Nel's New Day

January 13, 2016

Iran–a Nightmare for the GOP

President Obama’s last State of the Union speech was one of his best, both in delivery and writing. Listening to it was a joy, but even more delightful were the frantic attempts of House Speaker Paul Ryan to keep a straight face, to appear somber and disapproving so that his party not pillory him for reacting in any way that might indicate approval of the president who the GOP is determined to hate. Here’s one of Ryan’s failed attempts.

sotu

The conservatives did have about 16 hours of joy after Iran picked up ten sailors and two Navy patrol boats that wandered into Iranian waters. While Secretary of State John Kerry was negotiating for their return, GOP leaders disparaged the president’s leadership abilities and, as usual, accused him of letting Iran “push us around.” Saint Ronald Reagan came into the dialog as the GOP tried to use the incident to start a war with Iran.

Forbes Senior Political Contributor at Forbes Rick Ungar used Facebook to explain how far off base the Reagan worshippers are:

“One of the advantages of having graduated high school with Abraham Lincoln is that I was quite present during the Reagan administration. I remember all too well when our Marine barracks in Lebanon was bombed during Reagan’s term of office, killing 241 Marines and injuring another 100. Reagan knew who did it- it was Hezbollah with the support of Iran and Syria. How did Ronald Reagan respond?

“First, Reagan assembled his National Security team and hatched a plan to seek retribution by blowing up the Sheik Abdullah barracks in Baalbek, Lebanon, which housed Iranian Revolutionary Guards that were there to train Hezbollah fighters. The only problem was that Reagan ultimately decided not to do it because it would harm relations with other Arab nations.

“Not only did he not do anything to avenge the deaths of our Marines, four months later he withdrew all of our Marines from Lebanon, never so much as firing a shot in retribution for our dead military. There was no shortage of people at that time who were incensed with that move, just like these armchair quarterbacks who are on Obama’s case because someone took a photograph they don’t like- forget killing over 200 of our finest.”

Like President Obama in the current era, Reagan realized that “carpet bombing” Damascus and Tehran wouldn’t solve any problems: it would just cause more conflict and destroy foreign policy. Yet conservatives follow the war hawks, Israelis, and defense contractors who are salivating for a fight with Iran to further line the pockets of the rich to the loss of U.S. soldiers, economy, civilians, and peace.

The GOP House has been determined to scuttle the Iran deal determined by six major world leaders, but Ryan seems unable to get his members into the chamber to vote in a timely fashion. Today the vote to trash the Iran deal passed on an almost strictly partisan vote of 191 to 106, meaning that over 50 Republicans were missing. Because Ryan kept to the 15-minute limit for voting, something that his predecessor had not done, he had a serious shortage of votes. The House Speaker than promptly scrapped the vote and set a new one for January 26.

The bill would force the president to certify that entities benefiting from lifted sanctions would have to prove they never supported terrorism or Iran’s missile program. The new vote may be too late to stop Iran from regaining about $100 billion of its own assets. Even if the bill had passed, House Foreign Affairs Committee Ranking Member Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) said, “It’s a waste of all our time” because the president would veto the bill. This is the process, however, that the GOP continually follows—pass only bills that they know the president will veto.

Congress has another Iranian problem in the Supreme Court when it argued in Bank Markazi v. Peterson that the legislature is above the court system. That position didn’t sit well with the justices. Congress had ordered a federal court to determine how the U.S. could give almost $2 billion in security assets from Iranian’s bank to victims (and their families) of Middle East terrorist acts blamed on Iran by using language in its caption, including the case number of the victim’s lawsuit, for a law governing no other lawsuit. Justices seemed to initially go along with the process, but lawyers told the court that Congress could change any pending case in the courts by modifying a law to apply to only one case. Lawyer Theodore B. Olson told Chief Justice John Roberts that Congress does this all the time—in essence, tells the court how it shall rule—even saying that Congress could take such action in a Supreme Court case. Roberts wasn’t happy about Olson’s position.

In another Supreme Court case, Congress is trying to prove that it controls Puerto Rico instead of the country following its own constitution.

Convinced that Iran would not live up to its agreement to stop its path to a nuclear program, Republicans had a bad shock in the end of 2015. Iran has turned over almost all its enriched uranium to the Russians with plans to downgrade the little remaining material to fissionable reactor plates for an internationally supervised test reactor. The country will have no ability to produce weapons-grade material.

This positive move by Iran is not only irreversible but also months ahead of schedule. The country is also in the stages of completing other requirements, including dismantling the mandated number of centrifuges, reconfiguring the Arak heavy water reactor (to close down the pathway via plutonium), and allowing for more intrusive inspections. Although violating UN Security Council resolutions, Iran’s ballistic missile test does not violate the agreement. President Obama said he will address that problem by enforcing sanctions that are not part of the agreement.

Before the completion of the Iran deal, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AK) got signatures from 47 senators on a letter to Iran stating that the U.S. might not live up to their agreement. Living in relative obscurity since then, Cotton selected the night of President Obama’s last State of the Union speech to spread more lies about the U.S. boats being picked up in Iranian waters. According to the Tea Partier, it was not “coincidental” that Iran had selected that night to “seize” the boats and that the White House was “apologizing for Iran seizing two U.S. Navy vessels and holding 10 sailors hostage.” A minor blip on history was also blown out of proportion by GOP presidential candidates in an effort to score points and appeal to war hawks.

Republicans may have benefitted financially from their virulent opposition to the Iran deal. According to a Wall Street Journal report, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other Israeli officials tried to bribe members of Congress to stop the agreement. They may have succeeded. The discussion shows that some legislators conspired with a foreign government to undermine the Commander-in-Chief’s foreign policy agenda—a definition of treason. The GOP has already evidenced its allegiance to Israeli’s lobbying groups such as AIPAC and the Israeli government. Sheldon Adelson, the 20th richest person in the world, spent $30 million on legislators to oppose the Iran deal.

Republicans have a reason other than supporting Israel to stop lifting sanctions on Iran: oil prices. Last spring, guesstimaters said that the price of oil could skyrocket to $250 a barrel with a conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Now they wonder if the prices will drop even more because Saudi Arabia will drop its prices to force down those of Iran. With gas prices hovering at $2 per gallon and $30 per barrel, a 70-percent drop in the past 15 months, conservatives in Congress are considering action to raise oil prices. Fracking in the U.S. has caused an oil glut of oil, driving the prices down; thus lawmakers are considering retaliatory trade measures against Saudi Arabia for flooding the market with its own oil. A few years ago, Republicans blamed President Obama for high gas prices; now they complain about low prices.

All the GOP can hope for is a Republican president, one who would start World War III.

August 31, 2015

Vote on Iran Deal Nears

Conservative media, including Fox, is still distributing the falsehood started by the Associated Press that Iran could use its own inspectors in investigating a military site (which it called a nuclear site). Republicans initially tried to use this announcement to scuttle the Iranian deal, but two hours later AP deleted the information. The original report stated that Iranian scientists would inspect air and soil samples at Parchin and that the number of these samples would be limited to seven. Media ran a scary headline: “AP Exclusive: UN to let Iran inspect alleged nuke work site.” The report that inspections in the past were carried out by Iranians with no one else allowed on the site came from a leaked draft agreement and is not included in the final one. The edited version eliminated the incendiary details and kept quotes from outraged GOP lawmakers .

According to arms control expert Jeffrey Lewis, the leak was to make the agreement sound bad and to hope that the information would make congressional lawmakers start making demands. The AP allowed itself to be duped.

In raising serious—and false—doubts about the Iran agreement, the AP joined Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, who evidently leads GOP foreign policy. During the August recess, a Jewish lobbying group paid for members of Congress to visit Israel and hear Netanyahu’s arguments to opposed the P5+1 nuclear agreement with Iran, signed on July 14 by the U.S., Britain, France, Germany, China, and Russia. The 58 members of Congress who visited Netanyahu in August were told that they should visit him instead of their constituents if they want contributions from wealthy Jewish donors.

TV ads focused on making people believe that the Iran agreement to control the country’s nuclear weapons is evil should come to an end this fall. Congress has only 18 more days for the first vote to follow the prime minister of Israel rather than the President of the United States.

The process in Congress:

  • Return from recess on September 8, nine days from now.
  • Begin debate on a GOP-sponsored “resolution of disapproval” against the deal.
  • Gather at least 60 votes to move the resolution forward in the Senate.
  • Vote on the resolution by September 17 with a simple majority of 51 votes to pass.
  • Pass the resolution because the GOP has the 51 votes.

If (or when) both congressional chambers approve the resolution against the Iran agreement, the president has 12 days to veto the resolution. Congress has another 10 days to vote on an override. The president needs 34 votes to avoid an override; thus far, 31 senators have committed to supporting the agreement and voting against the override. The House would need at least 44 Democratic votes to override a veto. Passing a resolution of disapproval and overriding a veto would bar President Obama from waiving most of the U.S. sanctions on Iran, necessary to complete the agreement with Iran.

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) received much publicity when he came out in opposition to the agreement. He thinks that the country would be better off with the nuclear aspects but objects to the role Iran may take as a trading partner. His goal in opposing the Iran deal is to keep Israel’s domination in the area for another half century. He claims that he doesn’t want a war with Iran, but GOP presidential candidates do. Scott Walker would bomb Iran on the first day of his presidency. Most of the other candidates weren’t as clear in their intentions except they would rescind the agreement. Donald Trump is the only Republican candidate who supports it.

Mike Huckabee, far down in the polls, visited Israel to get financial support although he cannot legally accept donations from foreign nationals. His earnings from selling survivalist gear to Doomsday believers on his radio show seems to be insufficient to run his campaign. Ignoring Israel’s liberal abortion policy and its universal healthcare, Huckabee opposed U.S. foreign policy that the West Bank is illegally occupied territory. He said it sounded like “someone is illegally taking land” (which it is) and refers to the Palestinian seat of government as Judea and Samaria.

Walker has promised Israeli officials an increase in military aid should the U.S. have the misfortune of Walker as president. To Walker—and Israel—the one-third of the U.S. foreign aid budget that Israel gets every year isn’t enough for its 0.001 percent of the world’s population.

Within the seven countries that signed the deal, only U.S. hawks are in opposition. Camille Grand, an expert on nuclear nonproliferation, said that no constituency in Europe is against the agreement. He said, “The hawks are satisfied [with the deal].” In the world, the only strong opposition comes from Iranian hardliners, U.S. Republicans, and some Israel officials. Like the GOP opposition to the new START nuclear treaty, U.S. officials are eager to derail an agreement to advance the nation’s interests because of their hatred for President Obama.

Worried that the Senate may not muster the 60 votes necessary to overcome a filibuster, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR), leader in undermining U.S. foreign policy, has made a statement, asking the Congress and the president to “speak with one voice when it comes to dealing with the Iranians.” That would be Cotton’s voice after he persuaded 46 other senators to sign his letter to Iranian officials telling them not to trust U.S. officials. Cotton also wants to do away with the filibuster, ignoring the fact that the Republicans originally created the mandate for 60 votes to advance. The senators who express such amazement that Democrats might want to filibuster the Iran agreement ignore the GOP cause of almost total gridlock in that chamber during President Obama’s two terms. They also don’t recognize what might happen if they insisted on only up-and-down votes and then lost the simple majority in the senate.

Just looking at the names of people against the Iran agreement should be proof that the opposition is wrong. These are the same people who supported the Iraq War. George W. Bush learned nothing from that disaster and called the president “naive,” and David Frum, Bush’s speechwriter who coined “Axis of Evil” for Iraq, Iran, and North Korea, accused President Obama of anti-Semitic rhetoric. In the Senate, Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and John McCain (R-AZ), called war against Iraq the “only reasonable option” and “the right war for the right reasons.” Mastermind of the Iraq War, Dick Cheney, plans to give an address against the agreement on September 8 although he’s no longer in office. Reporter Eli Lake, who argued about Iraq’s non-existent WMD, accuses the president of practicing the “politics of fear” to achieve peace. Columnist Bill Kristol, board member of an Israeli committee, was the first to write in March 2003 that “we will, in fact, be greeted as liberators” in Iraq. Former Sen. Joe Lieberman, who turned against his own party to support the Iraq War, has become the new leader of United against Nuclear Iran after its former leader decided that the Iran agreement was a good deal. Not in office in 2002, Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, testified at that time that Iraq had WMD. He is taking the same position with Iran.

Today’s problems with Iran come from Bush’s preemptive war on Iraq which expanded Iranian influence and a nuclear program exacerbated by the U.S. wars in the Middle East. Without the Iraq War, ISIS may never have existed. The agreement is a way to clean up the mess left by Bush and his hawks.

The Los Angeles Times has come out in support of the Iran agreement and has a very simple reason: “Although it certainly represents a gamble, the deal makes it highly unlikely that Iran will develop a nuclear weapon during the next 10 or 15 years. Without it, there is no such assurance…. It is far from a perfect deal … but at the end of the day, it must be supported because the alternatives are worse.”

With a large arsenal of nuclear weapons, Israel is a far more dangerous country than Iran because Netanyahu is willing to bomb anyone who gets in his way. The United States should take a good look at the far-right leadership in Israel and reconsider sending Israel one-third of our foreign aid budget to help wage war.

On the pro side of the agreement are dozens of former Israeli military officials, dozens of retired American generals and admirals, and a wide array of experts on nuclear non-proliferation. On the anti side is Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who is leading ignorant Republicans around by the nose. I’ll side with the experts.

March 9, 2015

Will GOP Senators Start World War III?

In an act of possible treason, 47 GOP Senators have joined Iranian extremists in an effort to stop negotiations with Iran. In their attempt to undermine the U.S. foreign policy, the Republicans signed a letter to “leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran,” declaring the next president could reverse any agreement without legislative approval “with the stroke of a pen.” This action may support Iranian hardliners who want their to develop arsenal of nuclear weapons and lead the Middle East to greater instability.

The White House was not informed about the letter until after it had been sent to Iran, and Democratic senators were also not given advance warning. The secret action of these 47 GOP senators followed House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-OH) secret invitation to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who beat the drums of war in a speech before the U.S. Congress.

President Obama has been working with five other leaders of world powers to keep Iran from having a nuclear bomb. Secretary of State John Kerry plans to go to Switzerland within the next week to complete a framework agreement before the March 24 deadline, two weeks from now. If the pact lasted ten years, the world powers would lift its sanctions against Iran.

Fortunately, Iran leaders sneered at the GOP senators’ letter. Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister, issued a statement:

“In our view, this letter has no legal value and is mostly a propaganda ploy. It is very interesting that while negotiations are still in progress and while no agreement has been reached, some political pressure groups are so afraid even of the prospect of an agreement that they resort to unconventional methods, unprecedented in diplomatic history.”

Although the letter would most likely not stop any agreement, it could be used by Iranians if talks falter. The missive was called an “open letter,” meaning a statement and not an intervention in negotiations, but it is unprecedented. The purpose is another attempt to embarrass the president and keep him from carrying out the foreign policy of the United States. As Minority Leader Sen. Harry M. Reid (D-NV) said, “Republicans are undermining our commander-in-chief while empowering the ayatollahs.”

Freshman Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) drafted the letter. He said he did it because Iran’s leaders might not understand America’s constitutional system, in case those in Iran don’t know that presidents serve for only two terms. Harvard Law School professor Jack Goldsmith describes the technical mistakes in the letter as “embarrassing”:

“The letter states that ‘the Senate must ratify [a treaty] by a two-thirds vote.’ But as the Senate’s own web page makes clear: ‘The Senate does not ratify treaties. Instead, the Senate takes up a resolution of ratification, by which the Senate formally gives its advice and consent, empowering the president to proceed with ratification.’  Or, as this outstanding 2001 CRS Report on the Senate’s role in treaty-making states (at 117): ‘It is the President who negotiates and ultimately ratifies treaties for the United States, but only if the Senate in the intervening period gives its advice and consent.’ Ratification is the formal act of the nation’s consent to be bound by the treaty on the international plane. Senate consent is a necessary but not sufficient condition of treaty ratification for the United States. As the CRS Report notes: ‘When a treaty to which the Senate has advised and consented … is returned to the President,’ he may “simply decide not to ratify the treaty.”

Negotiations require no congressional action because the president has the power to lift sanctions that he has imposed through his executive orders and suspend others imposed by Congress. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) agreed to wait for any action in the Senate until talks with Iran were concluded.

The Republicans who did not sign the letter deserve a great credit. Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), Foreign Relations Committee chair who has been working with Democrats on Iran legislation, said, “We’ve got a bipartisan effort that’s underway that has a chance of being successful, and while I understand all kinds of people want to weigh in.”

Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) also did not sign. She said it was “more appropriate for members of the Senate to be giving our advice to the president, to Secretary [of State John F.] Kerry and to the negotiators.” The other GOP senators who did not sign the letter are Jeff Flake (AZ), Lamar Alexander (TN), Dan Coats (IN), Thad Cochran (MS), and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK).

Those who signed the letter fail to see that their action destroys any shreds of U.S. integrity for all future negotiations with foreign powers. The signers are part of a free-for-all climate in which they presume they have the autonomy to address foreign government with their own personal opinions—for example, when Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) criticized President Obama’s actions in Guatemala. Even worse, they have taken this action during delicate negotiations in the sole purpose of creating chaos. The end result is loss of U.S. influence in foreign affairs.

As Vice-President Joe Biden wrote in a statement:

“In 36 years in the United States Senate, I cannot recall another instance in which Senators wrote directly to advise another country—much less a longtime foreign adversary—that the President does not have the constitutional authority to reach a meaningful understanding with them.”

The letter’s author, Tom Cotton, has no interest in peace in the Middle East. During his campaign, he described ISIS and Mexican drug cartels joining forces to attack Arkansas as an “urgent problem.” Before he was sworn in, he said he wanted Congress to supply Israel with Boeing-made B-52s and so-called “bunker-buster” bombs. After less than a month in Congress, he called for offensive action and compared the negotiations with Iran to the appeasement of Nazi Germany. He also said that the president was wrong to not send U.S. forces into Syria. On MSNBC’s Morning Joe, he said, “The more we bomb … the safer we are.” He wants to create a regime change in Iran, just as George W. Bush wanted a regime change in Iraq. Cotton openly declared that he wants more sanctions on Iran to end current negotiations.

Under the current agreement with Iran, the country’s nuclear program has been frozen and is even rolling back while the IAEA has “unprecedented access” to Iran’s nuclear facilities, according to Dylan Williams, a vice president of the pro-Israel advocacy group J Street. All this would end without an agreement with Iran.  Two years ago, Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said that economic sanctions, diplomacy, international cooperation, and defensive preparedness are having a positive effect on Iran’s nuclear program. The Pentagon stated that Dempsey’s assessment is still “accurate.”

About the new senators who wants to be the leading hawk in the chamber, Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) said:

“Sen. Cotton is already on his way to marking himself as the premiere warmonger of the 114th Congress. I think this is just the beginning of his efforts to see that we’re involved not just in one war or two wars, but perhaps 15 or 20 wars; that’s the way he’d like to see it.”

Some people have brought up the Logan Act of 1799 that could declare Cotton’s actions as treason. Also the Supreme Court ruled in United States v. Curtiss-Wright Export Corp. (1936):

“The President alone has the power to speak or listen as a representative of the nation. He makes treaties with the advice and consent of the Senate; but he alone negotiates. Into the field of negotiation the Senate cannot intrude; and Congress itself is powerless to invade it. As Marshall said in his great argument of March 7, 1800, in the House of Representatives, ‘The President is the sole organ of the nation in its external relations, and its sole representative with foreign nations.’ Annals, 6th Cong., col. 613.”

That decision has never been overruled; it covers Boehner’s invitation to Netanyahu to lobby for war in front of Congress.

 

cottonTomorrow, Cotton will attend an event with the National Defense Industrial Association, a lobbying and professional group for defense contractors.  His advocacy for higher military spending and attacks on the Middle East should gain him an increase in his next campaign’s “war chest.”

Patronizing, smug, arrogant, naïve, willful, controlling, ignorant, condescending—it’s hard to find enough words to describe the new senator from Arkansas. All I ask is that he also reinstate the draft to provide the “drone fodder” that World War III will cause. By doing so, people may stop the war hawks across the nation from leaving he United States in perpetual war.

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