Tag Archive: John Kerry

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.

Sep 04 2013

Syria: Push For War With Little Evidence

There still no hard evidence that Syrian President Bashir al-Assad used an unknown chemical weapons, possibly an organophosphate, on his own people in the suburbs of Damascus on August 21. Yet, the Obama administration and some hawkish members of congress are pushing for air strikes to take out strategic targets, swearing that it wi.l be limited, not target the civilian population or require American troops on the ground. The purpose as stated by Secretary of State John Kerry yesterday before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is to send a message to Assad to not use chemical weapons again without any evidence that he did. There are no guarantees that this will even work or that Assad will not strike back as is his right according to the UN Charter.

Chief of correspondents for McClatchy Newspapers and co-author of a recent article, Mark Seibel joined Democracy Now!‘s Amy Goodman and Nereem Shaikh to discuss the holes in the evidence.



TRanscript can be read here

“When it came to questions of the efficacy of a U.N. investigation, or the number of people killed in the conflict, or even the U.S. rendition of what happened in what order, there are contradictions,” Seibel says. The United States has claimed it had “collected streams of human, signals and geospatial intelligence” that showed the Assad government preparing for an attack three days before the event. “That claim raises two questions,” Seibel writes. “Why didn’t the U.S. warn rebels about the impending attack and save hundreds of lives? And why did the administration keep mum about the suspicious activity when on at least one previous occasion U.S. officials have raised an international fuss when they observed similar actions?”

Sep 01 2013

Syria: Kerry Says Obama Can Act Without Congress

On  Friday President Barack Obama, citing “proof” that the Assad government used chemical weapons on his own people, said that he will go to congress for approval for authorization to use military force in Syria. The purpose, according to the president, is to send a message to Syrian President Bashir Assad not to do that again.  

He appeared to acknowledge some potential pitfalls when he called on members of Congress to “consider that some things are more important than partisan differences or the politics of the moment”.

The president did not say whether he would launch a military attack without congressional approval.

The question of whether a US president can launch military action without congressional backing is subject to dispute. While it is argued a commander-in-chief cannot constitutionally declare war without Congress, in recent decades presidents have used executive powers to sanction military action. When running for president in 2007, Obama said the president “does not have power under the constitution to unilaterally authorise a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation”. He added that “in instances of self-defence, the president would be within his constitutional authority to act before advising Congress or seeking its consent”.

Obama came under serious criticism for attacking Libya in 2011 that led to the overthrow and assassination of Moammar Gaddafi.

On this morning talk shows, Secretary of State John Kerry told the talking heads that the US has evidence that sarin gas was used but could not cite precise evidence that it was the Assad government that used it or that Assad had ordered its use. Kerry also said that the president has the right to act regardless of the congressional vote:

Less than a day after the president vowed to put an attack to a congressional vote, secretary of state John Kerry said the administration was determined to act against the regime of Bashar al-Assad, and did not need the backing of Congress to do so.

Kerry, one of the leading advocates of a military assault on dictator Bashar al-Assad, claimed the US had identified the type of nerve agent used in the 21 August attacks on 12 neighborhoods outside Damascus. [..]

The secretary of state stressed that President Obama had the right to take action “no matter what Congress does”. He said he could “hear the complaints” about presidential abuse had Obama not gone to Congress, but that its backing would give any military action greater credibility: “We are stronger as a nation when we act together.” But he added: “America intends to act.”

Incredibly, there are some congress critters who believe the president should attack Syria. Rep. Peter King (R-NY) clearly stated that Obama was “undermining the authority of future presidents”;

“President Obama is abdicating his responsibility as commander-in-chief and undermining the authority of future presidents. The President does not need Congress to authorize a strike on Syria. If Assad’s use of chemical weapons against civilians deserves a military response, and I believe it does, and if the President is seeking congressional approval, then he should call Congress back into a special session at the earliest date,” King said in a statement. “The President doesn’t need 535 Members of Congress to enforce his own redline.”

While his rhetoric may be the most charged, King is not alone in calling for Congress to come back immediately. House Foreign Affairs ranking Democrat Eliot L. Engel of New York said something similar in his own statement.

“The President has laid out a strong and convincing case to the American people for action in Syria. However, I understand his desire to seek explicit authorization to do so from Congress,” Engel said. “I call on the Speaker to immediately recall the House back from its August recess and debate this critical issue as soon as possible.”

So just who it that’s abdicating his Constitutional responsibilities?

One of the biggest problems with the justification for the action is the assertion that it is the Assad government that used the weapons. After the lies told by the Bush administration and the faked intelligence of yellow cake, there is little confidence in the integrity of the intelligence community not to tell the truth and do the bidding of an administration determined to start another war.

The ghost of “Curveball” is haunting the Obama administration and undermining its efforts to marshal strong foreign and domestic support for military strikes on Syria.

Curveball was the code name given Iraqi defector Rafid Ahmed Alwan, who claimed in 1999 that Saddam Hussein had deployed mobile biological weapons labs to evade international detection of his manufacture of weapons of mass destruction. His testimony, even though viewed as dubious, was used by the George W. Bush administration to justify the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

As Americans and their allies debate the wisdom of making military strikes against the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad, the phony pretext for the Iraq invasion is being dredged up by those fearful of being lured into another protracted Middle East war.

Asia Times roving Correspondent, Pepe Escobar has covered the Syrian conflict since it began almost two and a half years ago. He appeared on RT news to discuss Obama’s determination to attack Syria

Obama Set For Holy Tomahawk War

By Pepe Escobar

The ”responsibility to protect” (R2P) doctrine invoked to legitimize the 2011 war on Libya has just transmogrified into ”responsibility to attack” (R2A) Syria. Just because the Obama administration says so.

On Sunday, the White House said it had ”very little doubt” that the Bashar al-Assad government used chemical weapons against its own citizens. On Monday, Secretary of State John Kerry ramped it up to ”undeniable” – and accused Assad of ”moral obscenity”.

So when the US bombed Fallujah with white phosphorus in late 2004 it was just taking the moral high ground. And when the US helped Saddam Hussein to gas Iranians in 1988 it was also taking the moral high ground.

The Obama administration has ruled that Assad allowed UN chemical weapons inspectors into Syria, and to celebrate their arrival unleashed a chemical weapons attack mostly against women and children only 15 kilometers away from the inspectors’ hotel. If you don’t believe it, you subscribe to a conspiracy theory.

Evidence? Who cares about evidence? Assad’s offer of access for the inspectors came ”too late”. Anyway, the UN team is only mandated to determine whether chemical weapons were deployed – but not by who, according to UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon’s spokesman.

As far as the Obama administration and UK Prime Minister David ”of Arabia” Cameron are concerned – supported by a barrage of corporate media missiles – that’s irrelevant; Obama’s ”red line” has been crossed by Assad, period. Washington and London are in no-holds-barred mode to dismiss any facts contradicting the decision. Newspeak – of the R2A kind – rules. If this all looks like Iraq 2.0 that’s because it is. Time to fix the facts around the policy – all over again. Time for weapons of mass deception – all over again.

h/t Edger at Docudharma

Aug 04 2013

The Drone Wars: No, We Won’t ; Yes, We will

If I were the Secretary of State, I would resign.

Despite his statements to the Pakistan government that drone strikes were winding down, Secretary of State John Kerry was contradicted by his own department:

There were more drone strikes in Pakistan last month than any month since January. Three missile strikes were carried out in Yemen in the last week alone. [..]

Most elements of the drone program remain in place, including a base in the southern desert of Saudi Arabia that the Central Intelligence Agency continues to use to carry out drone strikes in Yemen. In late May, administration officials said that the bulk of drone operations would shift to the Pentagon from the C.I.A.

But the C.I.A. continues to run America’s secret air war in Pakistan, where Mr. Kerry’s comments underscored the administration’s haphazard approach to discussing these issues publicly. During a television interview in Pakistan on Thursday, Mr. Kerry said the United States had a “timeline” to end drone strikes in that country’s western mountains, adding, “We hope it’s going to be very, very soon.”

But the Obama administration is expected to carry out drone strikes in Pakistan well into the future. Hours after Mr. Kerry’s interview, the State Department issued a statement saying there was no definite timetable to end the targeted killing program in Pakistan, and a department spokeswoman, Marie Harf, said, “In no way would we ever deprive ourselves of a tool to fight a threat if it arises.”

And, we are not suppose to know about the secret CIA run drone base in Saudi Arabia that was first used for the operation that killed Anwar al-Awlaki. The Saudi government is opposed to US troops operating on their soil but the CIA assassins are OK.

A couple of questions:

Who is in charge at the State Department?

Does anyone in the Obama administration talk to each other?

Does the Obama administration really think the world is all that ignorant of what they are doing?

Who’s zooming who here?

May 01 2013

MA Special Senate Election

Massachusetts voters went to the polls yesterday in a special primary to select the Democratic and Republican candidates who will vie for the seat vacate by John Kerry when he became Secretary of State. This should be a no brainer but never underestimate the stupidity if the electorate.

Representative Edward J. Markey, who has spent almost four decades in the House, has cleared the first hurdle in his drive to become a United States senator, easily defeating a fellow congressman, Stephen F. Lynch, in Massachusetts’s Democratic primary on Tuesday.

On the Republican side, Gabriel E. Gomez, a former member of the Navy SEALs and a newcomer to politics, won a three-way primary. [..]

Mr. Markey, 66, who has one of the most liberal voting records in Congress, has promised to continue his fight for gun control, a clean environment, abortion rights and Mr. Obama’s health care law.

Mr. Gomez, 47, ran more on an outsider platform of institutional reform. He promised he would “reboot” Congress by imposing a pay freeze, term limits and a lifetime ban on lobbying.

This is from Charles P. Pierce at Esquire’s Political Blog:

Gabriel Gomez, a former SEAL and a businessman who, according to Tiger Beat On The Potomac, is campaigning for political office on the grounds that he is largely apolitical.

   “I’m running against two fine men … but combined, they’ve got 40 years of political experience. On the Democratic side, there are two guys with 60 years of combined political experience…I’ll wear it with a badge of honor that I have zero political experience.

He also has taken a position on Dzhokar Tsarnaev’s legal status on the grounds that he, Gomez, is not a lawyer.

   “I didn’t need to be a lawyer or a career politician to come to the conclusion right away that we need to hold this person as an enemy combatant,” said Gomez.

If you don’t understand how inexpertise can become a political boon, especially on the Republican side, you haven’t been paying attention for three decades. Of course, Gomez isn’t quite the political naif that he’s selling to the Commonwealth. He was the spokesman for the group of SEALS who accused the president of using the raid in which Osama bin Laden was killed for crass political purposes. He even made an ad to that effect, and the organization that sponsored it is raising money for his current campaign. He also wrote a letter to Governor Deval Patrick in which he auditioned to be appointed to the seat in question when John Kerry left to become Secretary Of State. This is called playing both ends against the middle. Guess what, Gabriel? You’re a politician. Ask around.

Yeah, thank the dog, he’s not a lawyer and his business, private equity. This should be interesting. The special election is June 25. Stand by, there is more to come.

Sep 02 2010

The Week in Editorial Cartoons – Of Kings and Wingnut Clowns, with Special Comment

Crossposted at Daily Kos and Docudharma

John Sherffius

John Sherffius, Comics.com (Boulder Daily Camera)

When I see a 9/11 victim family on television, or whatever, I’m just like, “Oh shut up” I’m so sick of them because they’re always complaining. — Glenn Beck

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Man is man because he is free to operate within the framework of his destiny.  He is free to deliberate, to make decisions, and to choose between alternatives.  He is distinguished from animals by his freedom to do evil or to do good and to walk the high road of beauty or tread the low road of ugly degeneracy. — Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.