Done Deal

Former Spook ‘Nate Hale’ comments, here.


  1. Whitewall says

    Obama’s resume of infamy and treachery is nearly complete. He and the Left despise America and indeed Western Civ. this much it seems. He is a vile Red Democrat traitor. The rest I have to say is too impolite to say.

    Posted July 14, 2015 at 1:42 pm | Permalink
  2. Malcolm says

    I have to disagree. The man has another seventeen months to go, and I am sure he will make the most of it.

    Imagine the damage a rampaging jackass could do to the inside of your house in that amount of time.

    Posted July 14, 2015 at 1:48 pm | Permalink
  3. the one eyed man says

    Please tell us what alternative you would suggest to the deal which was announced today.

    Posted July 14, 2015 at 2:07 pm | Permalink
  4. Malcolm says

    As usual, Peter, your comment contains an enthymeme — an implicit and unstated assumption. In this case it is that the only real alternative is war, and that any deal we can get is better than that. And perhaps that is true! (Though I don’t think so.) But the trouble comes when the foe across the negotiating table knows how much you actually fear going to war — and that’s exactly what happened here.

    What can a nation bring to bear when dealing with a situation like this? There are only economic force and the threat of military force. Iran, however, having watched this nation’s recent history with careful attention, knows very well that we haven’t the spine to exert military force. That, then, leaves as our only remaining lever of power economic force, which we have just surrendered on very generous and permissive terms — terms that would have been called completely unacceptable just a few months ago. It was very clear that Messrs. Obama and Kerry wanted this treaty so badly that we were willing to do it on almost any terms.

    In America, there are tremendous misgivings about this agreement, and another political battle shaping up — while in our enemy’s capital, there is dancing in the streets. That alone ought to tell you something.

    Sanction pressure, which is what brought Tehran to the table in the first place, should have continued until Iran was, at the very least, made to agree to no-notice inspections, to discontinue its ballistic-missile program, to stop its aggressions in the region, and to recognize Israel. Any deal worth making should deny Iran the capacity to make nuclear weapons and delivery systems, not just try to prevent Iran from building and using them. But we have been very, very generous — lowering our demands again and again — on centrifuges, inspections, and missile development.

    Iran is not a trustworthy partner. The regime in Tehran, whose position we have now solidified, is our implacable enemy, and will say or do anything to further its interests. This regime will now be flush with money, and will thereby be able to consolidate its grip on power as domestic pain rapidly subsides. It can be counted on to cheat as aggressively as it can. Meanwhile, there is every reason to doubt that it will be possible for us to “snap back” sanctions when (not if) Iran is demonstrated to have violated the terms of the agreement. Tehran knows, given the exhaustion of America’s military will, that there is very little indeed to back up our end of this agreement. The deal is all carrot and no stick.

    How did we come to such a pass, in which the immense bargaining power of America’s military strength is no longer available to us? I’m afraid that’s beyond the scope of this comment. But if there really are no good alternatives to this crappy deal, that is the reason why.

    Posted July 14, 2015 at 3:42 pm | Permalink
  5. JK says

    Posted July 14, 2015 at 4:55 pm | Permalink
  6. the one eyed man says

    There is no “implicit and unstated assumption” that “the only real alternative is war.” War is by no means an inevitability if the deal fell apart: the far more likely alternative is that Iran would simply restart its nuclear program. After the disaster in Iraq, it is hard to imagine an American president launching a pre-emptive war on a country which has never attacked us. Moreover, there is no reason to think that a military attack would be more than temporarily successful, assuming there would be any success at all against installations in hardened sites. We have a binary choice between an arms deal and the restart of the Iranian nuclear program.

    Your suggestion that sanctions “should have continued” assumes that China and Russia, let alone Western Europe, would continue to act against their own economic self-interest, in perpetuity, if a deal they are signatories fell apart. Considering that the sanctions have already started to erode – Russia recently sold planes to Iran – I don’t think that this is a credible assertion.

    The rest of the suggestions in your fourth paragraph assume that Iran would have made further concessions beyond what is in the agreement. The deal is strongly opposed by the Iranian military, as well as a large part of the government. Those who believe that stronger terms were available have the burden of showing why Iran would have agreed to them, rather than leaving the negotiating table to restart nuclear enrichment.

    As for your assertion that any deal should include recognition of Israel, abandoning its proxies, etc: this is equivalent to hypothetical American demands that the Soviet Union renounce communism and abandon their East bloc satellite countries as necessary conditions for an arms agreement. Had we made that insistence, we would never have had a nuclear test ban treaty, START treaties, and so forth.

    The criticisms of the deal in your penultimate paragraph were all raised when we executed arms agreements with the Soviet Union, which was our “implacable enemy”, sworn to our destruction, and so forth. Conservatives vociferously attacked deals with Russia and China, even when conservative Presidents enacted them (as when Nixon made a deal with China). They were wrong. The nuclear arms treaties were largely abided by, the likelihood of nuclear confrontation – either intentionally or by mistake – was greatly diminished, and nuclear stockpiles were reduced by all parties.

    This is far from a perfect deal. We would all prefer that Iran capitulate to Western demands, but that ain’t gonna happen. The Iranians are rational actors and will do whatever they believe to be in their self-interest. The issue is whether a better deal is available to us, or whether some form of action exists which places greater restraints on Iranian nuclear ambitions. There is a risk of failure, just as there were risks of failure with Chinese and Russian arms control treaties. The question is whether the risk of failure is greater or lesser than other courses of action. From my perspective, I don’t think there are any credible alternatives which have greater promise than the deal on the table, flawed though it may be. The following piece from Bloomberg makes the argument better than I can:

    Posted July 14, 2015 at 5:06 pm | Permalink
  7. Malcolm says

    By “alternative”, I assumed you meant something other than “doing nothing”.

    The Soviets were constrained in large part by rational existential considerations, referred to at the time as “mutual assured destruction”. The radical theocracy in Tehran is not the Soviet Union, and, despite your characterization of Iran’s leaders as “rational actors”, I do not believe with confidence that they are themselves so constrained.

    My point stands: this is, as you say, far from a perfect deal. (Iran, for example, keeps 5,000 centrifuges; Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal was built with 3,000.) We have made, in the course of these negotiations, concession after concession.

    If, as you say, sanctions could not have been sustained in the first place, then the threat of “snap-back” is doubly meaningless. If, as you also say, military force is useless to block or reverse Iran’s development of nuclear weapons, then what is left? What bargaining power did we ever have? Only the frozen assets that we are now, thanks to the completion of this agreement, planning to release. Once that is done, what remains to ensure Iran’s compliance? Once the sanctions are gone, and Iran’s billions repatriated, why should Iran even bother trying to look like they are honoring this deal? It certainly isn’t as if our recent firmness on ultimatums and “red lines” sets any kind of daunting precedent. Moreover, you can be sure that Iran will use its windfall, and its new freedom, to buy sophisticated antimissile systems from Russia, rendering military retribution for cheating all the more difficult.

    The fine print is just beginning to emerge. Among other things, I understand that we have even agreed to help Iran root out sabotage to its nuclear program — sabotage that the U.S. and Israel have been engaged in, together, for decades. Now we will be on the other side, working against Israel in this effort? It is hard not to see an enormous, and unsavory, geostrategic realignment taking form here.

    So yes, far from perfect. It is a bad deal — made, as even you and your linked article admit, from a position of conspicuous weakness. Meanwhile, a supine Congress has explicitly and pre-emptively ceded its treaty power, effectively granting Mr. Obama a rubber stamp for his “historic” achievement. Forgive me for not joining the celebration.

    Posted July 14, 2015 at 5:36 pm | Permalink
  8. Malcolm says

    Here is former Israeli ambassador to the U.S., Michael Oren, writing from under the bus.

    Posted July 14, 2015 at 7:21 pm | Permalink
  9. the one eyed man says

    I think the Iranians are highly rational actors: far more so than Russia or China. Stalin and Mao both killed tens of millions of their citizens. That is not rational.

    Let’s not forget that America (and England) overthrew the democratically elected government of Iran in 1953 to get cheap oil, and replaced it with a brutal tyrant whose secret police terrorized the nation for the next 26 years. Add to that the nuclear weapons aimed at Iran in Israel. They have very legitimate reasons not to trust us or to cooperate with us. Their actions have not only been highly rational, but they have played their cards very well.

    * * * *

    If we are in a position of “conspicuous weakness,” it is primarily because we deposed the Sunni government of Saddam Hussein. Not only did we eliminate the most effective counter-weight against Iranian ambitions, but any government which replaced him would inevitably be Shiite, and would be more positive towards Iran. We destroyed Iran’s biggest enemy and replaced it with a quasi-ally.

    * * * *

    Your statement that “a supine Congress has explicitly and pre-emptively ceded its treaty power” is incorrect. There is no treaty here.

    * * * *

    The only way to eliminate the nuclear threat from Iran is to launch a devastating military strike which flattens the country, eliminates its military, and unavoidably kills a large portion of its civilian population. I don’t think that even Curtis LeMay or Jack D. Ripper would endorse that.

    Iran is has the seventeenth largest economy in the world, even with the sanctions (which do not prevent countries like India from buying their oil). They have the technology and the resources to build nuclear bombs. Their centrifuges have been inactive for eighteen months, but could restart quickly. If there is no deal with them, there is nothing to stop them from going nuclear. In order to get a deal with them, they will require access to the world financial system. The question is whether providing that access is worth the continued cessation of their nuclear program.

    * * * *

    There were no meaningful international sanctions until 2010. Obama and Clinton led an international coalition which imposed the only effective sanctions regime, and caused the only cessation of nuclear enrichment, since Iran started seeking nuclear weapons. The sanctions hurt those who imposed it as well as Iran, and it is impressive that it has lasted as long as it has. (I’m especially surprised that Russia has been part of the sanctions regime – at least until recently – as having another oil-producing country is not in their best interest.) However it is highly doubtful that they could have lasted much longer in their current efficacy, and it is wishful thinking to believe that they could be strengthened.

    We are at our point of maximum leverage with Iran. Now is the time to make a deal. If the deal fell apart, it is highly probable that Iran would have a nuclear bomb in a year or two. It would be far more difficult, and we would have much less leverage, to try to strike a deal with a nuclear Iran.

    * * * *

    Obama’s gamble is that over the next fifteen years, an Iran which is no longer a pariah state, which has economic ties to the west, and whose younger generation will be seduced by iphones and Taylor Swift, is less likely to be belligerent than its current sclerotic and aging leaders. Just as China turned from an existential foe to a frenemy, an integration with the developed world is far more likely to be a deterrent to Iranian military ambitions than anything else. When the sanctions expire in 2030, we will be in a far better position than we would be absent a deal. As Churchill said, to jaw-jaw is always better than to war-war. Better to have the likelihood that Iran will not go nuclear in 2030 than the near-certainty that they will go nuclear in 2016 or 2017. Given the options we have, I think that the current deal is the best among them.

    Posted July 14, 2015 at 7:54 pm | Permalink
  10. Malcolm says

    I completely agree that Iran has “very legitimate reasons not to trust us or to cooperate with us.” And so I don’t expect them to.

    As for the mullahs of Iran being rational actors: as always, the result of reasoning depends upon the axioms one starts from. I am inclined to imagine that an atheistic regime such as Red China or Soviet Russia or North Korea will have good reason to focus its attention more on its survival in this world rather than its prospects in the next. If you read the news, though, it should be abundantly obvious that Islamic zealots, by contrast, care little about death, and will gladly seek martyrdom — and Iran is currently ruled by Islamic zealots. Stalin and Mao were hardly irrational; they were merely ruthless.

    You are right that Saddam Hussein provided a counterpoise to Iran’s ambitions in the region. But it’s been twelve years, and two administrations, since that war happened, and more recently we have shown again and again that we are a power that our allies should fear, and that our enemies can rely on. Iran has absolutely no reason to fear any consequences at all if it violates, as it surely will, the terms of this agreement.

    Your statement that “a supine Congress has explicitly and pre-emptively ceded its treaty power” is incorrect. There is no treaty here.

    Nonsense. This is a major international agreement with enormous consequences for the security of this nation and its allies. You and Mr. Obama can say “this is not a treaty” all you like, but there is no reason Congress can’t say “oh yes it bloody well is, and we insist on enforcing our Constitutional role in approving it”. Had that been the case, all it would have taken would have been a simple majority in the Senate to kill this thing. Now it requires a veto-overriding supermajority. This Congress should just go home; they have completely abrogated, again and again, their Constitutional duty as a check on the Executive and Judicial branches.

    The only way to eliminate the nuclear threat from Iran is to launch a devastating military strike which flattens the country, eliminates its military, and unavoidably kills a large portion of its civilian population. I don’t think that even Curtis LeMay or Jack D. Ripper would endorse that.

    Perhaps so; this deal certainly isn’t going to do it. But if it is as you say, then at least we could have withheld the hundreds of billions in frozen assets that we are now going to pour into Iran’s coffers.

    The question is whether providing that access is worth the continued cessation of their nuclear program.

    Not if they get to have both. If keeping them out of the financial system was going to fail anyway, “snap-back” isn’t going to happen, and Iran knows it. What they will do is make happy gestures, pretend to go along, and cheat on the deal — knowing that even if they are caught they will be no worse off than they are now, and hundreds of billions to the good. We will have a nuclear Iran anyway.

    We are at our point of maximum leverage with Iran.

    And that was my point: that if this was all our “maximum leverage” could buy, it really wasn’t any leverage at all. We’d have been better off at least keeping the pressure on as long as we could, and holding onto their frozen assets.

    Anyway, you’re hoist upon your own petard here: if it’s so obvious that this was our point of “maximum leverage”, and that our power of coercion was only going to slip away in the near future, then why on Earth would Iran’s “rational actors” not just wait until we had even less leverage? What rational actor, under anything less than an existential threat, would strike a deal with his enemy at the most disadvantageous moment?

    The only answer is that this deal had, over the course of the negotiations, become so sweet for Iran that there was no longer any reason to wait. Again: they are dancing in the streets over there, while we’re staring at our shoes.

    Obama’s gamble is that over the next fifteen years, an Iran which is no longer a pariah state, which has economic ties to the west, and whose younger generation will be seduced by iphones and Taylor Swift, is less likely to be belligerent than its current sclerotic and aging leaders.

    I don’t think that’s what he thinks, but if it is, he’s an idiot. And if you honestly think Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill would have approved of this deal with the devil, especially after the lessons of Munich, it doesn’t speak especially well of you, either, I’m afraid.

    No, I’m afraid we’ve been had. Everything you say can be boiled down to “We had nothing to work with, really; mighty Iran had the upper hand; we had no choice but to get what crumbs we could hang on to at the bargaining table.” It’s pathetic.

    Posted July 14, 2015 at 8:50 pm | Permalink
  11. Nightwatch, now a subscription intelligence analysis offered several points on this agreement:

    “First, the agreement is not a non-proliferation agreement. It is an agreement that approves limited proliferation of nuclear technology. This characterization means that the US and others states surrendered or abandoned their longstanding position of banning any Iranian nuclear program, peaceful or not.

    It also is not a nuclear containment agreement. At most, it postpones some aspects of Iranian nuclear infrastructure development. In other areas, Iran can continue to develop and modernize to keep up with technology. At the end of 15 years at most, Iran has no more restrictions on its nuclear program, with the approval of the UN and the other powers, by implication.

    This compromise of the longstanding programmatic ban for Iran is curious because that remains the US objective for North Korea. The US insists that North Korea, which already has nuclear weapons, must dismantle its nuclear program, not just its weapons program. That is the premise of the Six Party Talks.

    The difference in the negotiating positions is even stranger because the Iranian and North Korean weapons programs appear to be essentially variants of the same program. The North Korean variant is more advanced. Nevertheless, North Korea has assisted Iran’s ballistic missile programs since the Iraq-Iran War. Iranians have been reported as observers at North Korean missile and nuclear tests. The cooperation continues as does the North Korean program.

    The second point is that it is a very one-sided deal. It lacks mutuality. By an overwhelming margin the burden of performance is on the UN, the European Union and the US. Its economic implications far exceed its nuclear restrictions. From the Iranian viewpoint, the JCPOA is primarily an economic agreement.

    In return for some reduction in the Iranian nuclear programs, the UN and the US will remove the entire architecture of sanctions imposed by any party on any Iranian party. In addition, they will allow Iran to buy and sell conventional weapons and they will help Iran get access to trade, technology, finance and energy. According to the text, this is one paragraph in which Iran “agreed” to the actions by the UN and the US.

    One of the implications of this is that Iran stands to emerge quickly as a regional economic power. Using Germany as a model, that condition is far more enduring and consequential than a delayed nuclear program.

    Once Iran’s economy starts to rebound, it will be free from the threat of sanctions to ensure compliance. There is no credible enforcement mechanism.”

    Several other points were addressed in this report like the agreement lacks the cornerstone words in agreements that promise or agree to do certain things, meaning there’s nothing in this agreement to compel Iran to comply with anything. There’s also no agreement on the definition of terms usually found in such agreements and Nightwatch states there’s no requirement that Iran affirm that it has no nuclear weapons now. Iran will emerge the economically stronger and will have shifted the balance of power in the region without having to give up anything was the end point in this analysis.

    Posted July 15, 2015 at 1:01 am | Permalink
  12. JK says

    Posted July 16, 2015 at 6:24 am | Permalink