Tag: Iran

No Money for Hostages! (Unless We Do It)

Hmmm:

When Iran released four American prisoners in January, including journalist Jason Rezaian and former U.S. Marine Amir Hekmati, it was heralded as a diplomatic breakthrough, CBS News’ Margaret Brennan reports.

“The plight of these individuals is they have done it and we have paid a price. We paid a price in a major way to bring them home,” said Representative Robert Pittenger upon their release. He was a member of a coalition of congressman that met three of the freed Americans at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany.

The Obama administration strongly denied paying any ransom to Iran, Brennan says, but according to details first reported by the Wall Street Journal, currency worth $400 million was flown into Tehran on a cargo plane around the same time that the Americans were released.

The plane was loaded with cash: Euros, Swiss Francs and other currencies, since any transaction with Iran in dollars is illegal under United States law.

Senior U.S. officials, Brennan reports, claimed the timing was coincidental: President Obama had planned to pay Tehran nearly 2 billion dollars to settle an outstanding legal dispute from before the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

“With the nuclear deal done, prisoners released, the time was right to resolve this dispute as well,” Obama said.

But the administration never consulted congress, according to Republican Congressman Ed Royce, who accused the White House of paying ransom to a state sponsor of terrorism, and as details of the cash became public Tuesday, there were instant reverberations on the campaign trail.

A few things to unravel here.

The money is ostensibly part of a $1.7 billion settlement of a $10 billion legal dispute from the time of the Shah, a dispute the US was likely to lose. The cash payment was because transacting with Iran in US dollars is illegal. If that were all that were going on here, it wouldn’t be that noteworthy.

But … it is noteworthy because Iran released four prisoners around the same time and is portraying the payment, at least to their populace, as a ransom. And the surreptitious way in which it was done tells you the Obama Administration knew quite well how it would be seen. They can squirm all they want but the difference between, “We’re paying you $400 million to release prisoners” and “we’re settling this legal dispute with you coincidentally at the same time you’re releasing prisoners” is academic. This is a ransom all but in name.

(A historical parallel: one of the conditions of settling the Cuban Missile Crisis was withdrawing nuclear weapons from Turkey. The Kennedy Administration was at least smart enough to delay the withdrawal so it didn’t look like a quid pro quo even though it was. The Obama Administration wasn’t even that smart.)

The last time we did anything remotely close to this, it was called Iran-Contra and we had years of hearings on it. Will the same happen now? I expect the Republicans to have some hearings. But I also expect the usual symphony of eye rolls, shrugs and “BENGHAZIIII!” denialism from the media and the Democrats. It’s likely that no laws were broken here. But, Good Lord, is this shady.

Thursday Links

Time to clear out my tabs.

  • Barack Obama visited a mosque this week to denounce anti-Muslim violence. Anti-Muslim violence is a real and deplorable thing. But the majority of ethnic violence around the world is anti-Semitic and it’s not really close. In France, Jews are fleeing the country for Israel due to waves of violence.
  • MLK’s “I Have a Dream” speech is one of the most iconic and important speeches in American history. It’s not good enough, college students say, because it doesn’t include gender identity.
  • Last week was School Choice Week over at Reason. And I’d like to point out that School Choice works. Check out the performance of Louisiana schools since Jindal’s overhaul.
  • Italy covered up some nude statues to avoid “offending” Iranian visitors (interestingly, without Iran having asked for it). Marc Randazza lets them have it.
  • South Africa is going to lift the ban on trading rhino horn in an attempt to save the species from total collapse. Environmentalists are aghast. I think it can’t work worse than their current conservation efforts.
  • The latest on potential breakthroughs in nuclear power. Any serious attack on global warming should start with nuclear power. Hell, any serious energy policy at all should start with it, even if we ignore global warming.
  • Trumps whining and crying is delicious. I’m very curious to see how the national polls look next week.

Libya vs. Iran

We’ve been discussing the Iran nuclear deal in the Seized Sailors thread but I wanted to put this particular point above the fold. Because I’m asking a serious question for the field:

What is the substantive difference between the WMD deal we made with Libya in 2004 and the WMD deal we just made with Iran?

As you may remember, in December 2003, Libya agreed to end their WMD program and destroy their stockpiles in exchange for lifting the sanctions. By September, most of their stockpile had been destroyed (although some remained and wasn’t destroyed until a decade later) and Bush signed orders doing away with all of the sanctions. Like the Iran deal, it was not a formal treaty.

Gaddafi was more of a traditional dictator and less of an Islamic fundamentalist. Their nuclear ambitions were more aspirational than real. But, like Iran, Libya was a state sponsor of terrorism. Like Iran, Libya had engaged in direct military conflict with the United States. Like Iran, Libya had a hideous record on human rights. Like Iran, Libya was dedicated to the destruction of Israel. And unlike Iran, Libyan citizens did not hold a vigil to honor the fallen of 9/11.

I don’t remember anyone screaming blue murder when we reached the deal with Libya. On the contrary, many credited Bush’s manly vigor in invading Iraq for having induced Libya to cooperate. And the deal with Iran has produced more compliance already than the deal with Libya did (although Libya never did get their WMD program going again).

So … why was the Libya deal good and the Iran deal is bad? What is the difference between the two? Is it just that you don’t trust Obama and Kerry to implement it (a not illegitimate concern)? Is it that Iran’s program is more advanced? Or did you oppose the Libya deal as well?

I’m not being snide here. I honestly want to know what the difference between those two deals is.

Sailors Seized

I see our detente with Iran is going just swimmingly.

Look, I think it is important that we move toward more normalized relations with Iran. The cold war between Iran and Saudi Arabia has been heating up rapidly in recent weeks after the Saudis executed a Shiite cleric, the Iranians condemned the act and sent protesters against the embassy and Sudan, Bahrain and the UAE broken off diplomatic relations. We can’t take a side in this.

But it’s increasingly clear that the Obama Administration can not carry out this difficult feat of diplomatic jujitsu.

At this point, the sailors need to be returned immediately. Iran is testing us.

Iran Deal

Hmmm:

World powers have reached a deal with Iran on limiting Iranian nuclear activity in return for the lifting of international economic sanctions.

US President Barack Obama said that with the deal, “every pathway to a nuclear weapon is cut off” for Iran.

And President Hassan Rouhani said the “historic” deal opened a “new chapter” in Iran’s relations with the world.

Mr Obama, who is trying to persuade a sceptical US Congress of the benefits, said it would oblige Iran to:

remove two-thirds of installed centrifuges and store them under international supervision

get rid of 98% of its enriched uranium

accept that sanctions would be rapidly restored if the deal was violated

permanently give the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) access “where necessary when necessary”

Sanctions relief would be gradual, Mr Obama said, with an arms embargo remaining in place for five years and an embargo on missiles for eight years.

The major drawback is the end of the sanctions. Jonah Goldberg explains:

The lifting of crippling sanctions, which will come about as part of the nuclear deal struck in Vienna, means that at least $150 billion, a sum Barack Obama first invoked in May, will soon enough flow to Tehran. With this very large pot of money, the regime will be able to fund both domestic works and foreign adventures in Syria, Yemen, Lebanon, Iraq, and elsewhere.

It is hard to imagine a scenario—at least in the short term—in which Hezbollah and other terror organizations on the Iranian payroll don’t see a windfall from the agreement. This is a bad development in particular for the people of Syria. Iran, as the Assad regime’s funder, protector, and supplier of weapons, foot soldiers, and strategists, is playing a crucial role in the destruction of Syria. Now Syrians will see their oppressor become wealthier and gain international legitimacy (legitimacy not just for Iran’s nuclear infrastructure, which this deal will leave in place.)

Goldberg, however, points out that, despite these problems, the deal achieves our main objective of delaying Iran’s acquisition of a nuclear weapon, possibly for decades. I would also add that it prevents us from not reaching a deal and seeing the sanctions regime collapse, particularly from the Russian side, where Moscow is trying to form a stronger alliance with Iran.

A key point for me is that the sanctions are set to snap back automatically if Iran is found to have violated the deal, which is a key point. It would take a new UN resolution to remove them again.

Liberals are praising the deal; conservatives are denouncing it. I expect to see Chamberlain cited about a million times in the next sixty days (it is, after all, the only history the neocons are familiar with). But I don’t see that there was much of a choice here. Bombing Iran sounds good, but it would spark a massive international crisis and might not even work. Maintaining the sanctions would be fine, but that coalition is already crumbling and would collapse completely if we walked away from a deal.

In short, I think this is probably the least bad option given the cards we have.

The Outline of a Deal

It’s not official, yet. Right now it’s just the framework. But the basics of the nuclear deal with Iran look … not that bad, actually. Iran will cut down it’s centrifuges by two-thirds and not enrich uranium past 3.67 percent. They’ll cut their stockpile of enriched uranium by 97% and not build any new facilities for 15 years. IAEA will have access to all of their facilities. This is the most important part:

U.S. and E.U. nuclear-related sanctions will be suspended after the IAEA has verified that Iran has taken all of its key nuclear-related steps. If at any time Iran fails to fulfill its commitments, these sanctions will snap back into place.

Sanctions related to support of terrorism will remain in place.

Israel is unhappy, but Israel will be unhappy with just about any deal. The GOP and many Congressional Democrats are objecting, but they’ll object to almost any deal. Obviously a better deal would eliminate their nuclear facilities completely. But Ed Krayewski makes a good point:

That’s the reality a lot of critics of the Iran deal don’t want to admit. President Obama even briefly touched on it yesterday—a country won’t do something just because America wants it to. For starters, the country’s political leadership would have to be historically illiterate to even consider it. Following American diktats provide no guarantee of not becoming a target of American ire in the future (i.e. Qaddafi giving up WMDs and then getting regime-changed by the West anyway). Could the U.S. continue sanctions against Iran? Certainly. The Israeli government would appear to consider that a better option. But sanctions aren’t effective at compelling compliance. Cuba’s been the subject of sanctions for more than half a century—neither did the sanctions break the communist regime nor were they even able to accomplish the more limited goal of extracting reimbursements for property seized by the Cuban government. And, most importantly, sanctions rarely hurt the ruling class of a country. The Ayatollahs, the Castros, the Kims, they’re all authoritarians of very different stripes, but none have known hunger or deprivation because of the sanctions their actions may have triggered.

While I agree that our ability to force Iran’s hand is limited, I’d disagree that the sanctions haven’t been a big factor here. Iran is much closer to a democracy than Cuba is and the bad Iranian economy has clearly put the leadership in jeopardy of popular uprising. I don’t think Iran would be at the table at all had it not been for the sanctions. This is good: it indicates a sliver of pragmatism laced within the fundamentalist dipshittery that infests Iran’s leaders.

As always, the devil is in the details. We’ll see how the final deal looks and how the inspections go down. But so far … this doesn’t look half bad … if the inspections and the conditional nature of withdrawing sanctions are as strong as the State Department is claiming.

Trying Their Hand at Diplomacy

Barack Obama has been negotiating with Iran for a potential deal that would delay their nuclear ambitions while lightening sanctions. We’ve been debating the wisdom of this in the comments for a while. The Republicans oppose any deal without more sanctions and invited Netanyahu to address Congress without consulting the President, an unusual move (although I found Netanyahu’s speech itself to be reasonable and conciliatory).

But this week, things took an interesting turn:

A group of 47 Republican senators has written an open letter to Iran’s leaders warning them that any nuclear deal they sign with President Barack Obama’s administration won’t last after Obama leaves office.

Organized by freshman Senator Tom Cotton and signed by the chamber’s entire party leadership as well as potential 2016 presidential contenders Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and Rand Paul, the letter is meant not just to discourage the Iranian regime from signing a deal but also to pressure the White House into giving Congress some authority over the process.

“It has come to our attention while observing your nuclear negotiations with our government that you may not fully understand our constitutional system … Anything not approved by Congress is a mere executive agreement,” the senators wrote. “The next president could revoke such an executive agreement with the stroke of a pen and future Congresses could modify the terms of the agreement at any time.”

As a matter of law, the Republicans are right. Any deal will not be a formal treaty ratified by Congress. As a matter of practical politics, however, I find this meaningless. If, two years from now, Iran is violating the terms of the deal, there will no problem in revoking it. However, if the deal is working, I don’t see how a Republican President could possibly revoke it and basically put Iran on a faster path to a nuclear weapon. If we were to unilaterally back out, Iran would be able to resume a nuclear program without international sanctions, which is a worse situation than we have right now. In fact, I would argue that issuing this threat at this time is likely to make the Iranian situation worse. Doug Mataconis:

First of all, as several observers have noted since the letter was released yesterday, the threat that an agreement reached with the Obama Administration might not be honored by the next President, or that it could be undermined by Republicans in Congress through a variety of methods is likely to reinforce the position of Iranian hardliners who are against any agreement at all. This letter reinforces exactly what they already believe, that the United States cannot be trusted and that Iran must move forward with a nuclear program to protect its national interests. Second, the current sanctions regime is working largely only because the other major nations in the world are on board with it because they believe that it will help in the ongoing negotiations in Geneva to persuade the Iranians that there could be a benefit to agreeing to limits on their nuclear program, namely the gradual lifting of sanctions. Even the Russians and Chinese have signed on to this strategy, for now. If these other nations start to see the U.S. as taking a hard line position that makes diplomacy impossible, though, it’s unlikely that they are going to stick with the program or that they will agree to the kind of tougher sanctions that Republicans, and the Israeli Prime Minister favor. If the international sanctions regime is undermined, then there goes the pressure on Iran to come to the negotiating table. Finally, the simple fact of the matter that these Republicans seem to be ignoring is that Iran is not going to give up its nuclear program the way that nations like Libya and South Africa, to pick two examples that Senator Cotton cited this morning, did simply because history has shown them what happens to regimes who give up their WMD programs, such as Libya and Iraq, and those that do not, such as North Korea. Rather than aiming for an impossible objective, then, it strikes me that the best alternative is to try to get the Iranians to agree to confine their research to peaceful uses of nuclear technology. Senator Cotton and his colleagues just helped to undermine that objective.

I would also add that it endangers the cooperation Iran is giving us in fighting ISIS, which I regard as the greater of two evils at the moment.

Iran’s foreign minister has responded to the letter quite forcefully, indicated the letter is having the effect of encouraging Iranian hardliners. And parts of the Left Wing is accusing the Republicans of sabotaging Obama on foreign policy. I’m inclined to somewhat agree.

Foreign policy is one of the few arenas where the President has primary authority. Congress has some say — funding the President’s initiatives and ratifying treaties and so on. But it is not the job of Congress to act like amateur diplomats. Acting like amateur diplomats is the job of Obama’s bumbling State Department. I said as much when Nancy Pelosi went to Syria to meet with Assad: that was not her damned job. It was not the job of Congressmen to undermine the President’s foreign policy then; it’s not the job of Congressmen to undermine the President’s foreign policy now.

As is their wont, the Left is taking a reasonable point and becoming absurd, accusing the Republicans of “treason” for this. This isn’t treason, no matter what you think of it. I’d reserve that to … say … a sitting Senator negotiating with a hostile foreign power to influence an American election.

It’s one thing for Congress to influence policy through the power of the purse or the power of law. But this sort of direct communication with a foreign government during negotiations is a bridge too far. They need to cut it out. If they want to cancel any deal with Iran, they can try to pass a law over Obama’s veto. Or they can the election in 2016 and abrogate it then. But they need to leave off the theatrics. The situation with Iran is delicate enough without 47 senators barging into it.

The Circle of Bullshit

Probably the most amazing thing about Washington and the punditocracy that surrounds it is that being ignorant, foolish or spectacularly wrong does not discredit anyone. As long as they can give authoritative soundbites, they will get columns, appearances on TV shows and places in administrations. I’ve talked in this space before about Mark Zandi, who failed to foresee the financial crisis, who predicted massive GDP increases from Obama’s stimulus and whose Moody’s gave AAA ratings to what turned out to be giant tottering piles of subprime mortgage crap. Despite this abysmal track record, he is still trotted out as an expert on economic matters. I’ve talked about Paul Ehrlich, who predicted mass starvation and disease at precisely the time that humanity was getting healthier and fatter. He also lost the Simon-Ehrlich wager badly. He is still trotted out to tell us we’re all going to resort to cannibalism in a few years. We’ve talked about Algore, who did climate science a huge disservice by touting doomsday scenarios and citing the shakiest studies as long as they had the most dire predictions.

Well, one of the worst of the “I’ve been completely wrong but you should absolutely listen to me” people are the group of neocons who touted the Iraq War. Bill Kristol and Fred Kagan have an op-ed calling for us to send troops into Iraq. But Reason reminds us of what they were saying 12 years ago:

The one point I would make is that I think in all the discussion of risks we have lost sight of some of the rewards of a reasonably friendly, reasonably pro-Western government in Iraq. It would really transform the Middle East. A friendly, free, and oil-producing Iraq would leave Iran isolated. I think Syria would be cowed. The Palestinians would, I think, be more willing to negotiate seriously with Israel after this evidence of American willingness to exert influence in the region. Saudi Arabia would have much less leverage, if only because of Iraqi oil production coming on line, with us and with Europe.

Removing Saddam Hussein and his henchmen from power would be a genuine opportunity, I think, to transform the political landscape of the Middle East. The rewards would be very great, and I would also say the risks of failing to do this I think are very great.

This was, to say the least, absurdly optimistic. I doubt that this scenario would have emerged even if Rumsfeld and Bremer hadn’t completely bolloxed the entire enterprise (speaking of Bremer, he’s calling for action as well). But even by 2006, it was obvious that the exact was opposite was going to happen. The Palestinians have been more aggressive, Saudi Arabia has been more oppressive, Syria is in the midst of a brutal civil war and Iran … well, we might be fighting alongside Iran before this is over. That potential alliance wouldn’t even be a possibility if the neocons had gotten their way and we’d starting bombing Iran five years ago.

I realize this is inside Washington stuff — yakkity-yakking talking heads. But to me it embodies the biggest problem with Washington right now: a complete lack of accountability. It doesn’t matter how badly someone has screwed up. They’re never held responsible. The architects of the financial crisis write the banking reform bill. The architect of the Obamacare website clown car is allowed to finish her tenture. Even on the rare occasion someone is forced out, they fall ass backwards into lobbying jobs or commentary gigs, making millions. Sometimes they even find their way back into power. It’s like the Circle of Life, only with bullshit.

The lesson here is that Washington doesn’t care if you’re a total fuck-up as long as you are one of their total fuckups. The system does not exist to do what’s right for the country. It exists to perpetuate the elites, to keep them on the gravy train of government, lobbying and commentary. And if no problems get solved and nothing gets done and the country rambles down the road smashing into concrete dividers like a car without a driver … well, that’s just something else they can comment on and propose pointless policy for.

In a vacuum, that’d be fine. Let the elitist assholes yell at each other. But we don’t live in a vacuum. We live in a country under a mountain of debt, tied down with broken regulations like Gulliver in Lilliput and maybe sending more Americans into harm’s way for no clear purpose. The Circlejerk of Bullshit has a very real cost. At what point will we have had enough of this?

Do We Want Another War?

A couple of months ago, the Obama Administration and the P5+1 negotiators worked out a temporary deal with Iran on nuclear weapons. About a week ago, the first date was set — January 20 — for Iran to begin scaling down their program.

Congress is now working on a plan to scuttle this deal. Their bill, which is apparently one vote short of being veto-proof, would impose new sanctions on Iran, effectively ending the agreement. As a result, Iran would not get rid of enriched uranium; they would not dismantle their enrichment equipment and they would be free to start up new centrifuges. Of course, they might not do those things anyway. But they will definitely not do them in the face of new sanctions.

As shaky as the Kerry deal is, I think it should be allowed to proceed. Goldberg:

For years, Iran hawks have argued that only punishing sanctions, combined with the threat of military force, would bring Tehran to the nuclear negotiating table. Finally, Iran is at the table. And for reasons that are alternately inexplicable, presumptuous and bellicose, Iran hawks have decided that now is the moment to slap additional sanctions on the Iranian regime.

The bill before the U.S. Senate, which has 59 co-sponsors at last count, will not achieve the denuclearization of Iran. It will not lead to the defunding of Hezbollah by Iran or to the withdrawal of Iranian support for Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. What it could do is move the U.S. closer to war with Iran and, crucially, make Iran appear — even to many of the U.S.’s allies — to be the victim of American intransigence, even aggression. It would be quite an achievement to allow Iran, the world’s foremost state sponsor of terrorism, to play the role of injured party in this drama. But the Senate is poised to do just that.

I write this as someone with hawkish views about the Iranian nuclear program. Iran is ruled by despots who endorse and fund the murder of innocent people; oppress women, gays and religious minorities in the most terrible ways; and threaten to exterminate a member-state of the United Nations. Some of the “moderates” in the regime are moderate only in comparison to Holocaust-deniers. The regime in Tehran cannot be allowed to cross the nuclear threshold: Israel’s existence is at stake, as is the security of the U.S.’s Sunni Arab friends across the Middle East. The U.S.’s international standing would also be imperiled by a nuclear Iran.

But, at least in the short term, negotiations remain the best way to stop Iran from crossing the nuclear threshold. And U.S. President Barack Obama cannot be hamstrung in discussions by a group of senators who will pay no price for causing the collapse of negotiations between Iran and the P5 + 1, the five permanent members of the security council, plus Germany. “You have a large group of senators who are completely discounting the views of the administration, the actual negotiators, the rest of the P5 + 1, the intelligence community and almost every Iran analyst on earth,” said Colin Kahl, who, as a deputy assistant secretary of defense for the Middle East during Obama’s first term, was responsible for preparing all of the options that the President says are still on the table.

I am dubious that a long-term deal can be worked out or that Iran will comply with the current deal. But I do know that our position for containing Iran will be much stronger if they show themselves to be the unreasonable ones. And, even if I opposed the deal, I do not see the value in imposing new sanctions on Iran at this stage. What exactly is the goal of that? To make them … negotiate more? Is “thank you for coming to the table, here’s more sanctions” going to change things for the better?

Or is the point to push us toward a war?

I am finding Congress’ move to effectively undermine the deal to be alarming. It reflect a neocon mentality that has thoroughly infested both Right and Left; a belief that the use of force is the only acceptable outcome of a foreign policy debate. There is a large block of Congressmen — in both parties — to whom war with Iran is not the means; it’s the end. The have claimed that they wanted Iran to deal. But now that Iran is dealing, they want to scuttle the agreement. Listening to them, it sounds like their fear isn’t that the deal won’t work; their fear is that it will.

It’s not even clear that a war can stop Iran’s nuclear ambitions. They have spread their facilities out, buried others and it’s not clear that anything short of occupying a Russia-backed country twice the size of Iraq would accomplish anything. What we would probably be talking about is some bombings, followed by a long drawn-out conflict over traffic in the Gulf with likely massive spikes in oil prices as Iran uses terrorism and small military attacks to effectively bottleneck a critical fraction of the world’s oil supply.

That’s a big price to pay for some chest thumping.

Conor finds an eerie parallel to the Iraq War, reminding us that many of the same neoconservative hawks trying to scuttle the Iran deal behaved the same way in the run-up to Iraq. The neocons ignored any and all criticisms of their Iraq strategy, deriding their opponents as America-haters and naive peacenicks while portraying themselves as “the reality-based community”. Wanting to contain Iraq was a sign that you were a naive egghead who didn’t really know how the world worked. Serious adults understood that invading Iraq and occupying it was the only realistic course of action (read some of the pre-war boasts Conor links and weep at the hubris).

The American right has not undertaken a rational analysis of Iran policy and concluded that sanctions and the increased possibility of war is the most prudent course. Rather, a small faction of neoconservative ideologues believes, against all evidence, that a strike on Iran is desirable, and they’ve managed to win allies not by winning arguments on the merits but by exploiting right-wing foreign-policy heuristics. Conservatives “know” that President Obama is an Israel-hating, Kenyan anti-colonialist dove, and that liberals are naive pacifists, so there is no need to engage the critiques of Iran hawkishness on the merits. If liberals are for diplomacy in this case, it cannot be that there is a strong rational case to support such efforts. It must be because naive liberals always want to talk things out with our enemies. And these conservatives “know” that talking with Iran will do no good, not because they’ve studied the subject, but because their heuristics tell them so.

Meanwhile, most though not all Democratic enablers of this nonsense (some Democrats just are hawks) see standing with the neoconservative ideologues as a political win, both because it aligns them with powerful AIPAC lobbyists and because it burnishes their credentials as “serious” foreign-policy thinkers, inoculating them against the caricature of naive, dovish liberals. (American politics is often about overcoming entrenched narrative disadvantages.) This anti-substantive approach to Iran is extremely reckless and potentially catastrophic. America’s legislators and its movement conservatives would realize as much if they stopped making decisions based on heuristic shortcuts about Obama, liberals, and diplomacy, and started looking at hard-headed analysis that lays out likely consequences of war with Iran. There is, in fact, no shortage of it.

In retrospect, the danger signs for our Iraq adventure were obvious. There wasn’t a lot of discussion of practical strategy; there was almost no realistic approach to the status of post-war Iraq; concerns about internecine fighting were tamped down; it was never really argued how war with Iraq would bring down Al-Qaeda. No, we were told that the Iraq war planners were serious men who were taking the problems seriously and advocating a serious course of action that would seriously turn Iraq into a democracy. They were vindicated, for a while, because the American military is the most capable fighting machine in history and was filled with people who would do their best, would pay any price, would go back into the lion’s den a dozen times to try to make it work. But here we are, trillions of dollars poorer with thousands of our best dead and tens of thousands more injured and Iraq trying to keep parts of their country from falling to Al-Qaeda. It is my opinion that the big mistakes on Iraq were made before any shots were fired. We didn’t plan for a long war and we didn’t plan for a long war because the neocons insisted that they were serious “reality-based” men who knew what they were doing and only a naive squish would question them.

The rumblings on Iran eerily remind me of the rumblings on Iraq. There is little concern with the practical effects and the potential for a much wider conflict. No, inside-the-beltway neocons are make condescending hubristic statements about how there is only one way to solve this and only one realistic approach and we should just let Israel do what they want and drag us into a massive regional conflict. When concerns are raised, they shake their heads, roll their eyes, tut-tut and make condescending statements about the naiveté of those who think we should think out a war before we start one.

We don’t need another Iraq. We don’t need the same hubristic fools who claimed that we’d turn Iraq into a peaceful Western democracy assuring us that the Iran government will fall if we attack it (governments almost never collapse as a result of outside attack; outside attacks usually rally people behind their government. If we bomb Iran, the people won’t blame the Mullahs).

Our strategy of containment has managed to keep Iran “six months away” from a nuclear weapon for 15 years. The current deal is likely to implode but it’s a small ray of hope that there is a way out of this that will not leave thousands of Iranians, American, Iraqis, Saudis and Israelis on the floor. We should allow that, however unlikely it is, to proceed.

Having Obama and Kerry leading out foreign policy is bad. But having 60 chest-thumping Senators leading it would be even worse. Let this play out.

An Iran Deal

This is breaking now so updates as events warrant. We appear to have struck a deal with Iran. The agreement apparently includes a halt to their nuclear program: no enrichment past 5%, no new centrifuges, no new enrichment facilities, full inspections and getting rid of any 20% enriched uranium. They will be allowed to continue to enrich uranium to low levels (3.5%) consistent with nuclear reactors, can keep their current centrifuges and the sanction will be eased (maybe; not clear at this point). This is preparing for a permanent deal in the next six months.

Expect Israel and the GOP to have a fit, whether the deal is a good one or not. I want to see more information before I judge.