Tag Archives: Iranian nukes

Trump vs. Intelligence Brass

Let’s just ponder for a moment a remarkable U.S. Senate committee hearing.

Donald Trump says the Islamic State has been defeated; he says North Korea no longer presents a nuclear weapons threat; he stands by his decision to pull the United States out of a deal that bans Iran from obtaining nukes.

Then we heard this from our nation’s intelligence leadership, CIA Director Gina Haspel, FBI Director Christopher Wray and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats:

  • ISIS has thousands of fighters and is planning guerrilla attacks against innocent victims and nations it considers to be enemies.
  • North Korea is working toward developing nuclear weapons and that those weapons are likely to pose a direct threat to the United States of America.
  • Iran is continuing to comply with the agreement that seeks to prevent the Islamic Republic from obtaining nuclear weapons.

I am left to ask: What in the name of national security is the president of the United States thinking?

Oh, I know the answer. He isn’t thinking.

No deal on Iran nukes now looks possible

JUST IN: Parties agree to extend Iran nuclear talks until June.


So, what happens if Iran fails to strike a deal with other nations — including the United States — to end its nuclear enrichment program?

Might it be that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was right, that “no deal is better than a bad deal”?


The deadline comes at the end this day. There might be a framework for a deal that sets up a new deadline.

If not, well, then more sanctions are due. Perhaps even the “military option” if Iran weaponizes the uranium that other nations want it to surrender.

The prospect of no deal shouldn’t be of grave concern.

U.S. negotiators insist, as they should, that Iran cannot be allowed to develop a nuclear weapon. No one on Earth trusts a nuclear-powered Islamic Republic of Iran, which has stated its No. 1 mission is to destroy Israel. The Israelis haven’t said it in so many words, but they clearly stand ready to strike Iran if it gets a whiff of a nuclear weapon being on developed. President Obama has refused repeatedly to take a military strike off the table as well.

What constitutes a “bad deal”? It would be one that allows sanctions to be lifted over time, which reportedly is one of the options being considered by U.S. and allied negotiators. It’s the kind of deal that Netanyahu has warned shouldn’t be allowed to occur.

We are dealing with a seriously rogue nation. Let us treat it as such.


White House angry over GOP letter to Iranians

Does it surprise anyone that the White House would be steamed over a group of Republican senators seeking to undercut the president’s authority to negotiate a sensitive nuclear disarmament treaty?

If it does, then you need to get out more.


White House press flack Josh Earnest was unusually blunt today in responding to the letter signed by 47 GOP senators telling Iran that any treaty it agrees to with President Obama could be voided once the president leaves office in less than two years.

The Obama administration is seeking an agreement that stops the Iranian nuclear development efforts many believe is designed to produce a nuclear weapon for the Islamic Republic of Iran.

The president doesn’t want Iran to have a nuclear weapon and has said so — repeatedly. Republicans don’t want the Iranians to join the “nuclear club,” and they’ve said so as well.

But which of them — the president or the Senate — has the authority to negotiate a deal. That’s right: the president of the United States.

So, why is the Senate GOP meddling in a duty charged to the executive branch of government?

Might it be Senate Republicans want the negotiations to fail so that they push even harder for the military option?

As The Hill reports: Earnest said Republicans have a “long and rather sordid history” of putting military options ahead of diplomatic ones, and called the letter, signed by 47 GOP lawmakers, “the continuation of a partisan strategy to undermine the president’s authority.”

Once more, with feeling: We have one president at a time.

Enough of the barbs, guys; start talking like friends

President Obama has been trading barbs of late with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

They’re tossing them in public at each other. I’m wondering, though: Each man has a secure phone line to the other’s office. What might a private conversation sound like at this moment:

Obama: Hello, Bibi? This is Barack. You got a few minutes?

Netanyahu: Sure thing, Barack. Hey, I can call you “Barack,” right? I heard about that crap over your addressing (German Chancellor) Merkel by her first name, Angela. What nonsense.

Obama: Sure thing, Bibi. No problem. Hey, let’s set aside all this name-calling and get down to brass tacks. You know why I didn’t want you to speak to Congress. First of all, John Boehner messed up by not advising me about the invitation. Second of all, you’ve got an election coming up and we just don’t usually invite foreign leaders to make high-profile public speeches so close to an election. That’s been the practice for as long as I can remember.

Netanyahu: Yes, I understand. But you have to understand something about my position here on Iran and those nuclear talks. Iran is a neighbor of ours. Those crazies sit just a few hundred miles from Jerusalem. I worry about them every hour of every day I’m awake. I’ve got to make the case that no deal is better than a bad deal. You’re sitting in Washington, a long way from the Middle East. You have the comfort of distance. We don’t have it here.

Obama: Absolutely, I get it. But understand that we have a tradition in this country of putting partisanship aside when it concerns foreign policy. In this country, as in yours, we have only one head of government at a time. Boehner’s invitation is seen as an intrusion in our foreign policy tradition. The president’s team negotiates deals. Sure, we take advice from legislators, but their job is to make laws, not to engage in diplomacy.

Netanyahu: OK. Here’s what I think we — you and I — ought to do. Let’s quit sniping. We know you love Israel and we love the United States, too, Barack. Let’s just cool the rhetoric until we get this negotiation completed with Iran. If the nut jobs in Tehran reject whatever plan you and your international partners come up with, then you and I can speak with one voice — as we’ve sought to do before.

Obama: But what if Iran accepts the deal?

Netanyahu: We’ll decide then what to do. Personally, I’m hoping they reject it, if only because I want us to be friends in public the way we are in private.

Obama: Deal, Bibi. Let me make just one request: If you decide to bomb the Iranian nuke plants, give us a heads-up, just to show Boehner how friends are supposed to interact with each other.

Netanyahu: Will do, Barack.


U.S.-Israel spat getting more serious

The quarreling between the United States and Israel has me conflicted on a couple of levels … maybe even more of them.

First, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s scheduled speech next week before a joint congressional session should not occur. He accepted an invitation from House Speaker John Boehner that was a serious breach of longstanding diplomatic protocol; Boehner extended the invitation without consulting with the president and the White House. President Obama is rightfully ticked off at the speaker for extending the invitation and is angry at the prime minister for accepting it.


Second, Netanyahu plans to lobby Congress to impose more sanctions on Iran while that country is negotiating a potential end to its nuclear program development. Obama has said repeatedly that Iran must not develop nuclear weapons and has vowed to keep Iran from obtaining them. He’s seeking a negotiated settlement to that end. Netanyahu and Boehner are trying to undermine that effort. Bad call, Bibi and Mr. Speaker.

Third, a growing number of Democratic lawmakers are planning to boycott the speech next week. That, too, is a bad call. As much as I oppose the invitation and the proposed contend of the prime minister’s speech, I think it’s bad form for U.S lawmakers to stay away. Hear the prime minister out, extend your hand, give him the respect that a visiting head of government deserves.

I understand Netanyahu’s angst regarding Iran’s nuclear ambitions. The Islamic Republic of Iran has declared its intention to wipe Israel off the map. The Israelis, of course, don’t want that to occur. Israel’s standing as the chief U.S. ally in the Middle East gives the Israelis a unique place.

However, Netanyahu and Boehner broke with diplomatic decorum — and don’t for an instant underestimate its importance — with this invitation and the manner in which it was offered.

The worst aspect of it is the effect it might have on sensitive negotiations that well could produce a safer Middle East.

There’s some word of a possible deal in the works that would put the clamps on nuclear development for at least 10 years; then there could be a gradual easing of restrictions. The “easing” part is troublesome, but the international community can remain on high alert in the years ahead to any notion that Iran might be kick-starting its ambition to develop nuclear weapons.

My hope is that the fiery rhetoric coming out of Washington and Jerusalem can be tempered. The two nations remain bound together by many more common interests than differences. Obama and Netanyahu have affirmed as much many times during their sometimes-testy relationship.

Who knows? Maybe Netanyahu’s speech before Congress next week can be reworked and dialed back to recognize the importance of the negotiations that seek to end Iran’s nuclear program.

Shall we hope for the best?

House speaker mounts lame defense

John Boehner must be fantasizing about being president of the United States.

Why else would the speaker of the House of Representatives take it upon himself to buck long-standing diplomatic protocol by inviting a foreign head of government to speak to Congress without consulting first with the White House.


The speaker has defended his invitation to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak to Congress, saying he didn’t tell the White House because he didn’t want any interference from President Obama, who he thinks might seek to derail the invitation.

Such so-called “logic” simply dodges the real issue, which is whether it is appropriate for a legislative leader to go behind the back of the nation’s head of state — the president — in inviting a foreign dignitary to make a public speech before a joint congressional session.

To my way of thinking — and others as well — the speaker broke a long-held rule of diplomatic decorum.

And why? Because of some so-called tension between the president and the prime minister.

“There’s so secret here in Washington about the animosity that this White House has for Prime Minister Netanyahu,” the Ohio Republican said. “I, frankly, didn’t want that getting in the way and quashing what I thought was a real opportunity.”

The “real opportunity,” according to Boehner, would be for Netanyahu to argue for stronger sanctions against Iran while the Islamic Republic is in the middle of nuclear disarmament negotiations with the State Department and other foreign governments. Barack Obama doesn’t want to impose any new sanctions while the negotiations are under way.

I agree totally with Boehner that Netanyahu is the “perfect person” to talk about radical Islamic terrorism and about the threat of Iran getting a nuclear weapon. That’s as far as Netanyahu should go, however, when he stands before a joint congressional session.

To lobby publicly for the increased sanctions now undercuts the president — which is another breach of decorum that Boehner has committed.

Mr. Speaker, we’ve got just one president at a time.

And, sir, it isn’t you.


U.S., Israel are standing together

House Speaker John Boehner’s foolish effort to embarrass President Obama by inviting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak to Congress — without informing the White House in advance — has fueled equally foolish talk about supposed fractures in the U.S.-Israel relationship.

And, of course, it’s coming from the right wingers who are looking for ways to undermine the president’s efforts at some admittedly tricky diplomacy.


White House chief of staff Denis McDonough said today the U.S.-Israeli partnership is the most important alliance in the world and affirmed — yet again — that the United States stands shoulder-to-shoulder with Israel.

Boehner, though, is seeking to undercut that relationship by pressuring the Obama administration into clamping new sanctions on Iran, which currently is negotiating with the United States and other nations on a way to disband its nuclear program. Obama opposes piling on more sanctions at this moment. Netanyahu wants the United States to add them. He’s hooking up with Boehner to make the case.

And all this is fueling ridiculous talk-show rhetoric about the “testy” relationship between Netanyahu and Obama.

I get Netanyahu’s perspective on Iran. The Iranians have zero secret of their desire to exterminate Israel. The Israelis are prepared to defend themselves at all costs.

But the Israeli prime minister has been careful in his public comments — his impending speech to Congress notwithstanding — to avoid insulting Barack Obama because, in my view, he knows that the United States will stand with Israel militarily if and when the need arises. Let’s all pray that it won’t.

The alliance between the nations is vital and the leaders of both governments know it.


Boehner, Bibi are dissing the White House

Isn’t it customary to allow the president of the United States conduct foreign policy? And isn’t it unwelcome when other American political leaders interfere directly with sensitive negotiations that are taking place?

Welcome to the new world of political brinkmanship.

House Speaker John Boehner has poked President Barack Obama in the eye by inviting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak to Congress — without consulting with the president.


Why is that a big deal?

Well, Boehner wants to impose further economic and political sanctions on Iran while the Islamic Republic is negotiating with the United States and other powers on a deal to disband its nuclear program. Netanyahu is on Boehner’s side, so he’s going to speak to Congress next month to make that case.

Bibi won’t visit the White House while he’s in-country, which is customary, given that he and his Likud Party are about to face parliamentary elections in Israel. Indeed, Netanyahu himself has decried the practice of using foreign visits to further political ends in his country — and yet, here is doing, what he once condemned.

The aggravation comes in large part because Boehner has inserted himself directly into this matter that is underway between the State Department and its counterpart in Iran. U.S., allied and Iranian negotiators are seeking a way to avoid Iran obtaining nuclear weapons, which virtually every civilized nation on Earth says is unacceptable.

Now we have the head of government of our most reliable Middle East ally coming here seeking to undercut that effort — with the blessing of the speaker of the House of Representatives.

It was leaked some time back that a White House aide referred to Netanyahu as a “chickens***.”

That term actually applies to Speaker Boehner.


New sanctions against Iran? Now?

I make no apologies about my unwavering support for Israel in its struggle against the forces committed to its destruction.

Having visited the country and seen it up close over an extended period of time, I get that Israel must be on constant alert against its enemies.

However, it seems to me the speaker of the House of Representatives, John Boehner, is playing a dangerous game of brinkmanship involving Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He’s invited Netanyahu to speak to a joint congressional session on Feb. 11 to make the case that the United States should impose additional sanctions against Iran while it is in the middle of negotiations that seek to rid Iran of its ability to develop a nuclear weapon.


Isn’t it true that we have just one president of the United States?

Well, Barack Obama wants to complete the negotiations with the Islamic Republic of Iran. He said he would veto any bill that piles on more sanctions against Iran — at this critical moment.

This is a difficult and dangerous gambit that Congress is playing.

Congressional leaders believe they’ve been left out of the negotiation process. So they’re going to interject themselves into this tumult by adding more sanctions against Iran.

Why now? Why not let diplomacy — which brought Iran to the negotiating table in the first place — complete its task? If the negotiations fail, if Iran decides to proceed with its nuclear program — and threaten yet again to blow Israel to pieces — then all bets should be off.

Secretary of State John Kerry on Wednesday quoted an unidentified Israeli intelligence official as saying that adding sanctions “would be like throwing a grenade into the process.”

Speaker Boehner is having none of it. He wants to circumvent the White House by inviting Netanyahu — who’s got his own political troubles at home — to make his pitch for additional sanctions.

I totally understand Netanyahu’s perspective. His country has gone to war several times in the 67 years of its existence against nations that have vowed — and actually sought — to destroy Israel. Iran has threatened Israel directly many times since the Islamic Revolution overthrew the shah in 1979. The Israelis likely have plans drawn up already in case the need arises to launch a pre-emptive air strike against Iran’s nuclear infrastructure.

But we’re in the midst of a delegate negotiation that shouldn’t be rattled by additional sanctions that well could end these talks — and destroy any prospects for a potential binding settlement.