The announcement that the Iran talks would be continued — with additional sanctions relief on oil, petrochemicals, auto, aviation and gold — was met with predictably harsh bipartisan criticism.
Michael Makovsky, chief executive of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (which recently put out its Iran task force report co-authored by the president’s former adviser on Iran, Dennis Ross) tells Right Turn, “The recent four-month extension of a January 20 interim deal with Iran, greased by the promised release of additional $2.8 billion in frozen Iranian assets, marks a significant but predictable failure for President Obama’s befuddling strategy of seeking diplomatic success through reduction of leverage — by eschewing tougher sanctions and a credible military option.” The result is the exact opposite of the president’s policy objective.” Iran feels less compelled to make concessions now than before the interim deal,” he explains. “It’s time for an intervention of sorts: Congress should impose new overwhelming sanctions and, more importantly, augment the military capability of Israel to strike Iran’s nuclear facilities. This would strengthen American diplomatic leverage, send a strong signal to Iran and our allies and, if needed, help Israel succeed in the role that the U.S. has seemingly abdicated.”
Many former policy experts agree. Former deputy national security adviser Elliott Abrams makes the case that “it is critical now for Congress to act, imposing crippling sanctions on Iran to go into effect in four months unless a good deal is reached. Iran must be told that it cannot stretch the talks out, one delay after another, and must abandon its nuclear weapons program or face economic privation starting this year. As of now they simply do not believe that.”
The bipartisan United Against a Nuclear Iran (of which Ross is a member) also blasted the president. A statement co-authored by Gary Samore, Obama’s former coordinator for arms control and weapons of mass destruction, commonly referred to as the WMD “czar” read: “To date, the economic benefits accrued to Iran are greater than what was contemplated in the [Joint Plan of Action]. While the state of the Iranian economy remains in difficulty, Iran’s economy has improved and the regime’s diplomatic isolation has lessened. So far, however, Iran has not shown a willingness to dismantle any of its uranium enrichment capabilities and it continues to research and develop missile delivery systems and advanced centrifuges.” The statement continued:
The course of the negotiations has revealed a clear gap on the most important issue — the number and type of centrifuges. With its current enrichment capacity, Iran’s breakout time to produce fissile material for a bomb remains at a few months. However, Iran has been unwilling to consider a reduction in its current capacity, and the Supreme Leader recently proclaimed that Iran seeks a much larger enrichment program. This is unacceptable. If Iran remains unwilling to dismantle its nuclear infrastructure, forgo an industrial-scale enrichment program and address the ongoing questions about the military dimensions of its nuclear program, there is little potential for a diplomatic resolution.
They therefore recommend that P5+1 group of international powers continues to insist that “Iran remains closed for business and that the uncertainty surrounding these nuclear negotiations makes the business climate in Iran far too risky for responsible businesses to return; ensure existing sanctions are enforced more aggressively; and agree on decisive sanctions that would constitute a virtual economic blockade of Iran should Iran fail to agree to an acceptable deal over the term of the extended negotiation.” The UANI supports these steps so that the current “state of diplomatic inertia . . . [does] not become the new status quo.”
It is stunning that two of the president’s former top advisers on the subject have so obviously lost faith in the president’s handling of negotiations and have openly embraced the same measure virtually all Republicans and a large number of Democrats have advocated. The White House has called those pushing for additional sanctions to increase pressure on Iran “war mongers.” That is an untrue and vile accusation against his former senior aides and figures like Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) Rather than name-calling, the White House needs to listen to the broadest bipartisan majority on any topic these days, which is telling him that the Iranians are playing him and that his refusal to increase pressure on Iran makes a diplomatic agreement less, not more, likely.
I suspect, however, the president doesn’t much care what experts, ex-advisers, Sunni Arab leaders and the Israeli government have to say. He’s got flunkies like senior adviser Valerie Jarrett and the hapless Secretary of State John Kerry telling him he’s been a great success. In any event, we’ve seen time and time again this president has not the nerve nor the spine to stand up to international bullies.
We can only hope that a new Republican Senate majority will come along and allow a vote on sanctions, and this and the threat of Israeli military action is enough to prevent Iran from realizing its nuclear ambitions. Left to their own devices, Obama and Kerry will preside over a de facto policy of containment, which many of us suspected was the game plan all along.
UPDATE: AIPAC has weighed in as well with unusually strong language for this group. It pronounced itself “deeply disappointed” and in essence told the White House, “We told you so.” (“We have been concerned from the outset that Iran would drag out talks to improve its position, and Tehran has actually enjoyed some economic improvement as a result of sanctions relief in the Joint Plan of Action. In addition, during the last six months, Iran has continued both enriching uranium and conducting research and development on advanced centrifuges. . . . We must find new means to step up pressure on Tehran. And Iran must verifiably dismantle its nuclear weapons program or face harsh consequences for its ongoing violations of treaty commitments and international law.)