Tag Archives: nuclear negotiations

Book Review: The Consequences of Syria (2014) by Lee Smith

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on May 9, 2015

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Lee Smith’s The Consequences of Syria is part of the Hoover Institution’s “The Great Unravelling” series, which also included The Struggle for Mastery in the Fertile Crescent by the late Fouad Ajami (which I reviewed here.) You can purchase a copy here.

Published in June 2014, Smith narrates Syria’s terrible war to the opening months of 2014, the innumerable excuses made by the Obama administration for letting it run, and the theoretical framework behind the administration’s decision. The book is relatively short and the prose is direct; it takes very complex discussions of ideas and puts them in easily-digestible terms—all while keeping the reader’s eye on the practical implications.

Smith starts with the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the central event in President Obama’s thinking about the Middle East. Continue reading

Obama’s Iran Deal Increases Nukes, Terrorism, and Instability

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on April 28, 2015

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The key thing to understand about the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the nuclear accord announced on April 2 between the P5+1 and Iran, is that it does not exist. The British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said at one point, “We envisage being able to deliver a narrative,” adding that this might not be written and—these being forgiving times—Iran’s narrative need not match the West’s. In other words, nothing was signed or agreed to. This is the reason for the wild discrepancies between the American and Iranian JCPOA “factsheets”: both are drawing from a rolling text that is ostensibly to lead to a “final” or “comprehensive” deal and spinning it to their own respective advantage. The administration has as much as said so with its mantra that “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed”.

The purpose of the announcement of the JCPOA therefore was, charitably, to “build political momentum toward a final agreement“. Less charitably it was intended to “demonstrate progress in order to fend off congressional action,” as Obama’s former nuclear adviser Gary Samore put it. In that at least it was successful. Continue reading

Nuclear Negotiations With Iran Go On—And On And On

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on December 2, 2014

Fordow, an Iranian nuclear enrichment facility near Qom—easily mistaken for the volcano lair of a Bond villain

Fordow, an Iranian nuclear enrichment facility near Qom—easily mistaken for the volcano lair of a Bond villain

It wasn’t exactly a nail-biting finish in the end was it? In Vienna on Nov. 24, the P5+1 and Iranian negotiators decided to extend for another seven months the “interim” deal, the Joint Plan of Action (JPA), made in November 2013 on Iran’s nuclear weapons program, until June 2015. Conditions always favoured an extension but I was not absolutely sure that this is what would happen until Secretary of State John Kerry said on Nov. 21: “We are not discussing an extension.” Continue reading