Tag Archives: Iran

201. Current Issues, Briefly #7

20 Jan

This is the 7th of a series of blogs with brief discussions of current issues. The material is based on my Tweets (@RichardLeeWB), unpublished thoughts, and descriptions of various publications that I feel are valuable and worth emphasizing.

I just listened to Alan Dershowitz, stating that “abuse of power” is not a high crime. His extensive research trying to understand the thoughts of early leaders is really pointless, and not a justification for this confusion of issues. His problem is that he does not recognize different levels of abuse. Trump’s abuse was very serious, involving elections, delayed military support, and making Ukraine more vulnerable to Russia. Ukraine is like a buffer zone for us, limiting Russian expansion. It is frightening to think that Trump aids in Russian efforts to dominate.

.   Dershowitz Fails to Recognize Different Levels of Abuse-of-power

Famous attorney Alan Dershowitz says that Trump is King, in fact, even more powerful. Well, if Trump is King, then Dershowitz is the court jester. Trumpism is like a disease that infects everyone near him. Star Ken Starr is also participating.

The NY Times just endorsed Amy Klobuchar and Elizabeth Warren. For many years I favored Warren, but recently her arguments with Bernie were a little discouraging. For the last year or so, I have been impressed by Klobuchar, who has high intelligence and good judgement.  I also think that Tom Steyer could make a good candidate and president, if elected. Note, any of the Democratic candidates would be a great improvement.  In the end, whoever gets the most public support is probably going to be our best choice for beating Trump. Another four years of him would be a catastrophe for all Americans.

Rachel Kleinfeld in a 2019 TED talk looks at the relation between politicians, gangs, and police; in an effort to understand high murder rates in certain surprising locals. She writes that several major US cities have very high murder rates. For example, in “New Orleans, more people per capita are dying than in war-torn Somalia.” Throughout the world, there are many small areas that have very high murder rates, surpassing those in wars. The ultimate cause for this, is various patterns of corruption. This TED talk is well constructed and fascinating, and the analysis is impressive.

It seems that every human system in existence for some years becomes corrupted. I just read that drug companies are manipulating patents to limit competition and raise prices.  See this December 2019 TED talk by Priti Krishtel.

Don’t be fooled by the RISING stock market. The market rises when investors believe that major corporations will be profitable. Increased corporate profits generally have little or no effect on middle-class wages. Most important: does a full-time salary cover reasonable expenses?  Also, under President Obama, the market was rising at a steady rate and when Trump took office the market simply continued this rise. Obama had major financial problems when he took office, while Trump had the benefit of Obama’s policies.

Imagine a president that encourages and supports scientific methods for improving our lives; rather than growing military, insulting our allies, withdrawing from worthy treaties, and using government for private enrichment. We need a President that works well with scientists and innovators.

Trump is desperate to win in 2020 because when he leaves office, he is very vulnerable. Briefly, the problem is that investigations of criminality will be easier and likely, tax returns will be revealed. Desperation led to the Ukraine extortion, aberrant  military actions, and other mistakes.

A sure sign of a dictator is that he uses government systems to attack his political opponents. Trump and Republicans have had numerous investigations of Hillary Clinton. The latest three-year investigation found nothing. Six Republican Benghazi investigations found nothing. These unethical investigations are not consistent with our traditional American values.

Major World problems are: climate-change and food-supply. Both can be solved with improved laws and methods for ocean fishing and policies. See TED Talks by Johnson & Davis: “Underwater farms vs climate change“.  And, see Savitz: “Save the oceans, feed the world.” National leaders must understand and use science to solve many of our problems, like depletion of fish and acidification of oceans. The same methods for increasing ocean food-supply, also help with global warming.

To Adam Schiff: Dedicated people like you should be proud to receive Trump insults. I would like to see a website that provides a medal for the most vicious Trump abuse. Adam, you are so effective and patriotic that he must attack. Keep up the great work.

Candidate Tom Steyer is becoming a top contender for US President. It is true that he has 1.6 billion and is spending much on his campaign. But that isn’t a negative because he has spent the last 9yrs on worthy causes, like climate-change and health care. Tom Steyer is a good choice.

How many Republican voting citizens have essentially said that domestic factors are great under Trump and the international policies don’t matter much. Well, Trumps disastrous dealing with Iran, which started with withdrawal from the Iran Nuclear Deal, brings us close to a major war.

If you like people that really tell it like it is, then Steve Schmidt is your man. Earlier, he was a major Republican strategist. Starting June 2018, he has forcefully denounced the Republican party and Trump, in graphic terms. I also like the honesty in Morning Joe, and others.

Considering all aspects of the Iranian military leader assassination, it seems the dangers somewhat exceed the benefits. First, killing one official does not change government goals or policies. Second, Trump acted alone, ignoring Congress and allies. Third, major retaliation is likely. 
The Iran Nuclear Deal according to those involved, was working properly. But Trump, who is obsessed with winning and proving his superiority, decided to abandon it and impose more powerful sanctions. As a result, military actions are increasing and we are closer to war. Trump should have worked with allies on improving the treaty, rather than abandoning it. One reason for this serious mistake is that Trump’s unethical history requires him to find loyalists rather than competence.  Note that money given to Iran was mostly frozen assets that belonged to them. Some money was interest on a debt.

 

 

 

200. Iran and Trump: Explained

9 Jan

00TrumpTweet-on-Iran5

There are many interpretations regarding our crisis with Iran. This essay outlines the facts and my interpretations.

The original “Iran Nuclear Deal” of 2015 involved the US, UK, Russia, France, China, Germany, and the E. Union. Its only purpose was to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear arsenal, a very important goal. Neutral observers all agreed that it was effective. Money given to Iran was simply the release of their frozen funds.

Trump withdrew the US from this deal, alleging that it was very defective. He complained that the deal was generally bad, and did not cover many non-nuclear factors. My view is that Trumps main goal was to negate an Obama accomplishment. Clearly, if Trump wanted to cover other areas, he could have tried to add something to this effective deal. Sad to say, but Trump mostly relies on dramatic threats and sanctions, while reasonable negotiations are rare.

.    .       Trump Rivalry with Obama Makes for Bad Policies.

Trumps plan was to develop a whole new deal that included everything negative that Iran was involved in, and to increase sanctions. The effect of his withdrawal and increased sanctions was to insult the other members of the deal and to cause distrust by Iran and many other nations. This withdrawal and his withdrawal from climate-change agreements has caused general distrust in the US. I want to add that “sanctions” most often are not effective with leaders, but do cause serious harm to the people. Trumps withdrawal and plans have actually caused Iran to break the original deal in several ways and to be more dangerous.

The Trump impeachment and his concern over the 2020 election caused him to do something radical and possibly illegal. He needed a distraction, and a boost from his base, so he decided to assassinate a number-two official of Iran, Major General Soleimani. He probably was advised not to do this, but he wanted something dramatic. Also consider that removing one official will immediately result in a replacement, who will usually do whatever was planned. Killing an official of a nation is much different from killing a leader of a terrorist group, and may violate international law.

Perhaps the effect was more dramatic than he expected. He did what many consider to be an act of war, without any Congressional (for example: gang of 8) discussion or approval. This act of Trump was considered by most to be extreme and ill-advised. Trump and his staff were evasive when asked for details of this decision. They also lied when describing its effects on various populations. Iraqis were also angry, perhaps because some of their people were killed in the raid.

Iran promised serious consequences for this killing of its top general, and Trump promised 52 ways Iran would regret its aggression. So far, both sides have limited their military actions.

Iran attacked two US military units, but cleverly in a safe way, causing no casualties and little damage. This was to satisfy his people and to cool down the conflict. All parties described what happened in a self-serving way.

My conclusion is that Trump decisions have caused considerable distrust in him and in the USA. Internationally, he has failed in his dealing with Iran, climate change, N. Korea, and his relationships with our traditional allies; while aiding Russia. His plans to withdraw troops and promote peace have not worked.

 

 

177. Foreign Policy Failures by USA Government

22 Jun
Here is my latest tweet (@RichardLeeWB) regarding the Iranian attack on US drone  (with some clarifications):
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According to most sources, Iran did order the drone attack. That this was an accident, unintended, is not likely. As a response, approved by his staff, Trump ordered an attack on missile-launch sites in Iran. He then changed his mind, based on an estimate of casualties. Note that a real military planner would have had that info, early in the discussions. One source said he actually was informed on calualties early in the discussion.
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I suspect that Trump’s raid approval and cancelling was a preplanned strategy.  He wanted to make a point without risking further conflict escalation. He intended to show what could be done (air attack on Iran) and then cancelling to show great humanity — a “saber-rattling” as the answer to downed drone. This could be the only good thing he did regarding Iran.  On the other hand, if this was not a pre-planned strategy, then it is a miserable display incompetence. 
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The first and most serious mistake was Trump’s withdrawal from The Iran Nuclear DealAccording to every expert in this situation, Iran was conforming to rules that would prevent them from developing nuclear weapon’s.  All of the several countries involved in this deal still support this effective deal, but with Trump’s withdrawal, Iran is threatening to resume construction of nuclear weapons. The deal was limited to nuclear development and nothing else, because after many years of negotiation with several major powers, this was all that could be achieved. It is true that Iran causes trouble elsewhere, but what would have been better, would have been to add additional  agreements, without cancelling the valuable nuclear part. 
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Now, the disaster of Trump is becoming more apparent. He has put the USA in an untenable position where he cannot start a war, cannot respond to Iranian attacks, and cannot control Iran nuclear development. He also has lost the trust of other nations involved in the deal.
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Trump has performed poorly in other areas of foreign policy. His trade policies have alienated some good allies, have caused losses of jobs, have increased costs for our  manufacturers, and have cause increased prices for our citizens. He has been “in love” with the North Korean president, Kim, who has achieved his goals of nuclear weapon development while Trump got nothing in return. Another mistake was not recognizing that short range missile development would be threatening to South Korea and Japan. Kim manipulated Nobel-Prize dreamer Trump with flattery.
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He got into a destructive trade war with China, that holds much USA debt. Because of trade agreement changes, China has gained in international leadership, while the USA is diminished. Perhaps even worse, Trump’s numerous mind changes and lies have lost the trust of many nations.

93. Trump Chaos Easing Off (2 days later, maybe not)

14 Feb

Up until yesterday, the new administration was very disconcerting and disappointing — but this was not unexpected. Cabinet appointments were inappropriate, a directive was declared unconstitutional, there were violations of divesting rules, illegal foreign contacts, angry international phone calls, etc., and a lot of fast-talking and naive ideas. Since I mentioned fast-talking, I have to note that the really fast talkers are Kellyanne Conway and Shephen Miller, both rumored to be state-of-the-art robots programmed for double talk and downloaded each morning with alt-facts to confuse “tweet” critics.

But today, February 14, 2017, I see some improvements. “In-like-flynn” security advisor Michael Flynn is out — very significant. Trump has accepted the “One-China” concept, which is so important for this vital relationship. He is rewriting his Travel Ban directive so that it is more workable and less damaging to some of our foreign friends, and of course, he has accepted (and better understands) the judicial actions. It appears that he is accepting for now, the Iran-Nuclear-Deal, the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, and some other commitments and policies of the Pres. Obama Administration.

The ObamaCare (ACA) law is under scrutiny, but ironically may survive because any substantially different replacement plan developed by Republicans would be worse for them. Ironic, because of their numerous attempts to abolish it. Keeping the important rules like “pre-existing conditions” need to be paid for by the “mandate” (everyone must have insurance or pay a fine) or will break the budget. The best choice is to have Medicare for everyone but the GOP cannot disappoint the billionaires that run our health insurance companies and provide for their extravagant life-styles. To take insurance away from 20 million people and to take away the other popular features (like no life-time or annual limits) is too disastrous for now and future elections. ObamaCare is supported by a majority of our citizens, who would like it kept and improved. It appears that the new government is recognizing this.

We are indeed lucky to have a few sensible additions to the cabinet such as Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. I admit to being skeptical about Tillerson, but when I heard his speech to the State Department I was impressed by his intelligence and social skills. His rise to leadership of Exxon required great skills. He has the capability and knowledge to be a real asset. I am rooting for the two of them and a few others, to help Trump with major decisions. I also think some members of his “greater” family can encourage reasonable and maybe even progressive ideas. He has stated that Ivanka is a good influence.

The American “ship of state” is heavy and an almost irresistible object. Altering its main course is extremely difficult. It can force any irresponsible or reckless leadership into a more traditional and safer track. Donald Trump now has more appreciation for the complexities and difficulties in making presidential decisions.

91. Defining Our New President

7 Feb

Our new leader is a very colorful character. It occurred to me that an interesting undertaking would be to make a list of all the words that best describe him. Everything in the list below can be supported by recorded speeches and published reliable sources. Here is my list:

Bold, confident, expert promoter, regal, brave, administrator, businessman, articulate, well-dressed, blonde, handsome, arrogant, childish, vengeful, libidinous, unprepared (for presidency), sleep-deprived, mild Alzheimer’s, narcissistic, simplistic, tyrannical, impulsive, tweet-happy, ostentatious, unrepentant, greedy, unapologetic, scoff-law, prevaricator, devious, authoritarian, playboy, Russian-Supporter, militaristic, impatient, short span of attention, in some ways poorly educated

The core feature of his character is his self-interest: winning, and receiving flattery and adoration. This need for adoration colors everything he does. Most of his speeches, and many conversations begin with his bragging about successes. Sources close to him say that he reads a lot about himself and very little about everything else. His warm relationship with Putin may be the result of flattery. Putin has a long history of manipulation. Some responsible parties speculate that the warm Russian relationship may result from black-mail.

A major discussion about our new leader is whether his false statements are contrived or simply mistakes. My guess is both. An example of contrived is when he characterized the Iran Nuclear Deal as worthless — obviously untrue. Using the same example, he said that we could have used the money given to Iran for infrastructure work in the USA. This was false, but maybe he did not know that the money given to Iran was confiscated Iranian money, and could not have been used by us. He also did not seem to know that six major countries were a part of this deal and we did not have exclusive control over it.

Our new President came into office after a life of extreme luxury, likely surrounded by subservient yes-men. His false statements, I suspect, were rarely challenged. That would explain much of what he said in his later political career.

A major flaw in his thinking is that the president makes simple solutions to simple problems. It appears that he had no idea how complicated presidential decisions really are. Many of our international relations and domestic policies are very fine tuned and are the result of considering dozens of pros and cons. And some decisions are so complicated and dangerous that they must be postponed indefinitely. It is easy to criticize our recent and long-standing policies, but when you ask the critics for better solutions, they usually stutter or pivot to other questions. For many years Republicans have criticized ObamaCare (ACA). But now that they are in full control, they cannot come up with a good replacement.

Many intelligent leaders (in both parties) warned against possible dangers of his presidency. To name a few of his actual disasters: undermining our judiciary and press, alienating many of our major allies, and creating more terrorists through his hostile foreign policies. He does not seem to understand that simplistic impulsive acts can have long-term negative effects. During his candidacy he committed to foolish and impossible promises, and now we must suffer with his irrational efforts to follow through on them.

85. We Need Change ?

17 Jan

Trump is the man who will make “change” and deliver us from big, bad government. He is not a politician, he needs no donors, ignore what he says because there is goodness in his heart, he is smarter than the generals (and just about everyone else), all past negotiations are pathetic, and he will rid us of ISIS in a month. He is never wrong and will make you suffer for any criticism. He almost never addresses the criticism itself, but instead attacks the person who made it (even the Pope).

He paints a picture of a failing nation with incompetent leaders and government workers, rampant crime, poor negotiation, widespread poverty, etc. — “things could not be worse.” Black people have not made any progress — an insult to the millions that are doing well and have even achieved the presidency. His motto is “make American great again” without any explanation of when, how, and the meaning of “great.”

.                 False, rigid beliefs interfere with common sense

The Trump movement shows how many people are prisoners of their false and rigid beliefs, and cannot see the obvious and exercise common sense. Sad to say, there are many who voted for Trump just as a protest or just to do something based on frustration. Those persons may be responsible for a new direction leading to our country’s decline. Impulsive superficial voting may be the end of our world leadership and all of the good things developed to date. Trump will make change, but change for the better is unlikely. Here are some possible changes that have been mentioned at least once (but may have been retracted and/or restored at some time):

1. Changed healthcare legislation will cause millions to lose their insurance and many will die.

2. NATO is obsolete. Our long-standing, beneficial, and powerful pact with many nations is under threat.

3. Instead of sanctioning Russia, we will support their authoritarianism, attacks on the press, and take- over of countries like Ukraine. We will ignore their meddling in our elections and their efforts to undermine many nations.

4. We will pull out of the multi-nation “Iran Nuclear Deal”, allowing Iran to go back to making the bombs and delivery systems — prevented by the Deal. We will also pull out of climate-change treaties, which could prevent massive flooding (Florida, NY, etc) and catastrophic human migrations due to massive droughts.

5. Taxes for the very wealthy will be lowered by decreasing the tax rate and by allowing more loopholes. The rich will celebrate while the rest of us will either pay more tax or have reduced benefits — and/or our national debt will surge.

6. We will change trade policies and tariffs so that trade-wars will arise and prices for goods, everywhere, will increase. The chaos will affect our valuable relationships with long-standing allies.

7. Pres. Obama has at times been criticized for inaction, but Trump may impulsively engage us in wars, costing lives and greater national debt.

8. He may generate more terrorists by his abuse of Muslims, various other insults, and dangerous policies.

9. Our valuable press, which is required to keep our democracy honest, may be thrown out of the White House and attacked so viciously that it is ineffective. If Trump’s ideas are so laudable and clearly beneficial, why all the press criticism?

10. Is anyone suspicious of the fact that Trump’s cabinet is filled with extremely rich people and/or persons with questionable histories.

11. Trump would restore vicious torture and wants to keep Guantanamo prison. He also admires the strength of tyrants around the world. Are we setting a good example (under Trump) for the rest of the world? Traditionally the USA has been known for its might, and also its moral authority. Is Trump leading us in the right direction?

After Trump is in office for a while, the appreciation for the positive change that Pres. Obama caused will grow even more.  And the candidate, Hilary Clinton, that Obama so enthusiastically endorsed and was attacked so unmercifully by the GOP will be much more appreciated.  Ironically, she won the national vote count by almost three million.

Just added: I have been working on this blog for several days and at times almost scrapped it, because it may have been too negative. But after hearing Trump’s unnecessary and incorrect abuse of the civil-rights hero and self-sacrificing activist, Congressman John Lewis … well, here it is.