If ever there was proof of Russia’s intentions in the Middle East, it can be seen in a just announced 4 nation pact there:
Iraq joined Russia, Iran and Syria in a new agreement to strengthen cooperation against extremist group Islamic State, extending the Kremlin’s reach in the Middle East as it rivals Washington for influence.
Iraq’s Defense Ministry said Sunday that the country had signed an intelligence and security cooperation pact with Russia, Iran and Syria, pledging to cooperate in collecting information about Islamic State. The deal effectively formalizes years of military collaboration among the four nations, which have intermittently been allies since the 1980s.
Wonderful. And who, pray, is on the outside looking in and surprised by the pact?
U.S. officials appeared to be taken by surprise by the announcement of the four-nation security pact and said they were still struggling to understand Mr. Putin’s long-term strategy for the region. Mr. Kerry, they said, kept open the possibility that the White House and Kremlin could coordinate, if not cooperate, in fighting Islamic State.
“We’re just at the beginning of trying to understand what the Russians’ intentions are in Syria, in Iraq, and to try to see if there are mutually beneficial ways forward here,” said a senior U.S. official who attended the Kerry-Lavrov meeting. “We’ve got a long way to go in that conversation.”
“Just in the beginning of trying to understand”? Translation: “we’ve been caught flat-footed and hadn’t a clue that high-level talks between Russia and Iraq were happening”. While Kerry may feel they have a “long way to go in that conversation,” Russia has obviously moved beyond the talking stage and is in the “taking action” stage. The intent seems to be obvious to everyone but our State Department.
ISIS is the catalyst, or at least the excuse, for this alliance. And most experts agree ISIS is mostly a result of the poor Iraq policy followed by the US after the Obama administration took over. What Iraq is signaling here is no confidence in the US and with the pact, seems satisfied to let the US remain outside, looking in. Why? Well, take for example the fact that Russia sold fighter aircraft to Iraq last year to boost its ability to fight ISIS. Where was the US? It had delayed a promised shipment over political considerations. Iraq is now negotiating with Moscow to buy more advanced weaponry.
Additionally, the Obama administration and the Russians and Iranians are at cross-purposes when it comes to Syria. Both Russia and Iran have been very clear they support the Assad regime and hope to strengthen it. The Obama administration has repeatedly said that Assad has to go.
What basis there are for talks between Russia and the US (at the UN this week) remain a mystery. But what is very clear with the announcement of this pact just prior to those talks is the US enters them with an incredibly weak hand. It has very little to use for leverage to get its way. But one thing that can be determined for sure – this administration’s past actions, or lack thereof, have put the US in this weak and unenviable diplomatic position.
Outfoxed again. How “surprising”.
One of the many lowlights of this administration has been its many foreign policy failures. Many, if not most, are attributable to a lack of leadership and an abdication of the US’s role in world politics. As most observers of international politics have understood for centuries, when one power withdraws or becomes weak, other powers will both test it and fill the vacuum their withdrawal creates.
The NY Post editorial board provides a perfect example of this administration’s poor “policy” concerning Syria:
Secretary of State John Kerry says Syrian despot Bashar al-Assad has got to go. Where have we heard that one before?
Of course, it’s been a regular refrain of President Obama and both of his secretaries of state — Hillary Clinton even more than Kerry — for years now.
Kerry repeated the demand after talks with the British foreign secretary last week — but with one new wrinkle: Assad must step aside, said Kerry — but there’ s no rush. He added: “We’re not being doctrinaire about the specific date or time; we’re open.”
Not only is he not being “doctrinaire” he’s broadcasting weakness like a clear channel radio station. “We’re open” tells the world they haven’t a plan, a demand, or frankly, a clue. He’s telling Syria, and specifically Assad, that there is nothing to fear from the US. Nothing.
Remember those red lines we drew? Disappearing ink. Once they were crossed, it was like they never existed.
Cue the power vacuum. And, who moves in?
And the situation just got infinitely more complicated by Russia’s active military involvement in Syria. As Kerry said, the Russians “are bringing in more equipment to shore up Assad at the same time they say they are going after” ISIS.
That position, he said, has “a lack of logic.”
No: It makes perfect sense when Washington has abdicated leadership. Nature abhors a vacuum — especially on the world stage.
Exactly. What, you may ask, is in it for Russia? Well, for one it can put a thumb in the eye of the US (and it is). But it also helps reestablish old “client links” that the former USSR had in the area. And, as Russia works with Iran to defeat ISIS, it establishes links there and it is in a position to have a big say in Iraq. And it certainly makes sense that should Russia help Assad hang on and retake the country, Putin would have a solid client state in the middle east from which to base Russia’s influence operation.
So what has the US done? Well, according to testimony given last week before Congress, we’ve spent half a billion dollars training up 4 or 5 soldiers in an anti-ISIS effort. In fact, the effort has been so poor and haphazard that the chief anti-ISIS coordinator, ex-Gen. John Allen, is leaving out of frustration with the lack of a strategy or results.
Meanwhile our Secretary of State is left weakly complaining:
Meanwhile, Kerry complains that “Assad has refused to have a serious discussion and Russia has refused to help bring him to the table in order to do that. So that’s why we are where we are.”
Why in the world should Assad have a serious discussion with a paper tiger? Or Russia for that matter? What in the world is the downside for either if they don’t cooperate?
More disappearing red lines?
I remember when flying was mostly a pleasant and enjoyable experience. Not so much anymore:
Not too long ago, flying could be a relatively pleasant experience, but executives focused on cutting costs have stripped away everything flyers associated with luxury or even dignity. Food, baggage handling, boarding in a logical manner: Things once taken for granted now must be paid for or done without. Flights are more crowded than they’ve been since World War II, when they were carrying troops.
Competition has winnowed all the perks out of the process (mostly due to the demand for lower fares), security has made the boarding process a nightmare and, frankly, rude and short-tempered people who simply don’t know how to act in public have killed off the rest of the enjoyment. As they like to say, “you get what you pay for.”
Is anyone else laughing out loud at Hillary Clinton’s latest ironically impaired attempt to relate?
I want to send a message to every survivor of sexual assault.
Don’t let anyone silence your voice. You have a right to be heard. You have a right to be believed. We’re with you.
I hear Juanita Broadrick and Kathleen Willey agree. But Willey has a few words of her own in response:
“She believed what happened for sure,” Willey tells The American Mirror. “She just chose to ignore the plight of all of his victims, thus enabling him to continue to abuse and rape women in the future.”
Willey adds, “She’s a money-hungry hypocritical witch who will do anything for money.
“She’s a lying pig. I CANNOT believe that she had the gall to make that commercial. How dare she? I hope she rots in hell.“
Yup, so do a lot of us. One place we don’t want her, though, is in the Oval Office.
Bernie Sanders, the darling of the socialist left, has been getting a bit of traction against Hillary Clinton. In fact, Clinton is losing support so fast that even Joe Biden is considering entering his clown car into the race.
And what does Sanders bring to the table? Bigger government (much bigger), more spending (18 trillion, in fact) and much higher taxes. Wow, what a deal (one that has always appealed to the liberal left):
In all, he backs at least $18 trillion in new spending over a decade, according to a tally by The Wall Street Journal, a sum that alarms conservatives and gives even many Democrats pause. Mr. Sanders sees the money as going to essential government services at a time of increasing strain on the middle class.
His agenda includes an estimated $15 trillion for a government-run health-care program that covers every American, plus large sums to rebuild roads and bridges, expand Social Security and make tuition free at public colleges.
To pay for it, Mr. Sanders, a Vermont independent running for the Democratic nomination, has so far detailed tax increases that could bring in as much as $6.5 trillion over 10 years, according to his staff.
And the “but the government is paying for my stuff” crowd is going wild over him. How do you explain to the economically illiterate where this is all headed and what the result at some point in the future MUST be?
Oh, and by the way, they’re not even trying to deny it:
Mr. Gunnels, the Sanders aide, said the campaign hasn’t worked out all details on his plan—for instance, his version might allow each state to run its own single-payer system. But he said the $15 trillion figure was a fair estimate.
So, let’s elect Bernie and double our debt!
Monday at North High School in Des Moines, IA, President Barack Obama said the notion that people who illegally come to live in the United States, as they have for generations, are suddenly now “less worthy in the eyes of God,” is “un-American.” Obama said, “This whole anti-immigrant sentiment that is out there in politics right now is contrary to who we are. Because unless you are a native American, your family came from someplace else. And although we are a nation of laws and we want people to follow the law, and I have been pushing Congress to make …” yatta, yatta, yatta.
Who is making the argument that anyone is less worthy because of how they ended up here? I think the argument is they’re “illegal”! There is no “anti-immigrant” sentiment. There is an “anti-illegal immigrant” sentiment since our laws prohibit it. As for the “native Americans” they were merely the first immigrants as their families “came from someplace else”, namely Siberia. And this guy, who refuses to enforce the laws about immigration already on the books has the temerity to lecture others about being a “nation of laws”. Ironic guffaw follows ending with a contemptuous sneer.
Did the Obama administration turn down a Russian offer in 2012 to dump Syria’s Assad?
If true, this was a staggering missed opportunity. The President’s string of misjudgments on the Middle East—on the peace process, Erdogan, withdrawal from Iraq, Libya, ISIS as the “J.V. team”, and Syria—is one of the most striking examples of serial failure in the annals of American foreign policy.
Generally speaking, what the President seems worst at is estimating the direction in which events are flowing. He thought Erdogan was taking Turkey in one direction; Erdogan was going somewhere else. He thought there was a transition to democracy in Egypt; there never was a prospect of that. He has repeatedly been caught flatfooted by events in Syria. And Putin keeps running rings around him.
Understanding the intentions and estimating the capabilities of people who don’t share his worldview are not our President’s strong suits.
And now, who is it again that Russia and Iran are reported to be cozying up too? Worst president ever.
As if you likely haven’t figured that out yourself by now. Why does it suck? Well, here’s the promise:
Touring the Sunday morning talk shows, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz argued that the 24-day delay the deal provides is immaterial.
“We are very confident in our ability to detect the vestiges of any nuclear work beyond 24 days,” he said, and later explained, “When environmental samples are taken and nuclear activity has taken place, it is virtually impossible to clean up that place. You can paint the floors. You can do what you want. We feel very confident that we would find evidence of nuclear activity.”
Yet, this assumes that the IAEA will be able to inspect Iran’s military sites. What if those sites are off limits?
Ah, the key question. So … will there be sites that are off limits?
Khamenei’s foreign policy adviser, Ali Akbar Velayati, was even more explicit. On July 25, he told al Jazeera’s Arabic service, “The access of inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency or from any other body to Iran’s military centers is forbidden.” This was 11 days after the deal was struck.
Just days ago, according to Fars, the Iranian defense minister, Brig. Gen. Hossein Dehqan, announced, “Iran does not plan to issue permission for the IAEA to inspect every site.” He made clear that inspectors would never be permitted access to missile bases.
While some analysts and officials have dismissed such statements as the ranting of the hardest of hardliners (albeit the foreign and defense ministers and the supreme leader’s closest advisers), the Associated Press has reported that the IAEA has agreed to inspection procedures at the Parchin military site that would deny the agency physical access to the site, relying instead on photographs, videos, and samples collected by Iran. The IAEA disputes the AP story, but has not specified the procedures agreed to with Iran.
Former IAEA chief inspector Olli Heinonen writes, “If the reporting is accurate, these procedures appear to be risky, departing significantly from well-established and proven safeguards practices. At a broader level, if verification standards have been diluted for Parchin (or elsewhere) and limits imposed, the ramification is significant as it will affect the IAEA’s ability to draw definitive conclusions with the requisite level of assurances and without undue hampering of the verification process.”
My guess is the reporting is quite accurate, given the reaction of the Iranians. They have no intentions of letting anyone into their military installations. And certainly not representatives of the West. Of course the administration denies that these two people speak for the regime, even if they are the foreign and defense ministers as mentioned above.
Oh, and what if the IAEA “sniffs” something in the atmosphere? Then it is the IAEA’s word against Iran’s, given Iran won’t let them inspect the site. Then what?
Again, you’re asked to suspend your reasoning, ignore facts and statements from high government officials in Iran and believe an administration that has done nothing but lie about just about everything since it has been in power.
Yeah, no sale here.
Well it is much easier to list his abject failures than any success, that’s for sure. But what about Syria? Well, in term of incompetence, it is the tragic gift that keeps on giving:
One little boy in a red T-shirt, lying face down, drowned, on a Turkish beach, is a tragedy. More than 200,000 dead in Syria, 4 million fleeing refugees and 7.6 million displaced from their homes are statistics. But they represent a collective failure of massive proportions.
For four years, the Obama administration has engaged in what Frederic Hof, former special adviser for transition in Syria, calls a “pantomime of outrage.” Four years of strongly worded protests, and urgent meetings and calls for negotiation — the whole drama a sickening substitute for useful action. People talking and talking to drown out the voice of their own conscience. And blaming. In 2013, President Obama lectured the U.N. Security Council for having “demonstrated no inclination to act at all.” Psychological projection on a global stage. . . .
This was not some humanitarian problem distant from the center of U.S. interests. It was a crisis at the heart of the Middle East that produced a vacuum of sovereignty that has attracted and empowered some of the worst people in the world. Inaction was a conscious, determined choice on the part of the Obama White House.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and CIA Director David Petraeus advocated arming favorable proxies. Sunni friends and allies in the region asked, then begged, for U.S. leadership. All were overruled or ignored.
In the process, Syria has become the graveyard of U.S. credibility.
Syria, Libya, Egypt, Iraq, Israel, Russia, Iran, you name the country, it is pretty probable that the situation is worse there or our relationship with the country is worse.
Foreign policy is one of the exclusive jobs of the executive branch. A crook and a clown have held the Secretary of State’s job now, and the disastrous results are in.
Now one of them wants to be President to carry on this “legacy”?
Who knew Richard Cohen reads QandO? Today’s headline on his op/ed:”Iran: The Obamacare of Foreign Policy”.
Of course he means it differently than I did yesterday.
There was no “better deal” — the fantasy of all those who hate Iran and hate Obama (which of them more is often unclear). The nuclear deal has become “such a luscious piece of Republican propaganda,” William Luers, the director of The Iran Project, whose goal is to improve American-Iranian relations, told me. And a long election season has already begun.
Or said another way, the “deal” was the goal. Not a good deal or the best deal, but any deal. Any deal at all.
My guess is Chamberlin had exactly the same goal in mind when he returned from Munich. And we all know how that turned out.
Sorta like Iran thinks this is going to turn out:
“The US officials make boastful remarks and imagine that they can impose anything on the Iranian nation because they lack a proper knowledge of the Iranian nation.”
Also today, a senior commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps said they have work to do.
The IRGC’s top commander in Tehran province, Brigadier General Mohsen Kazzemeini, told operating units undergoing drills in the capital that “they (the US and the Zionists) should know that the Islamic Revolution will continue enhancing its preparedness until it overthrows Israel and liberates Palestine,” according to Fars.
“And we will continue defending not just our own country, but also all the oppressed people of the world, specially those countries that are standing on the forefront of confrontation with the Zionists,” Kazzemeini said.
Yessiree … peace in our time!
Got to love how all this stuff blows up in Obama’s face. Arrogance and naivety will do it every time.
Fidel Castro marked his 89th birthday Thursday by insisting the United States owes Cuba “many millions of dollars” because of the half-century-old American trade embargo.
Of course, given how poorly they negotiated the deal with Iran and understanding how willing they are to bow down to every enemy the nation has had, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that this is the reaction from a totalitarian – it’s your fault US that we’re an economic basket case and it is your duty to fix the problem.
And, my guess is he’ll find a sympathetic ear somewhere, even though the “embargo” was the loosest and most ineffective embargo in the history of embargoes. But in the era of blame shifting, what else would you expect from a failed dictator?
Castro wrote: “Cuba is owed compensation equivalent to damages, which total many millions of dollars, as our country has stated with irrefutable arguments and data in all of its speeches at the United Nations.”
Naturally no word on “compensation” for seized property when Castro took over Cuba.
As for timing – certainly it shows a lack of respect:
Castro spoke out in an essay published in local media a day before US Secretary of State John Kerry makes a historic visit to Cuba to reopen the US embassy as part of the countries’ restoration of diplomatic relations.
Not that this administration has done anything that has gained the respect of friend or foe alike.
According to some, that’s exactly what is happening:
While no one is predicting that the Islamic State will become the steward of an accountable, functioning state anytime soon, the group is putting in place the kinds of measures associated with governing: issuing identification cards for residents, promulgating fishing guidelines to preserve stocks, requiring that cars carry tool kits for emergencies. That transition may demand that the West rethink its military-first approach to combating the group.
“I think that there is no question that the way to look at it is as a revolutionary state-building organization,” said Stephen M. Walt, a professor of international affairs at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. He is one of a small but growing group of experts who are challenging the conventional wisdom about the Islamic State: that its evil ensures its eventual destruction.
Granted, the tools it uses to establish and maintain control are terror and violence, however that’s not much different than hundreds of totalitarian regimes throughout history. And, at this point, it is in its first generation of “rulers”, which means they’re likely to be the most true to their warped “principles”. So corruption, pre se, isn’t yet a problem (they’re too frightened of their own organization to accept bribes, for instance).
Remember history, say the experts:
Drawing on parallels from history, experts say, the group’s violence can be seen in a different light. Mr. Walt mentioned the guillotine of the French Revolution, and the atrocities of the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia and the Communist one in China — imperfect analogies, to be sure, but ones that underscored the violence and oppression that can precede creation of a revolutionary state.
Then there’s Pol Pot’s Cambodia. It finally failed, but the same formula was applied there.
The problem, of course, is this isn’t the way it had to be. Certainly the left will say “if that evil Bush hadn’t invaded Iraq, it wouldn’t be that way”. Well with people often disappearing into wood chippers in Saddam’s day, Iraq was already that way.
The problem, as we face it now, really comes down to ideology and neglect – squarely placed in this administration’s lap. Gen. Ray Odeirno, outgoing Army Chief of Staff, said as much in an interview:
But Odierno had pointed words on the rise of ISIS in Iraq and Syria – suggesting it didn’t have to be this way.
“It’s frustrating to watch it,” Odierno said. “I go back to the work we did in 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010 and we got it to a place that was really good. Violence was low, the economy was growing, politics looked like it was heading in the right direction.”
Odierno said the fall of large parts of Iraq was not inevitable, reiterating concerns about the pace of the U.S. troop withdrawal there.
“If we had stayed a little more engaged, I think maybe it might have been prevented,” he said. “I’ve always believed the United States played the role of honest broker between all the groups and when we pulled ourselves out, we lost that role.”
But this administration wasn’t interested in staying longer regardless of the possible negative outcome of pulling troops from Iraq early. It had a campaign promise to fulfill, one of the few it ever has fulfilled. So it made routine SOFA negotiations impossible for Iraq to agree with, then blamed the lack of an agreement on Iraq and pulled our troops out before the job was done – giving ISIS the opportunity to rise.
Odierno made it clear that wasn’t the only problem we’ve let ‘rise’:
“Two years ago, we didn’t think we had a problem in Europe. … [Now] Russia is reasserting themselves. We didn’t think we’d have a problem again in Iraq and ISIS has emerged.
“So, with Russia becoming more of a threat, with ISIS becoming more of a threat, in my mind, we are on a dangerous balancing act right now with capability.”
The answer to these problems? Cut the end strength of the Army so we’re even less capable.
Can’t you just feel it?
We’re in good hands.
“Who would have imagined we would be giving up the conventional arms and ballistic missile embargoes on Iran? In nuclear negotiations?”
That’s the question Charles Krauthammer asked today.
Anyone care to make a guess?
When asked Wednesday at his news conference why there is nothing in the deal about the American hostages being held by Iran, President Obama explained that this is a separate issue, not part of nuclear talks.
Are conventional weapons not a separate issue? After all, conventional, by definition, means non-nuclear. Why are we giving up the embargoes?
Because Iran, joined by Russia — our “reset” partner — sprung the demand at the last minute, calculating that Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry were so desperate for a deal that they would cave. They did. And have convinced themselves that they scored a victory by delaying the lifting by five to eight years. (Ostensibly. The language is murky. The interval could be considerably shorter.)
There is the second pregnant question – if the hostages are a separate issue, so are conventional weapons, aren’t they?
But then, you find out that both Obama and Kerry fell victim to a negotiating trick that only a rookie would cave too. The tactic is well known and has been associated with Cold War USSR negotiations for decades. They teach it in Negotiating 101. This is what they always do and you have to know your opponent well enough to expect it and have a strategy to counteract it. As usual, Obama and Kerry were unprepared.
What Obama said about the hostages, if he really believes it, was the perfect answer to the Iranians when they sprang this on them.
But desperation is what the Iranians and Russians were counting on. Anything to make the deal. They knew how desperate these two were. So they held one of the most outrageous demands until the seeming end of the negotiations. When the end was tantalizingly in sight and time was running out. The Iranians gauged well the desperate desire for an agreement that the Obama/Kerry cabal had.
And so they used it against them to make a mockery of the deal.
Stunning. The incompetence and ineptness aren’t what stun anyone – that’s been demonstrated so many times in the past 6 years it’s the new normal for this administration. What’s stunning is what they gave away when they didn’t have too.
But then, this is the Obama administration and the Secretary of State is John Kerry.
Who is one of the only groups successfully fighting ISIS and consistently winning?
If you said the Peshmerga or the Kurds, give yourself a point.
What should we, the US, be doing because the Peshmerga is, in fact, winning engagements regularly against ISIS?
Well the smart thing, and something a leader would do at a minimum, would be to help them in any way we can and supply them with the weaponry they need.
If you said that, another point.
Now, the big question – are we doing that?
If you said “no” you get 3 out of 3. If you said we’re actually working against that, you get a bonus of 1 point.
Yes, according the the Telegraph, we’ve been active in blocking needed heavy weapons shipments to the Kurds:
The Peshmerga have been successfully fighting Isil, driving them back from the gates of Erbil and, with the support of Kurds from neighbouring Syria, re-establishing control over parts of Iraq’s north-west.
But they are doing so with a makeshift armoury. Millions of pounds-worth of weapons have been bought by a number of European countries to arm the Kurds, but American commanders, who are overseeing all military operations against Isil, are blocking the arms transfers.
One of the core complaints of the Kurds is that the Iraqi army has abandoned so many weapons in the face of Isil attack, the Peshmerga are fighting modern American weaponry with out-of-date Soviet equipment.
At least one Arab state is understood to be considering arming the Peshmerga directly, despite US opposition.
The US has also infuriated its allies, particularly Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the Gulf states, by what they perceive to be a lack of clear purpose and vacillation in how they conduct the bombing campaign. Other members of the coalition say they have identified clear Isil targets but then been blocked by US veto from firing at them.
“There is simply no strategic approach,” one senior Gulf official said. “There is a lack of coordination in selecting targets, and there is no overall plan for defeating Isil.”
Another in a long litany of failures by this administration. We have both the means and a reason to supply the Kurds with the weaponry they need, and yet ….
As mentioned yesterday, Jimmy Carter is right.
Failure of leadership.