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The Left’s Cognitive Dissonance on the Palestinian Authority

Prof. Carlo Strenger isn’t part of the loony left; he’s one of Israel’s more thoughtful and clear-eyed left-wing commentators. So I was shocked to read the following in his latest piece in Haaretz: “Fatah seems to aim for a liberal democracy.” After all, three crucial elements of liberal democracy are regular elections, human rights and economic development, yet under the leadership of both Mahmoud Abbas and his predecessor, Yasser Arafat, the Fatah-controlled Palestinian Authority has actively undermined all three. And it says a great deal about the current state of Israel’s left that even someone like Strenger can’t bring himself to admit it. Read More

Prof. Carlo Strenger isn’t part of the loony left; he’s one of Israel’s more thoughtful and clear-eyed left-wing commentators. So I was shocked to read the following in his latest piece in Haaretz: “Fatah seems to aim for a liberal democracy.” After all, three crucial elements of liberal democracy are regular elections, human rights and economic development, yet under the leadership of both Mahmoud Abbas and his predecessor, Yasser Arafat, the Fatah-controlled Palestinian Authority has actively undermined all three. And it says a great deal about the current state of Israel’s left that even someone like Strenger can’t bring himself to admit it.

Regarding elections, the democratic deficit is patent. Abbas is currently in the 11th year of his four-year term. In this, he has faithfully followed the model set by Arafat, who also never called another election after winning his first; he died in office a decade later.

But since Hamas shares the blame for the absence of new national elections, it’s even more telling that local elections have been scrapped as well: Abbas has repeatedly “postponed” them even in the West Bank – which, unlike Hamas-controlled Gaza, is firmly under the PA’s thumb. In May, he also canceled student union elections after Hamas won the first poll at Birzeit University.

The human rights picture is no less appalling, as even a few recent news items make clear. A Palestinian man was arrested and beaten by the PA security services for the shocking crime of naming his baby after one of Abbas’s rivals, Mohammed Dahlan. A Palestinian rights group is suing the PA and its security services on behalf of a university student who was jailed for five days and brutally tortured for the sin of criticizing the government on social media. A Palestinian man was arrested for denying that Arafat was a martyr. And so on and so forth.

Finally, there’s the economic development. It’s noteworthy that in its 21 years of existence, the Fatah-led PA hasn’t built a single new hospital, university or town; every Palestinian hospital and university was built under Israeli rule, before the PA’s establishment in 1994, while the only new town, Rawabi, is the work of a private entrepreneur. This isn’t because the PA lacks money; it receives billions in international aid every year. But it prefers to spend its cash on things like paying generous salaries to jailed terrorists – a line item totaling some $144 million in the PA’s annual budget.

Yet the PA doesn’t merely refuse to foster economic development itself; it actively tries to prevent others from doing so. For instance, it refused for five years to convene the Israeli-Palestinian Joint Water Committee to approve Rawabi’s connection to the water system; the hook-up finally occurred this year only because Israel gave up on the committee and approved it unilaterally.

In another case, which I discussed in detail last year, the PA not only arrested a Palestinian-Canadian investor who committed the cardinal sin of calling for Abbas’s ouster, but also took various retaliatory steps against his West Bank businesses, which employ hundreds of Palestinians. The resultant losses persuaded both him and his son, a fellow entrepreneur, to move their businesses out of the PA.

The PA also refuses to use its bloated security services to stop anti-normalization thugs who have forced even Israeli Arab entrepreneurs to cancel plans for job-creating West Bank businesses.

Indeed, a high-ranking Israeli defense official – who, far from being anti-Abbas, praised him lavishly for his security cooperation with Israel – said last month that the PA even objected to recent Israeli measures to ease conditions in the West Bank (like granting more permits for workers and businessmen to enter Israel) because they undermine PA efforts to organize anti-Israel protests.

In short, the Fatah-led PA has actively worked against the most salient characteristics of liberal democracy: free elections, human rights and economic development. So how can Strenger nevertheless insist that Fatah “seems to aim for a liberal democracy”?

As a professor of psychology, Strenger ought to be able to diagnose the answer: cognitive dissonance. Western liberals who have set their hearts on creating a Palestinian state can’t bring themselves to admit that it would be just another brutal Mideast tyranny – one which, as courageous Palestinian dissident Bassam Tawil wrote last year, would make Palestinians’ lives “even worse than what we have now” – because doing so might force them to question whether their 20-year commitment to the PA hasn’t been a mistake.

But for the sake of all the real Palestinians living under Fatah’s tyranny, it’s long past time for them to start doing exactly that.

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U.S. Leadership Makes Iran Deal Rejection Possible

With polls showing public disapproval of the Iran nuclear deal, the Obama administration has tried and largely failed to convince Americans that the agreement will actually stop the Islamist state from getting a bomb. Even supporters of the agreement acknowledge that once it expires the Iranians can do as they like but hope that by postponing that event something — perhaps a miraculous transformation of Iranian society — will intervene in the meantime to save the day. That leaves the president with two arguments. One is simply partisan loyalty. Strong-arming Congressional Democrats to back the deal or be seen as disloyal to their party seems to be working well enough to give him the one-third-plus-one votes he needs to sustain a veto of a resolution to disapprove the pact. Yet as far as everyone else is concerned, the administration seems to have only one argument left: the idea that scuttling the deal will lead to chaos, financial disaster and the collapse of international confidence in America’s leadership. While that sounds scary, that line of reasoning is as suspect as the other White House talking points. While returning to the negotiating table or continuing sanctions would not be easy, it’s important to remember that the only reason sanctions existed in the first place was American leadership. In its absence, appeasement prevailed. If it reappeared, most of the world would have no choice to follow.

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With polls showing public disapproval of the Iran nuclear deal, the Obama administration has tried and largely failed to convince Americans that the agreement will actually stop the Islamist state from getting a bomb. Even supporters of the agreement acknowledge that once it expires the Iranians can do as they like but hope that by postponing that event something — perhaps a miraculous transformation of Iranian society — will intervene in the meantime to save the day. That leaves the president with two arguments. One is simply partisan loyalty. Strong-arming Congressional Democrats to back the deal or be seen as disloyal to their party seems to be working well enough to give him the one-third-plus-one votes he needs to sustain a veto of a resolution to disapprove the pact. Yet as far as everyone else is concerned, the administration seems to have only one argument left: the idea that scuttling the deal will lead to chaos, financial disaster and the collapse of international confidence in America’s leadership. While that sounds scary, that line of reasoning is as suspect as the other White House talking points. While returning to the negotiating table or continuing sanctions would not be easy, it’s important to remember that the only reason sanctions existed in the first place was American leadership. In its absence, appeasement prevailed. If it reappeared, most of the world would have no choice to follow.

Secretary of the Treasury Jacob Lew tries to rally the nation behind the deal today in a New York Times op-ed in which he lamely argues that any effort to get a better deal is a “dangerous fantasy” that necessitates “flying in the face of economic and diplomatic reality.” His point is that having already agreed to the weak terms that Iran agreed to, it would be impossible for the U.S. to turn around and attempt to resume negotiations or reimpose sanctions. But he’s wrong for the very same reasons that the administration arguments against sanctions ever being put into effect in the first place were fallacious.

The U.S. is not the whole world, but any nation that wishes to be part of the global economy must do business here. In acrimonious confrontations with Democratic Senator Robert Menendez during his time as Foreign Relations Committee chair, State Department and Treasury officials warned that Congress was being too tough on Iran and that the rest of international community would resist America’s attempt to lead on the issue. But they were wrong. The world was forced to follow along because if they continued to do business with Tehran, as almost all of them wanted to do despite the danger of an Iranian bomb, they faced being placed under U.S. sanctions too.

If Congress were to have the wisdom and the guts to defy Obama and prevent the deal from going into effect it would be a difficult lift for this administration and its successor to get back to the business of stopping Iran rather than enabling it. But the tools for doing so are the same now as they were in 2011 when the president was being forced to sign reluctantly a sanctions bill for which he had no appetite. All it requires is American leadership. A bipartisan Congressional majority pushed the president into the role of the leader of an international coalition against Iran. That effort forced even nations like Russia and China to bow to Western dictates on sanctions because a failure to do so would have led to their companies being banned from transactions with American companies and financial institutions. As much as Lew doesn’t want to do it, he has the same power today.

The same point applies to Secretary of State John Kerry’s plea for the deal that is rooted in a belief that if it is defeated, America will lose faith in U.S. leadership. Not even Lew believes, as Kerry did in a New York speech earlier this week, that the U.S. dollar would cease to be the world’s reserve currency if Congress mandated the continuance of sanctions. “Are you kidding me?” he asked. But what does he think will replace it? The recently devalued Chinese Yuan? The Euro? The same countries that got dragged into sanctions before would have no choice but to follow again.

It is true that there are plenty of people in Europe who are desperate to start doing business again with Iran and some governments that would be reluctant to try for better terms that might actually end Tehran’s nuclear program rather than grant it legitimacy as a prelude to their eventual possession of a weapon. But Kerry misses the point about American leadership.

The only reason the P5+1 group gave up on every key demand that it had been making of Iran since the secret talks began in 2013 is that American leadership on the issue collapsed. Both Obama and Kerry were so desperate for a deal that every time Iran said no they simply accepted it lest their plans for détente with the Islamist regime disappear. It is, after all, that naive hope for a new Iran that will be transformed by its contacts with the West that is at the heart of the deal rather than faith in its technical provisions. Without a complete rapprochement with the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism, the deal makes little sense since enriching Iran will empower it to ramp up its backing for Hamas and Hezbollah and aid its drive for regional hegemony.

The only reason the West is now in a position where it must depend on Obama’s hopes about Iran’s future is because it lost faith in American leadership during the last two years. There’s no doubt that the U.S. and the West are in a much weaker position than they were in 2013. But if America were to resume its rightful role as the leader of the fight against Iran rather than becoming its chief enabler that would immediately begin to change.

It also should be noted that if more sanctions won’t work now, why does Kerry think a “snapback” of economic restrictions on Iran would work in the unlikely event that the United Nations and the administration admitted it was cheating.

Though Kerry claims a better agreement is a “unicorn,” as Robert Satloff ably states in The Atlantic, one is not only realistic but also achievable if Washington were to demonstrate sufficient will.

As was repeatedly demonstrated over the last 70 years, given strong American leadership the West can achieve just about anything it needs to do from defeating the Nazis to winning the Cold War. But under Obama America has lost its ability to do so. Recapturing that stance wouldn’t be easy but it would not be impossible as Kerry and Lew claim.

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Moniz Concedes Iran Deal Means More Terror

President Obama’s loose-lipped Energy Secretary has struck again. Physicist Ernest Moniz got in trouble earlier this year when he promised that any nuclear deal with Iran would include “anytime, anywhere” inspections, a pledge that he had to walk back once the U.S. signed off on a pact that, at best, provides Tehran with a 24-day warning period for any visits by the International Atomic Energy Agency. That earned Moniz some scowls from Secretary of State John Kerry who claimed that such a thing was impossible. But Moniz may have really stepped in it yesterday when he told a webcast audience that the administration anticipates an increase in terrorism as a result of the agreement with Iran. Moniz’s admission provides critics of the nuclear deal with a startling admission that backs up their claims that the massive influx of cash into the ayatollahs’ coffers will enable it to increase their support of Hamas and Hezbollah terrorists who are preparing for a war the nation Iran has targeted for elimination: Israel. Most importantly, it debunks the notion that Iran is moderating and won’t take advantage of the pact to undermine the interests of the U.S. and its allies.

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President Obama’s loose-lipped Energy Secretary has struck again. Physicist Ernest Moniz got in trouble earlier this year when he promised that any nuclear deal with Iran would include “anytime, anywhere” inspections, a pledge that he had to walk back once the U.S. signed off on a pact that, at best, provides Tehran with a 24-day warning period for any visits by the International Atomic Energy Agency. That earned Moniz some scowls from Secretary of State John Kerry who claimed that such a thing was impossible. But Moniz may have really stepped in it yesterday when he told a webcast audience that the administration anticipates an increase in terrorism as a result of the agreement with Iran. Moniz’s admission provides critics of the nuclear deal with a startling admission that backs up their claims that the massive influx of cash into the ayatollahs’ coffers will enable it to increase their support of Hamas and Hezbollah terrorists who are preparing for a war the nation Iran has targeted for elimination: Israel. Most importantly, it debunks the notion that Iran is moderating and won’t take advantage of the pact to undermine the interests of the U.S. and its allies.

Moniz is a strong supporter of the deal whose scientific credentials have been used to bolster its arguments that it retards Iran’s progress toward a bomb. But while he has the talking points about the technical aspects of the pact down pat, he strayed off the administration reservation when asked in a webcast sponsored by the Jewish Federations of North America and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs about terror.

As the Times of Israel reports:

We are concerned about some possible escalation in their support for terrorism, meddling in the region in terms of stability. Obviously Hezbollah terrorism is an example.

Secretary Kerry has denied that this is the case and President Obama has similarly ignored the certainty that Iran will use what is anticipated to be at least $56 billion in frozen assets that will be released to it to fund terrorism. Iran’s government and its Revolutionary Guard will also grow richer from the massive influx of foreign investors and businesses interested in profiting from the end of sanctions. But, if, like Obama and Kerry, you believe that Iran’s leaders are too pragmatic to act on their ideology that mandates that they seek Israel’s elimination and to assert hegemony over neighboring Sunni Arab states, then rewarding them with vast sums of money is not a problem. The same is true for the administration’s lackadaisical attitude about Iran’s ballistic missile program, a factor that potentially puts the U.S. and Europe in as much peril from their nuclear program as Israel.

Curiously, Moniz’s faith in the nuclear pact leads him to think that foreclosing the path to a bomb will free up the U.S. to take a more aggressive approach to Iran’s adventurism in the region. But that runs counter to what we’ve been hearing from President Obama. According to the president, Iran’s hateful ideology isn’t an important factor in determining the value of the nuclear deal because he believes it is too self-interested and too fearful of U.S. actions and the re-imposition of sanctions.

How then do we square that kind of optimism with Moniz’s admission?

The obvious answer is that we can’t.

There is no reason to believe that anything is about to change in Iran. To the contrary, by facing down the U.S. in the negotiations and emerging with their nuclear program intact and the end of sanctions, the Islamist regime’s legitimacy has been strengthened. Only two years ago, the theocrats were in trouble with the country’s economy in ruins from sanctions and with seemingly no choice but to surrender their nuclear dreams. But Obama’s zeal for a deal changed all that. Iran now finds itself in a position to give even more assistance to their allies in Syria and Lebanon. As we noted on Wednesday, it is already playing a pivotal role in helping to prepare Hamas for another war against Israel as its funds and equipment have been put to work digging more terror tunnels and strengthening Gazan fortifications.

Moniz told an unfortunate and inconvenient truth about the nuclear yesterday. It remains to be seen whether any of the wavering Congressional Democrats were listening and prepared to draw the only possible conclusions about the nuclear deal from what he said.

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The Coronation Is Off and Democrats are Restless

The 2016 presidential election cycle is upon us, and, up to now, the political media has devoted its focus to the human wrecking ball that is Donald Trump. The near myopic fixation of the press is understandable; they are in the eyeballs business, and Trump gets them – 24 million pairs of them, in fact, tuned into the last Republican presidential debate. But the race for the GOP nomination isn’t the only exciting presidential primary. The Democratic primary race that was once a sleepy coronation with a predetermined outcome has suddenly become not only competitive but also interesting and substantive. It is curious that the many in media have declined to give the contentious contest due notice.  Read More

The 2016 presidential election cycle is upon us, and, up to now, the political media has devoted its focus to the human wrecking ball that is Donald Trump. The near myopic fixation of the press is understandable; they are in the eyeballs business, and Trump gets them – 24 million pairs of them, in fact, tuned into the last Republican presidential debate. But the race for the GOP nomination isn’t the only exciting presidential primary. The Democratic primary race that was once a sleepy coronation with a predetermined outcome has suddenly become not only competitive but also interesting and substantive. It is curious that the many in media have declined to give the contentious contest due notice. 

Just to establish a baseline level of wonderment, it seemed likely Hillary Clinton’s strongest challenger for the Democratic nomination would be former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley as recently as March. The former secretary of state was a juggernaut who enjoyed astronomical levels of support from a committed base of Democratic voters. Those who challenged her were seen as engaged in an endeavor that could most charitably be described as quixotic. If you were inclined toward sympathy, you might have characterized a challenge to Clinton’s dominance as a kamikaze mission. And suicidal is exactly what socialist Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders’ frontal assault on the frontrunner initially looked like.

Flash forward six months, and that assessment of a leftwing populist candidate’s ability to exploit progressive frustration seems downright naïve. Sanders has achieved the impossible in that at least one survey of a critical early primary state, New Hampshire, now shows him leading Clinton by a considerable margin. While Sanders’ surge is certainly due in part to the candidate’s unique brand of far-left politics, his rise is almost certainly also attributable to Clinton’s self-inflicted wounds. Her candidacy has been hamstrung by the slow and constant drip of scandalous revelations regarding her mishandling of classified information on a secret and unauthorized email system while she served as secretary of state. Clinton has also been hurt by the implication that her family foundation solicited high-dollar donations from foreign patrons and governments with the implication that America’s chief diplomat would happily provide quid pro quo. When asked about these matters in the press, Clinton routinely fudges the truth, and her trust ratings in the polls have correspondingly plummeted.

But Sanders’ rise in the polls has not gone unchecked. Those who expected to see pushback against the self-identified socialist from centrist Democrats will be disappointed. Those Democrats who have begun to mobilize in opposition to Sanders are to his left, at least on the single issues to which they are devoted.

Harvard Professor Lawrence Lessig, a campaign finance reform advocate, revealed his intention to run as a Democrat for the White House this week, but only if he successfully raises $1 million from grassroots donors by September. His platform is simple: pass one package of campaign finance reforms, after which he would resign the presidency and hand the office over to his vice president. Don’t think too hard about the fact that the Lessig candidacy is really a stalking-horse for whoever becomes his second, or the ridiculousness of his campaign’s premise and the mockery it makes of presidential politics. As of this writing, with 25 days to go in his fundraising drive, Lessig has raised almost $195,000. His message has takers.

Another group of activists have also begun to vent their frustrations with the Democratic Party and have used Sanders as a convenient foil: the Black Lives Matter movement. “We aren’t reasonable!” shouted the protesters who stormed the stage at a recent Sanders rally in Seattle. “If you do not listen to [us], your event will be shut down.”

“In case anyone missed the memo after Ferguson, Baltimore and Charleston, here it is: the Obama era of black silence on issues that matter to us is over,” wrote former White House advisor Van Jones. “And the entire Democratic Party needs to sit up and take notice.”

The progressive left is involved in as potentially a self-defeating demonstration of angst and frustration with the Democratic Party establishment as anything Donald Trump has whipped up on the right. “For Sanders, all issues come back to economic inequality,” wrote Politico Magazine’s Bill Scher. “For Black Lives Matter, that approach fails to fully confront the centuries-old scourge of institutional racism. For Lessig, only by prioritizing election reform can anything else be solved.” In the press, the coverage the Sanders campaign has generated is largely centered on the mammoth size of the crowds who attend his rallies. What is said at those rallies is, however, of far more objective interest to American voters. Many in the press dismiss Sander’s revolutionary rhetoric as his “standard stump speech,” as though the resurrection of Eugene V. Debs’ platform is of only tertiary interest to the electorate.

All this action on the left is not, however, limited to the progressive movement’s fringes. The press might find the friction inside the more establishmentarian wing of the Democratic Party as compelling. While few Democratic strategists are willing to say as much on the record just yet, liberals are beginning to fret openly in conversations with reporters about Clinton’s declining viability as a candidate. “Coupled with new polls that suggest Clinton is vulnerable, Democrats are nearing full-on panic mode,” The Hill revealed.

Fortunately for panicking Democrats, a savior is waiting in the wings: Vice President Joe Biden.

“From his vacation spot on Kiawah Island, [South Carolina,] Mr. Biden is giving the strongest signal yet that he is actively considering making a third run at the presidency,” the Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday. “He is asking political allies for advice and gauging the strength of Mrs. Clinton’s campaign as he weighs his options, people familiar with the matter said. Mr. Biden is expected to announce his decision next month.”

If Biden does run, he has a compelling narrative propelling him into the race. He is the clear successor to Barack Obama’s legacy; he is most likely to maintain the integrity of the president’s winning coalition of voters; he is fulfilling the final wish of his beloved son who left this world too soon; and, finally, he is rescuing the party from the corruption of the Clintons. The prospect of a Biden run has clearly spooked the Democrats’ erstwhile inevitable nominee.

“The problem is that Joe Biden is a very good guy, and probably has no appeal whatsoever to people under 35,” former Vermont Governor Howard Dean told Today host Matt Lauer on Thursday. “People under 35 elected Barack Obama the President of the United States. That is a key part of the Democratic coalition, along with Latinos and African Americans and Asian Americans.” Dean said he thought it was just “too late” for a Biden candidacy.

That’s desperation you smell. YouGov/Economist opinion survey data since the spring has shown that Biden and Clinton share relatively strong favorability ratings among young voters, African-Americans, and women. In fact, Clinton’s favorability rating with voters age 18-29 in the last YouGov survey collapsed from 52 to just 40 percent. Only 7 percent of younger voters said they held a “very favorable” opinion of the grandmotherly Clinton.

And if the bill wasn’t full enough, Buzzfeed reported on Thursday that former Vice President Al Gore’s advisors are starting to wonder if he needs to step into the race to play messianic liberal redeemer. “They’re figuring out if there’s a path financially and politically,” a Democrat with knowledge of Gore’s thinking told Buzzfeed reporters. “It feels more real than it has in the past months.”

It’s not as crazy as it sounds. Gore’s appeal to the core Democratic constituencies as well as his ability to unite Sanders voters behind his brand of apocalyptic environmentalism would probably catapult him into a competitive place in the race in record time.

If the Democratic primary race is exciting now, it’s likely only to become more thrilling in the autumn. Columnists and television reporters would do well to lay the groundwork today to cover what may soon become as dramatic a contest as the one in which Republicans are currently involved.

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Sesame Street Move Should Mean End of Government TV

Every time Republicans have threatened to end funding for the Public Broadcasting System and its radio cousin at National Public Radio, we all knew what to expect. Liberal supporters of the networks would trot out Big Bird, Elmo, Kermit, and the rest of the adorable “Sesame Street” gang of Muppets. Generations of Americans children have grown up with the PBS show. Rather than being forced to defend the indefensible notion of a taxpayer-funded government broadcasting system in the age of cable and the Internet, the argument instead turned into one about mean conservatives trying to pull the plug on a big yellow bird that everybody loves. Mitt Romney was dogged by liberal demonstrators during his 2012 campaign by people in Big Bird costumes because of his belief that PBS no longer deserved funding. The outcome of such discussions was always a foreordained conclusion. PBS kept the money and rational discourse about the preservation of an obsolete paradigm was shelved. But the next time the GOP tries to defund PBS, and they should the next chance they get, it shouldn’t be possible for Big Bird and his fans to influence the debate. The decision of the Sesame Workshop, the non-profit that operates the show, to move to the HBO premium cable network makes good business sense. It also ought to signal to even the most ideological supporters of the public system that their day is over.

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Every time Republicans have threatened to end funding for the Public Broadcasting System and its radio cousin at National Public Radio, we all knew what to expect. Liberal supporters of the networks would trot out Big Bird, Elmo, Kermit, and the rest of the adorable “Sesame Street” gang of Muppets. Generations of Americans children have grown up with the PBS show. Rather than being forced to defend the indefensible notion of a taxpayer-funded government broadcasting system in the age of cable and the Internet, the argument instead turned into one about mean conservatives trying to pull the plug on a big yellow bird that everybody loves. Mitt Romney was dogged by liberal demonstrators during his 2012 campaign by people in Big Bird costumes because of his belief that PBS no longer deserved funding. The outcome of such discussions was always a foreordained conclusion. PBS kept the money and rational discourse about the preservation of an obsolete paradigm was shelved. But the next time the GOP tries to defund PBS, and they should the next chance they get, it shouldn’t be possible for Big Bird and his fans to influence the debate. The decision of the Sesame Workshop, the non-profit that operates the show, to move to the HBO premium cable network makes good business sense. It also ought to signal to even the most ideological supporters of the public system that their day is over.

Back in the 1960s, when television meant three major national channels and a smattering of independent channels located only in major markets, there was an argument to be made for public broadcasting. With so few choices available to the viewing public, the idea of the government making a modest investment in creating an educational alternative to the broadcast networks. In that context, federal funding for the network that provided a home to shows like Sesame Street, documentaries, classical music and even the quality British imports seen on “Masterpiece Theater” (now called just “Masterpiece”) was defensible. The news programs and the documentaries tended to be dominated by liberal voices. But it should be remembered that the original television news discussion show was also produced by WNET, the New York PBS affiliate. That was William F. Buckley’s long-running “Firing Line,” easily the most literate show in television history and the place where many young Americans (myself included) began their path to conservatism.

But that was then. The advent of cable began the process by which television became more diverse. Today, with satellite and streaming options, there are literally hundreds, if not thousands of options for viewing at any given moment. The variety of choices is endless, including a host of channels devoted to children’s programming as well as every other conceivable niche market. By the same token, PBS stations long ago ceased being the “educational TV” alternative that the original concept behind funding the network embodied. Yes, they still run shows for kids and popular upscale British shows like “Downton Abbey.” But their time is also taken up with the flotsam of broadcasting like “Lawrence Welk Show” reruns and other items that don’t fit into the category of national priorities. It has long been apparent that there is no type of show on these networks that couldn’t be just as easily found elsewhere on the now digital dial.

That’s part of the reason why “Sesame Street” has fled PBS for the greener pastures of HBO where they’ll be able to produce more new episodes every year as well as spinoffs (They will subsequently appear later on PBS as reruns). The notion that “Sesame Street” needed government handouts was always ridiculous since it was, on it’s own, profitable enough to support itself or, as has happened, be lured to a new spot where it could better flourish.

That also should allow us to get back to the basic problem of funding PBS or, for that matter, NPR. In a democracy, a free press (a concept that now embraces broadcast options) is essential. But a government-funded press is inherently unfree. Inevitably it is a creature of bureaucrats and elites. And given its meager resources, it’s no surprise that programming on PBS is influenced by large liberal non-profit foundations that find the government channel a friendly place to push their ideological agendas. Whether the shows on PBS stations are good or not — and many are quite good — there is no reason why the government should be in the television business when there are so many other outlets. The same principle applies to NPR, which, if it is as good as it claims to be, should be able to support itself without having its liberal allies put their hands into the pockets of the taxpayers.

There will be some that argue that having “Sesame Street” move to a premium cable channel is unfair to the poor who may not be able to afford the service. But with cable available almost everywhere and with the vast majority of American households now purchasing it or a satellite alternative (not to mention the growing role of the Internet that may eventually make television as we know it obsolete), the idea that government must fund a channel is simply absurd.

It was long past time for Big Bird to stop being a political argument or a cudgel for liberals like President Obama can use to beat conservatives. The exit of “Sesame Street” from PBS should be the starting point for a new debate about defunding PBS and NPR that won’t be derailed by Muppet sentimentality.

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Clinton Campaign Denial Strategy Not Working

Yesterday, Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign was forced to reach out to her supporters to reassure them that all the news they’ve been hearing about investigations of the candidate’s emails was nothing to worry about. As Politico reported, campaign communications director Jennifer Palmieri fired off a 700-word missive that insisted that the latest bombshells to explode during this summer from hell for the former secretary of state was mere noise they should ignore. Her goal was to keep donors and activists repeating their main talking point: “there is absolutely no criminal inquiry into Hillary’s email or email server.” Clinton loyalists have been conditioned to think of all of her scandals as political attacks from the “vast right wing conspiracy” against the former first family. Yet clinging to the presumption of innocence afforded all those under investigation by the authorities isn’t the ideal stance for a presidential candidate. It may be difficult to believe that the Justice Department of a Democratic administration will ever treat her the way they would anyone else in this position and slam her and her aides with indictments. But at some point the Clinton camp is going to have to realize that denial is not going to be enough to keep her leaky ship afloat.

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Yesterday, Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign was forced to reach out to her supporters to reassure them that all the news they’ve been hearing about investigations of the candidate’s emails was nothing to worry about. As Politico reported, campaign communications director Jennifer Palmieri fired off a 700-word missive that insisted that the latest bombshells to explode during this summer from hell for the former secretary of state was mere noise they should ignore. Her goal was to keep donors and activists repeating their main talking point: “there is absolutely no criminal inquiry into Hillary’s email or email server.” Clinton loyalists have been conditioned to think of all of her scandals as political attacks from the “vast right wing conspiracy” against the former first family. Yet clinging to the presumption of innocence afforded all those under investigation by the authorities isn’t the ideal stance for a presidential candidate. It may be difficult to believe that the Justice Department of a Democratic administration will ever treat her the way they would anyone else in this position and slam her and her aides with indictments. But at some point the Clinton camp is going to have to realize that denial is not going to be enough to keep her leaky ship afloat.

For now, the Clintonistas are sticking to their story that claims that her awful poll results about trust and the rise of an implausible rival has nothing to do with the email scandal. Yet the news this week that Senator Bernie Sanders has already overtaken Clinton in New Hampshire and is beginning to move within striking distance in Iowa should have shaken her. If that wasn’t bad enough, the fact that Gallup shows her net favorability at its lowest point since December 2007 makes it clear that her assumptions about an easy win are falling apart.

The standard explanation for the Sanders surge is that voters are bored and that Democrats want a semblance of a race. Even Sanders’ big crowds and increasingly good poll numbers can be explained away if you believe Democrats will choose Hillary once it’s clear that his candidacy is more than a symbolic protest. But the drip-drip-drip of scandal is eating away at her confidence.

It might have been possible for her campaign to browbeat the New York Times into backing down from its initial story last month about a criminal probe into the email scandal. But this week Clinton was forced to turn over her email server and a thumb drive to the FBI. Even worse, the Inspector General for the Intelligence Community told Congress that at least two of the four emails that were discovered on her wiped home server were classified as being “top secret,” making the possession and transmission of such information a potential crime.

It should be remembered that the explanation for the initial news about the investigation was that it was not Clinton but her aides who were being investigated. But now that we know that Huma Abedin, Clinton’s “shadow” and “keeper” is being put under the legal microscope and lawyering up, the problem can’t be treated as tangential to the candidate.

Though Palmieri told Clinton backers not to read too much into these stories, Clinton is in real peril. But her problems must be separated into two categories.

The first is legal jeopardy. It almost goes without saying that if this were anyone other than a Democratic icon that was being probed, indictments, and public humiliation would be a certainty, as figures like former CIA director David Petraeus could tell Clinton. There seems little doubt that Clinton violated rules and that she and her aides mishandled classified information because of her obsessive desire for secrecy. We can grant her a presumption of innocence and assume there was nothing incriminating in the emails that were deleted and/or wiped from her home server about Benghazi or even the conflicts of interest resulting from donations to the Clinton Family Foundation from those who dealt with the State Department. But the technical violations of security regulations are in and of themselves serious and would, at the very least, be enough to get an ordinary official’s career destroyed.

It is possible that career prosecutors in the Justice Department who are already thinking about their futures after President Obama leaves office might pursue these violations with a vigor they might not have had earlier in his administration. Nor should we doubt the integrity of the FBI personnel who will be working on this case. But it is also hard to believe that Attorney General Loretta Lynch or President Obama will permit the Department to torpedo Clinton with indictments in an election year.

But even if we take it as a given that the criminal probes will go nowhere as long as the Democrats are in power, the political fallout from this can’t be dismissed. It may be that most of those who are already Clinton supporters will simply put their fingers in their ears and ignore the awful news about their candidate no matter how bad it gets. But the erosion in her support is real. Sanders isn’t being embraced by more Democrats because most of them really want a socialist rather than to elect our first female president. Democrats may not listen to anything Republicans say about her, but even they know that virtually everything she said about her emails in her March press conference was a lie.

The more the public sees of Hillary and the more they hear about her behavior, the less they trust or like her. Democrats may think it’s her turn and assume that the enormous amounts of money she and her husband have amassed will, along with their ruthless campaign attack machine, demolish all opponents in her way. But as the news about the server, the security violations, and the government investigations show that she is her own worst enemy. And that is a problem that denials from her staff can’t fix.

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Iran and Russia Play Obama for a Fool

The debate over the Iran nuclear deal in the United States long ago devolved into theater of the absurd – with an emphasis on the word “theater.” Read More

The debate over the Iran nuclear deal in the United States long ago devolved into theater of the absurd – with an emphasis on the word “theater.”

The President of the United States has equated those who are concerned that the proposed accord lacks robust verification protocols and will leave Iran a well-armed, prosperous, threshold nuclear state within a decade of making common cause with the theocrats in Tehran. His aim, to mobilize a devoted core following of far-left liberals in order to pressure Congress not to reject the deal, is transparent. Secretary of State John Kerry has taken to defending the deal not on its merits but by scaring the public into fretting that the value of the dollar might collapse in the wake of a deal’s failure. Oh, and it would simply be bad form to “screw” the mullahs. Even those Democrats who do oppose this accord, like Senator Chuck Schumer, talk in blunt terms about the deal’s downsides but have not gone so far as to attempt to mobilize other influential Democrats against it. For your viewing pleasure, it is a dance in which the appearance of spontaneity is the design of the choreographers.

The terms of the Iran deal have been all but lost in the rote pageantry. Occasionally, though, the terror-supporting regime in Tehran overplays its hand and reminds observers in the West why it cannot be trusted. One such moment recently took place in Moscow, where the head of Iran’s paramilitary Quds force, General Qasem Suleimani, was seen visiting Russian officials. Suleimani has been one of the biggest personal beneficiaries of the Iran nuclear deal. Despite his having been implicated in supplying and training militants responsible for the deaths of U.S. soldiers during the Iraq War, Suleimani will soon see the individual sanctions on him lifted.

“Gen. Qasem Soleimani will have his travel ban lifted and foreign assets unfrozen — sanctions imposed by the UN — if the deal goes as planned,” ABC News reported in July. “It was not immediately clear where he would be allowed to travel or which assets would be unfrozen under the deal.”

But while the United Nations has already approved of relieving the sanctions on the Iranian regime, they have not yet removed restrictions on individuals, like the 2007 resolution inhibiting Suleimani’s travel. It is grimly humorous that the State Department has responded to this provocation from Suleimani and Moscow by invoking that virtually defunct UNSC resolution. State Department spokesman Mark Toner told the New York Times that Foggy Bottom corresponded with their Russian counterparts, complained about Suleimani’s visit, and pledged to work through the Security Council to investigate and resolve the matter. Toner would perhaps find it a more productive use of his time to scream his protestations into a pillow.

“You know, the U.N. sanctions on Suleimani do remain in effect, so we call on all countries to respect and enforce designation made under U.N. Security Council resolutions,” Toner meekly griped.

“General Suleimani has long been of concern to the United States,” the Times reported. “In 2011, the Treasury Department put him on its sanctions list after the Obama administration charged that he had been involved in a plot to kill Adel al-Jubeir, a former Saudi ambassador in Washington who is now Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister. The Treasury Department has also subjected him to sanctions for his role in Syria and for the Quds force’s support for the Taliban and other militant groups.”

It is not merely Suleimani’s flagrant display of contempt for the United Nations and the West that’s troubling, but also Russia’s. It was Moscow that demanded the missile and arms embargos on Iran be lifted as part of a last-minute condition to the Iran nuclear deal – a stipulation that will likely result in greatly increased profits to the Russian defense sector. What the United States received in exchange was, supposedly, a Russia that would be a reliable enforcer of the terms of the deal and a guarantor of the consequences associated with non-compliance. Suleimani’s Moscow visit in violation of the UN sanctions confirms what any observer even remotely acquainted with Russian grand strategy already knows: Moscow has no intention of ever punishing Iran for failing to abide by the terms of the nuclear deal.

“Russia (and others) will have a stake in sustaining access to Iran’s markets, not re-imposing sanctions,” Charles Duelfer, a former CIA official in charge of overseeing Iraq’s WMD programs, wrote in April. “The track record of [President Vladimir] Putin and [Russian Foreign Minister Sergei] Lavrov in the Iraq case suggests that they will be working bi-lateral deals with Tehran.”

Russia’s casual defiance of the West confirms the wisdom of the fatalists. Not only is the Iran deal a fait accompli, but the sanctions regime will never “snap back.” In July, shortly after the terms of the deal were revealed to the public, Lavrov announced to the Russian public that President Barack Obama would now have to make good on his pledge to abandon plans for missile defense systems in Europe because the Iranian nuclear program had been “successfully regulated.” The Kremlin’s utter disregard for the cautious political dance underway in the West is revealing.

Iran is playing the United States for a sucker. Russia views America as a paper tiger to be disregarded. And all the administration can do is feign insult and pledge to take their grievances to the United Nations, where they will die a quiet and ignominious death. If this White House were still capable of embarrassment, this development would inspire fits of it. Perhaps the members of this administration are just too busy calling opponents of the Iran deal traitors to notice how they have enabled America’s true adversaries to outmaneuver them.

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Etgar Keret’s Blood Libel and the Price of Political Purism

In the almost two weeks since Jewish Israelis allegedly killed two Palestinians and a Gay Pride marcher in two separate attacks, much has been written about the hypocrisy of the international response. COMMENTARY contributor Jonathan Neumann offered another incisive contribution to this genre in the Times of Israel just yesterday. But in my view, the prize for most hypocritical reaction goes to Etgar Keret’s essay in the New York Times last week. And the problem with it goes far deeper than mere double standards about terrorism. Read More

In the almost two weeks since Jewish Israelis allegedly killed two Palestinians and a Gay Pride marcher in two separate attacks, much has been written about the hypocrisy of the international response. COMMENTARY contributor Jonathan Neumann offered another incisive contribution to this genre in the Times of Israel just yesterday. But in my view, the prize for most hypocritical reaction goes to Etgar Keret’s essay in the New York Times last week. And the problem with it goes far deeper than mere double standards about terrorism.

In a piece entitled “Do Israelis Still Care About Justice?” Keret lamented the relatively sparse attendance at an anti-violence rally in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square after the murders and concluded that Israelis must not see anything too terrible about hate crimes. “How is it possible that fewer people would come to demonstrate against the murder of children and innocent people than to demonstrate against the high cost of housing or the halt to building in the settlements?” he asked.

But the answer to that disingenuous question is evident in the very photo the Times chose to illustrate the piece, and it has nothing to do with indifference to murder. It has to do with the left’s decree that nobody is allowed to object to murder unless they’re willing to check any non-leftist political and religious convictions at the door.

The picture prominently featured two English-language signs reading “Settlements destroy Israel” and “Settlements create violence.” And this accurately reflects the nature of the demonstration. It was organized by Peace Now, which believes Israel must quit the West Bank immediately. The only invited speakers were left-wing politicians who share this view. Then, not content with merely excluding Israel’s center-right majority, the speakers actively declared it persona non grata. “I say to Netanyahu and to MKs from the right: We don’t want your condemnations, and we don’t want your soul-searching,” Meretz party chairwoman Zehava Galon declared.

Benjamin Netanyahu just won his third consecutive election; in pre-election polls, an absolute majority of Israelis repeatedly deemed him the most qualified candidate for prime minister. In that same election, center-right politicians won 56 percent of all Knesset seats, and 63 percent of those won by Jewish parties. Years of polling have found that most Israelis no longer consider “peace now” feasible in light of serial Palestinian rejectionism and the rampant terror sparked by previous withdrawals.

Yet this absolute majority of Israelis was unwelcome in Rabin Square unless they were willing to spend an entire evening being ostracized, collectively accused of murder and told their political views were beyond the pale – and this was made completely clear in advance. And Keret wonders why most of them chose to forgo this pleasure?

Nor were things any different at the anti-violence rally organized by the LGBT community in Tel Aviv’s Gan Meir that same night. Organizers nixed a planned appearance by Naftali Bennett, head of the religious Zionist Jewish Home party. They refused to let another MK from his party take the stand. And while they did let a secular MK from the ruling center-right Likud party address the crowd, he “was booed incessantly during his speech and protesters waved red-stained gloves at him, which were meant to indicate he had blood on his hands,” the Jerusalem Post reported.

In short, here, too, the center-right majority was both excluded and vilified. And then Keret wonders why many chose not to attend.

In the left’s view, it seems, you can’t oppose the murder of Palestinians if you aren’t prepared to recant your political and/or religious concerns about territorial withdrawals. And you can’t oppose the murder of Gay Pride marchers if you aren’t prepared to recant your political/religious concerns about some or all of the LGBT community’s demands. To be blunt, this is ridiculous: People shouldn’t have to agree on policy in order to join hands in condemning murder.

Nor, unfortunately, is this particular sickness confined to the left. I’ve heard plenty of rightists condemn political opponents as “anti-Zionists,” even if said opponents have long track records of contributing to or advocating for the Jewish state.

Any decent person should denounce Keret’s effort to paint Israelis who doesn’t share his politics as acquiescing in murder. But the center-right should also learn from his mistake. Accomplishing anything usually requires building coalitions among people who may disagree fiercely on other issues. People who insist on political purism are liable to find themselves exactly where Keret did: standing in a half-empty square and wondering why so few other people chose to join them.

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Can You Criticize Trump Without Insulting His Fans?

Give Donald Trump credit. By picking a fight with Fox News’ Megyn Kelly after last week’s Republican presidential debate, he skillfully changed the subject from his own terrible performance to one about a supposed biased forum in which he could play the victim. On the stage in Cleveland, he did nothing to give viewers the impression that he had the temperament or the knowledge of the issues to successfully compete in a general election let alone serve as commander-in-chief. But in employing his trademark bullying tactics as well as by making a vulgar comment about Kelly (that he later disingenuously claimed was innocent), Trump showed us that he is a master manipulator of the media. But the question to be asked about all of this is not so much whether his lead in the polls will last, but whether it’s ever going to be possible to speak or write honestly about Trump without such criticism being interpreted as a defense of the establishment or an unfair attack on voters who are fed up with business as usual in Washington? The answer is that as long as Trump is controlling the conversation, the answer may, unfortunately, be no.

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Give Donald Trump credit. By picking a fight with Fox News’ Megyn Kelly after last week’s Republican presidential debate, he skillfully changed the subject from his own terrible performance to one about a supposed biased forum in which he could play the victim. On the stage in Cleveland, he did nothing to give viewers the impression that he had the temperament or the knowledge of the issues to successfully compete in a general election let alone serve as commander-in-chief. But in employing his trademark bullying tactics as well as by making a vulgar comment about Kelly (that he later disingenuously claimed was innocent), Trump showed us that he is a master manipulator of the media. But the question to be asked about all of this is not so much whether his lead in the polls will last, but whether it’s ever going to be possible to speak or write honestly about Trump without such criticism being interpreted as a defense of the establishment or an unfair attack on voters who are fed up with business as usual in Washington? The answer is that as long as Trump is controlling the conversation, the answer may, unfortunately, be no.

The key point to understand about the debate is that you don’t complain about the moderators unless you think you lost. Instead of noticing that he had no good answers to some very legitimate questions, Trump’s fans rallied to his defense even if meant they had to swallow absurd party line that Kelly and the other Fox moderators were biased RINOs or liberal saboteurs. Such charges against that network and these particular journalists requires a conspiratorial mindset that seems all too familiar on the right these days. Had Kelly, Brett Baier, and Chris Wallace grilled Hillary Clinton on her weak points the way they did with Trump, the same people hurling abuse at Kelly would cheer her. Of course, Clinton won’t go anywhere near Fox for that very reason.

But Trump knows that the best defense is a good offense, and, rather than absorb his embarrassment, he lashed out as he has always done against anyone who dared question him. The post-debate scrum was perfect for Trump since it tapped into the anger that leads many of his supporters to support him in the first place. Part of the reason people seem to like Trump is that he does play for keeps in the sense that his only reaction to opposition is always to eviscerate it no matter the source or the issue.

For many on the right, their frustration about the inability of Republicans to stop President Obama from implementing his policies has become as great as their anger at the administration. Trying to explain that absent a 60-seat majority in the Senate, the GOP can’t even pass anything through both Houses is the sort of technical argument for which they have no patience. Trying to tell them that the Founders they claim to revere actually approved of the kind of gridlock that results from divided government is equally futile. Working within the political system is not only the constitutional path to follow; it’s the only way conservatives have to hinder the liberal project. Yet what some in the base want most is a sign that their leaders are as angry as they. And that’s where Trump, with his truculent braggadocio, comes in.

Anger seems to be the lingua franca of American politics these days. Tea Partiers rage against the ability of Obama to implement his health care law and to unilaterally change the immigration laws without Congress being able to stop him. Liberals are expressing it by backing Bernie Sanders rather than meekly going along with the coronation of Hillary Clinton. Go further to the left, and you have protest movements like Black Lives Matter and, before that, Occupy Wall Street. Listen closely to all of them and you hear that same undercurrent of dissatisfaction and impatience not just with the failure of politicians but also with politics itself.

Into that void has stepped, an intemperate man who seems suited for the times. Unencumbered by any political experience, a record or even any well thought out positions, he simply jabs away at all comers. Unlike everyone else he’s so rich and famous that nothing can constrain his fury or even force him to apologize for saying things that other people would be destroyed for uttering. Having watched so many others broken for saying impolitic things, watching someone who can do as they like is liberating. That not only explains Trump’s popularity but also why his supporters don’t back away when he says something foolish, wrong or just plain offensive. Some seem to have bought into the notion that anger gives him permission to behave indecently, as was the case with his comments to and about Kelly.

But the problem for Republicans isn’t so much the threat that Trump might actually win the nomination or even what I still think is a very good chance that he will eventually run as an independent because he isn’t capable of accepting defeat. It’s that, in the course of the debate about Trump’s suitability for the presidency, many of his supporters have come to perceive any criticism of their hero as an affront to themselves. As long as they are lashing out at what they perceive to be the establishment (a term that has become so amorphous that it now appears to include even those people and institutions like Fox that afflict the very liberal establishment conservatives oppose), they don’t seem to care about Trump’s obvious shortcomings. Worse than that, their anger causes them to embrace Trump’s incivility as a virtue even though they know, contrary to the candidate’s claims, neither ISIS nor a porous border justify behavior that is a function of his unrestrained ego rather than principle.

So let’s make something clear. Voters have every reason to be dissatisfied with the current situation. In particular, conservatives are not wrong to recall the way George W. Bush and the Republican Congressional majorities of his time spent like drunken sailors throughout much of the last decade. The GOP should be held accountable. But so should Trump. Like it or not, he’s in politics now and must answer the same tough and intrusive questions about what he has said and done as everyone else in his new profession. He should not be allowed to get away with bullying questioners or critics any more than the other Republicans.

If Trump fans think he is presidential material, I’m at a loss as to wonder why they would think that, but democracy is about choice and they are entitled to theirs. And when Republican voters ultimately choose someone else, as I think is likely, those conservatives who actually want to prevent the election of another Democrat will need to remember that Trump’s fate should not be confused with that of the conservative movement. Just as he needs to learn to stop taking the normal give and take of political debate personally, so, too, must his fans.

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Desperate Schumer Gives Us His Real Answer

Senator Chuck Schumer has heard from the White House and its left-wing cheerleaders for the nuclear deal with Iran. Last week he announced his opposition to the pact in terms that make clear how dangerous it is because there is no sign that Iran is changing and the U.S. “would be better off” without it. Refusing President Obama’s demand that he back the deal was no easy thing for a highly partisan Democrat slated to become his party’s Senate leader in 2017. But, as Politico reports, Schumer is covering all his bases. The furious pushback from the administration against him is sending a strong signal not only about the current Iran vote but to intimidate pro-Israel Democrats from dissenting from what will follow against Israel as Obama pursues an Iran-centric policy in the Middle East. But instead of showing real courage — and perhaps risking his chance to succeed Harry Reid – Schumer is assuring other senators that he has no intention of trying to influence their votes. What might have been a Profiles in Courage moment for Schumer is turning into an undignified humiliation.

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Senator Chuck Schumer has heard from the White House and its left-wing cheerleaders for the nuclear deal with Iran. Last week he announced his opposition to the pact in terms that make clear how dangerous it is because there is no sign that Iran is changing and the U.S. “would be better off” without it. Refusing President Obama’s demand that he back the deal was no easy thing for a highly partisan Democrat slated to become his party’s Senate leader in 2017. But, as Politico reports, Schumer is covering all his bases. The furious pushback from the administration against him is sending a strong signal not only about the current Iran vote but to intimidate pro-Israel Democrats from dissenting from what will follow against Israel as Obama pursues an Iran-centric policy in the Middle East. But instead of showing real courage — and perhaps risking his chance to succeed Harry Reid – Schumer is assuring other senators that he has no intention of trying to influence their votes. What might have been a Profiles in Courage moment for Schumer is turning into an undignified humiliation.

As I wrote yesterday, given that Schumer’s vote isn’t likely to make a difference in voting the deal down, the over-the-top nature of the attacks on the New York Senator seems disproportionate. But it makes sense, since the motivation for that anger is partly the result of Obama’s intolerant nature and partly his desire to send a message to pro-Israel Democrats that any further dissent from his Iran détente policies won’t be tolerated.

The pitch to Democrats from the administration on Iran has been clear: the deal is good, but whether you agree or not, voting against it is an insult to the president that will be treated as an act of rank disloyalty. Thus, part of the reason for the nasty nature of the attacks on Schumer has been just the reflex instinct of the president to exact revenge on all those who challenge him. As even a supporter of the deal like Ruth Marcus wrote today in the Washington Post, the scorched earth approach reflects the way Obama has become an angry and embittered man during his years in the White House.

But the subtext to that anger is the way the president has escalated what seemed to begin as a feud with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu into one that embraced the entire pro-Israel community. Obama hasn’t hesitated to use incendiary language that seeks to delegitimize AIPAC and others seeking to influence members of the House and the Senate to stick to their principles and their campaign promises about Iran and vote no on the deal. The notion that the debate on the Iran is between Israel and its friends on one side and the whole world is not only false since most of the Arab world agrees it is terrible. It is also part of an administration pivot away from the Jewish state in the Middle East as part of an attempt to create détente with Iran. Thus winning the vote on the deal isn’t just about the nuclear issue. It is also the start of a fight about the future of American foreign policy.

But in attacking Schumer for what they claim is opposing the deal on strictly political grounds, the White House may not be entirely wrong. If he really believed everything he said in his statement about voting no, he would be going all out to rally other pro-Israel Democrats to join him. Having the current number three Senate Democrat lead the charge against the deal would have provided cover for other members of his party. Had he not been forced to resign as ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee, New Jersey’s Robert Menendez might have played that role. But after the Justice Department indicted Menendez on corruption charges, no Democrat has stepped up to fill the void he left on Iran.

But by going to ground and then quietly assuring the other members of his caucus that he won’t be active on the issue, Schumer is signalling that the only reason he is voting no is to avoid the criticism that would have rained down on his head from his constituents had he gone along with the president. He can now said he voted no and even suffered abuse for doing so. But he is also showing that he is more worried about liberals depriving him of the post of Democratic Senate leader than he is about an Iranian bomb or support for terrorism.

Far from demonstrating independence, Schumer’s quiet “no” is also showing that pro-Israel Democrats can be intimidated. That will encourage the president to get even tougher on Israel once he wins the Iran vote.

Announcing his opposition to the deal might have been the moment when Schumer could have revived the Scoop Jackson wing of the Democratic Party. Instead, he is showing us that singling out the Jewish state and appeasing Iran is no longer something pro-Israel Democrats are willing to fight about.

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Obama Sacrifices the Democratic Brand to His Legacy

One of the most remarkable accomplishments of the Obama presidency is that he has undermined virtually all of the few but nevertheless enduring foreign policy achievements of Jimmy Carter’s administration. But the latest example of the Obama administration’s shortsighted effort to slough off the vestiges of the past regardless of their merit is perhaps the most egregious.  Read More

One of the most remarkable accomplishments of the Obama presidency is that he has undermined virtually all of the few but nevertheless enduring foreign policy achievements of Jimmy Carter’s administration. But the latest example of the Obama administration’s shortsighted effort to slough off the vestiges of the past regardless of their merit is perhaps the most egregious. 

The Egypt that Jimmy Carter inherited from Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford was one that was eagerly trying to rid itself of Soviet domination. Carter, Cyrus Vance, and Zbigniew Brzezinski helped complete the process of midwifing a Cairo that was oriented toward the West and shepherding into existence the Camp David Accord that resulted in the normalization of Egypt’s relations with Israel. Today, Obama’s confused approach to Egypt has thrust it back into the Russian orbit. Similarly, the Obama administration’s attempts to transform Iran into a responsible and dominant regional actor have alienated the Sunni monarchies and driven them closer to Israel. But this rapprochement was achieved in spite of U.S. policy rather than as a result of it, and Washington now finds itself mistrusted by a variety of key actors in the Middle East. Finally, and perhaps most lamentably, the Obama administration has sacrificed one of the Carter White House’s proudest achievements – making human rights considerations a pillar of American grand strategy.

To hear Brzezinski tell it, regard for human rights was a secondary consideration for those who crafted American foreign policy before 1977. That’s not entirely accurate, but it is true that the Carter team did elevate the issue to prominence in otherwise unrelated dealings with foreign governments. This was a particularly effective tool with regard to bilateral relations with the Soviets. “I will not hide the fact that I thought there was some instrumental utility in our pursuit of human rights vis-à-vis the Soviet Union,” Brzezinski said several years after the Hammer and Sickle was furled for the last time. “And raising the issue of human rights pointed to one of the fundamental weaknesses of the Soviet system – namely, that it was a system based on oppression.”

The Republican and Democratic administrations that followed Carter’s apparently appreciated having this new diplomatic instrument in their toolbox. All administrations have, to one degree or another, elevated concern for human right and the repression of dissident elements inside repressive regimes to a place of deserved prominence. Barack Obama’s administration has squandered that legacy.

Obama chose to ignore what could have been a regime-toppling uprising in what came to be remembered as Iran’s Green Revolution in 2009. The president came into office with the intention of ushering in a thaw in relations with Iran and made repeated overtures to the country’s former president, the nakedly anti-Semitic and reckless Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. For fear of offending a regime that had taken to beating people in the streets, Obama could only muster that he was “deeply troubled” by the violence. Five days later, he issued a statement calling on Tehran to pull back from the brink, but made no effort to contend, as have past American presidents, that he stood with the demonstrators as they faced down an immoral and repressive brand of authoritarianism.

A similar rebellion in Venezuela that might have proved fatal to the throwback caudillos in Caracas was also a matter of little regard for this White House. There, a bloody rebellion in the streets only belatedly resulted in some attention from this administration. The handful of officials in Nicolas Maduro’s administration who were sanctioned as a result of their brutal attacks on Venezuelan demonstrators are today comfortable and secure in a pacified socialist paradise.

Barack Obama chose to ignore the plight of journalists and opposition figures in Russia in 2009 in favor of his “Reset,” a policy that now looks more like the appeasement of a revanchist autocrat than anything since the 1930s. Many of the figures that dared criticize the Kremlin who were lucky enough not to get a bullet in the back of the head today find themselves behind prison walls. Betrayed by a Washington that seemed to care for little more than a grand diplomatic victory to tout, the Russian opposition had to look outside Washington for inspiration and support. Today, Europe is again at war, and the dissidents who are subject to cautious retaliation from the regime in 2009 are today meeting their fates out in the open and within steps of the Kremlin walls.

The president who once declared that Bashar al-Assad “must go” now seems eager to entertain ways in which the West can work with him, or at least tacitly accept his authority, in order to address the larger threat to global stability that resulted from his feckless refusal to follow up on a self-imposed “red line” for action. Under Obama’s watch, the use of chemical weapons on civilians and combatants with impunity has become an ugly precedent.

The story is as familiar as it is nearly ubiquitous. Repression and authoritarianism are on the rise in countries like China, Turkey, and Burma. But it is this White House’s Cuba policy that is the most grossly contemptuous toward America’s legacy of championing human rights.

In service to the administration’s project of moving on from the Cold War and opening Cuba up to American business and tourism, this White House has gone to great lengths to sweep the Castro brothers’ human rights abuses under the rug.

The latest offense to the sensibilities of those who favor a human rights component to American foreign policy occurred on Wednesday when the Associated Press revealed that Barack Obama’s administration had no intention of inviting any Cuban dissidents to the opening of America’s first post-Revolution embassy in Havana on Friday. Lest the White House offend the repressive communist oligarchy in control of the island prison nation, the United States – once the shining city – will request that those who suffer under the regime’s totalitarian leaders kindly remain in the shadows.

“The Cuban opposition has occupied the center of U.S. policy toward the island since the nations cut diplomatic relations in 1961,” the AP reported. “The Cuban government labels its domestic opponents as traitorous U.S. mercenaries. As the two countries have moved to restore relations, Cuba has almost entirely stopped meeting with American politicians who visit dissidents during trips to Havana.”

It is one thing to unshackle American strategic planning from the obligations of the past, but it is quite another to consign the oppressed peoples of the world to enslavement and repression in pursuit of expedience. Posterity will not look kindly on Barack Obama’s determination to overlook human rights abuses in favor of his grander vision for America’s strategic priorities. And when they take full stock of the decades of legacy achievements he has squandered, Obama’s fellow Democrats will be equally nonplused by his conduct of foreign affairs.

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Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio Outline Their Foreign Policy Visions

While the clown car that is the Donald Trump campaign continues to careen around the stage, drawing outsize media attention, the serious candidates for the Republican nomination are putting forward serious proposals that deserve more serious consideration than they are getting. Just in the last few days, Jeb Bush has given a substantive speech on how he would handle Syria and Iraq, and Foreign Affairs published a substantive article by Marco Rubio articulating his broad foreign policy vision. (Full disclosure: I have advised both candidates on foreign policy.) Read More

While the clown car that is the Donald Trump campaign continues to careen around the stage, drawing outsize media attention, the serious candidates for the Republican nomination are putting forward serious proposals that deserve more serious consideration than they are getting. Just in the last few days, Jeb Bush has given a substantive speech on how he would handle Syria and Iraq, and Foreign Affairs published a substantive article by Marco Rubio articulating his broad foreign policy vision. (Full disclosure: I have advised both candidates on foreign policy.)

The attention devoted to Bush’s speech yesterday at the Reagan library has focused mainly on his criticisms of Hillary Clinton’s record on Iraq. I addressed that issue in a separate blog post. But what’s worth stressing is that this was only a short passage in a much meatier speech that laid out concrete proposals for addressing the problems of Iraq and Syria in a way that Clinton has not yet done.

On Iraq, Bush called for doing more to support not only the Iraqi Security Forces but also the Sunni tribes and Kurdish Peshmerga. He also called for sending tactical air controllers to call in air strikes and allowing our advisers to embed with Iraqi military personnel on operations in the way that Canadian Special Forces already do. He did not spell out exactly how much of a troop commitment he would make to Iraq, but he did say “more may well be needed” (beyond the 3,500 already there), even if he also said, “We do not need, and our friends do not ask for, a major commitment of American combat forces.”

On Syria, he called for expanded efforts to train and equip moderate rebels, creating “multiple safe zones,” and a no-fly zone. The last point is especially important. Bush spelled out the importance of a no-fly zone: “Enforce that no-fly zone, and we’ll stop the regime’s bombing raids that kill helpless civilians.  It could also keep Iranian flights from resupplying the regime, Hizballah, and other bad actors.  A no-fly zone is a critical strategic step to cut off Assad, counter Iranian influence, keep the pressure on for a settlement, and prevent more needless death in a country that has seen so much of it.” Those arguments are strong ones, but even though a no-fly zone has been on the drawing board of years, Obama has never pulled the trigger. Bush said he would. That’s an important commitment.

Bush also made another important commitment: to begin rebuilding the armed forces from the Draconian budget cuts enforced as part of the mindless sequestration process that Obama and the Congress have instituted and refuse to roll back—even if Bush did not commit to a particular level of defense spending.

Meanwhile, in the new issue of Foreign Affairs, Marco Rubio lays out his foreign policy vision for confronting “the residual effects of President Obama’s foreign and defense policies.” His goal is to “restore the post-1945 bipartisan presidential tradition of a strong and engaged America while adjusting it to meet the new realities of a globalized world.”

His policy has three pillars: first, restoring American strength (which would involve, for a start, rescinding the deeply flawed nuclear agreement with Iran), protecting the open international trade system, and displaying “moral clarity regarding America’s core values.” Interestingly (and courageously), Rubio wants to promote freedom in China, an issue that the U.S. government normally shies away form. “By advancing the three pillars of my foreign policy,” Rubio concludes, “I intend to restore American leadership to a world badly in need of it and defend our interests in what I’m confident will be another American century.”

Obviously this is an overarching vision and a lot of details need to be filled in—but Rubio has shown his mastery of precisely such details in past interviews (including a notable showdown with Charlie Rose at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York) and there is no doubt he will shine on the specifics in future debates.

The important point is that Rubio has articulated a compelling foreign policy vision, and Bush has articulated a compelling strategy for dealing with the messes that Obama has presided over in Iraq and Syria. This is a long way removed from Donald Trump’s bar-stool aphorisms — e.g., his strategy for dealing with ISIS: “Now we go in, we knock the hell out of them, take the oil, we thereby take their wealth. They have so much money.”

Rubio and Bush, along with other Republican candidates such as Scott Walker and Chris Christie, are laying out a serious and compelling vision for dealing with our most pressing foreign policy problems, something that Hillary Clinton, who has more foreign policy experience than any of the Republicans, has yet to do. Too bad all of the press attention continues to be riveted on Trump’s latest vulgarities.

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The Hillary Email Scandal Goes Deeper than Hillary

It now appears that material with various levels of classification up to and including “Top Secret” material made it into Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s personal server. At issue isn’t simply illegally shielding Clinton correspondence from the historical record and contravening clear U.S. law on the subject, something basic competence would suggest that Clinton as a lawyer and her team of elite lawyers must have understood. Read More

It now appears that material with various levels of classification up to and including “Top Secret” material made it into Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s personal server. At issue isn’t simply illegally shielding Clinton correspondence from the historical record and contravening clear U.S. law on the subject, something basic competence would suggest that Clinton as a lawyer and her team of elite lawyers must have understood.

Nor can Clinton be the only target of alleged malfeasance. Here’s the problem: if the Clinton emails included satellite imagery and classified documents, it required a whole chain of illicit behavior.

The U.S. government uses different computer systems to handle various levels of classification. Generally speaking, unclassified material appears on one terminal, confidential and secret material on another, and top secret and sensitive compartmentalized information on a third. Different agencies have different systems that are not always compatible. The reason for the different systems is to avoid the accidental mixing of material of different classifications. It is not possible, for example, to simply cut-and-paste confidential let alone top-secret material onto an unclassified email.

This means, then, that for material to be transferred into an email capable of reaching Clinton’s server, it had to be physically transferred from one terminal to another. Given the scale of alleged violations, this must have occurred multiple times.

Here are a few issues to consider:

  • How did cut-and-paste jobs from one terminal to another occur? Did Clinton aides use thumb drives in clear violation of rules and regulations meant to defend the system from foreign attack?
  • If they did use thumb drives, why did the State Department not disable the USB ports not disabled on government computers?
  • Alternately, even if the Clinton aides used CDs, why was there not monitoring to protect against illicit downloads? After all, government computer systems are subject to security monitoring for just that purpose.
  • The FBI may have confiscated a thumb drive containing Clinton emails, but what happened to the CDs or USBs used to transfer documents? After all, put any disk, CD, or USB into a government computer and it automatically attains the highest classification of that computer.

Because of the political interest of the case, the media will focus on Hillary Clinton. But, the security angle of the case involves a far wider net, including not only Clinton’s aides and those sending or receiving emails that failed to report the violations, but also the State Department’s security office that failed at its duty to maintain the most basic control over its systems.

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Distorting the Truth About Iran and Israel

No serious observer contends that the Iranian people, like any other group on the planet, all speak with one voice about any issue. Nor is it extraordinary to learn that some of them might express a wide range of views about Israel and the United States. But to contend that the existence of some level of dissent in Iran from the positions of its government shows that the country’s policies are changing or that it is not actively seeking the destruction of Israel is to tell a lie. That’s exactly what the New York Times did today when it published a story headlined, “Reporting from Iran, Jewish Paper Sees No Plot to Destroy Israel.” The “Jewish Paper” is the Forward, which dispatched reporter Larry Cohler-Esses to the Islamist state for a weeklong visit. Cohler-Esses’ story has something of the feel of the articles produced in the past by those who visit tyrannical states in the hope of producing favorable coverage intended to blunt the revulsions of the democratic world. But while there is much to criticize in the piece, it does not claim to prove that there is “no plot to destroy Israel.” That is entirely the Times’ invention. It demonstrates how the flagship of the mainstream liberal media will seize upon the pretext to back up President Obama’s false characterizations of Iran and its leadership as posing no real threat to Israel.

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No serious observer contends that the Iranian people, like any other group on the planet, all speak with one voice about any issue. Nor is it extraordinary to learn that some of them might express a wide range of views about Israel and the United States. But to contend that the existence of some level of dissent in Iran from the positions of its government shows that the country’s policies are changing or that it is not actively seeking the destruction of Israel is to tell a lie. That’s exactly what the New York Times did today when it published a story headlined, “Reporting from Iran, Jewish Paper Sees No Plot to Destroy Israel.” The “Jewish Paper” is the Forward, which dispatched reporter Larry Cohler-Esses to the Islamist state for a weeklong visit. Cohler-Esses’ story has something of the feel of the articles produced in the past by those who visit tyrannical states in the hope of producing favorable coverage intended to blunt the revulsions of the democratic world. But while there is much to criticize in the piece, it does not claim to prove that there is “no plot to destroy Israel.” That is entirely the Times’ invention. It demonstrates how the flagship of the mainstream liberal media will seize upon the pretext to back up President Obama’s false characterizations of Iran and its leadership as posing no real threat to Israel.

Coming to grips with the reality of the anti-Semitism and hate that is at the heart of Iranian foreign policy is a difficult problem for the administration. It has struck an agreement with Iran that, at best, merely postpones the moment when the Islamist regime will get a nuclear bomb while granting its nuclear program international approval. It also gives it a lucrative cash bonus in the form of perhaps $100 billion in unfrozen assets and the relaxation of sanctions that will enrich the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism. The fact that this deal will give material aid to Iran’s terrorist campaign against Israel while leaving open the door to it eventually gaining the ability to wipe out the Jewish state with a nuclear weapon ought to trouble President Obama’s supporters. Some, like The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg, struggle to justify the blithe assertions from Obama that Iran’s Supreme Leader Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is “just a politician.” Obama and Secretary of State Kerry treat Khamenei’s ideology, statements and even Iran’s history of acting on his murderous goals as unimportant. They believe the chance for détente with the West, which is obviously in Iran’s best interests will always override other considerations.

Goldberg wrongly claims there are no real alternatives to the Iran deal but, unlike Obama, he understands that concerns about Iran are not purely the function of fear but rooted in reality. Just as important, he is aware that by framing the argument about Iran as one between “Jewish special interests” and “the rest of the world,” the administration and its cheerleaders are empowering anti-Semites in the Middle East as well as possibly here at home. Unfortunately, Goldberg is too much a prisoner of his own liberalism and support for Obama’s vision to draw the proper conclusions from this or the flaws in the Iran deal. He thinks it would be a good idea if it made more of an effort to signal that it knows it is dealing with vicious anti-Semites and terror supporters. But that is exactly what Obama and Kerry can’t do because they are so wedded to their vision of détente with those anti-Semites.

Which leads us back to Cohler-Esses’ story.

Let’s acknowledge that his piece is not an updated version of Roger Cohen’s disgraceful whitewash of Iranian anti-Semitism published in the New York Times in 2009. The Forward seems to be aware that by sending a reporter to Iran, it was opening itself up to a charge of engaging in that kind of pilgrimage journalism. There is enough context and disclaimers in the piece to insulate Cohler-Esses against accusations of being another Cohen, let alone a new Walter Duranty (who won a Pulitzer Prize for the Times with reports from Stalin’s Soviet Union that denied the terror famine in Ukraine in order to burnish the image of the Communist state).

Cohler-Esses interviewed an interesting cross-section of Iranians and found that many were not interested in conflict with the United States or to wage war on anyone. Their attitudes toward the U.S. government and Israel were negative — and a product of Iranian government propaganda — but that vestiges of the gentler sentiments of pre-revolutionary Iran toward the Jews and perhaps even Americans are still there.

The Forward writer’s personal memories of life in Iran before the revolution (he taught English there for two years in the 1970s) make him far too sympathetic to his subject to be viewed as an objective observer of the nation. He seizes on any hint of moderation — whether toward accepting Israel’s existence or skepticism or opposition to the Iranian government — to give us an account of life in the country that puts such dissent in the context of a tyrannical state where human rights are not respected. It’s a sloppy mix of reporting, opinion and analysis that confuses as much as it enlightens. But for all of its problems and his obvious sympathy for the concept of détente with Iran, this is not a Duranty-style whitewash.

We shouldn’t be surprised that a lot of Iranians are willing to say things that contradict at least some of what their government puts out. After all, we all saw the pictures of tens of thousands of Iranians taking to the streets of Tehran to protest a stolen election and the status quo in the summer of 2009. Who can blame them for hoping that more contacts with the West and the prosperity that the relaxation of sanctions will bring might make their lives better?

Yet Cohler-Esses’ interviews tell us nothing about the prospects for domestic change in Iran, let alone a halt to its foreign adventures.

After all, the proof of Iran’s “plot to destroy Israel” won’t be found in interviews with Iranians at Cyrus’s tomb or in bazaars. It can be found in Iran’s state media that broadcasts anti-Semitism or in Khamenei’s new book laying out his plans to eliminate the Jewish state. It can be found along Israel’s border with Gaza where Iranian funds and equipment are helping Hamas dig new tunnels to facilitate terror raids to murder and kidnap Jews. It can be found along Israel’s northern border as Iranian personnel help Hezbollah set up missile launching sites in Lebanon as well as Syria aimed at raining down terror on Israel towns and cities. And it can be found in Iran’s military and nuclear facilities, where nuclear research, whose only purpose is a bomb that would wipe out Israel, continues. Cohler-Esses can tell us nothing about any of this. Even worse, the administration and the Times are actively seeking to distract us from these truths.

The point about Iran is not that many of its people don’t want change but that they have no way to change their government’s policies. More to the point, far from undermining the theocratic regime, the influx of cash and business will strengthen its leaders and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and their support for terror far more than it will enrich its people. That is why the nuclear deal is dangerous and why the push for détente that is the real point of administration policy is based on a misunderstanding about the nature of the Islamist state.

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Does Hillary Clinton Have a Strategy to Defeat ISIS?

Jeb Bush caused some consternation among Democrats by suggesting that Hillary Clinton bears some of the blame for the dire situation that Iraq finds itself in today. In a larger foreign policy speech at the Reagan Library, Bush said:

“So why was the success of the surge followed by a withdrawal from Iraq, leaving not even the residual force that commanders and the joint chiefs knew was necessary?  That premature withdrawal was the fatal error, creating the void that ISIS moved in to fill – and that Iran has exploited to the full as well.  ISIS grew while the United States disengaged from the Middle East and ignored the threat.  And where was Secretary of State Clinton in all of this?  Like the president himself, she had opposed the surge, then joined in claiming credit for its success, then stood by as that hard-won victory by American and allied forces was thrown away. In all her record-setting travels, she stopped by Iraq exactly one time.” Read More

Jeb Bush caused some consternation among Democrats by suggesting that Hillary Clinton bears some of the blame for the dire situation that Iraq finds itself in today. In a larger foreign policy speech at the Reagan Library, Bush said:

“So why was the success of the surge followed by a withdrawal from Iraq, leaving not even the residual force that commanders and the joint chiefs knew was necessary?  That premature withdrawal was the fatal error, creating the void that ISIS moved in to fill – and that Iran has exploited to the full as well.  ISIS grew while the United States disengaged from the Middle East and ignored the threat.  And where was Secretary of State Clinton in all of this?  Like the president himself, she had opposed the surge, then joined in claiming credit for its success, then stood by as that hard-won victory by American and allied forces was thrown away. In all her record-setting travels, she stopped by Iraq exactly one time.”

This brought an outraged rejoined from Jacob Sullivan, formerly Clinton’s director of policy planning at the State Department and now a top campaign adviser. He said:

“It’s simply wrong to assert that ISIS arose from the vacuum after American troops left. ISIS grew out of al Qaeda in Iraq, and where did AQI come from? It didn’t exist before the invasion. It emerged in no small part as a result of President Bush’s failed strategy, and it gained strength by signing up former Sunni military officers, officers from the very army the Bush administration disbanded.”

Who’s right and wrong here?

Sullivan has a point when he says that ISIS grew out of AQI, and that AQI grew out of the vacuum of power the Bush administration created when it invaded Iraq without a serious plan or the necessary resources for what would happen after regime change. But of course, Clinton arguably shares in that mistake as well since she voted for the war effort (as her 2008 primary opponent, Senator Barack Obama, never got tired of reminding voters). Jeb is right, moreover, that the surge of 2007-2008 — which Clinton opposed, going so far as to belittle General David Petraeus and question his credibility — changed the situation dramatically and decimated AQI.

After the surge’s success, the situation in Iraq was so favorable that Vice President Joe Biden, for whom Sullivan once worked as national security adviser, said in 2010, “I am very optimistic about — about Iraq. I mean, this could be one of the great achievements of this administration. You’re going to see 90,000 American troops come marching home by the end of the summer. You’re going to see a stable government in Iraq that is actually moving toward a representative government.”

Why did Iraq veer off the positive path described by Biden? The obvious answer is that the pullout of American troops in 2011 created a vacuum that was filled by Shiite sectarians, which in turn led to a backlash among Sunnis. At virtually the same time a civil war was erupting in Syria, with the Obama administration doing nothing to intervene. That created another vacuum of power. Out of those two vacuums arose the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, which certainly grew out of the remnants of AQI but became a new and far deadlier organization that is now able to control an area, as Bush noted, the size of Indiana.

It is hard to know exactly what role Hillary Clinton played in the colossal miscalculations of the Obama administration — first, not doing enough to keep US forces in Iraq and then not doing enough to help the moderates in the Syrian civil war. By some accounts, she was in favor of keeping U.S. troops in Iraq and of sending more aid to Syria, but she was overruled by the president. If that’s the case, she would be better off disassociating herself from Obama’s mistakes (even if it means revealing her relative lack of influence) rather than doubling down and trying to blame Jeb’s brother for the catastrophic state of Iraq and Syria more than six years after he left office. And, most importantly, Clinton needs to lay out her own strategy for fighting ISIS. If she is really more of a hard-liner than Obama, as widely rumored, then she needs to make that clear in her policy proposals. So far, she hasn’t.

 

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Hillary Clinton’s Slow-Motion Implosion

“It is very likely,” Secretary of State John Kerry confirmed when asked by a CBS reporter if he believed the Russians and the Chinese were reading his emails. “I certainly write things with that awareness.” The Democratic Party’s elder statesman and former presidential nominee might have known that he was twisting the knife. While it was perhaps unintentional, his comments reflect an accurate assessment bubbling up from the liberal subconscious that Hillary Clinton has been irreparably damaged by the revelations regarding her scandalous conduct as Kerry’s predecessor at Foggy Bottom. Read More

“It is very likely,” Secretary of State John Kerry confirmed when asked by a CBS reporter if he believed the Russians and the Chinese were reading his emails. “I certainly write things with that awareness.” The Democratic Party’s elder statesman and former presidential nominee might have known that he was twisting the knife. While it was perhaps unintentional, his comments reflect an accurate assessment bubbling up from the liberal subconscious that Hillary Clinton has been irreparably damaged by the revelations regarding her scandalous conduct as Kerry’s predecessor at Foggy Bottom.

Hillary Clinton could have surrendered her “homebrew” email server, on which she conducted the affairs of state in violation of both State Department and White House guidelines, to a third party at any time. Indeed, that was the request of the Republican members of the House Select Committee on Benghazi. If she were so inclined, she could have rid herself of the suspicion that she had something to hide. Clinton might not have found exculpation in a third party investigation of the system that once held over 30,000 deleted emails that Clinton assured Americans were of no interest to them, but she would have at least created the impression that she had belatedly embraced transparency. Instead, she dug in, closed ranks, and bristled with indignation at anyone who dared question her integrity. In the process, Clinton repeatedly misled the public and the press on matters both substantial and paltry.

Hillary Clinton could have done many things to mitigate the damage wrought to her political image by the steady stream of information about her behavior at State. Instead, in deference to the sense of entitlement her enablers have cultivated over a quarter-century, she did nothing. Now, Clinton will be forced to surrender her server to the FBI. What’s more, the email communications that were contained on a thumb drive in the care of her attorney, a man without the requisite security clearances who was deemed post hoc by the State Department to suddenly be occupying a secure information facility, must also hand over to the Feds what is in his possession.

This final shoe dropped after two inspectors general alleged that, not only did Clinton’s unsecure email server contain sensitive information that was marked as such at the time in which it was received, but some of that information was classified “Top Secret.” Among the communications Hillary Clinton received on her server included references to coded information and imagery obtained via secure methods. Carelessly allowing this material to be sent over an unclassified and unprotected email system is a violation of federal law. Full stop.

But Hillary Clinton’s privilege does not die easy. Reporters have developed a tic that compels them to assert that Hillary Clinton personally is not the subject of any federal investigation. Only her potentially unlawful conduct has captured the attention of investigators.

“There are several investigations into her conduct, not into her, but into her use of personal email and a personal server,” McClatchy reporter Anita Kumar told MSNBC on Wednesday. She was merely echoing a statement in her employer’s report, which averred, “Clinton, herself, is not a target.”

This is an oft-repeated refrain. The Department of Justice to which this investigation had been referred last month has repeatedly asserted, “Clinton herself is not the target of the investigation.” This transparent effort to preserve Hillary Clinton’s rapidly decaying political prospects has roiled even FBI sources.

“It’s definitely a criminal probe,” a source within the FBI told New York Post reporters last week. “I’m not sure why they’re not calling it a criminal probe.”

“The DOJ [Department of Justice] and FBI can conduct civil investigations in very limited circumstances,” but that’s not what this is, the source stressed. “In this case, a security violation would lead to criminal charges. Maybe DOJ is trying to protect her campaign.”

Maybe. Just maybe.

The rhetorical gymnastics required of reporters and public officials who contend that Clinton is herself not a target of an investigation is simply a marvel. It’s also supremely insulting. The contention that only Clinton’s behavior and not her gilded personage is of interest to criminal investigators is a familiar dodge. It’s of a kind with open borders immigration activists who solemnly scold the public with the contention that “people can never be illegal” and then go about high-fiving one another as if they’ve deftly scored some stylistic points. No, people are not illegal, but their behavior sometimes is. No, Hillary Clinton is not the subject of an investigation, but her reckless disregard for America’s state secrets most certainly is. Only in the minds of Clinton’s increasingly desperate defenders is this a distinction with a perceptible difference.

It seems likely now that the swirling controversy around Clinton’s conduct will dog her for the remainder of her presidential campaign. There will be no exculpation for her behavior – merely a slow drip of information regarding her conduct and the jeopardy in which it put American national security. Clinton’s claim to be a competent commander-in-chief is forever tarnished. Even if someone close to her were to fall on their sword, it is too late to avoid the impression that this attempt at damage control was not done at the behest of a Machiavellian political figure failing in the effort to revive her ailing career.

How could it be possible that a colossus like Clinton who seemed destined to occupy the Oval Office could be undone by such a careless misstep? But in the same way that a mosquito bite can fell the strongest man if left uncared for, what was once a minor scrape for Clinton has grown gangrenous. On Wednesday, a poll of New Hampshire Democrats showed that the eccentric socialist Senator Bernie Sanders has finally eclipsed Clinton. She now faces the prospect of a wounding primary and a competitive general election. If Democrats are forced to choose between advancing the liberal project and Hillary Clinton’s reputation, they will choose the former. That horrible choice was once mere hypothetical. This morning, it is all too real.

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Time to Grant Political Asylum to Turks

The United States has long served as a haven for those facing political oppression abroad. While critics of current immigration policy complain about the number of economic migrants which come to the United States, even the most strident immigration opponents tend to make an exception for dissidents targeted fleeing autocracies because of speech, religion, or democracy activism. Russian, Cuban, and Chinese dissidents have often sought refuge in the United States once the autocracies that they sought to reform sought to imprison or kill them. At the time, before the current age of moral equivalency and rationalization of repression, dissidents the world over understood the United States stood for freedom and liberty. Read More

The United States has long served as a haven for those facing political oppression abroad. While critics of current immigration policy complain about the number of economic migrants which come to the United States, even the most strident immigration opponents tend to make an exception for dissidents targeted fleeing autocracies because of speech, religion, or democracy activism. Russian, Cuban, and Chinese dissidents have often sought refuge in the United States once the autocracies that they sought to reform sought to imprison or kill them. At the time, before the current age of moral equivalency and rationalization of repression, dissidents the world over understood the United States stood for freedom and liberty.

While Iraqis, Afghans, Taiwanese, Russians, Ukrainians, Georgians, Colombians, Israelis, Syrians, and others now understand they should not trust America, freedom can be enticing. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, in 2014, China accounted for 45 percent of asylum claims; India represented one-tenth of that, and Ethiopia, Nepal, and Egypt accounted for another three percent each. Other countries singled out by name were notoriously repressive Eritrea, the former Soviet Union, and a number of Latin American countries.

It may soon be time to add Turkey to the list. Diplomats may still pay lip service to a U.S. ally, but Turkey can increasingly be a deadly place for those opposing President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s dictatorial tendencies and alleged corruption. U.S. diplomats believe that Erdoğan has siphoned money off into at least eight different Swiss bank accounts, and phone taps seem to suggest that Erdoğan has another billion squirreled away in his homes. A summary of the corruption allegations against Turkey’s strongman can be found here.

Erdoğan does not hesitate to use the powers of state to target those who resist his policies or who disagree with him ideologically. Take this case, for example, from 2005 in which Erdoğan imprisoned a university rector on laughably false charges because he refused to acquiesce to Islamization of his university. Then, of course, there were the paranoid and contrived “Ergenekon” and “Balyoz” conspiracies in which Erdoğan had his brown shirts roll up hundreds of real and perceived opponents. He has also targeted those who intercepted Turkish weapons shipments to an Al Qaeda-affiliate inside Syria.

Now, Erdoğan is targeting prosecutors who sought to pursue the corruption allegations, forcing them to flee first into Georgia and, with Turkey seeking their extradition, into Armenia.

It’s all well and good for diplomats to make nice noises about how Turkey is a partner, but if the United States truly wants to help Turks, perhaps it’s time to open up our doors to those fleeing persecution from an increasingly arbitrary and authoritarian leader. What complications that might cause in the short-term would be more than overcome in the long-term as Turks recognizes that in their hour of need, the United States stood with the people against their oppressor.

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Is Khamenei a Politician or a Religious Figure?

This past week, President Barack Obama sat down with CNN interviewer Fareed Zakaria to discuss the Iran deal. Speaking about Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and the “Death to America” chants, Zakaria asked, “Is this a guy you can really make a deal with?” to which Obama answered:

…The Supreme Leader was saying all kinds of anti-American stuff. But the deal held. They did exactly what they were supposed to do. The few times that they didn’t, we identified it and told them they had to correct it and they did. So there’s always a gap between rhetoric and action. And, you know, the Supreme Leader is a politician, apparently, just like everybody else.

If Obama believes that the Supreme Leader is really little different than anyone else, he professes not only supreme ignorance of Iran but also a logical flaw that goes to the heart of his trust in Khamenei. Read More

This past week, President Barack Obama sat down with CNN interviewer Fareed Zakaria to discuss the Iran deal. Speaking about Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and the “Death to America” chants, Zakaria asked, “Is this a guy you can really make a deal with?” to which Obama answered:

…The Supreme Leader was saying all kinds of anti-American stuff. But the deal held. They did exactly what they were supposed to do. The few times that they didn’t, we identified it and told them they had to correct it and they did. So there’s always a gap between rhetoric and action. And, you know, the Supreme Leader is a politician, apparently, just like everybody else.

If Obama believes that the Supreme Leader is really little different than anyone else, he professes not only supreme ignorance of Iran but also a logical flaw that goes to the heart of his trust in Khamenei.

First of all, it’s important to recognize the theological roots of Khamenei’s legitimacy. Traditionally, Shi’ites believe that the return of Muhammad al-Mahdi, the so-called Hidden Imam, will herald the creation of a perfect, incorrupt Islamic government. By definition, then, until the Mahdi returns, then, all governments are by definition unjust, corrupt, and un-Islamic. This is the root of the separation of mosque and state at the heart of so-called Quietism practiced by the Twelver Shi‘ite majority and espoused by the leading religious figures in Najaf, such as Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani. Iranian revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini disagreed with this traditional stance, however, and in the early 1970s revived and expanded the concept of velayat-e faqih (guardianship of the jurist) to justify clerical rule, arguing that the supreme leader could be the Nayeb-e Imam (deputy of the Messiah). He explained, “fuqaha (Jurists) are the proof of the Imam (upon whom be peace) to the people. All the affairs of the Muslims have been entrusted to them.” While Khomeini’s interpretation of Shi‘ism is a minority view among the Shi‘ite clergy is irrelevant; with the success of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, he made it the rule of the land. Obama may think that he and Khamenei are politicians are kindred spirits as politicians, but he’s dead wrong: Khamenei believes he is the deputy of the Messiah on earth. Whether the Iranian people support or oppose Khamenei is irrelevant because the Supreme Leader’s authority is divine, and the Revolutionary Guards (the group which Obama’s deal will most enrich) serve to protect the Leader from accountability to the people. Clearly, Khamenei isn’t a politician like Obama.

But let’s assume for a moment that Obama is right: Khamenei is a mere politician whose decision-making and logic Obama can understand. Then what does that mean for Khamenei’s so-called nuclear fatwa banning nuclear weaponry that Obama has cited as the basis for his initial trust? Let’s put aside, for the sake of argument, that neither Khamenei nor Obama has ever produced the fatwa, and that those citing it apparently change what it says to suit the moment. If it does exist, does Obama believe that politicians issue fatwas? And if Khamenei is a politician beholden to public sentiment, then what does that say about the immutability of any fatwa?

Conversely, let’s say that Khamenei is a politician, and he has to encourage shouts of “Death to America” in order to win the Iranian public to his side. Would that mean that Khamenei is actually more moderate than the reformers and hardliners who chant the slogan? That, of course, is nonsense, but it highlights Obama’s logical somersaults.

Obama simply does not understand Iran, it structure, and the mindset of its leadership. He is arrogant enough to profess his ignorance openly. Many presidents, however, exist inside a bubble. What is truly shocking, however, is how many Democrats are willing to ignore the logical inconsistencies in Obama’s argument for the sake of party loyalty. Then again, what’s at stake besides the world’s greatest sponsor of terrorism with an unprecedented hard currency windfall and the infrastructure to build an industrial-scale nuclear program?

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Why is the Administration Attacking Schumer?

On the face of it, it makes no sense. Senator Chuck Schumer’s decision to vote against the Iran nuclear deal is a blow to the administration’s effort to smear all opponents of the plan as partisan Republicans who care only about venting spleen at President Obama. While it did shake up what the New York Times described as the “firewall” the White House is trying to build a veto-proof majority in the Senate to disapprove the deal, it by no means altered the math that indicates that such a margin seems likely to be out of reach for its opponents. But that didn’t satisfy President Obama and his left-wing supporters. Instead of merely quietly chuckling at Schumer’s apparent decision not to rally opposition to the pact in the Democratic caucus and realizing that his silence this week is a sign they had already won, the left has launched a vicious campaign against the senator. But the reason for what might normally be seen as an overreaction isn’t hard to figure out. The point of the effort to label Schumer a turncoat and begin an effort to stop him from becoming the Democrat’s next leader in the Senate isn’t so much about winning a battle Obama probably already has in his pocket as it is the first shot fired in Obama’s post-deal ratification struggle to undermine the U.S.-Israel alliance.

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On the face of it, it makes no sense. Senator Chuck Schumer’s decision to vote against the Iran nuclear deal is a blow to the administration’s effort to smear all opponents of the plan as partisan Republicans who care only about venting spleen at President Obama. While it did shake up what the New York Times described as the “firewall” the White House is trying to build a veto-proof majority in the Senate to disapprove the deal, it by no means altered the math that indicates that such a margin seems likely to be out of reach for its opponents. But that didn’t satisfy President Obama and his left-wing supporters. Instead of merely quietly chuckling at Schumer’s apparent decision not to rally opposition to the pact in the Democratic caucus and realizing that his silence this week is a sign they had already won, the left has launched a vicious campaign against the senator. But the reason for what might normally be seen as an overreaction isn’t hard to figure out. The point of the effort to label Schumer a turncoat and begin an effort to stop him from becoming the Democrat’s next leader in the Senate isn’t so much about winning a battle Obama probably already has in his pocket as it is the first shot fired in Obama’s post-deal ratification struggle to undermine the U.S.-Israel alliance.

As far back as April, I speculated that if Schumer did vote no, it wouldn’t be meaningful if he did not use his formidable fundraising and lobbying skills to drag other Democrats along with him and actually kill the agreement. As Seth Lipsky noted in Haaretz yesterday, Schumer virtually disappeared as soon as his announcement was made. For a publicity hound like Schumer, that’s pretty unusual. But it should also be noted that by releasing the news during last week’s Republican presidential debate, he appeared to be timing it to provide the least possible embarrassment for the administration. That might have worked except for the puzzling decision of the White House to leak the news that Schumer had politely alerted them to ahead of time.

What followed then was an avalanche of anger at Schumer from left-wing sources. Though Democrats had already agreed on Schumer to be Harry Reid’s successor once the current Minority Leader announced his retirement at the end of this term, out of nowhere a movement dedicating to stopping him. White House spokesman Josh Earnest even seemed to give that effort tacit approval when he said that it was understandable if Democrats were considering whether Schumer was fit to be their next leader, giving even more credence to the growing belief that Dick Durbin will challenge Schumer. Worse followed as the rhetoric from left-wing sources heated up and, as the New York Post editorial page noted yesterday, spilled over into anti-Semitism and accusations of “treason,” as this vile cartoon in the Daily Kos indicated.

Given that the fate of the deal does not seem to be in question, that seems a bit excessive even for the hyper partisan Obama political operation in the White House. After all, Schumer is as reliable a Democratic partisan as any member of the Senate. He’s earned the nod as Reid’s successor in waiting by spending the last 17 years working tireless for his party and its Senate candidates and backing every bad liberal idea Obama proposed in the last six and a half years until the Iran deal came up. Moreover, given the fact that Obama is going to need Schumer as he continues to try to govern in the last year and a half of his presidency, what is the point of burning bridges with him when his actions won’t alter the fate of the deal?

One simple answer might be that it is merely a function of the president’s vindictive nature. It’s no secret that this is a leader who runs a top-down administration that does not encourage vibrant debate within its ranks. Obama is notoriously thin-skinned and seems to take criticism or opposition even more personally than most of its predecessors.

But that only goes so far in explaining why Obama is not respecting Schumer’s need to stay within the pro-Israel fold. After spending years covering for the president’s efforts to pick fights with the Jewish state by claiming that he will always be the guardian (shomer in Hebrew) of the U.S.-Israel alliance, you’d think Schumer was entitled to be cut some slack on Iran.

But that is not what is happening. The White House isn’t content to merely whip Democrats on the issue in an effort to obtain the one-third-plus-one votes they need to sustain a veto of a resolution of disapproval for the Iran deal. Instead, they are sending a rather pointed message to the pro-Israel community that no one, not even a good Democratic soldier and future leader like Schumer, can get away with crossing the president when it comes to his plans for détente with Iran.

Rather than merely another Obama tantrum at the chutzpah of critics, the singling out of Schumer seems to be the beginning of an effort to rid the Democratic leadership of a staunch pro-Israel figure. If we assume, as perhaps we should that the Iran deal will not be stopped, the White House may have already skipped ahead to fighting future battles with Israel over what will happen once the pact is put into effect. Obama has already done his best to isolate Israel and its government and to brand opponents of Iran détente as either mindless GOP partisans or guilty of dual loyalty to Israel. The logical next step is to ensure that no one like Schumer becomes Democratic leader, or at least to inflict the sort of beating on him that will ensure that no many members of his party ever challenge his effort to create daylight with Israel again. The attacks on Democratic opponents of the deal illustrate the depths to which the administration is prepared to sink to win this fight. But it also reflects its desire to downgrade the alliance with the Jewish state and start chipping away at the heretofore solid and bipartisan pro-Israel consensus.

Polls already show that rank and file Democrats are far less likely to support Israel than Republicans. The assault on Schumer shows that by the time Obama is done, that gap will be far greater.

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The Iran Deal’s Evaporating Logic

Proponents of the Iran nuclear deal are finding the justifications for compelling Congress to ratify the accord, save for preserving Barack Obama’s fragile self-image, are coming apart. As such, the accord’s supporters have increasingly turned to defending the deal with appeals to the president’s stature and authority, as well as by calling into question the motives and character of its opponents. That alone should tell you all you need to know. Some of the Iran nuclear deal’s remaining backers do still occasionally claim that it will succeed in what was once its singular purpose: limiting Iran’s ability to produce prohibited armaments. One of the most convincing precedents supporting this contention has, however, been largely disaffirmed.  Read More

Proponents of the Iran nuclear deal are finding the justifications for compelling Congress to ratify the accord, save for preserving Barack Obama’s fragile self-image, are coming apart. As such, the accord’s supporters have increasingly turned to defending the deal with appeals to the president’s stature and authority, as well as by calling into question the motives and character of its opponents. That alone should tell you all you need to know. Some of the Iran nuclear deal’s remaining backers do still occasionally claim that it will succeed in what was once its singular purpose: limiting Iran’s ability to produce prohibited armaments. One of the most convincing precedents supporting this contention has, however, been largely disaffirmed. 

When asked to cite a model to demonstrate how the nuclear deal will not only prevent Iran from developing a fissionable device but also produce a variety of happy byproducts like the moderation of the Islamic Republic’s destabilizing behavior, the deal’s supporters most frequently point to the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty with the Soviet Union.

“From the Western perspective, the nuclear deal represents the most important security agreement since the signing of the Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Missiles (INF) Treaty between Washington and Moscow during the twilight years of the Cold War,” Al Jazeera columnist Richard Javad Heydarian averred.

Peter Beinart took this contention an ill-advised step further. “By 1987, Reagan had signed the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty, the most sweeping arms-control deal of the Cold War. His rhetoric toward the Soviet Union also radically changed,” Beinart wrote in The Atlantic. “Reagan, in other words, dramatically de-escalated the Cold War long before he knew Gorbachev would let Eastern Europe go free and at a time when prominent conservatives were literally calling him Neville Chamberlain for signing the INF deal.”

That’s true. Graham Allison, also writing in The Atlantic, quoted a few conservatives from the period who feared Reagan was providing the Soviets with a reprieve from the crushing obligations of the arms race. “Reagan insisted that he was capable of brokering agreements to reduce the risks of accidents or unauthorized actions that risked nuclear war with one hand, while redoubling his efforts to undermine the Soviet regime with the other,” he insisted. “And he did just that. The Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.”

This is a remarkable simplification of history. Beinart claims that Regan’s shifting rhetoric (he renounced his “evil empire” comment while standing in the middle of Red Square under the watchful eye of a young Vladimir Putin) provided Mikhail Gorbachev space to make the case to the Politburo that he was not capitulating to Reagan in this accord. But this is a variation of the liberal case that ideational and not material considerations led to the collapse of the Soviet Union. Moreover, the INF effectively marked the end of the arms race, in part because it had already been lost by the Soviets. By contrast, there has been no ideational shift in the theocratic regime in Tehran nor is there any indication in Iran’s behavior that it is desirous of rapprochement with the West. If anything, Iran has behaved in a more bellicose fashion as nuclear negotiations with the P5+1 intensified.

The USSR is long gone, but the INF remains in place. Opponents of the Iran nuclear deal are advised to pay close attention to what that arrangement has become. It is no longer an arms control agreement but a political relic that serves little purpose but to shield from public scrutiny the extent to which Russia has become an irresponsible and revanchist international actor.

Writing in Politico Magazine in April, Foreign Policy Initiative scholars Eric Edelman and Tzvi Kahn outline the scope of the Russian’s efforts to game the INF. In response to Russia’s brazenness, American officials have routinely downplayed Moscow’s cheating. Despite repeatedly warning the United States that it was prepared to violate the INF over the course of the last decade, the Bush administration refused to acknowledge that reality. When Moscow did violate the terms of the INF in this decade, the Obama administration also pretended not to notice. And when this administration finally did address Russia’s violations of the terms of the INF, that acknowledgement was not followed up on with any consequences.

That failure of resolve continues even today. According to the Washington Free Beacon’s Bill Gertz, a Pentagon assessment last month revealing the extent of Russia’s violations of the INF paints a damning picture of the Kremlin’s behavior. Unfortunately for anyone who would like to fully understand how Russia has undermined the INF, the White House is allegedly blocking that report’s release.

“Rep. Mike Rogers, chairman of the House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee, disclosed the existence of the Pentagon assessment last month and said the report is needed for Congress’ efforts to address the problem in legislation,” Gertz reported. “Rogers said the assessment was conducted by chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey, and noted that it outlines potential responses to the treaty breach.”

To acknowledge the treaty’s failure would provide additional political legitimacy to an effort by House Republicans that seeks to provide funding for short-range cruise missile defenses in Poland and Romania. That’s a direct repudiation of this White House, which continues to stand by its 2009 rejection of a Bush-era deal that would have provided the Czech Republic and Poland with long-range interceptor and radar technology. In short, politics is dictating American national defense planning and strategy.

“Similarly, for decades, Tehran has violated its nuclear commitments — and the United States has failed to hold it accountable,” Edelman and Kahn observed.

There is no evidence to suggest that a regime as demonstrably duplicitous as Iran’s will not cheat on this arrangement. In fact, the terms of this deal would make it difficult to definitively identify cheating, much less to marshal support for an international response to it. Even if such behavior could be identified, though, it’s not entirely clear that this administration (or its successor, presuming the next administration is a Democratic one) will be predisposed to punish Iranian cheating at all. To acknowledge the fact that the nuclear deal with Iran has failed would be to invite searing criticism from the deal’s domestic opponents.

The INF is a treaty in a persistent vegetative state; it’s corporal form remains, but its spirit has long since passed on to another plane. A conventional arms race in Eastern Europe has taken its place. If the West were to acknowledge that arms race, it would be obliged to participate in it. So it simply refuses to acknowledge it. If the Iran deal fails, its proponents in Washington are unlikely to ever say as much. Not until it is too late.

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