Thursday, November 17, 2016

A Safer World on Paper

After the glorious chemical weapons deal that disarmed Assad of chemical weapons under our super genius Secretary of State Kerry, our government has decided not to punish Assad for using chemical weapons. Oh well, the signing ceremony was still spectacular! And this is just the Mini-Me version of the Iran nuclear deal fiasco.

Get. Out!

The Obama administration has throttled back its diplomatic push to make Syria destroy all of its stockpiles of chlorine and barrel bombs on the premise that the Syrian regime used them in attacks against opposition-controlled towns, according to diplomatic sources.

The Russians (of course!) and "developing countries" (countries developing what, their own WMD?) resisted our desire to punish Assad and we backed off.

But I'm sure the far more glorious Iran nuclear deal (aka, the JCPOA), with a far more celebratory signing ceremony, and even more support from Russia and "developing countries" will work much better!

Wait. What?

U.S. intelligence agencies and their international partners are seeing a flurry of inquiries by Iran about importing potentially sensitive technologies controlled by last year’s nuclear deal – but outside of channels specifically set up to vet these goods, according to officials and experts.

Despite the activity by Iranian nationals — some of them identified as smugglers — in the nearly ten months since the agreement began implementation, not a single sales proposal is known to have gone through the nuclear deal’s Joint Commission and its Procurement Working Group, as the deal requires. It’s eerily quiet.

The Iran nuclear deal set up provisions for Iran to openly import legitimate nuclear items (as flawed as that program likely would be), yet Iran prefers to keep their smuggling and sanctions-breaking pipelines active. Fancy that.

The Iran deal is not a treaty. So yes, it can be negated by President Trump despite the obvious panic of those who prefer to appease Iran and pretend the deal is the highest form of diplomacy.

The deal is multilateral in that many countries negotiated the deal and the UN Security Council ratified it, but President Obama was the multilateral partner here rather than America itself because the deal is not a treaty ratified by our Senate to make America the partner in this deal. When President Obama leaves office, Iran's multilateral partner here is gone. Perhaps as a private citizen former president Obama will be bound by the deal, but so what?

And truth be told, this glorious "multilateral" deal isn't even legally binding on Iran!

What we have is a multilateral deal among Western states who negotiated with us and Iran, President Obama, and Iran's mullahs--blessed by the UN Security Council which gives Russia a veto to freeze the farcical deal in place--to pretend we stopped Iran from advancing down the nuclear weapons path.

Remember that Iran doesn't even admit that the JCPOA is a deal to keep them from getting nuclear weapons because to this day they deny that they want nukes or have ever in any way had any nuclear weapons programs!

The problem is that our super genius chief diplomat, Kerry, negotiated an awful deal that front-loaded the chief benefits of the deal to Iran while we can only get our limited benefit if Iran does not cheat or go around the deal during the period of the deal.

And if Iran goes nuclear after the deal expires, what have we really achieved? Do you really think Iran under the mullahs will become a responsible regional partner by the day the deal expires and the flimsy limits on Iran go away?

So canceling the deal in 2017 just leaves Iran with the benefits of the deal and ends our chance of getting even the small benefit of delaying Iran's nuclear arsenal.

Yet if we are going to fail to enforce the deal's meager provisions that put speed bumps on Iran's path to a nuclear arsenal, I'm all in favor of canceling the deal if it forces us to face the fact that Iran is pursuing nukes rather than let us stick our heads in the sand to pretend we have something of value.

I'm open to the possibility that rather than canceling the deal, Trump should seek to enforce every damn provision we have in the deal and constantly press Iran on every aspect of the deal, making their compliance a daily headache for Tehran's mullahs.

Perhaps this could work:

JCPOA implementation has been handicapped by Kerry’s ego and his fear that it might unravel if he is not obsequious to the Islamic Republic. ... On any number of issues—Iran’s illicit ballistic missile work, tolerance for Iran exceeding limits on its heavy water, interpretations of banking regulations, and Iran’s refusal to allow inspections of military bases—Kerry has deferred to Iran, often acting as its business agent and lawyer.

As flawed as the deal is, Trump should simply implement it as if his concern were putting American interests first rather than deferring to Iranian interests. Iran doesn’t want a military base inspected? Tough. Let Iran walk away from the deal if it objects. Iran is upset that its economy isn’t meeting its own expectations? Well, perhaps they should tackle their own corruption and lack of commercial law rather than expect a Western bailout. Iran violates restrictions on ballistic missile development and heavy water production? Then it is in violation and should suffer the full consequences. Flexibility is not an entitlement. Iran complains that sanctions leveled by individual US states on pension fund investments hurt its economy? Not only does agreeing to Tehran’s interpretation betray US democracy, but Tehran’s interpretation is tendentious.

Trump is right: The JCPOA is flawed and does little to restrain or prevent Iran’s military nuclear ambitions. But that does not mean he should walk away. Rather, he can interpret the deal with such inflexibility as to force Iran to walk away. ...

At the same time, he can move to undercut Iran’s ability to conduct terrorism by seizing accounts, restricting dollar access by reversing Obama’s tendentious Treasury Department interpretations, and ordering the US Navy to hold its ground rather than “depressurize the Persian Gulf,” as former Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel sought.

Can that work? The parts dealing with the nuclear deal itself might be a problem since we subcontracted enforcement of the deal itself to the International Atomic Energy Agency--which in turn allows Iran to self-inspect in crucial areas! How much can we push the IAEA to press Iran on compliance?

And as we know, "snap back" provisions to restore sanctions if Iran violates the deal are a mirage. Nothing will snap back, and Russia and "developing countries" will no doubt resist any efforts in the UN Security Council to reimpose international sanctions.

I'm willing to explore the idea that an American administration determined to stop Iran from going nuclear more than it is determined to justify their own stupid diplomatic face plant with Iran (and Syria, going back to the beginning of this long post) could pressure Iran through the deal.

But if that is not possible because the deal doesn't really allow us to press Iran significantly, I'm in favor of walking away from the deal to at least rip the blinders from our eyes and face the problem squarely rather than go on with a deal that rests on Iran pretending not to pursue nuclear weapons and America's ability to pretend to believe Iran.

UPDATE: Stratfor believes it will be too difficult for America to walk away from the deal.

Perhaps. In the short run as we send out diplomats to explore that option, I'll settle for strictly enforcing the deal terms and adding pressure outside of the deal.