Negotiating Triumph Over Obama and America
The U.S. is surrendering
control of verification to the United Nations, where our influence is weak.
By Reuel Marc Gerecht and Mark
Wall Street Journal
April 3, 2015
President Obama believes that
the nuclear “framework” concluded Friday in Switzerland is a historic
achievement. Iran’s foreign minister, Javad Zarif, says he believes the same.
Those two positions are incompatible.
Mr. Zarif is also a loyal
servant of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who believes that the West, in
particular the U.S., and Iran are locked in a “collision of evil and evil ways
on one side and the path of . . . religious obedience and devotion on the
other,” as he said in July 2014.
The supreme leader says the
Islamic Republic has a divine calling to lead Muslims away from the West and its
cultural sedition. The Obama administration has never adequately explained why
Mr. Zarif’s relentlessly ideological boss would sell out a three-decade effort
to develop nuclear weapons.
The defensive and offensive
strategies of the Islamic Republic, given the chronic weakness of its
conventional military, ultimately make sense only if nuclear weapons are added
to the mix. The American, French and Israeli governments have compiled fat files
on the clerical regime’s nuclear-weapons drive. No one who has read this
material can possibly believe Iranian assertions about the nuclear program’s
peaceful birth and intent. The history of this effort has involved North Korean
levels of dishonesty, with clandestine plants, factories and procurement
networks that successfully import highly sensitive nuclear equipment, even from
A White House less desperate
to make a deal would consider how easily nuclear agreements with bad actors are
circumvented. Charles Duelfer has written a trenchant account
in Politico of how Saddam Hussein tied the United Nations Security Council and
its nuclear inspectors into knots in the 1990s, rendering them incapable of
ascertaining the truth about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction.
The inspections regime in Iran
envisioned by the Obama administration will not even come close to the
intrusiveness of the failed inspections in Iraq. Worse, once sanctions are
lifted and billions of dollars of Iranian trade starts to flow again to European
and Asian companies, the U.S. likely will be dealing with a U.N. even more
politically divided, and more incapable of action, than in the days of Saddam
and the run-up to the Iraq war in 2003.
In an effort to circumvent
possible congressional disapproval of his deal-making, Mr. Obama is voluntarily
surrendering control of the implementation and verification of any agreement to
the Security Council, where American leadership and influence are weak. The
U.N.’s International Atomic Energy Agency, a decent little outfit of underpaid
and underfunded bureaucrats and inspectors, can do good work when the Security
Council is unified. The IAEA’s utility plummets when the council is divided.
The nuclear deal with Iran
will now obviously go through without the clerical regime having to answer all
of the questions that the IAEA still has about the “possible military
dimensions,” or PMDs, of Iran’s nuclear program. It is perverse to think
that the IAEA, having been successfully thwarted by Iran in the past, can now
serve as a safeguard against future Iranian cheating.
The president’s much-hyped
“snap-back” economic sanctions, now the only coercive instrument Mr. Obama
has against Iranian noncompliance, will also surely fall victim to the Security
Council’s politics and human greed. Already the Russians are resisting any
snap-back provision that will neutralize their rogue-regime-protecting veto.
The sanctions against Iran are
the product of years of dogged effort and good luck (especially the increase in
oil supplies). Mr. Obama now seems likely to abandon his position that sanctions
be lessened over years to test Iranian compliance. And once strictures are
loosened, with major international, especially European, corporations competing
for the Iranian market, it will be politically impossible to demand that these
companies leave again.
Worse, Mr. Obama’s nuclear
deal will fracture the Western alliance against Tehran. Most egregiously, we
will lose the French, who have, despite their abysmal economy and the political
chaos of the European Union, tried to hold a firm line against Iranian nuclear
aspirations and Mr. Obama’s reflex for concessions. Faced with other countries
rushing to the Iranian market and Americans who have given up the fight, the
French will probably abandon us, as they did with Iraq 20 years ago. Without the
French, economic sanctions on Iran would never have had much European bite.
Critics of Mr. Obama’s
efforts are going to get lost in the technical details of this “framework”
agreement. Yet behind all the one-year breakout calculations, the enormous
question marks about verification and PMDs, and sustainable snap-back
provisions, the ultimate issue remains: Are you willing to threaten war to get a
better deal, and prepared to preventively strike if Tehran moves toward a bomb?
Whatever chance American
negotiators had of stopping the Iranian nuclear advance depended on this threat,
as Iranian President Hasan Rouhani revealed in his writings when he was in
charge of nuclear negotiations with the Europeans after the U.S. invasion of
Iraq in 2003.
“The fundamental principle
in Iran’s relations with America—our entire focus—is national strength,”
wrote Mr. Rouhani in an academic article in December 2003. “Strength in
politics, culture, economics, and defense—especially in the field of advanced
technology—is the basis for the preservation and overall development of the
System, and will force the enemy to surrender.”
Mr. Obama has never understood
this, nor has he been prepared to act accordingly. He has barely been prepared
to call for more sanctions against the mullahs.
Barring the Iranian supreme
leader’s ever-present ability simply to say “no,” this nuclear framework
agreement will probably hold unless 67 U.S. senators—the number needed to
overcome a presidential veto—are prepared to see these talks collapse. Is the
putative leader of Senate Democrats on Iran, Charles Schumer, willing to walk
away from the president’s handiwork, and oblige him to threaten war if Mr.
Khamenei does something untoward?
Surely not. In all the
framework’s details, the senator, and so many others, will find hope, like a
pilgrim in the desert looking at the horizon and seeing a mirage.