Time for the politicians to once again learn the difference between what they perceive as reality and how the rest of us see it. Two examples are the hearings before the House Oversight Committee with Michael Cohen and the end of the Trump-Kim summit.
I will not waste a lot of time on the Cohen hearings since it was just a political circus not meant to archive anything other then to push forward an agenda. Nothing new was learned from a full day of statements and political attacks from both side. What we were told is what we knew: Donald Trump spent his life as a real estate developer and had for years attempted to build a hotel in Moscow. It never happened and other then Trump associates saying they tried to get it done is a nothing. Donald Trumps attorney facilitated payments to two blackmailers in order for their stories, true or false, not to tarnish the image of Trump. Since according to Cohen, Trumps personnel money was used this is again a nothing. The rest of the time was spent on rumors and innuendo as well as personnel attacks by the members on Cohen and each other. Paying hush money is not a crime and if it was to enhance the election possibility then it might be a crime except for the fact that it was Trumps personnel money of which there is no limit on use in his own campaign. The only facts that are evident in the hearing are that Cohen is going to jail for perjury and tax evasion. What was gained by this stunt is negligible, those that like Trump, still like him. Those that hate Trump, still hate him, and most everyone else was not tuned in and was not fooled by this Congressional circus.
The other story, one that was buried by the news and through manipulating the timing of the Cohen hearing, was the Trump-Kim summit. It is only front page today because of its perceived failure. This is the story that points out the greater difference and lack of understanding between politicians and the real world. While hoping to achieve the next stage of denuclearization on the Korean peninsula the negotiations ended early because the North Korean leader wanted more then the US was willing to give. The fact that the US then ended the negotiations and left must have come as a shock for Kim who, like the rest of the world, was trained to understand that the West would give into anything just to get a deal. Welcome to true negotiations Mr. Kim. I could make that welcome to most of the politicians and diplomats who have lived in a bubble for years.
Negotiations between people, companies or nations required certain elements. Among these are a give and take with known parameters, a set understanding of the end state and realistic expectations. In this case the North Koreans came with unrealistic expectations of complete sanctions relief while giving only limited movement toward the goal of denuclearization.
The world however has seen in recent years that the US, when negotiating, will accept almost any end state just to have an agreement. The most notable of these is the Joint Comprehensive Plain Of Action, or the Iran Deal. The Iran Deal saw the west give Iran everything it wanted and receiving nothing but empty promises in return. This was apparently the Norths expectation, leaving when it became obvious that there would be no true negotiated end, the US left.
The main stream media immediately called this a diplomatic failure showing Trumps lack of negotiating skill or knowledge of international relationships. Those of us who have been in business, or just life, understand this as reality. When you realize that the negotiation is going no where or that the demands of the person on the other side of the table are more then you are willing to give, you end the negotiation. This is standard when any two people or companies sit down to talk, this is however a sea change in government and diplomatic circles.
This is all part of what Donald Trump has brought to Washington, part of the drain the swamp movement. I fear however, like so many other reform movements, this will run into the wall that is Washington. Conservatives and progressives alike are very resistant to true change. If this change is going to be effective almost all who are a part must be removed, which is highly unlikely.
With the announcement that John Bolton is going to replace H.R. McMaster as the National Security Advisor a rash of reporting has come out condemning the former UN Ambassador as a hot head and a war monger. His early rejection of the JCPOA (the Iran Deal) as bad for the world and his pronouncement that the US has a legitimate right to attack North Korean to end its ability to threaten the world with nuclear war. In an article in the Atlantic his statement on North Korea was called a radical idea and that it risks the “most destructive war in living memory.” These types of melodramatic declarations do nothing to help an informed decision. I would say the most destructive war in living memory was World War II. It must be pointed out that WWII began because democracies failed to confront dictatorships in a timely manner.
When the Obama administration was making its argument for the Iran deal the president told the nation there were two options, diplomacy or war. There of course many options in any scenario, and presenting only the extremes is a treacherous path to take. Let us look at a potential third alternative, diplomacy with the threat of war. We have tried diplomacy with North Korea for over 25 years we no success. If Kim Jung-un is of the opinion that it will always be diplomacy followed by sanction relief, followed by jettisoning what ever agreement you came to and carrying on your nuclear program until next time, diplomacy will not work.
In the case of Iran we negotiated away all leverage and financed Iran’s terrorist proxies. Kim can see the results of the JCPOA and how toothless the enforcement provisions are. Why then should North Korea negotiate in earnest? Presently the answer is John Bolton. With Bolton advising the president and Mike Pompeo at State, both hawks, the North Korean calculus must change. Hawk by the way does not mean go to war over everything but stand firm on principles and work for the best but never shy away from a credible threat of war. This is what Bolton brings to the table, not a crazy man but a firm man. If he can bring fear to the other side so be it. I suggest reading about the Cuban Missile Crisis, perhaps Bolton can chair EXCOMM.
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