Implementation Day Fallout: Neocons Have Nuclear Meltdown Over Prisoner Exchange

The main editorial in today’s New York Times puts into proper prospective the momentous events of this past weekend. The declaration of Implementation Day for the deal negotiated over the past two years between the P5+1 group of nations and Iran merits the title of the editorial: “A Safer World, Thanks to the Iran Deal“. Just consider the import of what has been accomplished through this incredible feat of diplomacy:

This is a moment many thought would never come: Iran has delivered on its commitment under a 2015 agreement with the United States and other major powers to curb or eliminate the most dangerous elements of its nuclear program. The world is now safer for this.

The International Atomic Energy Agency verified on Saturday that Iran has shipped over 8.5 tons of enriched uranium to Russia so Iran can’t use that in bomb-making, disabled more than 12,000 centrifuges and poured concrete into the core of a reactor at Arak designed to produce plutonium.

On Sunday, President Obama hailed these steps as having “cut off every single path Iran could have used to build a bomb” and noted that engagement with Iran has created a “window to try to resolve important issues.” Most important of all, he said, “We’ve achieved this historic progress through diplomacy, without resorting to another war in the Middle East.”

Yet, as long-time commenter lefty665 pointed out this morning, in response to Implementation Day and the exchange of prisoners between the US and Iran, most of the chatter in the press (and especially its dominant conservative voices) dealt with the prisoner exchange:

Can you believe that most of the chatter has been about prisoner exchange and not the actualization of the nuclear deal and dropping of sanctions on Iran? Suppose they just happened in conjunction during a weekend news vacuum? Or was it a conscious, “Here, watch this hand” to distract attention. Either way we sure got a boatload of plain old American bozos baying at the moon as usual.

Perhaps peak “American bozos baying at the moon” over the prisoner exchange came in this editorial from the Wall Street Journal:

Now we know that Washington Post correspondent Jason Rezaian and three other Americans were hostages held by Iran in return for U.S. concessions, in case there was any doubt. And on Saturday we learned the ransom price: $100 billion as part of the completed nuclear deal and a prisoner swap of Iranians who violated U.S. laws. Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps should call this Operation Clean Sweep.

The timing of Iran’s Saturday release of the Americans is no accident. This was also implementation day for the nuclear deal, when United Nations sanctions on Tehran were lifted, which means that more than $100 billion in frozen assets will soon flow to Iran and the regime will get a lift from new investment and oil sales. The mullahs were taking no chances and held the hostages until President Obama’s diplomatic checks cleared.

/break/

All of this shows that the nuclear accord is already playing out as critics predicted. The West will tread gingerly in challenging Iran’s nonnuclear military and regional ambitions lest it renege on its nuclear promises. Iran has again shown the world that taking American hostages while Barack Obama is President can yield a diplomatic and military windfall.

Ah, but the Wall Street Journal is far from alone. Consider this fine baying at the moon from Senator Tom Cotton:

But in our elation over their safe return we must be careful not to forget the dangerous circumstances of their release. President Obama has appeased Iran’s terror-sponsoring ayatollahs, this time with a ‘prisoner’ swap to secure the overdue release of four innocent American hostages in return for which Iran gets seven lawfully convicted terrorists and criminals, fourteen terrorism prosecutions halted, $100 billion in sanctions relief, and an industrial-scale nuclear program-and Iran gets to keep Americans Siamak Namazi and Robert Levinson to extract future concessions. While we exult in the return of American hostages, one must also wonder how many more Americans will be taken hostage in the future as a result of President Obama’s shameful decision to negotiate with these terrorists.

Clearly, nothing but all-out war and the deaths of hundreds of thousands will appease Cotton and his blood-lust for Iran.

The anti-Iran echo chamber also fired up against the deal and even moved beyond just the prisoner exchange. Consider this fine bit of echo, which I found when United Against Nuclear Iran retweeted David Albright’s “The Good ISIS” retweeting Josh Rogin promoting an article he wrote (by himself this time, rather than with his usual Partner in Keeping the Neocon Flame Alive Eli Lake) warning us that now Iran is going to arm Assad (somehow I can’t get the full level of retweeting echo to embed…):

Remarkably, though, there were a couple of usually reliable voices in the anti-Iran rhetoric who did not come through. AP’s George Jahn seemed fresh out of “diplomatic sources” to smear Iran, as he co-authored a piece of straight up reporting on Implementation Day. Similarly, fear-monger Joby Warrick briefly returned from his Washington Post exile to environmental reporting this morning to write about the deal, but gave as much of his analysis to a likelihood of reformers forging ahead in Iran as hardliners bringing more peril. As with Jahn, David Sanger also wound up only writing straight reporting of Implementation Day without finding much smear material to leak against Iran.

Essentially simultaneous with the lifting of sanctions against Iran due to its nuclear technology, the US imposed new sanctions because of Iran’s recent testing of ballistic missile technology. I confess to not having followed the ballistic missile controversy as closely as the nuclear technology issue, but it did strike me as unfortunate to implement new sanctions right away. This could be an attempt by Obama to provide a bit of comfort to Iran haters in our government. I also haven’t looked deeply, but these sanctions are likely to be much more limited in scope and shouldn’t produce the same widespread damage to Iran’s economy as the nuclear sanctions.

Finally, we also saw a demonstration that Hillary Clinton is indeed now a candidate running for office and no longer the diplomat she was as Secretary of State. Her statement this weekend, published after the announcement of the prisoner exchange but before the prisoners actually left Iran, was overly belligerent in its call for the new ballistic missile sanctions. She almost certainly had to have known that the ballistic missile sanctions had been held in abeyance to finish the prisoner exchange negotiations, so her statement could be seen as a late threat to the prisoners actually being allowed to leave Iran.

Many years ago, Jim got a BA in Radiation Biophysics from the University of Kansas. He then got a PhD in Molecular Biology from UCLA and did postdoctoral research in yeast genetics at UC Berkeley and mouse retroviruses at Stanford. He joined biosys in Palo Alto, producing insect parasitic nematodes for pest control. In the early 1990’s, he moved to Gainesville, FL and founded a company that eventually became Entomos. He left the firm as it reorganized into Pasteuria Biosciences and chose not to found a new firm due a clash of values with venture capital investors, who generally lack all values. Upon leaving, he chose to be a stay at home dad, gentleman farmer, cook and horse wrangler. He discovered the online world through commenting at Glenn Greenwald’s blog in the Salon days and was involved in the briefly successful Chris Dodd move to block the bill to renew FISA. He then went on to blog at Firedoglake and served a brief stint as evening editor there. When the Emptywheel blog moved out of Firedoglake back to standalone status, Jim tagged along and blogged on anthrax, viruses, John Galt, Pakistan and Afghanistan. He is now a mostly lapsed blogger looking for a work-around to the depressing realization that pointing out the details of government malfeasance and elite immunity has approximately zero effect.
34 replies
  1. orionATL says:

    opinion from nytimes.

    roger cohen has some of the same clear-eyedness of paul krugman, a rare quality among the times stable of, uh, opinionators:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/19/opinion/iran-opens-for-business.html?&moduleDetail=section-news-3&action=click&contentCollection=Opinion&region=Footer&module=MoreInSection&version=WhatsNext&contentID=WhatsNext&pgtype=article

    the importance of an unshackled iran to the prospects for curbing the destabalizing israeli-saudi regime-preserving alliance can’t be overstated. similarly for iran as an engine of growth in a region where both the israeli and the saudi economies are subsidized economiee.

    • bloopie2 says:

      “the importance of an unshackled iran to the prospects for curbing the destabalizing israeli-saudi regime-preserving alliance can’t be overstated. similarly for iran as an engine of growth in a region where both the israeli and the saudi economies are subsidized economies.” Is this what the US should be doing — attempting to generate some sort of balance of power that is supposedly desirable to the US (or the world)? I’ll bet you a buck that even as soon as ten years from now the Middle East will look nothing like anything you are predicting now; current long-term predictions, and current actions based thereon, are worth little.

  2. lefty665 says:

    Thanks Jim, nice to see it personified. The Wall Street Journal editorial, Tom Cotton et al as “American bozos baying at the moon”, couldn’t have said it better myself:) Funny thing is some of the WSJ reporting is pretty good, but the editorial page will rot your brain.
    .
    The neocons have not given up their propaganda. HRC repeated the sanctions blather last night at the debate. A rose is a rose is a rose.

    • lefty665 says:

      Would have been better than arming Al Qaeda and thus ISIL as we have. Oh, and better than arming KSA to destroy what little Yemen had, not to mention Israel…

  3. orionATL says:

    jim white thoughtfully writes:

    “… Finally, we also saw a demonstration that Hillary Clinton is indeed now a candidate running for office and no longer the diplomat she was as Secretary of State. Her statementthis weekend, published after the announcement of the prisoner exchange but before the prisoners actually left Iran, was overly belligerent in its call for the new ballistic missile sanctions. She almost certainly had to have known that the ballistic missile sanctions had been held in abeyance to finish the prisoner exchange negotiations, so her statement could be seen as a late threat to the prisoners actually being allowed to leave Iran… ”

    very astute observation, professor white. hillary clinton is indeed a candidate seeking office and she is indeed, as you well know, no longer secretary of state.

    did you really have to cheapen your otherwise informative article, professor white, by indulging in political campaign rhetoric, by indulging in an instance of just the kind of mindless political axgrinding that you complain republicans are doing?

    • Jim White says:

      .
      Listen up, grasshopper. My political ax-grinding is neither here nor there and should not come as a surprise to any regular readers of this blog. What needed pointing out there was exactly what I said. Because of her unique positioning as the most recent Secretary of State, Clinton could well have put American lives on the line with her needless and craven pandering to the neocon warmongers. Just by holding off for a few more hours until the prisoners were safely out of Iran would have left me entirely uncaring about her posturing.

      • orionATL says:

        jim white. you went out of yourvway to demean secretary clinton. nothing in your article required you to append that nasty little dig at the end except partisan, political preference.

        you were engaging in political commentary and thereby, hypocrisy, at the end of your otherwise informative article – you did so by accusing clinton of political activity as a candidate (which commonsense should understand is to be expected) while engaging in rank political activity of your own by gratuitously, repeat, gratuitously, tossing in a criticism of a candidate whom you do not like though she was taking a position entirely reasonable under the circumstances.

        to repeatb: you went out of your way to demean the former secretary of state.

        to do so was hypocrisy on your part. to then deny it is intellectual dishonesty on your part.

      • orionATL says:

        oh, dear jim, more hypocrisy.

        .
        … “Clinton could well have put American lives on the line with her needless and craven pandering to the neocon warmongers. Just by holding off for a few more hours until the prisoners were safely out of Iran…”.
        .

        now you’re playing the “you risks the safety of our boys” game? i thought that was solely a rightwing tactic.

      • orionATL says:

        re #6

        the more i think of it the more contemptible i think it that you justified “my political ax grinding” with this rightwing mantra “… Clinton could well have put American lives on the line with her needless and craven pandering to the neocon warmongers..”

        that is absolute bullshit. iran would never have done anything to screw up relif from sanctions. nobody knows that better than you.

    • P J Evans says:

      She didn’t have to say that; she was secretary of state for years, she damned well should understand diplomacy as a tool. She didn’t have to sound like she wants another damned war we can’t afford.

  4. bevin says:

    ” Hillary Clinton is… no longer the diplomat she was as Secretary of State.”
    She was a diplomat?
    I guess that what that means is that she specialised in using proxies to carry out her coups and initiate her wars. Nobody could accuse her of diplomacy in the sense of ‘jaw-jaw is better than war-war”

    • Jim White says:

      .
      1. That link is the very same one I used in the post.
      .
      2. Your concern over my politicizing the Clinton comment is hilarious given that this entire post is a political comment. As long as it was laughing at neocons howling at the moon, you had no problem calling it an “informative article”. Only once it got to Clinton did you lose it.
      .
      3. Seriously. Give it a rest. You’ve pointed out the problem you have with my post.

      • orionATL says:

        prof white writes : “(your) concern over my politicizing the Clinton comment is hilarious..”

        the word “hilarious” dear prof is vacuous putdown term which teenagers and college students use when stuck with not having anything to say.

        jim white continues:
        .
        ” As long as it was laughing at neocons howling at the moon, you had no problem calling it an “informative article”. Only once it got to Clinton did you lose it… ”

        that statement is even more intellectually dishonest than your statement about clinton.

        i was calling your work” informative” because it was informative, and as a respectful appreciation of the work you had put in on the iran negotiations. “informative” clearly referred to all of your work, not to slapping neocons around. that you choose to mischaracterize my use of the term confirms some of my criticisms.

        by the way “give it a rest” is also teentalk.

        • orionATL says:

          jm white –

          – read the first paragraph of your article, including the quote.

          – read comment #1 from orion.

          both focus on the benefits of the iran negotiations. did you happen to notice that?

          • orionATL says:

            a very informative article.

            regrettably, i think this quote gets to the heart of the sanctions:

            .
            ” why this relentless pressure and threats against a country for supposedly having a nuclear weapons programme which in reality – as everyone knew – it had stopped having?

            The short answer is that the US and its regional allies – Israel and Saudi Arabia – became alarmed at the influence Iran achieved in the region following the US’s overthrow of Saddam Huseein… ”

            anyone who read material on the iran nuclear program during the obama years, including multiple posts here by jim white, could only conclude that iranian nuclear bomb making, not to mention delivery, was out of the question in any worrisome time period.

            and that is the farce and tragedy of the iranean sanctions. it is why i said above, i hope iran can lead the mideast into an era which the israeis and saudis not only could not but would not lead i to.

            president obama’s and sec clinton’s and sec kerry’s contributions have been to find ways to work around or over the terrible, blocking foreign policy alliance of rightwing republicans chasing the american zionist voters, and the israeli and the saudi governments desperately trying to avoid their inevitable destiny – dissolution.

            in short, the agreement was also about the u. s. gov refusing to let israeli or saudi arabia pressure the u. s. to abandon a useful international negotiation. in this same vein, it was about unshackling a worthy competitor to the israeli-saud mantra on the fate of the middle east – “just say yes to war”.

            so,yesz this was at least as much about u. s. abuse of its power for internal domestic reasons as it was about a nuclear iran.

            nonetheless, the agreement was very detailed and the u. s./e.u. negotiators bought +- 20 yrs of time.

            • lefty665 says:

              “president obama’s and sec clinton’s and sec kerry’s contributions have been to find ways to work around or over the terrible, blocking foreign policy alliance of rightwing republicans chasing the american zionist voters”
              .
              That’s a nice thought, but you can leave Clinton out of that troika. She has been allied with and as bellicose as any right wing Repub neocon. They’re her buds. At State if she had a shred of decency she’d have fired neocon Victoria Nuland (nee Kagan). That would have saved us the shame of overthrowing an elected government in Ukraine and aligning us with neo-nazis there. Instead she promoted Nuland to Asst Secretary where she could brag about spending $5 Billion to overthrow the elected government.
              .
              See my post and links @12 above of Clinton laughing about Qaddafi’s death, sodomized by a bayonet. The unconstitutional overthrow of Qaddafi was her baby.
              .
              Last night she repeated the lies that Assad gassed his own people several years ago. She was an advocate for going to war over that garbage. Fortunately Putin pulled Obama back from the brink. We have subsequently learned that the nerve gas rockets were a false flag operation designed to goad us into war.
              .
              Hillary’s ongoing sucking up to NetanYahoo portend more ME mayhem should she be elected.
              .
              There’s more, but those disasters on her watch and under her direction are enough to strike fear into the heart of anyone wanting us to return to at least a moderately sane foreign policy.
              .
              As far as some of us are concerned, Clinton’s foreign policy “experience” disqualifies her for public office. Let her live out her dotage extorting more millions for her family foundation.
              .

              • orionATL says:

                lefty #25

                “…. “president obama’s and sec clinton’s and sec kerry’s contributions have been to find ways to work around or over the terrible, blocking foreign policy alliance of rightwing republicans chasing the american zionist voters”
                .
                That’s a nice thought, but you can leave Clinton out of that troika… ”

                you need to read some history lefty.

                it’s o. k. to despise clinton, h. and clinton, b., as you clearly do evidenced by multiple comments over time at emptywheel.

                however, re-writing history to fit a prejudice is not especially admirable in my book.

                • orionATL says:

                  lefty #25

                  here’s the wikipedia entry which includes lots of stories of chow gaddafi died including your chosen favorite – the bayonnet story:

                  .
                  https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_of_Muammar_Gaddafi
                  .

                  the story i recall from the time he was killed is this:

                  (from personal memory.)

                  gaddifi was cornered and dragged out of hiding. the crowd that had gathered asked that he not be killed. one comment was “we need him to talk” . despite those pleas, an individual stepped from the crowd and shot gaddafi twice, once in the stomach and once in the head. he died on the way to medical care.

                  a version of my recollection is included in the wiki story if you’d care to look it up.

                • lefty665 says:

                  “re-writing history to fit a prejudice is not especially admirable in my book.”
                  .
                  Then why do you engage in it? You might try looking at the video of Qaddafi’s death.
                  Regardless of the ignominious details, Hillary’s self aggrandizing and cackling over his death is behavior that demeans us all.
                  .
                  You misunderstand, I do not despise either of the Clintons. I despise the damage they’ve done while enriching themselves. It’s time for them to exit the stage and let a different set of people have a shot at fixing the things they’ve screwed up for fun and profit.
                  .

                  • orionATL says:

                    “You misunderstand, I do not despise either of the Clintons. I despise the damage they’ve done while enriching themselves. It’s time for them to exit the stage and let a different set of people have a shot at fixing the things they’ve screwed up for fun and profit.”

                    this is a very confused statement.

                    .
                    no, i don’t misunderstand. i think “despise” is entirely correct. i think you engage in deceitful parsing of language when you claim otherwise.

                    you have a long, long history here of virulently anti-clinton comments. as the saying goes – you are entitled to your own opinions, but not to your own facts, including trying to put a humanitarian polish on what is clearly your extreme political animosity towards the clintons.

                    are you able to distinguish hillary clinton as a person and leader from her husband? or do they both blend together in your fevered animus?

                    • orionATL says:

                      in what i think is propaganda as vivious as any from breibart, lefty, you seem to be hell bent on associating hillary clinton with an especially grusome version of gadaffi’s death. why does this fascinate you so?

                      are you saying clinton was present?

                      are you saying clinton ordered gaddafi’s death?

                      are you saying clinton covered up some aspect of gadaffi’s death?

                      exactly what the hell IS your point in repestedly linking clinton in print with gadaffi being bayoneted?

                      i say your sly linking is just typical gutter politic defamation from one who truly despises clinton.

                      in fact, in tone and in word, your attacks on clinton remind me of nothing so much as the repeated, mindless animosity of the republican rightwing toward president obama. nothing, but nothing, the guy does is reasonable, effective, well-intentioned.

                      but that’s o. k. lefty. it’s a free country. enjoy your bayonnet fantasies.

  5. orionATL says:

    in case anybody is reading anymore:

    http://www.wsj.com/articles/iran-talks-likely-to-figure-in-any-hillary-clinton-2016-bid-1417823608
    .
    http://www.cnn.com/2015/07/14/politics/hillary-clinton-iran-nuclear-deal/index.html
    .
    http://mobile.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE6B21WZ20101203
    .
    http://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/mar/31/iran-nuclear-programme-hillary-clinton

    notevthe dates on these articles.

    secretary clinton was involved in iran negotiations from the beginning. she was a tough negotiator.

    secretary clinton does not deserves jjim white’s two-bit cheap shot.

    since the rest of the lemming crowd leftover fom firefoglake won’t counter professor white’s political meanness, i will.

  6. lefty665 says:

    The idea that the Iranians caved because of the vicious bite of US sanctions is neocon tripe. We ended up with roughly the terms the Iranians offered in ’03. Contrary to US propaganda, reality is that Iranian escalation in centrifuges and other activities was largely in response to US rejection of their offers and our demands that they cease legal nuclear activities. We got resolution because Obama abandoned (finally) the Bush/neocon fantasy that we could starve Iran into submission.
    .
    Hillary politicized the issue at the debate last night by repeating and embracing the neocon bully fantasy that tough sanctions brought us victory. She used it to illustrate her superior experience, judgement and toughness. It is up to the rest of us to see baying at the moon for what it is.

    • orionATL says:

      re #19

      i’ve read for some years that the eu was getting restless about sanctions. but, like so much u. s. conduct the eu nations get concerned about, e. g., u. s. invasion of eu privacy, not much happened as a consequence. nor did the iranians’ russian allies show willingness to break sanctions in any serious way.

      i cant say the u.s.’s negotiations were “tough” negotiations or not. i can say that recently there has been much talk these days about these negotiations being “sensitive”, “respectful”, and “patient”, but that is how one behaves at the end of a negotiation.

      the sanctions, though, were tough as hell, realistically, they were cruel.

      i don’t think clinton or any other candidate would be foolish enough in the current political climate to discuss the iran negotiations using an “effete, liberal” vocabulary of sensitive and respectful, particularly the only woman running against the republican bestiary.

  7. Don Bacon says:

    A double standard: All foreign US prisoners are guilty, all foreign Iranian prisoners are innocent. It’s just the way it is.

  8. Jonf says:

    I am not clear on why it was necessary to impose new sanctions on Iran for the missile tests. Was it really necessary or simply to please the comservative clown car? If the later, it is not going to work, guaranteed!

    I am sorry to say this but it seems to me Hillary tries too hard to be a tough negotiator. If one wants to find a way out of the ME or a reduced presence, I doubt she is the one to lead it.

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