Tag Archive: diplomacy

Dec 20 2013

White Elephants & Bipartisan Determination for War

Afghan IG reopens probe into huge Leatherneck command center

By J. Taylor Rushing, Stars and Stripes

Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction John Sopko notified Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel of the news in a Nov. 27 letter that was released by Sopko’s office Thursday. In the letter, Sopko complains that he never received an answer to questions he sent in July to Hagel, U.S. Central Command Commander Gen. Lloyd Austin III and U.S. Forces-Afghanistan Commander Gen. Joseph Dunford Jr., about the mammoth building, dismissed by many as a “white elephant,” never to be used. [..]

Sopko specifically complains about an investigation into the building by Maj. Gen. James Richardson, deputy commander of support for U.S. Forces in Afghanistan that was finished last month. Sopko said he delayed his own investigation to wait on Richardson’s report. A partial draft of the report was sent to Sopko, but he said it was sloppy, incomplete and actually suggests that taxpayer-funded construction should continue. [..]

Controversy over the building is not new – members of the Senate Armed Services Committee have been publicly critical of the construction, most recently after an initial Army investigation into the building in May determined that the building was unwanted and unnecessary, and could be converted into a gymnasium and movie theatre.

10 Democratic Committee Chairs Warn Menendez’s Iran Sanction Bill Could Blow Up Negotiations

By Ryan Grim, Huffington Post

In a remarkable rebuke to Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), 10 other Senate committee chairs are circulating a joint letter to Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, urging him to reject an effort by Menendez to tighten sanctions on Iran and warning that his bill could disrupt ongoing nuclear negotiations.

The senators write in their letter that “at this time, as negotiations are ongoing, we believe that new sanctions would play into the hands of those in Iran who are most eager to see the negotiations fail.”

Earlier Thursday, a senior White House official had accused Menendez of undermining the negotiations. [..]

Yet Menendez is not alone in his call for tougher sanctions. The proposed Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act, introduced in the Senate on Thursday by Menendez and Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), is co-sponsored by 12 other Democrats — including Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) — and 12 other Republicans.

Senate passes $607B Defense bill

By Jeremy Herb and Ramsey Cox, The Hill

The Senate on Thursday evening passed the $607 billion Defense authorization bill that will reform the way the military handles sexual assault cases and loosen the restriction on transferring Guantánamo Bay detainees to foreign countries.

The Senate sent the bill to the president’s desk for the 52nd straight year in a 84-15 vote, after some legislative maneuvering was needed to extend the streak and quickly get a compromise bill through both chambers this month.

Nearly three-quarters of Republicans joined most Democrats in voting for the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which authorizes $527 billion in base defense spending and $80 billion for the war in Afghanistan.[..]

The final bill included many new reforms to how the military prosecutes sexual assault and treats victims. The bill strips commanders’ ability to overturn guilty verdicts, changes the military’s pre-trial rules for interviewing victims, expands a special victims counsel for sexual assault survivors and makes retaliating against victims a crime.

The bill does not, however, include a controversial proposal from Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) to take sexual assault cases from the chain of command. Before Thanksgiving, Republicans blocked Reid’s attempt to hold votes on Gillibrand’s amendment and a competing measure from Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.).

The stupid just burns.

Nov 26 2013

The Agreement with Iran: How the US Finally Got There

The agreement reached early Sunday morning in Switzerland with Iran over its nuclear program is nothing short of historic. It will expand inspections of nuclear sites and loosen some of the sanctions, worth some $7 billion to Iran. It also signals a shift in American foreign relations from military might to diplomacy, something that candidate Barack Obama had said he was going to do.

(T)he flurry of diplomatic activity reflects the definitive end of the post-Sept. 11 world, dominated by two major wars and a battle against Islamic terrorism that drew the United States into Afghanistan and still keeps its Predator drones flying over Pakistan and Yemen.

But it also reflects a broader scaling-back of the use of American muscle, not least in the Middle East, as well as a willingness to deal with foreign governments as they are rather than to push for new leaders that better embody American values. “Regime change,” in Iran or even Syria, is out; cutting deals with former adversaries is in.

For Mr. Obama, the shift to diplomacy fulfills a campaign pledge from 2008 that he would stretch out a hand to America’s enemies and speak to any foreign leader without preconditions. But it will also subject him to considerable political risks, as the protests about the Iran deal from Capitol Hill and allies in the Middle East attest.

“We’re testing diplomacy; we’re not resorting immediately to military conflict,” Mr. Obama said, defending the Iran deal on Monday in San Francisco. “Tough talk and bluster may be the easy thing to do politically,” he said earlier that day, “but it’s not the right thing for our security.”

The deal has been the reactions have been hailed by many as good move for the region and the world but it has it’s critics on both sides of the political aisle.

University of Michigan Mideast scholar Juan Cole argues on his blog, Informed Comment, that “the decade-long Neoconservative plot to take the United States to war against Iran appears to have been foiled” by the deal. Unsurprisingly, congressional Iran hawks on both sides of the aisle aren’t pleased, according to Bernie Becker at The Hill. Critics accuse the administration of “capitulation,” which The Daily Beast‘s Peter Beinhart says is a gross misreading of history. Siobhan Gorman reports for The Wall Street Journal that Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has indicated that Congress may try to impose even more sanctions, which the White House calls a path to war. [..]

Saeed Kamali Dehghan reports for The Guardian that the Iranian public appears to be very happy about the deal. Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu is outraged by the deal, but Israeli journalist Gershom Gorenberg writes in The American Prospect that his reaction says more about him than the deal itself. And at 972 Magazine, Larry Derfner notes that the Israeli security community is a lot more optimistic about the deal than the country’s elected officials. The BBC taps its extensive network of reporters to bring mixed reactions from around the region. And Mark Landler reports for The New York Times that the deal could “open the door” to diplomatic solutions of other regional issues.

As Juan Cole points in his article at Informed Consent, the agreement is actually an agreement to negotiate and build confidence between all the parties for the hard bargaining to come. It also is a good history of how we got from post 9/11 to now.

In 2003, the Neocon chickenhawks, most of whom had never worn a uniform or had a parent who did, joked that “everyone wants to go to Baghdad; real men want to go to Tehran.” When people have to talk about being “real men,” it is a pretty good sign that they are 98-pound weaklings.

The “everyone” who wanted to go to Baghdad was actually just the Neocons and their fellow travelers. Most of the latter were hoodwinked by the Neocon/Cheney misinformation campaign blaming Saddam Hussein of Iraq for 9/11. A majority of Democratic representatives in the lower house of Congress voted against the idea of going to war. The Iraq War, trumped up on false pretenses and mainly to protect the militant right wing in Israel from having a credible military rival in the region and to put Iraqi petroleum on the market to weaken Saudi Arabia, cost the United States nearly 5000 troops, hundreds more Veterans working as contractors, and probably $3 or $4 trillion- money we do not have since our economy has collapsed and hasn’t recovered except for wealthy stockholders. Perhaps George W. Bush could paint for us some dollars so that we can remember what they used to look like when we had them in our pockets instead of his billionaire friends (many of them war profiteers) having them in theirs. [..]

The irony is that in early 2003, the reformist Iranian government of then-President Mohammad Khatami had sent over to the US a wide-ranging proposal for peace. After all, Baathist Iraq was Iran’s deadliest enemy. It had invaded Iran in 1980 and fought an 8-year aggressive war in hopes of taking Iranian territory and stealing its oil resources. Now the US was about to overthrow Iran’s nemesis. Wouldn’t it make sense for Washington and Tehran to ally? Khatami put everything on the table, even an end to hostilities with Israel.

The Neoconservatives threw the Iranian proposal in the trash heap and mobilized to make sure there was no rapprochement with Iran. David Frum, Bush’s speech-writer, consulted with eminence grise Richard Perle (then on a Pentagon oversight board) and Irv Lewis “Scooter” Libby (vice presidential felon Richard Bruce Cheney’s chief of staff), and they had already inserted into Bush’s 2002 State of the Union speech the phrase the “axis of evil,” grouping Iran with Iraq and North Korea. Iran had had sympathy demonstrations for the US after 9/11, and, being a Shiite power, feared and hated al-Qaeda (Sunni extremists) as much as Washington did. But the Neoconservatives did not want a US-Iran alliance against al-Qaeda or against Saddam Hussein. Being diplomatic serial killers, they saw Iran rather as their next victim.

In many ways, Washington politics is still stuck in that neoconservative world.

MSNBC’s All In host Chris Hayes discusses the agreement with several guests  Iranian-American journalist and author, Hooman Majd, Ambassador Christopher Hill and Congressman Eliot Engel (D-NY).

In another segment, Chris and his guest Matt Duss, Middle East policy analyst at the Center for American Progress, discuss how diplomacy with Iran is just the latest blow to the neoconservatives.

When George W. Bush was appointed as president in 2001, there was a moderate government in Iran. If it had not been for the Supreme Court, this would have been resolved 10 years ago and so many would not have needlessly died.

Feb 06 2011

TWiEC: Winds of Change in the Middle East – as Seen By Foreign and American Editorial Cartoonists

Crossposted at Daily Kos and Docudharma



Walk Like an Egyptian by Dwayne Booth, Mr. Fish, Buy this cartoon  

It’s spontaneous, yes, triggered by the explosion in Tunisia.  But contrary to some media reports, which have portrayed the upsurge in Egypt as a leaderless rebellion, a fairly well organized movement is emerging to take charge, comprising students, labor activists, lawyers, a network of intellectuals, Egypt’s Islamists, a handful of political parties and miscellaneous advocates for “change.”  And it’s possible, but not at all certain, that the nominal leadership of the revolution could fall to Mohammad ElBaradei.

— ‘Who’s Behind Egypt’s Revolt?’ by Robert Dreyfuss, The Nation