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Obama Foreign Policy Tag

Russia's policy of bloody deterrence and intimidation is reaping battlefield victories, and exposing US fecklessness in Syria.  President Obama has decided the risk of alienating the Syrian population and providing propaganda fodder for ISIS and other anti-Western organizations outweighs the benefits of a substantive military intervention, but Russian President Vladimir Putin's s opposite strategy moots the theory.  Syrians afflicted by foreign military intervention and Islamists capitalizing on it are unlikely to parse their anger according to which foreign power actually caused their losses. Particularly since ISIS bombed a MetroJet airliner on October 31, 2015, killing 224 people, including 219 Russians, the Russian and American campaigns in Syria could not be more different.  Russia now operates four forward operating bases in Syria and claims to have flown more than 4,000 sorties and hit 8,000 targets since September 30, 2015 and to have conducted fifty-nine sorties on December 15 alone, hitting 212 targets, killing 321 ISIS fighters and destroying 100 oil facilities. After the MetroJet bombing, Russia also deployed ground forces to Syria for the first time.  According to Lt. Colonel James G. Zumwalt, USMC (Ret.):
Comparable to our own elite fighters of Delta Force, Russian special forces have an operational edge ours do not. While battlefield actions by U.S. forces will, appropriately, always be defined by the laws of land warfare, Russian special forces historically have tossed their moral compass aside. By doing so, they convey a clear message—in blood—to adversaries.

President Obama and the Defense Department are warning of the dangers of deploying ground troops to Syria without first answering whether ISIS can be defeated without them. Critics say the status quo is not doing the job.  Max Boot wrote in the Wall Street Journal on December 8 that air power alone cannot defeat ISIS.  The same morning, former Army Chief of Staff retired General Ray Odierno likewise told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that air power has never won any war in history, and added that “[y]ou can't defeat ISIS without having people on the ground.” On the other hand, Gen. Paul Selva, Vice-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee the next day that, “[i]t's clear from ISIL's strategy that their objective is to cause us to engage in what they believe is an apocalyptic war with the West.”  Selva added, “anything that we do to feed that particular frame of thinking counters our national security.”

If you ask me what the most important article in The New York Times of the past week, it would not be the front page editorial advocating stricter gun control. That editorial was important in terms of the mindset of the Times, but had little real new value. The most significant new article in The New York Times during this past week was Friday's analysis of the nuclear deal with Iran. The article is a devastating indictment of the administration and its zeal to reach a nuclear deal with Iran at all costs. To be sure the reporter, David Sanger, an excellent journalist, presented the administration's positions respectfully. But there's no getting around that however President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry justify their capitulations, they are willing to lift sanctions on Iran without requiring Iran to come clean about its past illicit nuclear research. In the wake of last week's IAEA report about Iran's past nuclear research, the administration is reportedly satisfied that Iran has provided the IAEA with enough information to close the investigation into Iran's past nuclear work and move ahead to the implementation of this summer's nuclear deal. The administration's rationale is that "preventing a nuclear-armed Iran in the future is far more important than trying to force it to admit" its past illicit nuclear research.

President Obama's willful blindness toward Iran's continued development of illicit weaponry is putting Americans and our allies in ever greater danger.  Obama's superficial detente with Iran ignores its deceits, dissimulations, and resolve to obtain a nuclear capability. In the latest instance, Obama is downplaying Iran's November ballistic missile testU.N. Security Council Resolution 1929 provides, "Iran shall not undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using ballistic missile technology."  The November launch tested the long-range, nuclear-capable Ghadr-110 missile and was a clear violation of Resolution 1929. Nevertheless, US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power merely called for “conducting a serious review of the reported incident.” This is only the latest instance of Obama withholding, distorting or ignoring information that might threaten his Iran policy.  Previously, Obama abandoned his promise that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action ("JCPOA") would have "anytime, anywhere" inspections, agreeing instead to a drawn-out and inadequate system of notices and appeals. Caving on inspections exacerbated Obama's earlier failure to require Iran to completely disclose its preexisting nuclear program to the International Atomic Energy Agency ("IAEA").

Rep. Mike Pompeo (R - Kan.) and Sen. Tom Cotton (R - Ark.) have a lot in common. Both are army veterans and both are graduates of Harvard Law School. And both have been doing a great job of exposing aspects of the nuclear deal with Iran that the administration would rather keep quiet. This week it was reported that an inquiry from Pompeo got the State Department to admit that the nuclear deal was never signed and is not "legally binding." Julia Frifield, the Assistant Secretary of State for Legislative Affairs, wrote in response to Pompeo's inquiry if he could see the signed agreement, in a letter reproduced at the congressman's website, that the nuclear deal was not binding and that it was not signed by any party. The key parts of the letter read:
The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) is not a treaty or an executive agreement, and is not a signed document ...

As Ted Cruz's campaign gains momentum and as Obama continues to be more aggressive in his critique of Republicans than of ISIS, Cruz challenged Obama this week over comments made overseas regarding the Paris attacks, ISIS, and the Syrian refugee crisis. Politico reports:
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz on Wednesday said that if President Barack Obama wants to be critical of his rhetoric, he should "come back and insult me to my face." Obama has been critical of Cruz's proposal for handling the Syrian refugee crisis, which includes allowing in Syrian Christians, but not Syrian Muslims. The president earlier this week called that approach "shameful," adding, "we don't have religious tests to our compassion." "Mr. President, if you want to insult me, you can do it overseas, you can do it in Turkey, you can do it in foreign countries, but I would encourage you, Mr. President, come back and insult me to my face," Cruz told reporters Wednesday morning, looking directly into the cameras. "Let's have a debate on Syrian refugees right now. We can do it anywhere you want. I'd prefer it in the United States and not overseas where you're making the insults. It's easy to toss a cheap insult when no one can respond, but let's have a debate."

For years we've been reporting how President Obama has been trying to insert as much daylight as possible between the United States and Israel. But the reality is that the American-Israeli “special relationship” will weather the storm of this “needlessly combative” administration. Israel is wildly popular among the American public. Americans recognize the shared values and common interests that bind the two countries together. A congressional majority understands the threats Israel faces from the region’s oppressive dictatorships which routinely call for Israel’s destruction, and from political and religious leaders who incite their people to murder Jews.

As our East Coast deals with the effects of Hurricane Joaquin and tens of thousands are evacuated in Southern China from the path of typhoon Mujigae, it appears that the relationship between the two nations is headed for equally turbulent weather. While Obama was meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping to complain about his nation's hacking of our cyber systems and carping about Russian escalation in Syria, reports indicate that China was preparing to increase its presence in the Middle East conflict:
Earlier this week, Chinese naval vessels have allegedly traveled through Egypt’s Suez Canal and entered the Mediterranean Sea. According to a senior officer in the Syrian Arab Army, and confirmed by a Russian Senator (in the propaganda outlet Pravda), the naval vessels are headed for Syria’s Port of Tartus, and that “China has joined [Russia’s] military operation in Syria.” The reports indicate that the Chinese vessels will reach Tartus within six weeks. No explanation is given in these reports for the long time frame.

President Obama has a habit of trying to make himself look like the smartest guy in the room when things aren't going his way and the disaster unfolding in Syria is no exception. Speaking to the press Friday, Obama claimed that Putin is operating in Syria out of weakness and that this is all some sort of ruse on Russia's behalf. Jenna Lifhits of the Washington Free Beacon:
Obama: Putin Sent Military Into Syria ‘Out of Weakness’ Obama echoed the White House narrative that Russia was forced to enter Syria because the Assad regime, a long-time Kremlin client state, is in danger of collapse. “Mr. Putin had to go into Syria not out of strength but out of weakness because his client Mr. Assad was crumbling and it was insufficient for him simply to send them arms and money. Now he’s got to put in his own planes and his own pilots,” Obama said.

The United States Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power recently wrote a piece for Politico arguing the Congress not reject the nuclear deal with Iran. In short she argued that rejecting the deal would leave the United States, not Iran isolated and the ability of the United States would be greatly compromised in its ability to influence outcomes globally. Towards the end she summed up her argument:
The Iran nuclear deal has been championed by the president of the United States, every one of America’s European friends and countless other countries around the world. If Congress rejects the deal, we will project globally an America that is internally divided, unreliable and dismissive of the views of those with whom we built Iran’s sanctions architecture in the first place. Although it is hard to measure the precise impact of these perceptions, I and other American diplomats around the world draw every day on our nation’s soft power, which greatly enhances our ability to mobilize other countries to our side. While that soft power is built in many ways, two of its most important sources are the belief among other countries’ leaders and publics that we share similar values, and that America delivers on its commitments. Of course, there is no substitute for the essential deterrent and coercive effects rooted in the hard power of America’s unmatched military arsenal. But we should not underestimate the political capital we will lose—political capital that we draw upon for influence—if we walk away from this deal.
What makes Power's plea so inexplicable is her record. As Claudia Rosett explained back in July:

In a press conference yesterday, Iran's President Hassan Rouhani said that he didn't want the Iranian legislature to approve the nuclear deal (known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA) the Associated Press reported Saturday.
Rouhani told a news conference that the deal was a political understanding reached with the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany, not a pact requiring parliamentary approval. The deal also says Iran would implement the terms voluntarily, he said. ... "If the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action is sent to (and passed by) parliament, it will create an obligation for the government . it will mean the president, who has not signed it so far, will have to sign it," Rouhani said. "Why should we place an unnecessary legal restriction on the Iranian people?" ... The president said a parliamentary vote would benefit the U.S. and its allies, not Iran.
Similarly, Iran's official Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) reported, "President Rouhani underlined that the submission of the JCPOA to the Parliament would mean that the president would have to sign the JCPOA, an extra legal commitment that the administration has already avoided." So Iran doesn't want to be bound legally by the JCPOA.

Both Rep. Donald Norcross (D - N.J.) and Rep. Brendan Boyle (D - Pa.) have announced that they will stand on principle and oppose the nuclear deal with Iran (a/k/a, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA.) I know almost nothing about either of these legislators, but I have tremendous respect for them. They are both freshmen and yet they have both announced that they will stand against their party's leader, President Barack Obama, even though the President has made it clear that the JCPOA is a priority. I have little doubt that both men understand the risk; the administration has made it clear that it will not tolerate apostasy. I give a lot of credit to Sen. Chuck Schumer (D - N.Y.) too, because he may have jeopardized his chances of a spot in the leadership by announcing his opposition to the JCPOA. The New York Daily News reported:
Josh Earnest, President Obama’s spokesman, ripped Schumer Friday after the senior New York senator broke with the President over the nuclear deal with Iran. Earnest all but encouraged Senate Democrats to consider Schumer's opposition to the pact when they vote next year to elect a new Democratic leader.

A number of stories have been reported since the signing of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), as the nuclear deal with Iran is known, that raise serious questions about its effectiveness to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon and even about whether or not it will stop a war.

Syria's Secret Chemical Weapons Stockpile

The Wall Street Journal reported on July 23 (Google link) that Syria, contrary to previous reports, had maintained “caches of even deadlier nerve agents.” Why it's important: The first reason is that Iran is the main sponsor of Assad regime. Given that it has supported the use of WMD in Syria and suffered no consequences for this will likely embolden it. The second reason is more practical. The chemical weapons inspectors were limited by the Assad regime where they could go. They also feared that if they reported something that would displease the authorities they would be barred from other sites. The same problem will exist with Iran. But being able to declare military sites out of bounds for inspections, Iran will limit inspectors' access, compromising the effectiveness of inspections regime.

By now, Sen. Jeff Flake's (R - Ariz.) announcement that he will oppose the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) has been overshadowed by Sen. Robert Menendez' (D - N.J.) Tuesday announcement of his opposition. Still, I'd like to revisit Flake's announcement because he was viewed by the administration, in the words of one report, as a "gettable" Republican. With Flake's announcement it now appears that President Barack Obama will not be able to claim bipartisan support for the JCPOA. I don't know how "gettable," Flake was. To be sure, at the July 23 Senate Foreign Relations hearing Flake was much less adversarial than most other Republicans on the committee, and that played a role in maintaining the impression that he perhaps looked favorably upon the deal. He also was less adversarial than Menendez. However, he asked Kerry some very solid questions and Kerry's responses were awful. How awful? Early in his question and answer session Flake asked Kerry about language in the JCPOA that allowed Iran to opt out if sanctions were re-imposed.

The approach of the President Barack Obama and his administration to the nuclear deal with Iran has been one of knocking down straw men and vilifying opponents of the deal as beholden to lobbyists, following mindless partisanship, and working against America's national security. These are "dog whistle" remarks, which have brought out a rather nasty response Sen. Chuck Schumer's (D - N.Y.) decision last week to oppose the deal. The administration's nastiness even earned condemnation from Tablet Magazine:
This use of anti-Jewish incitement as a political tool is a sickening new development in American political discourse, and we have heard too much of it lately—some coming, ominously, from our own White House and its representatives. Let’s not mince words: Murmuring about “money” and “lobbying” and “foreign interests” who seek to drag America into war is a direct attempt to play the dual-loyalty card. It’s the kind of dark, nasty stuff we might expect to hear at a white power rally, not from the President of the United States—and it’s gotten so blatant that even many of us who are generally sympathetic to the administration, and even this deal, have been shaken by it.
But I think it's a mistake to think that Obama's strategy is counterproductive because it won't build support for the deal.

There John Kerry goes again. Jeffrey Goldberg, the go-to person when the Obama administration wants to get its position out because Goldberg is pro-Israel, landed an interview with John Kerry. The topline storyline is that Kerry is warning the U.S. Congress not to screw (with?) Ayatollah Ali Khamenei:
“The ayatollah constantly believed that we are untrustworthy, that you can’t negotiate with us, that we will screw them,” Kerry said. “This”—a congressional rejection—“will be the ultimate screwing.” He went on to argue that “the United States Congress will prove the ayatollah’s suspicion, and there’s no way he’s ever coming back. He will not come back to negotiate. Out of dignity, out of a suspicion that you can’t trust America. America is not going to negotiate in good faith. It didn’t negotiate in good faith now, would be his point.”
Seriously, we are afraid of ruining the expectations of an Ayatollah who defends calling for the death of America and Israel;

In an essay for August issue of The Tower Magazine, former longtime editor of The New Republic, Martin Peretz calls on Hillary Clinton and Charles Schumer to save the Democratic Party by leading the fight against the nuclear deal with Iran otherwise known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
Two of the most powerful members of the Democratic Party, former and current senators from New York, now hold the fate of the putative deal with Iran in their hands. Because they alone can overturn it, this means that presumptive presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and presumptive Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer carry a heavy burden that will deeply affect their personal reputations and, most probably, the trustworthiness of the Democrats in foreign policy for at least a generation.
Clinton, for her part, has expressed support of the deal. For Peretz, opposing the JCPOA is essential for the Democrats. Noting that Iran re-opened negotiations over the conventional and ballistic arms embargoes at the last minute, Peretz urges Schumer and Hillary to force the administration to go back and re-open the deal improving some of its terms.
Obama the star negotiator has told us that the only other alternative to this treaty is to resolve the Iranian issue “through force, through war.” But, of course, there are other alternatives to war than deficient deals that damage our interests. Fortunately, America is full of talented, responsible, creative negotiators who can improve on the woefully low bar set by Obama, Biden, and Kerry in this catastrophic bargaining process.

The Obama administration thinks it outsmarted opponents of the Iran deal by running to the U.N. Security Council for international approval before Congress's review period even started. It was a typical Obama F-U to his domestic opponents. Since Congress now needs a super-majority to block the deal, the outcome is uncertain. The Obama team is going all out to pressure Democrats to pledge their loyalty to Obama above all else. Loyalty to Obama is likely to win, though it's possible Congress will grow some backbone before it comes to a vote. Obama even is complaining about Israel Lobby money (hint, hint), while John Kerry for the umpteenth time makes implied threats against Israel. Kerry even is on a trip to the Middle East conspicuously not visiting Israel. Meanwhile, the Ahyatollah and his minions are laughing at Obama, Kerry and the U.S. Not just laughing, mocking and gloating, all the while renewing their vows of death to the U.S. and Israel. Since the federal goverment appears hapless and hopeless, is there anything the states can do to stop this deal? Obama Iran Nuke Deal Announcement Joel Pollak at was the first, that I'm aware of, to advance a theory of how states can play a crucial role. A reader forwarded the post to me last week while I was in crazyland San Diego, SURPRISE! THE STATES CAN REJECT THE IRAN DEAL: