Obama’s Iran Deal Caused The Administration To Ignore Valuable Nuclear Intelligence

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Foreign policy circles were abuzz over a May 5, 2016 New York Times Magazine profile of White House foreign policy advisor Ben Rhodes. It boasted about manipulating “naïve” journalists into telling the American people how nascent moderation within the Iranian regime made the Iran nuclear talks viable. He also highlighted the White House creation of an “echo chamber” providing grants to outside nonprofit groups for pursuing the President’s objective to support so-called moderates in Tehran.

The network included journalists and media outlets, think tanks, nuclear associations, and pro-Tehran lobbies, including the infamous National Iranian American Council (NIAC). Last year, NIAC received $281,211; over the past five years, more than $814,000.

Contrary to the network that echoed the false narrative of the White House, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) and its largest component, the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK), exposed sensitive verifiable information and acted as the international community’s eyes and ears on the ground.

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What America Can Learn from Zalmay Khalilzad

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Dr. Zalmay Khalilzad, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Iraq and Afghanistan, will speak at the Center for the National Interest in Washington, DC, on April 12, 2016. That talk is a part of the rollout of his new book, The Envoy: From Kabul to the White House, My Journey Through a Turbulent World. Khalilzad spoke at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) on March 31 in an event moderated by CBS Anchor Bob Schieffer, and an event was held for Khalilzad at the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), with President Carl Gershman as moderator. These occasions are a testimony to the quality of the book, the respect Khalilzad commands from his colleagues, and the relevance of The Envoy for the future of American foreign policy in hot spots like Afghanistan and Iraq.

Khalilzad has had a remarkable career in public service—all the more so after having grown up in northwestern Afghanistan. In addition to three ambassadorial posts, he has also served in senior positions in the State Department and the Defense Department. Earlier, he taught at Columbia University after earning a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago. His new book combines autobiography with sophisticated insights into some of America’s greatest foreign policy challenges in recent decades.

Theory and The Envoy

Regarding erudite insights, the book makes a contribution to the academic and policy literature on bureaucratic politics; consider, for example, the piece by Graham T. Allison and Morton H. Halperin, “Bureaucratic Politics: A Paradigm and Some Policy Implications.”

In a transition from ambassador to Afghanistan to become envoy to Iraq, Khalilzad recounts that he had been tasked with convening conferences across Iraq to identify leaders who would be able to work with exile groups to form an interim government. “Sovereignty was to be transferred to this new administration as soon as possible. But the process had been suddenly abandoned when President Bush announced that Paul Bremer would be going to Baghdad instead, to head the Coalition Provisional Authority, which would serve as the U.S. occupation government in post-Saddam Iraq.”

A few hours after the announcement, Bush called Khalilzad, stating, “We all love you, Zal. We think the world of you.” Khalilzad politely replied how he appreciated the compliment but did not understand why the administration was shifting plans, from one to devolve power as quickly as possible to the Iraqis, to one that would amount to being an occupying force like the one that had ruled Japan after World War II.

According to the president, as told by Khalilzad, the problem was that if both Bremer and Khalilzad went to Baghdad, Bremer would be reporting through the Department of Defense to Donald Rumsfeld, and Khalilzad would be reporting through National Security Council Advisor Condoleezza Rice. Because Rumsfeld and Rice were not working well together, one could not have two senior officials in the field responding to principals in Washington who were at odds with each other. The president needed the Department of Defense to be in the lead, and that meant Bremer.

The bitter irony is that Rumsfeld describes serious problems in Bremer’s reporting among the White House, State and Defense during the time Khalilzad discussed his disappointment with the president’s decision. So despite the president’s wish to resolve a problem before it arose, his solution did not have the desired effect.

What is interesting is how Bush ripped a page from the playbook of academics. But just because they wrote in journals does not mean they were “only” scholars. Indeed, they also often served in high-level positions. This “inner-and-outer” aspect of American policymakers gives rise to a richness of theorizing. One of the oft-cited and frequently discredited principles in the bureaucratic literature is that “where you stand depends on where you sit.”

Brent Durbin states, “Perhaps the most-abiding concept from the bureaucratic politics model, and the shorthand many have used to define it, is that actors will pursue policies that benefit the organizations they represent rather than national or collective interests. This idea, that ‘where you stand depends on where you sit,’ is often called Miles’s law after the Truman-era bureaucrat who coined the phrase.” Bureaucratic politics often serves as a counterweight to realist theories about decisionmaking.

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The press and the president: Sins of commission and omission

febrero 18 15“It is entirely legitimate for the American people to be deeply concerned when you’ve got a bunch of violent, vicious zealots…who randomly shoot a bunch of folks in a deli in Paris.” — Barack ObamaVox.com Interview Jan. 2015.

Team Obama’s tendency to not use words that describe killings in sectarian ways gets it in trouble. Feb. 10, the  White House: “There were people other than just Jews who were in that deli.” State Department: “I remember the victims specifically there were not all victims of one background or one nationality.”

Just cite the Department’s remarks the day following the Jan. 9 attack on the supermarket: “We condemn in the strongest terms ‎yesterday’s cowardly anti-Semitic assault against the innocent people in the kosher supermarket,” State told The Jerusalem Post. The attack confirmed fears of France’s Jewish community because there were several preceding assaults on Jewish institutions.

The White House and State used Twitter feeds to clarify. White House: “Terror attack at Paris Kosher market was motivated by anti-Semitism. POTUS [President of the United States] didn’t intend to suggest otherwise.” State: “We have always been clear that the attack on the kosher grocery store was an anti-Semitic attack that took the lives of innocent people.”

Washington Post journalist, Jennifer Rubin, calls “appalling” the denial of “Jew-hatred” as a motivation for assault on the kosher market. Neither Rubin’s critique nor mine suggests the Obama administration is anti-Semitic. But clumsy wording to the press raises questions about its difficulties speaking clearly about the threat of violent Jihadism.

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Democratic transition to prevent revolutionary Iran from nuclear-armed status

US-VOTE-2012-DEMOCRATIC CAMPAIGN-OBAMAKey senators in the incoming Republican majority and like-minded Democrats have a vision of Iran as a revolutionary state. It is risky to conduct business as usual with revolutionary Iran. If “regime change from within” were an implicit part of U.S. policy, emergence of a free Iran that does not become a nuclear-armed state is likely. President Barack Obama, however, treats Iran as if it were a normal state to engage in give-and-take bargaining.

Regarding current talks to prevent Iran from getting the bomb, Republican senators believe they have votes from both parties to pass additional economic sanctions on Tehran to overcome a veto by Obama. The White House is on record to avoid congressional scrutiny of any agreement. But a bipartisan coalition could use its majority to compel a vote on any accord from the November 18-24, Vienna talks between the major powers and Iran.

Opposing congressional oversight, supporters of reaching out to Iran say it has not decided whether it is a revolutionary movement or a normal state; hence, U.S. diplomacy can strengthen pragmatists against revolutionaries. This unsuccessful search for a moderate highlights the fallacy of treating Iran as a normal state. Even “pragmatistsaccept rule by Iranian clerics.

Business as usual is consistent with a report that Washington may reestablish an economic-diplomatic presence in Tehran, if there were a positive outcome in Vienna. But expectations are rising that an agreement is likely to be a “bad deal.” If so, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), chair of foreign operations subcommittee of the incoming Appropriations Committee and Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), incoming Foreign Relations Committee chair are cosponsoring a bill intended “to kill” a bad deal, according to Graham.

In addition to being a nuclear threat, Iran may be building missile facilities in Syria to prop up the Assad regime. Such missile production is acclaimed on religious beliefs inherent in the Iranian Revolution: “Today, the Islamic Iran has grown into the world’s sixth missile power and this is a major source of pride for the Revolution,” stated an officer of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). It has enhanced military capabilities in Iraq “to steal the show from Washington,” with a blow by the IRGC to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, (ISIS).

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