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Ben Rhodes Attacks Trump To Obscure Obama’s Complicity In Iran’s Forever War

Ben Rhodes and Barack Obama

Peevish Obama national security official Ben Rhodes of “we can tell journalists anything and they’ll believe it” fame recently published an editorial in The Atlantic ripping the president’s recent dealings with Iran. Rhodes’ ripostes flow from the president’s game-changing retaliatory strike on the Obama administration partner — and leading terrorist of the leading terror force of the world’s leading terror regime — Qassem Soleimani.

Rhodes’ Atlantic retorts to Trump’s foreign policy have been as mendacious as his tweets are manic.

As he did with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Rhodes is again working to manipulate the press — who, in his words, “literally know nothing” — by farcically contrasting the Obama Iran policy with the Trump one. The media seems a willing partner, what with the wake-like atmosphere it has created over a genocidal jihadist’s demise, and the irresponsible war hysteria it has ginned up.

In spite of Rhodes’ cynicism, disingenuousness, and demonstrable Trump hatred, his arguments demand countering, since he and his minions lead the Democrats’ progressive foreign policy wing.

The Iran Deal Strengthened the Mullahs

Rhodes’ first major contention is that the Iran nuclear deal rolled back its program, and Iran was complying with it. Both elements of this argument are at best highly misleading. To make the case, Rhodes commits sins of omission and commission about the deal, its context, and purpose.

Rhodes cites as one JCPOA success that “Iran destroyed the core of a reactor that could have produced plutonium for a bomb.” We now know that the core of the Arak reactor to which he was alluding may well be operable, with Iran claiming it surreptitiously purchased duplicate parts to replace the ones it had destroyed to satisfy the deal.

He cites as another success that Iran “removed two-thirds of its centrifuges, the machines that can enrich uranium for a bomb.” Beyond the fact the removed centrifuges were not destroyed, but stored, prior to the Trump administration’s exit from the JCPOA, Iran had violated several centrifuge-related provisions, including busting caps. These two purported Iran deal “successes” may have been mere pauses in parts of Iran’s nuclear program, and nevertheless seem to have been tied to violations.

There is also substantial evidence the argument that “the Iran deal was working” is a fantasy. As Republican Sens. Tom Cotton, Ted Cruz, David Perdue, and Marco Rubio highlighted in a letter to then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in July 2017, open-source reporting showed Iran had:

  • Exceeded limits on its heavy water stocks and claimed a right to produce limitless amounts while retaining ownership by claiming it was “seeking” an international buyer,
  • Illegally sought to procure nuclear and missile technology — efforts German intelligence indicated persisted into 2018.
  • Refused to provide inspectors access to nuclear-research and military facilities where its weapons work would have been most likely occurring.

Relatedly, in September 2017, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), tasked with carrying out many Iran deal-related inspections, admitted it could not assess Iran’s compliance with JCPOA Section T, which bars Iran from engaging in “activities which could contribute to the development of a nuclear explosive device.” In June 2018, David Albright of the Institute for Science and International Security testified that Section T had “not been implemented or adequately verified due to Iranian resistance.” Dating back to the start of the deal, there were indicators of other critical IAEA omissions in its reporting on Iran’s nuclear activities.

On top of these issues, the IAEA has neglected to follow up on allegations of prohibited activities taking place at certain facilities. It was reported that, months later, its officials discovered trace amounts of uranium at one of these facilities. More staggeringly, Iran was in violation of parts of the agreement dating back to implementation day.

There was an even more fundamental problem: The JCPOA was consummated with inaccurate and incomplete information, as Israel’s seizure of a massive trove of documents on Iran’s nuclear program showed. The negotiators’ gaps in knowledge would have flowed through to the deal, rendering it more deficient than it already was. This is to say nothing of Iran’s record of cheating on such deals, or the sweetheart side deals it cut with the Obama administration, or its illegitimacy in being foisted on America as an executive agreement rather than with our consent as a treaty.

But the simple fact is that even if the United States could accurately gauge Iran’s nuclear activities, and Iran strictly adhered to the deal, the theocratic regime would still be stronger than prior to the deal. The mullocracy, which had been on the brink of economic collapse, would still have received a lifeline of well more than $100 billion in freed funds and sanctions relief, and seen its nuclear and ballistic missile programs legitimated and jihadist malevolence rewarded — while retaining the capability to quickly achieve future nuclear breakout.

The Iran deal only “worked” in strengthening the regime. And that was the whole point. The notion the JCPOA was about keeping a bomb out of the mullahs’ hands only rings true to the extent President Obama was bribing the mullocracy into developing it after he left office.

Since the administration’s broader policy was to make Iran the Middle East strong horse — providing a “stabilizing” Islamist force that enabled America to retreat — the Iran deal was the gimmick by which to accomplish it. Since it was about Persian power projection rather than nuclear arms control, the Iran deal should have been called the “Mullah Recapitalization and Regional Hegemony Non-Treaty of 2015.”

The Iran Deal Did Not Create Peace

Rhodes’ second major contention is essentially that we were at peace with Iran while the JCPOA was still in place, and President Trump’s actions started war. He writes:

[O]ver the past year alone, Iran or its proxies have shot down a U.S. drone, harassed and seized oil tankers, bombed Saudi oil infrastructure, killed unarmed protesters, and resumed rocket attacks against U.S. interests in Iraq. During the implementation of the Iran deal, by contrast, there wasn’t a single such rocket attack from a Shia militia. Trump initiated the escalatory cycle that led us to this extraordinarily dangerous moment.

One wonders, how do Obamaites think Iran got into the position to engage in this malevolent activity, had it been such a docile force between the July 2015 deal date and the May 2018 deal withdrawal date?

Do they acknowledge, as then-Secretary of State John Kerry did, that U.S. dollars would fund Iran-backed jihadists? Do they believe Iran’s arming of proxies from Lebanon, to Gaza, to Yemen, and working to consolidate its Shiite Crescent represented peaceful endeavors? Do they ascribe no culpability to Iran for the Syrian civil war in which hundreds of thousands were slaughtered? Do they think Iran’s proxies ceased their illicit activities in Latin America and on American soil? Do they have amnesia over images of American sailors the Iranian navy captured and forced to their knees?

Leftists know well the weakness of this argument because the Obama administration bent over backwards for, aided, abetted, enabled, and invited still more of Iran’s hostile activities in the run-up to the deal and following its execution. If Iran were engaging in less open hostility toward America before it vacated the JCPOA, it is only because Iran was capitalizing on the window of opportunity the Obama administration opened for it to prepare for or avoid future battles.

The JCPOA was one stage of Iran’s forever war against America, of which we have been a victim since 1979. It enabled the regime to recapitalize, rearm, and resume its exportation of Islamic revolution with the West’s imprimatur. The Trump administration has merely shattered the illusion of peace leftists saw in Iran’s march. Iran is striking out today with Obama administration funding because the United States halted it. Tehran’s apparent face-saving response to the strike on Soleimani demonstrated Iran is acting from a position of weakness.

Iran Deal Withdrawal Made America the Strong Horse

This brings us to Rhodes’ third major contention that Trump wrongly “said that in withdrawing from JCPOA, he would be in a stronger position to stop Iran’s provocations across the Middle East.” While not exactly the president’s argument in withdrawing from the JCPOA, that decision and related actions have left America in a far better position to counter a hostile Iran.

JCPOA withdrawal was a central component of a policy that has included:

  • Bleeding the regime of money through reimposing crippling sanctions, and then fortifying and augmenting them,
  • Retaliating to attacks on Americans and American assets expeditiously and, where merited, with overwhelming force — and threatening greater punishment should further threats materialize,
  • Fostering a U.S.-Israel-Sunni Arab, anti-Iran partnership to restore Sunni-Shia balance and enable the United States to reduce its footprint in the Middle East.

Consequently, the Iranian regime is facing a collapsing economy, related unrest at home and within its putative satrapies, several proxy wars, and no more Soleimani. This reality has left it impoverished, over-extended, and outgunned. America is in a far stronger position to deal with Iran’s provocations under Trump than at any time since Obama entered office.

Democrats Hate that Trump Puts America First

The Iran deal was a ruse. The mullocracy engaged in malicious acts before, during, and after it. The deal did not diminish Iran’s bellicosity; it fueled it, while emboldening the cantankerous regime. The rockets and missiles being fired at Americans, the still hundreds of thousands more aimed at Israel, and the weapons mowing down dissidents on the streets of Iran and Iraq are the Obama administration’s legacy.

The Trump administration is seeking not only to roll back the gains Obama provided the Khomeinist regime, but to weaken and destabilize that regime through maximum economic pressure backed by overwhelming military might and re-established Sunni-Shia balance, so our troops can come home on our terms. The overall aim is to increase the likelihood Iran will sue for peace, however remote that prospect might be, which appeasement could never achieve.

Democrats would have us believe the use of overwhelming force is the real danger. They would have us believe the threat of unpredictable and disproportionate strikes, and a willingness to show greater tenacity than an enemy, is unlikely to save America from more protracted battles; that history from World War II to Israel’s experience with the Islamic world shows it is not strength but weakness that ceases hostility.

Democrats want us to believe that in spite of the Trump administration’s consistent statements and actions, his Iran strategy is incoherent; that we should distrust our lying eyes about Iranian attacks on Americans, and disregard the heretofore infallible national security apparatus when it says plotters are planning additional ones. They want us to think Trump has caused Iran’s hostility, not that he is working to put an end to it.

The Trump administration is prudently and resolutely defending American national interest. Apparently, Democratic opponents cannot abide this. For to do so would lay bare the bankruptcy of their worldview, and the disaster it has created for America.