Respectfully disagreeing: the Republican letter on Iran was proper and needed

March 10, 2015

Turn almost anywhere in D.C. and you’ll find someone screaming in outrage about something: taxes, health care, regulations of one sort or another, the secret Lizard People conspiracy to control our government, whatever. The latest chorus of outrage has arisen because of an open letter to the Iranian government written by Senator Cotton (R-AR) and 46 others among his Republican colleagues. The senators wanted to remind Iran that the US Senate has a constitutional role to play regarding any treaty with Tehran and that no agreement would be lasting without the Senate’s consent. You can read the letter here, but below is a key excerpt:

First, under our Constitution, while the president negotiates international agreements, Congress plays the significant role of ratifying them. In the case of a treaty, the Senate must ratify it by a two-thirds vote. A so-called congressional-executive agreement requires a majority vote in both the House and the Senate (which, because of procedural rules, effectively means a three-fifths vote in the Senate). Anything not approved by Congress is a mere executive agreement.

Second, the offices of our Constitution have different characteristics. For example, the president may serve only two 4-year terms, whereas senators may serve an unlimited number of 6-year terms. As applied today, for instance, President Obama will leave office in January 2017, while most of us will remain in office well beyond then—perhaps decades.

In other words, “there’s no real deal unless it contains provisions we approve of.”

This started a firestorm of criticism from the Left, with perhaps the most shrill, hysteria-laden attack coming on the cover of the New York Daily News:

Hyperbole much?

Hyperbole much?

Graphic via Hot Air

(Aside: “treason” is a word thrown around far too easily in recent years. By the Left and the Right.)

And the reaction from the White House and their allies in Congress wasn’t much farther behind:

Congressional Democrats joined the White House in denouncing the letter, with Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) calling it “a cynical effort by Republican Senators to undermine sensitive international negotiations — it weakens America’s hand and highlights our political divisions to the rest of the world.”

(…)

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, accused Republicans of trying to “sabotage” the nuclear talks.

“This bizarre, inappropriate letter is a desperate ploy to scuttle a comprehensive agreement and the chance for a peaceful resolution, which is in the best interests of the United States, Israel and the world,” Boxer said in a statement.

Well, if anyone understands “bizarre,” it’s Barbara Boxer.

I’ll leave it to Noah Rothman to deal with the rank hypocrisy of the Democrats’ statements (here’s one huge example from The Federalist), but there were criticisms, or at least sad regret, from some on the Right, too. First, while Byron York at the Washington Examiner acknowledges that Obama started this mess, he still sees little good in the issuance of the Cotton letter:

It should go without saying that the reason Republicans are doing these things is because they are deeply concerned about a possible Iran deal. But another reason they’re acting is because they can. On Iran and before that on immigration, healthcare, and other matters, Obama has pushed his executive authority beyond its proper limits, on the flimsy pretense that he is entitled to act unilaterally if Congress does not pass bills he wants. Could anyone fail to anticipate that in response Congress would stretch its own authority, too?

(…)

Of course, it is still a bad thing. It is not good to invite a foreign leader to address Congress in a campaign against the U.S. president. It is not good to undermine the president’s authority to conduct foreign policy. But it’s not a good thing to undermine Congress’ authority to make laws, either. And to threaten even more undermining in the future, as Obama has done.

Meanwhile, at Hot Air, my friend Jazz Shaw thinks the letter is too much, too soon:

The whole point is that the system seems to be breaking down, and this letter is yet another example of the United States airing its dirty laundry for the rest of the world to see. Under ideal conditions, this would all be hammered out in private between Obama and the Congress and he could then send Kerry to negotiate something they could all live with. That didn’t happen either, so this is clearly not a case of all the fault being on one side of the aisle. In fact, when the President turned around and said this wasn’t really a treaty so he could do what he liked, that was possibly an even worse sin than what Tom Cotton and his cosigners have done. Trying to change the nature of a major deal between nations by calling it an agreement rather than a treaty is just a dodge, and not a particularly artful one at that.

Still, I find myself disagreeing with Tom Cotton (who I admire very much, and have since I interviewed him during the election) and wishing that this letter hadn’t been written. If there had to be an official response, a resolution of disapproval of the negotiations (or later, of the deal itself) could have been passed on the Senate floor. That would have at least kept the communications in house, rather than having the Legislative branch dive directly into the mix with Iran. The system of how things need to work to keep Washington functional continues to break down, and this letter did nothing to help with that challenge.

Both writers express an understandable wish for comity between the parties and branches when facing a dangerous foe. And many of us are old enough to remember when such a period existed when politics (mostly) “stopped at the water’s edge” — that era from World War II to the fall of the USSR when  there was a general consensus on foreign affairs between the parties in the face of threats from first the Nazis and then the Communists.

But that period slowly came to an end with two developments: first the rise of the anti-war socialist and communist-sympathizing Left and their liberal dupes to domination of the Democratic Party after 1968. They simply did not and do not share the foreign policy assumptions of the older, New Deal liberals who formed half of the consensus.

The other event was the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union.  With the deadly enemy gone, the pressure to unite against the outsider was lifted. Hence it became easier to take politics beyond the water’s edge.

And, while I opened this by saying I respectfully disagree, York and Shaw (and others) have a valid point: It *is* regrettable that there is no consensus anymore on our foreign affairs (1), and it is a shame that oru squabbles have to be carried out in public. Ours is a largely informal system in which policy makers would (should) come to a consensus based on agreement on broad principles.

But, for now at least, that agreement is gone, and one side pushes so far beyond the bounds of what has been acceptable that the other feels forced to retaliate.

Yet I still disagree that Senator Cotton and his colleagues should not have done this. As York himself notes, the administration and congressional  Democrats have shown little but contempt for constitutional norms and bounds since Obama was inaugurated. And in the face of the many slights against the American settlement perpetrated by the Obama White House and colluded in by the congressional Democrats, congressional Republicans have been nearly supine. The latest, the failure to stop Obama’s illegal, unconstitutional amnesty plan via the DHS budget, was a humiliating disgrace that could well encourage other adventures in petty tyranny on the president’s part. And it was just one moment, albeit egregious, in the long march of Congress surrendering more and more of its authority to the Executive since progressivism took hold.

Congress needed to push back to start reclaiming its role in our system, and this letter represents a good start. And it was better to do it now, while the agreement is still being worked out, than wait until it could be presented as “take it or leave it, and the consequences of rejection be on your shoulders.” Far from interfering in foreign affairs, this represents the Senate majority asserting its proper constitutional role and demanding it be honored. If Senator Cotton is representative of the newer generation of senators, then I have hope some balance will be restored.

While it’s regrettable that the fight has taken public, it’s much more heartening to see the legislature assert itself as Madison intended, jealously guarding its interest.

Footnote:
(1) Kind of hard to have one when one side still believes in a muscular, exceptional America as a force for good in the world, and the other sees American power as the problem and chooses national decline.

 


Ben Sasse (R-NE) on the Iran negotiations: the administration is “explicitly tolerating a renegade nuclear program”

February 25, 2015

The junior senator from Nebraska nails it in this video. Unlike our administration, he seems to have a clear understanding of both the ramifications of Iran obtaining nuclear weapons and the Obama administration’s feckless, delusional approach. Well worth watching:

via Fred Fleitz, who writes:

Obama officials defend their approach to the nuclear talks because they claim a final deal will be subject to robust verification by IAEA inspectors. This argument is hard to take seriously since Iran has never fully cooperated with the IAEA and has specifically refused to cooperated with IAEA inspectors during the talks and cheated on the interim agreement which set up the talks.Moreover, yesterday’s revelations (if they are true) by the NCRI, an Iranian dissident group, that Iran has been operating a secret facility where it has been developing advanced uranium centrifuges and may be enriching uranium adds to the suspicion that Tehran cannot be trusted with any dual-use nuclear technology.

It’s a shame Senator Sasse isn’t leading the negotiations, rather the buffoonish John Kerry.


Iran still won’t sign accord against terror finance

February 23, 2015

Phineas Fahrquar:

My cynical side wonders why Iran would ever sign an agreement that blocks Iran from doing something that benefits it. My cynical side also knows Iran very well.

Originally posted on Money Jihad:

The International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism went into effect in 2002. Over 180 countries have signed the rather bland convention. But not Iran.

Not that we could take Iran at its word, but shouldn’t they agree to sign the convention prior to concluding a deal with Iran about their nuclear program?

Lebanon hasn’t signed it either. Other non-signatory countries with Islamist political movements include The Gambia and Chad. But they don’t have nuclear programs.

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Iran to Netanyahu: “Screw with us and we’ll kill your sons!”

January 29, 2015
Supreme Thug

Supreme Thug

Nothing like making international disputes personal, is there?

Iran is encouraging its terror allies to pursue the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s children by publishing personal information about them, including photographs of the kids lined up in crosshairs, and declaring, “We must await the hunt of Hezbollah.”

The publication of the personal information and biographies of Netanyahu’s children follows an Israeli airstrike last week that killed several key Hezbollah leaders and an Iranian commander affiliated with the country’s hardline Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

(…)

Regional experts with knowledge of the IRGC said this type of public threat is meant to intimidate the Israelis and act as a deterrent against possible military action.

“Here, we have organized a list of prominent Israeli Aghazadehs,” or children, according to the original post by the hardline Iranian website Mashregh, which has since removed the article. The Fars reproduction is still available online in Farsi.

Netanyahu’s children are acceptable targets for assassination due to their affiliation with top Israeli leaders, according to the article, which is titled, “The file of the Zionist Children.”

Apparently their mandatory 3-year military service also makes them legitimate targets for murder — in the eyes of the Iranians. The Free Beacon piece also points out that the Iranian article also specifically threatened the adult children of former prime ministers Olmert and Sharon.

Though the article doesn’t mention this, among the Hezbollah leaders killed in that raid was Jihad Mugniyeh, son of the vicious terrorist Imad Mugniyeh (1), who was killed a few years ago, probably by the Israelis. Jihad himself was following in Dad’s dirty footsteps and had become a Hezbollah officer. In a honor and revenge culture such as the one that dominates the Middle East, Iran could be making these threats to show support for its Lebanese client: “Kill the son of one of our heroes, and we’ll kill two of yours!”

But it also demonstrates the “thug mentality” at the heart of the Iranian regime. Nations in conflict play hardball with each other all the time: espionage, special operations, sabotage, &c. But the targets are agents or facilities of the enemy state, even when death results. It’s like the old cliche, “Just business, nothing personal.”

But to specifically threaten the family of an enemy leader? That’s very personal, and it’s vile and low, but sadly not surprising from a gangster regime that uses rape to terrorize its domestic opponents.

Footnote:
(1) Mugniyeh senior was a key player in the mass murder of our Marines and French soldiers in the 1983 Beirut bombings. I will admit to not being sorry when he went “boom.”


Why an Iran nuclear deal probably won’t happen

November 17, 2014
c

Islamic Bomb

November 24th is the formal deadline for a “nuclear deal” between Iran and the group of nations, lead by the United States, that for some reason doesn’t want a government that sees its role as bringing about the Islamic “End Times” and destroying Israel to get its hands on nuclear weapons.

I know, I know. “Islamophobes.”

Anyway, the assumption has been that the Obama administration is desperate for a deal for several reasons: Obama himself wants his “Nixon to China” moment, something he can’t tout a a rare foreign policy success; the administration wants Iranian cooperation against the even more psycho ISIS and has decided that allowing Iran to get a bomb is the price it will have to pay — the agreement is then a sham cover for this; and perhaps that Obama and his national security team think that Iran having a nuclear weapon is unstoppable (they’ve even bragged about preventing Israel from doing something about it), but that the problem can be managed.

But Michael Ledeen, a sharp observer of the Iranian regime for many years, doesn’t think a deal will happen. He offers several reasons, but here are the two I think most salient:

–On the other hand, we also know that Khamenei does NOT want a deal with the Great Satan, and he has no interest in securing Obama’s legend. He is sick, he may well believe that he has limited time left on this earth, and he doesn’t want his legacy to read: he came to terms with Satan;

–So why would Khamenei make a deal? Answer: he’d make one that plainly humiliated the United States. And what does that look like? Answer: sanctions get nullified, he keeps his nuclear program, and Obama doesn’t get a visa to Iran;…

But he won’t sign, because…

Sanctions are crumbling anyway, and he’s got his nuclear program running along. Nothing happens when he tells the UN inspectors to go away without conducting their inspections. And he doesn’t think Obama will ever do anything seriously mean to him or his country.

I agree; Khamenei and his allies allies are getting everything they want, so what incentive does he have to give up on a project that’s been their dream since Khomeini seized power? Sanctions? Bah. They only hurt the common people, and Khamenei couldn’t care less about them. Besides, the mullahs are doing Allah’s Will. And there is absolutely no chance Barack Obama would ever try to use force to enforce them or stop the program, so… Why not just string us along until he can, again, leave us with egg dripping down our national face? They’ll get us to give them everything, then Tehran will renege at the last second and dare us to do something about it. After testing a bomb to prove their point.

Every president since Reagan has thought he could reach a grand bargain with Iran, but Iran has seen itself as being at war with us since 1979. We’ve only fitfully acknowledged that, even when they’ve been killing our soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan and launching terror attacks worldwide.

Unless we open our eyes, they’re going to keep playing us for suckers until that lovely bomb is finally in their hands.


Iran, Russia, and some damn thing in the Balkans

October 24, 2014
Bosnia-map

Bosnia

There are a couple of must-read articles today at XX Committee (1), both dealing with Iran’s schemes against the West. This first details Iran’s growing activities in Bosnia and Central Europe, where they have been working to cultivate Muslim extremists since Yugoslavia broke up. Note especially that Shiite Iran is quite happy to cooperate with Sunni jihadists, when the target is the “main enemy” — us and Europe. Here’s an excerpt:

…Iran has a considerable espionage base in Bosnia, which they view as a safe haven for their secret operations in the rest of Europe. Of greatest concern are the detectable ties between Iranian intelligencers and Salafi jihadist groups in Bosnia, some of which operate more or less openly (Sunni-Shia disputes notwithstanding, Tehran is happy to arm, train and equip Salafi jihadists, and nowhere more than Bosnia, where they have been doing that for over two decades). This Tehran-Sarajevo spy-terror nexus cannot be divorced from radical activities in Vienna, since Austria’s capital in many ways is the de facto capital of Salafi jihadism in Southeastern Europe, as well as a major playground for Iranian spies. These form an extended web of malevolence that stretches across Eastern and Central Europe.

…and…

Of particular concern is the large number of Iranian intelligence fronts operating in Bosnia that provide cover for operations and funding of terrorists and radicals: NGOs, charities of various sorts, and schools. For the Pasdaran, its most important cut-outs in Bosnia are the “Ibn Sina” Research Institute and the Persian-Bosnian College, but there is a long list of Iranian-linked fronts in the country (my analysis of these and how they provide cover for VEVAK and Pasdaran is here) that play an important role in Tehran’s secret war in Europe.

Should the West ever come to blows with Iran over its nuclear program, don’t doubt for a moment that the mullahs would use these assets to strike back violently in Europe.

Then Mr. Schindler also broke news today of a major Iranian-Russian intelligence cooperation agreement, aimed, of course, at us and the Israelis:

An indication of how cozy things are getting between Moscow and Tehran came this week with a visit to Iran by Nikolai Patrushev, the head of Russia’s National Security Council, who met with Iranian counterparts to discuss mutual threats. As Patrushev explained, “Iran has been one of Russia’s key partners in the region and it will remain so in future … [we] have similar and close views on many key regional issues and we had a serious exchange of views on the situation in Syria, Iraq and Libya.”

But this was not just a diplomatic gab fest. In the first place, Patrushev is a career intelligence officer and one of President Vladimir Putin’s closest confidants. A career counterintelligence officer with the Leningrad KGB, just like Putin, Patrushev served as head of the powerful Federal Security Service (FSB) from 1999 to 2008, leaving that position to take over the National Security Council.

As you’ll discover in the article, Mr. Patrushev is not a friend of the United States. For him, the Cold War is still very warm. Continuing:

Now, however, a full intelligence alliance has been agreed to. As a Russian report on Patrushev’s visit explained:

“The events in Syria and Iraq, where contacts between the Russian and Iranian special services have not only been resumed but have also proven their mutually advantageous nature, particularly in assessing the threats and plans of local bandit formations, both “secular” and Islamist, with respect to Russian facilities in Tartus in Syria, have impelled Moscow and Tehran to the idea of the need to formalize these contacts in the shape of a permanently operating mechanism. Russian special services also valued the volume of information, voluntarily conveyed by Iran to our specialists, on the potential activity of the Israeli Air Force against the Russian humanitarian convoys to Syria in the period of the sharp aggravation of the situation in that country in the summer of last year.”

Let there be no doubt that this new espionage alliance is aimed directly at the United States and Israel. As the report added, “the Iranians are prepared to provide Russia on a permanent basis with information on American military activity in the Persian Gulf obtained from their own technical intelligence facilities” — in other words, the Russians and Iranians will be sharing SIGINT, the most sensitive of all forms of intelligence gathering.

As Mr. Schindler likes to say, there is a “secret war” going on against us and our allies, one which our enemies seem to be fighting better than we do. Now that Iran and Russia have buried the hatchet, their cooperation will likely pose us serious problems and threats, not just in the Middle East, but also in Europe, where Russia maintains significant intelligence operations.

Our enemies have stepped up our game; I wish I had faith our current leadership could do the same.

Footnote:
(1) Frankly, one can say that about all Mr. Schindler’s posts.


Bosnia and the Global Jihad Revisited

August 23, 2014

Phineas Fahrquar:

I find it amazing that so many policy-makers have been in denial about the truth in Bosnia: that Saudi and Iranian money and proselytizers have been working for decades to radicalize Islam in that region and create a base for jihad — in Europe’s heartland. Self-delusion is a powerful thing.

Originally posted on The XX Committee:

Back in 2007, my book Unholy Terror ruffled quite a few feathers by pointing out the unpleasant truth that, in the 1990s, Bosnia-Hercegovina became a jihadist playground and a major venue for Al-Qa’ida, thanks to malign Saudi and Iranian influences. This was off-message, to put it mildly, to critics eager to defend failed Western (especially American) policies in the Balkans, as well as the usual coterie of jihad fellow-travelers and Useful Idiots, plus those eager, for personal reasons, not to have anyone look too deeply into where Saudi money goes in Europe.

However, my essential message — that Islamist extremism, though a largely imported phenomenon in Bosnia, has put down local roots and is likely to metastasize further due to that country’s intractable socio-economic problems — has been proven sadly accurate over the last seven years. For years, the debate over Islamism in Bosnia, and Southeastern Europe generally, was divided…

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