American Elephants

Obama’s Iran Deal Is Vanishing In A Puff of Disbelief by The Elephant's Child

20131007_obama_iranflag_LARGE“Sometime this week, President Obama is scheduled to sign an executive order to meet the October 15 “adoption day” he has set for the nuclear deal he has made with Iran. According to the president’s timetable the next step would be “the start day of implementation,” fixed for December 25.” That’s Amir Taheri, writing in the New York Post. He added “But as things now stand, Obama may end up being the only person in the world to sign his much-wanted deal, in effect making a treaty with himself.”

Iran has not signed anything and has no plans for doing so. The JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) hasn’t been discussed at the Iranian Council of Ministers, nor has the government bothered to provide a Persian translation of the text (159 pages). The Ayatollah Khamenei said early on that they had no intention of signing a document with America.

Obama’s P5+1 group (Britain China, Germany, France and Russia) have apparently decided that Obama’s deal is really only about lifting sanctions and not enforcing anything. So that’s what they are doing. Putin is renewing his interest with Assad and propping up the Assad dictatorship in Syria, as well as starting delivery of S300 anti-aircraft missiles and is engaged in talks to sell Sukhoi planes to the Islamic Republic.

Britain has lifted the ban on 22 Iranian banks and companies that were reportedly involved with nuclear deals.  German trade with Iran has risen by 33 percent, and they are now Iran’s third-largest trading partner after China.

China has signed a preliminary accord to help Iran build five more nuclear reactors. France has sent its foreign minister and a 100-man delegation to negotiate projects to double Iran’s crude oil exports and negotiate other big business deals. Everybody regards the JCPOA as a green light for dropping sanctions. Indian trade us up 17%, and New Delhi is negotiating a massive investment in a rail-and-sea-hub on the Gulf of Oman.

Austrian, Turkish and UAE banks are lifting restrictions that were imposed on Iran because of their nuclear program. President Hassan Rouhani boasted that “the structures of sanctions built over decades is crumbling.”

They have no intention of shutting down their nuclear project.

The Iranian crowds are not shouting “Death to Britain, France and Germany. Death to India, Russia and China.” They are quite specific. It’s America and Israel. We do need to keep that in mind.

The Mullahs are certain that Obama is paralyzed by his fear of undermining the non-existent “deal.” They are encouraging Palestine in a new Intifada, working to choose the next president in Lebanon, and are calling openly for overthrow of the monarchy in Saudi Arabia.

Obama has hoped to engage Iran on other issues, and reportedly hoped to meet with the Ayatollah Khamenei in Tehran to shake his hand and, I guess, formally turn the Middle East over to Iran. Khamenei declared last week “any dialogue with the American Great Satan to be forbidden.”

There has been a ballistic missile test in Iran that apparently violates the Iran Deal.  Nevermind.

Obama has apparently moved into a fantasy world in which Putin is exhibiting his weakness, while Obama shows what real leadership is with his Climate Change initiatives.  Inside Iran, Obama’s moderate partners who would never actually use a nuclear weapon have doubled the number of executions and political prisoners. They crushed marches by teachers last week. Hundreds of trade unionists have been arrested and potential protesters are terrorized by a new “anti-insurrection” brigade.

President Obama appeared with Steve Kroft on 60 Minutes yesterday. It was an amazing interview. If you didn’t see it, a video and transcript are available here. It is very interesting.

What is Vladimir Putin Doing in Syria? by The Elephant's Child

Putin formalThe great mystery in the Middle East is what is Vladimir Putin doing? Condoleezza Rice, secretary of state from 2005 to 2009, and Robert M. Gates, defense secretary from 2006 to 2011, join to write an op-ed at Fox News

One can hear the disbelief in capitals from Washington to London to Berlin to Ankara and beyond. How can Vladimir Putin, with a sinking economy and a second-rate military, continually dictate the course of geopolitical events? Whether it’s in Ukraine or Syria, the Russian president seems always to have the upper hand.

Obama claimed it is a sign of Russian weakness. Europe is alarmed — they have quite enough on their plates with refugees from the Middle East, not all of them by any means from Syria. They are demanding, expecting far more than the Europeans are willing to give, and the people of Europe are beginning to act in opposition.

The fact is that Putin is playing a weak hand extraordinarily well because he knows exactly what he wants to do. He is not stabilizing the situation according to our definition of stability. He is defending Russia’s interests by keeping Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in power. This is not about the Islamic State. Any insurgent group that opposes Russian interests is a terrorist organization to Moscow. We saw this behavior in Ukraine, and now we’re seeing it even more aggressively — with bombing runs and cruise missile strikes — in Syria.

Putin is not a sentimental man, and if Assad becomes a liability, Putin will gladly move on to a substitute acceptable to Moscow. But for now, the Russians believe that they (and the Iranians) can save Assad. President Obama and Secretary of State John F. Kerry say that there is no military solution to the Syrian crisis. That is true, but Moscow understands that diplomacy follows the facts on the ground, not the other way around. Russia and Iran are creating favorable facts. Once this military intervention has run its course, expect a peace proposal from Moscow that reflects its interests, including securing the Russian military base at Tartus.

Russians don’t regret their foreign adventures. The last time was Afghanistan, and that didn’t happen until Ronald Reagan armed the Afghan mujahideen with stinger missiles. Putin is not responding to world disorder nor does he have any concern for the Syrian people or for Syria as a state.  He’s not trying to hold the Middle East together.

Vladimir Putin is reacting to circumstances in the Middle East and sees an opening created by American disinclination to fully engage.  He’s playing power politics. There will continue to be refugees until people are safe. Significant support for the Kurds, Sunni tribes and and Iraqi special forces is not, as Mr. Obama claimed, “mumbo jumbo.” It might save our current lack of strategy. We must do what we can to prevent an incident with Russian military activities — but we should never have gotten to a place where Russia is warning us to stay our of their way. The Russians intend to secure their interests in the Middle East.

Richard Cohen: The high cost of avoiding war in Syria

David Ignatius: The U.S. cannot pass Syria on to Putin

Charles Krauthammer: President Obama’s Syria Debacle

Peter Baker: Wary of Escalation in Syria, U.S. Is Waiting Out Putin’s Moves


How Is Our Strategy in the Middle East Working? “What Strategy?” by The Elephant's Child

From the opening episode of this year’s Homeland: “They’re there for one reason and one reason only, to die for the Caliphate and usher in a world without infidels. That’s their strategy and it’s been that way since the 7th century.”

Asked what he would do, Quinn suggests 200,000 soldiers on the ground and an equal number of doctors and teachers. Told that that is not feasible and asked for another solution Quinn says “Hit reset — pound Raqqah into a parking lot.”

(h/t: gerardvanderleun)

A Defense Bill? Why? Putin Will Take Care of ISIS, Won’t He? by The Elephant's Child

obama-angry-8-560x350Still desperately searching for a legacy, Obama has pledged to veto a defense bill unless Congress lifts its spending caps and increases non-defense spending allowing the transfer of terrorists from the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. Presumably, Mr. Obama intends to return a vacated Guantanamo to Cuba.

I am endlessly fascinated by the extent to which Democrats believe their own propaganda. Democrats were as shocked and frightened as everybody else when the World Trade Center towers were attacked by suicide pilots in captured airliners on 9/11.

Three months into the War on Iraq, President Bush declared the combat phase of the war over, and “the Democratic Party launched a national campaign against America’s commander in chief, claiming that he had lied to the American people to lure them into a war that was “unnecessary,” “immoral,” and “illegal.”¹

Until then, the conflict in Iraq had been supported by both parties and was regarded by both as a strategic necessity in the war begun by Islamic terrorists. Saddam Hussein had launched two aggressive wars in the Middle East, murdered over 300 thousand of his own people, used chemical weapons on Iraqi citizens, and started a nuclear weapons program that was only halted by his defeat in the Gulf War. Over the next ten years, he had defied 16 UN resolutions attempting to enforce the Gulf War truce. In September 2002, the Security Council issued another resolution that gave Saddam until December 7 to comply with the terms or face the consequences. He did not comply. Bush made the only decision possible and launched a preemptive invasion to remove the regime. Two days before the invasion Saddam was given the option of leaving the country and avoiding the war.

Removing Saddam Hussein had been official American policy since October 1998, when Bill Clinton, a Democratic president signed the Iraq Liberation Act. The decision to use force in Iraq was supported by both houses of Congress including a majority of Democrats in the Senate. In June 2003, just 3 months into the war, Democrats made a political decision to turn against the war and launched a five year campaign to delegitimize the war and portray the President and the Republican Party as the villains. The betrayal of the nation and its troops was unprecedented in our nation’s history. The compliant press signed on, with front page coverage of body counts, blowing up minor incidents like the misbehavior of low level guards at Abu Ghraib into a massive war crime. The New York Times and the Washington Post leaked classified documents which destroyed 3 major national security programs designed to protect Americans for terrorist attacks, and launched an anti-war movement.²

Even before the 2008 election, the man who would become the nation’s Attorney General told an audience during the campaign that the Bush administration had permitted abuses in fighting terrorism. He said there would have to be a “reckoning.” ³

In 2006, then Senator Barack Obama led a Democrat effort to defeat a debt ceiling increase. “Raising America’s debt limit,” he said at the time, “is a sign of leadership failure.” If Mr. Obama wants standing now to lecture on the subject, he might acknowledge that he made a grave error then.

Mr. Obama’s goal in his remaining time in office seems to be enlarging the federal government with a massive spending spree. It’s clear that he won’t attempt to rectify the enormous errors he has forced on the American people. And ISIS is shopping for a nuke. Why would we want a defense bill?

¹Take No Prisoners, David Horowitz, 2014
² Ibid
³ Imprimus, Hillsdale College

$500 Million. 5 Fighters. Obama Says It’s Not His Fault! by The Elephant's Child

damaged-buildings-syrian-civil-war1  When you draw a ‘red line,’ or ‘a line in the sand’ publicly in international terms, it is a very serious threat.  When you back down your reputation is permanently damaged. That is usually a lesson that one learns on the playground.

In a 2012 press conference in Stockholm, Obama said:

I have, at this point, not ordered military engagement in the situation. But the point that you made about chemical and biological weapons is critical. That’s an issue that doesn’t just concern Syria; it concerns our close allies in the region, including Israel. It concerns us. We cannot have a situation where chemical or biological weapons are falling into the hands of the wrong people.

We have been very clear to the Assad regime, but also to other players on the ground, that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized. That would change my calculus. That would change my equation.

Assad unleashed a sarin gas attack on Syrians in Ghouta just outside of Damascus. Obama avoided any action in Syria in order to help with the Iran negotiations. The image above is a neighborhood in Syria.

The answer was supposed to be investing $500 million in training some of the Syrian rebels to fight Assad’s army, but it actually yielded just four or five fighters.

So now President Obama and his foreign policy team are confused.Why is Vladimir Putin pouring troops and weapons into Syria? Secretary of State John Kerry has told his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov that it really isn’t helpful, and is making things worse. Russia has deployed a small number of tactical jets in Syria for the first time. Moscow is clearly preparing to help Assad cling to power. American pilots regularly fly surveillance flights and airstrike missions, the direct involvement of Russian forces could mean trouble.

Russia has been an ally of Syria since Sadat kicked the Soviets out of Egypt in 1972. Look at a map. Putin has re-claimed the Crimea and is simply asserting their influence in the Middle East. Putin’s ambition is always to avenge and reverse Russia’s humiliating loss of superpower status over 25 years ago.

Obama’s efforts to train an opposition army to fight the ISIS has been an abysmal failure. And an expensive failure. But the White House is not to blame. The finger, the White House says, should be pointed not at Mr. Obama, but at those who pressed him to attempt training Syrian rebels in the first place. The New York Times says:

In effect, Mr. Obama is arguing that he reluctantly went along with those who said it was the way to combat the Islamic State, but that he never wanted to do it and has now has been vindicated in his original judgment.

Mr. Trump simply says “Syria’s a mess, Why are we fighting ISIS in Syria? Let them fight each other and pick up the remnants.” A comment much in line with his simplistic answers to everything else.

Ryan C. Crocker who was ambassador to Afghanistan under Mr. Obama and ambassador to Iraq under George W. Bush said the president was right to think that a train-and-arm program would not work, but he either should have continued to resist or taken ownership rather than blame others.

How un-presidential that sounds — ‘We didn’t want to do it, we thought it was unsound but you made us do it,’ ” said Mr. Crocker. “It’s just indicative of their whole approach to Syria, which is not to have a policy. This is the worst thing they could say.”

Now refugees are flooding Europe. We don’t know who are refugees, who are migrants, and who are members of ISIS. What we are learning is that EU estimates are that four out of five migrants are not from Syria but from Afghanistan, Sudan, Iraq and even states farther removed. Mr. Obama’s response seems to be welcoming a hundred thousand or so refugees every year into the indefinite future.

Talking Tough! by The Elephant's Child

obama-angry-8-560x350Chinese President Xi Jinping is due for a visit to the United States shortly to be honored at a State Dinner.

Chinese government hackers have reportedly stolen commercial data from many U.S. companies, and personal data about many American government employees — including those with security clearances, plus private data from Americans’ health-care companies. Obama has done little or nothing to stop this coast-to-coast raiding of Americans’ property, but has instead worked elsewhere to boost the Democratic party’s political power.

In the Pacific, China’s government is building new island-bases in internationally disputed waters, while Obama focuses his foreign-policy efforts on completing his nukes-and-cash sellout to the deepening alliance of Iran and Russia.

Surely by now, we must have teams working in each government department to harden off their computer files to prevent hacking?The State Department’s lack of control (or concern) over the Secretary of State’s use of a personal computer might argue that there is something more to be desired.

The Daily Mail (UK) just published ( July 15) this “secret”  NSA map of cyber attacks from Chinese hackers  over the past five years. (Click to enlarge). Did the Daily Mail hack NSA to get their “secret map?”


Silicon Valley is the most attacked. Seattle has Boeing and Microsoft, but I can’t imagine what that one lonely dot on the NW coast is. Iron Springs Resort? The Office of Personnel Management hack got 22.1 million people’s Social Security records, everyone who has ever applied for a government job, and their personal references. The IRS hack in May gave them over 100,000 tax records.

President Obama is not taking this lying down. He refused to stay at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel during the U.N. General Assembly this month. (A Chinese conglomerate now owns the hotel.) And he’s really talking tough in a visit to Ft. Meade, speaking about Chinese cyber attacks.

We’ve made very clear to the Chinese that there are certain practices that they’re engaging in that we know are emanating from China and are not acceptable,” Obama said in an appearance at Ft. Meade. “And we can choose to make this an area of competition – which I guarantee you we’ll win if we have to – or, alternatively, we can come to an agreement in which we say, this isn’t helping anybody. Let’s instead try to have some basic rules of the road in terms of how we operate.”

China is really getting the ultimate threat in the Obama arsenal:  “These practices are not acceptable.” That should get their attention.

China responded:

“We hope that the U.S. stops its groundless attacks against China, start dialogue based on a foundation of mutual respect, and jointly build a cyberspace that is peaceful, secure, open and cooperative,” said a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman.  “Maintaining cybersecurity should be a point of cooperation rather than a source of friction between both China and the United States.”

ADDENDUM: During the President’s trip to Alaska, Chinese warships which had been exercising with the Russians in the Arctic traveled 3,000 miles out of their way to broach the 12 mile territorial limits just, by coincidence, when the President was on a 3 day visit to Alaska, and of course they knew his schedule because they had hacked the White House computers.
Violating another nation’s territorial limits just isn’t done, unless it is meant as a provocation. The U.S, brushed it off as unimportant.

A “Deal” But Not The Slightest Understanding by The Elephant's Child

Supreme-Leader-of-the-Islamic-Revolution-Ayatollah-Seyed-Ali-KhameneiObama seems to be feeling victorious. He has got the number of Democrats necessary to cancel Congress’ ability to override his veto of their efforts to derail his Iran deal. He envisions a triumphant trip to Tehran to shake the hand of the Supreme Leader and essentially turn  the Middle East over to the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s tender mercies. Some triumph!

The Ayatollah Ali Khamenei probably cannot bring himself to sign any agreement anyway, and he certainly would not shake the hated hand of an American. He said on Friday that there would be no deal unless the U.S. lifts sanctions immediately.

“If the sanctions are not going to be removed, then there will be no deal,” the “Supreme Leader” told Iran’s Assembly of Experts, in remarks broadcast on state-television.

“We insisted (since the beginning of the negotiations) that sanctions ought to be lifted, not suspended,” Iran’s dictator added, before threatening to triple uranium enrichment if the United States did not succumb to his demands.

Two thirds of the Senate oppose the Iran Deal. The American people oppose the ‘agreement by a 2–1 margin. This absurd situation is possible because the president refused to submit the Iran deal as a treaty for the Senate to ratify, as the Constitution requires. Ratification would have required a two-thirds vote, and Mr. Obama has not persuaded much of anyone that this agreement is in the national security interests of the United States. Sixty-four percent believe that President Obama and Secretary Kerry have misled the American people.

President Obama has insisted on bowing to the Iranian dictator, for unknown reasons, despite the fact that Iran is in a very difficult spot. The sanctions are pressing heavily. Iran’s break-even price for oil is $151. per barrel, and Brent crude is well under $50 — which I think means that they can’t sell their oil. And we politely become a doormat.

Former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, who also served as head of the CIA, said on Friday that “the Iran deal provides the United States with an opportunity to define a policy of strength, not ambivalence, in the Middle East.” He added “Let’s face it, given the situation in the Middle East, empowering Iran in any way seems like a dangerous gamble.” The deal, he says, is motivated by a fear of war, not sound strategy.

Panetta advocated several steps: •The deal should be enforced harshly. •The U.S. must keep a strong military presence in the region. •The U .S. should expand its intelligence capabilities. •The U.S. should build ties with regional allies.  Obama is opposed to all of these. The arguments are for someone with a spine.

From the American Enterprise Institute: “Iran’s interpretation of the nuclear deal is not an easy sell.”   Read the whole thing.


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