National Security & Defense

The President’s Failed Leadership on Iran

(Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty)

Today marks another deadline for President Obama’s nuclear negotiations with Iran. The truth is these talks were doomed from the start by the administration’s pattern of retreat. As the Iranians hang tough, insisting on their core demands, the president has steadily abandoned commitments he made to the American people and our allies.

In the most recent example, Secretary of State John Kerry backed off from the longstanding demand of the United States and its partners that Iran come clean about the possible military dimensions of its program before any deal is signed. If the administration continues on this course, we will never know how much progress the Iranians made toward building a nuclear weapon in the past, leaving us in the dark about how quickly they could make a bomb in the future. As a result of this and many other concessions, negotiations originally designed to deny Iran a path to the bomb are instead giving an American stamp of approval to the country’s nuclear-weapons ambitions.

President Obama’s pattern of retreat has sent such a resounding message of weakness that the Iranians, even if they do sign an agreement, will inevitably test American resolve again and again. The administration tells us not to worry, because its “unprecedented” inspections will discover any cheating by Iran. But effective inspections can’t take place without Iranian cooperation, which Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, has rejected. And responding to any violations will also require Russia and China’s goodwill, which is in short supply.

While failing to stop the mullahs’ march toward a bomb, President Obama’s deal risks turning Iran into the dominant power in the Middle East. The so-called “signing bonus” — the many billions of dollars Iran will receive even before it delivers fully on its commitments — will provide the regime that chants “Death to America” and calls for Israel’s destruction the resources to fund more terrorism across the region; to further destabilize Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen; and to build up Hamas’s lethal arsenal.

Throughout these negotiations, the president has failed to lead. He has consistently ignored concerns from Democrats, Republicans, and key allies.

What’s worse, the president’s deal also ignores crucial components of the broader Iranian threat, including Iran’s ballistic missile arsenal — the largest and most sophisticated in the region. Iran is also developing intercontinental ballistic missiles, something no nation in history has done without developing nuclear warheads to match, and an obvious potential threat to the American homeland.

How do we get back on the right course? President Obama must abandon his flawed framework, which accepts Iran as a nuclear-weapons threshold state. Instead, we should send a message loud and clear that America demands a deal in which Iran dismantles its illicit nuclear infrastructure and agrees to full transparency and verification. We should remind the world that Iran is in active violation of numerous U.N. Security Council resolutions. We should redouble efforts to impose crippling economic sanctions on Iran without apology and rollback Iran’s regional influence. We should focus international attention on Iran’s abysmal human-rights record and its support for terrorism abroad. And we should stand with our key allies and partners in the region, especially Israel.

Iran’s rulers should fear American economic sanctions and military power. But they don’t because President Obama dislikes these tools almost as much as they do. He imposed tough economic sanctions on Iran only when Congress forced him to do so. And when he failed to enforce his own red lines in Syria, he proved that the use of military force — despite his repeated claims to the contrary — was never really on the table.

#related#Now the president tells us we face a stark decision: his bad deal or war with Iran. This is a false choice. The president’s deal is the starting pistol in a Middle Eastern nuclear-arms race that would actually make war with Iran more likely, not less. His lack of resolve and pattern of retreat have unnerved our allies, who are now taking steps to defend themselves from the growing threat of a nuclear Iran.

Throughout these negotiations, the president has failed to lead. He has consistently ignored concerns from Democrats, Republicans, and key allies. He is squandering an opportunity to peacefully eliminate Iran’s nuclear program, an opportunity generated by 19 years of bipartisan sanctions and 12 years of negotiations.

Mr. President, it’s time for you to bone up on the principle of strong American leadership. Such a course of study would convince you to prioritize our safety over your own legacy. It would compel you to step away from this bad deal, and America would be better for it.

— Scott Walker is the governor of Wisconsin.

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