President Obama sat for an interview with New York Times columnist Tom Friedman on Saturday. When it comes to Obama Friedman is no doubting Thomas. He is the Apostle Tom. He believes in what he views to be “the Obama doctrine.” This is the gospel according to Tom.
Friedman brings up the lurking issue of “red lines” at about 34:00. It’s Senator Cotton and his 46 colleagues who have crossed the red line. We have entered the theater of the absurd.
I can’t find a transcript of the interview; the video is below (46 minutes). Peter Baker reports on the interview in “President Obama calls preliminary Iran deal ‘our best bet.'”
In the interview Obama is selling the “framework” deal with Iran on its nuclear program. He wants Israelis to believe that he has their back, whatever that means in this context (i.e., nothing, except that he can insert a knife in it with precision). Here is how Peter Baker reports this thread:
Obama emphasized to Israel that “we’ve got their backs” in the face of Iranian hostility. And he suggested that he could accept some sort of vote in Congress if it did not block his ability to carry out the agreement.
“This is our best bet by far to make sure Iran doesn’t get a nuclear weapon,” Mr. Obama said in an interview with Thomas L. Friedman, an Op-Ed columnist for The Times, published on Sunday. “What we will be doing even as we enter into this deal is sending a very clear message to the Iranians and to the entire region that if anybody messes with Israel, America will be there.”
At least he didn’t say that the destruction of Israel is a red line for him. His formulations are nevertheless even more obviously meaningless in this case than his Syrian red line proved to be.
Obama buys the hardline/moderate/reformer reading of Iranian politics. He finds the Supreme Leader “a tough read.” He spells out how the supposed inspection regime to be finalized will turn create a process for adjudicating Iran’s objections to inspections by an international authority. Who can envision any problem with that?
At about 20:50 in the interview Obama cites the Supreme Leader’s alleged fatwa forbidding the building of nuclear weapons under Islam. He therefore posits that the Iranian nuclear program is of purely symbolic value. The alleged fatwa is a hoax.
Our Supreme Leader appears not to have heard that the alleged fatwa doesn’t exist. Nor does the foreign affairs columnist for the New York Times. Talk of the fatwa is fatuous, as is just about everything Obama says in this incredibly disheartening interview.
Obama holds: “Iran doesn’t need nuclear weapons to be a powerhouse in the region. You don’t need to be anti-Semitic to be a powerhouse in the region…My hope is the Iranian people begin to recognize that.” Obama means to facilitate Iran’s status as “a powerhouse in the region.”
Friedman asks Obama when sanctions are to be lifted at around 40:00. Iran anticipates that sanctions will be abrogated at the outset of the final arrangement. The Belfer Center has posted an English translation of the Iranian fact sheet on the nuclear negotiations here. It provides in part: “According to the reached solutions, after the implementation of the Comprehensive Plan of Joint Action, all of the UN resolutions will be revoked and all of the multilateral economic and financial sanctions by the EU and the unilateral ones by the US will be annulled.”
Emily Landau asks an obvious question that is implicit in the top two talking points supporting the deal: “But what if Iran simply exits the agreement?” Landau writes:
[I]t is important to take a step back and focus on what is the true key to any assessment of the overall negotiation with Iran. And that is whether the deal would enable Iran to keep its breakout capability intact, and in a manner that would enable a quick move to nuclear weapons when it decides.
The importance of this cannot be overemphasized because this is Iran’s goal in the negotiations – to get sanctions relief while holding on to its ability to break to nuclear weapons in a manner that will leave the international community powerless to stop it.
[E]nabling Iran to maintain its nuclear breakout capability – with the illusion of being able to stop it in time, and ignoring the option of Iranian defection because of complaints directed to the other side – is a recipe for failure to stop Iran whenever it decides to move to a military nuclear capability.
Attempting to “manage” the situation is a poor substitute for dismantlement and prevention. And nothing in the recent agreement changes that reality.
As Caroline Glick argues, this is a deal that gives us “the diplomatic track to war.”
Quotable quote: “We are powerful enough to test these propositions without putting ourselves at risk.”