Wednesday, December 10, 2014

If at first you don't succeed, pretend that you did.

The Iranian mullahs are cheating on the preliminary nuclear deal they reached with John Kerry:
The United States has privately accused Iran of going on an international shopping spree to acquire components for a heavy-water reactor that American officials have long feared could be used in the production of nuclear weapons-grade plutonium.
A U.S. delegation informed a U.N. Security Council panel of experts monitoring Iranian sanctions in recent months that Iranian procurement agents have been increasing their efforts to illicitly obtain equipment for the IR-40 research reactor at the Arak nuclear complex.
The American allegations, which have never before been reported, come more than a year after the Iranian government pledged as part of an interim agreement with the United States and other big powers to scale back Iran’s most controversial nuclear-related activities, including the enrichment of high-grade uranium, in exchange for billions of dollars in sanctions relief. They stand in stark contrast to recent remarks by Secretary of State John Kerry, who has repeatedly credited Tehran with abiding by the terms of the November 2013 pact, which bound Tehran to suspend some of its work at Arak. “Iran has held up its end of the bargain,” Kerry said last month in Vienna as he announced a seven-month extension of the timetable for big-power talks.
The allegation is also sure to add to the mounting congressional unease over the administration’s ongoing talks with Tehran. Many lawmakers from both parties believe that the White House is making too many concessions to Tehran to cement a deal that it sees as central to the president’s legacy. With the GOP slated to take over the Senate next month, Iran hawks like Arizona Republican John McCain and Illinois Republican Mark Kirk are already promising to push through a new package of economic sanctions, a move that the White House believes would scupper the delicate talks with Tehran. Both men are likely to see the new U.N. allegations as proof that Tehran simply can’t be trusted to abide by the terms of a future deal.
Privately accused Iran? Why would the US accuse Iran only privately?
Obama administration figures used the annual Saban Forum on Middle East issues in Washington this past weekend to launch their counter-offensive against efforts to pass new sanctions against Iran. Both Vice President Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry spoke at the event to tout the wisdom of the decision to allow the negotiations with the Islamist state to go into a second overtime period instead of the finite period they promised a year ago when they were extolling the virtues of a weak interim deal that we were told would soon be followed by an agreement that would end the nuclear threat. But Kerry’s talk of progress toward a deal and Biden’s stereotypical bombast about Iran not getting a bomb on this administration’s watch was given the lie by the report published today in Foreign Policy detailing American charges that Iran is already going on a spending spree buying material that could be used to produce nuclear-weapons grade plutonium for a bomb.

Well, surely, the leaders of our foreign policy establishment are willing to admit being wrong on this if by doing so they protect US interests. Right?
This is significant in and of itself as evidence of Iran’s intention to push ahead toward a bomb on both uranium and plutonium based plants. But it is even more significant because one of the administration’s principle talking points against further sanctions is that the existing laws (to which the administration had to be dragged kicking and screaming) are not only working but that Iran isn’t cheating on them or the interim accord. The evidence of Iranian activity not only debunks these assurances, it also illustrates that U.S. intelligence about what Iran is doing, which is crucial to monitoring compliance with any further agreements on Iran’s part, may not be up to the task of discovering what is really going on in their nuclear facilities.
That all of this is going on while the Iranians have successfully strung along American diplomats in the nuclear talks further diminishes the credibility of the pledges uttered by both Biden and Kerry. At best, Biden’s boast about a bomb not happening on Obama’s watch might be true. The weak agreements the president has promoted in order to vainly pursue his long-sought goal of dĂ©tente with Iran may not result in an Iranian bomb being produced before January 2017. But the erosion of the sanctions and the West’s agreement to tacitly recognize an Iranian right to enrich uranium, combined with an inability to do much about Arak, force Tehran to allow International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors to find out about their military-applications research, or to get the Iranians to negotiate about their ballistic-missile program may lead to one being produced on the watch of his successor.
All of these developments make it obvious that the only thing that can rescue diplomacy with Iran is for the U.S. to increase pressure on Tehran, not to play nice with the regime, as Obama always seems inclined to do. Last year, the administration beat back an effort to pass more sanctions that would have shut down Iran’s oil trade but would not have gone into effect unless diplomacy failed. The result of their conscious decision to play with a weak hand was a predictable failure. Faced with similar results as last year, the Obama foreign-policy team is undaunted and is pulling out the stops again to foil the majority of both Houses of Congress that want more sanctions.

Well, never fear. With John Kerry, as Glenn Reynolds says, the country is in the very best of hands.
Kerry is like a gambler who has lost everything, but figures if only he is given one more round at the craps table, he can win big. American national security, however, is nothing with which to gamble. Especially when a gambler is desperate, the house will always win. In this case, however, the house is not Washington, but rather Tehran.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Caligula names his horse ambassador to Hungary

The legend of the Roman emperor Caligula (actually his nickname; his real name was Caius) naming his horse consul is becoming more and more applicable to the Obama administration. First, you have John Kerry in the role of the "Dumbest Individual In a High Government Position Since Caligula's Horse -- and Probably Before That." Now, Obama names as US Ambassador to Hungary a soap opera producer:
Colleen Bell is a Hollywood supporter of Barack Obama. She is known as the producer of the wildly successful television soap opera The Bold and the Beautiful. Bloomberg News columnist Jeffrey Goldberg has uncharitably characterized the show as “her masterwork.” Her true masterwork is in the fundraising department; she raised more than $500,000 for Obama’s reelection from her friends in Hollywood.
Obama duly rewarded Bell with appointment as the United States ambassador to Hungary. Okay, she earned the appointment the old-fashioned way. Her appointment remained pending in the Senate all year; she was only confirmed to the position by the Senate (under its new no-filibuster rule) earlier this week.
So, who cares that she can't actually identify any US interests in Hungary. She gave Obama a lot of money. And she's ... a soap opera producer!

So, it's obvious why we would want her as an ambassador, right?
White House spokesman Josh Earnest was unable to provide a cogent explanation for why Colleen Bell, a former soap opera producer, just became the U.S. ambassador to Hungary:

"Josh, I wanted to ask you about something else that happened today in the Senate," said ABC's Jon Karl in today's White House press briefing. "You had some of your ambassadors confirmed after a long, long process. One of those is Colleen Bell, confirmed as ambassador to Hungary. If you can remind me, what are Colleen Bell's qualifications for ambassador? Was it that she was a soap opera producer, is it that she gave hundreds of thousands of dollars -- or helped raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for the Obama reelection campaign? Why was she chosen?"
"As it relates to Ambassador Bell," said Earnest, after taking a shot at the Senate for being to slow to confirm Obama's picks, "she is somebody who retains the confidence that -- well, let me say it this way -- Ambassador Bell has the president's confidence that she will do an excellent job representing the U.S. and maintaining the important relationship the U.S. has with the government and the people of Hungary."
Karl followed up, "But where does the president get that confidence from? I mean, in her confirmation hearing she couldn't even name a single strategic interest the U.S. had with Hungary?"
"Well, she certainly is somebody, again, that is--has had her own distinguished private sector career--"
"As a soap opera producer," Karl interjected.
"Well, and as somebody who obviously has succeeded in the business world and she is somebody that the president has confidence will be able to maintain our relationship with the government and the people of Hungary," Earnest said.
Right now, Caligula's horse is looking more competent many members of the Obama administration.