As I wrote last night, President Obama staked out some new ground on Iran in an effort to curry favor with pro-Israel voters by stating clearly that the only deal possible with Iran would preclude the sort of compromises on the nuclear question that the foreign policy establishment and Europe favors:
And we hope that their leadership takes the right decision, but the deal we’ll accept is they end their nuclear program. It’s very straightforward.
But already we’re starting to hear people say that we shouldn’t have believed our ears when he said that. At JTA’s Capital J blog, Daniel Treiman writes that I am taking it all too literally. Apparently, when Obama says “nuclear program” he doesn’t mean the Iranian nuclear program but rather their weapons development program. While I think there’s no way to interpret Obama’s statement in any way but the way one I pointed to, I wonder if that’s what the president’s apologists will be saying if after the election, he begins talks with Iran that will allow their nuclear program to continue.
Treiman backs up his argument by pointing to the fact that the president followed his statement by saying a deal would be enforced by “intrusive” inspections. Fair enough. That sounds like a reference to inspections that would supposedly ensure that the Iranians are not enriching uranium to the point where it could be used for a weapon.
However, here again the president doesn’t say weapons program. He says “nuclear program.”
There is a deal to be had, and that is that they abide by the rules that have already been established; they convince the international community they are not pursuing a nuclear program; there are inspections that are very intrusive. But over time, what they can do is regain credibility. In the meantime, though, we’re not going to let up the pressure until we have clear evidence that that takes place.
Unlike some politicians, the president is generally fairly careful about the way he uses words. Nor, if we are to believe the Democrats who refer to him as deeply knowledgeable about every nook and cranny of foreign policy, can we believe that he doesn’t understand the difference between a reference to a “nuclear program” and a nuclear weapons program.
I will readily concede to Treiman that I doubt the president has any intention of keeping his word about preventing Iran from having a “nuclear program” should he receive a second term in office. But if he does push toward a North Korea-style deal that will be easily evaded, the record will note that it will be a direct contradiction of what he said in the debate.