The administration’s bungling on Iran makes for strange bedfellows.
From the cold-eyed school of realism, France is making known that the interim deal is problematic and can’t be the basis of a final deal. The Wall Street Journal reports that France’s foreign minister Laurent Fabius is skeptical that what we are doing will disarm Iran. He is quoted as saying, “We have to implement honestly the first phase. . . . “Then my main concern is the second phase. It is unclear if the Iranians will accept to definitively abandon any capacity of getting a weapon or only agree to interrupt the nuclear program.”
And that really is the rub. Iran has not been required to admit to and account for its illegal weapons or to take irreversible steps to disable it. France now is sounding the same red line as Israel — namely, that the issue is “breakout capacity” and not an actual weapon. (“Mr. Fabius said Western powers need to focus their efforts on how to deprive Iran of ‘breakout capacity,’ the ability to restart a bomb-making program from dormant nuclear sites and make a quick dash to a weapon before world powers can react. ‘What is at stake is to ensure that there is no breakout capacity,’ Mr. Fabius said.”) France’s own experience in negotiating with Iran and seeing it renege informs his skepticism that Iran will negotiate away its nuclear program.
While France appeals to cold-hard reason, the moral clarity is provided by Elie Wiesel, who took out an ad in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal. (The last time he did this was to denounce the administration’s “condemnation” of Israel for building in its capital.) Like the French, Wiesel lets it be known he doesn’t trust the mullahs: “If there is one lesson I hope the world has learned from the past it is that regimes rooted in brutality must never be trusted. And the words and actions of the leadership of Iran leave no doubt as to their intentions.” He then implores Congress to act:
I appeal to President Obama and Congress to demand, as a condition of continued talks, the total dismantling of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure and the regime’s public and complete repudiation of all genocidal intent against Israel. And I appeal to the leaders of the United States Senate to go forward with their vote to strengthen sanctions against Iran until these conditions have been met.
I once wrote that history has taught us to trust the threats of our enemies more than the promises of our friends. Our enemies are making serious threats. It is time to take them seriously. It is time for our friends to keep their promises.
That appeal is aimed squarely at the administration’s attempt to squirm away from three presidents’ policy and six United Nations resolutions, all of which say Iran can not keep its illegal enrichment program. Why can’t that be adhered to? Well, the Iranians won’t do it. Aside from acknowledging that it has therefore let the Iranian threat get totally out of hand, the White House in effect takes military force off the table. That was the ultimate guarantor of Iran’s compliance and now we say compliance is impossible. Ergo: Military force is no longer an option. (Some of us never believed it was for this president.)
The pressure from both France and Wiesel illustrate the two compelling critiques of the Obama policy: It won’t work (say the French) and it is a repudiation, says Wiesel, by America of its solemn promise to Israel and the world that the nuclear threat of a genocidal regime would be eliminated. If you want to talk legacy, how they handle Iran, arguably will be the single most important thing the president and Congress will do in their tenure in public office. Sometimes it takes a foreign power and an adopted citizen to remind us that the stakes are huge and America must act wisely and morally.