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May 16, 2019



Professor Nacos,

You say, "the worries that the Middle East will soon see another war of choice, not a war of necessity, are real."

Indeed, the choice for war is Iran's today as it was Iraq's then.

Like the US-led enforcement with Iraq, the US policy for Iran has been consistent that only Iran's noncompliance with the conditions necessary to secure the peace can trigger enforcement, whereas Iran's compliance with those conditions would switch off enforcement.

That being said, your comparison of the respective US-led enforcements with Iraq and Iran breaks at a key point: the respective governing standards of compliance. As you say, "there is no conclusive evidence that Tehran violated the Nuclear Accord that was agreed on by the Obama administration, Europeans, Russia, and China but severed quickly by the Trump White House".

In the case of Iraq, Saddam's violation or "material breach" (UNSCR 1441) of the Gulf War ceasefire "governing standard of compliance" (UNSCR 1441) was conclusive. In accordance with the operative enforcement procedure for the "governing standard of Iraqi compliance" (UNSCR 1441) handed down from President Clinton to President Bush, the casus belli for Operation Iraqi Freedom was Iraq's "continued violations of its obligations" (UNSCR 1441) in Iraq's "final opportunity to comply [with] ... full and immediate compliance by Iraq without conditions or restrictions with its obligations under resolution 687 (1991) and other relevant resolutions" (UNSCR 1441). The principal trigger for OIF was Hans Blix's final UNSCR 1441 report of "about 100 unresolved disarmament issues", which confirmed "Iraq has been and remains in material breach of its obligations under relevant resolutions" (UNSCR 1441).

President Bush's determination to use force was procedurally correct on the law and substantively correct on the facts: the case against Saddam is substantiated. (For law-and-fact clarification of the Iraq issue, see https://operationiraqifreedomfaq.blogspot.com .) The "threat [of] Iraq’s non-compliance with Council resolutions" (UNSCR 1441) regarding WMD, aggression, terrorism, human rights, etc, has been confirmed to be categorical. The Iraq Survey Group further confirmed Saddam "never intended" to comply with the Gulf War ceasefire terms.

Hans Blix's confirmation of Iraq's noncompliance in Iraq's "final opportunity to comply" (UNSCR 1441) activated the OIF regime change as the "necessary means" (Public Law 102-190) to "enforce all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq" (Public Law 107-243). After Saddam chose war again and for the final time, the Iraq enforcement proceeded successfully to "bring Iraq into compliance with its international obligations" (Public Law 105-235): http://www.un.org/press/en/2010/sc10118.doc.htm .

In contrast, the Iran enforcement has lacked the sufficiently curative standard of compliance that defined the Iraq enforcement. To correct the fundamental flaw, President Trump "severed" (Nacos) the JCPOA and instead, directed US enforcement efforts to a corrective set of 12 conditions that recall the sufficient Gulf War ceasefire measures mandated to satisfy "the need to be assured of Iraq's peaceful intentions [and] ... to secure peace and security in the area" (UNSCR 687).

The substantive rationale for Trump's reform of the Iran enforcement is sound: The JCPOA "agreed on by the Obama administration" (Nacos) is on its face an insufficient WMD protocol that ignores other critical areas of Iran's malfeasance; whereas the Gulf War ceasefire terms and its operative enforcement procedure comprise a gold standard for enforcing the set of essential international norms, particularly for WMD, aggression, terrorism, and human rights.

However, so far, President Trump's reform has lagged in terms of diplomacy. Although patently inadequate to resolve Iran's manifold malfeasance, the JCPOA remains the ratified standard of compliance for Iran. (Notably, JCPOA proponents include Saddam's accomplices in Iraq's ceasefire breach, the casus belli for OIF.) Trump's efforts to formally supersede the inadequate JCPOA with the sufficient set of 12 conditions enumerated by Secretary of State Pompeo on May 21, 2018 have meandered.

Finally, you say, "While the tough words of Iran's leaders do not favor my peace diplomacy I still hope that soft (and clever) power trumps hard power."

Real reliable peace with Iran pivots on Iran's compliance with the 12 conditions enumerated by Secretary Pompeo. Their effective enforcement requires complementary soft and hard power to work in concert.

To secure a real reliable peace with Iran, the lesson learned over and over from Saddam is that credible military threat is necessary backing leverage for diplomatic enforcement to work with rogue actors. Per the Iraq Survey Group, President HW Bush's choice to withdraw the US military threat at the outset of the Gulf War ceasefire was a fundamental error that informed Saddam's tragic choice to withhold Iraq's mandated compliance. Subsequently, despite the progressive escalation of US force under Presidents HW Bush, Clinton, and Bush in response to Saddam's intransigence, the Iraq enforcement was unable to overcome HW Bush's fundamental error at the outset until the critical OIF corrective.

It's basic political science: the lesson of President HW Bush's fundamental enforcement error with Iraq accords with deterrence theory.

As you say, "war is not inevitable." Per the essential lesson of Iraq and deterrence theory, preventing war with Iran fundamentally requires that Iranian respect for the US threat is sufficient to induce Iran to cure its malfeasant behavior per Secretary Pompeo's 12 conditions in order to switch off enforcement. Therefore, if you sincerely want "soft (and clever) power" to dissuade Iran from repeating Saddam's choice for war, then you need to publicly support Ambassador Bolton's efforts to uphold hard power as the necessary backing leverage for diplomatic enforcement to work with Iran.


Professor Nacos,

To correct for your conjectural assertion, "the then Vice-President (along with fellow neo-conservatives) finally got his war against Saddam Hussein and Iraq that they had plotted for years", the law and policy, fact basis - ie, the why - of Operation Iraqi Freedom is clarified at
https://operationiraqifreedomfaq.blogspot.com/ using the primary source authorities (the controlling law, policy, precedent and determinative facts) that define the justification of the Iraq intervention. Excerpt:

_"Here is my latest attempt to set the record straight on Operation Iraqi Freedom by synthesizing the primary sources of the mission, including the Gulf War ceasefire UN Security Council resolutions that set the "governing standard of Iraqi compliance" (UNSCR 1441), the US law and policy to "bring Iraq into compliance with its international obligations" (P.L. 105-235), the conditions and precedents that set the stage for OIF, and the determinative fact findings of Iraq's breach of ceasefire that triggered enforcement, to explain the law and policy, fact basis - i.e., the why - of the decision for OIF.


Click on the questions or scroll down for the answers to these frequently asked questions.

* What were President Bush’s alternatives with Iraq?
* Why did Bush leave the ‘containment’ (status quo)?
* Why not free a noncompliant Saddam?
* Why did resolution of the Saddam problem require a threat of regime change?
* Did Bush allow enough time for the inspections?
* Did Iraq failing its compliance test justify the regime change?
* Was Operation Iraqi Freedom about WMD or democracy?
* Was the invasion of Iraq perceived to be a nation-building effort?
* Did Bush lie his way to war with Iraq?
* Was Operation Iraqi Freedom legal?
* If a new UN authorization was not needed for OIF, then why did Bush go to the UN?
* Did Operation Iraqi Freedom really cost X trillions of dollars?
* Was Operation Iraqi Freedom a strategic blunder or a strategic victory?"_

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