Top Diplomat: US Will Crush Iran (May 21st)

Trump, Pompeo, and Iran

Current US policy toward Iran has three facets of pettiness, ignorance, and arrogance. My criticism of the leadership style of Donald Trump, the new normal of abusive language in political rhetoric, and the arrogance and ignorance of the President and his Administration is well known. The President’s petty Obamaphobia and the hypocritical interpretation of historical facts is dangerous and self-indulgent. He has surrounded himself with washed-out neocons like John Bolton and, now, I’m just waiting for the rehabilitation of Paul Wolfowitz next. And now a Tea Partier is the Secretary of State. Mike Pompeo is highly qualified for many offices, perhaps the CIA, and perhaps even the Pentagon. The leader of the State Department ought to be a Warhawk. Yet, on May 21, 2018, the top diplomat of the United States of America said that the US will “crush” Iran. Crush? Is that now the new-normal for diplomatic parlance?

I. Pettiness

  • From the White House Correspondents Dinner of 2011 to the campaign trail of Election 2016, it is apparent that the US President Donald Trump has a personal vendetta with all things Barrack Obama. No, it’s not even a policy disagreement, its personal Obamaphobia. The cornerstone of this Administration seems to be to dismantle the name Obama from the government as if the name was an interloper’s moniker on the side of a Trump Tower. Indeed, there seems to be little logic behind policy-reversals, just that the policies were ascribed to Obama… Obamacare anyone? From DACA, to Cuba, the Paris Accord and Net Neutrality, to off-shore drilling, Bears Ear, transgender bathrooms, and the Iran Agreement. Of course, an incoming president has the right and, as presidents from opposite political parties, perhaps the ideological interest in reversing policies. However, this Administration is obsessed with undoing policy at rates of speed and indifference to law more than prior administrations.
  • While questionably legal, many on both sides of the aisle were relieved with the DACA policy because it removed Congressional responsibility for a legislative fix. The Republican-led Senate brokered a deal, only to have President Trump undermine the deal at the last minute.
  • Was anyone outside Little Havana in Miami even complaining about the normalization of relations with Cuba? Then why change the policy… because it was done by Obama.
  • Climate Change? Obama, so it was “undone” even though it is legally binding under international law. Article 4 of the Paris Accord reiterates the obligations already contained in Article 4 of the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change which became binding law after US Senate ratification in 1992.
  • On Wednesday, May 16, 2018, the Republican-led Senate passed legislation to repeal Trump’s FCC decision by Trump’s appointees.
  • President Trump lifted the off-shore drilling ban, even though the coastal governors of both political persuasions lobbied Trump not to reverse the ban.
  • And don’t get me started about Bears Ear National Monument…
  • Even in the face of North Carolina’s gubernatorial election, Donald Trump’s Administration reversed the interpretation of Title IX regarding transgender bathrooms.

Pettiness at its finest.

II. The Hypocrisy of Selective History and the Selective Application of National-Sovereignty and International Norms

A. The Hypocrisy of Selective History

Again, each incoming presidential administration has the right to make policy changes and reprioritize both domestic and international agendas. Presidents of both political parties have had a history of engaging with rogue states and terrorist organizations. Yet, hypocritically, some presidential candidates and presidents seem to only vilify engagements by presidents of the opposite political party. From the Iran Hostage Crisis to the Iran-Contra Deal, from the Reagan-Gorbachev Summits to the USS Stark cover-up, from Bush 41’s official acceptance of the Japanese apology for Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1991, to Bush’s continuation of pro-Iraq policies as NSD 26. And Clinton’s normalization of relations with Vietnam and his negotiations with the PLO in the Middle East as well as the IRA and UDA terrorist organizations in Northern Ireland.

In 2004, President George W. Bush began the process of normalizing relations with Libya. Additionally, the Bush Administration used US funds to create the Sunni Awakening militias by essentially hiring the militiamen away from the Sunni uprising militias that had been attacking the US and Shi’a forces.

The point is this: it is hypocritical and/or ignorant to denounce meeting and negotiation with rogue nations and terrorist organizations. It is a tool of diplomacy that has been used by US Presidents from both political parties. In fact, the current president seems as proud of his impending meeting with Kim Jung Un as he and others were critical of President Obama’s handshake with Raul Castro.

B. The Hypocrisy of Selective National-Sovereignty and International Norms

Again, it is important to remember that the UN Treaty is binding US law based upon Article VI of the US Constitution and the ratification of the UN Treaty by the US Senate in 1945. And Chapter VI of this binding document requires negotiation and arbitration of international disputes, not one-sided ultimatums.

US foreign policy for many decades has been a double standard, to say the least. American rhetoric often refers to the rule of law, yet the American government categorically ignored the decision in USA v. Nicaragua (1986). The more recent American use of drones as extrajudicial execution squads are as illegal internationally and, in the case of Anwar al-Awlaki and others, against domestic law as well.

The US government often asserts national sovereignty as a bulwark defense of US policy and unilateral actions yet labels other sovereign states who assert the same supposition as rogue-nations. Either the Americans has the right to impose a unilateral economic blockade against Cuba and Iran has the right to develop nuclear technologies, or Iran does not have the right to develop nuclear technologies and the US does not have the right to unilaterally impose economic sanctions. Both are examples of national sovereignty. Either Iran must comply with international regimes and the US must comply with international regimes as well (again, like USA v. Nicaragua), or international regimes are not compulsory on either nation-state.

If the US government can arbitrarily withdraw from international treaties such as the US Small Weapons Ban, Kyoto Protocol, the Rome Statute, NAFTA, the Paris Accord, the Iran Agreement… If the United States can withdraw from international agreements, then is there any reason for Iran to stay party to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons? Iran can hardly be held in violation to an agreement that the government has withdrawn from, right? What is the incentive for Iran to stay a party to the NPT?

Yes, there is a clear, non-partisan, double standard in how the United States government interprets the concepts of national sovereignty and international law. Daniel Patrick Moynihan famously once said that everyone has a right to their opinion, but not to their own facts. Too often in the past, the American government has interpreted the facts of international law to suit US foreign policy. Now, in the Age of Trumpism, we have ignorance and categorical lies, coupled with American’s tradition of selective history and the selective application of International norms.

III. An Ignorance of History and the Concept of Cultural Diffusion

On May 21, 2018, Mike Pompeo made his first formal comments on Iran since President Trump announced his intent to withdraw from the party agreement was negotiated by the P5, the European Union, and Germany with the Islamic Republic of Iran. Seven sovereign nation-states and a non-state actor worked on the 2015 Iran Nuclear Deal Framework, and now the United States is taking its proverbial ball and going home. More ignorance of international norms.

The President’s petty Obamaphobia influencing Trump’s understanding of the Iran Agreement, combined with the hypocritical ignorance of historical facts that ignores Reagan’s attempts to negotiate with the Iranian government. In addition, this self-indulgent

Candidate Trump, President-Elect Trump, and President Trump have all repeated ignorant and categorical lies, such as stating that President Obama sent millions in US currency to Iran, without either understanding or articulating that the transfer was a return of Iranian assets frozen since the Iranian Hostage Crisis. The return of those frozen assets (+interest) was part of the negotiated Framework.

Conclusion

President Trump and Neocons, like Bolton, as well as Tea Partiers, like Pompeo, seem to think that negotiation is when everyone else agrees with you. The international community has done that before, it’s called the Treaty of Versailles. And, thanks to the Treaty of Versailles, we got Hitler, Nazism, and World War II. A successful treaty is a negotiated agreement in which each side gets something and, frankly, no one is happy. That’s called diplomacy. Total warfare may work in military combat, but it always fails in international diplomacy.

Let’s go back to Pompeo’s visit to the Heritage Foundation today; in the 16th paragraph of his speech, Pompeo said that, after complying with US demands, Iran will be welcomed back into the “League of Nations.” Yup. He said the League of Nations. And please don’t tell me that it’s an expression, take a look at the text of the speech, League of Nations was capitalized. Who the heck is his speech writer? If it was meant as just an expression, who is the editor? Who released the text of the speech to the public? Did the Secretary read his speech before he arrived at the Heritage Foundation today? Did *he* notice? I dunno, should someone tell, or have told, the top diplomat of the most powerful nation-state on Earth, the United States Secretary of State, …that the League of Nations does not exist anymore? For some reason, I personally feel that he should have known that already.

And these of the people who are in charge of our diplomacy and our reputation throughout the world…

Yes, on May 21, 2018, the top diplomat of the United States of America said that the US will “crush” Iran. Crush. Yes, the new-normal for diplomatic parlance. And, in the same speech, the chief diplomat referred to the League of Nations that has been defunct for 72 years.

Yes, my criticism of Donald Trump’s leadership style is already on record. I do not appreciate the debased new-normal of abusive language in our political rhetoric, as well as the arrogance and, in my opinion, ignorance of the President and his Administration. The President’s has a petty Obamaphobic hang-up and a dangerous and self-indulgent interpretation of historical facts. The President has surrounded himself with washed-out neocons like John Bolton and Tea Partiers like Mike Pompeo. Pompeo, like Rex Tillerson, is highly qualified for many offices like the CIA and the Pentagon. But the leader of the State Department is a Warhawk who promises to “crush” Iran until it rejoins the 72-year defunct League of Nations.

The US policy toward Iran is three comprised of pettiness, ignorance, and arrogance. Apparently, one the one hand, Obama gave the cow away to Iran, but it’s the Art of the Deal to sit down with Kim Jung Un. What’s good for the goose, is good for the gander. No, no one knows what the future holds for Iran or North Korea, but US negotiations with the PLO and the IRA seem to have gone well. US normalization of relations with Vietnam and Libya seem to have gone fairly well too.

The fact is that the Iranians will have nuclear weapons if they want… maybe not this year, or the next, maybe not in 5 years, but you can’t stop it permanently. It’s called cultural diffusion. The British couldn’t prevent Samuel Slater from bringing the Industrial Revolution to America, nor could America stop the transfer of electronics technologies to East Asia. More to the point, the US and its allies were unable to stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons to Russia, China, India, Pakistan, or North Korea. But few Americas fear waking up to nuclear war with the UK, France, India, or even China or Russia. So, the issue is not nuclear proliferation, its the relationship that the United States has with other nuclear power that matters most. No, the US government cannot permanently prevent Iran from developing a nuclear bomb forever, but the US can manage the US-Iranian relationship so that in ten years Iran is not an enemy.

Perhaps its time to let go of Zero Sum politics, the hypocritical application of international norms, and Obamaphobia? Perhaps Obama’s engagement and negotiation with the Iranians is as valid as Trump’s engagement and negotiation with the North Koreans?

Just the thoughts of a Babbling Professor…

My name is Tom Keefe, and, remember, Today’s Tomorrow’s Yesterday!

Thanks for Listening!

 

The Iran Agreement

No automatic alt text available.

First of all, the “billions” that opponents of the Iranian Agreement often cite was not American money; it was the Iranian people’s own money that has been held since the hostage crisis.

Secondly, nuclear technology is a product of cultural diffusion, it can’t be permanently stopped, but what the violated agreement had done was buy both countries time to detente.

Thirdly, no one in the US wakes up worried about UK or French nukes, or really even Chinese or Russian nukes, because we have relationships. The abridged agreement had given both parties time to build a relationship that would make the weaponization of nuclear technology meaningless.

And now it’s on life support, but not gone yet, because someone’s ego was hurt in the 2011 Washington Correspondents Dinner. The master of the Art of the Deal will hopefully repackage the agreement with his name on it after getting his ego soothed by ridding the agreement of Obama’s name, and then we can continue the path of building sustainable peace.

I am also unaware of how/why the same voices denouncing the Iran Agreement are congratulating the apparent diplomatic movement with North Korea. At this point, we have words, not action. Engaging with a rival is either a good strategy or it isn’t. Either Obama and Trump are to be encouraged for engaging Iran and NoKo, or both Administrations ought to be ridiculed. To choose one engagement over another is myopic partisanship.

What does Iran want?

In looking at Iran, we have been talking about whether they are rational or not…assuming they are rational, then as I said before we need to understand what their rationality is. A key part of this is understanding what they want. [With NK its a but easier because we know of their annual food shortages] In Iran, the question is much more difficult to answer… what are their needs? Toward that end, we have talked about nuclear weapons and some have suggested we can see Iran as trying to react to the change in the Balance of Power. Is that the goal? Filling the power vaccum? Perhaps.

There are also the psychological issues: Iran has long striven for two things: legitimacy and identity. The US struggled with legitimacy from the begining of the AmRev to the end of the war of 1812. The Soviets struggled from the Revolution to WWII with legitimacy. China struggled from the 1950s till Nixon. Iran in a lot of ways is still struggling with its legitimacy from the 1979 Revolution. Remember that from the end of Clinton to the begining of Bush II, Iran was drifting moderate. Several intelligence articles have cited the importance of Iranian intelligence services in the US invasion of Afghanistan [Iran was very anti-Taliban; ‘enemy of my enemy is my friend’ kind of deal]The president of Iran was a moderate and nation was drifting moderate… there were athletic-exchanges for the first time since the Shah, etc… [of course, on the other hand there was still Iranian support for Hezzbollah from other sections of the Iranian govt/religious leaders.] While calling North Korea and Iraq an axis of evil wasn’t news, “President Bush’s State of the Union address on Jan. 29, 2002, caught many observers of U.S.-Iran relations by surprise.” (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/tehran/axis/axis.html)Whether it was cause and effect or a non-casual coincidence, Iran has definately drifted more fundementalist and anti-American again. One of the things Iran wants is to be legitimate and, having been scorned by the US, perhaps Iran is seeking legitimacy through nuclear weapons in much the same way Pakistan and India have recipicated more respect and legitimacy from each other since their mutual obtaining of muclear weapons (look at Pakistani decriptions of the Bharatiya Janata Party before and after the anouncemetn of nuclear weapons.) In a way, Iran is acting like an ex-girlfriend…since you don’t like me anymore, I’ll behave the opposite of what you would like.

The other pychological issue is identity. Iranians, while Muslim, are not Arab. Neither are they ethnically close to the Hindi Muslims of Pakistan or the Tribesmen of Afghanistan. Iranians want a sense of belonging, yet Middle Eastern Arabs do not concider Iranians one of them. They don’t even speak the same language…Arabs all speak Arabic and they have more in common linguistically with the Israelis than the Farsi speaking Iranians. We have all discussed the Shiite-Sunni differences as well.

So, once again, what do Iranians want? If we knew we could negotiate. I suspect they want to be considered the alternative to Israel and the US. They want to look strong, embolden Shiite Iraqis to take power and align with Iran in a mini-Cold Warish balance of power against Israel/Turkey/Jordan (who have more in common than they do with Iran). Just in the US-Soviet Cold War, Egypt will be a battleground nation-state. In that way, they get the identity they desire, they are accepted by Arab Muslims and the respect that they want from the US if they are concisered the foil in a mini-bipolar arrangement.

Keeping in mind that the reason the US backed Saddam in the first place in the Eight Year War was to neutralize Iraqi Shiites and neutralize Iran, the entire situation has the US in a precarious situation. In all this, the US has already been making plans to close its bases in Saudi Arabian and moving them to the fourteen new permanent bases under construction in Iraq as well and moving command to Bahrain, UAE, and Qatar. In Iraq we would be more likely to get cooperation from the new government than from the Saudi government that has imposed limits on the use of bases; have cultural customs that led to Lt. Col.Martha McSally’s lawsuit and the subsequent problems in US-Saudi relations; and have Muslim religious obligations (management of alms dispersement) that go against US anti-terrorism policy (US asked Saudi to freeze all Muslim charities assets).
http://meria.idc.ac.il/journal/2002/issue3/jv6n3a7.htmlhttp://www.merip.org/mero/mero102401.html

Is Iran “rational”?

In a message on Wednesday, January 11, 2006 1:25pm, Christopher Julian writes:
Realists believe that rational decision makers will respond in similar ways to comparable circumstances. The key word there is rational.. In the introduction, Kenneth Waltz’s theory is used with the example of a billiard table where actors will react in the same way, regardless of domestic influences such as whether or not the state is a democracy or a dictatorship. I disagree with Waltz. Kim Jong Il is not a rational actor. Neither is the president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, therefore, they will not make the same decisions as rational actors. Whether or not you agree with the American policy in Iraq, most will agree that Saddam was not a rational actor and had not been a rational actor for some time. So, in that case, why would the world expect a rational response from an irrational dictator? Same with Iran, rational actors do not say that an entire race or religion of people or Israel should be killed. So, why are we surprised when he wants to resume nuclear programs for “Energy” Yah right! (Little Humor). All I am saying is that for there to be Rational Decision making doesn’t there need to be rational players making the decisions? -Chris

For the sake of argument (I don’t really believe anything I’m about to write), let’s say that Kim Jong Il, Saddam and Iran’s president are all rational…rational meaning one can predict their actions, not that we agree or believe the actions to make sense. The analogy in psychology or sociology might be an alcoholic; if one knows one is an alcoholic, it’s not rational TO drink, yet -knowing alcoholism is a disease- isn’t it “rational” that without a strong support system an alcoholic WILL drink? There was a fascinating discussion between several of you guys about the Iranian president… one of you postulated that he is saying what he’s saying for specific internal reasons… or maybe even external reasons… the West’s uncomfortableness with Iran and N.K makes the West more likely to deal with them because of the West’s fear… its a modern form of brinkmanship: these rogue nations are “taking the West to the brink.” In Saddam’s case, he went too far. Iran, N.K., and for that matter Syria, want to take us far enough to the brink to get a deal (NK wants rice and non-military nuclear technology) without getting invaded or overthrown. In the case of Saddam, I read a fascinating piece on how rational he was…he knew he couldn’t have WMD without getting into trouble with the US/UN, yet at the same time he knew that without the threat of WMD that he had a lot less leverage to keep the Kurds, Shiite Iraqis, and Iranians at bay. The piece went on to say that he then, around 1996 or so, made the rational decision to A) get rid of his WMD but also B) pretend like he still had them. Perhaps the issue isn’t whether the actors are rational, but whether we can figure out their “rationality”? (like I said, I don’t really believe it, so how did I do at convincing you all?)

The Psychology of Diplomacy

In message 720 on Wednesday, January 11, 2006 8:27pm, Shelton Williams writes:
Rhetoric, not policy and it is an incomplete guide to what a Government is “thinking.” Sometimes you have to deduce what a state was really up to after the fact. Sometimes leaders miscalculate how their actions or rhetoric will affect others’ behavior. That does not mean that rational calculation is absent their actions. Apply Realism’s clever aphorism to Iran’s behavior: “The Strong do what they can; the weak do what they must.” Deter the US; balance Israel; stir up nationalism in a society that suffers economically, or gains the most out of tense negotiations before essentially giving in. Are any of these possible? Or like this week’s question suggests, are other social and psychological factors at play? Well, Alexander George’s piece covers a lot of the psychology.

For example, Iran (and for that matter the other two members of the ‘Axis of Evil’), put a lot of value on “Calculated Procrastination. As George puts it: “leaders go so far as to conclude that the best strategy of leadership is to do as little as possible” (Kaufman, 684). Playing the UN, Russia, and France off of the US in Iraq and Iran or playing the UN and China off of the US in Korea is textbook ‘calculate procrastination.’ George also covers bolstering which might be exemplified by NK’s launching of missiles over Japan and the near-simultaneous attempt to negotiate for peaceful nuclear technology. In bolstering, the North Koreans “increase the attractiveness of a preferred option and do… the opposite for options which one is inclined to reject. Thus, the expected costs/risks are minimized. Similarly, the expected gains from rejected alternatives are downgraded; their expected costs/risks are magnified” (Kaufman, 685). If NK just asked for non-military technology, no one would give it to them; however, if they shoot a missile over Japan and then ask for non-military technology, then SK, Japan, and the US scramble to negotiate. Thus, the spoiled child is taught to scream.

Bush’s Theocracy

Now that George W. Bush has agreed to let the Shi’ite majority have its way with the new Iraqi constitution, he can answer Cindy Sheehan’s question, “For what noble cause did you send my son to die in Iraq?” It was to set up an Islamic theocracy, just like the one in Iran.