Barack Obama needed a win. He needed something that resembled an accomplishment. His sinking presidency could not withstand very many more news reports about how he lied to the American people. The Democratic Party could not have survived too many more stories about hospitals and physicians refusing to treat citizens who had signed up for their health insurance via the Obamacare exchange.
So, President Obama proudly stepped forth late last night to tout another signature accomplishment: a negotiated deal with Iran. Many people believe that our president has replaced Obamacare with Obamappeasement.
Was the event so momentous that it required a Saturday night presidential address? Surely, it was not.
The man who refused to commemorate the Gettysburg address with his presence decided that a half-baked deal with Iran’s mullahs had made so much history that he needed to step forth to claim credit.
In the world of Obama it doesn’t have to be a real accomplishment. It must merely look like one.
Obviously, those who are terrified at the possibility of confronting Iran are thrilled. Those whose anti-war faith will accept anything that resembles diplomacy feel vindicated. Everyone else has denounced the deal as a sell-out, another Munich, a public acceptance of a nuclear Iran. So much for the axis of evil.
One suspects that, from Obama’s perspective, what matters is that Iran not develop a nuclear weapon while Barack Obama is in office. If it happens in 2017 he will blame it on the Bush administration or another convenient scapegoat.
John Bolton explains the deal, while underscoring its deficiencies:
This interim agreement is badly skewed from America’s perspective. Iran retains its full capacity to enrich uranium, thus abandoning a decade of Western insistence and Security Council resolutions that Iran stop all uranium-enrichment activities. Allowing Iran to continue enriching, and despite modest (indeed, utterly inadequate) measures to prevent it from increasing its enriched-uranium stockpiles and its overall nuclear infrastructure, lays the predicate for Iran fully enjoying its “right” to enrichment in any “final” agreement. Indeed, the interim agreement itself acknowledges that a “comprehensive solution” will “involve a mutually defined enrichment program.”
Bolton is not a friend of the Obama administration. He is also an expert in this field.
Among the flaw in the agreement, he sees these:
First, it [Iran] bought time to continue all aspects of its nuclear-weapons program the agreement does not cover (centrifuge manufacturing and testing; weaponization research and fabrication; and its entire ballistic missile program). Indeed, given that the interim agreement contemplates periodic renewals, Iran may have gained all of the time it needs to achieve weaponization not of simply a handful of nuclear weapons, but of dozens or more….
Second, Iran has gained legitimacy. This central banker of international terrorism and flagrant nuclear proliferator is once again part of the international club. Much as the Syria chemical-weapons agreement buttressed Bashar al-Assad, the mullahs have escaped the political deep freezer….
In return for freezing, not dismantling their program, the mullahs will receive billions of dollars in sanction relief. As might be expected, the administration will release the money by executive order. It will not seek Congressional approval.
American Congressional leaders, from both parties, are deeply skeptical. Bridget Johnson reported:
Analysts and lawmakers quickly jumped on the deal, noting that any pact that does not halt the construction of centrifuges is basically worthless.
“Unless the agreement requires dismantling of the Iranian centrifuges, we really haven’t gained anything,” tweeted Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).
Sen. Mark Kirk, who has led tough sanctions legislation in the upper chamber along with Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), said “this deal appears to provide the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism with billions of dollars in exchange for cosmetic concessions that neither fully freeze nor significantly roll back its nuclear infrastructure.”
“Furthermore, the deal ignores Iran’s continued sponsorship of terrorism, its testing of long-range ballistic missiles and its abuse of human rights,” Kirk added.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said there is no “freeze” on Iran’s nuclear program and noted it doesn’t even require the Islamic Republic to abide by UN Security Council resolutions.
“This agreement shows other rogue states that wish to go nuclear that you can obfuscate, cheat, and lie for a decade, and eventually the United States will tire and drop key demands,” Rubio said. “Iran will likely use this agreement – and any that follows that does not require any real concessions – to obtain a nuclear weapons capability.”
Skilled diplomat that he is, John Kerry has also managed to alienate our Israeli allies. And not just the Israelis.
Tom Friedman reported that the Obama administration had damaged relationships with countries throughout the Middle East:
Now, just the thought of big brother, Iran, being reintegrated and having its own direct relationship with the United States has set all of America’s Sunni Arab allies — Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states, Egypt and Jordan — on edge, especially at a time when Iran is malignly meddling in Syria, Lebanon, Yemen and Bahrain.
Under normal circumstances diplomacy is about managing relationships. For the Obama administration, it seems to be about theatrics.
As Friedman and bolton point out, Iran is a malignant influence on the region. Nothing about its sponsorship of terrorism was addressed in the agreement. Apparently, it was not sufficiently consequential.
The Times reported the sharp Israeli reaction:
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel called the agreement “a historic mistake,” saying in remarks that were broadcast from the start of his weekly cabinet meeting, “Today the world has become a much more dangerous place because the most dangerous regime in the world has taken a significant step toward attaining the most dangerous weapon in the world.”
Mr. Netanyahu excoriated the world’s leading powers for agreeing to Iranian uranium enrichment for the first time and for relenting on sanctions “in exchange for cosmetic Iranian concessions that can be canceled in weeks.”
“Israel is not bound by this agreement,” he said, “As prime minister of Israel, I would like to make it clear: Israel will not allow Iran to develop a military nuclear capability.”
If you alienate your allies by doing the bidding of their (and your) enemies, your diplomacy has been a failure.
Friedman generally likes the deal, but he believes that the real endgame is regime change in Iran.
If so, how can lifting sanctions and welcoming the Islamic Republic of Iran back into the world of international diplomacy advance that goal? Keep in mind, the same Obama administration had an opportunity to stand up for democracy in Iran during the Green Revolution of 2009. It was not even moved to offer a gesture of verbal support for the young democracy protesters. Apparently, it did not want to offend the mullahs.