Reality is moving in on Barack Obama and the gang that can’t shoot straight. The sun shines bright and the mice won’t find a dark place to hide. The president continues to celebrate the remarkably awful deal he cut with Iran, but the rank and rancid details continue to leak, like something from a neighbor’s overflowing toilet upstairs.
Only yesterday, the day after he lost both cool and temper when a reporter asked a respectful, sensible question about why he let the Iranians off the hook for abusing four American hostages in Tehran, the administration confirmed – because the margins for lying about it continue to shrink – that the president had agreed that no Americans would be permitted to inspect suspected nuclear sites.
Only countries with “normal diplomatic relations” with Iran will be allowed to participate in the inspections organized by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). That “includes the Americans out,” since putting American diplomats in Tehran puts them in grave danger and the United States so far brooks no relations with barbarians.
This remarkable concession was revealed by the Russians and the Iranians, who are still celebrating what they clearly regard – who can blame them? – as a remarkable triumph over Mr. Obama and his crack negotiators. The concession becomes clear in the text of the agreement released in Moscow and Tehran.
“Iran will increase the number of designated IAEA inspectors to the range of 130 to 150 within nine months from the date of the implementation of the [agreement],” the text reads, “and will generally allow the designation of inspectors from nations that have diplomatic relations with Iran, consistent with its laws and regulations.”
It’s possible, of course, that the president and his secretary of State forgot, with all the important things they must remember, that the United States is among the nations that have no diplomatic relations with Iran. The presidency is a demanding job, as we all know, and who can expect the president to remember every little thing? But there’s more, and maybe worse. The United States will assist Iran in combating nuclear sabotage and threats to its nuclear program. This sounds like satire, something from an Evelyn Waugh novel, but it’s true.
Susan Rice, President Obama’s crack national security adviser, confirmed the agreement that no Americans would be allowed to inspect anything, and seemed pleased to do so. Mr. Obama’s famous promise that in any agreement he would sign the Americans would inspect “anywhere, any time,” has shrunk to a concession that Americans could go “nowhere at no time.” He has abandoned Ronald Reagan’s famous presidential caution in dealing with the enemy to “trust, but verify.” He trusts, and thinks it’s impolite to ask questions, even of criminals.
The international inspectors, the White House insists, are “highly respected,” even if the Americans are not, and will do the work that Messrs. Obama and Kerry apparently think Americans cannot be trusted to do.
The more the plain folks in Washington learn about what the not-so-dynamic duo agreed to the more the incredulity level rises. How could two reasonably intelligent men agree to a deal that a jackleg lawyer from Hicksville would laugh out of the room? You might think a reasonably intelligent negotiator would insist that one of the negotiators, familiar with the negotiations, is exactly who must be on the inspections team.
“It’s ironic,” says Elliott Abrams, who was the director of the National Security Council in the George W. Bush administration, “that after [we heard] about how Kerry and [Iranian foreign minister] Javad Zarif had tears in their eyes thinking about all they had accomplished together, we learn that the Islamic Republic won’t allow one single American inspector. No member of the [negotiating team] should be barred, and this is another example of how badly the administration negotiated. We should have insisted that the ‘no Americans’ rule was simply unacceptable.”
That conversation between Mr. Kerry and the Iranian foreign minister is said, by two persons who were there, to have brought tears to their eyes. Once the Iranian foreign minister got the sweetheart deal, enabling him to go home to Tehran without fear of losing his head to the mullahs with carving knives, he sat with Mr. Kerry for a little reminiscing.
Mr. Kerry got all choked up talking about his heroism in Vietnam, but said nothing about how he came home to tell a Senate committee how the men he served with had “personally raped, cut off ears, taped wires from portable telephones to human genitals and turned up the power, cut off limbs, blown up bodies” and “razed villages in the fashion reminiscent of Genghis Khan.” The diplomats in the room “were visibly moved,” and “began to applaud.” That’s more than his countrymen can do.
When you write a column, as did I two weeks ago, headlined “The worst agreement in U.S. diplomatic history,” you don’t expect to revisit the issue. We had hit bottom. Or so I thought. Then on Tuesday the final terms of the Iranian nuclear deal were published. I was wrong.
Who would have imagined we would be giving up the conventional arms and ballistic missile embargoes on Iran? In nuclear negotiations?
When asked Wednesday at his news conference why there is nothing in the deal about the American hostages being held by Iran, President Obama explained that this is a separate issue, not part of nuclear talks.
Are conventional weapons not a separate issue? After all, conventional, by definition, means non-nuclear. Why are we giving up the embargoes?
Because Iran, joined by Russia – our “reset” partner – sprung the demand at the last minute, calculating that Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry were so desperate for a deal that they would cave. They did. And have convinced themselves that they scored a victory by delaying the lifting by five to eight years. (Ostensibly. The language is murky. The interval could be considerably shorter.)
Obama claimed in his news conference that it really doesn’t matter, because we can always intercept Iranian arms shipments to, say, Hezbollah.
But wait. Obama has insisted throughout that we are pursuing this Iranian diplomacy to avoid the use of force, yet now blithely discards a previous diplomatic achievement – the arms embargo – by suggesting, no matter, we can just shoot our way to interdiction.
Moreover, the most serious issue is not Iranian exports but Iranian imports – of sophisticated Russian and Chinese weapons. These are untouchable. We are not going to attack Russian and Chinese transports.
The net effect of this capitulation will be not only to endanger our Middle East allies now under threat from Iran and its proxies, but also to endanger our own naval forces in the Persian Gulf. Imagine how Iran’s acquisition of the most advanced anti-ship missiles would threaten our control over the gulf and the Strait of Hormuz, waterways we have kept open for international commerce for a half-century.
The other major shock in the final deal is what happened to our insistence on “anytime, anywhere” inspections. Under the final agreement, Iran has the right to deny international inspectors access to any undeclared nuclear site. The denial is then adjudicated by a committee – on which Iran sits. It then goes through several other bodies, on all of which Iran sits. Even if the inspectors’ request prevails, the approval process can take 24 days.
And what do you think will be left to be found, left unscrubbed, after 24 days? The whole process is farcical.
The action now shifts to Congress. The debate is being hailed as momentous. It is not. It’s irrelevant.
Congress won’t get to vote on the deal until September. But Obama is taking the agreement to the U.N. Security Council for approval within days . Approval there will cancel all previous U.N. resolutions outlawing and sanctioning Iran’s nuclear activities.
Meaning: Whatever Congress ultimately does, it won’t matter because the legal underpinning for the entire international sanctions regime against Iran will have been dismantled at the Security Council. Ten years of painstakingly constructed international sanctions will vanish overnight, irretrievably.
Even if Congress rejects the agreement, do you think the Europeans, the Chinese or the Russians will reinstate sanctions? The result: The United States is left isolated while the rest of the world does thriving business with Iran.
Should Congress then give up? No. Congress needs to act in order to rob this deal of, at least, its domestic legitimacy. Rejection will make little difference on the ground. But it will make it easier for a successor president to legitimately reconsider an executive agreement (Obama dare not call it a treaty – it would be instantly rejected by the Senate) that garnered such pathetically little backing in either house of Congress.
It’s a future hope, but amid dire circumstances. By then, Iran will be flush with cash, legitimized as a normal international actor in good standing, recognized (as Obama once said) as “a very successful regional power.” Stopping Iran from going nuclear at that point will be infinitely more difficult and risky.
Which is Obama’s triumph. He has locked in his folly. He has laid down his legacy, and we will have to live with the consequences for decades.