Patterico's Pontifications


Speaking of Dithering, the President Contemplates Iran

Filed under: General — JVW @ 6:34 pm

[guest post by JVW]

There are so many areas of foreign policy to watch Joe Biden be dead wrong or even to eff up. His amateurish rekindling of the ridiculous Iran Deal is, we should hope, just about dead:

For those following the Iran nuclear talks in Vienna, the Biden administration’s negotiations have been a feat of concession and weakness. The deal on the table, which is being packaged as a return to the (also weak) 2015 JCPOA, is actually much weaker; it gives Iran a legitimate, quicker path to a nuclear weapon and frees up billions in sanctions relief. Until quite recently, this shameful capitulation of a deal has evaded the scathing headlines it deserves. But now, as the most shocking details come to light, the Biden administration will have to answer for its strategic failure and suffer the political consequences should the deal go through.

After a year of negotiations, the details of the agreement are mostly finalized and a deal could be imminent based on Iran’s recent release of hostages. The final snag is the question over the IRGC’s terrorist designation. On Monday, the Wall Street Journal reported that the “effort to revive the 2015 nuclear deal agreement now hinges on perhaps the most politically sensitive issue in the negotiations: whether to remove the U.S. terrorism designation for Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards.” The Journal reports that this contentious question could “cause a breakdown in negotiations,” according to senior U.S. officials.

And not a moment too soon. Reports are that not only did the Biden Administration offer the removal of the IRGC’s terrorist designation, but they began dangling this as a carrot to goad Iran into reopening the JCPOA immediately once talks resumed nearly a year ago, thereby reducing its value as a bargaining chip. Indeed, even sources who are generally predisposed to cut the Biden Administration a break appear to be acknowledging that the latest round of talks have been an exercise in absolute appeasement of the mullahs, with very little being gained by the U.S. other than more empty promises which Iran will almost certainly fail to keep.

Fortunately, it would appear that a bipartisan consensus is emerging in Washington against the Biden Administration’s concessions to Iran and Russia. Israel and the Arab countries vying with Iran for hegemony in the Gulf Region are also highly skeptical of this deal’s merits, so much so that both Saudi Arabia and the UAE are resisting President Biden’s request to produce more oil in a move that certainly looks like a protest against rapprochement with the mullahs. Unfortunately, this fissure with the Arab world — and yes, I know dealing with those thugs is no picnic — is playing right into the hands of both Russia and China, with the former still selling oil in Western markets and the later cultivating close ties with Riyadh and Abu Dahbi.

But, as we all learned seven years ago, there isn’t all that much that the Congress can do to prevent the Biden Administration from recklessly steaming forward. Naturally a revised JCPOA, like its predecessor, will not be ratified by the Senate as a formal treaty, and stands a strong likelihood of being revoked if and when a Republican President is inaugurated. Still, Iran will treat the agreement like a binding treaty, as will nations which do not understand the intricacies of U.S. Constitutional law and separation of powers. Andrew McCarthy lays out an multi-level case for how Congress can reassert its role in foreign policy by insisting that the new agreement be authorized legislatively as befitting new law. It strikes me as a fanciful notion, inasmuch as even those Democrats who oppose a new JCPOA will likely be loathe to embarrass the Biden Administration in an election year by joining Republicans to swat down his one foreign policy “achievement” in Congress.

At this point I think the best any of us can hope for is that Russia — who may be even more chaotic and disorganized than we are — shoots itself in the foot by demanding too many concessions from the U.S., more than even the feeble and weak Biden Administration is willing to grant. Thus do we find ourselves yet again in a disaster of our own making.


Dithering Here And There On Russia

Filed under: General — Dana @ 12:17 pm

[guest post by Dana]

Russia remains a member of a few exclusive international bodies despite their continuing and unwarranted slaughter of Ukrainians. High-level discussions ensue regarding the appropriateness of allowing their continued membership:

The United States and its Western allies are assessing whether Russia should remain within the Group of Twenty (G20) grouping of major economies following its invasion of Ukraine, sources involved in the discussions told Reuters on Tuesday.

The likelihood that any bid to exclude Russia outright would be vetoed by others in the club – which includes China, India, Saudi Arabia and others – raised the prospect of some countries instead skipping G20 meetings this year, the sources said.


Russia is facing an onslaught of international sanctions led by Western nations aiming to isolate it from the global economy, including notably shutting it out of the SWIFT global bank messaging system and restricting dealings by its central bank.

“There have been discussions about whether it’s appropriate for Russia to be part of the G20,” said a senior G7 source. “If Russia remains a member, it will become a less useful organization.”

Asked whether U.S. President Joe Biden would move to push Russia out of the G20 when he meets with allies in Brussels this week, national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters at the White House Tuesday: “We believe that it cannot be business as usual for Russia in international institutions and in the international community.”

Additionally, the Russian Federation continues to be a member of the United Nations. Since the invasion, there have been calls to expel them. However, there seems to be some disagreement about the wisdom or ability to do that:

“The UN is a political body. It is not a church. Ultimately, the UN is there as a place where states…can talk to each other in the last resort,” said Richard Gowan, UN director at the International Crisis Group. Gowen said expelling Russia would be “effectively impossible,” and added that it might even be counterproductive.

“I worry that if you shove Russia out, if you could find a way to shove Russia out, you just have Russia on the outside trying to undercut even these minimal forms of cooperation,” he said.

Brett Schaefer, a research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, offers a countering view:

“The UN General Assembly is not a very powerful body” but it “does have authority over its own procedures and over the bodies that it creates,” Schaefer said. “The fact that no one seems to be very eager to suspend or lead an effort to suspend Russia from the Human Rights Council considering the human rights abuses in the current conflict is vastly disappointing.”

Removing Russia from the Human Rights Council is one way of censuring Moscow for its actions; Secretary of State Antony Blinken suggested it on Tuesday. The council could vote to remove Russia over its human rights abuses and targeting of civilian areas in Ukraine, similar to how it voted in 2011 to remove Libya from the panel. This step, which would require a two-thirds majority vote, is “the most promising formal slap available,” the ICG’s Gowan said.

“It’s pretty morally obvious it should be done,” he said. “It would also send a sort of clear political signal that would be good.”

Unbelievably Believably, Russia remains on the UN Human Rights Council . Four weeks ago, 32 countries voted for a resolution presented by Ukraine to “to establish a commission to investigate violations committed during Russia’s military attack on Ukraine”:

The resolution calls for the “swift and verifiable” withdrawal of Russian troops and Russian-backed armed groups from Ukraine and urges safe and unhindered humanitarian access to people in need.

The independent international Commission of Inquiry will have a mandate that includes investigating all alleged rights violations and abuses, and related crimes, and making recommendations on accountability measures.


So, while various officials dither over whether an expulsion or sanction of Russia is justifiable or appropriate, here is some of what is currently taking place in Ukraine at the hands of Russia:

Pleaing to international bodies to help desperate Ukrainian orphans trapped in Putin’s war:

Among the millions of children still in Ukraine there are up to 100,000 orphans housed in nearly 700 childrens homes, according to Save the Children. Half the orphans are said to be disabled. These children are at increased risk of exploitation, abuse, neglect, and human trafficking. Only a few thousand of them have been evacuated so far and there are concerns that these children will be left behind. They need our urgent assistance with evacuation and with finding them a home.

We urge the government to work with other countries and international bodies such as the UN and the Council of Europe to ensure that these children are evacuated and given help, and to prevent any risk of them being trafficked.

Update: President Biden is currently in Europe meeting with our allies, and reportedly will put new sanctions on Russia, as well as look at other options to further isolate and weaken the country.


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