The weekly column from Clark Judge:
Obama’s Iran Deal? Blame it on Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush
By Clark S. Judge: managing director, White House Writers Group, Inc.; chairman, Pacific Research Institute
Every day the Iran deal looks more and more like an empty shell, actually a fraud. Who’s to blame? How about Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush?
Ever since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union, an impatience has infused American foreign policymaking. It hasn’t been enough to hold adversaries at bay or to move step by slow step to minimize their ability to do harm us. Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush “solved” the Cold War and Soviet threat problem. Each administration since those two has striven to be as effective with the challenges it has faced – or to be seen as equally effective. This is where the Obama administration’s Iran deal comes in.
A little background: The best and certainly fastest reporting on the various rounds of U.S.-Iran bargaining has come from Omri Ceren of The Israel Project. As the talks moved to a climax, Ceren was issuing what seemed like hourly updates on all that was being said and done in and around the talks.
Over the weekend he added to the now familiar catalogue of shortcomings to the agreement. As he noted, by the time of his Sunday morning posting, the list was already extensive. Here is what he wrote:
“The framework announced in Lausanne caved on the international community’s core demands – codified in half a dozen UN Security Council resolutions – that Iran fully halt uranium enrichment, heavy water plutonium-related work, and ballistic missile development…. But in fact in Vienna the administration caved on a range of additional issues: a ban on reprocessing went from being indefinite to lasting 15 years, which opens up a pathway to a plutonium bomb; anytime-anywhere inspections became a 24 day process; the 10 year ban on centrifuge advances shrunk to 8 years; the arms embargo which wasn’t even mentioned in Lausanne was dropped; and the list of the IAEA’s 12 PMD concerns was rewritten into a weaker vague ‘Roadmap’.”
To counter the growing view that the Vienna talks had proven a fiasco, last week the State Department issued a seven point factsheet, characterizing the deal as “exceeding” all expectations. But when Ceren dug into it, he found that on claim after claim the department had omitted or misrepresented key facts. As he wrote:
“Either the concessions don’t actually exist or they weren’t new. In a couple cases the State Department actually left out entire clauses and paragraphs from the text (!) in order to sell the talking points.”
The fact is that the deeper we look into the deal, the emptier it appears, at least in terms of “solving” the Iranian nuclear problem. Sham inspection, covered up concessions: nothing was achieved, except to insure the release of billions in trade and assets into Iranian accounts and remove embargoes on arms sales.
Administration defenders ask, what is your alternative? Now we are back to Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. For in those twelve years, yes, the Soviet problem really was solved. But the solving followed forty years of managing, confronting, and small ball rather than grand bargain negotiating. It also came with a large dose of helping dissidents, both dissidents in the Soviet Union and it satellites – something the administration is totally unwilling to do in Iran.
What price do we pay for buying this Potemkin deal? A big one. As Andrew J. Bowman, director of Middle East Studies at the Washington-based Center for the National Interest, noted in a recent The Daily Beast op-ed, Iran’s top strategic objective is to drive the U.S. from the Persian Gulf and perhaps the Arabian Sea. Ending the arms embargo will give them access to guidance systems and other technologies could put the Gulf (perhaps the Arabian Sea, too) off limits to the U.S. Navy. The result would be a strategic shift of equal proportions to Iran acquiring a nuclear weapons capacity.
About a year before the current British government took office, I asked a Parliamentarian who was to become a member of the Cameron cabinet (though not in a national security position) what levers Britain and the U.S. had to stop Iran from developing an atomic bomb. His vague and rambling answer indicated that the answer was no levers, an answer that I have received from American policy thinkers, too.
But by slowing Iran’s progress and raising the cost of pursuing the mullahs’ nuclear obsession, we do gain something – something of tremendous value to our allies and ourselves. We divert the Islamist state’s time and resources from other and equally dangerous weapons work, perhaps, all things considered, permanently.
It is too early to “solve” the Iranian nuclear problem. On balance, the confrontations and tension of the status quo ante serve our strategic needs better than any “solution”. In present circumstances, no president should be trying to play – or appear to play — Ronald Reagan or George H.W. Bush.