President Obama’s interim deal with Iran is so bad that he has to keep it secret. No, really. The Los Angeles Times reports: “Key elements of a new nuclear agreement between Iran and six world powers are contained in an informal, 30-page text not yet publicly acknowledged by Western officials, Iran’s chief negotiator said Monday.” The implementation deal itself has not been released or shared with members of Congress. (“White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Monday that the text of the implementing agreement would be released to lawmakers. He said the six parties were weighing how much of the text they could release publicly.”) The LA. Times report explains, “The nonpaper deals with such important details as the operation of a joint commission to oversee how the deal is implemented and Iran’s right to continue nuclear research and development during the next several months. . . .” The latter issue is a major sticking point with the Israelis and U.S. members of Congress. The United States says Iranians can do only “paper and pen” research (whatever that is); the Iranians say they can do whatever they please. The text of the agreement remains hidden from view.
This bizarre situation has the White House crying that the House and Senate members who favor increased sanctions are welcoming war. The president demands we give diplomacy a chance but won’t tell us what his diplomacy has produced. Needless to say, no negotiation of such magnitude has been as concealed from Congress and the American people. Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), the co-author of a series of sanctions laws — all opposed at some point by the administration — is demanding the White House release the deal, to no avail.
Not surprisingly, members of Congress and outside experts are blasting the administration. In an interview on Fox News, sanctions expert Mark Dubowitz of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies said the deal was filled with “major loopholes the Iranians are going to exploit,” specifically citing the research provision. He quoted the Iranian negotiators’ public claims that the deal is entirely reversible and that Iran will never give up its nuclear architecture.
It is not without justification then that former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton dubs the president’s approach to Iran “a disaster.” He argues:
The Geneva agreement, involving the Security Council’s five permanent members plus Germany, effectively legitimized Iran’s uranium-enrichment activities and other aspects of its nuclear program, enabling Tehran to continue progressing toward a nuclear-weapons capability at a pace of its choosing. The deal did not in any way address Iran’s ongoing weaponization work or its ballistic-missile program, the intended delivery system for its nuclear warheads.
Iran also succeeded in weakening the international sanctions regimes imposed to thwart its nuclear program, an enormous economic and psychological win. Loosening the sanctions provides Iran with immediate economic benefits and also reverses the global political dynamic, making it harder to ratchet the sanctions back up during the undoubtedly lengthy process of Iran reneging on the superficial and easily reversible concessions made in the Geneva negotiations.
Couple that with the president’s failure to leave a residual force in Iraq (“collapse of political legitimacy in Iraq is directly traceable to Obama’s determination — clear from the 2008 campaign — to withdraw all U.S. troops”) and his acquiescence to a chemical weapons deal with Syria, which has given the “beleaguered regime renewed legitimacy,” and you have an Iran policy that in effect, if not in intent, has bolstered Iran at every turn, abandoned non-jihadi opponents and imperiled Israel.
The administration is now in panic, afraid Congress will act on sanctions, bringing his appeasement of Iran to an end and forcing him to confront Iran’s nuclear threat and regional ambitions. For a president whose entire modus operandi has been conflict avoidance, even to the point of deceiving Congress, this — not Iran’s nuclear ambitions — is cause for alarm.
Given this alarming picture, it is not surprising that senators are pushing for sanctions — or that the White House is furiously trying to block them. The New York Times reports:
The White House has cast the issue in stark terms, saying that a vote for new sanctions would be, in effect, a “march toward war” and challenging those lawmakers who support the bill to acknowledge publicly that they favor military action against Iran. . . . Yet senators from both parties angrily reject that characterization, saying that congressional pressure to impose sanctions is what brought Iran to the negotiating table to begin with. If anything, they said, the West needs the specter of more sanctions as a “diplomatic insurance policy,” in case Iran reneges on the interim deal or the talks ultimately fail.
Behind these positions is a potent mix of political calculations in a midterm election year. Pro-Israel groups like the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or Aipac, have lobbied Congress to ratchet up the pressure on Iran, and many lawmakers are convinced that Tehran is bluffing in its threat to walk away from the talks.
The administration would have a whole lot more credibility if it had stood up to Iran at some point — on anything. But members of Congress can see what the mullahs see: This is a president who has zero staying power, no inclination to carry through on threats, a willingness to undermine the U.N. resolutions that call for dismantling of Iran’s illegal nuclear power, a disturbing habit of repeating Iranian talking points (e.g. falsely claiming there is a fatwa against nuclear arms) and now a record of trading easily reversible Iran moves for substantial concessions. Why would any lawmaker who really cares about stopping Iran — and frankly stopping the dangerous drift toward acquiescence to the world’s largest state sponsor of terror — take a “trust me” from the White House? The Israelis and our Gulf allies sure aren’t.