Into the Fray: POTUS vs US

It is becoming increasingly difficult to accept that the Obama administration conducted negotiations with Iran in good faith.

By
September 17, 2015 21:24
US President Barack Obama at the Rose Garden of the White House

US President Barack Obama at the Rose Garden of the White House. (photo credit: OFFICIAL WHITE HOUSE PHOTO / PETE SOUZA)

 
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The Security Council [d]emands... that Iran shall suspend all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities, including research and development, to be verified by the IAEA – Security Council Resolution 1696, July 31, 2006

Iran will become a nuclear power. The only mystery over how that will happen is whether Obama was inept or whether he deliberately sought to make the theocracy some sort of strategic powerProf. Victor Davis Hanson, Senior Fellow Hoover Institute, Stanford University, September 15

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Those who support the deal should be ashamed of... the undemocratic tactics and bigoted arguments employed to avoid a real debate and a majority vote. Prof. Alan Dershowitz, The Jerusalem Post, September 11.

Barring some totally unforeseen development – like a sudden display of robust Republican resolve and resourcefulness – it seems little can prevent the implementation of the infamous Iran nuclear deal, hatched in Vienna under the orchestration of the Obama administration.

‘Refashioning definition of victory’

This has been described by some as a “victory” for President Barack Obama (POTUS). “Victory,” however, is a rather incongruous – indeed, almost perverse – term to describe the emerging outcome.

For if victory is the imposition of one’s will on one’s adversary – and assuming, in this case, the adversary was Iran – then, what transpired in Vienna was, in fact, a stinging defeat for POTUS. After all, it was he who manifestly abandoned his originally declared objectives and accepted Iranian demands, inconceivable at the start of the negotiating process.

Accordingly, it was the Iranian will that prevailed, to a large degree, if not completely, and POTUS who submitted, if not completely, then in large measure, to the adversarial will of the ayatollahs.

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So, if victory is the imposition of one’s will on another, it seems that the only “victory” that the POTUS could claim was victory over the US legislature, who overwhelmingly opposed him, over some of the US’s closest allies and... over the American people, the majority of whom disapprove of the deal.

For, it was against their clearly manifest will – and not that of the Iranians – that he railroaded through the ill-concocted deal, by means of brazen abuse of a quirk in the US legislative procedures – which permitted a small minority to impose its will on the majority.

Thus, even the slavishly Obamaphilic New York Times (September 10) was forced to admit that “securing the deal – without the support of a single member of the party now in control of Congress – is refashioning the definition of victory.”

‘Refashioning?’ Really? Perhaps “misrepresenting” might be a touch more apt?

Disregard for will of the people

Indeed, in pushing the Iran deal through, despite the fierce opposition of almost two-thirds of Congress, the Obama administration is also riding roughshod, not only over the will of the elected representatives of the American people, but over the will of the American people – which according to numerous polls disapprove of it by a proportion similar to that in the legislature.

Thus, according to a recent CNN/ORC poll (September 13) “59% disapprove of the way Obama is handling the US relationship with Iran, and about half would have preferred Congress reject the deal.”

Moreover – and arguably more disturbing— the poll found that “most Americans think Iran will ultimately violate the terms of the agreement, with 37% calling that extremely likely and 23% saying it’s very likely.” Only 10% think it not likely at all.

Similar public sentiments were reflected in a poll conducted just prior to the vote on the deal by the Pew Research Center.

Published under the title “Support for Iran Nuclear Agreement Falls,” the findings of the study revealed: “As Congress prepares to vote on the Iran nuclear agreement, public support for the deal has declined.

Currently, just 21% approve of the agreement on Iran’s nuclear program... Nearly half (49%) disapprove.”

Waning public support


Significantly, it would appear that the more the public knows about the deal, the more it opposes it. Thus, the Pew study found: “When opinion about the Iran nuclear agreement is based only on those who have heard about [it], opposition to the agreement exceeds support by more than a two-to-one margin (57% to 27%).”

Moreover, as time passes, support declines and opposition rises. According to the Pew study: “Among those aware of the Iran deal, the share approving of the agreement has declined 11 percentage points since July, while the percentage disapproving has risen nine points.”

The Washington Post, hardly the most Obamaphobic media vehicle, posted a flurry of poll results, all showing disintegrating support and mounting disapproval over time.

Thus, for example, a YouGov poll found that the number of respondents wanting the Senate to approve the deal plunged from 45% in mid-July to 37% in mid-August to a mere 23% in early September; while those wanting the Senate to disapprove rose steeply from 27% to 34% and then to 43% respectively.

Comparison with the results of Pew polls, conducted in July and September, show support falling from 33% to 21%, with opposition rising from 45% to 49%.

Other polls reflected similar trends of sagging support for the deal and growing public resistance to it.

Waning support among supporters

Thus, as The Washington Post noted, “support for the agreement consistently dropped over the summer,” and more significantly, “...the polls also reflect declining support among Democrats. By the beginning of September, there was barely a poll that, outside the margin of error, indicated majority support for the deal, let alone ‘strong’ support.”

Not even the most devoted sycophantic Obamaphile could attribute this to the fiendish malevolence of Bibi Netanyahu rather than to the troubling defects of the deal that kept emerging with the passage of time.

Indeed, the fading enthusiasm for the deal is clearly conveyed in the evolving rhetoric of the talking points, parroted by its apologists.

Initially, we were told that it was a “good deal” that “cut off all Iran’s pathways to a weapon”. However, soon it emerged that such optimism was, at best, dubious and, at worst, totally unfounded – and the tune changed. Now it was conceded that the deal was “flawed,” but the only alternative to war. When this mantra became a little threadbare, another, equally unpersuasive “rabbit” was pulled from the pro-deal spin-masters’ hat: The US’s credibility.

So the deal was no longer “a good deal,” and no longer “a flawed deal.” Now its only alleged “virtue” was that it was “a done deal” – which if not approved, would gravely undermine the US’s international standing.

Credo quia absurdum?

Incredibly, we are now being asked to swallow that if the noxious brew of incompetence, capitulation and self-obstruction is not approved, US credibility will be undermined.

This is an “argument” (for want of a better word) strongly reminiscent of the Latin phrase “Credo quia absurdum” (“I believe because it is absurd.”) For the contention is so transparently ridiculous, it can only be explained by blind faith, independent of reason and adherence to dogma despite all logic.

Indeed, one can think of nothing else that would undermine US credibility more than acceptance of the deal. For it not only vacates a string of UN resolutions, which, as Henry Kissinger pointed out in an appearance before the Senate Armed Services Committee, were designed “to deny Iran the capability to develop a military nuclear option,” but makes a mockery of previous robustly declared objectives of the administration itself.

After all, Obama himself pledged during his 2012 election campaign: “The deal we’ll accept is they end their nuclear program. It’s very straightforward.”

About a year later, the administration’s chief negotiator, Secretary of State John Kerry, told the House Foreign Affairs Committee that the whole point of imposing sanctions was to get “Iran [to] dismantle its nuclear program.”

It is difficult to conceive of anything that could erode US standing and credibility more than the dramatic abandonment of these clearly stated goals – unless of course it is the breathtaking incompetence with which the negotiations were conducted, the disingenuous manner in which they were presented, and the humiliating self-effacement with which their outcome was rationalized.

Negotiating for defeat


Indeed, it is hard to avoid the impression that the Obama team, headed by Kerry, was not really conducting negotiations with Iran over the terms of the deal, but with domestic adversaries and, of course, with Benjamin Netanyahu.

After all, it is difficult to otherwise understand why they were so eager to articulate public warnings/threats that if a deal, any deal, was not cut with Iran, the sanctions regime – that brought the Iranians to the table – would disintegrate.

Or why they were so ready to express their reluctance to confront Iran with a credible military threat – thereby clearly conveying to Tehran that (in the words of Henry Kissinger and George Shultz), “[t]he threat of war... constrains the West more than Iran.”

This is no way to negotiate victory, certainly not in the “Middle Eastern bazaar” and certainly not with a protagonist such as Iran.

For this ensured the mullahs that they had little to fear, either economically or militarily. Thus, as The Washington Post’s Michael Gerson wrote this week in a trenchantly entitled piece, “Iran thumbs its nose at the United States”: “In practice, this means that Iran can do whatever it damn well pleases because it knows the Americans are too invested in the deal to blow it up.”

A deal US is neither part of, nor privy to

But perhaps the most startling – indeed, staggering – aspect of the administration’s enthusiastic endorsement of the “deal” is that, in fact, it is neither really part of, nor privy to it! Firstly, the terms of the deal – aka the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – specifically exclude US personnel from the inspection process of Iranian sites, which will be under the auspices of the IAEA. Secondly, there are significant “side-deals” between the IAEA and Iran regarding the implementation of JCPOA that the US is not privy to, nor has any one of its senior officials even seen them.

This was made disturbingly clear from the embarrassingly bumbling appearances of Kerry and US Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz before the Senate Armed Services Committee (July 29). Both Kerry and Moniz – central figures in concluding the deal with Iran – admitted to never even seeing these side deals, nor of being aware of their contents.

Thus, we have an almost surreal situation emerging, in which the US administration calls on the US legislature to approve implementation of an agreement, which the US will not only be unable to verify, but will be unaware of what actually should be verified!! Although limitations of space preclude providing a full transcript of the hearing, I would urge readers to view the videos of the grilling of Kerry and Moniz to gauge the astounding ignorance/ineptitude that emerges from their lame responses to questions that go to the heart of the Iranian deal.

Please don’t peeve the mullahs

Indeed, in many ways, the manner in which the deal was concluded turns what would have been expected to be the normal order of things on its head.

Thus, instead of Iran having to prove its trustworthiness, the administration warned that it was the US that would have to prove its good faith to the ayatollahs – who, even the deal's proponents admit, have cheated on every previous agreement. Thus in an August 5 interview in The Atlantic, Kerry warned: “The ayatollah constantly believed that we are untrustworthy, that you can’t negotiate with us, that we will screw them. This [a congressional rejection] will be the ultimate screwing.”

In other words, no matter what the nature of the deal, the elected representatives of the American people should have no say in what is considered by many to be the “most consequential national security decision” in decades – regardless of how slovenly it was dealt with.

Moreover, instead of waiting for the Iranians to ratify the deal, before bringing it to Congress for approval, Obama rushed to the UN Security Council for endorsement of the deal – thereby undercutting the standing of the US legislature and the significance of its decision.

Now, with the sanctions regime essentially unraveled, what if the mullahs, who have yet to formally approve the deal, reject it? So much for concern for US credibility...

Can good faith be assumed?

Much has still been left unsaid. But even from what has been, troubling questions arise. After all, in the face of what seems almost incomprehensible incompetence, negligence and dereliction, it is becoming increasingly difficult to unquestioningly accept that the Obama administration conducted the negotiations with Iran in good faith.

Martin Sherman (www.martinsherman.org) is founder and executive director of the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies (www.strategic-israel.org).

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