Author: Art Keller

Will Biden Resurrect the Iran Deal?

President Elect Joe Biden has stated his intention to return the United States to the multilateral deal hatched during the Obama administration to constrain Iran’s nuclear program in return for sanctions relief for Iran. The terms of the deal were laid out in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), 159 pages of the kind of tortured diplomatic language and technical annexes you’d expect from people who would use a title like Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. The JCPOA faced strong opposition from US Republicans, and because of that opposition, the JCPOA could not be submitted in 2015 as a treaty to be ratified by the Republican-controlled Senate. It instead took the form of multilateral pact monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for Iran to cap the amount of Low Enriched Uranium (LEU) on hand, not enrich uranium above a certain level, and to allow IAEA Safeguards inspectors access to Iranian nuclear facilities. The US President was required to certify to Congress quarterly that Iran was in compliance with the deal to avoid …

What Happened to America’s Soft Power?

For most Americans, the majority of whom will never leave North America, the issue of the US’s image abroad is an issue of tenuous concern at best. The notion that the US’s image abroad has a palpable effect on the efforts of the Central Intelligence Agency to penetrate the inner circles of our foreign adversaries is not something they take into consideration. Perhaps they should. As a former CIA case officer, I was truly alarmed to see a recent Pew poll headlined US Image Plummets Internationally. As the poll notes, “the share of the public with a favorable view of the U.S. is as low as it has been at any point since the Center began polling on this topic nearly two decades ago.” Some of the low standing can be attributed to the perception that the US has handled the COVID crisis poorly. But as much or more is that President Donald Trump is widely despised by our putative allies. The US Department of Defense has a concept, “Preparing the battlefield.” Before the first …

The Fall of Beirut

The effects of the explosion of nearly 3,000 tons of ammonium nitrate fertilizer in the port of Beirut, Lebanon on August 4th was not restricted to 170+ deaths and 3,000+ injuries. The explosion’s metaphorical shockwaves may prove to be the death knell of Lebanon’s domestic politics and economy. Both were already collapsing from extreme corruption even before COVID struck. Add an explosion that caused billions of dollars of damage to an already bankrupt country, and the result is a failed state in the making. Lebanon is failing in no small part because the Shia terror group Hezbollah, which translates as “Army of God,” makes its home there. Hezbollah’s continued residency and effective Lebanese governance seem to be mutually exclusive propositions. Except calling Hezbollah merely a terror group is too simplistic, and nothing in Lebanon is ever simple or easy to explain. Hezbollah is responsible for countless murders, kidnappings, and terror attacks, including the 1983 suicide bombing of the US Marine barracks in Beirut that killed 241 Marines. But Hezbollah is also a charity operating in …

How Long Before the Regime Falls in Iran?

The death of Iranian Quds Force commander General Quassem Soleimani has produced some truly bizarre media coverage. Some Western media outlets are framing Soleimani’s death as the loss of a deeply beloved hero, such in this January 7th episode of the New York Times The Daily podcast. The podcast spends more than 20 minutes describing how Soleimani was a beloved totem, a living security blanket that Iranians believe protected Iran from instability (by fostering instability in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, and Yemen, apparently). The closest thing in the podcast to an acknowledgement that Soleimani led a group of armed thugs that viciously suppressed dissent in Iran, including turning their guns on Iranian protestors less than two months ago, was a single sentence in the podcast: “To be clear, there are plenty of Iranians who did not love or respect Soleimani.” “Plenty” seems an inadequate way to characterize the majority of Iranians. Seventy-nine percent of Iranians would vote the Islamic Republic out of existence if given a chance, according to one poll. Yet somehow that torrent of …