Aug 10, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 45 • By LEE SMITH
John Kerry is bullish on the Middle East. He believes that the Iran deal will make it possible for the White House and Tehran to tamp down wars in places like Syria and Yemen. And—who knows?—maybe even solve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
Since the deal was struck, says Kerry, Javad Zarif, the foreign minister, and President Hassan Rouhani “have made it clear that, with the agreement, they are prepared to discuss the regional issues.” And that’s a really good thing, because a “Middle East that is on fire is going to be more manageable with this [nuclear] deal, and opens more potential for us to be able to try to deal with those fires.”
Some of Kerry’s colleagues are much less sanguine. They think the Islamic Republic is less a fireman than a pyromaniac. “If Iran were to commit aggression,” said defense secretary Ashton Carter last week, “our robust force posture ensures we can rapidly surge an overwhelming array of forces into the region, leveraging our most advanced capability, married with sophisticated munitions that put no target out of reach.”
Kerry, confusingly, agrees with that, too. As he said in his testimony on Capitol Hill last week. “We will push back against Iran’s other activities.”
Why can’t Obama’s cabinet get its story straight? Is Iran a potential helpful partner or a strategic threat?
Kerry and Carter can’t get the story straight because the narrative is being woven above their pay grade. The only one who has the answer is Obama—and of course Ali Khamenei. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) is an agreement between two supreme leaders. They sent their diplomats off to Europe to talk about the nuclear file, but the actual agreement is about far more than nukes.
With the Iran deal, the Obama administration aims to bring Iran closer into the American orbit and pushes traditional Middle East allies, especially Israel, further away. Both Kerry the eager peacemaker and Carter the diligent warrior have it wrong. The clerical regime is going to do exactly what it wants—or the Iranians will walk away from the deal. It didn’t have to be written into the deal that if the Western powers try to reinstate sanctions, Tehran can opt out of the deal. But it is written into the deal. Sanctions aren’t going to snap back, and the White House is never going to push back.
This means Iran will have enormous leverage in the region. Take Syria, for instance. Obama has talked for four years about arming Syrian rebels to topple the Assad regime, but he never did anything to bring down the Syrian butcher, Tehran’s man, because he didn’t want to damage Iran’s interests in Syria and risk the chance that Khamenei would stop opening his letters. Rather than enforce his own red lines, Obama laid off Assad to signal the Iranians that he wanted an accommodation with them: If he wouldn’t use military force against a Syrian mass-murderer who openly defied him, he surely wasn’t going to start a war with Iran.
So how do Kerry and the administration’s various media surrogates deal with the Syrian civil war post-deal? Well, they say, the Russians are starting to think Assad might be a bad bet, and even the Iranians are hinting at some flexibility. Maybe there’s a Syria settlement to be had.
Nonsense. What used to be the Assad regime is now under Iranian management, and what Iran wants from the Syrian war is to consolidate control over key regions, including along the Golan border with Israel. That puts Israel in conflict not only with Iran but also with a White House that has a deep commitment to its deal with Tehran. Obama didn’t go after Assad previously to keep Iran at the table. Why would he confront Iran now and risk seeing the deal fall apart?
Ashton Carter says the American military is prepared to confront Iran. And risk the deal that his boss has staked his legacy on? That, too, is nonsense. When Obama deployed force in Syria, it was to attack front-line jihadist units, like ISIS and the Nusra Front, which opened up space and time for Assad and his Iranian allies to chase other rebel forces. When the White House calls in anti-ISIS airstrikes in Iraq, no one is happier than Qassem Suleimani, commander of Iran’s Quds Force and guarantor of Iran’s interests in Iraq.
Aug 10, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 45 • By MICHAEL MAKOVSKY and WILLIAM KRISTOL
In May, President Barack Obama donned a yarmulke and spoke in a Washington, D.C., synagogue. He reminded his audience that Jeffrey Goldberg, a member of the congregation, once called him the “first Jewish president.” He claimed to be flattered by the characterization. And perhaps he was—most Jews, after all, voted for him for president, and many Jews of Obama’s acquaintance have sometimes seemed to care more about the well-being of Planned Parenthood than about the survival of the state of Israel.
The president’s happy talk and sad resultsAug 10, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 45 • By MAX BOOT
President Obama is putting on the hard sell to market the nuclear deal he reached with Iran. On July 14, in announcing the agreement, he said: “This deal shows the real and meaningful change that American leadership and diplomacy can bring—change that makes our country and the world safer and more secure. We negotiated from a position of strength and principle—and the result is a nuclear deal that cuts off every pathway to a nuclear weapon.”
5:05 PM, Jul 28, 2015 • By MARK HEMINGWAY
Despite little national coverage, scandals surrounding former NBA star and Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson have been intensifying over past few months. Monday's report at Deadspin is a good place to start -- things have gotten so bad that Johnson's allies are accusing a local paper that's done a lot of damning reporting on Johnson of racism.
Obama’s besetting sin.Aug 3, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 44 • By FRED BARNES
The original sin of President Obama, politically speaking, was pushing his health care plan through Congress with Democratic votes alone. For rejecting even a veneer of bipartisanship, he and Democrats have paid an enormous price.
Our unpopular president.Aug 3, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 44 • By JAY COST
Barack Obama is not popular. This plain and simple fact may surprise those who read only legacy journalists, who often elide this inconvenient truth. A recent Associated Press write-up is illustrative:
Even as the public remains closely divided about his presidency, Barack Obama is holding on to his support from the so-called “Obama coalition” of minorities, liberals and young Americans, an Associated Press-GfK poll shows, creating an incentive for the next Democratic presidential nominee to stick with him and his policies.
Aug 3, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 44 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
The Iran deal turns out to be so no good, so very bad, so awfully ugly, that there is a chance—an outside chance—that a congressional process accepted by the administration because it seemed to virtually guarantee the deal’s survival might actually kill it instead.
Aug 3, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 44 • By LEE SMITH
When the secretary of state says, as John Kerry did last week in his Senate testimony, that the Obama White House is “guaranteeing” Iran won’t have the bomb, you can be sure that—well, you can be pretty confident that he doesn’t mean it. And that someday soon he’ll pretend he never said it.
Barack Obama’s global test.Jul 27, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 43 • By MATTHEW CONTINETTI
‘Without this deal,” said President Obama on Tuesday, “there is no scenario where the world joins us in sanctioning Iran until it completely dismantles its nuclear program.” That was nothing new. Throughout the negotiations with Iran, “the world” has been one of the president’s favorite defenses against criticism. “Nothing we know about the Iranian government suggests that it would simply capitulate under that kind of pressure,” he continued. “And the world would not support an effort to permanently sanction Iran into submission.”
The coming Iran intelligence failureJul 27, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 43 • By REUEL MARC GERECHT
One might think that after the last Iraq war Democrats would be wary of allowing intelligence to dictate policy. Yet that is effectively what Barack Obama has done with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action signed in Vienna on July 14. The agreement with Iran is strategically premised on the notion that greater commerce will transform the virulently anti-American, antisemitic, terrorism-fond, increasingly imperial Islamic Republic into something more pleasant. Tactically, the agreement depends on Western intelligence against the Iranian nuclear target.
Once again, the president wants to save us without involving Congress. Jul 27, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 43 • By JEREMY RABKIN
President Obama’s deal with Iran is not even called an “agreement.” Technically, it’s a “joint comprehensive plan of action,” a mushy term adopted precisely to avoid the implication that it’s a formally binding agreement. In truth, it’s more like the sort of coordinated “plan of action” that desperate relatives negotiate with hostage-takers. Sometimes it works and the hostages come out alive. But lawyers are never required when negotiating this sort of arrangement. Law has nothing to do with it.
Jul 27, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 43 • By MICHAEL MAKOVSKY
In his first Inaugural Address, President Obama offered an open hand to the Iranian regime. On July 14, announcing the nuclear deal that is the culmination of that overture, he shook a closed fist at the American people. The president came out swinging—not at the regime in Tehran but at his predecessors in the Oval Office and in Congress who for decades imposed an increasingly tough sanctions regime on Iran.
Jul 27, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 43 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
President Obama had a moment of impressive moral clarity at his Iran press conference Wednesday. It was when he was asked about Bill Cosby.
“I’ll say this: If you give a woman—or a man, for that matter—without his or her knowledge, a drug, and then have sex with that person without consent, that’s rape.” And, Obama continued, “I think this country, any civilized country, should have no tolerance for rape.”
11:57 AM, Jul 16, 2015 • By ELLIOTT ABRAMS
Would George W. Bush have negotiated and signed the JCPOA with Iran? Even for those who (like me) worked in the Bush White House, that seems like a silly question. After all, who cares? Bush has been out of office for more than six years, and refrains from commenting on foreign affairs or from criticizing President Obama.
Gleanings and observations.11:39 AM, Jul 15, 2015 • By IRWIN M. STELZER
Years ago, a left-leaning reporter for a mainstream newspaper grossly exaggerated the crowd at one of her favorite protest rallies. When I pointed out the much lower crowd estimates by police and other sources, she responded with, “facts are the enemy of truth,” words from the mouth of Cervantes’ deranged Don Quijote de la Mancha. If facts are indeed the enemy of truth, President Obama has been on firm ground in recent weeks.