Focal Points Blog

The Iran Policy Oversight Act of 2015

U.S. sale of bunker-busters to Israel would make the U.S. even more complicit with Israel in its concept of regional security.(Photo: Wikipedia)

U.S. sale of bunker-busters to Israel would make the U.S. even more complicit with Israel in its concept of regional security.(Photo: Wikipedia)

The Iran deal: what the Obama Administration giveth, Congress (tries to) taketh away?

In the aftermath of Congress’s failure to sabotage the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – the agreement negotiated between six countries, the EU and Iran to limit the Iranian nuclear energy program in return for lifting sanctions – the Obama Administration, along with its partners in the agreement, have pushed ahead to implement it. But is this a case of “What the Obama Administration giveth, the Congress taketh away?” At the behest of neoconservatives, AIPAC, Christians United For Israel, some in Congress, however, including some original Democratic supporters of JCPOA, are actively working to undermine the very same agreement.
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Recent International Cooperation Bodes Well for UN

 The world sorely needs a more influential and effective UN General Assembly. (Photo: David Ohmer / Flickr Commons)


The world sorely needs a more influential and effective UN General Assembly. (Photo: David Ohmer / Flickr Commons)

At the latest UN General Assembly, we saw some of  ‘the good, the bad and the ugly’ in the present unsteady state of international relations.

We may have moved a bit past the time when our foreign policy largely ignored the UN except when coopting it to serve as a cover for a US-led military adventure. The recent multi-nation agreement with Iran, along with the calamitous consequences of US military intervention in the Middle East, challenge frozen notions that have dominated US foreign policy. That at least should open the door to new approaches based on more realistic assessments.
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Nuclear Weapons: Not Just a Means to an End, But an End Itself

Nuclear weapons became a pretext for secrecy and the executive authority of the president. (Photo: Steve Jurveston / Wikimedia Commons)

Nuclear weapons became a pretext for secrecy and the executive authority of the president. (Photo: Steve Jurveston / Wikimedia Commons)

Much like 9/11 decades later, the development of nuclear weapons served as a pretext for secrecy in government. In his 2010 book Bomb Power: The Modern Presidency and the National Security State (Penguin Books), Gary Wills, according to the back cover, “argues that the secrecy surrounding the Manhattan Project became a model for the covert operations and overt authority that have defined American government in the nuclear era, culminating with the usurpations of George W. Bush.” In fact, the development of nuclear weapons by the United States covered a multitude of sins. Wills writes:

Foreign governments that granted us territory and protection were to be supported, even if they were not very good at recognizing the rights of their citizens. Thus began a long history of friendly relations with dictators. Obtaining and securely maintaining our bases was considered more important than the moral legitimacy of the regimes granting us such access.

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Pope Francis’s Rhetoric Almost Too Good to Be True

Between his speech to the UN and Laudato Si’, his papal encyclical on the environment, Pope Francis has pointed a way forward for mankind. (Photo: Alfredo Borba / Wikimedia Commons)

Between his speech to the UN and Laudato Si’, his papal encyclical on the environment, Pope Francis has pointed a way forward for mankind. (Photo: Alfredo Borba / Wikimedia Commons)

Pope Francis will never be all things to all people — such as half of them: women.   For example, while in the United States, he supported the right of Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk to refused to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples (albeit under the guise of conscientious objection). Nevertheless, his election as pope had to constitute one the most extreme institutional about-faces in recent history. It surpasses Barack Obama succeeding George W. Bush as president and even Bill de Blasio succeeding Mike Bloomberg and Rudolph Giuliani. The speech that Pope Francis delivered to the United Nations on Sept. 25 struck all the right chords for forward-thinking individuals everywhere.
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Romania’s Missed Opportunity

Romania, says economist Dragos Negrescu (pictured), has finally become a  fiscally normal country. (Photo: John Feffer)

Romania, says economist Dragos Negrescu (pictured), has finally become a fiscally normal country. (Photo: John Feffer)

Cross-posted from JohnFeffer.com.

Bucharest was once known as the Paris of the East. In the 1930s, it was a vibrant city of cafes, artists, and poets. The playwright Eugene Ionescu, the historian of religion Mircea Eliade, and the essayist Emil Cioran all became friends at this time at the University of Bucharest. Romania was also enjoying a brief economic boom, and many of Bucharest’s most beautiful houses were built during this period leading up to World War II.

Some of those houses are still standing, including the family home of economist Dragos Negrescu. That’s where I met him in 1990 when we talked about the future prospects of Romania.
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Germany Shames U.S. With Its Policies Toward Refugees, China, and Russia

Germany plans to admit as many as 800,000 refugees by the end of 2015. (Vito Manzari / Flickr Commons)

Germany plans to admit as many as 800,000 refugees by the end of 2015. (Vito Manzari / Flickr Commons)

Maher Zain, a 1981-born singer who was just eight when his Lebanese family was admitted by Sweden, is the latest showcase that Muslim immigrants can make contributions to world peace rather than causing troubles to their receiving countries. With millions of fans in Europe, England, Malaysia, Indonesia, Palestine, Pakistan and China, Zain’s anti-war songs [Note 1] are no less heart-touching than Pakistan-born Canadian singer Irfan Makki’s “You and I”. Yet, Germany is the only state in the West camp welcoming Muslim refugees when all its peers hesitate. Berlin’s once again deviation means something important to International Relations.
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On Eve of UN Climate Change Conference, Promising News About Global Warming

The decline of the coal industry is one example of good news about global warming. (Photo: CSIRO / Wikimedia Commons)

The decline of the coal industry is one example of good news about global warming. (Photo: CSIRO / Wikimedia Commons)

Yesterday we wrote about the extent to which conservatives in the United States are opposing not only action on, but acknowledgment of, global warming. That’s the bad news. But, on the eve of the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference beginning Nov. 30, there is, writes Jonathan Chait in New York magazine, a surprising amount of good news. Global warming has been perceived as a “drama” that “has taken on an air of inevitability, of a tragedy at the outset of its final scene — the tension so unbearable, and the weight of looming catastrophe so soul-crushing, that some people seek the release of final defeat rather than endless struggle in the face of hopeless odds.”
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When It Comes to Global Warming, Godwin’s Law May Actually Apply

Global warming can lead to wars for resources similar to the one that Hitler waged on Russia. Pictured: Water distribution in Darfur. (Photo: UNAMID / Flickr Commons)

Global warming can lead to wars for resources similar to the one that Hitler waged on Russia. Pictured: Water distribution in Darfur. (Photo: UNAMID / Flickr Commons)

As global warming worsens, the world may see states or other groups warring over diminishing resources, especially food and water. But first allow us to interject the definition of Godwin’s Law, of which you may have heard. It holds: “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1.” What does global warming have to do with Hitler?
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The Nuclear Mushroom Cloud Foretold

The Pleiades, written about by Walt Whitman in his poem “On the Beach at Night.” (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

The Pleiades, written about by Walt Whitman in his poem “On the Beach at Night.” (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

The 2000 remake of the film On the Beach, based on the 1957 novel by Nevil Shute, ends with a quote from an 1871 poem by Walt Whitman titled On the Beach at Night. I haven’t seen either film or read the book about an impending nuclear holocaust. But I would venture a guess that the  intent in using the quote was to compare “the ravening clouds, the burial clouds, in black masses spreading” to a nuclear mushroom cloud.
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While Making Peace With It, U.S. Enables Israel to Attack Iran

Some Americans opposed to the Iran nuclear deal calls for the United States to sell the 30,000-pound Massive Ordnance Penetrator to Israel. (Photo: Wikipedia)

Some Americans opposed to the Iran nuclear deal calls for the United States to sell the 30,000-pound Massive Ordnance Penetrator to Israel. (Photo: Wikipedia)

Last Tuesday at FPIF Rob Prince wrote that congressional hawks — Democrats, as well as Republicans — were seeking to neuter the Iran nuclear deal by creating legislation allowing the United States to sell Israel weapons for attacking Iran. At one point, he quoted Asia Times’s M K Bhadrakumar from his blog.

Tehran has every reason to be concerned that in its efforts to placate the Israelis who are hopping mad at the Iran nuclear deal, the Obama administration may begin supplying Israel with the means to attack Iran on its own, without US direct involvement. The prevailing assessment of experts is that while Israel may succeed in penetrating the Iranian air defence system (at a high cost, of course), it needs very large bombs or so-called Massive Ordnance Penetrators (MOPs) and very large aircraft to carry them to destroy the Iranian nuclear sites some of which are buried deeply underground.

Pressure is indeed building up in Washington on the US supplying the MOPs and the legendary B52 bombers to Israel. In a joint article in WaPo recently, two hugely influential pro-Israeli voices in the US Dennis Ross (formerly special assistant to Obama for the Middle East) and David Petraeus (formerly director of the CIA) made precisely such a recommendation.

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