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“Carly Fiorina, Crackpot Warmonger”: Did Anyone Hear Her Talk About Foreign Policy?

I agree, as I already wrote, that as these things are measured, Carly Fiorina “won” the debate. She was well prepared and well spoken; seemed to know what she was talking about; tugged at emotion when she mentioned having lost a child.

So that’s all fine. And I understand that pundits measure debate wins in odd ways. But, uh…did anybody listen to the substance of what she said? As Kate Brannen has already noted for the Beast, Fiorina’s military buildup would add $500 billion to an already historically huge Pentagon budget. But it’s far worse than that. This woman is a crackpot warmonger who would start World War III. No—III and IV. I could barely believe what I was hearing.

Many have already picked apart what appear to be Fiorina’s flat-out lies about the Planned Parenthood videos. I haven’t watched those videos in their entirety, so I can’t say with personal authority. But Sarah Kliff of Vox has, and Kliff writes that all that business about a fetus with legs still kicking and people talking about needing to “harvest its brain” just isn’t true. Doesn’t exist. The charitable explanation, according to Kliff, is that Fiorina was confusing the Planned Parenthood videos with another that includes stock footage of the sort Fiorina described and maybe she confused them in her mind. Or maybe she didn’t. Maybe she just lied.

Anyway, that’s not what I’m chiefly concerned about. What I think we should be concerned about were her remarks about Iran and Russia. Let’s have a look.

Iran: “On Day One in the Oval Office, I will make two phone calls, the first to my good friend Bibi Netanyahu to reassure him we will stand with the state of Israel.

“The second, to the Supreme Leader, to tell him that unless and until he opens every military and every nuclear facility to real anytime, anywhere inspections by our people, not his, we, the United States of America, will make it as difficult as possible and move money around the global financial system.

“We can do that, we don’t need anyone’s cooperation to do it. And every ally and every adversary we have in this world will know that the United States of America is back in the leadership business, which is how we must stand with our allies.”

Well, this sounds great. Grrrrrr, Supreme Leader! But stop and think for a second. What is Ayatollah Khamenei going to say in response? Probably something like: “Very well, Madam President. Then you are abrogating the deal, I see. OK. Thank you. Have a nice century.” Iran will then stop honoring the deal, or even pretending to, and start building a nuclear weapon or six.

And note well: The rest of the world will blame us, the United States, and President Fiorina, for being the ones who first broke the deal. And, if she makes such a phone call, rightly so, because we will be the ones to have broken it. We can reimpose some sanctions unilaterally. But will the European Union and the United Nations reimpose theirs? Not bloody likely if we broke the deal. And countries like India, which is probably now lifting sanctions it had agreed to when the United States was leading a multilateral effort, may well start giving Iran nuclear-related technologies. These are just a few of the events that phone call could set in motion.

And soon enough Iran will have a bomb. Or, President Fiorina will start a war to prevent it.

That brings us to Russia, on which she said: “Having met Vladimir Putin, I wouldn’t talk to him at all. We’ve talked way too much to him.

“What I would do, immediately, is begin rebuilding the Sixth Fleet, I would begin rebuilding the missile defense program in Poland, I would conduct regular, aggressive military exercises in the Baltic states. I’d probably send a few thousand more troops into Germany. Vladimir Putin would get the message.”

So the president of the United States would just not talk to the president of Russia. Now, the president of Russia is a contemptible and dangerous quasi-fascist. But he is, you know, the president of Russia, a rather important country. I can’t remember an American president since Roosevelt who hasn’t talked to the head of the USSR or of post-Soviet Russia. Don’t these people remember that Ronald Reagan communicated with three Soviet premiers and talked directly with Mikhail Gorbachev? They don’t seem to remember now, but at the time, that was when Reagan lost them!

Fiorina seemed to get a lot of cred for name-dropping the Sixth Fleet. It shows that at least she read a briefing book, which is more than some of them do. And I will admit that I didn’t know (although I could logically have guessed) that the Sixth Fleet patrols the seas around Europe and Russia, from its base in Naples. So whoop de doo for her.

But this is what constitutes a good answer, just because she drops a little specific knowledge, even as she is essentially saying that her strategy as president with regard to one of the world’s two or three most dangerous and aggressive men is to surround him, provoke him, goad him into an act of war? That’s what “aggressive military exercises in the Baltic” states quite possibly ends up meaning. There’s this city in Estonia called Narva. Google it. It’s like 80 percent Russian or something. Putin has his little eye on it. World War III could start there, and all it would take is an errant American military shell landing in the wrong backyard. Or World War IV, in case President Fiorina has already started III in the Middle East.

 

By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, September 19, 2015

September 20, 2015 Posted by | Carly Fiorina, Foreign Policy, Warmongering | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The High Price Of Rejecting The Iran Deal”: Foreign Governments Will Not Continue To Make Costly Sacrifices At Our Demand

The Iran nuclear deal offers a long-term solution to one of the most urgent threats of our time. Without this deal, Iran, the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism, would be less than 90 days away from having enough fissile material to make a nuclear bomb. This deal greatly reduces the threat of Iran’s nuclear program, making Iran’s breakout time four times as long, securing unprecedented access to ensure that we will know if Iran cheats and giving us the leverage to hold it to its commitments.

Those calling on Congress to scrap the deal argue that the United States could have gotten a better deal, and still could, if we unilaterally ramped up existing sanctions, enough to force Iran to dismantle its entire nuclear program or even alter the character of its regime wholesale. This assumption is a dangerous fantasy, flying in the face of economic and diplomatic reality.

To be sure, the United States does have tremendous economic influence. But it was not this influence alone that persuaded countries across Europe and Asia to join the current sanction policy, one that required them to make costly sacrifices, curtail their purchases of Iran’s oil, and put Iran’s foreign reserves in escrow. They joined us because we made the case that Iran’s nuclear program was an uncontained threat to global stability and, most important, because we offered a concrete path to address it diplomatically — which we did.

In the eyes of the world, the nuclear agreement — endorsed by the United Nations Security Council and more than 90 other countries — addresses the threat of Iran’s nuclear program by constraining it for the long term and ensuring that it will be exclusively peaceful. If Congress now rejects this deal, the elements that were fundamental in establishing that international consensus will be gone.

The simple fact is that, after two years of testing Iran in negotiations, the international community does not believe that ramping up sanctions will persuade Iran to eradicate all traces of its hard-won civil nuclear program or sever its ties to its armed proxies in the region. Foreign governments will not continue to make costly sacrifices at our demand.

Indeed, they would more likely blame us for walking away from a credible solution to one of the world’s greatest security threats, and would continue to re-engage with Iran. Instead of toughening the sanctions, a decision by Congress to unilaterally reject the deal would end a decade of isolation of Iran and put the United States at odds with the rest of the world.

Some critics nevertheless argue that we can force the hands of these countries by imposing powerful secondary sanctions against those that refuse to follow our lead.

But that would be a disaster. The countries whose cooperation we need — including those in the European Union, China, Japan, India and South Korea, as well as the companies and banks that handle their oil purchases and hold foreign reserves — are among the largest economies in the world. If we were to cut them off from the American dollar and our financial system, we would set off extensive financial hemorrhaging, not just in our partner countries but in the United States as well.

Our strong, open economic relations with these countries constitute a foundation of the global economy. Nearly 40 percent of American exports go to the European Union, China, Japan, India and Korea — trade that cannot continue without banking connections.

The major importers of Iranian oil — China, India, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Turkey — together account for nearly a fifth of our goods exports and own 47 percent of foreign-held American treasuries. They will not agree to indefinite economic sacrifices in the name of an illusory better deal. We should think very seriously before threatening to cripple the largest banks and companies in these countries.

Consider the Bank of Japan, a key institutional holder of Iran’s foreign reserves. Cutting off Japan from the American banking system through sanctions would mean that we could not honor our sovereign responsibility to service and repay the more than $1 trillion in American treasuries held by Japan’s central bank. And those would be direct consequences of our sanctions, not to mention the economic aftershocks and the inevitable retaliation.

We must remember recent history. In 1996, in the absence of any other international support for imposing sanctions on Iran, Congress tried to force the hands of foreign companies, creating secondary sanctions that threatened to penalize them for investing in Iran’s energy sector. The idea was to force international oil companies to choose between doing business with Iran or the United States, with the expectation that all would choose us.

This outraged our foreign partners, particularly the European Union, which threatened retaliatory action and referral to the World Trade Organization and passed its own law prohibiting companies from complying. The largest oil companies of Europe and Asia stayed in Iran until, more than a decade later, we built a global consensus around the threat posed by Iran and put forward a realistic diplomatic means of addressing it.

The deal we reached last month is strong, unprecedented and good for America, with all the key elements the international community demanded to stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. Congress should approve this deal and ignore critics who offer no alternative.

 

By: Jacob J. Lew, Secretary of the Treasury, Opinion Pages; Op-Ed Contributor, The New York Times, August 13, 2015

August 16, 2015 Posted by | Global Economy, Iran Nuclear Agreement, U. N. Security Council | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Iran Deal isn’t Perfect – But What Deal Is?”: Critics In Congress Should Have To Explain Why They Believe War Is A Better Idea

To understand why the Iran nuclear deal is such a triumph, consider the most likely alternative: war.

Imagine a U.S.-led military strike — not a pinprick but an extended bombing campaign robust enough to eliminate 98 percent of Iran’s enriched uranium, put two-thirds of the Islamic republic’s centrifuges out of action and erase any capability of producing plutonium. Imagine that the attack did so much damage that for the next 10 or 15 years it would be utterly impossible for Iran to build a nuclear bomb. Such an outcome would be hailed as a great success — achieved, however, at a terrible cost.

But I’m convinced such action would make Iran irrevocably determined to build a bomb — and that eventually the Iranians would achieve their goal. I’m also convinced that Iran would strike out at the West asymmetrically, through proxy groups and terrorism. And given the upheavals in the Middle East, any “limited” war has the potential to spread across borders.

The historic agreement announced Tuesday in Vienna accomplishes what an attack might, but without the toll in blood and treasure that war inevitably exacts. After the agreement expires, critics note, Iran could decide to race for a bomb. But the military option would still be available — and, after years of intrusive inspections, allied war planners would have a much better idea of where the nuclear facilities are and how best to destroy them.

Military action is not the only alternative to the deal that President Obama vigorously defended at his news conference Wednesday. But the other possibilities are absurdly remote.

One is simply to acquiesce and invite Iran to become a nuclear power. Obama has ruled this out, as did his predecessors and as will his successors. It should be noted that Iran’s leaders have always denied seeking to make a bomb, though they have never explained why an oil-rich nation would need tens of thousands of enrichment centrifuges and a ballistic missile program to generate nuclear power.

None of the United States’ partners at the negotiating table — the European powers, China, Russia — is prepared to accept a nuclear-armed Iran. The government in Tehran, which is fanatical but not suicidal, probably would be satisfied to reach threshold status. Arguably this is already the case, given that Iran’s scientists have mastered the nuclear fuel cycle.

The other option — the one favored by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and most other critics of the agreement — is to negotiate “a better deal” that deprives Iran of even more nuclear capability. The problem is that negotiators could not make tougher demands on Iran than the Chinese, Russians and Europeans were prepared to support.

If Congress overrides Obama and squelches the deal, the sanctions regime that brought Iran to the table will quickly crumble. Economic pressure from the United States alone, it seems obvious, is not enough to compel Iran to give up more than it surrendered in Vienna. On the contrary: Hard-liners in Tehran, who argued all along against negotiating with the United States, would have their hand greatly strengthened.

Iran’s reaction to a defeat of the agreement in Congress might be to crank up the centrifuges in defiance. Perhaps the government would honor some elements of the deal in order to obtain sanctions relief from China, Russia and Europe. Either way, the United States would have lost leverage and Iran’s nuclear program would be less constrained.

Obviously, the United States didn’t get everything it wanted in Vienna. That’s the nature of any negotiation. The relevant question is whether the United States and its allies, including Israel, got what they needed.

“With this deal, we cut off every single one of Iran’s pathways to a nuclear program, a nuclear weapons program,” Obama said Wednesday. “Without a deal, those pathways remain open.”

The president added that “the alternative, no limits on Iran’s nuclear program, no inspections, an Iran that’s closer to a nuclear weapon, the risk of a regional nuclear arms race, and the greater risk of war — all that would endanger our security. That’s the choice that we face.”

The agreement with Iran is a landmark achievement. It’s not perfect — no deal is — but it makes the world a much safer place. Critics in Congress should have to explain to the American people why they believe war is a better idea.

 

By: Eugene Robinson, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, July 16, 2015

July 20, 2015 Posted by | Congress, Iran Nuclear Agreement, Middle East | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“We Should Just Go Ahead And Start Bombing”: The Insane Logic Underlying Republican Opposition To The Iran Deal

Republicans are, naturally, united in their opposition to the preliminary deal the Obama administration struck with Iran to restrain its nuclear program. And now, the presidential candidates in particular are going to compete with each other to see who can make their opposition more categorical. They’re all criticizing it, of course, and Scott Walker has already said that on the day of his inauguration, he’ll pull out of the deal. I’m guessing the rest of them will follow suit and pledge something similar. The question is: OK, so on January 20, 2017, you announce that we’re out of the deal (since we’re in the Republican fantasy world for the moment, let’s put aside the involvement of Europe and the UN). What happens next?

Well for starters, the Iranians would no longer be constrained by the things they agreed to. They could kick out all the inspectors and institute a crash program to create a nuclear weapon if they wanted. Are Republicans saying that Iran would never do that? I don’t think so. Yet in practice, the Republican position seems to be: 1) We can never trust the Iranians to adhere to the terms of any nuclear deal we sign with them because of their insatiable thirst for nuclear weapons, so 2) If there’s no agreement at all—no limits on nuclear research, no limits on the quantity and purity of uranium they can enrich, no inspections—then everything will be OK.

To be clear, I’m not saying this deal is perfect, though a lot of people who know a lot about this issue are arguing that it’s far stronger than what they expected (see here, for instance). But Republicans aren’t saying we need to reopen negotiations and push for something better. They’re just saying we should scrap the agreement, and then … well, they actually don’t say what happens then.

In effect, the Republican argument is, We’ve put this dangerous criminal in prison, but I don’t think this prison is secure enough. He might escape! So the answer is to tear down the prison and let him go. Then we’ll be safe from him.

So they ought to be asked: Are you proposing a re-negotiation of this deal? Or are you just saying that if we scrap it and reimpose sanctions on Iran, then they’ll capitulate to all our demands? And if that’s what you’re saying, is there any reason at all to think that might happen? After all, Iran has been under sanctions from the U.S., the EU, and many other countries for years, yet their nuclear program has continued. What will be different without an agreement?

We should hear conservatives out on all their specific complaints about this deal. They might have a case to make about particular weaknesses. But in every case, we have to ask: What’s your alternative? I haven’t yet heard an answer from any of them, other than the few honest enough to say what so many of them are thinking, that no deal will ever work and we should just go ahead and start bombing.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect, April 3, 2015

April 4, 2015 Posted by | Diplomacy, GOP Presidential Candidates, Iran | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Common Murderer, Ordinary Thug”: Putin Is Trying To Reconstruct The Russian Empire

After the bloody suppression of a patriotic demonstration in Warsaw in 1861, Alexander Herzen wrote to Tsar Alexander II: “You have become a common murderer, an ordinary thug.” He also described the Russian press as “shameless” and “unscrupulous.”

Today, we should repeat the words of this great Russian, and direct them at Vladimir Putin and Russian propaganda-men who are lying ceaselessly and insolently. A while ago, we heard that Poland trained Ukrainian fascist squads that terrorized the Maidan; next we learned that Putinist conquerors of the Crimea bought their weapons and uniforms in stores and that the Kremlin had nothing to do with it. Now we are once again hearing about the Ukrainian state’s responsibility.

The 298 wretched victims of the crash of the Malaysia Air flight are a result of Putin’s ruthless and cynical policies. It was his decision to arm the so-called separatists who in reality are the Kremlin’s spy network and fifth column in the Donbass region. They were armed with Putin’s knowledge and approval. And these people are the ones who killed random, innocent individuals.

Putinwith his KGB lieutenant-colonel mentalitydoes not want to let Ukraine follow its own path toward democracy and Europe. He wants to reconstruct the empire. Inciting and upholding ethnic conflicts in Latvia and Estonia serves this aim, as does the creeping dismantling of Moldova, and maintenance of conflicts around Upper Karabakh. Indeedthis great power, great Russian chauvinism is the final and highest stage of communism. And Putin understands progress as gradual annexation of successive states.

The European Unionaccustomed to peace and quiethas neither determination nor an understanding of the growing threat. The clichéd faith in the possibility of placating the beast is replaying over and over again. The blindness and loyalty of European political and business elites gives reason for concern. But there is nothing that releases usintellectuals active in culture, scholarship, and mediafrom the duty to say clearly, stubbornly, and emphatically: This is very dangerous. We are not allowed to repeat the naiveté once displayed by intellectual elites toward Hitler and Stalin. And back then we were not allowed to close our eyes to the annexation of Austria, Czechoslovakia, and the Baltic States.

My friend from Moscow says that there are two scenarios in which the Russian army will leave Ukraine: One realistic and the other miraculous. In the realistic scenario, Saint George will ride in on a dragon and use his fiery sword to chase this band of scoundrels away. That’s the realistic scenario. And the miraculous one? They’ll just up and leave on their own.

The policy of successive concessions leads nowhere. Putin is not a European-style politician; he’s a politician of permanent belligerence. Much seems to suggest that he has already let the genie out of the bottlecrowds of mercenaries are moving from Russia to Ukraine, crowds of sentimental monarchists, Orthodox fascists, National-Bolsheviks, and the like. Arming these bandits with first-class weapons is simply criminal. It is a good thing that Poland’s current government has taken an honest and judicious stanceit’s not flexing its muscles but it’s also not succumbing to illusions or hypocrisy.

 

By: Adam Michnik, Editor-in-Chief of Gazeta Wyborcza, where this piece originally appeared; The Huffington Post, July 21, 2014

July 22, 2014 Posted by | Russia, Ukraine, Vladimir Putin | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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