Foreign Policy

Corker Bill is Still Best Hope Against Bad Iran Deal

Originally published at The Stream.

The U.S. Senate is expected to vote next week on the Corker/Menendez bill to require a subsequent vote on any Iran deal that the Obama Administration completes by early summer. There is great uncertainty about everything involved, however.

To start with, the Iranians and the American Administration are saying contradictory things about what they have “agreed” on. Increasingly, as the Israelis have figured out, Obama and Kerry are so eager — or is it desperate? — to get something, anything, they can call an accomplishment that they will concede practically everything other than a useless promise not to build a bomb. And maybe even that. Read More ›

Obama’s Dead End on Iran

Originally published at The Stream.

In the late 80s I was U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Organizations in Vienna, which included the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Even then the Iranians were known to be working toward a bomb — and stonewalling the IAEA’s inspectors. They have been building—and stonewalling — ever since. Unfortunately, the Obama Administration in recent years has been enabling rather than thwarting the Iranians’ deceptions. Read More ›

John Wohlstetter Address Economic Club of Boca Raton

John describes to a hushed audience in Boca Raton, Florida the likely and potential crises ahead for Pres. Obama’s final 22 months in office, from growing danger to the Baltic States if Putin decides to “protect” the Russian speaking populations of Latvia and Estonia to the coming executive agreement with Iran that threatens to begin new nuclear armament in the Sunni states. Just in those two matters alone–with NATO’s credibility and the validity of the NPT (nuclear treaty)–at stake, America’s post World War II foreign policy strategy is at risk. Then throw in cyber-war/EMP, Chinese expansionism, ISIS, and the downgrade of US defenses and you have reasons for serious alarm. The case for a major national foreign policy debate has Read More ›

When Maduro Can’t Pay the Police and Army

How bad is it in Venezuela now that oil has dropped from over $100–the prince the Chavistas needed to keep making government redistribution of profits to their political supporters–to only about $60? Actually, it is hard to find out. There are demonstrations, disturbances, open grumbling. Critics have been rounded up and jailed. An international scientific organization has been nationalized, its assets seized. So the government is prepared to make very short term gains and not worry about the huge losses that come with international pariah status.

It seems likely to me that until the state implodes, Maduro will keep sending oil to Cuba, propping it up, while Cuba dragoons doctors and intelligence agents to provide health care and keep the totalitarian state running. However, if matters reach the point that Maduro can’t pay the police (who are under attack by some forces in the countryside already), or even worse, the Army, there will be a revolution. Read More ›

Exaggerating the Cuba Change

School's out

School’s out

To me, the most remarkable thing about President Obama’s decision to recognize Cuba diplomatically is that it does not represent as big a change as either the President or his critics suggest. We soon can have an “embassy” in Cuba where we have an “interests section” now. Well, that interests section is bigger than most of our embassies around the world, especially in countries with only eleven million people. The sign on the outside wall may change, and there may be more paling around with diplomats in Havana posted from other countries. But the essential differences will be minor. Read More ›

Iran Cheats, Obama Blinks

Iran is cheating already on it pledge to hold up nuke development while negotiations proceed, according to a lengthy report today by the Financial Times. The hub of activity is at the Arak plutonium enriching reactor.

Israeli spokesman Omri Ceren points out that President Obama helped persuade Congress to back off while he negotiated with the mullahs. The argument that persuaded many of the legislators was that the White House would not tolerate any cheating. You see,the President would be on it instantly.

At a press conference a year ago, the President urged Congress to hold back and let him lead the Iranians in negotiations. “(T)his way we can assured and the Iranians will know that if negotiations fail even new and harsher sanctions will be put into place. Listen, I don’t think the Iranians have any doubt that Congress would be more than happy to pass more sanctions legislation. We can do that in a — in a day, on a dime.” Read More ›

Jews Murdered, But “Extremists” Are on Both Sides?

It is terrible enough that the murder of four rabbis and a policeman at a synagogue in Jerusalem was welcomed with dancing in the streets of Gaza. But the strange coverage in the New York Times by Jodi Rudoren is so disappointing it borders on Orwellian.

We learn “That blood splattered the victims’ prayer shawls and holy books underscored growing indications that extremists on both sides are turning the stalemated battle over territory and identity into a full-throated religious war.” Really, both sides?

When Israelis murder a Palestinian, they are prosecuted. When Palestinians murder Israelis they are praised by Hamas and excused by other Palestinian leaders. Read More ›

Jihadists Linked to “Anonymous” Hacktivists

Intelligence services are connecting “Jihadi John”, the British-accented, black-masked jihadist shown in ISIS videos of beheadings, with Anonymous, the affiliation of hackers attacking Western businesses and government agencies.

The Unity Coalition for Israel has pulled together various strands of a story that at least two prominent Jihadis appearing in ISIS videos are likely known rappers/activists from Britain with a record of provocative hacks into government and personal files, which it then publishes. Their names have not surfaced officially, but UCI provides two of them.

One is Adel-Majed Abdel Bari, probably the “Jihadi John” of the videos who jokes as he cuts off heads of Western captives. Another is Junaid Hussain. Writes the UCI, “Under the alias ‘TriCk,’ Hussain claimed responsibility in 2011 for hacking, among other targets, the Facebook accounts of company cofounder Mark Zuckerberg and former French President Nicolas Sarkozy, and for publishing the personal information of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair. He was arrested for the computer crimes as a minor, and last year skipped bail over allegations of violent disorder, announcing his plans to flee into the Syrian conflict zone. Read More ›

Canada’s Understandable Slam of Putin

Many diplomats’ eyebrows at the G-20 Summit held in Brisbane probably went up slightly when mild-mannered Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper was leader to tell Russia’s Vladimir Putin bluntly to “get out of Ukraine.”

However, it might bear noting that Canada is home to the third largest population of Ukrainians (1.200,000) outside Ukraine itself and Russia. Harper’s slam probably was appreciated by those citizens back home. Read More ›

Putin Slides Further into Authoritarianism

It used to be possible to understand Vladimir Putin, if not defend him, but now one has to wonder what his game plane is. Even assuming he wants to recreate the fabled glories of Greater Russia, his behavior doesn’t make sense. Perhaps he is just living day to day.

Now his government is kicking Catholic priests and nuns out of Crimea, following a law passed by the Russian Parliament that handicaps foreigners and takes a dim view of Russian citizens who deal with foreigners. In the case of Catholic priests in Crimea their “foreign” nationality is chiefly Ukrainian.

So first you engineer a fake revolt in Crimea and provide Russian special forces without Russian uniforms to operate it. Then, after the takeover, you kick out the “foreigners”–people who have lived there all or most of their lives. The Catholics now, the Tatars later.

What does President Putin get out of such high handed actions? His country is on the verge of recession because of falling oil prices and the sanctions provoked by his takeovers and intimidation of Western neighbors. Small banks are closing weekly and even formerly sympathetic overseas investors are being frightened off by Putin’s increasing bellicosity and unreasonableness. Tourism at Sochi, the costly resort renovated for the winter Olympics, is virtually defunct, and what business arriving there comes from Putin policies that subsidize it for Russian cronies and government employees. Crimea, too, is a burden, not a cash cow.

The conventional answer to my question as to what Putin hopes to get from all this is that he gets even greater popularity at home by stirring up Russian paranoia about other countries. It is a great and a traditional Russian distraction from a contracting economic future.

But surely he knows that a failing economy eventually will become obvious to the public at large, and that the blame will have to go to the leader in charge. He can’t at that time blame foreigners and suggest that attacking them will solve things. Read More ›