Free Markets, Free People


Pact with Iraq, Syria, Russia and Iran announced prior to UN talks with Putin

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”.


The Iran deal sucks

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?

You bet.

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.


Israel, the new Czechoslovakia

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!


Where’s the “treason?”

You know, anymore you have to wait a couple of days for the hysteria to settle before you can figure out what may or may not have happened.   And unfortunately, our “National Enquirer” media is usually the leaders of the hysteria.

This supposed “treasonous” letter, for instance.  Finally, Jennifer Rubin lends a little sanity to what have been the equivalent of click bait headlines these past few days.


[T]he letter was “open” — that is, akin to an op-ed, not dropped in the mail with a Tehran address. This is not a private negotiation or even a message primarily to the Iranians; it was a statement concerning the president’s powers, in contravention of prior promises, to make an critically important deal without Congress. It was unfortunate that it was not instead a letter to the editor or the president; the content would have been the same and Democrats would have been deprived of a silly but unifying talking point. But let’s get to the reason it had to be sent in the first place. As Jeb Bush noted in a statement, “The Senators are reacting to reports of a bad deal that will likely enable Iran to become a nuclear state over time. They would not have been put in this position had the Administration consulted regularly with them rather than ignoring their input.”

Can’t begin to see how that measures up to “treason”.  I can see how the subversion of the Constitution could lead in that direction though.

Second it is a warning to Iran to deal straight with the President:

Republicans are saying to the mullahs they’d better not sucker the president into a sweetheart deal because ultimately that deal will have to pass muster with Congress. Any savvy negotiator would use that to say to the mullahs they need to deliver more, not less, because of the ornery lawmakers. But Obama is so determined to give the mullahs whatever they demand he cannot recognize bargaining leverage when it is staring him in the face. It is only when you are trying to give away the store that you consider a letter warning the mullahs the bar will be high for a deal to be “sabotage.”

So instead, it’s backing this idiot’s sucker’s President’s play.  They’ve actually managed to give Obama some leverage and Obama is rejecting it for heaven sake.


The letter was meant to highlight a point about which critics have not quarreled: The president can have a binding treaty with Senate approval, or he can have an executive agreement that may be null and void when he leaves office. (If he has told the Iranians otherwise, either he is confused or he is selling snake oil.)

Got that?  Deal straight and make the sort of deal we will approve in the Senate.

But, as Rubin points out, there’s a bigger question:

What does the president think he is negotiating if he intends to keep Congress in the dark and present a fait accompli?

Does he understand that if he thinks its a “treaty” and it doesn’t go before (and get passed by) the Senate, it isn’t worth a war bucket of spit?  I mean, he may have a pen and a phone, but he can’t agree to a treaty without Congress’s okay no matter how hard he tries to pretend he can.

Which may necessitate some more “depends on what the meaning of ‘is’ is” reasoning from Democrats.

There’s the story.

So, in terms of the letter, another partisan tempest in a teapot.

Meanwhile, the big Constitutional question mostly gets ignored.

Thanks media.



Observations: The QandO Podcast for 15 Dec 13

This week, in the last podcast of the year, Bruce, Michael and Dale talk about Iran, government, and Obamacare.

The direct link to the podcast can be found here.


As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Podcast Alley. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here.

Having a problem picking which bit of nonsense to write about

So, instead, I’ll just pitch a lot of it out here.  Call it “clearing the browser tabs” if you will.

ObamaCare is a giant redistribution scheme.  I know most readers here have known or figured that out long before now.  But it appears the media is suddenly discovering it as well.

Oh, and this … this is just funny (in a sad sort of way) because it lays out all the other promises that were made by Obama to ease the passage of their redistribution scheme:

President Obama has said a lot of things about health care reform, not just that if you liked your health insurance plan, you could keep it. In a prime-time news conference in July 2009, his rationales for a new law stacked up like planes on an airport runway during a holiday weekend: It would provide “security and stability” for families; it would “keep government out of health care decisions”; it would prevent insurers from “dropping your coverage.” He said the program “would not add to our deficit,” that it would “slow the growth of health care costs in the long run,” that it would be “paid for” but not “on the backs of middle-class families.” Most important, he said, “I want to cover everybody.”

Security and stability for families.  Ha!  Millions with cancelled insurance.  Keep government out of health care decisions – you know, like keeping your doctor if you want to.  Prevent insurers from dropping your coverage?  In fact it demands insurers drop your coverage if it isn’t coverage of which ObamaCare approves, thus the millions with cancelled insurance.  “Would not add to deficit?”  Well, that’s if the redistribution works properly and you don’t count all the cost of the government bureaucracy added to make it work (unless those 19,000 IRS agents are working for free).   Slow the growth of health care costs in the long run?  Not with the size of the Medicaid expansion and the subsidies they plan.  “Paid for” but “not on the backs of the middle class”.  It’s going to be paid for on the backs of the young – who are mostly middle class, if they can maintain that.

What a freakin’ joke.

Meanwhile the apologists for ObamaCare have found Kentucky and are touting it as proof ObamaCare is loved and wanted.  Why?   Because over 56,000 have signed up.  Irony no?  Kentucky – a state the folks in the North East like to point to as Hillbilly heaven actually has a working website.    But, of course, if you actually look at the numbers, they don’t at all support the premise that ObamaCare is working at all (certainly not as it’s advocates said it must work to succeed):

“Places such as Breathitt County, in the Appalachian foothills of eastern Kentucky, are driving the state’s relatively high enrollment figures, which are helping to drive national enrollment figures as the federal health exchange has floundered. In a state where 15 percent of the population, about 640,000 people, are uninsured, 56,422 have signed up for new health-care coverage, with 45,622 of them enrolled in Medicaid and the rest in private health plans, according to figures released by the governor’s office Friday,” the Post wrote. “If the health-care law is having a troubled rollout across the country, Kentucky — and Breathitt County in particular — shows what can happen in a place where things are working as the law’s supporters envisioned.”

So first, not even 10% have enrolled, and of those that have enrolled, only 20% are “billpayers”, i.e. people who will actually pay for their own health care insurance and subsidize the other 80% of those who are on Medicaid.  In other words, out of 640,000 eligible, 56,422 have enrolled, and of those 56,000, 45,622 are going to be Medicaid recipients.

And liberals call this “success”.   Seems it would have been a lot easier just to expand Medicaid, because that’s primarily what’s happening here.  Other than the Medicaid bunch, less than 1% of those 640,000 have sought out insurance on a system the Democrats point to as working well.

Then there is this story about the green movement’s rank hypocrisy when it comes to environmentally friendly nuclear power.  What arguments do they use against nuclear power (an power source that actually works as advertised)?  The very same arguments they have used to argue for wind, solar, etc, of course:

Having demanded policies to make energy more expensive, whether cap and trade or carbon taxes, greens now complain that nuclear energy is too expensive. Having spent decades advocating heavy subsidies for renewable energy, greens claim that we should turn away from nuclear energy because it requires subsidies. And having spent the last decade describing global warming as the greatest market failure in human history, greens tell us that, in fact, we should trust the market to decide what kind of energy system we should have.

Why, or more importantly, how anyone of any intelligence takes them seriously any more is beyond me. But this is so typical of that movement.

As for the “Iran deal”, Victor Davis Hanson gives you a peek behind the curtain:

The Iranian agreement comes not in isolation, unfortunately. The Syrian debacle instructed the Iranians that the Obama administration was more interested in announcing a peaceful breakthrough than actually achieving it. The timing is convenient for both sides: The Obama administration needed an offset abroad to the Obamacare disaster, and the Iranians want a breathing space to rebuild their finances and ensure that Assad can salvage the Iranian-Hezbollah-Assad axis. The agreement is a de facto acknowledgement that containing, not ending, Iran’s nuclear program is now U.S. policy. . . .

Aside from the details of this new Sword of Damocles pact, one wonders about the following: In the case of violations, will it be easier for Iran to return to weaponization or for the U.S. to reassemble allies to reestablish the sanctions? Will Israel now be more or less likely to consider preemption? Will the Sunni states feel some relief or more likely pursue avenues to achieve nuclear deterrence? Will allies like Japan or South Korea feel that the U.S. has reasserted its old global clout, or further worry that their patron might engage in secret talks with, say, China rather than reemphasize their security under the traditional U.S. umbrella?

The president’s dismal polls are only a multiplier of that general perception abroad that foreign policy is an auxiliary to fundamental transformation at home, useful not so much to create international stability per se, as to enhance Obama influence in pursuing his domestic agenda. Collate reset, lead from behind, “redlines,” “game-changers,” ”deadlines,” the Arab Spring confusion, the skedaddle from Iraq, Benghazi, the Eastern European missile pullback, and the atmosphere is comparable to the 1979–80 Carter landscape, in which after three years of observation, the opportunists at last decided to act while the acting was good, from Afghanistan to Central America to Tehran.

There is not a good record, from Philip of Macedon to Hitler to Stalin in the 1940s to Carter and the Soviets in the 1970s to radical Islamists in the 1990s, of expecting authoritarians and thugs to listen to reason, cool their aggression, and appreciate democracies’ sober and judicious appeal to logic — once they sense in the West greater eagerness to announce new, rather than to enforce old, agreements.

Nothing of any substance gained, but certainly, with the easing of sanctions, relief for Iran and most likely problems ahead should the US want to see sanctions resumed or added to in the future.  Pitiful.

But Insty has the silver lining in all of this – “Obama, bringing together Democrats and Republicans, Saudis and Israelis in opposition to his policies. He’s a uniter, not a divider!”

Finally, reality continues to take it’s toll on Barack Obama:

Only four out of 10 Americans believe President Barack Obama can manage the federal government effectively, according to a new national poll.

And a CNN/ORC International survey released Monday morning also indicates that 53% of Americans now believe that Obama is not honest and trustworthy, the first time that a clear majority in CNN polling has felt that way.

Well deserved numbers as I see it.  He has lied and he’s proven he’s incompetent.  The only discouraging part of it all is somehow, 47% of those taking the poll somehow have convinced themselves that even in the face of overwhelming facts to the contrary, he’s honest and trustworthy.  I imagine a lot of them live in Maine.


Observations: The QandO Podcast for 24 Nov 13

This week, Bruce McQuain makes his triumphant–albeit mean-spirited and cruel–return, to talk with Michael and Dale about Iran, The Census Bureau. and the Senate’s filibuster rules.

The direct link to the podcast can be found here.


As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Podcast Alley. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here.

Amateur hour in foreign affairs

What’s the saying? “It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt?

Living proof:

Iran is enduring economic sanctions designed to slow the country’s nuclear weapons program, but President Obama’s team thought the regime might abandon dictator Bashar Assad over his use of chemical weapons in Syria’s civil war.

Samantha Power, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, hoped that a team of UN investigators — many of whom, presumably, have a longstanding relationship with Iranian leaders — could write a report that would convince Iran to abandon its ally at the behest of the United States.

“We worked with the UN to create a group of inspectors and then worked for more than six months to get them access to the country on the logic that perhaps the presence of an investigative team in the country might deter future attacks,” Power said at the Center for American Progress as she made the case for intervening in Syria.

“Or, if not, at a minimum, we thought perhaps a shared evidentiary base could convince Russia or Iran — itself a victim of Saddam Hussein’s monstrous chemical weapons attacks in 1987-1988 — to cast loose a regime that was gassing it’s people,” she said.

Good lord … how freakin’ naive and inept is this bunch, really?

Result of naive thinking?

Rather than “cast loose” Assad after the latest chemical weapons attack, as the Obama team hoped, “Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei has warned the Obama administration against any proposed military strike on Syria,” as the International Business Times reports.

Look, it’s fairly simple – if the US is “for” something, Iran is most likely going to be against it. It has been like that for decades. And, in Iran’s world, Iraq does not equal Syria. More importantly, no matter what Syria does, it isn’t the “Great Satan”. And nothing his bunch has done in 4 1/2 years has changed that calculation one bit.

Incompetence on a level not yet seen before.