Politics & Policy

A Victory for Iran

The Obama administration’s “interim” agreement is an exercise in wishful thinking.

Ninety percent of the American opinion elite will fall for the old “historic breakthrough” conceit every time. The appeal of getting enemies in a room together where they will shed their animosity and “reason together” is so profound that nothing as tiresome as experience can diminish its allure.

Don’t talk to Secretary Kerry or President Obama about the League of Nations (which enjoyed such success ensuring world peace) or the Kellogg–Briand Pact, the 1928 treaty that outlawed war as an instrument of national policy. Fifty-four countries, including all of the major belligerents of World War II, signed the pact. Don’t mention the series of “breakthrough agreements” between the United States and North Korea, in which we thrice (1994, 2005, 2007) offered security guarantees, food aid, diplomatic concessions, and cash in exchange for North Korea’s promise to discontinue its nuclear program. The very same person who handled negotiations with North Korea for the Clinton administration, Wendy Sherman, is now heading up the U.S. team stroking the Iranians. (The Bush administration, more immune than most to the siren call of diplomatic breakthroughs, did fall into the trap with North Korea.)

#ad#Secretary Kerry, denying that the Geneva accord is a naïve exercise in wishful thinking, pleads that we need to “put to the test Iran’s words and intentions.” Any contract requires a meeting of the minds. Kerry keeps saying that we don’t need to trust the Iranians because we will be checking them at every stage. But if the parties do not even agree to what they’ve just signed in the 18 hours after inking a document, how well is verification going to go? Mohammed Zarif, Iran’s chief negotiator, asserted that the agreement takes the threat of force off the table, and enshrines Iran’s “right” to enrich uranium. Kerry flatly denies both. Nice start.

Secretary Kerry also challenged Iran to “prove” to the world that its nuclear program is only for “peaceful purposes.” Is that a question an adult, far less America’s chief diplomat, should pose? Iran controls the world’s fourth largest supply of oil and second largest reserve of natural gas. Are we to believe that Iran is pursuing nuclear power because of concern about climate change? How exactly would Iran’s active research on nuclear-weapons design and development of ballistic-missile technology suit that explanation?

It has been obvious for more than two decades that Iran is determined to join the nuclear club — a goal America’s allies in the region and right-thinking people the world over view with horror and dread. Five Security Council resolutions have demanded that Iran suspend all enrichment of uranium. The Obama administration itself has repeatedly and starkly declared that Iran’s possession of nuclear weapons is “unacceptable.”

As with so many things President Obama has said, though, this pronouncement is nothing more than a windsock — it shows which way the wind is blowing, but doesn’t hold anything. Like the “red line” about Syria’s use of chemical weapons, the stentorian injunctions against Iran’s nuclear pursuit are also just so much wind.

Both Kerry and Obama have repeatedly argued that negotiation is the only alternative to war. By blurting this in an attempt to dissuade Congress from passing further sanctions they completely neuter any implied threat of military force. Iran certainly notices the Obama administration’s eagerness for a deal as well as its rejection of military action.

Nor is it correct that the only alternative to this capitulation was war. The sanctions that this agreement supersedes were working well to force the Iranian regime to come to terms. Their nation is struggling with high prices, shortages, and a collapsing currency due to sanctions. This should have been a moment of maximum leverage for the United States and other powers. Yet the deal they’ve achieved does next to nothing to reverse Iran’s march to a bomb and does a great deal to undermine the fragile, painfully achieved world consensus to impose sanctions.

“For the first time in nearly a decade, we have halted the progress of the Iranian nuclear program,” Mr. Obama intoned. But we’ve seen this story unfold many times before, most recently with North Korea. Our eagerness for pieces of paper that can be brandished as “peace” trumps cold reality every time. Iran has slipped the sanctions noose. It will soon become a nuclear power — not despite our best efforts, but with our tacit acquiescence. We will look back on this agreement with bitterness in the very near future.

Mona Charen is a nationally syndicated columnist. © 2013 Creators Syndicate, Inc.

Most Popular

Law & the Courts

Obstruction Confusions

In his Lawfare critique of one of my several columns about the purported obstruction case against President Trump, Gabriel Schoenfeld loses me — as I suspect he will lose others — when he says of himself, “I do not think I am Trump-deranged.” Gabe graciously expresses fondness for me, and the feeling is ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Students’ Anti-Gun Views

Are children innocents or are they leaders? Are teenagers fully autonomous decision-makers, or are they lumps of mental clay, still being molded by unfolding brain development? The Left seems to have a particularly hard time deciding these days. Take, for example, the high-school students from Parkland, ... Read More
PC Culture

Kill Chic

We live in a society in which gratuitous violence is the trademark of video games, movies, and popular music. Kill this, shoot that in repugnant detail becomes a race to the visual and spoken bottom. We have gone from Sam Peckinpah’s realistic portrayal of violent death to a gory ritual of metal ripping ... Read More

Romney Is a Misfit for America

Mitt’s back. The former governor of Massachusetts and occasional native son of Michigan has a new persona: Mr. Utah. He’s going to bring Utah conservatism to the whole Republican party and to the country at large. Wholesome, efficient, industrious, faithful. “Utah has a lot to teach the politicians in ... Read More
Law & the Courts

What the Second Amendment Means Today

The horrifying school massacre in Parkland, Fla., has prompted another national debate about guns. Unfortunately, it seems that these conversations are never terribly constructive — they are too often dominated by screeching extremists on both sides of the aisle and armchair pundits who offer sweeping opinions ... Read More

Fire the FBI Chief

American government is supposed to look and sound like George Washington. What it actually looks and sounds like is Henry Hill from Goodfellas: bad suit, hand out, intoning the eternal mantra: “F*** you, pay me.” American government mostly works by interposition, standing between us, the free people at ... Read More