Center Field: The Iran deal hangover

By GIL STERN STERN TROY
September 15, 2015 21:29

Merely possessing such destructive power goes a long way.




iran wine

A smuggler poses with a bottle of wine during an alcohol smuggling operation to Iran. (photo credit: REUTERS)

President Barack Obama won: Congress won’t stop the Iran nuclear cave-in. The United States and Europe will soon lift the economic sanctions.

Iran will continue spreading terrorism – on steroids, bankrolled by $150 billion extra and the international respectability Obama has long sought to grant the mullahocracy. But even as Iran enjoys its latest con played against the West, Israel and the US must cooperate to achieve their common goal: keeping both countries safe and the world as sane as possible.

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The ayatollahs of Iran won big. Soon, their economy will improve, their international stature will grow, and they will further spread their tentacles to destabilize the Middle East. The crafty Iranians siloed off their bad behavior in Syria, Lebanon, Gaza, Yemen, Iraq and elsewhere from the nuclear negotiations. They also succeeded in having “anytime, anywhere” surprise inspections become “mother may I” planned excursions by inhibited inspectors.

Iran is not likely to deploy its nuclear knowhow against Israel or the West anytime soon. Since the Iran-Iraq war, the mullahs have avoided risking Iranian lives and they know that Israel would retaliate, killing many Iranians. But the Iranian dictatorship will continue its evil ways, more brazenly and effectively, sacrificing proxies in Hezbollah, Hamas and other terrorist organizations to kill innocent people and threaten productive, peaceful nations, including Israel. Nuclear powers and near-nuclear powers do not need to go nuclear to be empowered by nuclear power.

Merely possessing such destructive power goes a long way.

While the Iranians are justified in shooting off fireworks to celebrate their victory, Obama should be wary of popping too many champagne corks in the White House.

Obama proved that basic laws of presidential gravity still function: Americans give their presidents tremendous latitude regarding foreign policy; party loyalty remains a powerful force; and Americans usually prefer trusting diplomacy to work rather than rushing into a deadly war or dangerous standoff.

Still, a mere handful of senators saved Obama from embarrassment; popular support for Obama’s flawed deal was tepid. The president of the United States and leader of the free world secured the votes of 34 Democratic Senators to support him in case he needs to veto congressional legislation opposing his Iran deal. In other words, he won by lining up enough votes to block the blockers.

Three dozen party loyalists do not a groundswell make.

American public opinion has been confused and conflicted.

Some polls show a majority opposing the deal, most show a small majority favoring the deal – with Democrats increasingly enthusiastic and Republicans increasingly skeptical as the White House shrewdly pitched the fight on partisan loyalty not foreign policy strategy. But many polls, such as the Washington Post-ABC News poll of July 16 through 19, showed a slim majority supporting the deal, even as 52 percent to 35% disapproved of Obama’s “handling of the situation with Iran” and two-thirds said they were not confident “this agreement will prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.” A late August University of Maryland poll found that despite another slim majority supporting the deal, more than three-quarters of those surveyed agreed that Obama’s abandonment of the “anytime, anywhere” demand and Iran’s anticipated $100b.-$150b. windfall each offered “a convincing reason to reject the deal.”

With only 28% of Americans surveyed in a Kaiser Family Foundation poll even claiming to follow the Iranian issue “closely,” Democratic loyalty, including faith in Obama and disdain for Republicans, trumped the Iran deal’s specifics.

But the seemingly contradictory findings suggest that the opponents of the deal made inroads. Those cheering President Benjamin Netanyahu for leading the charge are half right. The fight highlighted the agreement’s surrenders and Iran’s sins. Netanyahu undoubtedly helped galvanize the opposition. But he also helped make the deal seem to be more of an Israel issue than an American issue, more about Iran’s danger to us than to the US.

OVERALL, THE debate showed that most Americans in the age of Obama are ambivalent: tired of failed involvements in foreign wars, fearful of Islamic extremism, but more worried, as usual, about domestic economic and social issues. If, as even many Democrats supporting Obama expect, Iran continues exporting violence worldwide, the fight against Iran must continue – building on this campaign to make Americans realize just how dangerous Iran is.

Seeking effective strategies against Iran – and Islamic extremism – should become big issues in the 2016 campaign. With that in mind, important, non-partisan, non-Israel-based, non-Jewish organizations like Iran Watch should be boosted. Run by anti-nuclear academics at University of Wisconsin, this website carefully tracks Iran’s rush toward nuclear weapons. Iran Watch – and other sites – should also monitor Iranian human rights abuses at home and abroad, its oppression of women, gays and dissidents domestically, its guilt in Syria and other catastrophes, and its bankrolling of terrorism internationally.

If the summertime campaign against the Iran deal stops in the fall when the agreement passes, we all lose. Only through intense scrutiny of Iranian behavior – with no siloing, and no indulgence – is there even a chance of Iranian compliance with the deal that Obama has defined as one of his foreign policy legacies. We should learn from the anti-Zionist campaign against Israel. If they could do such a good job unfairly demonizing democratic Israel, surely we can match them in mobilizing against dictatorial Iran.

This is a long-term operation. In our attention-deficit- disorder culture, we usually fight battles quickly, then move on. Opponents of this deal made some progress opposing American isolationism and apathy regarding Iran. Obama Democrats must take responsibility for their naive predictions. The fight must continue, the scrutiny must intensify, the outrage must grow – not to embarrass Democrats or boost Republicans, but to defend the United States of America and its allies against this global bad guy.

The writer is the author of The Age of Clinton: America in the 1990s which will be published this October by Thomas Dunne Books of St. Martin’s Press. A professor of history at McGill University who will be a Visiting Scholar at the Brookings Institution this fall, this will be his eleventh book. Follow on Twitter @GilTroy www.giltroy.com.


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