A signing bonus for Iran?

One gets the impression that President Obama would be open to throwing in a couple of nuclear devices of the Supreme Leader’s choice to be named later if only Iran will sign a nuclear agreement with him on the dotted line. Consider Omri Ceren’s latest email update:

This Wall Street Journal article by Carol Lee and Jay Solomon went live yesterday [evening] just as everyone was going home, but it’s everywhere this morning so I wanted to pass it along. It reports out the President’s comments from yesterday [discussed here], in which he moved to placate Khamenei’s new demand for immediate sanctions relief upon signing a deal.

The White House is trying to spin the new concession, which contradicts the factsheet they distributed the evening of the Lausanne announcement, in two ways.

1st — they’re telling journalists that the new concession doesn’t matter because the snapback mechanism is more important than the sequencing of sanctions relief. That’s a difficult position to defend politically, because it’s obvious the White House caved again, and even more difficult to defend substantively, because snapback only works in theory if the Iranian economy is sufficiently fragile for pressure to matter – and immediate relief would stabilize that economy. Beyond the optics and the theory, very few people believe the administration’s Rube Goldberg mechanism for restoring sanctions would even work (FDD’s Mark Dubowitz has been saying so for months – http://www.foreignpolicyi.org/content/hill-briefing-wrap-iran-p51-and-congress – and David Rothkopf was brutal on the question last week – https://foreignpolicy.com/2015/04/09/hillary-clinton-is-the-real-iran-snap-back-obama-china-russia-sanctions/). It’s just not a great position to defend.

But this is what the administration has left, so this is what they’re going with. You’ll see more of it – ‘snapback more important than sanctions’ – over the weekend and into Monday as White House officials do damage control.

2nd — they’re trying to borderline-gaslight journalists by insisting that there was no new concession, that the President didn’t signal any new flexibility, and that sanctions relief will still be phased out. That line is falling a bit flat – Obama said what he said – but now the question is how they intend to square the circle. How do they make sanctions relief phased in principle, so they can keep saying they didn’t cave, but instantaneous in practice, so that the Iranians will take the concession? On that point there’s a suggestive little scooplet buried in the WSJ article:

“The Obama administration estimates Iran has between $100 billion and $140 billion of its oil revenue frozen in offshore accounts as a result of sanctions. U.S. officials said they expect Tehran to gain access to these funds in phases as part of a final deal. Iran could receive somewhere between $30 billion and $50 billion upon signing the agreement, said congressional officials briefed by the administration. Complicating negotiations, U.S.-ally Saudi Arabia has repeatedly charged in recent weeks that Iran has provided significant funding, arms and training to Shiite insurgents in Yemen who gained control of the country’s capital, San’a, and forced the country’s president to flee. Iran has denied these allegations. Iran also is a major supporter of the Lebanese militia Hezbollah, the Assad regime in Syria and a group of Shiite militias fighting in Iraq.”

An immediate and irreversible infusion of $50 billion would boost Iran’s GDP by more than 10% overnight and signal the end of meaningful financial pressure. But it would also allow the White House to continue insisting that sanctions relief was being phased out in principle: all the sanctions that matter would get removed immediately, but there would still be a few sanctions left as a legal matter.

The trick could still prove politically toxic on the Hill. It would provide the Iranians with an infusion of $50 billion for their terror infrastructure and their march across the Middle East, which would panic our Arab allies. who are at war with Iran because of those campaigns. It’s also $50 billion to a regime that is dedicated to America’s destruction and that killed over a thousand American soldiers. That spins itself.

Omri seeks to maintain our fighting spirit and keep hope alive as Obama seeks to sell us out, but the Democrats will fall into line with Obama as necessary to support the consummation he devoutly wishes with the Supreme Leader. Otherwise, you know, war. War is coming too, but it will arrive down the road, under circumstances less advantageous to us than those that prevail now.

I Am Woman, Hear Me Roar!

The Democrats were able to elect Barack Obama president strictly on the basis of his race, and they hope to duplicate the trick with Hillary Clinton. For a number of reasons, I have been skeptical that gender politics can put Hillary in the White House. Most fundamentally, she lacks the superficial attractiveness that many saw in Obama. But this video by Caleb Bonham and a group called Campus Reform is a reminder that, however silly it may seem, there are plenty of people for whom the fact that Mrs. Clinton is a woman is a decisive argument:

God help us.

A fine “mess”

Having lived through the Sturm and Drang over the precisely accurate “16 words” regarding Saddam Hussein in President Bush’s 2003 State of the Union Address, I am struck by the media’s — how to put it? — lack of interest in the absurd falsehoods retailed by President Obama et al. in the service of equally consequential causes.

President Obama and Secretary Kerry, for example, have both cited the fatwa allegedly promulgated by Iran’s Supreme Leader prohibiting the development of nuclear weapons in support of their arrangement in process with Iran. MEMRI has demonstrated over and over the nonexistence of the fatwa. Most recently, MEMRI has put it this way (footnotes omitted):

In President Obama’s announcement of the joint statement following the conclusion of the negotiations in Lausanne, he again mentioned the nonexistent fatwa, stating as fact that Iran’s Supreme Leader has issued a fatwa against the development of nuclear weapons. This assertion by the president is not true. Such a fatwa has never been issued, and to this day no one has been able to show it, as MEMRI has detailed in five reports so far.

Where is the Sturm? Where is the Drang? They having gone missing along with the fatuous fatwa.

In his recent interview with the worshipful New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, Obama said this:

“I have to respect the fears that the Israeli people have, and I understand that Prime Minister Netanyahu is expressing the deep-rooted concerns that a lot of the Israeli population feel about this, but what I can say to them is: Number one, this is our best bet by far to make sure Iran doesn’t get a nuclear weapon, and number two, what we will be doing even as we enter into this deal is sending a very clear message to the Iranians and to the entire region that if anybody messes with Israel, America will be there.”

Elliott Abrams seeks to explicate Obama’s use of the term “messes with” in this passage:

What does “messes with Israel” mean? No one has the slightest idea. The President unfortunately uses this kind of diction too often, dumbing down his rhetoric for some reason and leaving listeners confused. Today, Iran is sending arms and money to Hamas in Gaza, and has done so for years. Is that “messing with Israel?” Iran has tried to blow up several Israeli embassies, repeating the successful attack it made on Israel’s embassy in Buenos Aires in 1992. Fortunately Israel has foiled the more recent plots, but is attempting to bomb Israeli embassies “messing with Israel?” Iranian Revolutionary Guards, along with Hezbollah troops, are in southern Syria now near the Golan. Is that “messing with Israel?” And what does the President mean by “America will be there?’ With arms? With bandages? With the diplomatic protection his administration is now considering removing at the United Nations?

If Iran “messes with Israel” via a nuclear weapon, is Obama promising retaliation by the United States? The context seems to me to suggest something like this, yet it is an absurd form of reassurance. If Iran were to “mess with Israel” via a nuclear weapon, Israel would retaliate on its own behalf, but otherwise wouldn’t be around to enjoy the show. Abrams takes this up in connection with another of Obama’s statements to Friedman, commenting:

What Israel worries about today is a nuclear attack by Iran or a terrorist group like Hezbollah to which Iran has given the bomb. No doubt that qualifies as “messing with Israel,” but were that to occur what exactly would “America will be there” and “stand by them” mean? Take in refugees from the destroyed State of Israel after the nuclear attack on it? The President’s language about “commitments” suggests that he may envision a formal defense commitment by the United States to Israel. Israel has not wanted such a treaty because it has always said it wants to defend itself, not have Americans dying to defend it. That position has served the US-Israel relationship well for 67 years. Should it really be changed now, and would that really help Israel? What would the value of such a commitment be? To ask the question another way, are not Poles and Estonians wondering right now about the value of their membership in NATO, if Mr. Putin “messes” with them?

The conclusion that I draw is not a new one; it is an old one. Obama and his minions repeatedly prove themselves willing to say anything in a bad cause. Beyond that, Obama’s words signify nothing. It is best not to put to much effort into trying to construe their precise meaning other than as instruments to promote the sale. One would think that this development might be newsworthy, but in Obama’s case, the news has become the preserve of an obscure institute specializing in Middle East research, or an out of the way blog maintained by a former Reagan/Bush administration official.

Abrams has more, all of it worth reading, in “‘Messing’ with Israel.”

The Week in Pictures: Hillarypalooza Edition

Has there ever been a more bizarre and more feckless presidential campaign launch than Hillary 2016? The nation might—might—be “Ready for Hillary,” but Hillary doesn’t look ready for us. Democratic elders must be privately in a state of panic: at least when Howard Dean melted down (or Ed Muskie in 1972—recall that he had the nomination locked up too, according to all the experts), there was a bench of other plausible candidates ready to step in the breach. What happens when Hillary botches something completely, or has a health problem?  Meanwhile, if GOP operatives had any sense of humor, they’d resurrect the 1980s A-Team van to chase after Hillary’s “Scoobie” van.

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Gives a whole new meaning to "Ready for Hillary," doesn't it?

Gives a whole new meaning to “Ready for Hillary,” doesn’t it?

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Scooby Van copy Hillary Scoobue Van copy

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Caption Contest!

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And that’s how much latitude Bill will have with interns. . .

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UPDATE: Apparently fake, but you can understand why it catches on.

Hllary Choice copy Hillary Alzheimers copy Hillary Recycles copy Hillary Fiberty copy Hillary Speech copy Hillary Reset copy Hillary-The Sequel copy Hillary You-Me copy Hillary Baggage 2 copy Hillary Blimp copy Hillary Confusion copy Hillary Evidence Marker copy Hillary Wink copy Hillary Nope copy Hillary Dark Matter copy Hillary Exorcist copy Bush Clinton copy Hill Civil War copy Hill Headroom copy Delete Key? copy Unclaimed Baggage copy Elle Cover Hillary copy Chelsea Cover copy

Bill! Dude! Time to quit your gluten-free diet. Go back to McDonalds.

Bill! Dude! Time to quit your gluten-free diet. Go back to McDonalds.

Copter copy Gyrocopter 2 copy Copter 3 copy

Islamic Mona Lisa copyObama JV copy

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And finally. . .

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The Power Line Show, Episode 14: The Presidential Race

Last night, three of the PL crew (John, Paul and Steve) got together for a review of the presidential race as it currently stands. A principal topic was Hillary Clinton’s bizarre rollout, complete with her incognito Chipotle appearance, “common man” meetings with Democratic Party officials, parking the “Scooby” van in a handicapped space, and more. Compared to that, Marco Rubio’s launch was seamless. We talked about a number of the GOP candidates and debated their relative merits and prospects. It’s a fun 30 or 40 minutes that you won’t want to miss.

Simply tap above to play; this works if you are reading on an iPad or mobile device, too.

Our podcast is produced in collaboration with our friends at Ricochet, and you can go here to listen on the Ricochet site.

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Our Supreme Leader to cave creatively to theirs

Omri Ceren has sent out two messages today on developments related to the arrangement in process with Iran. They will come as a surprise to no one. In the first, Omri expanded on the Reuters story reporting “No breakthrough between Iran and UN nuclear watchdog” on the nondisclosure of past nuclear work conducted by Iran’s military. For those keeping score at home, the second of the two messages provides this preview of the fiasco to come complete with a nausea inducing quote from Obama to make a point:

Last week’s speech by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei laid down two new red lines. First, he said that there would be no inspections of atomic work on military sites, let alone the snap inspections that the IAEA has long insisted were necessary. Second, he said that sanctions relief would have to be immediate. Both of these contradicted the framework agreement, as described by the factsheet that the administration presented to lawmakers and the public.

Regarding inspections, the factsheet had stated “Iran will be required to grant access to the IAEA to investigate suspicious sites or allegations of a covert enrichment facility, conversion facility, centrifuge production facility, or yellowcake production facility anywhere in the country.” It has to be that way so inspectors can baseline what the Iranians are doing and make sure they’ve stopped. Regarding phased sanctions relief, the factsheet had stated “U.S. and E.U. nuclear-related sanctions will be suspended after the IAEA has verified that Iran has taken all of its key nuclear-related steps.” It has to be that way to keep the Iranians honest, since they’d have no incentive to uphold the deal if the sanctions regime was torn down all at once.

Khamenei’s speech created a firestorm of criticism. If his interpretation was correct, the US would have no ability, first, to detect, and second, to respond, to Iranian cheating.

The administration responded by telling lawmakers and journalists that the factsheet was accurate and that Khamenei’s speech was just for domestic consumption. Critics responded that the issue wasn’t about who was lying. Instead the concern was that the Americans would fail to stand up to the Iranians, even at the expense of contradicting the White House’s original (maybe originally accurate) factsheet. The Iranians, after all, have 100% record of ‘winning’ factsheet disputes with the Obama administration.

The critics appear to have been justified in their concerns. The administration appears to be conceding to the new demands.

On inspections, [White House national security adviser Ben] Rhodes started floating language last week indicating that the White House was preparing to cave. See my last email for his exact quote from Panama ["there will have to be the ability for the IAEA to conduct inspections that are consistent with what is in framework... if the United States and other countries, again, present information and seek access through the IAEA to those sites"], but it now appears that the administration will accept some kind of mechanism that falls far short of the “anytime, anywhere” inspections that had long been touted. Instead inspectors will have to make a request to Iran, then the Iranians will get to evaluate it, and then they’ll decide whether or not to grant access. If they ever do grant access to any military site – which they’re currently refusing to do, even while under sanctions – enough time will have passed for them to have moved or destroyed any evidence.

On immediate sanctions relief, President Obama was just asked point blank whether he would rule out lifting Iran sanctions at time of nuclear deal. The President pointedly refused, instead talking about “creative negotiations”:

“With respect to the issue of sanctions coming down – I don’t want to get out ahead of John Kerry and my negotiators in terms [of] how to craft this. I would just make a general observation and that is that how sanctions are lessened, how we snap back sanctions if there’s a violation – there are a lot of different mechanisms and ways to do that. Part of John’s job and part of the Iranian negotiators’ job and part of the P5+1′s job is to sometimes find formulas that get to our main concerns while allowing the other side to make a presentation to their body politic that is more acceptable. Our main concern here is making sure that if Iran doesn’t abide by its agreement that we don’t have to jump through a whole bunch of hoops in order to reinstate sanctions. That’s our main concern. And I think that goal, of having, in reserve, the possibility of putting back and applying forceful sanctions, in the event of a violation, that goal can be met. And it will require some creative negotiations by John Kerry and others, and I’m confident that we’ll be successful.”

For the last quote, Omri links to this video (timestamp 6:03).

In Defense of Hillary

Hillary Clinton’s campaign launch has been a disaster in many ways, as we discuss in the podcast that will be posted shortly. But on one point, I agree with her: tipping at Chipotle. Hillary has taken abuse for not leaving anything in the tip jar next to the cash register at the fast food restaurant. Nonsense, I say.

I tip people who serve me–waiters and waitresses, hotel employees who carry my bags, valet parkers who retrieve my car. I don’t tip cashiers in stores, people who work in the kitchen, the mechanics who change the oil in my car, and so on. I assume their salaries are covered by the prices I pay for goods and services. What, it isn’t enough that I pay a couple of bucks for a cup of coffee at Starbucks, I’m supposed to put more in a tip jar? Forget it.

Just this once, Hillary is right. Tipping is a plague. I would like to see less of it (like they have in Japan, for example), not more.

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