mykeystrokes.com

"Do or Do not. There is no try."

“Wrong Then, Wrong Now”: What Cheney Left Out Of Iran Speech: His Own Record

Former Vice President Dick Cheney accused the Obama administration of giving Iran everything it needs to wage a nuclear war on the U.S.

What Cheney left out was that Iran made significant advances with its nuclear program while he was in office.

With a nuclear accord with Iran all but guaranteed to survive a challenge from congressional Republicans, Cheney escalated the blame game between President Barack Obama’s White House and some former members of President George W. Bush administration over responsibility for spiraling turmoil in the Middle East.

“This deal gives Iran the means to launch a nuclear attack on the U.S. homeland,” Cheney said. “It is madness.”

Cheney, one of the chief architects of the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, said the agreement negotiated by the U.S. and five other world powers with Iran would “accelerate nuclear proliferation” in the Mideast and enable the Islamic Republic to attack the U.S. or its allies.

While criticizing Obama’s handling of Iran, Cheney has struggled to explain the advancement of the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program during the Bush administration. Iran had about 6,000 uranium centrifuges installed at its Natanz nuclear research facility at the start of the Obama administration in 2009, up from zero eight years earlier, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Iran’s Centrifuges

“I think we did a lot to deal with the arms control problem in the Middle East,” Cheney said Sunday on “Fox News Sunday,” without specifically responding to a question from host Chris Wallace about Iran’s centrifuges.

Before Cheney began speaking Tuesday at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, the White House sought to preempt his argument with a video, distributed via social media, of Cheney’s past statements about the Iraq war titled: “Wrong Then, Wrong Now.”

Cheney’s warnings before the invasion that former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein was developing weapons of mass destruction were wrong, and since leaving office he has frequently predicted devastating attacks on the U.S. by hostile nations or terrorist groups that have never materialized.

Iraq Justification

He again defended the Iraq war on Tuesday: “To argue that we should not have gone after Saddam Hussein is to argue that he still should be in place today,” he said.

He also said the Iraq invasion led to Libya’s former dictator, Muammar Qaddafi, offering to surrender his own nuclear program.

Cheney’s speech was interrupted by a protester from Codepink, an anti-war group that protested the Iraq invasion and is planning a series of events this week in support of the Iran deal.

“Dick Cheney’s a war criminal!” a young woman shouted before she was forcibly removed from the event. “Try diplomacy not war.”

Cheney did not address the woman, only saying “thank you,” after she was escorted out by security.

Cheney’s speech on Tuesday came 13 years to the day after the New York Times reported that Iraq was trying to obtain thousands of “aluminum tubes” to construct uranium centrifuges. Cheney confirmed the report — initially attributed to anonymous Bush administration sources — later that day in an appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press” program.

Ten days later, Bush delivered a speech to the United Nations General Assembly labeling Iraq “a grave and gathering danger” and citing the tubes as one piece of evidence for a nuclear program.

Aluminum Tubes

The Iraq Survey Group, which investigated Hussein’s alleged weapons programs after the invasion, determined that the tubes were most likely intended to build conventional rockets. No evidence ever emerged that Iraq tried to reconstitute a nuclear weapons program.

Obama has argued that opposition to the Iran accord has been drummed up by many of the same people who supported the ill-fated invasion of Iraq.

“VP Cheney was wrong on Iraq, and now he’s making false claims about the #IranDeal,” Eric Schultz, the White House’s deputy press secretary, said on Twitter as Cheney spoke.

Cheney’s speech comes as several presidential candidates prepare to make public statements about the Iran deal. Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas is expected to join Donald Trump at a rally for opponents of the agreement on Wednesday at the U.S. Capitol. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is scheduled to speak on the deal Wednesday.

Congress returns to Washington on Tuesday after a five-week recess and lawmakers have until Sept. 17 to act on the agreement. As of Tuesday, 41 Democrats in the Senate have announced they will support the deal when Republicans, who have majorities in the House and Senate, attempt to advance a resolution of disapproval.

The Democratic support means that if the disapproval passes, Republicans won’t have enough votes to override a promised veto by Obama. Democrats also may have sufficient votes to filibuster such a resolution in the Senate, preventing it from ever reaching the president’s desk.

It isn’t clear if all 41 senators who have said they support the deal would also support blocking a vote on the disapproval resolution.

 

By: Toluse Olorunnipa, Bloomberg Politics, September 8, 2015

September 11, 2015 Posted by | Dick Cheney, Iran Nuclear Agreement, Iraq War | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Defiance Of The Right-Wing Opposition”: Iran Debate; Clinton Steps Up To Oppose The Demagogues

When Sarah Palin joins Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, and a motley crew of crazies in Washington this week to rally against the Iran nuclear deal, the speeches are likely to reflect the incoherence of the opposition. None of these right-wing celebrities appears to comprehend its terms, how it was negotiated or – most important – why its failure would probably lead to yet another horrific war.

On that same day, as Cruz, Trump, and Palin blather on about their love of Israel, their hatred for Barack Obama, and their determination to “make America great again,” someone else will step up to support the agreement – someone whose diplomatic efforts laid the groundwork for successful negotiations with Tehran.

That would be Hillary Rodham Clinton, the former Secretary of State and leading candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination. Scheduling a major speech on the Iran deal for the same day as the Washington event, Clinton is plainly determined to display her mastery of its details as well as her defiance of the right-wing opposition.

But this speech — which could become one of the best moments in public life — will also prove just how far she has come since the last time she ran for president.

That’s because Iran was the subject of one of the most troubling moments in her 2008 campaign, when she promised to “totally obliterate” that country (and presumably its 70 million-plus population) if the mullahs ever attacked Israel with a nuclear weapon. Having uttered that genocidal threat in response to a provocative question, she reiterated the same bluster a few days later on ABC News’ This Week.

“I want the Iranians to know that if I’m the president, we will attack Iran [if they attack Israel with nuclear weapons]. And I want them to understand that. … I think we have to be very clear about what we would do,” she told host George Stephanopoulos.

At the time, in early May 2008, it wasn’t clear why the Iranians needed to “understand” any such ultimatum, since our own intelligence showed that they neither had nuclear weapons nor were likely to possess such weapons any time soon – and that the Israeli military was (and is) fully capable of nuclear retaliation. Clinton’s harsh rhetoric seemed to be aimed more directly at Obama, her primary opponent, whose aim of negotiating with traditional enemies like Tehran she had denounced as “naïve.”

Those who expected better from her pointed to her Mideast advisors, who advocated an opening to Iran, and to her own previous remarks about the imperative of talking with “bad people” as a sign of strength, not weakness. But at that moment, she seemed to echo John McCain and the “bomb Iran” chorus among the Republicans.

Much has changed since 2008, of course – including the leadership of the Iranian government. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the aggressive Holocaust denier who held the Iranian presidency back then, gave way in 2013 to Hassan Rouhani, a reformer who wants to end his country’s international isolation. Thanks in part to Clinton’s work as Secretary of State, a powerful and unprecedented international alliance enforced real sanctions that finally pushed Iran into serious negotiations. And since those negotiations began, Rouhani’s government has heeded the required limitations on its nuclear activities.

Perhaps Clinton hasn’t changed. After all, she has always believed that diplomacy, aid, and other aspects of American power are just as fundamental to our security as military force. But she has found a balance and a voice that are more vital than ever in a contest against irresponsible politicians, whose demagogy points us again toward war.

 

By: Joe Conason, Editor in Chief, Editors Blog, Featured Post, The National Memo, September 8, 2015

September 9, 2015 Posted by | Hillary Clinton, Iran Nuclear Agreement, Republicans | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Bibi’s Bad Gamble”: Like A Compulsive Gambler In One Of Sheldon Adelson’s Casinos, He Can’t Stop

We’re still in some suspense about the exact margin, and more importantly, whether Barack Obama will or will not have to use his veto pen. But the Iran Nuclear Deal is now quasi-certain to survive congressional review. Or we could put it another way and say that Benjamin Netanyahu’s reckless gamble in intervening in U.S. partisan politics to fight the deal has failed. As usual, writing at the Prospect, Israeli journalist Gershom Gorenberg has the most lucid analysis:

Forget the convoluted theories about how Netanyahu expected to lose but intends to game defeat for political advantage. He fought because he expected to stop the deal, which was a mistake, and because he thought that sinking the agreement would be good for Israel, which is a bigger mistake.

This isn’t rational. Netanyahu’s preference has been a military strike, but even his close circle of political partners balked at that, according to Ehud Barak, who spent several years as Netanyahu’s defense minister. It’s not rational to prefer an offensive that might slow the Iranian arms program for two or three years and reject an agreement because, in your view, it will “only” delay the program 10 or 15 years.

Nor is it rational to be the leader of Israel, a country known to possess a serious nuclear arsenal, yet compare yourself to the Jews who faced Nazi Germany.

Gorenberg points out that one of Bibi’s supposed assets has been his understanding of the United States. No longer, it seems.

Netanyahu’s imagined America is one in which Mitt Romney was sure to win in 2012, as can be seen from the prime minister’s behavior back then. Like the Republicans to whom he is close, he treats Obama’s presidency as a historical glitch. Like many Jewish Republicans, he expects American Jews to place Israel at the top of their voting priorities, to agree with his policies, and to wake up at last to the need to vote Republican. After all, that’s how the American Jews he knows best see things. To these misreadings, add his irrepressible impulse to jump into American politics.

And so Netanyahu has seriously alienated both Democrats–who are tired of being called anti-semites for insisting on a U.S. foreign policy that is independent of Israel’s–and American Jews–who stubbornly refuse to follow Bibi’s instructions to join a Republican Coalition cheek-by-jowl with Christian Nationalists and climate change deniers–in a losing cause. Heck of a job, Bibi.

But as Gorenberg concludes in a savage but apt comparison, Netanyahu can’t seem to help himself:

Making a toast to the Jewish New Year at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem Thursday, the prime minister insisted that “the overwhelming majority of the American people” agree with him. Those aren’t the words of someone trying to cut his losses. Like a compulsive gambler in one of Sheldon Adelson’s casinos, he can’t stop.

 

By; Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, September 4, 2015

September 5, 2015 Posted by | Benjamin Netanyahu, Iran Nuclear Agreement, Republicans | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“A Triumph For Presidential Leadership”: Pundits; Obama’s Too Mean To Iran Deal Critics

The Washington Post’s Ruth Marcus, to her credit, supports the international nuclear agreement with Iran. In her new column, however, she criticizes President Obama anyway, not over the substance of his foreign policy, but for not being nice enough to the diplomatic deal’s opponents.

Obama once understood, even celebrated, this gray zone of difficult policy choices. He was a man who took pains to recognize and validate the legitimate concerns of those on the opposite side of nearly any complex debate.

The new Obama, hardened and embittered – the one on display in his American University speech last week and in the follow-up spate of interviews – has close to zero tolerance for those who reach contrary conclusions.

In fairness to the columnist, Marcus goes on to make substantive suggestions about how best to argue in support of the deal, and she concedes “Obama’s exasperation is understandable.” Her broader point seems to be that she wants to see the deal presented in the most effective way possible, but Marcus nevertheless chides the president for his tone and unwillingness to “accommodate” his foes.

She’s not alone. After the president noted that the American right and the Iranian hardliners find themselves on the same side of this fight, other pundits, including National Journal’s Ron Fournier, raised related concerns about Obama being harsh.

That’s a shame – there are constructive ways to look at the debate over U.S. policy towards Iran, but hand-wringing over presidential tone seems misplaced.

Let’s not miss the forest for the trees. President Obama and his team defied long odds, assembled an unlikely international coalition, and struck a historic deal. By most fair measures, this is one of the great diplomatic accomplishments of this generation.

For all the incessant whining from the “Why Won’t Obama Lead?” crowd, this was a triumph for presidential leadership, positioning Obama as one of the most effective and accomplished leaders on the international stage.

To watch this unfold and complain that Obama is simply too mean towards those who hope to kill the deal and derail American foreign policy seems to miss the point.

What’s more, let’s also not lose sight of these detractors’ case. Some of the deal’s critics have compared Obama to Hitler. Others have accused the White House of being a state-sponsor of terrorism. Many of the agreement’s foes in Congress clearly haven’t read the deal – they decided in advance that any agreement would be unacceptable, regardless of merit – and many more have approached the entire policy debate “with vagueness, deception and hysteria.”

Slate’s William Saletan attended the recent congressional hearings on the policy and came away “dismayed” at what opponents of the deal had to offer. Republicans, he concluded, seem “utterly unprepared to govern,” presenting little more than “dishonesty,” “incomprehension,” and an “inability to cope with the challenges of a multilateral world.”

To Marcus’ point, it’s fair to say that the president is not “taking pains to recognize and validate the legitimate concerns of those on the opposite side.” I suppose it’s possible Obama could invest more energy in telling Americans that his critics, when they’re not comparing him to Hitler, Neville Chamberlain, or both, are well-intentioned rivals.

But at this stage of the debate, there should be a greater emphasis on sound policy judgments and accurate, substantive assessments. I’m less concerned with whether Obama is being nice to his critics and more concerned with whether he’s correct.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Madow Blog, August 14, 2015

August 15, 2015 Posted by | Foreign Policy, Iran Nuclear Agreement, Pundits | , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“What Do They Know About Diplomacy?”: Republicans Who Oppose The Iran Deal Are Making Promises They Can’t Keep

The partisan debate over international efforts to forestall an Iranian nuclear weapons program has been stuck in a loop of self-parody ever since Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attempted to sabotage the negotiations with an address before Congress this past March. In the ensuing months, Republican opponents have continuously echoed Netanyahu’s unsubstantiated insistence that he and other Iran deal skeptics don’t propose war or regime change or outright failure to keep Iran from manufacturing a weapon, but a “better deal,” the particulars of which remain mysterious to everyone.

“We’re being told that the only alternative to this bad deal is war,” Netanyahu said in his joint session address. “That’s just not true. The alternative to this bad deal is a much better deal.”

“It’s either this deal or a better deal, or more sanctions,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell argued just last week.

The putative existence of this “better deal” is meant to trump supporters of the global powers agreement, who argue quite sensibly that the agreement itself must be held up against an array of feasible alternatives, rather than a fantastical scenario in which Iran capitulates to every demand Netanyahu would have made. Netanyahu and Republicans can’t articulate a preferable, feasible alternative, but they also don’t like the intimation that their position amounts to a Trojan Horse, so they say “better deal” over and over again, overwhelming the entire debate with vagueness, deception and hysteria.

But there’s something particularly maddening about this story, above and beyond the fact that the deal’s opponents are equivocating and hiding the ball and generally unwilling to level with the public about their goals. The structure of their critique suggests not that they think cutting a deal with Iran, in which everyone makes concessions, is per se unwise, but that the global powers screwed up the negotiations and gave away too much. They argue in essence that the diplomacy was conducted incompetently, and that they would’ve done a better job.

But there is no reason to believe this, because so many of the deal’s prominent critics have thin or failed diplomatic records of their own or have built their careers around the notion that negotiating with enemies is a sign of inherent weakness.

Netanyahu epitomizes the disconnect better than anyone else. Why should anybody in America or anywhere lend a favorable view to Netanyahu’s pronouncements about diplomatic tradecraft? He doesn’t boast a record of cutting “better deals” or even really of cutting deals at all. To the contrary, the political balance he’s struck in Israel, quite transparently, is to promise a “better deal” with Palestinians at some point in the future, while governing without any intention of reaching it. As his most recent election approached, he briefly campaigned on the promise not to cut one, then sheepishly and unconvincingly backtracked after his premiership was secured. He’s brokered no major deals elsewhere in the region, either, or really treated diplomacy as a useful problem-solving tool in general. Viewed as a diplomatic effort, his campaign of sabotage against the global powers agreement is a reckless disaster, which risks causing irreparable damage to the relationship between his country and its one true, powerful ally.

To underscore that point, there is a pronounced strain of thought within Israel among skeptics of the agreement that Netanyahu is making a profound error by waging a scorched-earth campaign against it—that the only thing worse than the deal itself is interfering to sabotage it. As the Wall Street Journal reported this weekend:

In unusually direct terms, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin this week warned Mr. Netanyahu that his aggressive campaign to defeat the deal risked harming a relationship central to Israel’s security. “The prime minister has waged a campaign against the United States as if the two sides were equal, and this is liable to hurt Israel,” Mr. Rivlin, a member of the premier’s Likud party, said in an interview published Friday in the daily Maariv. Yedioth Ahronoth and Haaretz carried similar interviews with the president.

“I have told him, and I’m telling him again, that struggles, even those that are just, can ultimately come at Israel’s expense,” said the president, adding: “We are largely isolated in the world.”

This isn’t a quirk unique to Netanyahu either. Most Republican presidential candidates have adopted the same approach to global affairs. They support a comically ineffective embargo over normalization with Cuba. They debate each other, as Scott Walker and Jeb Bush just did, over whether it might be necessary to bomb Iran on the first day of a Republican presidency, or only after waiting to get a cabinet in place. President Barack Obama’s foreign policy record isn’t unblemished, but he can boast of real diplomatic successes—reaching climate change agreements with China, Brazil, and Mexico, re-establishing relations with Cuba, to say nothing of the global powers agreement itself. Republicans, by contrast, say things like, “What we object to is the President’s lack of realism—his ideological belief that diplomacy is good and force is bad.”

Yet at the same time, they stipulate that critics should take their promise that a “better deal” is possible at face value. In this way they are like, well, themselves, in the domestic realm—forever promising to repeal Obamacare and replace it with “something that doesn’t suppress wages and kill jobs,” or “something terrific,” without elaboration. Another “better deal” that for some reason can’t be put to paper in a way that convinces anyone of its seriousness. But at least in the similarly farcical debate over Obamacare, much of the public has learned not to place stock in promises like this. The same can’t be said of the Iran deal opponent’s false promises, and against that backdrop the Republican position is beginning to seep into the mainstream.

 

By: Brian Beutler, Senior Editor at The New Republic, August 11, 2015

August 12, 2015 Posted by | Benjamin Netanyahu, Iran Nuclear Agreement, Republicans | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

%d bloggers like this: