Blogs: Paul Pillar

Hezbollah and the Simplistic School of Counterterrorism

The Persistence of Falsehoods About the Iran Nuclear Agreement

Paul Pillar

When Tillerson says “while this agreement was being developed, it was kind of like we put blinders on and just ignored all those other things,” this not only misrepresents what was in the field of vision and consciousness of the policy-makers and diplomats who negotiated the JCPOA.  The comment also ignores how the very people who are leading the renewed charge against the JCPOA were, pre-JCPOA, singling out the Iranian nuclear program as the pre-eminent security issue towering above everything else.  It wasn’t Barack Obama who had elevated that specific issue.  Mitt Romney, running for president against Obama in 2012, said an Iranian nuclear weapon was the greatest security threat the United States faced anywhere in the world.  The nuclear issue was the issue about which Bibi Netanyahu put on the first-ever cartoon show at the United Nations General Assembly.  Then, when negotiations successfully resolved that issue, those whose true agenda was centered on other objectives, such as isolating Iran in perpetuity or bashing Obama, began talking about blinders and allegedly ignoring other things.
As for good neighborliness and observing the spirit of the JCPOA, there was not a hint of anything in Tillerson’s remarks, just as there usually isn’t in any of the comments of opponents of the agreement, about any obligations along those lines on the part of the United States.  But one can get an idea of the symmetry involved by noting how the Iranian parliament, in response to action by the U.S. Congress on a “Countering Iran’s Destabilizing Activities Act” (which included the sanctions later folded into another bill and leading to Iran’s formal complaint), initiated action on its own “Bill Against U.S. Adventurist and Terrorist Activities in the Region”.  Although “destabilizing” would have been a more appropriate term than “terrorist” in this bill too, the Iranians have plenty to point to, such as the U.S. support for the highly destructive Saudi-led war in Yemen.

All this is happening in Iran’s neighborhood, not America’s.  And it is accompanied by unrelentingly hostile rhetoric against Iran from the current U.S. administration, which also has been emboldening Iran’s regional rivals to promote even more confrontation.  If not being a good neighbor constitutes a violation of the spirit of the JCPOA, then the Trump administration would need to look in a mirror to see who is most in violation.

Donald Trump’s serial lying, and his penchant for repeating lies long after they have been disproven, is in a class by itself regarding dishonesty by a top American leader.  But the zombie-like continuation of some familiar but already disproven assertions about the JCPOA is very Trump-like.  The drumbeat of even vague or discredited criticisms of the agreement may be enough to persuade many people, including those who see through Trump’s clumsy manipulations to kill the agreement, to accept that death.  If the adults in the administration want to keep that from happening, they will need to try harder and not say the sorts of things Tillerson is saying. 

Image: U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump addresses a Tea Party rally against the Iran nuclear deal at the U.S. Capitol in Washington September 9, 2015. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst.

Pages

Sanctions as Feckless Disapproval

Paul Pillar

When Tillerson says “while this agreement was being developed, it was kind of like we put blinders on and just ignored all those other things,” this not only misrepresents what was in the field of vision and consciousness of the policy-makers and diplomats who negotiated the JCPOA.  The comment also ignores how the very people who are leading the renewed charge against the JCPOA were, pre-JCPOA, singling out the Iranian nuclear program as the pre-eminent security issue towering above everything else.  It wasn’t Barack Obama who had elevated that specific issue.  Mitt Romney, running for president against Obama in 2012, said an Iranian nuclear weapon was the greatest security threat the United States faced anywhere in the world.  The nuclear issue was the issue about which Bibi Netanyahu put on the first-ever cartoon show at the United Nations General Assembly.  Then, when negotiations successfully resolved that issue, those whose true agenda was centered on other objectives, such as isolating Iran in perpetuity or bashing Obama, began talking about blinders and allegedly ignoring other things.
As for good neighborliness and observing the spirit of the JCPOA, there was not a hint of anything in Tillerson’s remarks, just as there usually isn’t in any of the comments of opponents of the agreement, about any obligations along those lines on the part of the United States.  But one can get an idea of the symmetry involved by noting how the Iranian parliament, in response to action by the U.S. Congress on a “Countering Iran’s Destabilizing Activities Act” (which included the sanctions later folded into another bill and leading to Iran’s formal complaint), initiated action on its own “Bill Against U.S. Adventurist and Terrorist Activities in the Region”.  Although “destabilizing” would have been a more appropriate term than “terrorist” in this bill too, the Iranians have plenty to point to, such as the U.S. support for the highly destructive Saudi-led war in Yemen.

All this is happening in Iran’s neighborhood, not America’s.  And it is accompanied by unrelentingly hostile rhetoric against Iran from the current U.S. administration, which also has been emboldening Iran’s regional rivals to promote even more confrontation.  If not being a good neighbor constitutes a violation of the spirit of the JCPOA, then the Trump administration would need to look in a mirror to see who is most in violation.

Donald Trump’s serial lying, and his penchant for repeating lies long after they have been disproven, is in a class by itself regarding dishonesty by a top American leader.  But the zombie-like continuation of some familiar but already disproven assertions about the JCPOA is very Trump-like.  The drumbeat of even vague or discredited criticisms of the agreement may be enough to persuade many people, including those who see through Trump’s clumsy manipulations to kill the agreement, to accept that death.  If the adults in the administration want to keep that from happening, they will need to try harder and not say the sorts of things Tillerson is saying. 

Image: U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump addresses a Tea Party rally against the Iran nuclear deal at the U.S. Capitol in Washington September 9, 2015. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst.

Pages

Implications of a Siberian Candidate

Paul Pillar

When Tillerson says “while this agreement was being developed, it was kind of like we put blinders on and just ignored all those other things,” this not only misrepresents what was in the field of vision and consciousness of the policy-makers and diplomats who negotiated the JCPOA.  The comment also ignores how the very people who are leading the renewed charge against the JCPOA were, pre-JCPOA, singling out the Iranian nuclear program as the pre-eminent security issue towering above everything else.  It wasn’t Barack Obama who had elevated that specific issue.  Mitt Romney, running for president against Obama in 2012, said an Iranian nuclear weapon was the greatest security threat the United States faced anywhere in the world.  The nuclear issue was the issue about which Bibi Netanyahu put on the first-ever cartoon show at the United Nations General Assembly.  Then, when negotiations successfully resolved that issue, those whose true agenda was centered on other objectives, such as isolating Iran in perpetuity or bashing Obama, began talking about blinders and allegedly ignoring other things.
As for good neighborliness and observing the spirit of the JCPOA, there was not a hint of anything in Tillerson’s remarks, just as there usually isn’t in any of the comments of opponents of the agreement, about any obligations along those lines on the part of the United States.  But one can get an idea of the symmetry involved by noting how the Iranian parliament, in response to action by the U.S. Congress on a “Countering Iran’s Destabilizing Activities Act” (which included the sanctions later folded into another bill and leading to Iran’s formal complaint), initiated action on its own “Bill Against U.S. Adventurist and Terrorist Activities in the Region”.  Although “destabilizing” would have been a more appropriate term than “terrorist” in this bill too, the Iranians have plenty to point to, such as the U.S. support for the highly destructive Saudi-led war in Yemen.

All this is happening in Iran’s neighborhood, not America’s.  And it is accompanied by unrelentingly hostile rhetoric against Iran from the current U.S. administration, which also has been emboldening Iran’s regional rivals to promote even more confrontation.  If not being a good neighbor constitutes a violation of the spirit of the JCPOA, then the Trump administration would need to look in a mirror to see who is most in violation.

Donald Trump’s serial lying, and his penchant for repeating lies long after they have been disproven, is in a class by itself regarding dishonesty by a top American leader.  But the zombie-like continuation of some familiar but already disproven assertions about the JCPOA is very Trump-like.  The drumbeat of even vague or discredited criticisms of the agreement may be enough to persuade many people, including those who see through Trump’s clumsy manipulations to kill the agreement, to accept that death.  If the adults in the administration want to keep that from happening, they will need to try harder and not say the sorts of things Tillerson is saying. 

Image: U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump addresses a Tea Party rally against the Iran nuclear deal at the U.S. Capitol in Washington September 9, 2015. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst.

Pages

Iran and the Collision between Trump and Reality

Paul Pillar

When Tillerson says “while this agreement was being developed, it was kind of like we put blinders on and just ignored all those other things,” this not only misrepresents what was in the field of vision and consciousness of the policy-makers and diplomats who negotiated the JCPOA.  The comment also ignores how the very people who are leading the renewed charge against the JCPOA were, pre-JCPOA, singling out the Iranian nuclear program as the pre-eminent security issue towering above everything else.  It wasn’t Barack Obama who had elevated that specific issue.  Mitt Romney, running for president against Obama in 2012, said an Iranian nuclear weapon was the greatest security threat the United States faced anywhere in the world.  The nuclear issue was the issue about which Bibi Netanyahu put on the first-ever cartoon show at the United Nations General Assembly.  Then, when negotiations successfully resolved that issue, those whose true agenda was centered on other objectives, such as isolating Iran in perpetuity or bashing Obama, began talking about blinders and allegedly ignoring other things.
As for good neighborliness and observing the spirit of the JCPOA, there was not a hint of anything in Tillerson’s remarks, just as there usually isn’t in any of the comments of opponents of the agreement, about any obligations along those lines on the part of the United States.  But one can get an idea of the symmetry involved by noting how the Iranian parliament, in response to action by the U.S. Congress on a “Countering Iran’s Destabilizing Activities Act” (which included the sanctions later folded into another bill and leading to Iran’s formal complaint), initiated action on its own “Bill Against U.S. Adventurist and Terrorist Activities in the Region”.  Although “destabilizing” would have been a more appropriate term than “terrorist” in this bill too, the Iranians have plenty to point to, such as the U.S. support for the highly destructive Saudi-led war in Yemen.

All this is happening in Iran’s neighborhood, not America’s.  And it is accompanied by unrelentingly hostile rhetoric against Iran from the current U.S. administration, which also has been emboldening Iran’s regional rivals to promote even more confrontation.  If not being a good neighbor constitutes a violation of the spirit of the JCPOA, then the Trump administration would need to look in a mirror to see who is most in violation.

Donald Trump’s serial lying, and his penchant for repeating lies long after they have been disproven, is in a class by itself regarding dishonesty by a top American leader.  But the zombie-like continuation of some familiar but already disproven assertions about the JCPOA is very Trump-like.  The drumbeat of even vague or discredited criticisms of the agreement may be enough to persuade many people, including those who see through Trump’s clumsy manipulations to kill the agreement, to accept that death.  If the adults in the administration want to keep that from happening, they will need to try harder and not say the sorts of things Tillerson is saying. 

Image: U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump addresses a Tea Party rally against the Iran nuclear deal at the U.S. Capitol in Washington September 9, 2015. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst.

Pages

Pages