May 14, 2019

Tensions Flare With Iran

“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

See past issues

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

Regarding the Cadillac tax, “high-premium employer-based plans raise the cost of health care for everyone by encouraging the overconsumption of expensive services. This means that even Medicare and Medicaid face higher prices. Quite aside from its benefits for the health-care market, the Cadillac tax would also have the effect of expanding the tax base and making the tax code more efficient. It would raise revenues by about $15 billion a year… Rather than killing or delaying the Cadillac tax, Democrats should be trying to make it operational. The tax would raise revenue, lower costs, increase the efficiency of the tax code and give the Obamacare individual market its best chance at success.”
Karl W. Smith, Bloomberg

“The two issues with which he is most often associated, support for a balanced budget and opposition to free trade, put him at odds with both of our major political parties. An old-fashioned, soft-spoken Southerner, he nevertheless held views on so-called ‘social issues’ that would be to the left of the mainstream of the Republican Party, both then and now. He was a fervent supporter of the Vietnam POW/MIA movement in the late '80s and early '90s, but he was not in any sense a hawk. Never mind 2003. Perot opposed the first war in Iraq in 1990… Perot's death should be mourned by all Americans who regret the fact that it is no longer possible to make reasoned, non-ideological arguments about questions of public import, and by the devolution of our political life into mindless partisan squabbling.”
Matthew Walther, The Week

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

“Not only did [Trump] attack the ‘squad,’ he managed to do it in a way in which no other prominent Democrat can continue to criticize them publicly, lest they be perceived as echoing the president’s contention that they should go back where they came from. At the exact moment the accusations and counter-accusations were set to do lasting damage, Trump just had to jump in and give them an attack that would unify them all. It often seems like Trump would rather have a bad news cycle that focuses on him than a beneficial news cycle that focuses on someone else… Everyone around the president can read a poll and knows that his rage-tweeting is a liability; it is perhaps the biggest liability in a presidency that, with prosperity and a perception of peace, ought to be comfortably cruising to reelection.”
Jim Geraghty, National Review

“If Joe Biden can win his way through the primaries, he’s almost lab-engineered to beat Trump. He doesn’t cause Republican panic, he has the potential to connect with white working-class voters in a way that Hillary couldn’t in 2016, and he has a potential to connect better with black voters than Hillary did… if Biden emerges from [this] crucible, Trump will face a very different challenge than he faced in 2016.”
David French, National Review

“NBC and MSNBC embraced Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts in the first debate of Democratic presidential candidates Wednesday night, treating her like the star of the show. The debate led off with Warren, who had a huge popularity advantage from the start… NBC anchor Savannah Guthrie started it off sounding more like Warren’s press secretary. ‘You have many plans – free college, free child care, government health care, cancelation of student debt, new taxes, new regulations, the breakup of major corporations,’ Guthrie said, before teeing up an economy question. Guthrie even used Warren’s plan to break up tech companies as the foundation for a question for Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey… the round-robin final comments also ended with Warren, as Maddow asked her for the ‘final, final statement.’ That let NBC bookend the entire debate with Warren and Warren.”
Dan Gainor, Fox News

President Trump should be happy. As much as Warren is articulate, obviously intelligent, and energetically supported by Democrats, she would also be far easier to defeat than Joe Biden… Considering Trump's economy, the president is well placed to defeat Warren.”
Tom Rogan, Washington Examiner

A libertarian's take

“The fans who avidly followed the men’s tournament certainly weren’t doing anything wrong. And it’s hard to argue that each of them had a moral obligation to be exactly as interested in women’s soccer. Even if we could stop them from watching the men more than the women, should we?…

“It’s tempting to answer that the fan choices aren’t innocent, they’re sexist. But since we can’t peek into their hearts, to say that definitively, we’d have to assume that men’s greater speed, strength and endurance definitely make nodifference to the sport’s quality. Fair enough, but then why do fans prefer to watch Megan Rapinoe play instead of the sedentary elderly who could presumably use some exercise? Alternatively, maybe pay should be equalized precisely because biology is unfair. But that seems to be an argument for curbing the pay of all top-level athletes, who have to hit the genetic lottery just to get on the field. It might be easier to focus on the distributions across society at large, rather than every individual industry, especially when fundamental biology is in play.”
Megan McArdle, Washington Post

On the bright side...

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

Get troll-free political news.

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.