Oct 5, 2015, Vol. 21, No. 04 • By MICHAEL MAKOVSKY
It's been two weeks since a majority of Congress sought to register its disapproval of the Iran deal but fell short of the votes necessary to break a filibuster or override a presidential veto, and most politicians and commentators have moved on.
It’s understandable to want a mental break after a long and hard-fought struggle. But the world hasn’t taken a break. The consequences of the deal are already reverberating.
On Monday, September 21, Iran self-inspected a key suspect nuclear weapons site without international inspectors present. “This deal is not built on trust,” President Obama had told us. “It is built on verification.” But apparently we trust Iran to carry out that verification. That same day, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu held a two-and-a-half-hour emergency meeting with Russian president Vladimir Putin (followed by a meeting of Russian and Israeli military chiefs) to discuss Russia’s military presence in Syria.
The front page of the Wall Street Journal on September 22 captured the new Middle East, with a picture of Netanyahu meeting Putin at the top, and below it the headline “Russia, Iran Team Up in Syria.” Putin is depicted as the central player with whom sworn enemies Iran and Israel have to deal. And where is the United States? At best, watching from behind. At worst, making life more difficult for our friends and allies. We’ve become like William Macy in the 2003 movie The Cooler, whose very presence and proximity turns people’s luck bad.
Such is the strategic reality that has emerged from the Iran deal. It has put an exclamation point on a collapse of American leadership that had been building during the entire Obama administration (and the last part of the Bush administration, too). It signaled a decisive reversal of decades of American dominance of the Middle East. Following our feckless blunders in withdrawing from Iraq, drawing but not enforcing a red line in Syria, and declaring quasi-war but doing very little against the Islamic State, the Iran deal was the straw that broke the camel’s back of American credibility in the region. It blessed the emergence, 15 years hence, of a nuclear-weapons-capable and ballistic-missile-armed Iran, enriched and empowered a vehemently anti-American and anti-Israeli, terrorist-supporting regime, and spurred nuclear proliferation in the region.
What is to be done? We can mitigate some of the deal’s costs in the near term, walk away from it as soon as possible, and act to prevent rather than enable or try to contain a nuclear-armed Iran. These must be fundamental elements of any successful U.S. national security policy.
How does one begin?
First, don’t obsess about sanctions. Recognize that eagerness to do something can get in the way of doing what is needed. Sanctions can be an important tool of foreign policy, but they are a limited tool. Lawmakers concerned about the threat of Iran’s nuclear program naturally gravitated toward sanctions as one of the few areas where the legislative branch can lead and set foreign policy. But this also gave many members of Congress an easy but ultimately ineffective out. Sanctions did not succeed in pressuring the regime in Tehran to cease its nuclear program. Even as they damaged Iran’s economy, the regime continued installing new centrifuges. Obama was right when he said, “Sanctions alone are not going to force Iran to completely dismantle all vestiges of its nuclear infrastructure.” Sanctions are only one supporting element of a new policy against Iran.
Second, stick to what works. The sanctions fixation obscured a strategy that actually has an empirical record of reining in illicit nuclear programs: a credible military threat. Tehran suspended parts of its nuclear program in 2003-04, when the mullahs worried they’d be next after the United States toppled Saddam Hussein. The Iraq war also led Muammar Qaddafi to destroy his nuclear program. More recently, in September 2012, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu drew a red line at Iran acquiring a bomb’s worth—about 155 kilograms—of 20 percent enriched uranium. At the time, Iran was already dangerously close to this threshold; but it never crossed it. Hearing and, more important, believing Netanyahu’s implicit threat, Iran chose to keep its stockpile from exceeding Israel’s red line.
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?”