Tag Archives: Iran nukes

Let’s see how this guy works out

Of all the things Donald J. Trump said while campaigning for the presidency in 2016, one of the few statements he made with which I agree dealt with the Iraq War.

He called it a “total disaster.” Which it turned out to be … on so many levels.

So, who does the president hire as his next national security adviser? John Bolton, an Iraq War advocate, a premier uber-hawk and a guy known for a fiery world view that seems to require that America embark on nation-building whenever it sees fit.

Trump shoved H.R. McMaster out the door this week after press secretary Sarah Hucakbee Sanders assured us that all is well between the president and the national security adviser.

It turns out it wasn’t. McMaster actually was one of the grownups within the Trump inner circle. He is a U.S. Army lieutenant general, a battle-tested scholar. He also disagreed with Trump on a number of key issues: Russia, the Iran nuclear deal come to mind.

Now the president has brought on board a guy who agrees with him on the Iran nuke deal. He’s extremely hawkish on North Korea, too, meaning that he just might counsel the president to go to war with Kim Jong Un if an opportunity presents itself.

Gosh, I feel decidedly less comfortable knowing that John Bolton is returning to the federal government.

Bolton did say that he knows his role, that the president sets policy. His new duties will be to provide advice and counsel on national security matters.

Throughout all of this chaos, though, is the pattern already established that Trump hardly takes a moment to listen to anyone. I am left to wonder: Is the president going to heed the reckless advice that John Bolton is capable of delivering?

Oh, my. I am gnashing my teeth.

Iran, nukes … and Bill Cosby

Well, that about covers it.

President Obama’s press conference today was meant to explain the details of the recently completed negotiation to stop Iran from producing a nuclear weapon.

Then the question turned to Bill Cosby and whether the president could revoke the comedic icon’s Presidential Medal of Freedom on the basis of the rape charges that have been leveled against him by several women.


Obama’s answer was deft and on point.

There’s no precedent for revoking such a medal and there’s no mechanism now to do it, he said.

Cosby received the medal in 2002 from President George W. Bush. The world didn’t know what it knows now of what Cosby allegedly has done. It’s been reported recently that court documents show that he admitted to giving Quaaludes to women and then had sex with them.

It’s all quite disgusting.

Obama then ventured his own view on what he considers to be rape. “I’ll say this: if you give a woman, or a man for that matter, without his or her knowledge a drug and then have sex with that person without consent, that’s rape,” the president said.

OK. By my understanding of what is known, I believe Bill Cosby has admitted to being a rapist.

Should the White House revoke his Medal of Freedom?

Leave the issue alone — and let Bill Cosby try to fend off the lawsuits that are going to bury him.

Bibi wins; now, make up with Barack

Barack Obama’s candidate didn’t win the election to become Israel’s next prime minister.

The winner is the current prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, whose right-leaning Likus Party will continue to control the governing Knesset.


President Obama’s critics call this a sharp rebuke of the U.S. president, with whom Bibi has a difficult relationship.

But let’s understand something right off the top: If the bullets and rockets ever start flying in Israel, the United States will be at the side of its most dependable Middle East ally. Of that there can be no question. Netanyahu has acknowledged as much, as has Obama.

So, what’s the big deal with this strained relationship?

It goes most recently to the speech Netanyahu made to Congress without first consulting with the White House. It is centered on Israel’s desire to see greater U.S. sanctions on Iran, with whom we are negotiating a deal to end Iran’s nuclear development program. Obama objected to Netanyahu’s speech, didn’t meet with him when he was in-country — and the Obama foes are raising all kinds of hackles over the frayed relationship.

I don’t buy it.

Here’s what ought to happen: The two men have secured phone lines to each other’s office. One of them — it doesn’t matter who — needs to pick up the phone and start working toward a way to end the public rift.

It’s in both leaders’ best interest. They both know it and my hunch is that they well might already have had that chat.


Is Bibi in trouble in Israel?

One of the things I learned about Israel when I visited the country for five weeks in the spring of 2009 is that its political diversity belies what some of us might have perceived about it.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government is on the line in a national election this week and it remains within the realm of possibility that he might lose his office to someone from another party.


Netanyahu’s Likud Party has cobbled together a governing coalition, which is being challenged even in the wake of imminent threat from neighboring powers — such as Iran.

Netanyahu came to the United States in early March and delivered a speech to a joint congressional session that was meant to rally support for his coalition back home. He spoke of the need to impose greater sanctions on Iran. He did so while the U.S. government is seeking to negotiated a deal that ends Iran’s nuclear program; as such, President Obama opposes new sanctions, right now, while everyone is in the midst of negotiation.

Bibi’s speech didn’t help him back home. Some reports say his coalition is in trouble.

Why is that? Because Israelis are as divided about Netanyahu as Americans are.

During my journey through Israel, I met a wonderful couple in Haifa. I stayed in their home for several days. They are immigrants from South Africa. They moved to Israel when they both were in their early 20s; that was about 50 years ago.

They both implied a belief that Likud’s tough rhetoric doesn’t always necessarily serve Israel well. They suggested a need to be more accommodating to, say, the Palestinians who live in Israel and that Israel should stop rattling its sabers whenever trouble is brewing. In that part of the world, it seems trouble always pops up at the next dawn.

They aren’t hardliners in the mold of Likud. They want a more conciliatory government.

I’ve long supported Israel’s view that it’s best to be prepared for war. Indeed, armed conflict has been thrust on them without warning before. Israel’s enemies reside virtually no distance at all from key cities. There can be no questioning Israel’s need for constant vigilance.

Netanyahu, though, might have overplayed his hand by coming to this country to argue for a policy that doesn’t have the national support he seems to think it does.

Thus, it well might be that he owes House Speaker John Boehner a four-letter word or two for inviting him to speak to Congress without first consulting President Obama.

Then again, Bibi could have declined the invitation.

Allies join in criticism chorus of Gang of 47

Now it’s the allies who are weighing in with criticism of the Republican Gang of 47’s letter to Iran.

Our nation’s European allies have chimed in with a blistering critique of the Senate GOP letter that says it’s OK for Iran to ignore whatever treaty that’s negotiated to get rid of Iran’s nuclear program.


“Suddenly, Iran can say to us: ‘Are your proposals actually trustworthy if 47 senators say that no matter what the government agrees to, we can subsequently take it off the table?’ ” German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said during a visit to Washington.

What’s Germany’s stake in this? The Germans, along with the United States, Great Britain, France, China and Russia are negotiating with the Iranians for a way to rid the Islamic Republic of its nuclear ambition.

A large portion of the U.S. Senate’s Republican caucus has decided to take matters into its own hands by seeking to persuade Iran to ignore whatever agreement is worked out. Without congressional approval of a treaty, the Gang said, it becomes merely an executive agreement that can be wiped out when the next president takes office in January 2017.

Technically, it’s true. But the letter constitutes an egregious interference in a high-stakes negotiation.

Welcome aboard the criticism train, allies.


GOP's letter to Iran? It's Obama's fault

You knew it would come to this, didn’t you?

Republican U.S. senators, trying to put some distance between themselves and what’s looking like a monumental cluster-bleep regarding The Letter that was sent to Iran regarding the nuclear negotiations, have done the impossible.

They’ve gone from irresponsible to ridiculous. They’re blaming President Obama for their decision to fire off that message to the Iranian mullahs, encouraging them to oppose any nuclear treaty that gets hammered out.


Blame Obama! That’s the ticket!

Here’s how the Huffington Post, which I concede isn’t a friend of the GOP, reported it: “Those who support the letter — even some who didn’t add their names — deflected the blame. If it weren’t for Obama’s failure to consult lawmakers about the negotiations, or his threatened veto of a proposed bill to give Congress the final vote on a nuclear agreement, senators wouldn’t have had to speak out in the first place, they argued.

“’I think that, no doubt, the fact that the president, you know, issued a veto threat on a very common-sense piece of legislation, probably evoked, you know, a good deal of passion,’ Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told The Huffington Post Tuesday. Corker, who is leading the push for a veto-proof majority on the bill to grant Congress oversight of a nuclear agreement, did not sign letter, which was organized by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.). Nevertheless, he showed no signs of ill will toward his junior colleague.

“’No, no, no,’ Corker responded, when asked if he was concerned Cotton’s letter would cost the bill much-needed Democratic votes.”

There’s more on the link attached to this post, but you get the idea.

The Gang of 47 sent The Letter because President Obama didn’t consult with Republican lawmakers about the negotiations, the GOP line of defense goes.

I applaud Sen. Corker for remaining part of a dwindling Reasonable Republican Senate Caucus; he was one of seven GOP senators who didn’t sign The Letter.

However, his assertion — along with those who did sign the document — that this is Barack Obama’s fault is about as “funny” as the statement by GOP congressional aides reported in The Daily Beast that the senators were being “cheeky,” that they meant The Letter to be something of a joke.

I’m trying real hard right now to pick up the sound of laughter. I don’t hear anything.


Iranian hardliners find friends on Capitol Hill

Of all the criticism out there aimed at the Gang of 47 who signed The Letter to Iran, urging the mullahs to reject a nuclear deal with the United States, one point rings truer than the rest.

It is that The Letter has given ammunition to the hardline faction within the Iranian government to use against whatever the so-called “moderates” bring to any discussion on this matter.

Who would have thought that the hardline Iranian Islamic fundamentalists would find allies within the Republican majority that controls the United States Senate?

Roll that one around for a bit.

Freshman Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., drafted the letter and sent it to his GOP colleagues. Forty-six of them signed it, with seven Republicans declining to put their names on The Letter.

They’ve interfered directly with a sensitive U.S. negotiation with Iran over how to persuade the rogue nation to discontinue its nuclear development program. The Gang of 47 well might have broken U.S. law prohibiting such unauthorized negotiation with a foreign power, but the gang won’t be punished for it.

Conservatives think they’re doing the right thing. Liberals are angry with them for undermining the president of the United States, the secretary of state, and our allies who’ve joined us in seeking an end to the Iranian nuclear program.

And, yes, they’ve given the Iranian hardliners reason to smile today as they look toward the United States and see that members of our “loyal opposition” are proving to be not quite so loyal. They’ve turned a bipartisan U.S. foreign policy endeavor into a partisan contest.

The late, great Republican U.S. Sen. Arthur Vandenberg of Michigan, who coined the phrase that partisanship “ends at the water’s edge,” is spinning in his grave.




Cotton becomes Senate's new media star

Move over, Ted Cruz. You’ve been supplanted as the U.S. Senate’s media star — by yet another new guy.

I never thought Cruz, a Texas Republican, could be pushed aside so quickly. But he has, by another Republican newcomer, Tom Cotton of Arkansas.

All Cotton has done is draft a letter that has infuriated the White House, created a stir in the international community and perhaps given a handful of fellow Republicans a case of the nervous jerks.


The Letter, as I like to call it, was sent to Iranian mullahs, advising them to perhaps reject a nuclear disarmament deal being hammered by their government and the United States. Some have suggested the letter violated a long-standing U.S. law, the Logan Act, that bans unauthorized U.S. citizens from negotiating with foreign governments.

Hey, no problem, says Cotton. He’s just doing the people’s will, he said.

As Politico reported: “Though he clearly has media savvy — he runs a guerrilla-like Twitter account that constantly blasts Obama’s foreign policy — Cotton has little regard for the media relationships of his forebears. He declined — three times — to answer questions for this story when approached in the Senate hallways. Instead, Cotton chose a spate of cable TV interviews and an interview with The Wall Street Journal to push his message this week.”

There once was a time when Senate newcomers thought it was better to be seen and not heard. More senior senators used to frown on the new guys gobbling up so much media air time and print space with their rhetoric.

Former Sen. Phil Gramm, another Texas Republican, became known for his penchant for grabbing a microphone. Then came current Sen. Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, who immediately became known as a Senate loudmouth.

Cruz, I thought, set the standard for blowhards when he joined the Senate in 2013.

Now we have Sen. Cotton, elected in 2014. He’s been in office for all of three months, but look at him. He goes and writes this letter, gets 46 of his GOP colleagues to sign it, presents to the Islamic Republic of Iran and causes quite the stir.

These new guys all promised to shake things up in the formerly staid U.S. Senate.

Brother, they sure have.

GOP senators broke the law with The Letter

Let’s remember The Letter.

It was sent by 47 Republican U.S. senators to the mullahs who run the Islamic Republic of Iran. It sought to discourage the Iranians from agreeing to a treaty that would end Iran’s nuclear program.

Some observers have suggested that the letter broke the Logan Act, enacted in 1799 to prohibit unauthorized U.S. citizens from negotiating with foreign governments.

Now we hear from a law professor at American University that the senators may have broken the law.


What’s the punishment? Professor Stephen Vladeck said the senators got away with something. The Logan Act is virtually unenforceable and it might even be unconstitutional, he said.

What’s more, says the professor, House Speaker John Boehner might have broken the law by inviting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Washington to lobby against the Iranian nuclear negotiation. Should the speaker be punished? In my mind, sure. Will he be punished? Again, no.

The Letter is what’s gotten folks so riled up in Washington.

Freshman Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., came up with the idea. He pitched it to his GOP colleagues, 46 of whom signed it. Seven more GOP senators didn’t sign The Letter. One of the senators whose name is missing is Susan Collins of Maine, who has said The Letter has alienated Republicans even more — if that’s possible — from their Democratic colleagues and, oh yes, the White House.

That doesn’t matter to the Gang of 47. They wanted to make some kind of point about trying to broker a deal with Iran.

They made it, and likely broke the law in the process.

Take a bow, folks.

Logan Act may have been violated

The Logan Act was enacted in 1799, during the John Adams administration.

Its provisions are clear: No citizen shall — other than the president of the United States — shall negotiate with another government or presume to speak for the U.S. government.

Here is what it says:

“Any citizen of the United States, wherever he may be, who, without authority of the United States, directly or indirectly commences or carries on any correspondence or intercourse with any foreign government or any officer or agent thereof, with intent to influence the measures or conduct of any foreign government or of any officer or agent thereof, in relation to any disputes or controversies with the United States, or to defeat the measures of the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.”

So, here’s the question: Did the 47 Republican U.S. senators who signed the letter to Iranian government officials seeking to discourage Iran from approving a nuclear disarmament treaty with the United States violate the Logan Act?

Some folks are beginning to suggest that the letter’s intent is so egregious that the senators might have committed a near-treasonous act.

President Obama is seeking to negotiate a deal that ends Iran’s nuclear program. The senators are telling Iran that whatever treaty approved might become invalid once the president leaves office on Jan. 20, 2017. The GOP lawmakers are encouraging the Iranians to oppose the treaty.

There appears to be some serious undermining of the president’s authority to negotiate a treaty. Yes, the Senate has the right to disapprove of the treaty once it’s finalized. However, to interfere in the midst of negotiations? That job belongs to the president of the United States — and no one else.

Message to the Senate Republicans: Butt the hell out!