Losin’ in Lausanne (3)

Omri Ceren writes from Lausanne by email with comments for media covering developments related to the negotiations with the Islamic Republic of Iran:

Secretary Kerry and FM Zarif started off the second day in a row with a 10:00am meeting (technically 10:08am), which again including US Energy Secretary Moniz and Iranian Atomic Energy Organization chief Salehi. Presumably the rumor mill will pick up around lunch time again, but in the meantime all the overnight action was in DC. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle and in both chambers processed yesterday’s WSJ and AP scoops – describing US collapses on PMDs and Fordow respectively – and moved quickly (and in the Senate’s case, unanimously) to register their opposition.

The concession on PMDs would push back demands that Iran fully disclose its nuclear activities from the beginning of a deal to a time after the sanctions regime had been weakened. Critics say the arrangement would enable the Iranians to simply say no (“if they’re denying the IAEA access to facilities now, with sanctions in place, why wouldn’t they do the same thing later, when there are fewer sanctions?”). The concession on Fordow would allow Iran to keep spinning centrifuges at its underground military bunker at Fordow on elements other than uranium. Critics say that the arrangement would allow the Iranians to develop N-generation centrifuges even if they’re not cheating, and give them the option of kicking out inspectors and repurposing the centrifuges for uranium enrichment in the facility, which is largely impervious to air attack.

Now the political backlash.

(1) House: the House had already asserted itself on the eve of talks. On Monday 367 members – a bipartisan, veto-proof majority – sent the White House a letter saying among other things that “Congress must be convinced that its terms foreclose any pathway to a bomb, and only then will Congress be able to consider permanent sanctions relief.”…Boehner’s “not a good deal” tweet was up within an hour here.

(2) Senate: in the Senate the aftermath had similar statements, but action went way beyond that…. see Menendez here (“we are not inching closer to Iran’s negotiating position, but leaping toward it with both feet… not a good deal”).

But the more dramatic move was a 100-0 vote – just before 6:30pm ET – on Kirk’s amendment to reimpose sanctions on the Iranians if they get caught cheating on a deal. The nonbinding language is grounded in a section on violations written into the Kirk-Menendez legislation, which more broadly increases pressure on Iran if they fail to sign on to a deal that puts their atomic program beyond use for weaponization. The effect of the vote was to put the entire Senate on record supporting the principles of Kirk-Menendez, and AFP quickly moved to describe the vote as “US Senate threatens Iran with new sanctions[.]” Note that just a few days ago Democrats had been blocking the measure (http://freebeacon.com/national-security/senate-dems-blocking-new-iran-sanctions-measure/). Yesterday the entire caucus voted for it.

* Note on terminology…about the Fordow cave-in…[T]he administration seems set on ensuring that this concession not be characterized as enrichment and not be characterized as allowing nuclear research & development, even though the Iranians will be permitted to conduct isotope separation in a way that allows them to research & develop N-generation centrifuge technology that could be used on uranium.

Continuing with this series, I’ll be posting Omri’s further updates as received.

A shocking breach

Yesterday we noted the Arutz Sheva story reporting on the Obama administration’s disclosure of formerly top secret data regarding Israel’s nuclear facilities and capabilities. The disclosure came in the form of the declassification and release of a detailed, 386-page report on Israeli and NATO nations’ nuclear facilities and capabilities; the Pentagon declassified only the part about Israel, continuing to classify the parts regarding other countries.

The document was quietly declassified on February 12. Its release marks the first time Israel’s alleged nuclear program has ever been officially and publicly acknowledged by the government of the United States. At the time of the document’s release in February, coverage was limited to state-funded Iranian regime station Press TV and the state-funded Russian outlet RT.

According to Tom Gross in the Weekly Standard column “In shocking breach, US declassifies document revealing some of Israel’s nuclear capabilities,” the Iranian and Russian outlets “were rumored to have been tipped off about this obscure report at the time by persons in Washington.”

News of the report has now gone mainstream, but what is happening here? Gross explains:

Israel has never admitted to having nuclear weapons. To do so might spark a regional nuclear arms race, and eventual nuclear confrontation.

The declassification is a serious breach of decades’ old understandings concerning this issue between Israel and its north American and certain European allies.

The Pentagon’s February declassification coincided with intense pressure on the Netanyahu government by the Obama administration, trying to force the Israeli prime minister to cancel a planned speech to Congress questioning the wisdom of a highly risky nuclear deal with the Iranian regime.

However, in the past 24 hours several media in the U.S. and elsewhere have now chosen to report on the February declassification by the Pentagon. This coincides with stepped up efforts this week by the Obama administration to weaken Israel’s deterrent capabilities, including leaking to the Wall Street Journal incorrect allegations that Israel directly spies on the U.S.

An informed person connected to the government in Jerusalem, tells me:

“Over the years there have been backhanded references and comments made by individuals with some familiarity with this issue. But there has never before been any official description of the quality and capacity of installations. This kind of declassified document constitutes a whole different level of acknowledgement. It is part of a pattern of carefully controlled leaking of information which is very hard to attribute to a specific government agency or individual. Nevertheless it is clear what is happening.

“The failure to maintain the degree of mature and cooperative discretion that officials from several governments have exercised up to now, marks a serious change in the code of conduct. It is not wise to draw attention to this issue because it would tend to destabilize the international order and encourage others to pursue nuclear capabilities.”

Gross adds: “The full story of the Obama administration’s effort to undermine, and effectively attempt to take control of, Israel’s deterrent capabilities in various spheres is yet to be written. There have been several other aspects to these efforts.”

The release of the report makes out another deeply sinister aspect of the Obama administration’s efforts to undermine Israel as it prepares the ground for the imminent deal with Iran.

Thoughts from the ammo line

This week we celebrate with Ammo Grrrll the ONE YEAR ANNIVERSARY of this column. She writes:

Hey, fans, Top Commenters, trolls and friends! Guess what? This is the First Anniversary of Thoughts From the Ammo Line! The first column debuted on March 30th, 2014.

I had been standing in the ammo line at Walmart for hundreds of hours over the year-long ammo drought, with plenty of time to chat with the other shooters and to fill the long hours with anecdotes, political discussions, jokes of questionable (OK, bad) taste, and lots of gun talk. As a woman, in the arts, from Deep Blue Minnesota, and Jewish to boot, by rights and demographic stereotype, I should be a gun-hatin’, Obama-votin’, social justice warrior.

But — and I know this comes as a surprise to regular readers — I’m not. In fact, the night Obama was elected in 2008, I was so upset that when Ohio and Indiana (Et tu, Indiana?!!) electoral votes went to Obama, I drove most of the night to be in a Red State on my way from Minnesota to wintering in Palm Springs. I had to go all the way to Oklahoma, where not only did the state go Republican, but every county did. Mr. Ammo Grrrll, who would fly out to join me later, went to an Election Night “party” with other non-Obamabots. When people asked “Where is your wife?” he said, “Gone. To a Red State, she said.” “No, really, where is she?” “Gone. Really.” Ammo Grrrll doesn’t take disappointment well.

When two years later, we moved to Arizona, and I became an avid target shooter, it occurred to me that the two friends I had at Power Line (John and Scott) might be interested in a humor column from that perspective. Power Line had been my go-to sanity keeper for nigh unto ten years. (And what a debt of gratitude we all owe them!) It was particularly fun when John fell in love with shooting too.

I emailed my introductory column to Scott just to see if he was maybe, possibly, interested and within – as The Gropester would say — “literally” — three minutes, he had posted it! Oopsy daisy. Be careful what you wish for; you just might get it.

That was fifty-two columns ago, give or take. (Without a doubt, a commenter will count them and they may only total 51.) Frankly, I don’t know how the Power Line boys do it, three, four items apiece a day, because one a week is tough enough for me.

I am very fortunate to hang out with a number of witty people: Mr. Ammo Grrrll, The Paranoid Texan, Angela, Bonnie, Heather, and others. When comics hang out, they are very guarded about coming up with too many good quips lest your fellow comics say, “Hey, that’s funny. You gonna use that or can I have it?” With my friends, whose professions don’t require an endless supply of good lines, I feel I have carte blanche to just shamelessly steal anything funny they say. In exchange, I provide my World Famous Deviled Eggs, Awesomely Good Chili, Melt-in-Your-Mouth Brisket, and a casserole so wonderful Angela calls it Turkey-Crack Casserole.

My motto: Will cook for funny material. And also provide liquor.

One of my great life lessons is that everything – and I do mean everything – is harder than it looks. Especially as a guest columnist on somebody else’s site, I try very hard to hit “center mass” every time. But, in life, as in target shooting, sometimes you spray and pray.

To say that I appreciate the support of you commenters would be to understate the matter considerably. Thank you so much for your kind words. Sometimes in standup, people would come up to me and compliment me on my set and then say: “I bet you get tired of hearing that, huh?” To which I would always answer, “No, actually, we don’t.” I’d like to list my favorite commenters but the list would be long and I’d be afraid of leaving someone out.

And so, on we go to the next 52. I hope to continue to brighten your Fridays. The only downside of a once-weekly column is that I can’t always be terribly current. Forgive me. I had a really funny (IMHO) Top 10 List of Reasons Why Obama Didn’t Go to Paris written on a Sunday, but by the time Friday rolled around (particularly slowly that week it seemed), other columnists, bloggers, and even witty commenters had come close enough to most of my jokes to make them look stolen and stale. I asked Scott to sub in a different column. Oh, well. Civilization will survive without that piece.

Oh, also, my goal is to really get in shape this year and exchange the ancient photo by my column with one of me in a gun porn pose like Steve puts at the end of his awesome Week in Pictures post. (A crane shot from sniper distance.) I don’t look exactly like some of those ladies, but at least I could demonstrate proper gun safety. It has come to my attention that very few of you gentlemen even care that the lady is often exercising very poor trigger discipline. Crikey, sometimes you don’t even notice she has a gun. You might change your mind if you were in front of her; but then, from what I know of men, you might be willing to take that risk and just die happy. :o)

God Bless Us, every one. Thanks again. See you next Friday, God willing and the creek don’t rise.

Meet Dartmouth’s new radical professors

Dartmouth claims to be “moving forward,” but its academic hiring reflects a commitment to marching in place to the drumbeat of the left. The latest issue of Dartmouth Life invites alums to “meet Dartmouth’s new faculty members.” We meet the new profs through one paragraph statements about “what engages their intellectual curiosity.” In too many cases, the answer appears to be leftism.

Here is what Christian Haines, the one new English professor in the group, has to say:

At present, I find especially compelling the question of how literature and culture challenge orthodox understandings of the global economy. I am interested in how people around the world are imagining alternatives to the current arrangements of capitalism.

It seems that Prof. Haines is more interested in economic radicalism than in literature.

William Cheng is a new hire in the music department. He says:

My current work grapples with music disability and social justice in the 21st century. I’m looking into the intersections between phenomena such as urban busking, YouTube, virality, reality singing competitions, glitch art, and Autotune.

Seriously?

Two new history professors are featured. One reveals no radicalism in his two-sentence blurb. The other, Derrick White (hired as an associate professor), is a man on mission:

Broadly, I am interested in how black organizations have grappled with the dominant ideas that have for too long maintained a racial hierarchy, and the strategies these organizations have used to alter the framework of ideas in the hopes of changing the nature of political power.

Prof. White will fill Dartmouth’s dire need for a faculty member who is concerned about the maintenance of “a racial hierarchy.”

Eng-Beng Lim will join the bloated Women’s and Gender Studies department. He wonders:

How is queer intellectual design an intrinsic part of transnational knowledge production in the cultural sphere?

I’ve often asked myself this very question.

The Geography department has two new profs, both of whom are focused on pet liberal causes. Abigail Neely “seek[s] to interrogate the question of health: What it is; who it’s for, and who decides?” She “work[s] to expand understanding of health in an effort to achieve better and more just health for all.”

Geography isn’t what it used to be.

Jaclyn Hatala Matthes stays a bit more on topic, but seems no less politically committed. She writes:

In my work I study feedbacks between ecosystems, climate change and land-use changes, which requires an exciting combination of skills at the intersection of ecosystem ecology, atmospheric science, and remote sensing.

These days, the topic of climate change can probably support professorships in most arts and sciences departments at an institution like Dartmouth. Thus, it’s no surprise when the College’s new hire in Anthropology, Laura Ogden, informs us:

My current research explores the ethics and politics of environmental change in Tierra del Fuego. More broadly, I am interested in how environmental concerns and practices produce new forms of global connection.

Naturally.

The good news is that Dartmouth has hired three new Economics professors, none of whom tips off his ideological leanings. Perhaps there’s a causal relationship here: the Economics department is beefing up because students like taking courses about non-quirky subject matter from professors who aren’t on a political/ideological mission.

Unfortunately, unless you want to major in Economics, Mathematics, or a hard science, it’s probably even more difficult now than it was in my daughter’s time (2006-10) to fill one’s schedule with such courses.

Losin’ in Lausanne (2)

Omri Ceren writes by email from Lausanne to elaborate on the AP story reporting that raw United States is considering letting Tehran run hundreds of centrifuges at a once-secret, fortified underground bunker in exchange for limits on centrifuge work and research and development at other sites. Omri writes:

And just like that, PMDs and Yemen are those things we were talking about in the last news cycle. For the rest of tonight and probably into tomorrow, the buzz is going to be about the monster scoop the AP just published. Washington is apparently ready to let the Iranians continue enrichment activities at Fordow, the underground military bunker – built into the side of a mountain and all but impervious to air attack – that they converted into a clandestine enrichment facility.

The policy implications of this concession more or less write themselves. Allowing the Iranians to enrich at Fordow means they could kick out inspectors at any time and have a fully-functioning enrichment facility hardened against military intervention. Since sanctions will be unraveled by design at the beginning of a deal, that means the West would have literally zero options to stop a breakout. The administration’s early pushback is that the breakout time will still be a year, so they could in theory reimpose sanctions, but it takes more than a year for sanctions to take an economic toll. So: zero options to stop a breakout.

But there’s an insidery history about Fordow’s role in negotiations that makes it into a political problem for the administration as well, alongside the policy problems. Timeline:

– The Iranians declared very early into the JPOA that shuttering Fordow was a red line for them. Zarif publicly berated Sherman on the issue and instructed her to “stick to the reality and stop speaking of impossible things” (http://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/Rejecting-US-comments-on-its-nuclear-program-Iran-FM-says-Fordo-Arak-are-non-negotiable-340458). This was during the first few months of the JPOA, where every other week the Iranians were declaring that something else was non-negotiable: dismantling centrifuges, downgrading their heavy water reactor at Arak, halting ballistic missile development, etc. The red lines were dismissed by administration spokespeople as the Iranians posturing for domestic benefit – but throughout the first half of 2014 Washington systematically collapsed on 100% of those asks.

– Except: last summer the Iranians floated a compromise proposal that would keep Fordow open but convert it into a research facility (http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2014-07-09/news/sns-rt-us-iran-nuclear-fordow-20140709_1_fordow-enriched-uranium-interim-nuclear-deal). The move was widely hailed as a sign the Iranians were willing to meet the Americans halfway. Robert Einhorn from Brookings – a top State nonproliferation official stretching back to the Clinton era – had suggested the compromise in a widely-read whitepaper on negotiations (http://www.brookings.edu/research/papers/2014/03/31-nuclear-armed-iran-einhorn). Now the Iranians were willing to compromise! The proposal was used to silence skeptics of Iranian intentions and boosted the momentum of negotiations.

– Except: now that concession has been reversed.

The role Fordow has played means that this development will be a double gut-punch. It’s now just a policy trainwreck, but it’s politically toxic because it seems like the administration got played again (or that it misled lawmakers again). The White House started out promising that Fordow would be shuttered, then that it would be converted into an R&D plant where no enrichment would take place, and now they’ve collapsed. Criticism is already being heard from the Hill – for a taste see < a href=" https://twitter.com/SpeakerBoehner/status/581140844863983618">this tweet from Boehner – and the afternoon cable shows out of New York and DC are still several hours away.

At this rate it just might be easier to turn over our nuclear arsenal to Iran for safekeeping.

introducing Grant Starrett [Updated]

From 2011 through 2014, the House of Representatives was conservatism’s only reliable line of defense against President Obama’s leftist encroachments. It’s quite possible that after 2016, conservatives will again need to look to the House to play this vital defensive role.

To maintain control of the House, and to keep it in fighting trim, Republicans must run strong, principled conservatives — and not just for open and Democrat-held seats. We saw in 2006 what happens when entrenched Republican incumbents become embarrassments.

That’s why I agree with Erick Erickson, who recently tweeted, “If Grant Starrett gets in, he’s got my support. He’s a great guy.”

Who is Grant Starrett, and what might he be getting into?

Starrett is a rising conservative star. He’s a graduate of Stanford, where he founded the Stanford Conservative Society and grew it to over 500 members, and of Vanderbilt Law School, where he was president of its Federalist Society.

Grant was the Students for Mitt Chair in Romney’s 2008 Presidential campaign and the Coalitions Coordinator in the 2012 Romney campaign. He spent the summers between school working for the Senate Steering Committee under Senator Jim DeMint, the White House, FoxNews, and the American Center for Law and Justice.

Grant has taken a lead role in Tennessee’s judicial wars, fighting trial lawyers and activist judges to restore constitutional order to Tennessee’s judicial selection process. Currently, he serves as Vice President and Special Counsel at Lion Real Estate Group.

I got to know Grant through my friend Joe Malchow, the publisher of Power Line. A long conversation with Grant made it easy to see why Joe holds him in such high regard, both personally and politically.

As Erick Erikson’s tweet indicates, Grant is seriously considering running for the House of Representatives in Tennessee’s Fourth Congressional District. It’s clear to me that Grant is the kind of energetic, talented Constitutional conservative we will need to preserve the House of Representatives as a bulwark against the left’s “transformative” agenda and, should circumstances permit, to make it the engine of conservatism transformation.

It’s equally clear that the Republican incumbent, Scott DesJarlais, should be replaced. DesJarlais, a physician, was embroiled in a personal scandal in 2012, when it was revealed that he had affairs with his patients. The Tennessee Board of Medical Examiners reprimanded him for this.

DesJarlais is an outspoken critic of abortion. Yet, according to his divorce trial transcript, he pressured one of the patients he had sex with to get an abortion and pressured his ex-wife to do the same.

Scandal aside, DesJarlais isn’t a strong conservative. His lifetime ratings from Heritage Action, FreedomWorks, Club for Growth, Citizens Against Government Waste, and National Taxpayers Union range from 76 percent to 79 percent.

DesJarlais voted against the most aggressive budget-cutting bills in the House, namely the Republican Study Committee budgets in 2011 and 2013. He voted against cutting funding for the DOE loan program that funded Solyndra. He has supported “crony capitalism” legislation on a number of occasions.

In 2014, DesJarlais survived a primary challenge by only 38 votes. Considering his scandals, this result is a quite a tribute to his resiliency. But he clearly remains vulnerable to challenge.

Like Erick, I hope that Grant challenges DesJarlais. If he does, I’ll be asking readers to support him.

UPDATE: One of my go-to sources on national security issues writes:

[Grant] is also solid on national defense and security issues; we have had many long conversations about it. . . .He would be a welcome addition to the Hill at a time when the world is increasingly dangerous but too many members still do not understand the importance of a strong defense to handle and deter rising threats.

The current fight for a better defense budget is only the latest example of how we need people who follow both fiscal conservative AND strong national security principles.

Obama continues assault on Israel

Reader Martin Karo writes:

Arutz Sheva reports on the Obama administration’s release – a broadcast, not a leak – of formerly top secret data regarding Israel’s nuclear facilities and capabilities. The damaging revelations come via the Defense Department’s publication of a detailed, 386-page report on Israeli and NATO nations’ nuclear facilities and capabilities. In an overtly political act, the Pentagon declassified only the part about Israel, continuing to classify the parts regarding other countries.

The timing of the release — in the middle of the Obama administration’s attacks on Israel over its revelations on what parts of the store Obama was giving away in order to get an Iranian signature on the dotted line – and the decision to spill the secrets on Israel’s program, and only Israel’s program, is transparently a malicious act by Obama to damage Netanyahu. And probably a signal from Barry to Bibi to shut up and sit down in the back.

The alternative theory – that Obama intended to damage Israel as a whole – cannot be ruled out either. Obama’s motive could be deep-grained animosity towards the Jewish State, or at least to inject a rough equivalence justification for his Iran deal – “Israel has an advanced nuclear program, why should Iran not be allowed to have one?” The latter theory also partially explains Obama’s vitriolic “RACIST! ™” attack on Netanyahu for attempting to increase Likud’s election turnout by pointing out the opposition was turning out in droves (via Obama-supplied buses, but set that aside for now). “So what if Iran calls for death to Israel? They are racists!” [“But what about their ‘death to America’ chants?” “Well, if the white shoe fits…”]