Tag: Iran

Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Will Biden Trigger War in the Middle East?

 

When President Trump pulled us out of the Iranian deal, also known as the JCPOA, it was one of the most sensible and appropriate actions of his Presidency. The deal, which was supposed to “slow” the Iranian development of a nuclear weapon, was a sham from the start: they refused to adhere to certain inspection guidelines from the beginning, then violated others as time passed; the IAEA figuratively and repeatedly threw up its hands in frustration. When we pulled out, the Iranians used our lack of support as a further excuse to continue to ignore the limitations of the agreement.

Now with the opportunity to manipulate the latest version of an Obama administration (also to be known as the Biden administration), the Iranians know that Biden has stated he will sign on again to the agreement. Biden’s goal is not only foolish but meaningless, since the Iranians have significantly progressed in their nuclear bomb development. What in the world will our re-engaging provide? Here are some of Biden’s ideas about re-joining the JCPOA:

In an op-ed in September, Biden said as president he would ‘make an unshakable commitment to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.’ He argued the best way to achieve that was for the U.S. to re-enter the deal.

Join Jim and Greg as they welcome the news that a top figure in Iran’s likely nuclear weapons program was targeted and killed and they marvel at how it was done. They also bang their heads against the table as some Trump supporters suggest opposing GOP senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler for being insufficiently vocal about the alleged election fraud and believe writing in Trump in the Senate races would send a powerful message. And they groan as the media clearly intends to stay in full Joe Biden cheerleading mode, including one story featuring an animal psychic who says Biden’s dogs are convinced he will be a great president.

Join Jim and Greg as they reveal what they’re politically thankful for in 2020. From the fight against COVID to domestic politics to major events on the world stage, they each find three things they’re thankful for from this difficult, unpredictable year.

Happy Thanksgiving to all 3 Martini Lunch listeners and your families! There will be no podcast on Thursday. Please join us Friday for our special Black Friday edition, as Jim and Greg pick out gifts for various political figures.

Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Trump’s Disruptive Foreign Policy

 

The following began its brief life as a comment on another recent post, but after reflection I thought maybe it was cogent enough to stand on its own. On the foreign policy front, I suspect I may be the only one here who has served in Embassies, including during the Trump era. This is what I will say about that.

  1. I’m sure I won’t break any news when I say that most of the foreign policy establishment leans left and is distressed when any Republican is elected but was especially so in 2016. This is not only true of our dear State Department friends but across the entire transnational community of foreign policy elites.
  2. Continuing as Captain Obvious, DJT is a norm-breaker, and the foreign policy community seriously loves it some norms–and resents when they are broken.
  3. Of course, some norms badly needed to be broken. In particular, the national and international foreign policy consensus on China urgently needed to move, and this administration succeeded in catalyzing that movement. The 2017 National Security Strategy and National Defense Strategy were masterfully done. They met a critical need to generate a global awakening about the failure of the previous consensus on Beijing, probably best summarized by Robert Zoellick’s 2005 “Responsible Stakeholder” speech. Someone had to end the charade, and it’s worth wondering whether a more conventional administration of either party could have overcome the entrenched consensus to have boldly introduced major-power competition as the new normal–so successfully that even the professionals now agree that we can’t go back to the status quo ante on China.
  4. Israel and the Middle East is the other major area where the foreign policy consensus simply had to be sidelined. I recently spoke to a State Department official who–in the context of a discussion about normalization with the UAE and Bahrain–seethed angrily about how this Administration had trashed 70 years of foreign policy consensus on Palestine. Without irony. Sometimes the conventional wisdom must be firmly rejected.
  5. Getting our allies to finally invest in their own defense is also a plus.
  6. Having said that, we are paying a price for appearing capricious and unnecessarily dismissive of our allies. Sure, they can be difficult, but they remain our allies and we do need to keep them on our side. Those same national security documents make it clear that major-power competition is a team sport, and we have to bring the team along if we’re going to win. And we must win.
  7. Also, the incessantly revolving door of senior officials (especially SecDefs and National Security Advisors) has been extremely disruptive to getting important work done in the international space.
  8. Finally, there’s been a dearth of consistently strong and vocal leadership on our American principles (democracy, rule of law, human rights, etc.), particularly since Nikki Haley stepped down as U.N. Ambassador. Foreign policy requires salesmanship, and ours would benefit from some strength, steadiness, and consistency on these themes.

Bottom line, this administration has served as a corrective to some badly flawed policy. Disruption was absolutely necessary, but at some point should start to give way to stability and focused team-building.

Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. A Biden Presidency and Possible Foreign Policy Threats

 

I’m going to pose several questions. I don’t have definitive answers to these questions. If Joe Biden is elected President of the United States we may not know if what I am about to describe will play out or not. But I think it’s important to ask the questions.

  1. Is it more likely, given Hunter Biden’s salacious history, that rather than Donald Trump, certain Russians associated with Vladimir Putin or Russian-sympathetic Ukrainians have compromising information on Joe Biden’s son that they may be poised to release or use as leverage to influence a Biden administration?
  2. Is it possible that Joe Biden’s Secretary of State may make overtures to the Iranian regime to restore relations even to the point of reauthorizing the JCPOA, so Iran can continue to develop and produce fissionable material in an unrestrained manner in an effort to make nuclear warheads for an arsenal of ICBMs?
  3. Is it possible or probable that Iran will test Joe Biden’s resolve and act provocatively by aiding in attacks on Israel through proxies like Hezbollah and Hamas or other bad actors?
  4. Is it possible that China will test a new Biden administration by moving against Taiwan, perhaps through financial sanctions or seizing Taiwan assets in mainland China, or a more adventurous military move on the island, like a naval blockade or a first strike on Taiwan air bases?
  5. If Russia advances troops across their border into Ukraine as they did in annexing Crimea during Obama’s presidency; or launches provocative actions in Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, or in the Balkans – how do you think a Biden administration will respond?
  6. What do you think the response would be from a Biden administration or National Security team if these nations – Russia, China, Iran – coordinated their actions to occur at the same time or in very rapid succession of one another, even working with other smaller countries with a history of antagonism to the US and its allies (Venezuela, North Korea, Syria) to present a fast-moving, compounding multi-theater challenge?
  7. The election in America is less than a month away. Do you know who Joe Biden’s foreign policy, national security, and military advisors are apart from Secretary-of-State-for-Life John Kerry (Lt. Col. Vindman, Fiona Hill, James Mattis?) and whether or not anyone in the defense and intelligence community has had an opportunity to brief Biden on potential threats and possible scenarios? Is Biden reading any foreign intelligence or threat assessments during his <cough> grueling campaign schedule or before he settles down for his frequent naps at his home?
  8. Finally, if any of this is likely to occur, do you think that Joe Biden has the mental acuity to process what is happening, cogently listen to and sort out the best strategic and tactical advice from both those in DoD and State, and act coherently and unequivocally to push back against these nations? Or would he make concessions or appease any of these nations and let then pursue their escapades? Does Joe Biden’s understanding or his misreading of foreign policy over the years give you confidence that he is up to the task? Has he demonstrated a profound understanding of foreign policy threats and opportunities throughout his political career or even in the last six months?

Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. The World Keeps Turning

 

The secret to any good magic trick is deception. The audience’s attention is diverted up into the air, while the trick is pulled off under the table. Politics is, in and of itself, a type of magic. How do governments and high-level officials pull off the corruption they do? Everyone else is looking away.

If you could find me an American who isn’t aware of either Coronavirus or Black Lives Matter, I would be shocked. The entire nation is held captive by these era-defining moments. Important as they are, it is imperative that we pay attention to the other events happening in the world around us that have just as much potential to play into future conflicts as Black Lives Matter does.

Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. A Different Focus: Briefing with Two Teams

 

“It would be a mistake, a mistake with terrible consequences, for any adversary to attempt to do us harm during this health crisis, or ever for that matter.” — National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien

“This is the United States military. You will not penetrate this country. You will not get past Jump Street. You’re not going to come in here and kill additional Americans. And we will marshal whatever assets are required to prevent your entry into this country to kill Americans.” — General Milley

President Trump brought two teams with him to the press room on April 1, 2o2o. The first team looked very different. The focus: stopping international criminal cartels from exploiting the pandemic to ramp up illegal drug shipments. President Trump had already identified the threat of increased drug addiction and overdoses caused by sudden economic despair, a lethal side effect of the prescription by Dr. Fauci and Dr. Birx for battling the Chinese coronavirus. The president then riffed through his introductory remarks while the regular crew gathered backstage and entered for the familiar themes, and some really good questions.

Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. A Serendipitous Development for a Vaccine – From Israel

 

The Jerusalem Post is reporting that MIGAL [The Galilee Research Institute] is on the cusp of developing a coronavirus vaccine within a few weeks. The vaccine would still need to be tested and approved by various government agencies (the FDA here in the United States, for example) before it could be widely manufactured and disseminated.

How is it possible that this firm is developing a potential vaccine candidate so quickly? Based on the processes the lab developed and wanted to test, they had their choice of virus candidates to validate their work and…

Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. The Climactic Moment for Iran

 

Isolated Iran leader lashes out at Europe as nations join US in ramping up pressure

Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei on Friday lashed out at Germany, the U.K. and France, calling them the “footmen of the U.S.,” days after the European countries moved to sanction the Islamic Republic for violating the controversial 2015 nuclear deal.

Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Nikki Loves America

 

Ambassador Nikki Haley believes America is the greatest country in the world, and she’ll tell you why. She thinks well of our society and people, while being clear that she has seen and experienced real racism and sexism and that socialism is making a troubling resurgence in popularity. In her account of her time in the Trump administration, Amb. Haley raises concerns, which she raised publicly while in office, about the arrogance of mere appointed officials, carrying no independent constitutional authority or accountability, while contending that the real Donald J. Trump is always willing to listen and respects respectful, professional, direct expressions of disagreement. Nikki Haley puts this all together in a slim, readable volume: With All Due Respect: Defending America with Grit and Grace.

The title comes from a small but significant moment in the former South Carolina governor’s tenure as United States ambassador to the United Nations. She had gone out on a national show and spoken the last known administration position on new Russia sanctions. However, President Trump made a different decision when the staffed recommendation came to him, before Amb. Haley’s media appearance.

Instead of the Chief of Staff John Kelly, National Security Advisor Bolton, or Larry Kudlow simply speaking the truth, they went into avoidance mode, until Kudlow made the mistake of saying on the record that Nikki Haley must have just been confused. This painted the only woman in the loop, the U.N. ambassador President Trump had elevated to cabinet-level and given direct access to National Security Council deliberations, as confused, not really in the loop.

Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Member Post

 

If the protests in Iran, which seem more explicitly pro-American than past protests, result in a change of the Iranian regime and a liberalization of that country, it will be difficult not to trace the proximate cause to President Trump’s actions in recent days. It won’t be reported that way, of course. But it will […]

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Grab a stool and join us for the start of another crazy week in Washington. Today, Jim and Greg salute the Iranian protesters risking life and limb to protest the regime they despise and applaud President Trump’s very appropriate tweets in support of the demonstrators. They also welcome the news that Sen. Cory Booker is ending his 2020 presidential campaign and discuss why he never took off. And they slam House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for her exceptionally weak answers as to why she pushed impeachment forward rather than fighting the Trump administrations over subpoenas in court.

Lots of Friday fun on today’s Three Martini Lunch! Join Jim and Greg as they celebrate the Dow Jones crossing 29,000 for the first time on Friday and enjoy an economy that is staying stronger than many experts predicted. They also slam Pete Buttigieg for suggesting the doomed Ukrainian airliner was “caught in the middle of an unnecessary and unwanted military tit for tat” instead of simply stating that it was shot down by Iran. And they dissect the stunning news that Tom Steyer is suddenly in second place among Democrats in South Carolina.

Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Overplaying the Weak Hand

 

If people keep getting away with outrageous behavior, if their provocations and incursions against decency and order are tolerated, for whatever reason, they begin to think that they’re in control. If their followers and those around them reinforce that impression, they risk growing deluded about their own authority and power.

Appeasement makes people foolish. Yes, it makes the appeaser seem weak, but it also misleads the appeased into imagining that they hold all the cards, and encourages them to raise too fast and bet too much. They begin to believe their own bluffs.

Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Mike Lee and the Need for Discretion in Foreign Policy

 

Senator Mike Lee of Utah recently got hot over a Trump administration briefing that he saw as disrespectful. According to Lee, when pressed about what exactly the Trump administration needed congressional approval for, the administration responded by saying there were almost no limits. As to legal justification, the administration officials responded, “I’m sure we could think of something.” Well, Senator Lee was mad, as he should be. The power that Congress has ceded to the executive in matters of foreign policy has exceeded the time horizon envisioned in its initial approval of the war on terror. It’s well past time to reign the executive back in.

I’m afraid, however, that Senator Lee in his anger has made an unforced blunder with his bluster. When to speak is as important as what is said, particularly in matters of foreign policy. Right now, Trump is in the middle of a standoff which requires that any threat he makes, either real or implied, be credible. If the Senate or, even worse, a handful of senators even give a hint that they won’t follow through with retaliatory action, mixed messages are sent to Iran. Mixed messages lead to miscalculation, and miscalculation in foreign policy leads to bloodshed.

Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Escalation: US Launches New Iranian Offensive

 

The United States is launching a new offensive against the Iranian regime, in hopes of further destabilizing that country’s tyrannical government through non-military means. Though details of the offensive are classified, a high-ranking defense department official spoke anonymously about the new initiative.

We don’t talk about it much, but the defense and intelligence agencies sometimes work together on what we call psychological operations, or psyops. These are behind-the-scenes efforts to confuse, mislead, intimidate, and demoralize the enemy, to reduce his effectiveness as a fighting force and, sometimes, to encourage regime change. It’s really that regime change we’re after in Iran.

No good martinis but plenty to talk about today! Join Jim and Greg as they dissect Republican fears that the open U.S. Senate seat in Kansas could be at risk this year if primary voters nominated Kris Kobach, who lost the 2018 governor’s race there. They serve up a double-barreled crazy martini as Utah Sen. Mike Lee fumes that Wednesday’s Iran briefing offered few specifics and that national security officials told lawmakers not to debate the issue in public. But they’re also surprised to see Lee planning to channel that frustration into support for the War Powers Act revisions restricting the ability of a president to order time-sensitive military action. And they have a lot of fun as House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith tells CNN that its time for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to deliver the articles of impeachment to the Senate only to go on Twitter a short time later to say he “misspoke” and whatever Pelosi wants to do is fine with him.

Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Pour l’Honneur le Pavillon: Honor and Warning Shots for Iran

 

Back in the age of fighting sail (a topic I enjoy writing of), occasions would occur where one warship was totally overmatched by an opponent. A sloop-of-war carrying twelve guns and capable of firing a broadside of but 36 pounds of iron shot might find itself being overhauled by a ship-of-the-line carrying 74 guns and capable of firing a broadside of 750 pounds. (Yes, that could happen with the right wind speeds and directions.)

The ship-of-the-line would typically fire a warning shot ahead of the smaller ship. This was an invitation to surrender, to be followed up with calling cards in the form of iron shot if the invitation was declined. Given the disparity in combat ability, there was no dishonor in the weaker ship striking its colors and surrendering to an obviously superior force.

Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Cultural Sites Are No Crime

 

It should not be surprising that even commenters on Fox News would miss the obvious. President Trump tweeted about having 52 targets to match the 52 American hostages seized and held by the Khomeinist regime at its founding. He included the word “cultural” to describe at least one of the targets. Why is no one seeing the obvious here?

The US military does not develop target lists of international cultural treasures to smash. Who does not get this? President Trump is no LBJ, picking tactical targets. Surely everyone understands this. So, you can go with the obstinate position of someone like Ben Shapiro, certain that President Trump has no coherent foreign policy thoughts, and keep writing off every success as fortuitous and no thanks to The Great Big Ugly Man. On the other hand, you might just think for yourself for a moment.