Commentary Magazine


Topic: Barack Obama

The False Iraq War Gotcha Narrative

Jeb Bush caused a kerfuffle with his answer to a question on Fox News Channel about the Iraq War. Megyn Kelly asked him: “Knowing what we know now, would you have authorized the invasion?” He answered:  “I would have. And so would Hillary Clinton, just to remind everybody. So would have everybody that was confronted by the intelligence they got.” They would have if they had the intelligence. That’s not saying everybody would now. News flash to the world, if they’re trying to find places where there’s big space between me and my brother, this might not be one of those.”

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Jeb Bush caused a kerfuffle with his answer to a question on Fox News Channel about the Iraq War. Megyn Kelly asked him: “Knowing what we know now, would you have authorized the invasion?” He answered:  “I would have. And so would Hillary Clinton, just to remind everybody. So would have everybody that was confronted by the intelligence they got.” They would have if they had the intelligence. That’s not saying everybody would now. News flash to the world, if they’re trying to find places where there’s big space between me and my brother, this might not be one of those.”

Various commentators on left and right have pounced on this answer even though it was pretty obvious that, as he later clarified, Bush misheard—he was clearly saying he supported the invasion based on “knowing what we knew then,” rather than “knowing what we know now.” Bush subsequently said it was a “hypothetical” question that he couldn’t answer. The other Republican candidates, on the other hand, are all generally saying they wouldn’t have supported the war in hindsight.

No one’s asking me, but I would like to try and answer anyway. It’s not an easy question but it’s one I’ve pondered, having been one of many who supported the war effort. I can’t tell the candidates what to say but I can tell you what my own thinking is.

If I had known exactly how the war would turn out—with American troops being pulled out prematurely, leaving Iraq to the tender mercies of Iranian militias and ISIS—I would not have supported the invasion. It’s a close call but Saddam Hussein’s regime, bad as it was, was probably preferable to the current situation in Iraq as long as sanctions remained in place. At least Saddam was a bulwark against Iranian expansion.

And I would never have supported military action against Saddam in the first place if I didn’t believe, in common with the leaders of the United States and all of our allies and even Saddam’s own generals, that he had weapons of mass destruction. Saddam was an evil ruler but the U.S. can’t simply go around using its military power to knock off every dictator on the planet—there has to be a specific threat to U.S. national security to justify military action and absent the WMD (and the lack of any verifiable links between Saddam and al Qaeda) such a threat was absent.

But even after the U.S. went in based on false intelligence (which, as the Robb-Silberman commission found, was the fault of the intelligence community and not the White House), it would still have been possible to turn Operation Iraqi Freedom into a net positive—if, that it is, it had actually delivered Iraqi freedom rather than chaos.  Despite numerous missteps in the early going from 2003 to 2007, the “surge,” which President Bush courageously ordered in 2007 in the face of nearly total opposition, actually made it possible to imagine that the administration’s high hopes for Iraq might be vindicated.  Violence fell by more than 90 percent and Iraqi politics began to function again. In 2010 Vice President Biden, no less, even bragged that he was “very optimistic” about the outcome in Iraq.

That optimism was shattered by two of the Obama administration’s disastrous decisions: first, the move to back Nouri al Maliki as Iraq’s prime minister after the 2010 election (even though he was not the top vote getter; Ayad Allawi was); second, the failure to negotiate a Status of Forces Agreement in 2011 to keep US troops in Iraq. Both of these miscalculations paved the way for the rise of an Iranian-dominated sectarian regime in Baghdad that victimized Sunnis and sparked a backlash in the form of ISIS. The situation was further aggravated by President Obama’s failure to do more to help the moderates in Syria’s civil war—that left Syria wide open as a staging ground for ISIS to launch an offensive into Iraq which conquered much of the Sunni Triangle.

In short, Iraq didn’t have to become the disaster it is today. Better decisions between 2003 and 2010—e.g., sending more US troops to keep law and order in 2003, not disbanding the Iraqi army in 2003, not pursuing de-Baathification as avidly as the Coalition Provisional Authority did, not backing Maliki for reelection, not pulling U.S. forces out in 2011—could very well have produced very different results. Iraq could have emerged as a contributor to regional stability rather than as a breeding ground of extremism. And while the Bush administration bears the blame for the disasters of 2003-2007 (as well as credit for the near-miraculous turnaround of 2007-2008), the Obama administration bears the blame for the post-2011 disasters. Unfortunately the U.S. left Iraq just as badly as it entered it—with no plan in either case to stabilize an inherently volatile situation.

An honest accounting thus leaves plenty of blame all around—it doesn’t feed a simple “gotcha” narrative where supporters of the invasion were all evil and opponents of it all good. The lesson of Iraq? In the future hawks should be more careful about advocating military action (especially the toppling of foreign leaders without a good day-after plan) and doves more careful about advocating pullouts once intervention has taken place. Unfortunately more recent experience in Libya (where the Obama administration helped topple a dictator without any day-after plan) and Afghanistan (where Obama is planning a pull-out at the end of 2016 with reckless disregard for the likely consequences) shows how hard it is to act on the lessons of history, even very recent history.

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Obama’s Policies, Not Fox, Hurt the Poor

Yesterday, during a conversation about poverty at the Catholic-Evangelical Summit at Georgetown University, President Obama employed his favorite rhetorical device — a straw man opponent for his arguments — at the expense of his favorite target — Fox News. His point was that Americans were resistant to doing more for the poor because Fox had convinced them that the poor were unworthy of assistance thereby undermining support for government programs. But more than that, he saw this alleged sense of contempt as being linked to a belief in private initiative that he sees connected to the ills of the underprivileged. But there’s more to this issue than Obama’s trademark intolerance for criticism. At its heart, these statements tell us all we need to know about the president’s unwillingness to take responsibility for the state of the nation as well his refusal to think outside the conventional lines of liberal ideology.

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Yesterday, during a conversation about poverty at the Catholic-Evangelical Summit at Georgetown University, President Obama employed his favorite rhetorical device — a straw man opponent for his arguments — at the expense of his favorite target — Fox News. His point was that Americans were resistant to doing more for the poor because Fox had convinced them that the poor were unworthy of assistance thereby undermining support for government programs. But more than that, he saw this alleged sense of contempt as being linked to a belief in private initiative that he sees connected to the ills of the underprivileged. But there’s more to this issue than Obama’s trademark intolerance for criticism. At its heart, these statements tell us all we need to know about the president’s unwillingness to take responsibility for the state of the nation as well his refusal to think outside the conventional lines of liberal ideology.

The most obvious conclusion to be drawn from this is how after more than six years in office, the president is still more interested in blaming the messenger and creating a scapegoat rather than engaging with his critics. The difference between Fox’s coverage of his administration and that of many mainstream outlets is that it is not part of his cheering section. The notion that it demonizes the poor is unsubstantiated but the president’s invocation of the network isn’t meant to be part of an actual argument so much as it is a signal to his supporters that they are supposed to ignore contrary views or perspectives rather than listen to them. Though the president likes to pose as a public intellectual, he is remarkably resistant to advice even from his own side of the aisle and utterly intolerant of opposing views. From his perspective, Fox must be demonized and dismissed rather than engaged and argued with not because it’s reports are inaccurate but because anyone who watches it is open to the idea that Obama might be wrong.

But there is more to be gleaned from Obama’s remarks than a mere diversionary tactic. The problem with American poverty isn’t Fox’s coverage. The real issue is an administration that prefers to argue along these lines because of its stubborn and hypocritical devotion to the failed liberal patent nostrums of the past rather than trying creative solutions that might make things better.

The conversation about poverty has gained new urgency because of the recent riots in Baltimore which, coming soon after other protests relating to allegations of police brutality, has spawned a conversation about poverty and racism. But other than a sound byte at Fox’s expense which more or less won him the news cycle (and distracted some from the debacle on Capitol Hill where his own party spiked his effort to pass a trade bill), all the president seems to be willing to offer us is the same sort of big government liberalism that we’ve been getting from Democrats for the last 60 years with predictably dismal results.

The uncounted billions that have been spent on government “wars” on poverty have availed the nation but little. But rather than, as his predecessor Bill Clinton did for a while, own up to the fact that the era of big government was over, Obama is doubling down on the welfare state.

This is discouraging enough but what was truly disturbing was the president’s denigration of school choice options for the poor. Rather than supporting a measure that would give kids in failing inner city schools a lifeline to opportunity, the president castigated private schools as harming those who remain in the public system. More than that, he linked the idea of being educated outside of the public monopoly to “anti-government ideology.”

So when you come down to it, the problem isn’t just people watching Fox rather than liberal outlets marching in lockstep with his party but being taught in an environment not dominated by a belief in dependence on the government.

That a man who sends his own daughters to private school could denounce the efforts of those less well off than himself to get the same opportunity for their kids is an example of staggering, even Olympic-level hypocrisy. But even putting that aside the notion that the only way Americans can care about each other is if they are forced into public schools and other government entities is antithetical to the notions of individual freedom that this nation was founded upon.

More to the point, they are contrary to the basics of capitalism. The greatest engine of growth and destroyer of poverty is individual initiative and enterprise not compulsory involvement in communal institutions. More money won’t solve Baltimore’s problems or that of any other city. But better education, especially those schools that tap into the energy of individual parents and students and not government, do offer a solution.

The president likes to take credit for the economic recovery but he knows that it is plagued by endemic problems that have left many behind. But instead of addressing this, Obama and other liberals remain trapped in the ideology of the past, talking about inequality and serving failed liberal patent nostrums while ignoring or actively opposing ideas that offer a hopeful alternative. The problem isn’t a media that is insufficiently sympathetic to the poor or their self-styled champion in the White House. It’s Obama’s failed policies.

So don’t bother having sympathy for Fox News, whose enormous audience is more than enough compensation for presidential insults. If you want to be sorry for anyone, have some pity for the children of the poor that, unlike Sasha and Malia Obama, are being told to stay in failed public schools rather than getting a chance for something better.

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DC Doesn’t Work? Blame It On Democrats.

For the past few years the consistent story coming from the mainstream media about Washington politics has been to blame all the country’s ills on a dysfunctional Republican Party dominated by extremists. While most of this sort of commentary was motivated by partisan bias there was some truth to it. The Republican caucus in the House of Representatives was unruly and undermined its leaders leading to some memorable dustups that did the party more harm than good like the 2013 government shutdown. But though liberals may still cling to this narrative, it is officially finished. The spectacle of Senate Democrats refusing to allow a vote on a trade bill the head of their party is demanding illustrates something that was just as true two years ago as it is today. Whatever you may think of the GOP, the Congressional Democratic caucus is just as, if not more dominated by extremists who are determined to obstruct the business of government as anyone on the right. If you want to fix Washington, you’ll have to start with cleaning up the mess on the Democratic side of the aisle.

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For the past few years the consistent story coming from the mainstream media about Washington politics has been to blame all the country’s ills on a dysfunctional Republican Party dominated by extremists. While most of this sort of commentary was motivated by partisan bias there was some truth to it. The Republican caucus in the House of Representatives was unruly and undermined its leaders leading to some memorable dustups that did the party more harm than good like the 2013 government shutdown. But though liberals may still cling to this narrative, it is officially finished. The spectacle of Senate Democrats refusing to allow a vote on a trade bill the head of their party is demanding illustrates something that was just as true two years ago as it is today. Whatever you may think of the GOP, the Congressional Democratic caucus is just as, if not more dominated by extremists who are determined to obstruct the business of government as anyone on the right. If you want to fix Washington, you’ll have to start with cleaning up the mess on the Democratic side of the aisle.

Despite yesterday’s setback, the trade bill giving President Obama fast track promotion authority is not dead. Though Senate Democrats voted en masse to prevent it from being debated, it was revived today, given the support for it from the Republican majority, it has a chance to survive. But yesterday’s debacle should put an end to the talk about Washington dysfunction being a purely Republican disease. Every aspect of the criticism that conservative GOP House members got for their refusal to pass budgets because of their hard line position son spending and taxes as well as their insistence on trying to vainly repeal ObamaCare, can be applied to the Democratic opposition to the trade bill.

The trade bill is obviously in the interests of the nation at a time of an anemic and fragile recovery. But Democrats prefer to head down a narrow liberal ideological rabbit hole, taking the prospects of a beneficial pact and Obama’s domestic agenda with them.

Why are they doing it?

Part of it stems from their being beholden to special interests, which in this case means, the unions. The union movement remains the foot soldiers and the piggy bank of the Democratic Party and senators and members of the House are lining up to show them they are good soldiers in their war on prosperity.

But, like the conservative Republicans who didn’t listen to reason about budget compromises, they are also doing it for ideological reasons and not just to secure future campaign funds from unions. If that means undermining the president’s plans, let alone hopes to continue the recovery, as far as they are concerned, so be it.

But while the Obama-Congress spat is getting some attention from the press, we aren’t hearing so much about the Democrats’ stand being an appalling example of Washington dysfunction today. Instead, most of the liberal mainstream press that scolded the GOP for not doing their jobs and governing, are treating this as a serious ideological debate in which the wing of the party led by Senator Elizabeth Warren has a good case to make against Obama. To some extent that is fair since there are clear differences of opinion that deserve a respectful hearing even if they are dead wrong. But it almost goes without saying that Warren’s stand is getting a lot more of that respect that then, say, Ted Cruz got two years ago when he drew his line in the sand.

The point here is not so much to blame Washington’s inability to work on the Democrats more than the Republicans, though one can make a good case for such an argument. Rather, it is to point out that most of what we hear about the need for bipartisanship and making Washington work is hypocritical claptrap.

The conflict we see today between Warren’s anti-trade leftist ideologues and Obama is no more edifying in some respects than the guerilla warfare waged by the Tea Party caucus against House Speaker John Boehner. And the result is that things that are necessary aren’t getting done. But fights over issues and ideas are actually why we elect people to the House and the Senate. We might not like it when they can’t agree but that is what elections are for. Warren is no more or less crazy or obstructive for standing her ground on trade than Cruz was on ObamaCare. Or, I might add, President Obama in his refusal to budge during the shutdown debate. But it would be nice for the liberal media to acknowledge that fact before they segue away from the current disaster unfolding on Capitol Hill to more attacks on conservatives for being too extreme.

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Obama Gives Syria a Pass on Chemical Weapons. Will He Stop Iran’s Nukes?

President Obama would have us believe he would be stalwart in applying “snap back” sanctions on Iran should it violate its nuclear commitments. That would be nice but hardly realistic given the administration’s non-response to growing evidence that Syria’s Bashar Assad has violated the agreement to give up his chemical weapons. Not only has Assad been using chlorine gas (which was not formally covered by the accord negotiated in 2013 between Washington and Moscow) but United Nations inspectors have also found evidence of sarin and VX during to the Scientific Studies and Research Center outside Damascus.

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President Obama would have us believe he would be stalwart in applying “snap back” sanctions on Iran should it violate its nuclear commitments. That would be nice but hardly realistic given the administration’s non-response to growing evidence that Syria’s Bashar Assad has violated the agreement to give up his chemical weapons. Not only has Assad been using chlorine gas (which was not formally covered by the accord negotiated in 2013 between Washington and Moscow) but United Nations inspectors have also found evidence of sarin and VX during to the Scientific Studies and Research Center outside Damascus.

So what is Obama doing to enforce the chemical weapons accord? Bombing Damascus? Stepping up support for the Syrian resistance? He’s not even passing a stiffly worded resolution at the UN, where its friends from Moscow and Beijing protect the Assad regime.

Josh Rogin and Eli Lake of Bloomberg report that the administration was informed months ago by UN inspectors of their findings. Since then the White House has basically been sitting on the issue, no doubt for fear that any action would offend Assad’s patrons in Tehran and disrupt hopes of negotiating a nuclear deal. “The discovery set off a months-long debate inside the administration about how to respond. President Obama is said to have not yet decided,” Rogin and Lake write. “Meanwhile, a coalition of rebel groups on the ground has been attacking the area around the facility, raising the danger that the chemical weapons could fall into the hands of the rebels, many of whom are linked to Islamic extremists.”

If this is how the administration reacts to blatant violations of an arms control agreement by a weak regime such as Assad’s, just imagine how it would react to violations by the much stronger Iranian regime. Unfortunately Iran’s leaders can read the tea leaves as well as anyone else—and they know that they will get a pass, at least while Obama is still in office, no matter how much they cheat on a nuclear deal.

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Iran on Nuclear Inspections: “Depends What Meaning of Is Is”

Even though President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry have promised that any Iranian nuclear deal arrived at next month will have unprecedented verification mechanisms, the crux of any verification has yet to be negotiated. Any inspections to verify Iranian compliance, however, will be the purview of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) which has been seeking to negotiate access and preserve what it believes necessary to confirm Iranian compliance against the backdrop of Kerry’s obsessive willingness to undercut the IAEA’s redlines. One of the major stumbling blocks remains the “possible military dimensions” (PMDs) of Iran’s nuclear program. While Obama and proponents of the tentative deal reached repeatedly say that Iran has abided by the terms of the Joint Plan of Action, even if this were true, it is the equivalent of saying that a drunk passed a sobriety test by counting to one. Much of the work on PMDs has occurred in military facilities, especially those maintained by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) that, for what it is worth, has never endorsed or agreed to abide by any nuclear deal reached.

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Even though President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry have promised that any Iranian nuclear deal arrived at next month will have unprecedented verification mechanisms, the crux of any verification has yet to be negotiated. Any inspections to verify Iranian compliance, however, will be the purview of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) which has been seeking to negotiate access and preserve what it believes necessary to confirm Iranian compliance against the backdrop of Kerry’s obsessive willingness to undercut the IAEA’s redlines. One of the major stumbling blocks remains the “possible military dimensions” (PMDs) of Iran’s nuclear program. While Obama and proponents of the tentative deal reached repeatedly say that Iran has abided by the terms of the Joint Plan of Action, even if this were true, it is the equivalent of saying that a drunk passed a sobriety test by counting to one. Much of the work on PMDs has occurred in military facilities, especially those maintained by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) that, for what it is worth, has never endorsed or agreed to abide by any nuclear deal reached.

Yukiya Amano, the secretary-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has been seeking to guarantee access to nuclear work conducted in Iran’s military restricted zones and bases. Iran’s Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) yesterday reported on his efforts. Behrouz Kamalvandi, the spokesman for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, responded:

Mr. Amano has not set demands for Iran, but instead has offered an interpretation of the Additional Protocol that we have some reservations about… According to the Article 5 of the protocol, access to the sites that the IAEA is seeking to enter requires substantial evidence and arguments. Also, the agency should pay attention to different concerns from member countries, including security concerns.

So, let’s get this straight: Obama and Kerry have celebrated Iran’s concessions and flexibility. They have celebrated Iran’s agreement to be guided by the Additional Protocol, an enhancement to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) that was created in 1997 in order to fill loopholes that had allowed Saddam Hussein to develop a covert nuclear program all the while receiving clean bills of health by the IAEA. The vast majority of the world—and pretty much every state of concern (minus North Korea and Pakistan which are not NPT members)—has signed onto the Additional Protocol and accept its contents. Not so, Iran. First, they said they would only abide “voluntarily” to the Additional Protocol, which means they could walk away at any time. Now, the Iranian government is putting forward an interpretation that would effectively gut any remaining bite the inspections have by arguing that raising security concerns should be enough to avoid inspections. That reading is the nuclear equivalent of quibbling over what the meaning of “is” is in order to absolve oneself from a lie. Perhaps it’s time for Obama and Kerry simply to replace the Stars and Stripes with a white flag of surrender, because it is increasingly clear that their deal is nothing but capitulation and the verification mechanisms about which they bragged are little more than an illusion. Unprecedented verification, indeed.

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If Sanctions Have Already Collapsed, We Know the Outcome of the Iran Talks

The deadline is fast approaching for the completion of the draft of the Iran nuclear agreement. When the framework was announced last month, the assumption was that the deal would soon be put on paper. But it soon became clear that there were serious differences on key issues between Iran and the West about the final terms of the pact that had to be hammered out in negotiations. President Obama has insisted that he will not budge on his insistence that Iran agree to sanctions being lifted on a delayed basis and be able to be “snapped back” in the event of Tehran violating the deal, the imposition of intrusive nuclear inspections and that it will be forced to give up its stockpile of enriched uranium. But confidence that he will stand his ground in the talks is being undermined daily by evidence that the economic sanctions that brought Iran to the table are already breaking down. As Eli Lake reports at BloombergView, the delivery of nine used commercial airliners in Iran for use by Mahan Air illustrates that the ground on which Obama is standing is falling apart. If sanctions can’t be kept now, why would Iran give in on any of these issues, let alone fear they would be re-imposed later?

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The deadline is fast approaching for the completion of the draft of the Iran nuclear agreement. When the framework was announced last month, the assumption was that the deal would soon be put on paper. But it soon became clear that there were serious differences on key issues between Iran and the West about the final terms of the pact that had to be hammered out in negotiations. President Obama has insisted that he will not budge on his insistence that Iran agree to sanctions being lifted on a delayed basis and be able to be “snapped back” in the event of Tehran violating the deal, the imposition of intrusive nuclear inspections and that it will be forced to give up its stockpile of enriched uranium. But confidence that he will stand his ground in the talks is being undermined daily by evidence that the economic sanctions that brought Iran to the table are already breaking down. As Eli Lake reports at BloombergView, the delivery of nine used commercial airliners in Iran for use by Mahan Air illustrates that the ground on which Obama is standing is falling apart. If sanctions can’t be kept now, why would Iran give in on any of these issues, let alone fear they would be re-imposed later?

The airliner deal that Lake discusses is important because, as he notes, the U.S. Treasury Department has targeted Mahan Air in the past because of its ties to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps. But now apparently, all is forgiven and the company’s efforts to bolster its fleet are not being interfered with by the U.S. or its allies.

The efforts of Russia, which has already announced the sale of anti-aircraft missiles to Iran, and China to undermine the sanctions to which they have only reluctantly endorsed, are well known. So, too, if the fact that Western Europe has been chomping at the bit to buy Iranian oil as well as do business in the country. As I wrote last month, even American companies are now eagerly preparing to dive back into the Iranian market.

The impact of these efforts will be felt once a deal is signed and create a huge and powerful constituency against any effort to hold Iran accountable for its compliance with the weak nuclear deal or to re-impose sanctions should Tehran chose to cheat on the easily evaded restrictions in the pact. But even if we forget for a moment how the rush to conduct business with Iran after the deal is finally concluded, the key question now is how the efforts of some to jump the gun on Iran trade will impact the last stage of the talks.

The president has insisted he won’t give in to Iran’s demands that the sanctions be lifted permanently on the day the deal is signed. We are also told he won’t give up on inspections or the transfer of the nuclear stockpile of Iran. What’s more Iran has been told that it must allow United Nations inspectors to discover the extent of its progress in military research that it has heretofore kept secret. But, as Lake’s report illustrates, what little is left of America’s economic leverage over the Islamist regime is evaporating with each passing day.

Unfortunately, the president has a poor track record with regards to being tough with Iran. He threw away the enormous advantages that the international economic restrictions has given the West over Iran in 2013 when he agreed to an interim nuclear deal that began the process of dismantling sanctions. The same pattern reappeared in the 16 months of negotiations that led to the framework. At every point America abandoned its previous positions that had called for an end to Iran’s nuclear program. Instead, Obama eventually presented the country with a deal that let the Iranians keep most of the nuclear infrastructure and which will eventually expire. That already gives Iran two paths to a bomb. One is by violating the easily evaded restrictions on their nuclear activity. The other is by patiently waiting for the deal to expire while legally continuing their research.

All of which leads observers to the inevitable conclusion that unless President Obama has a radical change of heart, he will again bend to Iran’s demands on even these final crucial sticking points. But even if he wanted, for the first time, to insist on getting his way, it’s hard to see how that will happen with the sanctions already disappearing. It’s equally difficult to imagine him walking away from his signature foreign policy “achievement” on which an entire new Iran-centric policy is based. The airliner delivery may turn out to be just one more indication that Iran is right to think that it can keep saying “no” to Obama and get away with it.

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What About the Real Obama Cover-Ups?

So Seymour Hersh is making news with an anonymously sourced conspiracy theory about the Obama administration and the Bin Laden raid. Forget that Hersh is constitutionally incapable of writing a credible story. And even forget that Hersh’s tall tales about the Bush administration were embraced with nothing like the broad skepticism he’s faced in going after Obama. What remains puzzling is this: Even if Hersh’s allegations are true, they’re trivial compared to the Obama deceptions that we can actually verify.

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So Seymour Hersh is making news with an anonymously sourced conspiracy theory about the Obama administration and the Bin Laden raid. Forget that Hersh is constitutionally incapable of writing a credible story. And even forget that Hersh’s tall tales about the Bush administration were embraced with nothing like the broad skepticism he’s faced in going after Obama. What remains puzzling is this: Even if Hersh’s allegations are true, they’re trivial compared to the Obama deceptions that we can actually verify.

Islamabad was in cahoots with Washington on the Bin Laden raid? If that’s a geopolitical scandal what do you call Barack Obama’s message to Vladimir Putin that he could accommodate him on missile defense once reelected by Americans under the opposite impression? What do you call his giving away the store to Iran behind the backs of Israel and Saudi Arabia (and the American Congress)? What do you call a deal with Russia to remove Bashar al-Assad’s chemical weapons that results in Assad retaining and using chemical weapons? What do you call Obama’s vowing to have “Israel’s back” only to announce a reassessment of the bilateral relationship?

There are more examples, of course. The duplicity around the Bowe Bergdahl swap, the whopper about the filmmaker causing the Benghazi attack, the tactical intelligence leaking against allies, and so on. The point is there’s enough scandalous dishonesty to fill a piece far longer than Hersh’s and anyone could do it simply by going through the last six years of front-page news stories.

But since few Americans seem terribly interested in the falsehoods staring them in the face, a conspiracy theorist like Hersh has to go way out into the margins to come up with something to sell as a scoop. Only in the Obama age are Seymour Hersh’s implausible accusations against his country less damning than the plain truth of American policy.

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Saudis Show Iran Deal Crackup Has Begun

President Obama is in the position of a high-school student who thinks that the cool kids are going to come to his birthday party and starts bragging about it around school, only to have his prized guests opt out at the last minute, leaving him looking considerably embarrassed. The guests in question are the leaders of America’s closest Gulf allies. They had been invited to a fence-mending summit at Camp David but only two—the emirs of Qatar and Kuwait—have accepted. All the others have suddenly discovered they have something else urgent to do that weekend. (Haircuts scheduled! Barbecues to attend!) Most embarrassing for Obama, as Jonathan Tobin noted earlier today, is that Saudi King Salman had at first accepted the invitation before declining it.

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President Obama is in the position of a high-school student who thinks that the cool kids are going to come to his birthday party and starts bragging about it around school, only to have his prized guests opt out at the last minute, leaving him looking considerably embarrassed. The guests in question are the leaders of America’s closest Gulf allies. They had been invited to a fence-mending summit at Camp David but only two—the emirs of Qatar and Kuwait—have accepted. All the others have suddenly discovered they have something else urgent to do that weekend. (Haircuts scheduled! Barbecues to attend!) Most embarrassing for Obama, as Jonathan Tobin noted earlier today, is that Saudi King Salman had at first accepted the invitation before declining it.

The administration spinmeisters can put a happy face on this all they want by claiming that they can still negotiate with the lower-level leaders the Gulf countries are sending but there is no doubt that this is a rebuke of the administration for putting Iran first. The Gulf leaders see the U.S. increasingly cozy with the rulers in Tehran, whose imperial designs they regard as a mortal danger, and they are not reticent about signaling their displeasure. Refusing to attend the Camp David summit is the least of it. Other actions that the Gulfies are taking are more serious—for example launching bombing campaigns against extremists in both Libya and, on a larger scale, in Yemen without asking for America’s permission or even bothering to notify us more than a few hours in advance.

As the New York Times notes, the Gulf states and in particular Saudi Arabia are manifesting their independence in other, even more disconcerting ways. For instance the hard-line King Salman is rethinking the opposition displayed by his more liberal predecessor, King Abdullah, toward the Muslim Brotherhood and possibly even toward more extreme and violent Salafists: “In Yemen, King Salman is working with Islah, a Muslim Brotherhood political party, and has warmed relations with Qatar, a backer of the Brotherhood. In March, he received Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, in Riyadh. The two agreed to work together to support the rebels seeking to topple President Bashar al-Assad in Syria, according to Yasin Aktay, the foreign relations chief for Turkey’s governing party. Although Mr. Aktay said that only moderate groups received support, many of Syria’s most effective fighters are staunch Islamists who often fight alongside the Nusra Front, Al Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate, raising the possibility that aid might also empower extremists.”

Put another way, because the Obama administration is refusing to do anything to oust Bashar Assad, the Saudis are getting together with the Turks and Qataris to back some of the more fundamentalist Islamist fighters working against the Assad regime—including, it is rumored, the Nusra Front, an Al Qaeda affiliate. This is what happens when the Gulf states lose confidence in America: they start taking matters into their own hands and that means they will increasingly forge a pact with extreme Islamists, possibly even with ISIS, because they see the extremists as the only reliable barrier to the spread of Iranian influence.

This is a catastrophic if wholly predictable development, and it is only the beginning of the fallout from Obama’s decision to align so closely with Tehran. The next step in the Sunni pushback is, as the Saudi leadership has loudly and long signaled, for them to acquire their own nuclear weapons. As the Wall Street Journal reports, Saudi Arabia is conveniently next to Jordan which has vast uranium reserves but no money to exploit them. The Saudis could easily fill that gap and develop their own nuclear capacity within a decade, the timeline of the Iranian nuclear deal. Or the Saudis could get nukes even sooner if their friends in Pakistan agree to provide them.

Nothing that President Obama will do or say at the Camp David summit can remotely offset this parlous trend. What America’s Arab allies are looking for is an American commitment to resist Iranian designs. Instead all they see is America standing aside while Iran threatens to dominate the region.

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Why the Snub? Saudis Know Obama’s Replaced Them With Iran

If the Obama administration thought it was successful in its half-hearted efforts to make up with Saudi Arabia and other Arab states outraged by its Iran policies, it’s got another thing coming. On Sunday, the Saudis told the White House that King Salman would not be attending meetings there or at Camp David this week. Later, Bahrain said its King Hamad would skip the same meeting. The snubs are as pointed as President Obama’s recent signals that he has no intention of meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu anytime soon. But while the president has little interest in patching things up with America’s sole democratic ally in the Middle East, he was quite interested in making nice with the Saudi monarch. But the Saudis and Bahrain, like the Israelis, are deeply concerned by the U.S. effort to create a new détente with Iran. It’s not just that Salman apparently has better things to do than to schmooze with Obama. The president may have thought he could essentially replace the Saudis with Iran as the lynchpin of a new Middle East strategic vision without paying a price. But the Saudis understandably want no part of this. The result will be a region made even more dangerous by the Arabs, as well as the Israelis, coming to the realization that they can’t rely on Washington.

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If the Obama administration thought it was successful in its half-hearted efforts to make up with Saudi Arabia and other Arab states outraged by its Iran policies, it’s got another thing coming. On Sunday, the Saudis told the White House that King Salman would not be attending meetings there or at Camp David this week. Later, Bahrain said its King Hamad would skip the same meeting. The snubs are as pointed as President Obama’s recent signals that he has no intention of meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu anytime soon. But while the president has little interest in patching things up with America’s sole democratic ally in the Middle East, he was quite interested in making nice with the Saudi monarch. But the Saudis and Bahrain, like the Israelis, are deeply concerned by the U.S. effort to create a new détente with Iran. It’s not just that Salman apparently has better things to do than to schmooze with Obama. The president may have thought he could essentially replace the Saudis with Iran as the lynchpin of a new Middle East strategic vision without paying a price. But the Saudis understandably want no part of this. The result will be a region made even more dangerous by the Arabs, as well as the Israelis, coming to the realization that they can’t rely on Washington.

The conceit of Obama’s strategy rests on more than a weak deal that he hopes will be enough to postpone the question of an Iranian bomb even as it essentially anoints Tehran as a threshold nuclear power. Rather it is predicated on the notion that once Iran is allowed to, in the president’s phrase, “get right with the world” and reintegrated into the global economy, it can be counted on to keep peace in a region from which Obama wants to withdraw.

That’s why the administration has tacitly allied itself with Iran in the struggle against ISIS in Iraq and, bowed to Tehran’s desire to leave its ally Bashar Assad in power in Syria even as they sought to restrain the Islamist regime’s Houthi friends in their effort to take over Yemen. But given Iran’s desire for regional hegemony, it’s reliance on terrorist allies like Hezbollah and Hamas as well as Assad’s criminal regime, the notion that it is a force for stability is as much a delusion as the idea that it is giving up its quest for nuclear weapons.

Just as important, the Obama foreign policy team was convinced that it could afford to ignore the Saudis’ concerns about their intended entente with Iran with as much impunity as it did those of Israel. As one expert quoted in the New York Times said, the Saudis have no alternative to the U.S. as a superpower ally. But it has not failed to escape their attention that “there’s a growing perception at the White House that the U.S. and Saudi Arabia are friends but not allies, while the U.S. and Iran are allies but not friends.”

Under the circumstances, the Saudis are now prepared to show the president the extent of their disdain. But it may not stop at that.

The Saudis, like the Israelis, know that America’s promises about both the nuclear deal and the future of the region are not worth much. The Iranians have been granted two paths to a bomb by the United States. One is by cheating via the easily evaded restrictions in the nuclear pact with little fear of sanctions being snapped back. The other is by patiently waiting for it to expire while continuing their nuclear research with little interference from a West that will be far more interested in trade than anything else.

That leaves the Saudis thinking they may need to procure their own nuclear option and to flex their muscles, as they have been doing in Yemen. It also sets up the region for what may be an ongoing series of confrontations between Iranian allies and the Saudis and their friends, a recipe for disaster.

Will Obama get the message and change course? That’s even less likely than him embracing Netanyahu. An administration that came into office determined to create more daylight between itself and Israel has now embarked on a policy designed to alienate all of America’s traditional allies in order to appease a vicious Islamist foe. Anyone who thinks this will turn out well simply isn’t paying attention to the same events that have left the Saudis and other U.S. allies thinking they are more or less being left on their own.

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Bibi’s Coalition and Obama’s Temptation

This time President Obama didn’t keep Prime Minister Netanyahu waiting. The administration kept the Israeli leader waiting for days before the president made a begrudging congratulatory call after Netanyahu’s decisive election victory in March. But the day after Netanyahu finally pulled together a razor-thin 61-vote coalition to official take office for his fourth term in office, the White House issued a prompt, if businesslike statement congratulating him. But unlike the election which disappointed the administration’s hopes for a Netanyahu defeat, it’s likely that Obama isn’t entirely displeased by the fact that the prime minister was forced to accept a narrow right-wing government rather than the broader coalition he sought. Just as in 2009, when the president hoped for Netanyahu’s government to quickly fall, Washington is hoping that their Israeli nemesis will soon be out of power. As I wrote yesterday, that may not happen. More important, the question now is if the administration will have learned its lessons from six years of failed attempts to undermine Netanyahu. If instead of backing off they try again to topple him, all that will be accomplished is strengthening the prime minister.

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This time President Obama didn’t keep Prime Minister Netanyahu waiting. The administration kept the Israeli leader waiting for days before the president made a begrudging congratulatory call after Netanyahu’s decisive election victory in March. But the day after Netanyahu finally pulled together a razor-thin 61-vote coalition to official take office for his fourth term in office, the White House issued a prompt, if businesslike statement congratulating him. But unlike the election which disappointed the administration’s hopes for a Netanyahu defeat, it’s likely that Obama isn’t entirely displeased by the fact that the prime minister was forced to accept a narrow right-wing government rather than the broader coalition he sought. Just as in 2009, when the president hoped for Netanyahu’s government to quickly fall, Washington is hoping that their Israeli nemesis will soon be out of power. As I wrote yesterday, that may not happen. More important, the question now is if the administration will have learned its lessons from six years of failed attempts to undermine Netanyahu. If instead of backing off they try again to topple him, all that will be accomplished is strengthening the prime minister.

In the aftermath of the Israeli election and the agreement on a framework nuclear deal with Iran that Netanyahu opposed, the administration has sent signals about wanting to patch over its differences with Israel. The latest Jewish charm offensive is being led by Vice President Biden rather than Obama and may well succeed in helping to defuse Jewish opposition to the Iran deal. Most American Jewish organizations and their leaders are too timorous to launch a tough campaign to stop Obama’s appeasement of Iran. But the Israeli government isn’t fooled. Instead rightly listening more closely to the thinly veiled threats emanating from senior administration figures about isolating Israel at the United Nations in the next year. That almost certainly won’t happen until the Iran deal is safely signed this summer and then ratified one way or another via a Congressional vote mandated by the toothless compromise passed today by the Senate.

Netanyahu, who has also been informed he won’t be allowed into Obama’s presence until the nuclear deal is finished, realizes that although the administration is concentrating on getting its way on Iran, his turn will soon come. Given the inherent weakness of his coalition, it’s likely the administration views the right-wing cast of the new coalition as an invitation to pressure on the prime minister.

Netanyahu understands that yet another round of futile peace talks with the Palestinians present no real danger to Israel. That’s because, as they have repeatedly demonstrated over the past 15 years, neither the “moderates” of Fatah running the Palestinian Authority nor the extremists of Hamas ruling Gaza will ever sign a peace deal with Israel. But if Netanyahu bends to American demands for talks or gestures aimed at enticing the Palestinians back to the table, some in his coalition, particularly the Jewish Home party, will bolt. That could force new elections if the Zionist Union opposition sticks to its refusal to accept Netanyahu’s standing invitation to join the government. If Netanyahu refuses to offend his right-wing allies and doesn’t budge, then Obama can lower the boom on the Israelis at the UN, leading to a crisis that might also oust the prime minister. Or so the administration may think.

It looks like a foolproof plan for Obama to finally get rid of a head of government that he has seen as a thorn in his side for his entire term of office. But just as past attempts to topple Netanyahu failed, so, too, may this one and for the same reason.

Every previous fight picked with Israel by the administration has backfired. The reason for that is Obama has always staked out ground that enabled Netanyahu to rally the support of Israeli public opinion, whether it was defending the unity of Jerusalem or forcing the Jewish state back to the 1967 lines. No matter what provocation Washington puts forward for a decision to abandon Israel at the UN, it will seen by seen by most Israelis as a craven betrayal by their sole superpower ally. Though some will blame Netanyahu for worsening the relationship with the U.S., it’s likely that such a turn of affairs will be blamed more on Obama’s animus for the Jewish state than on the prickly prime minister’s lack of tact.

Moreover, provoking a crisis in the U.S.-Israel relationship might make it easier for Netanyahu to go back to the electorate with confidence in another victory. It could also place pressure on Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog to accept Netanyahu’s offer of the post of foreign minister. Despite Herzog’s rhetoric about support for the peace process, that won’t bring an agreement with the Palestinians any closer. Heightened tension between the U.S. and Israel will only goad the PA to be even more obdurate about refusing to make peace on terms that won’t guarantee the destruction of the Jewish state.

Obama’s only hope of outlasting the prime minister in office is to leave Israel alone and let the internal tensions of coalition politics undermine Netanyahu. Yet after more than six years of thirsting for his downfall, it’s not likely that the president can resist the temptation to try and knock him off. The one thing such a course of action will guarantee is Netanyahu’s job security. So long as the U.S. is applying unfair pressure on Israel, the prime minister will always be able to count on keeping his majority in the Knesset and a grip on the support of the public. That’s a lesson Obama has yet to learn.

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Obama Ignores Massive Labor Strike in Iran

One of the biggest missed opportunities of the George W. Bush-era was turning its back on Iran’s Lech Walesa moment. While proponents of soft-power and those seeking to empower civil society often talk about the role of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), the simple truth across the Arab Middle East, Turkey, and Iran is that there are few if any true NGOs; most are instead GONGOs, government-operated NGOs. In most countries, not only does the state dominate enterprise, but the ministry of labor also controls unions so that they cannot strike against the government’s interests. That has traditionally been the case in the Islamic Republic of Iran. Today, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, revolutionary foundations, and the state itself run perhaps 40 percent of Iran’s economy. The state traditionally has trampled upon the rights of ordinary workers who are sometimes owed more than eight months in back wages.

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One of the biggest missed opportunities of the George W. Bush-era was turning its back on Iran’s Lech Walesa moment. While proponents of soft-power and those seeking to empower civil society often talk about the role of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), the simple truth across the Arab Middle East, Turkey, and Iran is that there are few if any true NGOs; most are instead GONGOs, government-operated NGOs. In most countries, not only does the state dominate enterprise, but the ministry of labor also controls unions so that they cannot strike against the government’s interests. That has traditionally been the case in the Islamic Republic of Iran. Today, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, revolutionary foundations, and the state itself run perhaps 40 percent of Iran’s economy. The state traditionally has trampled upon the rights of ordinary workers who are sometimes owed more than eight months in back wages.

It was into this milieu that Mansour Osanlou stepped forward to say enough. He was the head of the Vahed bus drivers’ union and, in 2005, he led an ‘illegal’ strike. He was arrested, but ultimately triumphed and the Islamic Republic’s first truly independent union was born. There has been subsequent union formation among sugarcane works in the Iran’s Khuzistan province. President Hassan Rouhani’s administration has fought back, however, and union agitators (or their family members) have been arrested and, in some cases, killed. So much for the Rouhani-is-a-reformer narrative.

That has not stopped Iranians from agitating for their rights. According to the semi-official Iranian Labor News Agency (ILNA), thousands of teachers today staged a protest not only in Tehran, but across Iran in cities such as Sanandaj, Hamadan, Bandar Abbas, Ilam, Zanjan, Kermanshah, Borujerd, Sabzevar, Damghan, Tabriz, Shiraz, Isfahan, Qazvin, Rasht, Arak, Shahr-i Kord, Ardabil, Bandar Abbas, Zahedan, Bushehr, Derdasht, and Kuhdasht. That’s pretty much every major Iranian city with the exceptions of Mashhad and Ahvaz. Most significantly, the protests happened after Iranian authorities summoned teachers the previous day and detained them until they signed a pledge not to take part in the planned protests.

The teachers’ demands range from better pay, to the release of teachers who are political prisoners, to the right to consult in the selection of principals, to the resignation of the education minister for alleged incompetence. Placards, according to ILNA, suggest that the poverty line is three million tomans monthly (approximately $1,000), but that teachers only get paid one-third that amount. This is the third mass protest in as many months.

A few thoughts:

  • It is ironic that so many on the European left and among Democrats in the U.S. Congress justify the current diplomatic outreach on the assumption that dialogue will better the lot of the Iranian people. Clearly, thousands of Iranian teachers across Iran disagree.
  • Iran has already received $11.9 billion in sanctions relief/unfrozen assets. Those who suggest that such money will benefit the Iranian people rather than simply fund Iran’s military enterprise may want to consider ample evidence that it does not.
  • Even when ignored, it is clear that the Iranian labor movement is a mass movement capable of significant organization. What happened today, and on April 16, and on March 1 was not simply some show for propaganda as so many pro-Iranian marches.
  • There’s something unfortunate—in the Walter Duranty sense—going on at the New York Times. In March, I highlighted how the Times had whitewashed religious oppression not only by ignoring it but also by advancing a demonstrably erroneous narrative that relied on false or fabricated statistics. Now, rather than cover a mass protest that spanned 23 cities, the New York Times instead chose to publish a story about the Tehran mayor’s patronage of art.

It will remain a shame of the George W. Bush administration that in 2005 it ignored an opportunity to support those fighting for individual rights and liberty in Iran. Obama has, though, in a serial fashion the Iranian people when they have taken to the streets, not only in 2009 but also today. How ironic it is that Obama, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Sen. Bernie Sanders, and former Sen. Hillary Clinton are so anxious to claim the mantle of protector of the workers and advocate for unions, but so willingly turn their back to workers in repressive societies like Iran’s who today put their necks on the line. Likewise, when push comes to shove, the European Greens seem more interested in engaging in dictator chic than in standing up for their professed principles.

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The Iran Deal Bill and the Myth of Bipartisanship

There will be a good deal of self-congratulation in Washington in the coming days over the passage of a Senate bill giving Congress the right to vote on the upcoming nuclear deal with Iran. Majority Leader Senator Mitch McConnell has pushed the bill sponsored by Foreign Relations Committee Chair Bob Corker and ranking member Ben Cardin through the legislative gauntlet. The leadership tells us the bill is a tribute to their willingness to put aside their differences as it passed by a whopping 98-1 margin. In doing so, they have said that though it is not ideal, it is better than nothing. But they are wrong. Though the principle of forcing a vote on the most important treaty negotiated by the U.S. in a generation is important, the toothless compromise they have accepted is a sham that virtually guarantees the deal’s ratification. The bipartisanship that everyone will celebrate is nothing more than a Republican acknowledgment that President Obama can’t and won’t be stopped.

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There will be a good deal of self-congratulation in Washington in the coming days over the passage of a Senate bill giving Congress the right to vote on the upcoming nuclear deal with Iran. Majority Leader Senator Mitch McConnell has pushed the bill sponsored by Foreign Relations Committee Chair Bob Corker and ranking member Ben Cardin through the legislative gauntlet. The leadership tells us the bill is a tribute to their willingness to put aside their differences as it passed by a whopping 98-1 margin. In doing so, they have said that though it is not ideal, it is better than nothing. But they are wrong. Though the principle of forcing a vote on the most important treaty negotiated by the U.S. in a generation is important, the toothless compromise they have accepted is a sham that virtually guarantees the deal’s ratification. The bipartisanship that everyone will celebrate is nothing more than a Republican acknowledgment that President Obama can’t and won’t be stopped.

Much of the backslapping about the passage of the bill is rooted in frustration about years of gridlock in which the two parties — or rather President Obama and Congress — have been hopelessly at odds. The 2013 government shutdown over the inclusion of an effort to repeal ObamaCare in the budget stands as a monument to just how far both Republicans and Democrats are willing to go to get their way. Thus, anything that can be portrayed as an effort by the sides to take half a loaf rather than none is seen as a triumph for common sense. There is something to be said for that way of thinking on a lot of issues. But what has happened during the debate about the nuclear threat from Iran illustrates that much of what passes for bipartisanship is merely an effort by which the losers pretend they haven’t been taken to the cleaners while the winners agree to let them engage in such a charade.

That is exactly what has happened on the Iran deal bill.

It should be recalled that coming into 2015, it appeared that there was an overwhelming bipartisan majority in both Houses of Congress for increased sanctions on Iran that would strengthen the administration’s hand in the nuclear negotiations. But President Obama had no interest in getting tough with his negotiating partners and bitterly opposed the idea. Once it became clear that he would make enough concessions to the Iranians to entice them to agree to a framework deal, the focus of those seeking to respond to events was on passing a bill that would force the president to submit any agreement to Congress for ratification. The president was as opposed to that idea as he was to more sanctions arguing that he need not be trammeled by the Constitution’s requirement that any treaty receive a two-thirds positive vote in the Senate.

The White House campaign to thwart critics of the Iran deal at first focused on generating partisan Democratic umbrage at the Republicans for inviting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak against appeasement. Once the deal was done, that effort morphed into a more straight-forward one that aimed at rallying Democrats behind the president’s chief foreign policy goal: détente with Iran. Yet even many Democrats were queasy about the idea of not being able to vote on the Iran deal.

The White House recognized this and instead of heading off a vote altogether it concentrated its efforts on persuading Democrats to prevent the Republicans from drafting the measure in such a way as to make it meaningful. Thus, the final draft to emerge from the committee did not include any provisions that would make the administration accountable for Iranian compliance or altered behavior. When the president saw that a “clean” bill would be passed with a veto-proof majority, he happily signaled that he would sign rather than veto it.

In theory, this should make everyone happy and be a triumph for the ethos of bipartisanship. But the reason why the White House likes the clean bill is precisely because its passage does nothing to interfere with a policy of appeasement of Iran. By excluding any provisions from the bill that would ensure that Iran stop supporting terrorism and threatening Israel’s destruction and ensure a stricter crackdown on their nuclear program, there is no real accountability to the process. Even more than that, by allowing the measure to be framed as a Congressional vote rather than a treaty ratification, it gives the president the ability to veto the eventual vote on the deal and for it survive with only a one-third plus one margin to prevent an override.

As it stands, the Iran deal provides Iran with two paths to a bomb, one by easily evading its restrictions (which may not be enforced with tough inspections that Iran won’t allow) and another by patiently waiting for it to expire all the while continuing its nuclear research. In addition, there is no meaningful provision for snapping back sanctions in the event of Iran violating its word either in the deal or in the Congressional bill. And that’s assuming this or a future Democratic administration would ever admit that Iran was cheating.

Thus, all we are left with here is a charade of accountability that will let members of Congress vote on a deal with little likelihood that this will do anything to stop it. By accepting this as better than nothing all the Republicans are telling us is that they know they can’t beat Obama but want to show they’ve tried.

In 2013, centrists and members of the Republican leadership derided the absolutist stand of Senator Ted Cruz and others who supported the shutdown as being both suicidal and unrealistic. They were probably right in that instance but this time it is Cruz and his fellow presidential candidate Senator Marco Rubio who have tried unsuccessfully to strengthen the will are the ones who are correct. In this case, something isn’t better than nothing since it gives the Iran deal the pretense of being ratified by Congress without any real oversight. If the Congressional leadership wanted to provide us with a better example of why bipartisanship isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, they could not have done better than this bill.

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The Snapback Sanctions Fallacy: Germany Edition

I had written here about how the Russian government ridiculed President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry’s insistence that snapback sanctions would restore pressure on Iran should the Islamic Republic be caught cheating. And here about why China likewise won’t support snapback sanctions on Iran. It would be hard to consider either Russia or China a U.S. ally (unless, of course, one is Hillary Clinton or has been influenced to do so by money laundered through the Clinton Foundation), but Germany is a different case entirely. Or at least it should be.

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I had written here about how the Russian government ridiculed President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry’s insistence that snapback sanctions would restore pressure on Iran should the Islamic Republic be caught cheating. And here about why China likewise won’t support snapback sanctions on Iran. It would be hard to consider either Russia or China a U.S. ally (unless, of course, one is Hillary Clinton or has been influenced to do so by money laundered through the Clinton Foundation), but Germany is a different case entirely. Or at least it should be.

Germany has always put mercantile considerations above human rights and a quest for peace. It has long played a double game on Iran and sanctions, but there was only so far Berlin would go to seek short-term profit when the international community still upheld sanctions on Iran.

But with Obama signaling an end to sanctions—even if he says their suspension is conditional—Germany is moving in to rake in the big bucks from Iran’s ayatollahs. From the indispensable Michael Spaney of Germany’s “Stop the Bomb” organization:

  • In Berlin, German Vice Chancellor and Economics Minister Sigmar Gabriel will meet Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh today. The oil minister will also speak at the “Energy Security Summit”, which takes place today in Berlin and is organized by the Munich Security Conference under the auspices of Foreign Minister Frank Walter Steinmeier. Zanganeh will also meet representatives from the companies Siemens, Linde and Lurgi in Munich, according to Iranian media reports…
  • Another conference dealing with the reentry into the Iranian market has the support of the Federal Ministry of Economics. The conference is organized by the Association of German Chambers of Commerce and Industry and will take place on May 19 in Berlin. Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel will open the conference with a welcoming speech.
  • The Near and Middle East Association “Numov” has issued invitations to a conference on the same day, entitled “Doing Business in Iran” which will feature the director of the Iranian Bank of Industry and Mines, which is on EU and US sanctions lists.
  • In Iran, the German Engineering Association VDMA is represented with a booth at the ongoing Iran Oil trade show. The technology fair INOTEX will take place in early June with the support of the German-Iranian Chamber of Commerce.

Spaney has always been meticulous in his research, and his press release includes the sourcing to support his allegations and revelations. What he omits is that most of Germany’s investment dollars will not aid ordinary Iranians or even the chimera of reform; rather, German firms are pumping money directly into the coffers of those companies controlled by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Regardless, the point is, however, once investors go in, they will not depart. Germany may not sit on the Security Council like Russia and China, but Berlin will resist as hard acknowledgment of any Iranian cheating if it means the loss of billions in investments. If Obama were to design a strategy that empowers Iran, enables it to better afford a nuclear program and advanced military, and leaves the way clear for it to develop nuclear weapons should it so choose, it would not look much different from the strategy upon which he has now embarked. Germany’s actions are simply the latest confirmation that Obama’s insistence that he can close the floodgates is nothing but manna for the stupid or political fantasy.

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Obama’s Double Standard on Civilian Casualties

I know it’s been a busy two weeks, but I’m still waiting for that apology. I’ve been waiting for it ever since the U.S. admitted on April 23 to accidentally killing two Western hostages in Pakistan, and doubly so after a U.S. airstrike allegedly killed 52 civilians in Syria last Friday. Clearly, I don’t expect an apology for the fact that American forces are composed of men rather than angels, and therefore sometimes makes mistakes. But I certainly do expect an apology for the Obama Administration’s refusal to acknowledge that so are Israel’s forces. In the administration’s view, Israel never makes honest mistakes. If Israel inadvertently kills civilians in wartime, then it wasn’t trying hard enough not to do so.

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I know it’s been a busy two weeks, but I’m still waiting for that apology. I’ve been waiting for it ever since the U.S. admitted on April 23 to accidentally killing two Western hostages in Pakistan, and doubly so after a U.S. airstrike allegedly killed 52 civilians in Syria last Friday. Clearly, I don’t expect an apology for the fact that American forces are composed of men rather than angels, and therefore sometimes makes mistakes. But I certainly do expect an apology for the Obama Administration’s refusal to acknowledge that so are Israel’s forces. In the administration’s view, Israel never makes honest mistakes. If Israel inadvertently kills civilians in wartime, then it wasn’t trying hard enough not to do so.

We don’t yet know what happened in Syria, but the drone strike on an al-Qaeda compound in Pakistan is instructive. Administration officials told the New York Times that the CIA had “no idea that the hostages were being held there despite hundreds of hours of surveillance.” Yet they apparently can’t conceive of Israel — in the midst of a shooting war where decisions on whether to return fire must be made instantly, rather than with the benefit of hundreds of hours of surveillance — being similarly unaware that civilians were present at various sites it targeted during last summer’s war with Hamas in Gaza.

Needless to say, American military professionals don’t share the administration’s view. The day after the White House announced the hostages’ deaths; Michael Schmitt and John Merriam published a summary of their detailed investigation into Israel’s targeting practices during that war. Schmitt, a professor of international law, heads the Stockton Center for the Study of International Law at the U.S. Naval War College and is considered a leading expert on the laws of armed conflict (LOAC). Merriam is a U.S. Army Judge Advocate and associate director of the Stockton Center. They were given unusual access to information, like targeting procedures that the Israel Defense Forces usually keeps secret; they were also allowed to observe IDF targeting cells at work and examine combat footage that hasn’t been publicly released. And here’s their conclusion:

Broadly speaking, we concluded that IDF positions on targeting law largely track those of the United States military. Moreover, even when they differ, the Israeli approach remains within the ambit of generally acceptable State practice … we found that their approach to targeting is consistent with the law and, in many cases, worthy of emulation.

They also pointed out that “the nuances of the Israeli approach … can only be understood in the context of the specific operational and strategic environment in which the IDF must fight.” And the complexities of that environment, which Israel’s critics largely ignore, go beyond such simple facts as Hamas’s penchant for launching rockets from civilian homes.

For instance, one key principle of LOAC is proportionality, meaning that an attack is illegal if the anticipated harm to civilians is disproportionate to the anticipated military benefit. But for a country that routinely trades hundreds of terrorists – who then resume killing Israelis – for a single captured soldier, the anticipated military benefit of preventing a soldier from being captured may be much higher than it would be for countries that don’t routinely make such trades, Schmitt and Merriam noted.

Yet the professionals’ view – also voiced by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey last November – never mattered to their civilian superiors. Even a Pentagon spokesman joined the administration pile-on accusing Israel of callous disregard for civilian life, declaring in a news briefing last July that “the Israelis need to do more to live up to their very high standards … for protecting civilian life.”

I don’t expect anything of people who think U.S. drone strikes are no less evil than Israel’s actions in Gaza. But the Obama Administration routinely defends its own civilian casualties as honest mistakes that occurred despite the strictest precautions. And to do that while simultaneously insisting that Israel’s can’t possibly be the same is the height of hypocrisy.

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Iran Demands U.S. Withdrawal from Gulf

To mark the 30th anniversary of the Iranian seizure of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei gave a blistering speech mocking President Barack Obama and warning the U.S. president that he would see no settlement with Iran so long as the United States maintained a military presence in the Persian Gulf or placed his hopes in Iranian reformers.

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To mark the 30th anniversary of the Iranian seizure of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei gave a blistering speech mocking President Barack Obama and warning the U.S. president that he would see no settlement with Iran so long as the United States maintained a military presence in the Persian Gulf or placed his hopes in Iranian reformers.

He began:

“This new President of America said beautiful things. He sent us messages constantly, both orally and written: ‘Come and let us turn the page, come and create a new situation, come and let us cooperate in solving the problems of the world.’ It reached this degree! We said that we should not be prejudiced, that we will look at their deeds. They said we want change. We said, well, let us see the change.

And, then, he referred to a speech he gave on the Iranian New year (March 21, 2009) in Mashhad responding to Obama’s televised interviews and letters. The White House and the State Department speech ignored that speech, at least publicly, because it wasn’t what they wanted to hear, but here’s how Khamenei referred to it:

I said that if there is an iron fist under the velvet glove and you extend a hand towards us we will not extend our hand. This was the warning I made eight months ago. During the past eight months, what we have seen is contrary to what they orally express and pretend…

What does Khamenei mean by the “iron fist”? It’s the U.S. navy and the presence of U.S. ships in international waters in and around the Persian Gulf.

He concluded by declaring:

They should not rest their hopes in the unrest which happened after the [2009] election… [Reformists] can’t roll out the red carpet for the United States in our country. They should know this. The Iranian nation resists.

The irony here is that the logic of Obama’s strategy is to cultivate the reformists somehow believing that they can triumph and marginalize the hardliners, never mind that men like Iranian President Hassan Rouhani are hard line, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps dominates the military and economy, and the Supreme Leader is supreme, no matter how Obama might like to twist it.

Fast forward more than five years. Earlier today, Khamenei warned that he would not tolerate any threats overshadowing negotiations:

I do not agree with negotiations that are shadowed by threats. The Iranian nation does not tolerate negotiations under threat… The negotiators should carry on with the negotiations while observing the red lines. However, they should not welcome any imposition, humiliation and threats.

America’s Gulf allies already hear in Obama’s rhetoric of a “pivot to Asia” shadows of British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan’s “East of Suez” speech. They fear abandonment. It is a fear that the Iranian government stokes in word and action.

There has not been a single Iranian objection to which Obama and Kerry have not caved. They do not seem to understand that what they see as compromise Khamenei sees as weakness to exploit. As Khamenei increasingly alludes to a refusal to negotiate “under threat,” and makes other allusions to U.S. power projection in the region, the question is whether Obama will once again acquiesce and effectively cede security in the Persian Gulf to Iran. He may say no, but his pattern of actions speaks louder than words. America’s Gulf allies should be very worried indeed.

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And If the Shooters Were Not From ISIS?

Does it make a difference whether ISIS is directly responsible for Sunday night’s attack in Garland, Texas or whether jihadists who swore allegiance to the group from afar carried out the shooting instead? In terms of managing domestic counterterrorism, yes, it makes a huge difference. Doing battle with organized cells trained and supplied by the Islamic State is a very different matter from playing whack-a-mole with those Joe Biden calls “knock-off jihadists.” But in terms of the larger, long-term threat posed by ISIS, it doesn’t matter as much as we seem to think. As long as ISIS thrives in Syria and Iraq, putting out high-production snuff films, garnering recruits, and claiming victory before the world, the greater its pull on the lost souls of the West. We can look forward to more knock-off jihadists. And no matter who is behind Sunday’s shooting, there will be more attacks.

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Does it make a difference whether ISIS is directly responsible for Sunday night’s attack in Garland, Texas or whether jihadists who swore allegiance to the group from afar carried out the shooting instead? In terms of managing domestic counterterrorism, yes, it makes a huge difference. Doing battle with organized cells trained and supplied by the Islamic State is a very different matter from playing whack-a-mole with those Joe Biden calls “knock-off jihadists.” But in terms of the larger, long-term threat posed by ISIS, it doesn’t matter as much as we seem to think. As long as ISIS thrives in Syria and Iraq, putting out high-production snuff films, garnering recruits, and claiming victory before the world, the greater its pull on the lost souls of the West. We can look forward to more knock-off jihadists. And no matter who is behind Sunday’s shooting, there will be more attacks.

ISIS isn’t only a direct threat to peace because of its actions. Its self-celebrated existence is an engine for radicalization worldwide. ISIS-inspired jihadists are still jihadists. They’re not waiting on a blue Twitter verification check before they try to kill Americans. As ISIS raises its profile “over there,” more admirers will be inspired to attack us over here. That’s why what happens “over there” is our business after all.

Global interconnectedness is a pet theme of the left, but liberals rarely have the clarity to act on its ramifications. At the end of the day, they lament our foreign adventures, rattle off some statistics about America’s failing schools, and call for “nation building at home.” They only seem to see the big global picture when someone abroad has a problem with American power. Blowback for American action is a grave threat to our safety, but lawlessness resulting from American retrenchment is none of our business. Barack Obama talks a lot about shared destinies in the 21st century. We’re no longer divided by east and west, north and south, and so on. Yet he crafts foreign policy precisely as if he thinks we can’t be touched by troubles in faraway lands. So he left Iraq to spiral into jihadist carnage. Similarly he believed the United States had no business intervening in Bashar al-Assad’s rule of Syria and that country too was left to combust. With ISIS running rampant in both places, Obama’s barely authorized enough American force to inconvenience the sworn enemies of the West. Now, we’re left wondering just how much influence ISIS had on a shooting attack in Texas.

Biden’s dismissive term “knock-off jihadists” captures the poverty of thinking here. A better term for ISIS-inspired American terrorists might be “entrepreneurial jihadists.” Entrepreneurship thrives in the United States. With the right people willing to take the right risks, it can be contagious and grow like mad. It’s at least conceivable that entrepreneurial jihadists could become a more potent threat to the American homeland than “official” ISIS terrorists. They’re not as well trained as their heroes, but they have certain other advantages. For starters, they’re already here. They don’t have to face the hurdles of connecting with hiding parties in the Middle East, managing secret overseas travel, and so on. They can use the Internet to obtain weapons and a modicum of training. That’s precisely why al Qaeda and ISIS publish guides and magazines online. They have no problem seeing the benefits of unofficial franchising. If the Texas shooters weren’t directly tied to ISIS, the group is still justified in taking some credit. And we shouldn’t necessarily take the news that these were “knock-off jihadists” as a relief. It’s just a different kind of problem, for which we’re ill prepared.

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Iran Predicts 2015 to be Year of Collapse for U.S. Allies

A common theme of Iran’s influence operation campaign is that states in the region may like the United States better, but that the United States does not have staying power and Iran will always be their neighbor. No U.S. president has done more to affirm the Iranian narrative than Barack Obama who has undercut U.S. allies across the region.

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A common theme of Iran’s influence operation campaign is that states in the region may like the United States better, but that the United States does not have staying power and Iran will always be their neighbor. No U.S. president has done more to affirm the Iranian narrative than Barack Obama who has undercut U.S. allies across the region.

Siyasat-e Rooz (Politics Today), a hard line Iranian newspaper, provides perhaps the best recent example of this in a column entitled “Sal-e Saqut” or “Year of Collapse.” (I have excerpted a fuller Open Source Center translation). It reads:

Who are the leaders and countries that are currently meddling in the region and threatening the security of West Asia? Has Iran taken any such action? The interference of Al-Saud forces in Bahrain and the mobilization of that regime’s military forces to that country in order to repress its people, military attack on Yemen’s soil, violation of the sanctity of a country and the slaughter of thousands of the innocent people of Yemen, financial and military support of terrorist-takfiri forces in regional countries such as Iraq, Syria, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and even Middle Asia and the Caucuses that are all being carried out through the support of America and the Zionist regime, have forced the Persian Gulf and West Asia regions to face widespread insecurity… The anger and hate of the Muslim people of the region, especially the countries that have experienced instability and war as a result of the meddling of Al-Saud, America, and the Zionist regime, is increasing significantly and even the people of reactionary Arab countries have become aware and have awakened from the heavy sleep imposed on them by their respective countries’ absolute dictatorial systems and this awareness is in the process of speeding up the process of the collapse of the leaders of reactionary countries. Al-Saud is at the head of these developments and even the meeting between the heads of Persian Gulf littoral countries with US President Obama in Camp David cannot save them from collapse or lead to Islamic Iran being controlled. 2015 is the year of the collapse; collapse for many of the dependent and reactionary Arab leaders of the region, including Al-Saud.

So, in short, the Iranian government is predicting not only will Yemenis, Syrians, and Iraqis ‘turn to’ Iran, but so too will Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Afghanistan and, by allusion, perhaps Azerbaijan as well.

Iranian predictions about geopolitics are sort of like an arsonist’s prediction about where the next forest fire will break out; it pays to take heed. What is clear is that Iran is, quite literally, on the warpath. The notion that Iran hasn’t invades any country in 200 years so often voiced by apologists for the Islamic Republic’s behavior not only discounts facts (for example, Iran’s 1856 invasion of Afghanistan) but, more importantly, its asymmetric way of war. Not every act of aggressions against another states requires columns of tanks, airplanes bombing, or ships shelling enemy targets. Sponsoring insurgency and war by proxy can be just as devastating and just as aggressive. Regional countries should be on alert. Far from moderating, Iran senses itself on the cusp of revolutionary victory throughout the region.

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The Problem with New U.S. Defense Pacts: Talk Is Cheap

The Obama administration appears to have woken up, somewhat belatedly, to the damage that it has been doing to America’s traditional alliances in the Middle East by its flirtation with Iran. No, the White House hasn’t decided to bury the hatchet with Benjamin Netanyahu; he remains on their enemies list. But the administration appears to be cogitating about how it can allay concerns among the Gulf Arab states now that the U.S. is preparing to lift sanctions on Iran and legitimate its nuclear program. At a recent dinner Defense Secretary Ash Carter wanted to know: “How do you make clear to the G.C.C. [Gulf Cooperation Council] that America isn’t going to hand the house keys of the Persian Gulf over to Iran and then pivot to Asia?”

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The Obama administration appears to have woken up, somewhat belatedly, to the damage that it has been doing to America’s traditional alliances in the Middle East by its flirtation with Iran. No, the White House hasn’t decided to bury the hatchet with Benjamin Netanyahu; he remains on their enemies list. But the administration appears to be cogitating about how it can allay concerns among the Gulf Arab states now that the U.S. is preparing to lift sanctions on Iran and legitimate its nuclear program. At a recent dinner Defense Secretary Ash Carter wanted to know: “How do you make clear to the G.C.C. [Gulf Cooperation Council] that America isn’t going to hand the house keys of the Persian Gulf over to Iran and then pivot to Asia?”

As usual in Washington, the administration’s internal brainstorming is playing out in a top-secret forum called the New York Times, which reported Carter’s question. The Paper of Record further reports: “Officials at the White House, the Pentagon and the State Department have been meeting to discuss everything from joint training missions for American and Arab militaries (more likely) to additional weapons sales to a loose defense pact that could signal that the United States would back those allies if they come under attack from Iran.”

There is talk of signing bilateral defense agreements with the likes of UAE and Saudi Arabia and even of selling them top-of-the-line F-35s. Neither option appears feasible because of congressional opposition, although I would think that lawmakers would be more likely to oppose the sale of the F-35 (which Israel needs to keep its qualitative edge) than they would a defense pact along the lines of the U.S.-Japan alliance. In any case F-35s are not much use against the kind of subversion by proxy that the Iranians practice in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Yemen. Saudi Arabia’s advanced aircraft have not, for example, dislodged the Houthis from power in Yemen and American aircraft are not dislodging ISIS from its domains in Iraq and Syria.

The larger problem is that neither weapons sales nor formal alliances are an adequate substitute for American credibility and deterrence, both of which are in short supply at the moment. Why should the Gulf states believe America’s assurances of support when the U.S. has allowed Bashar Assad to stay in power and to use chemical weapons in violation of President Obama’s red lines? Or when the U.S. has allowed Russia to dismember Ukraine in violation of the 1994 Budapest Memorandum in which the U.S., Britain, and Russia guaranteed Ukraine’s territorial integrity in return for giving up its nuclear arsenal? Or when Obama pulls U.S. troops out of Iraq and now threatens to do the same in Afghanistan? Or when the U.S. allows Iran to seize a cargo ship flagged to the Marshall Islands, whose security the U.S. is already pledged to defend, with nary a protest? It will also not have escaped attention in the region how Obama dropped Hosni Mubarak, a longtime American ally, after the start of the Arab Spring (a decision that is more defensible than the other ones).

Talk is cheap, especially in this White House, with a president who talked his way into a Nobel Peace Prize. But our allies can see that this administration does not back up its rhetoric. If the White House really wanted to reassure them, it would rethink its misbegotten enthusiasm for lifting sanctions on Iran (and thus delivering hundreds of billions of dollars in lucre to a state that they view as a mortal threat) in return for promises to hold off a few years in weaponizing its nuclear program. But that’s not going to happen because Obama views a treaty with Iran as his signature achievement and he will not let the qualms of allies, or for that matter Congress, get in his way.

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If Young Voters Are Up for Grabs, Dems Are in Trouble

Heading into the 2016 presidential election, Democrats remain convinced that their victory is already baked into the electoral cake. The last two presidential votes have seen them rack up enormous majorities among minorities, women, and young voters. With immigration reform stymied, they think the growing numbers of Hispanic voters are firmly in their pockets. And they are sure that Hillary Clinton’s presence at the top of their ticket will ensure a clear advantage among women. They’re also sure that young voters will be as liberal next year as they were in 2008 and 2012 when they turned out in record numbers to back Barack Obama. But what if their assumptions about the nation’s youth are wrong? That’s the question Democrats need to ask themselves today after the publication of a new poll from Harvard University’s Institute on Politics. According to the poll, voters aged 18-29 are now far less likely to vote for a Democratic presidential candidate in 2016 than they were in the last two such elections. That sets up a race that resembles 2004 more than 2008, which is a possible recipe for a Republican victory.

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Heading into the 2016 presidential election, Democrats remain convinced that their victory is already baked into the electoral cake. The last two presidential votes have seen them rack up enormous majorities among minorities, women, and young voters. With immigration reform stymied, they think the growing numbers of Hispanic voters are firmly in their pockets. And they are sure that Hillary Clinton’s presence at the top of their ticket will ensure a clear advantage among women. They’re also sure that young voters will be as liberal next year as they were in 2008 and 2012 when they turned out in record numbers to back Barack Obama. But what if their assumptions about the nation’s youth are wrong? That’s the question Democrats need to ask themselves today after the publication of a new poll from Harvard University’s Institute on Politics. According to the poll, voters aged 18-29 are now far less likely to vote for a Democratic presidential candidate in 2016 than they were in the last two such elections. That sets up a race that resembles 2004 more than 2008, which is a possible recipe for a Republican victory.

Most pundits assumed that the Republicans’ stronger showing among young voters in the 2014 midterms was a statistical glitch produced by the lower turnout in that election than in a presidential year. But the type of advantage that Democrats enjoyed when Barack Obama was their candidate may vanish when he retires.

The Harvard poll shows that a generic Democratic candidate will still win the 18-29 year old vote in 2016 by a 55-40 percent margin. That’s a clear edge, but it is nowhere near as decisive as President Obama’s 66-32 percent win among young voters in 2008 or his 60-37 victory in that demographic in 2012. In fact that 55-40 result bears a startling resemblance to the 54-45 margin among 18-29 year olds that John Kerry won over President Bush in 2004.

What possible reason could there be for such a swing among voters assumed to be so liberal on social issues that they’d never consider voting for the GOP?

One is obvious. Barack Obama’s historic importance as our first African-American president as well as his personal appeal made him a unique political figure. No other Democrat, not even the person trying to be the first female president, can match his hold on the electorate, especially young people who were particularly vulnerable to Obama’s “hope and change” mantra. As much as many Democrats would prefer to think the gains they made in 2008 and 2012 are now part of the permanent infrastructure of American politics, they may be ephemeral.

The second is that the changing economic environment for young people entering the work force may be leading them to think more about fiscal issues than social ones like gay marriage and abortion that work to the advantage of liberals. Moreover, the anti-Iraq war sentiments that dominated the 2008 election may have gradually moderated to the point where a lot of young people are worrying as much if not more about the threat of terrorism.

The caveat here is that elections are not fought and won by generic candidates. If Republicans nominate someone who turns off young voters or who emphasizes social issues that hurt the GOP then they may slip back. By the same token, one who can run as a representative of a new generation seeking to challenge a tired and possibly corrupt retread such as Hillary Clinton stands a chance of exceeding the 2004 totals. Also troubling for Democrats is the real possibility that Clinton fatigue, accentuated by the Clinton Cash charges that continue to drip, drip, drip out, will further depress the Democrats’ brand.

But the main conclusion to draw from these figures is that no one in either party should make any assumptions about the 2016 electorate from 2008 or 2012. Change is the one constant in politics as well as life and that means things could get better for the Democrats, but also the very real possibility that they could get worse. Either way, the path to an Electoral College majority for Republicans that many on the left have come to see as a fantasy may be far more realistic than they care to think. If, as the Harvard poll illustrates, young voters are up for grabs, anything is possible.

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Neither Iran Nor the West Intends to Abide by the Nuclear Deal

Very few Iran watchers have tried to argue that the Islamic Republic can be trusted to fully comply with its obligations regarding its nuclear program. But that’s not the most concerning aspect of the emerging nuclear deal. That would be the worry that the West can’t be trusted either–that in its desperate pursuit of a deal at any cost it would overlook Iran’s cheating and even help keep it under wraps, all to protect President Obama’s foreign-policy “ObamaCare” legacy. And now we have confirmation that this will not only happen in the future, but that it’s already taking place.

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Very few Iran watchers have tried to argue that the Islamic Republic can be trusted to fully comply with its obligations regarding its nuclear program. But that’s not the most concerning aspect of the emerging nuclear deal. That would be the worry that the West can’t be trusted either–that in its desperate pursuit of a deal at any cost it would overlook Iran’s cheating and even help keep it under wraps, all to protect President Obama’s foreign-policy “ObamaCare” legacy. And now we have confirmation that this will not only happen in the future, but that it’s already taking place.

Reuters reports that the Iranians have kept up illicit work on their nuclear program. The information was leaked from a secret UN panel report, which stated that the Iranian actions had been noticed by the British. In fact, the Iranian actions were caught by the British soon after the preliminary agreement between the P5+1 and Iran in April. The Iranians, it seems, never even took a break:

“The UK government informed the Panel on 20 April 2015 that it ‘is aware of an active Iranian nuclear procurement network which has been associated with Iran’s Centrifuge Technology Company (TESA) and Kalay Electric Company (KEC)’,” the Panel of Experts said in its annual report. The panel monitors Iran’s compliance with the U.N. sanctions regime.

KEC is under U.N. Security Council sanctions while TESA is under U.S. and European Union sanctions due to their suspected links to banned Iranian nuclear activities.

Iran, which is has been under sanctions for years, has a long history of illicit nuclear procurement using front companies and other methods of skirting sanctions.

Indeed it does have such a history. And if the West has anything to say about it, that will be Iran’s future too.

The subject of the West’s untrustworthiness has been a sore subject for the Obama administration, which is trying to ignore violations in order to legitimize Iran as a nuclear power. Although the Obama administration is tetchy and whiney about virtually any criticism, the already cranky president tends to get even moodier when confronted with the fact that congressional oversight is necessary in part because the administration hasn’t been honest about its Iran policy.

Last month, John McCain told Hugh Hewitt: “I think you’re going to find out that they had never agreed to the things that John Kerry claimed that they had. So in a way, I can’t blame the ayatollah, because I don’t think they ever agreed to it, and I think John Kerry tried to come back and sell a bill of goods, hoping maybe that the Iranians wouldn’t say much about it.”

McCain’s point was a very simple one: since the nuclear deal is primarily a plan governing the actions of Iran, how Iran interprets the agreement is the most important indicator of how they will act in the future.

Although the deal on the whole favors Iran and its terrorist proxies over America’s traditional allies in the region, there are aspects of the deal that could make it even worse than it looks. For example, the inspections regime, the verification of the possible military dimensions (PMD) of Iran’s past work, and the timetable for lifting sanctions all will have an impact on how easily Iran can obtain nukes under the treaty.

The Obama administration offers vague assurances of thorough inspections, and the Iranians laugh themselves silly. Same with verification and especially sanctions. As Max wrote yesterday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif gave a speech in New York in which he reiterated his government’s understanding that Obama and Secretary Kerry are full of hot air on the treaty, and that Iran has no intention of pretending to play along with their charade.

In other words, McCain was right. Which is why Obama snapped at him that “It needs to stop.” We wouldn’t want the American people getting the right idea, would we?

Now we have more Iranian misbehavior and a nuclear-inspections regime in which even if violations are found, the Western countries involved don’t want to tattle on the nuclear advancement of the world’s premier terrorist state. Back to Reuters:

“The current situation with reporting could reflect a general reduction of procurement activities by the Iranian side or a political decision by some member states to refrain from reporting to avoid any possible negative impact on ongoing negotiations between … Iran and (major powers),” it said.

Despite the lack of newly confirmed violations the panel said that “some member states informed the panel that according to their assessment, the Islamic Republic of Iran’s procurement trends and (sanctions) circumvention techniques remain basically unchanged.”

It cited an example of an unnamed member state saying that an Iranian entity had recently attempted to acquire compressors, a key component in the uranium enrichment process, using false end-user certificates in an attempt to evade controls.

The truth would be bad for the Kerry-led negotiations, so the truth must be hidden. The West, led by the Obama administration, is not only tacitly conceding Iran’s nuclear quest. They are also enabling that quest by facilitating Iranian cheating.

What this means is that the nuclear deal with Iran is itself a lie. In important ways, there really is no deal, and never will be. That’s because no matter what’s written on a piece of paper, Iran will basically be allowed to act in contravention of the deal, and the Western world will help them cover it up.

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