P5+1

Something About Progress (Something About Pride)

Detail of photo by Carlos Barria/AP Photo

This seems important:

A Russian ship left Iran on Monday carrying almost all of Iran’s stockpile of low-enriched uranium, fulfilling a major step in the nuclear deal struck last summer and, for the first time in nearly a decade, apparently leaving Iran with too little fuel to manufacture a nuclear weapon.

(Sanger and Kramer)

This is what the #GOP47 wanted to prevent.

You know. Just something to keep in mind.

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Image note: P5+1 negotiating partners gathered in the United Nations Office at Vienna, Austria, 14 July 2015. (Detail of photo by Carlos Barria/AP Photo)

Sanger, David E. and Andrew E. Kramer. “Iran Hands Over Stockpile of Enriched Uranium to Russia”. The New York Times. 28 December 2015.

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The Marco Rubio Show (Elephant Gore Pioneer)

Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Marco Rubio (FL), talks to CNBC correspondent John Harwood during an interview at the New York Stock Exchange in New York, Monday, 5 October 2012. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

This is the Marco Rubio Show:

Speaking before dozens of influential Jewish Republicans here last week, Marco Rubio lashed out at President Obama’s foreign policy and vowed, “When I am Commander-in-Chief, I will fortify our alliance with Israel.”

Applause filled the room and Rubio sought a deeper connection. “As speaker of the Florida House,” he said, “I pioneered what became a national effort by requiring the Florida pension program to divest from companies linked to Iran’s terrorist regime.”

It was groundbreaking, but Rubio had nothing to do with creation of the legislation.

(Leary)

We have before noted that the junior U.S. Senator from Florida has shown himself something of a dim bulb in the foreign policy pack; everything from his campaign slogan to his understanding of history to his comprehension of nation-building is borrowed failure―he is a walking rehash of bad ideas and, apparently, empty bluster and braggadocio.

Here is a fun irony: With Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) palling around with terrorists, did Marco Rubio just have an “Al Gore moment”? Hindsight suggests they might actually be trying to do this; the only rational argument otherwise is the reasonable―even otherwise convincing―proposition that such endeavors require way too much effort for the payoff. But, really, can Republicans be any more ironic right now?

You know, don’t answer. Something about the elephant in the room goes here.

(more…)

The Donald Trump Show (Typing in Stereo)

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks to the Republican Jewish Coalition in Washington, D.C., 3 December 2015.

“On Thursday, Republican front-runner Donald Trump delivered a speech before the Republican Jewish Coalition in which he essentially praised members of the organization for being a bunch of Shylocks.”

Scott Eric Kaufman

Daring openings are what they are, and Scott Eric Kaufman of Salon delivers one that might well be, according to murmur and buzz, worth its punch.

Rosie Gray of BuzzFeed chose a more sober lede that pretty much makes the point:

Donald Trump repeatedly invoked stereotypes about Jews and money during a speech to a Republican Jewish Coalition meeting on Thursday.

Zack Beauchamp summarized for Vox―

The nicest thing that you can say about these comments is that they play on ancient stereotypes of Jews as money-grubbing merchants. The meanest thing you can say is that they’re outright anti-Semitic.

―and pointed to some social media reaction, including Chemi Shalev of Haaretz, who tweeted his critique: “The time that Trump spit on a Jewish audience and everyone pretended they were in a water park”.

(more…)

The Szubin Question (Forty-Seven Rise Again Remix)

Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) speaks with reporters before the Senate luncheons in the Capitol, 15 May 2012. (Photo: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

“It’s grossly irresponsible of McConnell and his colleagues to keep government from doing what they say it should do: operate efficiently and protect its citizens.”

Jonathan Bernstein

Perhaps some recall an occasion not so long ago when the United States faced such a potential health crisis that small-government conservatives, Republicans who purport to disdain the idea of an American czar, called for President Obama to appoint a new policy czar to deal with Ebola.

The White House, Democratic supporters, and many others pointed out that the Senate could start by simply confirming the nominated Surgeon General; Vivek Murthy’s nomination languished for over a year because Republicans objected to the idea that gunshot wounds are a health issue.

With a potential health crisis pitching Republicans into panic, they sought another executive-appointed czar, instead of confirming a qualified nominee to lead the uniformed service whose job it is to respond to public health threats.

The president already has a “czar” to deal with Daa’ish; his name is Brett McGurk, and last month he replaced Gen. John Allen (USMC, Ret.) as Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL”, but he also needs his Undersecretary of the Treasury for terrorism and financial crimes, currently occupied as an interim appointment for over two hundred days because Senate Republicans refuse to slate his confirmation hearing.

Szubin’s nomination got a hearing before the Senate Banking Committee on Sept. 17, and Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) praised his past work in countering terrorist financing during his time with both Republican and Democratic administrations.

“He is eminently qualified for this,” Shelby said at the time.

But Szubin’s nomination hasn’t moved since. There’s no clear reason why, beyond trying to make it difficult for President Barack Obama to fill administration posts.

“Treasury must have in place an experienced watchdog, with the know-how and authority to lead U.S. efforts to track and choke off the financial lifeblood of terrorist organizations,” Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), the top Democrat on the Banking Committee, said Wednesday. “Republicans in Congress need to stop holding our national security apparatus hostage to political demands, and allow Adam Szubin and other national security nominees to be approved as soon as possible.”

A Shelby spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment.

Don Stewart, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), noted that Republicans recently lined up a confirmation vote on a separate nominee, Gayle Smith, for USAID administrator, but couldn’t say when Szubin might move.

Stewart dinged Democrats for “politicizing Paris” with this week’s push on stalled national security nominees.

(Bendery)

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The One About the Guy Waving the Confederate Flag and Wanting to Arrest a U.S. Senator for Treason

Jon Ritzheimer at a 2015 pro-Confederate flag demonstration.  (Photo: Miriam Wasser/Phoenix New Times)

It’s just one of those little things you file away for future reference. Hanna Hess of Roll Call mulls militia mutterings in Michigan:

Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) speaks after a vote on legislation for funding the Department of Homeland Security on Capitol Hill in Washington March 2, 2015.  (Reuters/Joshua Roberts)If Jon Ritzheimer travels to Michigan trying to arrest Sen. Debbie Stabenow for treason because of her support for the Iran nuclear deal, he may find a line of volunteer militia men guarding the Michigan Democrat.

“This is wrong. It sounds like mob rule to me,” said Lou Vondette, of the Southeast Michigan Volunteer Militia, one of the oldest active militias in the state. “We have no idea what this guy has on his mind,” Vondette said in a phone interview. The threats sound “just as terrifying to [us], as to anyone reading the story.”

Additionally, Mr. Vondette told Roll Call he had been in communication with several other Michigan militia groups and, “We know of no militia in Michigan that is participating in these actions”. He also rebuked out-of-state influences that would claim association.

Jon Ritzheimer, meanwhile, is an Arizona activist with something approaching terrible luck; his imitation “Draw Muhammad” protest was a bust compared to the counterprotest; calling himself an “Oathkeeper”, Mr. Ritzheimer’s latest scheme for attention is to threaten to arrest Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), claiming her support for the P5+1 nuclear accord with Iran constitutes some manner of treason. Judging by Ms. Hess’ earlier report on the desperate menace―

Jon Ritzheimer, the Arizona resident who reportedly attracted FBI attention when he organized an anti-Muslim protest rally and “draw Muhammad” cartoon contest at a Phoenix mosque, shared his plan to organize with fellow U.S. Marines in an open letter posted online Monday.

“We are planning on arresting Senator Debbie Stabenow, who voted yes to the Iran Nuke Deal. She will be arrested for treason under Article 3 Section 3 of the Constitution,” states the letter. “We have chosen her as our first target due to our strong ties with the Michigan State Militia and their lax gun laws that will allow us to operate in a manner necessary for an operation like this.”

Ritzheimer, 31, claims that after successfully detaining the Michigan Democrat, he and his armed militia “will continue to move across the country and arrest everyone involved with the Iran Nuke Deal” including the president.

―we need not wonder why the militias in the Great Lakes State want nothing to do with him.

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Image notes: Top ― Jon Ritzheimer at a 2015 pro-Confederate flag demonstration. (Photo: Miriam Wasser/Phoenix New Times) Left ― Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) speaks after a vote on legislation for funding the Department of Homeland Security on Capitol Hill in Washington March 2, 2015. (Reuters/Joshua Roberts)

Hess, Hannah. “Militia Organizer Threatens to Arrest Stabenow Over Iran Deal”. Roll Call. 22 September 2015.

—————. “Michigan Militia Group Disavows Threat to Stabenow”. Roll Call. 23 September 2015.

The Marco Rubio Show (Gaffe Rig)

Marco Rubio: A New American Century

There are so many places to go and bizarre spectacles to see, but for the moment these paragraphs from Steve Benen ought to be devastating:

Rubio, a member of both the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the Senate Intelligence Committee, is basing much of his campaign on his alleged expertise on international affairs. The far-right Floridian would love nothing more than to be seen as the candidate who has a “deep understanding” of “the threats that the world is facing.”

But Rubio has run into Trump-like problems of his own. Just last week, in a big speech on foreign policy, the GOP senator told an embarrassing whopper about military preparedness, touching on an issue Rubio should have understood far better.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., arrives for the Senate Republicans' policy lunch in the Capitol on Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2013. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call/Getty)In June, Rubio was asked about his approach towards Iraq. Told that his policy sounds like nation-building, the senator responded, “Well, it’s not nation-building. We are assisting them in building their nation.”

Just this year, Rubio has flubbed the details of Iran’s Green Revolution. His criticisms on the Obama administration’s approach towards Israel were quickly discredited as nonsense. His statements of nuclear diplomacy were practically gibberish.

In the spring, Rubio had a memorable confrontation with Secretary of State John Kerry, which was a debacle – the senator stumbled badly on several key details, and Kerry made him look pretty foolish.

Soon after, Rhonda Swan, a Florida-based journalist, wrote that the Republican senator “should be embarrassed.” Swan added, “By his own standard that the next president have a ‘clear view of what’s happening in the world’ and a ‘practical plan for how to engage America in global affairs,’ Rubio fails the test.”

What’s more, as readers may recall, when Rubio has tried to articulate a substantive vision, he’s relied a little too heavily on shallow, bumper-sticker-style sloganeering, rather than actual policy measures. Rubio declared “our strategy” on national security should mirror Liam Neeson’s catchphrase in the film “Taken”: “We will look for you, we will find you and we will kill you.”

Soon after, the candidate’s team unveiled the “Rubio Doctrine”, described by Charles Pierce as “three banalities strung together in such a way as to sound profound and to say nothing.”

And yet the narrative leads with Donald Trump.

(more…)

A Meandering Consideration of Absolutism

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses a joint meeting of Congress in the House Chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington, 3 March 2015.  (Photo: Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

“Maybe it’s an unfortunate hallmark of contemporary conservative thought?”

Steve Benen

Over at Slate, Fred Kaplan offers an interesting consideration:

It’s looking more and more like Benjamin Netanyahu committed a strategic blunder in so ferociously opposing the Iran nuclear deal and in rallying his American allies to spend all their resources on a campaign to kill the deal in Congress.

SlateIf current trends hold, the Israeli prime minister and his stateside lobbyists—mainly AIPAC—are set to lose this fight. It’s politically risky for Israel’s head of state to go up against the president of his only big ally and benefactor; it’s catastrophic to do so and come away with nothing. Similarly, it’s a huge defeat for AIPAC, whose power derives from an image of invincibility. American politicians and donors might get the idea that the group isn’t so invincible after all, that they can defy its wishes, now and then, without great risk.

It would have been better for Netanyahu—and for Israel—had he maybe grumbled about the Iran deal but not opposed it outright, let alone so brazenly. He could have pried many more favors from Obama in exchange for his scowl-faced neutrality. Not that Obama, or any other American president, will cut Israel off; but relations will remain more strained, and requests for other favors (for more or bigger weapons, or for certain votes in international forums) will be scrutinized more warily, than they would have been.

There is, of course, much more to Kaplan’s consideration, including the implications of current Congressional momentum and the widening gap between the credibility of favoring and opposing arguments. Toward the latter, he notes, “Most criticisms of the deal actually have nothing to do with the deal”, and that’s about as least unfavorable as his critique of the criticism gets.

(more…)

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 Ted Cruz Show (Deeply Invested)

TedCruz-bw-banner

Ladies and gentlemen, this is The Ted Cruz Show:

Ted Cruz for President 2016 logo.Sen. Ted Cruz said Sunday that doing everything possible to thwart the Iran deal should include states exploring imposing their own sanctions.

The Republican presidential candidate from Texas was asked at a raucous town hall-style forum here about the prospects of states taking action to impose sanctions on the money the Obama administration has agreed to release as part of the deal regarding the country’s nuclear development.

“I think that states should act and lead to do exactly that,” Cruz said.

You may, of course, proceed to laugh yourself to emergency surgery if you are so inclined, but the Texas junior isn’t done yet, as Niels Lesniewski makes clear for Roll Call. Mr. Cruz recalled an occasion when, as solicitor general, he rebuffed an attempt by President George W. Bush to force Texas to apply the authority of the International Criminal Court. Roll Call On the Road.Without drawing any connection to his proposition that states conduct geopolitics, Cruz reminded, “The court further concluded that no president, Republican of Democrat, has the constitutional authority to give up U.S. Sovereignty. So I think states ought to go down that road.”

We might suggest to wonder what that actually means, but such a question also demands wondering if we might ever find out. Ted Cruz is deeply invested in nonsense.

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Lesniewski, Niels. “Ted Cruz to States: Impose Your Own Iran Sanctions”. Roll Call. 9 August 2015.

Georgia, in Disgrace

Georgia Republican Senate Candidate David Perdue speaks to supporters at a primary election night party, Tuesday, 20 May 2014, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

Something about the goodness of noodly appendages goes here, though we need not thank Sen. David Perdue (R-GA) for the mess; throwing pasta at the walls in order to see what sticks is best reserved for teaching young children the scientific method, and certainly has no part in geopolitics and diplomacy.

Steve Benen explains:

Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) complained bitterly about the United Nations moving forward on the international agreement before Republicans have had a chance to try to kill the deal. “We’re showing the world we don’t stand together right now,” Perdue said.

In March, Perdue signed on to a letter to Iranian officials, urging them not to trust the United States. The Georgia Republican, one of 47 GOP senators who endorsed the letter, were openly and brazenly trying to sabotage American foreign policy.

Maybe he ought to skip the complaining about “showing the world we don’t stand together right now.”

It might well seem a valid point. After all, Mr. Perdue is one of the infamous #GOP47 who hoped to sink P5+1 negotiations by telling Iranian leaders the United States and its people lack integrity as negotiating partners.

When your great contribution to the U.S. Senate is knifing the nation in the back while hoping to start a war, it is probably best to not be heard complaining about an apparent lack of unity.

The people of Georgia owe us an apology and an explanation for sending this excremental character to the United States Senate. However, as with the cowardly Mr. Perdue, we have no reason to expect they will bother.

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Image note: Georgia Republican Senate Candidate David Perdue speaks to supporters at a primary election night party, Tuesday, 20 May 2014, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

Benen, Steve. “‘Showing the world we don’t stand together'”. msnbc. 24 July 2015.