Commentary Magazine


Topic: Ali Khamanei

Obama’s Iran Promises Ring Hollow

At yesterday’s post-midterm elections news conference President Obama was also asked about the nuclear negotiations with Iran. His reply was consistent with the rhetoric he has been using about this subject since he first was running for president in 2008. He told the country his goal was to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon and that no deal with Tehran was better than a bad deal. As with most everything else he has said on the subject during his presidency, this is an exemplary statement of what America’s policy should be. The only problem is that his actions flatly contradict this pronouncement. While that fact was already no secret, today’s revelations about the president carrying on a correspondence with Iran’s Supreme Leader Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei further undermines his narrative about being tough with the Islamist regime.

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At yesterday’s post-midterm elections news conference President Obama was also asked about the nuclear negotiations with Iran. His reply was consistent with the rhetoric he has been using about this subject since he first was running for president in 2008. He told the country his goal was to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon and that no deal with Tehran was better than a bad deal. As with most everything else he has said on the subject during his presidency, this is an exemplary statement of what America’s policy should be. The only problem is that his actions flatly contradict this pronouncement. While that fact was already no secret, today’s revelations about the president carrying on a correspondence with Iran’s Supreme Leader Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei further undermines his narrative about being tough with the Islamist regime.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Obama wrote to the Iranian leader in the context of the campaign against ISIS in Iraq, a common enemy of both the U.S. and the Islamist regime. The content of the letters as reported by the Journal is not as much a concern as the fact that the administration has kept its key allies in the Middle East, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates out of the loop on the correspondence much as it did last year when the U.S. conducted secret talks with Tehran in order to facilitate the interim nuclear accord signed last November. President Obama apparently is far more interested in ingratiating himself with Khamenei than with Israel.

This news casts a shadow over the president’s assurances given in his press conference yesterday about Iran. The president said that the U.S. would learn whether a deal could be obtained with Iran sometime in the “next several weeks.” But what Iran has already learned about U.S. policy in the last two years is that the best thing they have going for them in the talks is that the president’s obsession with creating a new détente with the regime always outweighs his supposed commitment to stopping them. Though he boasted of how tough he has been on them—taking credit for economic sanctions that he opposed tooth and nail prior to their adoption—the record of the past six years is quite different. The president jettisoned America’s considerable economic and military leverage over Iran last year when he agreed to tacitly recognize Iran’s “right” to enrich uranium and allowed them to keep their nuclear infrastructure.

In the follow-up talks conducted this year, which have predictably gone into overtime far past the original timeline and may well extend beyond the new November 24 deadline, he has offered even more concessions, including absurd proposals about disconnecting the pipes that link the centrifuges spinning the nuclear fuel. He continues to buy into the lie that Iran seeks nuclear power for its “peaceful energy needs”—a joke considering its oil reserves—and seems more interested in reintegrating the brutal, anti-Semitic regime back into the international economy than in halting their support of terrorism or forcing them to stop building missiles that couldn’t threaten the West as well as Israel and moderate Arabs.

The president has continued to frame opponents of his weak diplomacy as seeking war, a point he alluded to in his remarks. But the real alternative to Obama’s campaign of appeasement was the tougher sanctions proposed by a bipartisan congressional coalition that he expended considerable political capital to defeat last year.

The problem isn’t whether the Iranians will sign a deal either before November 24 or after it. It is, rather, why the U.S. has abandoned the stance the president enunciated in his 2012 foreign-policy debate with Mitt Romney when he said any agreement must result in the end of Iran’s nuclear program. Last year’s interim agreement ensured that its nuclear program would survive. If the leaks coming out of the current talks are right, there’s little doubt that the sanctions will be lifted (by Obama simply ordering them not to be enforced rather than by congressional vote as required by law) in exchange for measures that will do nothing to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear threshold state. But, as he did last year, the president will claim victory and count on his press cheerleaders to back up his assertions that critics are warmongers.

As troubling as the letters to Khamenei may be, it is Obama’s diplomatic initiative that is the real threat to America’s Middle East allies as well as to the long-term security interests of the West. What those worried about this threat need are not more hollow promises from the president but transparency about an appeasement strategy.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Good for the Senate. The nomination of lefty extremist Dawn Johnsen for the Office of Legal Counsel and two other nominations were returned to the White House. One of those is Mary Smith, nominated to head the tax division. She is not a tax lawyer, has never practiced tax law, and has never even taken continuing legal education in the subject area. But she is a Native American who worked on multiple Democratic campaigns. Perhaps we can finally begin to de-politicize the Justice Department.

Nebraska Gov. David Heineman blasts Sen. Ben Nelson. “The reason he’s in hot water right now is that he’s not listening to Nebraskans – it’s very unusual for him. . . I am shocked.” Sounds like the stump speech for Nelson’s 2012 opponent. But Michael Gerson suggests that Nelson is a sweet man who doesn’t understand what he agreed to on abortion subsidies. Maybe once he finds out, his mind can be changed.

Smart advice on the John Kerry trip to Tehran: “The Kerry mission would also look like a panicky effort to persuade the Ayatollah Ali Khamanei to accept the increasingly plaintive U.S. offers of engagement. Mr. Obama has set the end of this month as his latest deadline for progress on nuclear talks before he says he’ll seek tougher sanctions against Iran at the U.N. . .  The regime would probably exploit the visit for its own domestic purposes, perhaps adding to its P.R. coup by releasing to Mr. Kerry the three hapless American hikers it has promised to put on trial for having ‘suspicious aims’ as they wandered across the border with Iraq.”

Give the military option a chance, suggests Alan Kuperman from the pages of the New York Times: “Incentives and sanctions will not work, but air strikes could degrade and deter Iran’s bomb program at relatively little cost or risk, and therefore are worth a try. They should be precision attacks, aimed only at nuclear facilities, to remind Iran of the many other valuable sites that could be bombed if it were foolish enough to retaliate. . . Postponing military action merely provides Iran a window to expand, disperse and harden its nuclear facilities against attack. The sooner the United States takes action, the better.”

The U.S. launches a successful strike in Yemen, but Major Nadal Hassan’s favorite iman survives. So why is it that we are releasing Guantanamo detainees to a country so stocked with terrorists?

And although the Obami seem not to want to recognize it, we are in a war: “A Nigerian man, claiming to be linked to al-Qaeda, allegedly tried to set off an incendiary device aboard a transatlantic airplane Friday as it descended toward Detroit’s airport in what the White House called an attempted act of terrorism.” This would be the second domestic terrorist attack (Hassan, the first) this year. Oh, and the suspect claims he was given assistance in Yemen.

J Street Board member Hannah Rosenthal, now the Obami’s “anti-semitism czar(ina)” takes a shot at Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren for criticizing her J Street pals.

Jewish organizations respond with surprising vehemence. (Could the days of gritting their teeth over outrageous administration statements may be finally at an end?) The administration responds with a statement: “The Department of State values its close relationship with Ambassador Michael Oren and his staff at the Embassy of Israel in Washington. The United States and Israel enjoy extraordinarily close ties based on shared values, interests, and history, as well as the deep bonds between the Israeli people and the American people.” And so forth. So what about Rosenthal — if she is out of step with those she ostensibly serves (the Obama administration, not the J Street gang) what is she doing there?

Sen. Mark Warner insists he wants to be a radical centrist. But he keeps voting for Obama’s leftwing agenda including the government takeover of healthcare so he’s not doing much to differentiate himself from the run-of-mill liberal Democrats. Virginia voters have figured it out: “An automated poll conducted by SurveyUSA shows that Warner’s approval rating has fallen among independents and Republicans since January.”

Good for the Senate. The nomination of lefty extremist Dawn Johnsen for the Office of Legal Counsel and two other nominations were returned to the White House. One of those is Mary Smith, nominated to head the tax division. She is not a tax lawyer, has never practiced tax law, and has never even taken continuing legal education in the subject area. But she is a Native American who worked on multiple Democratic campaigns. Perhaps we can finally begin to de-politicize the Justice Department.

Nebraska Gov. David Heineman blasts Sen. Ben Nelson. “The reason he’s in hot water right now is that he’s not listening to Nebraskans – it’s very unusual for him. . . I am shocked.” Sounds like the stump speech for Nelson’s 2012 opponent. But Michael Gerson suggests that Nelson is a sweet man who doesn’t understand what he agreed to on abortion subsidies. Maybe once he finds out, his mind can be changed.

Smart advice on the John Kerry trip to Tehran: “The Kerry mission would also look like a panicky effort to persuade the Ayatollah Ali Khamanei to accept the increasingly plaintive U.S. offers of engagement. Mr. Obama has set the end of this month as his latest deadline for progress on nuclear talks before he says he’ll seek tougher sanctions against Iran at the U.N. . .  The regime would probably exploit the visit for its own domestic purposes, perhaps adding to its P.R. coup by releasing to Mr. Kerry the three hapless American hikers it has promised to put on trial for having ‘suspicious aims’ as they wandered across the border with Iraq.”

Give the military option a chance, suggests Alan Kuperman from the pages of the New York Times: “Incentives and sanctions will not work, but air strikes could degrade and deter Iran’s bomb program at relatively little cost or risk, and therefore are worth a try. They should be precision attacks, aimed only at nuclear facilities, to remind Iran of the many other valuable sites that could be bombed if it were foolish enough to retaliate. . . Postponing military action merely provides Iran a window to expand, disperse and harden its nuclear facilities against attack. The sooner the United States takes action, the better.”

The U.S. launches a successful strike in Yemen, but Major Nadal Hassan’s favorite iman survives. So why is it that we are releasing Guantanamo detainees to a country so stocked with terrorists?

And although the Obami seem not to want to recognize it, we are in a war: “A Nigerian man, claiming to be linked to al-Qaeda, allegedly tried to set off an incendiary device aboard a transatlantic airplane Friday as it descended toward Detroit’s airport in what the White House called an attempted act of terrorism.” This would be the second domestic terrorist attack (Hassan, the first) this year. Oh, and the suspect claims he was given assistance in Yemen.

J Street Board member Hannah Rosenthal, now the Obami’s “anti-semitism czar(ina)” takes a shot at Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren for criticizing her J Street pals.

Jewish organizations respond with surprising vehemence. (Could the days of gritting their teeth over outrageous administration statements may be finally at an end?) The administration responds with a statement: “The Department of State values its close relationship with Ambassador Michael Oren and his staff at the Embassy of Israel in Washington. The United States and Israel enjoy extraordinarily close ties based on shared values, interests, and history, as well as the deep bonds between the Israeli people and the American people.” And so forth. So what about Rosenthal — if she is out of step with those she ostensibly serves (the Obama administration, not the J Street gang) what is she doing there?

Sen. Mark Warner insists he wants to be a radical centrist. But he keeps voting for Obama’s leftwing agenda including the government takeover of healthcare so he’s not doing much to differentiate himself from the run-of-mill liberal Democrats. Virginia voters have figured it out: “An automated poll conducted by SurveyUSA shows that Warner’s approval rating has fallen among independents and Republicans since January.”

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