“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Monday, January 13, 2014

Obama arrives at a sensible foreign policy solution on Iran and the US Conga Line wants to screw it up.

Iran to implement nuclear deal as Obama repeats Congress sanctions plea

John Kerry says Tehran will start to implement November's 'comprehensive agreement' on 20 January
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Paul Lewis in Washington 

The Guardian, Sunday 12 January 2014 12.34 EST

Iran will begin eliminating its stockpile of highly enriched uranium in eight days' time, after negotiators in Geneva reached an agreement on how to implement the interim nuclear deal reached in November.

"As of that day, for the first time in almost a decade, Iran's nuclear programme will not be able to advance, and parts of it will be rolled back, while we start negotiating a comprehensive agreement to address the international community's concerns about Iran's programme," the US secretary of state, John Kerry, said in a statement.
The start-date for the agreement was announced on Sunday by the European Union's foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, who represents the US, China and Russia and France, Germany and Britain, the three European powers who reached the settlement with Iran.
President Barack Obama described the latest agreement as a significant step forward, but immediately renewed his plea for Congress not to introduce a range of new sanctions against Iran, which he said would risk "derailing our efforts to resolve this issue peacefully".
Sunday's announcement, which was confirmed by Iran, marked the culmination of weeks of fine-tuning over the technical implementation of November's interim deal. Senior officials from the EU and Iran met in Geneva on Thursday and Friday, making progress on a framework to execute the nuclear deal that was ratified by participating countries over the weekend.
The breakthrough comes at a critical moment for the nuclear agreement, which is coming under growing pressure from hardliners in both Tehran and Washington.
November's agreement provides limited sanctions relief to Iran – which, according to US estimates, will provide a $7bn boost to the country's economy. In return, Iran has agreed to freeze its nuclear programme, destroy stockpiles of higher-grade uranium and commit to more rigorous inspections.
The Obama administration will hope the details of the implementation of the deal will reassure sceptics in Congress. A senior administration official said Iran had agreed to disable the cascade that produces 20%-enriched uranium before the start of the agreement, and to begin destroying existing stockpiles immediately.
"By the end of the six months, it will all be gone," a second senior administration official said.
In return, world powers will also suspend some petrochemical and auto sanctions on 20 January. However, the bulk of relief will be in the shape of $4.2bn in restricted Iranian assets that will be repatriated to Tehran in regular instalments throughout the six months until the deal concludes in July.
Some of those funds are being set aside to be released to Iran as and when it completes its promised destruction of higher-grade uranium.
"We are basically waiting to make certain that Iran has begun to fulfil its commitments, as verified by the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency], before the funds are made available to the Iranians," a third senior administration official said.
All three officials spoke to reporters on a conference call on the condition of anonymity – a routine requirement the Obama administration places on such calls.
They said most of the fine print hammered out in recent days relates to the IAEA, which will begin an expanded series of inspections of Iran's nuclear facilities, providing monthly updates to a joint commission overseeing the agreement.
The agreement will last only until July, and officials close to the negotiations say it will almost certainly have to be renewed to give more time for extended talks which, the parties hope, will yield a permanent settlement to end the standoff over Iran's nuclear capabilities.
But the deal has received a frosty reception in Washington, where senior Republicans and Democrats are threatening to introduce a bill to ramp up sanctions against Tehran – a move experts say would breach the spirit if not the letter of November's agreement.
"Imposing additional sanctions now will only risk derailing our efforts to resolve this issue peacefully, and I will veto any legislation enacting new sanctions during the negotiation," Obama said on Sunday.
He added: "With today's agreement, we have made concrete progress. I welcome this important step forward, and we will now focus on the critical work of pursuing a comprehensive resolution that addresses our concerns over Iran's nuclear programme."
The White House has so far dissuaded senior lawmakers from pursuing a bill to tighten the sanctions noose on Iran. Despite November's breakthrough, there had been doubts over whether senior diplomats would succeed in agreeing a plan to execute the historic agreement.

The enthusiasm that greeted the deal in November has been short-lived and on Thursday Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, used fiery language to criticise the approach of the US – which he called the "Great Satan" – to the negotiations.
"The nuclear talks showed the enmity of America against Iran, Iranians, Islam and Muslims," he said.
Khamenei's decision to give Iran's reformist president, Hassan Rouhani, space to reach a deal with the US and other powers was crucial to November's deal.
When Kerry tried to sell the plan to Congress last month he met a wall of opposition from both parties, who appeared almost entirely unified against the deal, which some argued had endangered the US and its ally Israel.
In his statement on Sunday, Kerry echoed Obama's call on Congress to hold back on new sanctions. "Now is not the time for politics," he said.
Any bill increasing sanctions on Iran would likely contain a six-month delay, and only be implemented if the current agreement fell apart. However, it would jeopardise November's deal, which contains a clause in which the US administration committed itself to "refrain from imposing new nuclear-related sanctions" – even though the wording provided some acknowledgement that Obama could not control legislation passed by Congress.

In response, a group of Iranian MPs has threatened to propose a bill requiring the Rouhani government to enrich uranium up to 60%, an unacceptable level for the west, should the US decide to impose new sanctions.


  1. They've already got the bomb. I'm going back to grazing.

    Probability of beating the game shows

    By Jason England

    The most famous brainteaser of the past 50 years is deceptively simple in appearance and yet diabolically counter-intuitive to solve.


    The Monty Hall Problem is without question the most famous and contentious brainteaser of the past 50 years. It’s been discussed and dissected in university classrooms, pubs and boardrooms, within the walls of the Central Intelligence Agency and even on the front page of the New York Times. It is deceptively simple in appearance and yet diabolically counter-intuitive to solve. If you’ve never heard of it before, you’re in for a cognitive treat – and new variations keep cropping up to extend the fun for old hands.

    Here’s the way the standard problem is usually stated. You are a contestant on a game show. You are presented with three doors. Behind one of the doors is a new car. Behind the other two doors are goats. You are allowed to choose one of the doors but it isn’t opened yet. Instead, the host of the show (Monty Hall) opens one of the other doors, to reveal a goat. Two doors remain closed. Monty then gives you a choice: stick with your original door or switch to the other unopened door instead. Should you switch?

    Before we go any further, there are a few things that must be clarified. The first is that the car is always placed randomly amongst the three doors. Second, the host always knows where the car is. The third is that the host will always open a door to reveal a goat. The last important detail is that the contestant (that’s you) knows all of this information ahead of time.

    The popular reasoning goes like this: after opening a door to reveal a goat, Monty leaves you with two possibilities, so the odds must be 50/50 and therefore there is nothing to be gained by switching. You could switch, but there is no reason to do so. The popular reasoning is wrong.

    As strange as it may seem, you should switch doors – it doubles your chances of winning! Without switching, you would only win a third of the time. By switching doors, you will win two thirds of the time.

    How is that possible? Perhaps the easiest way to see that switching is the proper strategy is to work through an example. Let’s assume you choose Door 1. If the car is behind Door 2, then Monty has no choice but to reveal Door 3 (a goat). Switching from Door 1 to Door 2 wins for you. Likewise, if the car is behind Door 3 then Monty is forced to reveal Door 2. Switching from 1 to 3 wins for you. The only time you lose by switching is if you happened to choose the right door from the outset. But we know that only happens one third of the time. The other two thirds of the time switching is the correct strategy.

    If you’re still not convinced, imagine there were 100 doors. Behind 99 of them are goats and behind one is the car. You choose a door. Monty then opens 98 of the doors with goats and leaves only your original door and one other. He then gives you the option of switching. What’s more likely, that you picked the right door at the very beginning or that Monty was avoiding the winning door when he was opening up all of the losers? Of course it’s the latter. In 99 times out of 100 Monty has to avoid the correct door. He’s practically pointing it out to you! In this extreme example, only one time out of 99 will a switching strategy lose for you.

    The same logic applies to the standard three-door example. Statistically speaking, two thirds of the time you’ve chosen the wrong door initially and Monty is literally showing you the other wrong door. The one remaining is the correct one and you should switch to it as soon as you can.

    1. Earlier I mentioned new variations of the Monty Hall Problem. There are dozens out there in maths and stats journals, but here we’ll consider two of the best.

      Problem 1

      The first involves a scenario where the car is not placed randomly at the outset. Let’s assume that Door 1 contains the car 75% of the time, Door 2 has it 15% of the time, and Door 3 has it the remaining 10% of the time. All other assumptions and procedures remain the same. What is the optimal strategy now?

      Problem 2

      The second variation uses four doors. You choose one. Monty then opens a losing door and gives you the option of switching or staying with your original door. After your decision, Monty opens another losing door and again gives you the option of switching or staying with your original door. What is the optimal strategy? Is it to never switch, to switch once as soon as you can but then to stay, to switch both times, or to switch only once at the very end?

      The answers

      In the first variation where the car is not placed randomly, the correct solution is initially to choose the door with the lowest probability of having the car, Door 3. Monty will then open one of the remaining doors – eliminating one of the car’s two more likely hiding places for you – and you would switch to the remaining door when given the chance. Your chances of winning are the sum of the chances of the two doors you did not choose at the beginning. In our example you would win 90% of the time using this strategy.

      In the four-door example, any switching is better than none at all, but the best strategy is to wait until the final opportunity and then (and only then) switch – just like in the 100-door example, the odds are that Monty is signposting the winning door. In Monty Hall Problem literature this is known as the “Switch at the Last Minute” strategy and it works for any number of doors that follow a progressive elimination format. In our example, you would win 75% of the time using this strategy

  2. It was Obama's credible threat of using overwhelming force to bring Iran to its knees through direct military assault that has brought us to this happy pass !