Slight Update & Repost-Henry Kissinger & George Schulz Via The WSJ: ‘The Iran Deal And Its Consequences’

It looks like one of the primary aims of targeting Soleimani was to send the Iranian regime the message that U.S. military force is back on the table, and that the JCPOA is pretty much null and void.  As to mid-to-longer term U.S. strategy in the region, a strategic vision is still needed, scaled to our domestic oil production and our interests (domestically, I’m expecting some kind of center-Left economics, mildly Nationalistic, surrounding a somewhat anti-identity, older-school Marxist core ((Democratic Socialist)), to be a focal point of whatever’s going on with the Democrats during the next few cycles.

As to our foreign partners, I’m still favoring an Anglosphere inner-ring, with geography as a variable, extending outwards to a secondary ring of European partners and trade interests, unifying around containment and ‘common-enemy’ appeals.  As to China joinging a coalition against the Iranian regime, that’s it’s own beast (I guess the appeal has to be made), and Russia, I guess common ground would be limited largely limited to Islamic terrorism and ISIS.

As previously posted:

Piece here (link may return behind a paywall)

A good analysis, likely worth your time. ======================

This blog remains skeptical, and mostly critical (surprise me) of the potential Iran deal so far, because, as Richard Epstein has pointed out, without the threat of force, the deal doesn’t have the leverage needed to really put pressure where it’s needed: Upon a throughly committed, anti-American incentivized group of mullahs and post-1979 revolutionaries running terrorism, militias, guns and money around the region (and sometimes further afield) to become as powerful as they can.

Deliverable nukes are not just a means for an authoritarian theocracy to keep repressing its own people (though there’s plenty of that) nor a way to quell Iranian hostility towards and isolation from international institutions (plenty of that, too), but also a way for deeper Persian, Shia, and national Iranian identity and pride to assert itself in a dangerous region under an authoritarian theocracy. The basic security issues are more than mullah-deep, and the basic security of the Saudis, Israelis, and other interested Sunni-led countries and parties leads one to conclude this could easily turn into an arms race.

This is very risky if you’d prefer peace, or fighting the wars that you need to fight for the security of yourself and your own people, for treaties, alliances and trade, basic human rights or whatever interest or ideal you’d like to see leading our policy in the world (I’d prefer to stay ahead of war in the first place). More details at the link:

‘Under the new approach, Iran permanently gives up none of its equipment, facilities or fissile product to achieve the proposed constraints. It only places them under temporary restriction and safeguard—amounting in many cases to a seal at the door of a depot or periodic visits by inspectors to declared sites.’

The negotiations may yet do a lot of harm because they may not be capable of stopping the Iranian regime from buying time, nor ultimately getting deliverable nukes, nor changing nor constraining their activities enough for the possible opportunity costs involved. Our authors finish with:

If the world is to be spared even worse turmoil, the U.S. must develop a strategic doctrine for the region. Stability requires an active American role. For Iran to be a valuable member of the international community, the prerequisite is that it accepts restraint on its ability to destabilize the Middle East and challenge the broader international order. Until clarity on an American strategic political concept is reached, the projected nuclear agreement will reinforce, not resolve, the world’s challenges in the region. Rather than enabling American disengagement from the Middle East, the nuclear framework is more likely to necessitate deepening involvement there—on complex new terms. History will not do our work for us; it helps only those who seek to help themselves

Addition: Richard Epstein ‘Barack vs. Bibi:’ takes the classical liberal, non anti-war libertarian position:

‘In the end, it is critical to understand that the current weaknesses in American foreign policy stem from the President’s adamant reluctance to commit to the use of American force in international relations, whether with Israel, Iran or with ISIS. Starting from that position, the President has to make huge unilateral concessions, and force his allies to do the same thing. Right now his only expertise is leading from behind. The President has to learn to be tough in negotiations with his enemies. Right now, sadly, he has demonstrated that toughness only in his relationships with America’s friends and allies.’

Another Addition: Adam Garfinkle has a thoughtful piece on American political discourse and the Iran deal.

Another Addition: Israel, Iran, & Peace: Andrew Sullivan Responds To Charges Of Potential Anti-SemitismSome Saturday Links On Iran-Skepticism, To Say The Least George Shultz & Henry Kissinger At The Hoover Institution: ‘What A Final Iran Deal Must Do’ So what are our interests and how do we secure them as the fires in the Middle-East rage? Michael Totten makes a case here in Why We Can’t Leave The Middle-East.’ He gets push-back in the comments

Democracy as we envision it requires people to constrain themselves within laws and institutions that maintain democracy…through Mill’s utilitarianism?: Thursday Quotation: Jeane Kirkpatrick – J.S. Mill Is Bernhard Henri-Levy actually influencing U.S. policy decisions..? From New York Magazine: ‘European Superhero Quashes Libyan Dictator’Bernhard Henri-Levy At The Daily Beast: ‘A Moral Tipping Point’
Do we try and invest in global institutions as flawed as they are…upon a Kantian raft of perpetual peace?: Daniel Deudney On YouTube Responding to Robert Kagan: Liberal Democracy Vs. Autocracy


Anne Applebaum At The Washington Post: ‘Can The West Find The Energy To Deter Russia?’

Full piece here.

Some sensible suggestions:

‘A European Union thinking strategically about its future would create an energy union, as some have already suggested, and begin to bargain collectively for its gas. Europeans should also step up construction of the infrastructure needed to import, transport and store liquefied natural gas (LNG). The United States should step up its own efforts to export LNG. At the same time, the United States should take advantage of the shift to shale oil and build the Keystone XL pipeline. A low international oil price is not only bad for the autocrats who run Russia, Venezuela and other petro-states; it’s also good for American allies. This doesn’t mean that the hunt for alternative energy needs to end. But until the miracle fuel is discovered, it would be a lot safer if the West were supplied by the Canadians.

This kind of thinking won’t help Ukraine in the coming weeks. But it might help ensure the economic and political independence of Europe in the coming years.’

That would require taking a realist look at recent events, acknowledging the reality of economic scarcity and energy consumption, as well as directly challenging the dreams and political power of collectivist environmental activism, for starters.

Related On This Site:  Charlie Rose Episode On Libya Featuring Bernhard Henri-Levy, Les Gelb And OthersFrom The National Interest: ‘Inside The Mind Of George F. Kennan’

Some Links On Foreign Policy & Ukraine

Nearly three years ago now: Eric Posner At The Volokh Conspiracy: The Bear Is Back!

Two Thursday Links On Foreign Policy

Claudia Rosett At PJ Media: ‘The Upside Of Russia’s Threat To Trash The Iran Nuclear Talks:’

Reaching out to the leadership in Iran is risky, but Rosett seems to think it isn’t worth the risk at all:

‘I’ve been in Vienna for the first two rounds of these talks, Feb. 18-20 and March 18-19, and there’s no sign that this diplomatic process is going to stop Iran from getting the bomb. Rather, Iran is making some temporary and reversible concessions, while continuing to enrich uranium, and refusing to give up its ballistic missile program or abandon construction of a heavy-water de facto plutonium-factory reactor near Arak’

Zavid Jarif seemed pretty clear about Iran’s right to enrich as of March 20th, 2014.  This will be tough to bridge.

Putin’s pursuing an ethno-nationalist petro-empire and our most common interest would still be in preventing Islamist terrorism (Iran funds terrorism, mind you).  Is the Moscow-Tehran-Damascus alliance worth bargaining with?  Meanwhile, the Saudis and Israelis are taking their own precautions, given Iran’s right next door.

Many Chinese interests line-up against ours.


Robert Kagan at the Washington Post: ‘President Obama’s Foreign Policy Paradox:’

Per Kagan:  You wanted isolationism, withdrawal, and a light footprint, America, you’ve got it and you don’t seem pleased:

‘For many decades Americans thought of their nation as special. They were the self-proclaimed “leader of the free world,” the “indispensable nation,” the No. 1 superpower. It was a source of pride. Now, pundits and prognosticators are telling them that those days are over, that it is time for the United States to seek more modest goals commensurate with its declining power. And they have a president committed to this task.’

So, what next?

From The American Conservative: ‘Might George Will Join the Iran Battle?’

Full piece here.

This blog is staying agnostic about the war/peace divide, and instead eyes the Iran deal with measured skepticism.  This is just as likely a deal that has traded sanctions for very little in return, and that has bought the Iranian regime time as it is the first tentative step towards thawing relations and bringing them into the international fold.

The ability of the current administration to follow through on its ideals, arrange a coalition of interests and allies ready to act, and properly meet American objectives remains in doubt, especially after Syria.

Damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.

McConnell wants to see Will play shrewd conservative peace advocate to the neo-conservative lobby’s grumblings

‘Wouldn’t it be nice to to see Will absorb something of their example, recognize that whether we have war or peace with Iran is of historic consequence for America and the world, and really join the battle?’

I keep putting up this quote, even though it’s hard to find middle-ground between a nuclear Iran and a very costly war:

A quote from this piece over at the Atlantic: From The Atlantic: Samuel Huntington’s Death And Life’s Work

“Although the professional soldier accepts the reality of never-ending and limited conflict, “the liberal tendency,” Huntington explained, is “to absolutize and dichotomize war and peace.” Liberals will most readily support a war if they can turn it into a crusade for advancing humanistic ideals. That is why, he wrote, liberals seek to reduce the defense budget even as they periodically demand an adventurous foreign policy.”

-Dexter Filkins on Iran here.

-Scowcroft and Brzezinski may be offering plans: ‘George Shultz & Henry Kissinger At The Hoover Institution: ‘What A Final Iran Deal Must Do’

Which Ideas Are Guiding Our Foreign Policy With Iran.’ Some Saturday Links On Iran-Peace At What Price?

Israel, Iran, & Peace: Andrew Sullivan Responds To Charges Of Potential Anti-Semitism

From The NY Times: ‘Deal Reached With Iran Halts Its Nuclear Program’

Full piece here.

The Iranian regime says it will stop enrichment beyond 5%, and dissolve uranium enriched to 20%.  Click through for details.

‘The freeze would last six months, with the aim of giving international negotiators time to pursue the far more challenging task of drafting a comprehensive accord that would ratchet back much of Iran’s nuclear program and ensure that it could be used only for peaceful purposes.’

I suspect John Kerry and his connections had a fair amount to do with the deal.  Back-channels are usually key to these kinds of deals.

Iran gets $6 to $7 billion in relief on economic sanctions which have hobbled the economy (and these people are dealers).  The regime will presumably continue its aims of regional hegemony through all the other means available, including terrorism.  It’s kind of a thugocracy. These may still not be the kinds of people we can do business with:

But some experts, including a former official who has worked on the Iranian issue for the White House, said it was unlikely that Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, would ever close the door on the option to develop nuclear weapons. Instead, they said, any initial six-month agreement is more likely to be followed by a series of partial agreements that constrain Iran’s nuclear activities but do not definitively solve the nuclear issues.’

Cautious optimism?

Have we really brought the regime in from the cold and enticed it through realpolitik carrots and sticks into lawful obligations?

Cynical skepticism?

Will the thugocracy continue to nod towards its lawful obligations while getting ever closer to deliverable nukes, proving we may have lost more than we’ve gained in this process?

What about regional stability with the Saudis & Israelis especially, but Hezbollah, Syria, the Russians and that ever dangerous Shia/Sunni split.

This rogue blogger’s proud of seeing the Brzezinski/Scowcroft connection.  See the previous post.

Addition:  Is there even a deal that reaches beyond the sticking point of the right to enrich at all?

Another Addition:  It’s hard to see how very much has changed at all in the region, now that this piece of paper has been signed, and it’s a little mystifying to think of the time and energy that’s gone into it, and how little the Iranian regime can be trusted, and how little we’ve gained.

This blog doesn’t remain cynically skeptical, it remains wisely skeptical, and watching closely to many of the same dynamics as before.

What has Iran gained?  John Bolton:

‘First, it bought time to continue all aspects of its nuclear-weapons program the agreement does not cover (centrifuge manufacturing and testing; weaponization research and fabrication; and its entire ballistic missile program)

Second, Iran has gained legitimacy

Third, Iran has broken the psychological momentum and effect of the international economic sanctions

We’re playing with fire here, and with decisions that could affect us for generations to come.

Addition:  From the Jerusalem Post, it’s looking like the right to enrich uranium in the first place is a sticking point.  The clock is ticking, and many costs have already built up. Some Saturday Links On Iran-Peace At What Price?

Israel, Iran, & Peace: Andrew Sullivan Responds To Charges Of Potential Anti-SemitismSome Saturday Links On Iran-Skepticism, To Say The Least

So what are our interests and how do we secure them as the fires in the Middle-East rage?  Michael Totten makes a case here in Why We Can’t Leave The Middle-East.’  He gets push-back in the comments

Via Circa: ‘US And Russia Reach Agreement On Seizing Syria’s Chemical Weapons’

Full post here.

‘After 2 days of talks in Geneva, Sec. John Kerry and Russian FM Sergei Lavrov have agreed a framework for Syria handing over their chemical weapons — a move which looks likely to avert a military strike. Kerry said the agreement will be backed by a Security Council resolution that could allow for sanctions if Syria reneges on its obligations.’

From what I’ve heard, read, and been able to piece together:

Addition: Avik Roy interviews Eli Lake At Richochet about who we might be able to support, and how.

What we can hope for is that this is really buying Obama time to hopefully regroup and come up with a strategy.  We’re seeing an exercise in what a lack of American power, strategy, and leadership would look like in the region and sending signals more broadly in the world that we’re not necessarily on top of things (think of it as..ahem…an exercise).

This has given Putin a chance to take advantage of our weakness and advance his interests, like continuing to supply the Assad regime and the Iranians with arms, and get back at us for trying to assist democracy in Ukraine.  He sees any U.S. strikes, anywhere, as something of a threat.  His interests are ideologically and practically opposed to ours, for the most part.  Vlad’s been shrewd and played us like a mob boss plays a flailing mayor.  The mob boss doesn’t even live in the city.

Assad has been thrown a lifeline but it’s not that much, as he is in a bitter, sectarian, Civil War in which defeat likely means death for him, his family, and many Alawis in high government and military positions.   He’s got chemical weapons and they, pretty much, are not likely to go anywhere.  The conflict rages on, and it includes:

A brutal dictatorship meeting the high youth population and the ‘Arab Spring.’

An ethnic, sectarian patchwork of loyalties and alliances

Redrawn colonial maps and a familiar split between Islam and Arab nationalism, between the Muslim Brotherhood and the secular, semi-socialist Baathists

The VERY bitter Sunni/Shia divide

The backdrop of the Iran regime’s aim to have deliverable nukes and be the big dog in the region, (they really do state-sponsor terrorism for leverage and to mess with everyone else).  Russia and the U.S. still are still playing chess in the region, the Russians using Iran and Syria as their leverage.  Israel is watching all of this closely.  Saudi Arabia has turned toward Moscow.


This may sound a little harsh, but what if you held an ‘international community’ rally promoting peace with the possibility of war, and only Putin and Assad showed up?  You didn’t even know what to write on the banner.  The U.N. was too disorganized to show up.  No Britain.  No Australia.  No Canada.  No Europe.  No glorious moment where ‘moderate’ Muslims sweep the terrorists away amidst cheers of solidarity and peace and everybody feels good.  The socialist Francois Hollande calls and says he likes your ideas and may want to participate.

During the rally you may get Putin and Assad to sign in at the front table and you try to take a picture with them in front of the Geneva Conventions, but that’s about it.

Here are two quotes from Henry Kissinger:

The purpose of bureaucracy is to devise a standard operating procedure which can cope effectively with most problems.  A bureaucracy is efficient if the matters which it handles routinely are, in fact, the most frequent and if its procedures are relevant to their solution.  If those criteria are met, the energies of the top leadership are freed to deal creatively with the unexpected occurrence or with the need for innovation.  Bureaucracy becomes an obstacle when what it defines as routine does not address the most significant range of issues or when its prescribed mode of action proves irrelevant to the problem.”


“Moreover, the reputation, indeed the political survival, of most leaders depends on their ability to realize their goals, however these may have been arrived at.  Whether these goals are desireable is relatively less crucial.”

Kissinger, Henry. American Foreign Policy:  Three Essays.  New York: W.W. Norton & Company Inc.  1969.

Positive suggestions?  At least show leadership for the ideals we’re claiming to believe in, like assisting with the humanitarian crisis and trying to help all countries ringing Syria deal with the flow of refugees.  Keep trying to maintain a lifeline with that group of Syrians stuck in a Civil War who aren’t radicals, or at least will have to live there when it’s over.  No, we don’t need relocate them here, necessarily.  Keep reassuring Israel.  Try and make the most of the situation with the Turks.  Offer the arms and black and spec ops that we are.  Keep trying to maintain our alliances, with you know, our allies…


Related On This Site:  A Few More Syria Links-’Unmitigated Clusterf**k?’

More Syria-From Via Media: ‘Congress on Syria: Going In On A Wing and A Prayer’From Slate: ‘In Aleppo, Syria, Mohamed Atta Thought He Could Build The Ideal Islamic City’

Michael Totten At World Affairs: ‘Syria’s Regime Not Worth Preserving’James Kirchik At The American Interest: 

Michael Totten’s piece that revisits a Robert Kaplan piece from 1993, which is prescient:  “A Writhing Ghost Of A Would-Be Nation”.  It was always a patchwork of minority tribes, remnants of the Ottoman Empire

Adam Garfinkle At The American Interest: ‘What Did The Arab Spring Really Change?’…Liberal Internationalism is hobbling us, and the safety of even the liberal internationalist doctrine if America doesn’t lead…Via Youtube-Uncommon Knowledge With Fouad Ajami And Charles Hill

Is Bernhard Henri-Levy actually influencing U.S. policy decisions..? From New York Magazine: ‘European Superhero Quashes Libyan Dictator’Bernhard Henri-Levy At The Daily Beast: ‘A Moral Tipping Point’Charlie Rose Episode On Libya Featuring Bernhard Henri-Levy, Les Gelb And Others

From Middle East Perspectives: ‘President Obama’s New Leadership Picks And The Middle-East’

Full post here.

Rick Francona is not happy with the overall direction of Obama’s policies:

‘That said, orders for military operations originate at the White House, for better or worse. It is no secret that I think this Administration is clueless on effective military operations. Again, see the article I mentioned above.

I assume that the Senate will not violate the professional courtesy afforded to fellow Senators and that both Hagel and Kerry will be confirmed. Again, they will only carry out the ill-advised policies of the President.’

Where is there a conservative movement in the Middle-East not dominated by political Islam?  In order to get around the autocrats, where are there liberal movements that represent the will of enough people with enough wealth to build democratic institutions?

Addition:  In the meantime, without our objectives necessarily being met, and without taking a position of leadership, Obama continues to assume his liberal internationalism tempered by realpolitik is sufficient to secure our interests.

Related On This Site: Al-Zawahiri’s Egypt, a good backstory: Lawrence Wright At The New Yorker: ‘The Man Behind Bin Laden’

From Al Jazeera English: ‘Morsi Wins Egypt’s Presidential Election’Adam Garfinkle At The American Interest on Egypt: ‘Still More of the Same—and Something New’…are we still on a liberalizing, Westernizing trajectory?, however slow the pace? Adam Garfinkle At The American Interest: ‘What Did The Arab Spring Really Change?’

From Abu Muqawama: ‘Mubarak And Me’From Michael Totten: ‘The New Egyptian Underground’Michael Totten At The American Interest: “A Leaner, Meaner Brotherhood”

Pakistan’s a mess, but in a way, more stable than Egypt:  Via Youtube Via Michael Totten At World Affairs: ‘VICE Guide To Karachi’Christopher Hitchens At Vanity Fair: ‘From Abbotabad To Worse’Repost-’Dexter Filkins In The NY Times: The Long Road To Chaos In Pakistan’