Saturday, August 8, 2015

Want to understand why the President is so adamant about his Iran deal? Abe Lincoln can explain it to you.

If you've spent any time recently reading newspapers or watching the news on television, you've undoubtedly read or heard about the "Iran Deal".  On April 5, in an address at American University, the site for a speech given by President Kennedy (six months before his assassination) about making a deal with Russia, President Obama made his case to the American people for his deal with Iran.  It was an odd speech to say the least.

At one point the President said, 

“Walk away from this agreement and you will get a better deal—for Iran.”   

That doesn't seem to make sense though since it's Iran that is in dire need of the estimated $100 billion dollars in 'sanctions money' that will be freed up if the deal passes muster in Congress.  Is Russia or China going to give them  $200 billion?  I don't think so.  Obviously I could be wrong, but I doubt it.

At another point in his speech, and in terms that seemed more fitting for someone running for office than someone running the country, the President, referring to the criticism that he's ignoring the fact that Iranians mean Americans harm, said those who "chant Death to America are making common cause with the Republican caucus."  Again, the words sounded more appropriate for the campaign trail than a momentous foreign policy speech by a sitting, second term President.  The moment called for the chief Democrat to make common cause with Republicans not to dismiss them as warmongers in league with terrorists, at least that's what you would think. But when you consider for a moment that the President has calculated that he only needs to hold on to one third of the votes of Democrats in either chamber of Congress to avoid an override of his inevitable veto of the act that would outlaw the deal, you understand why he was in full campaign mode.  He just needs 33 or so partisan actors in the Senate or 145 in the House to toe the line and his deal is safe.

But what are the origins of the sanctions?  Thanks to Wikipedia, I (and now you) have a better idea:

"In 1979, after the U.S. permitted the exiled Shah of Iran to enter the United States for medical treatment, a group of radical students took action in Tehran by seizing the American Embassy and taking hostage the people inside.[2] The United States responded and President Carter issued Executive Order 12170 in November 1979 freezing about $12 billion in Iranian assets, including bank deposits, gold and other properties. Some assets — Iranian officials say $10 billion, U.S. officials say much less — still remain frozen pending resolution of legal claims arising from the revolution.

After the invasion of Iran by Iraq, the United States increased sanctions against Iran. In 1984, sanctions were approved that prohibit weapons sales and all U.S. assistance to Iran The Iran Sanctions Act (ISA) that is the basis of the current sanctions against Iran is a revised version of the Iran and Libya Sanctions Act (ILSA) that was signed on 5 August 1996 (H.R. 3107, P.L. 104-172).[3] The act was renamed in 2006 when the sanctions against Libya were terminated.[3]
On 31 July 2013, members of the United States House of Representatives voted 400 to 20 on 31 July 2013 in favor of toughened sanctions.[.......

In 1995, the United States Congress passed the Iran–Libya Sanctions Act (ILSA). Under ILSA, all foreign companies that provide investments over $20 million for the development of petroleum resources in Iran will have imposed against them two out of seven possible penalties by the U.S.:[5]
  • denial of Export-Import Bank assistance;
  • denial of export licenses for exports to the violating company;
  • prohibition on loans or credits from U.S. financial institutions of over $10 million in any 12-month period;
  • prohibition on designation as a primary dealer for U.S. government debt instruments;
  • prohibition on serving as an agent of the United States or as a repository for U.S. government funds;
  • denial of U.S. government procurement opportunities (consistent with WTO obligations); and
  • a ban on all or some imports of the violating company.....
After being elected president in 2005, President Ahmadinejad lifted the suspension of uranium enrichment that had been agreed with the EU3, and theInternational Atomic Energy Agency reported Iran's non-compliance with its safeguards agreement to the UN Security Council. The U.S. government then began pushing for UN sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program.[10]
The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) adopted Resolution 1737 in December 2006, Resolution 1747 in March 2007, Resolution 1803 in March 2008, and Resolution 1929 in June 2010.
In June 2005, President George W. Bush issued Executive Order 13382 freezing the assets of individuals connected with Iran's nuclear program. In June 2007, the U.S. state of Florida enacted a boycott on companies trading with Iran and Sudan, while New Jersey's state legislature was considering similar action.[11]
On June 24, 2010, the United States Senate and House of Representatives passed the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act of 2010 (CISADA), which President Obama signed into law July 1, 2010. The CISADA greatly enhanced restrictions in Iran. Such restrictions included the rescission of the authorization for Iranian-origin imports for articles such as rugs, pistachios, and caviar. In response, President Obama issued Executive Order 13553 in September 2010 and Executive Order 13574 in May 2011, and Executive Order 13590 in November 2011........."
Two of the biggest criticisms of the so called deal are that 1) The Iranians can't be trusted to keep to the terms of the deal and 2) The means for enforcing the deal leave too much time for the Iranians to cover their tracks in the event an inspection is called for.  

The first concern seems valid given Iran's long history, including Ahmadinejad's violation of the EU3 deal mentioned above.  Even President Obama admitted what a bad actor Iran has been and will continue to be in his speech when he said,

"Now, this is not to say that sanctions relief will provide no benefit to Iran’s military. Let’s stipulate that some of that money will flow to activities that we object to. We have no illusions about the Iranian government, or the significance of the Revolutionary Guard and the Quds Force. Iran supports terrorist organizations like Hezbollah. It supports proxy groups that threaten our interests and the interests of our allies—including proxy groups who killed our troops in Iraq. They try to destabilize our Gulf partners. But Iran has been engaged in these activities for decades. They engaged in them before sanctions and while sanctions were in place. In fact, Iran even engaged in these activities in the middle of the Iran-Iraq War—a war that cost them nearly a million lives and hundreds of billions of dollars.

And recent comments by, Ali Akar Velyati, a top adviser to the Supreme Leader Ali Khameni also seem to support the concern that Iran will renege. Velyati said:

"Regardless of how the P5+1 countries interpret the nuclear agreement, their entry into our military sites is absolutely forbidden. The entry of any foreigner, including IAEA inspectors or any other inspector, to the sensitive military sites of the Islamic Republic is forbidden, no matter what.”

When asked if that position was final, he responded affirmatively.  He was probably confident enough about the provisions of the mysterious yet official side deals that are a part of the overall deal. Apparently even our esteemed Secretary of State, John Kerry, only knows that such side deals exist but is not privy to their details as he told Congress on July 29 that a member of his team "may" have read the arrangements but he wasn't sure.  That person later said he, "saw the pieces of paper but wasn't able to keep them."
If I were typing a social media shorthand response, the last set of statements would have elicited and all-caps, three-lettered acronym beginning with "W".  
Iran is defiantly vowing to deny access to inspectors.  Our Secretary of State doesn't even know the full extent of the deal and yet our President wants us all to accept the deal - I guess so we can find out what's in it?
If Iran's defiant confidence about denying inspectors is not based on knowledge of the side deals, perhaps it's based on the second criticism that they will always be able to cover their tracks.  They officially have 24 days to allow inspectors in, which seems long enough to rearrange the furniture, but based on the most liberal reading of the terms, they could stall inspections for months.
So what does the President think of all this?  Well, he said in his American University speech, 

“I have never been more certain that this is sound policy, that it’s the right thing to do for the United States, that it’s the right thing to do for our allies.”

As to why he would say that in the face of all the legitimate and unaddressed concerns and criticisms, you need look no further than our 16th president, Abraham Lincoln, who once said, 

"My old father used to have a saying: 'If you make a bad bargain, hug it all the tighter'."

If the President were being honest, he'd admit to adhering to the senior Lincoln's advice.  Nothing else makes sense.


No comments:

Post a Comment