Know Comment: The cash behind the Iran deal

By
June 30, 2016 21:26

Strategic drivel as a cover for business greed and oversize ego.




Tehran iran

A general view of the Damavand summit northeast of Tehran, Iran. (photo credit:REUTERS)

As the July 14 first anniversary of the JCPOA nears, you can be sure that the Obama administration and its think tank and business allies will treat us to a slew of congratulatory stories about the nuclear agreement with Iran, with an eye to making it irreversible as Barack Obama leaves office.

It is, of course, absurd to celebrate an accord that has strengthened the ayatollahs in their quest for regional hegemony. It’s utterly nonsensical – until you begin to understand how much big money is behind the deal.

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Boeing, for example, just announced the sale of passenger and cargo planes worth up to $25 billion to Iran Air, Tehran’s state-owned airline. This will be by far the most lucrative business transaction between the US and Iran since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Only five years ago, the Obama administration imposed sanctions on the Iranian airline for transporting Revolutionary Guard Corps rockets and missiles to Hezbollah in Syria and for other terrorist activities, and there is every reason to believe that such activity continues. So why would the administration be so quick to back this contract? Well, perhaps it is because one of the Obama administration’s top shills for the nuclear sellout deal with Iran has been a lobbyist for Boeing all along – as revealed last week by The Daily Beast.

I’m referring to Thomas R. Pickering, a former under secretary of state for political affairs, considered by many the ultimate American career diplomat. He was ambassador to Russia, the UN and Israel. The Obama administration relied on him to lead (and squelch) important investigations, such as the probe into the Benghazi fiasco where the American ambassador to Libya was killed.

About the same time (late 2012), Pickering popped up at the head of a panel of former senior US officials and experts called “The Iran Project,” urging President Obama to drop sanctions and covert action against Iran, and instead negotiate more intensively with Tehran.

Pickering pontificated to the effect that sanctions were only “contributing to an increase in repression and corruption within Iran,” and were “sowing the seeds of long-term alienation between the Iranian people and the US.”

Pickering then showed up in Israel to test out his soft views of Iran (“a significant regional and global actor that must be engaged”). He asked to meet with associates of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, and gave a public lecture at the center.

Pickering got a cold shower from his Israeli interlocutors.

Nobody wanted to believe that he represented a serious trend in American thinking.

But I immediately wrote a column in these pages warning that Pickering was paving the way in Washington for a climb-down from Obama’s declared policy of preventing Iran’s obtainment of a nuclear weapon.

Soon afterward the softer signals and acquiescent music increasingly became hard to miss. Pickering’s call for American capitulation to Iran began to echo across the Washington wag world.

The Center for a New American Security released an early 2013 report primarily authored by Colin Kahl, a former Obama administration defense official. It outlined “a comprehensive framework to manage and mitigate the consequences of a nuclear-armed Iran.”

In other words, stopping the Iranian nuclear effort already was a passé discussion.

The Atlantic Council then called for “reinvigorated diplomacy that offers Iran a realistic and face-saving way out of the nuclear standoff.” The Defense Department-allied Rand Corporation concluded that a nuclear-armed Iran would not pose a fundamental threat to the United States and its regional allies. “Iran does not have territorial ambitions and does not seek to invade, conquer, or occupy other nations,” Rand risibly wrote.

Then Ken Waltz of Columbia University, a leading realist theorist, argued (in his last published article) that Iran should get the bomb! It would create “a more durable balance of military power in the Middle East,” he wrote in the establishment journal Foreign Affairs.

The writing was on the wall. Washington’s retreat from confrontation with Iran was there for those willing to see, long before Obama owned up to it.

Where did this big burst of pro-Iran engagement poppycock come from? Well, we now know. From the Boeing Corporation, which had Pickering on its payroll (first as staff then as a consultant) from 2001 to 2015. And from the Ploughshares Fund and other fronts that funneled cash to think tanks, journalists and lobby groups (including J Street) that pumped Obama’s realignment with Iran.

Ploughshares alone gifted more than 85 organizations and 200 individuals for “creating the conditions necessary for supporters of the Iran agreement to beat the political odds.”

Now, in summer 2016, the Obama administration has come full circle, and become the broker for big business with Iran. Secretary of State John Kerry says that America’s “credibility as a leader of diplomacy” is dependent on giving Iran the economic benefits it expects for signing the JCPOA.

Kerry trots the globe and runs from one congressional committee to another seeking to overcome lagging investor interest in Iran. The administration also is considering dollarizing Iranian transactions (something it expressly promised not to do), and it pushed the Financial Action Task Force (a global agency charged with monitoring money laundering) to suspend several banking restrictions on Iran. All in the name of American “credibility” – since obviously Obama led the Iranians to expect major economic windfalls.

Listen to Kerry’s cockamamie defense of the Boeing deal at the Aspen Ideas Festival this week: “It’s complex, folks. We were not good for a long period of time looking at other countries through their lens, not through ours. And if what we do is interpret problems in other countries, as Americans, in our lens, and through our felt of need, we are neglecting the felt need of all the other people who will also make up policy decisions that have an impact on us...

“The distinction between the planes and the other things is, I think, trying to draw a line that threads a needle. It’s a very difficult needle to thread, but very important in order to have a transformation in Iran that doesn’t send you down the road to a needless confrontation or to misunderstanding, or to lost opportunity.”

Capeesh? Kerry seeks “transformation” in Iran. He is worried about the “felt need” of Iran; about avoiding “needless confrontation” with Iran; and about “lost (business) opportunity” with Iran.

Similar to Pickering’s pap, Kerry is offering strategic drivel as a cover for business greed and oversize ego.

Hey folks, blather on and keep things lucrative.

www.davidmweinberg.com


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