American Elephants


President Obama is not Commander in Chief of Foreign Policy by The Elephant's Child

Alan M. Dershowitz wrote this week that  “Politicians should stop referring to the President of the United States as the Commander in Chief. And Barack Obama frequently refers to himself in those terms. Mr. Dershowitz has tried to clarify the situation:

But the president is not the Commander-in-Chief for purposes of diplomatic negotiations. This characterization mistakenly implies that President Obama — or any president — is our Commander, and that his decisions should receive special deference. This is a misreading of our constitution, which creates a presidency that is subject to the checks and balances of co-equal branches of the government. The president is only the commander in chief of “the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the militia of the several states, when called into the actual service of the United States.” This provision was intended to assure civilian control over the military and to serve as a check on military power.

The only people he is empowered to command are soldiers, sailors and members of the militia — not ordinary citizens.

This important limitation on the president’s power is highly relevant to the current debate about Congress having the authority to check the president’s decision to make the deal that is currently being negotiated with Iran. The Constitution is clear about this. The President is not the Commander-in-Chief of our nation’s foreign policy. When he is involved in “high-stakes international diplomacy,” his involvement is not as Commander-in-Chief of our armed forces, but rather as negotiator-in-chief, whose negotiations are subject to the checks and balances of the other branches.

As President, he cannot even declare war, though he can decide how a war should be fought after Congress declares it. He cannot make a treaty without the approval of 2/3 of the Senate. He cannot appoint Ambassadors without the consent of the Senate. And he cannot terminate sanctions that were imposed by Congress, without Congress changing the law. Were he the “Commander-in-Chief” of our country — as Putin is of Russia or as Ali Khamenei is of Iran — he could simply command that all of these things be done. But our Constitution separates the powers of government — the power to command — into three co-equal branches. The armed forces are different: power is vested in one commander-in-chief.

A president is the head of the executive branch, one of three co-equal branches. As head of the executive branch, he can negotiate treaties, agreements and other bilateral deals, but Congress has a say in whether to approve what the president has negotiated. If the deal constitutes a “treaty” within the meaning of the constitution, then it requires a formal ratification by congress. Executive agreements can be undone. Any impression that the president alone can make an enforceable and enduring deal with Iran regarding its nuclear weapons program is incorrect.

Alan M. Dershowitz is a Professor of Law emeritus from Harvard Law, and a frequent commenter on matters legal and constitutional.

 



Much of the World Envies Free Democratic Elections In Israel. by The Elephant's Child

We take regular elections for granted, as do most countries in the West, as does Israel, even if we find their multitude of political parties more confusing than enlightening. But in the Middle East many were envious that it even took place. Remember triumphant Iraqi’s holding aloft their purple-stained fingers to show that they had voted, and how the votes cast by Iraqi women shook the Middle East?

Evelyn Gordon writing at Contentions raises the issue:”Nowhere was this truer than among Palestinians who haven’t had an election in 10 years—not because Israel is preventing them from doing so, but because their own leadership is. And anyone who actually cares about the peace process ought to be far more worried by the Palestinian elections that didn’t happen than by the outcome of the Israeli one that did.”

A veteran Palestinian journalist from Ramallah summed up the prevailing sentiment succinctly. “We say all these bad things about Israel, but at least the people there have the right to vote and enjoy democracy,” he told Jerusalem Post reporter Khaled Abu Toameh before the election. “We really envy the Israelis. Our leaders don’t want elections. They want to remain in office forever.”

Ghanem Nuseibeh, an East Jerusalem Palestinian now living in Britain, put out an illuminating series of tweets throughout Election Day, including, “Over a million Arabs take part in Middle East’s most democratic elections today”; “The Arabs in Israel are the only Middle East Arab group that practices true democracy”; and “Israel is secure not because it will elect Bibi or Buji, but because of what it is doing today.” He was rooting for Isaac Herzog (“Buji”) and deplored Benjamin Netanyahu, but after acknowledging that his candidate had lost, he nevertheless tweeted, “Israel is the world’s most vibrant democracy” …. “If an Arab country had the same wide spectrum of political parties as Israel does, it would be fighting a civil war unseen in human history.”

Astoundingly, even Hamas in Gaza issued numerous tweets urging Israeli Arabs to vote for the Arab parties’ Joint List. One can only imagine what Gaza residents must have felt at seeing Hamas urge Palestinian Israelis to exercise a right Palestinians in Gaza are denied by their own Hamas-run government.

Evelyn Gordon adds: “If Western leaders are serious about wanting Israeli-Palestinian peace, working to rectify; the lack of Palestinian democracy would be far more productive than wringing their hands over the choices made by Israel’s democracy.”

The media is incorrectly trumpeting that Mr. Netanyahu said he wasn’t interested in any peace process or two-state solution with the Palestinians. He said not right now. When the Palestinians quit shooting rockets and making suicide attacks on Israel policy, and are willing to recognize the Israeli state, then they would be interested. in a two-state solution.

Gaza-v-Israel-copy

(Click to enlarge)



Obama: “Iran Can Be A Successful Regional Power” by The Elephant's Child

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President Obama, in his most direct response to the Republicans about their open letter to Iran, said that he’s “embarrassed for them.”

”For them to address a letter to the ayatollah — the supreme leader of Iran, who they claim is our mortal enemy — and their basic argument to them is: don’t deal with our president, because you can’t trust him to follow through on an agreement… That’s close to unprecedented,” he said in an interview with VICE News.

Back in 2008, the Bush administration, along with the “six powers” was negotiating with Iran about their country’s nuclear arms program. The Bush administration’s objective was to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. On July 20, the headline in the New York Times read “Nuclear Talks With Iran End in a Deadlock.” According to the Times, Iran responded with a written document that did not even address the main issue — demands that it stop enriching uranium. Iranian diplomats considered the issue nonnegotiable.

On June 3, Barack Obama had clinched the Democratic nomination. At some point around that date, but before the election, he secretly let the Iranians know that he would be easier to bargain with than the current president. Michael Ledeen reported on it in August:

The actual strategy is detente first, and then a full alliance with Iran throughout the Middle East and North Africa. It has been on display since before the beginning of the Obama administration. During his first presidential campaign in 2008, Mr. Obama used a secret back channel to Tehran to assure the mullahs that he was a friend of the Islamic Republic, and that they would be very happy with his policies. The secret channel was Ambassador William G. Miller, who served in Iran during the shah’s rule, as chief of staff for the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and as ambassador to Ukraine. Ambassador Miller has confirmed to me his conversations with Iranian leaders during the 2008 campaign. …

The central theme in Obama’s outreach to Iran is his conviction that the United States has historically played a wicked role in the Middle East, and that the best things he can do for that part of the world is to limit and withdraw American military might and empower our self-declared enemies, whose hostility to traditional American policies he largely shares.

So in the face of Iran’s struggle to obtain nuclear weapons, and the depredations of ISIS in the Middle East, Obama’s core strategy is to create a U.S.−Iranian alliance that makes Tehran the major regional power and leaves America as a friendly adviser. Assuming that we still exist after Iran develops nuclear weapons. Did you know that Iran has a major national holiday called “Death to America Day?” We have Christmas and the Glorious Fourth, they have “Death to America Day” celebrated on the day they took fifty-two American diplomats and citizens hostage, November 4, 1979, whom they held for 444 days.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani described his country’s diplomacy with the United States as an active “jihad” that is just as significant to Tehran’s advancement as the slew of new weapons and missiles showcased by the Islamic Republic’s military.

Rouhani praised the country’s military leaders for standing “against the enemy on the battlefield” and said as president, he would carry out this “jihad” on the diplomatic front.

Why does Mr. Obama assume that when Iranians have made their triumph over America into a national holiday, that they don’t mean it? The Shiia believe that the return of the hidden imam will bring about Armageddon followed by heavenly bliss for believers.

Foreign Minister Jarad Zarif said that Iran is the winner, whether the negotiations yield results or not. “The capital we have obtained over the years is dignity and self-esteem, a capital that cannot be retaken.”
Dignity and self-esteem come from sitting down at the same table to negotiate with the Great Satan America and the other major countries. To the people who were once the most advanced civilization in the world and controlled a vast empire and have fallen so far behind, that is a very big deal indeed. Not likely to be satisfied with minding the Middle East  and being “advised” by America.

ADDENDUM: Here are some links to articles about Iran that may help a little in trying to understand what is going on.

“Trust Iran Only As Far as You Can Throw It” by Michael Weiss @ Foreign Policy.com

“Obama’s Secret Iran Strategy” by Michael Doran in Mosaic

The Obama-Khamenei alliance” by Michael Ledeen in The Hill

“Obama’s Inner Nixon”by Michael Ledeen at PJMedia.

Follow Michael Ledeen at PJMedia. He writes often about Iran and the Middle East, and is deeply knowledgeable.



Iran Has Declared Victory in Its Contest With the West. by The Elephant's Child

Iran minister says sanctions must be lifted before nuclear agreement “Iran’s foreign minister and chief negotiator in the nuclear talks with the West declared victory for his country, stating that no matter how the negotiations end, Tehran has come out “the winner,” according to remarks made on Tuesday and presented in the country’s state-run press.”

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif spoke to the country’s Assembly of Experts, declaring that the nuclear negotiations have established Tehran as a global power broker.

“We are the winner whether the [nuclear] negotiations yield results or not,” Zarif was quoted as saying before the assembly by the Tasnim News Agency. “The capital we have obtained over the years is dignity and self-esteem, a capital that could not be retaken.”

I’m not sure that this is what President Obama has in mind as ‘his legacy.’

When the world’s most powerful nations began their effort to negotiate away Iran’s nuclear program in 2003, the Islamic Republic had 130 centrifuges. These machines convert uranium into a form that can set off a chain reaction. That chain reaction in turn can either create nuclear energy or be set off to explode the most destructive bomb the world has ever seen. By November 2013, when Iran reached a so-called interim accord with the United States and other nations to limit its nuclear program in exchange for the relaxation of tough sanctions, the Islamic Republic had deployed nearly 20,000 centrifuges.

Estimates suggest those centrifuges could produce enough weapons-grade uranium for one bomb in as little as 45 days—the so-called breakout period. They have already generated a stockpile of low-enriched uranium sufficient to produce as many as seven nuclear bombs. Some believe that Iran could convert a bomb’s worth of uranium into the payload of a crude nuclear device in perhaps a few months.

Negotiators could not reach a final deal by the initial November 2014 deadline, so extensions were devised. The new deadline comes at the end of June. Press reports and administration statements are providing us with a picture of what America and the other nations in the negotiations are now hoping to achieve. They are trying to use various technical means and human oversight to slow down Iran’s breakout time from a few months to one year and ensure that a deal lasts at least a decade. In exchange for these concessions, they appear ready to enshrine Iran as a threshold nuclear state.

This is what President Obama has in mind as his legacy. All the concessions fit a long-term pattern. “If a nuclear deal is imminent, that is largely because over the past 13 years of on and off negotiations, the great powers of the world have slowly gut surely given in to Iran’s demands. …Instead of ending the threat of Iranian nuclearization, negotiators have apparently limited their ambitions to an attempt to regulate it.” Instead of a “legacy” this can be more accurately called wishful thinking.

The core factor for the past 13 years has been the desire to avoid military confrontation at all costs — and especially during the Obama administration — the fear of even threatening it. With no credible threat, you get nothing, a pretend agreement, collapse, doesn’t matter. You can guess what the Obama response is —Bush’s fault. He left us with no options. Sorry, a president is confronted with the problems that exist. They don’t disappear by blaming your predecessor. You have to deal with what is, not cowardly kick the can on down the road. To understand the three-pronged strategies involved, read the whole thing here. It is an important discussion. As the administration lifted the sanctions, Iran, now able to support its nuclear program again, had refused to reduce its nuclear capacity. We now have no leverage, we gave it all away.

There are those among the Iran Watchers  who believe that the negotiations have worked and a deal could lead to “a more engaged Iran.” Obama’s goal of reconciliation has been constant. He ignored the Green Revolution in favor of a new relationship with Iran that would define regional order and speak to the brilliance of the Obama presidency.

On the other hand, the Green Revolution indicated that ordinary Iranians are not all that happy with the leadership of the Mullahs. Did we ignore that at our peril? I don’t know. The IAEA record with nuclear proliferation is — North Korea, Pakistan and India — all a surprise when they became nuclear states. Iran works closely with North Korea on its nuclear and missile programs.

The Middle East is a hotbed of clashing religious beliefs, including small sects currently being eliminated by ISIS. There is, however, a special danger in the Shiite doctrine held by the leaders of Iran. The return of the hidden Imam will bring the war that ends the world and creates heavenly bliss for believers. Bernard Lewis, America’s leading expert in Mideast Studies, wrote that during the Cold War, Mutual Assured Destruction was a deterrent that worked. Today it is an inducement.

James Woolsey, former director of the CIA and chairman of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies said:

Iran now is either very close to being able to field a nuclear weapon or it should be regarded as already having that capability. …

Consequently, even one nuclear warhead detonated at orbital altitude over the United States would black out the national electric grid and other life-sustaining critical infrastructures for months or years by means of the electromagnetic pulse it would create. The Congressional EMP Commission assessed that a nationwide blackout lasting one year could kill nine of 10 Americans through starvation and societal collapse. Islamic State-like gangs would rule the streets.

Just such a scenario is described in Iranian military documents.

I have no sense that the Obama administration has even considered such possibilities. The Arab nations are deeply worried.



Obama: I’ll Try To Make the Case to the American People After I Make a Deal With Iran by The Elephant's Child

155623786-550x377Obama said yesterday, that he will wait until after a nuclear deal with Iran is made to make the case to the American people that it is the right thing to do. Um, was I just saying something about political instincts?

President Obama was asked about the Republican letter to the Mullahs in Iran. Democrats are having a protracted hissy-fit that members of Congress would dare communicate with Iran, forgetting that Ted Kennedy, for example, went to Russia and tried to get them to help out in an American election, or Nancy Pelosi’s running off to Syria to schmooze with Bashar Assad. The 47 senators who signed the letter simply felt it necessary to inform the Iranians of how deals are made with this country, according to the Constitution, and that to be valid, they must be agreed to by Congress.

A member of the press asked Obama, can you comment on the Republican letter to Iran? Can  you comment on that?



A Question of Character. by The Elephant's Child

hillary clintonHillary’s greatest problem is that though she has a profound interest in politics, she has really lousy political instincts. That is a sense of the right thing to do and a sense for how one’s actions will appear to others. The Clinton administration was full of controversy, the travel office scandal erupted early, as did Hillary’s expectation of being Bill’s co-president.

What she learned instead was a defensiveness and self-protective attitude that led to lies and concealment. Bill had pretty good political instincts, and a good-old-boy, aw-shucks grin that served him pretty well. You would think that observing Lois Lerner and her e-mail scandal would have alerted Hillary to potential troubles, but instead it led her to have her own private server installed in her home. Secretiveness replaced openness. When you try to pretend openness as a protective pose — nobody believes you anyway. It’s too late.

Good political instincts would have prevented the whole catastrophe of Benghazi. Deposing Muammar Gaddafi, refusing security to the ambassadorial mission, denial of the nature of the terrorist attackers, refusing help to the embattled American contractors, and then the absurd attempt to blame it all on a short, dumb video, and then Hillary met the plane with the bodies returning to the United States, and assured mourning parents that they would get the guy who made the video.

Any careful read of Hillary’s history should prevent her from ever being considered as “the first woman president” which seems to be her aim. I don’t accept the idea of first of this sex, first of this ethnicity, first of this color. That is not what is important about a person’s qualifications, but rather their accomplishments and their character. Can we trust them with high office? Do they have a good understanding of American history and character? Do they have a good mind? Do they have good political instincts?  Trust it to the Left to always put the emphasis on the wrong things.



Iran Proceeds Resolutely On It’s Way, Ignoring the Talks. by The Elephant's Child

AP080923010567 Iran on Sunday unveiled their new cruise missile that it claimed would extend the Islamic Republic’s potential range to 2,500 kilometers, placing cities like Budapest, Warsaw and Athens within striking difference. Their intercontinental ballistic missiles are not part of the nuclear talks with Iran, we are told. Tehran has refused to include their growing missile-development program as part of the negotiations. It is not any part of the deal, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reminded us last week in his speech to Congress.

The Soumar missile, as it is known in Iran, is a copy of the Soviet Kh-55 which was stolen from the Ukraine in 2001 and apparently reverse engineered in Iran. It flies at low altitude and is thus hard for radar to detect. The payload is reportedly in the 200-kilogram range, not yet capable of delivering a nuclear device. It does, however raise the question of U.S. plans to station missile defense systems in Europe. Russia has long contended that Iranian missiles threaten neither Europe nor the U.S.. This is an interesting development, if it was taken without Russian consent.

Back when he as a mere candidate, Barack Obama said that diplomacy with rogue regimes was an important issue “The notion that somehow not talking to countries is punishment to them… is ridiculous,’ he declared in 2007. “If countries like Iran are willing to unclench their fist, they will find an extended hand from us,” he told Al-Arabiya. He has been so determined on a deal that he hasn’t let anything stand in the way — not Congress, not our allies, and especially not the facts.

Unfortunately, the State Department does not conduct after-action reports, forcing participants to confront their mistakes, like the Army does. The State Department has no clear metrics for such measurement. Michael Rubin notes that:

Too many American diplomats dismiss the need to consider mistakes. Instead, many are committed to the belief that talking is a cost-free, risk-free strategy. Testifying before the Senate in support of Obama’s outreach to Iran, Nicholas Burns, the second undersecretary of state for foreign affairs under George W. Bush, promised, “We will be no worse off if we try diplomacy and fail.”

We project our American understandings onto other countries with different cultures — who see entering into discussions as a weak response, and lifting the sanctions as complete surrender. Ignorance of an adversary’s true intentions can kill. Obama seems to believe that Iranians are reasonable people who really want the same things we do. Obama’s foolish rush into a deal with Iran would be disastrous.

Every U.S. administration has attempted to bring Iran into the family of nations in spite of its rhetoric and in spite of its actions. It’s hard for nations who yearn for peace to understand those that yearn for the apocalypse. In the  year before Obama agreed to talks with Iran, the Iranian economy had shrunk by 5.4 percent. To bring them to the table, Obama has released more than $11 billion to Iran. The only two times Iran has reversed course after swearing to a course of no compromises have been when Iran was close to collapse. Michael Rubin says — Only one thing will deter Iran: “forcing the regime to choose between its nuclear ambition and its survival.” Pretending to delay them for ten years is pathetic.

Does Obama think his deal will deter Iran? Does he believe that ten years will let him off the hook? Or does he simply have no understanding of the consequences of his actions nor consider the possibility that he might indeed be wrong.




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