12 October 2017   Leave a comment

US President Trump is expected to announce tomorrow his decision about the certification of the Iranian nuclear agreement.   Press reports suggest that he does not intend to recertify the agreement.  But there are a number of different ways he could approach the matter.  First, he could simply pass the matter to the US Congress without abrogating the agreement.  That course of action does not necessarily mean that the US has withdrawn from the agreement, and it is difficult to assess right now how the Congress would vote.  My personal view is that the Congress would not abrogate the agreement.  Second, he could argue that the agreement should be renegotiated.  I doubt that Iran would agree to a renegotiation and most of the other partners to the agreement would similarly refuse.  But France under the leadership of President Macron might try to persuade Great Britain and Germany to request renegotiation (China and Russia would not agree).  Third, President Trump may simply announce that the US is withdrawing from the agreement, but I suspect that he lacks the votes in Congress to reimpose sanctions against Iran.  This latter course of action would undermine the credibility of the US for as long as Trump remains President and for some time after he leaves.  No matter which course of action he chooses, I suspect that most analysts will regard any course of action not based upon some evidence of an Iranian breach of the agreement as a setback for American interests.

 

Researchers have found a hole the size of the US state of Maryland in the sea ice in Antarctica.   Holes in sea ice are called polynas and apparently are quite common.   It is not clear why this hole appeared, but it was last seen in the 1970s.  The polyna is created by warm water coming to the surface and may be part of a normal process.  Scientists are trying to determine whether climate change may be a factor in the creation of this most recent event.

Antarctica: Return of the Weddell polynya supports Kiel climate model

Winter sea ice blankets the Weddell Sea around Antarctica with massive extra-tropical cyclones hovering over the Southern Ocean in this satellite image from September 25, 2017. The blue curves represent the ice edge. The polynya is the dark region of open water within the ice pack.

 

When the US Congress passes a national budget, a large chunk of the budget goes to military spending, and often that spending ($705 billion in the most recent budget proposal) is justified as spending for “our troops”.  Unfortunately, roughly half of that money goes not to soldiers, but to defense contractors.   According to The American Conservative:

“According to the Federal Procurement Data System’s top 100 contractors report for 2016, the biggest beneficiaries by a country mile were Lockheed Martin ($36.2 billion), Boeing ($24.3 billion), Raytheon ($12.8 billion), General Dynamics ($12.7 billion), and Northrop Grumman ($10.7 billion). Together, these five firms gobbled up nearly $100 billion of your tax dollars, about one-third of all the Pentagon’s contract awards in 2016.”

It is very difficult to measure how much these expenditures actually enhance US security.   But the example of the newest fighter plane, the F-35, in the US arsenal–with an estimated total procurement cost of well over a trillion dollars for 2,400 F-35s–suggests that the US is not getting much value for the money.

 

Posted October 12, 2017 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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