Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Biden and Iran

 

A Bulwark piece about the attacks on Iran’s nuclear facilities speculates that it was the work of Israel, the US, or the awesome Avengers Assemble! combo of both countries’ forces. The Bulwark writer says:

As the New York Times reported last week, they apparently are the result of joint U.S.-Israeli operations designed to set back Iran’s nuclear and military programs. They come following Iran’s lack of cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which passed a resolution last month calling out Iran on this problem.

I share your astonishment that the resolution did not accomplish anything – I mean, they called them out. Surely a few Mullahs retired to their private chamber to have a good hot sob over the humiliation. Gosh darn it, we’re doing our best not to make nuclear weapons, but it’s hard! Can you give a guy a break?

Iran seems to be banking on a Joe Biden victory in November. After all, not only was Biden part of the administration that negotiated the deal, but he pushed wary Senate Democrats to approve of it and even bragged about the deal in his primary campaign ads. His longtime aid and likely national security advisor, Jake Sullivan, was a key negotiator in the talks leading up to the JCPOA. 

So with the prospect in sight of the United States returning to the JCPOA and lifting the sanctions, the Trump administration and the Netanyahu government in Israel are apparently trying to set back Iran’s capabilities while they have the chance.

True. Also, vote Biden! Because Trump. Here comes the reasoned analysis:

But all parties might be mistaken. Whoever wins in November will have unprecedented leverage over Iran. The regime’s popularity is at an all-time low—one recent defector has suggested that it is in single digits, according to internal estimates.

Iran’s economy is in free fall—both because of the U.S. sanctions and the incompetence and corruption of the regime’s leaders. The regime’s handling of the pandemic has been catastrophic, with over 200 daily deaths. And the people are only blaming the regime for their problems, not any foreign power. 

It is difficult to see the Biden administration not take advantage of the situation for a more favorable agreement, especially as the U.N.-imposed arms embargo will soon expire under the terms of the resolution that adopted the JCPOA. 

Ah.

A Biden administration will embolden all those Iran hawks on the left who are champing at the bit, eager to craft a new deal on the harshest possible terms. That’s why they’re Democrats! Unsparing advocates of American interests! This time they won’t be kneecapped by Obama’s negotiators, no sir – like sharks who can detect a minute particle of blood in the vast ocean, they will bore in hard, and place stern restrictions on Iran’s missile program, prohibiting them from testing ICBMs until 2039. 

It’s brilliant strategy: wait until your foe is on the ropes, then stop your barrage, help him back to his corner, daub some Vaseline on the cuts, and ask that the next round be postponed until your adversary is feeling better. The writer admits that diplomacy hasn’t really been the bee’s knees:

Four decades of Western engagement with Iran has failed to modify the regime’s behavior, internally or externally. Even the Obama administration’s nuclear agreement failed to change Iran’s behavior outside of its nuclear program. 

Imagine that. Even the Obama administration’s nuclear agreement failed to change Iran’s behavior outside of its nuclear program. Complete shock, that. Also, it failed to change Iran’s behavior inside of its nuclear program, but c’mon, we had a framework. We had a process. We had a dialogue

You know what has worked? Making a lot of bad stuff in the hands of some bad people blow up. But that’s not how you make partners in a process that makes a framework for dialogue.

Question for the Biden voters here: do you think the institutional anti-semitism of the left – I’m sorry, the anti-Zionist sentiment, totally different thing – will have an impact on Biden’s ability to take a stance on international security and non-proliferation that also aligns with Israel’s interests? 

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  1. Judge Mental Member

    I suspect Team America. (I’ll spare you the song.)

    • #1
    • July 15, 2020, at 11:01 PM PDT
    • 11 likes
  2. Arahant Member

    James Lileks: You know what has worked? Making a lot of bad stuff in the hands of some bad people blow up. But that’s not how you make partners in a process that makes a framework for dialogue.

    “Caedite eos. Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius.”

    • #2
    • July 15, 2020, at 11:06 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  3. kylez Member
    kylez Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Judge Mental (View Comment):

    I suspect Team America. (I’ll spare you the song.)

    Freak yeah.

    • #3
    • July 15, 2020, at 11:43 PM PDT
    • 7 likes
  4. Zafar Member

    James Lileks: You know what has worked? Making a lot of bad stuff in the hands of some bad people blow up.

    Hasn’t worked very well in Afghanistan.

    How is Iran different?

    • #4
    • July 16, 2020, at 12:00 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  5. Steven Seward Member

    Zafar (View Comment):

    James Lileks: You know what has worked? Making a lot of bad stuff in the hands of some bad people blow up.

    Hasn’t worked very well in Afghanistan.

    How is Iran different?

    Are you suggesting that Afghanistan has nuclear weapons?

    • #5
    • July 16, 2020, at 1:09 AM PDT
    • 9 likes
  6. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I don’t believe most Biden voters will answer.

    Certainly the post above does not answer the question but makes snarm about Afghanistan.

    • #6
    • July 16, 2020, at 2:40 AM PDT
    • 1 like
    • This comment has been edited.
  7. Zafar Member

    Steven Seward (View Comment):

    Zafar (View Comment):

    James Lileks: You know what has worked? Making a lot of bad stuff in the hands of some bad people blow up.

    Hasn’t worked very well in Afghanistan.

    How is Iran different?

    Are you suggesting that Afghanistan has nuclear weapons?

    Are you suggesting that nuclear weapons are the only weapons there are?

    Afghanistan has not really been subdued, despite a 20 (?) year war/occupation and an immense ability to blow things up.

    Why will blowing things up work with Iran? How is Iran different when it comes to being subdued?

    • #7
    • July 16, 2020, at 3:33 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  8. Judge Mental Member

    Zafar (View Comment):

    Steven Seward (View Comment):

    Zafar (View Comment):

    James Lileks: You know what has worked? Making a lot of bad stuff in the hands of some bad people blow up.

    Hasn’t worked very well in Afghanistan.

    How is Iran different?

    Are you suggesting that Afghanistan has nuclear weapons?

    Are you suggesting that nuclear weapons are the only weapons there are?

    Afghanistan has not really been subdued, despite a 20 (?) year war/occupation and an immense ability to blow things up.

    Why will blowing things up work with Iran? How is Iran different when it comes to being subdued?

    In Iran there are high tech facilities that are specifically devoted to their nuclear program. The more of those that are destroyed, the farther away they are. Large parts of Afghanistan have the advantage of being primitive. If you survive the bombing itself, you’re back in business. Infrastructure that doesn’t exist can’t be destroyed.

    • #8
    • July 16, 2020, at 3:56 AM PDT
    • 16 likes
  9. Zafar Member

    Judge Mental (View Comment):
    In Iran there are high tech facilities that are specifically devoted to their nuclear program. The more of those that are destroyed, the farther away they are. Large parts of Afghanistan have the advantage of being primitive. If you survive the bombing itself, you’re back in business. Infrastructure that doesn’t exist can’t be destroyed.

    This is true, but it doesn’t address changing Iran’s behaviour outside of its nuclear program. (Or inside of it, I guess.)

    Will destroying infrastructure do that? 

    What is the objective here?

    • #9
    • July 16, 2020, at 4:03 AM PDT
    • Like
  10. Franco Member
    Franco Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Zafar (View Comment):

    James Lileks: You know what has worked? Making a lot of bad stuff in the hands of some bad people blow up.

    Hasn’t worked very well in Afghanistan.

    How is Iran different?

    You are smart enough to know the answer to this question. Therefore, your credibility just sank to around zero with me . Thanks for exposing yourself in four words.

    • #10
    • July 16, 2020, at 4:06 AM PDT
    • 7 likes
  11. Steven Seward Member

    Zafar (View Comment):

    Steven Seward (View Comment):

    Zafar (View Comment):

    James Lileks: You know what has worked? Making a lot of bad stuff in the hands of some bad people blow up.

    Hasn’t worked very well in Afghanistan.

    How is Iran different?

    Are you suggesting that Afghanistan has nuclear weapons?

    Are you suggesting that nuclear weapons are the only weapons there are?

    Afghanistan has not really been subdued, despite a 20 (?) year war/occupation and an immense ability to blow things up.

    Why will blowing things up work with Iran? How is Iran different when it comes to being subdued?

    I don’t think the aim is to “subdue” Iran, though it would certainly be nice if they got their mind off of World domination and killing the Jews. The aim is to stop them from getting nuclear weapons. So far, “blowing things up” has worked pretty well. How can they proceed if the West keeps smashing their nuclear facilities?

    Also, the aim in Afghanistan was not to “Subdue” them. It was to chase out the Taliban and “blowing things up” worked pretty well there, too. Afghanistan may have many problems but it doesn’t threaten it’s neighbors or the West with weapons like Iran does. It’s a strategic place that is of interest to the U.S., Russia, Iran, Al Qaida, etc.

    • #11
    • July 16, 2020, at 4:10 AM PDT
    • 7 likes
  12. Raxxalan Member
    Raxxalan Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Zafar (View Comment):

    Judge Mental (View Comment):
    In Iran there are high tech facilities that are specifically devoted to their nuclear program. The more of those that are destroyed, the farther away they are. Large parts of Afghanistan have the advantage of being primitive. If you survive the bombing itself, you’re back in business. Infrastructure that doesn’t exist can’t be destroyed.

    This is true, but it doesn’t address changing Iran’s behaviour outside of its nuclear program. (Or inside of it, I guess.)

    Will destroying infrastructure do that?

    What is the objective here?

    To keep people who believe in martyrdom with little or no regard for their own civilian population from obtaining weapons which would allow them to kill millions of innocent people around the world.

    • #12
    • July 16, 2020, at 4:15 AM PDT
    • 8 likes
  13. Zafar Member

    Steven Seward (View Comment):

    I don’t think the aim is to “subdue” Iran, though it would certainly be nice if they got their mind off of World domination and killing the Jews. The aim is to stop them from getting nuclear weapons. So far, “blowing things up” has worked pretty well. How can they proceed if the West keeps smashing their nuclear facilities?

    The US didn’t withdraw from the Iran Deal because they had evidence that Iran wasn’t complying. It (Trump) withdrew because the deal didn’t address other (non-nuclear) stuff that Iran was doing.

    Subduing is a reasonable word for the desire, isn’t it?

    Also, the aim in Afghanistan was not to “Subdue” them. It was to chase out the Taliban and “blowing things up” worked pretty well there, too

    So well that the US is engaging in “peace talks” with the Taliban right now.

    Afghanistan may have many problems but it doesn’t threaten it’s neighbors or the West with weapons like Iran does.

    How will the West keep it that way? And also withdraw?

     

    • #13
    • July 16, 2020, at 4:23 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  14. Stad Thatcher

    James Lileks: A Bulwark piece about the attacks on Iran’s nuclear facilities speculates that it was the work of Israel

    Of course – blame the Jews . . .

    • #14
    • July 16, 2020, at 5:37 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  15. Percival Thatcher
    Percival Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    James Lileks: A Biden administration will embolden all those Iran hawks on the left

    • #15
    • July 16, 2020, at 5:45 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  16. Percival Thatcher
    Percival Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Stad (View Comment):

    James Lileks: A Bulwark piece about the attacks on Iran’s nuclear facilities speculates that it was the work of Israel

    Of course – blame the Jews . . .

    We’ve got it down to a Hope/Crosby pattycake routine now. They blame us. We blame them. Everybody giggles.

    • #16
    • July 16, 2020, at 5:50 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  17. Richard Fulmer Member

    Zafar (View Comment):
    What is the objective here?

    My guess is that the objective is to keep Iran from getting nuclear weapons for as long as possible and to destabilize the regime in hopes that it collapses before it has the ability to start a nuclear war. Apparently, the strategy that the U.S. and Israel have adopted is to squeeze the country economically and to use sabotage to slow it’s progress toward creating nuclear weapons.

    Why do you believe that this strategy will fail? What alternatives do you suggest? Note: I’m not disagreeing with you, I just don’t know what the right answer is. Thanks.

    • #17
    • July 16, 2020, at 6:49 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  18. Zafar Member

    Richard Fulmer (View Comment):

    My guess is that the objective is to keep Iran from getting nuclear weapons for as long as possible and to destabilize the regime in hopes that it collapses before it has the ability to start a nuclear war. Apparently, the strategy that the U.S. and Israel have adopted is to squeeze the country economically and to use sabotage to slow it’s progress toward creating nuclear weapons.

    Why do you believe that this strategy will fail?

    I can’t think of an instance where economic sanctions have resulted in regime change by themselves.

    Or even significantly inconvenienced a country’s elites in terms of reducing the access to rations.

    I do think that blowing up nuclear facilities will set the Iranian program back, but is this going to be an endless cycle of brutal ‘haircuts’? It doesn’t seem like it’s the best way to go about things because it doesn’t address their central motivation, which is preserving the Iranian elite’s power and proofing them from violent regime change by invasion.

    What alternatives do you suggest?

    The more Iran is engaged commercially with the rest of the world – say with the West – the greater its stake, and the greater its elite’s stake, in ongoing peace with the rest of the world. That’s why I thought the Iran Deal was excellent. Not because it was perfect, but because it opened road, reinforced by self-interest, for the elite to profit from peace and for the country to develop economically – a thing which strengthens civil society, which is a force that can change regimes and polities.

    Note: I’m not disagreeing with you, I just don’t know what the right answer is. Thanks.

    Richard, I’m not sure I know the right answer either but I’m fairly confident that focusing on sanctions and bombing is the wrong answer. Sometimes it feels as if the West’s response is ruled by trauma and fear – and while these are both understandable, they don’t result in the best policy in most situations.

    jmho. 

    • #18
    • July 16, 2020, at 7:45 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  19. Maguffin Member

    Zafar (View Comment):

    The more Iran is engaged commercially with the rest of the world – say with the West – the greater its stake, and the greater its elite’s stake, in ongoing peace with the rest of the world. That’s why I thought the Iran Deal was excellent. Not because it was perfect, but because it opened road, reinforced by self-interest, for the elite to profit from peace and for the country to develop economically – a thing which strengthens civil society, which is a force that can change regimes and polities.

    You’re assuming that the elites in Iran are focused on profiting from peace and developing their economy, where you also just said that all of this economic sanction sturm and drang couldn’t really affect them. Could be they actually believe what they keep telling us they believe, especially if they can make sure their own lives are pretty nice regardless. 

    We kept getting told that if we only engaged with China, they would mellow out. We did. How’s that working out?

    I too do not know the correct answer. No one can, and yet decisions still have to be made. Just pointing out some possible problems with your recommended approach.

    • #19
    • July 16, 2020, at 8:30 AM PDT
    • 7 likes
  20. Steven Seward Member

    Zafar (View Comment):

    I can’t think of an instance where economic sanctions have resulted in regime change by themselves.

    Or even significantly inconvenienced a country’s elites in terms of reducing the access to rations.

    The entire Soviet System and its satellite countries all collapsed out of financial ruin. It wasn’t solely because of Western sanctions, but they certainly helped move things along. By contrast, I can’t think of a single regime change that was caused by economic engagement.

    • #20
    • July 16, 2020, at 8:30 AM PDT
    • 7 likes
  21. Arahant Member

    Zafar (View Comment):
    The US didn’t withdraw from the Iran Deal because they had evidence that Iran wasn’t complying.

    Incorrect. There was evidence they were not complying.

    • #21
    • July 16, 2020, at 8:30 AM PDT
    • 6 likes
  22. Richard Fulmer Member

    Zafar (View Comment):
    The more Iran is engaged commercially with the rest of the world – say with the West – the greater its stake, and the greater its elite’s stake, in ongoing peace with the rest of the world.

    Didn’t Ayatollah Khomeini state that if Iran were wiped out it would matter little if it’s destruction advanced Islam? Beyond just staying in power, what is Iran’s aim? At the very least, it wants to be the regional hegemon. Since the day’s of ancient Persia, Iran has always been expansive.

    • #22
    • July 16, 2020, at 8:36 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  23. Steven Seward Member

    Richard Fulmer (View Comment):

    Zafar (View Comment):
    The more Iran is engaged commercially with the rest of the world – say with the West – the greater its stake, and the greater its elite’s stake, in ongoing peace with the rest of the world.

    Didn’t Ayatollah Khomeini state that if Iran were wiped out it would matter little if it’s destruction advanced Islam? Beyond just staying in power, what is Iran’s aim? At the very least, it wants to be the regional hegemon. Since the day’s of ancient Persia, Iran has always been expansive.

    I think Iran’s religious motivations greatly outweigh their financial incentives. That is true with most people’s religion around the World. Scientology would be a great exception…..

    • #23
    • July 16, 2020, at 8:47 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  24. Miffed White Male Member
    Miffed White Male Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Zafar (View Comment):
    I can’t think of an instance where economic sanctions have resulted in regime change by themselves.

    South Africa.

    • #24
    • July 16, 2020, at 9:01 AM PDT
    • 9 likes
  25. Richard Fulmer Member

    Miffed White Male (View Comment):

    Zafar (View Comment):
    I can’t think of an instance where economic sanctions have resulted in regime change by themselves.

    South Africa.

    True, but on the other hand, South Africans actually cared about what people around the world thought of them.

    • #25
    • July 16, 2020, at 9:04 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  26. Headedwest Coolidge

    Zafar (View Comment):

    The more Iran is engaged commercially with the rest of the world – say with the West – the greater its stake, and the greater its elite’s stake, in ongoing peace with the rest of the world. That’s why I thought the Iran Deal was excellent. Not because it was perfect, but because it opened road, reinforced by self-interest, for the elite to profit from peace and for the country to develop economically – a thing which strengthens civil society, which is a force that can change regimes and polities.

    That’s what they said about the China trade deals. Worked out great, except for the fact that they are even more evil now.

    • #26
    • July 16, 2020, at 9:09 AM PDT
    • 8 likes
  27. Zafar Member

    Richard Fulmer (View Comment):
    Beyond just staying in power, what is Iran’s aim? At the very least, it wants to be the regional hegemon. Since the day’s of ancient Persia, Iran has always been expansive.

    Possibly, though I think staying in power trumps that. 

    • #27
    • July 16, 2020, at 9:20 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  28. Richard Fulmer Member

    Zafar (View Comment):

    Richard Fulmer (View Comment):
    Beyond just staying in power, what is Iran’s aim? At the very least, it wants to be the regional hegemon. Since the day’s of ancient Persia, Iran has always been expansive.

    Possibly, though I think staying in power trumps that.

    And maybe staying alive. Although, for dictators, staying in power is often a necessary precondition for staying alive.

    • #28
    • July 16, 2020, at 9:21 AM PDT
    • 6 likes
  29. Cosmik Phred Member

    Richard Fulmer (View Comment):

    Miffed White Male (View Comment):

    Zafar (View Comment):
    I can’t think of an instance where economic sanctions have resulted in regime change by themselves.

    South Africa.

    True, but on the other hand, South Africans actually cared about what people around the world thought of them.

    And this is why sanctions tend not to work against autocrats.

    • #29
    • July 16, 2020, at 9:21 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  30. Zafar Member

    Miffed White Male (View Comment):
    Miffed White Male Ricochet Charter Member

    Zafar (View Comment):
    I can’t think of an instance where economic sanctions have resulted in regime change by themselves.

    South Africa.

    And South Africa was becoming difficult to govern. Like India under the British. It was becoming too expensive to turn a profit without change. 

    • #30
    • July 16, 2020, at 9:23 AM PDT
    • 2 likes