How Barack Obama Undercut Bush Administration’s Nuclear Negotiations With Iran

In 2008, the Bush administration, along with the “six powers,” was negotiating with Iran concerning that country’s nuclear arms program. The Bush administration’s objective was to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. On July 20, 2008, the New York Times headlined: “Nuclear Talks With Iran End in a Deadlock.” What caused the talks to founder? The Times explained:

Iran responded with a written document that failed to address the main issue: international demands that it stop enriching uranium. And Iranian diplomats reiterated before the talks that they considered the issue nonnegotiable.

The Iranians held firm to their position, perhaps because they knew that help was on the way, in the form of a new president. Barack Obama had clinched the Democratic nomination on June 3. At some point either before or after that date, but prior to the election, he secretly let the Iranians know that he would be much easier to bargain with than President Bush. Michael Ledeen reported the story last year:

During his first presidential campaign in 2008, Mr. Obama used a secret back channel to Tehran to assure the mullahs that he was a friend of the Islamic Republic, and that they would be very happy with his policies. The secret channel was Ambassador William G. Miller, who served in Iran during the shah’s rule, as chief of staff for the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and as ambassador to Ukraine. Ambassador Miller has confirmed to me his conversations with Iranian leaders during the 2008 campaign.

So Obama secretly told the mullahs not to make a deal until he assumed the presidency, when they would be able to make a better agreement. Which is exactly what happened: Obama abandoned the requirement that Iran stop enriching uranium, so that Iran’s nuclear program has sped ahead over the months and years that negotiations have dragged on. When an interim agreement in the form of a “Joint Plan of Action” was announced in late 2013, Iran’s leaders exulted in the fact that the West had acknowledged its right to continue its uranium enrichment program:

“The (nuclear) program will continue and all the sanctions and violations against the Iranian nation under the pretext of the nuclear program will be removed gradually,” [Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif] added. …

“Iran’s enrichment program has been recognized both in the first step and in the goals section and in the final step as well,” Zarif said.

“The fact that all these pressures have failed to cease Iran’s enrichment program is a very important success for the Iranian nation’s resistance,” he added.

So Obama delivered the weak agreement that he had secretly promised the mullahs.

In view of these events, it is deeply ironic that the Democrats are accusing 47 Republican senators of undermining Obama’s position in the negotiations for a final agreement. Unlike Obama, they have done nothing in secret. They have published an “open letter” that is intended for the Obama administration and the American people as much as for Iran’s leaders. The letter spells out basic truths relating to our Constitution and the Senate’s role in ratifying treaties. Unlike Obama’s secret overture to Iran, the GOP senators aren’t discouraging Iran from dealing with Obama so that they can get a better deal later. On the contrary, their letter strengthens Obama’s bargaining position. He can say, “Even if I wanted to, I can’t give in on nuclear enrichment. It would never get through the Senate.” But of course, that isn’t what Obama wants to do. He wants to agree to a weak deal that will allow Iran to become a nuclear power. The Democrats are upset because the senators’ letter shines the light of truth on the Obama administration’s plan to give away the store.