American Elephants


Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton on events in Iraq, Negotiations with Iran, and Life in the U.S. Senate. by The Elephant's Child

This young Senator is going to be President of the United States one day. This episode of Uncommon Knowledge was published on April 8, 2015.

ADDENDUM: President Obama was mightily annoyed by the letter Tom Cotton and 46 other Senate colleagues sent to the Ayatollah Khamenei simply explaining that any agreement reached by the president could be revoked by the next president or modified by Congress. Obama attempted to say such interference was uncalled for, and detrimental to the national good. Today, the Center for Security Policy sent a thank you letter to Senator Cotton and the other 46 senators containing the signatures of more than 150 security experts, including a former United States ambassador, multiple high-ranking military officials and other security experts. The letter read in part:

“Given the chimerical nature of the so-called framework agreement—which is, at the moment, being characterized in wildly different ways by the various parties, raising profound uncertainty about the nature and extent of the commitments Iran is making, their actual value in preventing an Iranian nuclear weapons program, the timing and extent of sanctions relief, etc.—the need for congressional oversight, advice and consent concerning any accord that flows from that agreement can no longer responsibly be denied.“

“It would be a serious affront to the Constitution and to the American people were an agreement of this potentially enormous strategic consequence not to be submitted for such action by the Congress.  Grievous insult would be added to injury should the United Nations Security Council instead be asked to approve it.”



Liberal Delusions, Sheer Incompetence, or Just A Misguided Search for A Legacy? by The Elephant's Child

la-fg-obama-castro-20150411Americans envision the coming storm with pure  dread, wondering why the Obama administration remains oblivious. Walter Russell Mead over at The American Interest zeroes in on the troubled mindset:

It’s hard to predict how events will play out, but the Obama Administration should have no illusions on one count: Iran must be taken seriously when it says it sees this negotiation as part of a struggle with an enemy. Liberal American diplomats often delude themselves that foreigners prefer them to conservative hardliners. They think that American adversaries like the Castro brothers or the Iranians will want to work cooperatively with liberals here, and help the American liberals stay in power in order to advance a mutually beneficial, win-win agenda. Thus liberals think they can get better deals from U.S. opponents than hardliners who, as liberals see it, are so harsh and crude in their foreign policy that they force otherwise neutral or even pro-American states into opposition.

What liberal statesmen often miss is that for many of these leaders it is the American system and American civilization that is seen as the enemy. … For the Iranians, it is our secular, godless culture combined with our economic and military power that they see as the core threat….

The mullahs in other words, don’t see blue America as an ally against red America. It is America, blue and red, that they hate and want to bring down. And while, like the Soviets during the Cold War, they may be willing to sign specific agreements where their interests and ours coincide on some particular issue, they do not look to end the rivalry by reaching agreements.

Things are not all that much different in Panama. Unfamiliar with history, he seems to think that helping Cuba to continue to abuse her people will be an accomplishment for his “legacy.” Raul Castro has already said that Cuba remains proudly communist, and he has no intention of changing the $20 a month allowance for the Cuban people. Obama’s opening up the relationship gives America nothing whatsoever, and expanded tourist revenue will simply further enrich the Castros — the Cuban people aren’t going to get any of it. So much for the Monroe Doctrine!

The days in which our agenda in this hemisphere so often presumed that the United States could meddle with impunity, those days are past,

Obama’s timing, as usual, is off, as is his understanding of events:

Over the last several years Hezbollah and its patrons in Iran have greatly expanded their operations in Latin America to the detriment of inter-American security and US strategic interests. Today, Hezbollah is using the Western Hemisphere as a staging ground, fundraising center, and operational base to wage asymmetric warfare against the United States. Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez and other anti-American governments in the region have facilitated this expansion by rolling out the welcome mats for Hezbollah and Iran. US policymakers must increase their attention to this problem, expand their assets in the region, and develop a comprehensive strategy to combat this threat in a sustained and meaningful way.

Hezbollah is closely involved with the Mexican Drug Cartel, teaching them tunneling skills, and transporting Hezbollah operatives into the United States across the Mexican border.

“There is not, nor has there ever been, an Iran deal. The “framework the president announced last week was just a stunt.As yet another negotiations deadline loomed with the president plainly unwilling to walk away despite Iranian intransigence,congress appears poised to end the farce by voting to stiffen sanctions. The “framework” is a feint designed to dissuade Congress and sustain the farce.” That’s Andy McCarthy. He adds:

Iran has built its foreign policy around the goal of “Death to America” for the last 36 years. …With such a rogue state, there is only one negotiation a sensible nation — particularly the world’s most powerful nation — can have. You tell them that until they convincingly disavow their anti-American stance, cease their support for terrorism, release American prisoners, and acknowledge Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state, that there is no point in discussing anything else.



“You Can’t Sell The Cow and Still Have the Milk” by The Elephant's Child

U.S. Secretary of State Kerry speaks about the Ukraine crisis after his meetings with other foreign ministers in Paris

Obama’s sales pitch for his”framework” of a nuclear deal with Iran has not met with universal plaudits and applause. Partially because Iran doesn’t agree in the slightest with what the U.S. delegation claims to have been agreed upon. They seem to have a different idea entirely, which begins with the prompt end to all sanctions and continues with going to work on building their desired weapon without interference. Big words and big ideas slowly turn into farce.

Less than a week following the framework of a nuclear deal with Iran that allows the Islamic Republic to continue operating core aspects of its program, the State Department is looking for a new training course on how to negotiate.

The agency released a solicitation for “Negotiations” on Wednesday, revealing that the State Department is seeking a class for U.S. diplomats on “making and receiving concessions wisely.”

The overall course teaches the essential skills, knowledge, and attitudes for U.S. diplomats to succeed in any of 275 overseas posts performing the full spectrum of political and economic work,” the solicitation said. “This module will focus on the complex art of negotiating across diverse cultures to find common ground for advancing mutual interests.”

One might suggest that their timing was a little bit off, or make reference to “locking the barn door after the horse has been stolen.”. It would all be really funny if it weren’t so desperately important.



Marie Harf Strikes Again: “Sort of Big Words and Big Thoughts” of Kissinger and Shultz. by The Elephant's Child

Former, and very distinguished. Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and George P. Shultz wrote a joint op-ed for the Wall Street Journal yesterday.  titled “The Iran Deal and Its Consequences: Mixing shrewd diplomacy with defiance of U.N. resolutions, Iran has turned the negotiation on it head.”

Debate regarding technical details of the deal has thus far inhibited the soul-searching necessary regarding its deeper implications. For 20 years, three presidents of both major parties proclaimed that an Iranian nuclear weapon was contrary to American and global interests—and that they were prepared to use force to prevent it. Yet negotiations that began 12 years ago as an international effort to prevent an Iranian capability to develop a nuclear arsenal are ending with an agreement that concedes this very capability, albeit short of its full capacity in the first 10 years.

Mixing shrewd diplomacy with open defiance of U.N. resolutions, Iran has gradually turned the negotiation on its head. Iran’s centrifuges have multiplied from about 100 at the beginning of the negotiation to almost 20,000 today. The threat of war now constrains the West more than Iran. 

I’m sure being a spokesperson for the State Department is a difficult job. They are expected to repeat the talking points issued and to support them, presumably without learning any contradictory facts, and to be able to handle any awkward questions from attending media people. So,in the natural course of things, State Department spokesperson Marie Harf was asked about the op-ed by the “deans of diplomacy.” She said she heard “a lot of sort of big words and big thoughts, but I didn’t hear a lot of alternatives about what they would do differently.”

Under the new approach, Iran permanently gives up none of its equipment, facilities or fissile product to achieve the proposed constraints. It only places them under temporary restriction and safeguard—amounting in many cases to a seal at the door of a depot or periodic visits by inspectors to declared sites. The physical magnitude of the effort is daunting. Is the International Atomic Energy Agency technically, and in terms of human resources, up to so complex and vast an assignment?”

“In a large country with multiple facilities and ample experience in nuclear concealment, violations will be inherently difficult to detect. Devising theoretical models of inspection is one thing. Enforcing compliance, week after week, despite competing international crises and domestic distractions, is another.”

I wonder if Hart knew who the two former Secretaries were, and what they accomplished? “Big words and big thoughts?” The attendant reporters were clearly not impressed.



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.



Making the World a Little More Dangerous, One Step at a Time. by The Elephant's Child
June 6, 2010, 10:13 pm
Filed under: Israel, Middle East, Terrorism | Tags: , ,

(click to enlarge)

What’s going on with Israel?  World governments are busily condemning Israel over the flotilla incident in which Israeli soldiers, boarding a ship attempting to breach the completely legal blockade of Gaza, were attacked, beaten, and in danger of their lives.

The lead ship of the flotilla, a Turkish ship — the Mavi Marmara — manned by “peace activists” who advertised themselves as “adhering to nonviolence and nonviolent resistance on word and deed at all times.” The “peace activists” were waiting with knives, metal clubs, slingshots with steel balls and fire bombs.  All the usual people were shocked! shocked!  A deliberate provocation, staged with all sorts of planning by the phony peace activist pals of Hamas, turned into the hysterical headlines the organizers were looking for.

As Victor Davis Hanson said:

Turkey thought that the Gaza flotilla would be yet another clever way of confronting Israel: They would hype the hoped-for “overreaction,” then posture as regional defender of the faith to the world’s outraged Muslims. However, as more details of the incident emerge, more and more suspicion is falling on Turkish interests that seem to have gone out of their way to stage a violent encounter in order to showcase Turkey’s new Mideast role.

At the Wall Street Journal, Daniel Henninger added:

The world’s peoples may pay soon for their leaders’ display of such a disproportionate double standard. Recall that the other, recent instance when the world’s governments deployed their collective authority and wrath was last June, against Lilliputian Honduras. The conclusion is inescapable: The smaller the problem, the larger the world powers’ output of hot air. But if a problem is large or difficult—especially if the problem is nuclear—they blink and deflate, and will do so repeatedly. Example: It emerged this week that the International Atomic Energy Agency believes Iran is pursuing higher-enriched uranium and “the development of a nuclear payload for a missile.” The world yawns. Or hides.

Now Iran is threatening to send their Revolutionary Guard navy to safeguard another flotilla attempting to break the blockade.  The completely legal blockade conducted by Israel and Egypt.  Egypt too is threatened by Hamas.  The United States appears weak and indecisive, and enemies are always ready to take advantage of weakness.  Obama sort of said he would stand with Israel, while offering undeserved condolences to Turkey and insisting on an investigation.  This is what other nations understand as weakness.  And belligerents often overestimate weakness.

The present government of Turkey, led by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan,  is attempting a new Mideast role, reestablishing its long ago role as leader of the Ottoman empire.   The world’s powers feel free to pile on relatively small isolated nations.  They “find it easier to be blowhards than statesmen,” said Dan Henninger.  “And that means we have a problem.”



From Iran: A Rant or A Warning? by The Elephant's Child
May 16, 2010, 5:27 pm
Filed under: Foreign Policy, Islam, Middle East, Terrorism | Tags: , , ,

From the Associated Press, dated May 15, 2010.

TEHRAN, Iran —A radical cleric called Saturday for the creation of a “Greater Iran” that would rule over the entire Middle East and Central Asia, in an event that he said would herald the coming of Islam’s expected messiah.

Ayatollah Mohammad Bagher Kharrazi said the creation of what he calls an Islamic United States is a central aim of the political party he leads called Hezbollah, or Party of God, and that he hoped to make it a reality if they win the next presidential election.

Mr. Kharrazi’s comments reveal the thinking of a growing number of hard-liners in Iran, many of whom have become more radical during the post-election political crisis and the international standoff over the country’s nuclear program.  Mr. Kharrazi, however, isn’t highly influential in Iran’s clerical hierarchy and his views don’t represent those of the current government.

Mn hmm.  And U.S. Attorney General Erik Holder just cannot bring himself to say the words “Radical Islam.”  Just fills you with confidence.  Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano blames Americans (those violent tea party types) first, and calls 9/11 a “Man-Caused Disaster.” A disaster it was, but this kind of language — weak, pandering, politically correct, simply avoids not just clear thinking, but thought.  What it says to the rest of the world is”weak.” And that is not a good message to send.

We have an administration that cannot seem to grasp the reality of Islamic radicalism, pressing for month after month for talks with a government that has been leading their followers in shouts of “Death to Israel” and “Death to America” steadily ever  since 1979.  Even fairly obvious clues just don’t register with some people.

Still, even President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Thursday that he expects the government which follows his to be “ten times more revolutionary.”




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