The more we learn about the nuclear deal with Iran negotiated by President Obama’s Secretary of State John Kerry, the more farcical it appears. Frightening is a better word. Iran with a bomb is a scary prospect. It is because of that image that the Obama Administration argues so forcibly that there is no other option short of war. If he is correct – that if in befriending Iran they will enter the ‘community of nations’ – then the deal is worth supporting. But is he and will they?
The public responses of Iranian leaders indicate no willingness to change. If anything, they have become more confrontational and contemptuous. This agreement has a time limit. Iran will be able to continue nuclear research and spin centrifuges. They will have clear sailing to get a bomb once the treaty terminates in fifteen years; so everything depends on altering their behavior. Other nations in the Middle East, such as Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Egypt will not stand by; thus the probability of proliferation has increased. As well, Russia wants desperately to recapture her Cold War role. Instability in the region provides opportunities. A hundred billion dollars will be released for the use by Iran’s leaders – for purposes of funding terrorism, and military purchases of missiles, nuclear detonators and offensive weapons. No one expects the money will be used for the welfare of the Iranian people.
Mr. Obama prefers to operate unilaterally, relying on a small cadre of advisors. He makes little effort to consult with Congress, especially with members of the opposition. He presented the deal to the American people as a Hobson’s choice: that, short of war, there was no other alternative. That argument has been dismissed as balderdash. For example, the sanctions were working and could have been tightened. The United States could have increased domestic oil production, keeping pressure on oil prices. Covert operators could have infiltrated Iran, not for purposes of sabotage (though that might have worked as well), but to support dissidents. Iran is a country of 77 million people whose history dates back thousands of years. Inevitably, there are some who are unhappy. In the summer of 2009 thousands of Iranians rose up in what was called a “Green” Movement, a term that recalled the “Green” Revolution of 1979 when the Shah was overthrown. It presented an opportunity for the Obama Administration and a crisis for then Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Mr. Obama did not seize the opportunity and for Mr. Ahmadinejad a crisis was averted.
Like most Presidents (and most people), Mr. Obama cares about his legacy. He wants history to remember him positively. While the United States has been experiencing the slowest economic recovery in the post-War period, Mr. Obama and his acolytes point to the Affordability Care Act and Dodd Frank – grand experiments, though with questionable results. Internationally, the Middle East is in greater turmoil than when he took office, and relations with Russia and China are the worst since the collapse of the Soviet Union. So Mr. Obama opens the door to Communist leaders in Cuba, who deny basic rights to their populace, and he seeks an agreement with Iran, the world’s foremost promoter of terror.
Typically, advice and consent of the Senate is sought in cases like this. Executive and Congressional negotiations are conducted quietly. When a controversial deal is announced, both parties will have had privately expressed their differences and some resolution will have been gained. It is what allows the engine of government to hum. When Iraq was invaded in 2003, a majority of Democrats voted with Republicans to give President Bush the greenlight. Since, they have become revisionists, but collegiality is not Mr. Obama preferred route. While blame can be spread around for the dissonance regarding the Iranian deal, the buck, as President Truman was wont to say, stops at the White House.
One of the more damning news items that has appeared recently concerns the “side deal” between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The IAEA is an arm of the United Nations and is tasked with inspecting member’s nuclear weapons. A report from the Associated Press tells that a draft of one of the side deals allows Iran to use its own inspectors at the secret Parchin nuclear site, a military complex long suspected of being home to Iran’s nuclear weapons and ballistic-missile research and development programs. Apparently (and inexplicably), under the rules, the IAEA is able to negotiate “secret” agreements, as to inspections. Apart from Iran, none of the other signatories to the nuclear deal (Britain, China, the European Union, France, Germany, Russia and the United States) have access to these side deals. None, in fact, have seen the terms of this deal. This is akin to Lance Armstrong conducting his own drug tests and then calling in the results to the USADA. This deal is “trust, but verify,” but without the “verify” – and “trust” relies on one of the most despotic and untrustworthy regimes the world has known.
Both the House and the Senate will likely vote no on this treaty. But, it also appears there will not be enough votes to override a Presidential veto. Regardless, it is likely we have reached a point of no return. Making the most of a bad deal is probably our only option. Mr. Obama, in his preemptive way, took the treaty to the UN, which overwhelmingly supported it. This was before Congress had their say. Sanctions are already being lifted. Re-imposing them would be virtually impossible. Though it has been denied by the Russians, Iranian Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani visited Moscow in late July, in violation of a travel ban issued by the UN Security Council. No one at the UN or in the Administration seems to care.
The answers to the questions posed in the first paragraph are ‘no’ and ‘no’. This deal is worse than no deal. Nevertheless, the world will have to make the most of a nuclear treaty that favors Iran. The genie has escaped. We had all better hope that the UN, the IAEA and the United States are more vigilant and tougher than they have been. We had better cross our fingers that Iran changes. Because the Iran we know with a bomb will be a disaster for the Middle East and the world. We didn’t have to be in this position. It was ego and one man’s concern for his legacy that got us here.