Our goal is to get Iran to recognize it needs to give up its nuclear program and abide by the UN resolutions that have been in place...the deal we’ll accept is: They end their nuclear program. It’s very straightforward.
– Barack Hussein Obama, October 2012, presidential election debate
I don’t think that any of us thought we were just imposing these sanctions for the sake of imposing them. We did it because we knew that it would hopefully help Iran dismantle its nuclear program. That was the whole point of the [sanctions] regime.
– John Kerry, before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, December 2013
As details emerge on the deal concluded with Iran last week in Vienna, the full extent of its calamitous significance is coming to light. Indeed, it appears that when, shortly after the announcement of the agreement, Benjamin Netanyahu described it as a “stunning, historic mistake,” he was grossly understating the case.
What took place in the Austrian capital was nothing less than a catastrophic failure of strategic resolve on the part of the US-led West. It was a craven capitulation on a calamitous scale, which, as time passes, looks less like an unintended mistake and more like an act of deliberate design.
After all, there was an enormous disparity of power and wealth between the protagonists, between the economically emaciated Iran, on the one hand, and the wealthy industrial powers on the other. Yet the side that desperately needed the deal, Iran, prevailed over the side that didn’t, but which desperately wanted it, the P5+1.
The result was an appalling document without a single redeeming feature.
It will not accomplish any of the goals that it purports to achieve. Likewise, it will not preclude any of perils it purports to prevent.
As such it might be seen as grotesque perversion of the slogan “Hope and Change” that swept Obama to power: For while its success is predicated on forlorn hopes of Iranian compliance, it ushers in the virtual certainty of disastrous change in Iranian capabilities.‘... you’re going to hear a lot of dishonest arguments’
During his July 18 address to the American nation, Obama extolled the alleged merits of the Iran deal, alerting viewers: “... still, you’re going to hear a lot of overheated and often dishonest arguments about it.”
He is, of course, quite right. However, many – if not most – the “dishonest arguments” come from him – and his sycophantic minions, who, with almost Pavlovian reflexes, endorse any claptrap the White House might happen to claim.
Indeed, Obama and his administration’s officials have violated virtually every principle that they laid out in the past as to the nature of any acceptable agreement, and have grossly misrepresented the “achievements” of the one eventually conceded.
As the opening excerpts demonstrate, barely a year-and-half ago, the unequivocal goal of the Obama administration was the termination of the Iranian nuclear program and the dismantling of its nuclear facilities – as specified in six preceding UN resolutions.
Yet today, these goals are dismissed by the very people who set them, as mere “fantasy.”
Thus, in his July 14 statement in Vienna to announce the deal, Secretary of State John Kerry dismissed the goals he himself stipulated before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, in December 2013, as “not achievable outside a world of fantasy.”More ‘…dishonest arguments’
Just how gravely the White House has misled the public is starkly reflected in Obama’s July 18 address. He proclaimed: “This week the United States and our international partners finally achieved what decades of animosity has not, a deal that will prevent Iran from attaining a nuclear weapon.”
This is patently untrue. It will not prevent Tehran’s theocratic tyranny from attaining weaponized nuclear capability, even if it deigns to adhere to the unverifiable and unenforceable inspection agreement, which it is ideo-religiously sanctioned – even, mandated – to violate, because it was concluded with “infidels.”
Even by the administration’s own admission it will merely delay Iran. Thus in a April 7 PBS interview, Obama conceded that the deal, even if adhered to, will pave, rather than prevent, Iran’s way to weaponized nuclear capability, baldly admitting that in barely a decade “the breakout times would have shrunk almost down to zero.”
Flying in the face of fact and reason, Obama, with breathtaking disregard for the truth, claimed that a deal, which provided up to $150 billion to the largest state sponsor of terrorism and sets an end to embargoes on conventional arms and ballistic missile technology on it “will make America and the world safer and more secure...”Yet more dishonesty…
Disturbingly, it was none other than Obama who in an April 2 White House statement pledged that, notwithstanding impending sanction relief on the nuclear issues, “other American sanctions on Iran [including] for its ballistic missile program will continue to be fully enforced...” But they weren’t.
On this very issue, immediately prior to the announcement of the deal, The New York Times reported that “Obama’s secretary of defense, Ashton B. Carter... told Congress that part of the ban, on technology for ballistic missiles, was critical to America’s own security.” (July 10) Testifying alongside Carter before the Senate Armed Services Committee, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, expressed grave concern over the ballistic missile and conventional arms issue. He was adamant that “Under no circumstances should we relieve pressure on Iran relative to ballistic missile capabilities and arms trafficking...”
Yet to cut a deal with Tehran, Obama backpedaled, and in blatant contradiction to his own pledge, and to the unequivocal positions of the most senior figures in his security establishment, set deadlines for ending the sanctions on both conventional arms and ballistic missiles – all in an endeavor to “make America and the world safer and more secure.”Sanctions: So much for ‘snap’
In an effort to convince skeptics of the merits of his approach, Obama has frequently contended that “If Iran violates the deal sanctions can be snapped back into place.”
Yet he warned that “Without a deal, the international sanctions regime will unravel, with little ability to reimpose them.”
Hmmm. The ease with which the administration’s claim that sanctions could be “snapped back” is difficult to reconcile with the claim that the very same sanctions could not be maintained if America held out for a more demanding agreement that was in fact consistent with the objectives for which the sanctions were initially imposed – i.e. termination of Iran’s nuclear program and dismantlement of its nuclear facilities.
But be that as it may, as numerous pundits have pointed out, this “snap back” claim is as deceptive as it is detached from the realities on the ground. Last week I cited former secretaries of state Henry Kissinger and George Shultz, who warned of the dangers of being lulled into complacency by “theoretical models of inspection,” which take no account of the daunting difficulties entailed in “[e]nforcing compliance, week after week” over long periods and across vast tracts of territory; and of eliciting international agreement as to the significance of any act deemed to be an alleged violation.
Strongly corroborating the Kissinger-Shultz caveat is an article published days after the announcement of the Vienna deal by Olli Heinonen, senior fellow at Harvard University’s Kennedy School and former deputy director-general for safeguards at IAEA, and Simon Henderson, director of the Gulf and Energy Policy Program at the Washington Institute.
Stridently titled, “There’s a huge problem with Obama’s claims about Iranian nuclear breakout under a final deal,” the article warns, “Even without hidden facilities, establishing most any Iranian violation of the agreement would likely take several months. First, the IAEA and respective agencies in Washington would have to come to that technical judgment; toward that end, inspectors would need timely access anywhere at any time to confirm such findings.
The next step would be to get the political leadership to accept that judgment, then sell the conclusion to the international community.”
So much for “snap.”Distrust of allies, disdain of adversaries
Yet another ludicrous claim is made in Obama’s July 15 press conference: “Without [this] deal, we risk even more war in the Middle East, and other countries in the Middle East would feel compelled to develop their own nuclear weapons.”
Nothing could be further from the truth.
For indeed, the deep distrust that this deal has fostered in US allies and the equally deep disdain it has fermented in US adversaries will virtually guarantee a spiraling arms race across the region – both conventional and unconventional.
After all, as manifest US flaccidity erodes the confidence of allies in American resolve to safeguard their security and emboldens adversaries to undertake aggression with relative impunity – or at least, at bearable cost – friend and foe will rush to arm themselves.
As countries such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey and the Gulf states see the US presenting the lenient Vienna deal, with its far-reaching concessions to Iran, as “the best possible alternative,” there will be little to deter them from embarking on the own quest for similar capabilities – and much to induce them to do so, especially in light of their dwindling confidence in the US.
Unless one believes that, on having its uncompromising stance vindicated by the US-led P5+1 abandoning one redline after another, the ayatollahs will suddenly embrace a softer more humane approach, there is only one plausible working assumption to adopt: By generously replenishing the coffers of the current regime, the deal will assure that much of these resources will be channeled to enhance Iran’s military capabilities and those of its violent anti- US proxies across the region, forcing their adversaries to respond in kind.
I can see how readers might have a tough time understanding just how all this will, as Obama claims, “make America and the world safer and more secure.”The worst whopper: ‘No better alternative’
Obama’s alleged ace-in-the-hole is the baseless baloney that opponents of the deal have offered no better alternative. It is a claim that is, at once, infuriating and disingenuous.
It is disingenuous because it was none other than Obama who laid out the alternative to the current deal – which assures Iran’s weaponized nuclear capability, provides funds to propagate terrorism and to destabilize pro-US regimes. Indeed, it was Obama himself who proclaimed that “no deal is better than a bad deal.”
So it is not that there was no alternative – it was merely that Obama was so eager to reach an agreement he was ready to accept almost any deal.
It is not that opponents of the deal did not offer cogent alternatives. It was that the proponents deemed that anything that Iran did not agree to was impractical/unfeasible.
Clearly, if the underlying assumption is that the only practical outcome is a consensual one rather that a coercive one – say of intensified sanctions, backed by a credible threat of military action – then the proponents might be right that there was no available alternative.
But they are cutting the ground from under their own feet. For if the US and its allies cannot confront Tehran with a credible specter of punitive, coercive action, there is no inducement for it to adhere to the deal – making its future abrogation inevitable.
Making regime change more remote
Of course if one wishes to see a durable, non-militarized solution to the Iranian crisis, perhaps the only conceivable avenue is regime change and installation of a more moderate, Western-oriented government.
But by greatly empowering and enriching the incumbent theocracy, the deal cut last week makes such a prospect incalculably more remote.
In the words of Saba Farzan, a German-Iranian journalist and director of a Berlin think tank, published in The Jerusalem Post: “The Vienna deal bears a very grave danger for Iran’s civil society. Not only won’t we see their economic situation improve, but the regime will also have an incentive to abuse human rights more severely. A flood of cash is going into the pockets of this leadership.
It will be used to tighten their grip [on power] and to further imprison, torture and kill innocent Iranians.”
She is, of course, right – and that is one of the greatest tragedies of the travesty concocted in Vienna last week.
Martin Sherman (www.martinsherman.net) is founder and executive director of the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies. (www.strategicisraelorg)