Today at the American Enterprise Institute former vice president Dick Cheney will address the Iran deal, kicking off a week that is likely to include votes in the Senate and/or the House.
Cheney’s position comes as no surprise. In remarks prepared for delivery, he says:
Approval of this agreement will not prevent a nuclear-armed Iran. Along with a pathway to a nuclear arsenal, President Obama’s agreement will provide Iran with funds and weapons the regime will use for the support of terror, dominance of the Middle East, and furtherance of Tehran’s efforts to destroy Israel, threaten Arab regimes, and prevent the United States from defending our allies and our interests in the Persian Gulf and beyond. With the removal of restrictions on Iran’s ballistic missile program, this agreement will give Iran the means to launch a nuclear attack on the U.S. homeland. I know of no nation in history that has agreed to guarantee that the means of its own destruction will be in the hands of another nation, particularly one that is hostile. What President Obama is asking the United States Congress to do is unique — historically and dangerously unique. The results may be catastrophic.
He continues on, describing the damage that will be done to non-proliferation efforts. Cheney warns that “by legitimizing the Iranian enrichment program for the first time ever, the deal will likely accelerate nuclear proliferation, as other nations demand the same right. America’s friends and allies in the region, including the Gulf Arab states, know that their own security hangs in the balance as the United States enables Iran’s efforts to acquire nuclear weapons.”
As for verification, Cheney traces Secretary of State John Kerry’s contradictory promises on anywhere/anytime inspections, something he did not remotely deliver. “If you’re looking for a quick summary of Secretary Kerry’s position on the need for Iran to completely disclose all its past nuclear activity, let’s just say he was for it before he was against it,” he wisecracks, reminding us of the 2004 line on the Iraq war that typified Kerry’s fecklessness.
Putting the deal in the larger context, Cheney argues that the deal will further Iran’s quest for regional hegemony. “President Obama has agreed to Iranian demands to remove restrictions on key elements of the infrastructure Iran uses to support global terrorism, including the [Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps] Quds Force,” he says. “He agreed to lift restrictions on their [intercontinental ballistic missile] program and on their ability to import and export conventional weapons. If this agreement is approved, these concessions will further Iran’s efforts to achieve one of its main objectives in the Middle East — to drive the United States out.”
And in response to the claim that there is no better deal to be had, Cheney is characteristically blunt:
A far better deal is still possible, and it begins with reasserting our original objectives on each of these matters: Iran must halt its enrichment and reprocessing activities. It must halt its ballistic missile activities. It must provide a full and complete accounting of all its past nuclear activities. It must allow complete go anywhere/anytime access, including at military sites. There should be no sanctions relief until Iran has fulfilled these obligations. If Iran chooses not to do so, they must understand that the United States stands ready to take military action to ensure they do not acquire a nuclear weapon.
That is how a serious negotiation plays out. That’s how a self-respecting power, with everything in the balance, asserts its vital interests. Insisting on key non-negotiable points and maintaining a credible threat of military force are the indispensable elements of serious diplomacy over the Iranian nuclear program. That is what the administration should have done all along. . . . Arming and funding Iran while simultaneously providing them a pathway to a nuclear arsenal is not an act of peace. It’s not, as President Obama claims, the only alternative to war. It is madness.
The speech is unlikely to persuade Democrats at this point who are calculating the effect their vote will have on their political future. It does, however, serve as a well-crafted closing statement for opponents of the deal. Moreover, it is the type of speech the GOP presidential candidates should be delivering. While Cheney does not mention any presidential candidate and studiously refuses to weigh in on the primary, it is a devastating indictment of the notion that we can simply police the deal, the position Donald Trump and Ohio Gov. John Kasich have espoused. Perhaps if one of their opponents delivers a speech like Cheney’s and calls out Trump and Kasich, it will raise his or her profile and credibility as a plausible commander in chief. It surely couldn’t hurt.