Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Enabling Iran’s Nukes

The lies began at the very beginning, with assurances that American diplomacy had secured a “halt” in the Iranian nuclear program.
Late on the night of November 23, 2013, President Barack Obama stood in the State Dining Room and announced that an interim agreement had been reached between Iran and the P5+1 global powers—the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia, and China—that “halted the progress of the Iranian nuclear program.” The White House distributed a fact sheet emphasizing that Iran had promised to “halt progress on the growth” of its low-enriched uranium stockpile and to “halt progress on its plutonium track” to a nuclear weapon. Senior-administration officials held a late-night briefing to stress for reporters that the concessions added up to “a halt of activities across the Iranian program”—the word halt was used more than a dozen more times—and that the coming months would also see sustained progress in investigating Iranian research into nuclear detonations. Reporters would be told in subsequent weeks that the agreement even prohibited Iran from further testing on ballistic missiles.
Those statements were, on the whole, false. But on that night, the president and those around him badly needed them to be true. So they pretended they were.
By November 2014, the six-month interim Joint Plan of Action (JPOA) announced that night had been extended into a year (a contingency that had been formally built into and anticipated by the original text). The parties, unable to seal an agreement even after twelve months, then extended negotiations through the summer of 2015. The move stoked long-standing fears that the Iranians were using negotiations as a stalling tactic as they inched toward a bomb, but the president and his administration insisted that there was no harm in having more talks. Rerunning the claims from that first night, they insisted that Iran’s program had been “frozen” by the JPOA—and that the Iranians were living up to their end of the bargain by keeping it frozen.
Those claims remain false.
It is a worthwhile exercise to go back and see how the Obama administration’s desperate quest began and why the president and his people are still clinging to hopes about these negotiations, which they have every reason to know are, in truth, delusional.
 Throughout 2013, domestic criticism of the Obama administration’s overtures toward the Islamic Republic was building. There were broad suspicions of conciliatory moves to Tehran, but nothing definite; as we now know, as of the beginning of the year, the State Department was still flatly lying to reporters about the existence of secret bilateral talks between Washington and Tehran. But in the summer of 2013, the victory of Hassan Rouhani in the Iranian presidential election emboldened those around Obama, and eventually the president himself, to escalate the ongoing outreach.
But by fall, Washington and its allies still had little to show for their efforts. Iran was still steadily progressing toward having a nuclear weapon, and Iranian leaders were still regularly boasting that nothing could stop their progress. Congressional leaders were eager to move forward on crippling sanctions legislation aimed at testing that braggadocio.
The Obama administration had a different approach. Advisers in and around the White House insisted that Rouhani and his foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, could prevail upon the Iranian establishment and cut a deal addressing the country’s nuclear program. The duo just needed to be shown a little more goodwill; new pressure would scuttle their efforts back home.
Congress was skeptical but continued watching from the sidelines even as Iranians marched closer every day to nuclear-weapons acquisition. On November 10, 2013, a much anticipated summit in Geneva— aimed at immediately stopping that very march in anticipation of further negotiations—collapsed. France’s foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, discovered late in the talks that his P5+1 counterparts were preparing to acquiesce to a deal that lacked robust checks on Iran’s plutonium work. He publicly blasted the terms as “a sucker’s deal,” and the talks ended. Everyone agreed to reassemble in two weeks to try again.
American diplomats had failed and had looked bad doing it. They had been ready to sign, per the French, an agreement that fell short of stopping Iran’s drive toward a weapon. The Foundation for Defense of Democracies estimated that the Iranians had been offered roughly $20 billion in financial relief to take the deal, far in excess of what the administration could justify. Congressional leaders were beside themselves. The Obama administration had reassured them that it would strike a tough bargain with Iran only if Congress gave U.S. diplomats some breathing room. Instead, the diplomats had been willing to trade billions of dollars for a toothless entente. Well, if American negotiators lacked sufficient leverage to extract meaningful concessions from Iran, Congress would provide it to them. Legislation was prepared and shared that would immediately impose a new round of sanctions on Iran.
Democrats and Republicans from the House and Senate sent the president letters objecting to the reported contours of an emerging deal. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid took to the floor and declared that after the Thanksgiving recess, he would present and support bipartisan sanctions legislation against Iran if diplomacy continued to falter.
The P5+1 meeting was to be held that weekend. Given all of this, President Obama badly needed Iranian leaders to accept an agreement immediately freezing their uranium, plutonium, and ballistic-missile programs in exchange for limited sanctions relief, and he needed it stat.
The agreement that administration officials purported to have secured would have been a diplomatic masterstroke. It would have immediately frozen activity across the three core areas of Iran’s nuclear-weapons program—uranium enrichment, plutonium-related work, and ballistic-missile development—while dealing with the verification issue that hangs over the entire program. In exchange, the West would have provided what the White House fact sheet characterized as limited, temporary, and reversible relief from some sanctions. It would have lasted for only six months, a decent amount of time to test diplomacy. No diplomatic concessions would have been made up front.
But since American diplomats couldn’t get Iran to agree to a deal in which it would do any of those things, what they actually brought home was the Joint Plan of Action. It allowed Iran to continue making sustained progress along its uranium and plutonium tracks, contained no restrictions on ballistic-missile development, failed to open up Iran’s atomic facilities to verification, provided sufficient economic relief to stabilize Iran’s economy, and would last for at least 18 months.
And it wasn’t even a deal yet. The parties were committed to the contours of a deal that would be outlined and implemented sometime in the future, which would turn out to be January 2014. Until then an “interim before the interim” period took hold, during which Iran was allowed to speed ahead with its nuclear program with zero new restrictions. It was only enough, it seems, to allow the White House to tell lawmakers that progress had been achieved—and that they would have to continue sitting on the sidelines lest they spoil it.
Rouhani and Zarif immediately began boasting that no matter what else happened, Iran had already scored a major victory by getting the West to concede that the Islamic Republic had the “right to enrich.” The interim agreement, they said, acknowledged that any comprehensive agreement would leave Iranian centrifuges spinning.
The concession gutted decades of diplomacy. There are a half dozen hard-won United Nations Security Council resolutions obligating Tehran to fully give up its nuclear activities. The international-sanctions regime had long been explicitly aimed at forcing Iran to comply with those resolutions. White House officials had been unequivocal since Obama’s inauguration that no matter how engagement with Iran went, he would never abandon that core demand.
There were critical reasons to hold the line. The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) guarantees members in good standing access to nuclear technology, but not to enrichment technology. Many of the parties get their material from overseas. Successive American administrations had worked out deals that very deliberately provided allies with nuclear technology in exchange for those countries forswearing enrichment infrastructure that might put them on a path to nuclear weapons. Some of those countries were in Iran’s neighborhood. Conceding enrichment to Washington’s long-time Iranian antagonists while denying it to Washington’s increasingly worried partners would risk a global cascade of backsliding and proliferation. Indeed, the November 10 talks had reportedly stalled partly because of this dispute over enrichment.
The demand for enrichment rights had almost scuttled previous diplomacy, and now it looked very much like the disagreement had been overcome by the West’s simply caving. So Kerry took to the Sunday news shows that weekend to deny the Iranian interpretation, and to insist that the fight over whether Tehran would be allowed to enrich uranium in the context of a comprehensive agreement would continue. The pretense would collapse before sunrise. The plain text of the agreement gave the game away. It opened by declaring that “the goal for these negotiations is a mutually agreed long-term comprehensive solution that…would involve a mutually defined enrichment program.” Literally. First paragraph. The Iranians were simply correct. They either outmaneuvered Western negotiators or the language was inserted with a nudge and a wink, but the debate wasn’t close.
The Iranians are known to have experimented with multiple methods capable of producing weapons-grade uranium that involve taking natural uranium ore and removing its impurities until what remains is 90 percent pure. They currently do their known enrichment work via tens of thousands of centrifuges that purify uranium hexafluoride gas in stages: natural stock to 3.5 percent low-enriched uranium (LEU), then to 20 percent, then in theory all the way up to weapons-grade levels (WGU).
The most difficult part of the process is getting from zero to 3.5 percent. Overcome that difficulty, and you’re more than halfway toward producing material for a bomb. The JPOA allows Iran unrestricted enrichment up to 3.5 percent. Unlimited. As much as the Iranians could physically produce with the thousands of centrifuges they had installed at the time. The caveat—and this is how the administration gets away with saying that the Iranian stockpile isn’t growing—is that the JPOA obligates the Iranians to convert any newly enriched material into an oxide form unsuitable for further enrichment.
The problem is that the oxidizing process can be reversed in a few weeks, according even to supporters of the agreement. Amos Yadlin, the former head of Israel’s Military Intelligence Directorate, says the process takes less than a week.
In other words, the JPOA allows the Iranians to enrich as much uranium as they physically can that is more than halfway toward a bomb, as long as they then put the enriched uranium literally and figuratively on the shelf until such time as they’re ready to convert it back into gas and enrich it further. They enriched at least one bomb’s worth during the JPOA’s first year.
The JPOA even allows the Iranians to continue developing next-generation centrifuges, enabling them to more quickly enrich their growing LEU stockpile—and to get to a bomb that much faster—once they decide to take it off the shelf.
The deal did force the Iranians to tinker with their existing 20 percent stockpile. They had to turn half of it into oxide, a step reversible at that level just as it is at 5 percent. They had to downblend the other half to 5 percent and then oxidize that, too—a double-step that Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization spokesman once estimated would take two to three weeks to reverse. They had to modify their centrifuges to prevent further enrichment to 20 percent, a step that Zarif and other Iranian officials repeatedly bragged could be reversed in less than a day.
Understanding the bait-and-switch with uranium requires some understanding of enrichment. Seeing through administration pretensions about plutonium requires only literacy. The White House fact sheet had tersely stated: “Iran has committed to no further advances of its activities at Arak and to halt progress on its plutonium track.” Arak is the location of Iran’s plutonium-producing facility and houses both a plutonium-producing heavy-water reactor and a plant that produces heavy water for its use.
Observers quickly noticed a loophole so significant and, quite bluntly, so stupid as to again raise suspicions that it had been inserted into the text with a nudge-wink. The reference to activities “at Arak” seemed to allow unlimited research and work on reactor parts away from that site, inasmuch as they did not happen physically “at Arak.” The Iranians could in theory build whatever parts they wanted and wait for the day after the agreement to install them. The president’s initial speech about the deal featured an awkward sentence declaring that “Iran will halt work at its plutonium reactor.” (Style would recommend either “on its plutonium reactor” or “at its plutonium-reactor facility.”) This linguistic legerdemain deepened worries that the phrase had been deliberately crafted to circumvent France’s concerns without forcing Iranian concessions.
Then, in the middle of the week, Zarif announced that the Iranians would continue construction on-site, at the facility itself. Reuters somewhat archly reported that his comment came “despite an agreement with Western powers to halt activity,” and the stage was set for the parties’ first confrontation over JPOA violations. Except when reporters pressed the State Department on the issue, its spokesman, Jen Psaki, revealed that the JPOA did in fact allow construction at Arak as long as the Iranians avoided the reactor itself. She expressed no worry about the on-site loophole: What’s the big deal—and this is an actual quote—about “a road here or an out-building there”?
Combined, the off-site and on-site loopholes meant that throughout the ongoing interim period, Iran was seemingly allowed to make unlimited progress off-site on its reactor and unlimited progress on-site on everything else.
The administration’s reversal regarding ballistic-missile restrictions was starker still. Senator Mark Kirk had put out a graphic blasting the interim agreement for staying silent on Iran’s proliferation-sensitive missile activity, the third core weaponization issue and an area where Iran is obligated by United Nations Security Council resolutions to suspend work. An NSC official let it be known that an Iranian ballistic-missile test would “be in violation of the agreement” and cause the deal to “cease to exist.”
As if on cue, Mehdi Farahi, Iran’s deputy defense minister and the head of Iran’s Aerospace Organization General, announced that the Iranians would soon conduct exactly such a test. Obama officials quickly moved to clarify their stance. Instead of the JPOA imposing absolute restrictions on ballistic-missile tests, the JPOA apparently imposed no restrictions on ballistic-missile tests.
There was seemingly no detail that the administration hadn’t exaggerated in some way. Even bluster about inspections—“unprecedented transparency and intrusive monitoring of Iran’s nuclear program”—devolved in some cases into gaining some access to camera footage.
Meanwhile, the JPOA directly provided enormous amounts of capital to Iran and explicitly loosened certain sanctions against Iran. The administration had from the first night been vociferous in insisting that the relief would be “limited, temporary, targeted, and reversible.” Under the JPOA, “the vast bulk of our sanctions, including the oil, finance, and banking sanctions architecture” would be maintained. The Iranians disagreed. In mid-December 2013, Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Marziyeh Afkham tersely declared that “the structure of sanctions has cracked and its collapse has started.”
The Iranians were right. By January, the Wall Street Journal was describing how “Tehran’s trading partners have lifted sanctions, sent delegations, agreed to export deals, and signaled their readiness to expand ties across nearly every major industry.” The spiral had begun without the JPOA even taking force, during the so-called interim before the interim period between the November Geneva announcement and a January implementation agreement.
The Iranians had locked in an agreement that would be asymmetric once it was implemented, and in the meantime they were protected from new pressure and allowed to pursue their work toward obtaining a nuclear bomb unrestricted. In early December, Iranian officials announced that they would be testing next-generation centrifuges and had improved the accuracy of their ballistic missiles. They crowed that the West would never get what it wanted out of a comprehensive agreement. Rouhani himself boasted that Iran would continue bolstering its nuclear program “forever.”
The West’s position began to erode. U.S. officials leaked that it was “no longer…feasible or practical” to expect a deal in which Iran completely dismantled its nuclear program. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius publicly worried that it remained “unclear” if the Iranians were willing to make broad-based concessions.
An increasingly dismayed Congress moved in parallel to intervene. Legislators bowed to the administration’s position that no new sanctions be imposed during the JPOA’s negotiation period. Instead, legislation began to coalesce around an idea that would boost America’s leverage by signaling to the Iranians what would happen after the talks if Tehran refused to meet international demands. House measures explicitly defined minimum concessions as ones that would see Iran “completely dismantle all enrichment facilities and cease all centrifuge production” and “completely dismantle its heavy-water plutonium reactor at Arak.” Senators Mark Kirk and Bob Menendez took the lead in assembling a list of crippling sanctions that would take hold should Iran cheat during the JPOA negotiation period or refuse to agree to a robust comprehensive agreement.
On December 19, a bipartisan group of 26 senators (13 from each party) formally unveiled co-sponsored legislation dubbed the Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2013, which Kirk described “as an insurance policy to defend against Iranian deception during negotiations.” A hastily issued White House veto threat failed to slow it down. On the Monday after it was unveiled, the Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act had 48 co-sponsors. The next day it had 51. Then 59. Leaked whip counts had the legislation amassing a veto-proof majority of anywhere from 67 to 77 votes. All that remained was for Reid to bring the measure to the Senate floor for a vote.
Distrust reached a fever pitch by mid-January, when Iran’s chief negotiator, Abbas Araqchi, told the state-linked Iranian Students News Agency that there existed an informal, 30-page text that detailed the concessions Iran had actually committed to. Araqchi declared that the White House was mischaracterizing the actual state of negotiations and that in fact “no facility will be closed; enrichment will continue, and qualitative and nuclear research will be expanded.”
The White House had made its stand by then. Officials close to the administration launched a campaign accusing sitting Democratic senators of being—in more or less as many words—un-American warmongers. Obama officials insisted that any congressional action would spoil an amorphous Spirit of Geneva without which talks could not proceed. The Iranians did not seem to have heard that such a Spirit existed. In early January, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei himself would lash out against Washington in general and negotiations in particular, declaring that “we would negotiate with the Satan [the United States] to deter its evil” and that “the nuclear talks showed the enmity of America against Iran, Iranians, Islam, and Muslims.”
The Obama administration’s other tactic—the one that didn’t involve vulgar intimidation—was to launch what rhetorical theorist Marcus Paroske has described as an “epistemological filibuster”: “an appeal to uncertainty in order to delay policy implementation.”
Sure, it could be that Iran’s leverage would continuously increase because the JPOA wasn’t a freeze; and, sure, it could be that the Iranian economy would stabilize as sanctions relief spiraled out of control; and, sure, it could be that the Iranians would be in a position to extend their intransigence—but maybe not! And what’s the harm in trying? If after six months it turned out that the administration’s gamble had been reckless, top officials promised to admit their errors and work with Congress to redress them.
Psaki told the State Department press corps in November that “if the Iranians don’t get to a ‘yes’ at the end of six months, we can put in place more sanctions.” Carney told journalists in his press room that “if Iran fails to reach agreement with the P5+1 on the more comprehensive agreement over the course of six months, we are very confident that we can work with Congress to very quickly pass new, effective sanctions against Iran.” Kerry sat in front of lawmakers and told them that if things went sideways, if the Iranians cheated, then “we will be the first ones to come to you if this fails to ask you for additional sanctions.”
On January 13, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid chose the White House over the institution he had been charged with leading and announced that he would “wait and see how this plays out.” He had joined the filibuster, and he would refuse to allow the sanctions bill to come to the floor of the Senate. The majority of the Senate would try for another few weeks to make something happen, but the administration had won for itself the breathing room that it promised it would use to secure a comprehensive deal.
Negotiations picked up in mid-February amid widespread pessimism. U.S. officials had already started to predict they would need at least a six-month extension beyond the first half-year. The glum assessments were well-grounded. Rouhani told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria that Iran would never “accept any limitations” on its “nuclear technology” and would “not under any circumstances” agree to dismantle its uranium-enrichment infrastructure. A stunned Zakaria declared that the position meant that negotiations would become a diplomatic “trainwreck,” since “the Iranian conception of what the deal is going to look like and the American conception now look like they are miles apart.” The Obama administration tried to spin Rouhani’s comments as being aimed at a domestic audience, prompting a reporter to ask Carney to confirm whether “CNN is broadcast outside of Iran.” Zarif would in the next few days pile on, describing Iran’s uranium and plutonium technology as “non-negotiable.”
Red lines were also drawn regarding plutonium. There is no non-military justification for Iran to build and operate a heavy-water reactor. Inasmuch as talks rested on the conceit that Iran was proving that its atomic program was entirely peaceful, administration officials had long been clear to Congress that the Iranians would need to give up their heavy-water reactor. Sherman had tersely told senators, “We do not believe there is any reason for a heavy-water reactor at all in a civil nuclear program.” Zarif had responded angrily to Sherman’s testimony, calling it “worthless.”
As far as ballistic missiles were concerned, Araqchi simply declared that the issue is a defense matter and that it has nothing to do with Iran’s nuclear program—and so the Iranians would refuse to bargain over it. The international community disagrees. Iran’s missile program is part and parcel of its broader nuclear-weapons program. The UN’s nuclear watchdog had long taken an interest in Iran’s missiles, and UNSC Resolution 1929 prohibits Iran from “any activity related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons.” The Iranians don’t want to give up their missiles, and so they simply insisted otherwise.
At one point Zarif made a particularly cute move, asserting that missiles couldn’t be part of comprehensive negotiations because they weren’t mentioned in the JPOA. The Iranians had prevailed upon the P5+1 to kick the can down the road, and now they were taking the can away. Congress had been told by the administration that missile checks were left out of the JPOA simply to get talks moving, and that they would of course be addressed later. In negotiations, it was condescendingly explained, you can’t expect to start where you want to end up. Now Zarif was saying that precisely because the JPOA was silent on missiles, they were now beyond discussion. A few months later, Reuters would reveal that Zarif did at least once literally laugh in the faces of Americans who tried to bring up ballistic missiles.
Meanwhile, Iran began making moves to put off any discussion of verification mechanisms until the end of talks. Verification—which for historical but logical reasons gets lumped into the debate over the “possible military dimensions” (PMDs) of Iran’s program—hangs over every aspect of Iranian nuclear talks. The issue is the prerequisite to any successful deal. It doesn’t do any good for Iran to agree to limit itself to some arbitrary number of centrifuges if the West doesn’t know how many centrifuges the Iranians even have.
The PMDs label focuses the mind on military applications of Iran’s program—their widely suspected experiments with nuclear detonations, for instance—but that’s not really what the problem is about. The goal is to force the Iranians fully to disclose all their atomic activities, civilian and military, to provide a baseline for all elements of their program. If there was a deal, UN inspectors could be charged with evaluating whether the Iranians were meeting its terms. Full Iranian disclosure had long been recognized and treated as beyond negotiation.
But then the Iranians started declaring that PMDs should be put off until the very end of comprehensive negotiations. They started to frame the issue as one in which the West was trying to extract a mea culpa from Iran over previous violations in order to embarrass the Iranians. They started to put out statements about their willingness to negotiate, but they made no mention of transparency measures. Many of these statements arrived alongside frustrated reports from the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog documenting Iran’s continued refusal to open up facilities where full-blown nuclear-weapons-related research probably took place. By May, the Associated Press regretfully informed readers that the “once promising UN attempt to probe suspicions that Tehran worked on atomic arms” was “faltering.”
Meanwhile, the asymmetries that the Iranians had successfully negotiated into the JPOA played out as they all but inevitably had to. On one side, Iran slowly built up its uranium stockpile and bolstered its plutonium infrastructure, not only inching toward a bomb but also amassing negotiation leverage in the process. On the other side, the West’s leverage steadily eroded as cash infusions and sanctions relief bolstered the Iranian economy. Salehi summed up the situation for Iranian state television: “The iceberg of sanctions is melting while our centrifuges are also still working.”
Iran had moved quickly to break free from the carefully constructed net that had been woven around the country. In February, Zarif described Iran as now a “safe, stable business environment.” In March, financial experts started describing Iran as “Turkey with oil”—a country with an enormous population and energy resources—while Iran began to hold sector-based conferences for resources such as steel. By April, the Foundation for Defense of Democracies’s econometric models were converging on the conclusion that Iran’s economy was in slow but steady recovery, and that indirect relief was having an outsize impact beyond the direct relief and public deals. The International Monetary Fund concluded not only that Iran’s economy was stabilizing but that it would grow in 2014 even if the JPOA’s sanctions relief was terminated. By summer, global delegations had become a fixed presence in Iran. By winter, the Iranian economy had, definitively, turned around.
And then there was the cheating. Not content to let the year play out slowly, the Iranians advanced their nuclear program and boosted their economy beyond what was envisioned by the JPOA. They fed gas into IR-5 centrifuges and tested IR-8 centrifuges, technology generations ahead of their current infrastructure. They sought and illicitly acquired parts for their heavy-water reactor. They busted through energy export caps every single month of the deal.
Needless to say, then, when they were called upon first in July and then in November to ink an agreement with the West, the Iranians refused to accept proposed limits on their nuclear program. They have remained intransigent despite a near-total collapse in the West’s initial positions. Gone is the demand that Iran dismantle its centrifuges. The alternative now is just to unplug them for a bit. Gone is the demand that Iran cease all enrichment. The deal widely believed to be on the table would leave them spinning thousands of centrifuges. Gone is the demand that Iran downgrade its plutonium reactor. The plan on the table appears to be to let them play around with the core in a way that could be quickly reversed. Gone is the demand that Iran halt its proliferation-sensitive missile activity. Zarif was confident in his position when he laughed in negotiators’ faces.
Iran will be allowed to continue amassing the materials for a massive nuclear breakout, to happen on a day of its choosing.
Instead what’s left is the promise, which the administration has been setting up for months, that any deal will have solid verification mechanisms. White House and State Department officials have begun hinting that they’ll hang their hats on inspections and monitoring technology. They’re preparing to present to the American people and the world a rock-solid commitment: The international community will have all the resources it needs to verify the terrible deal that it has granted to Iran.
Then 10 or maybe 15 years later, a “sunset clause” —which the Iranians have successfully demanded be built into any comprehensive deal—would take effect. It would allow any and all of the agreement’s restrictions to be lifted. The mullahs will have waited out the West, and they will have amassed a sprawling nuclear program in the meantime.
Even that deal was apparently not good enough for the Iranians, and so another six-month extension was worked out in November. The administration is back on Capitol Hill assuring lawmakers that progress is being made, that they need just a little more time. And then what? In six months’ time, the West will be in a worse position to extract concessions from Iran. The Iranians will be in a better position to walk away. The spectacle will provide an interesting test case for scholars who evaluate the relative sway of deliberation versus raw political power. Everybody else will be watching to see how many senators and representatives are willing to get played for chumps again, as the most immediate danger to global stability and peace in the 21st century comes closer and closer to reality.