If Black Lives Matter – where do you stand?

Issues of the Week

We all have something to answer for – from God in his Heaven to you as you sit there in lockdown. What do you care when it comes down to it? To listen to William’s podcast click here.

HOWEVER MORE IMPORTANTLY: Everyone seems to be busy campaigning to tear down statues and blue plaques – alienating some in the process as well as obliterating part of our history. Instead why don’t they campaign to celebrate the greatest British warriors to end slavery?

William Wilberforce for instance. Where is his statue? Well there is one in his home city of Hull and there is a smaller one tucked away in Westminster Abbey. But there should be a proper one out of doors in Central London don’t you think?

You could argue that John Newton, the ex-slaver that became an abolitionist (and incidentally wrote the hymn Amazing Grace after he shifted over to the side of the great and the good) deserves a statue. After all he was the one that mentored William Wilberforce. But all he has is a large bronze bust somewhere in Ireland.

However this Cornish warrior against slavery nobody celebrates. Stick him on the empty plinth in Trafalgar Square I reckon. He at least deserves a statue somewhere. Barrington Reynolds, the Cornishman who helped put an end to international slavery. Now there’s an unsung hero.  Looks a little strange but – What a guy. In fact forget the statue, they should make a movie about him:

BArrington-Reynolds

Possible Futures: Afghanistan

Joe Waters looks into the political climate, as well as potential forces for change, in Afghanistan – a country which has been in a state of tumultuous conflict for most of the last three decades. As large parts of the nation again find themselves under Taliban rule and the U.S. begin their departure, the power vacuum created is one that could be filled in any number of ways: a depressing number of which involve bloodshed. Will the country become a proxy for geopolitical conflict? Will it descend into factional chaos? Or will the Taliban bring an uneasy peace?

By July 15th of this year, there will only be 8,600 U.S. troops in Afghanistan and, if all goes to plan then, by the end of 2021, there will be none. It is fair to say that success of America’s forays into the region is moot. However, many from both sides of the U.S. political spectrum currently support ending “the forever war.” The question now is less to do with what has been achieved and more with simply getting out quickly. The sense that leaving a nation to fend for itself is preferable to any kind of intervention might have more ground if it were not for the other large nations attempting to advance their own interests in Afghanistan. In 2018, the Washington Post reported that “Russian officials believed the [Taliban] no longer posed a threat to Russian interests […and] like Russia, opposed a long-term U.S. military presence and hoped to extinguish the Islamic State.” Hence, Russia has made attempts to enter into a relationship with the Taliban, to leverage power in the region to their advantage. Similarly, Afghanistan is in the sights of China, who wish to incorporate it into their “Belt and Road Initiative,” in order to increase their dominance in international trade.

But what of America’s supposed aims in the region? The democracy they laid the foundations for is floundering. Only one million, out of the nine million eligible to vote (in a country of nearly 40 million) turned up to the polling booth at the last election. Many believe the low voter turnout is due to disillusionment with the corruption of successive governments. A 2012 UNODC report found that over 40% of adult Afghans were potentially involved in the payment of bribes. Many hoped that this would change after President Hamid Karzai left office, but a 2015 poll found that only 27.5.% were satisfied with current president Ashraf Ghani’s leadership. Public opinion was not bolstered by the 2019 allegations of government posts being granted in exchange for sexual favours. All in all, there is widespread dissatisfaction with the current government. To many, they seem both ideologically uninspiring and weak. With more dying in terrorist attacks than of Covid-19 (even as Kabul’s lack of medical provision does lead to terrible loss of life), the current vision of stability and the rule of law is flimsy at best.

Meanwhile, some (depending on who you ask, up to 95% of the population) are coming around to the idea that Taliban rule might actually be more conducive to peace than the current system. Depressingly, this could be true even if just because attacks by the Taliban might stop (“might” rather than “will” because there is more than one faction of Taliban). However, those looking for a resolution push the view that the militants have become easier to deal with in recent years. It has even been claimed, by some close to the former royal family, that they are becoming more liberal with regard to women’s rights and would not prevent women’s education even if they barred women from holding the highest-ranking positions (those Taliban present in the Doha talks draw the line at allowing women to be judges or take the presidency). All of these claims are debatable but it’s still true to say that peace under the Taliban could prove preferable to the alternative. The peoples and factions of Afghanistan are not exactly united. The Pashtuns, Tajiks, Hazaras, Uzbeks and other minorities all have their own conflicting interests. A prevailing view is that, in the absence of a U.S. presence, civil war will break out much like in the early 90s. It is hard not to see the truth in this prediction.

What, then, is the way out for Afghanistan? Is returning to Taliban rule really the only way? It has been argued that perhaps civil war is not quite inevitable. There is one thing that could prevent it: desire for an end to conflict. While the many disparate peoples of Afghanistan may not identify with each other or their government, what they do identify with is a desire for peace. The tumultuous years of fighting that this nation has lived through would make anyone sane cry “enough!” The mood in discussions of the country’s fate is one of weariness and depression. Many of the parties involved feel crushed by the constant barrage of death and failure their nation has been presented with. Maybe, just maybe, these negative sentiments can be harnessed and used as fuel to take the most radical step possible in the next age of Afghanistan: to do nothing. No more militant, ideological deaths. A collective standing still, a lack of encroachment could just about inaugurate the first step to some kind of valuable peace process. It’s a long shot but it is at least envisionable. And envisioning is the first step in achieving any kind of reality.

Image – U.S. Department of State: “Secretary Pompeo Participates in a Signing Ceremony in Doha”

On the Necessity of Universal Mail-in Voting this November

With the presidential election looming ever closer, the pressure on legislators to produce a solution for crowded polling places amidst a global pandemic mounts. As the Democratic and Republican parties spar on the Capitol floor over whether or not the country should completely transition over to mail-in voting this November, many Americans are left wondering whether or not they will be able to vote at all in this election. 

Republicans claim that mail-in voting will allow voter fraud to run rampant through this election, with President Trump tweeting out on April 8th that with mail-in voting there is a “Tremendous potential for voter fraud, and for whatever reason, doesn’t work out well for Republicans.” Meanwhile, Democrats claim that not instituting the universal option to submit a mail-in ballot is a suppression of many Americans’ right to vote. However, regardless of the potential risks that come along with doing so, it is increasingly clear that not only should the United States institute universal mail-in voting, but that it must make systematic bureaucratic changes in order to ensure that this policy will not inhibit a free and fair election from taking place.

Of course there are numerous risks that come along with this policy – but we should expect some growing pains from the process of moving an entire national election to the post. The first issue, which has led President Trump and the Republican party to decide that blocking this policy is the hill they wish to die on, is that of the possibility of fraudulent votes being cast. Though this is unlikely to be the case because a lot of personal information would be needed to cast a fraudulent mail-in vote (in most states you need to include the last four digits of your social security number, your driver’s license number, and your signature must match the one already on file), there is some truth to the notion that the vote count will not be entirely accurate. 

This is because a certain number of legitimately cast votes will not be counted for trivial reasons – perhaps someone’s hand slipped on election day and their signature was not close enough to the one on file, or maybe they filled out most of the ballot and forgot to sign it at all. This is obviously problematic because it will silence millions of Americans who wish to exercise their right to vote for the next leader of their country. Even more so when we consider the fact that votes cast in poor communities and in communities with large populations of people of color are disproportionately thrown out for such reasons. 

However, by not instituting the universal mail-in vote, we are still infringing upon certain Americans’ right to vote in the election. The elderly, those with chronic illnesses, and the family members who live with them will be put in a difficult position due to their vulnerability to covid-19. They will be forced to decide between putting themselves or their loved ones at risk in order to cast a vote at their polling place, or staying home on election day and not voting at all. It doesn’t seem fair to ask citizens of this country to put their own health or the health of their families on the line in order to exercise their right to vote. 

For these reasons, it is clear that not only must the universal mail-in policy be instituted, but also that systematic changes must be made to the way that mail-in votes are counted in order to ensure that every American is able to properly exercise their right to vote this November. 

 

The Foreign Policy of Joseph Biden Jr.

For many, the attraction of Joseph Biden Jr. as a presidential candidate has less to do with what he is, but more to do with what he isn’t. He is not a fire breathing, fire wielding, populist, he is not fond of lambasting enemies on Twitter, nor is he going to be the one to upset the establishment applecart of Washington D.C.

He is a restorationist, someone who wants to ensure that Donald Trump’s tale is told as an aberration in the grander story of the United States. His presidency would likely not be characterized by great leaps forward, but rather by careful steps back and by attempts to reverse his predecessor’s path.

This is perhaps most true upon the international stage, a place that captured little of President Trump’s interest. There, Mr. Biden promises to “once more have America lead the world,” a phrase happily received by many, both in his country and beyond.

Though certainly evocative of a happier pre-Trumpian time, Biden’s pronouncement requires a more detailed look. What would a world molded in the image of the former Vice President look like?

A consultation of his campaign website provides some more clarity. It explains that Biden wishes to “lead by example” and “rally the world to meet [its] common challenges.” In practice, that would see Biden rebuild the American State Department, restoring and increasing American spending on diplomacy and development. Also, he’d like to host a “global Summit for Democracy” within his first year in office, bringing together the world’s democracies and civil society organizations to create a collective focus around “fighting corruption; defending against authoritarianism; and advancing human rights.”

A far cry from ‘America First’, Biden is less likely to go it alone and more likely to use America’s network of friends and allies to address the issues of the day. For example — as Biden is equally unhappy with China’s “abusive trade practices” as its “suppression of Uyghurs” — he would rather the US put pressure and apply sanctions on Beijing alongside a broad coalition, similar to the way American Presidents past tried to target the Soviet Union.

A President Biden would also seek to “restore [American] moral leadership”, a phrase that by turns elicits consent or contempt, depending on where in the world it is received. In any case, ‘moral leadership’ would see Biden end American support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen and, more broadly, a reassessment of the partnership with Riyadh. This courtesy would likely be extended to more of America’s less liberal allies, including Egypt, Hungary, and Turkey, as Biden and a number of his key foreign policy advisors appear less willing to hold hands with autocrats.

Though altering alliances with Turkey and Saudi Arabia would certainly set Biden apart from his predecessors, the longstanding American support for Israel would not end during his tenure. He is, after all, a self-proclaimed “Zionist” and though he backs a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, he would not move the American Embassy back to Tel Aviv or ever withhold military aid in order to force the Israelis to play ball.

Mr. Biden would also maintain, rather than reinvent, the American wheel when facing Iran or Russia. With the latter, he would be no great friend but still would maintain cordiality — renewing, for example, the New START arms treaty set to expire in early February 2021. Regarding the former, especially several key advisers, including Tony Blinken and Jack Sullivan, were instrumental in crafting the Iran nuclear deal, he would re-enter it, so long as Tehran returns to compliance.

All in all, Joseph Biden sees the United States as becoming less damned if they do than if they don’t. Donald Trump’s foreign policy was characterized less by global leadership as it was by frenetic attempts at having a ‘win’ to show for, but a President Biden would be happier as Leader of the Free World. He would work with fellow democracies to try to shape or rebuild the international order, from climate change to trade, from cyber-security to nuclear non-proliferation. Tasked with restoring ‘normalcy,’ Biden sees there to be little to lose, but a whole world to win.

Covid-19: Lessons from the East?

Are there lessons still to be learnt about the way the East has handled coronavirus? As Europe and the US adopt increasingly draconian measures to stop the spreading of the virus, Asia is slowly recovering. Within a similar period of time, the virus has made a greater number of victims in Europe and the US than in Asia. This imbalance is not only a matter of governance or national health systems – a lot of it is cultural.  

The People’s Republic of China, a country of 1.4 billion people, managed to contain the virus in about ten weeks reporting the first day without deaths on April 7th. Vietnam, one of the PRC’s neighbours and home to the first registered case outside of China back in January, has only a few hundred infections within its territory and, seemingly, no deaths. The government in Hanoi was even praised by the World Health Organisation for its performance. South Korea, one of the virus epicentres back in February, managed to slow down the spread and now has about 10,000 cases (one seventh of those registered in the UK) and only 222 deaths.

What made Asian countries’ response to the virus effective? Many have found an answer in the ability of governments to strictly control their citizens. This capacity is seen as the direct result of the presence of authoritarian governments – China, Vietnam – or authoritarian traits within formally established democracies – South Korea – and has been dismissed in the West as something neither possible nor desirable. But this view might be simplistic. As much as a country’s policy-making reflects the nature of its political systems, political arrangements result from the mindset, customs and social behaviour of a people or a society. To put simple, politics rests upon culture.

There are a few societal behaviours shared by China, Vietnam and South Korea that are absent in the Western cultural tradition. First, the general tendency to value the collective over the individual. This fundamental premise is a legacy of Confucianism and an underlying concept to the notion of citizenship in China and culturally proximate countries. Confucius preached that the virtuous individual should be willing to sacrifice for the family, the neighbouring social circles, and ultimately the state.

Valuing the collective over the individual is a two-fold asset at a time like this: first, the Chinese, the Vietnamese and the South Koreans have arguably had less troubles than Europeans or Americans in accepting the idea of suffering any form of discomfort – isolation, in this case – for the common good. As such, they proved more disciplined. This is evidenced by the Chinese experts that were sent to Europe to help fighting the virus: “The main problem is that too many people are still out in the streets,” they declared to China’s State News Agency.

Secondly, the importance conferred by the individual on the state, combined with centralized policy-making, allowed the government to adopt cost-cutting strategies to deal with the crisis. For instance, central governments in China and Vietnam have been able to elude market rules in order to prioritize production of certain goods over others: this allowed to avoid the risk that key products – such as food, surgical masks, and sanitary products – get out of stock or become overly expensive.

Most European countries and the United States have been taking on some of the measures that proved successful in Asia, but recovery is nowhere near in sight. As Westerners, we feed into the idea that this imbalance is the result of the ideological premises of liberal democracy that grant citizens’ individual freedom instead of controlling and restraining them. This might be true. But on closer inspection, we might find that some aspects of existing liberal democracies exceeded those premises: undeterred individualism, the rule of the market, and the lack of state intervention, if unchallenged, may be our doom in the world of the future.

 

So who Created ISIS?

William Morris, the Next Century Foundation’s Secretary General, addressed lecturers at Takrit University in Northern Iraq as a precursor to discussions the subject of which was, at Takrit University’s behest, the role of Iran and America respectively in Iraq. This podcast was made in the aftermath of that meeting and reflects salient points from that discussion. Podcast from NCF Secretary General William Morris on this link

The following observation and associated note for clarification is relevant and comes from our senior member in Iraq, Stafford Clarry:

Following the drone assassination of two top military commanders – one Iranian and the other Iraqi, an Iranian military strike against US military forces in Iraq, and the Iraqi Parliament passing a non-binding resolution for withdrawal of US forces, the US-led coalition and Iraqi military have since resumed joint operations against ISIS. In addition, the US is negotiating to install defensive Patriot missiles in Iraq. Further, the US is urging a review of the SFA.

To clarify:

In 2008, the US and Iraq entered into two binding agreements.

  • One, the Strategic Framework Agreement (SFA), covered the overall political, economic, and security relationship.
  • The other, the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), required all US combat forces to withdraw from major populated areas by end-June 2009 and for all US forces to withdraw from Iraq by end-December 2011.

These binding agreements were decided and signed during the White House administration of President George W. Bush. They were publicly endorsed by both Iraq’s President Jalal Talabani and US President George W. Bush in December 2008 in Baghdad.

Thus, contrary to misinformation, President Obana DID NOT decide to withdraw US forces from Iraq. In 2014, in reaction to the ISIS onslaught, however, upon the invitation of the Iraqi government, President Obama DID decide to send US combat forces back into Iraq.

President Obama used the 2001 Authority for Use of Military Force (AUMF) against al-Qaeda and other associate militant groups that was passed by the US Congress on 14 September 2001 and signed into law by President George W. Bush on 18 September 2001.

 

Former US presidential envoy speaks candidly about Iraq and Iran

Brett McGurk, a senior national security adviser to three presidents, left the Trump Administration after the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria. Our Senior NCF member in Iraq, Stafford Clarry, shared this fascinating insight from Andrew Dyer of the San Diego Union Tribune datelined Jan. 23. It is of particular interest because the NCF is partnering with Takrit University’s Department of Peace Studies and for our first guest lecture, this Thursday, they have asked us to talk to students on the involvement of the USA and Iran in Iraq. For the original text see this link:
https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/military/story/2020-01-23/former-presidential-envoy-to-defeat-isis-coalition-talks-about-iraq-iran-conflict-at-sdsu

SAN DIEGO — A former national security advisor under three presidents, including President Donald Trump, described the administration’s current Middle East policy as “aimless” and flawed during a recent talk at San Diego State University.

Brett McGurk, who resigned in December 2018 as special presidential envoy to the coalition to defeat ISIS, described his experiences in the region, from when he first arrived as an adviser to the early Iraq provisional government, set up under then-President George W. Bush, until he left shortly after Defense Secretary James Mattis resigned and Trump ordered the withdrawal of American troops from Syria.

McGurk said during his talk that Trump’s decisions in the Middle East over the last three years — such as pulling out of the Iran Nuclear Deal, pulling U.S. forces out of Syria and assassinating Iran’s top general — were indicative of a poorly thought-out strategy.

“I just don’t think the Trump Administration has thought this through,” he said.
McGurk said that withdrawing from the Iran Nuclear Deal has resulted in a series of consequences that effectively leaves the U.S. in a “strategic trap” with Iran.

“(The Iran deal) was an arms control deal — it wasn’t designed to change the Middle East,” McGurk said. “It was designed to put this horrible problem at least on the back burner (so) we can deal with other things in other ways, and that makes strategic sense.”

Trump criticized the international deal, which lifted sanctions on Iran in exchange for certain limits on the country’s nuclear program, during his 2016 campaign. In May 2018, Trump announced the U.S. withdrawal from the deal and reimposed sanctions on the country.

In 2019 Iran-backed militias in Iraq, which had been U.S. allies in the fight against ISIS, began targeting U.S. facilities in the country. In December, the U.S. struck back at some of those militias in Iraq and Syria with airstrikes.

In retaliation, militia supporters broke into and set fire to part of the U.S. embassy compound in Baghdad, leading to Trump’s decision to assassinate Iranian General Qassem Soleimani in a January drone strike.
Days later, Iran launched missiles at two Iraqi bases that house U.S. troops and, during the strikes, also shot down a Ukrainian airliner after it took off in Iran, killing all 176 people aboard.

Trump then announced new sanctions on Iran. Sanctions aren’t the solution, McGurk said.

“(The Trump Administration) thinks sanctions will fundamentally change Iran’s behavior, but there’s no evidence of that at all,” McGurk said.
“It makes their behavior worse. Everything is going the wrong way.”

Another consequence of the Soleimani strike — which occurred at the Baghdad airport — was a vote in Iraq’s parliament to kick the U.S. out of the country.

While McGurk said he felt a sense of justice in Soleimani’s death, “elementary errors” by the Pentagon in the immediate aftermath — such as the drafting of a letter announcing the U.S. would comply with the country’s parliament and withdraw entirely from Iraq — did not paint the U.S. in the best light in the region and among our allies, he said.

“It makes people think we don’t know what we’re doing,” McGurk said.

The talk at SDSU, which was hosted by the nonpartisan nonprofit San Diego Diplomacy Council and the university’s Fowler School of Business, attracted more than 120 people. McGurk took questions from attendees about a broad array of U.S. policies in the Middle East — especially on the fight against ISIS.

McGurk addressed the controversial decision by Obama not to order air strikes in Syria after President Bashar al-Assad’s regime was credibly accused of using chemical weapons in 2013. Obama was on record as saying the use of such weapons was a “red line” Assad could not cross.

McGurk said he didn’t think U.S. airstrikes would have been effective in that instance. He cited strikes ordered by Trump in response to more chemical weapons use by Syria in 2018.

“I am skeptical of the view that had Obama enforced the red line, that that would have been the end of Assad,” McGurk said. “Trump has done two series of air strikes against the Assad regime after the use of chemical weapons, and it made no strategic difference in the conflict at all.”

After his talk, McGurk spoke with the Union-Tribune about why it’s important for the U.S. to maintain a presence in Iraq and Syria, because of potential Russian involvement there.

“We built a force of 60,000 Syrians, and it gave us some leverage against Russia, and President Trump gave it up overnight,” he said.
“I thought that was a big disaster. But if we can’t stay in Iraq, then we also can’t stay in that chunk of Syria we’re still in…. The vacuum will be filled by ISIS and by Iranian-backed militias. And the great power that will come in to fill our space is Russia. So we need to stay. “

McGurk currently serves as the Frank E. and Arthur W. Payne Distinguished Lecturer at Stanford University.

 

Stumbling toward war: Why?

The following sequence of events was recorded by Stafford Clarry, one of our senior members in Iraq. He covers most everything in his list, except the key rocket strike on the Saudi oil field on September 14th, which, though never publicly admitted, was, we are led to believe, launched from Iraq by an Iran backed militia group.

Recent militaristic events in Iraq and Iran clearly demonstrate how situations can rapidly go out of control to a point verging on another war with devastating consequences on all sides and beyond.

In Iraq, most everyone has suffered through a lifetime of conflict – battles and bombings during the 1960s and 1970s; chemical weapon attacks, disappearances, community destruction, political detention, torture, and forced dislocation during the 1980s; effects of the 1980-1988 Iraq-Iran War and the 1961 Gulf war; 13 years of severe economic sanctions (1990-2003); the 2003 war followed by vicious sectarian conflict; the 2014-2018 ISIS war with its savagery; and even more violence in between.

At the country level, those who are more inclined to wage war (the hawks) tend to treat the land and its leadership as essentially separate from the countless families who want what families everywhere want: the opportunity to live peaceful and prosperous lives.

Keeping in mind there are no winners in war, and notably keeping in mind the purposes/intentions of the Vietnam and 2003 Iraq wars, let’s help ourselves get a better grip on what’s been recently happening in Iraq and Iran, its consequences and impact. We are where we are, but it could be much worse.

Discussions continue about the how, why, short-term consequences, and long-term impact of recent incidents. It begins with the JCPOA (nuclear agreement). Very briefly, here’s the sequence of relevant main events:

14 Jul 2015

  • JCPOA agreed, negotiated by six leading countries (P5+1/EU3+3) against one country (Iran) to halt Iran’s movement toward developing nuclear weapons. UN and EU sanctions were terminated/suspended. US sanctions for human rights abuses, missiles, and support for terrorism remain in operation.

8 May 2018

  • Unilateral US withdrawal from JCPOA.

4 Nov 2018

  • Unilateral re-imposition of severe pre-JCPOA sanctions.

27 Dec 2019

  • Rocket attack on K-1 Iraqi military base near Kirkuk (Iraq) where US military personnel were located, with casualties, one fatal. This followed earlier attacks on various locations that occurred without casualties.

29 Dec 2019

  • Airstrikes on five Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) sites in Iraq and Syria. PMF are independently formed and operated (private) militia groups that are included as official security forces of the Iraqi government, which funds and provides weaponry, including equipment received from the US-led international coalition against ISIS. Some PMF units are also backed and perhaps supervised/directed by Iran.

31 Dec 2019

  • US Embassy in Baghdad attacked by PMF supporters/sympathizers. No casualties.

3 Jan 2020

  • Suleimani (Iranian) and Muhandis (Iraqi), both senior government officials, assassinated.

8 Jan 2020

 

What’s the Endgame of Sanctions?

Stafford Clarry, Senior NCF Member in Northern Iraq, sends the following comment on moves to further increase US sanctions on Iran:

It’s hard to imagine the purpose of increasing sanctions being other than pure punitive. What exactly are they expected to achieve? 

If Iraq could survive thirteen years of UN-authorized international sanctions, Iran can likely survive, under its current leadership,  unilateral sanctions for at least a few more years.

Arguably, Iran has far more capacity than Iraq had to withstand economic sanctions that may only irritate the Iranian leadership but deeply hurt ordinary Iranians.

What is the endgame expected by increasing sanctions – chaos, anarchy, the implosion of Iran?

What are the criteria that must be met in order for sanctions to be lifted? What are the measurable behaviors to be observed?

It’s hard to imagine that whatever the criteria and observable behaviors may be, they cannot be attained without regime change. If that is the case, how will the regime change process play out and what and who will replace it?

Regime change in Iran could result in another deadly dystopian country like Iraq, which, nearly seventeen years after regime change, has yet to become a “normal” country peacefully pursuing a prosperous future for all its citizens.

The JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action)

The JCPOA (or Iran Nuclear Agreement) was negotiated to keep Iran from possessing nuclear weapons for at least 15 years, with some provisions being extended for longer periods. Monitoring centrifuge production would continue for 20 years, monitoring of uranium mines and mills for 25 years, and International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) enhanced access indefinitely.

Other than Iran, the JCPOA was signed by China, France, Germany, Russia, UK, and US. These other signatories are known as the P5+1 (five permanent members of the UN Security Council + Germany), and EU+3 (EU members France, Germany, UK + China, Russia, US).

Unilateral withdrawal from the JCPOA and application of severe economic sanctions are unlikely to generate regime change in Iran as initially promoted and not (yet) taken off the table, despite words to the contrary. All other signatories to the JCPOA continue to support the agreement.

What would be gained if all six signatories withdrew from the JCPOA? The 2018 White House withdrawal from the JCPOA plus the other five signatories, if they withdraw, would cut short all provisions of the agreement from a minimum of 15 years to less than five years!

Michael R. Pompeo statement on 10 January

MICHAEL POMPEO: Today, the United States is taking a series of actions in response to Iran’s attacks against U.S. forces and interests, and to deprive the Iranian regime of revenue to conduct its violent foreign policy. We will continue to hold individuals and entities accountable for supporting the Iranian regime’s many fronts of terror.

We are sanctioning eight senior Iranian leaders, including Ali Shamkhani, the Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, Gholamreza Soleimani, the Commander of the Basij, and six other senior officials pursuant to Executive Order 13876 (E.O. 13876) for being appointed by, or acting for or on behalf of, the Supreme Leader.  These individuals have carried out Iran’s terror plots and campaigns of mayhem across the region and are complicit in the recent murders of around 1,500 Iranians protesting for freedom.

The Iranian regime exploits revenue from its metals industry to fund its destabilizing activities.  Accordingly, the Department of State is sanctioning Pamchel Trading (Beijing) Co., Ltd. pursuant to section 1245 the Iran Freedom and Counter-Proliferation Act for transferring 29,000 metric tons of steel from an Iranian firm that is a Specially Designated Global Terrorist.  The Department of the Treasury is similarly sanctioning twenty-two entities and three vessels pursuant to E.O. 13871, for operating in the iron, steel, aluminum, or copper sectors of Iran, and related activities.

The President will also issue an Executive Order authorizing the imposition of sanctions with respect to additional sectors of the Iranian economy, including: construction, manufacturing, textiles, and mining.  This action will significantly expand the United States’ ability to target this regime’s various revenue streams.

As President Trump said yesterday, our sanctions will remain until Iran changes its behavior. The civilized world must send a clear and unified message to the Iranian regime: Iran’s campaign of terror, murder, and mayhem will not be tolerated any longer.  The United States calls on all nations to stand against the Iranian regime’s ideology of terror and to hold Iran accountable for its violence.

Remarks by President Trump on 8 January

THE PRESIDENT:  As long as I am President of the United States, Iran will never be allowed to have a nuclear weapon.

Good morning.  I’m pleased to inform you: The American people should be extremely grateful and happy no Americans were harmed in last night’s attack by the Iranian regime.  We suffered no casualties, all of our soldiers are safe, and only minimal damage was sustained at our military bases.

Our great American forces are prepared for anything.  Iran appears to be standing down, which is a good thing for all parties concerned and a very good thing for the world.

No American or Iraqi lives were lost because of the precautions taken, the dispersal of forces, and an early warning system that worked very well.  I salute the incredible skill and courage of America’s men and women in uniform.

For far too long — all the way back to 1979, to be exact — nations have tolerated Iran’s destructive and destabilizing behavior in the Middle East and beyond.  Those days are over.  Iran has been the leading sponsor of terrorism, and their pursuit of nuclear weapons threatens the civilized world.  We will never let that happen.

Last week, we took decisive action to stop a ruthless terrorist from threatening American lives.  At my direction, the United States military eliminated the world’s top terrorist, Qasem Soleimani.  As the head of the Quds Force, Soleimani was personally responsible for some of the absolutely worst atrocities.

He trained terrorist armies, including Hezbollah, launching terrorist strikes against civilian targets.  He fueled bloody civil wars all across the region.  He viciously wounded and murdered thousands of U.S. troops, including the planting of roadside bombs that maim and dismember their victims.

Soleimani directed the recent attacks on U.S. personnel in Iraq that badly wounded four service members and killed one American, and he orchestrated the violent assault on the U.S. embassy in Baghdad.  In recent days, he was planning new attacks on American targets, but we stopped him.

Soleimani’s hands were drenched in both American and Iranian blood.  He should have been terminated long ago.  By removing Soleimani, we have sent a powerful message to terrorists: If you value your own life, you will not threaten the lives of our people.

As we continue to evaluate options in response to Iranian aggression, the United States will immediately impose additional punishing economic sanctions on the Iranian regime.  These powerful sanctions will remain until Iran changes its behavior.

In recent months alone, Iran has seized ships in international waters, fired an unprovoked strike on Saudi Arabia, and shot down two U.S. drones.

Iran’s hostilities substantially increased after the foolish Iran nuclear deal was signed in 2013, and they were given $150 billion, not to mention $1.8 billion in cash.  Instead of saying “thank you” to the United States, they chanted “death to America.”  In fact, they chanted “death to America” the day the agreement was signed.

Then, Iran went on a terror spree, funded by the money from the deal, and created hell in Yemen, Syria, Lebanon, Afghanistan, and Iraq.  The missiles fired last night at us and our allies were paid for with the funds made available by the last administration.  The regime also greatly tightened the reins on their own country, even recently killing 1,500 people at the many protests that are taking place all throughout Iran.

The very defective JCPOA expires shortly anyway, and gives Iran a clear and quick path to nuclear breakout.  Iran must abandon its nuclear ambitions and end its support for terrorism.  The time has come for the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Russia, and China to recognize this reality.

They must now break away from the remnants of the Iran deal -– or JCPOA –- and we must all work together toward making a deal with Iran that makes the world a safer and more peaceful place.  We must also make a deal that allows Iran to thrive and prosper, and take advantage of its enormous untapped potential.  Iran can be a great country.

Peace and stability cannot prevail in the Middle East as long as Iran continues to foment violence, unrest, hatred, and war.  The civilized world must send a clear and unified message to the Iranian regime: Your campaign of terror, murder, mayhem will not be tolerated any longer.  It will not be allowed to go forward.

Today, I am going to ask NATO to become much more involved in the Middle East process.  Over the last three years, under my leadership, our economy is stronger than ever before and America has achieved energy independence.  These historic accomplishments changed our strategic priorities.  These are accomplishments that nobody thought were possible.  And options in the Middle East became available.  We are now the number-one producer of oil and natural gas anywhere in the world.  We are independent, and we do not need Middle East oil.

The American military has been completely rebuilt under my administration, at a cost of $2.5 trillion.  U.S. Armed Forces are stronger than ever before.  Our missiles are big, powerful, accurate, lethal, and fast. Under construction are many hypersonic missiles.

The fact that we have this great military and equipment, however, does not mean we have to use it.  We do not want to use it.  American strength, both military and economic, is the best deterrent.

Three months ago, after destroying 100 percent of ISIS and its territorial caliphate, we killed the savage leader of ISIS, al-Baghdadi, who was responsible for so much death, including the mass beheadings of Christians, Muslims, and all who stood in his way.  He was a monster.  Al-Baghdadi was trying again to rebuild the ISIS caliphate, and failed.

Tens of thousands of ISIS fighters have been killed or captured during my administration.  ISIS is a natural enemy of Iran.  The destruction of ISIS is good for Iran, and we should work together on this and other shared priorities.

Finally, to the people and leaders of Iran: We want you to have a future and a great future — one that you deserve, one of prosperity at home, and harmony with the nations of the world.  The United States is ready to embrace peace with all who seek it.

I want to thank you, and God bless America.  Thank you very much.  Thank you.  Thank you.

Tlaib and Omer / Trump and Bibi

Paul Scham submits the following to the NCF. Paul Scham is a scholar at MEI and the executive director of the Gildenhorn Institute for Israel Studies at the University of Maryland, where he teaches courses on the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The views expressed in this article are his own:

The current Rashida Tlaib/Ilhan Omar debacle has received more attention from every quarter than virtually anything other than a war. All the usual suspects have weighed in with (mostly) predictable comments, generally in the context of the long-running “special relationship” between Israel and the U.S. The two domestic political contexts are often mentioned only in passing.

With all respect to those who have tried to take a longer or strategic view, I would suggest that it really boils down to the political calculations of just two men, President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, each of whom is adored by the other’s base voters, and the desperate (yes, desperate) attempts by each to use the other to burnish their right-wing credentials. The resulting media storm was likely welcomed by both, as neither has much interest in what the writers of The New York Times or Haaretz — and all their ilk — have to say.

Bibi Netanyahu is the most desperate, and his actions can only be understood with reference to the current Israeli political scene and the Knesset election coming up on Sept. 17. His Likud Party has been running virtually neck-and neck in the polls with Kahol Lavon (the hastily-organized Blue-White Party) at about 30 Knesset seats each, out of a total of 120. The party with the most seats — no party has ever won a majority — is normally invited by the president to have first crack at forming a government, and Bibi needs that to be the Likud. His calculation is that the only place to get more voters is from those to the right of Likud, who may currently be planning to vote for one of several ultra-nationalist parties. He needs to burnish his nationalist credentials to attract them, and he is doing everything he can to get them to take notice. Allowing Tlaib and Omar to visit — something he would probably have routinely approved at any other time — would be seen by them, exactly as President Trump tweeted, as a show of “weakness.”

The fact that Trump clearly advocated that they be barred also represented a further chance for Bibi to identify himself with the American president his potential voters regard as the best friend Israel has ever had. By contrast, there would be no political gain where it counted to turn down the president’s advice, and every reason to tie himself to Trump’s coattails. It was a no-brainer.

AIPAC — very unusually — criticized Bibi’s act, because it undercuts the bipartisanship it has attempted to maintain since its founding. But Bibi has no use for bipartisanship when it may chip away at his electoral prospects. Just as important is the fact that he — at least if he wins — will have to help energize Trump’s base for 2020, since he is a hero to most of it. Trump also has no use for bipartisanship, something he has made clear time and again.

This is not a political “mistake” as many have termed it; rather, it is the result of cold political calculation. Bibi’s desperation is largely based on the fact that he not only wants to hold onto his office, but also that he has every expectation that he will be indicted on corruption charges shortly after the election. As prime minister, he can ram through a bill giving himself immunity, and then neutralize the Israeli Supreme Court when it declares the immunity unconstitutional. As leader of the opposition, he is powerless.

Trump likewise needs Bibi to be prime minister, though not so desperately. As prime minister, Bibi can energize Trump’s evangelical base, likely unconstrained by any of the usual non-interference norms of international relations. That would be a lot harder to do if he is fighting to stay out of jail. He will owe Trump big time — and will be more than happy to pay off.

Nor is Bibi truly afraid of what Tlaib and Omar might publicize, as Peter Beinart suggests. I have no doubt that Bibi genuinely believes in the righteousness of his cause. Moreover, the situation of West Bank Palestinians has been publicized innumerable times, so that there is little new that they could say. In any case, Tlaib and Omar have been so tarred with anti-Israel and alleged anti-Semitic prejudice that no one except their existing supporters will regard them as impartial.

This event is not a watershed and will likely only rate a footnote — if that — in any history of Israeli-U.S. relations. It is a sign of the times and the current trends, including diminishing Democratic rank-and-file support for the close relationship with Israel, will continue. But this affair is at base a tawdry political drama in which Tlaib and Omar are pawns, orchestrated by two men whose own political goals trump any considerations of statesmanship or national interest.