(CNN)Never shy about taking credit, President Donald Trump twice recently claimed to have solved a problem that turned out to still be a problem.
He wanted the problem of North Korea’s nuclear weapons to be solved after his historic meeting with Kim Jong Un last month, and he wanted the problem of children separated by the US government from their parents to be solved with the swipe of his pen on an executive order.
But weeks later, the North Korean nuclear threat still very much exists, and the problem of children separated from their parents has worsened as the US government clearly does not know exactly how many children it has or how to get them back to their parents.
These are unrelated stories, obviously, but they share what’s become a truism of White House — which is that Trump likes to take credit for things he hasn’t quite accomplished. The details will come later.
Trump touts North Korea denuclearization
It’s not unlike the famous old quote attributed to Vermont Sen. George Aitken, a Republican, who put forward a plan for the US in Vietnam in 1966. The United States should declare victory and get out, he’s been quoted as saying. Whether Aitken said it that way or not and what exactly he meant has been debated.
Trump actually did sort of declare victory on North Korea immediately upon touching down on US soil after the summit in June with Kim.
“Just landed – a long trip, but everybody can now feel much safer than the day I took office,” Trump said on Twitter. “There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea.”
Trump was basking in success of his trip at the time and clearly wanted it to seem as historic as possible.
But his declaration was premature. The agreement he signed in North Korea was more of an entree into figuring out the details. And his administration, since his tweet, has reaffirmed that there is still a nuclear threat from North Korea. Obviously. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo shuttles back and forth to hammer out the hard details. Meanwhile, North Korea’s nuclear program continues.
Trump has not been chastened, however. Most recently, he’s sought credit for not being in the middle of a nuclear war.
“Many good conversations with North Korea-it is going well! In the meantime, no Rocket Launches or Nuclear Testing in 8 months. All of Asia is thrilled. Only the Opposition Party, which includes the Fake News, is complaining. If not for me, we would now be at War with North Korea!”
OK! (Set aside that Trump was the one tempting nuclear war with his previous taunting of Kim. He’s asking for credit for avoiding a war he was inching toward.)
On the subject of the immigrant children, the administration was slow to realize its moral mistake in separating the children from parents at the border. The resulting chaos is just becoming clear.
Trump signs executive order to end family separations
“We’re going to have strong, very strong borders, but we’re going to keep the families together,” he said. “I didn’t like the sight or the feeling of families being separated.”
“So we’re keeping families together and this will solve that problem,” Trump said. And then, just before he signed the executive order, he added, “You’re going to have a lot of happy people.”
He hasn’t said much at all about the issue since then.
But problems became apparent immediately. The executive order sought to detain undocumented families together and it ran afoul of a law that mandated children not be detained indefinitely. And while the stated purpose was to reunite families, it’s not clear that’s happened much at all. In fact, the government this week made clear it had separated even more children than previously thought.
But these new examples are something else. They’re Trump taking credit for the efforts of his own administration before his own policies can be enacted, which is why they feel so premature. He’s trying to take credit for things where no credit is yet deserved.
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(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)
(IF PRIME MINISTER ABE OR THE PEOPLE OF JAPAN ACTUALLY BELIEVE THE WORDS SPOKEN BY THE IGNORANT FOOL DONALD TRUMP OR BY THE MASS MURDERER KIM JONG UN, THEN MR. ABE AND THE PEOPLE OF JAPAN ARE NOT THE WISE PRACTICAL PEOPLE THAT I HAVE ALWAYS BELIEVED THEM TO BE.) (oped by: oldpoet56)
Japan Lowers Readiness of North Korea Missile Alert System
Sunday, 1 July, 2018 – 09:30
A passerby in Tokyo looks at a TV screen reporting news about a North Korean missile launch in September 2017. (Reuters)
Japan decided to ease the level of military readiness of its North Korea missile alert system, a report said Sunday, citing multiple unnamed sources close to the matter.
The report came as Japan finds itself under pressure to soften its hardline stance against Pyongyang following US President Donald Trump’s landmark summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un last month.
Japan’s Self Defense Forces on Friday dropped their program to always deploy Aegis warships in the Sea of Japan (East Sea) that detect and intercept incoming missiles, the Asahi Shimbun reported.
But Japanese forces will remain ready to intercept missiles detected via spy satellite images, the newspaper said.
Japanese defense officials told the Asahi that Tokyo was following in the footsteps of the United States, which has already lowered its alert level in the Indo-Pacific region. Japan has also suspended public evacuation drills simulating a North Korean missile attack.
Japanese defense ministry officials were not available for immediate comment.
Japan has long maintained a tight-lipped stance about its exact defense posture against North Korea, including the locations of the high-tech Aegis vessels.
The outlook of the North’s denuclearization efforts remain unclear at best, with the Washington Post reporting Saturday that Pyongyang plans to keep some of its nuclear stockpile and production facilities while potentially concealing them from the US.
Trump has since the June 12 summit in Singapore buoyantly declared “there is no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea.”
Evidence collected since the historic meeting points to secret production facilities and the development of methods to conceal weapons creation — implying Pyongyang is aiming to hide plans to continue its nuclear program from the US, having made contrary, if ambiguous, commitments to Washington.
Over the weekend NBC News first reported that Pyongyang has in fact recently been increasing fuel production for nuclear weapons at several hidden sites.
The US network, citing intelligence officials, said North Korea’s regime was readying to “extract every concession” from the White House rather than giving up its atomic arsenal.
“There’s no evidence that they are decreasing stockpiles, or that they have stopped their production,” NBC quoted one US official as saying.
“There is absolutely unequivocal evidence that they are trying to deceive the US,” the official said, despite Pyongyang’s recent curtailment of missile and nuclear tests.
The only uranium enrichment spot North Korea has acknowledged publicly exists is Yongbyon — though reports of secret facilities have surfaced.
Experts have voiced fear that Washington may accept a lukewarm deal centered exclusively on Yongbyon that disregards known underground sites.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said he plans to meet with Kim to “flesh out” details of the nuclear disarmament promise, but has insisted the North Korean leader is serious.
“There’s a lot of work between here and there. My team is already doing it. I’ll likely travel back before too terribly long,” the top US diplomat said recently.
“We still need to flesh out all the things that underlay the commitments that were made that day in Singapore.”
US Defense Secretary James Mattis meanwhile has reassured key East Asian allies that the US commitment to Seoul is “ironclad” — despite Trump’s unilateral suspension of military exercises with South Korea and his lauding of Kim as a “talented guy.”
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The satellite photos indicate that North Korea is quickly progressing on several adjustments to the Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center.
The improvements include a new cooling water pump house, multiple new buildings, completed construction on a cooling water reservoir and an apparently active Radio chemical Laboratory. It is unclear whether the reactor is still in operation, the report said.
38 North notes that North Korean nuclear officials are expected to proceed with “business as usual” until Kim orders official changes to procedure.
The agreement between Trump and Kim, signed at the historic summit in Singapore earlier this month, commits the U.S. to “security guarantees” in exchange for a denuclearized Korean peninsula. Critics said that the deal was unspecific and gave too much to North Korea without securing anything for the U.S. in return.
Almost exactly one year ago, North Korea returned an imprisoned 22-year-old American college student to his family in the United States. It was not a happy reunion.
Otto Warmbier, whom the North Koreans had imprisoned for more than a year, arrived in a coma and died a few days later — spurring President Donald Trump to rail against the “brutality” of a North Korean government that lacked “basic human decency.” Trump gradually focused his attacks on the regime’s leader, Kim Jong Un, calling him a “sick puppy” and a “madman who doesn’t mind starving or killing his people.”
In Singapore this week, Trump warmly embraced that so-called madman.
He called Kim a “smart” and “funny guy” who “loves his people.” He predicted the two of them would have a “terrific relationship.” Trump told reporters that human rights had come up only briefly, but he gave no indication that he had confronted Kim about Warmbier’s death, whose precise cause remains unclear.
Still, Trump described what happened to Warmbieras a catalyst for the sudden, if uncertain, rapprochement between America and North Korea, saying the University of Virginia student “did not die in vain.”
Trump’s public turnabout on Kim and his regime’s atrocious human rights record was among the most dizzying developments of the past 48 hours, which saw the two leaders meet in Singapore for an unprecedented nuclear summit. It dismayed lawmakers, human rights activists and others who — while supportive of diplomacy — fear that Trump went overboard in his flattery of Kim to the point of normalizing his rule.
“Kim’s gulags, public executions, planned starvation, are legitimized on the world stage,” Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut raged on Twitter. “What the hell?”
“Talking to dictators is one thing; embracing them is another,” former Vice President Joe Biden said in a statement, denouncing “the horrendous human rights abuses North Korea’s leaders perpetrate against their own people.”
“It was really over the top and excessive,” added Sarah Margon, Washington director for Human Rights Watch.
Amid the outrage is the question of what, practically speaking, Trump could have accomplished.
Past American presidents have pressed Middle Eastern and Asian autocrats over lists of political prisoners numbering in the dozens or hundreds. Kim has imprisoned many thousands of people for what amount to thought crimes, and political executions are commonplace.As a self-proclaimed supreme ruler, it may be nearly impossible for him to concede that he has governed in anything but a judicious way.
Some activists nevertheless argued that Trump could have used his interaction with Kim to win a broad gesture such as granting the United Nations access to his forced labor camps, and that if Kim agreed, it would have bolstered the credibility of his pledge to denuclearize. But Kim offered no hint that he is prepared to address the subject, and a joint statement he and Trump signed after their meeting made no mention of it.
Kim’s totalitarian regime may be the world’s cruelest, with practices reminiscent of the Nazis and the Soviet Union under Josef Stalin. The government, run by Kim’s father and grandfather before him, is believed to keep as many as 100,000 people— quite possibly more — in gulags and other detention sites, many in slave-like conditions. Defectors describe a terror state with zero tolerance for dissent, in which entire families are often punished for the actions of one member.
The young Kim — thought to be in his early- to mid-30s — has ruled just as ruthlessly as his father, who died in 2011. He’s alleged to have consolidated power by having an uncle executed — reportedly by anti-aircraft guns — and ordering his half-brother’s murder with nerve agent in a Malaysian airport.
Few observers expected Trump to challenge Kim vigorously on human rights. The subject in general hasn’t been a priority for the Republican president.
Just a few months ago, however, North Korea was an exception to that rule: Throughout 2017, as Trump ramped up sanctions on Pyongyang, he repeatedly highlighted the “depraved” Kim regime’s human rights abuses.
During a visit to South Korea last fall, Trump denounced the “horror of life” across the border, saying that people “would rather be slaves than live in North Korea.” In January, Trump invited to his State of the Union address Ji Seong-ho, a North Korean amputee who’d fled the country on crutches that he raised in defiance as Trump hailed his bravery on national television.
And by all accounts, Trump was genuinely distressed by the fate of Warmbier, whom the North Koreans held captive for 17 months for allegedly trying to steal a propaganda poster from a hotel wherehe was staying during a visit. (In a statement Tuesday, Warmbier’s family said: “We appreciate President Trump’s recent comments about our family. We are proud of Otto and miss him. Hopefully something positive can come from this.”)
But Trump is a real estate mogul who puts great stock in personal relationships, and he appears to have decided it’s more productive to be nice to a ruthless autocratalready accustomed to being treated like a god.
When asked by Voice of America’s Greta Van Susteren how Kim reacted when Trump raised human rights, Trump said: “Very well,” before acknowledging it was only a small part of the conversation. Trump went on to indicate that the reason Kim has been a “rough guy” is because that’s the only way his family has known how to rule.
“He’s doing what he’s seen done,” Trump said, suggesting that Kim can change. “He’s smart, loves his people, he loves his country. He wants a lot of good things, and that’s why he’s doing this.”
Although Trump is the first sitting president willing to meet face-to-face with a North Korean leader, other U.S. presidents have sat down with autocrats from friendly and adversarial countries alike.
Former President Richard Nixon made history when he met China’s Mao Zedong in February 1972. Trump’s immediate predecessor, Barack Obama, met with Cuba’s Raúl Castro. Plenty of U.S. presidents have met, and even held hands, with the monarchs who’ve led Saudi Arabia.
James Carafano, a foreign policy analyst with the Heritage Foundation, said thatin the long run the United States must engage North Korea on its human rights practices but that diplomacy at this stage requires prioritization.
“In good U.S. diplomacy human rights is always on the menu. That doesn’t mean it’s always the first course,” Carafano wrote in an email.
Several U.S. lawmakers, including top Democrats, sent out carefully crafted statements that either didn’t raise or made scant mention of human rights — reflecting a widespread belief that ridding North Korea of its nuclear weapons through diplomacy is a much higher priority.
“We must remain sober about who Kim Jong Un is: a brutal dictator who has killed his family, overseen campaigns of mass murder and starvation, and masterfully manipulated his rivals on the global stage,” Rep. Eliot Engel of New York, the ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said at the end of a lengthy statement.
One concern is that Kim — who rarely leaves North Korea and has limited diplomatic experience — will take Trump’s lack of emphasis on human rights as a sign of American indifference to how he treats his people.
Amnesty International spearheaded a letter to Trump in advance of the summit urging him to seize the opportunity this week to ask Kim for immediate positive moves on human rights. Francisco Bencosme, who handles Asia-related issues for Amnesty, stressed that it’s not known exactly what Trump said to Kim about human rights, but it doesn’t appear the president took a strong stance.
Bencosme said Trump could have asked Kim to give U.N. officials access to North Korean prisoners, or urged him to help reunite North and South Korean families torn apart by the Korean War. Such moves would have been “a way of opening up the aperture on human rights issues,” Bencosme said.
And such moves are not without precedent.
The Obama administration’s outreach to Myanmar, long an isolated, pariah regime, included requests that the government free hundreds of political prisoners to help demonstrate its seriousness about improving ties with the United States. That led to freedom for at least 1,500 people, including some very prominent opponents of the junta that had run the country. But even within the Obama administration there were fierce debates over how much to push Myanmar on human rights.
When asked by a reporter Tuesday whether he had “betrayed” the people trapped in North Korea’s gulag system, Trump grew defensive — then suggested those prisoners should think long-term.
“I think I’ve helped them because I think things will change,” Trump said. “That large group of people that you’re talking about — I think ultimately they are going to be one of the great winners as a group.”
Asked about Warmbier, Trump said the college student’s tragic death had played a pivotal role in bringing about the summit — even though he had not previously mentioned it as a reason for his diplomatic push with Kim.
“I think without Otto, this would not have happened. Something happened from that day. It was a terrible thing. It was brutal. But a lot of people started to focus on what was going on, including North Korea,” Trump said.
“I really think that Otto is someone who did not die in vain.”
Relations between Israel and Iran are at breaking point. The multinational nuclear deal signed with Iran is on the verge of collapsing—partly thanks to Israeli lobbying against it. Iranian leaders have warned that if it fails, the country will resume its uranium enrichment program, a step Israel considers a threat to its very existence.
Meanwhile, multiple Israeli strikes have sought to dislodge Iranian forces from Syria, where Tehran enjoys increasing influence. Israeli leaders are fighting hard to stop Iranian soldiers deploying along its northern border.
Though it would appear that neither nation wants a full-scale war, the potential for miscalculation and escalation remains. Both nations have considerable military clout, and any prolonged confrontation between them would be bloody.
Israeli forces are seen near a border fence between the Israeli-occupied side of the Golan Heights and Syria, on November 4, 2017. Israel is wary of Iran’s growing influence across its northern border.REUTERS/AMMAR AWAD
Iran is a much larger country with a far higher population than Israel, but numbers alone do not dictate military capability—combat technology and experience are vital factors too. Technological capability is even more important in an era where technology is changing the way war is waged, allowing nations to hit each other harder, from further away and with less human involvement.
A small nation with a population of just 8.5 million, Israel’s military punches significantly above its weight. Formed amid a war with seven Arab neighbors, the country’s short history is punctuated with conflicts fought for its survival. This tough history combines with a burgeoning technology sphere and close relations with powerful western nations to create one of the world’s most formidable fighting forces.
According to Global Firepower, Israel has approximately 170,000 active personnel with a further 445,000 in reserve. Conscription exists for all non-Arab citizens of Israel over the age of 18, giving the country a large and well-trained pool of fighters to call up in the event of war.
Though less sophisticated than Israel, the Iranian military is a force to be reckoned with. Its large population—around 82 million—enables Tehran to maintain a standing force of around 534,000 soldiers, with a further 400,000 in reserve, making it the largest force in the Middle East.
In a drawn-out engagement, national manpower becomes an important issue. Iranian available manpower is around 47 million compared with just 3 million for Israel. Of course, how important this is will depend on the nature of any war being fought.
Members of Iranian armed forces march during the Army Day parade in Tehran on April 18, 2013.REUTERS/HAMID FOROOTAN/ISNA/HANDOUT
In 2017, Israel spent $16.5 billion on its armed forces, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. Iran was not far behind on $14.5 billion. Though this does not seem like a big gap, the fact that Israel is spending billions more than Iran on a smaller military indicates the gulf in the quality of equipment used.
Israel fields more tanks than Iran—2,760 compared to 1,650. Israel wins this matchup on quality as well as quantity, the latest version of its Merkava tank being one of the best and most heavily defended in the world. Iran is mostly using second-rate tanks, though it has announced the development of the new Karrar platform, which it claims will be able to compete with top-class opponents.
The Israeli air force is one of the best in the world, equipped and trained to the highest level. Its pilots are experienced too, having regularly conducted missions against targets in Syria, Lebanon, the Gaza Strip and even Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. Its 250 or so fighters include a handful of Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II aircraft, one of just four fifth-generation fighter planes in the world. Israel will eventually have 50 F-35s.
By contrast, Iran fields around 160 fighter jets, none of which are as advanced as the F-35. Furthermore, its pilots are less well-trained and experienced than their Israeli counterparts.
Neither nation is a significant maritime power. Iran has more than 30 submarines, five frigates, three corvettes and more than 200 patrol craft. Israel currently has five submarines, three corvettes, eight missile boats and 45 patrol boats. Considering the geography, the naval theater is unlikely to play any significant role in a potential conflict.
An Israeli soldier sits inside a F-35 fighter jet after it landed at Nevatim air base in southern Israel on December 12, 2016.REUTERS/AMIR COHEN
In the event of an all-out war, Israel holds the nuclear trump card. Notoriously secretive about its nuclear arsenal, the country is believed to possess between 75 and 400 warheads. The weapons can be delivered using Israel’s Jericho ballistic missiles, submarine-launched cruise missiles or even fighter planes.
Iran has no nuclear capability. Even if talks break down, it will take many years before Tehran joins the nuclear club. Iran is working hard to improve its ballistic missile arsenal, already one of the most potent in the region and well-able to hit Israel.
But Iran has other tricks up its sleeves. Financial and military support for anti-Israeli militant groups across the Middle East give it an unconventional way to hit its rival in the event of conflict. The Shiite Lebanese Hezbollah group, especially, is a worry for Israeli leaders. Hezbollah has a well-trained and well-equipped military, far more powerful than the Lebanese army and able to operate freely.
Hezbollah’s experience fighting alongside regime forces in Syria has given it vital combat exposure. The group maintains a huge rocket arsenal, and its weapons can hit anywhere in Israel. Iran also provides support to the Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad groups in Gaza, which maintain smaller, but still significant, rocket capabilities.
Concerning N. Korea: Are S. Korean People As Clueless As The Trump Administration?
President Trump always try’s to play himself off as a macho man when it comes to talking about war issues even though he hid behind his daddy skirts 6 or 7 times in being a coward to stay out of Vietnam. It is no secret that Mr Trump adores ‘strong men’ like Mr Putin, Xi Jinping and Duarte and that he wishes that the U.S. Constitution didn’t exist and that we here in the U.S. should adopt a policy like China has where Xi Jinping is now ‘President For Life.’ You very well know that if Hillary was the President he would not be in favor of such a policy. The issue, just like every thing else in this world (in his eyes) is all about him. What he has proven himself to be over and over again is an habitual liar, ignorant of all reality, a total egomaniac, and a complete fool. I also believe that once the midterm election is over and the Democrats demolish the Republicans in the Congress and the Democrats retake the Senate, probable 51-49 or maybe 52-48, the Republicans will turn on Mr. Trump and he will be impeached. It is not like the Republican establishment likes this crooked fool, but he is the only horse they have in the race so they have chosen to forfeit all semblance of integrity and to stay with him, until after November.
North Korea’s Vice Minister of the Foreign Ministry, Ms. Cloe who specializes in North Korea-American relations said the following about Vice President Pence’s ‘Libya’ comments. She said “Mr. Pence is a ‘Political Dummy’ for comparing Libya to North Korea. As a person involved in the U.S. affairs, I cannot suppress my surprise at such ignorant and stupid remarks gushing out of the mouth of the U.S. Vice President.” Mr. Adam Mount, the Director of the ‘Defense Posture Project’ at the Federation of American Scientist said he believes that the comments made by Mr. Pence and Mr. Bolton were the “most explicit regime change threat yet” from the Trump Administration.
Why I asked the question in the title about if the people of South Korea are as clueless as people like Mr. Trump are is because of the following pieces of reality I would like to share with you now. First, I would like t compare the situation on the Korean Peninsula with the situation in Israel/Gaza/West Bank. The majority of the people of Israel know very well if there was no secured border with the Palestinians this latest “March of Return” that Hamas has instituted would have wiped out all the Jewish people and there would no longer be a Nation of Israel. Reality is that most of Israels neighbors, PA, Hamas, Hezbollah, Syria, Iran, they do not want peace with Israel, they want there to be no such thing as a Nation of Israel. Now, if there is indeed to be only one Korea, that Korea will be under the direct control of Kim Jong Un, the man will accept nothing less as this is his ultimate goal in life. Now concerning the Nuclear Site that North Korea supposedly blew up yesterday. The CIA as well as some of China’s news outlets said over a month ago that this site, the interior of this mountain had caved in, so they had no ‘active’ nuclear site. The only way they could have rebuilt this site with all of the sanctions going on was if China financed them and helped to physically rebuild it, reality is that Xi Jinping told Kim Jong Un no when Kim visited China last month. This event played well into China’s wishes. No nukes on their door step, blow up the nonexistent Nuke site, play nice with South Korea and the U.S. and see what kind of concessions can be obtained from the U.S. and their allies. Trump has spoken lately of removing the 45,000 Marines that we have stationed at the border between the two Korea’s and this past week he also called off some of the military exercise events we have each with the South Korean military in an attempt to please Mr. Kim. If Mr. Kim cannot simply march his army into South Korea at this time he is trying to get a lot of loans or credit so that he can get the South Korean government to open trade with the South. This in a sense is like the China model of keep the government in place but get revenues and technologies from the West to make your Communist government stronger with the influx of revenues. China is and has been using this model to take over all of Asia as they do ‘play the long game.’
I’ll make this last paragraph about the ‘Libya stupidity’. Here are the reasons why the tragedy that is Libya of today will not ever happen in North Korea. 1) There is no Islamic insurgency of any kind in North Korea. Libya is and was inundated with believers of Islam, unless a strong Dictator can come into this country and wipe out all of these fundamentalist of Islam, Libya is going to stay a cesspool for many decades to come. 2) The people, the citizens of Libya had/has no strong Super Power backing them on one of their borders like North Korea does with China. President Xi Jinping of China has made it perfectly clear that China will not tolerate a Regime Change in North Korea. He has made it plain that they will not allow a democracy or a ‘friend’ of the United States to occupy the space that is the North Korea of today. Trump has at times made comments about maybe doing a first strike against North Korea to get rid of all of their nukes. These comments were made despite the comments of Xi Jinping that if North Korea is attacked first, China will join in that war to support North Korea, thus creating a nuclear war, world war 3 with China and probably with Russia joining in with their ally, China. China will not tolerate a ‘Libya situation’ on their border so only people who are ignorant of these realities or someone who is simply a stupid fool (Bolton, Pence, Trump) would make such “ignorant and stupid remarks.” The American people must face up to the fact that all of the rest of the world already knows, we have a Lunatic sitting in Our Oval Office!
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Ayatollah Ali Khamenei delivers a speech during Labor Day at a workers’ meeting, April 30, 2018. (AFP Photo/Iranian Supreme Leader’s Website /HO)
Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Wednesday set conditions for Europe for Tehran to remain in the 2015 nuclear accord, following the US withdrawal from the deal earlier this month.
Khamenei, addressing government officials on the occasion of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, said European powers must vow not to seek new limitations on Iran’s ballistic missile program or its activities in the Middle East, as demanded by the Trump administration.
They must also “fully guarantee Iran’s oil sales,” he said, adding that if the US “damages” oil sales through renewed economic sanctions, “Europeans should make up for that and buy Iranian oil.”
European banks, he added, “must safeguard trade with the Islamic Republic” in the face of new sanctions.
He also said the EU “must submit a resolution against the US at the UN Security Council” to protest the American withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
He warned that should conditions not be met, “Iran reserves the right to restart its suspended nuclear activities.”
He added: “We do not want to start a fight with [Europe] but…we don’t trust them either.”
The Iranian leader said Tehran has learned it cannot “interact” with the United States as it is a country whose word cannot be trusted.
“The first experience is that the government of the Islamic Republic cannot interact with America… Why? Because America is not committed to its promises,” Press TV quoted him as saying.
Khamenei said the US has been aiming to topple the Islamic republic for 40 years. “From the first day of the Islamic Revolution the US has applied all kinds of enmity to hit the Islamic republic,” he said.
The speech comes just days after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued a steep list of demands to be included in a nuclear treaty to replace the deal scuttled by Trump. Among them, Pompeo demanded that Iran make wholesale changes in its military and regional policies or face “the strongest sanctions in history.”
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks at the Heritage Foundation, on May 21, 2018, in Washington, DC. (Win McNamee/Getty Images/AFP)
Pompeo has called for the negotiation of a new deal that would go far beyond the single focus of the nuclear agreement and would have the status of a formal treaty. The 2015 deal concluded under the Obama administration dealt only with the nuclear program.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani compared Pompeo’s comments to those made by the administration of George W. Bush ahead of the 2003 Iraq invasion.
“The era of such statements has evolved and the Iranian people have heard these statements hundreds of times, and no longer pay attention,” Rouhani said.
On Monday a senior IRGC officer said Pompeo deserves a “strong punch to the mouth.”
Commenting on US threats to ramp up sanctions on Iran, Ismail Kowsari said, “The people of Iran should stand united in the face of this and they will deliver a strong punch to the mouth of the American Secretary of State and anyone who backs them.”
Pompeo argued that Iran had advanced its march across the Middle East precisely because of the nuclear deal, which saw the West lifting sanctions on Tehran in return for Iran limiting its nuclear program.
US President Donald Trump is seen during a meeting in the Cabinet Room at the White House on May 17, 2018. (AFP Photo/Nicholas Kamm)
US President Donald Trump’s newly installed top diplomat also hinted at the possibility of military action should Iranian leaders reconstitute their nuclear program.
“If they restart their nuclear program, they will have big problems, bigger problems than they’ve ever had before,” he said, also threatening to “crush” Iran’s terrorist proxies around the world.”
The New York Times reported Wednesday that weapons researchers have identified activity at a remote secret facility in the Iranian desert that points to the covert development of long-range missiles that could potentially be used to attack the United States.
Satellite images appear to show, among other things, activity around a tunnel leading underground and evidence of powerful rocket engine tests that scorched telltale marks in the desert sand near the city of Shahrud, the report said.
Western officials have maintained that the only reason Tehran could have for manufacturing long-range missiles would be to fit them with non-conventional, including atomic, warheads.
Tehran insists that it sees the missile program as crucial to its defensive posture, and says its existence is non-negotiable.
Iran showed footage on Saturday, September 23, 2017, of a missile test (Screenshot/PressTV)
Weapons researchers have identified activity at a remote secret facility in the Iranian desert that points to the covert development of long-range missiles that could potentially be used to attack the United States, The New York Times reported Wednesday.
Satellite images appear to show, among other things, activity around a tunnel leading underground and evidence of powerful rocket engine tests that scorched telltale marks in the desert sand near the city of Shahrud, the report said.
Although there are no restrictions in place on the range of Iranian missiles, US President Donald Trump had insisted that limitations be placed on Tehran’s missile program as a prerequisite for Washington remaining in the landmark 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. He ultimately pulled out of it on May 12.
According to the report, researchers from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey watched a recent Iranian documentary about rocket scientist Gen. Hassan Tehrani Moghaddam, a leading figure in the country’s missile development program, who was killed in a devastating 2011 explosion at Iran’s main research facility near the town of Bidganeh. Based on details in the film, the researchers came to the conclusion that before his death Moghaddam had helped set up another facility, which is still operational.
Screen capture from video of Gen. Hasan Tehrani Moghaddam, a ballistic missile engineer for Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guard Corps, who was killed in an explosion in 2011. (YouTube)
Another key clue came when one researcher, reviewing material from an Iranian journalist association, saw an undated photo of Moghaddam, who was a commander in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, that included in the background a box marked “Shahrud.”
The Shahrud site, located about 350 kilometers (220 miles) east of Tehran, was used for a missile test firing in 2013 and was thought to have remained largely unused since. However, satellite images of the site showed a steady increase in the number of buildings there over the past few years, the report said. Curiously, the buildings were painted an aquamarine color, the same shade that Moghaddam had ordered be used at the destroyed Bidganeh site, researchers noticed.
Large marks on the desert floor appeared to be the result of rocket engine test-firings, and the marks had appeared in 2016 and 2017, the report said. Rocket engines can leave a big scorching shaped like a candle flame on the ground.
Analysis of the concrete stands that would have held the engines during the firings suggested the motors had somewhere between 62 and 93 tons of thrust — consistent with the kind of power needed for a long-range missile. Other test structures, apparently also used for engine tests, were reportedly even larger.
Additional imaging from sophisticated sensors also showed traffic at the opening of an underground tunnel, indicating a large structure buried in the sand, the report said.
Researchers came to the conclusion that the site was working on advanced rocket motors and rocket fuel.
US President Donald Trump signs a document reinstating sanctions against Iran after announcing the US withdrawal from the Iran Nuclear deal, in the Diplomatic Reception Room at the White House in Washington, DC, on May 8, 2018. (AFP/Saul Loeb)
The report said that five experts who reviewed the research material agreed it strongly indicated work on long-range missiles. However, the report also noted that “it is possible that the facility is developing only medium-range missiles, which Iran already possesses, or perhaps an unusually sophisticated space program.”
The US and its allies have been demanding that Iran curb its production of ballistic missiles, which can reach parts of Europe and could soon reach the US as well. Western officials have maintained that the only reason Tehran could have for manufacturing such missiles would be to fit them with non-conventional, including atomic, warheads.
Tehran insists that it sees the missile program as crucial to its defensive posture, and says its existence is non-negotiable.
Iranian leaders have also said they are not working on missiles with a range beyond the Middle East. It has so far produced a missile with a range of 2,000 kilometers (1,240 miles), putting all of Israel in range as well as much of Eastern Europe.
The 2015 nuclear deal saw heavy sanctions lifted on Iran in return for Tehran freezing much of its nuclear program. Having pulled out of the deal in May, the US has vowed to apply the “strongest sanctions in history” on Iran.
United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231, which affirmed the Iran nuclear deal, called on Iran to refrain from developing missiles capable of carrying nuclear weapons. Iran has maintained that it never intended to develop nuclear weapons and therefore its missile development doesn’t violate the agreement.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gives a speech on files obtained by Israel he says proves Iran lied about its nuclear program, at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv, on April 30, 2018. (AFP Photo/Jack Guez)
However, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last month presented a vast archive of Iranian documents, obtained by the Mossad spy agency, which he said detailed Iranian efforts and research programs specifically aimed at producing an atomic weapon.
Netanyahu said at the time the evidence proved Iran had “lied” about its nuclear ambitions. In announcing his withdrawal from the nuclear agreement, Trump cited the Israeli intelligence haul as among the reasons for his decision.
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BROOKINGS INSTITUTE)
he suspense is over. Two weeks after President Trump ruptured the 2015 nuclear accord with Iran to a chorus of questions about the administration’s “Plan B,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo yesterday outlined a new U.S. strategy for contending with the persistent challenges posed by the Islamic Republic of Iran.
There’s only one problem with the strategy: It’s not a strategy at all, but rather a grab bag of wishful thinking wrapped in a thinly veiled exhortation for regime change in Iran.
Actually, there are about a dozen other problems with the strategy that Pompeo articulated—that being the number of benchmarks that the speech laid out as the prerequisites for any “new deal” that he insisted the administration is “ready, willing, and able to negotiate” with Iran. Despite this nod to the possibility of new negotiations, the substance of Pompeo’s remarks forecloses any realistic avenue for diplomacy with or around Iran’s current leadership. And it will exacerbate existing frictions around a variety of diplomatic and trade issues with all of America’s traditional partners
Instead, the speech heralds an unabashed embrace of go-it-alone maximalism that is not only likely to come up short on Iran, but will also backfire across an array of U.S. interests and allies in an unpredictable fashion. Trump’s alternative to the Iran nuclear deal is a dead end, one that will alienate our allies, disregard vital partners such as Russia and China, and divorce U.S. policy on Iran from even the slightest pretense at multilateral support or realistic objectives. What a terrible waste of U.S. leverage and leadership.
Trump’s alternative to the Iran nuclear deal is a dead end.
MORE IS NOT ALWAYS BETTER
For a president with brash ambition and only the crudest understanding of international politics, maximalism has understandable appeal, not the least of which is that it seems to present a compelling alternative to the approach pursued by Trump’s predecessors. President Obama sought an explicitly limited bargain with Tehran under a framework for issue-specific diplomatic engagement that was first advanced during the latter days of the Bush administration. This was a purely pragmatic calculation that reflected the urgency of Iran’s burgeoning nuclear infrastructure and the absence of any meaningful consensus with U.S. allies and other key stakeholders around the full suite of challenges posed by Tehran.
But in practice, the narrow transactionalism of the 2015 nuclear accord with Iran, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), contributed to its eventual unravelling by Trump. An unavoidably imperfect solution to only one aspect of the Iran problem ensured that the continuation—and in many cases, the exacerbation—of Tehran’s regional malfeasance loomed all that much larger. In the aftermath of the deal, the real and present dangers of Iran’s support for violent proxies, its military entrenchment in Syria, and its relentless domestic repression seemed even more resistant to external pressure or inducements. And with the clock ticking on the expiration of some of the JCPOA’s restrictions on Iran’s nuclear activities, skepticism around the nuclear deal’s value eroded the durability of the deal in Washington. It’s worth noting that Iranians felt a corresponding buyer’s remorse, having overestimated the ripple effects of reopening their economy, their compliance assured by the lack of obviously better alternatives.
Trump felt no such constraint. Having made his name as a wheeler-dealer, he disdains half-measures and is convinced he can find holistic fixes to protracted problems. Which is why his new secretary of state articulated an ambitious laundry list of demands for a new deal in his speech today—including a full accounting of Tehran’s past nuclear work, an end to Iran’s support for terrorist organizations, the release of unjustly detained dual-nationals.
Who can rightly argue against these as the aspiration objectives of U.S. policy? The difficulty, of course, is that the speech offered no realistic pathway to achieving them. Insisting on an unequivocal end to the full inventory of Iranian misdeeds is not a starting point for a serious negotiation. It’s magical thinking to suggest that after 40 years and at the apex of its regional reach, the Islamic Republic will proffer a blanket capitulation in exchange for the promise of a future treaty with a government that has just jettisoned an existing agreement.
In this sense, Pompeo’s speech made clear that the administration has no interest in negotiating with Tehran. For that matter, the framework outlined in his speech underscores the administration’s contempt toward key U.S. allies and diplomatic partners, whose cooperation proved critical to securing the nuclear deal in the first place and whose diplomats have been working for months in good faith with the State Department to devise some path to salvage and strengthen the nuclear accord.
Pompeo hailed multilateral support for the goals of U.S. policy toward Tehran. However, he acknowledged that Europe may choose to preserve the 2015 accord, which built on more than a dozen years of British, French, and German diplomacy. “That is their decision to make,” Pompeo said airily, adding: “They know where we stand.” Presumably the same applies for other vital stakeholders, including Russia and China whose extensive political and economic ties to Tehran proved crucial in prior diplomatic wrangling.
Pompeo’s implication was clear: To achieve its voluminous (and in places, redundant) objectives on Iran, the Trump administration is prepared to break with its core allies. And more pointedly, thanks to American dominance of the international financial system, Washington sees little cost to either the threat or its implementation. Financial sanctions leverage the indispensable role of the U.S. dollar and the U.S. market, and their dissuasive influence is not lessened by the formalities of national sovereignty. The implied risks have already sent firms around the world rushing to wind down business in Iran, and in the short term there may be little that European indignation can do to blunt or reverse this.
The costs to American prestige and influence will surely be higher. Four decades of U.S. policy toward Tehran underscore how difficult it is to make real progress against the perennial threats posed by this regime. The nuclear deal itself is testament to the vital role of a broad coalition that was constructed through dogged diplomacy, led by both Republican and Democratic administrations, around a shared consensus around achievable goals. Resentment of American imperiousness will seep far beyond the usual suspects. After all, if the Trump administration is prepared and capable of bending Iran, a major player in regional politics and energy markets, to its will in order to enforce its mandates, where else might Washington choose to apply this awesome power?
THE REGIME-CHANGE DRUMBEAT
Pompeo did offer one alternative to diplomacy—regime change in Iran. The speech was littered with flamboyant expressions of official American appeals to the Iranian people and the declaration that “unlike the previous [Obama] administration, we are looking for outcomes that that benefit the Iranian people, not just the regime.” Asked how quickly the new “strategy” might be implemented, Pompeo showed his regime-change hand, emphasizing:
“At the end of the day, the Iranian people will decide the timeline. At the end of the day, the Iranian people will get to make a choice about their leadership. If they make the decision quickly, that would be wonderful. If they choose not to do so, we will stay hard at this until we achieve the outcomes that I set forward today.”
This advocacy comes at a genuinely precarious moment for Iran’s internal politics: fissures within the establishment, generational change and the diffusion of information technology, the deep alienation among at least some proportion of the population, and anticipation around succession that had begun to prompt consideration of what comes next, not simply who comes next. A simple, peaceful transition was always a long shot as a short-term hope. But the Islamic Republic’s slow-motion metastasis, combined with the opportunities for political entrepreneurship around succession, offered the first real sprigs of optimism that the end was somehow in sight.
But Iranians are wildly nationalistic and have been steeped in an especially conspiratorial interpretation of the role of the United States and other great powers in their own history. The 1953 coup, in which America and Britain expedited the downfall of a populist prime minister, has been assimilated as an article of faith about U.S. meddling and its counterproductive consequences.
Given this context, Pompeo’s copious sympathy for the plight of the Iranian people will fall flat on a population whose economic prospects are directly targeted by this administration and who the president has banned from even stepping foot in the United States. And his subtle appeal for regime change will elicit a nationalist backlash that will almost certainly subsume the embryonic openings for anti-regime activism.
Iran won’t bend, and it probably won’t break either.
THE PROBLEM WITH ANTI-SOLUTIONISM
The realistic outcome is that Trump will not get his bigger, better deal or his advisors’ hoped-for regime change; Iran won’t bend, and it probably won’t break either. That appears to be an acceptable alternative outcome for the Trump White House. Iran will remain in the penalty box, an international pariah state subject to severe economic pressure and, at least in theory, robust regional deterrence. As former senior Obama administration official Jake Sullivan noted last week: “The punishment isthe strategy.”
This is an approach that vaguely parallels what my colleague Natan Sachs has described as “anti-solutionism” as applied by the Israelis to their own enduring security dilemma—the conviction that “there are currently no solutions to the challenges the country faces and that seeking quick fixes to intractable problems is dangerously naïve.” Instead of reaching for a grand bargain, the game plan is open-ended confrontation, with the goal of limiting the immediate risks and damages.
There’s only one problem with this approach as a long-term mechanism for managing Iran: In terms of advancing American interests in peace and stability in the Middle East, it’s manifestly inferior to the arrangement Trump just discarded, the nuclear deal.
Iran Foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif Khonsari talks with Belgian Foreign minister before their meeting at the Palais Egmont in Brussels on January 11, 2018. (AFP/John Thys)
Iran threatened Friday to start uranium enrichment on an “industrial scale” in response to the US exit from the nuclear deal, while simultaneously seeking to salvage the 2015 nuclear accord through negotiations with European nations.
A statement issued by the government Friday said it had tasked the president of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran with “taking all necessary steps in preparation for Iran to pursue industrial-scale enrichment without any restrictions, using the results of the latest research and development of Iran’s brave nuclear scientists.”
At the same time, the statement said the other parties to the agreement — especially Britain, France and Germany — must safeguard the accord, implement their commitments, and “proceed from giving pledges to taking practical action without any preconditions.”
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif will embark on a diplomatic tour to try to salvage the accord, and is seeking “required guarantees” from the five other parties to the agreement as well as Iran’s other economic parties. His spokesman said Zarif will leave late Saturday for visits to Beijing, Moscow and Brussels for meetings with all five of the remaining parties to the 2015 nuclear deal.
Zarif will hold high-pressure talks with the other parties to the deal, first in Beijing and Moscow, and then with his counterparts from Britain, France and Germany in Brussels on Tuesday.
All five have condemned Trump’s move to walk out of the deal and reimpose crippling sanctions, but European companies in particular will be highly vulnerable to economic pressure from Washington.
Iran’s official line is that the Islamic Republic is not interested and has never pursued nuclear offensive capabilities. The enrichment of uranium is a requirement for producing nuclear weapons, though lower level enrichment is used for civilian nuclear power and also has medicinal applications.
Israel in late April said it had obtained tens of thousands of secret Iranian documents which proved the existence of an Iranian nuclear weapons program before the nuclear accord was signed. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said “Iran lied” to the world.
Thousands of Iranians on Friday protested against Trump’s decision to leave the accord that offered Tehran relief from most US and international sanctions in exchange for restrictions on its nuclear program.
Iranians set fire to a makeshift US flag during a demonstration after Friday prayer in the capital Tehran on May 11, 2018. (AFP)
Iranian state TV aired footage of protests against the US and Israel at rallies in Tehran and elsewhere after Friday prayers. Thousands marched in the protests, carrying anti-American and anti-Israeli banners and posters. The demonstrators mocked the US president by chanting, “Mr. Trump you cannot do a damn thing,” and, “We fight. We die. We don’t surrender,” Reuters reported.
Meanwhile, France on Friday urged Europeans to stand up to Trump over the nuclear deal and not act as “vassals,” as the EU scrambled to find ways to save the accord and the billions of dollars in trade it unleashed.
French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said on Europe-1 radio that Europe should not accept that the US is the “world’s economic policeman.”
“Do we want to be vassals who obey decisions taken by the United States while clinging to the hem of their trousers?” Le Maire asked. “Or do we want to say we have our economic interests, we consider we will continue to do trade with Iran?”
European governments tried for months to persuade Trump to stick with the deal but failed, and now fear it will raise the risk of conflict in the region. Aside from the mounting military tensions between Iran and Israel, oil prices are rising on the uncertainty.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke Friday and underlined their aim of preserving the deal and peace in the Mideast. And European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini insisted that it’s not up to the US to determine the deal’s future anyway.
“This deal is not a bilateral treaty. It’s a UN Security Council Resolution and it belongs to the entire world,” said Mogherini, who will chair talks Tuesday with the British, French, German and Iranian foreign ministers in Brussels.
Merkel said the US decision to withdraw from the deal was a serious blow, and that it would be difficult to keep the deal alive, given that a “huge economic power has left.
“We hope we can, but there are a lot of things playing a role in this,” she said. “We will have to discuss that with Iran.”