The Washington Post’s editors present three major concerns with the U.S.-Iran nuclear negotiations — concerns that they say need to be highlighted now, before President Obama presents the world with a fait accompli.
The three concerns are: (1) that a process began with the goal of eliminating Iran’s potential to produce nuclear weapons has evolved into a plan to tolerate and temporarily restrict that capacity; (2) during the negotiations, Obama seemingly has conceded Iran’s place as a regional power at the expense of Israel and other U.S. allies; and (3) Obama has signaled that he will implement his deal without a vote by either chamber of Congress.
The first concern has several sub-parts. One is that, as Henry Kissinger has warned, the failure to negotiate the elimination of Iranian nuclear weapons potential will very likely prompt other nations in the region — Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Turkey — to match Tehran’s threshold capability. Thus, “we will live in a proliferated world in which everybody. . .will be very close to the trigger point.
This implication makes the Post’s third concern — absent of congressional consent — particularly acute. Obama apparently plans to enter into a deal that effectively mandates nuclear proliferation in the world’s most explosive region without the consent of Congress.
The Post’s second concern — Obama’s grant of regional hegemony to Iran — has recently become a major story, as it finally dawned on mainstream outlets that this is what Obama has in mind. The Post expresses the problem this way:
[W]hile the talks have proceeded, Mr. Obama has offered assurances to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei that the two countries have shared interests in the region, and the White House has avoided actions Iran might perceive as hostile — such as supporting military action against the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad.
For their part, the Iranians. . .are currently involved in activities to destabilize the governments of [U.S.-allied] nations as near as Bahrain and as far away as Morocco. A Tehran-sponsored militia recently overthrew the U.S.-backed government of Yemen.
Rather than contest the Iranian bid for regional hegemony, as has every previous U.S. administration since the 1970s, Mr. Obama appears ready to concede Iran a place in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and beyond — a policy that is viewed with alarm by Israel, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Turkey, among other allies.
The Post should have added Lebanon and Yemen to its list. As Tony Badran of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies explains, “Iran’s expansionist push into southern Syria has put Lebanon on the path toward certain ruin.” And, as I type this post, Iranian backed fighters are consolidating their control over Yemen.
Badran points to another perverse implication of Obama’s stance towards Iran — it provides an extra incentive for Iranian aggression. In Badran’s words, “the Iranians know they have two years left to press their advantage and maximize their gains, not only without any pushback from the US, but with its de facto consent.”
The Post’s editors conclude by arguing that the “right response” by Obama to congressional concerns about the deal he’s negotiating is to insist on better terms or to persuade the doubters. It is not to bypass Congress.
Unfortunately, Obama likes his terms just fine. And they are so inimical to U.S. interests that persuading the doubters, even many within his own left-liberal party, seems out of the question.