May 14, 2019

Tensions Flare With Iran

Editor's note: We couldn’t be more proud of one of our teammates, Isaac Rose-Berman, who penned his first op-ed this week in USA Today: “How college students can bridge American divides: 'Study abroad' in Alabama or New York.” Please give it a read, and share far and wide!

“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

“By declaring that the United States will respond with airstrikes to any attacks on American targets or assets, Mr. Trump is drawing a bright red line that Iran cannot cross. And yet, Iran relies on a network of proxy actors from Yemen, Syria, Iraq and Lebanon. Must they all respect Mr. Trump’s red line? There are plenty of hotheads in those proxy forces that will be incensed by the assassination, the same way young men with weapons and minimal discipline often are… Mr. Trump can’t keep an entire region from crossing his red line, making violent conflict all the more likely if the president holds to it…

“It is crucial that influential Republican senators like Lindsey Graham, Marco Rubio and Mitch McConnell remind Mr. Trump of his promise to keep America out of foreign quagmires and keep Mr. Trump from stumbling further into war with Iran.”
Editorial Board, New York Times

Others argue that “Biden was almost the only one on the stage who talked like a normal person. There was a point near the end of the debate when he was talking about getting men involved in stopping domestic violence and he said that we need to keep ‘punching’ at it… I knew that the twitterati and the analysts would tut tut. Ol’ Joe is just out of touch! He doesn’t know you can’t use words like that. Meanwhile, every non-political junkie watching the debate thought there was nothing wrong with this. Biden was just using ordinary language, not worrying too much if it was fully approved by the woke brigade.”
Kevin Drum, Mother Jones

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

It’s worth noting that “conservative ideas were much more popular when not associated with the Republican party. In Washington State, voters narrowly rejected bringing affirmative action back to state contracting and university admissions…

“In Seattle, the self-proclaimed socialist city-council member appears to have lost her seat to a pro-business challenger. In Colorado, voters gave fiscal conservatives a big win by rejecting letting the state keep any tax revenues above the state spending cap, money that the state Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights currently guarantees as refunds to taxpayers. In Sussex County, N.J., voters approved, by a 2-to-1 margin, a referendum directing the local freeholder board to cooperate with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. (Washington, Colorado, New Jersey — notice these are places where Republican candidates have had no luck lately.)”
Jim Geraghty, National Review

“If a dozen drones or missiles can do the kind of damage to the world economy as did those fired on Saturday—shutting down about 6 percent of world oil production—imagine what a U.S.-Iran-Saudi war would do to the world economy. In recent decades, the U.S. has sold the Saudis hundreds of billions of dollars of military equipment. Did our weapons sales carry a guarantee that we will also come and fight alongside the kingdom if it gets into a war with its neighbors?… the nation does not want another war. How we avoid it, however, is becoming difficult to see. John Bolton may be gone from the West Wing, but his soul is marching on.”
Patrick Buchanan, The American Conservative

Others note, “I’d hate to be a Democratic member of Congress trying to convince Joe Sixpack that this is a whole new ballgame. The transcript shows Trump being Trump and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky trying to ingratiate himself with the big dog by, for instance, mentioning that he stays at Trump hotels. Trump’s conversation is typically scattershot, wandering all over the field, leaving a reasonable listener puzzled about what the takeaways are supposed to be…

“I think Joe Sixpack’s response is going to be a hearty shrug. After all that has emerged about Trump so far, his approval rating is closely tracking Obama’s approval at the same point in his presidency. To get Mr. Sixpack’s attention you are going to have to do better than this.”
Kyle Smith, National Review

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

“While running for president in 2000, George W. Bush derided ‘nation building’ and said American foreign policy should be ‘humble’ rather than ‘arrogant.’ As president, Bush brought us the disastrous wars in Afghanistan and Iraq… While running for president in 2007, Barack Obama rejected the idea that the president has the authority to wage war without congressional authorization whenever he thinks it is in the national interest… As president, Obama did that very thing in Libya… A few years before his 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump said the U.S. should withdraw immediately from Afghanistan… As president, he sent more troops to Afghanistan…

“Three men with little or no foreign policy experience entered an office where they were surrounded by experts, and they quickly shed their initial skepticism of military intervention… we should worry about a president with little knowledge of the world whose military decisions are driven by anger or domestic political considerations. But it's not clear to me that such a president poses a bigger danger than the experts who have been disastrously wrong more times than we can count.”
Jacob Sullum, Reason

On the bright side...

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

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