Editor’s note: This is the latest in a series “To the Republic: Rediscovering the Constitution.” Click HERE to read the series.
If the Founders came to Congress tomorrow and saw the diminished role the legislative branch plays in the function of the federal government — the degree to which the legislature really is vanishing — it would be a mystery to them.
Today, it is clear to us that Congress has ceded many of its powers and responsibilities to unelected bureaucrats in regulatory agencies. The authors of the Constitution, however, feared the reverse. They were concerned that our representatives would swallow up the executive branch, not that the legislative branch would offer itself up to be eaten. For instance, James Madison wrote in Federalist No. 48 that, “The legislative department is everywhere extending the sphere of its activity, and drawing all power into its impetuous vortex.”
But in our time, far from extending the sphere of its activities, drawing power into its vortex, and threatening the independence of the executive, legislators refuse to make most of the hard decisions of governance. They are happy, instead, to let “experts” from executive departments and special interests do the job for them. It is easier to let others regulate than to do the work of legislating. While members of Congress routinely appear on television, the real decisions that affect the lives of regular Americans — about what the law really says, about what the law really means, about to whom the law applies — are made behind closed doors in rooms that the public has never been invited to enter.
I say this as the head of a regulatory agency and also as a former Senate staffer.
In their persistent deference to agencies and “expertise,” our legislators fail on two, opposite counts. On one hand, members of Congress enact statutes that allow regulators too much latitude, so that they may do what they want without guidance or, more importantly, accountability. On the other hand, legislators sometimes make laws that are excessively rigid and unable to tolerate adjustment as our scientific knowledge evolves and gives us new information. Consequently, the American people get the worst of both worlds.
The Clean Air Act shows how this works, or perhaps I should say doesn’t work, in practice. Since its amendment in 1990, our means of measuring pollution and health impacts have greatly improved. We can with much more precision and accuracy say what is in the air, how much of it is there, and how it interacts with the human body.
But our judgment of how much is too much, and worth the cost of further reduction efforts, has not been similarly refined. Rather than fixing a standard of compliance, legislators ceded those policy decisions to the bureaucrats and regulators, allowing them to drive the rules beyond reason and with no regard to effects. That leaves the American public uncertain of where they stand before the law, with Congress nowhere to be seen.
I have worked to give Americans regulatory clarity and certainty. To improve rule making under the Clean Air Act, the Environmental Protection Agency in June put forward a proposal that would require consistent, high-quality analysis of benefits and costs be provided to the public for significant rules. This reform goes hand in hand with the EPA’s science transparency efforts. We the people, and not just the unelected regulators, deserve to see the data, studies and research being used to justify regulatory decisions. Scientists ought to be “on tap” for consultation and not “on top,” as Winston Churchill put it.
While it is my job and a very great honor to lead the EPA and to guide its work, there is a sense in which these particular efforts should not have been needed. Congress could have and could still legislate on these questions The self-government that makes our country great has as its ideal the citizen legislator, accountable to his or her fellow citizens.
Congress is the instrument of our union as a nation of states united under law, a deliberative body containing in itself both a chamber that represents each person as one part of the many and a chamber representing people as citizens of a state.
We are a nation of laws, and not of rules.
Because they were building a nation of laws, the Founders believed that legislative ambition posed the greatest threat to our liberties. To quote Madison again, from Federalist No. 48: “It is against the enterprising ambition of this department that the people ought to indulge all their jealousy and exhaust all their precautions.”
The danger Madison saw in the legislature is in fact precisely that which the public faces in executive agencies today, without the accountability of electoral politics. For, Madison goes on to write: “It is not unfrequently a question of real nicety in legislative bodies, whether the operation of a particular measure will, or will not, extend beyond the legislative sphere.”
It is commonly a question now, and not a very subtle one, whether the operation of a particular regulatory measure will extend beyond its own original sphere.
Ambition is not all bad, and today the legislature could use more of it. After all, the drafting of the Constitution was itself a supreme exercise in legislative ambition — not content to merely amend the Articles of Confederation, the Founders lay down a new supreme law. “Ambition must be made to counteract ambition,” Madison said in Federalist No. 51, as he explained how the branches of our federal government would check each other, so that the balance of power did not fall all into one branch’s hands.
The work of our federal bureaucracies is an ambitious one. It is past time for our legislators to channel their ambition for the public good and assert themselves. They need to do their jobs, stop deferring to agencies, and stop giving agencies regulatory authority into perpetuity.
• Andrew R. Wheeler is the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has pronounced as complete a three-week-long military operation against rebel forces in northern Tigray state. Federal forces captured the state capital of Mekelle, and it appears that Tigrayan forces are reeling, though information is patchy because of a government-imposed communications blackout.
Unilateral “mission accomplished” declarations have a checkered track record, however and the fighting in Ethiopia is now likely mutating into a long, grinding insurgency. The country and the region in which it sits can ill afford such a tragedy — and it’s one that might have been avoided.
The conflict began when fighters from the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which ruled with an iron fist for nearly 30 years until being displaced by Mr. Abiy in 2018, allegedly attacked an Ethiopian military base in November. Federal forces, buttressed by militias from neighboring Amhara state and indeterminate support from Eritrea, quickly attacked Tigray to dismantle the TPLF.
At that time, the heavily armed TPLF had as many as 250,000 fighters. However, it is caught in a multifront war and is bottled up by a hostile Eritrea to the north, the invasion from the south, and Sudan to its west that closed border posts. It appears that Mekelle fell with scant resistance, despite TPLF boasting of how costly taking the city would be. On Nov. 28, Mr. Abiy tweeted that the military operations had transitioned to a police action to arrest the TPLF leadership.
But the end of conventional fighting likely signals the beginning of unconventional fighting. Born as an insurgency in the mid-1970s, the TPLF understands this type of warfare, and some of its fighters are reportedly already scattering to the hills.
Their chances of sustaining a significant guerrilla war are good. Insurgencies are fundamentally a contest for the population’s support or at least acquiescence, and most Tigrayans are likely to favor the TPLF over the non-Tigrayan invading forces.
In Ethiopia’s superheated ethnic environment, Mr. Abiy’s use of militias from rival Amhara state, and allowing Amharas to administer conquered territory in western Tigray, must surely look to ordinary Tigrayans like vengeance taking.
The TPLF does lack the type of sanctuary that is often critical to successful insurgencies, but Tigray’s forbidding terrain can help. Resupply and funding will also be difficult given the TPLF’s isolation, though armed groups often adopt insurgency in part because it requires much less materiel than conventional fighting.
A sustained, low-intensity conflict in northern Ethiopia would be terrible for the region and the U.S.
Africa’s second most populous country, Ethiopia is a fast-growing economic power and a major American security partner that has fought the al-Shabab terrorist group in Somalia for years.
The Tigray fighting is sending refugees spilling into Sudan, itself in the midst of a hopeful but fraught political transition supported by the U.S. The conflict, and the ethnic divisions it is exacerbating, imperil Ethiopia’s chances of becoming the type of stable, democratic country that makes the strongest American partner.
This developing tragedy may have been unavoidable. Mr. Abiy inherited a state wounded by decades of misrule, including damage from the TPLF’s abusive reign. The intransigence of TPLF lost-causers has been a thorn in his side from the earliest moments of his rule.
But it is not obvious that Mr. Abiy exhausted every reasonable option for avoiding the catastrophe of a fratricidal war. His peremptory management of even admirable reforms — such as making peace with Eritrea and other initiatives — may have been well-intentioned, but it exacerbated Tigrayans’ fears of authoritarian overreach and did not promote de-escalation.
Others now share that fear. Tellingly, Mr. Abiy has lost support among his tribe, the Oromo, who led the revolution that elevated him and who were his first and most ardent backers.
The U.S. and other concerned countries have been right to call for an end to the fighting, but neither side appears willing to negotiate. That means the war in Ethiopia is likely just beginning.
• Joshua Meservey is The Heritage Foundation’s senior policy analyst for Africa and the Middle East.
When Joe Biden was declared the winner of the U.S. presidential election, millions of people breathed a sigh of relief. The uncertainty, turmoil and volatility of the Trump presidency was over. There was a renewed hope that the country could return to a more normal version of the presidency, one where our leader acts like a leader, listens to the advice of experts and engages with allies.
It is good to be hopeful. In fact, the tendency to hope and dream for a better future is one of the most appealing characteristics of Americans I experienced when I first moved to the country as a teenager. However, I worry that this optimism will push aside some real issues the election has not solved.
Many have already pointed out that the election does not erase the past four years. Damage to U.S. alliances, national unity, faith in the government and the U.S. position globally has already been done. Some of that damage will take years to fix, if it can be fixed at all.
It also does not erase the fact that the government structure — the judiciary, Congress, etc. — allowed President Trump to continually act in a way unbefitting of a world leader. Many Republicans even backed his baseless assertions that the election was rigged, actively calling into question the integrity of the U.S. democratic system and a peaceful transfer of power.
Over 70 million Americans voted to reelect Mr. Trump. They saw his foreign policy, rhetoric, tweeting, and handling of the coronavirus and decided to sign up for another four years. They witnessed his casual racism, support of White supremacists, and degrading remarks about the “China virus,” and determined it did not matter enough to sway their votes.
As a Chinese-American, even if the election had been a landslide victory for Mr. Biden, I would still feel left out and overlooked. According to Pew Research, Asian-Americans are the fastest growing voting group in the U.S. With exit polls indicating that over 60% of Asian-American voters voted for Mr. Biden, it is clear that we were a powerful voting bloc that had a real impact on the outcome of the election. Yet, our political representation is still severely lacking.
While Asian-Americans do have representation in Congress, they mostly serve states or districts with large Asian-American populations — Hawaii, California and, in the case of Congresswoman Grace Meng, the New York district that includes Flushing and its nearly 70% Asian population.
With Mr. Biden’s announcement of his early picks, we were left without representation in the Cabinet. This would be the first time there are no Asian-Americans in the Cabinet since President Clinton appointed Norman Mineta to the post of secretary of Commerce in 2000. On Nov. 30, Mr. Biden announced Neera Tanden, an Indian-American, as his pick for director of the Office of Management and Budget.
Some might point out that Vice President-elect Kamala Harris is Asian-American. Isn’t that representation enough? This, however, is an oversimplification that fails to understand the Asian-American electorate.
First, Asian-Americans are not a homogeneous group. Voting records and policy priorities aside, there is another key difference. The racial stereotypes and prejudices faced by Indian-Americans are often very different than those faced by other Asian-Americans. Due to our similar skin tones and the general ignorance of others, Chinese-Americans, Japanese-Americans, Korean-Americans and so on tend to have similar experiences with racism. Unlike with Indian-Americans, our treatment is often tied to the mistrust, prejudices and anger people feel toward China as a country.
Secondly, while Kamala Harris is Indian-American, she has been treated by the American media and voters as first and foremost a person of color. In fact, according to an Asian American Voter Survey, Mr. Trump actually gained support among the Indian-American voting bloc over the 2016 election. That Kamala Harris, person of color, had more electability as a vice presidential candidate than Kamala Harris, Asian-American, points to a form of racism that is often ignored when discussing race relations in the U.S.
I certainly acknowledge that racism against Black Americans is a real systemic issue that requires our attention. I commend the Black Lives Matters movement for speaking out and demanding change. For Asian-Americans and other minorities with ties to non-European countries, however, the racism we face takes on a different form. For us, it is our American-ness that is called into question.
When Barack Obama ran for president, there was a failed attempt to claim he held a foreign birth certificate. For myself and other Asian-Americans, it would not matter what our birth certificate says or if our family has been here for generations. There is never enough we can do to prove we are truly American. There is a pervasive racial prejudice that assumes Asian-Americans will have mixed allegiances. This is especially damaging given the current tensions between the U.S. and China and the ongoing anti-China rhetoric.
I was fortunate that my own career goals veered toward civil service in the U.S. government and not politics. I was able to have a good, successful career in the Library of Congress. However, even I faced added scrutiny as I reached the higher levels. I received accusations that I was “too Chinese” and that my loyalties were to Beijing and not Washington. It didn’t matter that I was an American citizen and had moved to the U.S. before the People’s Republic of China was even founded.
There is a path for Asian-Americans to Congress, particularly where Asian-American populations are high, and to additional posts through political appointments. However, the presidency is still far off. It would take an exemplary candidate to break this glass ceiling, someone like John F. Kennedy, who won despite fears that his Roman Catholic religion would lead him to answer to the pope. They would also need support of the political establishment, something I don’t see happening in the near future.
Until then, I will have to hope that my granddaughter’s American Dream does not include the White House.
• Chi Wang spent nearly 50 years working at the U.S. Library of Congress, ultimately serving as the head of the Chinese and Korean Section. He also spent over 40 years teaching Chinese history at Georgetown University and is currently president of the U.S.-China Policy Foundation, a nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C.
I have been on the fence. Ever since the election on Nov. 3, I have been on the fence. I am prepared to accept the will of the people, and only in the election of 1960 was there evidence of a presidential election being stolen by either party.
Then, Richard Nixon refused to demand a recall. He explained that demanding a recall was divisive for the country. He has been reviled ever since by the Democrats. They are not only poor losers but also poor winners.
So here I have been sitting on the fence ever since the votes came in on the evening of Nov. 3 or 4 or even 5. Who knows precisely when the election was over? Those votes arriving late can take days to be counted, possibly years.
At any rate, they now seem to have put Joe Biden ahead of President Trump. I was about to accept the voice of the people. Sleepy Joe would be the winner and I could at least enjoy the laughs he would provide for his four years in the White House. Or perhaps it would be three years in the White House. Or maybe only one year. Joe does not appear to be in the best of health these days, and his reliance upon ice cream for his sugar surge is not very reassuring. Now he is planning to enter the White House with his ankle in a cast. The decline has already set in.
Yet. over the past weekend Paul Kengor’s study of the Pennsylvania results has changed my mind about fence sitting. Here is one of Mr. Kengor’s findings. At a hearing in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, on Nov. 25 an expert testified to the Pennsylvania Senate Majority Committee that a batch of ballots recorded 570,000 votes for Joe Biden and only 3,200 votes for Donald. That would be 99.4% of the votes went to Mr. Biden and with that batch he won the election.
The batch came in, by the way, late. That finding knocked me off the fence. I am now calling for an investigation of the election. Are any more members of the press asking for an investigation? On Sunday morning, Maria Bartiromo asked for one after interviewing an aggrieved Donald Trump. Doubtless the admirable Tucker Carlson, Lou Dobbs, Sean Hannity and Mark Levin will, too. The reset of the press remains mum. They are not curious about the incriminating 570,000 votes.
And how long did the batch take to be counted? According to the aforementioned “expert,” a former combat officer with a background in military information and electronic warfare named Ret. Col. Phil Waldren, the “spike anomaly” did not take very long to appear. He claims it took something like 90 minutes.
Mr. Kengor has information from other battleground states, too. On Nov. 4 in Michigan at roughly 6:30 a.m., 141,258 votes came in for Mr. Biden, and only 5,968 for Mr. Trump. In Wisconsin at 3:42 a.m. also on Nov. 4, 143,379 votes came in for Mr. Biden and a puny 25,163 for Mr. Trump. On the same day in Georgia at 1:34 a.m., 136,155 votes came in for Mr. Biden, and only 29,115 votes came in for Mr. Trump. All of this information we have thanks to the diligence of Russell Ramsland of the Allied Security Systems.
Surely there is more evidence of vote fraud that will not be kept secret for long. Moreover, if this fraud is as great as Mr. Kengor’s seems to show, it is bound to be found in the years to come. For now, it appears that the 2020 election is going to be the most controversial election in American history. Whether I climb back up atop the fence or remain down here among the doubters, it does not matter.
There is now a suspicion surrounding the vote count in the 2020 election. It will get worse. Not only that, but the condition of Joe Biden’s health will get worse, too. Now it is a broken ankle. Next will come high blood pressure or heart failure or coronavirus. Soon will come Kamala Harris. This election will prove to be a disaster whatever I do on the fence.
• R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. is founder and editor in chief of The American Spectator. He is the author most recently of “The Death of Liberalism,” published by Thomas Nelson Inc.
We hope Stephen Dinan’s recent report (“Democratic wins in Georgia create more sanctuaries”) on Democrats winning elections for sheriffs here in metro Atlanta’s Cobb and Gwinnett counties sees a follow-up in about a year’s time. We want the rest of the nation to see what we know is coming as a result of George Soros and corporate-Georgia’s funding of the anti-enforcement lobby’s 13-year push to end the 287(g) agreements in these county jails.
We know from sad experience that American citizens are going to be hurt or killed by individuals who have no legal right to be in the U.S. after they have been released from our jails.
According to the Department of Homeland Security, Georgia is home to more illegal aliens than is Arizona. The Migration Policy Institute says we have more illegal aliens than Lawful Permanent Residents (green card holders) and that Gwinnett’s illegal alien population is almost 8% of its total. Cobb County is not far behind.
Both of these counties are formerly solid Republican bastions that have gone blue “because of demographics.”
Illegal aliens who have been captured by arrests for additional crimes are currently detected using the authority the feds provide in the respective 287(g) programs and reported to ICE for further action — including removal to their home countries.
The victorious candidates for sheriffs ran on the pledge to end 287(g) because it was finding illegals that were ‘only’ charged with non-violent crimes. We hear immigration enforcement “breaks up families” was part of their stump speech.
After Jan. 1, 2021, sanctuary will be the new protocol. An illegal alien arrested for driving without a drivers license or another “minor offense” will be put back on the streets of Georgia. It should be noted that by federal law, all illegal aliens are deportable.
Nobody asked metro-Atlanta resident Kathy Inman her views on the new illegal alien-friendly arrangement. Somebody should have. In 2000, Gonzalo Harrell-Gonzalez had multiple contacts with various local law enforcement agencies for traffic violations but despite being in the country illegally was released each time.
On Father’s Day weekend that year, Mrs. Inman’s family was permanently separated when Harrell-Gonzalez’s speeding car crashed into the rear of the Inman vehicle, which had stopped at a red light. Sixteen-year-old Dustin died instantly. His mom, Kathy, suffered permanent and severe brain injury that put her in a wheelchair for the rest of her life.
Because they were both in comas after the horrific crash, Dustin’s dad, Billy, now deceased, and Kathy Inman were unable to attend their only child’s funeral. This innocent and loving American family was permanently separated because an illegal alien was allowed into the U.S. and illegally given a job — and because local law enforcement did not detect or report his illegal immigration status to federal authorities. Harrell-Gonzalez escaped capture and is safe in Mexico.
Literally thousands of American families have suffered at the hands of illegal aliens who were released from custody by “progressive” law enforcement officers. But these families’ horror is quietly regarded as merely “the cost of doing business.”
Viewers outside “the Peach State” should know that Georgia state government is long a totally Republican-owned and operated affair that endlessly boasts of the status of “best state in which to do business.”
Many loyal Republican voters here are scratching their heads trying to comprehend how Democrats were able to find votes to elect sheriffs who promised to eliminate the use of a tool to rid their communities of illegals by ending the 287(g) enforcement programs.
The same corporate-funded, far-left groups that worked to attack law enforcement for using 287(g) with hate-filled race-baiting have proudly provided an answer: Between 2016 and 2020, Georgia’s number of Hispanic voters swelled by 72%, according to analysis by the Democratic firm TargetSmart. They also boast that most of these new voters are young, first-time voters.
So, in formerly solid Republican Georgia, where did much of the new votes come from to end 287(g) (and help elect a Democratic president)?
The new voters are mostly the U.S.-born offspring of the illegals who have been allowed to provide the black-market labor the Establishment Republican officials count on to keep wages low and profits high. Simply put, “anchor babies” do not vote Republican. Who knew, right?
We have taken to referring to our new state as “Georgiafornia.”
• D.A. King is president of the Georgia-based Dustin Inman Society which is dedicated to immigration enforcement.
Nothing the Democrats say these days is surprising, and is usually based in fantasy or lies. Like after getting shellacked in the 2020 down-ballot congressional races, losing several seats and crushing the Democratic majority into a razor-thin margin, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi nonetheless declared they had received a “mandate” from the voters.
Sure, a mandate that said “This is the first step to stripping away any authority you people have. The second step completing the job of firing you will be in 2022.”
The most recent reminder of the Democrats’ commitment to fantasy to fuel their narrative is the media dutifully announcing the Biden team’s spin that the supposedly incoming president will make history with the first all-female led communications team.
This was a remarkable statement to make, moved along by The Washington Post and others, because it was false on its face and delivered by people who knew the actual truth. It was called out by many conservatives who reminded the media that they, in fact, have been working with President Trump’s all-female led communications team for quite some time.
Why the rank absurdity of claiming something that was untrue? This is obviously an ongoing problem with the Democrats, and the political establishment in general, but in this case it reveals the rot at the core of the Democratic Party and the scourge of the identity politics they rely on so ferociously.
The left is so invested in their false “narrative” of being the only advocates and champions for women, protecting them from the bad and evil conservatives, they literally refuse to acknowledge the reality of the success of independent and conservative women within the Trump administration.
Even when called out with the facts of the matter, the handmaidens of the left refuse to see what’s right in front of them. Kayleigh McEnany called out The Washington Post’s claim by tweeting, “President @realDonaldTrump already has an ALL FEMALE Senior White House Press Team. So does @VP… So does @FLOTUS… So does @SecondLady… The completely DISCREDITED @washingtonpost once again reveals their blinding propagandist Fake News proclivities.”
To that, Maggie Haberman of The New York Times responded, “Wonder how Judd Deere, who answers most calls to that office, and Morgenstern feel upon learning this.” Mr. Deere then tweeted the fact that during his time at the Trump White House “a woman has always been my boss.” It is fascinating that when confronted with the truth, Ms. Haberman refused to accept it and instead decided because a man works on the team he must be the boss. Not difficult to see where the sexism is.
Identity politics can only succeed if no one from the group you’re oppressing (Blacks, women, gays) steps out of line. Their crime is refusing to conform to leftist “social justice” arguments requiring big government, collective identity and an end to the power and importance of the individual.
People who dare to not conform, like Blacks, women or gays who identify as conservative, perhaps pro-life, or simply refuse to pay allegiance to the liberal worldview, pose the most direct threat to the lie of identity politics and the inevitable scourge of liberal and leftist politics and policy.
What to do with people who do not obey? You disappear them. And that is what we’ve seen happen in real-time for decades, but especially for all the world to see during the presidency of Mr. Trump.
And it’s not just the attempt to memory-hole the communications team. Keeping information away from the American people is something the legacy media works very hard at. As an example, you may not even know under President Trump, “For the first time in history, half of the senior leaders of the National Security Council are women. Twelve of the 24 directorates are led by women now, including three of the six regional directorates that cover the world. They include Dr. Deborah Birx, Allison Hooker, Elizabeth Erin Walsh, Sue Bai, and Julia Nesheiwat, all women,” reported The Federalist in June.
The disappearance of women who threaten the left’s agenda has been most apparent by the media ignoring first lady Melania Trump and her achievements, both personally and professionally. Historically, media in the United States, including women’s and popular culture magazines, highlight and profile the first lady of the United States. Not so for Mrs. Trump. It was at first perplexing, as an immigrant, former model, her impact on White House policy and advocacy has been significant.
We can assign jealousy and envy of her as part of the problem, but mostly it’s the danger of more women seeing her in a clear light which dangerously provides an example of how women can be powerful and independent, on their own terms. This also explains the bizarre hostility toward Ivanka Trump and her policy accomplishments. But the Democrats can’t allow role models who threaten the fraud they’ve implemented against their own perceived constituencies.
One of the specialties of the Democrats and the swamp is to “forget” inconvenient people. Mr. Trump’s concern from the start of his political career was to empower and elevate the forgotten men and women of this nation. No matter what happens in this presidential election, neither he, his family, nor his 73 million voters, have any intention of abandoning that mission.
• Tammy Bruce, president of Independent Women’s Voice, author and Fox News contributor, is a radio talk-show host.
The assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the Iranian nuclear scientist who was a driving force behind Iran’s nuclear weapon program, which most attribute to Israel, poses a difficult problem for the Iranian regime in this time of transition.
Fakhrizadeh’ s killing — on a road in east of Tehran — was the third high-profile attack to shake Tehran’s leadership in less than a year, which showed glaring holes in Iran’s intelligence networks — nearly a decade after targeted bombings and gun ambushes killed at least four people with links to the Iranian program.
Thus far Israel has declined any comment on the attack, as one might expect with respect to any clandestine or covert operation. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has previously identified Fakhrizadeh and his work as the “father” of the Iranian nuclear weapons program and there is little doubt that this was in fact another Israeli operation aimed at the Iranian nuclear weapons program. In this position Fakhrizadeh was the head of the Amad Plan, as well as Projects 110 and 111, Iran’s the secret nuclear weapons program that sought to develop as many as six nuclear bombs.
Underlying such covert operations is the fact that Iran has for years consistently lied about their nuclear weapons program, and public statements that their nuclear program was only for “peaceful purposes” and the weapons program either did not exist or was terminated in 2003 are laughable.
A 2018 Israeli operation in Tehran, later made public by Mr. Netanyahu, stole thousands of documents related to this program that proved Iran had been lying all along. Documents stolen by Israeli operatives and smuggled out of the country include reports and handwritten notes signed by Fakhrizadeh, directing a series of experiments aimed at mastering key technical challenges in the construction of a nuclear weapon.
Most recently, the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported that Iran’s stockpile of low-enriched uranium is now 12 times the level permitted under the 2015 nuclear agreement, known as the JCPOA, and also noted that Iran is adding more advanced centrifuges to speed enrichment. Studies by the BESA Center and others detail how Iran has cheated on what was at best a flawed agreement while Iran continues to move forward toward an operational nuclear capability.
While Israel opposed the 2015 JCPOA to begin with, its military and intelligence establishment also opposed a direct military strike on Iran, with or without the U.S., and has focused on covert operations that directly impede the program. One successful effort was the Stuxnet computer worm made public in 2010 that targeted Iranian centrifuges and was attributed to a joint U.S. Israeli operation, and was covertly inserted into the Iranian system by Israeli operatives in Iran.
It has been reported that virtually the entire budget of the Mossad, Israel’s foreign intelligence service, has long been devoted to Iran and has resulted in the most significant clandestine capability the world has seen in many decades. Clearly, Mossad is able to operate with impunity, both in the technical area as well as in assassination of terrorist leaders and key figures in Iran’s nuclear weapons program.
Without question these operations are driving the Iranian leadership crazy, and they obviously have no ability to locate or stop Israeli operations. For a country that has excelled in suppressing internal dissent and arresting opposition leaders, they have failed miserably in countering Israel, It is a monumental embarrassment to their security services which are unlikely to disrupt future targeted attacks.
What then is the utility of such covert operations? Most experts believe that Fakhrizadeh was no longer running the program and critical to it as he was in starting Iran’s nuclear program in the post-revolution era, and shaping the weapons phase of the program. Most experts argue that there is no reason to expect his death will have any serious effect on Iran’s current nuclear program.
At the same time, his death sends a clear signal to those who are now in charge of the Iranian nuclear weapons program that they are in Israeli crosshairs and could be next. They are not so stupid to believe that their role in the program and locations are somehow secret, and Israel will not stop in eliminating this aspect of the threat. Certainly, they understand their own government is unable to protect them and Israel has the upper hand.
So far the Iranian response has been limited to the expected rhetoric vowing revenge and Iranian Defense Minister Amir Hatamani has only pledged “punishment” with no specifics, while the Iranian press has speculated about a missile strike on the Israeli city of Haifa. An overt attack by the Iranians in response to covert operations is both unlikely and incredibly stupid.
Presumably, Israel has made it clear to the Iranian leadership through some backchannel that such a strike would be out-of-bounds, and the leadership itself would be targets for assassination. Israel has in fact used such threats dealing with the Hamas in Gaza and has previously targeted hostile leaders and their families. The Iranians know this and would hopefully take this into their calculations.
A more likely Iranian response would be a covert response, targeting Israeli diplomats and other officials in some third country, such as in Europe. Certainly, the Israelis are aware of such a possibility and are taking precautions to protect their nationals abroad. Even if Iran could pull off such a killing, it does little for their cause. It would not end sanctions or help their imploding economy or the COVID-19 crisis. Further, it would not deter Israel from targeting other Iranian nuclear scientists, military officers or political leaders.
For years, Iran has protected its secret nuclear weapons program with physical protection of their multiple facilities and lying about their existence, while critical computer software and key personnel have remained vulnerable – which Israel has thus far been successful in attacking. Clearly, Iran has an internal security problem which it is presently incapable of solving and Israel has no intention of letting them off the hook.
At present, despite the inflammatory rhetoric, it is more likely that Iran will just wait out Donald Trump’s presidency, a theme that Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has argued, and will look to a new era in relations with the U.S., and the ability of the U.S. to control Israel’s covert actions program in Iran.
No one doubts that Mr. Biden and his team will resume negotiations with Iran, but few on either side see a return to the 2015 agreement or prior conditions are acceptable or even possible. Critical here is that now far too much is known about the Iranian program and those who are implementing it. Until a realistic solution to the overall problem can be achieved, it should not be expected that Israel will abandon covert operations aimed at eliminating the Iranian nuclear threat in the most practical way.
• Abraham Wagner has served in several national security positions, including the NSC Staff under Presidents Nixon and Ford.
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” the oft-quoted opening line from “A Tale of Two Cities,” is an apt description of the American economy. And we know how those times ended — in revolution.
The stock market booms as if America shines more brightly than the Milky Way, yet beneath brisk holiday retail sales millions of Americans sink into despair. While professionals comfortably work from home, have sushi delivered and stay fit on Pelotons, millions whom they choose not to see face eviction, hunger or simply can’t meet daily living expenses.
New college graduates are stranded in their parents’ basements. Millions more on the first rungs of career ladders and middle age workers too young to retire are losing jobs. Many will never be employed at levels that their skills and experience would appear to require.
Oil companies, media giants, airlines and others are permanently jettisoning employees, while software companies, Internet retailers, ghost kitchens and many others thrive.
Within the corporate sector, investors expect the winners will outnumber the losers. Stock analysts estimate year-over-year profits will be up 44% this spring. Investors have calculated that even at today’s seeming lofty prices, stocks will be undervalued.
Rally follows rally, the rich eat cake and those stranded in the old economy don’t eat at all.
At least 100,000 small businesses have permanently closed and jettisoned millions of low-wage workers, especially women and minorities. Many with few decent options for re-employment.
As those services wind down and corporate layoffs in contracting industries accelerate, the pink slips are now more highly concentrated among professional workers — lawyers, bankers, engineers, technicians and managers. They are potentially more mobile than low-wage workers, but mortgages and student debt can make them less likely to endure months of retraining and move families.
Some 4 million to 5 million Americans will be permanently unemployed — even as expanding activities will continue to be challenged to find enough engineers and technicians.
Governors and mayors continue to make lousy decisions.
Restaurants, which we know are COVID-19 incubators, often stay open while schools, which are likely safer for many children than remote learning environments, close. Test scores demonstrate we are doing irreputable damage to their development, and that damage is mostly heavily concentrated among the children of the working class and poor.
If we want a nation of hamburger flippers and angry socialists, we couldn’t have better architects than Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio — aided and abetted by New York’s valiant teachers’ unions.
For many of the displaced, the wolves are at the door. The CARES Act and policies implemented independently by states and municipalities assumed the disruptions wrought by the pandemic and shutdown were temporary. Mortgage and rent deferrals and unemployment benefits mostly run out by the end of this year. Homeless shelters and food banks could be the last refuge but those simply won’t have enough beds or free mac ‘n’ cheese to go around.
While Wall Street parties this spring look for an army of demonstrators in the streets if we don’t get the right federal aid to the right places soon.
The states and municipalities are broke. Their revenues are down from lost income and sales taxes, COVID-19 has imposed unplanned, emergency expenses, and they can’t fund new aid to the displaced.
Presidents-elect normally don’t get involved but it is clear, left to their own devices, Mitch McConnell and Nancy Pelosi are not going to come up with a stimulus package. The lame duck White House is too distracted to broker a deal. If Mr. Biden does not intervene in stimulus talks, he faces one heck of a mess come Inauguration Day.
The best strategy would extend state unemployment benefits and boost those with a reasonable federal supplement — perhaps $400 per week — to total no more than 75% of lost wages. And send $500 billion to the states to cover lost revenue and COVID-19 expenses.
Mr. Biden should resist political pressure to directly subsidize restaurants, airlines, cruise lines and others.
Work and consumer habits have changed for good, and many industries are downsizing permanently. As the Paycheck Protection Program and the small business closures that followed demonstrate, bailouts don’t work once the public has turned away.
It’s really best to keep the cities open by making sure public services are funded, put cash in the hands of the truly needy and let the boost in spending pull resources to the growing sectors of the economy to create jobs.
• Peter Morici, @pmorici1, is an economist and emeritus business professor at the University of Maryland, and a national columnist.
Not long before a virus born in China began spreading around the globe, destroying lives, devastating economies and, oh yes, shutting down the Washington social scene, I attended an elegant, off-the-record dinner hosted by a well-funded think tank of the libertarian persuasion.
The guest of honor, a senior figure in the Trump administration, excused himself before dessert, citing pressing matters of state. At that point, a distinguished professor from a prestigious university held forth, posing a question to those around the table: “Who here is in favor of starting a new Cold War with China?”
Scattered chuckles but no other responses followed, so I chimed in: “With respect, Professor, that horse has left the barn. China has been waging a Cold War against America for years. The current administration has recognized that reality and outlined a response, notably in the National Security Strategy. If you haven’t read it, I recommend you do so soonest.”
The ensuing conversation was lively — OK, maybe it was acrimonious. But over the months since, it’s become increasingly clear that I was right, and the distinguished professor from a prestigious university was wrong. Abundant evidence in support of this conclusion is presented in “The Elements of the China Challenge,” a 50-page document (with 22 pages of footnotes) issued last month by the Policy Planning Staff of the Office of the Secretary of State.
A word about Policy Planning: This is the State Department’s fabled in-house think tank, first headed by George Kennan, whose 1946 “Long Telegram” provided a conceptual framework for American strategies and policies in what we now might think of as Cold War I.
National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien calls the two documents “similar,” noting two differences: “First, unlike Kennan’s case, written by an envoy at post [Moscow], this book contains the words and policies of the President and his most senior officials. Second, given China’s population size, economic prowess, and historic global ambitions, the People’s Republic of China is a more capable competitor than the Soviet Union at its height.”
For decades, the foreign policy elite held to theory that as China grew wealthier, it would inevitably liberalize, becoming a responsible stakeholder in the “American-led liberal rules-based international order.” Key figures in the Trump administration — including National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, Deputy National Security Adviser for Strategy Nadia Schadlow, Deputy National Security Adviser Matthew Pottinger (a China expert and fluent Mandarin-speaker), and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo — perceived that this theory had proven incorrect.
In December 2017, they produced the aforementioned National Security Strategy, which identifies China’s rulers as America’s most determined and dangerous adversaries.
The conduct of those rulers since — including but not limited to their obfuscations and deceptions regarding the coronavirus, their imprisonment of millions of Muslim Uighurs in “re-education” camps, their takeover of Hong Kong in egregious violation of their treaty obligations, and their continuing massive intellectual-property thefts — have reinforced that reappraisal.
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP), in the words of the Policy Planning paper, aims to “fundamentally revise world order, placing the People’s Republic of China (PRC) at the center and serving Beijing’s authoritarian goals and hegemonic ambitions.”
In addition: “The party today wields its economic power to co-opt and coerce countries around the world; make the societies and politics of foreign nations more accommodating to CCP specifications; and reshape international organizations in line with China’s brand of socialism. At the same time, the CCP is developing a world-class military to rival and eventually surpass the U.S. military.”
The Policy Planning Staff, led by director Peter Berkowitz, offers 10 recommendations to resist this global transformation. Among them:
The United States “must maintain the world’s most powerful, agile, and technologically sophisticated military while enhancing security cooperation, grounded in common interests and shared responsibility, with allies and partners. A strong military depends on a strong economy. … At the same time, a strong economy depends on a strong military – to ensure the open seas, safe skies, and secure communications networks that enable international commerce to thrive. For the sake of security and prosperity, moreover, the United States must rededicate itself to preserving its status as the world’s leader in technological innovation.”
Policy Planning concludes that China’s rulers pose a challenge and threat that “is likely to dominate American foreign policy across many administrations.”
Joe Biden’s view of China’s rulers has conformed to that of the foreign policy establishment. You may recall him saying they are “not bad folks” and certainly “not competition for us.” On the campaign trail last year, he scoffed: “China is going to eat our lunch? Come on, man.”
However, his announcement that he plans to appoint Antony Blinken as secretary of State suggests his views may be evolving. In July, Mr. Blinken told an interviewer: “There is a growing consensus across parties that China poses a series of new challenges and that the status quo was really not sustainable.”
Of course, Mr. Biden is doubtless also getting an earful from those committed to soft-pedaling Beijing’s malign behaviors and hostile ambitions. Among them, investors who have been making fortunes in China, and at least one distinguished professor from a prestigious university.
Mr. Biden probably hasn’t read “The Elements of the China Challenge.” I’d recommend he do so soonest. As a former chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he surely understands how important it was that, during the First Cold War, there was something close to bipartisan consensus vis-à-vis the Soviet empire. The same is necessary in regard to those who rule China’s 21st century empire. If we can’t manage that, we really don’t stand a chance.
• Clifford D. May is founder and president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) and a columnist for The Washington Times.
On Friday, Nov. 27, Israel was presumed to have been responsible for the targeted killing of Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh. Unfortunately, the United States under a Biden presidency, will most likely abandon this maximum pressure strategy, in favor of reentering a nuclear deal with Iran instead.
But Israel’s actions were not strong enough. In fact, the focus should not be solely on confronting Iran’s nuclear program, but also tackling their relationship to al Qaeda and their nefarious expansionism in Afghanistan. This is why a nuclear deal with Iran that does not address these other challenges, will never be able to eliminate the threats to the United States and Israel.
While Republicans have resisted strong actions against Saudi Arabia for exporting a religious ideology that is the lifeblood for groups like ISIS and al Qaeda, Democrats have traditionally undermined and ignored the complicated relationship between Iran and al Qaeda. The binary picture drawn of the Syrian conflict, of Sunni groups pitted against Shiite groups has further obscured these links.
But this seemingly unnatural relationship between Shiite and Sunni fundamentalist actors originates in the 1990s. In Sudan, the Islamist political leader Hassan al Turabi held a series of meetings between different extremists, among them Hamas, Hezbollah and the PLO, precisely when Osama bin Laden arrived in the country. One of al Turabi’s objectives was to persuade Sunni and Shiite extremists to put aside their differences and unite against their common enemy. Then, between 1992 and 1996, another round of meetings was sponsored by Mamdouh Mahmud Salim, a Sudanese cofounder of al Qaeda, between al Qaeda, Hezhbollah and the National Islamic Front.
As a result, Iranian actors established informal agreements of cooperation with al Qaeda, where Iran would give supplies and support to al Qaeda’s fight against Israel and the United States. The support given by Iran and Hezbollah mainly consisted of explosives and intelligence training, and al Qaeda members traveled to Iran and to Lebanon in the Valley of Bekaa. Iran’s help to al Qaeda materialized in the attacks on the residential complex of the U.S Air Force in Saudi Arabia, the U.S embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, and the USS Cole in Yemen.
Some of these attacks directly involved the approval of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, and former intelligence minister Hojjatoleslam Ali Fallahian, who is wanted by Interpol and Argentina for the bombing of the Jewish community center in Buenos Aires. Al Qaeda’s capacity to inflict damage to the U.S and Israel led Iran to broaden its relationship with al Qaeda, although this was treated carefully due to al Qaeda’s fear that it would drive away recruits to its cause. Still, this was not an obstacle for Iran to have played a hidden hand in helping the 9/11 attackers.
Since bin Laden was expelled from Sudan in 1996, Iran had facilitated the movement of al Qaeda operatives who transited to and from Afghanistan, where terrorist training camps had been established. Indeed, most of the 9/11 attackers had freely crossed Iran and Afghanistan. Instead of transiting through Pakistan, al Qaeda members had been using this route and had constructed relationships with Iranian officials in order to coordinate objectives of mutual interest.
Still, the Iran-Afghan connection does not originate with 9/11. Iran has had a long presence in Afghanistan, and its influence is second to Pakistan. Iran under the Safavid Empire controlled the western part of Afghanistan and it even conquered Kandahar. In 1857, the Qajar dynasty which ruled over Iran, renounced its possession of Herat as part of its territory. Since then, the borders between both countries have remained relatively stable, although as in the case with Pakistan, certain disagreements remain alive in the government’s historical memories. But that long presence left strong Iranian connections and influences in Afghanistan.
During the Soviet invasion, Iran supported the mujahideen, especially from the Hazara ethnicity, although it’s influence extended to some Pashtun leaders like in their complicated relationship with Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who had collaborated with both al Qaeda and the Taliban and was exiled in Iran. Iran and Afghanistan experienced difficulties during the rule of the Taliban, when the Shiite minority was the subject of persecutions, culminating in the massacre of Hazaras and the killing of Iranian diplomats in 1998.
Still, these bitter times would not stop Iran from giving support to the Taliban, following the inauguration of the Karzai administration. But Iran engages in a double game, as it supports the Afghan government, often sending money directly to Hamid Karzai’s office, while also using other ways to delegitimize his administration. For example, Iran has used radio stations to attack the elections. Iran’s aim is to block American influence in Afghanistan and it will certainly fill the gap to suit its interests following a U.S. withdrawal.
It’s economic impact is felt heavily in Afghanistan, and it uses commercial investments and reconstruction projects to extend its influence in the country. Iran also heavily depends on Afghan water resources, whose dry border regions need the Helmand River for their social and economic development. Like this, Iran’s objective is to maintain water access and many of their political interventions in Afghanistan have sought to block Afghan projects that would see its supply reduced or diminished.
Iran long opposed the negotiations and signing of the Bilateral Security Agreement, as it has always been an obstacle to Iran’s ambitions in the country. If President-elect Joe Biden decides to normalize relations with Iran, and pull American military forces out of Afghanistan, it will be dominated by the political machinations of Iran and Pakistan.
An Afghanistan engulfed in civil war, where al Qaeda, the Taliban and ISIS are thriving, and which is being torn apart by Iran, will be a huge national security threat to the United States and Israel.
• Carlo J.V. Caro is a researcher on U.S. foreign relations and unconventional warfare.