Commentary Magazine


Topic: Iran

Considering Iran on the 25th Anniversary of Iraq’s Invasion of Kuwait

Today marks the 25th anniversary of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. It was a momentous event that unleashed a cascade of tragedy that included those who died in Kuwait’s occupation by the Saddam Hussein and then its liberation to the tremendous suffering that Iraqis experienced in subsequent years.

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Today marks the 25th anniversary of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. It was a momentous event that unleashed a cascade of tragedy that included those who died in Kuwait’s occupation by the Saddam Hussein and then its liberation to the tremendous suffering that Iraqis experienced in subsequent years.

What is worth considering with the hindsight of history, however, is to consider what if anything might have prevented the Iraqi invasion. Contemporaries poured scorn on April Glaspie, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, who famously told Saddam during a meeting before the invasion that the United States had “no opinion on the Arab-Arab conflicts, like your border disagreement with Kuwait.” To single out Glaspie, however, would be to scapegoat her for representing a policy which, however flawed, had been embraced by a far greater portion of officialdom. Indeed, from the Reagan years onward, it had been the consistent policy of the White House and State Department both to seek rapprochement with Saddam Hussein.

In December 1983, President Reagan dispatched Donald Rumsfeld, at the time retired from government and in the private sector, as a special envoy to meet with Saddam in Baghdad. The State Department reported that Saddam was pleased with Rumsfeld’s visit: “His remarks removed whatever obstacles remained in the way of resuming diplomatic relations, but did not take the decision to do so,” a diplomatic cable from the time read. Rumsfeld himself recalled in his memoirs, “I began to think [during the meeting] that through increased contacts we might be able to persuade the Iraqis to lean toward the United States and eventually modify their behavior.” Of course, it did not. Shortly after, Iraqi forces used chemical weapons against Iranian troops and, less than five years after Rumsfeld’s initial meeting, Saddam would order the use of chemical weapons against Iraqi Kurds in a systematic campaign of ethnic cleansing.

The Iraqi leadership may have been slaughtering Iranians, Kurds, and other Iraqis, but elite Washington society then as now treated engagement with rogues as chic and sophisticated. To object to rapprochement with Saddam’s regime was to privilege Israeli interests over those of America, diplomats and journalists suggested. Just as today journalists rush to secure interviews with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, 30 years ago the new Iraqi ambassador Nizar Hamdoon was the toast of the town. In December 1985, the Washington Post Magazine gave a swooning account of a dinner party Hamdoon hosted. It was the first of many.

Rapprochement continued into the George H.W. Bush administration. On October 2, 1989, Bush signed a national security directive declaring, “Normal relations between the United States and Iraq would serve our longer-term interests,” and calling for the U.S. government to provide economic and political incentives to increase influence and encourage Iraq to moderate its behavior.

It didn’t work. Saddam Hussein executed a British-Iranian journalist and then bragged, “Mrs. Thatcher wanted him. We’ve sent him in a box.” Still, proponents of engagement refused to give up. Senator Arlen Specter traveled twice to Baghdad to meet Saddam. He was so impressed with what he interpreted as Saddam’s sincerity that he helped block military sanctions on Iraq. “There is an opportunity, or may be an opportunity, to pursue discussions with Iraq,” he explained, adding, “I think that it is not the right time to impose sanctions.” Less than two months later, Iraq invaded Kuwait.

Fast forward a quarter-century. Few argue that Saddam Hussein should have been a partner to the United States. Whether for or against Operation Iraqi Freedom, the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, most diplomats and historians understand that Saddam Hussein was mercurial, cruel, and completely untrustworthy. During the Bush administration, progressives repeatedly castigated Rumsfeld for his efforts at diplomatic engagement with a rogue leader like Saddam. Now the same figures seek to lift military sanctions on Iran, reach out to Iranian leaders with blood on their hands, and argue that Iran can be moderated through trade and careful diplomacy. Just as diplomats once waved off Saddam’s rhetoric calling Kuwait his 19th province as hyperbole meant for a domestic audience, today Secretary of State John Kerry does similar dismissing Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s calls for Israel’s annihilation and ‘death to America’ as meant for a domestic constituency (as if Iran were a democracy).

Alas, it almost seems that a quarter-century since Iraq invaded Kuwait, the United States has learned nothing about the perils of appeasing rogue regimes or the dangers of facilitating their military build-ups.

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Cementing Iran’s Hold on Iraq

After the Iran deal was announced, my old boss Leslie Gelb (who is well connected with the Obama administration) confirmed what Michael Doran and I have been writing for a while. “According to top administration officials,” Gelb wrote, “Mr. Obama has always been after something much bigger than capping Iran’s nuclear program, and he got it — the strategic opportunity to begin converting Iran from foe to ‘friend.'” Read More

After the Iran deal was announced, my old boss Leslie Gelb (who is well connected with the Obama administration) confirmed what Michael Doran and I have been writing for a while. “According to top administration officials,” Gelb wrote, “Mr. Obama has always been after something much bigger than capping Iran’s nuclear program, and he got it — the strategic opportunity to begin converting Iran from foe to ‘friend.'”

Such naive hopes should have been dashed by the Supreme Leader’s response to the Iran deal.

“Our policy regarding the arrogant U.S. government will not change,” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in a televised address on Saturday, while his supporters chanted “Death to America” and “Death to Israel.” “We don’t have any negotiations or deal with the U.S. on different issues in the world or the region.”

For good measure, he added, “We will not give up on our friends in the region.” That would be “friends” like Bashar Assad whose forces are now said to be dropping naval mines — the kind designed to destroy warships — on civilian areas. Or like Hezbollah, which is not only fighting to preserve the brutal Assad regime but also stockpiling at least 50,000 missiles aimed at Israel. How many more missiles will Hezbollah be able to afford when it receives its share of Iran’s $100 billion first-year windfall, one wonders?

Yet the Obama administration seems blithely untroubled by evidence – both in rhetoric and action – showing that Iran has no intention of giving up its mantle as the No. 1 state sponsor of terrorism in the world. Instead, the U.S. is acting as if Iran is really our de facto ally not only in nuclear arms control but also in fighting terrorism.

The latest evidence of the administration’s misguided faith in the Islamic Republic is its decision to deliver the first four F-16s to Iraq, which it did just before the Iran deal was signed. Thirty-two more F-16s are scheduled to arrive in Iraq eventually. Assuming that these advanced warplanes are not captured by ISIS (as has been the case with many Humvees, MRAPS, and even Abrams tanks that the U.S. has provided to Iraq), they will be operated by an Iraqi regime that has been thoroughly subverted by Iran’s agents and proxies.

The most powerful man in Iraq is not the ineffectual prime minister but rather Gen. Qassem Soleimani, head of the Iranian Quds Force, who (in yet another boost for Iranian regional designs) will be taken off the European and U.N. sanctions lists by the terms of the Iran deal. The second most powerful man is probably his close ally, Hadi al-Ameri, the minister of transportation and head of the Badr Corps, the Shiite militia that has become more powerful than the Iraqi armed forces. As a Sunni politician said earlier this year, “Iran now dominates Iraq.”

It is more than a bit shocking that the Obama administration is willing to deliver such advanced aircraft to an Iranian-dominated regime. That makes no sense unless the administration thinks the airplanes will be used to fight ISIS, a battle in which the US and Iran supposedly have a common stake. It may well be that the aircraft will be used to bomb ISIS. Or perhaps they will be used to randomly bomb Sunni population centers, as Assad’s aircraft do on a daily basis in Syria.

Whatever the case, of one thing we can be sure: The aircraft will further increase the power not of Iraq’s moderate Sunnis, Kurds, or even Shiites, but rather the power of the Iranian-backed radicals who are in de facto control in Iraq. The aircraft could even wind up in Iranian hands, allowing Iran to get a head-start on breaking the arms embargo that is due to expire in no more than five years anyway.

From the American standpoint, that is about as self-defeating a strategy as it possible to imagine. As I’ve argued repeatedly, any increase in Iranian power actually redounds to the benefit of ISIS, al-Qaeda, and other Sunni radicals who can then posture as defenders of their communities against “Persian” aggression. We should be arming and supporting real and potential partners such as the Kurds and the Sunni tribes in Anbar Province. Instead, we are assisting Iran in extending its growing empire.

Even if Congress can’t stop the Iranian nuclear deal, it should stop further F-16 deliveries to Iraq as long as Iran continues to dominate in Baghdad.

 

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Iran and the Hubris of Appeasement

Following through on its strategy of trying to make Congressional approval of the Iran nuclear deal irrelevant, the Obama administration pushed through a resolution implementing the agreement today at the United Nations Security Council. Both Congressional Republicans and Democrats attacked that move, but that did not deter the president and his foreign policy team from following through on their plan to make an end run around Congress. This arrogant slight to the legislative branch will add fuel to the fire of critics of the Iran pact as they push to shame Democrats into making good on their past promises to insist on an agreement that would, at the very least, live up to the administration’s past promises about inspections and transparency. Yet even in the face of this presidential chutzpah and staggering betrayal of principle, the odds still heavily favor his effort to get the necessary votes from his party to sustain this strategy. Thus, while those Democrats who view their campaign pledges about both the Iranian threat and the security of Israel as still binding should be focusing on the gaping holes in the agreement, they should also ponder the presidential hubris that is at the core of this effort to marginalize their Constitutional obligation to weigh in on the most important foreign treaty signed by the United States. Read More

Following through on its strategy of trying to make Congressional approval of the Iran nuclear deal irrelevant, the Obama administration pushed through a resolution implementing the agreement today at the United Nations Security Council. Both Congressional Republicans and Democrats attacked that move, but that did not deter the president and his foreign policy team from following through on their plan to make an end run around Congress. This arrogant slight to the legislative branch will add fuel to the fire of critics of the Iran pact as they push to shame Democrats into making good on their past promises to insist on an agreement that would, at the very least, live up to the administration’s past promises about inspections and transparency. Yet even in the face of this presidential chutzpah and staggering betrayal of principle, the odds still heavily favor his effort to get the necessary votes from his party to sustain this strategy. Thus, while those Democrats who view their campaign pledges about both the Iranian threat and the security of Israel as still binding should be focusing on the gaping holes in the agreement, they should also ponder the presidential hubris that is at the core of this effort to marginalize their Constitutional obligation to weigh in on the most important foreign treaty signed by the United States.

That arrogance was on display yesterday as Secretary of State John Kerry and Energy Secretary made the rounds of the Sunday morning talk shows. Their blithe assurances about the deal make the U.S. safer could be dismissed as mere hyperbole but their insistence that there is “no such thing in arms control as anytime, anywhere,” inspections of nuclear sites is not only a lie. It is also a direct contradiction of their past pledges on the issue. Indeed, Moniz specifically said, “We expect to have anywhere, anytime access” to Iranian military sites in April during an interview with Bloomberg. Kerry has been navigating a similar zigzag course on a host of other issues regarding the deal including that about Tehran coming clean on past military nuclear research.

We can and should continue to focus on these specifics during the course of the debate about the Iran deal. But the main point to be understood here is that no evidence about the weakness of the deal, its failure not only to stop Iran’s nuclear program but the ways in which it makes it stronger and more likely to eventually build a weapon will ever be sufficient to answer the administration. That’s because the motivation of Obama and Kerry and their minions are not merely wrongheaded notions about non-proliferation or misplaced faith in Iran’s intentions but rather a hubristic belief in their ability to change history.

Obama and Kerry can mislead the nation about the sunset provision in the agreement that will make it possible for Iran to proceed to a weapon with little interference after it expires because they think with this stroke they have transcended the petty details that encumber those who deal with real world facts about despotic religious states like Iran. Iran’s ability to either easily evade the deal’s restrictions or to patiently wait for them to end doesn’t give the president or the secretary pause because their object in these negotiations wasn’t merely a nuclear deal but an attempt to restructure American foreign policy in a way that would end decades of enmity with the Islamist state and give birth to a new détente with Iran.

That’s why at every point during two and a half years of negotiations with Iran the administration steadily gave ground. The point of the talks wasn’t merely bridging gaps between the two sides but an obvious belief that the details weren’t as important as the mere act of negotiation and agreement. The president came into office pledging amity for the Iranian regime and never truly deviated from it even as both Iran’s obstinacy and Congress forced him to accept sanctions that the White House never wanted. Iran’s refusal to give ground on each issue was rationalized not because it made sense to do so but because it was required if Obama was going to have his entente with Tehran.

Analogies to past efforts at appeasing dictators inevitably fall afoul of the problem of comparing any country — no matter how awful — with the Nazis and the Holocaust. But the point of comparison is not so much any supposed similarities between the two regimes as it is to the way in which those who sought to appease them consciously denied facts and arrogantly believed that their good intentions, desire for peace and vision for a world that would eschew conflict transcended what they saw as the small-minded and war-mongering attitudes of their critics. Tough-minded diplomacy — the real alternative to Obama and Kerry’s appeasement rather than war — would not have been as satisfying to these men.

It is that belief in his own righteousness that sustains President Obama as he lies to the American people about inspections, snap-back sanctions, the way the deal expires, and his belief that Iran will become “less aggressive, less hostile more cooperative” and “to operate the way we expect nations in the international community to behave” even after he will have given international approval to its nuclear program, enriched it, given it access to arms, and treated its support for terrorism and building of ballistic missiles as unimportant details. This foolishness is not merely a matter of bad judgment. This sort of epic folly is only the product of a hubris that sees such minor matters as insignificant when compared to the chance to make history.

Given the pull of partisan loyalties and the still potent hold of President Obama over many members of his party the chances of Congress stopping him are slim. But as those Democrats with troubled consciences over the choice facing them think about their votes, they would do well to understand that the root cause of this disaster isn’t merely a policy dispute but the conviction on the part of the president and his chief diplomat that the rules of history don’t apply to them. As it always does, the world may pay a terrible price in blood and treasure for appeasement on this scale.

 

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The Left’s Nuclear Fairy Tales

Before the stresses and strains associated with sitting behind the Resolute Desk had turned President Barack Obama’s hair grey, the president still paid homage to the childlike liberal fantasies with which he was preoccupied as a Chicago-based activist. When he still believed that his own force of personality could command the tides to recede, and while he maintained the adoration of a world happy to see anyone other than George W. Bush in the Oval Office, the president lent his support to that most prototypical of “progressive” goals: the rolling of the clock back to a time before mankind split the atom. The fantasy of “global nuclear zero” is a disquieting example of the left’s preference for comforting fictions. The nuclear accord this administration recently reached with the Islamic Republic of Iran has exposed the left’s steadfast refusal to appreciate the forces that govern nuclear deterrence and nonproliferation.  Read More

Before the stresses and strains associated with sitting behind the Resolute Desk had turned President Barack Obama’s hair grey, the president still paid homage to the childlike liberal fantasies with which he was preoccupied as a Chicago-based activist. When he still believed that his own force of personality could command the tides to recede, and while he maintained the adoration of a world happy to see anyone other than George W. Bush in the Oval Office, the president lent his support to that most prototypical of “progressive” goals: the rolling of the clock back to a time before mankind split the atom. The fantasy of “global nuclear zero” is a disquieting example of the left’s preference for comforting fictions. The nuclear accord this administration recently reached with the Islamic Republic of Iran has exposed the left’s steadfast refusal to appreciate the forces that govern nuclear deterrence and nonproliferation. 

In light of the ballyhooed Iran deal, President Barack Obama’s supporters should review a speech he delivered in Prague in April of 2009. It is a testament to this administration’s commitment to transforming soothing bromides into actionable policy.

“Some argue that the spread of these weapons cannot be stopped, cannot be checked – that we are destined to live in a world where more nations and more people possess the ultimate tools of destruction,” the president insisted, adopting his favored tactic of rejecting a “false choice” that the more seasoned among us would call opportunity costs. “Such fatalism is a deadly adversary.”

“If we believe that the spread of nuclear weapons is inevitable, then in some way we are admitting to ourselves that the use of nuclear weapons is inevitable,” Obama fretted. After issuing this bizarre pronouncement, Obama went on to declare that the United States would serve as an example of a nuclear state leading the way by unilaterally dismantling and failing to modernize its nuclear arsenal. As for present and aspiring nuclear states around the world, he advocated the strengthening of the international non-proliferation regime. “Rules must be binding. Violations must be punished. Words must mean something,” he added. They’re laughing in Tehran.

Six months later, Obama would cancel a Bush-era deal with Poland and the Czech Republic to station radar and interceptor missiles there, angering the uniquely pro-American governments in those former Warsaw Pact states. Though he assured the Czechs in that fantastical speech that the United States nuclear umbrella would continue to keep them safe, the president has only allowed America’s nuclear deterrent to atrophy. Russia, China, India, and Pakistan are all engaged in the modernization and development of their strategic and tactical, low yield arsenals. In Moscow, financial constraints have compelled the Kremlin to rely heavily on these weapons as a crucial element of the Russian Federation’s defense doctrine.

Meanwhile, in America, nuclear scientists are departing for the private sector. Research into the development and effects of nuclear weapons is, as former Defense Nuclear Agency chief Robert Monroe wrote, “virtually nonexistent.” And programs aimed at developing next-generation delivery systems have stalled.

For the left, these are all welcome developments. A fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of mutual deterrence has led liberals to view the West’s defensive nuclear doctrine as needlessly provocative. Similarly, progressives are often at sea when confronted with the failure of toothless nuclear nonproliferation regimes. Obama insisted that the enforcement of nonproliferation demands that “words must mean something,” but talk is cheap. Only the cold calculus imposed on nation states by particular and existential national security threats, or the absence thereof, governs the spread of nuclear weapons technology.

Among the many concerns critics of the Iran deal have voiced is the likelihood that it leaves Iran a nuclear threshold state when it expires, presuming Iran does not violate the terms of the deal and race for nuclear breakout while the paralyzed international community looks on in horror. According to the deal’s liberal defenders, however, that’s not much of a concern. In fact, nuclear proliferation is no real threat at all. “Nuclear proliferation is a myth,” wrote Arash Heydarian Pashakhanlou in a piece republished in The New Republic. They’re laughing in Pyongyang.

“Proliferation, after all, means rapid spread. And whereas nuclear weapons have proliferated ‘vertically’, with existing nuclear states adding to their existing nuclear arsenals, there has not been a ‘horizontal’ nuclear weapons proliferation – that is, a fast spread of these weapons to new nations,” Pashakhanlou wrote. “On the contrary, nuclear weapons have spread slowly across the world.” He noted that 31 predominantly Western nations have the capability to develop a weapons program, but haven’t. What’s more, he noted that many other nations with similar capabilities have shelved or renounced nuclear weapons altogether. Bizarrely, he acts as though this was a natural phenomenon attributable to the laws of physics rather than the robust efforts of the American diplomatic and military sectors.

South Africa, Belarus, and Ukraine surrendered their nuclear stockpiles when and only when the perilous threat environment in their immediate neighborhood abated. Apartheid South Africa, fearing both its anti-Apartheid neighbor states and a Cuban-fueled communist insurgency sheltered in Angola, gave up its weapons program as the Soviet Union began to dissolve in 1991. Pretoria acceded to a comprehensive verification regime when it rejoined the African community following Mandela’s election. Ukraine and Belarus, founding members of the Commonwealth of Independent States treaty with Russia, surrendered their weapons in exchange for international security guarantees. Brazil and Argentina gave up their weapons programs only when the two nations put aside their historic animosities: a diplomatic coup culminating in the Treaty of Tlatelolco. But when the wave of democratization that crested in the mid-1990s began to recede, so did the progress toward reducing the number of nuclear states. The nuclearization of the Asian Subcontinent in the late 1990s is a testament to the forces that induce nations to go nuclear. When the perceived benefits outweigh the considerable costs, particularly when those benefits include self-preservation, no amount of gauzy appeals to common humanity will dissuade nations from developing a nuclear deterrent.

This measurable dynamic is why analysis that predicts a forthcoming era of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East is sound. Already, the signs they are right are apparent. In October, Egypt revealed plans to construct a 1,000-megawatt light-water reactor, sparking fears that Cairo’s 60-year-old nuclear weapons program (shelved temporarily following rapprochement with the West and Israel) could be revisited. Turkey, too, has begun constructing nuclear reactors with the assistance of a French-Japanese consortium. And officials in Saudi Arabia, an oil-rich state that has nevertheless contacted with South Korea to build indigenous nuclear reactors, have intimated that they may soon have a nuclear weapon program. That is, if Riyadh does not simply purchase off-the-shelf fissionable devices from Pakistan.

The left’s capacity for self-delusion, particularly where nuclear weapons are concerned, is limitless. The terms of the accord with Iran make that fact plain. But their faith in their own sophistry is incredibly dangerous, and it is making the world a more threatening place at a terrifying pace.

 

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Iran Can No Longer Be Contained

The more honest defenders of the president’s Iran diplomacy know there are loopholes in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action big enough to drive a car bomb through. So they are calling for some pretty vigorous enforcement. Read More

The more honest defenders of the president’s Iran diplomacy know there are loopholes in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action big enough to drive a car bomb through. So they are calling for some pretty vigorous enforcement.

Dennis Ross, who worked for the Obama administration, concedes the agreement will leave Iran as a nuclear threshold state, and “the gap between threshold and weapons status is small and will not take long to bridge.” His solution? Deterrence. “Iran must have no doubts that if we see it moving toward a weapon that would trigger the use of force. Declaring that is a must even now. Proving that every transgression will produce a price will demonstrate that we mean what we say.” To bolster deterrence, he even suggests giving Israel B-52 bombers, even though the Israeli Air Force has not asked for these long-range bombers and does not want them.

Meanwhile, Washington Post columnist David Ignatius, while denouncing “shrill Republican attacks on the nuclear deal” as an “embarrassment,” concedes that the agreement will enhance “Iran’s meddling in the region.” “What’s the best way to confront Tehran on these regional issues?” he asks. According to him, “The right strategy is to present Tehran with a sharp choice: Either join serious negotiations to end the regional wars in Syria and Yemen, or face the prospect of much stiffer, U.S.-led resistance.”

Wait a minute.  If we have not been successful in deterring Iran from pursuing nuclear weapons and “meddling in the region” before the advent of this deal, what makes anyone think we will have more success after the deal is done? Quite the contrary: This deal will make it considerably harder to contain Iran.

After all, even if Iran complies with the accord, it will, as Ross notes, be left a turn of the wrench away from being a nuclear-armed state. And it will be armed, in addition, with a fearsome arsenal of conventional weapons and ballistic missiles, because the arms embargos are going to be lifted. That will substantially reduce our deterrence. Even if Israel acquires B-52s, they could easily be shot down by the new S-300 air defense system that Russia is keen to sell to Tehran — and now the sale can go through.

Moreover, there is little doubt that some substantial portion of the $100 billion-plus that Iran will get as a signing bonus, probably in the next six months, will wind up in the coffers of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, which is charged not only with overseeing the nuclear program, but also with exporting the Iranian revolution abroad — i.e., exporting terrorism and subverting neighboring states.

The intelligence community may think otherwise; apparently they are convinced that “Iran’s government will pump most of an expected $100-billion windfall from the lifting of international sanctions into the country’s flagging economy and won’t significantly boost funding for militant groups it supports in the Middle East.” But such assessments should be taken with a grain of salt. This is the same intelligence community, after all, that delivered an estimate on September 19, 1962, claiming:  “The establishment on Cuban soil of Soviet nuclear striking forces which could be used against the U.S. would be incompatible with Soviet policy as we presently estimate it.” This was just weeks before the Cuban Missile Crisis. The intelligence community has, of course, been equally wrong about Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction, about whether Saddam would invade Kuwait in 1990, and a host of other issues. It takes a truly Pollyannaish mindset to convince oneself that the Islamic Republic of Iran will not use any of its lucre to boost the revolutionary movements that are so integral to its identity.

If we haven’t had any success in stopping Iran from supporting its proxies in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and other places under the current sanctions regime, it’s hard to imagine why we will have more luck in stopping an Iran newly fattened with vast financial resources and protected by a plethora of new weapons. Thus far President Obama has shown himself willing to overlook just about any Iranian transgression — from failing to answer the IAEA’s 12 queries about “possible military dimensions” of its nuclear program to paying for barrel bombs to be dropped on Syrian civilians to subverting the Iraqi state — because he has been so determined to deliver an agreement on Iran’s nuclear accord. It is hardly realistic to imagine that, having now achieved an accord, he will suddenly turn into a tough guy with Iran. The signing of the agreement, after all, is just the first step. Obama will now be anxious to make sure that Iran abides by its terms, and thus he will hardly engage in the kind of brinksmanship with Iran that might prompt the mullahs to exist the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action in a huff once they have pocketed their $100 billion windfall.

The era of American deterrence and containment of Iran is over, at least while this president is in office. We have moved from becoming Iran’s enemy to its enabler. This is based on Obama’s risky proposition that enriching Iran will liberalize it. I can see why the more hard-headed supporters of the deal are skeptical of this logic, but they are engaged in wishful thinking if they imagine that the U.S. will do much, at least for the next 18 months, to stop Iran’s inevitable onslaught.

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Obama Sacrifices American Sovereignty For Iran Deal

The administration made many compromises in the effort to secure a deal — any deal — with the Islamic Republic of Iran. Perhaps the concession that most frustrated the White House was the fact that frantic negotiations exceeded the period that would have limited Congressional consideration to just 30 days. The longer the terms of this accord are exposed to public scrutiny, the White House sensibly reasoned, the less viable it would become. But last-minute appeals from Iran compelled the negotiators to remain at the table, and Congress will now have until early September to review and vote on the ratification of this treaty. It seems that the White House believes this existential threat to Barack Obama’s central second term foreign policy achievement cannot be tolerated. In their haste to ensure that this deal’s terms become a new, irrevocable status quo, the president has instead turned to the United Nations to secure its imprimatur and render the legislature’s political authority to legitimize international treaty moot.  Read More

The administration made many compromises in the effort to secure a deal — any deal — with the Islamic Republic of Iran. Perhaps the concession that most frustrated the White House was the fact that frantic negotiations exceeded the period that would have limited Congressional consideration to just 30 days. The longer the terms of this accord are exposed to public scrutiny, the White House sensibly reasoned, the less viable it would become. But last-minute appeals from Iran compelled the negotiators to remain at the table, and Congress will now have until early September to review and vote on the ratification of this treaty. It seems that the White House believes this existential threat to Barack Obama’s central second term foreign policy achievement cannot be tolerated. In their haste to ensure that this deal’s terms become a new, irrevocable status quo, the president has instead turned to the United Nations to secure its imprimatur and render the legislature’s political authority to legitimize international treaty moot. 

On Thursday, Foreign Policy reporters revealed that United Nations Ambassador Susan Power began circulating on Monday a legally binding UN Security Council resolution that would cement the nuclear accord’s sanctions relief to which they agreed in exchange for supposedly giving up a nuclear weapon development program. The resolution would also force signatory states to take no actions that would “undermine” the accord. The terms of the nuclear deal were, however, only supposedly reached on Tuesday.

The president was compelled in April to consent to a legislative package that reinforced Congress’s traditional authority to ratify international treaties. Among those compromises with a co-equal branch to which the president reluctantly agreed was the fact he could not unilaterally lift sanctions on Iran during the congressional review period, but that doesn’t mean the international community cannot begin the process of implementing the deal even without the consent of the American legislature.

The UNSC is likely to hold a vote on this new binding resolution by next week.

“The decision to take the deal to the Security Council before the U.S. Congress has concluded its own deliberations on the agreement places lawmakers in the uncomfortable position of potentially breaching a binding resolution by voting down the deal,” read the Foreign Policy report. “The strategy has infuriated some Republican lawmakers, who see the administration making an end run around Congress.”

They should be. According to reporting, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Sen. Bob Corker attempted to storm into a closed-door meeting between Vice President Joe Biden and the committee’s Democrats when he learned of the White House’s attempt to undermine the legislature’s authority. A Fox News producer described Corker as “livid.” But this is hardly surprising. The text of the nuclear deal itself made it clear that the only legislative body that would be afforded any deference in this process was Iran’s.

“‘Adoption Day’ is the next major milestone, coming either 90 days after the approval of the Security Council resolution or ‘at an earlier date by mutual consent,’” read a Wall Street Journal op-ed via the American Enterprise Institute’s Frederick Kagan, who noted full adoption could come as early as October.

“At that point Iran commits to apply the Additional Protocol of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, which governs enhanced international inspections. But this commitment is provisional, ‘pending ratification by the Majlis’ — the Iranian parliament,” he continued. “It is again noteworthy that no mention is made of any action to be taken by the U.S. Congress, despite the nod to Iran’s legislature.”

The Congress is an afterthought; an obstacle that must be avoided or handcuffed. Max Boot predicts that this United Nation resolution will have precisely that effect. “If the UN Security Council approves the plan, that will put added pressure on Congress to go along, lest it be accused of sabotaging an international consensus,” he wrote. Bipartisan legislators who are jealous guards of their constitutional authority will bark, Boot noted, but that will be the extent of their protest.

But there is another source of political authority to which the Congress can appeal: the public. Members of the federal legislature deserve nothing less than a long, hot summer of confrontations with their constituents over this deal. Events have been set in motion that the president will attempt to preserve with all his power, but there is a precedent for Democratic politicians bucking a president from their party and derailing a bad treaty. The late West Virginia Senator Robert Byrd personally traveled to Leningrad in 1979 to explain to Leonid Brezhnev “the requirements of our Constitution” that require Senate ratification of foreign treaty. This was no courtesy call; Byrd made the trip in order to ensure that the SALT II agreement President Jimmy Carter submitted to the Senate was an acceptable one. The deal was never ratified by the upper chamber of Congress, and Obama’s Iran gambit can be similarly delegitimized.

The Iran nuclear deal may not be derailed, but its implementation will be cautious and the Democratic Party’s 2016 presidential nominee warier of embracing it in full if a bipartisan cast of legislators revolt over their sidelining. The White House’s overt efforts to shield this deal from scrutiny even after its terms have been publicly revealed exposes the degree to which this deal merits extensive consideration. Let’s hope that the members of this Congress exercises some of the authority that the founders vested in them and do not simply bow to the will of the imperial executive.

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An Alternative to Obama’s Bad Deal

Congress is now on a 60-day clock (two days gone already) to offer its verdict on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, as the deal with Iran is formally known. There are plenty of concerns about the agreement being raised even by Democrats such as Dennis Ross and Les Gelb. In the Senate, Politico reports, several Democrats have expressed disquiet. If enough Democrats defect (admittedly an unlikely scenario), there is the possibility not only of voting down the treaty but also overriding President Obama’s expected veto. Read More

Congress is now on a 60-day clock (two days gone already) to offer its verdict on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, as the deal with Iran is formally known. There are plenty of concerns about the agreement being raised even by Democrats such as Dennis Ross and Les Gelb. In the Senate, Politico reports, several Democrats have expressed disquiet. If enough Democrats defect (admittedly an unlikely scenario), there is the possibility not only of voting down the treaty but also overriding President Obama’s expected veto.

Faced with this opposition to his signature foreign policy achievement, Obama has a hard-ball tactic and a specious argument.

The tactic is to present the agreement for early approval by the United Nations Security Council, something that he could do as soon as next week. If the UN Security Council approves the plan, that will put added pressure on Congress to go along, lest it be accused of sabotaging an international consensus. Sens. Bob Corker and Ben Cardin, the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who helped to pass a bipartisan bill giving Congress a 60-day review period, are protesting this White House tactic, but there is no question that it would be effective.

The argument is simple — and oft-repeated. As Obama never gets tired of saying: “Without a deal we risk even more war in the Middle East.” In other words, there is no credible alternative to the current agreement–since no one presumably is in favor of “more war.”

Obama’s argument is superficially compelling but breaks down on several levels.

First, his deal with Iran makes war more, not less, likely. After all, even by the best case scenario, at the end of ten years’ time Iran will be left as a nuclear threshold state — only a turn of the screw away from being a full-fledged nuclear power — with a powerful arsenal of conventional weapons and ballistic missiles. In the meantime, Tehran would have been enriched with well over $100 billion, some portion of which undoubtedly will be used to support terrorists and militias in neighboring states.

Faced with the growing power of the new Persian Empire, the Arab states will not stand idle. They will arm themselves with more conventional and nuclear weapons, and they will support Sunni extremist groups such as the Nusra Front and possibly even the Islamic State as a hedge against Iranian-supported proxies such as Hezbollah and the Badr Organization and the Houthis. This is a recipe for an even more combustible Middle East where the risk of war rises, not falls.

And — a significant point — the kind of war we risk in the future is far worse than in the present. Fighting an Iran armed with nuclear weapons and the best conventional arms and ballistic missiles that their oil billions can buy will be substantially more difficult than fighting today’s Iran which is still severely constrained by sanctions. In fact, a conflict with Iran today would most likely resemble Bill Clinton’s Operation Desert Fox, four days of air strikes against Iraq in 1998. A conflict with Iran in the future will be a much more serious undertaking. That will make Iran feel bullet-proof as it expands its domination of a region with nearly half of the world’s proven oil reserves.

Obama’s argument falls apart for another reason as well: There is an alternative to both his treaty and to war with Iran. That alternative is a better treaty, one that actually dismantles Iran’s nuclear program rather than preserving it. Ah, but the president will say, getting such an agreement is impossible. Iran would never agree.

Maybe, maybe not. Recall that the only time when Iran actually stopped its nuclear weapons work was in 2003, right after the successful U.S. invasion of Iraq, because that was the one moment when it feared American military action. But then U.S. forces became bogged down in Iraq, and the threat faded. Under President Obama, there has been no threat at all because he has made clear that he views bombing Iran as a greater danger than allowing Iran to get the Bomb.

Imagine if the situation were different. Imagine if Obama asked for and received from Congress an Authorization for the Use of Military Force against Iran. Imagine if Obama issued an ultimatum to Iran to dismantle all of its centrifuges or face military action. Imagine if Obama actually began bombing the forces of Iran’s client, Bashar Assad, to make clear that he was serious.  And finally imagine if, instead of negotiating to lift all sanctions, Obama deployed all of his rhetorical and political skills to strengthen sanctions, including lifting waivers that have allowed American allies in Asia to continue doing business with Iran.

This is, admittedly, in the realm of fantasy. It would never happen. But it could happen, at least theoretically. It is all within the president’s power to do, and if it were done it might well ratchet up sufficient pressure on the mullahs to force them to make much more meaningful concessions than they have made to date.

The point of this thought experiment is simply to show that, at least in theory, there is an alternative to the terrible treaty that Obama has negotiated–and it doesn’t embroil the United States in World War III. It merely involves the kind of coercive diplomacy that Obama has been unwilling to carry out.

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Why Does Iran Want a Bomb?

A large part of the case against the recent Iran deal is the contention that Iranian leaders cannot be trusted to abide by the deal’s terms and will not, despite Barack Obama’s characterization, set apart their defining anti-Semitism to reap the benefits of an agreement with the West. To get a sense of the Khomeneists’ irrationality, it’s worth rereading Ze’ev Maghen’s “Eradicating The Little Satan,” from the January 2009 issue of COMMENTARY. Maghen argues that when Iranian leaders vow to destroy Israel, we’d do well to take them at their word. The piece offers some insight into the minds of those we now rely on to be reasonable partners. As Maghen notes: “the truly horrific atrocities in human history — the enslavements, the inquisitions, the terrorisms, the genocides — have been perpetrated not in hot blood but in cold: not as a result of urgent and immanent feeling but in the name of a transcendent ideology and as a result of painstaking indoctrination.” One should keep that in mind the next time they hear hopeful talk of the deal changing the nature of the regime. Click here to read the whole thing.

A large part of the case against the recent Iran deal is the contention that Iranian leaders cannot be trusted to abide by the deal’s terms and will not, despite Barack Obama’s characterization, set apart their defining anti-Semitism to reap the benefits of an agreement with the West. To get a sense of the Khomeneists’ irrationality, it’s worth rereading Ze’ev Maghen’s “Eradicating The Little Satan,” from the January 2009 issue of COMMENTARY. Maghen argues that when Iranian leaders vow to destroy Israel, we’d do well to take them at their word. The piece offers some insight into the minds of those we now rely on to be reasonable partners. As Maghen notes: “the truly horrific atrocities in human history — the enslavements, the inquisitions, the terrorisms, the genocides — have been perpetrated not in hot blood but in cold: not as a result of urgent and immanent feeling but in the name of a transcendent ideology and as a result of painstaking indoctrination.” One should keep that in mind the next time they hear hopeful talk of the deal changing the nature of the regime. Click here to read the whole thing.

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The Worst Way to Defend Obama’s Iran Nuclear Deal

Those with even limited knowledge of Iran’s history of diplomatic duplicity, not to mention its present financing and direction of a variety of insurgent and terroristic campaigns across the Middle East, are justifiably wary of the terms of the nuclear accord revealed this week. Critics of the deal contend that the lax inspections regime, dramatic sanctions relief, and the lifting of arms and ballistic missile embargos, among other gifts to Tehran, will only reward Iran’s destabilizing behavior and guarantee more of the same. It seems that the accord’s self-evident deficiencies have reduced its supporters to a defensive crouch. One of the most cutting examples of the defensiveness of the deal’s backers, however, should not be dismissed offhand. In at least one case, the left is inadvertently making the conservative case against this deal.  Read More

Those with even limited knowledge of Iran’s history of diplomatic duplicity, not to mention its present financing and direction of a variety of insurgent and terroristic campaigns across the Middle East, are justifiably wary of the terms of the nuclear accord revealed this week. Critics of the deal contend that the lax inspections regime, dramatic sanctions relief, and the lifting of arms and ballistic missile embargos, among other gifts to Tehran, will only reward Iran’s destabilizing behavior and guarantee more of the same. It seems that the accord’s self-evident deficiencies have reduced its supporters to a defensive crouch. One of the most cutting examples of the defensiveness of the deal’s backers, however, should not be dismissed offhand. In at least one case, the left is inadvertently making the conservative case against this deal. 

For many, the nuclear accord with the Islamic Republic, and not the elimination of the Iranian nuclear threat, is the true aim. The diplomatic process is an end in itself. A prototypical example of this self-affirmation masquerading as an argument was helpfully provided by The Guardian’s Trevor Timm who averred that only those hard-hearted enough to “love war” could be skeptical of this deal. “Republicans, who were always reflexively against any deal that would limit the Iranians’ nuclear program and may stave off war, seem downright furious diplomacy prevailed over the threat of more missiles,” Timm insisted. This contention does not deserve a response, but not everyone on the left has been reduced to this form of argumentum ad hominem.

Vox.com foreign affairs analyst Max Fisher took a not-entirely-unjustified swipe at former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush recently over his particular line of attack on the Iranian nuclear accord. “The nuclear agreement announced by the Obama Administration today is a dangerous, deeply flawed, and short sighted deal,” Bush wrote in a statement. “This isn’t diplomacy – it is appeasement.” Bush’s campaign later tweeted: “History is full of examples of when you enable people or regimes that don’t embrace democratic values, without any concessions, you get a bad result.” Fisher went on to accuse Bush of claiming that America should “never negotiate with dictators,” which has never been the policy of any American administration and does not resemble anything Bush said. But Fisher made a point that Republicans should welcome: He noted that both George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush inked nuclear accords with aggressive, anti-democratic regimes. That’s true. In fact, it serves conservatives who are opposed to the terms of Barack Obama’s deal with Iran to review the nuclear deals the 41st and 43rd Presidents were able to secure.

To begin, comparing a sweeping nuclear treaty with a revisionist, terror-sponsoring regional actor to the last of several arms reduction treaties with a superpower and the world’s preeminent nuclear power, the Soviet Union, is inherently flawed. Nevertheless, the comparison is instructive. The 1991 START treaty was one of several bilateral arms treaties, and it completed the process of ending the arms race that had been a policy objective of the last five presidents. START compelled the Soviet Union to join the United States in reducing long-range missile and bomber fleets to 1982 levels.

“The Soviet Union will be required to cut its ballistic missile warheads by more than 35 percent, to about 7,000 warheads from about 11,000, and the United States will have to trim its ballistic missile arsenal by about 25 percent, to roughly 9,000 warheads from about 12,000,” the New York Times reported at the time. “The Soviets will also have to destroy half of their heavy SS-18 intercontinental ballistic missiles; the United States has no weapons in that category, and under the treaty is not permitted to build any.” Building on the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty of 1987, the START treaty included 12 different forms of inspection and allowed continuous monitoring of facilities in both countries that produced ballistic missiles. “This is far worse than the U.S.-Soviet arms agreements, in which the U.S. could protest directly to Moscow,” Wall Street Journal editorial board wrote of President Obama’s deal. “Iran now has an international bureaucratic guard to deflect and deter U.S. or IAEA concerns.”

But, as Fisher indicated, George W. Bush’s treaty with the late Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi provides perhaps the best model for how to draft a nuclear treaty with a rogue state. The world was stunned by the speed with which, in the immediate wake of Saddam Hussein’s ouster, Gaddafi surrendered his country’s nuclear weapons capabilities. When America was leading from behind in the skies over Libya in 2011, the New York Times reporter David Sanger offered belated praise for Bush’s 2003 accord with Libya noting that it had rendered the regime in Tripoli far less dangerous.

“The cache of nuclear technology that Libya turned over to the United States, Britain and international nuclear inspectors in early 2004 was large,” the New York Times reported, “far larger than American intelligence experts had predicted. There were more than 4,000 centrifuges for producing enriched uranium. There were blueprints for how to build a nuclear bomb – missing some critical components, but good enough to get the work started.” Libya, a signatory to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, had been subjected to an international inspections regime for years before it surrendered its unexpectedly sophisticated capabilities. The IAEA inspectors that tasked with verifying Tripoli’s compliance found their work surprisingly unimpeded and productive in the wake of Gaddafi’s about face.

In 2004, George W. Bush flew to the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee where he was photographed touring the spoils of those centrifuges Libya surrendered. President Obama could only wish for a nuclear deal that also provided him with a victorious photo opportunity as he stood triumphantly over neutralized Iranian enrichment materials.

“The point is that, if you grew up in the Bush family, you are immediately related to some people who can tell you first-hand how awesome it is to negotiate nuclear deals with dictators, and have very strong track records to back that up,” Fisher rightly averred. That is undoubtedly correct, and a cursory review of the effect of those deals reveals how well-crafted they were. They stand in stark contrast to an arrangement many believe will leave Iran a much richer, better-armed, threshold (if not outright) nuclear state within a decade. Conservative opponents of the nuclear deal with Iran should be praising Fisher for citing splendid examples of how the work of nonproliferation and disarmament is done correctly.

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Obama’s Iran Deal Filibuster

The president gave a press conference today in which he spent, by my calculation, almost 45 minutes talking about the Iran deal. He knows it inside and out and he and his people have clearly spent days if not weeks pre-sculpting arguments against its weaknesses. He droned on, wouldn’t allow many questions, and was very boring and repetitive, but in an essential sense, he was effective in laying out the case — not for the deal itself exactly but against those who are against it. It boils down to this (these are my words, not his): “We wanted to keep Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. We’ve done it. And if you say otherwise, you either don’t know what you’re talking about or you want war.” Read More

The president gave a press conference today in which he spent, by my calculation, almost 45 minutes talking about the Iran deal. He knows it inside and out and he and his people have clearly spent days if not weeks pre-sculpting arguments against its weaknesses. He droned on, wouldn’t allow many questions, and was very boring and repetitive, but in an essential sense, he was effective in laying out the case — not for the deal itself exactly but against those who are against it. It boils down to this (these are my words, not his): “We wanted to keep Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. We’ve done it. And if you say otherwise, you either don’t know what you’re talking about or you want war.”

The key to understanding the president’s argument is his conviction that the Iranians will hold to its terms, and that the methods it lays out to ensure it holds to the terms are sufficient to make them do so even if they want to cheat. The key to understanding the opposition to the deal is that those of us who are dismayed by it do not believe the Iranians will hold to its terms; do not believe its enforcement mechanisms will prevent them from doing whatever they feel they must.

There is literally no way to resolve this difference. That’s why the president can and will argue that, hey, it’s at least worth a try; someone else can bomb them later, and that someone will have more international support if he or she does. Nor does it speak to the fear that Iranian cheating may lead to an expansion of secret facilities which would make any military option far more difficult.

That, of course, is what happened between the first arguments that the Iranian program should be hit with air strikes back in 2006 and 2009, when we discovered that the regime had built an extensive underground facility in Fordo.

Nor does it address the undeniable reality that there will now be a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. That point — the most dangerous of all — is all but moot now.

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The Deal Wasn’t About Iran’s Nukes

If you think the United States just struck a poor nuclear deal with Iran, you’re right; but if that’s your key takeaway, you’re missing the point. Iran’s nuclear program was last on the list of the Obama administration’s priorities in talking to Tehran. The administration readily caved on Iran’s nukes because it viewed the matter only as a timely pretense for achieving other cherished aims. These were: (1) preventing an Israeli attack on Iran; (2) transforming the United States into a more forgiving, less imposing power; (3) establishing diplomacy as a great American good in itself; (4) making Iran into a great regional power; and (5), ensuring the legacies of the president and secretary of state as men of vision and peace.

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If you think the United States just struck a poor nuclear deal with Iran, you’re right; but if that’s your key takeaway, you’re missing the point. Iran’s nuclear program was last on the list of the Obama administration’s priorities in talking to Tehran. The administration readily caved on Iran’s nukes because it viewed the matter only as a timely pretense for achieving other cherished aims. These were: (1) preventing an Israeli attack on Iran; (2) transforming the United States into a more forgiving, less imposing power; (3) establishing diplomacy as a great American good in itself; (4) making Iran into a great regional power; and (5), ensuring the legacies of the president and secretary of state as men of vision and peace.

The administration has always viewed Israel as an intractable troublemaker and the main catalyst for the region’s woes. An Israeli strike on Iran, especially if supported by the United States, would have been yet another display of destabilizing Israeli aggression that put Middle East peace further out of reach. Barack Obama, therefore, repeatedly warned Israel against attacking Iran. Benjamin Netanyahu complied, and for his compliance White House officials taunted him in 2014 as a “chickenshit” whose window of opportunity had closed. That window is now barred. The Iran deal states that the U.S. will train Iranians to counter any sabotage attempts on its nuclear facilities and systems. This is aimed at frustrating Israeli action.

Obama came to office promising to limit American action as well. In his standard progressive view, the United States has been too eager to throw its weight around and impose its norms on other countries without giving sufficient thought to the resentment it might sow. He ended the war in Iraq and sought to remake the United States as a humble power. “Too often the United States starts by dictating,” he told a Saudi news outlet soon after being elected. He, by contrast, would do a lot of “listening.” The Iran negotiations became Obama’s magnum opus on the theme of listening. Americans listened to Iranians dictate terms, shoot down offers, insult the United States, and threaten allies. America has been humbled indeed.

But such humility is necessary if diplomacy is to be made into a nation-defining ethos. And if we could successfully negotiate with theocratic Iran, then surely Americans would see that diplomacy could conquer all. So, for the sake of proving this abstract principle, Obama foreclosed any non-diplomatic approach to Iran before a deal was reached. As he told Tom Friedman in April, “there is no formula, there is no option, to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon that will be more effective than the diplomatic initiative and framework that we put forward — and that’s demonstrable.” So declared, so demonstrated.

Like the preeminence of diplomacy, the notion of Iran’s potential as a levelheaded regional power was a treasured abstract principle Obama hoped to substantiate through the nuclear talks. Once again, first came the declaration. Last December Obama speculated on the outcome of a completed nuclear deal: “There’s incredible talent and resources and sophistication inside of Iran, and it would be a very successful regional power that was also abiding by international norms and international rules, and that would be good for everybody.”

If Iran’s fanatical anti-Semitism called this sanguine view into question, that too could be explained. “Well the fact that you are anti-Semitic, or racist, doesn’t preclude you from being interested in survival,” he told the Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg. “It doesn’t preclude you from being rational about the need to keep your economy afloat; it doesn’t preclude you from making strategic decisions about how you stay in power; and so the fact that the supreme leader is anti-Semitic doesn’t mean that this overrides all of his other considerations.” That the United States and Iran have now come to an agreement—whatever the details—is supposed to demonstrate the soundness of that principle.

As far as legacy, what politician doesn’t want one? For Obama, a nominal nuclear deal may make him feel as if he’s earned the Nobel Prize once furnished him as election swag. John Kerry’s own efforts to earn a Nobel by brokering Middle East peace became another footnote in the story of Palestinian obstinacy. He too had something to prove.

From the administration’s standpoint, the deal was a grand slam. If it left Iran as an official nuclear power on the perpetual verge of a breakout, well, that was always the bargaining chip to get everything else. And with the United States having shown extraordinary cooperation and forgiveness, the thinking goes, even a nuclear Iran will become a less bellicose and more collegial member of the community of nations. What good the deal has already done, the administration believes, will continue to pay dividends. As is his wont, Obama is now declaring as much. But by the time his vision is upended by facts, he’ll be out of office, and we won’t have the luxury of fighting reality with abstractions.

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Much Worse Than Munich

If one peruses the pages of The New York Times from mid-September 1938 through the first week of October 1938, it is apparent that what we are witnessing today is a virtual replay of those three weeks – only worse. Read More

If one peruses the pages of The New York Times from mid-September 1938 through the first week of October 1938, it is apparent that what we are witnessing today is a virtual replay of those three weeks – only worse.

Two weeks before the September 30, 1938 Munich agreement, Germany increased its demands, while promising (the Times reported) “hearty reciprocal cooperation in the work of solving other problems incidental to a wider European settlement.” A week before the agreement, German “demands had become higher,” but Hitler reassured Chamberlain that they were his “final” ones. A few days before the signing, Hitler appeared before 15,000 people in Berlin’s largest auditorium, where the “Sieg Heils” from the audience “were heard around the globe, for Hitler had a world hook-up” on radio. Chamberlain sent a letter to Hitler stating that Germany’s demands were unacceptable but urged continued negotiations, because “force produces no solution.” By the end of the week, Chamberlain had accepted virtually all of Hitler’s demands. The British leader was, the Times reported, “obviously exhausted and had resolved to make an end of the whole business.”

As soon as the Munich capitulation was signed, it was portrayed as a great success. In the letters published in the Times in the first week of October, one finds (1) a letter suggesting that “the Fuehrer was finally swayed by the moderates” around him and predicting a “more moderate” German policy “from now on”; (2) a letter asserting the “gains” from the Munich agreement “far outweigh the sacrifice” and that Hitler would now “be required to make good his assurance that he has no further territorial claims”; (3) a letter arguing Munich was “the greatest tribute” to Britain and France, since they had exhibited “solicitude for their civilians” by rejecting war; (4) a letter alleging that the “tumultuous cheers given to Mr. Chamberlain in Munich were not so much because he gave Sudetenland back to Germany as because he brought peace”; (5) a letter urging readers not to concentrate on “bewailing what Czechoslovakia lost,” but to focus on “this outstanding defeat of Hitler’s,” since it had been “proved beyond doubt” that Hitler now realized that “power politics does not work anymore.”

On October 9, 1938, the Times published its weekly “News of the Week in Review,” which observed that a “new Europe began to emerge last week … as new alignments appeared over the horizon.” There was little doubt, the Times noted, that Germany would soon dominate Eastern Europe and the Balkans, but it reported that Britain saw the agreement as the first step toward stabilizing the continent. The countries most directly affected, however, had “many doubts,” and made it clear that in the future “they would depend less upon the bulwark of diplomacy than upon the strength of their arms.” The Times then described what had happened during the week:

Britain, [with] the crisis over … kept aloof from the events in Czechoslovakia while the government defended its foreign policy in a full-dress Parliamentary debate. From the start, even though some of the nation’s best speakers were ranged against Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, the outcome was never in doubt.

Debate was opened by Alfred Duff Cooper, former First Lord of the Admiralty, who resigned in protest against the Chamberlain policy. “The Prime Minister,” he said “has believed in addressing Herr Hitler through the language of sweet reasonableness. I have believed he was more open to the language of the mailed fist.” Because he could not “swallow” the Munich agreement, he had resigned. “I can still,” he told Parliament, “walk about the world with my head erect.”

Winston Churchill attacked the Munich agreement as an “unmitigated defeat” for Britain and prophesied that it would be but “the bitter foretaste of a bitter cup which will be proffered to us year by year unless by a supreme recovery of moral health and martial vigor we rise again and take our stand for freedom as in olden times.”

Prime Minister Chamberlain and his supporters defended what had been done. Said Mr. Chamberlain: “The government deserves approval … for its conduct of affairs in this recent crisis which saved Czechoslovakia from destruction and Europe from Armageddon.” He insisted that negotiations with the dictatorships, that agreements with them, were the sole alternative to war. …

The Commons gave Mr. Chamberlain a vote of confidence, 366 to 144, with about twenty Conservative members abstaining from voting. … Mr. Chamberlain, whose chief means of relaxation is seeking out the haunts of the salmon and trout, thereupon packed his fishing tackle and set out for Scotland …

What we are living through now is worse than Munich, not only because we are ignoring the lesson learned from that event — at the cost of a six-year world war and millions of deaths — but because even Chamberlain would be shocked at what is transpiring again.

Chamberlain implemented what was, at the time, was a mainstream theory of international relations – that appeasing a dictatorship with respect to its colorable claims could limit its ultimate aims. But at least Chamberlain did not pay Hitler a huge amount of money for signing the agreement. At least he did not finance Hitler’s regime at home and his plans abroad. At least he did not publicly assure him he could be a “very successful regional power.” At least he did not proceed without a parliamentary majority. At least he did not adopt a constitutionally suspect procedure enabling him to prevail with a one-third partisan minority. At least he did not assure his fellow citizens they could rest assured it was a good deal because it would have his name on it. At least he did not negotiate a time-limited agreement and acknowledged it would put Germany in a position to prevail at the end of the agreement.

In the past two weeks, Iran increased its demands while holding out the possibility of a new era once the agreement was signed. The “moderate” Iranian president marched with huge crowds behind him holding signs reading “Death to America” and “Death to Israel,” with the pictures flashed throughout the world with the world hook-up of the Internet. After an exhausting 17 days of negotiations, with “deadlines” serially ignored by Iran and seriatim U.S. concessions escalating as they went along, the president and secretary of state made an end of the whole business by accepting virtually all of Iran’s demands, while paving the path toward its ultimate goal.

In 1938, there was Winston Churchill’s prophetic eloquence and Alfred Duff Cooper’s principled resignation, but they were insufficient to stop the biggest disaster of the 20th century. In the United States 77 years later, Congress will have not one week, but 60 days, to review what is worse than Munich. It is more than enough time to understand the pending disaster. But because of the procedure the president has adopted, the question is not what the majority of the Congress thinks but what one-third of it does. We are about to find out if there are any senators and representatives in today’s Democratic Party comparable to Churchill or Cooper.

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The Lie that Europe Cares About Human Rights

Once upon a time, the European Union prided itself on human rights a “core aspect of European identity.” When Klaus Kinkel became Germany’s foreign minister on May 18, 1992, he declared promotion of human rights to be a top priority, at least rhetorically. Behind-the-scenes, though, Kinkel seemed to salivate at the Iranian market.  By 1987, Germany already accounted for more than a quarter of Iran’s total imports, but Germany wanted more. Iran, after all, was an impressive market; oil-rich and in desperate need of investment after eight years of a devastating war. So, the Clinton administration promoted “Dual Containment,” Kinkel and his European colleagues argued that Iran was simply too important to isolate. Read More

Once upon a time, the European Union prided itself on human rights a “core aspect of European identity.” When Klaus Kinkel became Germany’s foreign minister on May 18, 1992, he declared promotion of human rights to be a top priority, at least rhetorically. Behind-the-scenes, though, Kinkel seemed to salivate at the Iranian market.  By 1987, Germany already accounted for more than a quarter of Iran’s total imports, but Germany wanted more. Iran, after all, was an impressive market; oil-rich and in desperate need of investment after eight years of a devastating war. So, the Clinton administration promoted “Dual Containment,” Kinkel and his European colleagues argued that Iran was simply too important to isolate.

On December 12, 1992, the European Union endorsed Berlin’s proposed “critical dialogue,” in which European governments would correlate trade with Iranian improvements on human rights and Tehran’s conformity with international norms of behavior. The European Council declared, “The European Council reaffirms its belief that a dialogue should be maintained with the Iranian Government. This should be a critical dialogue which reflects concern about Iranian behavior and calls for improvement in a number of areas, particularly human rights, the death sentence pronounced by a Fatwa of Ayatollah Khomeini against the author Salman Rushdie, which is contrary to international law, and terrorism.” Just as Obama does today, European officials assumed that increasing trade would strengthen the hands of pragmatists. Simply put, Berlin believed it could achieve more by dialogue than coercion.

In December 1993, European Commissioner Hans van der Broek met British Indian author Salman Rushdie to assure him that improvements in human rights, the lifting of Ayatollah Khomeini’s death fatwa, and greater respect inside Iran for international law would be essential preconditions for the establishment of closer EU-Iran ties. They weren’t. Iranian officials did not take the new approach to heart. Instead, they arrested German citizens in Iran, more often as bargaining chips than on any evidence-based charges. And while Kinkel and his cohorts paid lip service to human rights, Tehran soon made clear it had little patience for the dialogue aspect of trade. By 1995, German exports to Iran had increased to $1.4 billion, more than twice the level of any other country.

Broader European trade also flourished. By 1996, economic and trade relations between the European Union and the Islamic Republic was worth $29 billion. After re-establishing trade, European leaders dropped any presence of calibrating relations to about human rights. In July 1997, for example, at a time when the European Union had suspended dialogue with Iran, Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi sent a high profile trade delegation to Tehran with promised of $3 billion credits. That same year, a consortium led by the French oil company Total signed a $2 billion agreement to develop Iran’s oil resources.

Iranian used the cover of dialogue and the promise of moderation to accelerate their nuclear ambitions. Meanwhile, Salman Rushdie remained a marked man and Iranian terror sponsorship continued apace. Germany, Britain, and France sidestepped substantive issues with smoke-and-mirrors. Its hostages freed, the French government, for example, denied any evidence that the Islamic Republic continued to sponsor terrorism. “There is no evidence,” Yves Doutriaux, a French foreign ministry spokesman, told a French television interviewer in August 1996, even as the U.S. government found Iranian involvement in a string of assassinations, weapons shipments to terrorists (including sending mortars to an Iranian agent in Germany), and support for Hamas, Hezbollah, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Likewise, the German government denied that any concrete evidence existed that suggested Iranian nuclear activities ran counter to its Non-Proliferation Treaty obligations, although the International Atomic Energy Agency subsequently exposed this lie.

As for human rights, they actually worsened. In 1995, for example, Iranian authorities passed a law combining the role of prosecutor and judge in court. Persecution of Baha‘is, Jews, and Christians increased, and censorship remained heavy-handed. Between 1992 and 1996, the Iranian government refused to allow a UN Special Representative on the Human Rights Situation in Iran to visit the country. While Maurice Copithorne, the new UN Representative, sought to report positive trends in the summary of his 1997 report, his characterizations were by his own admission, more “straws in the wind,” and hope that the new Khatami government would liberalize society. However, he acknowledged little evidence “that would support the proposition that sustained progress [was] under way.” Indeed, while the UN human rights rapporteur may have sought improvement in the Iranian human rights situation to support the idea that engagement was working, the evidence suggested otherwise. Between 1995 and 1996, the height of Critical Dialogue, Iranian use of the death penalty doubled. Also against the backdrop of critical dialogue, Iranian hit men slaughtered Kurdish dissidents in downtown Berlin. A few were captured and, after a long court case, eventually found guilty. As a result, on April 29, 1997, the European Union suspended its critical dialogue and every member with the exception of Greece withdrew its ambassador from Tehran. Here, Europe’s true cynicism became clear, for while the ambassadors came home and the European Union decided to suspend high profile ministerial visits, it exempted trade delegations. Hassan Rouhani, at the time deputy speaker of the Iranian parliament, turned Europe’s critical engagement logic on its head and declared, “So long as we see no change in the behavior of this Union and are not convinced of its good will…we shall consider that the continuation of the critical dialogue is futile.”

Fast-forward to the present day: Europe continues to play fast and loose with the rhetoric of human rights, but it is telling that nothing in the agreement reached frees hostages, advances religious liberty, curtails terrorism, resolves the cases of political prisoners, betters the lot of women, or ends the horrific public executions for which the Rouhani administration has become famous. When push comes to shove, all the European Union cares about is trade and cash. It’s time to stop pretending European politicians, whether Greens, Social Democrats, Christian Democrats, Tories, Labour, or any other flavor care about anything else.

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Obama’s Worst Mistake

I wanted to add my voice to those who have already written about the deal between Iran and Western powers, led by the United States. It is an agreement that is likely to set in motion a terrible chain of events — reviving the Iranian economy while simultaneously putting Iran well on the road to gaining nuclear weapons and triggering a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. Iran’s behavior is likely to be more, not less, aggressive, from threatening other nations to supporting terrorist organizations. Our allies can only conclude that the United States is unsteady and unreliable, having cast its lot with the most destabilizing regime in the world today — one that is an existential threat to Israel, and where chants of “Death to America!” can still be heard at prayer services every week. Historians may well consider this date to be a time when, as Max Boot put it, “American dominance in the Middle East was supplanted by the Iranian Imperium.” Read More

I wanted to add my voice to those who have already written about the deal between Iran and Western powers, led by the United States. It is an agreement that is likely to set in motion a terrible chain of events — reviving the Iranian economy while simultaneously putting Iran well on the road to gaining nuclear weapons and triggering a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. Iran’s behavior is likely to be more, not less, aggressive, from threatening other nations to supporting terrorist organizations. Our allies can only conclude that the United States is unsteady and unreliable, having cast its lot with the most destabilizing regime in the world today — one that is an existential threat to Israel, and where chants of “Death to America!” can still be heard at prayer services every week. Historians may well consider this date to be a time when, as Max Boot put it, “American dominance in the Middle East was supplanted by the Iranian Imperium.”

President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry are betting that this agreement will tame the Iranian regime and turn it into a positive force in the Middle East and the world. This will turn out to be an incredibly ill-advised judgment — and as the details of the agreement spill out over the coming days, the magnitude of the capitulation by the president will be more and more evident. He was taken to the cleaners. I imagine even the Iranians were surprised by how much Mr. Obama buckled.

Of all the missteps and unwise decisions and harmful acts by the Obama administration — the Affordable Care Act and the lies used to sell it, economic policies that have failed to create growth and led to dramatic increases in poverty and dramatic reductions in the labor force participation rate, the repeated acts of lawlessness, the use of the IRS to harass conservative groups, increasing polarization and divisions within America, the withdrawal from Iraq, the debacles in Syria, Libya and Yemen, the feebleness toward Russia, the failure to confront the rise of ISIS, the betrayal of our allies — the Iranian nuclear deal may well turn out to be worst of all.

It is a strategic disaster, a failure of leadership, of monumental significance.

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Congress Deserves a Long, Hot Summer Over Iran Deal

President Barack Obama’s supporters and the members of the international diplomatic community, all of whom are often more committed to preserving the supremacy and viability of “The Process” than they are the peace, are cautiously exuberant over the prospect of even a flawed nuclear accord with Iran. Their tempered joy stands in stark contrast to the jubilant victory laps in which the Islamic Republic’s leadership has indulged. The deal’s supporters contend that the administration’s efforts to neutralize the threat posed by an Iranian nuclear weapon, even if that means surrendering virtually all leverage over the terror-supporting state in the process, has the public’s support. This is, however, a superficial reading of the polls. The public can and should be mobilized against this deal, and the Democratic and Republican members of Congress wracked with pangs of conscience over the legacy they’re bequeathing future generations should cultivate that dissent. Those members of Congress who support this deal (or, more accurately, support the president’s pursuit of a legacy achievement) deserve a long, hot summer of confrontation with angry constituents. But they will not face one without sustained and intense pressure on the public.  Read More

President Barack Obama’s supporters and the members of the international diplomatic community, all of whom are often more committed to preserving the supremacy and viability of “The Process” than they are the peace, are cautiously exuberant over the prospect of even a flawed nuclear accord with Iran. Their tempered joy stands in stark contrast to the jubilant victory laps in which the Islamic Republic’s leadership has indulged. The deal’s supporters contend that the administration’s efforts to neutralize the threat posed by an Iranian nuclear weapon, even if that means surrendering virtually all leverage over the terror-supporting state in the process, has the public’s support. This is, however, a superficial reading of the polls. The public can and should be mobilized against this deal, and the Democratic and Republican members of Congress wracked with pangs of conscience over the legacy they’re bequeathing future generations should cultivate that dissent. Those members of Congress who support this deal (or, more accurately, support the president’s pursuit of a legacy achievement) deserve a long, hot summer of confrontation with angry constituents. But they will not face one without sustained and intense pressure on the public. 

“Americans mostly approve of the outline of the Iran nuclear deal and don’t want Congress to block it,” read the lead paragraph in the Huffington Post’s review of the political environment in the immediate aftermath of the framework agreement with Iran released in April. It was a typically shallow reading of the polling data. This should not spook lawmakers into believing there is broad support for a “bad deal” with Iran that Barack Obama once promised the country he would reject.

The poll the Huffington Post cited, conducted by Hart Research on behalf of the liberal organization Americans United for Change, found significant support for an Iran deal that would avoid war. “The only real alternative to this agreement would be military action and American involvement in another Middle Eastern war,” read the statement to which respondents were asked to react. In opposition to the Iran deal, the only consequence to which respondents were asked to react was the prospect that Iran might develop a fissionable device. This is junk data; the consequences are far more dire than that.

Another Washington Post/ABC News survey from the same period, a poll with a sample 33 percent Democratic to 20 percent Republican, found 59 percent of respondents back lifting “major economic sanctions against Iran” if a deal made it “harder” for the Islamic Republic to produce a bomb. There’s just one problem: 59 percent of respondents in that same poll do not believe any agreement with Iran would prevent it from building a fissionable device if it was determined to do so. Given that the present deal allows Iran to respect the Non-Proliferation Treaty at its discretion and imposes on Tehran an inspections regime that is laughably weak and based only on mutual consent, those in that 59 percent were prescient.

The fear shared by members of the voting public that decades of documented Iranian duplicity will not magically evaporate overnight has not abated in the months that elapsed since the framework deal was announced. A Monmouth University poll released on Tuesday revealed that the public’s well-deserved skepticism that Iran will not honor its word has remained virtually static. “55 percent said that they did ‘not at all’ trust Iran to abide by terms of a nuclear agreement that would dismantle its program and allow for independent inspections,” Politico reported. “Just 5 percent said they trust Iran ‘a lot,’ and 35 percent said they trust Iran ‘a little.’”

Those members of Congress on the left and the right who are opposed to this faith-based initiative have ample ammunition to reinforce the public’s skepticism. The verification regime is an embarrassment, embargos on arms and ballistic missiles will be lifted, and it is a fantasy to believe that the onerous sanctions regime loathed in Europe will automatically “snap back” in the event Iranian cheating is, by some miracle, unambiguously confirmed.

Proponents of this nuclear accord contend, sneeringly, that the only alternative to their deal is war with Iran – an outcome the public desperately hopes to avoid. In reality, this accord is what will make war more likely. Air Force General Paul Selva, Obama’s nominee to serve as vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a Senate Armed Services hearing on Tuesday that relaxed sanctions on Iran will provide it with more resources to fund terrorism through its state-sponsored proxies. The regime has been inexorably strengthened and legitimized by its dealings with the West, and Washington in particular, and it has no incentive to dismantle its bomb-making capabilities. If the West doesn’t lead the way, Israel will.

In the meantime, the families of those Americans who remain hostages in Iran who were sacrificed by the P5+1 negotiators on the altar of a deal are begging their fellow Americans to keep them in their thoughts. While administration negotiators and Western officials are erecting straw men to justify their equivocations and praying that Iranian celebrations don’t make the evening news, the families of the four Americans in Iranian custody weep.

In a fortuitous twist, the negotiation process lasted just long enough to compel the administration to give Congress 60 rather than a mere 30 days in order to review the deal. Through much of that time, members of the federal legislature will be enjoying the August recess at home with their constituents. Those who are opposed to this deal should use that time to ensure their colleagues who support it are confronted by a host of angry constituents far more aggressive than anything Democrats endured during the debate over the Affordable Care Act. This approach might not yield veto-proof majorities in Congress, but it would be righteously justified.

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The Dawn of Iranian Empire

By now, after months of leaks following the initial agreement on April 2, the broad outlines of the deal with Iran are already familiar. If you want to know what’s in it, I recommend skipping the bombastic White House PowerPoints, which claim that all Iranian pathways to a nuclear weapon have been “blocked,” or the obfuscatory language of the 150-page Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action itself, which reads like a document drafted by a committee of lawyers intent on papering over differences with extra-long and hard-to-follow sentences. Read More

By now, after months of leaks following the initial agreement on April 2, the broad outlines of the deal with Iran are already familiar. If you want to know what’s in it, I recommend skipping the bombastic White House PowerPoints, which claim that all Iranian pathways to a nuclear weapon have been “blocked,” or the obfuscatory language of the 150-page Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action itself, which reads like a document drafted by a committee of lawyers intent on papering over differences with extra-long and hard-to-follow sentences.

For a more succinct (and, on the whole, accurate) account, go right to the statement issued by Tehran’s official Islamic Republic News Agency. It notes, inter alia:

-) World powers have recognized Iran’s peaceful nuclear program and are to respect the nuclear rights of Iranian nation within international conventions…

-) The Islamic Republic of Iran is to be recognized as a nuclear technology power authorized to have peaceful nuclear programs such as complete nuclear fuel cycle and enrichment to be identified by the United Nations.

-) All unfair sanctions imposed by the UN Security Council including economic and financial sanctions on Iran are to be lifted as per the agreement and through issuance of a new resolution by the United Nations Security Council.

-) All nuclear installations and sites are to continue their work contrary to the early demands of the other party, none of them will be dismantled.

-) The policy on preventing enrichment uranium is now failed, and Iran will go ahead with its enrichment program.

-) Iran’s nuclear infrastructure will remain intact, no centrifuges will be dismantled and research and development on key and advanced centrifuges such as IR-4, IR-5, IR-6, IR-8 will continue.

So far, so familiar — and dismaying. This agreement is a massive capitulation to Iran. Having started negotiations with the goal of ending Iran’s nuclear program, the U.S. and its European negotiating partners are winding up legitimating Iran’s status as a nuclear power in waiting.

But there are some surprises in the final language.

The most pleasant surprise is the “snapback” provision which would, in theory, at least, allow the reintroduction of sanctions should Iran violate the agreement. It had been widely feared that “snapback” would require a vote of the U.N. Security Council, which would allow Russia or China to veto such a resolution. Instead, the agreement sets up a Joint Commission — composed of the European Union, the United States, France, the United Kingdom, Germany, Russia, China, and Iran — to adjudicate disputes over implementation. It would only take a bare majority of the commission to reinstitute sanctions, which means that the U.S. and its European allies could re-impose sanctions even without the support of Russia and China.

This makes “snapback” no longer an impossibility — but still extremely improbable. Because once sanctions come off, the European states, in particular, will have a significant business stake in Iran that they will be loath to endanger by re-imposing sanctions.

There is also the psychological dimension to be considered: Re-imposing sanctions would be tantamount to a concession that the agreement has failed. How likely is it that the architects of the agreement will concede any such thing? In reality, it’s impossible to imagine any circumstances under which President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry (who is no doubt expecting to get a Nobel Peace Prize out of this, to match Obama’s) will ever say that Iran is in violation. Perhaps some future president who did not negotiate this deal will be more willing to make such a call — perhaps. But to do so would spark a crisis with Iran that no future president would relish. The odds are it will be easier to overlook any violations that are sure to be disputed. That’s certainly been the patterns with arms control treaties between the U.S. and Russia — repeated Russian violations tend to get swept under the carpet by both Democratic and Republican administrations.

Finally, even if the snapback were implemented sometime in the future, it wouldn’t matter that much — Iran will already have reaped the benefits of well over $100 billion of sanctions relief.

The Joint Commission mechanism that governs snapback is also in place to adjudicate disputes over access for inspectors to Iranian nuclear sites. Again, in theory, the U.S. and its European partners can compel an inspection of a suspect site notwithstanding Iranian opposition by out-voting Iran, Russia, and China. But not right away. The agreement specifies that it would take no fewer than 24 days to compel an inspection. That’s plenty of time for the Iranians to “sanitize” any suspect site so as to remove any evidence of nuclear activity, and it’s far removed from the kind of “24/7 access” that President Obama said just today that inspectors would have.

The other surprises in the agreement are even nastier. The Iranians had insisted that the agreement stick only to the nuclear issue — that’s why, for example, the Iranians did not agree as part of this deal to release the American hostages they are holding or to end their support for terrorism or their commitment to Israel’s destruction. But it turns out the agreement isn’t just limited to nuclear issues. It includes a commitment to lift the conventional arms embargo on Iran in no more than five years, and the embargo on missile sales to Iran in no more than eight years — and possibly sooner, if Iran is said to be in compliance with the nuclear accord.

Those provisions should be read in conjunction with the agreement’s promise to lift all sanctions on a long line of Iranian entities and individuals — 61 pages worth, to be exact — including a promise to lift sanctions on Qassem Soleimani, commander of Iran’s Quds Force, who is to Shiite terrorism what Osama bin Laden was to Sunni terrorism. Assuming that this is in fact what the agreement says (notwithstanding whispers from some American officials that it’s another Qassem Soleimani who is benefitting), this is a stunning concession to Iran’s imperial designs in the Middle East.

What this means is that Iran will soon have more than $100 billion extra to spend not only on exporting the Iranian revolution and dominating neighboring states (Gen. Soleimani’s job) but that it will also before long be free to purchase as many weapons — even ballistic missiles — as it likes on the world market. No wonder Vladimir Putin appears to be happy: This deal is likely to become a windfall for Russian arms makers, although you can be sure that Iran will also spread its largesse to manufacturers in France and, if possible, the UK so as to give those countries an extra stake in not re-imposing sanctions.

To sum up: The agreement with Iran, even if Iran complies (which is a heroic assumption), will merely delay the weaponization of Iran’s nuclear program by a few years, while giving Iran a massive boost in conventional power in the meantime. What do you think Iran’s Sunni neighbors, all of whom are terrified of Iranian power, will do in response? There is a good possibility that this agreement will set off a massive regional arms race, in both conventional and nuclear weaponry, while also leading states such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar to make common cause with the Islamic State as a hedge against Iranian designs in the region.

That’s assuming, of course, that the agreement is not blocked by Congress. But it’s unlikely that the Senate can muster a veto-proof majority to override the veto Obama promised to deliver of any bill that seeks to block this terrible deal. Assuming, as appears probable, that this deal is in fact implemented, future historians may well write of July 14, 2015, as the date when American dominance in the Middle East was supplanted by the Iranian Imperium.

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Israel’s Ambassador: ‘This Deal is a Disaster’

Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer gave the principal address last night at the “Night to Honor Israel” at the Washington Summit of Christians United for Israel (CUFI). He told more than 5,000 delegates that “the collapse of the positions of the P5+1” has been “breathtaking.” “So many red lines have already been crossed”: Read More

Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer gave the principal address last night at the “Night to Honor Israel” at the Washington Summit of Christians United for Israel (CUFI). He told more than 5,000 delegates that “the collapse of the positions of the P5+1” has been “breathtaking.” “So many red lines have already been crossed”:

The promise of “anytime, anywhere” inspections looks more like “sometime, somewhere” inspections that will enable Iran to continue the cat and mouse game that it has played with IAEA inspectors for years.

The promise of phased sanctions relief looks more like a one-time jackpot for the Ayatollah regime. In a few months, this deal would give Iran 150 billion dollars. Iran has a 300 to 400 billion dollar economy. A 150 billion dollar infusion of cash into Iran’s coffers is like 8 trillion dollars flowing into the US treasury. … [B]illions of dollars will be used to replenish the Iranian regime’s ATMs in the region. Those ATMs are the Ayatollah Terror Machines – the Shiite militia in Iraq, Assad’s regime in Syria, Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Houthis in Yemen, Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza, and the many other Iranian’s terror proxies throughout the region. …

[I]t is hard to believe that two years ago we were promised that the sanctions regime would only be dismantled if and when Iran’s illicit nuclear program was dismantled. Instead, this deal dismantles the sanctions regime in exchange for partial and temporary constraints on Iran’s nuclear program. Partial, because Iran will be allowed to continue R&D on advanced centrifuges and will continue to develop ICBMs, whose sole purpose is to carry nuclear payloads. I’ve got a newsflash for you. Israel is on the same continent as Iran. So those intercontinental ballistic missiles are not for us. They’re for you.

The constraints on Iran’s nuclear program are only temporary because the most important ones will be removed in a decade. And those constraints will be removed whether or not Iran changes its behavior. In ten years, Iran could be even more aggressive, an even greater sponsor of terror, an even greater threat to Israel and America, and the constraints on Iran’s nuclear program would still be removed. … In 13 or 14 years, Iran’s breakout time would be “almost down to zero.” Those are not my words. Those are the words of President Obama. And that candid statement is all you need to know about why this deal is so bad.

But it gets worse. …

Much worse.

Dermer noted that “Israelis across the political spectrum are united in their view that this deal is a disaster.” The full text of the speech is here.

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Iran Inspections Committee Duplicates Worst of Iraq

Reuters is reporting the compromise mechanism to which Secretary of State John Kerry has apparently agreed to bridge the U.S. demand for “anytime, anywhere” inspections with Iran’s firm refusal to allow them. According to the article by Louis Charbonneau and Arshad Mohammed: Read More

Reuters is reporting the compromise mechanism to which Secretary of State John Kerry has apparently agreed to bridge the U.S. demand for “anytime, anywhere” inspections with Iran’s firm refusal to allow them. According to the article by Louis Charbonneau and Arshad Mohammed:

A draft nuclear deal between Iran and six major powers calls for U.N. inspectors to have access to all suspect Iranian sites, including military, based on consultations between the powers and Tehran, a diplomatic source said on Tuesday….

That might sound like an ideal compromise, but it eviscerates the idea of snap inspections. After all, if U.S. or French intelligence suspects Iran is cheating at a specific military base, will inspectors find anything if they must first debate the issue with Iran itself and if Russia is happy to play the spoiler?

More importantly, the idea of allowing the subject of suspicion a role in implementation of a U.N. Security Council resolution has been tried before: Less than six months after the end of Operation Desert Storm in 1991, the U.N. Security Council adopted Resolutions 712 and 715, which allowed Iraq to sell its oil in order to provide revenue to purchase food and medicine. Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, however, refused to accept such resolutions, complaining they infringed on Iraqi sovereignty.

As suffering inside Iraq increased, the U.N. sought to bypass the central Iraqi government and deliver food and humanitarian supplies directly. On April 14, 1995, the U.N. Security Council passed Resolution 986, better known as the “oil-for-food” program. In short, the U.N. created an escrow account funded by Iraqi oil. The UN could then draw on the account to purchase supplies and monitor distribution. Saddam Hussein, however, not only refused to cooperate but promised to prevent the UN from feeding Iraqis.

As his currency declined and international pressure mounted, Saddam eventually relented, but he insisted that the Iraqi government have a seat at the table. On May 20, 1996, the U.N. Secretariat and the Iraqi government signed a Memorandum of Understanding. To get Saddam’s buy-in, the U.N. agreed to allow the Iraqi government to contract directly with suppliers and to be the only party allowed to request supplies.

While diplomats hailed the compromise, it soon became apparent that what it took to reach the compromise eviscerated the original purpose of the deal. By giving the Iraqi government a seat at the table, the U.N. empowered Saddam Hussein to use food to reward his allies and to use its denial to punish as a weapon. Even under sanctions, Iraq never wanted for money for food and medicine, but the U.N. couldn’t get it to those who needed it most because Saddam stood in the way.

Back to Iran: Kerry may rationalize that he did what it took to get the deal, but what he has done is make a Faustian bargain, one that empowers Tehran and kills any meaning to the inspections needed to verify the deal.

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Iran Deal: The Right to Despair

The United States and its allies have struck a deal with Iran that effectively ensures that it will be a nuclear state with ballistic missiles in 10 years, assuming Iran adheres to the deal’s terms, which is a very large assumption. And though I’ve only made a preliminary pass at the deal sheet and don’t want to make definitive calls about it, it appears from the language that Iran will have 24 days before it has to allow inspections at its sites, none of which has been shut down or dismantled — which will make cheating unbelievably easy. And, while the president this morning declared that violations would make sanctions “snap back,” the only way they will do so is after a U.N. commission meets and agrees such violations have happened and then imposes them — which you know Russia will never allow. The president and the secretary of state are making large claims for the deal that are not true; the same will be true of all of its signatories, who are seeing Nobel stars in their eyes. This is an infamous day, and while those of us who see Iran’s nuclearization as the threshold threat for the rest of the 21st century will not be silent and will not give up the fight against it, it is appropriate to take a moment to despair that we — the United States and the West — have come to this. Read More

The United States and its allies have struck a deal with Iran that effectively ensures that it will be a nuclear state with ballistic missiles in 10 years, assuming Iran adheres to the deal’s terms, which is a very large assumption. And though I’ve only made a preliminary pass at the deal sheet and don’t want to make definitive calls about it, it appears from the language that Iran will have 24 days before it has to allow inspections at its sites, none of which has been shut down or dismantled — which will make cheating unbelievably easy. And, while the president this morning declared that violations would make sanctions “snap back,” the only way they will do so is after a U.N. commission meets and agrees such violations have happened and then imposes them — which you know Russia will never allow. The president and the secretary of state are making large claims for the deal that are not true; the same will be true of all of its signatories, who are seeing Nobel stars in their eyes. This is an infamous day, and while those of us who see Iran’s nuclearization as the threshold threat for the rest of the 21st century will not be silent and will not give up the fight against it, it is appropriate to take a moment to despair that we — the United States and the West — have come to this.

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Twice Before When Iran Walked Away…

There’s an air of expectation in Vienna among journalists, analysts, and diplomats; many of whom believe an Iran deal is tantalizingly close, if not imminent. While this may be the most public frenzy of optimism, it’s not the first time diplomats believed the United States and Iran were on the verge of a breakthrough, only to have the Supreme Leader throw cold water on their hopes and order Iranian officials to walk away. Read More

There’s an air of expectation in Vienna among journalists, analysts, and diplomats; many of whom believe an Iran deal is tantalizingly close, if not imminent. While this may be the most public frenzy of optimism, it’s not the first time diplomats believed the United States and Iran were on the verge of a breakthrough, only to have the Supreme Leader throw cold water on their hopes and order Iranian officials to walk away.

The first time was in 1989, when, after a decade of revolutionary turmoil and war, it finally looked like the stars might align into an opportunity for rapprochement. When George H.W. Bush entered office, Iranian-backed terrorists held nine Americans hostages in Lebanon. As a former diplomat, however, Bush preferred diplomacy. His inaugural speech was actually quite similar in tone to Barack Obama’s two decades later. Like Obama, Bush used his big speech to offer Iran an olive branch. “There are today Americans who are held against their will,” Bush declared, adding, “Assistance can be shown here, and will be long remembered. Goodwill begets goodwill. Good faith can be a spiral that endlessly moves on.” And just like Obama repeated his offer in his fist television interview as president, Bush also reaffirmed his desire to improve relations over subsequent days. “I don’t want to… think that the status quo has to go on forever,” he said. “There was a period of time when we had excellent relations with Iran.”

Khomeini wasn’t interested. “Iran does not need America,” he declared. Unlike Obama today, Bush took no for an answer and waited for the Iranian leadership to change its mind. He didn’t need to wait long. Just six months into Bush’s term, Khomeini died, and Ali Khamenei, the titular president, became the new Supreme Leader. Just as today, journalists and diplomats succumbed to a lot of wishful thinking. Many described Khamenei as a moderate. Then, on August 3, 1989, Rafsanjani became president. Speaking the next day, Rafsanjani suggested that “reasonable, prudent solutions” could free the hostages, and privately he told Pakistani intermediaries that U.S. gestures might grease the process. Bush said Rafsanjani’s statement “offers hope” and State Department spokeswoman Margaret Tutwiler suggested her belief that “Iran is genuinely engaged.” Hassan Rouhani, today Iran’s president, was the powerful chairman of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, a body setting policy and answering to the Supreme Leader.

Bush’s willingness to engage was real. He issued a National Security Directive declaring that the United States should prepare for “a normal relationship with Iran on the basis of strict reciprocity,” and he asked UN Secretary General Javier Pérez de Cuéllar to serve as an intermediary between National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft and Rafsanjani. Pérez de Cuéllar, in turn, appointed Giandomenico Picco, an Italian and a career UN bureaucrat, to be his representative.

Picco flew to Tehran and met Rafsanjani, who dismissed the idea of dialogue let alone compromise out-of-hand: to talk would be to admit culpability in the hostage seizures. The juxtaposition between Iran’s public and private postures is instructive. Rogues can embrace moderation publicly, but when push comes to shove, they remain rogues.

Rafsanjani’s strategy was effective; just as Rouhani today, he found no shortage of useful idiots to embrace his public statements uncritically. While Rafsanjani spoke publicly of pragmatism, privately he revived Iran’s covert nuclear program and played a crucial role in ordering the assassinations of dissidents, including Abdol-Rahman Ghassemlou, murdered 26 years ago today in Vienna.

Bush was more cautious than many of diplomacy’s cheerleaders in Congress who suggested the United States offer unilateral concessions. Still, Bush’s engagement was not without cost. It was after Bush began talks with Tehran that Iranian officials not only supplied terrorists in Europe with weaponry to target Western interests but also dispatched a hit squad to kill Salman Rushdie. Engagement did nothing to ameliorate Iran’s rogue behavior, and may instead have made it worse. Only after he fell out of favor did Rafsanjani acknowledge that he responded to American goodwill with bad, on the orders of Khamenei.

It was déjà vu all over again during the Clinton administration. In 1997, Khatami stunned both Iran and the outside world by triumphing in the Islamic Republic’s elections. Upon taking office, he declared, “We are in favor of a dialogue between civilizations and a détente in our relations with the outside world.”

Proponents of dialogue were euphoric. Clinton jumped at the chance to bring Iran in from the cold. This was, after all, the stuff of which legacies were made. He suppressed the FBI’s report on the Khobar Towers bombing (which fingered Iran). Secretary of State Madeleine Albright sent a letter to Khatami seeking dialogue. Khatami did not write back, but American officials read the tea leaves to suggest willingness to engage. In December 1997, for example, he expressed “great respect” for the “great people of the United States,” and called for “a thoughtful dialogue.” He left the “Death to America” declarations to others and called instead for a “dialogue of civilizations.”

Rapprochement floundered, however, because, despite Khatami’s lofty rhetoric, Iranian officials were less than sincere. Assistant Secretary of State Martin Indyk and two colleagues sought to meet Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi after his speech at the Asia Society, but as soon as Kharrazi realized the American officials were waiting to meet him, he left. If America hoped to talk, Iranian thinking went, it should first “pay the right price” which, in effect, was capitulation to all Iranian demands. The only thing that has changed since has been the White House’s willingness to oblige. Just as he does today, Khamenei was blunt. “We shall not show any flexibility…and we shall not relent,” he declared on August 16, 1999. As for Khatami’s idea of dialogue, he clarified, “the phrase dialogue among civilizations does not mean holding talks with representatives of foreign states.” Proponents of dialogue would not take no for an answer, though. When the State Department proposed sending a consular officer to Tehran, the Iranian government not only refused, but characterized its rebuff as a “diplomatic blow” to the Americans.

Albright then apologized for the American role in the 1953 coup against Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddeq, and announced a package of unilateral American concessions: ending the import ban on Persian rugs, pistachios and caviar, three of Iran’s most lucrative non-oil industries; a relaxation of visa restrictions; and progress on releasing assets frozen during the hostage crisis.

As always, the Iranians hinted they would react positively. Hadi Nejad-Hosseinian, Iran’s ambassador at the United Nations, said that Iran would be “prepared to adopt proportionate and positive measures in return.” But no Iranian good will was forthcoming. Quite the contrary: Only July 27 2000, Khamenei declared negotiations, let alone rapprochement, with Washington to be “an insult and treason to the Iranian people.” Khatami explained that the United States had simply not offered enough to merit a response, enough of an excuse to get the pro-engagement crowd in the United States to self-flagellate, to blame Washington rather than Tehran for the lack of progress. Ultimately, Albright’s concessions did more harm than good. Foreign Minister Kemal Kharrazi seized upon Albright’s “confessions” about the 1953 coup with a demand both for further apologies and reparations. This was ironic considering the conservative clergy actually supported the coup against Mosaddeq, whom the considered too close to the communists. Rather than talk further, he stood Albright up during an elaborately planned and stag-managed one-on-one meeting at the United Nations.

Iran and the United States may soon come to a deal, especially as Secretary of State John Kerry signals a willingness to collapse on almost every U.S. redline. But, perhaps it’s time to recognize that the willingness of Iranian and American officials to talk is neither new nor historic. The problem has not been a willingness to dialogue, but rather the Iranian government’s tendency to favor the process of talks over their fruition.

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