Buy the Democrats’ New Tough Talk on Iran
By Danielle Pletka and Stuart
The Daily Beast
September 14, 2015
A strange thing happened once Democrats secured enough votes in
Congress to ensure survival of President Obama’s landmark Iran
nuclear deal: a major escalation of aggressive war talk directed at
the Islamic Republic.
not just from Dick
Cheney. Or Democrats who opposed the deal. But from Democrats who
formally the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
Senator Bob Casey of Pennsylvania,
for example, says the deal failed to compel Iran to “forgo its intention to
develop nuclear weapons,” and that the only way to “prevent or destroy [the]
Iranian nuclear threat” is a “credible threat of a U.S. military strike to
destroy any Iranian nuclear weapons infrastructure completely.”
Senator Joe Donnelly of Indiana
lamented that the deal has likely not forestalled the day “when we are left
with no alternative but to take military action to prevent Iran from crossing
the nuclear threshold.” Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal agrees—and
says he supports the agreement so that if and when military force is needed, the
United States will not act alone, but with “a coalition of allies and
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary
Clintontakes it one step further, calling for a new “declaratory
policy” by the United States that it will “not hesitate to take military
action” if Iran violates its commitments or is seen as working toward a bomb.
There is, of course, nothing wrong
with backing up diplomacy with threats, or even use of force. Frederick the
Great memorably explained that “Diplomacy without arms is like music without
is unusual here is that all of this sabre-rattling is coming
Consider for a moment where Iran
was at the start of the secret negotiations in 2012.
The Iranian regime had just
emerged from a major political crisis, the so-called Green Movement uprisings.
And its economy was in tatters, partly a result of gross mismanagement, partly a
result of new congressionally imposed sanctions. In the region, the Arab Spring
was gearing up, and not necessarily turning to Iran’s advantage.
Tehran’s only Arab ally, Syrian
al-Assad, faced an existential crisis. Sunni Islamists from Egypt to
Libya to Yemen were gaining in strength, and the Islamic Republic looked
Iran, in short, was on the
ropes—politically, economically, and diplomatically. And it was then that
Tehran began hinting it was finally ready to consider relief from sanctions in
return for major concessions on its nuclear program. In other words, the United
States was in a prime negotiating position.
The language out of the White
House at the time was that the United States was willing to trade the
dismantling of sanctions for the dismantling of Iran’s nuclear program, or as
John Kerry put it in 2013, the goal of “imposing these sanctions” was to get
Iran to “dismantle its nuclear program.”
Well, not quite. Rather, the goal
of imposing those sanctions was, we know now, for Iran to keep its entire
nuclear infrastructure, but mothball a few thousand centrifuges and the core of
its plutonium reactor for a decade.
In fact, the JCPOA took an Iran
that was on the ropes and pulled it off of them—to the tune of more than $150
billion in immediate sanctions relief. To hear the deal’s proponents tell it,
this leaves us in a much better, safer place than we were a year ago. A safer
place, it should be noted, that apparently demands billions in new arms sales
from the United States to Iran’s neighbors. A safer place where the very
proponents of a new “opening” with Iran are now leading the charge to flex
America’s muscles and issue new threats of war.
The question is, why, now, are any such threats credible?
Consider that while President
Obama insisted at every juncture that “all options are on the table” vis-à-vis
Iran, he ignored the aggressive escalation of the Iranian nuclear program; a
dramatic jump in Iranian support for terrorist groups, including the insertion
of its proxy Hezbollah into the Syrian war to defend Assad; and its meddling
from Yemen to Gaza to Bahrain in order to destabilize the region.
Also consider that in response to
the use of chemical weapons by Iranian proxy Assad, something the President
publically warned was a “red line” for him, Mr. Obama famously backed down
on his threat to launch military strikes. Indeed, not only were all military
options not on the table, even coercive economic measures were anathema to the
Obama White House. Notwithstanding ex post facto efforts of both Mr. Obama and
Mrs. Clinton to take credit, both staunchly opposed bipartisan Congressional
moves to tighten sanctions against Iran over the past five years.
So now, recognizing that one of
the main byproducts of the JCPOA is a newly empowered Iran, a group of erstwhile
Democratic doves are seeking to restore American credibility. Unfortunately, as
Tehran figured out some time ago, their threats are empty, American deterrence
is in tatters, and even though this time they say they really, really mean it,
in fact most options for this administration will remain off the table. Music
without instruments, sound and fury signifying nothing.