The argument for the Iran nuclear deal was always that it was better than the status quo. We got inspectors into Iran and we had a much better idea what the Iranian government was doing. By all indications, Iran was complying with the deal. After Trump backed out and began applying “maximum pressure,” Iran quit complying with the terms of the deal. The US’s has hypocritically insisted that Iran comply with a deal the US backed out of, and now the Biden administration is insisting that Iran renegotiate a more stringent deal. Iran has not buckled under US sanctions, nor will it negotiate a more stringent deal. It might not even accept the original deal. From Paul R. Pillar at responsiblestatecraft.org:
Insofar as U.S. policy influences Iranian policy, those who have always opposed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the multilateral agreement that limited Iran’s nuclear program, have to be creative in constructing their talking points. The record of the last six years has shown that the first half of that period, when the JCPOA was fully in force and international monitoring confirmed Iran’s compliance with the strict limits that the agreement had imposed on Iran’s nuclear activities, was markedly better than the second half that began after the Trump administration reneged in 2018 on U.S. obligations under the JCPOA and thereby relieved Iran of its obligations.
Trump’s subsequent “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran was a conspicuous failure on every front. A year after Washington’s reneging, Iran started ramping up its uranium enrichment beyond the JCPOA limits to the point where the estimated “break-out” time it would now need to make enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon is down to only a month or two, rather than approximately a year under the JCPOA. Iranian regional activity became at least as aggressive as it was before. And with the U.S. reneging having politically discredited those leaders within Iran who favored concessions and negotiations with the West, hard-liners are now firmly in control in Tehran.
Among the creative arguments attempted by JCPOA opponents is to blame the consequences of withdrawal that have flowed on the JCPOA itself, instead of on Trump’s renunciation of the deal. Richard Goldberg of the misleadingly named Foundation for Defense of Democracies, an advocacy group that has made opposition to diplomacy with Iran and especially the JCPOA its signature issue, tried this technique when I appeared with him several weeks ago in a program aired in Arabic to audiences in the Middle East. The current worry about breakout times is due to shortcomings of the JCPOA, argued Goldberg, because it left Iran with a nuclear base from which it could expand. He left unsaid that the base Iran had before it was required to dispose of most of it under the JCPOA was many times bigger than what it had when the agreement was in force.
Iran is becoming an important participant in China and Russia’s Eurasian axis. From Pepe Escobar at unz.com:
Iran’s president-elect will ‘Look East’ while seeking to exit ‘strategic patience’ when dealing with the US
Iran’s new President-elect Ebrahim Raisi holds a press conference in Tehran on June 21. Photo: AFP / Shota Mizuno / The Yomiuri Shimbun
In his first press conference as President-Elect with 62% of the votes, Ebrahim Raesi, facing a forest of microphones, came out swinging and leaving nothing to the imagination.
On the JCPOA, or Iran nuclear deal, the dossier that completely obsesses the West, Raeisi was clear:
- the US must immediately return to the JCPOA that Washington unilaterally violated, and lift all sanctions.
- The JCPOA negotiations in Vienna will proceed, but they do not condition anything in terms of Iran’s future.
- The Iranian ballistic missile program is absolutely non-negotiable in the framework of the JCPOA, and will not be curbed.
Asked by a Russian journalist whether he would meet President Biden if a deal was struck in Vienna and all sanctions lifted – a major “if” – Raeisi’s answer was a straight “No”.
It’s crucial to stress that Raeisi, in principle, favors the restoration of the JCPOA as its was signed in 2015 – following the guidelines of Leader Ayatollah Khamenei. But if the Vienna charade goes on forever and the Americans keep insisting on rewriting the deal towards other areas of Iranian national security, that’s a definitive red line.
Raeisi acknowledged the immense internal challenges he faces, in terms of putting the Iranian economy back on track, getting rid of the neoliberal drive of outgoing Team Rouhani, and fighting widespread corruption. The fact that election turnout was only 48.7%, compared to the average 70% in the prior three presidential contests will make it even more difficult.
Yet in foreign policy Iran’s path ahead is unmistakable, centered on the “Look East” strategy, which means closer cooperation with China and Russia, with Iran developing as a key node of Eurasian integration or, according to the Russian vision, the Greater Eurasia Partnership.
Iran is not going to give Biden the deal they wouldn’t give Trump: renegotiation of the Nuclear Agreement. From Medea Benjamin and Nicholas J.S. Davies at antiwar.com:
As Congress still struggles to pass a COVID relief bill, the rest of the world is nervously reserving judgment on America’s new president and his foreign policy, after successive U.S. administrations have delivered unexpected and damaging shocks to the world and the international system.
Cautious international optimism toward Biden is very much based on his commitment to Obama’s signature diplomatic achievement, the JCPOA or nuclear agreement with Iran. Biden and the Democrats excoriated Trump for withdrawing from it and promised to promptly rejoin the deal if elected. But Biden now appears to be hedging his position in a way that risks turning what should be an easy win for the new administration into an avoidable and tragic diplomatic failure.
While it was the United States under Trump that withdrew from the nuclear agreement, Biden is taking the position that the US will not rejoin the agreement or drop its unilateral sanctions until Iran first comes back into compliance. After withdrawing from the agreement, the United States is in no position to make such demands, and Foreign Minister Zarif has clearly and eloquently rejected them, reiterating Iran’s firm commitment that it will return to full compliance as soon as the United States does so.
Biden should have announced US re-entry as one of his first executive orders. It did not require renegotiation or debate. On the campaign trail, Bernie Sanders, Biden’s main competitor for the Democratic nomination, simply promised, “I would re-enter the agreement on the first day of my presidency.”
Any attempt by the Biden Administration to rejoin the Iran Nuclear Agreement will ensnare it in the contradictions in the agreement accepted by the Obama administration and laid bare by Trump. From Scott Ritter at ronpaulinstitute.org:
By laying out unrealistic demands to Iran and engaging in fearmongering about its nuclear program, Secretary of State Tony Blinken has underscored America’s real intent about rejoining the controversial agreement.
President Joe Biden has made rejoining the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA, popularly known as the Iran nuclear deal) one of the top priorities of his administration, reversing course from the direction taken by former President Donald Trump who, in May 2018, withdrew the US from the landmark 2015 agreement.
However, the gap between Biden’s stated desire and the ability of his foreign policy team, headed by Secretary of State Antony Blinken, to bring it to fruition may be insurmountable.
In a recent statement, Blinken warned that if Iran continued to unilaterally lift the various restrictions on its nuclear program mandated under the JCPOA, it would be able to produce enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon within “a matter of weeks.”
It may not be easy for Biden to resurrect US participation in the Iran nuclear deal. From Alastair Crooke at strategic-culture.org:
Biden says he wants – through diplomacy – to achieve a nuclear deal with Iran – i.e. a JCPOA ‘Plus + Plus’. The Europeans desperately concur with this aspiration. But the ‘deal protocols’ that his ‘A-Team’ inherits from the Obama era have always contained seeds to failure.
And now, four years on, the prospect of failure seems assured – firstly by the hostages to fortune already offered up by Biden, and secondly (and decisively), by the fact that the ‘world’ today is not the ‘world’ of yore. The ‘chair’ at the head of the table of global leadership is no longer an American perquisite. Israel is not the same Israel, and Iran – for sure – is not the same Iran (as at the outset to the Obama initiative). The world has moved on. The last four years cannot simply be expunged as some inconsequential aberration to earlier protocols, still valid today.
Trump’s mark on America and the world cannot be normalised away. Half of America in these last years has become America First-ers – as Pat Buchanan points out, whatever the establishment believes, in the clash between nationalism and globalism, globalism has lost half of America.
If followed through, the protocols – the implicit procedures – to ‘a deal’, in today’s environment, inevitably will take Biden or Harris, or whomsoever is President, along the path to the protocol’s final point: Should negotiation not produce the desired result, the threat of a military option will be back on the table.
There are two ways to break up a relationship: walk away, or get the other party to walk away. Is Trump trying to break up NATO by getting the other parties to walk away? From Patrick Armstrong at strategic-culture.org:
In January 2018 I advanced the hypothesis that U.S. President Trump understood that the only way to “Make American Great Again” was to disentangle it from the imperial mission that had it stuck in perpetual wars. I suggested that the cutting of this “Gordian Knot of entanglements” was difficult, even impossible, to accomplish from his end and that he understood that the cutting could only come from the other side. I followed up with another look the next March. I now look at my hypothesis as Trump’s first term comes to an end.
While we are no closer to knowing whether this is indeed Trump’s strategy or an unintended consequence of his behaviour, it is clear that the “Gordian knot of U.S. imperial entanglements” is under great strain.
German-American relations provide an observation point. There are four demands the Trump Administration makes of its allies – Huawei, Iran, Nord Stream 2 and defence spending – and all four converge on Germany. Germany is one of the most important American allies; it is probably the second-most important NATO member; it is the economic engine of the European Union. Should it truly defy Washington on these issues, there would be fundamental damage to the U.S. imperium. (And, if George Friedman is correct in stating that preventing a Germany-Russia coalition is the “primordial interest” of the USA, the damage could be greater still.) And yet that is what we are looking at: on several issues Berlin is defying Washington.
Trump is aligning with Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States, and Israel to maintain US economic and financial preeminence, which means opposing Iran at every juncture. From Eric Zuesse at strategic-culture.org:
The following is entirely from open online sources that I have been finding to be trustworthy on these matters in the past. These sources will be linked-to here; none of this information is secret, even though some details in my resulting analysis of it will be entirely new.
It explains how and why the bottom-line difference between Donald Trump and Barack Obama, regarding US national security policies, turns out to be their different respective estimations of the biggest danger threatening the maintenance of the US dollar as the world’s leading or reserve currency. This has been the overriding foreign-policy concern for both Presidents.
Obama placed as being the top threat to the dollar, a breakaway of the EU (America’s largest market both for exports and for imports) from alliance with the United States. He was internationally a Europhile. Trump, however, places as being the top threat to the dollar, a breakaway of Saudi Arabia and of the other Gulf Arab oil monarchies from the U.S. Trump is internationally a Sunni-phile: specifically a protector of fundamentalist Sunni monarchs — but especially of the Sauds themselves — and they hate Shia and especially the main Shia nation, Iran.
Here’s how that change, to Saudi Arabia as being America’s main ally, has happened — actually it’s a culmination of decades. Trump is merely the latest part of that process of change. Here is from the US State Department’s official historian, regarding this history:
By the 1960s, a surplus of US dollars caused by foreign aid, military spending, and foreign investment threatened this system [the FDR-established 1944 Bretton Woods gold-based US dollar as the world’s reserve currency], as the United States did not have enough gold to cover the volume of dollars in worldwide circulation at the rate of $35 per ounce; as a result, the dollar was overvalued. Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson adopted a series of measures to support the dollar and sustain Bretton Woods: foreign investment disincentives; restrictions on foreign lending; efforts to stem the official outflow of dollars; international monetary reform; and cooperation with other countries. Nothing worked. Meanwhile, traders in foreign exchange markets, believing that the dollar’s overvaluation would one day compel the US government to devalue it, proved increasingly inclined to sell dollars. This resulted in periodic runs on the dollar.
To continue reading: Why Trump Cancelled the Iran Deal
As Philip M. Giraldi sees it, Trump’s progression on diplomacy is two steps forward, one back. The agreement he eventually gets from North Korea may look a lot like the agreement he repudiated with Iran. From Giraldi at strategic-culture.org:
What will come out of this week’s summit between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un of North Korea remains to be seen, and one must hope for the best, but the bullets are already beginning to fly in the US media with The New York Times’ Nicholas Kristof declaring impulsively somewhat implausibly that Trump gave away the store by canceling military training exercises with South Korea and in legitimizing Jong-un’s rule by meeting with him without getting anything substantive in return.
Lost in the flood of news coming out of Singapore are Trump’s positive comments delivered at the earlier G-7 meeting in Canada, which may have opened the door to a possible meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin and a return of Moscow to a reconfigured G-8. One hopes that China will soon also make it into the ultimate insiders’ club, which will have to be renamed G-9.
Washington’s most important relationship is with Moscow, and the possibility of détente should be welcomed by everyone who wishes to avoid a nuclear holocaust. But The Times’ Paul Krugman, among others, cannot overcome his visceral dislike for Russia, citing its “invasion” of Ukraine and its relatively small economy as good reasons to block its membership in a reconstituted G-8. He also suggests that Putin has some kind of “hold over Trump,” a serious charge that he cannot substantiate except by innuendo, also claiming that Trump is some kind of Quisling “who defended Russia while attacking our closest allies.” It is odd that Krugman, a Nobel laureate in Economic Sciences, chooses to ignore the fact that Moscow punches well above its weight both economically and politically while also sitting on what is presumed to be the world’s most resource-rich region in Siberia. Also, Krugman should do a fact check on who started what in Ukraine. He might be surprised to learn that it was the United States and its proxies.
The Krugman and Kristof excursions into fantasy demonstrate clearly how media punditry in the United States is a fascinating plant that grows in darkness. It is rarely fact-based, is never held accountable, and it is nearly always ideologically driven. Talking heads sitting across the right/libertarian divide are as bad as traditional liberals like Krugman and Kristof. Justin Raimondo, for example, praises Donald Trump’s performance in insulting and rebuffing the six other nations at the recently concluded G-7 Summit because those conniving non-Americans are relying on the United States to provide their defense so they can sit around all fat and happy. He calls them “Euro-weenies.”
To continue reading: Trump Confounds the Pundits
The Obama administration may have lied about enforcing financial sanctions on Iran after the Iranian Nuclear Agreement, which wouldn’t be surprising. From Tyler Durden at zerohedge.com:
Seemingly not satisfied with airlifting billions in US taxpayer cash on pallets to Tehran, AP reports that the Obama administration secretly sought to give Iran access to the U.S. financial system by sidestepping sanctions kept in place after the 2015 nuclear deal, despite repeatedly telling Congress and the public it had no plans to do so.
An investigation by Senate Republicans released Wednesday that exposes the Obama administration’s politically-motivated actions to secretly offer help to Iran while withholding the truth from the American taxpayers about the extent of Washington’s handouts to Tehran. As AP reports,
The report by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations revealed that under President Barack Obama, the Treasury Department issued a license in February 2016, never previously disclosed, that would have allowed Iran to convert $5.7 billion it held at a bank in Oman from Omani rials into euros by exchanging them first into U.S. dollars. If the Omani bank had allowed the exchange without such a license, it would have violated sanctions that bar Iran from transactions that touch the U.S. financial system.
While issuing the license was not illegal, AP reports that it still went above and beyond what the Obama administration was required to do under the terms of the nuclear agreement.
Under that deal, the U.S. and world powers gave Iran billions of dollars in sanctions relief in exchange for curbing its nuclear program. Last month, President Donald Trump declared the U.S. was pulling out of what he described as a “disastrous deal.”
The license issued to Bank Muscat stood in stark contrast to repeated public statements from the Obama White House, the Treasury and the State Department, all of which denied that the administration was contemplating allowing Iran access to the U.S. financial system.
To continue reading: Senate Probe Exposes Obama’s Secret Iran Deal To Sidestep US Sanctions