There was a
better alternative to his deal. He never pursued it.
The Wall Street Journal
The Wall Street Journal
July 15, 2015
July 15, 2015
The debate is
raging over President Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran, and Mr. Obama held a
rare press conference Wednesday to say that “99% of the world community”
agrees with him. Then why bother with a press conference? Mr. Obama made other
claims we’ll address in coming days, but for today it’s worth rebutting his
assertion that “none” of his critics “have presented to me or the American
people a better alternative.”
Mr. Obama resorted to his familiar default of the false political choice.
“There really are only two alternatives here. Either the issue of Iran
obtaining a nuclear weapon is resolved diplomatically through a negotiation or
it’s resolved through force, through war. Those are—those are the
options,” Mr. Obama said. He added that no better deal was or is possible than
the one he has negotiated.
knows there has always been an alternative to his diplomacy of concessions
because many critics have suggested it. It’s called coercive diplomacy, and it
might have worked to get a better deal if Mr. Obama had tried it.
sanctions regime, which finally started to get tough in December 2011. By 2013
Iran had an official inflation rate of some 35%, its currency was falling, and
its dollar reserves were estimated to be down to $20 billion. Mr. Obama had
resisted those sanctions, only to take credit for them when Congress insisted
and they began to show results in Tehran.
Yet Mr. Obama
still resisted calls to put maximum pressure on Iran. He gave waivers to
countries like Japan to import Iranian oil. He was reluctant to impose sanctions
on global financial institutions that did business with Iran (especially Chinese
banks that offered Tehran access to foreign currency). The U.S. could have gone
much further to blacklist parts of Iran’s economy run by the Revolutionary
Guard Corps. A bipartisan majority in Congress was prepared to impose more
sanctions this year, but Mr. Obama refused as he rushed for a second-term deal.
Mr. Obama now
argues that the sanctions could not have been maintained, and that they are sure
to collapse if Congress scuttles his deal. But there was no sign sanctions were
collapsing as long as the U.S. continued to keep the pressure on. And to the
extent support did weaken, one reason was the momentum of Mr. Obama’s
negotiations. The more the U.S. gave the impression that it desperately wanted a
deal, the more other countries and businesses began to maneuver for
This is the
opposite of coercive diplomacy, which shows determination so an adversary under
pressure concludes that it must make more concessions. This is the diplomacy
Ronald Reagan practiced with the Soviets, refusing to budge on missile defenses
at the 1986 Reykjavik Summit despite pressure from 99% of the world to do so.
The Soviets were soon back at the negotiating table.
could also have pressured Iran on other fronts, the way Reagan did the Soviets
by arming enemies of its proxies. The U.S. could have armed the Free Syrian Army
to defeat Iran’s allied Assad regime in Damascus, and it could have helped
Israel enforce U.N. Resolution 1701 that imposes an arms embargo on Hezbollah in
Mr. Obama conceded that Iran supplies Hezbollah and Assad, while implying he
could do nothing about it. The truth is that he chose to do nothing
because he didn’t want to offend Iran and jeopardize his nuclear talks.
Instead he should have increased the pressure across the board to assist the
negotiations and get a better deal.
As for Mr.
Obama’s false choice of war and diplomacy, the truth is that war becomes less
likely when diplomacy is accompanied by the credible threat of war. The
President removed that credible threat from Iran by insisting war was the only
(bad) alternative to his diplomacy, as well as by threatening force against
Syria only to erase his own “red line.” In May Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei
boasted that the U.S. military “can’t do a damn thing” against Iran. He
understood his negotiating partner all too well.
Mr. Obama is now presenting his deeply flawed deal to Congress and the public as a fait accompli that must be embraced or war will result. Congress shouldn’t be any more impressed by his false ultimatums than the Iranians were by his weak diplomacy.