Tag Archives: Iran

$400 Million: The Partial Price of Peace?

Hundreds (RGBStock)

When the US government sends $400 million in cash, stacked on pallets, to Iran on the same day the Iranian government releases four imprisoned Americans, it looks an awful lot like ransom.

On the other hand, when the US government decides to keep $400 million sent to it by the Iranian government pursuant to an arms deal  for 35 years without ever shipping the arms, it looks an awful lot like stealing.

And when the US government reaches a settlement to finally pay back that money with interest, it looks an awful lot like  justice.

Yes, the simultaneity of payment and release looks pretty damning on both ends.

On the other hand, it seems very understandable from both ends.

The Iranians have had good reason to distrust the US government for more than 60 years, ever since the US overthrew their elected government and saddled them with a US-approved dictator, then stole their money when they overthrew that dictator.  As often as the US has screwed them, why would they trust the US to repay them absent some kind of leverage?

President Obama, on the other hand, wanted to secure the return of those prisoners, and he seems to genuinely want to improve US relations with Iran after more than three decades of cold (and sometimes not so cold) war.  Coughing up cash that the US owed to Iran anyway probably looked like a good way to make progress on both of those fronts.

Yeah, I guess it looks kind of bad. But you know, I don’t have any heartburn over it. And I find it hard to give much credence to Republican temper tantrums over the whole thing.

I don’t recall Republicans complaining about the Iranians timing their release of hostages from the US embassy in Tehran to coincide with the inauguration of a Republican president (some people even believe that that Republican’s running mate negotiated a secret deal with the Iranians to stretch the matter and create that coincidence).

I do recall Republicans defending that same president when he was discovered to have traded arms to — not to merely have returned money to, but to have intentionally armed — Iran in return for assistance in achieving the release of American hostages held in Lebanon by Iran’s Hezbollah allies.

It seems to me that all is well here, election year partisan bluster notwithstanding. Peace gets messy now and again, but it beats the alternative.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

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US Military Adventurism: The Definition of Insanity

September 11, 2001 attacks in New York City: V...
September 11, 2001 attacks in New York City: View of the World Trade Center and the Statue of Liberty. (Image: US National Park Service ) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On October 22, US Army Master Sergeant Joshua L. Wheeler died near Hawija, in northern Iraq, while taking part in a mission aimed at rescuing prisoners from Islamic State forces. Wheeler is the first American soldier — or at least the first one we’ve been told about — to die in combat in Iraq since 2011.

I’m not an expert on US foreign policy in the Middle East, but I have long taken an interest in the subject, especially since Thanksgiving weekend of 1990, when I mobilized with my Marine Corps reserve unit and headed for Saudi Arabia to participate in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm (that kind of thing tends to powerfully focus one’s attention). Over the intervening quarter century, I’ve reached one conclusion:

US intervention in the Middle East always makes things worse.

Sometimes more obviously and quickly, sometimes more subtly and slowly, but always.

Worse for the people there, and worse for Americans too.

The US overthrew Iran’s elected government in 1953, replacing it with the Shah’s authoritarian regime. It took 25 years for that poison fruit to ripen into revolution, a hostage situation, and an anti-American theocracy.

The US supported Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein in his eight-year war against Iran. Two years after that war ended, the US found itself kicking Saddam’s army out of Kuwait and establishing a permanent military presence on soil which Osama bin Laden deemed off-limits to infidels. You probably remember how that turned out.

The US invasion of Iraq in 2003 empowered Iran’s theocrats and various Sunni Islamist groups. The country remains a shambles more than a decade after that empty “victory.”

For nearly 40 years, since the Camp David accords, the US has  paid through the nose to keep a lid on the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs. Consequently, the incentive is for both sides (as well as Egypt and Saudi Arabia, who also get payoffs) to keep the conflict at a permanent simmer and occasionally let it boil over instead of settling it. If the conflict ends, so do the US aid checks.

As the old Alcoholics Anonymous saying goes, insanity is repeating the same mistakes and expecting different results. And the first step in recovery is admitting you have a problem.

Let the Middle East solve its own problems. Let Master Sergeant Wheeler be the last American to die for this seemingly endless series of mistakes.

Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

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The Iran Deal: What You Need to Know

Foreign Ministers of Germany, the US, Great Br...
Foreign Ministers of Germany, the US, Great Britain, France, Russia and China in Berlin discussing Iran nuclear program March 2006 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

At last, the P5+1 (the US, the UK, Germany, France, Russia and China) have announced an agreement with Iran limiting that country’s nuclear research program. Supporters of the deal proclaim “peace in our time.” Opponents cry “Munich!” Which side should you believe? Neither, really. But the deal’s supporters have the better case.

Here’s what you need to know about the deal:

First, it’s not about peace or war. War with Iran isn’t a viable option for the United States, which would necessarily do the heavy lifting. An air war wouldn’t cow Iran or destroy its nuclear capability. And having lost two ground wars against less populous and less well-armed opponents since 2001, the US is in no shape to undertake a third.

Second, it’s not about Iran’s nuclear weapons program. Why? Because Iran has no nuclear weapons program. The International Atom Energy Agency has found some discrepancies in Iran’s Non-Proliferation Treaty reporting, but Iran’s religious “supreme leader” has declared development of such weapons a sin against Islam, and western intelligence agencies (including those of the US and Israel) say there’s no evidence of such development.

Since it’s not about war or nuclear proliferation, what is it about? Two things: International trade and US prestige.

Iran boasts huge oil reserves and a population of more than 75 million. They want to trade with other countries. Other countries want to trade with them. Decades of sanctions have left everyone poorer than they ought to be.

US prestige as “leader of the free world” is at stake because at least three of the P5+1 nations — Russia, China and France — will likely make their own deals with Iran even if the US bucks out. The UK and Germany might or might not stick with the US in that event. The choice for the US is to jump to the front of the parade and continue to “lead,” or else to find itself on the sidelines.

So, why the opposition among congresspeople and Republican presidential aspirants? Again, two reasons.

The first is simple power politics. American politicians and Iranian politicians have a lot in common — both groups want to run Iran. American politicians got used to doing so after the CIA overthrew Iran’s government and replaced it with a puppet regime in 1953. They’ve been throwing a temper tantrum ever since Iranians revolted in 1979. The tantrum continues.

The second reason is Israel. The Israelis fear Iranian dominance in the region and want the US to keep a lid on Iran. The Israeli lobby exerts a powerful force on US politics, both because evangelical Christian voters attach religious importance to Israel and because Israeli patrons like billionaire Sheldon Adelson write big checks to politicians who reach for the sky when Benjamin Netanyahu says “jump.”

Neither of these reasons are GOOD reasons. Peace and trade are better than cold war and sanctions. The US is better off running its own foreign policy than subordinating itself to Israel.  This deal is good for America.

Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

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