Peace as an existential threat.
March 10, 2015 7:00 AM   Subscribe

The recent Republican letter to Iran has received an impressive, diplomatically amusing response on Twitter from Iran's Foreign Minister, in which he schools the Republican Party on the intricacies of international law and the US Constitution. The letter, penned by a freshman senator who recently advocated regime change and an end to talks with Iran, appears to have violated the Logan Act, but probably can't be prosecuted. President Obama's response was short and classic.
posted by markkraft (534 comments total) 37 users marked this as a favorite
 
I'm trying to imagine what a Democratic equivalent of this would have been during the Bush years. "He is not bluffing. Seriously, this guy will absolutely invade the shit out of you and bomb everything left and right."
posted by Tomorrowful at 7:03 AM on March 10, 2015 [16 favorites]


Tee hee. Not that I'm a big fan of your government, but well played, Iranian Foreign Minister.

I suspect the reaction the Republicans involved were expecting was more like a bunch of robed guys in a tent in the middle of the desert somewhere generally losing their shit, running around in a panic ululating and waving the letter at each other. Perhaps there would be some firing of AK-47s into the air.
posted by Naberius at 7:05 AM on March 10, 2015 [53 favorites]


Republican's have an awkward history of illegally going both around the White House when they are not in control and through covert channels when they are in order to negotiate with their Iranian buddies for political gain. And getting away with it of course.
posted by srboisvert at 7:12 AM on March 10, 2015 [19 favorites]


I still find it hard to believe, daily, how stupid so many of our political and social leaders have become in the U.S. But then something like this open letter happens and I am reminded that I know and understand more about how government, politics, and diplomacy work than at least 47 sitting senators.

These 47 senators should, at least, be dismissed from the Senate.
posted by LooseFilter at 7:12 AM on March 10, 2015 [45 favorites]


Say what you will about Iran, and I would say many bad things, it appears to have public officials that are not angry little baby-men.
posted by Artw at 7:12 AM on March 10, 2015 [63 favorites]


This is basically the inevitable result of an electorate who finds voting for people with "education" and "experience" to be disgusting and anti-American. Embarrassing treasonous gaffes by people who think reading the fine print (of the Constitution they claim to adore) would make them into lefty nerds.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 7:13 AM on March 10, 2015 [40 favorites]




As if this letter wasn't enough, there's plenty of evidence that Tom Cotton is batshit insane and criminally stupid, which makes his popularity much more disturbing.
posted by zombieflanders at 7:14 AM on March 10, 2015 [11 favorites]


Say what you will about Iran, and I would say many bad things, it appears to have public officials that are not angry little baby-men.

I think it's more appropriate to say that Iran's public officials have a good understanding of how things look on the world stage, and a need to look good in that context. By contrast, these Senators don't really care about global optics.
posted by Slothrup at 7:16 AM on March 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


By contrast, these Senators don't really care about global optics.

These senators don't know or understand enough even to consider something like 'global optics'. Don't project your intelligence onto them, this letter was an obvious, ham-fisted gaffe from a freshman senator full of--at least--spite and stupid in equal measure. (And if it's not stupid, if he knew exactly what he was doing, that would make it worse.)
posted by LooseFilter at 7:23 AM on March 10, 2015 [9 favorites]


I'm curious which 7 Republican Senators did not sign the letter. Is there a list anywhere?
posted by schmod at 7:23 AM on March 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


There's probably tea party candidates ready to unseat them as we speak.
posted by Artw at 7:24 AM on March 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


And also, Zarif's response, while perhaps calculated to make him look good on the world stage, has the immense advantage of being, you know, factually correct. Unlike the missive from nearly half of the U.S. Senate.
posted by LooseFilter at 7:25 AM on March 10, 2015 [33 favorites]


While it's egregious to say that the White House doesn't have the authority to engage in long-term negotiations (if the White House doesn't, temporary legislative majorities don't either), I suspect the Logan act has enough loopholes that it's more observed in the breach than the practice. Congress has a long history of finding ways to throw money at foreign people who please them, and denying money to foreign people who don't.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 7:29 AM on March 10, 2015


But then something like this open letter happens and I am reminded that I know and understand more about how government, politics, and diplomacy work than at least 47 sitting senators.

With all due respect, I'm not sure that you do. You are assuming that a rational audience is the target for this letter, that it was actually meant to faithfully represent how procedural politics work, and that the authors care about their status in the "world," wherever that is. I think you are wrong on all counts, and that these Senators, who are, after all, Senators, don't know exactly what they were doing and haven't gotten close to the response that they wanted. This is, actually (and deplorably), how politics works. I think the letter is as ridiculous as you do, but the intent is much more nefarious (and local) than it is bumbling and international.
posted by OmieWise at 7:33 AM on March 10, 2015 [9 favorites]


When pressed yesterday what an acceptable deal would look like to him, Senator Cotton from Arkansas, author of the letter, responded “complete nuclear disarmament by Iran.”

This might be problematic, considering that both US National Intelligence Estimates and recently leaked Israeli intelligence documents indicate that Iran not only doesn't have any nuclear weapons to disarm, but also does not have a nuclear weapons program to dismantle.

This, incidentally, is why Netanyahu's former Mossad chief recently referred to Netanyahu's claims in his speech to Congress as "bullshit" in an interview on Israel's Channel 2, and is actively campaigning for the opposing side.
posted by markkraft at 7:36 AM on March 10, 2015 [75 favorites]


I dunno. Wouldn't energy speant on developing a brain be an evolutionary disadvantage for Senators required only to be big dumb-dumbs at all times?
posted by Artw at 7:38 AM on March 10, 2015


What amazes me somewhat is the tone of petty ruthlessness (or maybe the reverse) baked into the letter. "... with the stroke of a pen." This is basically showing the world how badly screwed up American politics is. This is your drunken aunt writing a note-of-excused-absence to your elementary teacher and using it as a venue for listing her family grievances and all the character flaws she perceives your parents have.

Also "the President may serve only two 4-year terms" which I would find insulting and patronizing if I were the recipient. Seriously, they wrote the Iranian government to fill them in on the terms of office of the President? Really?

(Two four-year terms?)
posted by newdaddy at 7:39 AM on March 10, 2015 [8 favorites]


Cotton probably thought he was being cute by tweeting the letter in Farsi with a note saying "also, in case you need a translation..." Zarif, of course, is fluent in English, and in all likelihood knows it better than most of these dumb racist motherfuckers.
posted by zombieflanders at 7:41 AM on March 10, 2015 [20 favorites]


I know it the phrase was originally coined as a joke so ridiculous that it could never be taken seriously, but George Sr's defense of "it was only light treason" will probably be trotted out on Fox News any day now.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 7:43 AM on March 10, 2015 [9 favorites]


god, the Republicans are so stupid (how stupid are they???) the Republicans are so stupid that they do political grandstanding that plays well with their base and will get them re-elected (they are so dumb!!!)
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 7:43 AM on March 10, 2015 [11 favorites]


this letter was an obvious, ham-fisted gaffe from a freshman senator

But then why would so many (more senior, experienced) senators sign on to this steaming pile?

I've been watching the actions of Congress over the past couple months with a bit of incredulity. On the one hand, denouncing the president for executive overreach and then... going around typical (constitutionally mandated? I'm honestly not sure) foreign relations channels that are supposed to fall on the executive branch. Congressional overreach?
posted by backseatpilot at 7:44 AM on March 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


("George Sr." meaning Bluth, not Bush, in case that wasn't clear)
posted by a fiendish thingy at 7:44 AM on March 10, 2015 [9 favorites]


With all due respect, I'm not sure that you do. You are assuming that a rational audience is the target for this letter

Well, with all due respect, I understand that pretty clearly. Cotton's real agenda, what he is trying to accomplish with his letter domestically, is pretty obvious, and I stand by my assessment that it's a stupid and ham-fisted way to go about it. I suspect that the potential presidential candidates who signed on to this letter will soon regret it.

Playing domestic pool on the international table very potentially puts many lives at risk and is completely inexcusable. Further, Cotton's stupid and arrogant nature is fully on display here, assuming that Iran's leaders can't read English, incorrectly characterizing the binding nature of international treaties and agreements, etc. He may be playing politics at home, but he's doing so out in the world, to real people, with real potential consequences. He's playing games with people's lives, no matter his own, local goals.

I think the letter is as ridiculous as you do, but the intent is much more nefarious (and local) than it is bumbling and international.

I agree, but my anger comes from the fact that it's both, and that the latter could have life-or-death consequences for real, live people. (Hell, so could the former, if Cotton et al get their way and we end up at war with Iran.)
posted by LooseFilter at 7:44 AM on March 10, 2015 [8 favorites]


Basically we are seeing some kind of PeterWatts style breeding out of consciousness and sentience in American politics to the point where eventually Senators will be bundles on fatty nerve tissue sponsored by the Koch brothers that twitch in response to certain stimuli.
posted by Artw at 7:44 AM on March 10, 2015 [51 favorites]


(Two four-year terms?)

Indeed. They forgot about the almost two more years you can get if you come in as a Veep or Designated Survivor.
posted by notyou at 7:45 AM on March 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


this letter was an obvious, ham-fisted gaffe from a freshman senator

...that 47 other senators, including the entire Republican leadership, signed onto. There's no question that this message is a deliberate move by the Senate Republican caucus, just like inviting the Israeli Prime Minister was a deliberate move by the House.

I'm trying to imagine what a Democratic equivalent of this would have been during the Bush years.

I can't really imagine that, but I can sure imagine what the reaction in the conservative media -- to say nothing of Fox News, talk radio and the National Review -- would have been.
posted by Gelatin at 7:46 AM on March 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


I was more curious of what grammarians around here might say about "two 4-year terms".
posted by newdaddy at 7:47 AM on March 10, 2015




I'm curious which 7 Republican Senators did not sign the letter. Is there a list anywhere?

Maine's Susan Collins appears to be absent. This is unsurprising-- she's as exciting and inspiring as frozen peas, but she's not stupid or an asshole.
posted by Mayor Curley at 7:50 AM on March 10, 2015 [6 favorites]


"two 4-year terms"

That's AP Style, so at least we can be confident that Senate GOP copywriters know the rules.
posted by notyou at 7:50 AM on March 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


Obama can't declare that he enjoys breathing air soon enough.
posted by Artw at 7:52 AM on March 10, 2015 [31 favorites]


that 47 other senators, including the entire Republican leadership, signed onto.

Actually, not quite. The seven Republicans who did not sign:

Bob Corker, TN (chair, Senate Foreign Relations Committee)
Jeff Flake, AZ (member Senate Foreign Relations Committee)
Olympia Snowe, ME
Lisa Murkowski, AK
Dan Coats, IN
Thad Cochran, MS
Lamar Alexander, TN
posted by LooseFilter at 7:53 AM on March 10, 2015 [32 favorites]


I'm serious though, that's some patronizing shit. Maybe they could write a follow-up where they explain to Iranians how the Electoral College works.
posted by newdaddy at 7:55 AM on March 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


Lamar!

The Senate's first Lumbersexual. I thought he had retired long ago.
posted by notyou at 7:57 AM on March 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


Okay, so prosecute the rest, take them to court for violating the Logan Act. Whether or not they get off in the end is immaterial, as long as they suffer a long and very public trial.
posted by swift at 7:57 AM on March 10, 2015


Immediately after launching effort to scuttle Iran deal, Senator Tom Cotton to meet with defense contractors

Proving, if nothing else, that Sen. Cotton has been watching Scandal for ideas.
posted by hydropsyche at 7:58 AM on March 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


Collins, not Snowe.

And how did Corker not walk his colleagues back from this, for gods sake?
posted by Navelgazer at 7:58 AM on March 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


LooseFilter, I was referring to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Majority Whip John Cornyn, but your point about the chair of the SFRC is duly noted.
posted by Gelatin at 7:58 AM on March 10, 2015


Actually, not quite. The seven Republicans who did not sign:
...Dan Coats, IN


As a Hoosier, this amazes me to no end, that Danny-boy didn't sign-on to this crazy. I'm not sure what to make of it. Maybe he's decided not to run again in 2016, and is now in his "fuck it" phase?
posted by Thorzdad at 7:59 AM on March 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


LooseFilter, I think you're making two different claims, one of which you didn't make in your first comment. Yup, it's dangerous and potentially puts people at risk. It's not a move made by stupid people who don't understand what they're doing, however. Whatever you think of it, it's willful, strategic, and will be at least partially successful in its aims, however unstated they may be.
posted by OmieWise at 8:01 AM on March 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


Maybe they could write a follow-up where they explain to Iranians how the Electoral College works.

Dear Iraq Iran Whom it May Concern,

We apologize for the delayed reply as we have been having trouble writing this letter blocked by our enormous American balls that are full of nuclear guns. It appears that your Foreign Mister Minister is not completely awares of how the American People elect the president. Let us enlighten him.

The United States Electoral College is the institution that officially elects the President and Vice President of the United States every four years.[2] The President and Vice President are not elected directly by the voters. Instead, they are elected by "electors" who are chosen by popular vote on a state-by-state basis.[citation needed] Electors are apportioned to each state and the District of Columbia (also known as Washington, D.C.), but not to territorial possessions of the United States. The number of electors in each state is equal to the number of members of Congress to which the state is entitled,[4]

With Regards,

Senators from Good America
posted by a manly man person who is male and masculine at 8:06 AM on March 10, 2015 [12 favorites]


recently leaked Israeli intelligence documents indicate that Iran not only doesn't have any nuclear weapons to disarm, but also does not have a nuclear weapons program to dismantle.
posted by markkraft


Financial Times Netanyahu on Iran — an assessment (may be 'soft' paywalled)
The divergence between Mr Netanyahu and the Israeli intelligence service, Mossad, on the evidence for this claim has been well documented and was confirmed again last week when leaked Mossad cables from 2012 said: “Iran is not performing the activity necessary to produce weapons.”

But as Mossad and other international intelligence assessments also made clear, while there was no evidence that Iran was enriching uranium beyond 20 per cent, there had been a substantial expansion of capacity to enrich up to that point.

Enrichment becomes progressively easier as uranium concentration grows, so making the leap from 5 per cent to 20 per cent enriched material is much harder than 20 per cent to 70 per cent — or from there to weapons grade (90 per cent). So Iran was not necessarily working towards building a bomb, but it was working towards being able to do so quickly should it decide to.
posted by rosswald at 8:08 AM on March 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


And how did Corker not walk his colleagues back from this, for gods sake?

Apparently, he tried to, or at least let them know it was a mistake:
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker said he was approached to sign the letter by Cotton, a Republican from Arkansas, but he concluded it might set back his ultimate goal: veto-proof support for a bill he has sponsored requiring a congressional vote to approve or reject an Iran deal.

“I knew it was going to be only Republicans on [the letter]. I just don’t view that as where I need to be today,” Corker said in an interview. “My goal is to get 67 or more people on something that will affect the outcome.”
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) expressed doubt about her colleagues’ tactic of skirting the White House and trying to affect foreign policy by going directly to Tehran.

“It’s more appropriate for members of the Senate to give advice to the president, to Secretary Kerry and to the negotiators,” Collins said. “I don’t think that the ayatollah is going to be particularly convinced by a letter from members of the Senate, even one signed by a number of my distinguished and high ranking colleagues.”
posted by zombieflanders at 8:09 AM on March 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


Elected Republicans from deep red states, particularly freshmen, are infected with Manichaean paranoia? HOLY SHIT how can this have happened?
posted by delfin at 8:09 AM on March 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


Whoa! I actually have to speak words of admiration and respect for *both* of my state's senators? This Congress is so fucked up that I'm on the same side of the fence as Bob fucking Corker? Daaaamn.
posted by absalom at 8:11 AM on March 10, 2015 [7 favorites]


eventually Senators will be bundles on fatty nerve tissue sponsored by the Koch brothers that twitch in response to certain stimuli.

Eventually?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:15 AM on March 10, 2015 [8 favorites]


Actually, not quite. The seven Republicans who did not sign: ... Olympia Snowe, ME

She probably didn't sign because she's been out of the Senate for two years.
posted by Mayor Curley at 8:16 AM on March 10, 2015 [15 favorites]


New York Magazine ran an article by Jonathan Chait about longtime sr. Obama adviser Dan Pfeiffer's comments upon leaving his job recently and I think this ridiculous stunt exemplifies the things he was talking about.
[Pfeiffer's] analysis puts the administration at odds with the reading of American politics that still dominates much of Washington reporting. Many political journalists imagine that the basic tension for the White House lies between Obama’s liberal base and appealing to Americans at the center, who will be crucial for tipping elections.

Pfeiffer believes the dynamic is, in fact, the opposite: “The incentive structure moves from going after the diminishing middle to motivating the base.” Ever since Republicans took control of the House four years ago, attempts to court Republicans have mostly failed while simultaneously dividing Democratic voters. Obama’s most politically successful maneuvers, by contrast, have all been unilateral and liberal.
He goes on to suggest that he does think demographic changes will eventualy alter this dynamic, but until that happens he basically says there's no point in trying to cooperate with the GOP. Back to the Iran letter it seems clear that Sen Cotton et al. don't give a crap about international law or the US's diplomatic reputation or dignity (since those depend on the opinions of foreigners, after all, who don't vote). Arguably he doesn't even really care about relations with Iran or its nuclear capabilities, presumably because of the US's overwhelming hegemonic might (I admit that's conjecture on my part).

He cares about winning over a base and staying in power, and any means justify these ends.
posted by Wretch729 at 8:16 AM on March 10, 2015 [6 favorites]


I have nothing to add, except to note this is an interesting use of Twitter. I was wondering how to succinctly respond to the Republicans in 140 characters, and didn't think of embedding a letter as an image.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:17 AM on March 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


This wasn't a mistake, and while the senators in question might individually be morons, the action itself was quite deliberate. republicans have effectively been able to block any meaningful domestic actions on the part of the President since they'd gotten the numbers in the Senate to filibuster. Now, they're just moving on to try and block any meaningful international efforts on the part of the President.

Since Presidents who're blocked domestically often shift their focus to international issues where they're able to mostly act unimpeded. In this case, republicans have decided to try and break things on this front as well. This is pretty well unprecedented, but it fits with the modern republican party's disregard of institutional rules and norms when they're inconvenient.

The goal has been to de-legitimize the President and more generally the Democratic party by showing them to be powerless to govern or to fix things.
posted by CaffinatedOne at 8:18 AM on March 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


Charlie Pierce: The Most Important People In The World Are From Arkansas
Cotton stands revealed as a true fanatic. He's stalwart in his convictions as regards things about which he knows exactly dick. What he and practically every Republican in the Senate did was nothing short of a slow-motion, partial coup d'etat. It was not quite treason, and it was not quite a violation of the Logan Act, no matter how dearly some of us might wish it was. (Imagine the howls if the Justice Department actually inquired into that possibility, which it certainly has a right to do. Lindsey Graham might never rise from the fainting couch.) But it stands in history with Richard Nixon's grotesque sabotage of the Paris Peace Talks in 1968 and with whatever it was that the Reagan campaign did to monkeywrench the possible release of the American hostages from their captivity in Iran in 1980. It is an act of unconscionable and perilous presumption, reckless at its base and heedless of eventual consequences. Nobody elected Tom Cotton or the rest of these clowns to undermine the ability of this president to conduct foreign policy. (Nobody elected Bibi Netanyahu to do it, either, as sad as this might make Jen Rubin.) It long has been acceptable on the respectable American right to call this president practically anything. It now is acceptable on the respectable American right to do anything to thwart his ability to conduct his office. A twice-elected president must bow to the uneducated whims of the representative of 478,819 Arkansans. We have fallen through the looking glass and left it far behind.
posted by zombieflanders at 8:21 AM on March 10, 2015 [29 favorites]


this is Tom Cotton right

(I realize this is a serious issue. But at this point, fuck it. These assbags have proven time and time and time again that everything they say and do regarding the Constitution is lipservice designed to suck in people who don't listen carefully. They simply don't care about legality; all they want is power and getting rid of that suspiciously dark-skinned man in the White House.)
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:22 AM on March 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


I think you're making two different claims, one of which you didn't make in your first comment.

Fair enough. My first, short comment did not completely elucidate my thoughts on this.

Yup, it's dangerous and potentially puts people at risk. It's not a move made by stupid people who don't understand what they're doing, however.

See, I think the first thing you mention there, dangerous and puts people at risk, qualifies this action as "stupid." You and I may be using that term differently, though--they may understand what they're doing, but it's still a stupid thing to do.

(Also, correction to my list above: Susan Collins did not sign, not Snowe, who is of course retired.)
posted by LooseFilter at 8:23 AM on March 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


In fairness, not all of the 47 are necessarily looking at this through the same Reality Distortion Goggles. There are lots of reasons to support military action against Iran, if you're the type who views that as a desirable end and constructs their arguments specifically to reach that end.

Whether the motivation is "They're going to bomb Israel" or "They're going to hit us with nuclear bombs" (hello, Lindsay Graham) or "A nuclear armed Iran will be more difficult to negotiate with" or "They're in the AXIS of EVIL" or "They're ISLAMIC" or "They have oil and we need oil" or "They need a forceful reminder that only America gets a voice in international affairs" or "Successful negotiations would benefit the Democrats" is irrelevant. None of them are particularly sound, but they SOUND good on talk radio, and the variety of motivations to quote provides enough cover for most to sign on.
posted by delfin at 8:24 AM on March 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


I know I am not the only person who, upon reading Zarif's response, uttered "oh SNAP!" out loud, as is customary when someone gets told.
posted by louche mustachio at 8:28 AM on March 10, 2015 [14 favorites]


I'm trying to imagine what a Democratic equivalent of this would have been during the Bush years.

I can't really imagine that, but I can sure imagine what the reaction in the conservative media -- to say nothing of Fox News, talk radio and the National Review -- would have been.


Glenn Greenwald draws a comparison to Nancy Pelosi meeting with Bashar Assad against Bush's wishes in 2007.
posted by xris at 8:29 AM on March 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


Some commentary on the GOP letter from Jack Goldsmith:

Its premise is that Iran’s leaders “may not fully understand our constitutional system,” and in particular may not understand the nature of the “power to make binding international agreements.” It appears from the letter that the Senators do not understand our constitutional system or the power to make binding agreements.

The letter states that “the Senate must ratify [a treaty] by a two-thirds vote.” But as the Senate’s own web page makes clear: “The Senate does not ratify treaties. Instead, the Senate takes up a resolution of ratification, by which the Senate formally gives its advice and consent, empowering the president to proceed with ratification” (my emphasis). Or, as this outstanding 2001 CRS Report on the Senate’s role in treaty-making states (at 117): “It is the President who negotiates and ultimately ratifies treaties for the United States, but only if the Senate in the intervening period gives its advice and consent.” Ratification is the formal act of the nation’s consent to be bound by the treaty on the international plane. Senate consent is a necessary but not sufficient condition of treaty ratification for the United States. As the CRS Report notes: “When a treaty to which the Senate has advised and consented … is returned to the President,” he may “simply decide not to ratify the treaty.”

posted by longdaysjourney at 8:30 AM on March 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


What's with Arkansas these days? Is there something in the water? Between Cotton and Justin Harris from the other recent FPP, I worry about a place that produced Bill Clinton.
posted by Melismata at 8:31 AM on March 10, 2015


Nothing says future Republican Presidential ambition like stupid, borderline criminal self aggrandizement.
posted by echocollate at 8:37 AM on March 10, 2015 [7 favorites]


As a Hoosier, this amazes me to no end, that Danny-boy didn't sign-on to this crazy. I'm not sure what to make of it. Maybe he's decided not to run again in 2016, and is now in his "fuck it" phase?

What you do, Thorzad, is what I just did. You call his office, mention that you're a constituent, and THANK HIM AND SUPPORT HIM for acting like an adult and not participating in this nonsense. You could tell him he's upholding the fine tradition of Senator Lugar (another member of the R-SANE party who was run out on a rail).

I may not always agree with my elected representatives, but when they do the right thing I tell them. Someone has to offset the morons.
posted by leotrotsky at 8:39 AM on March 10, 2015 [22 favorites]


Nothing says future Republican Presidential ambition like stupid, borderline criminal self aggrandizement.

FTFM
posted by echocollate at 8:42 AM on March 10, 2015


Glenn Greenwald draws a comparison to Nancy Pelosi meeting with Bashar Assad against Bush's wishes in 2007.

This is not one of his better efforts, seeing as how he buries the substantial and highly consequential changes between the two approaches in what is basically a throwaway paragraph near the end:
There are distinctions between Pelosi’s Assad meeting and the GOP letter to Iran. One Republican accompanied Pelosi; other Republicans had previously visited Assad; the Bipartisan Study Group and State Department had specifically recommended such trips; and at least publicly, Pelosi was insisting (albeit unconvincingly) that there were no real differences between her policy views and the administration’s. Moreover, as House Speaker, she was third in line to the presidency after the Vice President, giving her modestly more claim to act in the foreign policy realm than, say, random members of Congress.
So...they're the same except for being completely different? I mean, I get his protestations about the characterization, but to use his words, there's a huge gap on the substance.
posted by zombieflanders at 8:42 AM on March 10, 2015 [18 favorites]


How fucking embarrassing for the US. I'd be able to take pleasure in the smack-down of this stupid republican if he weren't squandering our already diminished credibility. Seriously, this is the kind of shit that makes me embarrassed to live here from time to time.
posted by Edgewise at 8:42 AM on March 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


I know that (most of) the Senators doing this fall more on the "don't care" side than the "don't know" side of the legal questions here. I realize this is strategy. It's also really, really bad strategy.

1.) The polls don't back them up.

While very few Americans really like Iran, and while Israel is certainly more popular here, polls show that the majority of Americans do not consider Iran an enemy, are in favor of working with Iran in order to help resolve issues in Iraq, and support a deal which could ease economic sanctions against Iran in exchange for assurances in re: an Iranian nuclear program.

Now, that might not matter if the issue were only important to one side. Republican strategists have often been masterful at finding the one issue that divides a person from the Left and convincing them that that one issue will kill their children. But this matters to everybody, and the majority don't want a deal sabotaged.

2.) It's very limited upside and a lot of downside for Rand Paul.

Of the three potential real contenders for the Republican nomination next year (Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, Rand Paul) only Paul is in the senate. If this blows up in his face, he can be tagged with it all through the general. If not, he was a follower of a Freshman Senator. Not that Bush and Walker care arount that, but it won't help them shunt him aside in the primaries. But neither of those are as big a deal as this:

3.) It kicked Clinton off the front page.

Before this stunt, the political story of the week was Sec. Clinton's refusal to disclose certain emails. Nobody cares about that now, on top of the fact that pretending to care about responsibility and accountability in foreign policy from their position is a joke now.

So yeah, I think it was stupid both as politics and policy, frankly.
posted by Navelgazer at 8:43 AM on March 10, 2015 [25 favorites]


I'm pretty sure the rest of the world is also embarrassed for you. (Not specifically you, you collectively as a nation).
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:44 AM on March 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


Navelgazer I'll grant you points 2 and 3 but the polls you cite don't matter that much in the strategic calculus of the Republican actors involved. Tom Cotton doesn't represent the majority of Americans, and realistically he doesn't represent the majority of Arkansans either. He represents the interests of a politically motivated base of donors and voters and that's enough to keep him in power at election time. Sure he's supposed to care about more than that but it seems that the lesson the GOP in general has taken from the Obama presidency is to apply the principles of insurgency to political debate. The party in power loses if it does not win, the opposition wins if it does not lose.
posted by Wretch729 at 8:53 AM on March 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


This was aimed at the Tea Party, the GOP base. It's not about diplomacy at all. It actually says "look how we just stuck it to the black guy."
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 8:54 AM on March 10, 2015 [13 favorites]


This was aimed at the Tea Party, the GOP base. It's not about diplomacy at all. It actually says "look how we just stuck it to the black guy."

I agree, but the House voting on a succession of doomed efforts to "repeal" the Affordable Care Act is one thing; publicly undermining US diplomacy with a foreign power -- in nuclear talks, no less -- is quite another.
posted by Gelatin at 9:00 AM on March 10, 2015 [10 favorites]


From Cotton's letter: "most of us [US Senators] will remain in office well beyond then [2017] -- perhaps decades."

Ugh. I guess it's refreshing that they are straight-up admitting the inertia of incumbency in the Senate.
posted by dhens at 9:01 AM on March 10, 2015 [6 favorites]


These senators don't know or understand enough even to consider something like 'global optics'.

Definitely. Kerry's reference in the 2004 presidential debates to subjecting American foreign policy to a "global test" certainly didn't do him any favors in that election. For these Senators, complete ignorance of "global optics" is a feature, not a bug. Global optics is for Frenchified socialists from Yurrp, not real Amurricans.
posted by jonp72 at 9:02 AM on March 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


At the same time it's obviously steeped in the "The REAL president can't be black!" racist freak out the GOP has been having since 2008.
posted by Artw at 9:03 AM on March 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


Shooting your mouth off about regime change and then berating the Iranian government is unlikely to be productive. Even as a lefty non-American, I'm embarrassed by this thundering exercise in doltishness.
posted by Devonian at 9:12 AM on March 10, 2015 [1 favorite]



I'm not really sure how this all works, but apparently "octothorpe 47traitors" is "top trending" on the twitters.
 
posted by Herodios at 9:13 AM on March 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


So yeah, I think it was stupid both as politics and policy, frankly.

I hope you're right--and you may well be. At this point, though, I simply can't tell how this will ultimately play. I mean, it really is an astonishing move. At this point the Republicans really do seem to be going for "give us what we want or we'll just fuck shit up" as their basic strategy. I'd like to think that even the spectacularly uninformed and disengaged American electorate will start to take notice of this at some point, but the last three Congressional elections don't offer much reason for hope.
posted by yoink at 9:14 AM on March 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


I want to just laugh and snark at these politicians who have all the intellect and decorum of a sock puppet, but the problem with sock puppets are the hands they conceal, in this case being those of defence contractors, weapons manufacturers and other corporations who, to my eyes, seem to be hell-bent on summoning the apocalypse. I have lived my entire life in morbid horror at my southern neighbour (and at my own country, since harper). It's all so loathsome and absurd.

But that's the point of laughter I suppose. One has to laugh at America, at Republicans, at Harper, at war-profiteers and psychopaths in every country. One has to laugh because the alternative is complete despair.
posted by mrjohnmuller at 9:14 AM on March 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


Every time I read this letter, I'm a little more boggled. I mean, even if you oppose negotiations or talks with Iran, publicly announcing, "Don't talk to us! We could break our agreements at any time!" seems like an iffy diplomatic gambit.
posted by verb at 9:16 AM on March 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


At the same time it's obviously steeped in the "The REAL president can't be black!" racist freak out the GOP has been having since 2008.

THIS THIS THIS
posted by Melismata at 9:17 AM on March 10, 2015


I'd like to think that even the spectacularly uninformed and disengaged American electorate will start to take notice of this at some point

But to do that, they have to be informed about what an radical and nigh-unprecedented move this action was. And yet the so-called "liberal media"'s obsession with phony "balance" and addiction to a he-said-she-said storyline had, for example, NPR providing that information via a quote by Harry Reid, which just supports the narrative of "the usual partisan bickering."
posted by Gelatin at 9:19 AM on March 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


He cares about winning over a base and staying in power, and any means justify these ends.

Cotton has been in the Senate for 3 months, he was JUST elected. I don't buy that this is just a campaign red-meat tactic, he doesn't have to run again for 6 years.

Tehran Tom is just as dangerous as Cruz, because they are both True Believers of the shit they spout on FOX News every day. It's not just pandering for them like it maybe is for McConnell or what passes for Republican "leadership", Cotton and Cruz really would start World War 3 by invading Iran, or bombing Russia even, if given any actual power over foreign policy. The only doctrine they understand is The W. Doctrine of Yeeeehaaww!, Real Men want to go to Tehran!
posted by T.D. Strange at 9:23 AM on March 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


A twice-elected president must bow to the uneducated whims of the representative of 478,819 Arkansans.

478,819 people voted for Cotton, but he represents the entire state, for better or worse (I'm going to go out on a limb and say 'worse').
posted by jedicus at 9:28 AM on March 10, 2015



Washington Post: The misguided, condescending letter from Republican senators to Iran
It starts with the patronizing premise that "you may not fully understand our Constitutional system" . . .

Harvard Law School professor Jack Goldsmith describes the letter as "embarrassing," because it's technically wrong . . .

[T]he letter is almost farcically condescending in word and tone. Iran's leaders are well aware of how the United States works. The country's foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, spent the better part of a decade as the Iranian envoy to the United Nations; like many others in the Iranian cabinet, he was partly educated in the United States.
Here the Post carries a screencapture of a Twitter post by Reza Aslan, pointing out that
"Iran currently has the highest number of US college alums serving in any foreign government cabinet in the world"
-- which includes a helpful group photo showing their US almas mater.
It reflects the willful ignorance on the part of many hawks in Washington who insist on seeing Iran purely as an irrational actor and a permanent regional threat. As WorldViews discussed earlier, Iran is problematic in many ways, and its regime plays a role in fueling proxy wars in parts of the Middle East. But one can argue that the same is true of Washington's chief Arab ally in the region, Saudi Arabia.
posted by Herodios at 9:33 AM on March 10, 2015 [13 favorites]


What's with Arkansas these days? Is there something in the water? Between Cotton and Justin Harris from the other recent FPP, I worry about a place that produced Bill Clinton.

Demographics and a black man in the White House with a foreign Islamic sounding name.
posted by Atreides at 9:35 AM on March 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


zombieflanders: "As if this letter wasn't enough, there's plenty of evidence that Tom Cotton is batshit insane and criminally stupid, which makes his popularity much more disturbing."

Holy shit, that "corruption of blood" thing is straight up N. Korean attitude (without the labor/prison camps, natch, but... jesus, it violates everything we supposedly stand for in the western tradition).
posted by symbioid at 9:35 AM on March 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


Seriously, they wrote the Iranian government to fill them in on the terms of office of the President? Really?

"Learned, Pepe. It's pronounced learned."
posted by Atom Eyes at 9:44 AM on March 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


"Catch-22 says they have a right to do anything we can't stop them from doing."

That's the modern Republican foreign policy worldview in one sentence. We are America, we are Exceptional, we are the Leaders of the Free World, we are Blessed by God, we are Powerful and we are Armed to the Fucking Teeth so that justifies treating the rest of the world like the hired help or worse. We will arm who we wish, we will bomb who we wish and we will meddle where we wish, and if other nations don't agree that's too damn bad.

Why are people who are this myopic elected time and again? Because the fine work of conservative think tanks in influencing American media, churches, news reporting and thought processes guarantees a voter bloc in every state receptive to that message.
posted by delfin at 9:44 AM on March 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


The reliably anti-war (whatever else they might be) American Conservative editorializes on the topic.
posted by echocollate at 9:46 AM on March 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


But to do that, they have to be informed about what an radical and nigh-unprecedented move this action was.

Somehow or other we all managed to find out.
posted by yoink at 9:48 AM on March 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


I learned it from YOU, Reagan. I learned it from you!
posted by symbioid at 9:56 AM on March 10, 2015 [6 favorites]


WTF that corruption of blood thing.
Article III of the Constitution explicitly bans Congress from punishing treason based on "corruption of blood" -- meaning that relatives of those convicted of treason cannot be punished based only on a familial tie.
These people simply do not care about the Constitution in any way.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:05 AM on March 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


Somehow or other we all managed to find out.

Oh, come on. I already pointed out that NPR framed the action in the typical he-said, she-said partisan bickering style. Not everyone reads political blogs, you know.

Sure, of one is particularly well informed about civics and recent history and has been paying attention lately, one could manage to figure it out, but I still contend that the media will give tacit cover to the Republicans' action by framing it as partisan bickering and failing to provide the necessary context -- all in the name of "balance," of course.
posted by Gelatin at 10:05 AM on March 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


I dunno, the front page of today's NY Daily News - which has not been supportive of the Iranian talks - is the word TRAITORS with pictures of the chief Republicans behind this.
posted by Navelgazer at 10:08 AM on March 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


If you manage - as a manichean right wing zealot - to get the New York Daily News calling you a traitor, I think you may have fucked up.
posted by ursus_comiter at 10:08 AM on March 10, 2015 [14 favorites]


Heh, jinx.
posted by Navelgazer at 10:09 AM on March 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


At least Nixon had the decency to do this covertly.
posted by teleri025 at 10:11 AM on March 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


An Open Letter to the Washington, D.C. Dog Pound:

It has come to our attention that Barack Obama has claimed a stray dog from your organization and that you, being ignorant and in need of our sagely guidance, may not fully understand our constitutional system.

First, under our Constitution, while the president while the president may adopt a dog, Congress plays the significant role of writing condescending letters about said adoption.

Second, when President Obama leaves office in January 2017, we'll still be around, many of us for decades to come. We're like Friday the 13th. Remember Jason Vs. Freddie? Jason Takes Manhattan? Jason in space? We just go on and on. And then we reboot.

Being around, we will be able to kick that dog if we like. We can even put that dog to sleep.

We hope this letter enriches your knowledge of our constitutional system and promotes mutual understanding and clarity, because, you know, the tone of this letter is not bat-shit insane, it is all about mutual understanding. Pease out.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 10:12 AM on March 10, 2015 [9 favorites]


We had a guest speaker recently from France who told us the French believe they are better than any other country in the world and that this makes them the second most arrogant country. Because they at least acknowledge that there are other countries. I see this supporting his thesis.
posted by Joey Michaels at 10:19 AM on March 10, 2015 [29 favorites]


I'm glad the Senators signed the letter, so we can identify who the assholes are.
posted by Mental Wimp at 10:22 AM on March 10, 2015


That seems redundant.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:24 AM on March 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


Seriously, they wrote the Iranian government to fill them in on the terms of office of the President? Really?

Well, in fairness, I believe some of these Senators just learned that themselves.
posted by Mental Wimp at 10:25 AM on March 10, 2015 [9 favorites]


Technically, which is to say, legally, you and I are not allowed to travel to Tehran to try to work out a deal between the United States and Iran.

If only the same legal prohibition were true for would-be bids to host the Olympics.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 10:28 AM on March 10, 2015


You know how sometimes you have something coming up, like a trip or a chore, and there's something you have to read or do to prepare yourself for it but you just don't get around to doing it for whatever reason? Then that thing arrives and you're still like, fuck, I really need to do that prep thing, but you don't, and then whatever it is starts rolling and you're still thinking you need to do that thing but it's kind of working out so far, but that's okay because you'll get to it someday?

That's how I imagine some of these newly elected Republican Reps and Senators are about reading the Constitution.
posted by barchan at 10:40 AM on March 10, 2015 [10 favorites]


More like Republicans and Democrats refer to the Constitution like Vizzini and Inigo to "Inconceivable!"
posted by delfin at 10:46 AM on March 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


I think the recent Iran stuff may be the most obvious, indefensible Republican clown shoes moment in the last seven years.
posted by charred husk at 10:50 AM on March 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


Eh - watching the Republicans slink away from their threats to shutdown the DHS is my personal fave. YMMV.
posted by rosswald at 10:53 AM on March 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


newdaddy: "This is your drunken aunt writing a note-of-excused-absence to your elementary teacher and using it as a venue for listing her family grievances and all the character flaws she perceives your parents have Facebook Post."
posted by symbioid at 10:56 AM on March 10, 2015 [6 favorites]


Well, the Republicans do have a solid point in reminding everyone that America is haphazard in it's honoring its treaty agreements... That when the US signs a treaty, you really can't trust it as far as you can throw it; that we'll ignore it at our convenience. Their understanding of US history is pretty solid in this respect.

Iran, on the other hand is really helping remind the world that the US has a world-class education system, that the Iranians have a deep understanding of international politics, of US constitutional issues that clearly outweighs the understanding of the Republicans.

I'm pretty impressed with the Republican leadership's ability to create policy stances that fascilitate Right-wing tabloid papers to support the US president in his negotiations with Iran.

All of this is terribly impressive.

(I forwarded the Iranian response to someone close to me last night, and used the word 'snap' twice in that mail).
posted by el io at 10:58 AM on March 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


If only they'd follow the ultimate example of the 47 Ronin.
posted by gottabefunky at 10:59 AM on March 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


Can I please go back to Watching House of Cards, where the political scheming isn't completely stupid and predictable? Seriously, even if this was crazy world and everything revolved around Republicans and their little shit fit letter, what were the possible outcomes here?

(1) Iran responds with, "Gee, that's a good point you made there. Nevermind about this treaty, Obama, we're gonna go about our merry way developing nuclear weapons." Then, Republicans get to gloat about how bad Obama is at foreign policy, and spend the next election cycle carrying on about how Iran is such a threat and we need strong leaders to show them who's boss.

(2) Iran responds with, "Wow, you fuckers be crazy. We're definitely gonna sign a treaty with Obama now, just to piss you off." Then, Republicans get to complain about how Obama negotiated with terrorists, and spend the next election cycle carrying on about how they would repeal this terrible treaty (right after they repeal Obamacare, of course) because they're on the side of Israel and freedom and real America.

But I would guess most Republicans never actually expected either of these outcomes, because they know the Iranians aren't stupid. Nevertheless, they'll spend the next election cycle grandstanding as if one of the above outcomes occurred, because elections are crazy world. And we all know the third possible outcome (Americans become spontaneously interested in international relations, notice how dumb and patronizing that letter is, and swear off the Republicans for good) ain't never gonna happen.
posted by gueneverey at 11:03 AM on March 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


> But then why would so many (more senior, experienced) senators sign on to this steaming pile?

I seems like many in the Old Guard are looking at the New Breed with a bit of puzzlement. "You mean we can just come right out and do $HORRIBLE_THING now, without having to hide behind something?". They're changing their game to keep up, but aren't quite sure of themselves. There's also a feeling of "not only can you do this stupid thing, but you have to do it, otherwise Tea Party Opponent In Your Primary".

So I think many of them, after government shut-downs and holding the DHS hostage happened, are "Oh, is this what we're doing now? Okay, here's my name."
posted by benito.strauss at 11:21 AM on March 10, 2015 [3 favorites]



Can I please go back to Watching House of Cards, where the political scheming isn't completely stupid and predictable?

Is that a joke because yes it is stupid and predictable. That said, the Senators' letter is even more stupid and predictable than anything from HOC. Well. Maybe.
posted by zutalors! at 11:24 AM on March 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


Imagine if Obama got a letter from the Iranian hardliners saying that he can't trust any deal he gets out of these talks, and that among those signatures were lawmakers who had attempted to lock up the families of U.S. Servicemen and woman, lawmakers who had screamed bloody murder when a Christian Youth center was under construction in Tehran, and a lawmaker who had publicly sung about bombing the U.S., while on the campaign trail, smiling, to the tune of a classic Persian pop song.

Would Obama back down, or would whoever he's actually in talks with seem that much more trustworthy and reasonable?

Furthermore, is Iran supposed to read this as "don't risk tampering down on your nuclear programs now! You'll just lose a precious two years!"? Because that's what it looks like.
posted by Navelgazer at 11:28 AM on March 10, 2015 [7 favorites]


"P.S. Iraq is working out so well what with ISIS and whatnot so we'll totally be over to do the same to you contry once we get rid of this illegitimate black president. Toodles!"
posted by Artw at 11:35 AM on March 10, 2015


#47Traitors? More like #47Arseholes.
posted by Catblack at 11:36 AM on March 10, 2015


Can I please go back to Watching House of Cards, where the political scheming isn't completely stupid and predictable?

Truth: not stranger than fiction, just dumber.
posted by Foosnark at 11:41 AM on March 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


Ignorant Americans elect ignorant representatives who precipitate a war in which needless suffering, pain, and hardship is inflicted on huge numbers of innocent people, including ignorant Americans. Ignorant representatives and corporate interests reap windfalls. Rinse repeat.

Film at 11.
posted by CosmicRayCharles at 11:52 AM on March 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


Ignorant Americans elect ignorant representatives who precipitate a war in which needless suffering, pain, and hardship is inflicted on huge numbers of innocent people, including ignorant Americans. Ignorant representatives and corporate interests reap windfalls. Rinse repeat.

Hey, now, that level of cynicism is uncalled for.

They also precipitate economic policies in which needless suffering, pain, and hardship is inflicted on huge numbers of innocent people, including ignorant Americans, with ignorant representatives and corporate interests reaping windfalls.
posted by Gelatin at 12:06 PM on March 10, 2015 [7 favorites]


Just seeing the level of discourse over at Twitter under the hashtag #47Traitors totally disheartens me. Admittedly it's probably not the best place to look. In the long run, we need to find some way of escaping from this thing, whatever you want to call it - partisan politics, tribalism, identity politics.
posted by newdaddy at 12:17 PM on March 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


The seven Republicans who did not sign:

Bob Corker, TN (chair, Senate Foreign Relations Committee)
Jeff Flake, AZ (member Senate Foreign Relations Committee)
Olympia Snowe, ME
Lisa Murkowski, AK
Dan Coats, IN
Thad Cochran, MS
Lamar Alexander, TN


Let me get this straight: every other Republican senator signed this pile of #%$? Majority leader Mitch? Even ... gasp ... John McCain signed this?

Wow.
posted by RedOrGreen at 12:17 PM on March 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


I've finally figured this out. Obama was in on this letter. This is good cop, bad cop. You'd better cut a deal with me because, be careful, my partner is fucking insane.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 12:21 PM on March 10, 2015 [14 favorites]


Bobby Jindal Signs Onto Republican Senators' Letter To Iran

Whatever cover of "authority of the United States”, to use the language of the Logan Act, that may be claimed by US Senators certainly can't extend to a governor of one individual State.

Bobby Jindal should be prosecuted under the Logan Act.
posted by T.D. Strange at 12:22 PM on March 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


In the long run, we need to find some way of escaping from this thing, whatever you want to call it - partisan politics, tribalism, identity politics.

The peaceful slumber of the grave?
posted by sobarel at 12:29 PM on March 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


I'm just burying my head in McConnelling videos and silently laughcrying at this point.
posted by BungaDunga at 12:30 PM on March 10, 2015


Of course for all that I go on about how this letter makes total sense in the context of the incentives in place for Sen. Cotton, Navelgazer is absolutely right that the real message it sends to Iran and the rest of the world is exactly the same message the difference in how the George W Bush administration treated N. Korea and Iraq already made clear a decade ago: if you're smart, get a nuclear strike capacity as rapidly as possible. Ideally make it one that's shrouded in secrecy and plausible deniability, and don't make the mistake of going all out and actually being able to threaten the continental US, but just far enough that you could really mess up your own region, and the US will treat you much more carefully.
posted by Wretch729 at 12:31 PM on March 10, 2015


So basically, Iran has two years to build nuclear weapons, or we'll turn it into another Syria. Joy.
posted by happyroach at 12:32 PM on March 10, 2015


Now, I am not a Very Serious Person, but can anyone explain to me the downside to the administration of prosecuting the 47, even if they will ultimately walk? The Republicans have conclusively signalled, on this and other issues, that they are utterly capricious malefactors actors with nothing but contempt for bedrock American principles of governance, and indeed for everyone and everything except for money and a hairline majority. They have courted massive retaliation time and again, and now it is time they had a taste of the draconian justice system their ideological comrades have imposed on the American people. Confiscate their money and houses, as in any other criminal conspiracy trial, and MAKE THEM PROVE they did nothing wrong to get them back.
posted by Captain l'escalier at 12:34 PM on March 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


If every jackoff in the Senate can start creating their own foreign policy, I wonder why the Democrats don't take advantage of this. Oh shit, Al Franken just signed a treaty with France binding the US into single payer health care and sane maternity/paternity leave. Damnit, Elizabeth Warren just negotiated a trade deal with Belgium and now their highest tax bracket applies to wealthy Americans, and Speculoos spread must be sold alongside peanut butter. Wait, did Nancy Pelosi just write a letter to the Swedish government committing the US to adopt their maximum sentencing laws? Oh no, she cc'ed it to Portugal and also decriminalized drugs in the process. If only Tom Cotton hadn't decided that Senators can now create foreign policy.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 12:37 PM on March 10, 2015 [14 favorites]


Now, I am not a Very Serious Person, but can anyone explain to me the downside to the administration of prosecuting the 47, even if they will ultimately walk?

As lovely as that idea is...


...sorry, drifted off into a reverie for a moment. Anyway. As great as that sounds, it just becomes Republican talking points: "The liberal fascists led by the Kenyan Muslim fake President are attacking the real patriots!"

Sure, those of us who live in the reality-based world would see through that bullshit in a heartbeat. Everyone else will lap it up, and voila: Republicans dominate the executive and legislature, and within a few minutes of President Romney/Bush/Cruz being sworn in, they'll have SCOTUS as well.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:41 PM on March 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


but can anyone explain to me the downside to the administration of prosecuting the 47, even if they will ultimately walk?

The political shitstorm which would ensue would be legendary, and the blowback would fall on the Dems like a ton of bricks.
posted by BungaDunga at 12:42 PM on March 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


"Sound and fury, signifying nothing..."

These guys don't drive the car, they sent a letter with no meaning to anyone but their own constituents. That said, it would be nice if their relationship to their constituents wasn't such that they thought they had to resort to these kinds of shenanigans to get attention and affirmation. Reminds me of some children I know, the ones who cut up in class a lot.
posted by From Bklyn at 12:47 PM on March 10, 2015


One of the common talking points among the 27% is that by doing things that a President is entitled to do, Obama is being a KING and an EMPEROR and a DICTATOR and a TYRANT.

One of the things that King Emperor Dictator Tyrants are known for doing is to take one's political opponents, declare them to have committed crimes and have them punished for doing so.

Unless the 47+1 are caught red-handed on live TV with their genitals firmly pressed against/inside a dead Iranian horse with national secrets clasped in its mouth, you don't pull out that kind of shithammer for what is, when one comes down to it, an exercise in partisan prickwaving and nothing more. It makes the 27% feel like they have legitimacy and then they make the constitutional peasant from Holy Grail sound like an anarchist.
posted by delfin at 12:49 PM on March 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


The Irani foreign minister's response is a masterwork of rhetoric. Such a pleasant change from Crazypants Ahmedinejad. Zarif totally schooled them.
posted by bardophile at 12:51 PM on March 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


Would be nice to see Zarif sideline Ahmedinejad and take over, no?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:54 PM on March 10, 2015


Maybe, but Ahmedinejad isn't in power anymore. He stepped down after the elections in 2013, and the current president is Hassan Rouhani.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 12:59 PM on March 10, 2015 [10 favorites]


I have no idea if, by comparison, he's actually some kind of terrifying maniac , but he does write nice.

Amhedihijad, by comparison, is the kind of hillbilly hick that could do quite well as a US Senator. Probably they were hoping for a response from him.
posted by Artw at 12:59 PM on March 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


Ahmedinejad was also limited, by his country's law, to two terms. His preferred successor did not win the election.
posted by bardophile at 1:01 PM on March 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


Maybe, but Ahmedinejad isn't in power anymore. He stepped down after the elections in 2013, and the current president is Hassan Rouhani.

Well fuck, stupid me.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:01 PM on March 10, 2015


The ability to precipitate a Constitutional crisis is the measure of power in Washington these days. I don't see why Obama should shrink from a shitfight at this point. What does he have to lose? The Republicans regard him as illegitimate. His party ran away from him and lost hard. For all the seriousness with which the Republican congress takes its responsibilities, they might as well be seated in deck chairs on the Senate floor wearing Bermuda shorts sipping drinks with little umbrellas sticking out of them. This Cotton clown has just casually fucked with an unwritten political norm that a future GOP president might want to remain in place. If they're going to politicize foreign policy it looks like nothing but weakness to refuse to answer back when there is a law on the books that will permit prosecution.
posted by Captain l'escalier at 1:05 PM on March 10, 2015


Mental Wimp: I'm glad the Senators signed the letter, so we can identify who the assholes are.

Dear Cleveleand Browns GOP Leadership;

Attached is a letter that we received on November 19, 1974 March 9, 2015. I feel that you should be aware that some assholes is are signing your name to stupid letters.

Yours, &c.
- The remaining Americans who haven't yet lost their goddamned minds.
posted by wenestvedt at 1:06 PM on March 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


Ahmedinejad was an ignorant guy who got where he did by cultivating religious zealotry and fear of foreign countries. He was Iran's George W. Bush.

That observation finally brought home to me the fact that it's not country against country, but it's the people who want to co-exist against those who thrive on emphasizing tribes and cultivating conflict between them. I wish there was some Golgafrinchan B Ark we could put them on.
posted by benito.strauss at 1:10 PM on March 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


A not-great development.
posted by Navelgazer at 1:12 PM on March 10, 2015


What does he have to lose?

He, personally? Not much. The Republicans, however, will tar all Democrats with the same brush if Obama fights back on this, and--again--watch the red tide take over the entire government in 2016.

I wish there was some Golgafrinchan B Ark we could put them on.

Have you heard of Mars One?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:12 PM on March 10, 2015


I wish there was some Golgafrinchan B Ark we could put them on.

Do you want everyone else to die from a virus contracted from a dirty telephone?!?!
posted by BungaDunga at 1:12 PM on March 10, 2015


To put it more succinctly, if Republicans will recognize no political norms, then it's bad politics for Democrats to continue to behave as if they remain operative for both parties.
posted by Captain l'escalier at 1:15 PM on March 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


yes /misanthrope
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:15 PM on March 10, 2015


The problem is that Democrats are really bad at getting the American public to see why their position is the one the public really agrees with when it stops to think. So if they give up the norms, you can bet that the Republicans will successfully convince the American people that only the Democrats have given up the norms of political decorum.
posted by bardophile at 1:18 PM on March 10, 2015 [10 favorites]


Captain l'Escalier: My thought is that right now, the GOP is killing itself on global optics, because as we've been saying here, they don't give a shit about global optics. The dems do, however. Obama can largely ignore the letter right now because the focus is on the talks and ignoring the letter reinforces the global image of the GOP as petulant children who aren't serious enough to sit at the big kids' table. Legally, mechanically, diplomatically, Obama has no need to lean on the republicans for any reason on this issue, which is why they did the letter to begin with. Obama making a big damn deal out of it hurts his actual goals and helps the world take the GOP more seriously, I think.
posted by Navelgazer at 1:19 PM on March 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


wenestvedt:
"Dear Cleveleand Browns GOP Leadership;"
Do NOT compare by poor, beleaguered Brownies to them. The Republicans have had WAY more victories than they have. And if you leave cookies out they'll clean your house.
posted by charred husk at 1:23 PM on March 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


"Financial Times Netanyahu on Iran — an assessment"

First, I would deny that the FT is a particularly good source for independently reaching or verifying such an assessment... especially given that Sam Jones, the young reporter who wrote that piece, was, until last year, the FT's hedge funds correspondent, and doesn't have the chops needed to independently evaluate what he wrote, much of which apparently came out of a communique from Mossad to the South African government, which was was an attempt to persuade the South African government to their position.

Basically, the argument Sam Jones seems to be rehashing is overly simplistic persuasion, based on percentages... as opposed to science and the technical difficuty involved. Mossad basically said, "well, yeah... you share info with the US and UK, so you know that they're saying Iran has no active nuclear weapons program, but it's easier to get from 20% enrichment to weapons grade than to get from ore to 20%."

Which, is true perhaps... *if* you have the advanced centrifuges to do it. Most of Iran's centrifuges are first generation affairs that aren't designed to enrich uranium to that level, though they *might* be able to get there with a large, unmonitored stock of uranium hexofloride. Otherwise, you'd need lots of advanced centrifuges to do it... and even then, you would need other technologies, from detonators to advanced rocketry, that Iran has not mastered for this application yet. Uranium is *very* heavy, and many suggest that it would be easier to use plutonium... but that would mean using the Natanz reactor. Oh, did I mention that Iran's uranium is all currently monitored by cameras, regularly inspected, etc.? Even using the most hawkish US scenario, Iran could only manage to perhaps make a single bomb under the current inspections regimen... and doing so would be discovered and lead to disaster for their country.

In truth, going from where they are to nuclear weapons is *MUCH, MUCH* harder... and they would have to go all the way without getting caught, and have a working detonator and a way of deploying the weapon in such a way that would prevent a massive retaliation against them. It's simply ludicrous, as it currently stands.

"...there had been a substantial expansion of capacity to enrich up to that point."

Of course. They went from no enrichment to that point, up to a level of enrichment at that point that could begin to meet Iran's significant needs for 20% enriched uranium... those needs primarily being the treatment of cancer. Something he might've considered mentioning as a way of providing a balanced assessment, especially considering the source for the material was a far more experienced, award-winning reporter with experience at MIT.

"So Iran was not necessarily working towards building a bomb, but it was working towards being able to do so quickly should it decide to."

More like "So Iran was not working towards building a bomb, but was working towards being able to fuel their reactors and treat cancer patients."

Iran has produced 324 kilograms [714 pounds] of 20% uranium but has only 182 kilograms [400 pounds] that could readily be enriched to higher grade. The remainder has been converted into powder to be used to make fuel for a reactor that produces medical isotopes. If the goal was to build nuclear weapons -- plural, needed for not only having a weapons program, but also a remotely credible deterrent for maintaining that program, their reactors, their rocket programs, their air force, their government, etc. -- then why would they take nearly half of their most enriched uranium off the table in such a way?

So, yes... the Financial Times do have "an assessment", if you wish to call it that. Written by one young reporter with experience on writing about hedge funds, no real balance, no science, and no citations.

In truth, we could all come up with something far more credible amongst ourselves.
posted by markkraft at 1:45 PM on March 10, 2015 [14 favorites]


NYTimes March 7, 2015 - What Iran Won’t Say About the Bomb

William J. Broad is a science reporter and David E. Sanger is a national security correspondent for The New York Times.
posted by rosswald at 1:59 PM on March 10, 2015


the GOP in part has moved from being against Obama iniatives tonight nullification of initiatives
posted by Postroad at 2:02 PM on March 10, 2015


It is true, Rosswald, that Iran still has to fully satisfy the IAEA on these questions, but characterizing the responses to the two other addressed questions as a "dodge" as the NY Times article suggests might not be accurate.

It wasn't clear whether the IAEA still has outstanding questions on the explosives and neutron calculations work.

The Wall Street Journal characterized it as such:
“As I mentioned it is highly technical. If you want to characterize progress as continuing exchanging information on those complicated things, then we can say that it was progress in that respect,” (the IAEA representative) said.

It wasn't clear whether the IAEA still has outstanding questions on the explosives and neutron calculations work.


So basically... complex scientific answers, to complex questions, and ongoing, promising discussions. These two issues might be addressed to IAEA's satisfaction, as stands. It is also quite possible that by getting answers and/or assurances on some of these questions, the others won't need to be addressed, in depth. Sounds like a good argument for continued talks, I would suggest. We should let the IAEA do their job here, much in the way we should've let UNSCOM do their job in Iraq.
posted by markkraft at 2:16 PM on March 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


Well, since our senators can do it...

Dear Every Country In The World,

Since every four years we elect a new leader based on the capricious will of our uneducated population, we want to let you know that we can't be trusted to make any deals or sign any treaties. We'll just change our mind and try to find a way to weasel out of them once its no longer politically expedient for our elected representatives. You know this from decades of interacting with us, so it might be a sign of insanity on your part that you keep signing documents with us.

Instead, let me recommend you treat us like an incontinent, doddering old uncle with a lot of guns. Smile, appease us, encourage us to stay home in our own country and by no means agree to anything with us ever in any sort of legally binding sense.

Sincerely, etc. etc.
posted by Joey Michaels at 2:20 PM on March 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


Today's Borowitz report:

Iran Offers to Mediate Talks Between Republicans and Obama

Stating that “their continuing hostilities are a threat to world peace,” Iran has offered to mediate talks between congressional Republicans and President Obama.

Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, made the offer one day after Iran received what he called a “worrisome letter” from Republican leaders, which suggested to him that “the relationship between Republicans and Obama has deteriorated dangerously.”

“Tensions between these two historic enemies have been high in recent years, but we believe they are now at a boiling point,” Khamenei said. “As a result, Iran feels it must offer itself as a peacemaker.”

He said that his nation was the “logical choice” to jumpstart negotiations between Obama and the Republicans because “it has become clear that both sides currently talk more to Iran than to each other.”

He invited Obama and the Republicans to meet in Tehran to hash out their differences and called on world powers to force the two bitter foes to the bargaining table, adding, “It is time to stop the madness.”

Hours after Iran made its offer, President Obama said that he was willing to meet with his congressional adversaries under the auspices of Tehran, but questioned whether “any deal reached with Republicans is worth the paper it’s written on.”

For their part, the Republicans said they would only agree to talks if there were no preconditions, such as recognizing President Obama’s existence.

posted by markkraft at 2:44 PM on March 10, 2015 [23 favorites]


Rick Perry is next.
posted by T.D. Strange at 3:02 PM on March 10, 2015


Oh. Wow. Wow. Not sure if satire or not, don't care; the point remains.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 3:08 PM on March 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


Oh man, Rick Perry and Bobby Jindal in jail together for treason is the kind of slashfic I'd write if politics didn't have such a strong emetic effect on my constitution.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 5:00 PM on March 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


"Now, I am not a Very Serious Person, but can anyone explain to me the downside to the administration of prosecuting the 47, even if they will ultimately walk?"

Engaging your criminal law machinery to deal with asshole political moves isn't cool. In fact, it's pretty much the tool that tin-pot dictatorships use to squash political dissent.

The court system also really doesn't like to get involved with conflicts between the congress and the president, it often defers on such issues.

So bringing criminal charges would just be a political move, it would make Obama look weak, and in a way it's criminalizing political dissent of elected officials.

It would be great if we could reserve the word 'treason' for things like selling classified materials to foreign governments, or similar acts.

No, instead of engaging the criminal justice system, I think the best thing America (and the world) can do in response to this dick move is to point and laugh. They deserve ridicule, not jail time.
posted by el io at 5:19 PM on March 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


Engaging your criminal law machinery to deal with asshole political moves isn't cool ... bringing criminal charges would just be a political move, it would make Obama look weak, and in a way it's criminalizing political dissent of elected officials.

Except when there have actually been cirminal acts, is the thing, and there does seem to be some consensus that in fact these idiots have broken the law.

Nabbing someone on trumped-up or nonexistent charges is one thing, and yes, is something that dictators do. Charging them based on long-extant law is another.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:03 PM on March 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


Well one thing... when any of these 47 try and run for president this provides a rather fertile ground for questioning.

I think it may eventually be a headache for some... looking at you Rafael.
posted by edgeways at 7:03 PM on March 10, 2015


Oh, did I mention that Iran's uranium is all currently monitored by cameras, regularly inspected, etc.?

That's not what the IAEA says, and it's the body specifically charged with monitoring Iran's compliance with NPT. Indeed, the Director of the IAEA specifically says
[the IAEA] is not in a position to provide credible assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran, and therefore conclude that all nuclear material in Iran is in peaceful activities. [...]

Iran was not working towards building a bomb, but was working towards being able to fuel their reactors and treat cancer patients.

Here is the relevant section of the IAEA's most recent Board report (February 2015):
H. Possible Military Dimensions
58. Previous reports by the Director General have identified outstanding issues related to possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear programme and actions required of Iran to resolve these. The Agency remains concerned about the possible existence in Iran of undisclosed nuclear related activities involving military related organizations, including activities related to the development of a nuclear payload for a missile. Iran is required to cooperate fully with the Agency on all outstanding issues, particularly those which give rise to concerns about the possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear programme, including by providing access without delay to all sites, equipment, persons and documents requested by the Agency.

59. The Annex to the Director General’s November 2011 report (GOV/2011/65) provided a detailed analysis of the information available to the Agency at that time, indicating that Iran has carried out activities that are relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device. This information is assessed by the Agency to be, overall, credible. The Agency has obtained more information since November 2011 that has further corroborated the analysis contained in that Annex.
[my emphases]
posted by Joe in Australia at 7:38 PM on March 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


Markkraft wrote: So basically... complex scientific answers, to complex questions, and ongoing, promising discussions.

The complex scientific questions are things like: "Will you let us examine your nuclear facilities in Parchin and elsewhere?", "what do you intend to do with those Shahab-3 missile plans showing a re-entry vehicle?", and "What's with this plan to use multiple EBW detonators, an explosive testing facility within a 400m shaft, and a firing capability located 10 km away?"

Iran replied that it doesn't intend to respond to baseless fabrications. The IAEA's demand for answers is ongoing; Iran is still promising to meet with the IAEA; I suppose you might call that "ongoing" and "promising".
posted by Joe in Australia at 7:54 PM on March 10, 2015 [1 favorite]



Except when there have actually been cirminal acts, is the thing, and there does seem to be some consensus that in fact these idiots have broken the law.

Nabbing someone on trumped-up or nonexistent charges is one thing, and yes, is something that dictators do. Charging them based on long-extant law is another.


Well, about those charges, Lawfare - The Iran Letter and the Logan Act identifies three major legal problems with even attempting a prosecution under the Logan Act:

I. "“Without authority of the United States” Although most assume that means without authority of the Executive Branch, the Logan Act itself does not specify what this term means, and the State Department told Congress in 1975 that “Nothing in section 953 . . . would appear to restrict members of the Congress from engaging in discussions with foreign officials in pursuance of their legislative duties under the Constitution. ...it seems likely that contemporary and/or future courts would interpret this provision to not apply to such official communications from Congress."

II. "The Logan Act, recall, was written in 1799, well over a century before the rise of modern First (and Fifth) Amendment doctrine with regard to protections for speech and against prosecutions for unclear misconduct. It seems quite likely, as one district court suggested in passing in 1964, that the terms of the statute are both unconstitutionally vague and in any event unlikely to survive the far stricter standards contemporary courts place on such content-based restrictions on speech."

III. "...the Logan Act has never been successfully used (indeed, the last indictment under the Act was in–not a typo–1803). Although most assume this is just a practical obstacle to a contemporary prosecution, it’s worth reminding folks about “desuetude”–the legal doctrine pursuant to which statutes (especially criminal ones) may lapse if they are never enforced... If ever there was a case in which desuetude could be a successful defense to a federal criminal prosecution, I have to think that this would be it."

So, should they be charge criminally? Some people might say yes, and I did earlier today. Could they be? No. Not really.
posted by T.D. Strange at 7:59 PM on March 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


The GOP Senate Leadership’s Iran Letter Was No Mistake
First of all, let’s dispense with the notion that there is any principled Constitutional question at issue whatsoever. Senator Tom Cotton does not believe for one instant that the President is incapable of entering into binding agreements with foreign governments, nor does he believe that Congress or subsequent administrations can dispense with such agreements without cost. We know this because he believes that the Budapest Memorandum – which was not a treaty and was not submitted to the Senate for ratification – constitutes a binding promise to support Ukraine in its conflict with Russian-backed separatists, and that he believes failing to live up to this promise poses grave danger to the credibility of U.S. foreign policy generally. Here is video of Senator Cotton saying as much.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:00 PM on March 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


I presume that he's trying to prevent a deal, so he isn't concerned with the hypothetical damage of failing to live up to one. But it's all a moot point anyway: nobody really thinks the USA will keep a deal that's injurious to its perceived interests; hardly anybody thinks that it would be a bad idea for the USA to break a bad deal that allowed Iran to acquire nuclear weapons.

Oh, and Iran is presently defying its treaty obligations with respect to its nuclear program. So it's doubly moot, if such a thing even makes sense.
posted by Joe in Australia at 11:10 PM on March 10, 2015


Joe, sorry if I missed it but what are you suggesting as an alternative? Maximum sanctions and continually bombing all of these places we think Iran might be working on nuclear weapons until there's a regime change? Or invade Iran and put in place a new regime ourselves?
posted by Golden Eternity at 12:08 AM on March 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


Amateur Hour - The letter 47 Republican senators sent to Iran is one of the most plainly stupid things a group of senators has ever done.

REPUBLICANS ADMIT: THAT IRAN LETTER WAS A DUMB IDEA

The Likud and the GOP seem to have made a mistake by boycotting the negotiations rather than supporting them and being directly involved. If they had, they could be more clear on why the deal is bad and what the better, yet still realistic deal would be. Honestly, it seems they just want war. And in this case, where they are trying so hard to prevent any alternative to war, they should be held personally accountable for it. And for Christ's sake, they should be willing to pay for it with their tax dollars and their childrens' lives.
posted by Golden Eternity at 12:38 AM on March 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


Joe, sorry if I missed it but what are you suggesting as an alternative?

Continued sanctions until Iran complies with its duties under the NPT, or alternatively (in case they disown the treaty) with a similar inspection regime. There's no reason why they shouldn't comply, unless they are actually working on nuclear weapons.

Sanctions brought Iran to the negotiation table; sanctions will keep them there until a deal is in place. The alternative supposition - that they will produce nuclear weapons if no deal is made - really presumes that they are breaching and will continue to breach their treaty obligations. If that's the case, what's the point of any deal?
posted by Joe in Australia at 1:18 AM on March 11, 2015


The Likud and the GOP seem to have made a mistake by boycotting the negotiations [...]

What? Were they invited? My understanding is that Obama hasn't even kept Congress per se informed, let alone the GOP. And of course he has no duty to an Israeli political party, although he might have kept Israel's government informed for all sorts of excellent reasons. For one thing,if Israel isn't satisfied with the USA's deal it might act on its own accord, as it did with the nuclear programs in Iraq and Syria. An attack on Iran would be a lot more dangerous, of course, which is why I think Obama's behavior has been dangerously irresponsible.
posted by Joe in Australia at 1:25 AM on March 11, 2015


They've always been invited to support rather than sabatoge the negotiations, which they have refused to do. I'm sure they were hoping Obama would lose the election. The administration has been fairly open with what's happening in the negotiations it seems, at least based on this podcast I listened to a while back which was quite detailed. Likud's input has always been the same: zero enrichment, zero centrifuges. Until a comment from Bibi denying this a few days ago, but he didn't specify what would be an acceptable deal. I'm not sure if the GOP has given any meaningful input, but I think they are generally in alignment with Likud. Basically, they offer only unrealistic terms. If they were actually engaged with, rather than sabatoging, the negotiations I'm sure the administration would trust them to be more involved.

If their stance is truly no enrichment, then I guess what they are doing makes some sense. It is odd that you suggest only continued sanctions and no strikes. Obviously, sanctions wouldn't stop Iran from getting nukes if that's their intent, so I guess the idea would be to keep them as weak as possible for as long as possible while letting them get there? But how long would that actually be sustainable I wonder.
posted by Golden Eternity at 2:00 AM on March 11, 2015


The USA is not going to attack Iran in the foreseeable future. That means the USA has no weapon other than sanctions. So if they're ineffective in the long run, they're ineffective; if Iran breaches the deal (which I think is certain) there's still no possible response other than sanctions. So we might as well keep them in place because loosening the sanctions will make it easier for Iran to import components and expertise that they don't have. But who knows, maybe they'll have a change of heart and comply with their treaty obligations, at which point I have no objection to relaxing the sanctions.
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:08 AM on March 11, 2015


"Oh, did I mention that Iran's uranium is all currently monitored by cameras, regularly inspected, etc.?

That's not what the IAEA says..."


The IAEA monitors all declared, known, and discovered nuclear materials. Your quote basically says that they cannot monitor anything that is not in that category... which is correct.

Then again, they have absolutely no compelling evidence that Iran has *anything* in that category... and presumably the US and Israel both have explored that possibility, not only with their own covert efforts, but also with things like Stuxnet, which would have allowed them to identify the existence of unknown centrifuges and the like, and remotely render them inoperative. The funny thing is, though, Stuxnet was remarkably successful in Iran's networks, and provided security that Iran wasn't doing these things.

You seem to be saying that the IAEA should know of that which it cannot prove... in which case, we're getting into FUD territory here that is very similar to that which was used as the rationale to go to war against Iraq, merely for the possibility that they had WMDs.

You are basically asking whether Iran is still beating its wife... never mind what the CIA and Mossad say on the matter, based on their extensive intelligence gathering.
posted by markkraft at 6:57 AM on March 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


Also, the statement in the report from the IAEA representative there is very reminiscent from those we know were injected into UNSCOM reports by US members with the insistence of the Bush administration prior to the invasion of Iraq, and then repeated ad nauseum by the US press.

Basically, inserting uncertainty into these kinds of reports provides the US a way to push towards a larger and more invasive inspections regimen.

It can provide justification for a scenario of unending, politically expedient enemy status for certain nations, where peace is never really possible, because doubt always remains.

It could be used to provide justification for sanctions or war, too... but it could also be used as a way of pushing nations diplomatically towards acceptable settlements as well, as I hope will be the case here.
posted by markkraft at 7:12 AM on March 11, 2015


"But who knows, maybe they'll have a change of heart and comply with their treaty obligations, at which point I have no objection to relaxing the sanctions."

... and that is why you or the Republicans don't get to decide about the treaty with Iran, and the POTUS, who knows the situation in Iran with far greater accuracy, does.

If you don't like a negotiated deal and the possibility of a restoration of peaceful diplomacy with Iran, by all means, feel free to join the GOP in their collective whine. They'd gladly welcome it.
posted by markkraft at 7:18 AM on March 11, 2015


***BEGIN DERAIL***
-- which includes a helpful group photo showing their US almas mater.

Almae matres?
***THIS ENDS YOUR IRREGULARLY UNSCHEDULED DERAIL***
posted by Mental Wimp at 7:18 AM on March 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


REPUBLICANS ADMIT: THAT IRAN LETTER WAS A DUMB IDEA

Cotton Screwed Up! Cotton's So Dreamy!
So Cotton's really in the Beltway doghouse now, right?

I'm just joking, of course. He's a Republican! In the Beltway, if you're a Republican, success makes you a star -- and failure makes you a star, too! Ask Politico...

[...]

(He's new! And he's done something that's setting off "fallout," much of it negative! Now, if Cotton were a Democrat in this position, Politico might turn up its nose at him for generating "fallout" -- but he's a Republican! Swoon!)

[...]

This is how it always goes with the GOP -- a Republican does one showboating, immature, possibly reckless thing, and he or she (usually he) is an immediate star. Look at Ted Cruz. Look at Rand Paul. Look at Ben Carson.
posted by tonycpsu at 7:58 AM on March 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


It's rather ironic that Israel insists that Iran comply with a treaty that Israel refuses to sign.
posted by JackFlash at 8:12 AM on March 11, 2015 [12 favorites]


Continued sanctions until Iran complies with its duties under the NPT, or alternatively (in case they disown the treaty) with a similar inspection regime.

I agree. Same for Israel.
posted by Mental Wimp at 8:22 AM on March 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


For one thing,if Israel isn't satisfied with the USA's deal it might act on its own accord, as it did with the nuclear programs in Iraq and Syria.

Let me remind you--as you are so fond of reminding us on a regular basis--to not conflate "Israel" with either "Netanyahu" or "Likud and/or the coalition government." Less than half of Israelis support pre-emptive attacks on Iran, and even fewer support the idea of a unilateral attack by Israel. Even polling by their equivalent of the Murdoch news empire had dwindled from 65% to almost half. Also, there are five other nations engaged in these talks, and the attempts of both Netanyahu and the 47 Ronincompoops to place the blame at Obama's feet should be seen as the ridiculously transparent blame-shifting that they are.

An attack on Iran would be a lot more dangerous, of course, which is why I think Obama's behavior has been dangerously irresponsible.

Right, the "dangerously irresponsible" party here is not kindly old uncle Bibi, who has been lying about Iran for 20 years just to get a war started, actively and openly interferes in American electoral politics and diplomacy (conveniently playing the innocent victim when things go sour), and has consistently downplayed or ignored the information and advice of his own intelligence services. Nor is it those brave Christian 'Murican so-called Constitutional Conservatives, who have less knowledge of that document than foreign dignitaries; break decades of diplomatic and political protocol to try and Get Their War On; and who only seem to listen to the kind of people who see Israel and Jews as a stepping stone to the resurrection of Jesus so that he can forcibly convert them. Obviously it's that perfidious cryptoanti-Semite Obama, what with the working with an international coalition, listening to the opinions of a large majority of his citizens (including a significant proportion of Jewish Americans), and who is looking for a solution to the problem that isn't "bomb, bomb Iran."
posted by zombieflanders at 8:33 AM on March 11, 2015 [10 favorites]


"...Zarif was quoted as saying before the assembly by the Tasnim News Agency. “The capital we have obtained over the years is dignity and self-esteem, a capital that could not be retaken.”
posted by clavdivs at 9:25 AM on March 11, 2015


Immediately after launching effort to scuttle Iran deal, Senator Tom Cotton to meet with defense contractors

This is a pretty goddamn scary idea in my view. Just what we need: loose cannons with bullies on the trigger provoking those who already hate us because we bullied them.

How do you even reason with that?
posted by yoga at 10:56 AM on March 11, 2015


How do you even reason with that?

I am solidly of the opinion that reason no longer applies in the political world.

My father used to constantly say that it is not only impossible, but it is a critical mistake to deal with irrational people purely on rational terms - He typically said this about bad managers, etc. Unfortunately, he never did have a good way for how to actually deal with the irrational that I am aware of, outside of to accept that they are so, and use that to frame your interactions. To this day, I think it's probably the most solid bit of wisdom he has given me.

I'm really not sure how to scale it up to this level, though.
posted by MysticMCJ at 11:26 AM on March 11, 2015 [2 favorites]






@persianbanoo: "Iranians are using the hashtag #IRGCspider to voice their concern over the crackdown & arrests of #socialmedia users in #Iran #censorship"
posted by Golden Eternity at 1:29 PM on March 11, 2015


America’s Silent Partnership With Iran And The Contest For Middle Eastern Order: Part Four

Writing like this irritates me. Not only does the author abuse the language (e.g., "locked in an already-incipient dynamic," and "Israel’s security is believed to be secure."), but the whole breezy, facile thing ("To find that America can, on an administration’s notice, switch between its allies and foes is even more alarming.") doesn't really provide assurances of careful analysis. I'm not familiar with his work, but based on this first exposure, I instinctively mistrust him.
posted by Mental Wimp at 1:54 PM on March 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


The piece is also littered with bold assertions of fact where careful analysis is called for. To wit: "If President Obama is going to throw away a U.S. framework built over the last century, which an accommodation with Iran axiomatically does…"

No, sir, I'm sorry. You don't get that as a freebie.
posted by verb at 2:04 PM on March 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


It seems to me that we are dealing with a world where both Israel and Iran should be, for all intensive purposes, US allies, even if they aren't allies of each other.

The fact of the matter is, the Shi'a of Iran are far less dangerous to the US position in the world than the Saudi Arabian / Sunni Wahhabis that Reagan and Bush Sr. funded and thought they could control. Instead, they spread the ideological disease of radical Islam and jihad across the Sunni world.

Even as Republicans in Congress try to stop negotiations and impose more sanctions, the Iranians are helping the Iraqi government wrest Tikrit from ISIS control, with the US bombing ISIS targets of opportunity nearby.

Perhaps it's just me, but this is, by definition, more useful to US strategic aims than anything that Israel has done or can do with their military for us... with the possible exception of doing nothing.
posted by markkraft at 4:31 PM on March 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


And of those countries only one of them pushed for the creation of the destabilized Iraq that now threatens both...
posted by Artw at 4:38 PM on March 11, 2015


Meanwhile, the Republican / Netanyahu plan to hurt the president, while bolstering Netanyahu's reelection chances seems to have utterly failed.

A series of polls published this week show an erosion in support for Netanyahu's ruling Likud party, which for weeks had been neck-and-neck with its centre-left rival ... According to a survey by Israel's army radio, Herzog's list was seen taking 24 seats to Likud's 21, indicating an erosion in support for Netanyahu's faction.

Meanwhile, Gallup is saying Netanyahu's popularity in the US has fallen 7 points to 37% since his speech.

Given the likely change in leaders over in Israel, it seems kind of foolish for US foreign policy to cater to the needs of Israel's rightwing nationalists.
posted by markkraft at 4:43 PM on March 11, 2015


Eh, given an Israel that isn't run by right wing crazies the GOP will probably return Likud's favour and pretend that isn't the REAL leadership of Israel.
posted by Artw at 5:40 PM on March 11, 2015


It's rather ironic that Israel insists that Iran comply with a treaty that Israel refuses to sign.

How is that ironic? Every country - with the exception of places like North Korea, I suppose - wants other countries to abide by their treaties, especially the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

The NPT isn't international law; it's a flat-out quid pro quo: if you sign the NPT you agree to refrain from developing nuclear weapons; in exchange for that NPT-compliant states may assist you in developing and safely using peaceful nuclear technology. Israel chose not to sign; it hasn't been able to (openly?) buy uranium and nuclear-related equipment from NPT-compliant states. Iran did sign, it got lots of international assistance, it is widely believed to be flouting its obligations.

Also, I think Israel's point isn't just that Iran should be compliant; it's that there is no point getting Iran to sign another agreement if they're already flouting a similar one.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:15 PM on March 11, 2015


I would think if any agreement is made, it will require Iran clear up any NPT compliance issues with the IAEA. I'm sure Iran denies they are violating the treaty.
posted by Golden Eternity at 6:47 PM on March 11, 2015


I think Iran's position is that it shouldn't have to defend itself against false accusations based on trumped up forgeries and why would you want to look in that shed over there you did it ten years ago and there was nothing inside then what would make you think anything has changed?
posted by Joe in Australia at 7:25 PM on March 11, 2015




Why a ‘Bad’ Deal With Iran Is Better Than No Deal at All - Jeffrey Lewis (Arms Control Wonk)
There is no such thing as a "good" deal. But anything that slows Iran from getting the bomb is worth doing.

[···]

Back in November, I warned that the decision to extend negotiations with Iran into March was a death sentence because the Republican-controlled Senate would move swiftly to impose additional sanctions on Iran.

Boy, was I wrong.

In my defense, it was hard to predict the complete goat-rodeo that Republicans would make of their efforts at international diplomacy.What I did not know was that Israel’s national intelligence agency, the Mossad, had been telling members of Congress that more sanctions might be a bad idea. The briefings came to light after John Kerry announced that a senior Mossad official had told him another round of sanctions would be “like throwing a grenade into the process.”

[...]

The people arguing now for a “better” deal at some later date are the same people who in 2006 said 164 centrifuges was way too many and, that if we just held out long enough, we’d haggle the Iranians down to zero.

This is a fantasy, a unicorn, the futile pursuit of which ends with a half-assed airstrike against Iran, a region in flames, and eventually an Iranian nuclear weapon. And let’s be clear: If negotiations collapse, the United States will take the blame from Europe and the sanctions regime will unravel.
I think I saw Jeff agree on twitter that sanctions won't only unravel because of Europe, but more so Asia. Perhaps this is the most idiotic thing about the letter: it gives countries an excuse to bypass sanctions.
posted by Golden Eternity at 10:10 AM on March 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


A senior member of Netanyahu's Likud party admits defeat is a strong possibility, and that Netanyahu's speech to Congress was a politically-motivated stunt, designed to get him re-elected.

“Something isn’t going the way it should. Netanyahu’s speech to Congress last week should have created a turning point for us and strengthened Likud in the polls. It’s clear that we didn’t achieve the desired outcome.”
posted by markkraft at 12:17 PM on March 12, 2015 [4 favorites]


Prime Minister Netanyahu and others close to him have repeatedly blamed “outside forces” for his lack of popularity.

Like Netanyahu "campaigning outside" the country perhaps?
posted by edgeways at 7:30 PM on March 12, 2015


Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.): 'My fears have been realized' from Netanyahu speech
"The use of Congressional proceedings in campaign ads is prohibited for members of Congress, and Prime Minister Netanyahu’s predictable use of this footage is one of several reasons I did not attend his speech. I am saddened that Congress is once again being turned into theater and that the prime minister made our Capitol into a studio for his political ads, complete with teleprompters and a live studio audience," Cohen concluded.
posted by Golden Eternity at 9:14 PM on March 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


His fears have been realised?

My fears involve things like having a poisonous spider crawl up my leg while wearing jeans, or having an elevator decide to accelerate to infinity. If that's the scariest thing Rep. Steve Cohen can think of then he doesn't have much of an imagination.

Netanyahu's a politician and I always presume that politicians act with an eye towards reelection. None the less, the parsimonious explanation of "why now?" is that (a) this is when he was invited; and that the timing of the invitation was because (b) Obama's deal with Iran is drawing to a close.

Rep. Steve Cohen's explanation presumes that Netanyahu can get himself invited (which is unlikely), and that Netanyahu choose to leave the country for days during an election campaign - does anyone even believe that an experienced politician would willingly lose three/four days of handshaking and baby kissing, leaving the management of the campaign to his worst enemies the other members of his party?
posted by Joe in Australia at 10:34 PM on March 12, 2015


Did Netanyahu actually use footage of the speech for a campaign ad? If so, I agree with Congressman Cohen: that is offensive considering our respect for the Capitol prevents us from using it for such purposes. I wonder if anyone in Likud cared about Cohen's objections.
posted by Golden Eternity at 11:15 PM on March 12, 2015


I have no idea whether Netanyahu actually used footage of Congress or not, but would a US politician not use footage of the Knesset, or indeed any other parliament? It sounds to me as if this is one of the things that makes sense within a country, but not outside it.
posted by Joe in Australia at 1:25 AM on March 13, 2015


I guess it depends on the character of the people involved and the nature of the ad. Without the Knesset's permission, I would think not. But if there's a Netanyahu ad, I'm sure Boehner green-lighted it. (I would hope anyway).

Khamanei's comments would seem to indicate a deal has become more likely:

Khamenei blasts Republican letter, calls US 'backstabbing'
President Hassan Rouhani "has selected a nuclear (negotiating) team who are truly good, trustworthy and hardworking," he said, quoted by ISNA news agency, whereas "the other party is deceitful and stabs in the back".

Iranian officials "know what they are doing and they also know how to act in case of an agreement so that Americans cannot break it later," said Khamenei, who has the final say on any deal.
It's interesting: at the end of this Middle East Week podcast with Dina Esfandiary they talk about how important it is that neither side presents the negotiations as a huge win for them and loss for the opposing party. I wonder if Khamenei and the hardliners will okay a deal and then announce to the world that they have gained everything and given up nothing and that Obama is the worst negotiater they have ever personally worked with - even worse than Carter. Something like that could really seal their anti-agreement coalition with Likud and the GOP, while getting them off the hook of being the ones to dissolve it.

What's happening in Iraq right now is really scary. The Tikrit invasion is being lead by Iranian generals and fought by 90% Iranian backed militias including Hezbollah.There are reports of atrocities. The militias are raising their flags and putting up posters all over Baghdad. What will happen to these militias when Daesh is gone? Libya is not a good omen in this regard. Will they become the Basij: enforcing the Mullahs' rule and Islamic law with acid and stonings and hangings?

Expected Shiite victory in Tikrit seen as cementing Iran’s influence in Iraq
“What they could not do in the 1980s they have done now with American help, which is enslave Iraq.”
posted by Golden Eternity at 9:36 AM on March 13, 2015


@MaxVenator: "Daily reminder, kids ~
The fundamentalist Islam terror-state enemy of my militant non-state un-Islamic enemy, is still very much our enemy."
posted by Golden Eternity at 10:16 AM on March 13, 2015


“What they could not do in the 1980s they have done now with American help, which is enslave Iraq.”

It seems rich for a Sunni tribal leader who, presumably, had strong ties with Saddam, to complain about how the Shi'a, Kurdish, and Iranian troops are uniting to deal with an extremist Sunni threat to all of the above that Sunnis like him did nothing to stop... especially since what Iran did *not* do in the 1980s was invade Iraq.

It's hard to imagine ISIS spreading through Sunni Iraq without Sunni tribal leaders sitting on their hands, doing nothing... if not actively helping ISIS. They've kind of waived the right to complain about ISIS being kicked out by non-Sunnis now.
posted by markkraft at 10:35 AM on March 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


I hate conspiracy theories, but the situation has become so advantageous for Iran, one wonders if Maliki was also somewhat complicit in allowing Daesh to succeed initially. It is amazing how Daesh has been used by everyone at one time or abother. One could argue that Obama used Daesh somewhat to oust Maliki.
posted by Golden Eternity at 10:44 AM on March 13, 2015


Yuval Diskin, Netanyahu's former head of Shin Bet -- Israel's Internal Security Service -- has come out in support of Herzog today.

In a Facebook post, Diskin wrote that Herzog "couldn't be any worse than Netanyahu," adding that "of all his failures, Netanyahu caused the most strategic damage by harming Israel's relations with the U.S."

Meanwhile, Likud leaders are blaming Netanyahu for a loss they clearly see coming.

“The Zionist Union will be larger than Likud after the election. This, it seems, is already a fact. The question is what the gap between the two will be. Even if we manage to form the next government, this campaign was a colossal failure. Netanyahu is primarily responsible,” said a senior Likud member.

“Everything went through him during this election season, and the situation isn’t good. The election campaign didn’t function. Netanyahu kept Likud ministers far from decisions,” the senior party figure said. “His excessive focus [on himself in the campaign] and his lack of faith in the party’s Knesset members prompted him to staff the campaign with people who haven’t proven themselves.”

Another Likud official said, “Netanyahu was shown to be a very weak card in this election. He decided to put himself at the front, and forgot that he has an excellent team of ministers and MKs behind him. The public hardly saw them. It turns out the public is weary of Netanyahu, but he didn’t think that was a good enough reason to scale back his presence in the campaign.”

posted by markkraft at 11:08 AM on March 13, 2015


Netanyahu decided to make Obama his enemy and allied himself with the opposing party - which as Chomsky points out has turned to insurrectionist tactics. It's hard to see how this isn't a massive blunder for Israel. But, I am still betting that Netanyahu will win, and very well may get his man Scott Walker in the White House. The population of Israel has become extremely Right-wing, More-so every day. And, their general hatred of Obama is unparalleled.
posted by Golden Eternity at 11:25 AM on March 13, 2015


It couldn't happen to a nicer right-wing nutjob.
posted by Artw at 12:03 PM on March 13, 2015 [1 favorite]




How Netanyahu Saved the Iran Nuclear Talks
The irony of Netanyahu’s spoiler speech lies in the fact that it is helping narrow rather than widen the gaps between the negotiating parties, by turning him into a catalyzer for both the Obama administration and the Iranian leadership to reach an agreement.
posted by Golden Eternity at 3:42 PM on March 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


“The Second Coming Of Richard Millhouse Nixon,” Jim Wright, Stonekettle Station, 13 March 2015
posted by ob1quixote at 7:09 PM on March 13, 2015


@Ostrov_A: "#ThisDayInHistory (1946) Yoni #Netanyahu was born. #IDF hero, leader & brother of @IsraeliPM, who died in Entebbe Op.

The Washington Post: War with Iran is probably our best option
Wouldn’t destroying much of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure merely delay its progress? Perhaps, but we can strike as often as necessary. Of course, Iran would try to conceal and defend the elements of its nuclear program, so we might have to find new ways to discover and attack them. Surely the United States could best Iran in such a technological race.
And of course Iran would not try to retaliate or escalate in any way, wait. This seemed to be what Ya'alon had in mind in an interview with Charlie Rose a while back. The equivalent of "mowing the lawn" in Iran, as Ali Ghareb put it.
posted by Golden Eternity at 8:25 PM on March 13, 2015 [1 favorite]




Golden Eternity: “The Washington Post: War with Iran is probably our best option”
Jesus wept. A turncoat like Muravchik gets a cushy job at the SAIS? I've wasted my life.

I know it's déclassé but realpolitik is still an actual thing. How many countries do these assholes want to invade with 10 combat-ready brigades? Or are they actually crazy and think the U.S. can just nuke whatever can't be merely bombed?

Either way, there's danger, of course, "And finally, wouldn’t Iran retaliate by using its own forces or proxies to attack Americans — as it has done in Lebanon, Iraq and Saudi Arabia — with new ferocity? Probably. We could attempt to deter this by warning that we would respond by targeting other military and infrastructure facilities. Nonetheless, we might absorb some strikes." So a few soldiers will get killed. Or maybe even civilians. Who knows?

They've been doing this same song and dance for years now. How long as Iran been a year away from getting the bomb? 10 years? 20?
posted by ob1quixote at 10:28 PM on March 13, 2015


there was an article I read, years and years ago, I think in Harper's that detailed for just how little a group of reasonably intelligent and security-minded people could build a nuclear weapon (gun-type) - after already knowing that the final product was possible. It takes about two years[PDF] to do the maths.

With State Support? The Bomb for Beginners: A DIY Guide to Going Nuclear.

Gun-type is simple enough. The hard part is getting the enriched Uranium. And the Iranians actually have a plausible reason for enrichment: Pistachios don't pay the bills. Oil does. It sucks to be literally burning some of your best exports. If I'm the Iranians, I push hard into conservation and try to develop alternate energy sources - one of which is nuclear.

But if all you really want is reactor fuel, why not just buy the heavy stuff?
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:57 PM on March 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


Iran already killed many Americans in Iraq during Dubya's war. Haj Qasem has bragged about it. I think some of these guys believe that extremely tight sanctions, plus embargo, plus airstrikes could eventually force an internal regime change or Iran to cave completely on their nuclear program. I think the outcome of such a strategy would be almost entirely unpredictable. I'm kind of guessing Putin (or his replacement or whatever) would help Iran as much as possible to retaliate against the US, however long that would take. Ya'alon pointed out that Israel has already struck Iranian nuclear facilities without consequence, and I think Israel would argue that Iran is already succeeding in retaliating against the US and Israel by gaining "influence" in Iraq, holding on to Syria, and making incursions into Yemen, etc. As sanctions are lifted and Iran gains economic and military strength they could gain greater power over this "sphere of influence." Yemen is important because Iran could attempt to embargo Israel from Yemen.

IRGC official: Iran indoctrinating Syria youth
Hamdani added that the “establishment of the Basij in Syria was one of Iran’s most important achievements in recent years.”
It will be really interesting to see if Iran tries to create Basij in Iraq. I'm guessing they will, but this should be resisted by Sistani and al-Sadr. (The Basij along with the IRGC are the guys who throw acid in womens' faces for not wearing the hijab or whatever and stoning them to death for adultery). The Iranian backed militias will probably be a huge problem for Iraq when Daesh is gone, and could become an extremely powerful Iranian proxy able to overpower the ISF. But it is best to be optimistic. Maybe Baghdad and Sistani will retain the majority of power in the country, work with some of the Sunni tribal leaders, and Iraq will hold together. This is no time to give up. The US should try as hard as possible to help achieve this outcome, imo.
posted by Golden Eternity at 10:58 PM on March 13, 2015


Netanyahu decided to make Obama his enemy and allied himself with the opposing party

Obama pretty much declared that Netanyahu was his enemy years ago. I don't think Netanyahu has played this well, but you don't hear "anonymous" people from his office calling Obama "chickenshit", or whatever; Israeli officials don't suddenly make themselves unavailable when Americans come calling; you don't find Netanyahu making obsequious public gestures to the USA's enemies. A lot of this has to do with the power differential, but I think it would be hard to find anyone - even among the USA's friends - who would say that the Obama White House is more respected than its predecessors. And given its competition, that's really saying something.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:37 AM on March 14, 2015


Now I'm concerned that this deal will not go through, WORRIED. What happens if it falls through. Why won't Iran just take the nuclear fuel offered? Why can't the world community just give Iran a bomb.

Its not like there going to use it. I think Iran should have nuclear power plants, as many as they want. I don't think that's the problem.
Look at all the good things Iran does do. And they were allies in one form or another with both US and Israel. (Not sure there but the shah was not so fighty it seems, though he tortured people, does Iran?)
I say give Iran a chance.
One more, you know, because it's the right thing to do.
I'm worried because the days of extreme oil/gas prices are over for the most part. In 5 to 10 years, if technologies can adapt, an American dependency on exported petroleum will be minimal. I'd be concerned about food prices in 5 years more then oil.
So let's give peace a chance.
Thank you and good day.
posted by clavdivs at 5:59 AM on March 14, 2015


Obama pretty much declared that Netanyahu was his enemy years ago.

Ah, yes, tricksy Obamases, asking for things like settlement freezes or a peaceful two-state solution, concerns consistently supported by both majorities or pluralities of both his Jewish constituents and many Israelis. How dare he!

I don't think Netanyahu has played this well, but you don't hear "anonymous" people from his office calling Obama "chickenshit", or whatever; Israeli officials don't suddenly make themselves unavailable when Americans come calling;

Oh, no, they're pretty open about it. They just go back on their word over and over again, openly work with his domestic political enemies to sabotage just about everything he does, and use their (largely evangelical Christian) mouthpieces in Congress and among lobbyists to paint opponents--up to and including the ADL and major Jewish American figures--as anti-Israel quislings.

you don't find Netanyahu making obsequious public gestures to the USA's enemies.

Netanyahu and Putin to get direct and secure hotline

A lot of this has to do with the power differential, but I think it would be hard to find anyone - even among the USA's friends - who would say that the Obama White House is more respected than its predecessors. And given its competition, that's really saying something.

"Only respondents from Russia and Pakistan had more confidence in Bush than Obama."
posted by zombieflanders at 6:04 AM on March 14, 2015 [5 favorites]


Obama pretty much declared that Netanyahu was his enemy years ago.

Nonsense. The disrespect, outright sabotage, and direct support for domestic opposition all came form Likud's leadership starting near the beginning of Obama's first term. You're describing the White House's poor reaction to it. Again, seems to me it was a huge blunder for Likud to work against rather than with the White House, unless its ultimate aim was war between the US and Iran and a pseudo-apartheid single-state solution. Obama's approval ratings have increased significantly at home. Most of his largest critics that I come across are either strongly Right-wing or pro-Israel, and are never able to articulate very well what he should have done differently. The reaction to him from Israel is something I'll never understand.

The economy has recovered from a catastrophe and he's managed to pull the US out of dubious foreign wars. I think history will reflect well on Obama, but we'll see I guess. But even though Likud hold's Obama in such low regard, it was a mistake to essentially boycott and attempt to sabotage his administration. Israel does not benefit from this strategy.

The paranoid ramblings of a leader who's lost his grip
Days before national elections, incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lays out an elaborate plot to unseat him, which he claims is being run by foreign liberals who want peace. ‘They’ll withdraw to the 1967 boundaries and they will divide Jerusalem — just as Tzipi and Buji promised they would do. They know that unlike Tzipi and Buji, the Likud and I will never surrender to pressure,’ Netanyahu writes in a long Facebook status.
posted by Golden Eternity at 9:09 AM on March 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


Tom Cotton picked apart by Army general over ‘mutinous’ Iran letter

@garageleague66: "maybe GOP should write a letter to the opposition that even if bibi doesn't win, he would still be PM to them?"
posted by Golden Eternity at 9:39 AM on March 14, 2015


'They want to topple me': Netanyahu accuses Scandinavia of meddling in Israeli elections

He really is a Putin-level insane asshole.
posted by Artw at 9:58 AM on March 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


They want to topple me': Netanyahu accuses Scandinavia of meddling in Israeli elections.

That's pretty funny considering Netanyahu's meddling in the 2012 Presidential election on behalf of Mitt Romney. Even the Israeli newspapers recognized the problem. After Obama's defeat of Romney, the papers in Israel had the headlines "Bibi Gambled, We’ll Pay" and "So Sorry, President Obama, Please Forgive Netanyahu."
posted by JackFlash at 10:24 AM on March 14, 2015 [1 favorite]




really is a Putin-level insane asshole.
posted by Artw

Equating Bibi to Putin is not fair, seems a bit provocative despite Bibis' dragon and bones show. The Republicans are just being what they were supposed to be, idiots toying with the constitution and virtually circumnavigating presidential powers. It is a literal circus but if the deal goes through, Oh, the restoritve powers of peace.
posted by clavdivs at 1:20 PM on March 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


The GOP has made sabotaging the Obama presidency for political gain there one and only goal at the expense of the country. It is idiocy, but it is not how things are supposed to be. We expect our leaders to put the country first before politics. If Netanyahu loses, perhaps the tragedy of a truly unique personality is not that he bamboozled the GOP, but to the contrary that he adopted their idocy rather than allowing himself to transform into a great leader by taking the risk of revolting against the hardliners and idiots for the sake of peace and sanity. I think this is where the "chicken shit" comment came from.
posted by Golden Eternity at 1:34 PM on March 14, 2015 [4 favorites]


Looks like negotiations may be falling apart anyway: Iran Negotiators Face Late Obstacles to a Deal
posted by Golden Eternity at 1:50 PM on March 14, 2015


"Senator Obama’s 2008 Message To Iran Undermines Condemnation Of GOP Letter"

"...in 2008, a Democratic senator sent a personal emissary to Tehran encouraging the mullahs not to sign an agreement with the outgoing Bush Administration as negotiations would take on a much friendlier tone following President Bush’s departure from office.

That senator was a presidential candidate at the time. His name was Barack Obama."
posted by republican at 2:42 PM on March 14, 2015




Interesting, from the original whataboutism source:
The actual strategy is detente first, and then a full alliance with Iran throughout the Middle East and North Africa. It has been on display since before the beginning of the Obama administration. During his first presidential campaign in 2008, Mr. Obama used a secret back channel to Tehran to assure the mullahs that he was a friend of the Islamic Republic, and that they would be very happy with his policies.
This is weird: FOX News: US embassy in Saudi Arabia halts operations amid 'heightened security concerns'

Seems to have to do with a terrorist threat, but I can't imagine Saudi Arabia is very happy with what is happening in Iraq and the prospects of a nuclear deal.
posted by Golden Eternity at 2:59 PM on March 14, 2015




^"Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tried to cancel a January briefing for U.S. Senators by his nation’s..."
posted by clavdivs at 7:57 PM on March 14, 2015


He cancelled it. Then Corker essentially forced him to reschedule it. One wonders if the speech was part of this deal.
posted by Golden Eternity at 12:13 AM on March 15, 2015


Hmm
posted by clavdivs at 12:29 AM on March 15, 2015


I hope someone brings this up the next time someone comes out with the tired old anti-Semitic trope about Israel "controlling" the USA. Israel can't even control its own civil service.
posted by Joe in Australia at 12:45 AM on March 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


Jeff Goldberg can be good when he's not acting as a conduit for "anonymous White House staffers". Here's an interview with Michael Oren, the former Israeli ambassador to the USA and current Knesset candidate for Kulanu:
Undoing Netanyahu's Damage to U.S.-Israel Relations

I thought this bit was interesting, mostly because Goldberg didn't even try to challenge it:
Goldberg: A few years ago, we thought that J Street, the Jewish left, was going to drive the agenda. But now people to the right of AIPAC (the mainstream pro-Israel lobby) are doing much of the driving. How did that happen?

Oren: There’s a very simple answer to that. J Street’s power derived from the fact that it is an extension of the Obama Administration. The Obama Administration invited J street into the room with other Jewish organizations and sent high-level officials to speak at their conventions. But the reservoir of support for J Street is not particularly large. [...]
I'm not saying that the US government is out of line in promoting sympathetic representative groups: I suppose all governments do that in one way or another. But I would say that the Obama administration has done this obsessively, at least with respect to Israel. It was always obvious that J Street was a creature of the White House and that in talking to it, the White House was effectively talking to itself. That's not just bad politics; it's bad policy. The White House was able to talk to AIPAC when it wanted something (e.g., support for an attack on Syria); it didn't have any enemies there. The rationale for supporting J Street seems to have been the idea that a Potemkin lobby group would somehow sway public opinion. That's magical thinking; it's stupid; and even Netanyahu's opponents have lost patience with the pretense.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:32 AM on March 15, 2015


It was always obvious that J Street was a creature of the White House

Really? Which White House? Given that the talks out of which J Street arose began in 2006 that would suggest you're saying it's a creature of the Bush White House--which would seem odd.

To describe J Street as a "Potemkin lobby group"--i.e., one created by the White House as a faux lobby group--is, coming from someone who clearly knows that this is not true as matter of simple history, a pretty bald-faced lie.
posted by yoink at 7:22 AM on March 15, 2015 [5 favorites]


@TelANiv: "I just got a @Likud_Party election phone call, in which they referred to @BarackObama as simply 'Hussein Obama.'"
posted by Golden Eternity at 7:57 AM on March 15, 2015


I hope someone brings this up the next time someone comes out with the tired old anti-Semitic trope about Israel "controlling" the USA. Israel can't even control its own civil service.

Well, since you have declared all discussion of Israeli political lobbying as anti-semitic, I guess we can all go home now.
posted by JackFlash at 8:13 AM on March 15, 2015


What's really scary is that if Netanyahu actually manages to be the one to form a coalition government, not only will it make him and Likud more likely to meddle in American politics, it also emboldens the GOP to engage in even more sabotage and cause worse damage both domestically and internationally.
posted by zombieflanders at 8:17 AM on March 15, 2015


Lawfare: Four Thoughts on Denis McDonough’s Letter to Senator Corker on the Iran Deal
President Obama’s Chief of Staff, Denis McDonough, has written a good response to Senator Corker’s letter to the President on the Iran nuclear deal.
Who writes letters anymore?
posted by Golden Eternity at 8:34 AM on March 15, 2015




Likud Long Knives Come Out for Bibi as Poll Numbers Drop
...if Meretz falls much further it could drop below the threshold, and suddenly four, five or six seats Herzog really needs to build a government disappear.
posted by Golden Eternity at 1:22 PM on March 15, 2015


There's an interesting possibility of the combined Arab List getting enough votes to be a significant player. If they follow through with their promise of not entering any government you might end up with them, paradoxically, helping Bibi back into power by draining off votes from the Left while scaring the Right into a coalition.
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:28 PM on March 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


"Senator Obama’s 2008 Message To Iran Undermines Condemnation Of GOP Letter"

"...in 2008, a Democratic senator sent a personal emissary to Tehran encouraging the mullahs not to sign an agreement with the outgoing Bush Administration as negotiations would take on a much friendlier tone following President Bush’s departure from office.

That senator was a presidential candidate at the time. His name was Barack Obama."
posted by republican at 2:42 PM on March 14 [1 favorite +] [!]


This is the most dishonest bit of reporting I've seen for a while. If the conservative media wants to make stuff up about Obama, they are certainly free to, but no one should give them any credence, as they've proven time and again to be wholly unreliable and a cacophonous echo chamber.
posted by Mental Wimp at 3:07 PM on March 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


G.W.Bush Speechwriter Gerson: "The true scandal of the GOP senators’ letter to Iran is the manner in which the Republican Senate apparently conducts its affairs. ... In timing, tone and substance, it raises questions about the Republican majority’s capacity to govern."
posted by Golden Eternity at 4:10 PM on March 15, 2015


Shutting down the US government wasn't so bad, but this really makes a difference!
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:19 PM on March 15, 2015


He meant to say it raises *new* questions ...
posted by Golden Eternity at 6:00 PM on March 15, 2015 [2 favorites]






Isn't there a persistent story that the Saudis have already purchased some nukes?
posted by Joe in Australia at 1:00 AM on March 16, 2015


We have always been at war with Sunniasia:
US intel report scrapped Iran from list of terror threats
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:35 AM on March 16, 2015


I have heard that the Saudis have a 'standing order' to accept Pakistani nukes should they desire them - but I haven't heard that they have actually purchased any. Who knows?

Personally I feel it is a bit of a bluff, though the threat of continued nuclear-proliferation is certainly real.
posted by rosswald at 4:51 AM on March 16, 2015


The story in Pakistan is that the current government has agreed to provide Saudi Arabia with "nuclear cover," which seems more likely than handing over nuclear missiles. The veracity of the story is the subject of much conjecture and speculation, much like most stories concerning the two governments in question.
posted by bardophile at 6:01 AM on March 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


This is interesting. The assertion I have often made that Israel is moving ever more towards the Right does not really appear to be true based on this chart. It's more that the Left has been taken over by the "Center." But I wonder if the actual positions of the Center have moved significantly towards the Right.

66 Years of Israeli Voting in 1 Cool Graphic
posted by Golden Eternity at 1:53 PM on March 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


With respect, it's not even not true: it's meaningless. The USA blogger-level understanding of Israeli politics is ... look, here's a summary of "US politics" with an equivalent level of insight:
There are presently three political parties represented in the USA government: Republican, Democratic, and New Progressive Party. The Republican Party was established by Abraham Lincoln to fight slavery and support small businesses. It has historically been protectionist and in favor of high tariffs, although an increasingly-powerful small-government faction opposes these measures. The Democratic Party formerly supported slavery, but has since repudiated it and its support of liberal social polices has won significant support from the powerful African-American lobby. The New Progressive Party is the youngest of the three parties in Congress and is not represented in the US Senate. Its congressional leader Pedro Pierluisi recognises that the NPP will find it hard to attract more voters while it remains based in Puerto Rico [several paragraphs about the NPP and its highly-relevant policies omitted]
Israeli elections are mostly about domestic politics, especially things like social welfare - you probably can't imagine how deeply most Israelis depend on the Welfare State model of government, which would make every Israeli politician several miles to the left of the left-wing of the US Democratic Party's left-most caucus. Its foreign policy isn't really a matter of "left" or "right", but "more credible" and "less credible", and this is further complicated by the coalitions necessary to achieve a majority in the Knesset.

I mean, take this election: Netanyahu's strongest opposition comes from the Zionist Union, which is jointly-led by Tzipi Livni, Netanyahu's former Justice Minister. On foreign policy she's characterised as being further to the left, but she really has expressed a wide range of views that could be seen as either very left or very right-wing, depending on which ones you emphasise.

There's been a lot of excitement this election about the Joint List coalition. I think you would probably classify it as left-wing? But one of its constituents is the Islamic Movement in Israel (also known as Islamic Movement in 48 Palestine). Its economic and social policies are pretty much what you'd expect from an Islamist party - socialist/protectionist and anti-feminist. So is it right or left wing? Does the fact that it's in a coalition with the (at least formerly) explicitly-feminist Hadash change things? I have no idea. It's a meaningless question.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:12 PM on March 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


It was always obvious that J Street was a creature of the White House
Really? Which White House? Given that the talks out of which J Street arose began in 2006 that would suggest you're saying it's a creature of the Bush White House--which would seem odd.

J Street was actually established in 2008. Yes, I'm sure there were discussions about it earlier. Would you be happier if I said that it was quickly apparent that it was a creature of (President Obama's) White House?

To describe J Street as a "Potemkin lobby group"--i.e., one created by the White House as a faux lobby group--is, coming from someone who clearly knows that this is not true as matter of simple history, a pretty bald-faced lie.

You're quite ill-mannered. Furthermore, you're putting your own spin on my statement, and then triumphantly refuting your straw man. It wasn't "created by the White House as a faux lobby group"; it was created by people who were supporters of Obama's campaign, and its subsequent support by and access to the White House were out of all proportion to its indigenous, organic support. This is why J Street is failing and flailing today; Jews don't really care about J Street, and it has to keep adjusting its positions to remain current with the White House's foreign-policy-of-the-day.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:55 PM on March 16, 2015


Well that didn't last very long - No place for Assad in Syria talks, U.S. officials say
The United States insisted on Monday it would never negotiate directly with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, edging away from comments made by Secretary of State John Kerry, and it cast doubt on any immediate prospects for third-party talks to resolve Syria’s civil war.

Kerry’s apparent suggestion in a CBS television interview on Sunday that there could be a place for Assad in efforts to reach a diplomatic solution to the Syrian conflict drew swift criticism from European and Arab allies.
posted by rosswald at 5:01 PM on March 16, 2015


There's been a lot of excitement this election about the Joint List coalition. I think you would probably classify it as left-wing?

Generally speaking, I guess what I characterize by the "Left" that I admire is prioritizing human rights and equality for all people over whatever form of nationalism. And perhaps, to quote Sergei Ivanov from Russia, the ability to just live a decent life is probably the most important human right. Anyway, the "Left" typically also means being anti-liberal or anti-capitalist even without having any coherent alternative for it.

I see what seems to be a small but healthy "Left" in Israel often represented by +972 Magazine. Here's an article of theirs on the Joint List.
As far as I can recall, this is the first time Palestinian citizens of Israel have a presence in the election cycle and thus a presence in the Israeli discourse. Regardless of how many seats they end up getting or their role in the upcoming government — this is already revolutionary.
Also a great article on the The Islamic Movement in ‘48 Palestine: Doing God's work: A look at the Islamic Movement in Israel
posted by Golden Eternity at 5:15 PM on March 16, 2015






I said that it was quickly apparent that it was a creature of (President Obama's) White House?

I'm gonna go out on a limb and say that linking to a website that thinks that Barack Hussein Obama is a seekrit Mooslin with a suspect birth certificate who is helping the Islamic Brotherhood infiltrate the US government while Bill Ayers ghost-writes his memoirs may not be helping your case here.
posted by zombieflanders at 7:08 PM on March 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


Rand Paul: I Signed Iran Letter In Order To Help Obama

Heh. He may be a spineless opportunist but he's smart enough to know they shat the bed on this one.
posted by Artw at 7:54 PM on March 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


Isn't there a persistent story that the Saudis have already purchased some nukes?

How else to counter the threat from Israeli strategic nuclear missile armed submarines? As I've said before, the FIRST thing Israel MUST do to be taken seriously is disclose their stockpile, join the NPT, and permit full IAEA inspections. Otherwise, they can go fuck themselves.
posted by mikelieman at 1:48 AM on March 17, 2015 [2 favorites]






Jeffrey Goldberg: Netanyahu Dodges the Cross
Hillary Clinton, who watched her husband grow frustrated with Netanyahu during his first term as prime minister, in the 1990s, came to believe that he had changed. "I saw Netanyahu move from being against the two-state solution to announcing his support for it, to considering all kinds of [Ehud] Barak-like options, way far from what he is, and what he is comfortable with," Clinton told me last summer.

Yesterday, Netanyahu announced to the world that this analysis was incorrect. In a fight for his political life against an opponent he did not take seriously, Netanyahu attempted to shore up his right-wing base by renouncing the commitment he made at Bar-Ilan. "I think that anyone who is going to establish a Palestinian state today and evacuate lands is giving attack grounds to the radical Islam against the state of Israel," he said in an interview with a right-leaning Israeli website. "There is a real threat here that a left-wing government will join the international community and follow its orders." And earlier today, he played the role of demagogue, warning his right-wing base that the left was encouraging Arab Israelis to vote, in order to sink his government.

So much for his commitment to Israeli democracy, and so much for his commitment to a two-state solution.

It is possible to understand an Israeli leader's hesitancy about creating a Palestinian state at this exact moment—one in which the Arab state system seems to be in partial collapse; one in which Sunni extremism is on the march; and one in which Iran appears to be in an expansionist mode. But a leader who is interested in protecting Israel's status as a haven for the Jewish people (a haven whose necessity is being proven again, unfortunately) while maintaining it as a democracy, would at least create conditions on the West Bank that could allow a Palestinian state to one day emerge, and he would certainly not disavow his promise to work to bring such a state about, no matter how many votes were at stake.

I admire John Kerry greatly for trying as hard as he did to negotiate a two-state solution. He was criticized as naive, but he saw an opening, and he took it. It was worth the risk. But if Netanyahu somehow returns to office—and anything is possible in the free-for-all of an Israeli election—I can't imagine that Kerry, or his boss, would choose to devote any more time in turning Netanyahu toward compromise.
posted by zombieflanders at 6:54 AM on March 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


So I guess if he wins any pretense of a peace process is gone, that's a bit deal - I mean, it's been pretty obvious as a pretense for some time, but hanging on to that pretense is important to them in terms of securing aid and not seeming like a rogue state and so on... Seems like a bad move.
posted by Artw at 7:20 AM on March 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


Associated Press - Analysis: An Iran deal could have broader implications
A deal could worsen [regional] tensions. Arab powers like Saudi Arabia and Egypt might conclude Iran has been allowed to stand on the threshold of a nuclear weapon and decide that they, too, must have nuclear programs — further inflaming the world's most combustible tinderbox.

But it would also remove a giant obstacle in Iran's dealings with the world. The West's nuclear fears long ensured consensus around isolating Iran. With that removed, calls will likely increase for engagement with Iran to resolve other disputes. All this could also alter Iran's domestic politics in unpredictable ways.

For Western thinkers and policymakers, Iran presents a challenge. On one hand, it's the modern manifestation of a proud Persian civilization, a potentially lucrative market with the world's fourth-largest oil reserves. On the other, even after a deal, for many it would remain a global menace, a regional meddler and oppressor of its people.
posted by rosswald at 7:30 AM on March 17, 2015




Glenn Beck Thinks Grover Norquist Is a Muslim Brotherhood Mole. Now, the NRA Is “Investigating.”

I'm not even clicking on that link, because nothing could possibly live up to the delicious weirdness of that headline.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:00 AM on March 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


No. Click on it. It's actually quite good. Grover's married to a muslim woman, if you didn't know.
posted by Golden Eternity at 8:12 AM on March 17, 2015


No. Click on it. It's actually quite good. Grover's married to a muslim woman, if you didn't know.

So to Beck, Islam is basically some kind of mind-control dark magic
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 8:18 AM on March 17, 2015


So to Beck, Islam is basically some kind of mind-control dark magic

It mostly comes from Frank Gaffney, who apparently has had it in for Norquist for a long time:
Gaffney has floated creative theories on many subjects other than Norquist, including that a redesign of the Missile Defense Agency logo had a secret image of a crescent as an “act of submission to Shariah.”
posted by Golden Eternity at 11:22 AM on March 17, 2015


@ChemiShalev: "To Netanyahu's many American friends: what if a US President had said 'too many Jews are voting?'"
posted by Golden Eternity at 11:32 AM on March 17, 2015 [2 favorites]


Bibi, PM of Israel, warns against Israeli-Arabs “moving in droves towards the ballot box, bused in by Leftist orgs”

You know what other kind of people gets bused in to vote, right?
posted by mikelieman at 12:19 PM on March 17, 2015


Yeah, and I get this is coming from Saudi Arabia. Of course, no-one would be compelled if Israel wasn't a threat to everyone with their undisclosed, unregulated nuclear arsenal.
posted by mikelieman at 12:20 PM on March 17, 2015


Will Saletan: Netanyahu’s Hate Speech
There’s no subtlety or principle in these pitches. Netanyahu has aimed his rhetoric squarely at “the Arabs” and “the Arab population.” That’s 20 percent of Israel. He has vilified his country’s Arab citizens; no decent American would tolerate it if a white politician were to speak this way of blacks, or if a Christian were to speak this way of Jews. Netanyahu has become Israel’s George Wallace.

The nightmare for Israel, if Netanyahu were to remain prime minister, isn’t just that he would represent the country to Western governments he has proudly defied in this election. It’s that Israel’s 1 million Arabs would face the prospect of four years under a Jewish prime minister who openly demonizes their participation in the political process. If that scenario comes to pass, unrest in Gaza and the West Bank will be the least of Israel’s worries.
Michael Schaeffer Omer-Man: The next time Netanyahu talks about 'common values'
Next time the prime minister, in whatever capacity, talks about the shared values of the United States and Israel, the next time he accuses an Arab leader of saying one thing in English and another in Arabic, remember this.

Remember that Netanyahu’s version of democracy includes as few Arab voices as possible, simply because they are not Jewish.

Remember that the peace processes he has overseen for decades were not genuine, that he never had any intention of ushering in, let alone seeking, a two-state solution.

A government that values the voice of one group of its citizens more than others does not share the values of the United States.

A state that has kept millions of people under military rule with no say in how they are governed, no say in their future, and which does not seek to end that disenfranchisement, that state does not share America’s values.

A leader who no longer even pays lip service to the values of democracy and civil rights is not a man with whom Americans shares common values.

Remember all of that next time Benjamin Netanyahu appeals to his supporters in Washington and says, you and I are the same.
posted by zombieflanders at 12:38 PM on March 17, 2015 [4 favorites]


@AnshelPfeffer: "The exit polls are conclusive on Netanyahu closing the gap with Herzog. He still needs Moshe Kahlon for a coalition but Herzog in bad shape."
posted by Golden Eternity at 1:19 PM on March 17, 2015


@borzou: "68% of Americans, including 65% of Republicans & independents favor Obama's nuclear talks with Iran, @CNN poll says"
posted by Golden Eternity at 1:24 PM on March 17, 2015


@Gil_Hoffman: "Breaking: @netanyahu is calling @naftalibennett right now to ask him to form a right-wing govt says source outside Netanyahu's office door!"
posted by Golden Eternity at 1:34 PM on March 17, 2015


Bibi, PM of Israel, warns against Israeli-Arabs “moving in droves towards the ballot box, bused in by Leftist orgs”

Likud text message warns: “American money is bringing Arabs to the ballot box”


Of all the times for a politician to start telling the truth!

We were all cheering for the Joint List (although reportedly, cynically, it has now disbanded) but the flip side of that is that its supporters were incidentally campaigning against all the other parties. Paradoxically, that might not have been a bad thing for Likud and other groups on the right: the Joint List may have drawn votes from groups to Likud's left, thereby weakening them. It will be interesting to see a full analysis.
posted by Joe in Australia at 7:26 PM on March 17, 2015


Not what anyone expected:
Israeli elections take dramatic turn as official tally gives Likud sweeping victory
With nearly 90 percent of precincts reporting before dawn on Wednesday, the Likud holds a major edge over Zionist Union in the distribution of Knesset seats.

According to the official up-to-the-minute tally as of 04:20 local time, Likud wins 30 seats while Zionist Union comes in second at 24 seats.

The parties that follow are Joint Arab List (13); Yesh Atid (11); Kulanu (10); Bayit Yehudi (8); Shas (7); United Torah Judaism (7); Yisrael Beytenu (6); and Meretz (4).
My analysis: Likud could form a national-unity government in conjunction with Zionist Union and basically anyone else. Otherwise, there are six potential partners (i.e., not Meretz or Joint List) and they need at least four of them. New laws limit the cabinet size (and hence the number of potential rewards) to eighteen, so there's a strong incentive to limit the number of parties in a coalition. That makes the equation easy: Likud + Zionist Union + X = three partners; Likud + 4/5 * X = 5/6 partners. Israel's government is very likely going to be a Likud / Zionist Union coalition.
posted by Joe in Australia at 8:33 PM on March 17, 2015


Not what anyone expected:

Au contraire, I did well on this one.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:45 PM on March 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


Because it's Israel:
Reporter’s Notebook: Meet the woman who voted in all 20 Israeli elections (spoiler: it's the reporter's grandmother)
posted by Joe in Australia at 9:04 PM on March 17, 2015




Jonathan Chait: Netanyahu Clarifies His Chilling Vision for Post-Democratic Israel
Taken together, Netanyahu’s comments present a coherent and chilling vision of his long-term strategy. His intention is to maintain singular Israeli control in perpetuity over the entire territory that the early Zionists were once happy to partition into two states. This course will eventually lead to pressure for Palestinians to gain a democratic voice within the institutions that control their lives, but Netanyahu treats that as illegitimate, as well. He proposes to snuff out every peaceful outlet for Arab political aspirations.

In this light, his bumbling attempts to transform Israel’s alliance with the United States into an alliance with its conservative movement looks less like a blunder (as his former ambassador Michael Oren has described it) and more like a plan. In the long run, a deep American alliance with the kind of garrison state Netanyahu envisions will become untenable. The only remaining diplomatic strategy will be to deepen Israel’s ties with right-wing America, whose support for Israel is not contingent upon it fulfilling its liberal, democratic ideals. The Republicans who hailed Netanyahu as a Churchillian prophet are cheering a figure who no longer disguises his intention to bury forever the original Zionist dream.
posted by zombieflanders at 12:52 PM on March 18, 2015 [3 favorites]




@b_judah: "But because Israel is not what it seems, the Arab village below Zikhron, Furedis voted 44.86% for the Likud.

When I am in Israel in May I will write a piece on this. Why did my family's Arab neighbours in Furedis vote Likud."
posted by Golden Eternity at 1:31 PM on March 18, 2015


I suspect that there are a number of factors: local identity politics, an attractive set of policies, complicated electoral boundaries; and especially the fact that it's not true: Fureidis actually went 71.64% to the Arab List.
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:55 PM on March 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


Israel Election Results Great, Says Obama Through Gritted Teeth
Netanyahu, for his part, took a gracious tone, telling Obama the victory could not have been accomplished without his efforts.
From the news satire site PreOccupied Territory.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:13 PM on March 18, 2015


Israel's shield no more?
Officials say they are revisiting the U.S. stance in light of Netanyahu rolling back his support of a Palestinian state.

[...]

Angered by Netanyahu’s hard-line platform towards the Palestinians, top Obama officials would not rule out the possibility of a change in American posture at the United Nations, where the U.S. has historically fended off resolutions hostile to Israel.
posted by Golden Eternity at 8:39 PM on March 18, 2015


I think most people already recognise that the White House is rolling back its support of Israel. There have been at least two major instances of this, but there have probably been others that I didn't bother to follow up:

The USA keeps an ammunition dump in Israel, with the understanding that Israel can request permission to draw on it. This is very advantageous to Israel, but it also gives the USA a way to use up old ammo and, if the worst came to the worst, resupply its own forces. Apparently Israel pays for the transport and storage. Anyway, during the last Gaza war the White House gave instructions to stop resupplying the depot.

Back in 1975, the USA gave Israel a commitment that it would supply fuel under certain conditions - basically if there were another Arab embargo. That commitment was renewed a few times, and was up for renewal again last year. It wasn't renewed.

There are a few other things that basically cost the USA nothing but are both actually and symbolically important to Israel, like loan guarantees. I think it's very likely that these measures won't be renewed either.
posted by Joe in Australia at 9:17 PM on March 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


I wonder how long it will be before Netanyahu realizes that he and his supporters really did lose, because he lacked the vision to step back from the edge.

Israel has no moral authority anywhere, anymore... and the Republican Party will soon discover that it can't campaign effectively on supporting apartheid. Israel has ceased being a true ally, and now has reduced itself to being a dangerous cause of instability that must be checked.

The easiest way for the US to do this is simply to abstain in all future votes regarding the Palestinian issue, and let the world do the actions necessary to help bring about a two-state solution.
posted by markkraft at 9:56 PM on March 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


Heh: Obama aide congratulates Israelis, but not Netanyahu
White House political director David Simas early Wednesday congratulated the "Israeli people" after Benjamin Netanyahu claimed victory in his country's parliamentary elections but did not mention the Israeli prime minister by name.
"We want to congratulate the Israeli people for the democratic process, for the election that they just engaged in with all the parties that engaged in that election," Simas said on CNN's "New Day."

"As you know, now the hard work of coalition building begins. Sometimes that takes a couple of weeks, and we're going to give space to the formation of that coalition government, and we're not going to weigh in one way or another, except to say that the United States and Israel have an historic and close relationship, and that will continue going forward," he added.

The White House did not formally congratulate Netanyahu, but it did release details of an upcoming Obama trip to Panama and Jamaica in April.

The White House also tweeted Obama's picks for the NCAA basketball tournament Wednesday morning.
posted by Joe in Australia at 10:19 PM on March 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


Somewhere I read that last time Obama held off congratulating Netanyahu until the coalition building was complete.

I guess these guys didn't get the memo: American donors donated around $237,000, 90% of total contributions to the PM's reelection campaign.

What is going on with the NY Times? First this: Netanyahu’s Win Is Good for Palestine
This might seem counterintuitive, but the political dynamics in Israel and internationally mean that another term with Mr. Netanyahu at the helm could actually hasten the end of Israel’s apartheid policies.
Aphartheid? Really New York Times? And then the distinguished two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Tom Friedman:
Yes, sir, Bibi is going to make history. And the leader in the world who is most happy that Netanyahu ran on — and won on — a one-state solution is the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
And they are publishing Noam Chomsky!! Noam Chomsky on the Roots of American Racism
posted by Golden Eternity at 10:43 PM on March 18, 2015


Aphartheid? Really New York Times?

It's an Op-Ed. And I think his claim is plausible, although his facts aren't very convincing. Historically, the only Israeli politicians to withdraw from territory were Menachem Begin (Sinai Peninsula) and Ariel Sharon (Gaza and bits of the West Bank). They were both members of Likud. As Spock put it, only Nixon could go to China ...
posted by Joe in Australia at 10:59 PM on March 18, 2015


Here's what looks like a really good site: the Israeli Democracy Institute's Resources on the 2015 Elections. There are lots and lots of interesting articles and proposals for (Israeli) government reform.

The key points of their Initial Post-Election Analysis on the Elections and the Incoming Knesset [PDF, well worth reading] by Dr. Ofer Kenig are:
  • Biggest Gains: Likud and Kulana;
  • Biggest Losses: Yesh Atid and Yisrael Beytenu;
  • Voter Turnout Reaches Highest Point Since 1999;
  • Smallest Number of Parties to Enter Knesset Since 1992;
  • Record Number of Female MKs – Two Elections in a Row;
  • 36% Drop in the Number of Orthodox and Ultra-Orthodox MKs;
  • 29% Increase in the Number of Arab MKs, including a doubling of the number in "Jewish" political parties;
All in all, a very positive result.
posted by Joe in Australia at 12:38 AM on March 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


It's time for the PA to just fold, and everyone who isn't currently an Israeli citizen in Greater Israel to say, "That's it, Israel, it's ALL YOURS from the River to the Sea. Where's my passport, and where do I vote?"

But again, as a Jewish-American, I'm biased towards what makes me safest, "One Nation, With Liberty and Justice For All".
posted by mikelieman at 1:38 AM on March 19, 2015 [3 favorites]




@mitchellreports: "In 1st interview since election Netanyahu backs off opposition to Palestinian state after White House threat"
posted by Golden Eternity at 8:19 AM on March 19, 2015


"It's just rhetoric!"
posted by Artw at 9:05 AM on March 19, 2015


As Spock put it, only Nixon could go to China ...

Neither of those op-eds is making that kind of argument, though. Their point is not that because Bibi is seen as "tough on defense" he can bring the Israeli people with him when he brokers a deal with Palestine. Their argument is that because Bibi has let the cat out of the bag that he is not and never has been an honest partner in the peace process Israel can no longer play the game they've been playing for so long of saying "Oh, sure, sure, we're working towards a peace settlement, nice Mr. Uncle Sam, if you just keep insulating us from all international pressure while we establish all the 'facts on the ground' we want, we'll definitely give you that two-state solution you want. Trust us!"

Both pieces see this as heading, inevitably, to a one-state solution. And as Freidman rightly says (that feels odd to write) a one-state Israel will be either democratic or "Jewish"--but it can't be both.
posted by yoink at 9:14 AM on March 19, 2015 [6 favorites]


Or everyone goes back to burying their heads in the ground. Meddling with the US two party system and enabling one half of it to make Israel a partisan issue may make returning to that status quo harder though.
posted by Artw at 9:46 AM on March 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


Or everyone goes back to burying their heads in the ground

Yeah, probably. But the end-game for everybody burying their heads in the ground is also a one-state solution. And, again, that means either a democratic state with no special "Jewish" status or a non-democratic state which moves towards making apartheid an official policy or founds itself on an act of radical ethnic cleansing (one should say "further acts of radical ethnic cleansing" of course).
posted by yoink at 10:31 AM on March 19, 2015


And as Freidman rightly says (that feels odd to write) a one-state Israel will be either democratic or "Jewish"--but it can't be both.

It can be both by denying citizenship to four million Arabs and keeping them in "open-air prisons"/ reservations. What we see now *is* the solution. Granted with more friendly and submissive Palestinian leadership it would not be as painful for them, but their future will consist of statelessness and a continuing loss of property and resources in any case.
posted by Golden Eternity at 10:35 AM on March 19, 2015


If Jeb Bush's foreign policy team is anything to go by in the event of a Republican victory all the neocons will be emerging from their tombs, which will be a big help to Likud in pushing the non-Democratic option. Of course it'll also have the effect of making everything even more visible to anyone who cares.
posted by Artw at 10:37 AM on March 19, 2015


It can be both by denying citizenship to four million Arabs and keeping them in "open-air prisons"/ reservations.

I think the point is that this is not democratic. It isn't both. It's Jewish one-state solution that is not democratic.
posted by OmieWise at 10:37 AM on March 19, 2015 [4 favorites]


They claim it is, and typically we all agree Israel is one of the only Democracies in the Middle East, etc. I suspect Friedman has said the same.

@MawlanaBaghdadi: "The Arabs are voting!! The Arabs are voting!! Bibi heroically warns against the evil Western democratic process."
posted by Golden Eternity at 10:51 AM on March 19, 2015


It can be both by denying citizenship to four million Arabs and keeping them in "open-air prisons"/ reservations.

But that only flies (to the extent it does) in international politics today because of the fig leaf claim that their lack of citizenship is a temporary condition which will be resolved when they have a state of their own. Once that is taken off the table you simply have a single nation, Israel, which has instituted an ethnic apartheid that deprives a huge proportion of its residents from exercising any formal political power of any kind.
posted by yoink at 10:54 AM on March 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


I think I may be confused here. "Arab Israelis"* are citizens of Israel and can vote. The 4 million number is the number of Palestinians living in the Occupied Territories. They are not citizens, and not officially part of Israel. This makes the claim of Israel as a democracy currently correct.

I understood the question to be what happens if Israel opts for a one-state solution and officially annexes the Territories. In that case, there are two choices: democracy or a Jewish state, since 26% of Israel's current ~8 mill population (just over 2 million) are not "registered" as Jewish, and would join with the 4 million Palestinians (plus more returning, probably) to form a non-Jewish population that would quickly become a majority.

* I do not like this term, no sir, but I'm using it here to avoid confusion.
posted by OmieWise at 10:58 AM on March 19, 2015


""In 1st interview since election Netanyahu backs off opposition to Palestinian state after White House threat"

Not good enough. All this shows is that Netanyahu was willing to say or do anything in order to win reelection. (i.e. He is a liar, whose word cannot be trusted, either by his own people or by the rest of the world.)

The Israeli Knesset needs to pass something backed by Likud that states, in an unequivocal manner, that Israel is firmly committed to a two-state solution and immediate negotiations to achieve a lasting peace. Similarly, Likud must change their charter.

If they cannot or will not do that, then the rest of the world should act accordingly, because Netanyahu saying one thing to Israelis and another to the rest of the world is basically just the same thing that they routinely accuse Hamas of doing.

They should *NOT* be entitled to the trade, foreign aid, military, intelligence, and diplomatic perks that come from being seen as peaceful democracy when it is their internal policy to avoid all attempts at peace and deny self-representation to millions of people.
posted by markkraft at 11:02 AM on March 19, 2015 [4 favorites]


" They are not citizens, and not officially part of Israel."

Really? What is their nationality then? What does the UN say on this matter?

So long as Israel isn't an impediment to their basic rights of representation -- which can only exist in the context of some kind of nationality -- then I see no problem here.
posted by markkraft at 11:09 AM on March 19, 2015


Also... taxation. Representation?!

Where should Americans stand on this kind of colonialist tyranny, as a matter of priniciple?
posted by markkraft at 11:19 AM on March 19, 2015


markkraft, I'm not sure what you're getting at. Are you saying that this definition is incorrect? I don't think it is. I'm not aware that Palestinians living in the Occupied Territories are identified as Israelis by the international community. What does the UN say about it? I'd be curious. The Territories aren't on the UN list of Non-Self-Governing Territories, for whatever that's worth.

Are you saying this is an injustice? If so, I agree. The plight of the Occupied Territories is horrible. I don't support a one-state solution, however, because I think that any solution that destroys the Jewishness of Israel is anti-Semitic.

Are you saying that this is unprecedented? That's not true. The US, for instance, has several dependencies, and the rules around dependencies are really weird. People from Guam, for instance, are US Nationals but not US Citizens, and cannot vote for President or members of Congress. The US is still widely considered a democracy, though.
posted by OmieWise at 11:32 AM on March 19, 2015 [2 favorites]


" I think that any solution that destroys the Jewishness of Israel is anti-Semitic."

Then clearly, you also believe that any solution that destroys the ________ of _______ is anti-_______, right?! You believe that every national, racial, ethnic, or religious identity has the right to adopt a "solution", no matter how "horrible", to maintain that identity.

... or, failing that, perhaps your belief on this matter isn't a mater of principle.

Of course, there is an obvious solution to the problem... one that already worked for Israel in Gaza.
posted by markkraft at 11:44 AM on March 19, 2015


markkraft, why don't you maybe calm down a little bit. I'm not trying to pick a fight or to turn this conversation contentious.

I am really not sure how to read your hypothetical. What would I be supposed to use to fill those blanks? I'm happy to talk about specific cases which is what we are doing here.

Look, the idea of a state as being most appropriately identified with a particular ethnicity is not new, nor is it particularly controversial. Maybe read up on ethnic nationalism. If you support the idea of a Kurdish state, you're an ethnic nationalist. If you support the idea of an Uzbeck state, likewise. The list goes on. Hell, if you support the creation of a Palestinian state, you're an ethnic nationalist.

Don't be offensive. I would bet a pretty large sum of money that if I could choose three people from my social network, and you chose ten from yours, my three would have done more work for Palestinian rights and peace in Israel and Palestine than your ten have done. The bench on this issue in my social network is deep enough that I could keep doing that bet with three new people for a while. Many many people with the best interests of both the Israelis and the Palestinians support a two-state solution, for precisely some of the reasons raised in this thread.
posted by OmieWise at 11:58 AM on March 19, 2015


BTW, despite the appearance my last comment may have given, I am not a big fan of ethnic nationalism. I'm not much of a statist, period. I do think, however, that it's important in some cases.
posted by OmieWise at 12:00 PM on March 19, 2015


People from Guam, for instance, are US Nationals but not US Citizens

This is incorrect, so far as I understand it. If you're born in Guam you are a US citizen. It's just that as an unincorporated territory, Guam does not send voting members to Congress or have any role in the Electoral College. Any person from Guam who moves to the mainland, however, is entitled to vote there. In that way, it's more like being a resident of D.C. than being a Palestinian.

But your larger point is right--the world tolerates some weird shit at the fringes; but as with all such things the toleration isn't infinite, depending in part on duration and in part on the magnitude of the weirdness. Take England's denial of democratic rights to the people of Hong Kong. Had Hong Kong not been going to revert to Chinese rule on a set time frame, it would have become remarkably difficult for the UK to continue to deprive Hong Kong citizens of UK citizenship. Guam is on the UN's list of "Non-self-governing territories" and the UN has adopted multiple resolutions to the effect that the nations administering these territories must find ways to move them towards independence. No one is going to get too exercised about Guam, though, because a tiny number of people live there, they do get to vote in their local elections and they can exercise full citizenship rights on the mainland.

The world (mostly as a result of the US's veto power in the UN) was willing to put up with 8 million Israelis depriving 4 million Palestinians of basic rights so long as it looked like there was some genuine promise of this being a transitional situation. Bibi has now declared that it's not: that he envisions no future when the peoples of the Occupied Territories will be able to see themselves as fully participating citizens in any state. That's rather harder for the world to turn a blind eye to than the 100K-odd citizens of Guam.
posted by yoink at 12:03 PM on March 19, 2015 [2 favorites]


Look, the idea of a state as being most appropriately identified with a particular ethnicity is not new, nor is it particularly controversial.

It's not new; it has a long history of being controversial, however. Especially when it comes to movements to deny full citizenship to people on the basis of failing to belong to the favored national ethnicity. The history of the fight against antisemitism has, of course, largely been a history of the fight against the notion of the "ethnically pure" state.
posted by yoink at 12:07 PM on March 19, 2015


Thanks for the Guam correction: "Persons born in Guam on or after December 24, 1952, acquire U.S. citizenship at birth."

I'm not sure I would agree that it has a long history of being controversial. It was the predominant mode of nation building in the 19th and early 20th centuries, even if the definitions of who belonged to the "right" ethnicity were specious. This is, of course, when Zionism arose. I agree that there is more controversy when "purity" enters into the rhetoric, but that's only been fairly recently too. Anti-Semitism as part of ethnic nationalism was not particularly controversial. It was certainly problematic, but I think that's a different thing.
posted by OmieWise at 12:15 PM on March 19, 2015


People from Guam, for instance, are US Nationals but not US Citizens, and cannot vote for President or members of Congress.

Guamanians have been citizens since the 1950s. It's people born in American Samoa and Swains Island without other claims on citizenship that are nationals but not citizens (Wikipedia: "United States nationality law").
posted by grouse at 12:15 PM on March 19, 2015


John Oliver did a pretty good job explaining the WTFery of the situation with U.S. territories.
posted by tonycpsu at 12:19 PM on March 19, 2015


I'm not sure I would agree that it has a long history of being controversial.

What you're disagreeing about is who was in the majority over the course of that history--but that's not what I'm arguing about. Ethnic nationalism was certainly popular in the C19th, but the people who argued against it back then were by and large the people we think of as being progressive and far-sighted now.

The celebration of America as a "melting pot" of all ethnicities (which, interestingly, goes back to a 1908 Romeo-and-Juliet type play by Israel Zangwill about the inter-ethnic love between Jewish and Christian immigrants) very often takes the form of an explicit critique of the ethnic exclusivity of European nationalisms.
posted by yoink at 12:26 PM on March 19, 2015


Yes and no. I used the word controversial, and I think I'm correct in saying that it was not controversial. I think you're going to have to get more specific beyond that. There are many strains of critique of statist solutions.

(I'm not trying to be difficult, I'm just honestly not clear who specifically you are talking about.)
posted by OmieWise at 12:34 PM on March 19, 2015


Yes and no. I used the word controversial, and I think I'm correct in saying that it was not controversial.

Well, you'd be wrong. Take, for example, one of the first great historical/theoretical studies of the rise of European nationalism, Hans Kohn's The Idea of Nationalism (1944). He's pretty much the person who formalized the distinction between "ethnic nationalism" and "civic nationalism" in Western political science. And the central thrust of his (hugely influential) study is that "civic nationalism" is good and "ethnic nationalism" is evil. And that is profoundly influenced by his experience as a Jew (he was born in Prague and imprisoned by the Russians for five years after being captured during WWI).

He was a lifelong Zionist who advocated--precisely on the basis of his conviction that ethnic nationalism was morally evil--a "binational" unified state in Israel, in which Jews and Arabs would be fully equal citizens.
posted by yoink at 12:58 PM on March 19, 2015


Netanyahu Says He Didn’t Mean Any of It, Loves America, Could Maybe Be OK With a Palestinian State
To sum up: During his campaign Netanyahu shifted from supporting a theoretical “state” under conditions he knows will never come to pass, to admitting they will never come to pass, and has now moved back to the previous position. Either way, his actual position on the issue is pretty clear.
posted by Golden Eternity at 1:03 PM on March 19, 2015 [2 favorites]


Didn't Yugoslavia break-up almost exactly along ethnic lines?
posted by rosswald at 1:11 PM on March 19, 2015


Didn't Yugoslavia break-up almost exactly along ethnic lines?

Yup, and the "community of nations" roundly denounced that fact.
posted by yoink at 1:21 PM on March 19, 2015


I'm not sure what the status of Palestinians is with reference to Israeli citizenship. I do know that at one large international high school debate tournament, students from Palestine had to struggle to be allowed to field a Palestinian team and that the objection from the Israeli contingent was that they should be part of the Israeli team. To me this suggests that there is at least a considerable gray area in terms of how the Occupied Territories and their residents are viewed from within Israel.
posted by bardophile at 1:46 PM on March 19, 2015


Bardophile: were the students who wanted their own team actually Israeli citizens? If not, they should definitely have been allowed to field their own team. If so, then it's complicated. I wouldn't want to suppress anyone's identity, but the vast bulk of both Arab- and non-Arab Israelis want Arab Israelis to remain citizens of Israel.
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:00 PM on March 19, 2015


They just don't want them voting. This is a touching piece:

Dear Mr Netanyahu: Sorry we dared to dream. Yours, Israel’s Arab population
posted by Golden Eternity at 2:07 PM on March 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


I don't know if they were Israeli citizens, Joe in Australia. I've seen only the minutes of the meeting. They were eventually allowed to compete as a separate team. I don't have a strong opinion one way or another about whether Palestinians in the Occupied Territories should be regarded as citizens; I do think that the state should be required to be consistent: if they are citizens, they should have the same rights as other citizens, and if they are not citizens, they should be allowed a real autonomous state.
posted by bardophile at 2:22 PM on March 19, 2015


From the article linked by Golden Eternity: Odeh smiled tranquilly, and spoke about unity, cooperation, terminating the occupation in the Palestinian territories and forging a future of equality in Israel.

That's a bit rich. The Joint List coalition that he heads specifically ruled out the possibility of sharing votes or entering a coalition with other Israeli parties. This was a practical necessity, as his coalition includes an Islamist party, but it (a) reduced the effective power of votes for the Joint List; and (b) means that the Joint List is politically ineffective.

Odeh's group chose to isolate themselves as a point of principle; the consequences of that are not merely symbolic. The power and representation of any bloc within the Knesset relates to its size; a smaller bloc has fewer members to sit on committees and can rely on fewer votes on matters of importance. Most significantly, in a coalition they would have been part of the official Opposition. That status is very significant in a Parliamentary system: it conventionally includes the right of advice and consultation on military matters. A distinctly Arab Israeli political party would, for the first time ever, have had a voice during wartime. And Odeh's coalition threw that away.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:19 PM on March 19, 2015


Thanks, yoink.

Golden E, you once again appear to be conflating two things that are not the same: Israeli Arabs (sic) and Palestinians from the Territories. I don't want to be a jerk, but I've got to be honest and say that it's hard to give credence to any argument you might make when you don't appear to understand these very fundamental distinctions.
posted by OmieWise at 4:01 PM on March 19, 2015


Yeah, the age of Ethnic Nationalism is over. You can either have a Real Democracy, or a Jewish State. Pick one or the other, but again, if the Israeli government is afraid that they can't obtain "Consent of the Governed" in a free and fair election, then they have failed to lead.

Simply put, us Jews are safer in the US then in Israel. So, since Herzl's Zionism is a quaint, disproven 19th century idea, what's the point of a Jewish State again?
posted by mikelieman at 4:10 PM on March 19, 2015


Yeah, the age of Ethnic Nationalism is over

Did you let th rest of the world know that? You might want to check your sent box, because the Slavs, Bosnians, Czechs, Uzbeks, Chechens, uigurs, Tibetans, Indians, Pakistanis, Bengalis, Kurds, Tamils, Palestinians. And Turks (among others) don't seem to have gotten your message.
posted by OmieWise at 4:19 PM on March 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


Did you let th rest of the world know that? You might want to check your sent box, because the Slavs, Bosnians, Czechs, Uzbeks, Chechens, uigurs, Tibetans, Indians, Pakistanis, Bengalis, Kurds, Tamils, Palestinians. And Turks (among others) don't seem to have gotten your message.

Hmmm... I see a lot of conflict zones on that list. I think that rather proves my point about how it's time to move forward on nation states, freedom and liberty. IIRC the thing in Turkey right now is sorta a rejection of the egalitarian principles of Attaturk, so that's another thing to consider.

Hey, if we make it a thing at the UN to not have ethnic nation-states, we eliminate the possibility of the rise of the Caliphate, don't we.

But again, the "democratic Jewish State" experiment in Israel has failed, and the question is, "What now?"
posted by mikelieman at 4:32 PM on March 19, 2015


Golden E, you once again appear to be conflating two things that are not the same: Israeli Arabs (sic) and Palestinians from the Territories. I don't want to be a jerk, but I've got to be honest and say that it's hard to give credence to any argument you might make when you don't appear to understand these very fundamental distinctions.

I'm sorry, where was I conflating those? I don't think I'm confused about that. I was referring to Netanyahu's fear-mongering about "Arabs voting in droves." I'm sure he meant Israeli Arabs.

That being said, the fact that even the more liberal/leftists parties are more afraid of a single-state solution than someone like Rivlin, who has advocated for a single-state with equal rights, says a lot. "Not wanting Arabs to vote" applies to not wanting a single state with equal rights as well.
posted by Golden Eternity at 4:56 PM on March 19, 2015


I'm not sure why you would think that's a response to the notion that the world has not gotten your message that "the age of Ethnic Nationalism is over." If you aren't going to take the reality of the world seriously, you really have no business prescribing policy solutions (or even really asking questions about them) for a complex situation like Israel/Palestine.

This isn't the model UN.
posted by OmieWise at 4:57 PM on March 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


You've conflated those throughout the tail end of this thread.
posted by OmieWise at 4:58 PM on March 19, 2015


No I haven't.
posted by Golden Eternity at 4:59 PM on March 19, 2015


the world has not gotten your message that "the age of Ethnic Nationalism is over."

Well, that is obvious. And I suggest we begin by fixing the failed experiment in a "democratic Jewish State" as an example of how to do it correctly.
posted by mikelieman at 5:20 PM on March 19, 2015


Forgive me, this cogent response shows I w misjudged your seriousness.
posted by OmieWise at 5:31 PM on March 19, 2015


Substantial editorial from Commentary: A Statement on the Crisis in the U.S.—Israel Relationship
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:35 PM on March 19, 2015


All politics really is local: Bedouin Village Gave 76% of Its Votes to Netanyahu

I think this article gives some useful context.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:57 PM on March 19, 2015


Bardophile wrote: I'm not sure what the status of Palestinians is with reference to Israeli citizenship.

If they live in Israel they're probably citizens. If they live in East Jerusalem they have a special class of permanent residency that they can convert to citizenship. Many don't, for social and political reasons. If they live in Gaza or (outside an Israeli "settlement") in the West Bank they're probably neither citizens nor permanent residents of Israel.

I understand that many people in the West Bank retain Jordanian citizenship granted during the Jordanian occupation or subsequently. As for the ones that don't, some countries recognise them as having Palestinian citizenship; others treat them as being stateless.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:24 PM on March 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


Did you let th rest of the world know that? You might want to check your sent box, because the Slavs, Bosnians, Czechs, Uzbeks, Chechens, uigurs, Tibetans, Indians, Pakistanis, Bengalis, Kurds, Tamils, Palestinians. And Turks (among others) don't seem to have gotten your message.

Indeed, large sections of the communities you cite are invested in ideas of ethnic nationalism. By and large progressives are not in sympathy with them. Turkish ethnic nationalism lead to the first great genocide of the C20th for example. Serbian ethnic nationalism lead to Srebrenica. Indian ethnic nationalism has lead to multiple brutal slaughters, and the threat of Muslim Indians becoming second class citizens in their own country. And so on and so on.
posted by yoink at 6:45 PM on March 19, 2015 [3 favorites]


I think you're wrong about "progressives" not being "in sympathy" with most of the communities listed, but in any event: minorities don't choose nationalism over utopia; they choose nationalism over genocide.

There was formerly a very large Jewish contingent that opposed Jewish nationalism for secular, universalist reasons, and expected that this would lead to greater tolerance from their neighbours. Sadly, neither Hitler nor Stalin respected the Bundists' principled position, and wiped them out together with the other Jews. Happily, a few survived and mostly learned their lesson: in Australia their descendants now celebrate Yom Haatzmaut.
posted by Joe in Australia at 7:22 PM on March 19, 2015


OmieWise, I'm not sure where you're saying I'm conflating Israeli Arab's and non-Israeli Palestinians living in Israel and the occupied territories, or whatever. I assume it is going back to this statement:
It can be both by denying citizenship to four million Arabs and keeping them in "open-air prisons"/ reservations.

I think the point is that this is not democratic (you later corrected this to Israel is democratic). It isn't both. It's Jewish one-state solution that is not democratic.
Anyway, pretty much everyone agrees that Israel is a democracy as it is now, so why would they change anything? I presume they will just slowly annex the occupied territories and as much of its resources to the extent that they can without any unacceptable consequences. I'm not sure exactly what Friedman has in mind when he says they are inevitably headed to a one-state solution. My argument is that we are being too charitable to accept that Israel is a democracy considering the full reality of the situation today, and giving Israel this credit is doing a lot of harm to Palestinians in the occupied territories (not the Israeli Arabs) right now, today. Especially considering they would probably be better of if they were given second class citizenship of Israel that allowed them and their property better protection under Israeli law. It puts Israel in a situation of having little incentive to change the status quo.

There was formerly a very large Jewish contingent that opposed Jewish nationalism for secular, universalist reasons, and expected that this would lead to greater tolerance from their neighbours

As the article states, there still are. They made tremendous contributions to the creation of secular society in the US and Canada, and many of them are greatly dissapointed in Netanyahu's comments.
posted by Golden Eternity at 9:01 PM on March 19, 2015 [2 favorites]


"It breaks my heart to say this, but today I don’t feel I can call myself a Zionist any longer.”
...to me it is as clear as it is ever likely to be that the election on Tuesday marks the end of liberal Zionism. Consider: Netanyahu calls out just before the election that he will make sure there is no Palestinian state and the response – far from the utter rejection of this suggestion for which I and many others had hoped – was an overwhelming endorsement of him by the Jewish voters of Israel: and certainly by its Zionist voters. Set aside the Joint List, for which very few Jews (and virtually no Zionist Jews), voted. Of the remaining 106 Knesset seats, 67 went to parties that either actively agree with Netanyahu or are indifferent enough to his views on this issue that they are willing to sit in coalition with him. Which is to say: about TWO-THIRDS of the Jewish vote essentially said, “We are happy to end the peace process and instead rule over millions of Palestinians indefinitely; we are happy to have them have no vote, ever, either in their own state or in ours.” Which is to say, in what turned out to be as close to a referendum on the peace process and the two-state solution as we are ever likely to get, two-thirds of Israel’s Jews have just voted for the undemocratic version of the one-state solution: Israel has become, this week, the Herrenvolk ethnocracy its detractors have accused it of long being.
posted by Golden Eternity at 9:31 PM on March 19, 2015


minorities don't choose nationalism over utopia; they choose nationalism over genocide

The problem with that is that far more often majorities choose genocide as a way to enact their nationalist dreams. Hitler's great model was the Armenian genocide, carried out largely by Kurds, ironically, at the behest of ethnic nationalist Turks. "Choosing [ethnic] nationalism over genocide" is like choosing fire over heat.
posted by yoink at 9:37 PM on March 19, 2015 [1 favorite]




There was formerly a very large Jewish contingent that opposed Jewish nationalism for secular, universalist reasons, and expected that this would lead to greater tolerance from their neighbours

As the article states, there still are.


Golden Eternity, I think you're missing the point. Those people were firmly, staunchly, anti-Zionist. They would be spinning in their graves - if they had any - to see these kids waving blue&white balloons around and singing Hatikva. The Labor Bund was huge. It had literally tens of thousands of members, probably hundreds of thousands of supporters. As Wikipedia puts it, it was "a major, if not the major, political force within Polish Jewry". Now it's down to (possibly!) a couple of newsletters and a youth group in Melbourne - which feels the need to point out that it's not-Zionist, not anti-Zionist.

"It breaks my heart to say this, but today I don’t feel I can call myself a Zionist any longer.”

Wait. Corey Robin called himself a Zionist? Oh, he's quoting another US academic, Samuel Fleishacker. I ... didn't know he was a Zionist. Let me Google that. Ah yes, he called himself "a 'tepid Zionist'" as recently as 2008.

What else does he have to say on the subject?

Israel has become, this week, the Herrenvolk ethnocracy [...]

Ah, Godwin.
posted by Joe in Australia at 10:25 PM on March 19, 2015


When the Godwin fits, wear it.
posted by mikelieman at 10:42 PM on March 19, 2015




Israel's One State Reality, 17 NOV 14
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:46 PM on March 19, 2015


minorities don't choose nationalism over utopia; they choose nationalism over genocide

The problem with that is that far more often majorities choose genocide as a way to enact their nationalist dreams.

You seem to imagine that there's something minorities can do to stop that, as if they could reform tyrants by a program of conspicuous virtue. I think Gandhi advocated something like that, actually: he thought that the exterminated Jews of Nazi Europe ought to enjoy having some sort of posthumous moral victory.

Right now, there are many groups in (what was formerly) Syria and Iraq that are literally being exterminated. The rest of the world has hardly done anything to stop it. If those groups had a homeland, as Jews now do, they might still have found themselves at war, but they could hardly be less secure. It's even possible that the world might have come to their aid. Instead, we have rhetoric about not interfering in the internal affairs of another country, do we want another Gulf War, &c &c.

Frankly, it doesn't matter what you think about nationalism: the bad guys will do what they do, regardless, and the good guys have no choice. As the Jews had no choice. Minority groups in extremity are like refugees. You can't criticise them for trying to find a place of their own.
posted by Joe in Australia at 11:01 PM on March 19, 2015


Golden Eternity: A Herrenvolk democracy is a political system [...]

Huh. Thanks for that. I still think it was a badly-chosen expression in context, much like the word "niggardly" would be an outrageously bad word to use in some contexts. None the less, I'm glad to see that it has an innocent interpretation.
posted by Joe in Australia at 11:16 PM on March 19, 2015


Agreed.
posted by Golden Eternity at 11:34 PM on March 19, 2015


The rest of the world has hardly done anything to stop it. If those groups had a homeland, as Jews now do, they might still have found themselves at war, but they could hardly be less secure.

So the objective evidence is that the Herzelian Zionism experiment has failed, and you think since it MIGHT cause less damage, we should repeat it.

This is like the AA thread again. To hell with outcome-based objectives. We'll just wing-it.

And again, if the defining characteristic of your plan is "Luck", it's a shitty plan.

One Nation, with Liberty and Justice for all makes Me in the US safer than other Jews in Israel. And has worked for 200+ years.
posted by mikelieman at 4:30 AM on March 20, 2015


One Nation, with Liberty and Justice for all makes Me in the US safer than other Jews in Israel. And has worked for 200+ years.

You realize that this isn't something that everybody wants, right? How do you make it work if people insist that it's not their cup of tea, that it isn't the idea of democracy that they are willing to espouse? This is a serious question, because from where I sit, it seems like the plan of liberty and justice for all requires a whole shitload of luck.
posted by OmieWise at 5:11 AM on March 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


Steve Benen: Cotton worries about US interference in foreign negotiations
Hold on a second. Cotton is now concerned about U.S. officials “undermining” foreign officials “currently in negotiations”?

Seriously?

Not to put too fine a point on this, but it was literally just two weeks ago that Cotton took it upon himself to organize a letter to Iran from 47 Senate Republicans. The point of the correspondence, by Cotton’s own admission, was to target international diplomacy, undermine American foreign policy, and disrupt officials during their ongoing negotiations.

I’m going to assume the Arkansas Republican remembers this. It caused a bit of a stir.

And yet, there Cotton was yesterday, expressing concern that a State Department official, simply by stating a simple fact about U.S. foreign policy, might “startle” officials abroad. These officials are “currently in negotiations,” so the GOP senator apparently believes Americans should be cautious not to interfere.

The irony is simply breathtaking. The mind reels.
posted by zombieflanders at 6:51 AM on March 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


@jbendery: "Q: Why not take Netanyahu on his word on two-state solution? WH spox Earnest: "Which one?"
posted by Golden Eternity at 9:59 AM on March 20, 2015 [5 favorites]


It's a funny rejoinder, but you might ask the same about Obama's shifting public position on Iran ... or Israel.

Anyway, I thought this article made a good point:
Here, another of Nuseibeh’s Election Day tweets is instructive: “Neither the PA nor Bibi want peace. Difference is Israel can remove its own obstacle for peace, through free elections.”

Even if one disputes his assessment of Netanyahu, Abbas or both, his basic point is unarguable: If Israelis see a chance for peace and consider their own prime minister an obstacle to it, they can unseat him – an option they’ve in fact exercised in the past. Palestinians have no such option.

But the problem goes deeper than that – because Abbas, now in the 11th year of his four-year term, also lacks the democratic legitimacy needed to make the kind of concessions any peace agreement would entail. Palestinian human rights activist Bassem Eid summed up the issue bluntly in a lecture to the Limmud UK conference in December: Abbas, he told his shocked audience, will never be able to make peace with Israel, because he currently represents nobody except himself, his wife and his two sons.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:05 AM on March 21, 2015


It's a funny rejoinder, but you might ask the same about Obama's shifting public position on Iran

That's rather weak, even as tu quoque arguments go. Circumstances in Iran have changed measurably over the years, including the election of a more moderate President and an increasing willingness to negotiate in order to get relief from the economic sanctions, while the only circumstance that changed between Netanyahu's disavowal of support for a Palestinian and his subsequent flip-flop was his re-election.

or Israel.

Huh? I can't think of any change in Obama's rhetoric toward Israel that would be in any way comparable to Bibi's total 180 on Palestinian statehood. Obviously as circumstances change, governments change their policies in response to those changes, but what has Obama said regarding Israel that's anywhere close to this craven political stunt?
posted by tonycpsu at 7:39 AM on March 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


It's a funny rejoinder, but you might ask the same about Obama's shifting public position on Iran ... or Israel.

He's not really any different than pretty much any President since 1948, regardless of party or Congressional support/opposition. Just in the last few decades, we've had: Reagan excoriating Begin at the UN and suspending war supplies in the early 80s, Bush I rescinding $10 billion in loan guarantees, Clinton's spats with Netanyahu mentioned above, and Bush II rescinding $300 million in loan guarantees (on top of, y'know, destabilizing the entire ME). In fact, pretty much the only common factor here seems to be Likud PMs and their coalitions, and from the mid-90s on, Netanyahu in particular.

Anyway, I thought this article made a good point

I'm not surprised. Commentary has represented the right-wing hawks for the better part of half a century, and neoconservatives in the last two decades. They don't speak for the vast majority of Jewish Americans, and their more or less blind support of right-wing Israeli politics means they are largely untrustworthy on the subject, especially when it comes to Obama.
posted by zombieflanders at 8:34 AM on March 21, 2015


A New Year in Iran?
posted by Golden Eternity at 11:05 AM on March 21, 2015


Haaretz: Israel chooses the path to apartheid
In my quarter century as Washington correspondent for Jewish newspapers, I frequently defended Israel against charges that it had created an apartheid system in the West Bank. But this week's election, with Benjamin Netanyahu poised to serve another term with an even more hardline coalition, means that apartheid is the path Israeli voters have chosen.
posted by Golden Eternity at 1:33 PM on March 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


Bill Maher clarifies Netanyahu's comments:
Let me ask the question I was going to ask about this, which is when he said that, 'Arab voters are coming out in droves to the polls,' I heard a lot of commentators here say, it would be as if Mitt Romney in 2012 on the eve of the election said black voters are coming out in droves to the polls. But I don't know if that's really a great analogy. I think that would be a good analogy if America was a country that was surrounded by 12 or 13 completely black nations who had militarily attacked us many times, including as recently as last year. Would we let them vote? I don't know. When we were attacked by the Japanese, we didn't just not let them vote, we rounded them up and put them in camps.
posted by Golden Eternity at 2:22 PM on March 21, 2015


Please Mr Maher, no more assistance is necessary or desirable.
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:53 PM on March 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


Golden Eternity: “The Washington Post: War with Iran is probably our best option”
“The Narrow Gate,” Jim Wright, Stonekettle Station, 20 March 2015
posted by ob1quixote at 3:41 PM on March 21, 2015


This appears to be the official Twitter account of Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei, Iran's Supreme Leader. I'm not linking to any specific message; I don't think it's necessary. Just take a look at it and ask yourself whether Iran appears to be in the same universe of discourse as the USA and its allies.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:58 PM on March 21, 2015


I can't think of any change in Obama's rhetoric toward Israel that would be in any way comparable to Bibi's total 180 on Palestinian statehood.

This is a transcript of Obama's 2008 speech at AIPAC. I think it's very different from his present position:

On Iran, then-Democratic Party Presidential Nominee Barack Obama said "there is no greater threat to Israel — or to the peace and stability of the region — than Iran". He referred to Iran's "illicit nuclear program", under which it has "stockpiled 150 kilos of low enriched uranium". He says that "its support for terrorism and threats toward Israel have increased". He promises Iran that
If you abandon your dangerous nuclear program, support for terror, and threats to Israel, there will be meaningful incentives — including the lifting of sanctions, and political and economic integration with the international community. If you refuse, we will ratchet up the pressure.
With respect to Israel, he said that
any agreement with the Palestinian people must preserve Israel's identity as a Jewish state, with secure, recognized and defensible borders. Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided.
That is not the US administration's current position: it now talks about borders based on the '67 armistice lines rather than "secure ... and defensible" ones. The US administration does not acknowledge that Jerusalem is part of Israel, let alone that it "remain[s] the capital". It even maintains a separate consulate in Jerusalem that excludes Jewish Israelis. It actually went as far as to demand that Jewish politician on a joint fact-finding trip remove his head covering, presumably so that it wouldn't look as though they were consorting with Jews. It's extraordinary.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:35 PM on March 21, 2015


1967 borders *with mutually agreed upon land swaps* is what Obama said and it has been the basis of agreements Israel has been working with since before Obama. Netanyahu's freak-out over "1967" was just a show to humiliate Obama and create fear and mistrust of him in Israel, and sabatoge any real negotiations which are a threat to his recently revealed no-solution agenda.

Khamenei's Malcolm X tweets were hilarious. Apparently, he also advocated death to America today in Tehran. Maybe a deal is close.
posted by Golden Eternity at 4:53 PM on March 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


Interview in the Huffington Post with Obama says he does not buy Netanyahu walking back his statement. Not the tack I expected.
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 4:55 PM on March 21, 2015


Golden Eternity, my point is that the 2008 AIPAC speech stipulates a whole lot of things that are very meaningful in a diplomatic context; they're not just bits of rhetoric:
  • Secure and defensible borders - I presume those terms are synonymous. They imply that defensibility is a condition precedent, and not merely a nice outcome;
  • Jerusalem undivided;
  • Jerusalem as the capital of Israel;
  • Israel as a Jewish state - i.e., no "return" of Palestinian descendants.
The "secure and defensible" bit is important because it means that the USA will not endorse borders that are not defensible, even if the Palestinians demand them. The land-swap stipulation is really neither here nor there because it would be utterly delusional to imagine that the 1967 lines, unadjusted, make any sense at all.

So the question is: would Obama in 2015 make the same assurances as Obama in 2008? And the answer is no, clearly not, not on Israel and not on Iran.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:13 PM on March 21, 2015


we rounded them up and put them in camps.

Sounds like "'Disengagement' from Gaza" to me..
posted by mikelieman at 5:20 PM on March 21, 2015


I really think the 'poison pill' was the bait-and-switch from Tel-Aviv to Jerusalem as the "eternal and undivided" capital of Israel, pretty much shitting on the people who actually own(ed) the real-estate...
posted by mikelieman at 5:21 PM on March 21, 2015


So the question is: would Obama in 2015 make the same assurances as Obama in 2008? And the answer is no, clearly not, not on Israel and not on Iran.

On a peace agreement, I'm sure Obama still holds those positions, but the agreement must be made between Israel and Palestinians. What is the other half of the swap? What is Netanyahu willing to give in return for the annexed territory? Who says Palestinians will agree to this? How does the US have the right to give Israel Palestinian territory without its consent?
posted by Golden Eternity at 5:31 PM on March 21, 2015




On a peace agreement, I'm sure Obama still holds those positions, but the agreement must be made between Israel and Palestinians. What is the other half of the swap?

To know that, we would have to have someone who speaks for the Palestinians. And we don't, except in the very artificial sense that the UN recognised the PLO as the representative of the Palestinians, and the PLO was party to an agreement that established the Palestinian National Authority as an interim body. Neither of these bodies is representative: the PLO is a sort of assemblage of "factions" which may or may not relate to actual Palestinian communities; the PA was originally elected by Palestinians in the West Bank but has basically ruled by fiat for the last nine years.1

So here are three possible positions on, e.g., the rights of Palestinian refugees:
1) The creation of a Palestinian state is ipso-facto the resolution of the "refugee problem". They can move to Palestine or not, subject to the decision of New-Palestine.
2) Palestinian refugees remain Israel's problem. The creation of a Palestinian state makes them no better and no worse off.
3) Palestinian refugees should have the same rights as other refugees, including the right to seek citizenship of the country in which they live. The creation of a Palestinian state gives them further options, but should not determine their rights.

These are actual positions held by different Palestinians. Determining this issue is fundamental to any peace settlement. Does anyone genuinely have the authority and/or ability to decide this or the myriad other matters?

1 Note: As it happens, the same person (Mahmoud Abbas / Abu Mazen) is the head of each of them, but this does not actually mean that they speak for each other: Abbas (as chairman of the PLO) has issued demands to himself (as President of the PA) which he has ignored. I don't know whether Abbas or his faction (Fatah) could carry a contested vote in the PLO; he doesn't actually allow votes in the PA.

posted by Joe in Australia at 8:11 PM on March 21, 2015


the 2008 AIPAC speech stipulates a whole lot of things that are very meaningful in a diplomatic context; they're not just bits of rhetoric
...
So the question is: would Obama in 2015 make the same assurances as Obama in 2008? And the answer is no, clearly not, not on Israel and not on Iran.

You originally brought Obama's approach toward Iran and Israel in as a comparison to Netanyahu's overnight flip-flop on Palestinian statehood. Can you at least acknowledge that there's a very significant difference between changing rhetoric over the course of seven years where much has happened in the region versus changing it overnight when the only thing that's happened was your re-election?
posted by tonycpsu at 9:49 AM on March 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


The term "rhetoric" is probably the right one to use. I think the creation of a Palestinian state is one of those things to which everybody pays lip service, but for which nobody seriously strives.1

Netanyahu says he hasn't changed his position on Palestinian statehood; he simply acknowledged that it's not presently possible. Which is pretty well indisputable, what with a Palestinian civil war, and non-government forces on three out of four of Israel's borders. A cynical person might say that Netanyahu only ever assented to the creation of a Palestinian state because he didn't think it would ever be possible.2

Circumstances alter cases; it would be unreasonable to think that nobody should ever change their position; none the less, I think the US administration's change on Iran is vastly more substantial than Netanyahu's change on Palestinian statehood.

1 Yes, I know that various US administrations have spent a lot of time and diplomatic capital trying to bring it about; I just don't think they went about it in a serious way.
2 For what it's worth, I do think it's possible.
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:46 PM on March 22, 2015


Israel: The Stark Truth
NY Review of Books
posted by OmieWise at 5:53 PM on March 22, 2015


"hypernationalist ... proto-fascist ... shrill ... facile mendacity ... "

That's just from the first four paragraphs! I don't think I'd even describe, oh, Erdoğan that way; and in that case there's considerable justification.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:01 PM on March 22, 2015




Netanyahu says he hasn't changed his position on Palestinian statehood; he simply acknowledged that it's not presently possible.

If that's what he meant, he could have said it. He was clearly making a campaign promise to prevent any chance of a Palestinian state during his term as PM.

Does anyone genuinely have the authority and/or ability to decide this or the myriad other matters?

I guess the best possibility is for the present Palestinian leadership to agree on a deal with Israel, (and Jordan, Egypt, Syria, etc), and a means to enforce it.

I think Obama's supposed changing position on Iran is being exaggerated as a whataboutist deflection from Netanyahu's truth-telling. His position hasn't really changed much. He campaigned on negotiation-before-war with Iran and getting out of Iraq. Iran's cooperation with Iraq is mutual. The militias will be a problem, but it's Iraq's problem and they are there upon Iraq's request. Abandoning Baghdad as some have suggested would be counterproductive. If the US were to remove Assad, it would probably just result in Damascus lying in ruins, occupied by jihadists.

What do opponents of an Iran nuclear deal really want?

Netanyahu will be remembered for speaking Israel's truth - Gideon Levy
For at least 25 years most Israeli statesmen have been lying, misleading the world, the Israelis and themselves, until Netanyahu arose – he of all statesmen – and told the truth. If only this truth had been told by an Israeli prime minister 25 years ago, maybe even 50 years ago, when the occupation was born.
Base Appeals - DAVID REMNICK
Netanyahu did play the role of Nixon—except that he did not go to China. Nor did he go to Ramallah. He went racist.
Why did we forget about Herzog's anti-Arab campaign?
posted by Golden Eternity at 9:15 PM on March 22, 2015


I guess the best possibility is for the present Palestinian leadership to agree on a deal with Israel, (and Jordan, Egypt, Syria, etc), and a means to enforce it.

I can't see what value a deal with Mahmoud Abbas would have: he was never elected by the Palestinian diaspora; his party failed to win a plurality of the votes back in 2005; and he is presently in the eleventh year of his four-year term. It's not just that he has no objective legitimacy; he doesn't even have a strong personal base. He is both unwilling and unable to impose his rule outside the West Bank, and a "deal" with him will neither take most Palestinians' interests into account nor bring peace generally.
posted by Joe in Australia at 11:00 PM on March 22, 2015


Myron Magnet, Iran and the Lessons of History - "With the pending nuclear deal, Obama courts dishonor—and possibly war.", City Journal
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:25 PM on March 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


From that article:
What the president should have done, as was clear even then, was simple and traditional. He should have told the mullahs that they had 48 hours to release our citizens unharmed, or else we would leave not one stone standing on another in the “holy” city of Qom.
That would have been a premeditated war crime, publicly ordered by someone who combines the roles of the USA's Head of State, Commander in Chief, and Chief Executive. The diplomatic and moral cost of that action to the USA would have been incalculable.

It's a very good thing that Mr Magnet is an editor, and not a general or politician.
posted by Joe in Australia at 11:48 PM on March 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


Joe in Australia: It's a very good thing that Mr Magnet is an editor, and not a general or politician.
Indeed. Still it's people like Magnet that are responsible for convincing people that not declaring war on Iran is the same as "giving them The Bomb."
posted by ob1quixote at 12:00 AM on March 23, 2015


I should clarify. "We're giving them The Bomb," is something someone actually said to me. That's why I put it in quotes.
posted by ob1quixote at 12:13 AM on March 23, 2015


Charles Krauthammer is unsparing: No peace in our time
In the last four years, Egypt has had two revolutions and three radically different regimes. Yemen went from pro-American to Iranian client so quickly the United States had to evacuate its embassy in a panic. Libya has gone from Moammar Gaddafi’s crazy authoritarianism to jihadi-dominated civil war. On Wednesday, Tunisia, the one relative success of the Arab Spring, suffered a major terror attack that the prime minister said “targets the stability of the country.”

From Mali to Iraq, everything is in flux. Amid this mayhem, by what magic would the West Bank, riven by a bitter Fatah-Hamas rivalry, be an island of stability? What would give any Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement even a modicum of durability?
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:01 AM on March 23, 2015


The Houthis are not an Iranian client according to the more knowledgeable sources, and they don't even control all of Yemen which is on the brink of civil war. I believe the Navy has declared allegiance to Hadi. I think we know Krauthammer's prescription for Iran.

This is really sickening:

West Bank settlers attacked a six-year-old Palestinian girl
Attacks by settlers on Palestinian civilians are a nearly everyday occurrence across the occupied West Bank.

[...]

According to human rights group Yesh Din, between 2005-2013 just 8.5 percent of investigations against Israeli settlers suspected of harming Palestinians and their property ended in indictment.
posted by Golden Eternity at 7:41 AM on March 23, 2015


Ah yes, Krauthammer:

Krauthammer was one of the leading boosters of the Iraq war. He argued in his February 1, 2002, Washington Post column that an invasion of Iraq would lead to the spread of democracy throughout the Middle East: “Overthrowing neighbouring radical regimes shows the fragility of dictatorship, challenges the mullahs’ mandate from heaven and thus encourages disaffected Iranians to rise. First, Afghanistan to the east. Next, Iraq to the west”. As the Iraq war got into full swing, Krauthammer ridiculed a New York Times article proposing that coalition forces might have to contend with guerrilla fighters in Iraq. He initially hailed the Iraq conflict as “the Three Week War”; and was sarcastically dismissive when those guerrillas whose existence he had found so improbable actually materialized.When U.S. reconstruction efforts were revealed to be amateurish, Krauthammer concluded a 2003 column with the suggestion that if, “in a year or two we are able to leave behind a stable, friendly government, we will have succeeded. If not, we will have failed. And all the geniuses will be vindicated.”
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 9:10 AM on March 23, 2015 [5 favorites]


Charles Krauthammer is unsparing—and unfailingly wrong about everything.
posted by yoink at 10:14 AM on March 23, 2015 [5 favorites]


That's not just kneejerk snark, by the way, Krauthammer consistently comes out as one of the worst pundits on TV in examinations of the accuracy of their proclamations.
posted by yoink at 10:28 AM on March 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


Here's another good review of Krauthammer's astonishing record of mendacity, hypocrisy and good old fashioned "being wrong about everything."
posted by yoink at 10:42 AM on March 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


I thought this was a pretty enlightening article:

Is Netanyahu's Israel drifting toward disaster? (Max Fisher interviews Nathan Thrall)
Nathan Thrall: And the attitude of an Israeli voter could easily be, "Sure, I don't want a one state, but I don't see that it's imminent, and if it becomes a serious threat, then we can unilaterally withdraw to, let's say, the separation barrier, which would mean de facto annexation of 9 percent of the West Bank. And then we'll have a border dispute like so many other countries have, and no one can demand we give the vote to the people on the other side of the wall. And we have a perfectly plausible backup plan in the worst-case scenario."

So all of these doom-and-gloom predictions that it's gonna be apartheid and a pariah state or what have you are actually wrong.

Max Fisher: It's certainly true that the Israeli far-right movement to permanently annex or control the West Bank is a relative fringe, that many Israelis favor peace and Palestinian independence in theory but don't trust the Palestinians and are unwilling to make the sacrifices to get there. But it reminds me of gun control here in the US, where the majority of Americans say they'd like more gun control, but they don't really vote on it. Meanwhile, you have this minority constituency that is singularly focused on maintaining extremely loose gun laws.

Nathan Thrall: The settler lobby is extremely effective. It's taken hold of the levers of power within the state bureaucracy and within the Likud Party. It's almost impossible to become a member of the Likud without appeasing them in some way.

...annexation is really a formality — why do you even need it if you're effectively controlling everything anyway? Why antagonize the world, why are we making a big fuss over whether Israel takes this formal step anyway?

...They know what the costs are of the status quo. They're experiencing them now. And they're pretty minor.

This is something the Palestinians had been saying for a long time: it's actually irrational for the Israelis to change anything right now, because they're more or less sitting pretty, and the costs of the occupation are very low. Since 1993, It's been financed by other people, in the sense that the self-administration of the Palestinian Authority is funded by others. Israel has a captive market for its goods; it collects several percent from all of the taxes it collects for the PA. And the levels of violence since the end of the Second Intifada have been very low.
posted by Golden Eternity at 12:10 PM on March 23, 2015




How does partitioning the West Bank square with the official stance that Jerusalem is the eternal and UNDIVIDED capital of Israel?
posted by mikelieman at 2:45 PM on March 23, 2015


Golden Eternity: I notice that the article doesn't suggest anything that Palestinians should do, or ask what Palestinians want. They're basically ciphers. I mean, it has lines like "let's say Palestinians push their leadership in the direction of suspending some security cooperation in the West Bank", but there's no consideration of whether there is actually any mechanism for this sort of influence on PA policies.

Also, when it says things like "the levels of violence since the end of the Second Intifada have been very low", it should probably quantify that. The number of terror attacks has certainly go down since the Separation Barrier was built, but I wouldn't call them low. This Wikipedia page on 2014 in Israel lists nine terror attacks, killing around fifteen people. Besides that, there are regular (daily?) attacks with rocks, flares, Molotov cocktails and so forth. That's violence too, and needs to be quantified.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:46 PM on March 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


David Bernstein's suggests that the Obama administration is breathtakingly cynical:
Don’t believe Obama’s faux outrage at Netanyahu
While trying to strengthen Israel’s left, the administration also apparently tried to undermine Netanyahu with Israel’s right. On March 6, less than two weeks before the election, a major Israeli newspaper published a document showing that Netanyahu’s envoy had agreed on his behalf to an American-proposed framework that offered substantial Israeli concessions that Netanyahu publicly opposed. Let’s put on our thinking caps. Where would this leak have come from? The most logical suspect is the American State Department.

So here’s the dynamic: Netanyahu, while talking tough publicly about terms for an Israeli-Palestinian deal, was much more accommodating privately during actual negotiations. Just before Israeli elections, the U.S. government likely leaks evidence of his flexibility to harm Netanyahu. As a result, Netanyahu starts to lose right-wing voters to smaller parties, and the left-leaning major opposition party takes a lead in the polls, putting Netanyahu’s leadership in question, just as the U.S. wanted.
Whoever leaked the document was obviously no friend of Netanyahu, but they're also no friend of peace negotiations. They sacrificed whatever progress had been made in the hope that right-wing voters would move further right. That might have hurt Netanyahu, but in the event he moved further right himself - at least rhetorically - and evidently managed to rescue those votes. So from the perspective of a left-wing voter, we probably have the worst of both worlds: a Netanyahu government that has publicly disavowed earlier negotiations, and has even less reason to trust the US-sponsored negotiators.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:05 PM on March 23, 2015


It is a tiny bit cynical. Sure, Netanyahu stopped clapping so Tinkerbell died, but the truth of it is faries don't exist and neither did the peace process.
posted by Artw at 6:14 PM on March 23, 2015


He also has no evidence whatsoever that the leak came from the Obama administration, it seems. His argument is based on the fantasy that it did, and if untrue is an awful smear. It is far more likely that the leak either came from someone in Netanyahu's own envoy who actually believed in a two-state solution and wanted to make some progress on it or someone on Israel's far-right trying to pilfer Likud votes. The notion that Netanyahu moved further right on a solution at the end of his campaign is also false; the current state of occupation has pretty clearly been his position all along:

Can Netanyahu be trusted? - Here is what the Israeli premier and his officials said - you decide.
“To subdivide this land into two unstable, insecure nations, to try to defend what is indefensible, is to invite disaster. Carving Judea and Samaria out of Israel means carving up Israel.” —Benjamin Netanyahu, A Place Among the Nations, 1993
posted by Golden Eternity at 7:38 PM on March 23, 2015


"But give us money anyway."
posted by Artw at 8:51 PM on March 23, 2015


It is far more likely that the leak either came from someone in Netanyahu's own envoy who actually believed in a two-state solution and wanted to make some progress on it or someone on Israel's far-right trying to pilfer Likud votes.

You really have to ask: why wouldn't the White House do this? Obama's administration is notorious for using leaks to control debates. This has become especially obvious with respect to Israel and Netanyahu: remember the "chickenshit" incident? So they have form here; it's not some wild accusation.

As for the leak's source, it certainly didn't come from anyone who wanted Netanyahu to win. The leaked document is in English and appears to be either an actual offer document or a proposal for one. The people who would have had a copy are Netanyahu and (presumably) his closest staff; the White House; and possibly whoever Netanyahu's envoy was talking to. I say "possibly" because according to the report the negotiations had not reached a stage where they would be exchanging written proposals.

So yes, it's possible that someone very very close to Netanyahu wanted to stab him in the back (and incidentally harm their own political career), but surely it's more likely that it came from the White House? Obama loathes Netanyahu with a passion and the White House was pulling out all stops in an effort to have Netanyahu defeated, including funding anti-Likud PACs. They might have even considered it to be a quid-pro-quo for Netanyahu's speech to Congress.
posted by Joe in Australia at 9:08 PM on March 23, 2015


Obama's administration is notorious for using leaks to control debates

Actually, Obama's administration is notorious for waging a war on leaks. No doubt they occasionally leak things to steer a story, but it's simply inventing stuff out of whole cloth to suggest that they are somehow "notorious" for this practice in comparison to previous administrations or in comparison to the administrations of other nations.

You're starting from the conclusion you prefer and inventing the evidence to fit that conclusion.
posted by yoink at 9:14 PM on March 23, 2015


Oh, I just noticed: one paragraph says
3 Jerusalem
[...]
a. The issues relating to Jerusalem are perhaps the most complicated and sensitive of all those under discussion between them.
[my emphasis]
It's written in the third person, so this is not something prepared by or for any envoys; it's in English, so it wasn't prepared for the Israelis; the author needed to explain that Jerusalem is "complicated and sensitive", so it wasn't even prepared for someone taking part in the negotiations.

Who does that leave? I think it can only be one person: the President of the USA.
posted by Joe in Australia at 9:23 PM on March 23, 2015


Actually, Obama's administration is notorious for waging a war on leaks.

They're notorious on seeking to control leaks from other sources. The use of their own leaks is entirely consistent with their desire to control the debate.

Do a Google search for "senior Obama official" OR "senior Obama administration official" OR "senior White House official". When I do it, I get a whole lot of unnamed statements giving the White House's position (i.e., "Netanyahu is chickenshit") in a deniable way.
posted by Joe in Australia at 9:35 PM on March 23, 2015




Israel Spied on Iran Talks

I think it can only be one person: the President of the USA.

This is pure fantasy. The leak almost certainly did not come from the White House. Why? Because Obama really does want to see a peace agreement, and he would never sabotage the negotiation process the way Netanyahu and the GOP are sabotaging a peaceful nuclear agreement with Iran, which by the way includes Israel spying on the US, stealing US secrets, and leaking them to the GOP and who knows who else. You are confusing Obama's disappointment with Netanyahu's lack of interest in solving these problems peacefully with personal "loathing." The documents are in English because they were being shared with the US and the Palestinians. It is not just Netanyahu's personal entourage that would have the documents, but probably the Palestinians (as well as the Israeli intelligence agencies, apparently). Almost certainly the documents were leaked by the Israeli Right-wing to activate their base and help Bennett in the election as suggested in the original articles. There are no accusations in any of the original articles (that I've seen) that the White House leaked the information. Only now, this idea is proposed as yet another attempt defame Obama and deflect from Netanyahu's promise to prevent the creation of any Palestinian state. The idea that this information would be leaked even by the Israeli left seems pretty far-fetched, thinking about it more. It can only hurt a future deal by creating even more distrust. We should be looking at those parties who are opposed to the peace process as the source of the leak.
posted by Golden Eternity at 10:34 PM on March 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


That article is written by Philip Giraldi, the "executive director" (and perhaps sole employee) of what is literally an anti-Israel lobby group, the Council for the National Interest. Their website is here, if you care to take a look. I think people would object if a pro-Israel lobby group gave itself such an anodyne name; the same standard ought be expected of the other side.

The article itself is what one might expect from the CNI: pick a group of implicitly pro-Israel people and place them in a conspiracy. He doesn't actually make an argument, other than characterising their views as "incessant warfare combined with obeisance to pro-Israel policies". It's a classic anti-Semitic dog-whistle.
posted by Joe in Australia at 10:42 PM on March 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


"The leak almost certainly did not come from the White House. Why? Because Obama really does want to see a peace agreement, and he would never sabotage the negotiation process [...]"

The document comes from a failed "alternative" strand of the peace talks in 2013. The proposals were already rejected by Abbas. The document is not part of any current or contemplated talks; its only value is historic; its release could not possibly sabotage any negotiation process. It could, however, embarrass Netanyahu and might have led to his defeat. I suppose Obama might have hoped that a different Prime Minister would be easier to negotiate with? Especially if s/he owed Obama a debt.

As for Netanyahu "spying on the US" (which Israel denies, incidentally) and "leaking them to the GOP" ... I have difficulty keeping a straight face. Surely Israel has both the right and duty to acquaint itself with the progress of talks that may lead to Iran's acquisition of nuclear weapons. And surely members of the USA's legislature have the right and duty to familiarise themselves with the actions of their Executive. I am astonished that anyone (other than the Executive) would find this objectionable.
posted by Joe in Australia at 10:58 PM on March 23, 2015


In the US, the Congress does not have the right to spy on the executive branch to my knowledge. There are good reasons for this: they could use spying for political purposes or to sabotage foreign policy as we see here. The US was keeping Congress fully informed on the negotiations as appropriate, and was sharing it with Israel as well, apparently until Israel started leaking the information to prevent a deal.

I'm amazed that you believe politicians should have the right to take it upon themselves to spy on other parts of the government if they feel they are right in doing so. Why even have laws if that were the case?
posted by Golden Eternity at 11:25 PM on March 23, 2015


I'm amazed that you believe politicians should have the right to take it upon themselves to spy on other parts of the government [...]

I'm not persuaded that they don't. Congress has the right to investigate the actions and officers of the Executive; that seems to imply that members of Congress can mount preliminary investigations, or else that power would be stymied. Also, since Congresspeople have privilege from arrest in connection with the legislative process, I suppose that no laws can prohibit them (or their aides) from "spying" if they're conducting research that's relevant to the legislative process - e.g., discovering details of a proposed treaty upon which they will be expected to vote. See: Gravel v. United States.

The point is moot in this case, though: the allegation is that Israel was doing the spying, although Israel points out that the USA was sharing the information with other allies, and says that some of those allies were less taciturn. Be that as it may, I really don't think any law can or should stop a member of Congress from receiving information.
posted by Joe in Australia at 12:18 AM on March 24, 2015


If it is classified information, and the person receiving it does not have clearance, I would think one not only should refuse to receive it, but should report the information stolen. Suppose someone offered you a friend's or an employer's bank acct info and pin, etc...

Israel's Steinitz says world powers, Iran likely to agree to bad nuclear deal
"we are against a deal in general"
Hmm. Seeing as Iran is more likely to get a nuclear weapon without a deal than with one, is it normalized intl relations for Iran that Israel is more concerned about than nukes?
posted by Golden Eternity at 12:28 AM on March 24, 2015


If it is classified information, and the person receiving it does not have clearance, I would think one not only should refuse to receive it, but should report the information stolen. Suppose someone offered you a friend's or an employer's bank acct info and pin, etc...

I don't think that your analogy is relevant, particularly since the recipient in this case may have a duty to receive the information. Gravel v United States was one of the cases that came out of the Pentagon papers, which revealed the US's true goals and actions in Vietnam. Daniel Ellsberg leaked them to the New York Times, and Senator Mike Gravel subsequently received a copy and attempted to read them into the Congressional Record. The US Supreme Court found that he had a right to do so; various courts also found that newspapers had a right to reprint those papers. The man who tried to restrain their publication is not well regarded today.

Seeing as Iran is more likely to get a nuclear weapon without a deal than with one [...]

Israel apparently doesn't think that's the case; nor do Iran's neighbours. I suppose they believe the sanctions which brought Iran to the negotiating table are more likely to be effective than yet another piece of paper signed by an Iranian delegate.
posted by Joe in Australia at 1:38 AM on March 24, 2015


This page has videos of both Netanyahu's much-maligned remarks about Arab voters being bused out by V15, and his apology. It seemed to be received well, but I don't know the identity of the people in the video:

Watch: Reaction To Bibi’s Apology To Arab Citizens For Election-Day Remarks
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:04 AM on March 24, 2015


The elephant in the room, of course, is that the Israeli government can't be trusted to act in Good-Faith. So, I wonder why anyone pretends otherwise.

The Israeli government has failed to establish domestic tranquility and ensure the general welfare. The Herzellian Zionism experiment has failed. Period. It should surprise no-one that the Israeli government's biggest fear is EVERYONE voting, and when your so-called-democracy can't obtain consent of the governed, the problem is not with the people casting ballots.

Israel must, if they want to be taken seriously, end their rogue nation acts. Fully disclose their arsenal of strategic intercontinental nuclear missiles and tactical warheads which threaten other nations and the world's stability, joining the NPT, and allowing full access to UN inspection teams.

Once they PROVE THEIR GOOD FAITH, then we can talk. But all this talk like the Israeli Government can be trusted isn't anti-semitism. It's a proven fact.
posted by mikelieman at 3:55 AM on March 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


Daniel Ellsberg wasn't representing a foreign power, and Senator Gravel did not attempt to conceal the existence of the leak (or use it to covertly undermine the State Department).

In this case, a group of legislators learned that a foreign power had access to classified information, and apparently made a deliberate decision to not disclose the existence, source, or content of the leak. Furthermore, these actions were seemingly made with the deliberate goal of secretly undermining the activities of the State Department.

Regardless of what you think of Israel, this is completely appalling if true. There's a huge gap between responsible disclosure and collaborating with foreign spies.
posted by schmod at 12:42 PM on March 24, 2015 [3 favorites]


It's not actually clear that the information came from spies: the USA was initially sharing information with Israel and other countries, and subsequently continued to share it with those other countries. It may or not be true that Israel got the information from France, but I think that's what was implied.

In any event, sure, you will find different circumstances in different cases, and they may or may not be relevant. The case law seems pretty clear, though: members of the US Legislature have a Constitutional right to act within the scope of their duties, and this includes receiving, handling, and (potentially) releasing classified information - even if that information is classified, even if its release may be damaging to the country, even if it's protected by executive privilege.

Incidentally, you know how the USA reportedly discovered that Israel was spying on them?
The US also conducts intelligence operations against Israel, and learned of the Israeli spying operation when it intercepted communication between Israeli officials exchanging classified information that US intelligence believed could only have been acquired by espionage.
Oh dear. The USA spies on Israel. Bring me the smelling salts.

The reports on these allegations have the usual obfuscations: they're ascribed to "senior administration officials" and "a senior US official" who "leaked" them from the White House. But everybody knows that these are deliberate placements made for the purpose of controlling the debate. I wish US newspapers would have the guts to refuse these propaganda placements, but there's no hope of that happening any time soon: the prospect of receiving "inside" information has seduced many good journalists away from their role.

Finally: I think it's hilarious that the US shares information about its talks with Russia, and only clamps down on its communications with Israel when it fears that the information may be leaked to Congress. Obama knows who his real enemies are.
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:31 PM on March 24, 2015


Saudi FM echoes Israeli, French concerns over Iran nuclear talks
Speaking at a conference with Britain's foreign secretary, Saudi top diplomat also suggests Riyadh may involve itself in Yemen if Iranian proxies do not cede power to the government.
posted by Joe in Australia at 7:13 PM on March 24, 2015








Saudi Arabia building up military near Yemen border - U.S. officials
U.S. officials said on Saturday that the United States had evacuated all its remaining personnel in Yemen, including about 100 special operations forces, because of the security situation. The end of a U.S. security presence inside the country has dealt a blow to Washington's ability to monitor and fight al Qaeda's Yemen affiliate.

The Houthis have denied taking material and financial support from Tehran. But last year Yemeni, Western and Iranian sources gave Reuters details of Iranian military and financial support to the Houthis before and after their takeover of Sanaa last year.

However, U.S. officials have said that Iranian backing for the Houthi rebels has been largely limited to funding. They say Iran has its hands full providing armed assistance to its allies in Syria and Iraq.
What an amazing mish-mash of perceived interests. The USA, which presently considers al-Qaeda to be its enemy, has been forced out of Yemen by Iran-backed forces that are trying to topple a Sunni leader opposed to al-Qaeda. In Syria, however, the USA is all but taking direction from an Iranian-supported army attacking ISIS forces. Simultaneously, the USA has been supporting other Syrian rebels, including ones that are more-or-less members of al-Qaeda: more when it's convenient, less when it isn't. So where do the US's interests actually lie?
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:06 PM on March 25, 2015


Golden Eternity: Here's a link to the 1987 report, which was actually released last month. Hilariously, the report covers Israel, but also West Germany, Italy, France, and "other NATO countries".

Guess whether any other sections were released?
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:11 PM on March 25, 2015


@sharifkouddous: "Saudi Arabia launches airstrikes on Yemen '@BShtwtr: #Sanaa under fire #Now #Yemen 'Saudi Arabia launches airstrikes on Yemen “@BShtwtr: #Sanaa under fire #Now #Yemen'"
posted by Golden Eternity at 5:41 PM on March 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


Well, that escalated quickly.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:49 PM on March 25, 2015


Here's a legit link:

@RichardEngel: "US officials confirm to @NBCNews that Saudi Arabia has started bombing rebel positions inside #Yemen. NO indication of troops crossing in"
posted by Golden Eternity at 5:54 PM on March 25, 2015


@JFXM: "White House says Obama has authorised 'logistical and intelligence support' to coalition against Houthis in #Yemen."
posted by Golden Eternity at 7:12 PM on March 25, 2015


I'm authorising logistical and intelligence support too!
posted by Joe in Australia at 8:17 PM on March 25, 2015


Jen Psaki is leaving her role as White House spokesperson today. Here's a transcript of her final Q&A session from the State Department. It's ... a bit painful:
QUESTION: So how does the State Department assess this? The army in Iraq falls apart, then Mosul; the army in Yemen, after all this training and so on, falls apart; all these agreements that in many ways were under the auspices of the Americans and so on. How do you interpret that?
[...]
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, one, you’re making a sweeping statement here, Said, which is not applicable to all those countries you mention. There’s no question that --

QUESTION: I only mentioned two --

MS. PSAKI: Well, okay.

QUESTION: -- Iraq and Yemen.

MS. PSAKI: It’s not applicable to both countries you mentioned. I would say the Government of Iraq is continuing to move forward on not just important reforms, but on steps to – on inclusivity steps, on steps to bring in unregulated militia. That – I wouldn’t put them – I would definitely not put them in anywhere near the same category.
[...]
QUESTION: Thank you. Is Yemen still a model for counterterrorism operations for the United States?
[...]
QUESTION: What is the measure of counterterrorism success, then? Is it not to have less of a threat than before? Are you willing to say at this point Yemen is less of a terrorism threat than it was, I don’t know, a few years ago?
I feel sorry for Ms Psaki, but at some point you really do have to admit that things have not been going well for the USA's presence in the Middle East.
posted by Joe in Australia at 8:34 PM on March 25, 2015


It's ridiculous how everything and anything that goes wrong in the Middle East is blamed on Obama. If Dubya only got half the ridicule... More than anything, the Obama admin has pulled back from the Middle East. There was an article a while back pointing out that the US has zero good allies there. Well, maybe some of the Kurdish organizations and Israel to some extent. Without authentic allies, it is really hard to play a big roll. Maybe failing to see this is one of the bigger blunders the neocons.

UK says failure to reach Iran nuclear deal could lead to Middle East arms race

Why Do Americans Hate Negotiating With Their Enemies?

The USA, which presently considers al-Qaeda to be its enemy, has been forced out of Yemen by Iran-backed forces that are trying to topple a Sunni leader opposed to al-Qaeda. In Syria, however, the USA is all but taking direction from an Iranian-supported army attacking ISIS forces. Simultaneously, the USA has been supporting other Syrian rebels, including ones that are more-or-less members of al-Qaeda

How much was the US in Yemen? They cooperated some on counter-terrorism. Other than that? Seems like a little much to say the US was "forced out" when it was never really there. I don't know what you're talking about in Syria, the vast majority of US involvement has been to support the Kurds around Kobane and Cizire cantons, and has been fairly successful. Most of the pro-Israelis and neocons I read have been screaming since day one for the USA to be arming the "moderate" rebels and blaming Obama for failing to do so. It is quite amazing to see you saying the opposite. If anything, it is Israel that has been directly cooperating with al-Qaeda near the Golan Heights, and probably elsewhere in Syria as they consider Hezbollah and Assad to be a greater threat.

I tend to agree that one can't label Obama as a historic success with the Middle East and Russia being as unsettled as they are, but i have yet to hear any coherent argument of what he should have done differently. It comes down to a sort of American narcissism, where anything that goes wrong in the world is blamed on the US, and specifically Obama. A lot of these problems don't really have that much to do with the US it seems to me. Obviously the US has to take a lot of blame for what Iraqis have been through, though. Russia, Iran, and Turkey should get the majority of blame for Syria it seems to me.
posted by Golden Eternity at 9:11 PM on March 25, 2015


@abubakrabdullah: "Clear distinction in reaction to air strikes in Yemen, Sanaa angry, scared (whether pro Houthi or anti), many in South happy"
posted by Golden Eternity at 10:25 PM on March 25, 2015


Just wait until the troops come in! I can see it now, the celebratory parades, the cheers of the crowd, the girls running up to present the soldiers with flowers...
posted by Joe in Australia at 10:59 PM on March 25, 2015


It's ridiculous how everything and anything that goes wrong in the Middle East is blamed on Obama. If Dubya only got half the ridicule...

Oh, there's plenty of ridicule for Dubya, too! He's the one who got the USA into this mess; I only blame Obama for thinking that he could finesse the situation into an overall win. Obama's supporters were pumping his strategic wisdom from the very start; I think it's fair to criticise him for the failure of those strategies.

How much was the US in Yemen? They cooperated some on counter-terrorism. Other than that? Seems like a little much to say the US was "forced out" when it was never really there.

I don't think the size of the US force there has been publicised, but they did have a drone operation there that they had to abandon in a hurry, together with the US embassy. One of the things Psaki says is that she can't confirm whether US drones or planes were captured. Here's are some pictures of al-Anad air base in Lahij, which I presume is the site they're talking about.

If anything, it is Israel that has been directly cooperating with al-Qaeda near the Golan Heights, and probably elsewhere in Syria as they consider Hezbollah and Assad to be a greater threat.

The US was arming the very same people, at least previously. But yes, it's a really complicated situation. I don't think Israel is assisting people who are explicitly part of al-Qaeda for a few reasons, not least among which is that al-Qaeda could not afford to be seen cooperating with Israel.
posted by Joe in Australia at 1:02 AM on March 26, 2015


Israel lends al-Nusra a hand in Syria

You also see rumors of Israel treating large numbers of al-Qaeda wounded and releasing them back into battle. Nusra is al-Qaeda, and there is little difference between them an Daesh.
posted by Golden Eternity at 6:50 AM on March 26, 2015 [1 favorite]




(Oops, apparently that picture is from last Friday.)
posted by Golden Eternity at 7:04 AM on March 26, 2015




Oh, there's plenty of ridicule for Dubya, too! He's the one who got the USA into this mess; I only blame Obama for thinking that he could finesse the situation into an overall win.

So... you're saying that there's no way Obama could've "won", so you're blaming him for... not "winning"? Not being arch, here, I just don't know how to parse what you're saying in a way that makes sense.
posted by verb at 7:24 AM on March 26, 2015


It's hilarious. Highly respected neocon ME experts snark and blame Obama for everything that happens there. Just idiotic. Here's just one example from today:

@michaeldweiss: "Try to keep up: the friend of our enemy is getting pounded by our friend in one place even as we help the enemy of our enemy in another."

I guess this is what they really want?

To Stop Iran’s Bomb, Bomb Iran - John Bolton (probably our future Secretary of State under President Scott Walker)
posted by Golden Eternity at 7:44 AM on March 26, 2015 [2 favorites]






What We Get Wrong About Yemen - Foreign intervention in a local fight would be the worst course anyone could take

That article probably overtaken by events while it was actually being published; I think it's interesting that Politico didn't know that. There's a new FPP on Yemen where this stuff should probably go from now on.
posted by Joe in Australia at 9:04 PM on March 26, 2015




Apparently Iran doesn't want the talks to arrive at a written document:
In Nuclear Talks, Iran Seeks to Avoid Specifics
If an agreement to limit Iran’s nuclear capability is reached by deadline in the next seven days, one thing may be missing: an actual written accord, signed by the Iranians.
posted by Joe in Australia at 10:17 PM on March 26, 2015


Good. Iran should take a hard-line stance until Israel demonstrates good faith and discloses their stockpile of nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles to deliver them worldwide, joins the NPT and allows full access to UN inspection teams. While Israel gets a pass on their Nukes why should anyone limit their capabilities?
posted by mikelieman at 12:00 AM on March 27, 2015


Because the likelihood of Iran actually using them is rather higher, and it's ridiculous that you keep pretending like there's no difference. Yes, Israel must open its doors to the IAEA.That has exactly nothing to do with whether Iran, or indeed any nation not already in possession, should be permitted to develop world destroying weaponry.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:20 AM on March 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


Plenary Session - Does Liberal Zionism Have a Future?

Peter Beinart's opening comments are quite good.
posted by Golden Eternity at 6:25 AM on March 27, 2015


Egyptian drops lawsuit to declare Hamas 'terrorist group'
Following Sabry’s withdrawal, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri welcomed the move on his official Facebook account.

“This is an important development…that preserves the Egyptian’s national role towards the Palestinian cause,” Abu Zuhri said.
posted by Golden Eternity at 6:31 AM on March 27, 2015




Breaking News: Israel Releasing Impounded Palestinian Tax Revenue

Speculation: there well be renewed (but probably bogus) peace negotiations lead by Egypt.
posted by Golden Eternity at 8:01 AM on March 27, 2015




France Seeks U.N. Security Council Resolution on Mideast Talks
UNITED NATIONS — France signaled on Friday that it would press the Security Council to adopt a resolution soon to spur talks between Israel and the Palestinians, a step that the United States resisted last year.
posted by Golden Eternity at 12:35 PM on March 27, 2015




Pro-Hassan Rouhani Iranian editor defects while covering nuclear talks in Lausanne
Amir Hossein Motaghi says he no longer sees any “sense” in his profession as he could only write as he was told

“The US negotiating team are mainly there to speak on Iran’s behalf with other members of the 5+1 countries and convince them of a deal,” he said.
posted by Golden Eternity at 4:11 PM on March 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


The Washington Post: The United States should recognize the state of Palestine
But with Netanyahu standing in its way, how can the United States advance this goal?

By recognizing the state of Palestine.

This is not about punishing Israel; it’s about protecting U.S. national security. Recognizing Palestine would, by helping the two-state cause, address a key source of resentment toward the United States, making it easier for American policymakers to pursue other priorities in the Middle East, such as preventing an Iranian nuclear weapon, defeating the Islamic State and strengthening regional security partnerships. It would ease dealings with governments in Turkey, Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, which often agree with Israel’s regional strategy but revile its treatment of Palestinians. It would signal to the Israelis — and their neighbors — that the United States will act in its own interests, even when those interests conflict with a close ally’s views. And it would strengthen the Jewish homeland’s security (a long-standing U.S. national interest), as many in Israel’s security establishment understand.
posted by Golden Eternity at 9:33 PM on March 28, 2015


Recognizing Palestine would, by helping the two-state cause, address a key source of resentment toward the United States [...]

As would taking US troops out of the Arabian peninsula. That's definitely a key source of resentment: Osama bin Laden referred to it repeatedly. It's also something that the USA could do very easily, all by itself; it would even save money and US lives. I don't know why, but for some reason US leaders seem reluctant to even consider it.
posted by Joe in Australia at 12:08 AM on March 29, 2015 [3 favorites]




Which more or less guarantees the USA won't sign on to it. Prove me wrong, Obama!
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:44 AM on March 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


Why couldn't we compromise on a Palestinian state with its capital in Sevastopol?
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:38 PM on March 29, 2015 [1 favorite]








Kidnap Obama, 'Extradite the Bastard': A British Politician Urged Israel to Lock Up the US President
"Once Obama is out of office, the Israelis should move to extradite the bastard or 'do an Eichmann' on him"
posted by Golden Eternity at 11:21 AM on March 31, 2015


I think that may actually be funnier than The Onion story!
posted by rosswald at 12:11 PM on March 31, 2015


Iran talks extended at least one day amid tough bargaining
“If we are making progress toward the finish line then we should keep going,” Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters at the White House. “But ultimately this is something we have been talking about for more than a year now, and it’s time for Iran to make the serious commitments that they know the international community is expecting them to make.”

Without those pledges from Iran, the U.S. and its five negotiating partners will have to consider “other alternatives,” Earnest said.
posted by Golden Eternity at 1:36 PM on March 31, 2015


@NegarMortazavi: "Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov says Zarif and Mogherini will announce agreement.

Na Zdorovie! 🍺"
posted by Golden Eternity at 5:38 PM on March 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


Republicans warn world that Obama U.N. plan could be undone
The Obama administration's plan for U.N. climate change talks encountered swift opposition after its release Tuesday, with Republican leaders warning other countries to "proceed with caution" in negotiations with Washington because any deal could be later undone.

The White House is seeking to enshrine its pledge in a global climate agreement to be negotiated Nov. 30 to Dec. 11 in Paris. It calls for cutting greenhouse gas emissions by close to 28 percent from 2005 levels within a decade, using a host of existing laws and executive actions targeting power plants, vehicles, oil and gas production and buildings.

But Republican critics say the administration lacks the political and legal backing to commit the United States to an international agreement.

"Considering that two-thirds of the U.S. federal government hasn't even signed off on the Clean Power Plan and 13 states have already pledged to fight it, our international partners should proceed with caution before entering into a binding, unattainable deal,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said.
So this is apparently the new Republican foreign policy strategy: don't make any deals with America, world, because the GOP faction is dangerously unreliable and will work hard to break our word as soon as possible!
posted by Rhaomi at 7:48 PM on March 31, 2015 [5 favorites]




Israel's defense minister: Lausanne talks on Iran won't go anywhere
"Certainly there will be a statement, perhaps a signed paper, but this document will only be a statement of intentions — an attempt to conclude this round somehow, without a total breakdown, but also without the parties being fully satisfied,” he said. “Looking at the agreement overall — it’s a bad deal for the West. Iran should not be left with any self-enrichment capacity.”
posted by Golden Eternity at 9:23 AM on April 1, 2015


@Joyce_Karam "White House: No Tangible Commitments from #Iran. Prepared to walk away if no deal."/
posted by Golden Eternity at 10:22 AM on April 1, 2015


I think we should still be addressing Israel's self-enrichment capacity.
posted by mikelieman at 1:17 PM on April 1, 2015


US negotiators insist that it is negotiable:(*)

Iran militia chief: Destroying Israel is ‘nonnegotiable’

(*) Not really.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:11 PM on April 1, 2015


@ksadjadpour: "John Kerry won't take no for an answer. Ayatollah Khamenei won't take yes for an answer. #IranTalks purgatory"
posted by Golden Eternity at 7:53 PM on April 1, 2015


Diplomacy at Its Worst - Kristof (2007)
In May 2003, Iran sent a secret proposal to the U.S. for settling our mutual disputes in a “grand bargain.” It is an astonishing document, for it tries to address a range of U.S. concerns about nuclear weapons, terrorism and Iraq. I’ve placed it and related documents (including multiple drafts of it) on my blog, www.nytimes.com/ontheground.

Hard-liners in the Bush administration killed discussions of a deal, and interviews with key players suggest that was an appalling mistake. There was a real hope for peace; now there is a real danger of war.

[...]

In the master document, Iran talks about ensuring “full transparency” and other measures to assure the U.S. that it will not develop nuclear weapons. Iran offers “active Iranian support for Iraqi stabilization.” Iran also contemplates an end to “any material support to Palestinian opposition groups” while pressuring Hamas “to stop violent actions against civilians within” Israel (though not the occupied territories). Iran would support the transition of Hezbollah to be a “mere political organization within Lebanon” and endorse the Saudi initiative calling for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Iran also demanded a lot, including “mutual respect,” abolition of sanctions, access to peaceful nuclear technology and a U.S. statement that Iran did not belong in the “axis of evil.”
posted by Golden Eternity at 9:29 PM on April 1, 2015


Iran militia chief: Destroying Israel is ‘nonnegotiable’

That article seems a bit sketchy. The reporter puts the phrase “erasing Israel off the map” together with "nonnegotiable" and never gives the full context, but only refers to an Israeli Radio report. It could be accurate, but it could also be a essential fabrication. Given the current state of hyperbole applied to the situation by the Israeli government along with the ever-present hyperbole on the part of Iran's militia, I take it with a grain of salt.
posted by Mental Wimp at 4:58 AM on April 2, 2015






Reuters: Iran, world powers reach initial deal on reining in Tehran's nuclear program - "The tentative agreement clears the way for talks on a future comprehensive settlement that should allay Western fears that Iran was seeking to build an atomic bomb and in return lift economic sanctions on the Islamic Republic."

The Times of Israel: Full text of Iran nuke deal parameters, as set out by State Department
posted by the man of twists and turns at 1:42 PM on April 2, 2015


@aaronstein1:
wow: "Inspectors will have continuous surveillance of Iran’s centrifuge rotors and bellows production and storage facilities for 20 years"

Ballistic missile issue indirectly addressed through new UNSC resolution that will be adopted. They got it in.

Yes! RT @GaukharM: So, deal gets from Iran what the Shah refused - indefinite commitment to no reprocessing whatsoever? #IranTalks

The IR-40 core is being dismantled and trashed and Iran foreswears reprocessing. Excellent.

Im shocked they get the supply chain in there.

Access to uranium mines and supply chain. Wow. Great deal. Through-put and centrifuge issues handled.

No fissile material at fordow. Excellent

Kudos to the P5+1 - very comprehensive and detailed. This addresses the major issues. Im impressed
@ArmsControlWonk:
Filed my @ForeignPolicy column. Shorter me: Framework looks very sound. Writing it down will be tough. Sanctions relief still looks tricky.
Skeptic’s Guide to the Iran Nuclear Deal
The mostly


Proposed accord far tougher on Iran than expected, nuclear experts say

@FitzpatrickIISS:
There's plenty to dislike in the #Iran framework deal -- and I know who will be telling us so. But there is much more to like.

A sharp critic of #Iran and skeptic of the talks told me after the announcement that it seemed to be heavily tilted in favour of the West.
posted by Golden Eternity at 9:43 PM on April 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


"A sharp critic of #Iran and skeptic of the talks told me after the announcement that it seemed to be heavily tilted in favour of the West."

Shades of "the lurkers support me in email" :-)

Seriously, I think the fundamental problem is twofold: (a) the world has no more patience for sanctions; and (b) Iran can't be trusted. It doesn't matter what the compliance regime is: Iran is a totalitarian regime that has lied and lied and lied about its nuclear program. If Iran continues to evade its responsibilities then past experience shows that the process of determining its deceptions takes years; the process of reaching an accord between other nations takes years; and at the end of it, the sanctions fall apart anyway. It's basically a Catch-22: if we could trust Iran we wouldn't have needed this process; if we can't trust Iran the process is useless.

Iran has reportedly walked back the White House's "fact sheet" - Fars News times out for me right now so I can't confirm that. But the important question is how the rest of the Middle East will react to this. My guess is that they won't be satisfied, and that they'll go nuclear sooner rather than later.
posted by Joe in Australia at 10:08 PM on April 2, 2015


Something like 70% of people in Iraq and other countries in the ME believe Daesh is the CIA. And there are people high up in the Iraqi government who insist the US is dropping supplies to Daesh. I think we should base our judgements on reality, not just what people are thinking in the ME.

As far as Iran not being trust worthy, as I understand it there are extreme measures for monitoring and verifying their compliance. "Trust but verify" as hero Reagan said in reference to a critically important agreement with an even less trustworthy foe. The process is not useless because if they break compliance they break the agreement, and sanctions or other consequences go back in place. This, it seems to me, is the key to the agreement, not how sanctions are phased out - which seems to be what Iran was complaining about in the fact sheet based on @JZarif's tweets. Pretty much the entire population of Iran is celebrating the agreement and will not want to see it broken. By supporting the agreement, we give power to the reformers and liberals in Iran. If we had bombed China's nuclear program, Maoists would probably still be in power there today.
posted by Golden Eternity at 10:59 PM on April 2, 2015 [4 favorites]




So, on one side we have nuclear policy and foreign policy experts apparently overwhelmingly weighing in as this being a flawed-but-still-good deal; and on the other we have know-nothings that are some combination of dead-enders who want Mess O'potamia III, idiots WHARRGARBLing about "Munich 1938," and Likudniks and Dominionists who have been lying about Iran for over two decades complaining about trustworthiness. Okay.
posted by zombieflanders at 6:33 AM on April 3, 2015 [3 favorites]


Steve Benen: Obama, Iran, and the unseen anger translator
posted by zombieflanders at 6:39 AM on April 3, 2015






From "The Iran Deal’s Fatal Flaw - Nothing can work without tough inspections and enforcement. And for that we must rely on … Vladimir Putin. (by Charles Duelfer, the mustachioed weapons inspector from Iraq)":
" UNSCOM and the IAEA after more than seven years of operations inside Iraq could not verify that Saddam had completely disarmed. "
I call bullshit. Regardless of what happened after Iraq, Scott Ritter was right about Iraq every step of the way.
posted by mikelieman at 8:28 AM on April 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


Top Bush Administration Official ‘Heartened’ By Iran Deal
"In terms of what it is we think we know, I have not yet found anything in the contract, so to speak, that I find disqualifying,” Hayden said. “It’s more than I thought we would demand, so in that sense I’m heartened.” He added, however, that “there is a lot here we don’t know yet.” Hayden raised concerns about what happens to Iran’s low enriched uranium stockpiles and whether inspectors will be able to have unannounced access to Iran’s facilities. Yet he also conceded that “there are no good alternatives” to a diplomatic solution to Iran’s disputed nuclear program. “I freely admit, plans B, C, D, and E aren’t all that attractive either and so that’s why you can probably sense Bill, I’m willing to give this thing some time. Let’s see if we can get it to the right place so it’s acceptable,” Hayden said.
posted by Golden Eternity at 8:46 AM on April 3, 2015




Even the liberal Bill O'Reilly:
You don’t want to be bombing that country because the unintended consequences will set the world aflame. So if you can get something that’s decent, you give it a shot. I think that’s a legitimate point...It’s a bad country. So the thing is, do you destroy the bad country? We could do that, but that would be a world war. Or do you deal with a bad country and try to make it better? And that’s the path that the president wants to take.
posted by zombieflanders at 9:15 AM on April 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


Seriously, I think the fundamental problem is twofold: (a) the world has no more patience for sanctions; and (b) Iran can't be trusted.

*sigh* Well, then I guess we just have to bomb them back to the Stone Age. *sigh*
posted by Mental Wimp at 9:46 AM on April 3, 2015


Former intelligence head: Israel mustn't reject Iran deal
Yadlin: If we had a prime minister who knew how to talk to the Americans and enjoyed the president’s trust, this would have been the time to jump on the band wagon and demand clarification of all the points that require clarification. There are still things that can be achieved in this agreement. At the same time, this is the time to reach understandings with the Americans, and perhaps even to reach a parallel Israeli-US agreement, providing Israel with clarifications, assurances and perhaps even defense compensation for the risks it is taking. We did things like that after the peace agreement with Egypt and at different points in time, too.
posted by Golden Eternity at 9:46 AM on April 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


At the same time, this is the time to reach understandings with the Americans, and perhaps even to reach a parallel Israeli-US agreement, providing Israel with clarifications, assurances and perhaps even defense compensation for the risks it is taking.

Yeah, that's what the incredibly delicate process needs, Israel angling for a cut.
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 11:18 AM on April 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


It is their security that is most at risk, they should play a bigger role. Netanyahu simply refuses to cooperate with any realistic negotiations.
posted by Golden Eternity at 11:26 AM on April 3, 2015 [2 favorites]




Something like 70% of people in Iraq and other countries in the ME believe Daesh is the CIA. And there are people high up in the Iraqi government who insist the US is dropping supplies to Daesh. I think we should base our judgements on reality, not just what people are thinking in the ME.

My point is that your judgment doesn't matter - and neither does mine. If Iran's neighbours believe that it has nuclear weapons or is seeking to acquire them then they will probably go nuclear themselves. It doesn't matter whether they're right or wrong.

They're probably right, though.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:36 AM on April 5, 2015


If Iran's neighbours believe that it has nuclear weapons or is seeking to acquire them then they will probably go nuclear themselves.

What puzzles me is the apparent belief that we'll know less about the state of Iran's nuclear weapons capability with a stringent inspection regime in place than we would without it. How is that supposed to make sense?

Think about it. Netanyahu is saying that the Iranians are masters at deception. That no matter what the terms of the inspection regime, they'll find a way to sneakily keep on with the uranium refinement and build their bombs--without us having any idea. OK, so, let's assume that we do things the way Netanyahu wants: bomb the shit out of Iran's nuclear plants. Yay! We just destroyed every part of Iran's nuclear capability that we know about. The world is safe for democracy once again. But...wait...hang on...wasn't Netanyahu's whole point that the Iranians are master-deceivers? That they can hide their nuclear programs even with inspectors given free access to poke around inside Iran's borders? So how is it, exactly, that we can know exactly what Iran is doing (and where to bomb it) when we don't have inspectors operating inside Iran, but when we do have inspectors there it becomes impossible?
posted by yoink at 7:25 AM on April 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


My point is that your judgment doesn't matter - and neither does mine

By "our" I was referring to the US and other governments making the actual decisions. They should base their judgements on reality, not what they think Saudi Arabia or whoever thinks.

If Iran's neighbours believe that it has nuclear weapons or is seeking to acquire them then they will probably go nuclear themselves.

They already do believe that Iran is seeking nuclear weapons and have for a long time. The purpose of the agreement is to make it extremely difficult if not impossible for Iran to get one. Something sanctions and computer viruses have completely failed at doing. It is clear that nuclear weapons are not what Iran's neighbors are most afraid of, but normalized international relations and its growing inluence in the region. Attaining nuclear weapons will not solve Saudi Arabia's problems; helping their Arab neighbors form stable productive societies will.
posted by Golden Eternity at 12:53 PM on April 5, 2015




Thomas Friedman has a well-deserved reputation for foolish pomposity accompanied by an utter lack of insight. Both of those are well displayed in that column, which reveals all his stylistic cliches: the folksy introductory anecdote, the humblebrag, the first-person revelations. The rest is literally a paid placement from the White House, and the NYT should be ashamed of lending its name to it.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:08 PM on April 5, 2015


and the NYT should be ashamed of lending its name to it.

Let's give it another six months.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 3:23 PM on April 5, 2015


It's the technique I deplore, not the substance. If Obama wants to get his views out he can call a briefing or even a national address; filtering it through a lapdog like Friedman means he doesn't want to get asked any hard questions. I suppose it's better than ascribing his views to "a senior administration official", though.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:23 PM on April 5, 2015


What puzzles me is the apparent belief that we'll know less about the state of Iran's nuclear weapons capability with a stringent inspection regime in place than we would without it. How is that supposed to make sense?

There's supposed to be a stringent inspection regime in place now, but Iran blocked it. Giving Iran a do-over means that they can spin out the inspection process even longer: a year or two to agree on a program, then a few months to arrange the inspections, then a halt to the protest while they complain about something, and so forth. This is what has been happening with the existing program, which was limited by the fact that Iran was operating under a sanctions regime that made it harder for them to import nuclear technology.

Once the sanctions are gone Iran will find it much easier to upgrade their technology. And if the inspectors produce a bad report, it will take them a year to produce it, another year to present it, and a year or so to argue about it; Iran will then agree to comply, but after a year or so it will be evident that it isn't complying; and so forth. It's the same dance that iran has been doing until now. And, ultimately the Security Council has to agree to a reimplementation of sanctions - and the SC is tired of sanctions; they're tired of the costs; they want cheaper oil; they want to go in and grab some of that sweet Iranian development money.

The Politico story linked above alleges that the sanctions against Saddam's regime were undermined by Russia, whose leading figures were being frankly bribed by Iraq. And as the article says, "the Russian ambassador to the UN during most of this period was Sergei Lavrov—now foreign minister and negotiating with the P-5 + 1 on the Iran deal." No wonder the sanctions regime was crumbling. As it happened, this worked against Saddam: the Allies' fear of losing control over Iraq's weapons program triggered the second Gulf War.

In fact, this time it's even worse: we're starting from a position of no sanctions, and we need Russia's acquiescence to reinstate them. How likely is it that they'll go along? How much more likely is it that they will side with Iran? Or to put it another way, will Putin be a good member of the international community, or will he choose a strategic friendship with a geographically and economically valuable ally? No question, really.
posted by Joe in Australia at 8:37 PM on April 5, 2015




Saudi Arabia welcomes Iran nuclear deal, seeks region free of WMD: statement

Noble goal, of course until the Israeli Government acts honestly and in good faith, all we're going to see is people worried about Israeli nuclear ballistic missiles launched by their submarines, and reasonably want a strategic threat to counter it.
posted by mikelieman at 8:17 AM on April 6, 2015






Pro-Israel groups are fanning an absurd conspiracy theory about Robert Menendez

I know literally nothing about the underlying case, and wouldn't have recognised Menendez's name if it were preceded by a marching band playing "Who's the senior senator from New Jersey?"

None the less.

It's not the first time that questions have been raised about well-timed prosecutions under the Obama administration (and earlier ones). We now know that US government agencies are able to perform undetectable surveillance of literally anybody's phone and data connections, and that their compliance with any safeguards is effectively voluntary. So the President has the ability to act like Nixon; we simply have to hope that he doesn't.

Yglesias has two arguments against the conspiracy theory:
  1. Any Republican senator would be far more hostile to Obama's agenda than Menendez [...]
  2. The indictment is pushing Menendez to the right on Israel [...]
He's totally missed the point of the article he was responding to. That article says that as a consequence of the indictment, Menendez has lost his power to obstruct Obama's agenda. It doesn't matter if Menendez is now more anti-Obama; it doesn't matter if he gets replaced by a Republican. Menendez is distracted and has lost the respect and committee positions that made him a threat to Obama; if he gets replaced, it's all the better: a replacement won't be anywhere near as powerful as his predecessor:
Once the ranking member of the Senate's powerful Foreign Relations Campaign, National Journal reported Wednesday that Menendez was stepping down temporarily in order to not be a distraction as he faces a lengthy legal battle. Menendez is accused of trading his power in Congress for lavish trips to beach resorts and Paris. The Department of Justice is alleging Menendez used his post to help Florida opthamologist Salmon Melgen secure visas for girlfriends and get out of a Medicare case where Melgen owed the federal government nearly $9 million.

Now, without his ranking member spot on foreign relations, Menendez's ability to influence legislation may be compromised just as the committee prepares to mark up an Iran sanctions bill that requires Congress to have a say in approving any nuclear deal. They also are debating a sanctions bill that would go into effect if the U.S. cannot work out a nuclear deal. Menendez also may be sidelined from discussions about the upcoming Authorization for Use of Military Force against ISIS, which the administration has requested.

And his reputation as a key GOP ally may be in flux. Republicans often looked to Menendez's harsh criticisms of the White House's foreign policy toward Cuba and Iran to increase their side's own validity. Now, it's unclear if Menendez will be someone they want on their side.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:55 PM on April 6, 2015




There's supposed to be a stringent inspection regime in place now, but Iran blocked it. Giving Iran a do-over means that they can spin out the inspection process even longer: a year or two to agree on a program, then a few months to arrange the inspections, then a halt to the protest while they complain about something, and so forth. This is what has been happening with the existing program, which was limited by the fact that Iran was operating under a sanctions regime that made it harder for them to import nuclear technology.

Once the sanctions are gone Iran will find it much easier to upgrade their technology. And if the inspectors produce a bad report, it will take them a year to produce it, another year to present it, and a year or so to argue about it; Iran will then agree to comply, but after a year or so it will be evident that it isn't complying; and so forth. It's the same dance that iran has been doing until now. And, ultimately the Security Council has to agree to a reimplementation of sanctions - and the SC is tired of sanctions; they're tired of the costs; they want cheaper oil; they want to go in and grab some of that sweet Iranian development money.


Wow. An attempt to rationalize that blatant self-contradiction looks just as bizarre as I would have thought. Thanks for proving my point.

The sanctions won't be lifted until there is an inspection regime in place, so the notion that they get a free boost to their program while we go on dickering over details of the inspection regime is a chimera.

At least you are tacitly admitting that the only alternative policy is a preemptive attack (sanctions by themselves, with no inspection regime in place, clearly cannot prevent Iran from developing a nuclear bomb--nobody with even the slightest shred of expertise in the area thinks they can). But you will also agree that for a preemptive attack to work it has to actually wipe out Iran's bomb program. It needs detailed and precise information. (Unless, of course, you're simply calling for Iran to be bombed out of existence?). You say that the inspectors will take "a year to produce a report" if Iran starts breaking the terms of the agreement--but A) that's demonstrably untrue (we've seen UN inspection teams respond far more promptly in the past) and B) even if it were true, so what?

The problem is that you're still stuck in this bizarre self-contradiction. You're saying, on the one hand, that Iran is completely transparent. That we currently know, with certainty, exactly what nuclear capacity it has, and we know exactly how to deliver precisely the right payload to cripple that project. But, somehow, once inspectors go in there it will become, incomprehensibly, so much harder for us to know what's going on. We'll find ourselves completely incapable of figuring out anything about Iran's nuclear ambitions or preparations and just waiting, stupidly, for the bureaucratic drones of the inspection agency to settle a three-month squabble over fonts before they issue their report.

This is, of course, ridiculous. With inspectors in there we will unquestionably have better intel about Iran's program than we do now. No doubt imperfect, but certainly better than without the inspectors being there. And I don't mean just "because we'll be able to read their official reports" but because that inspection process will inevitably be leaky to some degree or another. So the intelligence agencies of the US and Israel will have more knowledge with an inspection regime in place than without. They will therefore be in a better position, with an inspection regime in place, to determine that Iran really has decided to make a concerted push to produce a bomb and the mere fact that the treaty is in place does absolutely nothing to take military action off the table if either or both country's decide that it is the only action to take. If they should come to that decision (and God only knows I hope it never comes to that, because the consequences for both the US and Israel would likely be ghastly) they would also be in a position to make much more strategically sound decisions about targeting than they would otherwise if the inspectors had been in place than if they had not.
posted by yoink at 11:12 AM on April 7, 2015 [3 favorites]


Rouhani’s Bet on the Iran Deal
In a speech on Friday, Rouhani declared that the proposed nuclear deal with the United States and five other major powers marked the “first step” in reaching “the highest point of constructive interaction” with the world. Iranians should be prepared to embrace other steps, he said. “If we have any sort of tension with any nation, we want to put an end to such tension.”

... “Some think we should either fight with the world or surrender to other powers,” he said. “We believe there is a third option. We can cooperate with the world.”
posted by Golden Eternity at 11:22 AM on April 7, 2015




Washington walks back ‘near-zero’ Iran breakout time comment
Obama was referring to a scenario, 13-15 years hence, in which there was no nuclear deal, claims State Department
Iran news report: Tehran will start using fastest centrifuges on day deal takes effect
Iran will begin using its latest generation IR-8 centrifuges as soon as its nuclear deal with the world powers goes into effect, Iran’s foreign minister and nuclear chief told members of parliament on Tuesday, according to Iran’s semi-official FARS news agency.
posted by Joe in Australia at 8:03 PM on April 7, 2015




The ideas that define Benjamin Netanyahu
Jabotinsky's vision of Zionism, born partly out of experience with Russian pogroms, took as its premise that Jewish life was inherently precarious. Several years before the Holocaust, he was begging Jews to get out of Europe before calamity struck.

"You can’t understand [Jabotinsky’s] thinking on the Arab-Zionist conflict, his maximalism, without understanding his role as the lone Jewish voice for emergency rescue," Yossi Klein Halevi, a fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute

...the fact is Netanyahu is very much a product of Jabotinsky's tradition — and without understanding that, you can't understand why he's so skeptical of a negotiated solution to the conflict with Palestinians.

Netanyahu's relationship with Jabotinsky isn't just ideological. The prime minister's father, Benzion Netanyahu, was one of Jabotinsky's personal deputies. In 1940, Jabotinsky sent Netanyahu to the United States to lobby for the creation of a Jewish state. And Benzion's influence on his son goes well beyond that.
The Iron Wall - We and the Arabs (1923)
by Vladimir Jabotinsky
All this does not mean that any kind of agreement is impossible, only a voluntary agreement is impossible. As long as there is a spark of hope that they can get rid of us, they will not sell these hopes, not for any kind of sweet words or tasty morsels, because they are not a rabble but a nation, perhaps somewhat tattered, but still living. A living people makes such enormous concessions on such fateful questions only when there is no hope left. Only when not a single breach is visible in the iron wall, only then do extreme groups lose their sway, and influence transfers to moderate groups. Only then would these moderate groups come to us with proposals for mutual concessions. And only then will moderates offer suggestions for compromise on practical questions like a guarantee against expulsion, or equality and national autonomy.

I am optimistic that they will indeed be granted satisfactory assurances and that both peoples, like good neighbors, can then live in peace. But the only path to such an agreement is the iron wall, that is to say the strengthening in Palestine of a government without any kind of Arab influence, that is to say one against which the Arabs will fight. In other words, for us the only path to an agreement in the future is an absolute refusal of any attempts at an agreement now.
posted by Golden Eternity at 10:11 AM on April 8, 2015 [2 favorites]




Cheney:
“I think his actions are constituted in my mind those of the worst President we’ve ever had,” the former vice president added.
Wow, he's really hard on G W Bush!
posted by Mental Wimp at 11:02 AM on April 8, 2015


Cheney sounds a bit incoherent in that excerpt. It's a shame [...]


In further news, Iran rules out inspection for military sites
Defense Minister Hossein Dehgan says presence of IAEA monitors at military centers is ‘a red line’ for the Islamic Republic
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:39 PM on April 8, 2015


That Vox article is ok, but I would very much hope it's for a different audience than those who put themselves forward in this thread as having some knowledge of Israel and Zionism. If you didn't already know about Revisionist Zionism, Jabotinsky, and the Irgun, you really have no business commenting on the present state of Israel in anything but the most cursory manner. These things are foundational for understanding not just the present conflicts, but the entire political mindset of Israel. Sure, it's possible to say a bunch of facile stuff about the region without understanding the history of Zionism and the British Mandate, but those kinds of comments are, by their nature, basically useless.

One gets the sense that people in the current thread about Jews in Europe have never heard of the Dreyfus Affair or its effect on Herzl.
posted by OmieWise at 5:37 PM on April 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


I tend to agree. It isn't unreasonable to say "Netanyahu was raised to believe that substantial Jewish minority will not be tolerated by its Arab neighbors, and that Jewish settlement must therefore be within a Jewish-majority state."

It does not make sense to say "Here's something Jabotinsky wrote in 1920, before most of the present Middle Eastern states existed; before the Holocaust; before the influx of Jews from Arab lands; and it totally tells you how Netanyahu thinks!"
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:40 PM on April 8, 2015




Did Dreyfus Affair Really Inspire Herzl?
The idea that the trial of Alfred Dreyfus inspired Theodor Herzl to write “The Jewish State” is “simply not true,” Shlomo Avineri declared in a pointed, fluent, and well-received lecture that opened the first full day of London’s Jewish Book Week on February 23.

Discussing his biography of the father of modern Zionism, “Herzl: Theodor Herzl and the Foundation of the Jewish State,” Avineri asserted that through examining Herzl’s diaries and letters, he concluded that the Dreyfus affair did not preoccupy Herzl’s thoughts at that time. Only in hindsight would the fate of Alfred Dreyfus come to be seen as a pivotal moment both for European Jewry and the history of the Zionist movement.

Rather, the background to “The Jewish State” was the collapsing scenery of 19th-century Europe and specifically the Austro-Hungarian Empire which had, up until that time, been “the best country for Jews in Europe” and had been referred to as the “goldene medine,” even before the United States.

[...]

During the 1890s, however, “nationalism threatened the unity of the Austro-Hungarian Empire,” while the advent of democracy resulted in the emergence of “racist, populist, and anti-Semitic candidates” for office. This affected Herzl’s city of Vienna, where Karl Lueger of the Christian Social Party won municipal elections in 1895 by decrying “corrupt liberalism” and charging that Jews controlled the Austrian economy and the press.

Lueger’s campaign indicated that part of this disintegration of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and of Europe more generally was the emergence of anti-Semitism as a reaction to Jewish emancipation. This anti-Semitism, Avineri writes in “Herzl,” “stressed the ethnic and racial character of the Jews, not their religion.” Moreover, “it was not their suffering and weakness that sparked the new hatred — it was their success and their power, whether real or imagined.”

What Herzl saw, Avineri said, was that this new anti-Semitism was “deterministic” since there is “no way out” of a Jewish identity that is in the blood.
Interesting. This echos Benzion Netanyahu's work on the Spanish inquisition as discussed in th Vox article. Personally, I'd like to see more of this sort of context considered in discussion of the Iran deal and the two-state solution. I think even knowledgeable experts are often getting it wrong by failing to do so. Beinart's recent article on Netanyahu and Obama is one example. Instead we get loads of divisive rhetoric and propaganda. As mentioned in the podcast I posted above with Max Fisher, much of the discussion leading up to and after the Iraq war left out how some members of the administration had been calling for Saddam's ouster since 1997.

Obama was right, Iran capitulated (Efraim Halevy, former Mossad chief)
Anyone who has followed events in Iran in recent decades or has studied the matter has to admit truthfully that he never believed Iran would ever agree to discuss these issues, let alone agree to each of the clauses I have mentioned.
Is the White House poking fun at Netanyahu on Twitter?
posted by Golden Eternity at 1:34 AM on April 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


@khamenei_ir: "Hours after the #talks, Americans offered a fact sheet that most of it was contrary to what was agreed.They always deceive &breach promises."
posted by Golden Eternity at 8:01 AM on April 9, 2015




Iranian concerns about the nuclear deal are reasonable - "The sanctions are absolutely crippling and I understand why many Iranians are absolutely desperate to make a deal. But some deterrent must be maintained. If it isn’t, well, the record of what happens to such countries is simply not good. This is one reason why Khamenei is leery: he knows his neck is on the line, and his death could be very unpleasant."
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:00 AM on April 9, 2015


First, Iran having nukes would change nothing except making it impossible to invade Iran. That’s what we’re really talking about. If Iran were to use its nukes pre-emptively, Iran would become a glass parking lot.

This is may be very significant, though. It means Iran could be more aggressive in interfering in other countries including supporting insurrections and terrorism and aiding Hamas and Hezbollah or whatever, without as much fear of causing an all out war. It also is a deterrent against a future strike on their nuclear enrichment facilities and advanced weapons programs. But how much of a deterrent is it? Iran would surely face total destruction if they were to use a nuclear weapon. It seems likely they would either back down or face an internal coup if they ever came close to using one.
posted by Golden Eternity at 11:26 AM on April 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


Khamenei Warns That Nuclear Deal May Fall Apart
As is often the case, the best predictor of Khamenei's position has been Hossein Shariatmadari, the editor of Kayhan newspaper and a close confidant of the Supreme Leader. In an editorial issued a few hours before Khamenei's address, Shariatmadari expanded on arguments he has made recently; his main theme was that Iranian negotiators should not accept a final deal that allows the outside world to monitor the regime's nuclear activities too closely. Similarly, Khamenei rejected some of the proposals for intrusive inspections, saying, "The country's military officials are not authorized to let aliens enter our security domain, and our support to our resistant brothers in various parts [of the Middle East] should not be affected by the negotiations. No unusual monitoring that makes the Islamic Republic of Iran an exceptional country in this regard would be acceptable."

Shariatmadari's editorial, titled "Under the Skin of the Lausanne Agreement," elaborated on this issue. After harshly criticizing Iran's negotiating team, describing them as "negligent" in letting America dictate its will on them, he concentrated fire on the Additional Protocol, the International Atomic Energy Agency's established measures for enhanced inspections. Iran accepted the protocol in 2003 but then walked away; Washington and its allies now want Tehran to sign it in earnest. According to Shariatmadari, the protocol would allow foreigners to inspect Iran's military and security facilities without notice: "It goes without saying that accepting such a protocol would seriously jeopardize not only the nuclear security, but also the military security of the Islamic Republic of Iran." He complained, "When the esteemed members of our negotiating team are asked why they accepted the Additional Protocol, which is beyond protocol, they respond by saying that accepting the Additional Protocol is voluntary!" In his view, voluntary acceptance of the protocol would not require legal approval from the Iranian parliament because it would not be a binding contract. In other words, he argued, the Americans trapped Iran's negotiators by asking them to accept the protocol voluntarily in order to bypass the parliament.
posted by Golden Eternity at 2:15 PM on April 9, 2015


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