nuclear proliferation

The State of the Department (Quack)

#AmericanPrestige | #WhatTheyVotedFor

With apologies: Altered detail from cartoon by Jen Sorensen, 17 April 2018.

“guess how many people are working on Iranian nuclear proliferation at the State Department? as of today....zero”

Anne Applebaum

We should be clear that by today, the columnist means Friday last, when she posted the tweet, which refers, in turn, to a report from Foreign Policy:

One of the State Department’s top experts on nuclear proliferation resigned this week after President Donald Trump announced the U.S. withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, in what officials and analysts say is part of a worrying brain drain from public service generally over the past 18 months.

Richard Johnson, a career civil servant who served as acting assistant coordinator in State’s Office of Iran Nuclear Implementation, had been involved in talks with countries that sought to salvage the deal in recent weeks, including Britain, France, and Germany — an effort that ultimately failed.

Johnson’s departure leaves a growing void in the State Department’s stable of experts on Iran’s nuclear program and highlights a broader problem of high-level departures from government.

Officials say the trend is particularly evident at the State Department, where Trump sidelined career diplomats and morale plummeted under former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. The office Johnson led has gone from seven full-time staffers to none since Trump’s inauguration.

Today is Tuesday, and elsewhere in the commentariat Steve Benen notes, “The article didn’t explicitly say that Johnson resigned in protest, but there doesn’t appear to be much of a mystery about what happened here.”

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A Growing Nuclear Arsenal

Detail of the flag of Pakistan.

The first thing to not do is panic:

A new report by two American think tanks asserts that Pakistan may be building 20 nuclear warheads annually and could have the world’s third-largest nuclear stockpile within a decade.

The report by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and the Stimson Center concludes that Pakistan is rapidly expanding its nuclear capabilities because of fear of its archrival, India, also a nuclear power. The report, which will be released Thursday, says Pakistan is far outpacing India in the development of nuclear warheads.

To the other, neither is Tim Craig’s report for the Washington Post what we might call encouraging.

Something about the #GOP47 goes here, and maybe Congress might consider doing its job instead of whining like Republicans … er … ah … oh. Right.

Still, though, there is a reason this is all happening, and it’s not exactly newsα. In terms of geopolitics, the American conservative handwringing about the P5+1 nonproliferation accord with Iran seems ever more ridiculous, and could very well prove dangerous.

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α See also:

Dhoundial, Shreva. “Indian Army denies any ‘unusual’ Pakistan troop along the border in J&K”. IBN Live. 2 January 2015.

Farooq, Umar. “Afghanistan-Pakistan: The Covert War”. The Diplomat. 1 January 2014.

Toosi, Nahal. “Swat Valley: Scenic Pakistani Region Falls To Taliban Militants”. The Huffington Post. 29 January 2009.

Dugger, Celia W. “Big Troop Buildup Mounted by India and Pakistan”. The New York Times. 25 December 2001.

Benen, Steve. “After sabotage letter, Cotton wants US to ‘speak with one voice'”. msnbc. 26 August 2015.

—————. “GOP discovers it doesn’t like filibusters after all”. msnbc. 27 August 2015.

Craig, Tim. “Report: Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal could become the world’s third-biggest”. The Washington Post. 27 August 2015.

The Lindsey Graham Show (Three Amigos Reunion)

From left, Senator John McCain, Senator Lindsey Graham and former Senator Joseph I. Lieberman in New York on Monday. Credit Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

Maggie Haberman’s entry for First Draft, at the New York Times, actually has a really distracting quirk about it.

Surrounded by two of the “three amigos” — as former Gen. David H. Petraeus called them — Senator Lindsey Graham appeared with Senator John McCain and former Senator Joseph I. Lieberman in New York on Monday to denounce the deal to contain Iran’s nuclear program.

Mr. Graham, a Republican presidential hopeful from South Carolina who is one of the most hawkish voices in his party, repeatedly invoked the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, just over three miles from the Women’s National Republican Club in Midtown Manhattan, where the “No Nukes for Iran” forum was held.

“My friends, what we will see is a nuclearized Middle East,” said Mr. Graham of the deal’s implications, arguing it would extend well beyond Iran. “They view New York as a symbol of America. This is the place they would choose to hit us again if they could.”

Let us be clear: “Surrounded by two of the ‘three amigos'”? Sen. Graham (R-SC) is the third Amigo. This was a Three Amigo reunion. And they broke out a new version of an old classic. A nuclear nonproliferation treaty is bad because … here’s the new chorus, same as the old chorus.

But, yeah, other than the quirk, the important point is that it remains imperative to remember just how wrong these Three Amigos were.

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Image note: From left, Senator John McCain, Senator Lindsey Graham and former Senator Joseph I. Lieberman in New York on Monday. Credit Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

Haberman, Maggie. “Lindsey Graham and Friends Join to Denounce Iran Deal”. First Draft. 20 July 2015.

Steinhauer, Jennifer. “Foreign Policy’s Bipartisan Trio Becomes Republican Duo”. The New York Times. 26 November 2012.

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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