Patterico's Pontifications

10/27/2015

Bret Stephens on the Insane Iran Arrangement

Filed under: General — JVW @ 9:46 pm

[guest post by JVW]

The headline isn’t quite fully alliterative, but I tried to come close.

Over at the Wall Street Journal, Bret Stephens unpacks the recent developments in our post-reaproachment with Iran world. Spoiler alert: the mullahs are already gleefully violating the terms they had allegedly agreed to. Stephens writes of a recent ballistic missile test, expressly prohibited by the agreement:

Earlier this month Iran test-fired a new-generation ballistic missile, called Emad, with an estimated 1,000-mile range and a 1,600-pound payload. Its only practical military use is to deliver a nuclear warhead. The test was a bald violation of the Security Council’s Resolution 2231, adopted unanimously in July, in which “Iran is called upon not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons” for at least eight years.

Then Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei weighed in on the nuclear deal by way of a public letter to President Hassan Rouhani. “The behavior and words of the U.S. government in the nuclear issue and its prolonged and boring negotiations,” he wrote, “showed that [the nuclear issue] was also another link in their chain of hostile enmity with the Islamic Republic.”

Grant this to Khamenei: the negotiations were indeed prolonged and boring, mostly because Secretary of State Kerry lacked the guts and good sense to walk away from them. Iran now demands not just that the United States and its Western allies temporarily suspend sanctions, but that sanctions be formally and permanently lifted. Not that this is a huge deal, since by allowing this treaty to be sent to the United Nations without Congressional assent the Obama Administration has provided the green light for Russia and China to resume open and free trade with the Islamic Republic regardless of what the West chooses to do.

Stephens also points out that the very day after conducting the prohibited missile test, Iran convicted Iranian-American reporter Jason Rezaian of espionage and treason, despite complaints from the White House that the trial was — let’s see: what sort of strong term should we use to express our opprobrium? ah yes, I have it“opaque.”

When Barack Obama told us back in 2008 that the was willing to negotiate with Iran without any preconditions, should we have known that there would in fact be no conditions of any sort whatsoever? The only thing we seem to have been interested in is how deftly we could camouflage our full capitulation.

– JVW

25 Responses to “Bret Stephens on the Insane Iran Arrangement”

  1. I’m sure the UN will get right on that!

    Seriously, is this (and King Putin of Syria) becoming even too obvious for Obama and his whiny little ego? Is this why he suddenly wants to fight in Iraq again, and why we had a feel good segment on 60 Minutes about how we’re just destroying the JV ISIS with our air war?

    Patricia (5fc097)

  2. The test was a bald violation of the Security Council’s Resolution 2231, adopted unanimously in July, in which “Iran is called upon not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons” for at least eight years.

    Stephens is lying here. The test did not violate the resolution, whether blatantly or subtly. The resolution (which he quotes!) says Iran is called upon, not required. That means the Council would prefer that Iran were to refrain from such activity, but Iran may do as it likes. Stephens knows this very well, but is relying on his readership not to notice, or not to know the difference between “called upon” and “required”.

    Milhouse (8489b1)

  3. by allowing this treaty to be sent to the United Nations without Congressional assent the Obama Administration has provided the green light for Russia and China to resume open and free trade with the Islamic Republic regardless of what the West chooses to do.

    Only once the IAEA certifies that Iran is in compliance. And the next president can turn that green light red any time he likes. Russia and China will not be able to stop it.

    Of course they may ignore it and continue to trade with Iran illegally, correctly assuming that they can get away with it, but they could have done that without the UNSC resolution too. Perhaps whatever has been making them comply with the UN sanctions until now will still be in effect when/if the next president invokes the “snap back” clause.

    Milhouse (8489b1)

  4. The resolution (which he quotes!) says Iran is called upon, not required.

    Any agreement of this sort requires a measure of good faith. OK, maybe Iran wasn’t strictly prohibited from this test, but the fact that they not only performed it, but did so so quickly after the deal had been consummated, is a very clear signal that they are not interested at all in acting in good faith to the terms to which they supposedly agreed. Yet who among us has any real doubts that Obama will press to have almost all sanctions lifted, even those which seek to punish Iran for its sponsorship of terrorism?

    And the next president can turn that green light red any time he likes. Russia and China will not be able to stop it.

    Some policy experts are far less optimistic than you apparently are that the U.S. can walk it all back without completely abrogating the deal. And we still have 15 more months of the Obama Administration to suffer through, so don’t expect us to be taking that hard stance any time soon. And Iran fully understands this and will run circles around our feckless crew in the meantime.

    JVW (ba78f9)

  5. And one more thing, Milhouse: even if you want to argue that the language of the UN resolution didn’t expressly prohibit the test, there is no doubt that the Obama Administration and other supporters of this agreement wanted the American people to believe that these sort of tests were in fact banned for the stated period of time.

    JVW (ba78f9)

  6. Reading this post, and the comments, was enhancing my own gloomy mood about just what a debacle Obama has made of American foreign affairs, including but not limited to the Middle East. I think Obama has made it highly probable that in the next handful of years we’ll have a nuclear incident involving Iran (won’t necessarily have to be a nuke, could be a dirty bomb handed off to terrorist proxies), another shooting war or something very close to it (like imposing a trade blockade militarily), or both.

    But then I read a phrase in JVW’s comment above (#4) which struck me in a manner different than he probably intended. The phrase was: “we still have 15 more months of the Obama Administration to suffer through.”

    To be clear, I agree with his intended use of the phrase too: We will have to suffer through those 15 months, and much can and likely will get worse during that period.

    But until today, until just now when I read that comment, it hadn’t occurred to me that there are only 15 more months that we have to suffer through before Obama will be gone. I thought to myself, “Wow, that means we’ve already suffered through six years and nine months, roughly! We’re on the home stretch. The end is in sight.”

    I felt like the cliche mobster character in the movies who’s been told by the Mafia that he has to plead guilty for the good of the organization, but not to worry, they got him a plea, and it’s only 15 months. “Fifteen months? I can do 15 months standing on my head!”

    Beldar (fa637a)

  7. the fact that they not only performed it, but did so so quickly after the deal had been consummated, is a very clear signal that they are not interested at all in acting in good faith to the terms to which they supposedly agreed.

    The deal they agreed to said nothing about ballistic missiles. You’re confusing the deal with the resolution. They are two separate things. The deal is a private arrangement; the resolution is binding international law.

    In any case, who imagined the Iranians were acting in good faith, or could be trusted to keep their word? Everyone knows that the Iranians are liars and villains, whether they admit it or not. But Stephens claimed that it was “a bald violation of the Security Council’s Resolution 2231,”, i.e. a breach of international law, and that simply isn’t true.

    Milhouse (8489b1)

  8. But until today, until just now when I read that comment, it hadn’t occurred to me that there are only 15 more months that we have to suffer through before Obama will be gone. I thought to myself, “Wow, that means we’ve already suffered through six years and nine months, roughly! We’re on the home stretch. The end is in sight.”

    I don’t know, Beldar. Fifteen months can be an awfully long time. Think back on all of the damage Barack Obama did between, oh, say, January 2009 and April 2010. Is that too easy? How about the damage Bill Clinton managed to do between November 1999 and January 2001? There’s plenty of rough waters ahead, especially since the GOP is right now suffering through some sort of identity problem.

    JVW (ba78f9)

  9. And the next president can turn that green light red any time he likes. Russia and China will not be able to stop it.

    Some policy experts are far less optimistic than you apparently are that the U.S. can walk it all back without completely abrogating the deal

    Who said anything about not abrogating the deal? The resolution explicitly recognises that if the “snap back” clause is ever invoked Iran will consider the deal over. That doesn’t change the fact that that clause is in the resolution, so if and when the next US president invokes it international law will require all nations to reinstate the sanctions against Iran. The USA can do this unilaterally, and there’s nothing anyone can do to stop it.

    Milhouse (8489b1)

  10. the Obama Administration and other supporters of this agreement wanted the American people to believe that these sort of tests were in fact banned for the stated period of time.

    What a bunch of liars wanted a bunch of ignorant idiots to believe is irrelevant. Anyone who was paying attention knew otherwise. And Stephens certainly knows otherwise but chose to lie.

    Milhouse (8489b1)

  11. The deal they agreed to said nothing about ballistic missiles. You’re confusing the deal with the resolution.

    Take it up with Samantha Power, Milhouse:

    “If the facts are as we believe them to be, [the missile test] would violate U.N. Security Council resolutions,” Samantha Power said speaking at Fortune’s Most Powerful Women summit in Washington. . . .

    Power went on to say that one of the “really important features” of the existing nuclear agreement with Iran will be “enforcement of the resolutions and standards” that are already in place.

    The quoted article also indicates that Josh Earnest said that the tests were a “violation” of security council sanctions, not just a matter of Iran not playing ball.

    JVW (ba78f9)

  12. The USA can do this unilaterally, and there’s nothing anyone can do to stop it.

    And then what will have been the point of the deal, other than to give Russia and China the opportunity to starting trading with Iran in earnest? And there is a school of thought that says that snap back might end up being meaningless. From CNS:

    Furthermore, another as-yet little discussed element of the final Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) is the fact that, even were sanctions reinstated, they would not retroactively affect business contracts that Iran has already signed by that point, unless those contracts are themselves in violation of the JCPOA or Security Council resolutions.

    (So in the event of sanctions “snapback” actually occurring, a hypothetical lucrative oil deal with a European company that does not in itself violate the broader nuclear agreement or Security Council resolutions would be able to go ahead unimpeded, despite Iran’s JCPOA non-compliance.)

    “Since there is likely to be a ‘gold rush’ of business rushing to sign deals with Iran upon lifting of sanctions, this exception might prove a pretty big hole in the ‘snapped-back’ sanctions,” Julian Ku, professor of law at Hofstra University’s School of Law, wrote on the Opinio Juris blog Tuesday.

    “The expected Chinese and Russian deals with Iran for arms sales and oil purchases could survive any snapback, even if Iran was caught cheating,” Ku argued.

    JVW (ba78f9)

  13. @ JVW: Oh, I expect the end of Obama’s administration to rank in the history books right up there with the ends of the Caligula and Nero imperial reigns. There will be spasms of drama and ugliness, and there will be further damage done.

    But fifteen months is a nice psychological break-point for me. And I think this coming January, when the Constitutional deadline will end Obama’s presidency in only 12 more months, I’m going to uncork a bottle of decent champagne, just to mark the milestone.

    Beldar (fa637a)

  14. The headline isn’t quite fully alliterative

    Deranged Iran Arrangement? (Yes, I know that’s assonance.)

    nk (dbc370)

  15. Milhouse – are you seriously arguing that the UN and US agreements simply request that Iran not test ICBM, but Iran is actually welcome to do so, should they so choose?

    JD (136c9e)

  16. The Iranians have astutely determined the imperial lord’s scrota are empty and consequences to misbehavior are nonexistent.

    DNF (45ef00)

  17. 8. Indeed, Europe will be a raging inferno within that window. Creditors are unwilling to make the next 2 billion euro tranche to Greece, Sweden has pledged 200 billion kroner QE sending rates more negative, new leftist government in Portugal adamantly opposed to austerity, EU West forcing EU East to take migrants, Pegida scrambling for guns,..

    Doom at the kitchen door, “I’ll let myself in, chill.”

    DNF (45ef00)

  18. …how deftlyblatantly we could camouflage proclaim our full capitulation.

    FTFY!

    redc1c4 (e4c086)

  19. Obama Administration has provided the green light for Russia and China to resume open and free trade with the Islamic Republic regardless of what the West chooses to do.

    *****

    This is where the real leverage was, good luck packing that back in a box.

    They always talk, talk–about Smart Diplomacy–which supposedly is about economic sanctions –that become mere obstacles for corrupt world leaders to work around almost as soon as they are implemented.

    We are back in lawyer land when it comes to national security.

    Danube River Guide (76b104)

  20. Stephens is lying here. The test did not violate the resolution, whether blatantly or subtly. The resolution (which he quotes!) says Iran is called upon, not required. That means the Council would prefer that Iran were to refrain from such activity, but Iran may do as it likes. Stephens knows this very well, but is relying on his readership not to notice, or not to know the difference between “called upon” and “required”.

    ****

    Why even write it into the agreement? We are writing wishes? Perhaps the intent is to do what you observed–mislead. Mislead Americans. Or better yet, an exercise in face saving for the self weakened Obama Administration.

    Danube River Guide (76b104)

  21. Here’s our wish list Santa, er–Iran.

    I guess maybe they wrote it as sort of a pink line to demonstrate– later –Iran’s intent, but when you do nothing about it, and can do nothing about it looks like something that ends up only containing the Obama Administration.

    Danube River Guide (76b104)

  22. The deal they agreed to said nothing about ballistic missiles. You’re confusing the deal with the resolution.

    Take it up with Samantha Power, Milhouse:

    First of all, since when is Samantha Power known for telling the truth? But in this case the fault is with you, not with her. You are seriously misrepresenting her words. I will do you the courtesy of assuming that you did so carelessly, not on purpose, but Stephens knows better.

    “If the facts are as we believe them to be, [the missile test] would violate U.N. Security Council resolutions,” Samantha Power said speaking at Fortune’s Most Powerful Women summit in Washington. . . .

    Read that again. She did not say and did not mean that it violated Resolution 2231 (2015), because it didn’t. The alleged violation is of Resolution 1929 (2010), which says “Iran is prohibited from undertaking any activity related to ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear weapons and States are required to take all necessary measure to prevent the transfer of related technology or technical assistance.” Exactly opposite to to Stephens’s claim, Resolution 2231 (2015) actually terminates all UN sanctions against Iran, including 1929 (2010), in other words it permits Iran to test ballistic missiles. But it only does so once the IAEA report has been received, and that hasn’t happened yet, so Iran jumped the gun.

    Power went on to say that one of the “really important features” of the existing nuclear agreement with Iran will be “enforcement of the resolutions and standards” that are already in place.

    The text of the resolution says the exact opposite. It says all those resolutions are terminated. Are you surprised that she lies?

    The quoted article also indicates that Josh Earnest said that the tests were a “violation” of security council sanctions, not just a matter of Iran not playing ball.

    Again, you are seriously misrepresenting his words. Yes, he said Iran likely violated sanctions, but he stressed that it is still abiding by the terms of the nuclear deal it reached with global powers in July.

    The USA can do this unilaterally, and there’s nothing anyone can do to stop it.

    And then what will have been the point of the deal, other than to give Russia and China the opportunity to starting trading with Iran in earnest?

    And your point is? Who said there was a point to the deal? Have I somehow given the impression that there is something good to be said about this deal? It’s terrible, for that reason among many others.

    And yes, the snap-back, if it happens, will not be retroactive. Any contract made while it was legal will not retroactively become illegal, because that would obviously be wrong. So yes, if the US invokes the snap-back provision expect a rush to sign contracts during the 30 days till it takes effect.

    Milhouse (8489b1)

  23. Milhouse – are you seriously arguing that the UN and US agreements simply request that Iran not test ICBM, but Iran is actually welcome to do so, should they so choose?

    Yes, that is what the text Stephens himself quotes says. I haven’t checked the resolution itself for that language; I’m relying on Stephens’s quote, since it’s an admission against interest.

    Are you seriously arguing otherwise? Please quote me the langauge that prohibits Iran from testing ICBMs, if you claim it exists.

    Milhouse (8489b1)

  24. Why even write it into the agreement? We are writing wishes?

    Yes, we are. UNSC resolutions routinely “call upon” or “encourage” nations to do this or that. It’s meaningless. Binding language in a resolution is indicated by words such as “required” or “prohibited”. The key word that tells you whether a paragraph is binding or not is helpfully in italics, so you can easily find it and know whether to bother reading the rest of the paragraph.

    Milhouse (8489b1)

  25. By the way, here’s Joel Pollak making this very point back in July.

    Milhouse (8489b1)


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