Archive for September 1, 2017

Justice Scalia on “The Very Human Realities” in Arpaio’s Arizona

September 1, 2017

Justice Scalia on “The Very Human Realities” in Arpaio’s Arizona, Power Line,  Paul Mirengoff, September 1, 2017

(As I recall, Obama abrogated by executive order many of the immigration laws passed by Congress. — DM)

Scalia concluded with a question:

Are the sovereign States at the mercy of the Federal Executive’s refusal to enforce the Nation’s immigration laws? A good way of answering that question is to ask: Would the States conceivably have entered into the Union if the Constitution itself contained the Court’s holding?

 For me, the story here is less about hypocrisy than about realizing what can easily happen when the federal government abrogates its duty to enforce laws that are vital to the safety and well-being of certain communities.

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Whichever way one comes down regarding President Trump’s pardon of Sheriff Joe Arpaio, I think it’s important to recognize the context in which Arpaio took the over-zealous law enforcement actions that led to his conviction. That context was described by Justice Scalia in his opinion (concurring in part and dissenting in part) in Arizona v. U.S., a decision that struck down in large measure an Arizona immigration enforcement law called S.B. 1070.

Justice Scalia wrote:

Today’s opinion, ap­proving virtually all of the Ninth Circuit’s injunction against enforcement of the four challenged provisions of Arizona’s law, deprives States of what most would consider the defining characteristic of sovereignty: the power to exclude from the sovereign’s territory people who have no right to be there. Neither the Constitution itself nor even any law passed by Congress supports this result. . . .

Scalia added:

As is often the case, discussion of the dry legalities that are the proper object of our attention suppresses the very human realities that gave rise to the suit. Arizona bears the brunt of the country’s illegal immigration problem. Its citizens feel themselves under siege by large numbers of illegal immigrants who invade their property, strain their social services, and even place their lives in jeopardy. Federal officials have been unable to remedy the problem, and indeed have recently shown that they are unwilling to do so. Thousands of Arizona’s estimated 400,000 illegal immigrants—including not just children but men and women under 30—are now assured immunity from en­forcement, and will be able to compete openly with Ari­zona citizens for employment.

Arizona has moved to protect its sovereignty—not in contradiction of federal law, but in complete compliance with it. The laws under challenge here do not extend or revise federal immigration restrictions, but merely enforce those restrictions more effectively. If securing its territory in this fashion is not within the power of Arizona, we should cease referring to it as a sovereign State.

(Emphasis added)

Scalia concluded with a question:

Are the sovereign States at the mercy of the Federal Executive’s refusal to enforce the Nation’s immigration laws? A good way of answering that question is to ask: Would the States conceivably have entered into the Union if the Constitution itself contained the Court’s holding?

Of course not.

Daniel Horowitz, whose recent article invokes these words by Scalia, writes:

There is something fundamentally wrong when people delegitimize the pardon of one sheriff — whether you agree or disagree with Trump’s decision — but unquestionably support the de facto judicial pardons of millions of illegal aliens, including some of the most violent ones, even though courts manifestly lack such power.

Moreover, Obama illegally “pardoned” (plus gave affirmative benefits to) 900,000 illegal aliens, including the likes of Salvador Diaz-Garcia, who allegedly raped a 19-year old American and broke almost every bone in her face.

Of course, some strong critics of the Arpaio pardon did not support the de facto pardons Horowitz describes. For me, the story here is less about hypocrisy than about realizing what can easily happen when the federal government abrogates its duty to enforce laws that are vital to the safety and well-being of certain communities.

Federal Court Dismisses Entire Justice Department Mosque Case

September 1, 2017

Federal Court Dismisses Entire Justice Department Mosque Case, PJ Media,  J. Christian Adams, September 1, 2017

(Please see also, Justice Department Forces Christian Pastor to Testify on Islam Views. — DM)

This opinion does raise serious questions, however, about how an abusive and intrusive effort was launched to go after Christian pastors and to ask them to reveal their beliefs about Islam even after a case settled. We’ll be seeking answers.

Next week, Eric Dreiband will have his confirmation hearing to finally fill the vacancy for Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights. I doubt that abusive and intrusive discovery against Christian pastors about their theological views of Islam is a top agenda item for Mr. Dreiband.

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Yesterday, I reported on an outlandish effort to shake down a Christian pastor about his views on Islam by the Justice Department in an Obama-era holdover case.

Today, a federal court entirely dismissed the Justice Department’s case.

United States District Court Judge Norman Moon ruled that the case was moot because the mosque settled with Culpeper County. The mosque obtained a settlement allowing it to pump and haul sewage from the land.

The United States had sought to keep the case alive, and to conduct wide ranging and intrusive discovery against third parties such as Pastor Steve Harrelson of the Mt. Lebanon Baptist Church.  Harrelson, as discussed in detail in yesterday’s piece, had been served with a Justice Department subpoena compelling him to testify about his views on Islam and to deliver any papers or documents he had about Islam to the government.

The court ruled that because the county had settled with the mosque, the case was done. This means that DOJ won’t be able to probe the Christian pastor for his views on Islam.

Judge Moon wrote:

Taken together, the Government’s additional measures are marginal quibbles that overlook the forest for the trees. They are based on a presumption of bad faith by the County, a presumption supported by little more than bald assertions and which the County has overcome with compelling and unimpeached evidence.

Ouch.

Moon’s ruling means this hunt is now over, as long as the Trump-run Justice Department does not appeal, something it had better not do.  I was all set to appear with Tucker Carlson to discuss this abuse of power, and the particular people at DOJ behind it! Too bad. Judge Moon may have mooted that also.

This opinion does raise serious questions, however, about how an abusive and intrusive effort was launched to go after Christian pastors and to ask them to reveal their beliefs about Islam even after a case settled. We’ll be seeking answers.

Next week, Eric Dreiband will have his confirmation hearing to finally fill the vacancy for Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights. I doubt that abusive and intrusive discovery against Christian pastors about their theological views of Islam is a top agenda item for Mr. Dreiband.

You can read the full opinion here.

It’s Time for Qatar to Stop Its Regional Meddling

September 1, 2017

It’s Time for Qatar to Stop Its Regional Meddling, Investigative Project on Terrorism, Abha Shankar, August 31, 2017

Tehran sees Bahrain as a historic part of Iran and sees Saudi efforts to suppress the Shiite popular revolt as an “invasion,” making Bahrain a proxy battleground for the regional rivals. Riyadh, in turn, accuses Doha of supporting Iran-allied rebels in Yemen, known as Houthis.

Qatar’s failure to stop colluding with destabilizing elements to pursue its regional ambitions will only end up throwing the Middle East into deeper chaos.

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Bahrain is threatening to file a complaint with the United Nations Security Council and the International Criminal Court against fellow Gulf state Qatar for supporting terrorism and interfering in Bahrain’s internal affairs.

Qatar has engaged in “fourth generation warfare crimes” to destabilize Bahrain, a senior official told the Saudi-owned Al Arabiya news organization last week. “Fourth generation warfare” is described as “a concept of warfare that is decentralized, utilizes terrorism as a tactic and relies on media manipulation.”

A Bahraini TV documentary alleges that the Qatar-financed Academy of Change used “claims of peaceful activism” to push for regime change in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, and Kuwait.

The documentary, “Academy of Destruction,” aired confessions that key figures affiliated with the academy “were sent to Manama to execute the Qatari goal to spread incitement and chaos to topple the regime in Bahrain.”

The academy is headed by Hisham Morsi, the son-in-law of blacklisted Muslim Brotherhood cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi.

Qatar’s financial backing of the global Islamist Muslim Brotherhood movement and chummy ties with Iran have helped fuel regional unrest that threatens to destabilize existing regimes in the boycotting countries.

Doha’s meddling in the internal affairs of regional Arab states led Bahrain – along with Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Egypt – to impose an economic and diplomatic blockade in early June.

The boycotting countries issued a list of 13 demands to lift the embargo. Those demands call on Qatar to cut its support for the Muslim Brotherhood and scale down its ties with Iran.

Qatar rejected the demands saying they violate its sovereignty, causing the boycotting states to replace them with six broad principles urging Doha “to refrain from interfering in the internal affairs of States and from supporting illegal entities.”

One alleged conspiracy had Qatar working with Iran to overthrow the Bahraini regime during the Arab Spring protests of 2011, Al Arabiya reported. Bahraini TV broadcast a recording alleged to be a conversation between Qatar’s former Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber al-Thani and Bahraini Shia dissident Sheikh Ali Salman plotting to oust Bahrain’s ruling al-Khalifa family.

This revelation built upon an earlier report that Hamad bin Jassim masterminded a 2011 Qatar-sponsored initiative to work with Iran and Bahraini opposition groups, in particular Ali Salman’s Al-Wefaq Society, to foment unrest and destabilize the region.

The broader Iranian-Saudi struggle for Middle East dominance has made Doha’s cozy relationship with Tehran a point of contention with the Riyadh-led quartet. Bahrain holds Qatar responsible for “media incitement, support for armed terrorist activities and funding linked to Iranian groups to carry out sabotage and spreading chaos” in the island nation. Since a Saudi-led military intervention in Bahrain in 2011 sought to quell weeks of Shia-dominated demonstrations against the ruling al-Khalifa Sunni monarchy, the country has been hit by sporadic protests by its majority Shia community that were reportedly backed by Qatar.

Tehran sees Bahrain as a historic part of Iran and sees Saudi efforts to suppress the Shiite popular revolt as an “invasion,” making Bahrain a proxy battleground for the regional rivals. Riyadh, in turn, accuses Doha of supporting Iran-allied rebels in Yemen, known as Houthis.

Things came to a head between Qatar and the Saudi-led quartet in April when Doha agreed to pay $1 billion in ransom to Iranian security officials and an al-Qaida-affiliated Syrian Islamist group. The deal, reported to be “the straw that broke the camel’s back,” secured the release of 26 Qataris, including members of the royal family, kidnapped during a hunting trip to Iraq.

Problems with Qatar have been festering for some time. In 2013-2014, Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani signed the Riyadh Agreements, but then failed to live up to its commitments. The agreements sought to build “a new phase of fraternal relations” and called on Qatar to stop supporting the Muslim Brotherhood. Qatar also promised not to support rebel factions fighting Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries in Yemen and Egypt.

Neither pledge was fulfilled.

In addition to its ties to Iran, Qatar’s support for various Brotherhood movements is another sore point. Since the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings, Doha has gone all-out to embrace Muslim Brotherhood branches in Egypt, Gaza, Libya, Syria and Tunisia. The tiny but gas-rich Gulf state pumped billions of dollars into the former Muslim Brotherhood-led government in Egypt, armed and aided Islamist rebel factions in Libya and Syria, and pledged millions to the Brotherhood’s Palestinian terrorist offshoot Hamas. Its government-backed Al Jazeera news network has helped advance Islamist agendas and provided a platform to Hamas and Muslim Brotherhood dissidents from other Gulf countries and Egypt.

Although the UAE and Saudi Arabia had earlier embraced Muslim Brotherhood members fleeing repression in their home countries, the Gulf monarchies subsequently had a falling out with the Islamist movement after its local networks sought to politicize Islam. In a 2002 interview, the late Saudi Prince Nayef Bin Abdl Aziz famously alleged the Brotherhood sought to “politicize Islam for self-serving purposes” and claimed “that the root of all our problems and issues is the Muslim Brotherhood.”

In March 2011, several members of the UAE’s al-Islah organization signed a political petition that demanded “an elected parliament with legislative powers” leading to a major crackdown on the Islamist group. A Facebook group “The UAE Revolution” called for “a revolution against the era of Sheikhs, a revolution against oppression and suppression of freedoms in the UAE, a revolution against those who have looted from the people of the UAE.”

More than 65 members of al-Islah were sentenced up to 15 years in the UAE in July 2013 for plotting to overthrow the Gulf monarchy in a trial contested by human rights groups. In an opinion piece the previous month, Emirati political analyst Sultan Sooud al-Qassemi had called the Brotherhood “the greatest threat to the UAE” and urged the Gulf monarchy to “take immediate measures to show that it will not stand for such threats” from the Islamist movement.

Egypt turned into another battleground for the Gulf monarchies in the wake of the Arab Spring. Relations between Qatar and Saudi Arabia became strained when a Muslim Brotherhood-led government came to power in Egypt in 2012. President Mohammad Morsi’s government backed uprisings against Arab monarchies and engaged in outreach to Riyadh’s arch rival Iran. Doha, on the other hand, provided Morsi’s government billions of dollars in aid. After the military ousted Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood-led government in July 2013, Saudi Arabia and the UAE together offered $8 billion in aid to help pump up the Egyptian economy. The Muslim Brotherhood was subsequently designated a terrorist organization by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Egypt.

Qatar’s maverick foreign policy seeks to use Iran, the Muslim Brotherhood and other extremists as strategic weapons to upend Saudi dominance and further destabilize the Middle East. The Muslim Brotherhood’s successes in overthrowing regimes in Egypt, Tunisia, and other places in its quest for a global Caliphate has Saudi Arabia and the UAE worried that Qatar’s support may invigorate the Brotherhood in the Gulf monarchies and create civil unrest.

Qatar just restored full diplomatic ties with Iran that broke off last year following attacks on Saudi diplomatic facilities in Tehran. Doha’s close ties to the Islamic Republic will ensure continued collaboration with Iran-backed terrorist groups in Saudi Arabia’s restive eastern region of Qatif and Bahrain. Doha will also continue supporting Iran-backed Houthi militias in Yemen complicating the existing political, military, and humanitarian crisis in the country, where a Saudi-led military intervention is underway.

Qatar points to “Saudi and Emirati hypocrisy” by arguing that both the Gulf monarchies have a “shameful history” of support for terror and extremism; so why is the island Gulf nation being singled out? But Doha misses a key point: The question is not so much about either side’s support for terror as it is about the bigger and more important issue of regional stability. Qatar needs to recognize this fact and refrain from falling victim to its contentious history and the ambitions of its post-1995 leadership that wants Doha to pursue an independent foreign policy and be a major power in the region. Qatar’s failure to stop colluding with destabilizing elements to pursue its regional ambitions will only end up throwing the Middle East into deeper chaos.

UN Chief Guterres, the Media and Palestinian Fake News

September 1, 2017

UN Chief Guterres, the Media and Palestinian Fake News, Gatestone InstituteBassam Tawil, September 1, 2107

(Please see also, INTO THE FRAY: The Taylor Force Act – Putting “Palestine” in perspective. — DM)

One of the mothers who attended the meeting with the UN chief was Latifa Abu Hmaid. Four of her sons, Nasser, Sharif, Nasr and Mohammed are serving multiple life sentences for their role in terrorism. The Palestinian Authority (PA) chose the mother of these terrorists because they are all members of President Mahmoud Abbas’s ruling Fatah faction, which is regularly described by Western media outlets as a moderate and pragmatic Palestinian party that believes in the two-state solution and peace with Israel.

The minimum the UN chief and his aides could have done is to call out the PA leadership and condemn it for the ambush and the fabricated report from the official Palestinian news agency. Had Israel been involved in a similar incident, we would have witnessed a diplomatic crisis, prompted by the UN secretary general and his spokesmen as well as the international media. Palestinians, as usual, are given a pass.

The lie about “Jewish extremists” setting fire to the Al-Aqsa Mosque has become so widespread and accepted that even senior Muslim scholars such as Abbas’s Grand Mufti, Sheikh Mohamed Hussein, has also been spreading the blood libel. He and most Palestinians continue to describe the Australian Christian arsonist as a “Jewish extremist.”

According to the Palestinian propaganda machine, nearly without exception, the terrorists were on their way to buy bread for their mothers or visit their grandmothers. These were innocent victims, the story goes, arrested or shot by Israel for no reason. Then there are the lies about Israelis “planting” knives near the bodies of terrorists who stab or try to murder Jews. Western journalists and others accept these lies as facts.

Fake news is an old story in the Palestinian world. Yet recently, fake news has been taken to new heights by Palestinian spin-doctors, who have been working overtime to mislead the international community and media. A number of stories published in the past few days in the Palestinian media demonstrate the extent to which Palestinians are prepared to go to deceive the world and impact international public opinion.

Excellence is often a virtue — except when one excels at lying. And if there is one thing at which the Palestinians have excelled in the past few decades, it is spreading lies about its conflict with Israel. The mainstream media in the West usually takes the fake-news bait — it sells papers! — and demonstrates tolerance, if not sympathy, toward Palestinian-produced fake news fabrications.

The most recent case of Palestinian fake news emerged during United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’s visit to Ramallah, the de facto capital of the Palestinians. The UN chief, who does not seem to be familiar with the Palestinian culture of lies, fell victim to a typical PR stunt organized by his Palestinian hosts.

According to the Wafa news agency, the official organ of the Palestinian Authority (PA), Guterres “held a meeting on Tuesday evening (August 29) with families of Palestinian martyrs and prisoners held in Israeli occupation prisons.” The report said that the families called on the UN secretary-general to take rapid and serious action to save the lives of more than 6500 male and female prisoners held in Israeli prisons. Wafa then quoted Guterres as saying: “We understand the suffering of the Palestinian prisoners and we will work with the relevant parties to end their suffering.”

First, it ought to be of interest that the “prisoners” and “martyrs” are Palestinians who were involved, directly and indirectly, in terror attacks. Many of the prisoners have Jewish blood on their hands and were convicted of often unspeakable crimes.

Second, it quickly became clear that the meeting between the UN chief and the Palestinian families was part of an ambush set up by his Palestinian hosts in Ramallah. According to a UN spokesman, Guterres was surprised by the sudden request of the Palestinian Authority to meet with the “mothers of detained children” but that he agreed to meet with them. To his great credit, Guterres also issued a clarification that the report in Wafa that he had expressed sympathy for the prisoners’ plight was “fabricated.”

Third, it is worth noting that one of the mothers who attended the meeting with the UN chief was Latifa Abu Hmaid, from the Al-Ama’ri refugee camp near Ramallah. Four of her sons, Nasser, Sharif, Nasr and Mohammed are serving multiple life sentences for their role in terrorism. The Palestinian Authority chose the mother of these terrorists because they are all members of President Mahmoud Abbas’s ruling Fatah faction, which is regularly described by Western media outlets as a moderate and pragmatic Palestinian party that believes in the two-state solution and peace with Israel.

The response of the UN chief’s spokesman to the “fabricated” report by Abbas’s Wafa news agency and the unscheduled meeting with the families of the “prisoners” and “martyrs” is a fine example of how the Palestinian Authority manipulates the world’s top diplomat. The PA and other Palestinians, however, have been getting away with this for decades.

The minimum the UN chief and his aides could have done is to call out the PA leadership and condemn it for the ambush and the fabricated report on the official Palestinian news agency. Had Israel been involved in a similar incident, we would have witnessed a diplomatic crisis, prompted by the UN secretary general and his spokesmen as well as the international media. Palestinians, as usual, are given a pass.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres during his to Ramallah, August 29, 2017. (Image source: UN Photo/Ahed Izhiman)

In another example of Palestinian fake news designed to slander Israel and win international sympathy, several Palestinian media outlets have been reporting during the past week that an Israeli female undercover agent masquerading as a nurse has been uncovered in a Palestinian hospital in Hebron.

According to the fake reports, the “nurse” was an Israeli settler who had helped the Israel Defense Forces infiltrate the hospital to arrest and shoot Palestinian fugitives. A quick check of the facts revealed that the Palestinians were apparently referring to a Western volunteer who had worked in the hospital to treat Palestinian patients. The hospital administration has strongly denied the reports, which continue to spread like fire on social media and Palestinian news websites. The purpose of the fake reports is to implicate Israel and present it as a state that shows disregard for hospitals and patients. This case shows that rumors and fake news are regularly accepted as facts in the world of the Palestinians and Arabs.

Or consider another example of how the Palestinian propaganda machine operates. On August 23, the same Palestinian news agency, Wafa, reported on the anniversary of the 1969 fire at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.

First, the historical facts: On August 21, 1969, an Australian citizen named Denis Michael Rohan set fire to the pulpit of the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Rohan was arrested for the arson attack, tried and found to be insane. He was hospitalized in a mental institution before finally being deported from Israel in 1974.

Since 1969, however, the Palestinians have repeated the lie that Israel and Jews were behind the arson attack. The fact that Rohan was a Christian is apparently inconsequential to them.

So this year, marking the anniversary of the arson, this is what Abbas’s official mouthpiece, Wafa, had this priceless piece of perjury to say: “The Al-Aqsa Mosque was torched by Jewish extremists in 1969.”

The lie about “Jewish extremists” setting fire to the Al-Aqsa Mosque has become so widespread and accepted that even senior Muslim scholars such as Abbas’s Grand Mufti, Sheikh Mohamed Hussein, has also been spreading the blood libel. He and most Palestinians continue to describe the Australian Christian arsonist as a “Jewish extremist.”

These lies are simply a few recent examples that extend a long list of Palestinian fake news and blood libels aimed at framing Israel and inciting the world against it. Take for example, the famous Palestinian lies about terrorists: according to the Palestinian propaganda machine, nearly without exception, the terrorists were on their way to buy bread for their mothers or visit their grandmothers. These were innocent victims, the story goes, arrested or shot by Israel for no reason. Then there are the lies about Israelis “planting” knives near the bodies of terrorists who stab or try to murder Jews. Western journalists and others accept these lies as facts.

The manipulation of the UN chief in Ramallah comes as no surprise to those familiar with Palestinian tactics of deception. The question, however, remains: For how long will the international community receive with equanimity the lies that Palestinians spit in its face, lies that hour after hour, day after day, only endanger the lives of both Palestinians and Jews, promote an all-too-welcomed anti-Semitism, and worst – contrary to the claims of those who purport to want to help them — prolong the suffering of Palestinians who dream of one day living in freedom –like their neighbors, the Israelis — with institutions of democracy like free speech, an independent judiciary and educational system, and most of all, with accountable leadership?

Bassam Tawil is a Muslim based in the Middle East.

Glazov Moment: Gorka’s Departure – A Troubling Sign of Brotherhood’s Grip.

September 1, 2017

Glazov Moment: Gorka’s Departure – A Troubling Sign of Brotherhood’s Grip via YouTube, August 31, 2017

(Please see also, Trump struggling with John Kelly’s strict operation: Report. What about McMaster?– DM)

 

McMaster brings top Obama admin officials into NSC, sources say

September 1, 2017

McMaster brings top Obama admin officials into NSC, sources say, Conservative Review, Jordan Schachtel, August 31, 2017

(Please see also, Trump struggling with John Kelly’s strict operation: Report. — DM)

At the time, Ylber (pronounced ill-BEAR) was deputy chief of staff to Secretary of Defense Carter, where he helped develop the Obama administration’s foreign policy, focusing on Iran and Iraq. Ylber also worked on the administration’s highly controversial nuclear deal with the Tehran regime.

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National security adviser H.R. McMaster has quietly pulled in high-ranking officials from the Obama administration into senior positions on his staff, current and former administration officials told Conservative Review.

In recent months, McMaster has hired influential members of the Obama Pentagon. One of these individuals was assigned to boost the Iran nuclear deal with Tehran, while the other became a trusted aide to former defense chief Ash Carter.

The recent hires are Ylli and Ylber Bajraktari, Albanian-Kosovan brothers who elevated to the top of government in the Obama administration.

A 2016 Medium profile of the brothers describes the major influence they have had in crafting policies for the previous administration.

“I have never heard of a story of two brothers playing such a critical behind-the-scenes role at the Pentagon,” Carl Woog, a senior Obama NSC adviser, commented to Partnership for Public Service.

“Ylber travels with [Sec. Carter] to international destinations and attends all his Pentagon meetings on foreign policy matters,” the article said.

At the time, Ylber (pronounced ill-BEAR) was deputy chief of staff to Secretary of Defense Carter, where he helped develop the Obama administration’s foreign policy, focusing on Iran and Iraq. Ylber also worked on the administration’s highly controversial nuclear deal with the Tehran regime.

Getting Tough on North Korea: Iran and Other Mirages

September 1, 2017

Getting Tough on North Korea: Iran and Other Mirages, 38 North, September 1, 2017

The thrust of the article is that sanctions will not deter the Kim regime from pursuing its thus far successful efforts to become a nuclear power. They have not worked well in other nations, despite some similarities with North Korea, and will not work there either.

I look forward to reading the subsequent column discussing “how tough sanctions might be merged with a broader political-military effort to stabilize the situation.” Do we need merely “to stabilize the situation,” or do we need to do something more drastic to change it so that North Korea will (a) cease to be a nuclear threat now and (b) be disabled from becoming one again?  — DM)

A subsequent column will discuss how tough sanctions might be merged with a broader political-military effort to stabilize the situation.

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As North Korea moves closer to its goal of being able to target key parts of the United States with nuclear weapons, it has produced a near universal consensus in Washington that it is “time to get tough” with Pyongyang. By and large this consensus still centers on the same policy tools it has for the past dozen years: economic sanctions capable of coercing Pyongyang into capitulating to US and UN demands that it end its nuclear and ballistic missile programs. Sanctions are clearly preferable to war, but they do not offer a viable strategy for untying the Gordian Knot that is North Korea.

Those advocating the “get tough with sanctions” approach to the North Korean nuclear and missile problem in turn base their approach on two dubious assumptions.[1] First, they believe that there is a great deal of additional economic pressure that can be put on North Korea. Some who share this assumption believe the US has a number of unilateral tools that could achieve US objectives. Others—like President Trump—believe that China holds the key by threatening economic pressure on Pyongyang and that China can be persuaded or coerced into using its leverage on Kim Jong Un. Second, advocates of this approach believe that this additional pressure will likely produce a positive result: North Korean capitulation to US demands or—failing that—a change of regime in the DPRK.

Those who believe sanctions are the answer to the North Korean problem point in particular to the sanctions regime developed against Iran’s nuclear program. They assert that sanctions on Iran were more severe than they are today on North Korea. They add that when the international community got serious about sanctions on Iranian oil and Iranian oil revenue, the regime became serious at the P5+1 negotiations. Thus, if only the US and China would get as serious about sanctions on North Korea, Pyongyang would be faced with the choice of collapse or agreement to end its nuclear and missile adventure.

Can Additional Economic Pressure Succeed?

Some parts of the economic pressure argument are borne out by the facts. From about 2005 until late 2011, the Iran and North Korean sanctions regimes were quite similar. Both were primarily targeted on the two countries’ nuclear and missile programs and their purposes were to deny those programs material, technology or financial support. But, from about 2010 onward—prompted in no small part by actions of the US Congress—Iranian sanctions increasingly targeted broader economic activities. This included the sale of gasoline, investment in Iranian oil infrastructure, shipping and airlines.

Most important, with the passage of the National Defense Authorization Act in the United States and the promulgation of an EU action almost at the same time, Iranian oil exports and the repatriation to Iran of proceeds from such exports were targeted. The US legislation, in particular, included secondary sanctions of global reach requiring all foreign consumers of Iranian oil to significantly reduce their purchases of Iranian oil or face draconian US financial sanctions. This was backed by a robust sanctions outreach effort by the Departments of Treasury, State and Energy and—unnoticed by many—significant contributions by a network of non-government entities that tracked the behavior of Iranian shipping, oil exporting and sanctions evasion entities. It is, therefore, accurate to state that Iranian sanctions were tougher in nature and in implementation than the sanctions record against North Korea. [2]

There are several problems, however, with using Iran as the model for the resolution of the North Korean nuclear and missile issue:

  • First, Iran had a great deal more to damage than North Korea has. The Kim dynasty’s bizarre economic policies have inflicted far more damage on the North Korean economy than anything the outside world will ever do.
  • Second, Iran had much more robust foreign trade throughout the period of sanctions application than North Korea has ever had. Iran was far more dependent on foreign trade and access to foreign currency than North Korea, thus its economy could be more easily hurt.
  • Third, Iran’s most important external economic link—the EU—was enthusiastic about the oil and related sanctions. The same can’t be said about the DPRK’s economic lifeline—China.
  • Fourth, the Iranian government’s extensive dependence on revenue from foreign oil sales for its government budget—including its comprehensive program of consumer subsidies and social expenditures—made the government politically vulnerable.
  • Fifth, despite its many anti-democratic and repressive aspects, the Iranian government is far more sensitive to public opinion than the Kim Regime. Iran changed its negotiating stance not because its Supreme Leader felt too much pain to go on, but rather because voters in the 2013 Iranian presidential election made it clear they wanted a negotiated end to the nuclear issue and an escape from sanctions.
  • Sixth, sanctions against Iran were implemented in conjunction with a robust active multilateral negotiating effort and—as we learned only later—a back channel for US bilateral engagement. This is not the case currently for North Korea.
  • Finally, Iran did not have nuclear weapons. It was not being asked to trade away a fundamental component of its security strategy. According to the unclassified version of the US intelligence community’s National Intelligence Estimate, Iran had already made the decision not to continue its nuclear weapons production and design program.[3]

Thus, in terms of vulnerability to sanctions, political structure, diplomatic context and strategic orientation, Iran posed a very different sanctions problem than the challenge the international community faces with North Korea. In the case of North Korea, these countries are seeking to coerce a personalist dictator with a narrow governing elite and little remaining political competition, with enormous coercive power at home, and extensive control of his country’s resource allocation to give up a fundamental component of what he believes to be crucial to his national (and personal) survival. To put it clearly, the last dollar available in North Korea will go to Kim; the next-to-the last will go to his bodyguards; and the third-to-the last to the nuclear and missile program—no matter who starves or what else collapses.

Will Kim Capitulate?

The other key assumption of a “get tough” approach is that crippling sanctions might persuade the Kim regime to capitulate rather than collapse. But there is another possibility: the North Korean regime would conclude that capitulation to the sanctions would have no better result for it than it did for Libyan strong man Gaddafi. They might consider it better to gamble on an “Assad gambit”: a final horrible fight hoping the US and South Korea would recoil at the carnage or that Beijing or Moscow might step in to preserve them. In this respect, there is a cautionary tale to consider from another US confrontation with an East Asian dictatorship.

In July 1941, in response to the Japanese invasion of Indochina, President Roosevelt took a series of steps that look very much like the sanctions advocated by those who want to get tough on the DPRK. He froze Japanese assets and required that Japan obtain specific export licenses to obtain any US goods—including oil upon which the Japanese economy and military was dependent. Subsequently, the US government denied Japan the right to use the US dollar to purchase goods, thus making it impossible to obtain oil even if licenses were granted. Those who made the decision to take this step were confident Japan would not go to war over the sanctions, since both US and Japanese leaders knew it would be a suicidal act for Japan to do so. The Japanese military chose to gamble on an attack on the US fleet and a simultaneous invasion of South East Asian oil fields. Four years of total war in the Pacific ensued. The Japanese decision was indeed suicidal, but it cost a great deal in American blood and treasure to confirm it.

Lessons Learned from Iraqi Sanctions

Iraq presents a much closer analogue to the North Korea situation when considering a “get tough” sanctions campaign. Very shortly after the 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, the UN Security Council passed UNSCR 661.[4] This resolution in simple and in unequivocal terms placed a full-scale arms, trade and financial embargo on Iraq and Iraqi-occupied Kuwait.[5]Within three weeks, the UNSC backed up the embargo with an authorization for member states to enforce the trade embargo with a maritime interdiction force—essentially a legal blockade.[6] Thus, from the very outset the Iraqi sanctions regime was nearly total in scope and backed by the threat of military enforcement. It would soon also add an additional coercive element: a time limit connected with a threat to move on to the use of force to implement the Council’s demands on the Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait in UNSCR 678.

The combination of extensive economy-killing sanctions with the threat of force would carry over into the post-conflict era in connection primarily with unresolved questions about Saddam Hussein’s WMD and missile programs. The cease-fire resolution[7] explicitly links the cessation of hostilities following Hussein’s crushing military defeat with resolution of these questions. Moreover, the United States and its coalition partners reserved and exercised the right to use force in order to implement that resolution. This is what the extreme case of “getting tough” with sanctions really looks like. Yet, despite the vast impact of sanctions and the overwhelming military and political coalition lined up against him, Hussein refused to withdraw from Kuwait (believing that it was and had always been Iraqi territory) and even after defeat refused to take the steps necessary to get sanctions lifted.

The problems policymakers faced in Iraq and the nature and motivations of the opponent are very similar to those presented by the Kim regime. The Iraq sanctions regime was tougher than anything Iran, North Korea or almost any other country has faced. This underscores how difficult it is even with the most coercive sanctions available to force a regime based on one-man control and vicious coercive capabilities to yield, especially when the dictator can simply reallocate pain away from his henchmen to the general population. There are, no doubt, a number of reasons unique to Saddam Hussein that contributed to the failure of Iraqi sanctions to achieve their objectives, but there are also factors that will play in a “get tough” effort against Pyongyang. These include the following:

  • Highly coercive regimes are not cowed by public pain;
  • Regimes with extensive central control of the economy can shift resources internally to protect regime elites and the military, thus, at least for some time, holding them harmless from sanctions at the expense of the general population;
  • High impact sanctions also raise the risk premium sanctions busters can earn; border nations are particularly subject to large temptations either at the official or black market level. (The Turkish border during the Iraq sanctions regime showed a disheartening example of this. One can only imagine what the Chinese border would look like in the case of expanded North Korean sanctions.)
  • In the face of determined resistance by a coercive regime, even the most thorough sanctions will take years to take sufficient effect.

Conclusion

Tough sanctions on North Korea are going to be a component of any effort to deal with the North Korean nuclear and missile issue. They at least delay and perhaps can prevent the slide towards miscalculation and war that we see today. But we need to be very careful about adopting models from the (historically rare) instances when sanctions succeeded. We also need to be wary of the assumptions behind the current suggestions for getting tough on Pyongyang through sanctions. The record shows even the most draconian sanctions may not move a repressive one-man regime in the right direction and that, in some circumstances, they can ignite the very conflict they were designed to prevent. A subsequent column will discuss how tough sanctions might be merged with a broader political-military effort to stabilize the situation.


  1. [1]

    There are a number of excellent pieces to cite in the “get tough” school. These include Joshua Stanton, Sung-Yoon Lee and Bruce Klingner, “Getting Tough on North Korea,” Foreign Affairs, May/June 2017, pp. 63-75; David Thompson, “Risky Business,” C4ADS, July 2017; and Anthony Ruggiero, “Restricting North Korea’s Access to Finance,” Testimony before the House Committee on Financial Services Subcommittee on Monetary and Trade Policy, July 19, 2017.

  2. [2]

    For a recent analysis of the Iran sanctions regime and how it might be applied to North Korea see, Edward Fishman, Peter Harrell and Elizabeth Rosenberg, “A Blueprint for New Sanctions on North Korea,” Center for New American Security, July 2017.

  3. [3]

    Director of National Intelligence, “Iran Nuclear Intentions and Capabilities,” National Intelligence Council, November 2007.

  4. [4]

    United Nations Security Council Resolution 661, August 6, 1990.

  5. [5]

    There were exceptions for humanitarian goods, but these were subject to oversight by the UN Sanctions Committee. This was a cumbersome process and it would be some time before Saddam Hussein was able to corrupt it.

  6. [6]

    United Nations Security Council Resolution 665, August 25, 1990.

  7. [7]

    United Nations Security Council Resolution 687, April 3, 1991, Section C.