On March 21, the Persian New Year, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, supreme leader of the Islamic Republic gave an address at a shrine in Mashhad, Iran’s second-largest city. The speech should be a must-read for any American policymaker who believes that now is the time to strike a deal with the Islamic Republic. Ideology can be an insurmountable obstacle, and Khamenei’s speech is simultaneously paranoid and xenophobic, blustering and aggressive, and ranting and fabulist. While many American officials place faith in negotiations, it is clear that Khamenei sees Obama’s letters and outreach as alternately irrelevant and pitiful. While advisers whispering in Obama’s ear suggest that the U.S. must foreswear regime change, Khamenei really doesn’t care. And when it comes to negotiations, Khamenei really doesn’t see any reason to compromise: Either the U.S. agrees with Iran’s position, or Khamenei will refuse to deal.
The whole speech is here, but below are some snippets, organized with sub-headings in bold which I inserted.
On The Media: Today there is a massive propaganda network in the world with thousands of different types of media outlets whose goal is to prove that there are no advances in Iran, to deny the victories that the Iranian has achieved, to magnify the existing weaknesses and attract everybody’s attention to them, and to hide the strengths that exist in different parts of the country and are visible to just and impartial people.
On America: As I said, we have certain enemies. Who are these enemies? Where is the main den of designing machinations against the Iranian nation? It is not difficult to answer this question. It is 34 years that whenever the word “enemy” is mentioned, the Iranian nation immediately thinks of the American government. It would be good if American officials paid attention to this point and tried to understand that over the past 34 years, the Iranian people have witnessed things and gone through stages that whenever the word “enemy” is mentioned, they immediately think of America. This is a very important issue for a government that wants to have pride in the world. This is an issue that deserves careful attention. They should focus on this issue. America is the center of enmity and designing plots against the Iranian nation.
The Enemies List: There is the Zionist enemy, but the Zionist regime is too small to be considered among the first row of the Iranian nation’s enemies… The English government is among the old enemies of the Iranian nation, but in this arena it plays a complementary role as the follower of America. The English government is not independent, so one cannot consider them a separate enemy. It is a follower of America… I would like to take this opportunity to point out that officials of the French government have been openly hostile towards the Iranian nation over the past few years and this is not a clever move by French government officials.
On What Iran Can Do to Israel: I believe even they themselves know – and if they do not, they should know – that if they make a wrong move, the Islamic Republic will raze Tel Aviv and Haifa to the ground.
On Promised to Bring Iran into the Global Community: The Americans speak about “the global community” in their statements. What they call “the global community” is a few countries, whose main leader is America, followed by the Zionists, the English government and certain other small governments. The global community is not at all determined to oppose Iran, Iranians and Islamic Iran.
On Obama’s Outreach: I should mention that the Americans started their new plans from the beginning of the year 1391. They announced that they were our friends. Sometimes they sent letters, messages and other such things and told us they were our friends and other times they announced in the media that they were friends of the Iranian people, but despite these false claims, in practice they tried to be harsh towards Iran and the Iranian nation… A few years ago in my speech on the first day of Farvardin, I said here at Ali ibn Musa ar-Ridha’s shrine that you [Americans] should be careful, that your proclaimed affection and friendship should not mean that you are wearing a velvet glove over an iron fist, pretending that you are our friends while being hostile in your hearts…
On Nuclear Negotiations: The Americans send messages to us through different channels, asking us to negotiate with them regarding the nuclear issue. They both send messages to us and discuss the proposal in their global propaganda. High- and middle-ranking officials of America repeatedly say that alongside the P5+1 talks regarding the nuclear issue, America and the Islamic Republic should hold one-on-one negotiations over the issue. I am not optimistic about such negotiations. Why? Because our past experiences show that in the logic of the American gentlemen, negotiation does not mean sitting down together to try to reach a rational solution. This is not what they mean by negotiation. What they mean is that we should sit down together and talk so that Iran accepts their views… The Americans constantly send us messages, telling us that they are sincere in their offers of rational negotiation. They claim that they sincerely want to have rational negotiations with Iran – that is to say, they claim that they do not want imposition. In response, I would say, we have told you many times that we are not after nuclear weapons and you say that you do not believe us. Why would we believe your statements then…? I would like to give a piece of advice to American officials: if they are after a rational solution, the rational solution is that they should rectify their policies. They should rectify the way they act and they should stop being hostile towards the Iranian nation.
On Regime Change: The Americans constantly send messages – sometimes in writing – that they are not after regime change in Iran. This is what they are telling us. The answer is that we are not concerned about whether or not you have intentions of overthrowing the Islamic Republic although you constantly insist that you do not have such intentions. Even the day when you had intentions of overthrowing the Islamic Republic and you announced this openly, you could not do anything, and you will not be able to do anything in the future either.
On Sanctions: Of course, as I said a few months ago, the Americans expressed joy and said that I have confessed to the effect of the sanctions. Yes, the sanctions have not been inconsequential. If they are happy about this, let them be happy. After all, the sanctions have had an effect, which is because of an essential flaw that we are suffering from. The flaw that our economy is suffering from is that it is dependent on oil. We need to distance our economy from oil. Our governments should include this among their basic plans.
On Hamas and Gaza: In the case of the Zionist regime’s invasion of Gaza, the powerful presence of the Islamic Republic behind the scenes caused them to admit that they had been defeated by Palestinian combatants. We did not announce this: it was they themselves who announced and insisted that if it had not been for the presence of the Islamic Republic and its show of power, Palestinian combatants could not have even put up a resistance against Israel, let alone bring Israel to its knees. In the 8-day war, the Palestinians managed to bring Israel to its knees, and this was the first time in the history of the fake and usurping Zionist regime.
On Launching a Monkey into Space: When this living creature was sent into space and was returned safely, international scientists and observers were so surprised that they first denied it. Then when they realized that they had no choice but to accept the truth and after witnessing reality and the evidence, they were forced to acknowledge it.
On Iran’s Medical Progress: We achieved the first rank in the region in the area of biotechnology. Outstanding technical achievements were made in this area which led to the production of different kinds of pharmaceuticals. All these achievements were made in a year in which the enemies were determined to be harsh towards the Iranian nation in order to deprive it from a good life and from all the products of human talent.
The Supreme Leader’s “State of the Union”
Must-Reads from Magazine
Expect the impossible.
If the 2016 presidential election cycle demonstrated anything, it was that Republicans suffer from a crippling lack of imagination. That ordeal should have established that the unprecedented is not impossible. Even now, Republicans seem as though they are trying to convince themselves that their eyes are lying to them, but they are not. The tempo of the investigation into President Trump is accelerating, and a nightmare scenario is eminently imaginable. Only congressional Republicans can avert disaster, and only then by being clear about the actions they are prepared to take if Trump instigates a crisis of constitutional legitimacy.
The events of the last 36 hours unrolled like a cascade. Late Wednesday, the New York Times published an interview in which Trump delivered a stinging rebuke for Attorney General Jeff Sessions, scolding him for recusing himself from the investigation into the campaign’s ties to Russian operatives. In that interview, Trump appeared to warn special counselor Robert Mueller not to dig too deeply into his personal finances, or else.
Hours later, Bloomberg News revealed that Mueller’s probe was investigating Trump’s business transactions and tax records—a leak surely made in response to Trump’s arm-twisting. More leaks from the investigation confirmed that former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort was being investigated for involvement in a money-laundering scheme, a revelation made more discomfiting by the discovery that he owed pro-Russian interests $17 million before joining the Trump campaign.
With the noose tightening, the lead attorney on Trump’s personal defense team, Marc Kasowitz, and the legal team’s spokesperson, Mark Corallo, resigned. The Washington Post reported that “Trump has asked his advisers about his power to pardon aides, family members and even himself in connection with the probe.” Trump’s spokespeople insist the president has no intention of pursuing the dismissal of the special counsel investigating his campaign, but his every action indicates that this is a lie.
Prominent Republicans reacted to all this incredulously. “There is no possible way anybody at the White House could be seriously thinking about firing Mueller,” Sen. Bob Corker insisted. “We all know the president,” said Sen. Orrin Hatch. “He makes some of these comments that he really doesn’t mean.” Sen. Susan Collins was willing to go a bit farther: “It would be catastrophic if the President were to fire the special counsel.”
Off the record, however, Republican lawmakers are far less circumspect in relaying their fears about what the president is capable of doing to the republic. “Any thought of firing the special counsel is chilling. It’s chilling,” an unnamed GOP senator told CNN. “One gets the impression that the President doesn’t understand or he willfully disregards the fact that the attorney general and law enforcement in general—they are not his personal lawyers to defend and protect him,” another added.
These tepid comments for the record, with courage reserved only upon condition of anonymity, expose how Republicans in Congress have again failed to meet the measure of the moment. These are dangerous days, and it is incumbent upon Donald Trump’s party in Congress to deter the executive branch from overstepping its authority. The only way to do that is to be clear about what the consequences for that kind of transgression will be.
The Congressional Research Service defines how the president could execute a nuclear option against the independent counsel’s office. The Attorney General has recused himself from campaign-related investigations, so Trump would have to insist Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein remove Mueller. If Rosenstein declined, his resignation would likely be on offer, and his acting replacement (Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand) would have to field the same request. At this point, the comparisons between the Trump White House’s behavior and that of the Nixon administration ahead of the 1973 “Saturday Night Massacre” are no longer hyperbolic.
In lieu of any ability to contain or control the special counsel’s office, Trump’s defenders have mounted a public relations campaign designed to undermine its authority and discredit its members. That will rally Trump’s diehard supporters, but the president remains unsatisfied. National Review’s Rich Lowry speculated convincingly that Trump would have little choice but to move against Mueller. Sooner rather than later, the conditions the president said would force his hand—a probe of Trump’s personal finances—will be met. Lowry observed that Trump seems to believe his tax records and business practices should be off limits and his experience has taught him “that fortune favors the recklessly bold.”
Republicans in Congress must stop comforting themselves with the notion that the worst cannot happen. They have to summon the courage to state publicly what they so freely tell reporters on background. If they are so concerned that the norms and traditions that have preserved the rule of law in this republic for 240 years are in jeopardy, they must say so. And they must say what the consequences will be for Trump, his associates, and his family if he goes too far. Republicans in office are disinclined to pursue a course of action against Trump that might jeopardize their standing with the voters who love him. None of that matters. Prioritizing their parochial careerist considerations over the best interests of their party and their country is how they got themselves into this mess.
Republicans may dislike the prospect, but it’s fast becoming time for them to start saying the “I” word if only to save the president from his most reckless impulses. The longer they tell themselves that the unthinkable is impossible, the more likely it becomes.
Are the warplane's secrets safe?
The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is the newest generation air platform for the U.S. Air Force, Navy, and Marines. Lockheed-Martin, which builds the F-35, describes it as “a 5th Generation fighter, combining advanced stealth with fighter speed and agility, fully fused sensor information, network-enabled operations and advanced sustainment.” For both diplomatic reasons and to encourage sales, Lockheed-Martin subcontracted the production of many F-35 components to factories abroad. Many program partners—Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, Denmark, for example—are consistent U.S. allies.
Turkey, however, is also part of the nine-nation consortium producing the plane, which gives Turkey access to the F-35’s technology. “As a program partner, Turkish industries are eligible to become suppliers to the global F-35 fleet for the life of the program. In total, F-35 industrial opportunities for Turkish companies are expected to reach $12 billion,” the warplane’s website explained. “Turkey plans to purchase 100 of the F-35A Conventional Takeoff and Landing variant. Its unsurpassed technological systems and unique stealth capabilities ensure that the F-35 will be the future of Turkish national security for decades to come.”
But is the F-35 safe with Turkey? In recent years, the Turkish government has leaked highly-classified information to America’s adversaries in fits of diplomatic pique. Back in 2013, for example, Turkey leaked to the Iranians the identities of Israeli spies in Iran. Danny Yatom, former head of the Mossad, told USA Today that the incident would damage U.S. intelligence efforts, “because we will be much more reluctant to work via Turkey because they will fear information is leaking to Iran… We feel information achieved [by Israel] through Turkey went not only to Israel but also to the United States.”
On July 19, the Pentagon criticized Turkey’s state-controlled news agency for exposing ten covert U.S. bases in Syria in a way that can enable both the Islamic State and Iranian-backed forces to target Americans. Bloomberg reported that the leak also detailed aid routes and equipment stored at each base.
Both these incidents raise serious questions about whether Turkey can be trusted with the F-35, especially given Turkey’s growing military and diplomatic ties to Russia, and the wayward NATO state’s recent cooperation with China as well. The United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defense is rightly concerned about the security implications of a plan to service its F-35s in Turkey, but such concern should only be the tip of the iceberg.
Should Turkey even receive F-35s and, to the extent the program relies on Turkish factories, is it time to stand up quickly a Plan B? To do otherwise might squander the billions of dollars already spent on the program, risk increasing President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s ability to blackmail the West, and potentially land America’s latest military technology on Kremlin desks.
Too many martyrs make a movement.
If the GOP is to be converted into a vehicle for politicians who evince Donald Trump’s brand of pragmatic center-right populism, Trump will have to demonstrate his brand of politics can deliver victories for people other than himself. Presidential pen strokes help to achieve that, as do judicial appointments. Nothing is so permanent, though, as sweeping legislative change. On that score, the newly Trumpian Republican Party is coming up short. If the passive process of transformational legislative success fails to compel anti-Trump holdouts in the GOP to give up the ghost, there is always arm-twisting. It seems the Republican National Committee is happy to play enforcer.
The RNC’s nascent effort to stifle anti-Trump apostasy by making examples of high-profile heretics has claimed its first victim: New Jersey’s Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno. The Republican is running to replace the nation’s least popular governor, Chris Christie, and the effort has been a struggle. Trailing badly in the polls and facing the headwinds associated with trying to succeed an unpopular outgoing GOP governor in a blue state, Guadagno needs all the help she can get. That help won’t be coming from the RNC. According to NJ Advance Media, the committee’s objection to helping Guadagno isn’t the imprudence of throwing good money after bad. It’s that she was mean to President Trump in 2016, and she must be punished.
“[The president] is unhappy with anyone who neglected him in his hour of need,” said a source billed as an RNC insider. The specific complaint arises from an October 8 tweet from the lieutenant governor said that “no apology can excuse” Trump’s “reprehensible” conduct on the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape. “Christie was not as stalwart as some people in the party, but at least he didn’t go against him the way she did,” the insider added.
This source’s version of events was supported by former two-term New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman. “She went down there, and the (Republican National) Committee was reluctant to back the campaign in the way one would have expected,” she said. “The implication was, ‘Well you were not a Trump supporter in the primary, and so don’t expect much money.'”
This is almost certainly a pretext. Republicans are facing stiff competition and an unfavorable political environment in November’s gubernatorial elections in Virginia and New Jersey. In 2017-2018, 27 GOP-held seats are up for grabs, nine of which are in some jeopardy of falling to Democrats. Republicans are going to have to husband their resources and triage their officeholders. That’s a forgivable, if demoralizing, condition. Declaring Guadagno to have offended the leader and to be cut off from the font of Republican goodwill is not only unjustifiable, it’s terribly foolish.
If Republican women are to be punished for saying that Trump’s comments about sexually assaulting unsuspecting females were unacceptable, there are going to be a lot fewer Republican women. Moreover, the RNC has invited the perception that there is a double standard at play here. A slew of Republicans called on Trump to drop out of the race after that tape, but the RNC is unlikely to withhold support for Senators Rob Portman or John Thune when they need it. Among those calling on Trump to drop out was his own chief of staff, Reince Priebus—a fact the president reportedly won’t let Priebus forget.
Cults of personality can be bullied into existence, but they rarely outlast the personality around whom they form unless that personality can claim some lasting achievements. In lieu of any compelling rationale, the effort to remake the GOP in Trump’s image by force will only create dissidents. The ideological conservatives who once dominated the Republican Party are unlikely to make peace with the ascendant populist faction at gunpoint. And the RNC is not solely to blame for this boneheaded move. Even if the notion that Guadagno is being punished for disloyalty is a pretense, it is a response to a clear set of incentives promoted by this White House.
Maybe the most intriguing question of the present political age is whether or not conservatives in the GOP will come to terms with a man they once saw as a usurper. A heavy hand will only catalyze resistance, and Trump needs his own party as much or more than they need him. Guadagno’s gubernatorial bid is on no firmer ground today than it was yesterday, but the Republican candidate’s allies can now legitimately claim persecution at the hands of personality cultists. Too many martyrs make a movement. The White House and the Republican National Committee should tread lightly.
Podcast: Conservatism in shackles while O.J. goes free?
On the second of this week’s podcasts, I ask Abe Greenwald and Noah Rothman whether the health-care debacle this week is simply a reflection of the same pressures on the conservative coalition Donald Trump saw and conquered by running for president last year—and what it will mean for him and them that he has provided no rallying point for Republican politicians. And then we discuss OJ Simpson. Give a listen.
Don’t forget to subscribe to our podcast on iTunes.
Hyperbole yields cynicism, not the other way around.
Newly-elected French President Emmanuel Macron surprised almost everyone when he invited President Donald Trump to celebrate Bastille Day with him in Paris, especially after the two leaders’ awkward first meeting in Brussels in May. After all, between now and then, Trump withdrew the United States from the Paris Climate Change Agreement, and Macron has become perhaps the most vocal critic of Trump among European leaders.
In hindsight, Macron’s reason for embracing Trump might have been to get the president to reverse course on the Paris agreement. From the Associated Press:
French President Emmanuel Macron says his glamorous Paris charm offensive on Donald Trump was carefully calculated — and may have changed the U.S. president’s mind about climate change…. On their main point of contention — Trump’s withdrawal from the landmark Paris climate agreement — Macron is quoted as saying that “Donald Trump listened to me. He understood the reason for my position, notably the link between climate change and terrorism.”
According to Macron, climate change causes droughts and migration, which exacerbates crises as populations fight over shrinking resources. If Macron really believes that, France and Europe are in for some tough times.
First, droughts are a frequent, cyclical occurrence in the Middle East, the Sahel, and the Horn of Africa. The difference between drought and famine is the former is a natural occurrence and the latter is man-made, usually caused by poor governance. Nowhere is this seen more clearly than in the Horn of Africa, where the same drought might kill a few dozens of Ethiopians but wipe out tens of thousands of Somalis.
Second, the common factor in the wars raging in the Middle East today is neither climate change nor extreme weather, but brutal dictatorship, radical ideologies, and the militias supported by the Islamic Republic of Iran. Yemen could be a breadbasket. Its terraced fields rising up thousands of feet in the mountains grow almost every fruit imaginable. Yemen also catches the tail end of the monsoon. If Yemenis planted exportable crops like coffee rather than the mild drug qat, which does not bring in hard currency, they might be fairly prosperous.
It is not climate change that denied the Syrian public basic freedoms and liberty for decades, nor was it climate change that dropped barrel bombs on civilian neighborhoods, tortured and killed 13-year-old Hamza Ali al-Khateeb, or used chemical weapons. For that matter, when it comes to radicalization, the problem is Syria was less climate and more decades of Saudi-and Qatari-funded indoctrination and Turkish assistance to foreign fighters.
Regardless of all this, another obvious factor nullifies Macron’s thesis: When drought occurs in regions outside the Middle East, the result is seldom suicide bombing.
Terrorism does not have a one-size-fits-all explanation but, generally speaking, when it comes to Islamist terrorism, ideology plays a key role. Most terrorists are educated, middle class, and relatively privileged. Islamic State caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, for example, has a Ph.D. Many of the 9/11 hijackers were educated. In the Gaza Strip, Hamas recruits inside schools. Simply put, there is no linkage between climate change and terrorism.
Not only would Trump be foolish to buy Macron’s argument, but environmentalists who believe climate change puts the Earth in immediate peril should be outraged. It is hyperbole. Moreover, it is the casual invocation of climate change as a catch-all cause for every other issue that breeds the cynicism that leads so many to become so dismissive of everything climate activists say. Macron may look down up Trump as an ignorant bore, but Macron’s own logic suggests he is also living in a world where facts and reality don’t matter.