To all those who imagined President Obama would not let Iran keep its illegal nuclear program and then get a green flag for breakout after 10 years, you were wrong. Yes, Obama actually is capitulating entirely after years of saying that negotiations would make clear Iran had to give up its nuclear ambitions. It was his argument that Iran wanted to be included in the family of nations, and later (after he opposed sanctions) his argument was that sanctions had forced Iran to the table. But now he concedes all that was wrong.
In his very odd response to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech, Obama did not dispute he is making these huge concessions and he did not argue they are wise. Instead, he argued Netanyahu said nothing new (well, Obama knew he had bargained away an awful lot, but many Americans did not, which is why Obama had to put it out there in an interview on the eve of Netanyahu’s speech). And Obama groused that Netanyahu did not provide an alternative.
Let’s take the latter argument. There is a whole list of problems with the president’s complaint.
First, the speech did contain an alternative: Hold firm and increase sanctions. Many have said Netanyahu is insisting on regime change. But that is not correct. He’s demanding that Iran change its behavior, just as Obama was supposed to be demanding that Iran give up its quest for nuclear weapons. Maybe the president should say exactly what he promised: If no deal was reached, he’d be the first one back asking for more sanctions.
Second, since when does a president demand that an ally, whom he has ignored and who has found the fatal flaw in his negotiations (the details of which Obama has tried to conceal), come up with a solution to get him out of his mess? Some chutzpah. If the deal is bad, Obama has said no deal is better. What was his alternative supposed to be if no deal was the better course of action?
Third, the original deal in Obama’s mind is “unattainable,” as Susan Rice insisted, because Iran said no. But how does he know Iran won’t stay at the table or change its mind. A regime that has cheated and still is cheating and has concealed its illegal program, you might suspect, would conceal its threshold for economic pain and come up with all sorts of threats to try to keep what it has already acquired. Perhaps Obama is just a rotten negotiator — just as we saw in his dealings with the Castros.
Fourth, I thought the president had said Iran is “isolated,” and his policy was working. If Iran is truly isolated, why does he fret so that the alliance won’t hold together?
His arguments made no sense for all these reasons and more because they are not real arguments, but excuses — excuses to conceal that his negotiators were inept, excuses to avoid the perception that he failed to understand the nature of the regime, and excuses for not having gotten more leverage.
It is also fascinating that Obama does not dispute Netanyahu’s accusation that he is seeking an alliance with Iran to defeat the Islamic State. That in a way is a far more grievous and fundamental error than his nuclear negotiations posture, for it involves selling out all our allies in the region and cozying up to a nation that wants to destroy Israel, tyrannize its own people and sponsor terrorism. How could we conceivably go along with all that? Perhaps Obama imagines that if we give Iran the bomb and let it run amok, it will change its ways. But the regime’s behavior has gotten worse. What victorious dictatorship voluntarily gave up territory and weapons?
The president throws a fuss and tosses insults, and his loyal lapdogs in Congress pretend to be “insulted,” but right about now in Jerusalem, Cairo, Amman and Riyadh our allies are shaking their heads in disbelief. The president is as feckless and confused as they feared. They stand unprotected by the United States as they stare into the jaws of a regime bent on destroying them. Well, perhaps they, too, will come and speak to Congress. Or Congress can invite Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper or Czech President Milos Zeman. It would be interesting to see whether they share Netanyahu’s views or Obama’s. And the invited guests don’t even need to say anything new or offer us an alternative. Just tell America what they think. They can’t all be “electioneering” or out to create trouble for Democrats, can they? Maybe it is Obama who is isolated, not Iran.