Dec 1, 2014, Vol. 20, No. 12 • By LEE SMITH
As we go to press, the White House has reportedly offered Iran a deal regarding its nuclear program, a framework agreement with details to be worked out in the coming months. However, even as the interim agreement is set to expire November 24, it seems the Iranians have not responded to the Obama administration’s offer. And why would they? The White House has made it clear it wants a deal more than the Islamic Republic does. Under the circumstances, why wouldn’t Tehran wait to see how many more U.S. concessions it can extract?
There appears to be compromise on a number of major issues, like the number of centrifuges Iran will be able to keep (around 5,000). Other details, like the pace of sanctions relief and addressing the possible military dimensions of the program, seem to be where the Iranians are trying to force the administration to bend. All we know for certain is that the Obama White House is a long way from where it was a year ago, and not in a good sense.
Back then the administration told Congress not to worry about oversight—it was going to get a good deal or walk away from the table. No deal at all was better than a bad one. Last year, the slogan was “stop, shut, and ship,” which meant the Iranians would have no choice but to cease their weapons program once and for all. Now, the deal would compel the Iranians only to disconnect centrifuges, which would leave them in a position to restart activities promptly—and, without a proper verification regime, secretly.
The administration is said to be happy to have bargained Iran down to around 5,000 centrifuges—a number low enough that the international community would have approximately six months’ notice if Iran tried to break out. This assumes transparency—that Washington and its allies can accurately assess the state of Iran’s nuclear weapons program. However, the revelation over the last decade of secret Iranian facilities—at Natanz, then Fordow—is evidence that our window into Iranian nuclear activities is cloudy. It assumes further that if we could forecast a breakout, the international community would have the will to stop Iran, that it would be possible, for instance, to get a resolution through the United Nations Security Council in a timely fashion. It assumes therefore not only the acquiescence of allies, like Germany, already eager to do business with a post-sanctions Iran, but also the agreement of Russia and China, who in fact would be certain to stall, if not block, action at the U.N.
Moreover, it is worth noting that the preceding conditions are applicable only in a best-case scenario, in which the White House might really have six months to act. It is much more likely that the administration will have no margin of error—which is to say, if we are talking about activities at a clandestine facility, the breakout time will be measured not in months but in weeks.
As David Albright, founder and president of the Institute for Science and International Security, explains, one of the major issues dividing the two sides is the issue of how PMDs (the term of art for possible military dimensions) affect the verification regime. The International Atomic Energy Agency, Albright said on a conference call last week organized by the Israel Project, needs to know the history of Iran’s nuclear program. Without that, he said, “we simply cannot understand if Iran . . . has hidden parts of [a] past nuclear weapons program, perhaps even nuclear material. And so the IAEA simply cannot give the assurance that there’s not some secret part there unless they understand the history and know who did what, where it was done, and then have assurance that those people and those activities at those facilities have stopped, and they’ve not been moved someplace else.”
In other words, if Iran can already undermine the organization responsible for verifying compliance with the agreement, then it can certainly do so in the future as well. Indeed, as Albright explains, “it would be a lot easier in the future, when there are no . . . major economic and financial sanctions that can leverage Iran to cooperate.” Presumably, this is the item the Iranian side is most eager to see the White House concede: to hollow out the verification regime and thereby help Iran keep aspects of its program out of the spotlight of IAEA inspectors.
Maybe the Obama administration was simply naïve to have believed that Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei would give newly elected president Hassan Rouhani a lot of room to maneuver in nuclear talks. Perhaps the White House was arrogant to think that sanctions relief would get Rouhani, as some administration officials put it, “addicted to cash” and force him to make concessions on the nuclear program in order to revive the Iranian economy.
Nov 3, 2014, Vol. 20, No. 08 • By STEPHEN F. HAYES
At long last, the conventional wisdom about the 2014 midterms is here: It’s an election about nothing.
Nov 3, 2014, Vol. 20, No. 08 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
Supposing Republicans win a big victory on November 4. What then?
First, celebration. Republicans are sober and conservatives are . . . conservative. Neither group has a reputation as party animals. But The Weekly Standard gives them permission—nay, we urge them with the full authority of our weighty editorial voice—to let themselves go for one night. Pop the champagne corks. Put on the party hats. Go wild with the funny little noisemakers.
Oct 13, 2014, Vol. 20, No. 05 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
How to introduce students to conservative thought? It’s hard. The colleges and universities aren’t interested. The media and popular culture are hostile. What if young Americans nonetheless become aware of the existence of such a thing as conservative thought? How to convey its varieties and complexities? Even tougher. You can write articles and put things online, but there’s an awful lot competing for young people’s attention these days.
But there’s good news nonetheless. Help has arrived. Its name? President Barack Obama.
Oct 13, 2014, Vol. 20, No. 05 • By LEE SMITH
Last week Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu went to the U.N. General Assembly and the White House to warn against letting Iran become a nuclear threshold state. He may be too late. With the Obama administration walking back its longstanding demand that Iran dismantle its centrifuges, the clerical regime in Tehran will soon be on the threshold of a nuclear breakout.
This fact is not lost on the White House. Recent appointments and statements underscore the administration’s new posture toward Iran—détente.
Sep 29, 2014, Vol. 20, No. 03 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
Republican voters are down on the sluggish GOP officials they elected, and the officeholders whine about the unreasonable people who voted for them. Republican backbenchers complain about their lame leaders, and GOP leaders grumble about their unruly followers. Right-wing pundits despair of unimaginative Republican pols, and the hard-headed pols are impatient with impractical commentators. Conservative activists loathe the GOP establishment, and the establishment is terrified and contemptuous of the base.
Sep 29, 2014, Vol. 20, No. 03 • By JAY COST
Pundits throw out all sorts of numbers to explain the Republican defeat in the 2012 presidential election. So here’s our number: $65,000. That is a rough estimate of the household income of the average 2012 voter. Republicans lost because Mitt Romney did not do well enough with this voter or those near him on the income scale.
Sep 8, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 48 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
"Rooting out a cancer like ISIL won’t be easy and it won’t be quick,” President Obama told the American Legion’s annual convention in Charlotte on Tuesday, August 26. He repeated the thought in his pre-Labor Day weekend press conference on August 28. A week before, the day after the murder of James Foley, Obama had remarked, “From governments and peoples across the Middle East there has to be a common effort to extract this cancer, so that it does not spread.”
Sep 1, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 47 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
On Tuesday, August 19, an American citizen, James Foley, was savagely killed. The group of jihadists known as ISIL had previously killed and brutalized tens of thousands of non-Americans. But they killed Foley because he was an American. They titled the grotesque video of this particular act of barbarism “A message to America.”
Aug 18, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 46 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
It was something of a puzzle, according to the headline in the August 7 New York Times: “Islamic Militants in Iraq Are Widely Loathed, Yet Action to Curb Them Is Elusive.” On the one hand, the article pointed out, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, “is on nearly every nation’s public enemy list, as well as the United Nations’ list of terrorist organizations facing sanctions.” What’s more, ISIS’s barbarism has been publicized and its threat to others is clear.
Jun 23, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 39 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
In the largest turnout in a congressional primary in the history of Virginia politics, the voters of the Commonwealth’s 7th Congressional District last Tuesday decisively chose not to renominate their seven-term representative, now serving as House majority leader, who had massively outspent his little-known challenger.
Jun 16, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 38 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
“Regardless of the circumstances, whatever those circumstances may turn out to be, we still get an American soldier back if he’s held in captivity. Period. Full stop. We don’t condition that. That’s what every mom and dad who sees a son or daughter sent over into [a] war theater should expect not just from their commander in chief but the United States of America. . . . The United States has always had a pretty sacred rule.
Jun 9, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 37 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
On May 23, a young man killed 6 people and wounded 13 others near the campus of the University of California, Santa Barbara, before turning a gun on himself. But you probably knew that, because the incident was unavoidable in the news. Despite all of the national coverage, the student-government-run newspaper at UCSB, The Bottom Line, had a unique perspective on the crime and could have provided invaluable coverage. Yet they decided not to cover the story:
Mar 24, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 27 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
Are Americans today war-weary? Sure. The Iraq and Afghanistan wars have been frustrating and tiring. Are Americans today unusually war-weary? No. They were wearier after the much larger and even more frustrating conflicts in Korea and Vietnam. And even though the two world wars of the last century had more satisfactory outcomes, their magnitude was such that they couldn’t help but induce a significant sense of war-weariness. And history shows that they did.