Thursday, July 16, 2015

White House Fool Report: The People vs. Elliott Abrams, and conversely

Hilarious Seth McFarlane character Col. Oliver North. Via Americans Against the Tea Party.

War criminal Elliott Abrams shows up in the Weekly Standard with a hook:
Would George W. Bush have negotiated and signed the JCPOA with Iran? 
Of course not. That would have been a little too much work. Exterminate the brutes! That's what a Leader would do.

Or maybe make a calmer, quieter deal with the Iranian ayatollahs the way Abrams's old boss did. Ronald Reagan didn't mind negotiating with them at all, when a Lebanese group with connections to the Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution was holding some American hostages in the summer of 1985.

The government of Iran needed weapons—as you'll recall they were having this war with Saddam Hussein's Iraq,  and they were having a little trouble buying them, on account of an arms embargo imposed by the United States on itself and various Arab, European, and Asian allies. But Reagan's people figured they could sell them some stuff in secret, and so, even as they were funneling $5 billion to Iraq through the Atlanta office of the Banco Nazionale del Lavoro, they were shipping Iran some 500 anti-tank missiles.

The deal didn't actually free very many hostages (3 out of a total of 30), but it made Colonel North a tidy sum of money, which he was able to spend breaking some more laws in buying weapons for insurgents working to overthrow the democratically elected government of Nicaragua, which is the part Elliott Abrams ought to remember pretty clearly, since it was how he became a criminal, though never indicted for the worst stuff he did—mostly being intensely involved in North's illegal activities and lying to Congress about them; he also personally went to Brunei to ask the Sultan for $10 million for the Contras, successfully, but stupid North deposited the check in the wrong Swiss bank account, hahaha (you can read about it all in some detail in the independent counsel's report). And of course he copped a plea to a misdemeanor charge and then George H.W. Bush pardoned him along with all the other criminals involved.

But Abrams isn't asking whether Reagan would have negotiated a deal with Iran, he's asking about George W. Bush, who certainly started negotiating a deal with Iran in 2006 and 2007, as the Times was reminding us today, but apparently lost his nerve:
“It’s conceptually a deep irony because this diplomatic outreach was originally designed and engineered by President Bush,” said Philip Zelikow, a University of Virginia professor who was a deputy to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in Mr. Bush’s administration. “It’s convenient for Republicans and Democrats to forget this.”

Mr. Zelikow said that there was intense debate within the Bush administration at the time over whether to engage Iran and that ultimately talks failed when its leadership had a change of heart.
To Abrams, the difference between Obama and Bush is that Bush was all about people, whereas Obama only cares about regimes, and History with a capital H:
For Obama and this effort to make History, the Egyptian or Iranian or Cuban people are an obstacle, not the object of the endeavor. That’s the key difference with how Bush saw foreign policy. The Freedom Agenda was ultimately about people, not countries or rulers, and the goal was to empower them. In his Cuba deal Obama has further empowered the Castros, and in the Iran deal he has further empowered the Ayatollah Khamenei. After all, it isn’t really “Iran” getting to spend the $150 Billion, nor is it the Iranian people; it’s a cash transfer to Khamenei, wholly in his control. The perversity of this is clear when we realize that in the medium run, the only solution to the problem of Iran is the people of Iran. They appear to loathe the Islamic Republic, and once it is gone Iranian foreign policy will not consist of an effort to support terror and destroy Israel and oppose the United States. This nuclear deal ignores the people of Iran and strengthens their oppressors, just as in Cuba.
On that $150 billion—$100 billion actually—in frozen Iranian government assets that will now be unfrozen, you don't really have to worry so much:
Administration officials estimate that Iran needs more than a half-trillion dollars to meet domestic investment requirements: $170 billion to develop oil and gas potential; $100 billion for agricultural projects; $100 billion for infrastructure; $50 billion to increase energy capacity; and $100 billion to pay for unfunded state and military pensions, government debts, and funding shortfalls.

“It’s also important to note that Iran’s ability to support terrorism relies less on monetary funds, and more on political power and other forms of influence since terrorism and Iran’s other malign regional activities are, unfortunately, not expensive,” the State Department official said. (Tim Mak/Daily Beast)
On the people question, do you have any clue what the sanctions have cost the Iranian people? As Beheshteh Farshneshani wrote in 2013,
.... proponents of Iran sanctions adhere to the myth that sanctions are targeted at the regime and do not affect the lives of ordinary people. They argue that economic pressure will weaken the Islamic Republic and bring it to revise its nuclear and democratic calculus. Still others assert, quite audaciously, that the calamitous conditions engendered by the sanctions are naturally necessary to provoke a ground-up revolution that will ultimately result in regime change. But sanctions on Iran are only severely weakening the middle class, breaking the collective will and marginalizing democratic voices while solidifying the power of the ruling elite.
Fortunately, sanctions have not yet completely shattered the will of the Iranian people. In June, millions of Iranians participated in the sweeping elections that brought the moderate government of Hassan Rouhani to the forefront of Iranian politics. The new president seeks to undo the damage of his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and has shown a strong interest in reaching a nuclear deal with the West. And President Obama’s brave gesture was a critical step toward reaching this goal.
We've seen how the people feel in Tehran about this week's agreement, which is overjoyed and full of hope. In Cuba, of course, Obama is more popular than Fidel. In democratic Nicaragua, the Sandinistas have been back in power since 2006, and
Nicaragua has transformed itself into one of the safest and fastest-growing countries in Latin America.... The 2011 Doing Business Report, published by The World Bank Group, a report that benchmarks various indicators of the investment climate in 183 nations, ranked Nicaragua as the top location in Central America in starting a business, investor protection, and closing a business. Additionally, the country improved in the following categories: ease of doing business, registering property, paying taxes, trading across borders and enforcing contracts.
While in Abrams's old stomping grounds in Guatemala and Honduras and El Salvador, globalized and ground down for the benefit of rich elites, while the people languish in barrios where the gangs (imported from Los Angeles) are more powerful than the police, the situation gets worse and worse.

When people like Abrams talk about "the people", watch out. He's trying to put something over on you, in this case the old régime change story. He wants the people to get themselves killed if they possibly can, as the people of Iraq did last time he was in a position of power, cheering them on. He doesn't give two shits about "the people" and never has. Obama's not talking about the people much, but if you listen to him talking to Friedman you can hear him thinking about them, hard:
You watch the news reports preceding the Arab Spring, but certainly since the Arab Spring started to turn into more an Arab Winter, and you weep for the children of this region, not just the ones who are being displaced in Syria, not just the ones who are currently suffering from humanitarian situations in Yemen, but just the ordinary Iranian youth or Saudi youth or Kuwaiti youth who are asking themselves, `Why is it that we don’t have the same prospects that some kid in Finland, Singapore, China, Indonesia, the United States? Why aren’t we seeing that same possibility, that same sense of hopefulness?’ And I think that’s what the leaders have to really focus on.”

No comments:

Post a Comment