Could spell disaster for the Middle East.Jul 20, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 42 • By LEE SMITH
In 1815, the European powers met here to establish the post-Napoleonic order and through a balance of power arrangement bring peace to the continent. Obama surely appreciates the historical echo, since 200 years later he, too, means to create a peaceful order in an especially volatile part of the world by balancing the regional powers—Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Iran—to ensure that none of them gets too large a piece of the pie and frightens the others into making war. The Iran nuclear talks are important because Obama, a U.S. diplomat circularly explained here last week, “believes a peaceful Iran could be . . . the key to peace.”
The difference between 1815 and 2015 is that Napoleon had to be defeated at Waterloo before the peace forged by the Congress of Vienna could hold, lasting nearly a century. The Islamic Republic of Iran, on the other hand, is on the march throughout the Middle East, controlling four Arab capitals, and waging war from the eastern Mediterranean to the Persian Gulf. Nonetheless, over the last two and a half years of negotiations with Iran, the Obama administration has offered Tehran virtually every concession it sought, which only spiked its appetite for more. Most recently, the Iranians have demanded that Western powers lift the U.N. arms embargo, a demand that could hardly be less subtle—we want weapons, the Iranians are saying, to make war.
The purpose of the Congress of Vienna was to create order. In contrast, the talks with Iran have jeopardized the order of the Middle East that the United States has maintained for more than half a century. The nuclear talks have legitimized and further emboldened a revolutionary regime. The White House’s string of concessions—from sanctions relief to acknowledgment of Iran’s right to enrich uranium—is tantamount to bankrolling Napoleon and arming him. The peace that Obama believes his diplomats are negotiating in the Austrian capital increases the likelihood of war.
The Iran nuclear talks were never exclusively about the clerical regime’s nuclear program. The administration has repeatedly insisted that a firewall separates the nuclear file from all other issues we might have with Iran—the Syrian civil war, the future of Iraq, Iran’s support for terrorism—but from the very beginning of his presidential term, Obama’s engagement with Iran meant everything was up for grabs. The White House believed the two governments had to learn to trust each other and was therefore quietly willing to do favors for the mullahs.
According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, the White House and Iran had “secret dealings” starting in 2009, when the two sides discussed a number of issues—like the three American hikers detained by the Iranians, eventually exchanged for four Iranians held in American prisons. So what if the administration was letting Iran set the terms of engagement by equating college kids, backpackers, with felons who were clearly working for the regime’s intelligence services? The point was to build confidence with the Iranian regime. Eventually they’d settle the nuclear issue and discuss a number of other matters important to both parties.
There were other secret overtures, like Obama’s letters to supreme leader Ali Khamenei. But much more important were the White House’s public shows of confidence-building. The White House gave the regime room to crack down on the Green Movement that took to the streets in June 2009 to protest likely fraudulent elections. And it also left alone Tehran’s friends, like Bashar al-Assad, who is still the president of Syria even though Obama demanded he step aside four years ago.
Further, and this was perhaps the most important aspect of engagement with Iran, the administration showed that it could control and even beat up on Tehran’s enemies, like Israel. The administration not only made a habit of excoriating Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, it also repeatedly leaked sensitive items, as if it were messaging Tehran directly. Among others, the White House leaked the Stuxnet exploit that had damaged Iran’s nuclear infrastructure, it leaked the fact that Israel was using Azerbaijan’s air space, it leaked Israeli strikes on Iranian arms convoys heading to Hezbollah. It boasted that it had deterred Netanyahu from striking Iranian nuclear facilities. Of course these leaks were damaging to Israel’s security interests, but the real point was to show Iran that Obama was sincere about wanting to bring them into the international community. They could trust him.
Indeed, maybe Iran could even be made to understand that it didn’t need a nuclear weapons program if it saw Washington as an honest broker. This White House, after all, didn’t automatically come down on the side of Iran’s nemeses in Riyadh and Jerusalem.
12:10 PM, Jun 5, 2015 • By JERYL BIER
Even as diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Russia remain decidedly chilly over the Ukrainian conflict, the State Department is reaching out to "up-and-coming" Russian journalists. A recent $150,000 grant offering from the U.S.
12:00 AM, May 30, 2015 • By IRWIN M. STELZER
There is an important difference between European and American appetites, in addition to those for fast foods: risk taking. “Investments in Start-Ups Pick Up Pace,” reports the New York Times after surveying the high-tech financing scene here in America. “Europe Struggles to Foster a Startup Culture,” reports the Wall Street Journal. It seems that in contrast with “multiple rounds of fund-raising [in the U.S.] in months, rather than years,” Europeans are “valuing prudence … and leisure time over flamboyant risk-taking.”
Sanctions relief will only empower Iran. Jun 8, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 37 • By LEE SMITH
Even the Obama administration acknowledges that Iran is up to a lot of mischief in the Middle East. Tehran is engaged in a sectarian conflict from Lebanon to Syria and Iraq that has recently come to include Yemen as another active front. However, the White House continues to insist, against all evidence, that the clerical regime’s aggression won’t increase when it gets a huge cash infusion from sanctions relief and an immediate $30 to $50 billion bonus, when (or if) it signs the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, aka the nuclear deal.
7:30 PM, May 3, 2015 • By DANIEL HALPER
In a memo raising concerns about the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), Alabama senator Jeff Sessions worries that the trade deal would open immigration floodgates.
Twenty-five years after communism, Central and Eastern Europe are in trouble. Feb 16, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 22 • By JEFFREY GEDMIN
The ‘complex’ negotiations with Iran.Dec 8, 2014, Vol. 20, No. 13 • By REUEL MARC GERECHT
Predictably, President Barack Obama and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei have decided to extend again the Joint Plan of Action, the interim nuclear deal they concluded in November 2013. Unlike the last extension, which was for four months, this one is for seven months; the “political” parts of the deal, Secretary of State John Kerry assures us, should be done by March, while further “technical and drafting” details may take until July.
As Germans celebrate reunification, they are reluctant to confront a Russia that is once again seeking to divide the continent Nov 24, 2014, Vol. 20, No. 11 • By JAMES KIRCHICK
No U.S. leadership, no NATO.Sep 15, 2014, Vol. 20, No. 01 • By JOHN R. BOLTON
Vladimir Putin’s efforts to establish hegemony over Ukraine may now have reached a decisive point both for the balance of power in Central and Eastern Europe and for the NATO alliance. Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko warned on August 30 that Russia’s invasion of his country and extensive aid to pro-Moscow separatists could soon “reach the point of no return,” becoming a generalized conflict. German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said that “the situation is increasingly getting out of control.”
Tiananmen Square and truth-telling. Jun 9, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 37 • By DENNIS P. HALPIN
In a March 28 speech at the Körber Foundation in Berlin, China’s president, Xi Jinping, called for historical truth-telling. He had in mind the Rape of Nanking, the massacre carried out by Imperial Japan’s forces in 1937-38 during their occupation of the then-capital of the Chinese Nationalists (the city is now called Nanjing).
Don’t lose sleep over international ‘control’ of the Internet. Mar 31, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 28 • By ARIEL RABKIN and JEREMY RABKIN
The Commerce Department issued a low-key bureaucratic announcement on March 14: The government will not renew its contract with the Internet Corporation for Names and Numbers (ICANN), under which ICANN has administered the Internet’s domain name system since the mid-1990s. U.S. government supervision will be superseded next year, according to the announcement, by new arrangements to “support and enhance the multistakeholder model of Internet policymaking.”
Mar 17, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 26 • By STEPHEN F. HAYES
On February 23, five days before Russia invaded Ukraine, National Security Adviser Susan Rice appeared on Meet the Press and shrugged off suggestions that Russia was preparing any kind of military intervention: “It’s in nobody’s interest to see violence returned and the situation escalate.” A return to a “Cold War construct” isn’t necessary, Rice insisted, because such thinking “is long out of date” and “doesn’t reflect the realities of the 21st century.” Even if Vladimir Putin sees the world this way, Rice argued, it is “not in the United States’ interests” to do so.
Nov 11, 2013, Vol. 19, No. 09 • By ELLIOTT ABRAMS
There’s a Washington think-tank variation on the board game Risk, and here’s how it goes: I give you a short statement about Obama policy in the Middle East, and you have to say who it’s from.
“The Persians are taking over Iraq and Syria and building a nuclear weapon. Are you Americans crazy? You think you will outsmart them in Geneva? They send Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and Hezbollah troops to fight in Syria and you do nothing? You draw a red line over chemical weapons and let Putin erase it?”
Forget chess, Turkey is failing at geopolitical checkers. Nov 4, 2013, Vol. 19, No. 08 • By LEE SMITH
A recent spate of newspaper articles suggests a concerted media campaign targeting Turkey’s foreign intelligence service, the MIT, its director, Hakan Fidan, and almost surely his boss as well, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. In a piece published by the Wall Street Journal and another by the Washington Times, Fidan is said to be supporting al Qaeda affiliates in Syria fighting against forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad.