In his testimony yesterday before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Secretary of State John Kerry refused to accept Sen. John McCain’s conclusion that he was heading for the “trifecta” of foreign policy flops on Syria, the “peace process” and Iran. The policies haven’t failed yet, insisted Kerry. Oh, really?
The Associated Press reports: “Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered his ministers Wednesday to cut off contact with their Palestinian counterparts, an official said, the latest in a series of troubles plaguing floundering U.S.-brokered peace talks. The move is retaliation for a Palestinian bid to join United Nations agencies, which the official said was a violation of the Palestinians’ commitment in the peace talks. The Palestinians dismissed the Israeli move, saying both sides rarely meet now as it is.” Not over yet? Kerry is sounding a bit like the Black Knight.
Moving on, we are not surprised to see that no deal between the P5+1 and Iran is anywhere in sight. Reuters reports:
Iran will never slow down its nuclear research program, the Islamic Republic’s clerical supreme leader said on Wednesday as negotiators from Tehran and six world powers struggled to narrow “significant gaps” blocking the way to a long-term deal.
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Tehran’s negotiating team should not yield to issues “forced upon them.”
“These negotiations should continue,” he told nuclear scientists in Tehran, the official IRNA news agency reported. “But all should know that negotiations will not stop or slow down any of Iran’s activities in nuclear research and development.”
Tehran denies suspicions that it is after nuclear weapons.
Nothing has changed in all the months (years, even) of talks. If Iran refuses to acknowledge it even has a nuclear weapons program, it is not going to give it up. Kerry operates in a world in which “no” never means “no.”
These reports lead to several conclusions. First, lawmakers who want to give Kerry “time to negotiate” with Iran are fooling themselves. In forgoing alternative steps in favor of fruitless negotiations, they are enabling the Iranians. Indeed, Kerry confirms that Iran’s breakout time is now only two months. Second, the time spent in the “peace process” has been a waste and, if anything, has frittered away whatever credibility Kerry had. Kerry’s initial impulse is invariably to blame Israel (before he resorts to moral equivalence), but in fact it’s the Palestinians who have refused to give up their hopes of a one-state (an Arab one) solution and now have gone in search of unilateral recognition. Here again, Congress should not sit idly by. The Palestinian Authority has broken its international agreements and should, as a result of its “unity government” with Hamas, lose at least some U.S. funding. (Those organizations that accept the PA should lose the benefit of U.S. membership as well as U.S. funding.) And finally, the reports confirm that Kerry’s false choice between his diplomatic dithering and war is nothing more than appeasement. We talk as foes (whether in Moscow, Damascus or Tehran) pursue their objectives with no U.S. response other than Kerry’s pleas for them to see that their interests would be best served by complying with our demands. (They obviously disagree.)
It’s long past the point at which Congress should weigh in. It can use its power to pass sanctions, exercise oversight and control funding. As to the latter, one specific step Congress can take is to reprioritize national security, sending a signal to other powers that the U.S. is willing to do what is necessary to protect its interests and project power. That, at least in the House, is already happening, as Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) explains:
Over the last five years, the Obama administration has asked for progressively fewer resources to support our national security. In 2011, then-secretary Bob Gates proposed a $178 billion “efficiency initiative.” In 2011, the President announced a further $400 billion reduction that grew to $487 billion in his 2012 budget request. In 2013, Secretary Chuck Hagel proposed yet another $120 billion reduction from the Budget Control Act’s “pre-sequester” caps. And this year, the President’s request is now about $184 billion lower than those caps.
These cuts have real-world consequences. If we adopted the President’s budget, the Army would shrink to its smallest size since World War II, the Navy to its smallest size since World War I, and the Air Force to its smallest size ever. Half of our cruiser fleet would be in dry dock. We would have to retire both the A-10 and U-2. And we would have just ten carrier strike groups.
In short, responsible Democrats and Republicans should reject the administration’s “trust me” foreign policy. And GOP lawmakers who have presidential ambitions now have a test: Will they double down on the Obama-Kerry-Hillary Clinton foreign policy or chart a new course?