nuclear negotiations

The Framework (Trolling Bibi Edition)

Barack Obama

It is true, the headline is adorable: “White House Trolls Netanyahu Over Iran Agreement With Bomb Cartoon”.

And while it is also true that President Obama seems to have shrugged off a certain range of politicking now that his year-six election is finished, it is furthermore true that the question of trolling really does matter entirely on what we choose to make of it.

Worth sharing: Here's how the #IranDeal would shut down Iran's pathway to a nuclear weapon → go.wh.gov/Iran-dealThis is, after all, politics.

And given Prime Minister Netanyahu’s grotesque stunt, and the House of Representatives that was all too willing to help, and considering that Senate Republicans are working to scuttle the deal, this is already a filthy political fight, and one might suggest President Obama has every right to be pissed off. But at the same time, this is politics. It is, by a loose definition, information warfare. But more than that, it is mere politicking; this image will come up in search engines, side by side with Bibi’s simplistic fearmongering. This is how Bibi wants it, this is how Bibi gets it. In twenty years, one or both of these graphics will be wrong, and a particularly American question is why Republicans are scrambling to make certain it is President Obama.

So it goes. But there really does seem to be something amiss about that.

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Robins-Early, Nick. “White House Trolls Netanyahu Over Iran Agreement With Bomb Cartoon”. The Huffington Post. 8 April 2015.

The White House. “Worth sharing”. Twitter. 8 April 2015.

—————. “A Framework to Prevent Iran from Acquiring a Nuclear Weapon”. WhiteHouse.gov. 10 April 2015.

Iran and the Obvious Question

In this picture released by an official website at the office of the Iranian supreme leader, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei sits under a portrait fo the late revolutionary founder Ayatollah Khomeini prior to his speech in a meeting with Iranian ambassadors in Tehran, Iran, Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014.  Khamenei on Wednesday dismissed the value of direct talks with the U.S., his first comments touching on meetings that officials from the Islamic Republic had with Americans dating back to secret talks that began in 2012.  (AP Photo/Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader)

There is, of course, much going on with the P5+1 that really doesn’t have anything to do with the #GOP47 except for their determination to meddle and even tank the deal. That said, the larger American discourse can be a bit thin on details.

I think a realignment is happening in Iranian politics. The 2000s were a period of right wing populism under Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Khamenei had his hands burned by the Ahmadinejad faction of hard line populists. They provoked all that trouble in 2009, and mismanaged the economy with massive subsidies. By 2012 Khamenei was openly slapping Ahmadinejad down. Then the US kicked Iran off the bank exchanges and took Iran oil exports down from 2.5 mn b/d to 1.5 mn b/d. Since prices were high, it didn’t hurt the regime that much, but must have been concerning given what was done to Mosaddegh in 1953, when similar int’l oil sanctions prepared the way for a CIA coup.

Khamenei hates the reform camp but seems to have realized that he can’t count on simply being able to crush them. He can, in contrast, live with a centrist like Rouhani. Domestically, Rouhani is his way of deflecting what’s left of the Green Movement (which really shook Khamenei, perhaps even moreso after Mubarak et al were toppled by the Arab youth 18 months later). Internationally, Rouhani holds out the possibility of escaping the severe sanctions but keeping the nuclear energy program, which is Khamenei’s baby and which he sees as a guarantee that Iran can’t be held hostage by the international energy markets and great powers. But deploying Rouhani means slapping down Iranian Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) hard liners, which he did in February.

Hard liners are jumping up and down mad about what Rouhani & Zarif are alleged to have given away to the West, and my suspicion is that Khamenei’s demand for immediate end of sanctions is a way of tossing them a bone for the moment. If you read the whole speech he comes back and is still supportive of the process at the end, saying he is not for or against the deal since there really is no deal yet, just a framework agreement for negotiating the deal. But then that means he did not, contrary to the headlines, come out against the deal today.

(Cole)

In those brief paragraphs, Juan Cole gives basic questions about the Iranian perspective more consideration than most Americans would think to give. To the other, one such analysis is hardly definitive.

Still, though, the problem facing the American discourse is that so few acknowledge Iran’s reasons for distrusting our government, and there is also a larger question about the implications of what we have done. Jon Schwarz offers a look into some of the―well, this is the part where we are supposed to say “complicated”, but that really is a way of euphemizing―insidious history of how the United States and other Western nations have gotten along with Iran over the years.

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The Looming Question

FAYETTEVILLE, AR - OCTOBER 31: U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton (R-AR) and Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Arkansas looks on during a tailgate party before the start of a Fayetteville High School football game on October 31, 2014 in Fayetteville, Arkansas.  With less than a week to go before election day U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton (R-AR) is holding a narrow lead over incumbent U.S. Senator Mark Pryor (D-AR). (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

“This was a foreign policy maneuver, in the middle of a high-stakes negotiation, with all the gravity and deliberation of a blog posting. In timing, tone and substance, it raises questions about the Republican majority’s capacity to govern.”

Michael Gerson

Perhaps the critique has a bit more force coming from one of more conservative pedigree, such as Mr. Gerson. Still, though, one should also note that the Washington Post columnist still steps up to the bat for his side:

It is true that President Obama set this little drama in motion. Major arms-control treaties have traditionally involved advice and consent by the Senate. Obama is proposing to expand the practice of executive agreements to cover his prospective Iranian deal — effectively cutting senators out of the process. By renewing a long-standing balance-of-powers debate — in a way that highlights his propensity for power-grabbiness — Obama invited resistance.

The P5+1 negotiation has been at it since 2006. Fred Kaplan has already reminded:

“Reading [the letter], one can only wonder if these Republicans ever consult their staffs. As the Iranian leaders know, and as the Obama administration and the other P5+1 governments have made clear all along, the deal being negotiated is not a treaty, nor is it an agreement. Rather, it is a nonbinding international arrangement, to be signed (if it is signed) by the United States, the United Kingdom, France, China, Russia, Germany, and Iran.Slate-logo-v

Similar agreements have been struck on a host of arms control measures over the years, including President George W. Bush’s Proliferation Security Initiative, President Gerald Ford’s Helsinki Final Act, and several hundred bilateral and multilateral measures, guidelines, and memoranda of understanding struck over the decades.

Just sayin’.

Nonetheless, Gerson’s analysis does point to familiar elements, and is certainly worth consideration.

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The #GOP47 (Texas Smarts Edition)

U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) during the Reuters Washington Summit in Washington, October 24, 2013. (Jim Bourg/Reuters)

“I believe we are hearing echoes of history. I believe we are at a moment like Munich in 1938.”

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)

Does anyone actually need Godwin’s Law and the relevant corrolary explained?

Next question: Do we really need to rehash the Republican penchant for bawling that President Obama is Hitler?

Last question: Really? After all this, all we get is yet another Hitler analogy from the #GOP47?

Remember, though, as you pass through the myriad faces of your days, that some of your neighbors actually voted for this.

But there is yet undiscovered territory here; so far the #GOP47 have, with this one petulant stunt, tripped over Skitt, Poe, and Godwin. Which raises one more question, and we do apologize for that: Does Ted Cruz have what it takes to faceplant squar’ into Rule #34?

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Image note: U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) during the Reuters Washington Summit in Washington, October 24, 2013. (Jim Bourg/Reuters)

McCabe, David. “Cruz: Iran, US talks like ‘Munich in 1938′”. The Hill. 12 March 2015.

What It Comes To (Mr. Paul Goes to Washington Scratch Mix)

"U.S. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) speaks in Washington on Dec. 2, 2014." (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Okay, can of corn.

Steve Benen notes, well, among other things worth noting:

On NBC’s “Today” show yesterday morning, the Kentucky Republican told Matt Lauer that he signed on to the sabotage letter because he wanted to “strengthen the president’s hand.”

If there’s a way to see this as a coherent argument, I can’t think of it. Rand Paul thought it would strengthen Obama’s hand at the negotiating table if Republicans told Iranian officials not to trust or cooperate with Obama?

I’m surprised it took them this long.

On Monday, Daniel W. Drezner of Tufts University thus concluded his analysis of the fiasco for the Washington Post:

So, to sum up: Republican senators are trying to scuttle the negotiations with Iran. But not only do I think it won’t work, it might paradoxically help Obama.

It only took Mr. Paul a couple days beyond the requisite five seconds to figure out how to float this particular point as an excuse. They should have tried it sometime before the bit about the White House having no sense of humor.

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Image note: Detail, “U.S. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) speaks in Washington on Dec. 2, 2014.” (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Benen, Steve. “McCain, Rand Paul roll out new excuses for sabotage letter”. msnbc. 12 March 2015.

Drezner, Danel W. “Congress tries to go beyond trolling on foreign policy. It won’t work.”. The Washington Post. 9 March 2015.

Sabotage, or, How Republicans Love America

Rep. Tom Cotton (R-AR4) is running for the United States Senate in 2014.

We have reached the point where Senate Republicans are actively working to subvert American foreign policy.

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.”

(Rogin)

Is this really a precedent Republicans want to set? Are they really prepared for the consequences of trying to usurp foreign policy from its Constitutionally-assigned executive purview? How might they react, in some future presidency, if Congressional Democrats tell the world that they do not intend to allow a Republican president to negotiate in good faith?

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