Thursday afternoon, following a slew of news reports about substantial concessions by the U.S. negotiators in the Iran nuclear talks, Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) released a statement, which read:
If today’s news report from Lausanne is true, we are not inching closer to Iran’s negotiating position, but leaping toward it with both feet. We have pivoted away from demanding the closure of Fordow when the negotiations began, to considering its conversion into a research facility, to now allowing hundreds of centrifuges to spin at this underground bunker site where centrifuges could be quickly repurposed for illicit nuclear enrichment purposes. My fear is that we are no longer guided by the principle that “no deal is better than a bad deal,” but instead we are negotiating “any deal for a deal’s sake.”
An undue amount of trust and faith is being placed in a negotiating partner that has spent decades deceiving the international community; denying the International Atomic Energy Agency access to its facilities; refusing to answer questions about its nuclear-related military activities; and all the while, actively destabilizing the region from Lebanon to Syria to Iraq to Yemen. A good deal must meet our primary negotiating objective – curtailing Iran’s current and future ability to achieve nuclear weapons capability. If the best deal Iran will give us does not achieve this goal, it is not a good deal for the United States or its partners. A good deal won’t leave Iran as a nuclear threshold state.
It is extraordinary on many levels — that so many giveaways would be tossed at the Iranians’ feet, that it should be publicly revealed (many speculate, by the French, who object to the collapse), that a Democratic senator would tell the president his deal is going nowhere and that things have gotten this far out of whack without a vote from the Senate. In reality, no Republican and a great many Democrats will refuse to assent to a deal that, for example, leaves 6,000 centrifuges in Iran’s hands, allows Fordow to continue operations, does not provide for snap inspections, does not require revelation of past activities, does not continue in a meaningful way beyond 10 years and does nothing to address the catastrophe throughout the region, caused in large part by Iran’s hegemonic ambitions. Oh, and there may be no written document. As former ambassador Eric Edelman, tells me, “I think it is axiomatic that any deal that cannot be put down on paper is not a deal at all.” Considering all we are giving up, that may be the good news.
Indeed, with Iranian surrogates and allies destabilizing the entire Middle East, why are we lifting any sanctions or talking about a deal at all? Unless the deal is far different than has been reported, look for an overwhelming vote in April to inject the Senate into the process or to increase sanctions.
One does wonder what Hillary Clinton is thinking. As A.B. Stoddard observes, “When Clinton finally comes out from behind Twitter as a candidate for president, all questions are fair game: what the terms of a nuclear arms deal with Iran should be, whether Netanyahu should have spoken before Congress without the blessing of the White House, what should be done about those politically expedient comments Netanyahu made before his reelection. Is a peace deal possible under Netanyahu? Where does she stand on a Senate bill that would give Congress more input over the Iran talks? How should the U.S. tackle rising anti-Semitism in Europe, and how can the trust that has been lost between the United States and Israel since 2009 be restored? What say you, Madam Secretary?”
Frankly, from Yemen to the Taliban trade for a deserter to the Iran concessions to the rise of the Islamic State to the occupation of part of Ukraine, our national security policies have resulted in chaos, aggression and loss of American influence. How can any Democrat — with the exception of the outspoken Menendez and Leon Panetta — let alone the co-architect of these policies, claim to be able to steady the ship? You got me.