John Bolton (R-YouKiddingMeWithThatMustache) most famously served for a little over a year as George W. Bush’s Ambassador to the United Nations, in which capacity he surely must have been the very first UN Ambassador from any country who had once openly wondered whether the world would notice if “ten stories” of the UN building just up and disappeared (along with the people who worked on those stories, I guess). So, needless to say, when John Bolton starts worrying about the sanctity of UN protocol, it’s either a very serious situation or he’s bullshitting you in the furtherance of some other agenda.
So judging by Bolton’s Monday op-ed in The New York Times, warning of “The Iran Deal’s Dangerous Precedent,” it’s clear that we’re all about to be inundated either with serious dangers or massive amounts of bullshit. Better bring some hip waders, just in case.
Bolton starts off strong, clearly putting his Iran Derangement Syndrome out there for his readers:
Despite its blasé confidence in the agreement, however, the Obama administration understands the near-certainty that Iran will break its word. Tehran’s potential violations were not merely one of many difficult issues for negotiators; they were the essence of the talks. The deal’s entire structure turns on the issue of how to detect and handle breaches.
This is a little bit of an exaggeration. Bolton seems to be ignoring the parts of the text that lay out the schedule for implementing the deal, Iran’s particular compliance requirements, and also how Barack Obama will personally hand carry an EMP weapon to Ayatollah Khamenei in Tehran, and then how he’ll kneel before the Supreme Leader and pledge his allegiance to the Hidden Imam, at which point the two men will have a good laugh as Obama reveals to America that he’s been a deep cover Muslim agent all along. That’s in there too, obviously.
But yes, a lot of the deal’s text covers how Iran’s nuclear program will be monitored and what will happen if there’s a dispute over Iran’s compliance, or, in other words, it’s written just like any other agreement like this would be written. What does Bolton think the text of the deal would include if it were, say, Brazil or Japan on the other end of it, not Iran? Christmas greetings? Tasteful nude photos of all the diplomats involved in the talks? The point of these freaking agreements is to put the target country’s nuclear program in a position were any breach of the civilian/military firewall can be detected and dealt with, so, ah, obviously a good portion of the deal’s language is going to cover those topics.
Bolton’s next problem is with the “snapback” arrangement to reintroduce sanctions if Iran is found to be out of compliance:
Unfortunately, the mechanism to address violations is as flawed as the deal’s underlying logic. For the president’s predictions of Iranian behavior to come true (and they are central to successful implementation), Tehran must recognize the inevitability of the pain their country will suffer for straying from compliance.
Yet the very language of the Vienna deal demonstrates the opposite. In two provisions (Paragraphs 26 and 37), Iran rejects the legitimacy of sanctions coming back into force. These passages expressly provide, in near identical words, that “Iran has stated that if sanctions are reinstated in whole or in part, Iran will treat that as grounds to cease performing its commitments under this JCPOA” — Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action — “in whole or in part.”
Whoa, big if true. The only other major agreements that allow parties the right to withdrawal are the Non-Proliferation Treaty, the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty, both the first and second Strategic Arms Reduction Treaties, the Geneva Conventions, and…look, I’ll be honest here; these were the first five agreements I Googled and they all had withdrawal clauses, so it’s possible that there’s literally never been a major international agreement that didn’t allow the parties to withdraw if they believed that doing so was in their interest. When you think about it, what country would sign a deal like this that didn’t let it reserve the right to pull out of it someday? Other than the Iran that exists in John Bolton’s imagination, I mean.
Thus the inexorable pattern will not be: Iran violates the deal; sanctions snap back; Iran resumes compliance. Quite the reverse. The far more likely future is: Iran violates the deal; sanctions snap back; Iran tells us, using a diplomatic term of art, to take our deal and stuff it.
Well, sure, I guess, if they want to go back to the old sanctions regime and potentially look like the bad guys in doing so. But if they’d prefer not to see sanctions reimposed, then they’ll be incentivized to get back into compliance, right? Oh, I’m sorry, you weren’t finished:
Abrogating the deal, of course, would come only after Iran had reaped the economic benefits of having its assets unfrozen and the sanctions ended. The Europeans (among others) will have been suckered back into economic relationships that will cause as much pain to them as to Iran if they are abandoned. Sadly, the ayatollahs know the Europeans better than Mr. Obama does.
Oh, right I forgot, Iran is getting its $50 billion, or $100 billion, or $150 billion (or whatever, the number keeps going up every time the Bomb Bomb Iran folks take another look at it) in frozen money out of this deal, which is all the money it ever has needed or ever will need until the end of time, amen. After they get that money they’ll have no reason to try comply with their obligations to keep the sanctions off, I guess, for some reason.
Also, ah, I guess Bolton is saying that “The Europeans” are planning on breaking the sanctions, or something? Which seems a little uncharitable to them? Anyway, let’s move on.
We’re just reaching the peak of Bolton’s Bullshit Mountain, which is that he’s really concerned that this deal will ruin the internal dynamics of the UN, the organization that he cares about so much that he once thought it would be cool to disappear ~25% of it:
Finally, Mr. Obama’s plan to prevent Russia or China from casting vetoes that block snapback poses hidden dangers for America. Under the deal and Security Council Resolution 2231, if a JCPOA party asserts that a significant violation has occurred, then the council must vote within 30 days on whether “to continue the sanctions lifting.” Thus, in theory, if Washington alleged a breach, Moscow and Beijing would have the burden of keeping the sanctions lifted, rather than Washington having the burden of reinstituting them. Absent a resolution “to continue the sanctions lifting,” sanctions snap back.
By concocting a procedure that elides the Russian or Chinese vetoes, Mr. Obama has surreptitiously accomplished a prized objective of the international left, which always disapproved on principle of the veto power. Through 70 years of United Nations history, one lodestar emerges clearly: Washington’s only immutable protection has been its Security Council veto. Mr. Obama’s end-run around the veto poses long-term risks that far outweigh whatever short-term gain is to be had from boxing in Russia and China now.
Right? This whole freaking negotiation has been one big false flag op to allow “the international left” to realize its decades-long goal of getting rid of the UNSC veto altogether. It was all very simple and believable.
This is a former US Ambassador to the UN engaging in sub-InfoWars level conspiracy talk, and he’s being afford the space to do it on the op-ed real estate of the most prestigious newspaper in the country. He’s not even getting the basic presumption of his conspiracy right, seeing as how the snapback provision gets around a (hypothetical) Russian and/or Chinese veto by relying on an American (and/or British, and/or French) veto to block a UNSC resolution to continue lifting sanctions (and as Paul Pillar notes at that link, Russia and China had to voluntarily agree to that arrangement, which in its own way also reinforces the power of the veto). This mechanism doesn’t do an “end-run around the veto”; hell, it couldn’t work without the veto. Bolton either doesn’t understand how UNSC resolutions and vetoes work, or he’s hoping you don’t. I’m honestly not sure which is more likely, but either way it’s a heck of a lot of disingenuous bullshit.
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