Tag Archives: sanctions

The Obama Administration dissolves further, now into mysteries


With its attempt to tame the Tehran mullahs, the Obama Administration now adds mystery to its already established credentials for obfuscation and incompetence.

  • Obfuscation. Pres. Barrack Ohama’s special friend and adviser, Iranian-born Valerie Jarrett, apparently, has been secretly creeping around the Persian Gulf for a year holding “unofficial” talks with the Persians, blindsiding its regional allies including Israel and Saudi Arabia. Meanwhile, not so secretly, the Obama Administration has reinforced its entreaties to the mullahs by partially defanging the sanctions. As a token of Foggy Bottom’s love and devotion to successful Geneva negotiations at any price [i.e., Laos, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc.], the Treasury has not been going after new sanctions violations or violators.
  • Incompetence But former housing [and slumlord] expert Jarrett, who apparently didn’t tell Secretary of State John Kerry how successful she thought she was, invited his nibs to parachute in to sign the give-away on the dotted line in Geneva in mid-November. But somehow those well known negotiating tactics Ms. Jarrett learned at the feet of the Mayors Daley fell apart. Kerry found himself holding a signing pen dipped in French béchamel instead of the usual invisible ink. Paris, bedeviled with a failing economy and calling up “gloire” as once “protectors” of the Syrians and Lebanese, said no. France’s role was as a full-fledged member of the UN Security Council plus Germany/EU’s negotiating team. But never mind, Kerry – who knows real humiliation when he sees it, having run to the Paris Vietnamese Communists in between Congressional hearings where he lobbied against American soldiers in Vietnam — returned for a second try.

Success in this “successful negotiations came this time with the Obama Administration’s fairly simple Iran line: Americans are tired of Mideast wars, costly in men and treasure. As even wartime leader Winston Churchill put it, “To jawjaw is always better than to war-war.” The Tehran mullahs have a “reform government” trying to mitigate US, EC and UN sanctions which, finally, after a decade are beginning to bite. The economy is near runaway inflation – not least because of throwing more than $150 billion on building a nuclear weapon, vast sums [to the North Koreans and Chinese] for missiles technology [including ICBMs that could eventually hit the U.S.], and supporting overseas terrorism. Tehran is now ready for a bargain after almost half a century of antagonism toward the world’s only superpower.

Of course, all these arguments have, to say the least, devastating counters: The so-called reform government has executed 190 political prisoners since it came in power in June. One of the most reactionary governments the world has ever known not only represses its own citizenry but spends billions on overseas subversion and terrorism – from Damascus to Buenos Aires. Tehran continues to be the main support – not only with funds and weapons but cadre of its Iranian Revolutionary Guard – for the Assad regime in Syria which has murdered some 200,000 of its own citizens. Iranian Pres. Hassan Roubani once bragged earlier negotiations which he headed permitted the mullahs to advance its nuclear program. Tehran supports not only its Shia Arab cousins with the Hezbollah in Lebanon, in the eastern Saudi Arabian oilfields, and troubled Bahrain with a Sunni sheikh but a Shia majority. The mullahs even cross the line to try to create another Hezbollah doing its dirty work around the world with the ultra-Sunni Hamas in Gaza, now at loggerheads with its former sponsor, Egypt. Cairo has its hands full with a full-fledged insurgency based on Iran’s gunrunners to Hamas in the Sinai Peninsular

That is why no amount of spinning by Obama or Kerry can possibly disguise this great gamble.

There are other geopolitical implications to a six months “deal”:

  • It will have the critical if indirect effect of confirming to all and sundry in the volatile region that America is withdrawing its support from its Mideast allies and, indeed, in effect enlarging the vacuum of power with which Obama has unleashed all the old regional conflicts.
  • The very negotiations themselves with the power structure of the West have come to the rescue of the failing prestige of a crippled Tehran regime, presenting itself as David against Goliath. It builds on the imperial designs – which preceded this regime as they did the former Shah’s – of an ancient civilization to dominate the region.
  • It has further alienated the U.S.’ traditional allies in the area – ironically uniting two of its most bitter enemies, the Israelis and the Saudis in their opposition, fear and anger over moves to accommodate Iran. They are joined by all the governments in the Gulf and Egypt’s military – always clutching at its traditional role as center of the Sunni world and now at odds with Washington.
  • The technical details of the agreement – which are likely to reveal new potholes once they are completely exposed – are onerous for an alliance once united in opposition to the mullahs acquiring a nuclear weapon. They inevitably will permanently weaken the sanctions regime abroad, so painfully arrived at. The agreement only slows enrichment of uranium. It does not provide foreign destruction of Iran’s stockpiled highly enriched uranium, the raw material for a bomb. It fuzzes the whole concept of whether Tehran has the right to enrich under pledged under the non-proliferation treaty not to develop a bomb.

Will the enforcers really know what is happening? For 17 years, the mullahs were able to disguise their nuclear program from the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency — most recently under a compliant chairman, the now fugitive Mohamed El Baradei. [He is running from the Cairo military because of his collaboration with its former Brotherhood regime.]

In fact, news of the race for the bomb only reached the West through the Khalq, the leftwing of the coalition which overthrew of the Shah but who lost out to the mullahs. [The Obama Administration has reneged on Washington’s promise, despite their once being listed as terrorists for their implication in American deaths, to protect them from the new Shia-dominate Iraqian regime where they were once refugee allies of Saddam Hussein against the mullahs.]

Even were the mullahs to live up to the agreement, what would prevent them from simply refusing to negotiate – as is Washington’s strategy – into a new protocol to end their bomb efforts?

Worst of all, the relaxation of sanctions will save the regime’s neck from being rung by an increasingly hostile and deprived population. The sanctions began to bite only after their invocation against third parties. Unfortunately, not only the Russians and the Chinese, but our allies in Europe are salivating over the possibility in these straitened times for new sales to a near bankrupt regime. Tehran will get its hands on some $10 billion in additional oil sales.

Secret Indeed, it is no secret to any who knows the region and the Obama Administration that its strategies and policies from its inception has veered toward a traditional “Arabist” view. That group of scholars and their fellow travelers in the State Department and CIA insist, as do their British confreres, the source of all the Mideast problems is the Israel-Arab confrontation and a “solution” to it would go a long way to pacify the region.

Couple that with manifest hostility to Israel in Obama’s insistence that the 1948 armistice lines be the basis for Israel-Palestinian negotiations. [Prime Minister Netanyahu bumptiously on camera gave him a history lesson, pointing out that such lines which imperiled his country’s very existence. were not acceptable]

Early on Obama condemned to failure recommenced Israel-Palestine negotiations by insisting that Jewish “settlements” in the West Bank and [formerly in] Gaza was the first obstacle to peace. They had never had the highest priority in earlier failed negotiations. [When Prime Minister Ariel Sharon unilaterally withdrew from Gaza including forcing out Jewish settlers, his reward has been the continual missiles barrage on southern Israel.] There are, after all, 1.5 million, mostly Muslim, Arabs, in Israel within the so-called Green Line of the 1948 armistice, so the presence of Jews living in the original Biblical lands of the Hebrews in any new Palestinian state would only be reciprocal.

Despite the strong Israeli lobby in the Congress which has staid Obama’s hand, he has engaged in shin kicks against Jerusalem, e.g., leaking word the Israelis were the authors of the May 2013 strike inside Syria against arms enroute to Hezbollah. Because neither wants a prolonged confrontation, both the Israelis and Assad have publicly refused to acknowledge this – and at least two previous raids. Neither wants to face his public with publicity for an action which would require retaliation or at least explanation, hardly a secret to Foggy Bottom and the President’s team.

It is certainly no secret the President, before he reached the office, had close associations with Arab and Muslim activists including a close friendship with a former spokesman for Yasser Arafat’s Palestine Liberation Organization now a Columbia University professor. The toleration of the increasing authoritarism of Egypt’s former Morsi presidency which led to a popularly supported military overthrow was a symptom of wider sympathies. John O. Brennan, CIA director, has made repeated controversial public statements on Muslim issues; for example, explaining jihad as only a search for a Muslim soul rather than the Islamic battlecry for 1300 years, or that the Muslim Brotherhood, the fountainhead of modern Islamicist terrorism, was in transition to more moderate doctrines, etc., etc.

But this is a Tehran regime, after all, which almost daily advocates the destruction of Israel and blasts gutter level anti-Semitism. There is little wonder, therefore, that any Obama Administration movement toward an accomodation with Iran is seen as endorsing the end of Israel’s position as holding the monopoly on nuclear weapons in the region. Now, there is considerable danger a nuclear arms race will begin with the Arab states and Turkey.

So, again to the secret: why, then has the Administration bent such effort to turn its back on its Sunni friends and offer the Iranians a path toward dominance in the region? Is it any wonder that the Saudis are outraged and have uncustomary expressed their dissatisfaction publicly to Obama’s policies?

Even the most optimistic of Obama’s advisers could not have believed, even when negotiations began a year ago, that they would have had an impact on his sagging polls. Certainly, now they will be no more than a 48-hour distraction from the collapse of Obamacare with the U.S. public’s notorious obliviousness to foreign policy issues until they are in full crisis.

About the only answer seems to be that this is another aspect of “leading from behind”, which the ideologues and geopoliticians in the Administration think by enhancing Iran’s role in the region will present a balance they can manipulate.

If so, a little history is in order: for almost two generations after World War II Washington strategists through several administrations thought something like that was plausible, with its tacit alliance with the Shah, the Israelis and Turkey against Egypt’s Col. Gamel Nasser’s Arab nationalism. The region’s infernal tribal conflicts and the Shah’s vainglorious dreams coupled with Pres. Jimmy Carter’s acquiescence to subversion of his throne brought that strategy to an abrupt end.

The current attempt for a modus operandi with one of the history’s most reactionary regimes to facilitate its regional hegemony is not likely to fare better.

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There are sanctions and sanctions


Surprise! Surprise! Our “multilateralist” European allies – never mind the Chinese and Russians — won’t crank up Iran sanctions.

Hypocrisy has reached new heights: during the annual German-Israeli joint cabinets meeting — deciding whether the Jewish state will again be gifted more submarines – comes a billion-dollar German package to stand up the mullahs’ LNG business. That’s the latest in1700 German companies tripling Hermes subsidized exports to $6.5 billion annually between 2000 and 2007. Some 50 German companies sell nuclear tech for Russia’s Iranian Bushwehr plant. And then there’s non-lethal support for Tehran’s ambitious missiles program. Ditto Italy, France.

Meanwhile, Pres. Obama might shade his eyes to survey the scene with the badly chewed open hand he has been extending the mullahs: a nuclear-clad Tehran would not only test the metal of Israel’s “Never Again”, likely producing new Mideast wars. It would redraw the world strategic map.

Just the threat has sent the Saudis again throwing money at Iranian ally Syria. Riyadh is trying to coax the Gulf minipetrostates into appeasement of Big Brother just across their pond. [They don’t call it the Persian Gulf for nothing.] A whirling idiosyncratic Muslimistic regime in Ankara bites its nails.

With nuclear weapons to dominate Arab oil, the mullahs might even halt the escalating erosion of their failed theocracy. [“Munich” not only armed a Nazi division with Skoda weapons for the attack on Poland initiating WWII but fed German nationalism.] Iranian WMD could help stifle nascent domestic dissidence with dreams of a new Persian empire – especially after latecomer Obama’s tepid endorsement of its martyrs.

In this muddle, conventional wisdom holds American unilateral sanctions won’t work.

That’s patently wrong. As always, the devil is in the details.

When Pres. Bush finally went after Pyongyang’s fronts in Macao – threatening Chinese banks dealing with them – Beijing saw to it that decades of counterfeiting $100 bills stopped, and Kim Jong Il had to look elsewhere for laundered money to cover his Danish pork tab.

NYC District Attorney Morgenthau has got the Treasury after years of dithering to move on flamboyant sanctions violators. Probably working around Presidential Adviser Volcker – the Swiss’ favorite American banker – Credit Suisse forfeited a $536-million fine for helping clients evade sanctions, giving up names. The U.K.’s Lloyds paid $567 to the Treasury and Morgenthau’s prosecution for setting up a special unit to flummox authorities. Barclays is under investigation. Morgenthau hints that Washington should do more, warning against Caracas’ growing ties to Iran.

If U.S. sanctions haven’t worked against Burma’s thugs – Sen. Webb’s endless mantra echoing in Foggy Bottom – it just could be because Chevron [successor to UNOCAL] and Total have poured billions into their pockets [receipts from a gas pipeline to Thailand built with slave labor].

The real question, as more often than not, is whether Obama will act. State has done a soft-shoe dance with California Congressman Berman for a ban on Iran’s petroleum product imports. But the legislation is camouflage. Does anyone really believe the always ambivalent Indians and the fragile Gulf states would halt the lucrative trade or that Washington would jeopardize relations to enforce it?

Furthermore, as George Washington University Professor Askari points out, it might have unanticipated consequences: Tehran’s more serious economic planners would welcome reducing extravagant consumption, saving foreign exchange and trimming monstrous subsidies —  all the while blaming it on The Great Satan.

Equally lame is the purported effort to go after accounts of the Revolutionary Guards. Dubai, for example, certainly before its recent near collapse, is happy hunting ground for South Asian embezzling politicians hiding their loot. And what about the VIP thieves running Iran?

But really effective – the operative word — unilateral sanctions against Iran could add one last straw to the mullahs’ camel’s back.

It requires sanctioning the central bank of Iran, cutting off credit lines to other central banks; Malaysia, for example. It means squashing letters of credit from American banks.

Most painfully, it means going after some of the two million Iranian Americans who flout the IRS by not reporting worldwide income. In the former environment no one could blame them – many refugees from the regime itself – for making a buck on the 15-20% interest rates on Iran-based accounts. But the income tax law ought to be enforced, and Berman ought to have a heart-to-heart talk with some of his constituents.

But in Washington, true enough Treasury Secretary Geithner has his hands full. New duty calls in trying to mitigate the scapegoating “populist” strategy of his boss against the banks. Obama now threatens New York City’s role as the world’s pre-eminent financial center. Nor does it help that the nominee for Treasury international assistant secretary hasn’t taken her seat, apparently because of tax and nannygate delinquencies.

Given the high priority Iran holds in the long litany of U.S. foreign policy issues – not the least its state terrorist maneuvers in Syria, Lebanon, Gaza, Bahrain, Yemen, and most importantly Iraq and Afghanistan – an authentic sanctions route ought to be tried. Tried before it is too late.