Afghanistan deserves attention, but don’t lose sight of Iran

Introduction

While global attention is understandably focused on the turmoil in Afghanistan, another major challenge for US President Joe Biden is likely to be the restoration of the Iran Nuclear Deal/JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Program of Action). While to begin with the negotiations between Iran and other signatories (the US was part of these indirect talks) to the 2015 JCPOA offered a ray of hope, since June there has been no progress.

Iran’s nuclear program, and its foreign policy in the Middle East (especially its support to proxies), have emerged as the contentious issues between Iran and other signatories to the 2015 JCPOA.

In an important statement, Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei recently said that:

America’s current administration is no different from the previous one, because what it demands from Iran on the nuclear issue is different in words, but the same thing that Trump demanded

After facing flak for his handling of Afghanistan, Biden would not like to send out a message that his approach towards Iran is similar to his predecessor.

Here it would be pertinent to point out that senior officials in the Biden administration have hinted at their impatience with the lack of progress. The US President, after his meeting with Israeli PM Naftali Benett, said:

We’re putting diplomacy first and see where that takes us. But if diplomacy fails, we’re ready to turn to other options

The Israeli PM (whose stance on Iran is identical to that of his predecessor) is supposed to have praised Biden’s clarity with regard to curbing Iran’s nuclear program.

The attack on Mercer Street in July 2021 was criticised not just by Israel, but also the UK and US. The US Secretary of State had alluded to retaliatory action.

Raisi’s election

The election of hardliner Ebrahim Raisi, in June 2021, was, according to analysts and commentators, likely to be a major stumbling block to the revival of the JCPOA. Ever since taking over, though, the Iranian President has moderated his stance considerably, and has spoken to French President Immanuel Macron, and also held an in-person meeting with Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi, who visited Iran. During both meetings, Raisi put forward Iran’s views on the JCPOA saying that Tehran could not accept some of the conditionalities which other signatories to the deal are trying to impose. The Iranian President, during his conversation with Macron, criticised the US for imposing more sanctions.

CIA Chief William Burns, one of the architects of the 2015 JCPOA, also visited Israel, and is supposed to have discussed the Iran Nuclear deal with senior Israeli officials.

Challenges for Iran’s economy

It would be pertinent to point out that Iran’s currency, the Rial, has taken a significant beating in recent weeks as a result of the domestic uncertainty as well as the turmoil in Afghanistan. Even before Raisi had taken over as President, the country was afflicted with numerous economic challenges, including rising inflation (this was estimated at well over 30%). The covid19 situation as well as US sanctions had been held responsible for the economic crisis.

There were protests as a result of water shortages and power shortages as well. While there are high expectations from Raisi, there is a realization in Iran that unless the US removes sanctions Iran’s economy is unlikely to witness a recovery.

In conclusion, it is important for the Biden administration to give priority to negotiations related to the Iran deal, and to refrain from adopting a path similar to that of the Trump administration. Raisi’s hardline credentials, as well as his proximity to Khamenei, put him in a better position as far as negotiations pertaining to the Iran Nuclear deal are concerned. Time is running out, and Washington DC will need to give some elbow room to the new president. The US should also realize that reduction of tensions with Iran could be handy since Tehran has links with the Taliban.

While the outreach by France and Japan to Iran is encouraging, Washington DC itself needs to adopt a flexible approach vis-à-vis the JCPOA and should not lose patience. It is also important for Washington to not allow Israel to influence its Iran policy.

Nightcap

  1. How the Afghanistan War really started Robert Wright, Nonzero
  2. The Fed’s exit strategy (in 2009) Robert Aro, Power & Market
  3. Austrian Economics for the lower classes Weiss & Nelson, L&L
  4. On liberalism’s peaceful global order Eric Schliesser, D&I

Nightcap

  1. How to leave philosophy Greg Stoutenburg, Philosopher’s Cocoon
  2. Will bourgeoisie ever rule the Chinese state? Branko Milanovic, Global Inequality 3.0
  3. Adam Smith’s three theories of the British Empire Barry Weingast, SSRN
  4. Desert and self-defense Irfan Khawaja, Policy of Truth

Nightcap

  1. Good essay on addiction Judith Grisel, Aeon
  2. The last of the fucked-up Mohicans Max Norman, LARB
  3. Adam Smith’s colonial politics Donald Winch, Cahiers d’économie politique
  4. Unsolved mysteries Daniel Barnum, Bat City Review

Nightcap

  1. Afghanistan is where ideologies go to die Sumantra Maitra, Critic
  2. Twilight of the Satyrs Charlotte Allen, Quillette
  3. The Chinese mirror Pierre Lemieux, EconLog
  4. The Tang dynasty died in Afghanistan, too Chan Kung, Diplomat

When liberal hegemons leave: Israel’s case for staying in the West Bank forever

The sight of the U.S.-trained and equipped Afghan army literally melting away over a matter of hours in the face of the Taliban assault would be bad enough; the scenes of Afghans falling hundreds of feet to their deaths as they tried to escape in the wheel wells of U.S. transport planes will endure for decades as a reminder of America’s shame.

[…] In the Israeli-Palestinian context, a number of unsurprising lines of argument have emerged. The most prevalent from the right is that this is the latest demonstration of the folly of withdrawing from territory, as it only leads to a security nightmare that will be exploited by fundamentalist terrorist groups. Afghanistan is seen as an incarnation of Israel’s experience in Gaza, where Israel withdrew and left the territory in the hands of the Palestinian Authority, only to have Hamas take over within two years and remain stubbornly resistant to being dislodged nearly fifteen years later. The Taliban’s success on the literal heels of departing American soldiers is viewed as a preview of coming attractions for Hamas’s allegedly inevitable takeover of the West Bank should Israel ever leave the territory.

There is much more from Michael Koplow at Ottomans & Zionists. Is the Israeli Right correct? The same type of disasters happened when the French and the British (and the Dutch) were forced out of their imperial possessions after World War II. The Americans, and their European predecessors, built “states: out of their colonies. These states helped locals who wanted to be helped, but these states were always weak and wholly dependent on the imperial capital for everything. Once imperial powers leave, the weaknesses of these “states” become apparent quickly. Thus, communists, Islamists, and other despotisms quickly arise in the wake of imperial exit. To make matters worse, these despotisms employ the weak “states” the imperial powers leave behind.

This is a pattern that has happened now for two centuries. This is a problem of modernity, of industrial humanity.

Here’s the thing. Here’s the libertarian alternative. It’s time to recognize that Western governance is pretty good, comparatively speaking, and helps people get out of poverty (intellectual as well as financial) if they want to. The “states” Western powers create are weak. I think the libertarian alternative should be to stop trying to make these “states” stronger, or give them more capacity as sovereigns, and instead incorporate these states into their own body politics via federation. This would address the areas where Western-created “states” are weak, such as in security/defense of sovereignty, or corruption, while also leaving open the effects that Western governance has had on these societies that have been experimented upon. All those Afghans wanting to flee has made an impression on me. I think federation is a good compromise between state sovereignty and individual freedom.

Nightcap

  1. International arbitration, 17th century style Eric Schliesser, Digressions & Impressions
  2. We are no longer a serious people Antonio Martínez, Pull Request
  3. Networked planetary governance Anne-Marie Slaughter (interview), Noema
  4. 5 O’Clockface Sharon Olds, Threepenny Review

Nightcap

  1. Why Angela Merkel has lasted so long Wolfgang Streeck, spiked!
  2. United States of Greater Austria Wikipedia
  3. Afghanistan and liberal hegemony Lawrence Freedman, New Statesman
  4. Diary of the guy who drove the Trojan Horse back from Troy James Folta, New Yorker

Nightcap

  1. Afghanistan has too much sovereignty Fernando Teson, RCL
  2. Pakistan’s masochistic support for the Taliban Kunwar Shahid, Spectator
  3. Has capitalism run out of steam? Dominique Routhier, LARB
  4. Here come the robot nurses Anna Guevarra, Boston Review

Nightcap

  1. Is Norway the new East India Company? Branko Milanovic, globalinequality
  2. A garden tree Eric Schliesser, Digressions & Impressions
  3. Indian migration and empire Bridget Anderson, Disorder of Things
  4. A “conservative” case for reparations Jacques Delacroix, NOL

Nightcap

  1. All-inclusive magic mushroom retreats Max Berlinger, Bloomberg
  2. What it is to be “young” or “youthful” Eric Schliesser, Digressions & Impressions
  3. Indian migration and empire Luke de Noronha, Disorder of Things
  4. Why not rectify past injustices? Bryan Caplan, EconLog

Nightcap

  1. Why is there no Rooseveltian school of foreign policy? Deudney & Ikenberry, Foreign Policy
  2. It’s time to drop the curtain on Japan’s colonial legacy Meindert Boersma, Lausan
  3. The ides of August (Afghanistan) Sarah Chayes (h/t Mark from Placerville)
  4. Rep. Barbara Lee on Afghanistan, 20 years later Abigail Tracy, Vanity Fair

Nightcap

  1. Property rights imply social liability, not privilege Rosolino Candela, EconLog
  2. The lingering scars of World War I Cal Flyn, Atlas Obscura
  3. Is the Arctic turning blue? (hawkish) Sonoko Kuhara, Diplomat
  4. Myanmar (or is it Burma?) Zachary Abuza, War on the Rocks