One of the great thing about the Obama administration is that it is impossible to pick the biggest foreign or national security policy blunder. There are so many possible choices that even the harshest critic will be frozen, nay, knocked senseless by the magnitude of the task. Last night’s alleged State of the Union address, however, may signify a change: we may now be able to pick a superlative blunder.
Our diplomacy is at work with respect to Iran, where, for the first time in a decade, we’ve halted the progress of its nuclear program and reduced its stockpile of nuclear material. Between now and this spring, we have a chance to negotiate a comprehensive agreement that prevents a nuclear-armed Iran; secures America and our allies — including Israel; while avoiding yet another Middle East conflict. There are no guarantees that negotiations will succeed, and I keep all options on the table to prevent a nuclear Iran. But new sanctions passed by this Congress, at this moment in time, will all but guarantee that diplomacy fails — alienating America from its allies; and ensuring that Iran starts up its nuclear program again. It doesn’t make sense. That is why I will veto any new sanctions bill that threatens to undo this progress. The American people expect us to only go to war as a last resort, and I intend to stay true to that wisdom.
This falls into the category described by author Mary McCarthy in her feud with Lillian Hellman, “every word [Hellman] writes is a lie, including ‘and’ and ‘the’.” Sad to say, but the duplicity of the Iranians in pursuing a nuclear weapon has only been exceeded by the duplicity of the Obama administration in describing the status of the negotiations.
The facts are that we have not halted Iran’s nuclear program or reduced its stockpile. Iran’s nuclear program continues at full speed and their nuclear material stockpile has increased. Thanks to Obama relying on the good offices of Vladimir Putin and the ChiComs to negotiate an end to a nuclear program that is no threat to either of them, Iran has succeeded in evading most of the flaccid sanctions regime that has been imposed. A quick reference to what Iran has accomplished with the acquiescence of the Obama administration can be seen here:
(via The Israel Project)
So the status of our “negotiations” with Iran is pretty obvious.
Last night, though Obama announced an overt surrender to Iran in his threat to veto the bipartisan Kirk-Menendez bill. As the Washington Post editorial board noted, even when giving Obama the benefit of the doubt his position was nonsensical:
AS NEGOTIATIONS with Iran on its nuclear program resumed last week , President Obama reiterated his opposition to new sanctions legislation. The legislation, which has strong bipartisan support, could “undermine the negotiations” and isolate the United States from its allies, Mr. Obama said Friday. “Just hold your fire,” he urged Congress, vowing to veto the bill if it reached him.
The logic of that argument has always been a little hard to follow, since the measure the Senate is likely to take up, sponsored by Democrat Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) (N.J.) and Republican Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) (Ill.), would mandate new sanctions only if Iran failed to accept an agreement by the June 30 deadline established in the ongoing talks. Common sense suggests the certain prospect of more punishment for an already-damaged economy would make the regime of Ali Khamenei more rather than less likely to offer the concessions necessary for a deal.
We gave Mr. Obama’s argument the benefit of the doubt when Congress first considered the legislation more than a year ago. But the president’s logic has been undercut by the manifest willingness of the Iranians to adopt their own pressure tactics — including steps that are considerably more noxious than the threat of future sanctions. On the day before talks resumed between Secretary of State Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif last Wednesday, Tehran announced that construction has begun on two new nuclear reactors. The next day its news agency reported that the case of Washington Post correspondent Jason Rezaian, who has been imprisoned since July 22, had been referred to the Revolutionary Court for “processing.”
The State Department was quick to explain that Iran is not barred by United Nations resolutions or an interim nuclear agreement from building new reactors. Yet by announcing the construction, the regime is making clear its intention to continue expanding, rather than dismantling, its nuclear infrastructure. It’s also demonstrating that it’s not constrained from taking provocative steps during the course of the negotiations — even as the Obama administration argues that countervailing pressure would somehow be a deal breaker.
The Kirk-Menendez bill only goes into effect if the current negotiating round fails to produce results, that is, it goes into effect if the Obama negotiating strategy continues on course. Kirk-Menendez had 60 co-sponsors in the last Senate including the votes of 12 Democrats who remain in the Senate and Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) would not let it come to a vote because it was obvious that the Senate would override a veto. If these Democrats hold firm, the bill has sufficient votes to override any veto.
As Winston Churchill noted, “jaw-jaw is better than war-war.” The real question for Congress and for the American people is do we want an Iran with nuclear weapons and with ICBMs? Because unless Congress steps up Iran will be a nuclear military power before Obama leaves office.
Update: edited to reflect that the status of Kirk-Menendez in the last Congress.