How Tonight’s Debaters Should Handle Obama’s Iran Agreement

How Tonight’s Debaters Should Handle Obama’s Iran Agreement

Donald Trump and the other GOP presidential contenders must clearly explain tonight why President Obama’s Iran agreement damages American interests.
Arnold Steinberg
By

The seventeen GOP presidential candidates must talk definitively about Iran in tonight’s debates. That’s because the 60-day window is ticking for Congress on “the deal” (a cynical term used even by President Obama—no one says “agreement”). It’s not enough for Donald Trump to say, properly, that he would have increased sanctions and intensified pressure, and that he would never have gone to the table unless Iran showed good faith by releasing the four captive Americans. Or that he would have negotiated from strength and not kept extending deadlines and caved; that he would have walked away from the Persian bazaar.

Let everyone know tonight that this administration discouraged and prevented Israel from a military attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities when such an attack was more feasible. A delusional Barack Obama believes his outreach to Iran is somehow comparable to Richard Nixon’s rapprochement. Obama was a community organizer with no legislative accomplishments in Illinois or the U.S. Senate who reads a teleprompter and plays beginners checkers. Nixon was a naval officer, congressman, senator, vice president, and international statesman who played multi-dimensional chess. Obama’s ego makes him so arrogantly intent on his dubious legacy that he would, in effect, compromise the national security of this nation.

Trump and the other presidential contenders must clearly explain tonight why this agreement is contrary to American interests: how it will embolden Iran, increase its influence, reward and fund more terrorism, threaten our moderate Arab allies, trigger a destabilizing conventional and nuclear regional arms race, spur nuclear proliferation (a traditional liberal obsession) beyond the Mideast, incite a Hezbollah rocket war against Israel, end any chance of Israeli-Palestinian peace or a two-state solution (a liberal panacea), and assure a nuclear weapons capability for Iran that would endanger Europe and, in time, the United States.

Remind everyone that Obama said this deal must be limited to nuclear capability; instead, Kerry allowed new conventional capabilities immediately for Iran and, down the line, intercontinental missiles that could target the United States. And Obama says the burden of proof is on opponents of the deal? The alternative is back to the negotiating table with the strongest sanctions we can have, and, if necessary and allied with other Arab nations: pursuing disruptions, cyber warfare, and targeted assassinations and military strikes to keep delaying fulfillment of Iran’s nuclear option.

Obama Is No Reagan or JFK

But first the presidential candidates, hopefully on the same page, must correct the record, and President Obama has just given them a new opening.

A nuclear-armed Iran could be as dangerous a threat to the United States as the Soviet Union.

In his speech yesterday at American University, where President John F. Kennedy spoke more than a half century ago about war and peace, President Obama presumptuously invoked memories of JFK and Ronald Reagan. Let me paraphrase the late distinguished U.S. Senator Lloyd Bentsen, a great national-security Democrat (who probably would have opposed this deal), as I say this to President Obama: In 1960, I was a 13-year-old boy volunteering in JFK’s presidential campaign, and you’re no John Kennedy. And a few years later, I first met Reagan, and you’re no Reagan.

As my colleague Bruce Weinrod, a foreign-policy expert who served as the Pentagon’s point man for NATO, has written, a nuclear-armed Iran could be as dangerous a threat to the United States as the Soviet Union, and the agreement’s verification provisions, hardly comparable with Reagan’s negotiated verification provisions, are flawed.

Unlike Obama with Iran, Reagan refused to negotiate with the Soviets until they changed their hostile objectives. Obama relaxed pressure on Iran. Reagan increased pressure on the Soviet Union. Despite his public posture, Obama privately took the military option off the table; Reagan launched the Strategic Defense Initiative to convince the Soviets to negotiate. Obama sought “to weaken, delay or block enhanced sanctions” on Iran; Reagan sought to disrupt the Soviet economy. Obama made “pre-emptive concessions”; Reagan held firm and walked away from the negotiating table at Reykjavik.

President Obama cited President Kennedy’s 1963 test-ban treaty and President Ronald Reagan’s 1987 nuclear forces reduction agreement. In his speech, Obama also said Iranian “hardliners chanting ‘Death to America’ …are making common cause with the Republican Caucus.” Incredibly, he equates reasoned opponents of his deal exercising their constitutional prerogative with Islamist terrorists who would kill us. Obama did not mention that even Democrats in Congress who support the deal are unenthused (“it’s the best we can do”), and some congressional Democrats, despite his threats, already have declared opposition.

In contrast to Obama’s ugliness, presidents Kennedy and Reagan, recognizing bipartisan foreign policy, sought the U.S. Senate’s advice and consent.

In contrast to Obama’s ugliness, presidents Kennedy and Reagan, recognizing bipartisan foreign policy, sought the U.S. Senate’s advice and consent (80 to 19, and 93 to 5, respectively) on their treaties. I worked in the Senate when it ratified President Nixon’s ABM treaty (88 to 2). In 1979, Jimmy Carter sought Senate approval for his arms limitation agreement with the Soviets, then withdrew it after the Soviets invaded Afghanistan.

But even Carter, unlike the non-collaborative Obama, was not go-it-alone. Obama says the Iran deal is “consequential,” yet views it only as an executive agreement and announces he yet will defy congressional disapproval. His Secretary of State John Kerry extended negotiations so many times he became subject to the Stockholm Syndrome: Kerry just said congressional rejection would be the “ultimate screwing…of the Ayatollah.” The administration doesn’t mind screwing Israel and our Arab allies, or going first to the United Nations—an end-run around not just Republicans, but Congress.

Obama Must Be Smoking an Iranian Hookah

Obama, in his continued isolate-Israel mode, said in his speech that except for Israel, other nations publicly support the deal. Do these benevolent countries favor the United States or Iran, or just their own interest? And what about the Arab nations that privately oppose the deal? Consider that in, all these years that Israel has had a nuclear weapons capability, Arab countries were unworried. Ever wonder why the region is apoplectic about Iran?

If under heavy sanctions Iran kept spending on terrorism, why—with no sanctions—would it stop now?

Powerful multinational business interests and perhaps billionaire plutocrats would profit from this deal to end sanctions. Perhaps Bernie Sanders should inquire. Instead, Obama in yesterday’s speech raised the specter of “tens of millions of dollars” in (dual-loyalty Jews?) lobbying against the deal. I keep mentioning this speech because his remarks are calculated, not impromptu. As Jennifer Rubin noted in the Washington Post, Kerry has previously warned of Israeli manipulation of Congress, and that Israel (and American Jews?) would be blamed for congressional rejection of Obama’s deal. This divisive rhetoric has consequence: every African-American member of Congress boycotted the prescient speech of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Obama’s historical revisionism on Iran and this “deal” is remarkable. He said sanctions contracted Iran’s economy by 20 percent to bring them to the table, and wants to end them to help Iran with “56 billion dollars of its own money” for “funding pensions and salaries for infrastructure.” If under heavy sanctions Iran kept spending on terrorism, why—with no sanctions—would it stop now? He also conveniently does not say Congress forced him to go along with stronger sanctions. His administration claims multi-nation sanctions are no longer sustainable (if so, thanks to his lack of leadership); he also asserts that U.S. unilateral sanctions would be inadequate, yet he repeats the myth of “snap back” unilateral sanctions “if Iran violates the agreement.”

Later in the speech, he says unilateral sanctions won’t work because we would offend “countries like China…major purchasers of our debt.” Obama, like Kerry, argues Iran’s case, e.g., that we are negotiating not with the thugs who run the government, but with the “the Iranian people” who would not “agree to a total surrender of their sovereignty.” Yet Obama then falsely says “inspectors will be allowed daily access to Iran’s key nuclear sites…on 24 hours notice…even if Iran objects.” This is the stuff of “Saturday Night Live.”

The Iran Agreement Neuters U.S. Options

In claiming an “enforceable…permanent prohibition on… Iran weapons-related research,” Obama contradicts Kerry. Obama even says, “If 15 or 20 years from now, Iran tries to build a bomb, the U.S. will detect it” and we can respond “under international law…[with]…military options.” “If” (!) Iran will build a nuclear bomb? It will build dozens. And this agreement promises Iran the intercontinental missiles for a nuclear strike against the United States. So what “military options” would a future president have?

This agreement promises Iran the intercontinental missiles for a nuclear strike against the United States.

Obama in yesterday’s speech says Iran’s support of Hezbollah is old news, because “Iran has been engaged in [terrorism] for decades.” Hezbollah, with the money Obama would give them, could help guide and target Lebanon-based rockets, embedded in residential areas, to start a new war with Israel.

Obama asserts “sanctions relief” will not make Iran the region’s dominant power, but his overall policy toward Iran assures that nation’s regional hegemony. His syntax is worse than his logic: “Iran’s defense budget is eight times smaller than the combined budget of our Gulf allies.” Presumably he meant one-eighth the size, and that’s before he gives Iran tens of billions, just for starters. He even compares the U.S. defense budget of $600 billion, with his politically correct dumbing down of standards, and our international obligations, with Iran’s $15 billion focused on its lean, mean regional terrorist machine.

Obama says Israelis have a “deep skepticism” of Iran and its “ideology of anti-Semitism.” That paradigm might describe Obama’s one-time spiritual mentor Rev. Jeremiah Wright and his colleague, Lewis Farrakhan. They call Jews names. Iran’s rulers want to exterminate Jews. Of course, Kerry says not to take such statements seriously.

Obama correctly said yesterday the growth of ISIL has benefitted Iran. But here’s what he didn’t say: Near its inception, ISIL could have been destroyed. But Obama ignored and belittled intelligence briefings warning him about ISIL. In his speech, Obama disingenuously said we should approve his deal to “confront the immediate and lethal threat posed by ISIL.” That’s chutzpah.

The Iran Deal Is Precursor to War, Not a Block to It

Two days ago at the White House, on President Obama’s birthday, his supporter and friend Lee Rosenberg critically questioned the president about a familiar administration theme pushed hard by Kerry and Obama that the “the same people” who promoted the Iraq war now want a war with Iran. Obama was defensive, then threatened that if the deal did not go through, Iran would attack Israel.

The message tonight must be that no deal is better than this deal.

But Obama yesterday in his speech returned to his recurring theme: his current opponents are Iraq War retreads. Former Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren says he opposed the Iraq war and many Israeli leaders thought it imprudent, but as allies they supported the United States. Sen. Ben Cardin from Maryland, a Democrat who is leaning increasingly against the Iran deal, notes he voted against the Iraq war and finds the Obama-Kerry line offensive. So does liberal Democrat Alan Dershowitz, the famous Harvard Law School professor who also opposed the Iraq war.

Tonight the candidates must seem reasonable and not reinforce Obama’s caricature of trigger-happy Republicans. They must explain how Obama’s deal, even if Iran keeps to the agreement, empowers its nuclear military capability. The deal not only insures a generation of graduated terrorism and rampant warfare, but far worse, a nuclear threat to our homeland.

America is weary of war, especially ground conflicts imprudently fought on the enemy’s terms. The message tonight must be that no deal is better than this deal, and Democrats and Republicans should work together for a strategy to prevent Iran from closure on its nuclear weapons program.

Arnold Steinberg is the author of "Whiplash! From JFK to Donald Trump, A Political Odyssey" (May 2017). His previous books on politics and media were graduate school texts.

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