Just days after releasing the Iran framework, Secretary of State John F. Kerry reaffirmed that the United States would insist on phased-in sanctions relief. Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei publicly rebuked that suggestion and declared he would insist on sanctions relief up front. On Friday, the president cleared up matters by hanging Kerry out to dry, pulling the rug out from under his dwindling band of supporters and telling the world that phased negotiations were up for grabs.
With respect to the issue of sanctions coming down — I don’t want to get out ahead of John Kerry and my negotiators in terms how to craft this. I would just make a general observation and that is that how sanctions are lessened, how we snap back sanctions if there’s a violation — there are a lot of different mechanisms and ways to do that. Part of John’s job and part of the Iranian negotiators’ job and part of the P5+1’s job is to sometimes find formulas that get to our main concerns while allowing the other side to make a presentation to their body politic that is more acceptable. Our main concern here is making sure that if Iran doesn’t abide by its agreement that we don’t have to jump through a whole bunch of hoops in order to reinstate sanctions. That’s our main concern. And I think that goal, of having, in reserve, the possibility of putting back and applying forceful sanctions, in the event of a violation, that goal can be met. And it will require some creative negotiations by John Kerry and others, and I’m confident that we’ll be successful.
This is a dramatic change in the administration’s position and a foolish one. We know, as former secretaries of state Henry Kissinger and George P. Schultz have warned, snap-back sanctions are cumbersome and hugely ineffective. Sanctions once lifted are enormously difficult to reinstate after Western powers have commenced doing business. Inspections (not even of the go everywhere/anytime variety) are never full proof and the parties contemplate a system designed for endless wrangling about whether violations have occurred.
But wait. It gets worse. The Wall Street Journal reports: “The Obama administration estimates Iran has between $100 billion and $140 billion of its oil revenue frozen in offshore accounts as a result of sanctions. U.S. officials said they expect Tehran to gain access to these funds in phases as part of a final deal. Iran could receive somewhere between $30 billion and $50 billion upon signing the agreement, said congressional officials briefed by the administration.” That would be a huge boost to Iran’s economy, given up front and with no evidence of compliance. The monies of course will be instantly available to fund terrorist activities and Iranian surrogates in Yemen, Syria and elsewhere.
“[Obama] is willing to grant Iran access to funds that equate to about 10% of its GDP just for signing a deal. That percentage boost is equivalent to a $1.7 trillion injection into the U.S. economy today (which is twice the dollar amount of the 2009 stimulus package),” explains JINSA CEO Michael Makovsky. “This was a terrific present to Iran for its Army Day celebration on Saturday, when the regime showed off some of its weapons to slogans of ‘Death to America’ and ‘Death to Israel.'” He adds, “Equally dismaying was Obama’s minimization in the same press conference of Russia’s announcement to sell S-300 surface-to-air missile batteries to Iran, which will make a military strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities much harder. Perhaps Obama was trying to save face by this Russian move, and/or perhaps he no longer opposes the Russian sale because it will make it harder for Israel to spoil the nuclear deal through military action.”
If Israelis are expressing “shock and amazement Friday night at US President Barack Obama’s stated openness to Iran’s demand for the immediate lifting of all economic sanctions, and his defense of Russia’s agreement to supply a sophisticated air defense system to Iran,” they should not be. The president will give the Iranians anything and everything to get his deal. “It’s deeply troubling that President Obama declined to publicly reject Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s demand that all economic sanctions against Iran be lifted upon concluding a final nuclear agreement,” Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) told Right Turn. “The president is clearly leaving open the door for significant sanctions relief to Iran up front to secure a controversial deal that will neither significantly nor permanently dismantle Iran’s vast capabilities to make nuclear weapons.” Remaining sanctions would be rendered a mere nuisance after that.
This massive concession is bound to run into widespread opposition in Congress and from our Gulf allies who already fear Obama is ceding domination of the Middle East to Iran. Such a deal would also test how far Hillary Clinton is willing to appease the left in the Democratic Party. Will she embrace the sort of deal that gives Iran cash up front for terrorist activities, leaves it with a nuclear infrastructure, does not allow go anywhere/anytime inspections and does not force Iran to reveal possible military dimensions of its nuclear program? If so she is destroying her image as a tougher-than-Obama foreign policy thinker and ceding the biggest foreign policy issue of our time to the Republicans.
The president who once declared the framework a “historic” deal has been forced to concede there is no deal. Now he’s signaling the final deal will be much worse than he or his defenders ever suggested was possible. He promised to dismantle Iran’s nuclear weapons program; now he is locking it in. He once insisted on robust inspections and gradual lifting of sanctions. Those will go by the wayside too. Ultimately, Congress, the 2016 presidential candidates, our allies and the American people will need to explain that total appeasement — which is where this is heading — will not be acceptable. They will then have to devise the means for stopping Obama or immediately reversing his “diplomacy” (which is more like promising to make a ransom payment). Unfortunately for the Saudis, that likely means beginning an arms race as they seek a bomb of their own. It’ll be quite a legacy if Obama gets his way.