May 14, 2019

Tensions Flare With Iran

We're officially on Insta! Did I throw on a blazer at 5 am for all you lovely people? You bet I did!

“Iran threatened [last] Wednesday to enrich its uranium stockpile closer to weapons-grade levels in 60 days if world powers fail to negotiate new terms for its 2015 nuclear deal, raising regional tensions as a U.S. aircraft carrier and bombers headed to the Middle East to confront Tehran.” AP News

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From the Left

The left worries the strategy of ‘maximum pressure’ is not working, and about the risk of escalating tensions leading to armed conflict.

“There can be little doubt that the administration’s ‘maximum pressure’ policy is inflicting considerable economic harm on Iran… To date, however, there is no sign that either Iran’s regional policies are shifting or its leaders are willing to come back to the negotiating table and submit to the Trump administration’s demands. Nor is there any hint that economic hardship has triggered popular unrest of a magnitude that would threaten the regime’s survival…

“The one thing Tehran would find more intolerable than the crushing impact of sanctions is raising the white flag because of them… [The US should step] back from maximalist demands, and [use] sanctions as a scalpel, not a chainsaw.”
Ali Vaez, The Atlantic

Some are asking, “Can Europe save the Iran deal?... Europe could take small but symbolically important steps to signal to the Iranians that it is committed to maintaining the nuclear deal [without running afoul of US sanctions]… It won’t be easy to walk this thin line, but the stakes are high: If the deal falls through, it will increase the risk of American military action to curb Iran’s nuclear program.”
Ariane Tabatabai, New York Times

Others point out that “attempts by some European Union countries over the past year to circumvent renewed American sanctions have come to nothing. The commercial reality is that they cannot protect energy companies, banks and other businesses seeking to trade with Iran from Washington’s punitive secondary sanctions… The idea that the Europeans will ride to the rescue… [is] far-fetched.”
Simon Tisdall, The Guardian

Regarding the deployment of an aircraft carrier and bombers, many note that the US “has a long history of provoking, instigating, or launching wars based on dubious, flimsy, or manufactured threats… The most egregious case was the U.S. invasion of Iraq, in 2003, which was based on bad intelligence that Baghdad had active weapons-of-mass-destruction programs. The repercussions are still playing out sixteen years (and more than four thousand American deaths) later… The sense of foreboding is tangible.”
Robin Wright, The New Yorker

Trump's “goal, it seems, is to put so much pressure on Tehran that it has no choice but to completely change its behavior — but he could end up leading the countries to the brink of war in the process… Now is typically the time when cooler heads prevail, but it’s unclear if there are cooler heads around… It’s hard to overstate how avoidable this situation was.”
Alex Ward, Vox

“In theory, there’s no reason why a bad businessman can’t go on to become a good president. But a commander-in-chief whose signature legislative achievement expanded tax loopholes that he himself describes as grossly unfair is pretty much a bad president, by definition.”
Eric Levitz, New York Magazine

From the Right

The right is not worried about Iran’s withdrawal from the deal, arguing that it was ineffective from the beginning.

From the Right

The right is not worried about Iran’s withdrawal from the deal, arguing that it was ineffective from the beginning.

“Rouhani’s threats to partially withdraw from the JCPOA will have a negligible effect on Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons because the agreement is so weak. The nuclear deal already allows Iran to pursue nuclear-weapons-related activities, permitting it to enrich uranium with 5,000 centrifuge machines while the agreement is in effect. Its inspection provisions are likewise very weak and Iran has violated them by not permitting inspections of military sites. Iran also has refused to fully account for its past nuclear-weapons work…

“Iran’s recent threats and alleged plans to attack U.S. interests reflect the success of President Trump’s maximum-pressure strategy on Iran. U.S. sanctions have isolated Iran and deprived its ruling mullahs of funds to spend on the military, terrorism, and meddling in regional disputes.”
Fred Fleitz, National Review

Dated but relevant: The agreement was always nothing more than a giant Band-Aid over Iran’s obvious nuclear weapons aspirations – freezing those ambitions for roughly 10 years, but never truly solving the problem…

“[Moreover] while Iran’s nuclear aspirations were at least frozen for a decade under the deal, it faced no restrictions on having an entire decade to research, develop and test ever-more advanced missiles – missiles that could someday carry a nuclear warhead. In the last few years, Iran has tested various new ballistic and cruise missiles, each demonstrating growing leaps in technological sophistication and accuracy… Trump killing [the] deeply flawed Iran deal [was] the right move.”
Harry J. Kazianis, Fox News

“Anyone who suggests that Iran and its proxies don’t constitute a threat to US interests and its allies simply haven’t been paying attention for the last 40 years. That doesn’t mean that war is the inevitable answer, but it should mean that preparing for conflict and ensuring that Iran understands the consequences are at least reasonable responses.”
Ed Morrissey, Hot Air

Minority View: The U.S. went back on its promises of sanctions relief to Iran, and has embarked on a much more aggressive economic war in pursuit of maximalist goals that amount to regime change in all but name. Sanctions cannot provide leverage over the targeted regime if that regime believes it has nothing to gain from complying with our government’s demands. If a regime is being told that it will be strangled now or strangled later, its leaders may decide that they will take their chances and try to outlast the administration that is trying to strangle them.”
Daniel Larison, The American Conservative

Some argue, “It stands to reason that if Kim is willing to starve his own people, deprive his economy of any growth, and pour billions of dollars into missile tech, he will, at some point, develop weapons America and its allies mastered decades ago. And short of an invasion or a diplomatic agreement, under the present circumstances, there is very little we can do to stop him… Taking a hardline approach—what many call the ‘big deal’—or only granting sanctions relief after full denuclearization and the end of Kim’s missile programs is completely impractical and something North Korea would never agree to… only a step-by-step process of disarming Pyongyang, where each side gets a benefit for making a concession, will work.”
Harry J. Kazianis, The American Conservative

Others posit that “the reason Kim is developing missiles that can strike Seattle or LA is that 28,000 U.S. troops are in South Korea… If we cannot persuade Pyongyang to give up its nuclear weapons in return for a lifting of sanctions, perhaps we should pull U.S. forces off the peninsula and let China deal with the possible acquisition of their own nuclear weapons by Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan…

“After an exhausting two weeks [between North Korea, Iran, Venezuela, and others], one is tempted to ask: How many quarrels, clashes and conflicts can even a superpower manage at one time? And is it not the time for the United States, preoccupied with so many crises, to begin asking, ‘Why is this our problem?’”
Pat Buchanan, Townhall

Counterpoint: “after the War of 1812, President Madison… enacted the Tariff of 1816 to price British textiles out of competition, so Americans would build the new factories and capture the booming U.S. market. It worked. Tariffs [also] financed Mr. Lincoln’s War. The Tariff of 1890 bears the name of Ohio Congressman and future President William McKinley, who said that a foreign manufacturer ‘has no right or claim to equality with our own… He pays no taxes. He performs no civil duties’… [A tariff’s] purpose is not just to raise revenue but to make a nation economically independent of others, and to bring its citizens to rely upon each other rather than foreign entities.”
Patrick J. Buchanan, The American Conservative

A libertarian's take

“The scoop reflects poorly on Trump, who willfully misled the public for a decade in hopes of fraudulently representing himself as a man with a Midas touch. But he could not have succeeded without the assistance of many Americans, some mercenary, others over-credulous, who helped to spread the deceit and deception, generating countless newspaper articles, magazine stories, and TV segments that misinformed the public about the publicity hound’s record in business. New evidence of his staggering losses in that decade therefore provides an apt occasion to reflect on the media’s complicity in Trump’s brazen deceit and deception… Let [this] be a lesson for today’s tabloids, gossip columnists, over-credulous or mercenary journalists, and reality-television producers.”
Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic

On the bright side...

New robot will keep plants alive by throwing 'tantrums' when it needs water.
WSET

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