Once again President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry are learning that simply proclaiming their desires is not a foreign policy. Indeed, the more empty threats and grand pronouncements they make, the less influence they have. So it is with the Gaza conflict.
The president declares that an immediate truce is necessary. Kerry second-guesses Israeli efforts to root out terror tunnels and arms hidden among civilians. (“Hell of a pinpoint operation,” he sneers.) Kerry arrives in the region and is reminded that Israel has agreed on multiple occasions to a truce. The problem is Hamas. Egypt and Israel, not to mention regional powers such as Saudi Arabia and Jordan, are emphatic that Hamas stand behind a no-conditions truce offer. That’s all the terrorists get. In short, the president and secretary of state are entirely divorced from regional realities and equally helpless to change the facts on the ground.
In addition, the extent to which the U.S. secretary of state is unwelcome in Israel is unprecedented. The Times of Israel reports that Michael Oren, Israel’s former ambassador to the United States, is publicly blunt that Kerry wasn’t invited and argued that his “pinpoint operation” comments made his presence even less desirable. Moreover:
Oren’s comments followed remarks Sunday by Channel 2′s veteran Arab affairs analyst Ehud Ya’ari, who said that as far as Israel is concerned, the secretary of state’s ceasefire trip was premature “and bad for Israel,” and that he should have left it to the Egyptians to lead the ceasefire effort. Ya’ari said many people, “including senior American officials,” tried to convey this to Kerry.
This marks the continuing trend of the Obama administration “to give credit” to the Muslim Brotherhood, in this case Hamas, Ya’ari said, except that now it’s graver, because “we’re in a war.”
This, we suspect, is a preview of the main event — the nuclear arms talks with Hamas’s patrons in Tehran. (Maybe if Obama had refused to offer sanctions relief unless arms shipments to Hamas halted, we might be in a different place.) Here, too, Obama and Kerry live in their own parallel universe in which “gaps” are closing and Iran is being “constructive.” In their world, no more leverage is needed and the list of “warmongers” (Israel, Egypt, the Gulf states, Dennis Ross, Sen. Bob Menendez, ranking members on key House committees, etc.) who refuse to don the rose-colored glasses grows every day.
In the real world, the Iranians have now gained another $2.8 billion in sanctions relief, have not dismantled anything, have not come clean on past activities, have not stopped advanced centrifuge research and have not halted their intercontinental ballistic missile program. Gaps, gaps and more gaps. Iran’s supreme leader keeps telling Obama and Kerry what they don’t want to hear: No centrifuge dismantling. To the contrary: More!
The Los Angeles Times reports that “in the view of some Western officials and private experts, the emerging portrait is not encouraging for those who hope for a landmark nuclear deal that would restrict Iran to nonmilitary nuclear activities and resolve a top world security issue. The talks, which were extended for four months after failing to reach a deal by a July 20 deadline, suggested that [Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali] Khamenei may be willing to compromise on some important issues. But on the contentious core question – Iran’s uranium enrichment capacity – Khamenei signaled that he won’t yield to the demands of six world powers for a scaled-back program, but rather insists on having a bigger effort, sooner, than the world powers will accept.” No! That would mean the entire premise of the Obama administration’s Iran policy is flawed. Indeed, it is plain wrong insofar as “it appears Khamenei wants to take home a victory on both issues: elimination of the sanctions and preservation of almost all of the nuclear program. ‘He doesn’t seem ready to make the fundamental compromise,’ said Suzanne Maloney, an Iran specialist at Brookings Institution.” The result is a complete disconnect between the administration’s assessment and the true state of negotiations:
Khamenei is essentially saying that he wants to be able to live up to all his promises to Iranians on how the nuclear program, a matter of national pride, can never get smaller, but will only expand. His view is that world powers’ demands for less hardware, more intrusive inspections and suspension rather than elimination of sanctions are just more Western bullying that he won’t accept. …
U.S. officials have been saying that the negotiations aren’t between two equal parties. Iran is a repeat violator of international rules and has to acknowledge that and change its behavior, they say. But Khamenei “doesn’t see this as a negotiation of equal parties, either – he expects the other side to give in,” said a Western diplomat, who requested anonymity citing the sensitivity of the issue. Khamenei’s tough positions this month suggest he’s ready to walk away from a deal, if necessary, even though that would mean more economic hardship for Iran’s battered middle class and potentially more social unrest.
The Obama administration has convinced itself that changing the equation by upping sanctions will “endanger” progress. That’s about as crazy as hollering at Israel about a truce and demanding the Jewish state not kill human shields who are put in place by Hamas to ring up the death toll. Perhaps as in Gaza, the Israelis, Gulf states, Saudis and Jordanians will band together to reject the United States’ false narrative and use the threat of cooperative military action to sway Iran. Hmm. Maybe they already have.