Tag Archives: syria

Chris Collins’ Iranthmetic

3 Dec


The image to the left of this text shows my Congressman’s Facebook reaction to a deal that the “P5+1” countries reached with Iran over its nuclear weapons and energy program. 

The deal was a modest thing, significant for the fact that Iran came to the table in apparent good faith at all. It would dilute existing nuclear material so that it could only be used for energy, and not weaponry, and there would be a 6 month halt to its nuclear weapon program altogether. The aim would be a final deal within 6 or 12 months, allowing for one 6 month extension of the pause. 

Iran’s economy has been absolutely devastated by international sanctions over its nuclear program, and it has a huge incentive to roll back its pariah status. The world benefits if Iran has no nuclear weapons to use against its myriad enemies. To my mind, the whole thing should be rolled into deal whereby Iran ends its support of Hezbollah and recognizes Israel, but diplomacy is often about baby steps. 

So, turning to the representative of NY-27, we could certainly fisk his simplistic statement to kingdom come – e.g., it wasn’t an “Obama Administration” deal, it was a deal between Iran on the one hand, and the US, Russia, China, and the European Union (read: the UK, France, and Germany – it’s called “P5+1” because it includes the 5 permanent members of the UN Security Council, meaning it would be veto-proof in that body, plus Germany) on the other.  Germany, for its part, does huge business with Iran, and all of these powers – working together – have the ability together to put great pressure on Iran to behave and comply. 

I could snarkily comment on Collins’ recent praise of Russian autocrat Vladimir Putin, or the fact that Collins chooses to manufacture his tchotchkes in China, but I also realize that his public pronouncements are not meant to be taken seriously. I think that we’re witnessing an Andy Kaufman-like comedic performance art that is, unfortunately, unfunny and predictable. Collins is a caricature of a closed-minded conservative backbencher. 

The point of diplomacy, of course, isn’t just to talk with friends. The diplomatic process involves talking with our sworn enemies, as well; to work out differences in a peaceful way rather than war. 

So, why would our caricature be so knee-jerkedly opposed to a rather contextually modest, temporary deal to freeze Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for the easing of some sanctions? Because he’s effectively been paid to oppose it

Just this past August, Collins took his son on an all-expenses-paid trip to Israel. The trip was financed by a private lobbying group, the American Israel Education Foundation. It paid for transportation, lodging, meals, and all incidentals for Collins (who is well able to afford spending $18,000 to visit Israel) and his son, who visited Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Ramallah, and Bethlehem. 

WGRZ called Collins out on it

Dr. Craig Holman with the government watchdog group Public Citizen said the trips are designed to influence and lobby members of Congress.

“These types of travel junkets have long been one of the favorite means for special interests and lobbyists to use to try to influence members of Congress and peddle their wares on Capitol Hill,” Dr. Holman said.

While AIEF is a non-profit, it is simply the charity wing of the AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. AIPAC is the largest pro-Israel lobby in America.

AIPAC and its lobbyists are prohibited from giving lawmakers or staff members gifts, including trips. So the group’s charity wing does it for them.

“(The ethics committees) have allowed a lobbying organization — any lobbying entity — to set up a 501(c)3, a charity wing even just on paper,” Dr. Holman said. “And if that (c)3 itself doesn’t employ lobbyists, then it can pay for these congressional travel junkets.”

Neither Congressman Reed nor Congressman Collins would speak with 2 On Your Side either on camera or by phone. They each emailed statements through their spokespeople.

“Congressman Collins’ trip – vetted and approved by the House Ethics Committee – was paid for exclusively by private donations at zero expense to taxpayers,” Collins Spokesperson Grant Loomis said by email. “The bipartisan effort involves both Democrats and Republicans and is critical to educating Members of Congress on the importance of the U.S.-Israel relationship and protecting American interests in the Middle East.”

Israel, for its part, has slammed the Iran nuclear deal, and her Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called it an “accommodation” and “political theater” that will “wreak havoc” in the region. Well, not all of Israel. For instance, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni has taken a much more conciliatory tone, arguing that the 6 month Iran deal gives Israel an opening to solve the Palestinian crisis so that Israel and the Arab world can be united in putting pressure on Iran. The opposition Labour Party has blasted Netanyahu, as has at least one of his former associates, 

On April 27, former Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) director Yuval Diskin said Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak were not fit to stand at helm of the Israeli regime. 

“I will tell you things that might be harsh. I cannot trust Netanyahu and Barak at the wheel in confronting Iran. They are infected with messianic feelings over Iran,” Diskin said. 

Later on Sunday, Former Mossad chief Meir Dagan expressed support for Diskin, saying he was stating his “internal truth.” 

Israel’s Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Benny Gantz said on April 25 that he does not believe Iran will pursue nuclear weapons after years of efforts made by Tel Aviv and its allies to convince the world otherwise. 

Gantz described Iran’s leadership as “very rational” who would not make such a decision. 

There hasn’t been a havoc-free day in the last 3,000 years anywhere surrounding Israel, given its neighbors’ insistence that it be eliminated. Yet with careful diplomacy, Arab and Islamic enemies have succumbed and recognized Israel. It happened with Egypt and Jordan, it could happen with others if talks would take place, but as with all things in the Middle East, it’s just too complicated and fraught with peril. 

If Chris Collins was so effusive with his praise for Putin’s supposed out-maneuvering in Syria, which pledged to destroy its chemical weapons to avoid American military action, his heart should be just as full of praise for the Iran deal, because there isn’t a damn reason why anyone would trust Syria’s Bashir Assad more or less than any of Iran’s mullahs. 

Russia’s Concern-Troll

12 Sep

Better Opinion Columnist than Donn Esmonde

Last night, a New York Times opinion piece penned by Russian President Vladimir Putin‘s D.C. based public relations and/or lobbying group hit the Times’ website. I’m not particularly concerned with his last-paragraph indictment of American exceptionalism, because frankly the Russian President would be expected to believe in Russian exceptionalism. Yet what he actually writes is that no nationality is special. Don’t believe it, given the existence of what can only be called the Putin Youth, which uses a mix of Russian nationalism and Soviet imagery to lend support to the regime. 

What Putin’s Times piece really amounts to is the most prominent concern-troll in history. Putin lecturing the US about international shit-stirring and democracy is like Kim Jong Un lecturing the world about prisoners’ rights

The United States isn’t perfect by any means. Its government isn’t perfect, either. But of the countries qualified to lecture the US on good government and democracy, Russia is in maybe the lowest third. Since 2000, Putin has been the de facto dictator of the Russian Federation. Ask Chechnya about his democratic peacekeeping. Look how he bypassed term limits by switching between the President’s office and Prime Minister. We’re led to believe that a former KGB agent is a champion of openness and liberty because he is harboring fugitive thief Edward Snowden while actually monitoring communications for political means. 

All the things the tea party right and ultra left criticize centrist Obama for being or doing, Putin is actually being or doing. But, you know, Putin hunts with his shirt off, and he’s tight with the guy who gasses his own people with Sarin, so it’s all good. How many bands critical of the President has Obama thrown into labor camps? How many businessmen has Obama exiled or killed/attempted to kill? How many state-owned industries has Obama “privatized” into the hands of his friends and supporters? Has Obama promoted the cause of LGBT rights in the last 5 years, or deliberately rendered homosexuality illegal? How come people like Edward Snowden, Glenn Greenwald, and their supporters don’t criticize the Russian surveillance state

Anyone – including my own Congressman – who has nicer things to say about Vladimir Putin than President Obama is being an idiot, pure and simple. Swallow the propaganda all you want, but don’t pretend like Putin’s Russia is the model for America unless you’re into neofascism, autocracy, tycoonism, and mass surveillance for political, rather than security, ends.