A Plea to Senate Democrats


An open letter to the gang of 42

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Ladies and gentlemen: I understand your need to play to your parties’ elite and your slavish devotion to the President, but your support of the executive agreement now before you must transcend politics. There are enough countries on this planet that have nuclear weapons there is no reason to add another, especially one that has shown no regard to the lives of its citizens or those of the region. Beyond the nuclear weapon aspect is the fact that Iran is an exporter of terrorism. I grant you that they have had tremendous success with what they have but this agreement will give them more money and weapons.

You must look past the claims that no better deal could be had or that it is this deal or war. Neither is true. The leadership and government of the Islamic Republic of Iran has never made any secret of its policies and they have never  acted  in accordance with international norms or laws. Iran’s raison d’etre is the exportation of the Islamic revolution is the destruction of Israel and all of western civilization

You must accept two items as articles of faith, Iran has no intention of living up to its end of the agreement and there is no intelligence service on earth that will be able to tell beyond the shadow of a doubt that Iran is cheating. We have been surprised by India, Pakistan and North Korea with their ascension into the nuclear club. Our intelligence assessment have been faulty on a number of issues and we will have no way of keeping tabs on Iran.

Congress has made a number of decisions that are based on political expediency. Some are good, some are bad, but for the bad there is always time to adjust or get a do-over. Ladies and gentlemen this is not one of those. If you get this one wrong it could mean millions die.

Please think long and hard. At the least allow open debate and let the people listen. Don’t get this wrong, the stakes are too high.

Iran, the Deal and Aylan


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A recent Column of mine, reproduced below, spoke to the impact the Iranian deal will have on the region including Kurdistan. Today I would like to expand on this in light of the death of 3 year old Aylan Kurdi. I think first off we need to restructure the facts. Aylan and his family are Kurds from Kobane and did leave the village. However they left three years ago to go to Turkey after fleeing the fighting. They had lived in Damascus, then Aleppo, before going to Kobane. What this means is that the start of this tragedy is directly related to the Assad regime and its Iranian supporters. Without Iran’s direct support to Damascus it is likely the regime would have fallen and young Aylan would have been born in a time of peace. It has now become likely that the executive agreement President Barrack Obama presented to the US Congress will be enacted, not by congress whose majority rejects it, not by the people of the United States, whose majority reject it but because 34 Democratic Senators will allow the president to have a sustained veto. The fighting will go on as 34 senators allow the release of billions of dollars and remove the sanctions on the largest exporter of terrorism in the world today. There have been and will be many more Aylan’s, not only in Syria or Turkey but in Iraq, Lebanon and Iran. Unless another becomes this visible most will not be seen and the tragedy will go unnoticed. I repost this as a reminder of what is happening and a warning of what will become.

How will the Iran deal impact Kurdistan?

Posted on NRT English 7/22/15

The recent agreement between Iran and the E3/EU+3 will have long term consequences on the region, including Kurdistan. The aspect of stopping Iran’s march to a nuclear weapon aside, the removal of sanctions will allow an increase in Iranian mischief in the region. The world at large has taken little notice of Iran’s brutal treatment of its Kurdish population, and will be even less concerned once commercial trade is reopened.

The immediate impact to Kurdistan will come from the anticipated $150 billion windfall that will come from the immediate release of sanctions.  Iranian President Hassan Rouhani announced the increase of the budget for the IRGC from $6.5 billion to $9 billion and the agreement removes the IRGC and its commanders from the sanctions list. This will allow the IRGC greater capability to arm and control Shia militias in Iraq, and further reduce Iraqi government control of its internal security.

How does this effect Kurdistan? This strengthening of Iranian influence will have a serious impact on the relationship the KRG has with the government in Baghdad. The KRG budget is busted and Kurds across the region are under increasing pressure from ISIS. The strategy of Iran seems to be to maintain chaos in the region in order to justify its military assistance to Shia militants, such as Hamas and Hezbollah, as well as in Iraq. To this end, it is in Iran’s best interest to keep ISIS a threat to the region, in a defensive position, but not defeated. Kurdish Peshmerga forces have shown a great ability to stop and defeat ISIS fighters but are potentially running short of supplies, with Baghdad under increasing influence of Tehran, resupply for the Peshmerga is doubtful.  European nations have lately filled the gap but some of the bigger donors, such as Germany, will soon be looking to reestablish commercial ties with Iran, which may leverage this desire to reduce support for the Kurds.

Beyond the crisis for the Peshmerga, Iraqi Kurdistan is under increasing internal social and political pressure. With a faltering economy and calls on the current leadership to become more democratic, the road is open for Iran to ferment discord. With an influx of money to one of the political parties and a promise of military aid, Iran could weaken and split Kurdistan while keeping attention on the external threat of ISIS. Turkey would also likely join in with an eye to increased ties to the Iranian energy sector and the increase in natural gas from Iran. If Turkey can benefit economically from the removal of sanctions and see a reduction in Kurdish influence, it would solve two problems at once.

Whether or not Iran keeps to its deal to reduce it capability to produce a nuclear device is years down the road. The impact of sanctions relief however is imminent and for Kurdistan potentially dangerous. If the non-nuclear aspects of the agreement were removed, it would benefit the region and Kurdistan

The Almost Constitutional Crisis in Kurdistan


KRG President BRZANI
KRG President BRZANI

Much has been said and written about the current crisis in the Kurdistan region of Iraq that does not entail ISIS. On August 20th the term of office for President Masoud Barzani was supposed to have ended. In fact is was supposed to have ended two years earlier but was extended by the Kurdish Parliament. Because the term of office has ended, and there being no new elections, the question of legitimacy of the presidency is in play. Kurdistan has been called the model that the rest of Iraq should follow. For the last ten years it has seen economic growth and relative peace and stability. There have been rough patches and problems both internally and with the federal government in Baghdad. Currently the region is under tremendous threat from external sources. Both the terrorist group ISIS and Turkish incursions have put tremendous pressure on the Kurds and their government. Battles with the central government over budget sharing and oil sales have left the Kurdistan Regional Government cash strap and unable to pay its own people or army. Today however opposition politicians and a youthful diaspora see the main threat to Kurdistan as whether or not Barzani has a right to remain in office.

There are some areas which must be addressed. First: Barzani called for elections last June. This may have been a political maneuver knowing that it would be next to impossible to achieve. The electoral board did say it would take six months to set up, to date no elections have been scheduled. Second: When submitted to the Kurdistan Consultative Council, part of the Kurdish government’s Ministry of Justice authorized to provide decisions on legal disputes between government agencies, it was determined Barzani could remain in office for two more years. This decision was met with rejection by those Members of Parliament opposed to Barzani. Third: prior to the next election opposition MP’s want to change the constitution to reduce the office of the President to one of little power, only a ceremonial office responsive to Parliament. Last: but assuredly not least, is the burning problem that all of this revolves around constitutional questions, when in fact there is no constitution.  The draft constitution was never ratified as required and its authority is still pending.

From a Western perspective constitutions are the supreme law of the land. Amongst other things constitutions set up the forms of government and delineate the powers of the different branches. Under the draft constitution of the Kurdistan region the office of the president has executive authority and the president is elected by popular vote, with a term of office limited to two four year terms. The parliament is elected buy single person vote of party lists and there is to be a Supreme Court, called the Constitutional Court of Kurdistan in the draft constitution. This last is a serious deficiency as there currently is no court. Under the draft constitution the courts functions are.

Article 95:

The Constitutional Court shall have jurisdiction over the following matters:

First:

Explain the stipulations of the article of the Kurdistan Region’s Constitution.

Second:

1-            Monitor the constitutionality of the laws, based on a request from the President of the Kurdistan Region, the Council of Ministers, ten members of Parliament, or any concerned party.

2-            Decide the legality of decrees, regulations, resolutions and instructions, based on the request of any concerned party.

Many opponents of Barzani are calling for rule of law to be applied while his supporters are saying he is within his legal rights to remain. The Constitutional Court would be the natural venue for resolution, if it existed.

The big questions now are, does the Parliament have the authority to do anything? Does the President have the authority to do anything? Under what authority does the Kurdistan Regional Government exist?  What law rules? Both the parliament and the president are operating under de facto authority which can be extended or removed by the will and whim of political power.

“Kurdistan does not have a constitution and it does not have a high court that is dedicated to its interpretation or looking into such sovereign issues. If this battle became a legal one, there is no mechanism in place to make a final decision on this.”

“It’s the politics that decide what happens to the law, rather than the law deciding what happens to the politics. Everything here is politicized, and this issue is a political one,” said Dlawer Ala’Aldeen, president of the Middle East Research Institute (MERI), a think tank based in Erbil.

I am not putting forth a legal argument for the retention of Barzani nor am I suggesting the Parliament do nothing to move the region forward. I am suggesting that there are a number of very serious issues facing the region that must be dealt with before two branches of government clash over power. First the region must be made physically secure, ISIS must be defeated. Second the economy must be energized so that the people can survive. Next either make peace with the central government or declare independence. The Kurdish people deserve a functioning government. They deserve what was promised them at the end of the war. They deserve freedom.   I would quote the four freedoms from FDR’s 1941 State of the Union Speech, the people must have:

Freedom of speech

Freedom of worship

Freedom from want

Freedom from fear

If an election can be held, hold one. If you want to amend the constitution ratify the draft you have and then amend it, or write a new draft and get that one ratified.

It has been pointed out that all of the opposition parties, not sure how they are opposition since they control 51% of parliament, are opposed to Barzani continuing as president, then why can’t they come together and pass a resolution, or at least put one forward. Please for the sake of the people put politics aside and move forward.

The changing world of government contracting


Much has been written and said about government contractors recently. When I started in the field I came out of over 20 years of commercial business and was astonished at how the large government contractors were operating. At the time I worked for one of the big five contractors to the US Department of Defense (DOD). The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were at there height and the DOD was throwing money at all types of contractors, large and small. I was at the time a district sales manager for a large plastic extrusion company and also a member of the Army Reserves. I was mobilized to active duty and sent to the Pentagon. After two years, as my active duty time was coming to an end, I was offered a job with a contractor and decided to take it, my company had gone through several changes and had just been bought by a foreign company. I started out as a direct labor individual contributor, in other words I was doing what I did on active duty only in civilian clothes. I was soon also put in charge of a small part of the team and then deputy project manager and ultimately I became the Program Manager of a different contract. I began to get more and more involved in the business of contracting versus the delivery of services to the government, and this is where I started to get a true education.

When I got to look behind the door I realized how different it was selling service to the government from selling to private industry. I then realized it should not be that different. The problem was that for most of the time the business was growing, it had little or nothing to do with the management of the contracts or business. The government needed bodies and the fast way was through contractors. Basically all a company had to do was produce compliant proposals and they would be assured of winning enough of them to make money. The problem with this was, that as successful as it was for the time, it was not a sustainable business model.

Those of us who have been in business long enough accept the fact that all businesses go through cycles.  As always happens the customer base begins to shrink and competition became an actual fact of life. What was once an asset, the senior leadership in these companies were, for the most part, retired or former military officers and government executives.  While these people understood the customers’ requirements, needs, and desires, they did not always appreciate the requirements, needs, and desires of business. I had many discussions the need to increase the margins on a contract and was told by one senior director “I don’t care about profit I am here to continue my service to my country.” Another time I asked a VP of Operations what the corporate minimum fee (profit) was, he said he did not think there was one and it depended on the contract (I later found out it was 8%). I suggested at one time we be careful about the salaries we were hiring at since we may be in trouble in the future when the salaries exceed the rates the customer is willing to pay. I was told that I was to interested in profit and that they would continue to grow by providing the best of the best and the customer would be willing to pay for the services.

Government contractors now find themselves in a strange new world. Due to reduced requirements and reduced budgets the customer is looking for lower numbers and lower rates. To be honest the government still wants the best of the best of the best, but wants them for up to 50% less than before.  The government continues to declare that they are looking for best value in a contractor but continue to issue contracts based on what is known as Lowest Price Technically Acceptable (LPTA) criteria.  Again to be honest the requests for proposals are in some cases released as LPTA. 

This is causing great confusion in the Business Development offices of companies large and small. In Corporate America there are a number of ways to adjust to a downswing in business. Proctor and Gamble for instance is reducing the number of products offered based on profit.  Others sell off lines or purchase smaller companies that will get them into a new market. Others merge to survive. Many of us remember when Lockheed, Martin, Northrup and Grumman were all separate companies. Some reorganize to reduce the number of middle and senior managers. Jack Walsh was famous for firing the lower 10% of his managers regardless of performance.

What does the contractor do? Much the same is the answer. Following inflated rates which inflated salaries the contractor is left either to reduce salaries and try to keep the long term employee or reduce the work force and replace the old with newer lower paid personnel. This last is usually the result and is not generally received well by the customer.  Some of the larger companies can cross finance to keep senior personnel on the customer’s site, but not for long. Smaller companies do not have this luxury and must work through the problems or be swallowed up by larger firms.

The world of government contracting is changing faster than many companies can adjust. That is why companies such as mine, JANUS Think, have come into existence.  Most companies are better at providing service then trying to understand the changing requirements of the customer, customers who do not themselves understand the changed. A company must be willing to accept the fact that they may not have in-house expertise on all matters. They may also come to realize that ii is more cost effective to hire consultants then retain personnel who in effect are not always fully utilized or burden personnel with excessive requirements that keep them from doing their actual jobs.

Paul Davis is the founder of JANUS Think dedicated to helping business expand and grow. Named for the Roman god of beginnings and transitions we will help you open doors to the future but keep you rooted to your values. With over 25 years of business experience JANUS Think can help you write effective marketing plans and wining proposals. We will always listen to you but will not be afraid to give our advice and the reasons for them.

Veteran owned and operated

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  http:janusthink.wordpress.com

 

Turkey, PKK and the Kurds


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Why the Kurds Must Move Forward United and Why Turkey is Resisting the Future

By Paul Davis

As many of you know, and for those who don’t I will tell you, I am a long time supporter of Kurdish unity and Kurdish independence. As you can see by my photo and name I am not Kurdish. I am an American, originally from New Jersey, now living in Virginia. My opinions are shaped from a lifetime of studying history and politics and a career in intelligence.. I give this introduction so my readers will understand my positions.

Turkey is a country that has faced great change in the last century from the base of a once great empire through defeat and breakup and resurrection. Kemal Mustafa Ataturk saved Turkey from falling into the trap many of the new nations did after the first world war. Turkey carved out a new and forward moving country whose people enjoyed political and economic freedom and growth. There were of course problems, there always are, but for the better part of the 20th century  the country moved forward. Recently however Turkey is backsliding both politically and socially. This is a period of change that can be documented in almost any society. This is not a good or bad period, just one that happens because societal changes sometimes happen faster than societies can accept. During this time societies look backward toward a time of a better life and greatness. In fact these times were never better and the perceived greatness was never all that great, at least not for the average person.

The Kurdish people have a different perspective on the world, one that produced a history and a society different than that of  conquerors that ruled the Kurds. What they have is a culture shaped by the different societies under which they have lived but a society that has evolved into  its own uniqueness. The Kurdish people are not however immune to the traps of history and are themselves now caught in that period of change. Like Turkey they can move forward or try to move back, the latter never a successful option. What they and the Turks cannot do is remain where they are.

Much of recent Kurdish history is covered in blood and social and political alienation. As stated above Turkey moved forward in the 20th century, but left behind its Kurdish minority. In point of fact, Turkey refused to admit it had a Kurdish minority and moved to forcibly assimilate them into the new Turkey, again history should have told them this is never a good idea. A number of Kurdish political movements grow up, and most died, in this transitory period. The Kurds fought the Turks, the British, the Iranians and the Syrians. These fights resulted in the current group of political parties that for the most part have their own military. These include the KDP. PUK Gorran, PJAK, PYD, the HDP, and to the point of this paper the PKK.

While all  parties evolved from a common base of Kurdish nationalism they have traveled different roads to arrive at where they are today. In Iraq the KDP is the oldest of the major movements and as such tends to be more conservative, based on tribal and familial rule . The PUK which broke from the KDP derives its base philosophy from the political left and is considered a center-left party. Gorran which broke from the PUK is what in today’s world would be considered progressive. While philosophically different they have one thing in common, they are responsible for running a government, providing basic services and protection. They interact with the central government as well as play on an international political stage.

Those Kurdish parties outside of Iraq, with the current exception of HDP, do none of the above.  For the most part these other organizations are ideologically driven insurgencies with  militias. Both the PKK and the YPG (militia of the PYD) have recently fought valiantly against ISIS. But is fighting enough to claim leadership. have any of these parties provided food, clothing, housing or jobs to a general population that they govern.  I have just read some of the most recent writings coming from the PKK and they brought me back to my college days in the 1970’s with the discussions of total freedom and release from servitude. The socialist and anti-capitalist, non-statist world to come. The only thing missing were unicorns and rainbows. These are easy statements for an organization to make that has no actual duties or requirements to the average citizen. The PKK took to the mountains to plan their utopia and there they stay, except to come out and kill.

Turkey on the other hand does have these duties to its citizens, and in the case of its ethnic Kurdish population abandoned them. The continual repression of the Kurds and the suppression of Kurdish ethnic identity caused the existence of the PKK. For the last three decades Turkey and the PKK fought a running battle. Changes on both sides continued. For Turkey the transition was from a militarized democracy to an elected democracy to, for the last decade, a one party rule that mimics democracy. The PKK for its part started out as radicalized Marxists, through a form of pragmatic socialism to what they are today, a bureaucratic insurgency claiming socialist values . The bottom line however is that neither side has much to show for its efforts against the other.

Now to the KRG. The Kurdistan Regional Government in Erbil Iraq is the only internationally recognized body that has any legitimate authority relative to Kurdish interest. They have been legally entitled by the constitution of Iraq. They have been accepted by the international community as the Kurdish entity that speaks for the Kurds. With this power comes responsibility and restrictions. While many will argue that the KRG is not a democracy but an oligarchy it is the closest thing the Kurds in Iraq have to self rule. Is it democratic – a little, is it corrupt – very likely, is it legitimate – yes.

Putting all of this together;

Turkey is a legitimate government, regardless of how far it has traveled toward dictatorship. Dictatorial regimes are legal entities until they piss off the wrong group. This generally takes a long time. We can look to Iran and North Korea as examples of dictatorships that violate international law and continue to function.

The PKK has no international legitimacy, regardless of how much it feels it does through its Ideology and international mindset, it is not a nation and when it commits acts of violence it does so outside of law and international standards. It is not a state and only a state, according to Weber has “ a monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force. ”

The KRG is a legitimate regional government with international standing, regardless of how some citizens feel disenfranchised by the ruling elite. On the domestic and international stage they have the authority to act as any government entity and as a semi-autonomous region they have their own military, the Peshmerga.

Turkey is a legitimate government that currently has lost the moral high ground. The recent attack on Kurdish positions in Iraq and Syria have been conducted under the cover of fighting terrorism. Until very recently the Turkish government would not get involved in the fight against ISIL. In fact they stood by while ISIL attacked its neighbor Iraq and made gains in Syria into territory claimed by the Kurds. Two important things have happened to change Turkish minds. The first is that the Kurds fought back and not only recaptured lost territory but expanded into territory they did not control before. In conjunction they also did what they have not done before, effectively cooperated. The second, and more important thing to happen was the ruling party lost the majority in the  last election and is in jeopardy of  losing control of the government.

The first item, Kurdish victory and cooperation are terrifying to the Turks who have always feared their indigenous Kurdish population’s desire for freedom or, at the least, autonomy. The second is even more frightening to the ruling party elite who are losing control over a citizenry looking for economic growth and political freedom. The ruling party, the AKP, has ruled over what has become a safe and stable country for the last 12 years. With rising expectations and no existential threat the people looked to change.

The two winning parties need to build a coalition in order to form a new government. While neither one likes the other they both have no love of the AKP. The two avenues to follow would be for the two parties to swallow their pride and form a government or if too much time passes for the President to call for new elections. With no change a new election could be more devastating for the AKP and give enough seats for one of the other parties to form a government. What is needed is a crisis to turn the tide.

For the Turkish government the Kurds have always been the go to crisis and this time is no different. Of course this time, as in the past, the PKK gave them an excuse by attacking and killing 2 Turkish police officers then taking credit. Sending jets to attack PKK positions in Iraq, over and over, is not a justifiable or proportionate response. It is however not an unexpected response given the current state of affairs with-in Turkish politics. Recent polls show AKP growing in popularity since the violence started.

The PKK for its part has continued to foment its version of revolution against the Turkish government. Make no mistake the PKK is well armed and funded, but is impotent relative to its founding purpose. I would equate the current state of the PKK with that of the Colombian guerrilla movement The FARC. The PKK has past its zenith and to use an economic term is past the point of  diminishing returns. The best way the Kurds in Turkey are going to achieve their aims today is politically. The recent strong showing of the HPD in the last Turkish election should be an indicator of what can be done.

Both the AKP and the PKK are opposed to an open democratic resolution to the problems faced by Turkey and the Kurds in the region. To be honest the PKK cannot defeat the Turkish military, and it should be obvious, by now, will not wear down Turkish resolve. Equally obvious is the fact that Turkish military action will not defeat the PKK, in fact it makes it stronger.

The Kurdish future, today, lies in the ballot box. The true aims of Kurdish unity and independence can not be won through force of arms. Acknowledging that a lot of what the Kurds have in Northern Iraq was won in battle, it was not just the Kurds in the fight but the world. At the end of the day it was through politics and diplomacy that the KRG rose to the level of legitimacy. The west is not sending troops to fight the Kurds but diplomats to negotiate treaties.

I have not forgotten ISIS or the other factors that have the region in turmoil. As I said in the beginning I am a student of history and will say that ISIS and the rest of those who are walking backwards will eventually disappear into the dustbin of time.  It is important to continue to move forward to separate yourself from the rest. A warning however is that ISIS will not go quickly or quietly and the world needs to unite to defeat this evil.

The Iran Nuclear Deal: Audacity of Arrogance


It did not get better over the weekend

pleasethink1

Iran Deal

OK I did it, I read the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) that outlines the deal the US and the EU made with Iran in regards to Iran’s nuclear program. My head hurts, my eyes are bleeding and I am very frightened. The agreement is a total capitulation to a terrorist regime bent on regional hegemony and total subjugation of any person or country that it deems an enemy. First off, Iran gives up nothing concrete and receives a number of concessions with nothing more than a promise to stop what they have been doing.   Now the president tells us that this is a good agreement that stops Iran from moving down the road to building a nuclear device. “After two years of negotiations, the United States, together with our international partners, has achieved something that decades of animosity has not: a comprehensive long-term deal with Iran that will…

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The Iran Nuclear Deal: Audacity of Arrogance


Iran Deal

OK I did it, I read the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) that outlines the deal the US and the EU made with Iran in regards to Iran’s nuclear program. My head hurts, my eyes are bleeding and I am very frightened. The agreement is a total capitulation to a terrorist regime bent on regional hegemony and total subjugation of any person or country that it deems an enemy. First off, Iran gives up nothing concrete and receives a number of concessions with nothing more than a promise to stop what they have been doing.   Now the president tells us that this is a good agreement that stops Iran from moving down the road to building a nuclear device. “After two years of negotiations, the United States, together with our international partners, has achieved something that decades of animosity has not: a comprehensive long-term deal with Iran that will prevent it from obtaining a nuclear weapon,” the president told the country Tuesday morning, I just don’t see it. Had a country other than Iran been involved I might have more faith, but Iran has not shown itself to be trustworthy. The diplomatic writing lays out the responsibilities of the parties. In the third provision of the preamble it states that “Iran reaffirms that under no circumstances will Iran ever seek, develop or acquire any nuclear weapons.” In 2000 the North Koreans promised the United States and subsequently in the Six party Talk that “Both sides commit not to nuclearize the Korean Peninsula. The United States must “provide formal assurances” not to threaten or use nuclear weapons against North Korea. Pyongyang is required to “consistently take steps” to implement the 1992 North-South Joint Declaration on the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. As history shows, all of the talks and frameworks and agreements broke down and North Korea is now a nuclear power. What will keep Iran from doing what North Korea did? The JCPOA spends a lot of time on the need for the US and EU to end any sanctions and to ensure the lifting of UN sanctions, but not much on what happens should Iran renege. There is discussion of a Joint Commission that is responsible for monitoring implementation and conflict resolution but not much else. The president speaks of the ability to snap back sanctions in the event Iran does not comply with the letter of the agreement, but the language indicates this will not be easy if even possible without full agreement of all parties.

This Agreement does little to stop Iran from nuclear research; it may slow it for a while but not stop it. To make matters worse I feel that this agreement which shows a lot of back pedaling on the part of the US will make it that much more difficult for us to negotiate in the future. Much of the concern of the west was stopping Iran from producing weapons grade nuclear material through uranium enrichment. In order to enrich uranium centrifuges are required. We know Iran has these and in the agreement they must phase out the largest number of those they have, which are denoted as IR-1 centrifuges. The fact is these are old designs that have never worked properly and have reduced the anticipated output, and it is expected that they would have been replaced by the more efficient IR-4 and IR-5 units which requires Iran to have less centrifuges to produce more enriched uranium. The concern was part of the Nov 2013 Joint Plan of Action, which required Iran not to feed the IR-5s, and it was assumed the IR-5 and other more efficient centrifuges would be disallowed in any agreement. Not only did Iran continue to feed the IR-5 but the JCPOA allows Iran to keep them provided use is only for R&D.

President Obama in announcing the agreement indicated that this is not built on trust but on verification. One of the activities Iran said it would not engage in is “Designing, developing, acquiring, or using computer models to simulate nuclear explosive devices. How do you stop a country from developing computer models? How do you verify that Iran is not doing so?

This is not a completely bad agreement if everything goes absolutely as planned. The odds of that happening are very remote given Iran’s track record of keeping promises. The “best’ we can hope for is that Iran focus’s its attention on funding their exporting of terror to Iraq, Syria and Lebanon with their new found wealth and delay developing a nuke for a few years.

I hope I am wrong. If I am wrong then nothing will go wrong. If however I and a number of others are right we could face a nuclear holocaust in the Middle East in a few short years. I hope congress has the courage to stop this agreement in its tracks. This is not a good deal, its not even appeasement it is a deal for deals sake. To ignore the potential of destruction just to build some self-indulgent legacy is the audacity of arrogance

A letter to the Political Elites


I am the Political Middle and I Have a Job. You are the leadership and have a job.

Please do yours.

What has happened to the political middle? We have always seen extremes in political thought, but in the exercise of good government, it was in the past moderated by the need to serve the vast majority that lived between the extremes. Perhaps the fear politicians have stated over the vanishing middle class in American is in fact the inability of these leaders to see the needs wants and desires of those who live and work between the extremes. These extremes exist with-in both parties from the far right “Tea Party” and their standard-bearers such as Ted Cruz and Michelle Bachman, to the left and the new “Progressives” such as Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Bill de Blasio.

On one side, we have a call for a smaller federal government that in effect collects taxes for some program or another, unless Cruz gets his way and we eliminate the IRS. On the other, we have a call for an expanded government that will do everything for everybody. Ok now that we have discussed the needs, wants and desires of probably 10% of the population, a loud percentage but about 10%, what about the rest of us. What of the hot button issues of the day:

Gays have a right to marry, that’s between 2.5 and 3.5% of the population

Affordable Care Act (Obamacare): After all the hooting and hollering the number of uninsured has dropped by about 3%. The other side of this is that premiums seem to be going up based now on actual usage.

The economy and unemployment: We are in the 6th year of a “recovery” and unemployment is going down but wages are stagnant.

We can likely find more but this will do. The bottom line is good news for the gay community, good news for the uninsured (we hope) and good news for the economy and the unemployed (generally).

I know I left out racial tensions but we will cover that another time.

All of the above is meaningless to the vast majority of people in the middle with the exception of stagnant wages.

What does the middle want for itself and from its leaders? Let us start with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

Well maybe this is not a good place to start since there is nothing here, with apologies to the political leaders, which the government can provide to the middle. The closest they can come is in the lower two segments by ensuring the air we breathe, the water we drink and the food we eat is clean and healthy. They can ensure our property is safe and that there is social stability. They can however do a lot of harm to the middle class by failing to understand what is important outside of politics.

To begin most of us are ambivalent over gay marriage. If you are a liberal progressive you support it because, well you’re a liberal progressive. If you a conservative tea bag person you should support it because it is none of the governments business who you marry. There may be some moral hand wringing but it will not amount to much and life will go on. Most Americans support the concept of everyone having health insurance and most Americans do. According to the Government even after ACA about 8% of Americans do not have health coverage, which means out of a population of about 322 million around 26 million are uninsured, which is too high. However, it means 296 million Americans are covered. Until or if ACA causes a major increase in taxes America will go on as before and no one will notice or care. As an aside, to keep the activist away, I believe the ACA is a good idea, poorly conceived and badly executed and will cause problems down the road unless fixed.

On the last point, the economy, we are coming closer to needs and desires of the middle. While we have made progress on the economy, it has been in fits and spurts. The employment picture has brightened, wages have lagged, but the good news is inflation was under control. There was and is, belt tightening and other sacrifices, but the middle adjusted and is moving forward. Which brings us to what the majority of the country would like the leadership to understand. We want to live quietly within our communities; we would like to have our children live carefree lives and get a quality education and have a future. We would like to have job opportunities with growth potential. We would like to have full lives with a retirement at the end that does not include eating cat food.

We are fully aware that some people in our society need help to live. I have never met anyone who does not believe in helping those in need. However, the help must lead somewhere, which now brings us to Maslow. Help must lead from support to self-sustainment, which frees the person to continue upward.

We are fully aware that there are people of great wealth among us. Good for them. Whether they earned their wealth or were born to it is meaningless. Their wealth does not diminish mine. I would rather spend time and energy trying to better myself then on envy.

Most people get up in the morning, go to work, raise families, go out with friends, and go to bed. It is not that tough to figure out. We know we need a government to do all those things that help us live the lives we lead and protected from the bad. We just do not want to know the governments there. We are not impressed when a large corporation receives a multimillion-dollar fine for breaking some law we did not know existed. When something goes wrong, we want it fixed and are not concerned in placing blame. When we do want to know who did what it is a person that did something. Stop telling me it the Democrats or Republican ideology that is to blame. We are the middle, the majority of the population. Just do your job and make things work and leave me alone.

Shi’a Militias Back in Play, What is Their Target


Once again, we see the Iraq Army (IA) bogged down in fighting ISIS, this time in Anbar. And once again we see the emergence of Iranian lead militias being called on to fill the gap left by an incompetent (IA)which does not seem to have the capacity or desire to take on ISIS. The call to deploy the Hashid Shaabi or Popular Mobilization Forces can be heard coming from a few Sunni tribes but it is likely the louder voices are coming from Tehran. The problem with this move is that the Iranian led Shi’a militias, while larger than the IA, would likely inflame the situation by taking retribution on the Sunni population as they did in Tikrit. The Anbar region holds no significance to Tehran but is of strategic importance to a unified Iraq. The arterial roads that connect central Syria with central Iraq, as well as control the Euphrates River makes the region of strategic importance. That is of course unless Baghdad or Tehran is not interested in securing the Sunni heartland and has other targets in mind.

Should the militias succeed in inflaming the Sunni tribes and driving them into the arms of ISIS. Then the Iranians will be there to support and protect and move on targets that make sense to them. What target meets the criteria of a Shi’a area, of value to Baghdad and Tehran, not currently under Baghdad’s control. The only answer is the Governorate and city of Kirkuk. Kirkuk has been in dispute since the fall of Saddam and currently under control of the autonomous Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). Full control of Kirkuk was not a fact for the KRG until the collapse of the Iraqi army following attacks by ISIS. The KRG while having de facto control of the city but limited control of the governorate now claims the prize of full control. The thing to also remember is that the only area of Anbar that the IA is fighting for is Baiji, which has the largest oil refinery in Iraq. Kirkuk by the way sits on top of one of the largest oil fields in Iraq.

So will the US retain any leverage over Baghdad and will Iraq remain a unified nation when all is said and done. Stay tuned and we will see.

Shia Militia
Shia Militia

Should the US Arm the Iraqi Kurds?


NTR

By Paul Davis

I wanted to republish this since the Kurdish leader Masud Barzani is coming to talk to the president

During my recent interview on Kurdish television station NTR. One of the recurring questions was “Why will the US government not supply the Kurdish Peshmerga with weapons?” The short answer of course is that we have supplied small and medium size arms to the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) while they were in direct contact with ISIS and receiving no help from Baghdad. The hard answer is that US policy limits what it can provide to a regional security force without the consent of the central government. Limited to the point of supplying nothing of consequence, noting that would matter. However, should this policy exist in the world today? Reportedly, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) is circulating a letter to Members of Congress urging a bi-partisan bill authorizing the President to provide the KRG with the arms it needs and bypassing Baghdad.

The impact of arming the KRG with heavy weapons, in the short term, will bring them on par with the enemy in front of them, who has superior weapons they have captured from the Iraqi army, US weapons, including advanced M1 tanks. We have seen the Peshmerga fight and defeat ISIS with the help of US airstrikes and the assistance of other Kurdish fighters such as the YPG and PKK. These victories however have been limited in scope but not in impact. Saving the Yazidi minority and pushing ISIS off the Mosul dam are significant achievements, but ISIS still controls a swath of Iraq and portions of Syria as well as now influencing Islamic extremist throughout the region.

The introduction of heavy weapons to the Peshmerga would not allow them to defeat ISIS by themselves but would allow them to secure the Kurdish region and return to building the only success story in Iraq. So why not do it.

We must address the political ramifications first. Baghdad does not want the Kurds stronger than they are currently. Turkey to the north fears any Kurd, having been at war with the Kurdish PKK organization for years. Turkey views weapons to the KRG as weapons to the PKK. The PKK began as an organization dedicated to an independent Kurdish state in what is now SW Turkey. These are our friends.

Failure to provide weapons to the Kurds leaves only the central governments in the region to fend off the terrorist threat. Currently the Iraqi forces have failed in all attempts to dislodge ISIS and most recently have turned to Iran for assistance. Over 3000 Iraqi forces backed up by 20000 Iranian lead Shia militia have so far failed to dislodge ISIS from the town of Tikrit. While fighting ISIS in the Syrian town of Kobane, on the Syrian Turkish border, Syrian Kurdish fighters supported by Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga and US airstrikes did ultimately drive ISIS from the region. This even through Turkey initially denied the Peshmerga safe passage but allowed free crossing for ISIS. These are our friends.

How to support Mr. Royce’s attempt to authorize the transfer of arms over the objection of Baghdad is no small undertaking. There are three options left; first, we don’t and hope that Iraq and the Peshmerga can establish a secure Iraq, second we ignore Baghdad’s protests and just arm the Peshmerga or lastly we accept the inevitable, that Iraq is a failed state and understand we are arming the future army of an independent Kurdistan. This last is the easiest and the hardest.

The US has a lot of capital invested in Iraq, both financial and political. It would be difficult to walk away, but it would be the easiest path. Should we accept the failed state model, then what becomes of Iraq? It splits into three distinct parts. The first is a Shia part that falls under the control of Iran, Then a Sunni part that depends on the assistance of the Sunni world and Kurdistan, which has never had an Iraqi identity and surrounded on all sides by enemies. Non-Arab nation in the Middle East surrounded by enemies is not something we have not seen before.

Congress should authorize the transfer of arms to Kurdistan, or for the President to direct the transfer. The State department should direct its efforts on working with Turkey to step up and become the local peacekeeper. The above snarky comments aside, Turkey is at least, for the time being, a democratic secular nation which does not want to see Iran controlling the region and can use Kurdistan to buffer itself from the worst of sectarian violence in the Arab world. The weapons will come with a price, that is the KRG will need to do a little cleaning up. More open elections and less corruption.

Kurdistan, like Israel, is an oasis in the middle of turmoil and pains in the backside of the US. Both need protection, nurturing and support until their neighbors can join them in peace.

This is not the answer given my interviewer; all I could say was that since they were not a nation we had to work with Baghdad.