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Title: Iran is now counting on Rand Paul and his allies to salvage Obama's disastrous nuclear deal
Source: Washington Examiner
URL Source: https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/ ... obamas-disastrous-nuclear-deal
Published: Jul 19, 2019
Author: Philip Klein
Post Date: 2019-08-13 05:09:14 by Gatlin
Keywords: None
Views: 209
Comments: 7

This week's news that Rand Paul pitched himself as an intermediary between President Trump and Iran is evidence of a shift in strategy that the nation's largest sponsor of terrorism has made, along with former Obama officials, in hopes of salvaging the previous administration's disastrous nuclear deal.

During the Obama administration, Iran's foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, played John Kerry like a fiddle in negotiating a deal that provided the faltering regime hundreds of billions of dollars in money and sanctions relief, allowed them to develop ballistic missiles, did nothing to address human rights, helped Iran become a more pernicious conventional threat, all while enabling Iran to maintain a long-term glide path toward nuclear weapons.

To sell the deal, Kerry and President Barack Obama relied on a series of lies and smears of critics, parroted back by various academics and think tanks, and then dutifully reported by favorable media. “We created an echo chamber,” Obama adviser Ben Rhodes told the New York Times, of the collection of so-called experts delivering administration talking points to a gullible media. “They were saying things that validated what we had given them to say.”

Back in 2016, Zarif's sweetheart deal seemed safe, as everybody expected Hillary Clinton to be reelected and preserve the deal. That all changed when Trump shocked the world in winning reelection.

Initially, Iran and former Obama administration officials revived the echo chamber — placing stories about the disastrous consequences of retreating from the deal, and working with European allies in hopes of getting sympathetic Trump officials to convince the president to preserve the deal in some way.

This is why you had Kerry meeting with Zarif several times since leaving office, conducting a desperate shadow diplomacy game that included meetings with European leaders accompanied by pleas to Trump from French Prime Minister Emmanuel Macron to stick with the deal in exchange for phony cosmetic tweaks.

Even after Trump pulled out of the deal, there was some hope among proponents of the agreement that they could essentially wait Trump out, keeping it warm enough in hopes that the next Democratic president would be able to resurrect it. The Trump administration has fed that hope at times by stopping short of "maximum pressure" by issuing various waivers from sanctions. However, the Trump administration has consistently been removing waivers and ratcheting up sanctions. Though some important waivers still remain, such as on civilian-nuclear cooperation, the trend is such that Iran clearly has lost faith that it will be able to pressure Trump through the old tactics.

In the past few months, we've seen a clear shift, and evidence that Iran, and its U.S.-based allies, are attempting to court libertarians and the anti-interventionist right, in hopes that they would be more likely to influence Trump.

We saw this in the news that George Soros teamed up with Charles Koch to establish a think tank, the Quincy Institute, co-founded by Trita Parsi, who was one of the leading boosters of the Iran deal from his perch atop the National Iranian American Council.

Though Trump would never heed the advice of Kerry or Obama's echo chamber, he does listen to friends and allies who are more receptive to Iran's message, such as Paul and Fox's Tucker Carlson -- as he reportedly did when calling off air strikes against Iran.

Trump's eclectic foreign policy essentially merges, in his own unique way, competing sentiments that exist on the right -- support for a muscular America on the one hand and an aversion to large-scale protracted wars given the errors of Iraq. This is how you get John Bolton as national security adviser on the one hand, and areas of agreement with Paul on the other. It's how we get both bombastic taunts of Kim Jong Un and handshakes with and defenses of him.

Now, it's one thing to argue against a potentially long and costly war with Iran. As I noted at the time, Trump's explanation for why he decided against the airstrikes seemed totally reasonable (though the timing and the question of how far along they were in attacking has become murkier since I wrote it). So I actually get where Carlson and Paul are coming from in being wary of another major intervention.

That said, there is also a risk of understating the seriousness of the threat from Iran and overestimating the earnest chances for a peace deal.

Carlson, in the wake of Trump's decision against airstrikes, said, "why do you think John Bolton is so fixated on toppling the government of Iran, which doesn't appear to pose any threat to the United States?" It's one thing to argue that the risk of a full-scale war is greater than the current threat from Iran, but no threat to us, whatsoever? Iran's regime has been a leading enemy of the U.S. for forty years, since taking over the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and holding 52 American diplomats and citizens hostage for over a year and has sponsored decades of attacks against Americans and our allies while its leaders preside over chants of "Death to America." The U.S. State Department notes in its most recent report on the subject that, "Iran remained the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism." In just the past few months, Iran has attacked oil tankers, shot down an American drone, threatened to disrupt shipments through the Strait of Hormuz, seized a foreign tanker, and ramped up its nuclear program.

Yet Paul is walking right into the same trap as Kerry did by assuming he could work with Zarif to make peace.

Politico reported on Wednesday that, "Paul proposed sitting down with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif to extend a fresh olive branch on the president’s behalf, according to four U.S. officials. The aim: to reduce tensions between the two countries. Trump signed off on the idea."

Trump, for his part, denied that he appointed Paul as some sort of informal envoy, though he acknowledged he listened to and respected Paul.

Either way, the mere prospect of Paul acting as some emissary with Iran was greeted with cheers among both Obama officials seeking to preserve the deal, libertarians, and Paul allies seeking to bolster his reputation.

Wendy Sherman, one of the architects of the Iran nuclear deal, told NBC's Andrea Mitchell, "Inside the administration there is a huge battle going on. I believe John Bolton or his allies leaked the fact that Rand Paul might go see foreign minister Zarif just to scuttle diplomacy. I think a senator can do whatever a senator wants to do." Her defense of a the senator's freedom to conduct foreign policy drew cackles from those who remember the Obama administration's outraged reaction when 47 Senators led by Sen. Tom Cotton released an open letter to the Iranian regime stating accurately that any agreement not ratified by Congress could be nixed by a future president with the stroke of a pen.

Writing as an outside contributor to the Washington Examiner, former Paul staffer and co-author Jack Hunter absurdly portrayed his former boss as the most important person standing between the U.S. and war with Iran. At the libertarian Reason, Scott Shackford praised the report of Paul as a possible go between as "good news for peace."

Iran's economy is struggling as a result of the crippling sanctions that have been re-imposed by the Trump administration and they are desperate for any sort of relief, which is why Zarif is in New York this week, meeting with his U.S. allies, and members of Congress, one of whom may or may not include Paul. He's pitching a mini-deal to get Trump to lift sanctions.

Perhaps with guidance from some of his American allies, Zarif seems to be recalibrating his message. He has appealed to Trump, praising his "prudence" in calling off the airstrikes, and trying to speak the language of the anti-interventionist right.

"I think conditions are tense, so we need to do much more work to avoid a situation that is lose-lose. Nobody wins in a war," he told the National Interest. He later added of Trump, "He certainly doesn’t want war. He’s not ideologically committed to a war — others are. That is why I think he needs to follow his own agenda, not other peoples’ agendas."

That fits right in with the in narrative being pushed by Paul and his allies that neoconservatives are trying to manipulate Trump into war, against his better instincts.

Zarif is a clever diplomat, who the radical Iranian regime has been smart to put as a public face to the West, as they pursue their anti-American terrorist agenda. This is standard procedure for Iran — escalate tensions and then attempt to extract concessions in exchange for backing off.

Zarif was able to dupe Kerry into a sweetheart deal, and now he clearly thinks he has an easy mark in Rand Paul.

Poster Comment:

Repeating -

Paul is walking right into the same trap as Kerry did by assuming he could work with Zarif to make peace.

The mere prospect of Paul acting as some emissary with Iran was greeted with cheers among both Obama officials seeking to preserve the deal, libertarians, and Paul allies seeking to bolster his reputation.

Zarif was able to dupe Kerry into a sweetheart deal, and now he clearly thinks he has an easy mark in Rand Paul.

We shall see ...

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Begin Trace Mode for Comment # 5.

#1. To: Gatlin (#0)

Zarif was able to dupe Kerry into a sweetheart deal, and now he clearly thinks he has an easy mark in Rand Paul.

Rand Paul has bigger balls than Kerry.

Deckard  posted on  2019-08-13   7:15:30 ET  Reply   Untrace   Trace   Private Reply  

#5. To: Deckard (#1)

Zarif was able to dupe Kerry into a sweetheart deal, and now he clearly thinks he has an easy mark in Rand Paul.

Rand Paul has bigger balls than Kerry.

I don’t see how Rand Paul will be able to solve the Iran problem.

It’s difficult for me to understand where your optimism about Rand’s success is coming from and to understand why Trump selected Rand for this sensitive and important diplomatic mission.

Why do I have this reservation?

I will explain.

Deckard, as an avid admirer of Rand Paul, you should readily remember that during delicate international talks in 2015, Rand Paul was one of the Senate Republicans who signed a letter to Iran, urging Iran to not trust the United States.

“Rand Paul urged Iran not to trust the United States.”

When Rand was asked to explain why he intentionally tried to help sabotage his own country’s diplomatic efforts, he ho-hummed and struggled to say anything coherently on the subject.

After consideration, I find Rand Paul is indeed a curious choice for this diplomatic mission to Iran.

I can see that using a senator from the president’s own party to engage in talks with an Iranian leader seems to be a perfectly sensible approach. I however feel that Rand Paul’s history suggests he’s a less-than-ideal choice for the task.

Rand Paul is a curious choice for a diplomatic mission and he may be able to do the job of reaching a satisfactory agreement for the U.S. with Iran. I sincerely hope so. But I must confess I have deep reservations on his ability to do so.

We shall see …

Gatlin  posted on  2019-08-13   9:59:58 ET  Reply   Untrace   Trace   Private Reply  

Replies to Comment # 5.

#6. To: Gatlin (#5)

I don’t see how Rand Paul will be able to solve the Iran problem.

Very unlikely that he will. I think he knows it, Trump knows it, and Pompeo knows it.

To some extent, this is just dotting I's and crossing T's, making an effort to give Iran every opportunity to comply with Trump's demands or to cave from their current broad resistance to Trump and make some concessions.

Putting up Rand for this is helpful. Iran's leaders can picture this as Rand, the peacenik, persuading Trump to back off on some of his sanctions while Iran, ever the peaceniks themselves, back off their resumption of enrichment.

This is mostly stuff done for show, both for Iran and for America.

If it fails, Trump can always say, "I sent Rand Paul, a man of real peace, against the wishes of so many in the national security establishment, to try to find a solution but Iran wouldn't negotiate even with a known peacemaker like Senator Paul."

It costs Trump nothing. It helps give him some cover if he has to go military against Iran. And Rand hasn't been granted the power to make any deals. This is why Trump denied making Rand an official emissary (which would actually promote Rand over Pompeo's legitimate role).

This is probably more theater than a serious attempt to negotiate, largely because no one believes Iran will negotiate in good faith, no matter how much their people are suffering. Only bringing the regime to the point of collapse is likely to bring them to a negotiations table.

Tooconservative  posted on  2019-08-13 10:13:52 ET  Reply   Untrace   Trace   Private Reply  

#7. To: Gatlin (#5)

Rand Paul is a curious choice for a diplomatic mission and he may be able to do the job of reaching a satisfactory agreement for the U.S. with Iran.

Rand Paul will not make any agreement with Iran. He will have no such power to make any binding deal with them.

We lack an embassy in Iran. And there isn't enough to talk about for Pompeo to meet with the Iranians. Rand is playing the part of our ambassador to Iran in this instance, opening another avenue in addition to our usual operations through Britain's embassy in Tehran. And it can all be disavowed if needed because Rand has no diplomatic status and is not an emissary or a plenipotentiary. Rand can't go off the reservation at all. And he'll no doubt be fully briefed by Foggy Bottom's top Iran experts prior to any meeting, what to watch out for, typical Iranian gambits and setups, things no negotiator should say to them, etc.

Diplomacy does have its protocols. Rand is playing a part if Iran is open to renegotiating their deal and accepting a full inspections regime. Neither Trump nor Pompeo is at risk of embarrassment if Rand tries and fails or if Rand gets duped into a propaganda exercise by the Iranians.

It is some clever diplomacy overall.

Tooconservative  posted on  2019-08-13 11:51:15 ET  Reply   Untrace   Trace   Private Reply  

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