The news media broke (or were given) the story that President Obama penned a letter to Iran’s Supreme Leader:
The letter appeared aimed both at buttressing the campaign against Islamic State and nudging Iran’s religious leader closer to a nuclear deal.
Mr. Obama stressed to Mr. Khamenei that any cooperation on Islamic State was largely contingent on Iran reaching a comprehensive agreement with global powers on the future of Tehran’s nuclear program by a Nov. 24 diplomatic deadline, the same people say. The October letter marked at least the fourth time Mr. Obama has written Iran’s most powerful political and religious leader since taking office in 2009 and pledging to engage with Tehran’s Islamist government.
Writing one letter, let alone four, is among the dumbest moves in a foreign policy with far too many blunders in it already. Even worse, Obama seemed to be suggesting just the sort of alliance critics have suspected was his objective all along and which will certainly terrify Israel and our Sunni allies.
Along with outgoing intelligence chairman Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) a number of senators blasted the move:
Senate Armed Services Committee Republicans John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina upbraided Obama’s actions:
“It is outrageous that, while the cries of moderate Syrian forces for greater U.S. assistance fall on deaf ears in the White House, President Obama is apparently urging Ayatollah Khamenei to join the fight against ISIS,” the senators said in a joint statement.
Graham and McCain, frequent critics of the Obama White House foreign policy, added that cooperating with Iran would “harm U.S. national security interests” and allies with Arab partners.
Later Friday, Sen. Ron Johnson said the report further indicated Obama’s “weakness” in foreign affairs.
“It’s just a further demonstration of this president’s weakness on foreign policy,” the Wisconsin Republican said on MSNBC.
They are right to be concerned. Former deputy national security adviser Elliott Abrams told me, “We are casting ourselves as an inferior power pleading with Tehran to be reasonable. That regime respects only power, and its disrespect for the United States must grow and grow.” At a time when we have leverage we seem only to want to throw it away. ” After all, oil prices are dropping through the floor and yet we still importune them?” says Abrams. “In our shoes, they would be squeezing us to death, so they must see this most recent letter as a sure indication we are desperate and are incapable of making life hard for them.”
And to boot, this comes at a time Iran is defying inspection obligations that would be essential to any final deal. The latest International Atomic Energy Agency’s report confirms Iran’s “consistent failure to address inspectors’ concerns” that it had a full-blown nuclear weapons program which “may be on-going today.” Moreover, Iran’s human rights atrocities continue to mount. In an op-ed by Sens. Marc Rubio (R-Fla.) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) the senators observe:
The world is rightly focused on Iran’s growing nuclear threat and the regime’s destabilizing support for international terrorism. Yet Iran’s state of injustice—the regime’s systematic human rights abuses and suppression of the Iranian people’s aspirations to be free – deserves equal attention.
A new report by the United Nations’ special rapporteur on human rights in Iran, Ahmed Shaheed, helps cast light on the regime’s dark record.
The Shaheed report blasts Iran’s growing use of executions, with 687 in 2013 and already 411 in the first half of 2014. Under Iranian law, citizens can face executions for a shockingly broad range of non-violent crimes, including “adultery, recidivist alcohol use, drug possession and trafficking” and corruption, in addition to moharebeh (sometimes translated as “enmity against God”). Indeed, the report observes that the regime in Tehran, in practical terms, is disproportionately executing individuals from religious and ethnic minority groups “for exercising their protected rights, including freedom of expression and association.”
We have not heard of any senior official using a barnyard epithet in regard to the mullahs, or even becoming irate about their monstrous regime.
Pro-Israel groups, shell-shocked from this president’s stream of invectives against our ally Israel and worried about a rotten deal, are also up in arms. An official of one group emails, “As has been said, Iran is the arsonist not the firefighter in the region. Any demonstration of obsequiousness to the Supreme Leader will be seen as a clear indication of weakness and will be deeply counterproductive.”
What is so stunning is how little the president has learned in 6 years. “The letter… is the latest of a series of such blunders where the Obama Administration does the exact opposite of what it should to advance U.S. strategic interests,” says the CEO of the pro-Israel group JINSA, Mike Makovsky. “If the reports are true, it is another incident where the Obama Administration: looked weak and a supplicant of Iran, thereby further undermining our leverage with Iran in the nuclear negotiations, linked the nuclear talks with ISIS, suggesting again that we need Iran and thus weakening our hand further with the nuclear talks; reinforced the view of our Israeli and Arab allies that they can’t depend upon us to confront Iran and that we’ve realigned our interests against them and in favor of Iran and its allies; enticed other regional powers on the fence to accommodate Iran; and abandoned our pledge to support the removal of Assad regime and weaken the forces supporting it, which further alienates our Arab allies and complicates help we could use from Turkey.”
Congress, when it returns, should pass a resolution condemning Iran’s failure to cooperate with inspectors and enacting new sanctions that go into effect Nov. 25, if there is no final deal on the deadline the day before. Congress should also make clear that all these schemes for unplugging equipment or relying only on inspections (!) are grossly insufficient and not in the country’s interest.