If you give them time to read …

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They figure out the Iran deal is pretty darn good.

That’s the take of Slate’s Fred Kaplan:

Something interesting has happened the past few weeks. Many lawmakers have read the 159-page deal, known as the “Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action,” signed by Iran and the P5+1 nations (the United States, Great Britain, France, Russia, China, and Germany). Many more have been briefed on the deal’s fine points by the American negotiators and technical specialists, as well as by Western ambassadors. And many of them—those who aren’t bound by GOP discipline or constituents’ pressure (and even a few who are)—have concluded that this is a good deal.

And it also appears that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his faithful lobbyists in AIPAC have badly overplayed what was at best a weak hand by so ferociously and publicly trying to kill the agreement in Congress. While the final cards haven’t yet been played, it looks more and more like Obama has held on to sufficient support among Senate Democrats to prevent the deal being blocked.

Kaplan’s piece is an excellent overview both of the politics, and of the details of the agreement itself. If you’ve followed the issue at all it is worth your time to read.  And Netanyahu and AIPAC may want to keep in mind this sage wisdom:

Jeb is the GOP’s serious candidate on foreign policy. Really

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Jeb Bush, apparently more serious about his grilling than about foreign policy. (US News photo.)

 

Today at the Iowa State Fair, Jeb Bush was forced to once again address his brother’s disastrous Iraq legacy, and delivered this gem:

First of all, the Iraqis want our help. They want to know we have skin in the game, that we’re committed to this.

When someone in the crowd reminded him that it was his brother who in 2008 negotiated and signed the status of forces agreement requiring all US forces be withdrawn from Iraq by the end of 2011, he went on to contend something that no one else who pays attention to American foreign policy honestly believes:

We didn’t have to get out in 2011 … It [the agreement] could have been modified, and that was the expectation. Everybody in Iraq and everybody in Washington knew that this deal could have been expanded.

Jeb here is being either willfully misleading or simply delusional.  As Fred Kaplan points out in Slate,

Article 30 of that same agreement stated that its terms could be amended “only with the official agreement of the Parties in writing and in accordance with the constitutional procedures in effect in both countries.” These “constitutional procedures” included a vote by the Iraqi Parliament—and at no time between 2008 and 2011 was the Iraqi Parliament going to take such a vote.

Granted, President Obama did want to get out of Iraq; he won the White House in large part on that promise, and there was no more support in the United States than in Iraq for a continued presence of American troops. And yet Obama did send emissaries—among them former aides to George W. Bush—to seek an amendment to allow a few thousand residual forces. The Iraqi government refused. Unless Obama wanted to re-invade the country, there was nothing to be done.

Frankly, my money is edging toward delusional, in part because of statements like this next one. As CNN reported:

Thursday, reporters asked Bush if he intentionally invoked the phrase “mission was accomplished” as a nod to his brother, who famously spoke in 2003 in front of a banner with almost the same wording splashed across it, yet the war continued on for years.

Jeb Bush, somewhat annoyed, argued reporters were overanalyzing his remarks.

I know you’re obsessed with all this and that’s your job, but it was a mission that was accomplished,” he said, referring to the 2007 surge. “(The phrase) is used. It was actually a movie. It’s been a sequel. Tom Cruise has made a really good living out of it,” he went on to say, appearing to conflate the term with the movie series “Mission Impossible.”

Had enough yet? No? OK, here’s one more.

Asked about waterboarding and other forms of torture, Jeb refused to say whether he would keep in place President Obama’s executive order banning abusive methods of interrogation. Again from the CNN report:

“I don’t want to make a definitive, blanket kind of statement,” he said, saying he prefers to be “cautious” in making such predictions. “When you are president your words matter.”

Later at a separate event in Ankeny, Iowa, he was asked by reporters to clarify whether he was leaving open the idea of allowing methods like waterboarding again in the future.

“I’m not ruling anything in or out,” he said, but stressed “we don’t do torture.”

And Jeb is considered the GOP’s serious candidate on foreign policy. Imagine how the unserious ones sound.

 

 

 

Let them fight

There’s been a lot of hand-wringing coming from pundits and US policy makers past and present surrounding the fall of the Iraqi city of Ramadi to ISIS and the marshalling of Iranian-backed Shiite militias to try to take back the town.  A lot of the usual sorts of suspects have been once again making the case that: 1) Letting the Shiite militias do the fighting will both empower Iran and likely worsen already bad sectarian tensions; and therefore 2) The only alternative is for the US to once again wade into the fray, even if that means reintroducing American combat troops on the ground. The discussion on this morning’s Diane Rehm Show is a good example of what’s passing for debate on the subject.

Of course there is another way of looking at this, and it is one that the US is pretty familiar with, especially in this part of the world. Follow the advice of Ken Watanabe in the latest reboot of Godzilla and “let them fight.”

The Godzilla-vs.-the Mutos analogy is not a bad one when thinking about the struggle for regional dominance that has been playing out for decades between the US, Iran, and Iraq. This is basically the strategy we pursued during the brutal Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s, letting the two beasts (one of which we marginally preferred over the other) savage each other for as long as they possibly could, with a little help to both sides from us, expecting that at the end of the fight the winner would be far too weak and damaged to pose any real challenge to American preeminence for years to come.

So thinking about Iran, Iraq, and ISIS today, would it be so terrible for US interests to just let them fight? Let Iran invest more time, energy, resources, manpower, etc. propping up an ineffectual Shiite-dominated Iraqi state. Continue providing just enough combat air support so that we stay in the good graces of the Iraqi regime but not so much that we pave the way for an easy victory for Iran’s proxies.  Let them savage each other.

Is this a cold-blooded strategy? Sure. But would it be out of character for the US, especially in that part of the world? Hardly.