Belmont Club

Payday Loan

One of the signs of bankruptcy is the willingness to sell valuable items cheaply for immediate cash or borrow small sums of money at high rates of interest. The most familiar example is the payday loan, meant to tide a cash-strapped person over until the next salary day. “Since payday lending operations charge higher interest-rates than traditional banks, they have the effect of depleting the assets of low-income communities. John Hudson and Colum Lynch argue in Foreign Policy that the Obama administration is down at the Iranian pawnshop trying to get something — at almost any rate of interest — because they are so politically broke.

“Part of the reason [the Iranians] are playing such hardball right now is they know the U.S. can’t go back without anything,” said Trita Parsi, the president of the National Iranian American Council and an occasional contributor to Foreign Policy. “But if the Iranians walk away, it’s less of a problem for them, because the interim deal is still in place for another three months.”

Republicans, and a significant number of Democrats, have told the White House that an Iranian failure to spell out specific concessions by the March 31 deadline would be a clear sign that Tehran can’t be trusted and an indication that additional pressure through sanctions legislation is needed. The White House worries that any new bill would derail the talks and hopes that striking a deal this week will make it easier to persuade lawmakers to hold off on passing sanctions legislation.

However, the pressure to produce an agreement to show the U.S. Congress is making the P5+1 negotiating team look desperate for a deal, which has caused some European officials to question America’s emphasis on the March 31 deadline.

Increasingly confident, Iran has even backed away from an earlier promise to ship their atomic fuel out of the country as part of a larger deal. The New York Times reports: “For months, Iran tentatively agreed that it would send a large portion of its stockpile of uranium to Russia, where it would not be accessible for use in any future weapons program. But on Sunday Iran’s deputy foreign minister made a surprise comment to Iranian reporters, ruling out an agreement that involved giving up a stockpile that Iran has spent years and billions of dollars to amass.”

Instead of prompting the American negotiators to pack up their papers and say ‘call us when you are serious’ Laura Rozen suggests that State was willing to find a way around that difficulty. But the administration is now so short of leverage that it is almost impossible for it to stand fast.  All it can do now is temporize, live from paycheck to paycheck; to hold off the wolf for one more day.

Recently the administration demanded that Iran withdraw its forces from the assault on Tikrit before it would support the advance against ISIS with air strikes. The warning was simply ignored and the administration quietly slunk away. The Wall Street Journal’s Matt Bradley and Raja Abdulrahim report: “TIKRIT, Iraq—Iranian-backed Shiite militias remained on the front lines of the battle to retake this strategic city from Islamic State days after the U.S. demanded they be sidelined as a condition for joining the fight with airstrikes.”

The U.S. military has continued to launch airstrikes against Islamic State positions in Tikrit after it became clear that Shiite forces were still playing a central role in the fight and even as each loudly proclaims opposition to the other. …

Despite U.S. officials making a distinction between Shiite militias aligned with Iran and with the government in Baghdad, fighters on the ground in Tikrit said that Iranian-backed fighters remain on the battlefield.

The largest, best-trained and most organized fighters from groups such as Hebullah Brigades, Asaib Ahl Al Haq and Saraya Salam have taken up rear positions in Tikrit. But they are still waiting in the wings, prepared to return to the battlefield at any minute, fighters in Tikrit said.

This has led some Michael Weiss and Michael Pregent in Foreign Policy to accuse the administration of “providing air cover for ethnic cleansing in Iraq”.

This operation, billed as “revenge” for the Islamic State (IS) massacre of 1,700 Shiite soldiers at Camp Speicher last June, was launched without any consultation with Washington and was meant to be over by now, three weeks after much triumphalism by the Iraqi government about how swiftly the terrorist redoubt in Saddam Hussein’s hometown was going to be retaken. …

Former Defense Intelligence Agency officer Derek Harvey tweeted last week that an Iraqi Shiite source told him the number of militia war dead from the Tikrit offensive so far may be as high as 6,000. So the militias’ triumphalism, much of it no doubt manufactured by Iran’s propaganda machine, proved to be misplaced.

Not to worry. Obama can’t be blamed when he has no choice. Iran can twist Obama’s arm into lending it the US Air Force for its “revenge” operation. They are all he has got left. In fact they could set up a hoop and he would jump through it. People who need a payday loan are in no position to object.

Iran isn’t the only country that no longer calls Obama. Saudi Arabia launched a major attack on Yemen without providing the slightest warning to the administration. “At a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Thursday, General Lloyd Austin, head of the U.S. Central Command, said he did not learn the Saudis were actually going attack Yemen until an hour before the operation was launched. Austin, whose theater includes Yemen, would normally expect to be given more than an hour’s heads-up before such a military operation.”

There was a time when Obama supposedly treated Putin like a doorman.  Now the Saudis are treating him like a waiter.

None of this is surprising in the slightest degree. President Obama has run the American position into the ground. Even Vox, which normally very supportive of Obama, was moved to write “Obama’s love of the ‘Yemen model’ sums up his disastrously shortsighted foreign policy”. But that’s where they are wrong.  Obama’s love of his own imaginary greatness sums up his disastrous policy.  The former Big Spender seems determined to keep up illusion. His agents are in Lausanne trying to hock whatever can still be pawned to maintain the appearance of world power and influence.

The sad fact, as the Belmont Club has noted, is that it’s over. The administration has nothing left. This was obvious ever since Netanyahu showed up in Congress to denounce the president on Capitol Hill.  This was evident when Obama’s efforts to exact revenge on the Israeli backfired. Nobody’s scared of him any more except the GOP leadership.

All president Obama can do now is get himself deeper into debt by trying to sell the Oval Office carpet to Iran. Recently the president attempted to skip down the stairs of Air Force One after returning from a weekend of golf only to nearly fall down the steps. Despite his effort to show confidence, his distraction got the better of him. It’s the perfect metaphor for a man who is now surviving on showmanship alone. If the president has any real friends left in the White House corner, they should ask him to stop the bout. It’s too painful to watch this humiliation.

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