What’s the Matter with Iran?

By David Stockman  |  January 17, 2020

Political writers argue in regard to the love of liberty with the same philosophy that philosophers do in regard to the state of nature; by the things they see they judge of things very different which they have never seen, and they attribute to men a natural inclination to slavery, on account of the patience with which the slaves within their notice carry the yoke; not reflecting that it is with liberty as with innocence and virtue, the value of which is not known but by those who possess them, though the relish for them is lost with the things themselves. I know the charms of your country, said Brasidas to a satrap who was comparing the life of the Spartans with that of the Persepolites; but you can not know the pleasures of mine.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Discourse on the Origin of Inequality (1755)

Iran is a harsh, authoritarian theocracy. It’s ruled by a clerical and politicomilitary elite. Squeezing its economy to a pulp won’t enable Iran’s people to throw off their chains.

It will only force their rulers into ever more desperate provocations against Imperial Washington’s war machine.

Straws in the wind suggest a final blowoff confrontation isn’t that far down the road.

One of the more evident is the data on pharmaceutical imports to Iran, which are now down 42% in value terms from post-nuclear-deal levels reached in 2016.

Imperial Washington’s delusional neocons think this means their harsh sanctions strategy is working. They are out of their minds.

What creating a humanitarian crisis via acute medicine shortages is doing is ratcheting the pressure on Tehran to fill the Strait of Hormuz with the twisted metal of bombedout tankers and threatening to push oil to $200 per barrel and the global economy into the Greatest Recession… or worse.

Let’s not discount the “worse” scenario. In the whole lineup of the Donald’s blithering ignorance on policy matters, there’s no precinct where he’s more delusional than he is on Iran. And his remaining tiny circle of advisors are more dangerously bellicose.

Indeed, the transcript of his January 8 “all clear” speech is all you need read. Nothing here accords with reality:

For far too long – all the way back to 1979, to be exact – nations have tolerated Iran’s destructive and destabilizing behavior in the Middle East and beyond. Those days are over. Iran has been the leading sponsor of terrorism, and their pursuit of nuclear weapons threatens the civilized world. We will never let that happen.

Last week, we took decisive action to stop a ruthless terrorist from threatening American lives. At my direction, the United States military eliminated the world’s top terrorist, Qasem Soleimani. As the head of the Quds Force, Soleimani was personally responsible for some of the absolutely worst atrocities.

He trained terrorist armies, including Hezbollah, launching terrorist strikes against civilian targets. He fueled bloody civil wars all across the region. He viciously wounded

and murdered thousands of U.S. troops, including the planting of roadside bombs that maim and dismember their victims….

Iran’s hostilities substantially increased after the foolish Iran nuclear deal was signed in 2013, and they were given $150 billion, not to mention $1.8 billion in cash. Instead of saying “thank you” to the United States, they chanted “death to America.” In fact, they chanted “death to America” the day the agreement was signed.

Then, Iran went on a terror spree, funded by the money from the deal, and created hell in Yemen, Syria, Lebanon, Afghanistan, and Iraq. The missiles fired last night at us and our allies were paid for with the funds made available by the last administration. The regime also greatly tightened the reins on their own country, even recently killing 1,500 people at the many protests that are taking place all throughout Iran.

The very defective JCPOA expires shortly anyway, and gives Iran a clear and quick path to nuclear breakout. Iran must abandon its nuclear ambitions and end its support for terrorism. The time has come for the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Russia, and China to recognize this reality.

They must now break away from the remnants of the Iran deal – or JCPOA – and must all work together toward making a deal with Iran that makes the world a safer and more peaceful place.

This is nonsense. There was nothing at all wrong with the Iran nuclear deal. It resulted in Iran giving up nuclear weapons it never had, did not want, and had no program to obtain, even by the lights of the vaunted 17-agency U.S. intelligence community.

In official National Intelligence Estimates (NIEs) at the end of the Bush administration, it declared that Iran’s small weapons research program had actually been abandoned in 2003 and hadnt been restarted.

In the intervening years, that conclusion has been reconfirmed by the 17 U.S. intelligence agencies as well as the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Yet the Donald has filled the ample vacant spaces under his orange combover with every jot and tittle of the neocon Big Lie on the matter.

Folks, a cornucopia of misinformation and untruth is the foundation for the economic war on Iran and its inexorable, horrible endgame.

Meanwhile, the market cranks ever higher.

The S&P 500 Index is trading at nearly 25 times trailing-12-month earnings.

And that’s happening when the “recovery,” at 127 months old, is long passed it sell-by date, the Donald is driving the Persian Gulf fulcrum of the global economy toward a spectacular implosion, and the Federal Reserve is on the sidelines pouring kerosene on the fires.

The stock market is uncoupled from facts and the fundamentals. Just since the end of September, fourth-quarter earnings estimates have dropped by 4%, while the market closed today 11% higher.

One indication among many that we’re nearing another sort of blowoff is the growing concentration of the momentum machines in fewer and fewer mega-cap names. This phenomenon always arises near the very ends of bubbles.

Note that just five Big Cap names now account for 18% of the entire market cap of the S&P 500 Index.

That leaves 2008 way behind, and it even exceeds levels reached during the tech mania of 2000.

One of these days, and soon, the Tweeter-in-Chief is going to discover that this isn’t the Greatest Economy Ever and that he most definitely didn’t win World War III.

When he does, look out below.

Crash Protection-Plus

This is the most politicized market in history. And the Tweeter-in-Chief is still in charge. So, the situation is changing almost by the minute.

It’s “Impeachment!” in Imperial Washington and all over the Mainstream Media. It’s “Easy Money!” on Wall Street and across Bubblevision.

And it seems as if the whole world has, indeed, gone mad.

Amid this chaos, prices will continue to rise and fall, trends will continue to develop and dissipate.

Well, The Stockman Letter is made for times like these. And we’ve updated our design to help us better navigate to not only the safest harbors but also the most promising opportunities.

The stakes are as high as they can be heading into 2020. Markets appear to be straining, catching up to an economy that’s been weak and getting weaker for years.

The Donald is tied up in the day-to-day movements of the major stock indexes like no president before him. The increasingly desperate incumbent will do anything he must to hold the White House.

It’s a major tipping point. And there’s no telling what the Donald’s great disruptions could do to your wealth.

You’ve got to be nimble to win in this market and we’re here to help you do that.

To common sense,

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David Stockman

David Stockman is the ultimate Washington insider turned iconoclast. He began his career in Washington as a young man and quickly rose through the ranks of the Republican Party to become the Director of the Office of Management and Budget under President Ronald Reagan. After leaving the White House, Stockman had a 20-year career on Wall Street.MORE FROM AUTHOR