intelligence agencies prepare a new formal assessment on Iran, and follows a 14-month review by the panel, which Mr. Bush ordered last year to assess the quality of overall intelligence about the proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.

The Bush administration has been issuing increasingly sharp warnings about what it says are Iran’s efforts to build nuclear weapons. The warnings have been met with firm denials in Tehran, which says its nuclear program is intended purely for civilian purposes.

The most complete recent statement by American agencies about Iran and its weapons, in an unclassified report sent to Congress in November by Porter J. Goss, director of central intelligence, said Iran continued "to vigorously pursue indigenous programs to produce nuclear, chemical and biological weapons."

As they say, read the whole thing.

And Mr. President, say it with me: We.  Don’t.  Know.