Hillary Rodham Clinton, quondam secretary of state and presumptive heir to the presidency
of the United States, spent Monday, April 13, in her Secret Service van heading out to Iowa. She was undoubtedly preparing diligently for several hours of arduous mixing and mingling with “everyday Americans.” We don’t know whether she had time that morning to take a look at the Wall Street Journal, with its report that “the Kremlin has formally lifted its own ban on the delivery of S-300 missiles to Iran, setting the legal groundwork for the possible Russian sale of a powerful air-defense system to Tehran.”
We do know that the delivery of the S-300s had been suspended under pressure, first from the Bush and then from the Obama administration. And we do know that, as Foreign Policy magazine reported in 2010, the S-300 success was being “touted by the White House as a new dawn in the U.S.-Russia relationship.” As Elliott Abrams put it last week in recounting this history, “Oh well: That was then and this is now.”
Today we know that the Obama administration is in the process of striking a deal with Iran. And we know that the Russian sale of the S-300—a system that would make a strike against Iran’s nuclear weapons program considerably more difficult—is perhaps the first concrete consequence of the Iran deal. If the deal is allowed to go forward, it won’t be the last. As Abrams puts it, “As sanctions are removed, and as funds flow to Iran, it will strengthen its military posture. Iran with an operational S-300 system will feel more immune from attack and is likely therefore to become even more aggressive in its behavior throughout the Middle East.”
After all, the West will have agreed to provisions that leave Iran’s nuclear weapons infrastructure in place, with an inspections regime that will be manifestly incapable of detecting Iranian nuclear weapons efforts. And Iran will therefore have no real incentive to moderate its behavior at home or abroad in any important way.
The S-300 sale is a fire bell in the night, signaling what a post-Iran deal Middle East would look like. However dangerous that region already is, it will be far more dangerous after Iran has pocketed all the concessions on offer, and everyone has seen the West sign on the dotted line of retreat.
One is reminded—as one so often is these days—of Churchill’s great speech in Commons after Munich: The British people, Churchill said, “should know that there has been gross neglect and deficiency in our defences; they should know that we have sustained a defeat without a war, the consequences of which will travel far with us along our road.” He continued: “And do not suppose that this is the end. This is only the beginning of the reckoning. This is only the first sip, the first foretaste of a bitter cup which will be proffered to us year by year unless by a supreme recovery of moral health and martial vigour, we arise again and take our stand for freedom as in the olden time.”
Which brings us back to Hillary Rodham Clinton. She supports the Iran deal. She has been a crucial part of an administration that has been weighed in the balance and found wanting. She would not be a president who summons us to “a supreme recovery of moral health and martial vigor.”
But even if we avert the prospect of a Hillary presidency, as I expect we will, we have a Barack Obama presidency to reckon with for 21 more months. Fortunately, we also have a Congress that need not acquiesce in the defeat without war that he wishes to impose on the nation.
This week, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee reported out legislation—sponsored by Bob Corker of Tennessee and Ben Cardin of Maryland—that would ensure Congress has a role in approving or disapproving a deal. Unfortunately, the fact that only 34 senators or 146 members of the House can prevent disapproval of the deal makes the legislation of limited utility. And the fact that the legislation allows action only after the deal is signed, and then for a short period of time, makes it of questionable effectiveness.
President Obama has long known that the real decision maker in Iran is Ayatollah Khamenei, the so-called supreme leader. While other Iranian officials have negotiated with Western powers over the mullahs’ nuclear program, Khamenei’s opinion is the only one that really counts. It is for this reason that Obama began writing directly to Khamenei early in his presidency.
Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, is going to cause big trouble for the Obama administration. In a speech today, Khamenei denounced the White House’s spin tactics—according to the rahbar, there is no nuclear deal.
In his annual statement marking the Persian new year, President Obama said he believes that Iran and the U.S. “should be able” to resolve the dispute over the mullahs’ nuclear program “peacefully, with diplomacy.”
In a preview of Barack Obama's interview with Vice, the president of the United States says he's "embarassed" Republicans sent a letter to Iran:
"I’m embarrassed for them," says Obama in the preview. "For them to address a letter to the Ayatollah — who they claim is our mortal enemy — and their basic argument to them is, 'don’t deal with our president because you can’t trust him to follow through on an agreement.' It's close to unprecedented."
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.
So the November 24 deadline for reaching a comprehensive agreement with Iran over its nuclear program—itself an extension of an earlier deadline—has come and gone with a whimper, and with another extension. The frenetic, feverish, and foolish pursuit of a deal by the Obama administration, marked by one concession after another to Iran, raised the real possibility that the United States and its international partners would make a historically dangerous mistake that could ensure a nuclear-weapons-capable Iran in short order.
Last month, the Obama administration added seven new Iranian companies, because of proliferation concerns, to the ever-growing list of sanctioned Iranian entities. Yet, as important as this latest move is, one crucial category of Iranian entities is still missing from U.S. policy—companies owned or controlled by Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
On February 3, during a rare Friday prayer lecture at Tehran University, Iranian leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said that Iran would "support and help any nations, any groups fighting against the Zionist regime across the world, and we are not afraid of declaring this." Khamenei continued, “The Zionist regime is a true cancer tumor on this region that should be cut off.
There is only one thing that terrifies Washington’s foreign policy establishment more than the prospect of an American airstrike against Iran’s nuclear-weapons facilities: an Israeli airstrike. Left, right, and center, “sensible” people view the idea with alarm. Such an attack would, they say, do great damage to the United States in Iraq and Afghanistan, where Tehran would counterattack, punishing “the Great Satan” (America) for the sins of “the Little Satan” (Israel).
Last week in Damascus, just days after the highest ranking visit from a U.S. official in years, Syrian President Bashar Assad hosted a state dinner for his Iranian counterpart Mahmoud Ahmedinajad. Welcoming Ahmedinajad so close on the heels of the U.S. diplomatic good will gesture was a pointed Syrian slight to the Obama administration, but the icing on the cake was Assad’s other guest of honor at the feast: Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah.