Tag Archives: Iran

47 Leaders, not #47Traitors

Freshman Senator Tom Cotton (R-Ark) and forty-six of his Republican colleagues wrote a letter to the Iranian leadership warning that any deal implemented by executive order can be revoked by executive order. That is, whoever is elected in 2016, or even President Obama if he saw fit, can undo the deal at any time. The goal is to prevent Iran from gaming ongoing negotiations with the P5+1, but the letter indirectly strengthens President Obama’s hand. It is a basic good cop/bad cop, with the Republicans playing bad cop so President Obama can play good cop and try to salvage a viable deal.

The accusation that signing this letter is traitorous is bizarre. As a purely legal matter, treason accusations are meritless. Conceptually they fair no better. Not only are the Senators trying to prevent the United States’ most vicious global antagonist from gaining nuclear weapons, they are indirectly helping a president who is doing everything he can to undercut their constitutional powers. Oh, and Tom Cotton is an Army veteran who served tours in Iraq and Afghanistan; hardly an obvious target for treason accusations. Yet the #47traitors hashtag was trending on twitter on Tuesday and a petition calling for the letter’s signatories to be indicted has nearly reached its goal (this brings to mind French Revolution tactics of slaughtering competitors whenever possible, no matter how slim the pretense).

In the bigger picture, what exactly did President Obama expect congressional Republicans to do? In January, 2014, frustrated with constitutional checks and balances that gave the Republican majority in the House a say in governance, President Obama announced that he would rule by fiat, circumventing Congress by relying on executive orders and legislation masquerading as regulation. Then, of course, President Obama’s fellow democrats in the Senate were trounced in November, giving Republicans the Senate, too, and leaving President Obama all the more dependent on cooperation across the aisle, at least under the Constitution. After all, elections have consequences.

But rather then moderate as the Constitution dictates in times of divided governance, the President opted to just ignore separation of powers. The breaking point probably came with an executive order that granted de facto amnesty to millions of people in the country illegally, notwithstanding federal law prohibiting same.

Now, President Obama promises that any deal he strikes with Iran will not be sent to the Senate for ratification (as a treaty requiring a 2/3 vote under Article II) or even for a non-binding up-or-down vote. In his view, he can strike any deal with Iran and suspend or rescind sanctions imposed by legislation duly passed by Congress and signed into law, and Congress has no say whatever.  In practice, President Obama’s overreaching gives Republicans in Congress every justification (and arguably the obligation) to do everything in their power to rein him in.

No, Senator Cotton and company are not traitors.  They are living up to their oaths to protect the country and the Constitution.  President Obama is on pace to sign a disastrous pact that assures Iran a path to nuclear weapons.  To implement the deal, President Obama would ignore federal law, the majority of Congress, and public opinion. Bravo to the Senators for exerting themselves to prevent such a debacle.

There Is No Middle Ground With The Islamic State

The scale of the Islamic State’s (IS) brutality against dissenters across swathes of Syria and Iraq give the West yet another opportunity to accept and embrace the civilizational conflict between Islamists and the modern world order. Since at least the 1960s and especially under the Obama Administration, a growing portion of Americans and Westerners generally have believed that humanity’s universal and inherent goodwill make any quarrel reconcilable with adequate discussion. While the fallacy has long been apparent, it has rarely been illustrated with IS’s tremendous alacrity.

IS’s basic motivation is establishing, or re-establishing, the khilafa – the Islamic Caliphate. According to IS’s brand of Islam, allowing the kafir – the unbeliever – to rule in any land that once was ruled by Islam is an offense to Allah. In this interpretation, once land has become part of Islam – dar ul-Islam – it rightly remains so in perpetuity. Thus IS requires all Muslims to wage war to “restore” the Caliphate, which shall include all of dar ul-Islam, which in turn is coextensive with Islam’s farthest expansion. IS proposes to undo at least 500 years of history, as it would claim the Iberian peninsula (Spain and Portugal), Eastern Europe to the gates of Vienna, the Caucuses, North Africa, parts of Italy and Sicily, and all of Central Asia, South Asia, Southeast Asia and the Indian Subcontinent.

For IS, any and all means are permissible for reestablishing the Caliphate. IS perpetrates mass executions, enslavement, kidnapping and forced marriages to eliminate potential enemies. Those who refuse to convert are executed. Mosul has no Christian population for the first time in 2000 years. IS razes Christian and non-conforming Muslims’ shrines, whether as anathema in-and-of-themselves, or to deprive dissenters of rallying points and hope.

In its attacks on other Muslims whom it deems apostates, IS illustrates its own extremism and one of the flaws in Western thought about Islamist terror. IS does not represent all Muslims; neither does al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, Hamas, the Taliban, Boko Haram, etc. These groups often hate one another with equal or greater passion than they hate Christians, Jews or anyone else. IS merely arrogates its interpretation as the unique, true Islam and self-identifies as Sunnis. Yet many Sunnis oppose them and Sunnis are but one sect of Islam. There are probably around 1.2 billion Muslims who would reject IS theology. So it is that Syria, Iraq, Iran, and the Kurdish Peshmerga are all battling IS despite often deep hostility to one another.

Despite the diversity of Muslim sects and beliefs, Western leaders insist on purveying the same superficial assessment that Islam should be treated as a benign monolith. Western leaders’ penchant for saying “Islam is…” reflects little but the speaker’s ignorance. Islam is not a religion of peace, of war, or of anything else in particular, even if various sects’ more illiberal adherents think it ought to be. Islam is a varied religion led by men who espouse wildly different interpretations and views. IS and its followers are motivated by an interpretation of Islam not only permitting, but requiring unrestrained violence in the name of Islam.

The Western world has no modern equivalent of such religious fanaticism. Europe’s religious wars essentially ended with the enlightenment, albeit with latent patches of religious violence and continuing socio-political battles along sectarian lines. Religious affiliation of any kind continues to wane in the West and committing violence for religious goals is virtually unheard of. There is no ability to internalize that anybody might have religious beliefs so strong, so deep and so harsh that it compels unadulterated violence against nonconformists.

The alienness of unadulterated religious belief that condones violence and ubiquitous rote proclamations that “Islam is a religion of peace” lead Western populations and leaders alike to suffer a sort of cognitive dissonance and avoidance rather than confront the implications of the ongoing, 21st Century religious war. Classical Western ideology holds individual rights including freedom of expression and conscious sacrosanct. IS and discordant other Islamist terrorist organizations believe they are obligated by god to destroy anybody and anything derogating from the universal imposition of their own interpretations of Islam. There is no common ground; only one civilizational principle can survive.

IAEA Report Shows JPA Did Not Reduce Iran’s Breakout Time

The Joint Plan of Action (JPA) between Iran and the P5+1 in late 2013 has done nothing to delay Iran’s nuclear breakout. As discussed previously, the JPA reflects the Obama administration’s misconception that signing a deal, even a bad one, is an achievement, and Iran’s strategy of deception and delay is ongoing. The International Atomic Energy Agency has now confirmed that the JPA has not delayed Iran’s nuclear breakout at all.

Western negotiators have long focused on preventing Iran from developing a stockpile of enriched uranium. Enriching uranium means increasing its percentage of the fissile U235 isotope relative to the non-fissile U238 isotope. Naturally occurring uranium is less than 1% enriched. A nuclear weapon requires a supply of uranium enriched to around 90% (the exact enrichment required varies widely depending on weapon design). Preventing Iran from obtaining enriched uranium necessarily means preventing Iran from getting the bomb.

In theory there are other ways of preventing Iran from becoming a nuclear threat. Even if Iran obtains an adequate supply of highly enriched uranium, it would also need to design and build a weapon capable of igniting a nuclear chain reaction, and a means of delivering the weapon to its target.

These two steps are far more difficult to prevent than enrichment. Iran likely either already has a viable weapon design or is close to developing one. Recent reports indicate that Iran has been working on weapon design more or less continuously since the 1980s, and nuclear weapons design is relatively available to rogue actors due to A.Q. Khan’s decades of proliferation. Iran already has a means of delivery via its and Hezbollah’s global terrorist network, so it can forego the challenging miniaturization process that has stymied North Korea since its first nuclear test in 2006. Alternatively, Iran could place a device aboard ship in the Persian Gulf and cast it off to any coastline in the world.

In addition, enrichment is by far the most public and most geographically expansive predicate for a bomb. Iran is enriching uranium with around 19,000 centrifuges arrayed in vast cascades. These enrichment facilities and their support buildings have significant, identifiable footprints. They can be seen, watched and, if need be, bombed. In contrast, weaponization and miniaturization research can be done in complete secret, as Iran has been doing for thirty years.

As a result, Iran’s available stockpile of enriched uranium has become a proxy measure for its proximity to nuclear breakout, and the tacit assumption is that once Iran reaches 90% enrichment, it can build a weapon on demand.

Yet Iran has made up whatever delays the JPA may have imposed with new technical advancements. The JPA required Iran to shut down some centrifuges, which it reportedly has done. The JPA also required Iran to refine some of its low-enriched uranium stockpile into a (relatively) unusable form, and Iran recently finished building the refinery and may begin converting its stockpile.

However, Iran was not required to stop researching or installing new centrifuges. To the contrary, the JPA explicitly allows Iran to research and install centrifuges, which it has done with impressive results. In the six months since signing the JPA, Iran has made existing centrifuges more efficient, and designed and installed next-generation centrifuges that are faster still.

Together, the improvements Iran made to its enrichment capacity — improvements allowed under the terms of the JPA — counterbalance the entire delay caused by its putative concessions.

This is yet further evidence that the JPA is an abject failure. It achieved nothing, but to convince Iran that the United States will dither until it is too late.