It’s also known as leadership.Sep 28, 2015, Vol. 21, No. 03 • By CLAUDIA ROSETT
In defending the Iran nuclear deal to Congress, President Obama and his staff argued repeatedly that rejection would leave America in dire isolation at the United Nations. Obama can now relax. Having used slash-and-burn executive tactics to roll right over a dissenting majority in Congress and a disapproving American public, he can look forward to celebrating this deal with those more likely to applaud it, when he speaks September 28 at the 70th annual General Assembly in New York.
For the rest of us, Obama’s horror of isolation at the U.N. should be cause not for comfort, but for growing alarm. We are seeing here an inversion of America’s most vital role in global diplomacy, which in healthier times has been not to please and appease the despot-ridden and morally myopic U.N., but to provide it a functional compass and guide. There is a more accurate phrase for this “isolation” that Obama so fears. It used to be called “leadership of the free world.”
Under President Obama, America has offered precious little in the way of such leadership. In Libya, in 2011, the United States led from behind via the U.N., and then abandoned the project, leaving Libya to collapse into terror-wracked chaos. In Syria, in 2013, Obama erased his red line in deference to Russia, which went on to annex Crimea the following year and is still chewing away at the rest of Ukraine, with an eye on the Baltics. Since Obama took office, the United States has borne passive witness to Iran’s brutal crushing of massive protests in 2009 and done nothing of sufficient substance to deter North Korea’s burgeoning nuclear weapons program—its three nuclear tests, two of which happened on Obama’s watch, may soon be followed by a fourth.
About the only thing on which Obama has led has been the Iran nuclear deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA. This deal is a disaster, negotiated with Iran by six world powers, the five veto-wielding members of the U.N. Security Council (the United States, France, Britain, Russia, China) plus Germany. Two of America’s negotiating partners—Russia and China—have themselves served as major conduits of expertise and materiel to Iran’s nuclear program and are run by nuclear-armed regimes so ruthless that they are likely the last countries Iran would dare threaten. The resulting JCPOA ignores Iran’s state-sponsored terrorism, human rights abuses, and messianic ambitions to obliterate Israel and bring “Death to America.” This deal comes laden with so many U.S.-led concessions—from hundreds of billions’ worth of sanctions relief to secret side deals to sunset clauses—it effectively clears the way for Iran, sooner or later, to become a nuclear-armed state.
That’s what’s been troubling Congress. And as member states of the strategically rudderless U.N. began lining up to do business with oil-rich Iran, the Obama administration busied itself telling lawmakers not to spoil the fun. On August 5, Obama admonished that if Congress killed the deal, America would lose its credibility as “a leader of diplomacy” and “the anchor of the international system.”
U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power elaborated on this theme in an August 26 piece for Politico, warning that if Congress were to spike the Iran deal, “we would instantly isolate ourselves from the countries that spent nearly two years working with American negotiators to hammer out its toughest provisions.” Power added that congressional rejection would “project globally an America that is internally divided, unreliable and dismissive of the views of those with whom we built Iran’s sanctions architecture in the first place.” She wrote that America would lose leverage at the U.N., unable to muster coalitions on other fronts, perhaps even incapable of persuading the Security Council to notch up U.N. sanctions on North Korea following its next nuclear test.
This was beyond disingenuous. If U.N. players saw the Iran agreement as a done deal, the culprit was the Obama administration itself. It was the administration that tried to outflank Congress by rushing the deal to the Security Council less than a week after it was announced in Vienna, and just 1 day into the 60-day review period guaranteed to Congress by law. It was Ambassador Power herself who, without waiting for Congress, cast 1 of the 15 votes with which the Security Council on July 20 unanimously approved a resolution enshrining the deal at the U.N. It was the State Department’s chief negotiator with Iran, undersecretary Wendy Sherman, who justified these tactics, even before the Security Council vote, in her comment to the press that it would have been “difficult” for America to tell its negotiating partners eager to go to the U.N., “Well, excuse me, the world, you should wait for the United States Congress.”
A Jewish community hangs on, despite the uncertaintySep 14, 2015, Vol. 21, No. 01 • By DOVID MARGOLIN
It is late evening as we approach the second of three checkpoints on the road to the frontline city of Mariupol, in southeastern Ukraine. A vital port on the Azov Sea, Mariupol is heavily fortified by land and by sea.
“I try not to drive these roads after dark,” says Gena, who is taking me and my cameraman from Zaporizhia to visit the Jewish community of Mariupol. “It’s more dangerous at night.”
1:36 PM, May 29, 2015 • By ERIN MUNDAHL
Has NATO become a paper tiger, trying (and failing) to stand up to a resurgent Russian bear? A speech by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the Center for Strategic and International Studies on Wednesday addressed this issue, discussing both the challenges facing the 66-year-old alliance, and Stoltenberg’s vision for its future in what he termed a “changed” security environment.
8:47 AM, May 11, 2015 • By DANIEL HALPER
Secretary of State John Kerry will meet Vladimir Putin in Sochi, the State Department announced today. They are expected to discuss Iran, Syria, and Ukraine.
There’s no shortage of suspects. Apr 27, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 31 • By CATHY YOUNG and VICTOR DAVIDOFF
A month and a half has passed since Boris Nemtsov, the Russian political activist who rose to prominence as a dynamic young reformer in the 1990s and later became one of the fiercest critics of Vladimir Putin’s authoritarian rule, was shot dead a few blocks from the Kremlin. The shocking murder, which quickly raised questions about the Putin regime’s culpability, has largely faded from the headlines in the Western press.
8:39 AM, Feb 26, 2015 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
... “getting worse every day” and Western efforts to deter Russian intervention are having little effect …
5:28 PM, Feb 23, 2015 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
The CBC reports that:
Ukraine's deputy foreign minister says he is preparing for "full-scale war" against Russia and wants Canada to help by supplying lethal weapons and the training to use them. Vadym Prystaiko, who until last fall was Ukraine's ambassador to Canada, says the world must not be afraid of joining Ukraine in the fight against a nuclear power.
5:29 PM, Feb 22, 2015 • By DANIEL HALPER
Former Texas governor Rick Perry is taking on Russian president Vladimir Putin. The possible presidential candidate says that the "peace and security of the world" depends on how America deals with Russia.
Here's what Perry recommends doing to counter Putin's recent aggression:
The perversity of not arming victims.Mar 2, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 24 • By LEON ARON
Last week’s Minsk agreement, by which France and Germany in effect codified the cession to Russia of Kiev’s sovereignty over southeastern Ukraine, has temporarily taken the issue of Russia’s aggression in Ukraine off the table and thus off the conscience of the West. But the question whether the United States and its allies should arm Ukraine (and later Georgia? Moldova? Estonia? Latvia?) is going to arise again and again in the months and years ahead.
10:08 AM, Feb 11, 2015 • By JERYL BIER
In a recent interview with BuzzFeed, President Obama mistakenly gave Vladimir Putin a promotion in the Russian president's previous career in the KGB, saying that Putin "ran the KGB."
2:30 PM, Feb 9, 2015 • By REUBEN F. JOHNSON
The 2001 film Conspiracy reconstructs the infamous January 20, 1942, Wannsee conference, during which the following exchange supposedly took place between Rudolf Lange, a Nazi extermination unit commander who liquidated Latvia’s Jewish population of 250,000 in six months, and Friedrich Wilhelm Kritzinger of the Reich chancellery:
11:01 AM, Feb 7, 2015 • By DANIEL HALPER
Vice President Joe Biden had an interesting exchange with the president of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko. The two were speaking in front of reporters at the Munich Security Conference.
The exchange was captured by the on-site pool reporter:
As the pool came in, Mr. Biden and Mr. Poroshenko made small talk over the press pool and their handlers.
9:13 AM, Feb 6, 2015 • By DANIEL HALPER
Vice President Joe Biden is in Europe today where how spoke out against Vladimir Putin's aggression toward Ukraine.
"Ukraine is fighting for its very survival right now. Russia continues to escalate the conflict by sending mercenaries and tanks and as we euphemistically say in the United States, Little Green Men, without patches in, and very sophisticated special operation soldiers," Biden said at the European Council building in Brussels.