Obama’s Iranian Vision Is Creating a Powder Keg


shutterstock_165080393If recent news accounts are to be believed, the framework of agreement between the U.S. and Iran is on the rocks. Iran’s top officials, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani, are saying economic sanctions must end immediately and that UN inspectors will not be granted unfettered access to military installations and nuclear construction sites.

But this may be nothing more than Iranian domestic political spin. And as long as there’s a potential deal, a critical point needs to be made: There is no provision for, or even discussion of, putting political restraints on Iran. That is, there is nothing in this deal that would force Iran to change its terrorist ways. Iran will continue to be the number-one state sponsor of terrorism in the Middle East, no matter what the deal.

How can this be?

The False Panacea of Energy Independence


Politicians, commentators, and some fellow Richochetti often mention “energy independence” as a solution to the conundrum of Middle Eastern politics. Dealing with the complex mess of that region is a thankless and dirty job, and we’ve been stuck doing it because of the importance of Persian Gulf oil to the world economy. I raised this issue last night in a comment to a post by Claire Berlinski, and it seemed to me that it warranted further discussion.shutterstock_78597688

The United States is not involved in the Middle East because we import oil from the Middle East. Rather, events in the Middle East can have a major impact on the worldwide price of oil. This would be true even if the US doubled its oil production and became a net exporter, as the Middle East would continue to produce a large proportion of the world’s oil. Simply put, American “energy independence” will not change the political importance of the Middle East, nor will it insulate the US from oil price shocks resulting from events in the Middle East.

This is true because a large percentage of the most easily-accessible oil is located in the Middle East. This is a matter of geography, and is not something that we can change (assuming conquest of the oil fields is off the table). In fact, I would not be surprised if falling oil prices increase the proportion of oil produced in the Middle East, as I suspect that the more marginal wells (which tend to shut down when prices drop) are located elsewhere.

Why Are We Backing the Saudi Campaign in Yemen?


yemen-airstrikesTwo weeks ago, I ventured a prediction:

Anyway, how do I bet what little I have left on “Saudis screw this up big time within two weeks? I’ll bet it all. I need the money.

The prediction was correct–that was an easy one–but I regret the insensate tone, not least because this is now yet another humanitarian catastrophe. UN estimates suggest 100,000 people have been displaced. It’s easy to dismiss Yemen as a perennially benighted hellhole, but kids who were born in Yemen have committed no other crime:

The Strategika Podcast: Kori Schake on the Mixed Blessings of Energy Abundance


Schake current hi-resThe energy boom has been great for the United States. But in other parts of the world? Not so much. In this final installment of the Strategika series on the international implications of new energy development, I talk with the Hoover Institution’s Kori Schake about the fallout for nations that have traditionally relied on energy resources to prop up their governments. Are places like Venezuela and Russia heading for dramatic upheavals thanks to changes in global markets? Should growing American energy production cause us to rethink our role in the Middle East? Are natural resources just as much a curse as a blessing? You can hear the answers below or by subscribing to the Strategika podcast through iTunes or your favorite podcast player.

Don’t Ask Me to Explain The Iran Nuclear Agreement


1000If anyone is hoping for foreign policy wisdom from me about this, you’re looking to the wrong person. Nothing about this makes sense. Adam Garfinkle’s piece in the American Interest strikes me as closest to rational. He rejects the idea that the negotiations are “a cover for shepherding that bomb into being as an ante toward bringing about an Iranian-U.S. condominium to ‘stabilize’ the Middle East,” this on the grounds that the explanation is essentially a conspiracy theory:

It behooves those who hold such views to explain why an American President would think that multinational nuclear proliferation in the Middle East suits mid- to long-term U.S. national security interests. It obviously doesn’t, and so they cannot explain their position rationally.

But he notes that it would seem the President was willing to accept any deal, however unfavorable:

Do You Ever See Libya in the News?



My news and social media filters are ensure I see news from Libya. I click on stories about Libya, so I’m served up news from Libya. But usually the stories come from British or European news agencies, not American ones. For example, I just checked Google news under the obvious search term (Libya), and found the following items. The first ran yesterday in the New York Times’ blog section:

After Horror in Libya, Christians’ Grief in an Egyptian Village

The Strategika Podcast: Williamson Murray on the Strategic Implications of America’s Energy Boom


WickIn the new series of Strategika podcasts from the Hoover Institution, we’re looking at what the revolution in American energy production means for the US’s economic and strategic future. In this first installment, I talk with Williamson Murray, the Ambassador Anthony D. Marshall Chair of Strategic Studies at The Marine Corps University, about what the implications are for our relationships with Russia, Iran, and other countries in the Middle East. Listen in below or subscribe to Strategika through iTunes or your favorite podcast service.

Too Angry to Add a Word


REAGAN KOHL JENNINGERLynne Cheney, writing in this morning’s Wall Street Journal:

If you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!

—President Ronald Reagan, speech at the Brandenburg Gate, Berlin, 1987

The Last Jew in Pakistan


Screen Shot 2015-03-31 at 11.38.50 PMMeet Fishel Benkhald. My wife and I met him over Twitter late last year, and, because I am also a Jew, I was very interested in his story. We have become “friends” through social media.

Fishel lives in Karachi, Pakistan, and is considered to be the last Jewish citizen in Pakistan, a country of 187 million people. He has made it his mission to be a voice for Pakistani minorities. Over Twitter direct message, he told me (all quotes unedited, to preserve his spelling and grammar):

Yes I tweet&speak with people in support of Christians,Hindus,and muslim minority of Ahmadia&Shia muslims.

Obama and the U.N. Won’t Intimidate Israel


Netanyahu obama israelIsrael’s enemies have always made the mistake of underestimating the Jewish nation.

One of those enemies is Barack Obama. According to a recent Jackson Diehl column in the Washington Post, the Administration is contemplating bringing the Israeli-Palestinian question to the United Nations in the form of a U.S.-backed Security Council resolution, stipulating that Israel hand over the West Bank as well as Gaza to a new Palestinian state, with Jerusalem divided between the two.

Diehl says the resolution would “set off an earthquake in U.S. foreign relations and for Israel’s standing in the world.” A colleague of mine here at the Hudson Institute, who knows the Middle East (and Obama) better than I do, says it’s firmly within the realm of possibility.

Grand Strategy Podcast: Stephen Krasner on Failed States and Realistic Expectations


This is the last installment of Hoover’s Grand Strategy podcasts that I’ll be posting for a bit and probably my favorite of the bunch. In this episode, I talk with Stephen Krasner, former Director of Policy Planning at the State Department and current Chairman of Hoover’s Working Group on Foreign Policy and Grand Strategy. The topic? You might call it “a humbler foreign policy,” though not in the way George W. Bush once used that phrase. Rather, Dr. Krasner wants us to think about the limits of what America can do well when it comes to assisting failed states. He’s no pollyanna about the threats that can emerge from such states — all you have to do is listen to this episode’s discussion about the consequences of a WMD attack on American soil to know that — but he’s not trigger-happy either. It’s an insightful discussion and one I hope you’ll find the time to listen to:

The Enduring Problem of GITMO


imageWriting in the Washington Examiner, Byron York suggests that the prosecution of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl is likely to rekindle debate over the US detention facility at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base. President Obama is apparently embarrassed that he has not been able to close the prison as promised six years ago and — given his penchant for taking questionable executive action over congressional objections — it’s reasonable to expect him to do something about it in the next few years. There’s no way that ends well.

But while it’d be best for Obama not to get his way on this matter, GITMO’s use as a detention facility — and the political maneuvering around it — should not continue past the next presidents’ term. The prison’s location was clearly chosen less for its geographic advantages — members are welcome to correct me if I’ve missed something, but Naval Support Facility Diego Garcia has long struck me as a superior location in almost every regard that way — than for its unique political situation, being situated on the only spot on earth from which the United States military cannot be evicted that is also not subject to US civilian law. It’s humiliating for the United States military to feel it has to hide its prisoners from civilian courts (though I leave it to readers to decide on their own whether this speaks worse about our military or our courts). Comparisons to a gulag are offensive on many levels, but that’s hardly an endorsement of the situation.

Adding to the circus has been our nation’s inability to prosecute the prisoners, even under the relatively easy standards of evidence and proof afforded by the military tribunals set-up nearly a decade ago. Indeed, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s military trial is yet to even start. Unless something changes the situation — which, again, I doubt will be a good thing under President Obama — it’s likely that his detention will span at least three presidencies without resolution.

Obama Administration Outs Israel’s Nuclear Program


There seems to be no end to the damage President Obama will inflict upon the nation of Israel. While wooing a genocidal regime in Tehran, this administration has treated our staunchest Middle East ally with a mix of pettiness, contempt and rage.

Following Benjamin Netanyahu’s huge election victory, Obama grumbled that it was time to “reassess” America’s relationship with Israel. Monday he began that effort when, for the first time ever, the U.S. delegation refused to speak in defense of Israel at the UN Human Rights Council. The council was adhering to the sinister-sounding Agenda Item 7, which mandates the discussion of “Israeli human rights violations” at every meeting.

Death to America


IRAN-POLITICS-ANNIVERSARYMaybe I’m too sensitive, but when a foreign autocrat leads his people in chants of “Death to America” I take it personally.

President Obama and Secretary Kerry apparently don’t. The chant, which became a staple of the Islamic Republic during the 1979 revolution, is not a relic of the past. Just last weekend, at a rally in the northern part of the country, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei was interrupted by the chant as he was denouncing American “lies” and “arrogance.” He smiled and responded, “Of course yes, death to America, because America is the original source of this pressure.”

Some in Iran have urged that the “Death to America” chant, common after Friday prayers and at political rallies, be downplayed during negotiations over a nuclear deal, but the IRGC (Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps) rejects this, insisting, according to the semi-official Fars news agency, that the United States “is still the great Satan and the number one enemy of the (Islamic) revolution, and the Islamic Republic and the Iranian nation…”

Grand Strategy Podcast: The Challenges of Nation-Building, with Francis Fukuyama


Our newest episode in the special series of podcasts from the Hoover Institution’s Working Group on Foreign Policy and Grand Strategy features Francis Fukuyama on the challenges of nation-building. What does history teach us about the viability of such projects? Where has the U.S. erred in its past efforts? And what alternatives should it explore in the future? We discuss these topics and more in the conversation below:

The Surreal Fantasies of Western Man


isis-flag-1 (350x243)We live in an electronic paradise that is allowing us to retreat from any meaningful contact with another human being.

I can now barricade myself in my own small fortress in the American Southwest and order a pizza or groceries by tapping on some keys. I can leave the money on the front porch in an envelope and peer out the window and wait for the delivery person to leave and without having to say a word to another person my hunger and thirst has been satisfied.

There are beneficial uses of the internet and there are detrimental uses of the internet.

Member Post


Recently, the EU competition commissioner, a Danish politician, has been pushing the investigation of Gazprom for anti-competitive behaviour. Gazprom is, as you may recall, the Russian natural gas monopoly controlled by Vladimir Putin and his cronies. It has been widely reported that the Putin gang use Gazprom as their own personal bank. In completely unrelated […]

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March Madness at the UN


This past week was a bad one for Israel, and her supporters around the world, especially here in America. After another victory for Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party on Tuesday, the White House started floating the idea that it might change its relationship with Israel in the United Nations. In Politico, Michael Crowley wrote:

In the wake of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decisive reelection, the Obama administration is revisiting longtime assumptions about America’s role as a shield for Israel against international pressure.