We suspect the Obama Administration began leaking details last week about the agreement it is seeking with Iran in order to dampen the extent to which Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s address might resonate with Congress and, more importantly, with the American People. They failed.
Talking heads from both the right and left were eager to share their opinions of the speech, but we thought centrist CNN commentator David Gergen (who would have preferred that Netanyahu delay his remarks until after the elections in Israel) offered the most clear-headed and dispassionate assessment. Gergen opined, “…Netanyahu’s speech Tuesday to the U.S. Congress should be required reading for anyone who cares about peace in the Middle East.
The United States and its negotiating partners are moving into the final stages of possibly reaching a nuclear deal with Iran. Forceful but not bombastic, Netanyahu laid out the clearest and strongest case against the deal of any public leader so far.
Iran, he argues, remains the biggest terrorist state in the Middle East and already dominates four Arab capitals — Baghdad, Damascus, Beirut and Sanaa. The regime cannot be trusted.
The deal shaping up, Netanyahu warns, would allow Tehran to keep a huge nuclear infrastructure that it would almost certainly try to build up further through cheating. In about a decade, the deal would lift all restrictions. It is foolhardy, he argues, to expect a regime that has held power for 36 years to give up its grip — or its ambitions — in the next 10.
The Obama administration sharply disagrees with Netanyahu’s assessment. Fair enough. But in coming days, the President must lay out his case just as clearly and strongly, as his top advisers began to do Monday at the AIPAC conference. Armed with both arguments, the American people — along with the Congress — will then have a reasoned basis upon which to render a judgment. Democratic peoples thrive when they can hear all sides.”
And that is precisely why the Obama Administration has been apoplectic in its bush-league, month-long, denunciation of the Prime Minister’s temerity to address Congress. They did not want the cogent case Netanyahu presented to be aired before they had a chance to reach a final agreement with Iran. They especially did not want the case against the agreement to be accorded the attention that an address to a joint meeting of Congress might attract. In their efforts to sandbag the address they merely heightened the attention and the interest of the American People.
UN Ambassador Samantha Power and National Security Advisor Susan Rice both delivered superb speeches the day before Netanyahu’s speech. Their words could not have been more reassuring, or, sadly, more lacking in certainty.
Ambassador Rice insisted with a straight face, “that a good deal is one that would cut off every single pathway for Iran to make a nuclear weapon, adding that the controversial “sunset clause” would be set at more than a decade with additional provisions providing transparency for a longer period of time — except the deal cuts off no pathways at all. Iran will not be required to dismantle any of the infrastructure it currently has at its command. Iran will simply agree not to use that infrastructure nor build upon it for the next ten years. We (and Israel) are expected to rely upon Iran’s fidelity to transparency, now and for the next decade or more.
Really? Let’s revisit the recently released report of the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Last month The New York Times obtained a copy of the IAEA document and reported, that Iran was still refusing to answer the agency’s longstanding questions about suspected work on nuclear weapons and designs. A lurking issue, according to the New York Times, has been whether, as part of any final accord, Iran will be compelled to answer all questions that the IAEA has put to it about evidence of past work on designing weapons.
“We’ve been stonewalled on all those questions,” one European official involved in the talks said recently. “And the question is, does it make sense to lift sanctions against Iran before it satisfies the inspectors?” Well, come to think of it, that is essentially what many Americans as well as the Israeli Prime Minister have been asking too.
The Times reported that American officials have cloaked the details of the negotiations in secrecy, and have not been specific about how an agreement would compel compliance with the international inspectors, who are part of the United Nations. Iranian demands for an agreement include a lifting of all United Nations resolutions and sanctions against Iran. The IAEA report said the agency “remains concerned about the possible existence in Iran of undisclosed nuclear-related activities involving military-related organizations, including activities related to the development of a nuclear payload for a missile.
We know Iran has been busy developing long-range ballistic missile capability, and that too has been of concern to the IAEA. Iran has, reportedly, excluded from the nuclear agreement negotiations any aspect of its long-range ballistic-missile program. This is very relevant and very serious.
In a November 2012 report, the IAEA stated “Iran has carried out activities that are relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device. This information, which comes from a wide variety of independent sources, including from a number of Member States, from the Agency’s own efforts and from information provided by Iran itself, is assessed by the Agency to be, overall, credible. The information indicates that prior to the end of 2003 the activities took place under a structured program; that some continued after 2003; and that some may still be ongoing.”
In a November 2013 report, the IAEA reported,“Since 2002, the Agency has become increasingly concerned about the possible existence in Iran of undisclosed nuclear related activities involving military related organizations, including activities related to the development of a nuclear payload for a missile. Iran is required to cooperate fully with the Agency on all outstanding issues, particularly those which give rise to concerns about the possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear program, including by providing access without delay to all sites, equipment, persons and documents requested by the Agency.”
To this day, Iran has refused to comply with IAEA demands for access to these sites and to relevant records.
UN Ambassador Samantha Power was almost reassuring when she said, “The United States will not allow Iran to obtain Nuclear weapons –Period!” Why in the world did she throw in that now widely ridiculed Obamaism, “Period!” as in, If you like your current health insurance plan you can keep it “Period! And if you like your doctor you can keep him,”Period!” The only way we can assure that Iran will not obtain nuclear weapons, short of going to war, is to insist that they dismantle the infrastructure they have built to do just that – Period!
As though trying to demonstrate Orwellian Newspeak Nancy Pelosi called Netanyahu’s address “an insult to the intelligence of the United States as part of the p5 +1 nations and called the Prime Minister condescending toward our knowledge of the threat posed by Iran and our broader commitment to preventing nuclear proliferation.” Then again, this is the same Nancy Pelosi who told the nation that we’ll have to pass Obamacare so that we could see what was in it. Well we did pass Obamacare so that we could see what was in it, and that, Mrs. Pelosi, is the problem. Such protestations may have helped pass Obamacare, but they are not likely to promote confidence in our efforts to control Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
Iran is an enemy nation. That isn’t just our opinion. It is Iran’s position, stated often, menacingly and unambiguously. Why in the world we would agree to a sunset provision in an arms limitation agreement with an enemy who has been responsible for the deaths of thousands of American servicemen, who has vowed to defeat us and wipe an ally, Israel, off the face of the earth is, indeed, perplexing.
Frankly, we fear the nuclear discussions have dragged on (and been extended) for so long by Iran as a negotiating tactic. It has imposed upon Secretary Kerry an investment of so much of his time, that (Iran might assume) he will embrace a poor agreement rather than come up empty handed after having expended so much effort. If that’s the case, we hope (and we believe) Kerry will say, “no deal.”
Meanwhile, we believe the Administration wildly over reacted to Netanyahu’s decision to accept Speaker Boehner’s invitation to address Congress. Protocol was never the issue. Having the nation’s attention focused on why the emerging deal is a bad one was, and is, the cause of the President’s outrage.
We are reminded of a wonderful bit of wisdom shared with the world by the late and very popular astronomer, Carl Sagan. “For me,” Sagan wrote, “it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.”