Today’s actions from Turkey have validated an article I wrote on October 19, 2019, concerning the out lash from media pundits, military strategists, and foreign policy experts against the Trump administration for pulling US troops out of northern Syria. The Wall Street Journal posted an article earlier today entitled, “Turkey Launches Strikes on Syria After Military Personnel Are Killed: President Erdogan pledges to defend Turkey’s Interests, but Monday’s reprisals could shake his fragile alliance with Russia.”
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Earlier this week, the Wall Street Journal’s Editorial Board released an Op-Ed warning that the Trump Administration had committed a grave mistake pulling US forces from Northeast Syrian last week. I beg to differ. Erdogan’s invasion of Kurdish territory was, rather, a strategic concession for future US geopolitical dominance in the Near east.
The Journal writes that “wouldn’t it be easier simply to tell Mr. Erdogan . . . that the U.S. wouldn’t tolerate a Turkish invasion against the Kurds and would use air power to stop it?” Yes, a simpler answer would have been to threaten a NATO ally that it would bomb the shit out of it (coining Trump’s obsessively aggressive foreign policy strategies in Syria). However, let us not be so naïve. The Turks have been a handful for the US, to say the absolute very least, and have exacerbated the discontent between the two nations by recently purchasing S-400 missiles from Russia. That procurement of Russian defense technology alarmed NATO allies, but the alliance, which was created to deter Russian aggression, delivered no physical response. The basic fact is plain as day: the US was never going to change Erdogan’s mind about his fancy with Mr. Putin. But, Trump’s decision to pull-out of Syria has placed Putin in a very big bind and may force Turkey in a difficult situation as well.
Now, Russia must control the situation in Syria. They must tip-toe around the idea of a NATO ally invading one of Russia’s only true allies in the Middle-East. If Syrian forces engage with Turkey, NATO members might step in to defend the Turks, but they also wouldn’t be obligated to do so. This leaves Russia with a hand tied behind its back, and pressures Russia to drastically deescalate tensions between Syria and Turkey. Russia cannot afford to lose its potential ally in Turkey because that relationship can provide a golden brick road to the flank of Europe. If Putin is successful in tempting Turkey to disavow the US and its NATO allies, Russian naval operations in the Mediterranean will expand. But, if Erdogan does not stop his current advance in Syria, Putin must disengage and allow the Turks to press forward in order for his long-term geopolitical strategy with Erdogan to pan out.
Meanwhile, the United States awaits the result, as a spectator. Sitting on the sidelines is not a typical US posture, but a supposedly welcoming one to its enemies, according to just about every journalist and expert on foreign relations. The pundits are claiming that US withdrawal will increase the strength of its enemies. In fact, it does the opposite. When the United States enters an arena, it makes moves and other nations react or respond. By stepping aside to grab some popcorn, the United States placed a bet that Russia would be slow to react, that Turkey would remain aggressive, and that Syria would complain to Putin that Russian forces must defend the region. That’s exactly what is taking place and what, most likely, was never going to occur had the United States remained.
This doesn’t create a vacuum; this is the United States creating a new Fortnite map and allowing belligerents to fight it out amongst themselves all because it knows the outcome. The winner will be Turkey. The loser will be Russia. Russia will not strike against Turkey because of its long-term goals of weakening US military power. In return, Turkey will be emboldened and appear more powerful and Syria will cower and concede its territory. Thus, Putin has a pissed off ally and a more powerful foe.
Let’s also take this from a different angle to dial in a more realistic hypothetical. Had the United States remained, and had Trump threatened air strikes on Turkey as the WSJ suggested, would that have stopped Erdogan’s advance? It certainly would not for a couple different reasons, but primarily because the United States would not attack a NATO ally (because Russia would win in that case). The consequence would be a public humiliation of US power. US troops would die, and they would be forced to give up their post to a NATO ally. This result would be the so called “present” Russia would receive if the United States had remained there. Really, there was no alternative course of action. It was the best play that the United States had, and its secondary consequences will benefit the United States posture in the Middle East.
Austin Lucas is a writer and contributor focusing on US geopolitical strategy, Middle East affairs, and Chinese aggression.
Israeli leaders have agreed to a framework for a Palestinian state that would see the new country more than double in size with its capital located in Eastern Jerusalem, according to information provided by the White House.
The Trump administration unveiled on Tuesday its long-anticipated plan to achieve peace between Israel and the Palestinians. The plan, which White House officials say has already been agreed to by Israel, would see the Jewish state freezing for four years all construction in contested territories that could be used to form a new Palestinian state.
Under Trump’s plan, a Palestinian state “will more than double the size of the land currently used by the Palestinians” and include areas in Eastern Jerusalem. Jerusalem will remain Israel’s capital city and under its control, according to the White House.
“Israel has now agreed to terms for a future Palestinian State,” the White House announced in informational materials outlining the peace framework. “Israel has agreed to a four-year land freeze to secure the possibility of a two-state solution.”
“President Trump secured agreement from both Prime Minister Netanyahu and opposition leader Lieutenant General Benny Gantz to come to Washington, where they agreed to use this Vision as a basis for negotiation,” the White House wrote in the latest materials outlining the new plan. “For the first time in this conflict, President Trump has reached an understanding with Israel regarding a map setting forth borders for a two-state solution.”
Under the plan, which has already been dubbed dead on arrival by leading Palestinian factions, “Jerusalem will stay united and remain the capital of Israel, while the capital of the State of Palestine will be Al-Quds and include areas of East Jerusalem.”
“Beyond territory, the Vision provides for Palestinian use and management of facilities at the Haifa and Ashdod ports, Palestinian development of a resort area on the north shore of the Dead Sea, and continued Palestinian agricultural activity in the Jordan Valley,” the White House materials continue.
The plan envisions a scenario where “neither Palestinians nor Israelis will be uprooted from their homes,” though it remains unclear how this goal will be achieved on the ground.
The White House emphasized portions of the plan that focus on protecting Israeli security interests. To this end, unlike past proposals, the plan “does not ask Israel to take additional security risks and enables Israel to defend itself by itself against any threats.”
U.S. ambassador to Israel David Friedman told reporters the plan marks “a huge advancement in the peace process.”
Maps showing a future Palestinian state in detail will soon be released by the White House, Friedman said. He described the plan as “a realistic two-state solution.”
Friedman said the plan is unique in that it “mitigates many of the risks that were never solved in past negotiations” between the two sides by enhancing “the territorial footprint of [the] Gaza [Strip]” without impacting Israeli security concerns.
The Palestinian state will be demilitarized and Israel will maintain security responsibility west of the Jordan River, a key area.
“Over time, the Palestinians will work with United States and Israel to assume more security responsibility as Israel reduces its security footprint,” the White House said.
Major religious sites in and around Jerusalem will continue to be maintained by Israel with the longstanding carve outs for Muslim holy sites remaining in place.
“The special and historic role of the King of Jordan with regard to the Muslim Holy Shrines in Jerusalem will be preserved,” the White House said. “All Muslims are welcome to peacefully visit al-Aqsa Mosque.”
Historically, efforts to prevent dead set regimes from acquiring nuclear weapons have been marked mostly by embarrassing diplomatic fiascos. The chronology of every state-sponsored nuclear program began with developing the necessary human resources to facilitate domestic plutonium production. In phase two, while diligently laboring on enriching uranium to the critical mass, all these states denied vehemently their intentions to become nuclear powers by emphasizing their governments inherently peaceful nature. In phase three they presented the rest of the world with a fait accompli, namely, the nuclear bomb.
Thus far, the Islamic Republic of Iran has followed the same well-trodden path. Most importantly, from its inception, the Mullahcracy has been, even within the Islamic Ummah, an international pariah. Isolated and therefore devoid of friends and allies, the two Ayatollahs, the late Ruhollah Mostafavi Musavi Khomeini and the current one Seyed Ali Hosseini Khamenei, have decided to acquire the ultimate weapon for self-preservation.
Therefore, the quest for a nuclear power Iran has started immediately after the fall of the Shah in early 1979. In 1987, the theocratic regime acquired technical schematics for building a P-1 centrifuge from the Pakistani Abdul Qadeer Khan network. The conversion of the Test Readiness Review that was done in 1987 by Argentina’s Applied Research Institute allowed the regime enrichment to less than 20%. In 2002, the National Council of Resistance on Iran, the political wing of the so-called Mujahideen-e Khalq (MeK), revealed that Iran already built two secret nuclear facilities at Natanz and Arak respectively. More ominously, thousands of documents seized by Israeli intelligence agents during a raid of a nondescript hanger in Shorabad district of Tehran in 2018, revealed that the regime never abandoned its clandestine quest for building a nuclear bomb. Among the documents released to the public, one that originated in 2002, contains a proposal for “warhead”, which were given the green light by the regime’s top nuclear official Moshen Fakhrizadeh. His hand-written remark in Farsi in the top left corner of the document reads in English translation: “In the name of God. Right now in a treatment process. Please archive the original script of the document. Fakhrizadeh.”
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) had its own doubts about Tehran peaceful intentions and sincerity. As a result, the Board of Governors adopted a resolution on September 12, 2003, calling on Tehran to suspend all enrichment as well as all reprocessing-related activities. Moreover, the same resolution called upon the Iranian regime to declare all material relevant to its uranium enrichment program. Finally, the Board demanded that the regime allow the IAEA inspectors to undertake unencumbered environmental sampling at any location. The deadline for compliance was set at October 31, 2003.
In its reply, the regime seemingly indicated its readiness to comply. On October 21, 2003, Tehran agreed to meet the IAEA demands by the designated date. However, on June 18, 2004, the IAEA complained of Iran’s non-compliance. Again, Tehran notified the IAEA on November 14, 2004, that it will suspend enrichment-related activities for the duration of talks with France, Germany, and the United Kingdom. In this manner, Tehran prevented the IAEA Board of Governors to notify the UN Security Council. On February 27, 2005, the Russian Federation and the Islamic Republic of Iran concluded an agreement to supply fuel for the nuclear reactor in Busher. A provision of this agreement mandated that Iran shall return the spent nuclear fuel to Russia. Next, Tehran announced on August 8, 2005, that it has commenced the production of uranium hexafluoride at its Isfahan facility. Following this announcement, the United States, France, and Germany froze negotiations with Tehran. Shortly thereafter, on September 24, 2005, the IAEA adopted a resolution declaring Tehran in noncompliance with the previous safeguard agreement. Most glaringly, this resolution stated that Iran’s nuclear activities combined with the absence of their peaceful nature are within the competence of the UN Security Council, opening the way for future referrals.
Sure enough, on February 4, 2006, the Board of Governors of the IAEA referred the Islamic Republic of Iran to the UN Security Council. Pursuant to the resolution, the Board of Governors deemed it “necessary for Iran” to immediately suspend its enrichment related activities, reconsider the construction of the Arak heavy-water reactor, ratify the additional protocol to its safeguards agreement, and fully cooperate with the IAEA’s investigations. As a result, Tehran informed the IAEA on February 6, 2006, that it will “voluntarily” implement the additional protocol and other non-legally binding inspection procedures. Nonetheless, on April 11th, Tehran announced that it successfully enriched uranium for the first time to 3.5%. The enriched uranium was produced at the Natanz pilot enrichment plant. On June 6th, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and the Federal Republic of Germany (the P5+1) proposed a framework agreement to the Islamic Republic of Iran. Then, on July 31st, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 1696, elevating the IAEA’s demand for Tehran to suspend all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities legally binding for all member states. Tehran responded on August 22nd. On the one hand, it rejected the demand to suspend enrichment, but on the other hand, added that the resolution contained “elements which may be useful for a constructive approach.”
As a reply and for the first time, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1737 on December 23rd, imposing sanctions on the lslamic Republic of Iran for its refusal to suspend its enrichment-related activities.
According to the resolution, states were prohibited from transferring sensitive nuclear-and missile-related technology to Tehran. Moreover, the states were obligated to freeze the assets of ten Iranian organizations and twelve individuals for their involvement in Iran’s nuclear and missile programs.
In 2007, Tehran continued to defy the international community. Thus, the UN Security Council again unanimously adopted Resolution 1747, demanding that the Islamic Republic of Iran suspend uranium enrichment. Three rounds of talks followed. These talks brought forth on August 21st, a so-called “work plan.” This work plan mandated that Tehran must answer specific and long-standing questions about its nuclear activities, including activities suspected of being related to nuclear weapons developments. To make the point, the Bush administration made public on December 3rd, an unclassified version of the National Intelligence Estimate on Iran’s nuclear program. While stating “with high confidence” that Tehran stopped pursuing its nuclear weapons program approximately around the fall of 2003, it could not state with the same degree of confidence that Tehran had not resumed those activities as of mid-2007. More alarmingly, the National Intelligence Estimate concluded that the Islamic Republic of Iran was technically capable of producing sufficient quantities of weapon-grade
The year 2008 witnessed another UN Security Council Resolution. Resolution 1803, added new sanctions to the previous ones. Among its other provisions, it broadened the blacklist with seven new entities and thirteen more individuals. In conjunction with this resolution, the P5+1 states also proposed that Tehran shall freeze its enrichment activities in exchange for no more sanctions.
The year 2009 was a significant one for the international community. First, Tehran announced on February 2nd its successful launch of a satellite. On
September 25th, the Obama administration revealed the existence of a second secret uranium enrichment facility at Fordow, in the mountains near the holy city of Qom. On October 1st, the Obama administration agreed the supply 20% enriched uranium in exchange for Iran removing from the country the majority of its 3.5% enriched uranium. The so-called “fuel swap”, the stupid brainchild of the Obama administration, was never fully implemented by Iran.
The year 2010 saw the same old pattern. Tehran started to produce 20% enriched uranium on February 9th. On May 17th, diplomacy kicked in once more. A joint declaration by Brazil, Turkey, and the Islamic Republic of Iran tried to breathe fresh air into the old fuel swap proposal. The United States, France, and the Russian Federation rejected the proposal on the grounds that Tehran stockpiled more 3.5% enriched uranium than it is willing to give up and that Tehran systematically misled the IAEA, the UN Security Council, and everybody else concerning its additional enrichment activities. On June 9th, another UN Security Council resolution followed. Resolution 1929 significantly expanded sanctions against the theocratic regime. It also banned Tehran from nuclear-capable ballistic missile tests. Finally, the resolution imposed an arms embargo on the transfer of major weapons systems to Tehran. On June 24th, the U.S. Congress adopted the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act, tightening U.S. sanctions against legal entities investing in Iran’s energy sector, and imposing new sanctions on legal entities that sold refined petroleum to Tehran. On July 26th, the European Union joined the United States by agreeing to impose its additional sanctions on Tehran. On September 16th, the Obama administration decided to act. The Stuxnet computer virus attacked the Natanz enrichment plant.
The year 2011 commenced on a negative note. The January 21st and 22nd meeting in Istanbul between the P5+1 group and the Islamic Republic of Iran ended without any real results, because the latter laid down two unacceptable conditions. First, Tehran demanded that the P5+1 group recognize its right to enrich uranium. Second, that sanctions must be lifted unconditionally. On May 8th, the Bushehr nuclear power plant started operations and, according to Russia’s Atomstroyexport, it successfully achieved a sustained chain reaction. On the same day, Tehran announced that it intends to triple the rate of 20% enriched uranium production, utilizing more advanced centrifuge designs. In addition, it declared that production will be shifted to the Fordow plant. On July 12, Catherine Ashton, the EU foreign policy chief sent a letter to the chief negotiator of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Saeed Jalili, proposing “meaningful discussions on concrete confidence building steps” to address the international community’s concerns about Iran’s nuclear “ambitions.” On November 8th, the IAEA published a report underlying the concerns of the organization about Tehran’s nefarious intentions. To wit, on the last day of the year, the U.S. Congress passed legislation to empower the federal government to sanction foreign banks doing business with the Central Bank of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
The year 2012 began with a sour note for Tehran. The European Union decided in early January to ban all member states from importing Iranian oil, beginning on July 1, 2012. Moreover, the decision also barred member countries from providing the legal protection and indemnity insurance for tankers carrying Iranian oil. The intervening months between March and August were spent on arduous negotiations between the P5+1 group and Tehran with barely any meaningful progress. In August, the IAEA highlighted the futility of diplomacy with Tehran. On the 30th of this month, it was reported that Tehran produced more 20% enriched uranium than was needed to fuel its research reactor. The IAEA upped the ante on November 16th, by stating that Tehran was busy installing more centrifuges at Natanz and Fordow.
The year 2013 was consumed by slowly progressing negotiations between the P5+1 group and the Islamic Republic of Iran at a variety of locations.
On January 9, and January 10, 2014, the member states of the P5+1 and the Islamic Republic of Iran met a third time in Geneva, Switzerland, to discuss the implementation of the Joint Plan of Action, agreed upon on December 30-31, 2013, in the same place. As a result, the parties agreed that the implementation will begin on January 20th. Simultaneously, the IAEA certified that Tehran in compliance with the provisions of the Joint Plan of Action. Accordingly, the United States and the European Union waived the specific sanctions listed in the November 24, 2013, deal and also released a schedule of payments for Tehran to receive the oil money that various states withhold.
Subsequent meeting mainly in Vienna, Austria, between February and July 2014, involved negotiations concerning a comprehensive nuclear agreement. The rest of the year was consumed with more negotiations. In January 2015, negotiations continued in Geneva. In February, additional negotiations took place in Vienna.
Ominously enough, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu opined in his speech before a joint session of the U.S. Congress that any Iran deal “would all but guarantee that Iran gets (nuclear) weapons, lots of them.” In the same vein, Senator Tom Cotton of Kansas and forty five of his colleagues signed an open letter to the Parliament of the Islamic Republic of Iran. They warned, as it turned out prophetically, their counterparts that any agreement reached without Congress’s approval could be revised by the next president “with the stroke of a pen.”
During the month of March, more negotiations took place in Lausanne, Switzerland. Finally, on April 2, 2015, the parties announced that they reached an agreement on the general framework of a comprehensive deal.
Again, the Foreign Relations Committee of the U.S. Senate unanimously passed a resolution that required the president to submit any agreement to Congress for a vote. This resolution was approved by the full Senate on May 7, 2015, by a vote of 98-1.
On July 14, 2015, the member states of the P5+1 and the Islamic Republic of Iran signed the nuclear deal, officially named the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in Vienna, Austria. Commonly known as the Iran Nuclear Deal or simply Iran Deal, it mainly dealt with enrichment-related activities. Tehran’s stockpile of low-enriched uranium was reduced by 97%, from 10,000.00 kg to 300.00 kg. This reduction had to be maintained for fifteen years. For the same period, Tehran was ordered to limit its enrichment of uranium to 3.67%. Yet, after fifteen years, all physical limits on enrichment will be removed. Moreover, for ten years Tehran must put two-thirds of its centrifuges in storage, with enrichment capacity being limited to the Natanz plant. There, the centrifuges must be the type IR-1. The IR-2M centrifuges must be stored in Natanz and monitored by the IAEA. Finally, Tehran shall not build any new uranium-enrichment facilities for the next fifteen years.
On the other hand, Tehran was allowed to continue its research and development work on enrichment, but only in Natanz. The Fordow facility was barred from enriching uranium for fifteen years.
To monitor the implementation of the JCPOA, a comprehensive and multilayered inspection regime was set up. However, prior to January 16, 2016, several exemptions were granted to Tehran that weakened from the get go the severity of the enrichment provisions.
Sanctions in the form of “snap back” provisions were also included in the JCPOA. Specifically, the deal established a “dispute resolution” process. Accordingly, a Joint Commission was created to monitor implementation. If the Joint Commission cannot resolve the dispute, the UN National Security Council had to be notified. Finally, future reinstatement of the sanctions allowed Tehran to leave the JCPOA altogether.
After fifteen years, Tehran will be free to do whatever it wants.
Criticism of the JCPOA both within Iran and in the rest of the world was instantaneous. Benjamin Netanyahu called the Iran nuclear deal a “historic mistake.” Addressing President Barack Obama he stated: “In the coming decade, the deal will reward Iran, the terrorist regime in Tehran, with hundreds of billions of dollars. This cash bonanza will fuel Iran’s terrorism worldwide, its aggression in the region and its efforts to destroy Israel, which is ongoing.” In the United States, criticism centered on ignoring Tehran’s ballistic missile program and the lack of provisions regarding the regime’s support for terrorist groups and organizations across the region. The $150 billion plus money transfer from the Obama administration
to Tehran in cash only strengthened opposition to the deal.
On October 13, 2015, the Iranian Parliament approved the deal. The next day, the Guardian Council ratified the JCPOA. Two days later, the P5+1 and the Islamic Republic of Iran formally adopted the JCPOA.
On October 21st, the United States raised Iran’s ballistic missile test as a possible violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1929 at a meeting of the Security Council.
On November 21st, Tehran tested another medium-range ballistic missile in clear violation of Resolution 1929.
On January 16, 2016, the IAEA verified that Tehran met its nuclear related responsibilities. On February 26th, the IAEA published its first quarterly report on Tehran’s post-implementation day nuclear activities. The report noted that Tehran met its general obligations with some minor deviations. However, missile launches continued unabated.
More ominously for the JCPOA, then Republican candidate Donald Trump stated at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s annual conference on March 21, 2016, that his “number one priority is to dismantle the disastrous deal with Iran.” After having been elected president on November 8, 2016, Donald Trump again labeled the JCPOA as the worst deal ever negotiated and pledged its renegotiation.
On January 28, 2017, Tehran test fired a medium-range ballistic missile, in defiance of UN Security Council Resolution 2231. On March 23rd, Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, introduces the Countering Iran’s Destabilizing Activities Act of 2017, targeting Tehran’s ballistic missile program and its support of global terrorism. In spite of Democrat opposition, the full Senate passed the Act 98-2. On July 25th, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 3364, the Countering Adversarial Nations Through Sanctions Act, which was designed to impose new sanctions on Iran, North Korea and Russia.
As the years have gone by, the JCPOA has turned out to be a great hoax. Its main objective to prevent Tehran from achieving military nuclearization within ten or even fifteen years could not have been accomplished. The reason for this was and is obvious. Tehran was building and operating many secret enrichment plants that were not included in the JCPOA, which only listed Natanz and Fordow. In this manner, Tehran has operated two nuclear programs: one for the gullible international community and a secret one that has continued to develop military nuclear capability unabated. For this reason, the IAEA quarterly statements concerning Tehran’s compliance with the limitations of the JCPOA were technically correct, but in reality absolutely meaningless. Clearly, President Obama and his administration intentionally fooled themselves, lied to the American people, and misled the entire international community.
Adding insult to injury, the JCPOA has never been a mutually ratified international treaty. The Obama administration did not even submit it to the U.S. Senate for ratification. According to U.S. as well as international law, the JCPOA has remained a nonbinding agreement among the signatory states.
Thus, President Trump’s withdrawal from the JCPOA in May 2018, based on what he termed as “Iran’s secret nuclear weapons program” was absolutely justified. As Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated, maintaining the fiction of the JCPOA merely would have resulted in certain nuclearization of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
The recent elimination of Qassem Soleimani, the resulting threats by Tehran to withdraw from the JCPOA, and the invocation of the dispute resolution process by Great Britain, France, and the Federal Republic of Germany were the last nails in the coffin of this fake and, therefore, useless agreement.
Legally, the fact that the Islamic Republic of Iran is a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) is much more significant. Based on this Treaty, Tehran is subject to all the limitations on its enrichment activities. Accordingly, Tehran cannot exceed enriching uranium to more than 5% U-235. Any violation of this limit will automatically trigger the intervention of the IAEA and the UN Security Council. Should Tehran repudiate the NPT, UN Security Council Resolution 1540 must be activated.
In this case, Tehran’s production of weapons-grade uranium must be considered as a “threat to international peace and security” pursuant to Chapter VII of the UN Charter that calls for necessary actions against the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Throughout 2017, 2018, and 2019, Tehran’s noncompliance with its obligations under numerous UN resolutions, in particular Resolution 2216 respecting the prohibition of “direct or indirect supply, sale, or transfer” of short-range ballistic missiles and other equipment to Yemen, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Libya, and Egypt, has become legendary. In addition, Tehran has continued to flaunt the JCPOA restrictions on the number and type of centrifuges that it was allowed to operate under the agreement. On September 7, 2019, Behrouz Kamalvandi, the spokesman for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, announced that technicians introduced UF6 to cascades of 20 IR-4 and 20 IR-6 centrifuges, clearly exceeding the number of machines permitted in a cascade under the research and development terms of the JCPOA.
On September 16, 2019, cruise missiles and drones attacked a Saudi Arabian Oil Company (ARAMCO) facility in Abqaiq, eastern Saudi Arabia. The investigation launched after the strikes determined that the missiles and the drones were fired from Iranian territory. The rest of the year 2019, was filled with threats and lies by AyatollahKhamenei, President Rouhani, and Foreign Minister Zarifagainst the United States and President Trump personally.
Most recently, on January 15, 2020, PresidentRouhani made the announcement that his country now enriching uranium at a higher level than before. To wit, Ayatollah Khamenei, the real leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, just followed up with another provocative sermon on January 17, 2020. The so-called Supreme Leader praised the retaliatory strike against the United States and described all Americans as “clowns” who cannot be trusted. Reacting to the Iran-wide protests against the regime and him personally he mocked President Trump’s sympathy declaration for the Iranian people calling it a “poisoned dagger” into the back of the entire nation.
Without a doubt, the Mullahcracy in Tehran has been constituted from its inception as a theocratic dictatorship that uncompromisingly has been committed to foment permanent instability across the globe, especially in the greater Middle East and South-East Asia. Internally, the regime has established a ruthless and cruel oppression against its opponents and anybody else deemed to challenge and thus jeopardize the religious and cultural uniformity of the country. Internationally, the Mullahcracy has become the source of permanent instability in the greater Middle East and beyond. The timeline of recent events has demonstrated the increasing aggression of Tehran, which has been connected with the regime’s internal predicaments. The most recent attacks against American military installations and the shooting down of the Ukrainian civilian airplane have shown the increasing desperation of the Mullahs.
The more than forty years of Mullahcracy has demonstrated that the regime has been incapable of reforming itself. On the contrary. Even according to official Iranian statistics, in the year 2018 alone, more than 100,000 Iranians committed suicide, and many more were killed or executed. Tragically, 75% of the suicide victims were between the ages of fifteen and thirty four. These numbers show that the younger generation that comprises the majority of the population reject the religious, ideological, and political foundations of the theocratic regime. Clearly, the regime is increasingly incapable of suppressing the opposition by only applying ruthless terror. Since the fraudulent elections of 2009, the Islamic Republic of Iran has experienced six major nationwide uprisings. Now, the Iranians’ patience broke irreversibly. By discrediting itself in the eyes of the world, the bloody and corrupt Mullahcracy signed its own death warrant. With the exception of a minority that benefits from the all-pervasive corruption of the regime, nobody trusts and supports the Islamic Republic. Presently, even the resignation of the Ayatollah Khamenei will not pacify the Iranian people any more, because the reason for the rot of the regime is he himself.
More disappointingly, the Mullahs have shown total resistance of any moderation both domestically as well as internationally. Now, when the regime is bankrupt both ideologically and economically, the Ayatollah’s and his minions’ diminishing rule will surely be more ruthless at home and increasingly aggressive abroad. Under these circumstances, diplomacy definitely will not work. The only solution is to remove by any means this cancerous tumor from the international body politics. Nothing but total regime change will bring a permanently satisfactory solution for the Iranian nation and the rest of the world.
Democratic leaders didn't act against Obama's military overreach as he launched attacks across the Middle East and North Africa.
Soon after the United States delivered a major blow to Iran’s terror infrastructure Friday by ridding the world of Qassem Soleimani, top general of the country’s brutal Quds Force, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced her intention to limit President Donald Trump’s ability to take further military action against Tehran.
Even after several Democrats indicated they wanted to be more deliberative with any such effort following Iran’s retaliatory strikes on U.S. service members in Iraq on Tuesday, she persisted in holding a vote on a war powers resolution Thursday. “The administration took this action without the consultation of Congress and without respect for Congress’ war powers granted to it by the Constitution,” Pelosi said of the Soleimani strike in explaining the purpose of the measure.
During President Barack Obama’s eight years in office, he never received his own congressional authorization in the form of an AUMF for military operations he launched.
The speaker’s insistence on introducing the resolution even after tensions eased up Wednesday suggests she believes strongly that presidents must have a specific authorization for the use of military force (known as an AUMF) from Congress before engaging in military action. But she doesn’t believe that. The Democrats’ attacks on Trumpfor the Soleimani strike simply show, once again, that their views of executive power depend on the party membership of the executive in power. That’s no way to protect Americans’ national security.
During President Barack Obama’s eight years in office, he never received his own congressional authorization in the form of an AUMF for military operations he launched in Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia and Pakistan. Yet, Pelosi didn’t complain then about this complete disregard for Congress’ authority.
Instead, Obama simply relied on the two AUMFs granted his predecessor — the 2001 AUMF authorizing strikes against the perpetrators of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and those who aided them, and the 2002 authorization for the Iraq War — as sufficient justification for just about any military action he wanted to take in the Middle East and North Africa.
As such, Trump actually has the better argument that the existing AUMFs gave him the power to target Soleimani in Iraq, where he was visiting when he was killed. (The administration in any case contends that the strike was justified on the grounds of self-defense since the Pentagon said Soleimani coordinated strikes that killed an American contractor in Iraq on Dec. 27, approved a siege on the U.S. Embassy there and came to the country to plot more American deaths.)
Indeed, the 2002 AUMF directed the president to “defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq.” One can argue about the legitimacy of extending that permission to targeting Soleimani, as he was Iranian. But the Pentagon has noted that he’s responsible for the deaths of more than 600 American troops in Iraq from 2003 to 2011, not including those killed since then by the Iraqi proxies he controls. And he was assessed to be about to engage in further attacks against U.S service members there.
What is less arguable, however, is that Obama’s repeated invocation of Congress’ 2001 AUMF launching the “war on terror” was more of a stretch for his less-focused undertakings throughout the region. That war powers resolution authorized the president to use force only against “those nations, organizations or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on Sept. 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons.”
Its language seems clear, doesn’t it? It’s easy to see how this allowed President George W. Bush to attack the Taliban in Afghanistan, who had sheltered and aided Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda, the terrorists responsible for the 9/11 attacks. And it’s easy to see why it passed both chambers of Congress with only a single vote against it.
A dozen years later, in 2013, Obama declared that the war in Afghanistan and against al Qaeda was coming to a close, and he promised “to refine, and ultimately repeal, the AUMF’s mandate.” But that never happened. Instead, he used it to justify military action against various other terrorist organizations in countries as far afield as Libya, Yemen and Syria.
In Libya, he actually at first tried to claim that he didn’t need any authorization at all. In 2011, when he launched the attack that would eventually unseat Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi, the White House argued it didn’t require congressional approval to enforce a cease-fire in the Libyan civil war because “U.S. operations do not involve sustained fighting or active exchanges of fire with hostile forces, nor do they involve U.S. ground troops.”
Perhaps his administration came to realize how weak this argument looked after those operations led to Libya’s violent change of government. Because when Obama’s Pentagon announced in 2016 that it had launched a new attack on Libya, this time against the Islamic State militant group, and a reporter asked what gave it the legal authority to do so, a press secretary replied, “Under the 2001 authorization for the military force,” and added, “Similar to our previous airstrikes in Libya.”
ISIS didn’t even exist when the 2001 and 2002 AUMFs were written. But Obama used the resolutions to justify hitting the terrorist group in Syria and Iraq, as well as Libya. At least the Trump administration can point to the Taliban — which was certainly in the minds of members of Congress when they approved the 2001 authorization — as connected to the Soleimani action. Iran gives the terrorist group shelter as well as direct aid in the form of money, fuel and weapons, with the Quds Force commander a lynchpin in that operation.
It’s been time for Congress to debate the president’s war powers and what use of military force is allowed since the last administration. But that’s not the debate the Democrats have wanted.
Furthermore, Democrats this week have been particularly angry that Trump “assassinated” someone — terrorist mastermind Soleimani — without congressional approval. But the use of targeted killings steadily increased during the Obama administration and the Democratic leadership didn’t make a move to stop them. In eight years, Obama ordered more than 500 drone strikesthat killed thousands of people, including a few hundred civilians. One of them — another terrorist mastermind, Anwar al-Awlaki, killed in Yemen in 2011 — was an American citizen.
These examples of military action with little, if any, connection to the resolutions used to justify them show it’s been time for Congress to debate the president’s war powers and what use of military force is allowed since the last administration. But that’s not the debate the Democrats have wanted to have — making it clear that their current gambit is merely to punish Trump. Like the Republicans, they make constitutional arguments when they’re not in power and sidestep the Constitution when they’re in power.
The founders understood that power corrupts, which is why they made sure not to invest it in a single person or body. Congress usually only remembers — and tries to restore — its power when the executive branch is held by the opposite party. But principles should come over party, and never more so than when the stakes are as high as war.
Under Trump, we’re starting to see the jihadist terror for what it really is.
The false analogy fallacy occurs when superficial similarities between events being compared are outnumbered by fundamental differences. This cognitive bad habit has always existed, but has become more prevalent since Vietnam and the increasing politicization of mass news on network and cable television, social media, and especially the internet. The specious analogy between a recent, short-lived attack on our embassy in Baghdad, and the 2012 Benghazi fiasco during Obama’s watch, is a recent example.
Useful analogies are predicated on the permanence of a flawed human nature driven by greed, power, or irrational hatreds. One of the greatest historians ever, Thucydides, explicitly said he wrote his history of the Peloponnesian War in order to provide “an exact knowledge of the past as an aid to the understanding of the future, which in the course of human things must resemble if it does not reflect it.” That’s why he called his history a “possession for all time.” Similarly the Roman historian Livy, writing at the end of nearly a century of savage civil wars, intended to show “what to imitate,” and to “mark for avoidance what is shameful in the conception and shameful in the result.” Without those aims, history is just antiquarianism or another form of high-brow entertainment.
And politics, which thrives on false analogies. The war in Vietnam left us two malign cultural consequences. The first was the antiwar Democrats and their media subsidiary transformed a military victory into a defeat. This created the Left’s paradigm for every U.S intervention abroad as prima facie a neocolonialist, unjust, racist war against national self-determination in order to profit arms manufacturers, the “merchants of death,” and other capitalist “malefactors of great wealth.” Following this ideological deformation came the “another Vietnam” false analogy, and the “Vietnam syndrome”: fear of casualties, self-doubt about our goodness, and angst over “quagmires” and “escalation.”
Leftist Democrats, opportunistic presidential candidates, and the usual media suspects all exploited the Vietnam false analogy to demonize the post-9/11 wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. A few weeks into the former conflict, New York Times columnist R.W. Apple asked, “Could Afghanistan become another Viet-Nam?” and used the loaded word “quagmire.” The concern over Saddam Hussein’s WMD programs, just one of the many predicates for the Senate’s authorization for the war, was called a lie––“Bush lied, millions died,” the protestors chanted. This claim echoed the alleged false predicates for the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin Congressional joint resolution concerning two attacks on U.S. naval vessels by the North Vietnamese. This resolution authorized the president to use “armed force” in the region, and became the imprimatur for subsequent “escalation.”
So too the Patriot Act, which removed the “wall of separation” between domestic and foreign intelligence. That “wall” prevented the FBI from examining the computer of another jihadi training to fly a jet a month before 9/11. Yet despite the dangers of the “wall” made obvious after 9/11, leftist critics like ACLU accused the act of “Put[ting] the [CIA] in the business of spying on Americans,” evoking the Vietnam-era bogey of the CIA trying to subvert the antiwar movement, among other violations. Indeed, the 1975 Church Committee investigation of domestic spying during the Vietnam era led in 1978 to the creation of FISA courts––which we now know have been corrupted into tools for spying on Americans by the FBI and other security agencies.
Likewise the humiliation and “torture” of prisoners in Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison in 2002, which included legal enhanced interrogation techniques like loud noise, sleep deprivation, and extreme heat and cold, were transformed into the equivalent of the My Lai massacre in 1968, when between 347 and 504 unarmed civilians were massacred by U.S. troops, an analogy we saw in the Los Angeles Times headline in 2002 that read, “Military Must Squarely Face ‘New My Lai.’” In fact, what happened at Abu Ghraib was light-years from what went on there under Hussein, such as taking a power drill to people’s skulls, let alone a mass slaughter like My Lai.
Then there was the Democrat opposition to the 2007 “surge” strategy for gaining control over sectarian and insurgent violence in Iraq. Senator Barack Obama called the surge a “reckless escalation,” implying a parallel to Vietnam, and introduced legislation calling for the complete withdrawal of all troops by March 2008––an aim he later achieved as president in 2011, creating the vacuum filled by ISIS and Iran, which has turned Iraq into its satrapy and led to the disorder Trump has to deal with.
Why do such false analogies with Vietnam persist? Because they serve the ideological delusions and propaganda of the left. The common interpretation of Vietnam as a “bad war” motivated by racism and power-hunger has been repeated over and over by historians, the media, and popular culture. Reporters at the time, most of whom sat in Saigon and reported hearsay, were lavished with prizes and book contracts, movies like agitprop master Oliver Stone’s Platoon and Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now were celebrated, and textbooks from grammar school to university continue to recycle this skewed history. That culture-wide cachet makes Vietnam the go-to analogy for a Left that wants to demonize America and weaken its resolve.
So it’s no surprise that some on the Left would try to turn one of Obama’s and Hillary’s worst foreign policy failures and examples of covering up the truth with lies, into a weapon against Trump, as MSNBC’s Joy Reid and a left-wing veterans group did. But the analogy is so egregiously false that Democrats recognize the obvious difference and have avoided coming anywhere near it. The most important difference is the fact that no Americans died on Trump’s watch, unlike the four Americans who withstood 13 hours of attacks waiting for help that never came. In contrast to Obama doing nothing, Trump immediately sent reinforcements to bolster the scaled-back diplomatic corps, and made it clear that any further violence will be met with immediate retaliation.
Nor was the threat empty. After receiving actionable intelligence of an imminent attack on American personnel in Iraq last week, Trump ordered the killing of Qassim Soleimani, the chief of the Iranian Republican Guard’s Quds force, who had directed for decades Iran’s terrorist attacks abroad. Soleimani had gallons of American blood on his hands, being responsible for 17% of U.S. dead in Iraq from the shaped charges and more deadly mortars he provided the jihadists attacking our forces. Soleimani was the same designated terrorist Obama would not sanction killing, even though he was for two decades the most deadly and skilled enemy of our country. And to further signal his resolve, after Soleimani’s demise the president ordered a strike on the convoy of another Iranian proxy, the Imam Ali Battalion, killing its chief Shebl al-Zaidi, a particularly vicious jihadist.
Another contrast between the response to the Benghazi and Baghdad attacks is the shamelessly politicized and dishonest attempts on the part of Obama officials to spin the organized attack in Benghazi as a spontaneous reaction to an obscure anti-Muslim internet video. The purpose was to protect Obama’s duplicitous campaign narrative that the terrorists had been neutralized. But most despicable was Hillary Clinton’s lying to the faces of the grieving parents of the four dead heroes as they stood near their sons’ coffins. Trump, however, has nothing to hide or spin because he did what a commander-in-chief should do––defend our military and diplomatic personnel, and retaliate for their deaths.
Rather than the “strategic patience,” “leading from behind,” and reticence to punish aggression that were obvious in the Benghazi debacle, Trump has authorized an aggressive offensive against the Iranian thugs and proxies now dominating the Iraqi government and endangering American lives.
Finally, a consequence of the failure to prevent and retaliate for the Benghazi attack was the energizing of jihadist outfits by a victory over the hated infidel, just as the Iranian assault on our embassy in 1979 did. Such victories and killing of Americans–– like the Beirut bombing of our military barracks in 1983, the retreat from Mogadishu in1993, the murder of American military personnel in Riyadh in 1995 and Dharan in 1996, the east African embassy bombings in 1998, and the attack on the Navy destroyer Cole in 2000––all have provided morale and prestige to the jihadists and strengthened their resolve.
Such a boon will not follow the recent failed attack on our embassy in Iraq. In fact, after just a few days of protests the militiamen and their supporters, whom the New York Timeseuphemized as “mourners,” had called the whole thing off and gone away, leaving a few militiamen to lob some fireworks and Molotov cocktails that damaged a parked car. A few rockets were also fired, to no effect, in the vicinity of the Green Zone. Perhaps their appetite for a more aggressive assault on Americans was dulled by the 100 Marines and the Apache helicopters Trump sent sent to protect the embassy. And rather than retreat or pull back from Iraq, Trump has ordered even more troops and weapons to Baghdad and the region. This build-up will enhance our ability to handle any attempts to get revenge for Soleimani’s death.
As Trump said, his handling of the Baghdad embassy attack is the “Anti-Benghazi,” which enhanced American prestige, whereas the Obama-Hillary response to the attack in Benghazi diminished it. But the Benghazi analogy will quickly fade away. Not even Democrats are stupid enough to try and weaponize a foreign policy failure like Obama and Clinton’s in Benghazi, and remind people of their two biggest political stars’ worst moments.
But don’t think that the Democrats’ shying away from the Benghazi analogy means that they’re starting to accept reality and think coherently. Their loathing for America is too deeply engrained in their worldview. This is obvious in their eagerness to blame the embassy attack on Trump’s earlier bombing of an Iranian proxy-militia’s military base and other sites, killing 25 jihadists, and their second-guessing of the killing of Soleimani: Bernie Sanders and Nancy Pelosi both used the Vietnam-era cliché “dangerous escalation.” Making the U.S. the global evil genius responsible for all the world’s ills is an old tactic for the Left, one so banal that it’s spawned a cynical truism useful to America’s allies and enemies alike: “When all else fails, blame the Americans.”
The longevity of the “blame America first” trope is explained not just by the Left’s inveterate hatred of the U.S., but by the progressives’ voodoo psychology that turns ruthless, illiberal global despots and murderous gangs into children so traumatized by Uncle Sam’s abuse that they blindly lash out in violent reaction to our alleged oppression. So Leftists and even some Republicans blame jihadist terror on Israel, colonialism, the absence of political freedom, our support for corrupt autocrats, jobless economies, the lack of accessibility to women, and “disrespect” to Islam and Mohammed––anything and everything except the Koran, hadith, sira, and 14 centuries of Islamic doctrine and practice that have consistently commanded the faithful to “fight all men until they say there is no god but Allah,” as Mohammed said. And isn’t it ironic that those who demonize the West as a racist oppressor, and who trumpet their groveling respect for, and tolerance of dark-skinned “others,” in fact patronize them and diminish their humanity by stripping them of their agency, their power to act on their own ideals, beliefs, interests, and goods?
That two-bit psychology is the mother of all false analogies and the fake news they spawn. And the most dangerous. For as Sun Tzu said, “If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.” Maybe under Trump’s leadership we’re starting to see the jihadist terror for what it is––traditional Islam, rather than a figment of our own therapeutic obsessions and self-loathing political ideologies
We have a golden opportunity to begin our departure from the Middle East
Federalist columnist Willis L. Krumholz, speaking for Middle America in an insightful article, asks, “The Fundamental Question is: Why is America Still in the Middle East?” (The Federalist Daily Briefing, January 6, 2020). His answer is; America’s newfound oil independence eliminates America’s interest in the Middle East. So, it is time to leave the Middle East.
American involvement in the Middle East formally began in 1928 with the Red Line Agreement, essentially splitting access to the oil properties of the northern Middle East (principally Iraq) between France, the United Kingdom and the United States. In 1933, the USA entered into an agreement with Saudi Arabia to form ARAMCO, a joint venture to exploit that country’s newly discovered oil fields. America’s relationship with Iran was solidified by the CIA-aided 1953 coup d’état which established the Shah of Iran as the country’s ruler. The Shah was overthrown by the current leadership of Iran in 1978, leading to the sacking of the American embassy and holding of American diplomats hostage until 1980. This was the first overtly anti-American incident in what became a long series of assaults against American interests in the Middle East, culminating in the 2001 attacks.
The 21st century wars between the Americans and Islamic terrorists which followed 2001 are familiar to most Americans.
The major stake that all Western countries have had in the Middle East for the past century has been the need for oil which has powered the economic and technological advances that became the foundation of Western civilization. Control of that resource has been a critical, life-or-death priority for these countries.
That control has been very expensive in the 21st century. Total casualties through 2018 including civilians are estimated at 500,000. US casualties alone were 7820 (including contractors and civilians) (Source: Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs, Brown University, November 2018). The financial costs of these wars are estimated at $6.4 trillion – nearly 1/4 of our national debt (Krumholtz, ibid.).
This equation has undergone a radical change in the past five years with the result that the USA is now energy independent The USA has become in fact the largest energy exporting nation in the world, thanks to technological developments in the energy industry, especially rediscovery and refinement of fracking. The USA no longer needs Middle Eastern oil. The motivation which has fueled our involvement in Middle Eastern affairs since 1928 has evaporated!
Our remaining interests seem to be 1) safeguarding the security of Israel — a moral rather than a strategic obligation, and 2) the denuclearization of a very recalcitrant Iran. We have NO remaining strategic interest in Iraq. That being the case, when last week’s vote by the Iraqi parliament to prohibit the presence of foreign soldiers in their country was concluded, our answer should be “GOODBYE IRAQ!” This is a gold-plated opportunity for us to pack our soldiers and our ordinance and leave this god-forsaken country to its own devices.
Why on earth should we abandon the country where we have invested so much blood and treasure to free them from the tyranny of Saddam Hussein? In order to understand the actual peril of our continued involvement in the Middle East, it is necessary to recall that the underlying reality of the region is the war between the two dominant sects of Islam: the Sunnis and the Shia. This war had been going on for 1400 years. The course of events which has driven US policy over time has put America on the side of the Sunnis, largely because we were expelled from Iran, the leading Shia nation, and accepted by the leading Sunni country, Saudi Arabia.
We have supported the Sunnis even to the extent of recently organizing a formal alliance between the several Sunni nations and equipping and fighting their wars, especially in Iraq, Syria, and earlier in Lebanon. Since Iraq is predominantly Shia (60-70%), they will never be happy with our Sunni allies. They want us to leave. If we don’t want to get drawn into their thousand-year war with the Sunnis, we should get out while we can.
As Krumholz reminds us, Iran is bordered in the north by Afghanistan and the south by Iraq, both occupied by Americans. They are surrounded, and they will not give up as long as that situation exists. It is definitely not in our national interest to find ourselves leading the Sunnis in their ongoing war with the Shia.
What about our leverage to denuclearize crazy Iran? Today’s weaponry allows long-range warfare, as our recent sorties against Syrian and Iraqi targets has demonstrated. As long as we retain that capability, whether by land bases or sea, we have the needed leverage to protect our interests. Our withdrawal of ground troops will have to be gradual in any case, and our negotiations can be paced accordingly.
Some critics might worry that this withdrawal at this time would be interpreted by Iran and the world as the triumph of Iran in the current contest of wills. The simple explanation would be that America has always proclaimed and actually sought peace, not conquest, of iran and Iraq as well. This gesture is a concrete proof of our intentions, We will maintain our long range strike capacity and our economic sanctions as long as Iran poses a nuclear threat and we will follow up on the President’s call on NATO to take a more active part in this policy, but our motivations are truly peace and prosperity for all nations.
So, what about Israel? This is a somewhat different challenge. For the most part, our Mediterranean fleet can (and has) provided much of the needed cover. For out-of-range options, coordination with the Israelis themselves should provide the answers.
The bottom line is that America’s most basic responsibility is the strategic deployment of our forces in areas of national interest only. The lives and futures of these troops are not to be squandered recklessly on misbegotten missionary adventures of nation-building to “spread democracy’” especially to countries whose entire history and culture demonstrates their lack of receptivity to our doctrine, emancipating as it has been for us.
Column: And scores a victory against terrorism
The successful operation against Qassem Soleimani, head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard, is a stunning blow to international terrorism and a reassertion of American might. It will also test President Trump’s Iran strategy. It is now Trump, not Ayatollah Khamenei, who has ascended a rung on the ladder of escalation by killing the military architect of Iran’s Shiite empire. For years, Iran has set the rules. It was Iran that picked the time and place of confrontation. No more.
Reciprocity has been the key to understanding Donald Trump. Whether you are a media figure or a mullah, a prime minister or a pope, he will be good to you if you are good to him. Say something mean, though, or work against his interests, and he will respond in force. It won’t be pretty. It won’t be polite. There will be fallout. But you may think twice before crossing him again.
That has been the case with Iran. President Trump has conditioned his policies on Iranian behavior. When Iran spread its malign influence, Trump acted to check it. When Iran struck, Trump hit back: never disproportionately, never definitively. He left open the possibility of negotiations. He doesn’t want to have the Greater Middle East—whether Libya, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Yemen, or Afghanistan—dominate his presidency the way it dominated those of Barack Obama and George W. Bush. America no longer needs Middle Eastern oil. Best keep the region on the back burner. Watch it so it doesn’t boil over. Do not overcommit resources to this underdeveloped, war-torn, sectarian land.
The result was reciprocal antagonism. In 2018, Trump withdrew the United States from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action negotiated by his predecessor. He began jacking up sanctions. The Iranian economy turned to shambles. This “maximum pressure” campaign of economic warfare deprived the Iranian war machine of revenue and drove a wedge between the Iranian public and the Iranian government. Trump offered the opportunity to negotiate a new agreement. Iran refused.
And began to lash out. Last June, Iran’s fingerprints were all over two oil tankers that exploded in the Persian Gulf. Trump tightened the screws. Iran downed a U.S. drone. Trump called off a military strike at the last minute and responded indirectly, with more sanctions, cyber attacks, and additional troop deployments to the region. Last September a drone fleet launched by Iranian proxies in Yemen devastated the Aramco oil facility in Abqaiq, Saudi Arabia. Trump responded as he had to previous incidents: nonviolently.
Iran slowly brought the region to a boil. First it hit boats, then drones, then the key infrastructure of a critical ally. On December 27 it went further. Members of the Kataib Hezbollah militia launched rockets at a U.S. installation near Kirkuk, Iraq. Four U.S. soldiers were wounded. An American contractor was killed.
Destroying physical objects merited economic sanctions and cyber intrusions. Ending lives required a lethal response. It arrived on December 29 when F-15s pounded five Kataib Hezbollah facilities across Iraq and Syria. At least 25 militiamen were killed. Then, when Kataib Hezbollah and other Iran-backed militias organized a mob to storm the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, setting fire to the grounds, America made a show of force and threatened severe reprisals. The angry crowd melted away.
The risk to the U.S. embassy—and the possibility of another Benghazi—must have angered Trump. “The game has changed,” Secretary of Defense Esper said hours before the assassination of Soleimani at Baghdad airport. Indeed, it has. The decades-long gray-zone conflict between Iran and the United States manifested itself in subterfuge, terrorism, technological combat, financial chicanery, and proxy forces. Throughout it all, the two sides confronted each other directly only once: in the second half of Ronald Reagan’s presidency. That is about to change.
Deterrence, says Fred Kagan of the American Enterprise Institute, is credibly holding at risk something your adversary holds dear. If the reports out of Iraq are true, President Trump has put at risk the entirety of the Iranian imperial enterprise even as his maximum pressure campaign strangles the Iranian economy and fosters domestic unrest. That will get the ayatollah’s attention. And now the United States must prepare for his answer.
The bombs over Baghdad? That was Trump calling Khamenei’s bluff. The game has changed. But it isn’t over.
Column: The post-WWII order is ending—and nothing has replaced it
Economists at the World Bank and International Monetary Fund must feel pretty lucky these days. They work for just about the only institutions set up in the aftermath of World War II that aren’t in the middle of an identity crisis. From Turtle Bay to Brussels, from Washington to Vienna, the decay of the economic and security infrastructure of the postwar world has accelerated in recent weeks. The bad news: As the legacy of the twentieth century recedes into the past, the only twenty-first century alternatives are offered from an authoritarian surveillance state.
The pressure is both external and internal. Revisionist powers such as China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea undermine the foundations of global governance and hijack institutions to the detriment of the liberal international order. The institutions themselves lack the self-confidence necessary to further the cause of human freedom. Meanwhile, the most powerful nation in the world has turned inward. Its foreign policy is haphazard and improvisational, contradictory and equivocal. The confusion and zigzagging contribute to the erosion of legitimacy. It delays the emergence of new forms of international organization.
The breakdown was visible at last week’s NATO summit in London. Remarkably, the source of the immediate ruckus wasn’t President Trump. It was French president Emmanuel Macron, who doubled down on his criticism of the Atlantic alliance that he’d expressed in a recent interview with the Economist. Trump disagreed with Macron’s description of NATO as “brain dead.” He and other allies didn’t back Macron’s call for rapprochement with Russia and China and renewed focus on terrorism.
Macron wasn’t the only troublemaker. Turkey’s autocratic leader, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who recently tested his Russian S-400 air defense systems againsthis American F-16s, said he would block a Balkan defense plan unless NATO designates the Kurdish YPG a terrorist group. The summit ended with a leaked video of Macron, Justin Trudeau, Boris Johnson, and Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte sharing a laugh at Trump’s expense. Haughty euro-elites mocking the American president is always an affront, but it is especially counterproductive now when the alliance is under attack from prominent voices within the United States.
When it was founded, NATO was one part of a strategy whose goal was the prevention of another global war. Security guarantees and the forward deployment of conventional forces bound America to Europe and the Europeans to each other. Another part of the strategy led to the EU. It integrates the economies of nations that unleashed the two most devastating conflicts in human history. It was thought that trade relations contribute to peace and nationalities can be submerged under a continent-sized umbrella. What the architects of Europe didn’t anticipate was popular resentment of bureaucratic administration, the imbalances and fiscal consequences of monetary union without political union, and the reassertion of national identity that results from large-scale immigration.
Today the politics of every major European country is a mess. I write these words on the day of a British election that will determine whether the United Kingdom leaves the EU and whether an anti-Semitic socialist lives in 10 Downing Street. Germany flirts with recession, its chancellor is a lame duck, the grand coalition hosts an SPD under far-left leadership, and the largest opposition party is the Alternative for Germany. Macron might want to spend more time on domestic politics: His approval rating is around 30 percent, striking workers have paralyzed France, and 13 French soldiers were killed in Mali.
National populism has transformed Hungary, Poland, and the Czech Republic and plays a significant role in Germany, France, Austria, and Sweden. No longer deputy prime minister of Italy, Matteo Salvini remains the most significant political figure in his country. “Recent opinion polls indicate that if elections were held tomorrow, Mr. Salvini would not only easily become prime minister, but that a coalition of the League, the post-fascist Brothers of Italy and the remainder of Mr. [former prime minister Silvio] Berlusconi’s Forza Italia would command an absolute majority in parliament,” writesMiles Johnson of the Financial Times. The European leaders who fear Salvini are nonetheless ambivalent about the threat posed by Vladimir Putin and by Ayatollah Khamenei. They are happy to advance the Nord Stream 2 and TurkStream pipelines and circumvent U.S. sanctions against Iran.
Frenetic institution building accompanied victory in World War II. The Allies created organizations devoted to international security, diplomacy, health, and economics. The first to go was the Bretton Woods agreement on international finance, which ended when Richard Nixon took America off the gold standard in 1971. The next was the United Nations, which revealed its corruption and domination by dictatorships in its resolution equating Zionism and racism in 1975. The Iraqi nuclear facility at Osirak (fortunately destroyed by the Israeli Air Force in 1981) was evidence that the Non-Proliferation Treaty is only as good as the regimes that sign it. NATO and the EU survived the Cold War and flourished in the two decades after the dissolution of the Soviet Union but both have run up against the limits of expansion. Both have lost sight of their historic function to preserve the peace.
Sometimes changing circumstances render institutions powerless. That is happening to the World Trade Organization. The WTO, endowed in 1995, was built for a unipolar world. When China joined in 2001, its GDP was one-tenth the size of America’s. Now it’s more than half and China has emerged as a military, industrial, and technological rival. But the WTO still designates China as a “developing” country, which entitles it to certain advantages. President Trump’s campaign against this exorbitant privilege reached an impasse December 10, when his administration blockedjudicial appointments to the organization’s dispute-resolution court. It no longer has the capacity to arbitrate. The WTO is toothless. Hollowed out. What will replace it? Nothing has been proposed.
The motive power behind all of these institutions was American commitment. What upheld the structure was our willingness to sustain the costs of international security and global defense of democracy. That engagement began to wane after the Cold War. By 2008 it was practically nonexistent. The president’s disinterest in foreign affairs is a reflection of his countrymen’s. His administration, to its credit, has proposed great power competition as the basis for a renewed American grand strategy. The follow-through has been difficult.
That has left us with entropy. The international scene is filled with decayed institutions and unpalatable choices. On one hand is the status quo. On the other is China’s Belt and Road Initiative and Made in China 2025. “The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born,” wrote philosopher Antonio Gramsci. “In this interregnum, a great variety of morbid symptoms appear.” And no one has a cure.
December 7 is a solemn day for the U.S. Navy and in our nation’s history. This year marked the 78th anniversary of the attacks on Pearl Harbor, when our nation entered a World War with a devastated naval fleet. After Pearl Harbor, and facing a grave threat, our country came together to rebuild the fleet, which ultimately helped win the war. And just as it has throughout history, the Navy continues to defy the odds and innovate in order to remain the most powerful force on the world’s seas.
More than ever, we need to build for the future and invest in new technologies that will support our warfighters, maximize value for taxpayer dollars, and maintain our nation’s global competitive edge. Equipping our troops and sailors with the best, most advanced capabilities to defend our national interests should always be our objective.
It is in this spirit that the second Ford-class aircraft carrier, the John F. Kennedy (CVN 79), was christened on December 7. This is a huge step forward for naval aviation technology and for moving the Navy into the 21st century. Following tradition, Caroline Kennedy, the daughter of the ship’s namesake and its sponsor, will break a bottle of American sparkling wine on the carrier’s hull. The ship is a testament to ingenuity and a symbol of American force, but it’s what lies under the hull that truly sets it apart.
The Ford-class carriers are both the most efficient and technologically advanced aircraft carriers ever developed. The Ford-class will save the Navy billions over its lifetime thanks to new technologies and efficiencies. One such technology is the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS), which is replacing steam catapults on carriers. EMALS is a critical technology leap in modernizing the Fleet to address evolving threats while also meeting the needs of the Navy of the future.
Currently, decades-old steam technology limits the capabilities of our Fleet in terms of which types of aircraft it can launch, and with respect to the integration of future weapons systems. EMALS allows the launch of the full range of aircraft in current and future air wings. Critically, this also includes the ability to launch drones – something our current carriers cannot do, and which could make a life or death difference to troops in harm’s way.
In addition to expanding the types of aircraft that can be launched, EMALS significantly improves the launch rate. With EMALS integrated, the Kennedy and other Ford-class carriers will have a sortie generation rate (the number of aircraft able to be launched per day) improved by a full 33 percent over our existing carriers. In other words, EMALS allows our Navy to launch more aircraft more efficiently.
The new technology on Ford-class carriers isn’t just theoretical. It works. These and other critical new technologies on the Ford-class will help the Navy stay ahead of our competition. As China and Russia continue to invest in their militaries, naval technology is at the forefront of their development. In fact, China is currently in the process of building a carrier using its own electromagnetic aircraft launch technology. We cannot afford to fall behind.
India and France have also shown an interest in these technologies. Adoption of EMALS by our allies will provide greater opportunity for coordination and interoperability between our navies in training exercises, disaster relief, humanitarian aid and military missions.
As we wrap up 2019 by remembering Pearl Harbor and celebrating the christening of the Kennedy, we must also ensure our nation’s leaders remain focused on equipping our military forces with the best technologies and capabilities possible for the years and decades ahead. The costs of not doing so are too great. Instead of trying to keep pace with our adversaries, the focus should be on remaining ahead of the curve and the envy of militaries across the world. Let’s put the future in the hands of the men and women who fight for our freedom every day.
A survey of 2,504 French adults found that 69 percent of respondents would not buy products labeled ‘made in Israel.’
Europe’s highest court isn’t exactly telling everybody to boycott Israeli food and wine. But they’re doing their darnedest to ensure Europeans don’t buy them.
For anyone who missed the news, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) ruled last week that food and wine produced by Jewish Israelis beyond the Green Line must be explicitly marked: “‘Israeli settlement’ or equivalent needs to be added, in brackets, for example. Therefore, expressions such as ‘product from the Golan Heights (Israeli settlement)’ or ‘product from the West Bank (Israeli settlement)’ could be used.”
Eugene Kontorovich, director of the Center for International Law in the Middle East at George Mason University Scalia Law School, considers the new labels “a new kind of Yellow Star on Jewish-made products.” He told The Federalist that the CJEU’s labeling requirements “are not geographic—they are not about where something was made but by whom.” Kontorovich added, “They’re not even pretending that the rules they’re applying to Israel are the rules they’re applying to the rest of the world.”
Readers may recall that when the court’s advocate general suggested such labeling earlier this year, his reasoning was that consumers needed “neutral and objective information.” But this outcome is neither neutral nor objective. As Marc Greendorfer, president of Zachor Legal Institute, which battles Israel boycotts, emailed, “That the court contravened established principles of international law to wrongly stipulate the status of the disputed areas (as occupied) exposes the fact that this ruling was about taking sides in a political dispute.”
“Labels are not the place to engage in political debate,” Brooke Goldstein, executive director of the Lawfare Project, which participated in this case, told The Federalist.Indeed, product labeling is supposed to be about health and safety. Labels also help consumers shop “ethically” or “responsibly.” But if a consumer factors politics into those decisions and wants to avoid Israeli goods, why is it so important to specify where in Israel those goods are produced?
According to a 2017 poll conducted by Opinion Way for the Lawfare Project, a survey of 2,504 French adults found that 69 percent of respondents would not buy products labeled “made in Israel.” That number rose to 75 percent if labels read “West Bank, Israeli colony/settlement.” So more detailed labeling would clearly shift some shoppers’ habits, but those figures are already startlingly high.
While the CJEU may not be declaring a boycott with this ruling— after all, it remains legal to import Israeli goods — they are nudging consumers in that direction. Even the U.S. State Department, which typically avoids criticizing allies, expressed “deep concern,” calling “the circumstances surrounding the labeling requirement . . . suggestive of anti-Israel bias.” They also rightly noted that “this requirement serves only to encourage, facilitate, and promote boycotts, divestments, and sanctions (BDS) against Israel,” a movement Germany’s own parliament considers antisemitic, and even Nazi-like.
This decision is not focused on informing consumers about unconscionable behavior across the globe (e.g., the Chinese government’s treatment of Uyghurs) or highlighting the world’s many disputed territories (see: Western Sahara, Cyprus, and Crimea for starters). It is about ostracizing the world’s only Jewish nation and unilaterally redrawing Israel’s borders via economic pressure.
The aforementioned French survey underscores just how widespread popular prejudice against Israel is in France, long home to Europe’s largest Jewish community. Rather than calm that prejudice, the CJEU panders to it, inflames it, and now embeds it in law. So it won’t be surprising if antagonism to Israel keeps rising in France and the rest of Europe. Stigmatizing Israel now has the gloss of official, legal respectability.
The whole episode is offensive. Consider, this long-awaited decision was scheduled for release on November 12. The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum reminds us that date is significant, as “just 2 days after the end of Kristallnacht [in 1938], the Nazi government issued the Decree on the Elimination of the Jews from Economic Life. Banned from owning shops or selling any kind of good or service, most Jews lost their livelihoods entirely.”
Further, by establishing a unique standard for Israel, this decision fits the internationally accepted definition of antisemitism, cited in the United Nations’ recent report on global antisemitism. So it’s rich for the European Commission to tell Fox News, “Any suggestion that indication of origin on products coming from Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory or in the occupied Golan has anything to do with targeting Jews or anti-Semitism is unacceptable. The EU stands strongly and unequivocally against any form of anti-Semitism.”
Check out that loaded word choice. Then consider that such critiques are fair game. The EU does not stand unequivocally against antisemitism. There are bright spots, like Austria’s second largest city banning support for BDS. However, European Jews are acutely aware that antisemitism is widespread and dangerous.
EU officials like Michael O’Flaherty, director of the European Union’s Fundamental Rights Agency, know that in spite of the many reported antisemitic crimes across the EU, 80 percent remain uncounted. “As one person asked [O’Flaherty], ‘Why would I report antisemitism to an antisemite?’” Over in Britain, which has not quite left the EU, nearly half of British Jews have said they “would ‘seriously consider’ emigrating if [Labour Party leader Jeremy] Corbyn is elected prime minister [in December].”
Seventy-four years after the Holocaust’s end, the EU is no haven for Jews. Nor is it a particularly reliable friend to Israel. Calling the decision “disgraceful,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) told The Federalist, “This labeling singles out Jews who live in communities where Europeans don’t think they should be allowed to live and identifies them for boycotts. It is reminiscent of the darkest moments in Europe’s history.”
Indeed, the CJEU may have forgotten, but world Jewry hasn’t. We also know that discrimination and other harms that start with Jews never end with us. So whether or not the timing was coincidental, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s announcing a reversal of Obama-era policy regarding Israel’s settlements certainly looks fortuitous, because this fight is far from over.
There are uncountable narratives when it comes to the actual and perceived domestic as well as international predicaments of the newly independent state of Ukraine. As a rule, known facts are mixed with unsubstantiated rumors, which, in turn, give birth to fantastic conjectures, ungrounded intuitions, and outright lies in the service of partisan political interests. In reality, the Ukraine question is extremely complex. Yet in the United State of America, both politicians and the media present this complexity to the public from a one sided, exclusively distorted American perspective.
Meanwhile, successive and mostly short-lived Ukrainian governments have tumbled from ever escalating crises to misguided revolutions and repeated implosions in predictable intervals. First the two high ranking former communists dubbed the “Red Barons”, former President Leonid Kravchuk and former President Leonid Kuchma, made half-hearted attempts at the privatization of the state owned economy. Called the “voucher privatization” and originally aimed at distributing state assets judiciously among all Ukrainians, this privatization scheme resulted in the creation of the Ukrainian oligarchy. This development, in turn, deepened the already pervasive corruption that was the essence of the Soviet Union.
Then, following a badly botched presidential election, came the “Orange Revolution” that brought forth the allegedly enlightened and pro-Western Victor Yushchenko. Paralyzed by his petty and incessant bickering with Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, he lost badly to his main rival, the pro-Russian Viktor Yanukovych. The latter was chased from office before his term expired by what was termed by the Kremlin as a coup d’etat but was viewed by the West as a popular revolution against Yanukovych’s vacillation to sign an association agreement with the European Union in Vilnius on November 28, 2013.
Almost immediately after the foiled signing of the association agreement, protests against President Yanukovych commenced. What later was elevated to the mythical heights of the “Revolution of Dignity” forced President Yanukovych to flee Ukraine. In the subsequent presidential election of May 2014, Ukrainians elected with overwhelming majority one of their country’s oligarchs, the “Chocolate King” Petro Poroshenko. In the interim, Russia invaded and then annexed the Crimea. To add insult to injury, Russia also has triggered an armed uprising in eastern Ukraine that has a significant concentration of ethnic Russians.
True to the past of the sovereign state of Ukraine, President Poroshenko did fail in an abysmal fashion, too. In the second round of the presidential election, on April 21, 2019, 73% of the Ukrainian voters chose a non-politician by the name of Volodymyr Zelensky as their new president. Clearly, the vast majority of Ukrainians decided to close the book on almost three decades of arrogant incompetence and shameless corruption by their politicians and oligarch allies. Finally, they expressed their desire to live and raise their children in a normally functioning, peaceful, and transparent state, politically as well as economically.
Although the lion’s share of the blame must be assigned to the Ukrainians themselves, American policy toward the independent sate of Ukraine was burdened by glaring incompetence, unrealistic illusions, erratic oscillations between Russia and Ukraine, and outright idiocy. Instead of assisting the newly independent Ukraine to establish the political and economic foundations of a unified state by harmonizing the old and new forces, the late President George H. W. Bush and President Bill Clinton paid little if any attention to the troubled country. The formers son and his successor President Barrack Obama’s, attempts at interference in Ukraine’s domestic affairs generally only made the situation worse. Especially, the Obama administration’s role in the early and violent removal of President Yanukovych proved to be a double edged sword. On the one hand, President Poroshenko was unable to accomplish the objectives of the Maidan revolution. On the other hand, it triggered Russia’s direct intervention in the Ukrainian mess. Moreover, Vice President Joe Biden’s private diplomacy to help his son Hunter Biden enrich himself and the family gave license to President Poroshenko and the oligarchs to continue unabated their corrupt and destructive activities within and outside Ukraine.
As a result, President Volodymyr Zelensky has inherited a situation in which the oligarchic system was discredited and the democratic values of the United State of America have become objects of ubiquitous scorn. Presently, Ukrainian society is completely traumatized and gripped by an existential fear of enormous proportions.
What can and needs to be done? One does not have to look further for a possible solution that to the almost identical history of the Republic of Finland and its troubled relations with imperial Russia, the Soviet Union and today’s Russian Federation. For centuries, Finland had managed to balance its relationship with Russia and its loyalty to the rest of Europe. From the Grand Duchy of Finland within the Russian Empire to the wars against the Soviet Union in 1939 and in 1944, which resulted in Finnish territorial losses, the country survived the Cold War’s Finlandization period. Presently as a full member of the European Union and a close cooperating state with NATO, Finland follows highly pragmatic policies vis-a-vis the Russian Federation. In a recent interview with Bloomberg: Business News, Finnish President Sauli Niinisto described his country’s attitude toward its powerful neighbor thus: “A Cossack takes everything that is loose. You have to be very clear and not let things become loose.”
President Zelensky would be well advised to follow this old Finnish wisdom. He will have to show firmness and resolve with Russia. Furthermore, he must be practical. He must know Ukraine’s strengths and limitations. Becoming a member of the European Union is clearly attainable. Full membership in NATO presently is not. However, being prepared for future Russian aggressions is within the capabilities of Ukraine. To achieve these goals, the Zelensky administration will have to move ever closer to the West by relentlessly promoting Western values inside Ukraine and simultaneously maintaining normal relations with Moscow.
Peace, stability, and prosperity have always been the Sisyphean endeavors of mankind. No doubt, President Zelensky will have to show real leadership. Otherwise, he and Ukraine will end up on the dust heaps of history.
The Jones Act is a necessary and vital part of not just the United States maritime sector, but the economy itself. According to the Transportation Institute, the Jones Act contributes more than $150 billion and more than 650,000 jobs annually to the American economy. These numbers should only increase as we continue to invest in the growing Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) market. Currently, our domestic shipyards have built, and are in the process of building, assets capable of moving and delivering LNG. Conrad Shipyard delivered the first LNG bunker barge built in North America at its Orange, Texas shipyard. VT Halter has recently launched their LNG Articulated Tug & Barge, which should be eligible for work in early 2020. Building Jones Act compliant LNG vessels comes with the added advantage of having the option to custom build them for the exact market they will be serving.
While the economic gains provided by the Jones Act do enough to justify its existence, the massive national security and defense benefits that it contributes reinforce the importance of this nearly century old act. The law itself states that it “is necessary for the national defense and the development of the domestic and foreign commerce of the United States to have a merchant marine owned and operated as vessels of the United States by citizens of the United States composed of the best-equipped, safest, and most suitable types of vessels constructed in the United States and manned with a trained and efficient citizen personnel.” During times of war, an overwhelming majority of the United States’ weapons, supplies, and even troops themselves are carried into war zones by vessels. This practice is guaranteed in no small part by the Jones Act.
Furthermore, maintaining a fleet of domestically flagged and crewed vessels allows us as a country to quickly assist our allies, as well as respond to any global crisis in an incredibly efficient manner. The Jones Act also decreases the threat of a maritime related attack on U.S. territory, as it encourages increased monitoring of foreign vessels. It also ensures the United States maintains control of our shipping routes. Elimination of the Jones Act opens the door for adversarial countries such as China or Russia to seize control of our inland waterways, potentially creating massive national security risks.
The United States is well on their way to creating and sustaining a strong LNG industry, one that is directly supplied and backed by the Jones Act. Elimination or waiving of the Jones Act would be a rash decision, one that sets the United States up for failure on a number of fronts. It would cost our economy hundreds of thousands of jobs, as well as billions of dollars in revenue, all while opening the door for opposing countries to capitalize on our losses. Notably, we would also be creating a number of security risks and exposing ourselves to serious defense risks. The numerous benefits of the Jones Act (economic, financial and defense related) far outweigh the uncertainty and danger of removing it.
By Miklos K. Radvanyi
Historically, the fate of what has been called only since the last decade of the 20th century the sovereign state of Ukraine has been depended mostly on the whims of the major European powers. Moreover, if one would like to separate the myths from the facts, Ukraine has never occupied a fixed geographical area or has been a political, economic, and cultural entity with well-defined national uniqueness. Thus, when independence was declared on August 24, 1991, the new state of Ukraine has lacked and is still devoid of a mature national identity.
On the other hand, in the ubiquitous euphoria of the relatively peaceful break up of the Soviet Union in the West, irrational optimism, coupled with blinding emotions, prevented well-meaning politicians, self-appointed experts, and the general public to weigh with due seriousness the enormous challenges that this newly minted state will and must face. In the intervening three decades, and before Ukraine could have attained a sufficient degree of national character, successive governments have brought it dangerously close to becoming an irredeemably failed state.
Meanwhile, after almost three years of relentless pursuit of the mirage of President Trump’s impeachment, the Democrats in the House of Representatives have latched theirs and their party’s political future onto the so-called “Ukrainian quid pro quo.” Claiming that in the ominous telephone call President Trump blackmailed Ukrainian President Zelensky by withholding almost half a billion dollars earmarked for military assistance in exchange for compromising information on Joe’s and Hunter Biden’s Ukrainian activities, and thus explicitly solicited the latter’s support for his reelection, the President committed an impeachable offense under Article II, section 4 of the constitution. To add additional legal insult to a clearly political injury, the Democrats stated that they reserve the right to charge President Trump with more crimes of their liking.
While almost all of the Democrats and many like minded citizens consider this development in Washington, D.C. a potential victory for the rule of law, such assessment misses the mark. The same politicians who accuse President Trump of endangering national security, remain strangely nonchalant about the precarious domestic and international conditions of Ukraine, the future of the United States’ interests in the European theatre, and the global dimensions of three decades of erroneous policies toward one of the largest European countries situated strategically between Russia and the rest of the continent.
To start with, Ukraine is in extremely deep political, financial, economic, social, and cultural crises. Therefore, President Zelensky intends simultaneously to make peace with Russia, to carry out wholesale reforms of the economy, to fight corruption, to petition international financial organizations and donors for bailouts, and to bring his country closer to NATO and the European Union.
For the United States of America, the desirable outcome would be successes for President Zelensky personally and his administration generally on all those fronts. Here, it is important to note that prior to 2016, during President Obama’s eight years, the near consensual view among Ukrainian experts was that support for Ukraine’s superficial stability was paramount. For this reason, President Obama and his administration did nothing to move successive administrations in Kyiv to abandon the ultra nationalist policies against ethnic minorities, the arrogant criminal corruption of politicians, and the rapid impoverishment of the society. Yet, President Obama’s passivity created an American political vacuum toward Ukraine that, in turn, invited Vice President Biden to exploit the corruption ridden Ukrainian political and economic systems for his and his family’s unethical and even criminal enrichment. More importantly, because they did not comprehend the depth of the ultra nationalism and the all encompassing nature of the corruption, the Obama administration treated Ukraine like a normal state. Not having a coherent Ukrainian policy, the Obama administration in general and Vice President Biden in particular showed their collective incompetence and institutional delusion of Ukraine.
Now that the Democrats use and abuse Ukraine as a domestic political football, what happens next is an open question. Will the Trump administration be able to fashion a coherent Ukrainian policy amidst the relentless negative campaign of the opposition? Likewise, will Russia exploit the self-generated American paralysis to deepen Ukraine’s misery? Will the decisively defeated ultra nationalist Poroshenko minority provoke a civil war to nullify the results of the spring elections? As a result, will Ukraine again be dominated by the old criminal enterprise rejected recently so decisively by the voters?
For the United States of America and especially for the Trump administration, the objective ought to be clear: President Trump must state firmly that the United States of America will not compromise its fundamental values. The Ukrainian question for him is not a fight over power against the Democrats but a matter of importance about democracy and prosperity. Ultra nationalism and unwarranted cultural fanaticism will not be tolerated. Equally, the endemic corruption must be eliminated decisively and moral purity shall be reestablished. For, if corruption and immorality will continue, Ukraine will disappear as an independent nation. Finally, in direct opposition to President Obama, President Trump must emphasize to President Zelensky that he is not interested in whether he is loved or hated in Ukraine. On his part, he will act with honor toward Ukraine. In turn, President Zelensky and Ukraine can count on President Trump’s assistance if they respect the new Realpolitik of the United States of America.
The US Air Force (USAF) is in the process of developing the next generation Inter-continental Ballistic Missile (ICBM). This critically important next generation nuclear deterrent is known as the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD) and it is needed because America’s current ground based nuclear deterrent is the Minuteman missile that was first deployed in 1962. It was originally designed to last 10 years. The system has been updated over 50 to 60 years to keep pace with the growing threat, but the aging system requires a complete overhaul to assure continued deterrence for the next 50+ years.
Unfortunately, the USAF has completely mismanaged the process and despite paying lip service to “competition,” is now on the verge of awarding a sole-source, cost plus contact for more than $85 billion. Let that sink in. Something as important as our nuclear deterrent could be done without serious competition. As a result, the American taxpayer will likely be forced to pay more, wait longer, and get less protection from growing nuclear threats. It didn’t have to be like this and there is still time for President Trump and Member of Congress on both sides of the aisle to demand that the Air Force regroup and get this important detail right.
GBSD’s need is so obvious, that in an era of virtually no bi-partisanship, GBSD nonetheless has strong bi-partisan support. But, we must get this right because will have to live with the results for the next 50 to 60 years. And on the nuclear front, the world will be far more dangerous the next 50 years than it was the last 50 years. And with China’s plans to challenge and replace the US as the world’s most powerful nation, we cannot afford to have our nuclear deterrent be second best. The murderous and dictatorial communist Chinese leadership will not be a benevolent force in the world.
While the Air Force paid lip service to “competition,” it created a process that subverted any real or robust competition. And the Air Force defended its flawed process by arguing that the urgency was so great that they couldn’t slow down to get things right — even if in the end it would save time, save money, and produce a far better and capable nuclear deterrent. Perhaps most importantly, this mismanagement a less robust system means that America will be at greater risk for the next 50 or 60 years — until the next major update and redevelopment.
Simply put, the Air Force’s mismanagement means that GBSD will be more costly, arrive later, and be less capable. It is particularly ironic because the Air Force has been warned that it was mishandling things (I’ve written on this before — Next Generation ICBM Should Be The Result Of Robust Competition and I’m not the only one.) But their response was always to chant the magic word “competition” while digging in its heels and proceeding to subvert any serious competition.
A robust competition between America’s best minds, and most capable high tech firms will produce a more robust system and at a lower cost. Moreover, a teamwork approach would speed its development and deployment. With real competition, GBSD will be less costly, be developed faster, and be more capable and effective. Even if you think fixing the Air Force’s past mismanagement might cost some time with a restart, wouldn’t you want our nuclear deterrent for the next 50 to 60 years to be as robust as possible?
Ask yourself if Olympians perform better running all alone in an ordinary workout, or when they are in a competitive environment and are pushed by other top Olympians in the race. The answer is obvious. The Air Force has presided over a process that effectively asks an Olympian to perform his best while working out alone. If that sounds dumb, you understand the level of mismanagement.
The Air Force competitively selected Boeing and Northrop Grumman as the only viable providers of GBSD. Almost immediately, Northrop Grumman bought the sole, viable manufacturer of solid rocket boosters for this rocket – Orbital ATK, and likely did so to corner the market for GBSD. The solid rocket boosters are a major part of the GBSD program and constitute about 1/2 of the cost of each missile. In any event, no matter who makes the rest of the missile, the rocket boosters will be made by Orbital ATK. But if Northrup Grumman is allowed to use its ownership of Orbital ATK (in contravention of a consent decree made at the time of the purchase to avoid precisely this situation), they can effectively price their competition out of the game by charging them more for the rocket boosters.
So the Air Force has effectively and massively favored one competitor in the GBSD process and thereby eliminated the balance, fairness and benefits of competition. Consequently, Boeing informed the Air Force that they will not pursue an unfair solicitation. This makes perfect sense — why invest millions in a so-called competitive process that isn’t remotely competitive because the outcome is predetermined by poorly conceived ground rules?
Had the Air Force removed the rocket booster portion the GBSD project out of the competition, they could have had a robust competition between two great high tech firms on the rest of the GBSD system.
While the Air Force has made it clear that its heels are dug in and it won’t correct its mismanagement, President Trump and Members of Congress must demand that the Air Force start the competitive process over and hold a real competition.
The Air Force must be instructed to remove solid rocket booster component from the competition — since either party will use the same booster, it isn’t a factor. Then, the two firms can innovate and compete on the technology and capability and cost of the missile. The taxpayer benefits and all of us who would like to be protected from nuclear attack will have the most robust deterrent possible.
President Trump and Congress should speak with one voice on something as fundamentally important as America’s nuclear deterrent. That one voice should be saying, “Wait a minute! This system that will protect us from nuclear threat for the next 50 to 60 years. It must be the result of a real and robust competition, not a sham process.” The Air Force has said that competition matters. It is now time for their actions to prove that they mean it!