Trump, a foreign policy ignoramous, and Cheney, architect of Iraq mess, on Iran nuclear deal
This is the year of bluster and pomposity among some Republicans. First, Donald Trump says that although he doesn’t know the difference between Hamas and Hezbollah, he’ll know all he needs to in 24 hours. Then, of course, he’ll be the greatest foreign policy President we’ve ever seen. Twenty-four hours, that’s all it will take. Today, Dick Cheney said that by agreeing to the Iran deal the U.S. “agreed to guarantee that the means of its own destruction” will have been given to Iran. “Madness,” he called it. He was speaking before the very conservative American Enterprise Institute. Recently, he even had the chutzpah to justify his repeated insistence, both before and after his stint as Veep in the Bush administration, that we had to invade Iraq. Before 9-11, because we needed to step into the power vacuum in the Persian Gulf, and after because Sadaam’s Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. He even stuck by his claim at the time, on Meet The Press, that our forces would “be greeted as liberators.” When asked last week by John Williams, on Fox News no less, why he should be believed now in light of his earlier Iraq statements, he replied: “Because I was right about Iraq.” I guess the prevailing wisdom on the red side of the aisle has reverted to the old adage that no matter what the truth, if you tell it forcefully enough, it will be believed. What is frightening is how many Americans cheer Trump and Cheney when they bluster forth such obvious untruths.
Mr. Trump, you might want to know that Hamas is Sunni and Hezbollah is Shia. You do know, of course, that that difference is the basis of the Mideast’s sectarian conflicts? Hezbollah, by the way, is Lebanese, closely allied to Iran, and have now sent troops into Syria, ostensibly in support of the Alawite rule of Bashir al-Assad. It goes without saying that you, Donald, don’t know that the Alawites are one branch of the “twelver” school of Shia. Get it Donald? Shia Hezbollah and Shia Allawites. Did you know the difference between jihad Sunni’s and the moderate Sunni’s? Or that the Shia dominated government of Iraq, through whom we send our weaponry to fight Isis, is not sharing said weapons to the moderate Sunni tribes in Sunni dominated Anbar Provence, and that is one of the reasons why the largest city in Anbar, Ramadi, fell earlier this year to ISIS. Meanwhile, one of the stronger non-ISIS groups fighting Assad, the al-Nusra Front, is also jihad Sunni. And that my dear Donald, is one of the reasons President Obama didn’t go all out in the fight to overthrow Assad. The best fighters in the civil war against Assad are ISIS in the north and al-Nusra in the south. Both Sunni extremists. That is also one reason why Shia Hezbollah has entered the fight on Assad’s side. A real hornets nest, wouldn’t you say? Now I don’t want to be picking on poor Donald Trump, well, rich Donald Trump. But real estate, or the Miss USA, or firing someone on The Apprentice, isn’t quite the same as international affairs. One of the chief concerns of Americans is terrorism. Can we elect a man who doesn’t even know the names of the main players? Conservative talk-show host Hugh Hewitt, as one of seventy interviews he’s done with Republican contenders, asked Mr. Trump if he knew the names of the leaders of al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, al-Nusra and ISIS, “without a score card, yet?” No, he didn’t know Ayman al-Zawahiri of al-Qaeda, Hassan Nasrallah of Hezbollah, abu Muhammed al-Julani of al Nusra, or even abu Bakr al-Baghdadi of ISIS. Just because someone from Iran, say, knows that Obama is president doesn’t make him expert enough on the U.S. to set foreign policy or negotiate an arms deal, but not even knowing that much surely wouldn’t give anyone confidence in just about anything he said pertaining to the subject. All this is to be expected from Donald. After all, in that same interview with Hewitt, when asked about General Qasem Soleimani, the head of Iran’s elite Quds Force, Trump answered by saying that we hadn’t done enough to help the Kurds. No, Hewitt reminded him, al-Quds were “the bad guys.” He added,”Soleimani is to terrorism sort of what Trump is to real estate.” Donald replied with what has become an even more frightening trait than his ignorance about the Mideast. As BBC reported, “After the interview Mr Trump went on the attack – as he often does with those he feels have slighted him. Trump called Hewitt a “third-rate announcer” who tried to catch him with “gotcha questions”. He reportedly threatened to never do any more interviews with Hewitt.” Sound familiar? And this is the man many would let have his finger on the “red button” to start a nuclear attack?
Cheney is no ignoramus like Trump when it comes to foreign policy. He is, however, similar in his refusal to admit ever being wrong. And he does have some of Donald’s quick-to-anger and vindictive temperament. Perhaps, equally harmful, he is an ideologue, and that doesn’t allow much room for feedback when it deviates from the ideology’s party line. The answer to everything is power, of the forceful military kind. Though bright and educated, he simply won’t revisit his errors in judgment from Vietnam right up to today’s hyperbole about the Iran deal. Thus, Cheney simply ignores the fact that the deal reduces by two-thirds the number of centrifuges Iran has, which were estimated at less than a dozen when Bush-Cheney refused to even consider a 2003 offer to negotiate the issue of nuclear weapons, to an estimated 19,000 today. Cheney then urged Bush to instead apply more economic pressure on Iran. This is still the mantra of the Iran deal rejectionists today. The deal also reduces by 98 percent Iran’s stock of low enriched uranium. This all translates into extending the amount of time it would take for an unfettered Iran to develop a weapons grade nuclear device from two months to one year. No insignificant fact. And Iran wouldn’t be unfettered. There is a healthy, if not total, inspection plan. Even most rejectionists admit that it is highly unlikely that Iran could obtain one for the next fifteen years. If our intelligence and the inspections team felt that Iran was moving back toward a path to develop nuclear weapons as we neared that fifteen year mark, there is nothing to prevent us from any kind of action to prevent that possibility. Nor Israel either, which is why two former heads of Mossad, Israel’s intelligence agency, support the plan. All of this is apart from the possibility of reinforcing those in Iran, perhaps even including President Hassan Rouhani, who has already moved to improve relations with a number of countries that support liberalization. In any event, we know of many in Tehran who are quite fed up with Shia Islamic orthodox rule over their lives. Any improvement on that front would be a huge added benefit. And though it is not the basis for supporting the agreement, it is a possibility. The argument that Obama or Kerry didn’t negotiate hard enough forget that first, this agreement is the culmination of nine years of negotiating, and second it is opposed by hard-liners in Iran as well as here, third that it is supported by virtually all of our European allies, including conservative-led Germany and the other three NATO powers that were part of the negotiations as well as China and Russia. The alternative? More sanctions and tougher terms. We saw how well that worked for Cheney in 2003.