Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent address to a Joint Session of Congress regarding the Iranian nuclear deal received major attention over the past few weeks. But the more important issue at hand cuts much deeper than Bibi’s speech and cries of Israeli electioneering. We ought, instead, to examine why Netanyahu felt it so important to speak out and why the Obama Administration felt so strongly that he shouldn’t. A closer look reveals a critically flawed deal that undermines American security interests and the existing order of the free world.
A nuclear capable Iran poses an unambiguous threat not only to Israel and the West, but to the larger Middle East. Arab leaders in Iran’s neighboring countries are, like Israel, distrustful of a nuclear Iran but doubt America’s capacity to place meaningful restrictions on its nuclear program. By negotiating with Iran, we have alienated our Sunni friends in Saudi Arabia and the UAE, who have begun building an Arab coalition against the Shiite country. Obama has turned a blind eye to these concerns, in addition to Iran’s continued support of the Assad regime in Syria. This, coupled with the arms race certain to ensue after Iran develops its nuclear capabilities, will incite far greater conflict and destruction to the Middle East along Sunni-Shiite lines. Not to mention the existential threat to Israel, surrounded by hostile neighbors and terrorist groups funded by Iran, whose finances will swell with the lifting of sanctions. Obama’s overtures have thus cast a long shadow on the prospect of Middle Eastern stability. If this administration truly seeks to diffuse regional tensions and convert Iran into a reliable member of a peaceful Middle East, his forfeiture of the standing economic leverage that brought Iran to negotiations in the first place seems premature and counter-productive.
Keeping Iran’s existing nuclear program in place for allegedly peaceful use in energy and medicine, while curbing its ability to develop nuclear power for military use, is simply poor politics. A “sunset clause” that would allow a deal to expire following the ten to fifteen years that officials are projecting the agreement to cover puts a proverbial band-aid on a much more deeply rooted problem. This diplomatic framework is built upon the assumption that Iran’s radical regime can normalize within a decade, that despite Iran’s continued support of known terror groups, its shameful human rights record, and its hostility towards the west, it will somehow renounce its dogmatic political identity. More likely, the Iranian government will proceed in much the same way as it has for the last thirty years. They will simply wait for the deal to expire before developing nuclear weapons unobstructed. There is no reason to believe Iran will cooperate with any regulations when they have made a habit of evading IAEA inspection. If their nuclear program were, in fact, for peaceful purposes, why hide their nuclear reactor sites or withhold exculpatory information?
Negotiations are built upon mutual trust. But the obvious lack of integrity on the other side of the negotiating table renders the entire negotiation tenuous—at best. A government with Iran’s track record offers no basis for optimism. A nuclear deal on these terms would pardon a regime whose values stand in diametric opposition to those of the United States and the free world at large. It is this fundamental truth that Obama has failed to grasp. Brokering an agreement on the gamble that a rogue state will de-radicalize and pave the way for rapprochement is reckless. Those optimistic—nay, naive—hearken back to the strong ties between Iran, the US, and Israel before 1979 as evidence for possible reconciliation. But the Islamic Revolution transformed the very socio-political fabric of Iran. A regime change within the deal’s ten-year duration is unrealistic given the ideological continuity we have seen. From Khomeini to Khameinei, the public discourse in Iran has remained largely the same. Those who look upon President Rouhani as a bulwark for change and western solidarity ought not to forget the character of the regime in which his politics were first distilled. As the nuclear negotiator for his predecessor Ahmadinejad, Rouhani offers a disturbing extension of ideas and policies already familiar to us—ones patently antagonistic to the values for which this nation stands. All of which begs the question, why is Obama in such a rush to compromise?
Obama is setting a dangerous precedent that the US must avoid. Negotiations with a known supporter of terrorism belie American principles. They ignore the realities of Iranian politics, which have no place in the western paradigm of democracy and freedom. Concessions with such serious security implications leave the US and her allies exposed and vulnerable.
Obama would be best advised to look back in history before making a risky bet on the prospect of massive Iranian political reform. He would find that negotiating with terrorists does not work, betraying our allies does not work, containment does not work, and appeasement most definitely does not work. Obama has made a treacherous mistake, a fateful blink in the political game of chicken that can be understood as nothing other than an unfortunate admission of his weakness. His desperation projects powerlessness to Iran and the rest of the world. It suggests that America operates without loyalty to its allies or its own convictions—a dangerous capitulation with high-stakes consequences for our future.