Dennis Ross, former senior adviser to President Obama, arguably should have come out strongly against the Iran deal — and advised Hillary Clinton (he served in her husband’s administration) that the administration was not leveling with the American people. His interview with the Times of Israel is revealing.
Remember that the president says the deal blocks Iran’s pathway to the bomb. No, says Ross: “One of my main concerns is what happens after year 15, when they basically can have as large a program as they want, and the gap between threshold status and weapon status becomes very small.” Well, at least the deal staved off trouble for the time being. Er, not exactly: “The more you make it clear that for any misbehavior they pay a price, and it’s the kind of price that matters to them, the more likely they are to realize the firewall is real, and the less likely they are to ever test it.” But the deal does not do that; to the contrary, it prevents graduated sanctions since imposition of any sanctions frees Iran from the deal. Sure, but Iran’s behavior in the meantime shows that it won’t exploit the deal and pursue its own religious zealotry. Not at all: “We’re already seeing them ratchet it up in Syria. Everyone is focusing on what the Russians are doing, but Iran is adding significant numbers of Revolutionary Guard forces to the ground, it’s not just Hezbollah forces. I think this is a harbinger of things to come.”
Too bad then that Ross did not unequivocally oppose the deal and urge Democrats to do the same. Now he is willing to admit it virtually guarantees that Iran will get a bomb; it has not specified means for imposing penalties without overthrowing the deal; and Iran’s behavior is worse than ever. That seems to be exactly what critics of the deal have said all along.
Ross also confirms Obama critics’ accusation that Obama is reflexively partial to the Palestinians. “It tends to look at Israel through a lens that is more competitive, more combative, that sees Israel more in problematic terms,” he explains. He adds that since Obama “looks at the Palestinians as being weak, there is this reluctance to criticize them. ‘They’re too weak to criticize’ is what I say in the Obama chapter. And if they are too weak to criticize, they are too weak to be held accountable, too weak to be responsible. They’re too weak to have a state. Well, if you want the Palestinians to have the responsibility of a state, you have to hold them responsible.” In perhaps the most damning portion of his interview, Ross lets on that Obama’s contrarianism toward the George W. Bush administration represented a deliberate attempt to alienate Israel:
When the president comes in, he thinks we have a major problem with Arabs and Muslims. And he sees that as a function of the Bush administration — an image, fairly or not, that Bush was at war with Islam. So one of the ways that he wants to show that he’s going to have an outreach to the Muslim world is that he’s going to give this speech in Cairo. So he wants to reach out and show that the US is not so close to the Israelis, which he thinks also feeds this perception. That’s why there’s an impulse to do some distancing from Israel, and that’s why the settlement issue is seized in a way.
In sum, Ross (not to mention the former Israeli ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren) confirms a good deal of what Obama apologists deny. It turns out the Iran deal really does not stop Iran from getting the bomb. It turns out Obama was guilty of the bigotry of low expectations, never really wanting to hold the Palestinians to account. And from the get-go, he sought to shove Israel away from the United States. It was not Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s “fault” that the relationship deteriorated. It was by design.
I wonder why Hillary Clinton went along with all this. And I wonder why Ross (and other responsible Democrats) waited this long, allowing this much damage to U.S. national security and the U.S.-Israel relationship to occur before speaking up. I suppose partisan loyalty and naked political ambition trump all other considerations.