Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said it was “delusional” to claim success on the same day Yemen — the country Obama previously claimed as an example of the rightness of his foreign policy — fell to Iranian-backed rebels.
His claim of progress, even in Syria, is especially jaw-dropping. The Post’s Glenn Kessler explained, “Just last week, the Wall Street Journal documented that three months of U.S. airstrikes in Syria had failed to prevent the group from expanding its territory in the country. The article quoted a senior defense office as saying that ‘certainly ISIS has been able to expand in Syria, but that’s not our main objective.'”
His remarks on Russia, which occupies Ukraine, bizarrely tried to claim credit for ceding part of an ally’s country to Russia. “We’re upholding the principle that bigger nations can’t bully the small — by opposing Russian aggression, and supporting Ukraine’s democracy, and reassuring our NATO allies. Last year, as we were doing the hard work of imposing sanctions along with our allies . . . Mr. Putin’s aggression it was suggested was a masterful display of strategy and strength. . . . Well, today, it is America that stands strong and united with our allies, while Russia is isolated with its economy in tatters.” This is a success? It’s hard to imagine he actually considers this to be a plus for the West.
Bloomberg’s foreign policy investigative reporter, Josh Rogin, “translated” the president’s absurd statements. As for his boast his foreign policy is “smarter,” Rogin wisecracked that this really meant: “I campaigned on the idea that we needed to restore America’s image in the world and I’m going to claim that this has happened and is yielding benefits, without specifying what exactly those benefits are. The truth is, the world is on fire and there’s not a whole lot anybody can do about it.” Well, there is, but he isn’t willing to do it. His Cuba comments lauding his move to normalize relations in essence meant: “Everybody knows there’s no way Congress is going to lift that embargo. But I’ve already made the political bet that this Cuba thaw is going to smell good in two years time, so I might as well double down. If the Republicans don’t do anything and Cuba gets better, that will cost them. If Cuba gets worse, well, that’s Hillary’s problem.”
But Rogin (“I’m prepared to call anybody who is for sanctions a warmonger, whether it’s a Republican or a Democrat. You’ll probably do it anyway, but I’ll try to make it as painful as possible.”) and others reserved their harshest criticism for the president’s misleading and nonsensical comments about Iran.
House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (Calif.) put out a statement: “The President presented a false choice on Iran sanctions. We can have negotiations and more economic pressure. The Obama Administration has been negotiating with Tehran for over a year. Meanwhile, Tehran has advanced its nuclear capabilities. By the Administration’s own account, significant differences remain with Iran. One thing that could change Tehran’s resistance to accepting a meaningful and effective agreement to keep it from developing a nuclear weapons capability is the threat of more economic pressure. Economic pressure is the only reason the Iranian regime is at the table. Instead of ruling out what has worked, the President should work with Congress to increase the negotiating pressure on Iran.”
Mark Dubowitz of Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a sanctions expert, said without equivocation: “The interim agreement has not ‘frozen’ or ‘halted’ Iran’s military-nuclear program. Following a strategy followed by then-chief nuclear negotiator Hassan Rouhani between 2003 and 2005, Tehran has suspended only aspects of the program that no longer need significant advancement, while working on aspects not yet mastered.” He adds, “This includes, among other areas, the development of long-range ballistic missiles capable of carrying a nuclear warhead and, most critically, Iranian stonewalling of the IAEA about possible military dimensions of Iran’s program.”
Josh Block, a long-time Democrat and CEO of the Israel Project, reiterated the two falsehoods Obama propounded. “For over a year the admin has claimed, falsely, that Iran’s nuclear program has been ‘frozen and their progress halted’ during the talks — talks we were told would only last 6 months, yet are now heading toward 19 months (June 30th),” he said via e-mail. “Far from being ‘halted,’ during the negotiations, Iran has enriched at least one more bomb’s worth of material, has advanced its plutonium track to 87% completion, and just, announced it will build 2 more nuclear facilities. Does that sound ‘frozen’ to you?” Block, like other outside Iran experts, also chastised the president for inferring that Congress was about to pass sanctions that would immediately go into effect, thereby thwarting the negotiations:
Tonight the President has threatened, again, to veto bipartisan legislation from Menendez-Kirk by implying FALSELY that (1) it contains sanctions on Iran at this time and (2) will guarantee diplomacy will fail.Those are ridiculous claims. First, the bill imposes no sanctions on Iran during talks what so ever. If there is a deal by 6/30 — a deadline the president set and says will tell us if Iran is willing to make a deal or not — there are no sanctions.Second, it is totally counter-intuitive to suggest that Iran will walk away [from] nuclear talks it desperately needs to save its broken economy because of some sanctions that will never come into being if there is an agreement — which they claim they want.Like past dire claims — like central bank sanctions will drive the world into recession or oil prices will soar to $250 a barrel (yes they really said these things) — these latest inexplicable claims are worthless and false.
“The laws don’t impose new sanctions,” another Iran expert said. “Instead what’s being discussed is a kind of diplomatic insurance policy, set to kick in after negotiations fail: If Iran doesn’t come to a deal at the end of the preset negotiations period, escalatory pressure will begin to kick in.” In last year’s State of the Union, the president vowed if Iran didn’t meet the deadline he’d be the “first one” to call for more sanctions. Go figure.
The president should, and I predict, will be sternly rebuffed by a large bipartisan vote in favor of the Menendez-Kirk legislation. But that will not address the very real problem pervading every aspect of foreign policy, namely that the president is either sheltered from reality by political hacks or has convinced himself of things that aren’t so or knows he has failed and chooses to misrepresent reality. In any event, his foreign policy message left informed observers deeply troubled. Neither party should enable the president’s delusional thinking. Congress needs to disabuse the president of his fantasies and act to defend the West from jihadists, the mullahs and Russian aggression.