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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on November 21st, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

John Kerry of Massachusetts, was Chairman of the US SENATE FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE  when he took on G.W. Bush in the 2004 Presidential Campaign. A main issue was getting out of Iraq.

In 2002, Kerry voted to authorize the President “to use force, if necessary, to disarm Saddam Hussein“, but warned that the administration should exhaust its diplomatic avenues before launching war. Kerry based his 2004 presidential campaign on opposition to the Iraq War. He and his running mate Senator John Edwards (a very bad choice) lost the race, finishing 35 electoral votes behind the Republican ticket headed by President George W. Bush (just 19 short of the 270 required for election). Subsequently, he established the “Keeping America’s Promise” PAC.

Kerry became chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 2009, and in 2011 he was appointed to the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction. Having been nominated by President Barack Obama to succeed outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and then confirmed by the U.S. Senate by a vote of 94–3 on January 29, 2013, Kerry assumed the office on February 1, 2013.

 

New York Times Op-Ed Contributor

 

How Bush Let Iran Go Nuclear.

 

 

 

AMERICAN and Iranian negotiators yesterday began a second round of talks in Geneva, seeking a deal on Iran’s nuclear program.

 

If such an agreement were signed, it would represent an Iranian victory — and an American defeat. The Iranians would be able to maintain their nuclear program and continue to enrich uranium, while the Americans and their allies would loosen the economic siege on Iran and allow Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the economic oxygen needed to sustain his autocratic regime.

Yes, Iran’s race to the bomb would be slowed down — but an accord would guarantee that it would eventually cross the finish line. The Geneva mind-set resembles a Munich mind-set: It would create the illusion of peace-in-our-time while paving the way to a nuclear-Iran-in-our-time.

But don’t blame President Obama. Indeed, this American defeat was set in motion long before he took office.

What three American presidents, four Israeli prime ministers and a dozen European leaders vowed would never happen is actually happening. What was not to be is almost a reality. The Iranian bomb is nearly here.

Why wasn’t the West able to mobilize its political, economic and military resources in time to force Tehran to give up its nuclear ambition?

The answer may be described as a spelling error.

After 9/11, the United States was determined to strike back, destroy terrorist sanctuaries and display its imperial might. President George W. Bush chose to do all of this in Afghanistan and Iraq. Afghanistan may have been a mistake, but it was an understandable one: Al Qaeda enjoyed the Taliban’s support and had found refuge in Taliban-controlled territory. But invading Iraq was an incomprehensible mistake, as there were no links between Saddam Hussein and the 19 terrorists who attacked New York and Washington in September 2001.

If Mr. Bush had decided to display American leadership and exercise American power by launching a diplomatic campaign against Iran rather than a military one against Iraq 10 years ago, the United States’ international standing would be far greater today.

The Bush administration’s decision to go after Iraq rather than Iran was a fatal one, and the long-term consequences are only now becoming clear, namely a devastating American failure in the battle to prevent a nuclear Iran, reflected in Washington’s willingness to sign a deeply flawed agreement.

Mr. Bush’s responsibility for the disaster now unfolding is twofold: He failed to target Iran a decade ago, and created a climate that made it very difficult to target Iran today. The Bush administration didn’t initiate a political-economic siege on Iran when it was weak, and Mr. Bush weakened America by exhausting its economic power and military might in a futile war. By the time American resolve was needed to fend off a genuine global threat, the necessary determination was no longer there. It had been wasted on the wrong cause.

The correct way to confront the Iranian threat would have been to establish a broad coalition including Russia, the European Union, Sunni Arab countries, Israel and the United States. This would have placed Iran’s leaders in a real stranglehold and forced them to abandon their nuclear project — just as Libya did in 2003.

The Republican Party could have done that in 2003 or 2005 or 2007. But Republican leaders squandered the opportunity. Worse still, the United States got bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan and that sucked all the oxygen out of America’s lungs. Mr. Bush passed on to Mr. Obama a nation that had lost much of the resolve it had possessed. When faced with a real threat to world peace, America’s will was spent. It had evaporated in the violent streets of Basra and Baghdad.

Sure, Mr. Obama has made mistakes, too. After coming to office, he wasted time on a futile policy of engagement and then on ineffective sanctions. He ignored the British, French, Israelis, Egyptians and Saudis who warned him that he was being naïve and turned his back on the freedom-seeking Iranian masses in June 2009. When Mr. Obama finally endorsed assertive diplomacy and punitive sanctions in 2011 and 2012, it was too little, too late.

But Mr. Obama was operating within the smoky ruins of the strategic disaster he had inherited.

After Iraq, America is a traumatized nation, with a limited attention span for problems in the Middle East. The empire is weary. It has lost the ardor and wisdom needed to deal with the cruelest of the world’s regions and with the most dangerous of the world’s evil powers.

The Geneva agreement being negotiated is an illusion. The so-called moderate president of Iran, Hassan Rouhani, is an illusion, too. So is the hope that Iran’s supreme leader can be appeased. Because America missed the opportunity for assertive diplomacy, all the options now left on the table are dire ones.

Rather than pursuing a dangerous interim agreement, the West must insist that all the centrifuges in Iran stop spinning while a final agreement is negotiated. President Obama was right to demand a settlement freeze in the West Bank in 2009. Now he must demand a total centrifuge freeze in Iran.

 

Ari Shavit, a senior columnist at Haaretz, is the author of “My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel.”

 

Our website says same things in fewer words – we say that the  GOP under GW Bush & Dick Cheney was run by US Oil Interests – so it had a policy that was dictated by OIL rather then a National Policy. The GOP of today has reduced this to an obvious-to-the-nacked-eye plain anti-Obama policy.

 

 

Active and Improvising, Kerry Is Taking on Tough Problems.

 

WASHINGTON — John Kerry has made no secret of his ambitions as secretary of state. On a visit to the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem last March, he watched as two bearded patriarchs pleaded with President Obama to bring peace to the Holy Land. Clasping their hands, Mr. Kerry said, “I’m going to work as hard as I can to get it done.”

Eight months later, Mr. Kerry’s effort to broker peace between Israel and the Palestinians is still an uphill struggle. But he may be poised to begin delivering another major goal Mr. Obama has long sought: an agreement with Iran to curb its nuclear program.

If the United States and its five negotiating partners come within striking distance of an interim agreement with Iran, Mr. Kerry is likely to fly to Geneva at the end of the week to try to seal the deal. It would be a rare win for a White House that has been reeling from the botched rollout of the health care law, a stalled legislative agenda and doubts about Mr. Obama’s credibility.

It would also ratify Mr. Kerry’s status as the biggest surprise of the president’s second-term cabinet: a hyperactive diplomat who plunges into seemingly intractable problems, improvises furiously along the way — making gaffes from time to time but occasionally devising solutions that have helped Mr. Obama out of messy situations like the impasse over a security agreement with Afghanistan.

None of this is to say that Mr. Kerry and Mr. Obama are personally close. With his patrician style and oratorical flourishes, Mr. Kerry is not a natural match for the president. Even now, his long-winded explanations — a legacy of his 28 years in the Senate — sometimes test Mr. Obama’s patience, though Mr. Kerry’s aides say he has “learned to speak the president’s language.”

But Mr. Kerry, current and former administration officials say, has won growing respect from Mr. Obama, who has tended to keep his cabinet secretaries at arm’s length and on a short leash. As the Iran talks heated up in recent weeks, officials said, the White House deferred to Mr. Kerry’s argument that he should thrust himself into the negotiations to try to bridge differences between Iran and the West.

“Kerry made the judgment about whether he could move the ball down the field,” said Benjamin J. Rhodes, a deputy national security adviser. “The president supported Kerry’s judgment.”

Once in Geneva, Mr. Kerry confronted resistance from French diplomats, who worried that the deal taking shape with Iran was too lenient. Conducting much of the negotiation in French, Mr. Kerry incorporated their points into the broader proposal, which still fell short of an agreement with the Iranians by what he later said were four or five phrases.

Mr. Kerry’s prodigious energy and desire to make a mark have made him a more activist secretary of state than his famous predecessor, Hillary Rodham Clinton, and so far at least, more willing to take risks than Mrs. Clinton, who may have another presidential campaign in her future. Aides say Mr. Obama has marveled at how Mr. Kerry spent seven hours with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, negotiating the fine points of a peace deal with the Palestinians.

David Axelrod, an adviser to Mr. Obama, watched the two men in close quarters when Mr. Kerry played the part of Mitt Romney during the president’s debate prep sessions — and Mr. Kerry infuriated the president with his needling imitation of the Republican candidate.

“They may seem different, and they are different,” he said, “but they’ve cooperated closely and become friendly.”

Their relationship, however, has clear limitations. When Mr. Obama reversed course and decided not to order a military strike on Syria last August to punish it for a deadly chemical weapons attack, he did not bother to tell Mr. Kerry of his decision until after he had briefed his aides, even though Mr. Kerry had become the most public advocate of military action.

If Mr. Kerry was offended, he did not show it, throwing himself into the effort to flesh out and win support for a Russian-inspired plan to eliminate Syria’s chemical weapons stocks — a plan he had helped set in motion with a seemingly offhand remark at a news conference.

“He helped bail the president out of a no-win situation, in which he might have had to use force, with a divided country and Congress,” said Robert Danin, a former State Department official who has worked on the Middle East peace process. “It’s not Nixon and Kissinger. But Kerry’s actions have made him relevant to the White House.”

Mr. Obama’s aides also praise Mr. Kerry’s efforts to negotiate the postwar security deal with President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan — an effort that required marathon talks between the two men but which Mr. Kerry said Wednesday was finally completed.

Still, Mr. Kerry’s overall record at the State Department is mixed: his Syria diplomacy, while face-saving for Mr. Obama, has left the United States woefully short of its stated goal of persuading President Bashar al-Assad to yield power.

To some analysts, his focus on a peace accord between the Israelis and Palestinians is quixotic, given the poor climate for a deal. Among leaders in the region, the perception is that this is very much his project: a diplomatic effort that the White House will fully embrace if it succeeds but that can be laid at Mr. Kerry’s doorstep if it fails.

Mr. Kerry’s indefatigable commitment is the biggest reason Mr. Obama listed Middle East peace as one of his top priorities in the region when he spoke at the United Nations in September. But the policy review that led to that speech also underscores the limits of Mr. Kerry’s role.

The review was conducted by Susan E. Rice, the national security adviser, with a small circle of White House aides. Though Ms. Rice briefed Mr. Kerry over weekly lunches, neither he nor any member of his staff took part in the deliberations.

In one case, Mr. Kerry’s galloping style caused friction with Ms. Rice. On a recent visit to Egypt, he emphasized continuity with Egypt’s generals, despite their ouster of President Mohamed Morsi last summer. Ms. Rice was angry, officials said, that Mr. Kerry did not put more pressure on the generals for their brutal crackdown.

“He’s pushing the mandate of his authority,” said Mr. Danin, now at the Council on Foreign Relations. “We have yet to see if this White House will stand by him, should he fail to produce results.”

A major test will come at the Iran talks, which began Wednesday. Mr. Kerry has not been as deeply immersed in them as in Syria or the peace process. But when American negotiators flew to Geneva earlier this month, he began thinking about how he could make a difference. On Nov. 7, in the middle of a nine-day tour of the Middle East, he decided to take the plunge.

The move was classic Kerry. He did not go to Geneva calculating that an agreement was assured, but with the hope that his long ties with foreign ministers and negotiating stamina would at least enable him to narrow the differences with the Iranians.

But Mr. Kerry’s improvisational approach posed challenges. With other foreign ministers racing to catch up with Mr. Kerry, attempts to synchronize the positions of the major powers were carried out on the fly. That proved to be a problem for the French, who had long taken a tough stance with Iran and who had their own demands.

Warning that too hasty an agreement would be a “sucker’s bet,” the French foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, insisted on placing stricter curbs on a heavy-water reactor Iran is building near Arak. Mr. Kerry incorporated the French proposals, and administration officials insisted that reports of disunity among the allies were overblown.

Still, the backstage drama prompted Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, to complain on Twitter that the West was moving the goal posts. It also fed anxieties on the part of Israel and in Congress that the White House was in too great a rush to get an accord.

For some longtime friends, Mr. Kerry’s headlong approach to diplomacy illustrates a larger truth about him. As Senator John McCain, the Arizona Republican who shares with Mr. Kerry both a record of distinguished service in Vietnam and a failed run for the White House, put it, “I believe that for John Kerry the reality is often as he wishes rather than as it actually is.”

Mark Landler reported from Washington, and Michael R. Gordon from Geneva.

 

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