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July 20, 2015 8:06 am

Obama, Iran, and the Fall of Moral Leadership

avatar by Shmuley Boteach

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Barack Obama. Photo: Screenshot.

Barack Obama. Photo: Screenshot.

With the presidency of Barack Obama, our worst fears have been realized. Not in relation to Israel’s security – although there is of course that – but in relation to a moral American foreign policy.

President Obama’s refusal to hate and fight evil is something I’ve long noted in successive columns going back to the earliest days of his foreign policy. But here, last week, was the President of the United States telling New York Times columnist Tom Friedman that Iran’s disgusting human rights abuses were not his concern, even as he made historic deals with them.

On the very day that the deal’s preliminary structure was announced, President Obama said, “The deal should be judged only for one thing, and one thing only. And that is stopping Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.” He said his deal would not address, and could not be judged, on the merit of opposing Iran’s “bad behavior.”

Firstly, notice that President Obama has a tendency to misuse language. He won’t call terrorism what it is, instead using the term “violent extremism.” But this example of Iran’s murderous mullahs in particular offends the moral sensibilities. Iran is not guilty of “bad behavior.” Bad behavior is when you jump a few spots ahead in line at a movie theatre. Bad behavior is cutting someone else off on the highway. Bad behavior is a kid watching TV when he’s supposed to be doing his homework.

With Iran we’re talking about stoning women to death, hanging gays from construction cranes, shooting political protestors in the streets, blowing up innocent people all over the world, and keeping alive the Assad regime, which is already responsible for the murder of more than 200,000 innocent Arabs with barrel bombs and gas attacks. This is not “bad behavior.” This is cold-blooded murder.

But here is the President of the United States, the leader of the free world, saying that he will not address Iran’s cancerous evil. He will not even address it as part of his nuclear negotiations. No, he will only address issues related to the procurement of nuclear weapons. In so doing President Obama is effectively abrogating our country’s time-honored tradition of moral leadership and of holding dictators accountable for how they treat their people.

The United States is celebrated for spreading liberty, upholding democracy, and for standing up for the oppressed and the helpless. One might have believed that the President would, at the very least, give a speech condemning Iran’s human rights abuses even as he negotiated his arms deal. But no. He would not risk offending the Mullahs for fear of their withdrawal from the negotiations.

But aside from the abrogation of moral leadership, what does all this say about the possibility of this deal even being kept? President Obama is admitting, in his comments about their “bad behavior,” that he is dealing with monsters, people who brutalize their own citizens and murder strangers abroad. Who would trust a monster? President Obama can’t, on the one hand, admit to Iran’s human rights abominations and then say he’s not going to bring it up. Does he really think the two can co-exist, that Iran can continue to be an international terrorist organization and still be trusted not to build doomsday devices?

Aside from running The World Values Network, I’m also a marriage counselor. Just last week I completed the filming of 18 new episodes for my Canadian TV show Divine Intervention which seeks to help families in crisis. An analogy between this deal and my work would be this. Imagine that I know a husband who is brutalizing his family. He’s putting out cigarette butts in his kids’ arms. He’s beating them with a metal rod. He beats his wife. But now I hear that he has a gun and he’s trying to buy bullets. I go in as a marriage counselor and the only thing I’m interested in is stopping him from acquiring bullets for his gun so that he doesn’t shoot his wife. And everyone says to me, when you speak to him about the gun and the bullets, also speak to him about the baseball bat he takes to his wife and the scars he leaves on his kids’ bodies. Do something about that. I respond, That’s not my business. I’m just going to stop him from having a gun. How would people look at me as a marriage counselor or even as a moral man? They would see me as someone who is amoral. They would say, How could you believe he would keep his commitments when he’s a monster?

President Obama and John Kerry went in and said Iran’s murder of its citizens and innocents abroad is not their concern. They won’t even demand the release of four innocent Americans, including Jason Rezaian, the Washington Post bureau chief in Tehran. Their responsibility is simply to stop Iran from detonating a nuclear device.

As for Israel’s security, I remember when, back during the 2008 primaries, the Jewish community was very concerned about Obama because of his connection to Jeremiah Wright and some of his earlier comments about Israel, which had been perceived as hostile.

In June of 2008, President Obama attempted to directly address some of these concerns at the annual AIPAC policy conference, which I attended. I was impressed with his oratory. He had just returned to Washington at 3 a.m. the night before on the heels of an excruciating week of campaigning. But by 10 a.m. the next morning, he was ready to address the conference audience. And he did so abounding in confidence and energy. This was also, I should mention, a very special time for Obama. Just a day before, he had clinched the Democratic nomination. Myself along with the rest of the AIPAC audience would be the first to hear him speak after this pivotal milestone.

He rose to the podium and began his speech. “I want to say that I know some provocative e-mails have been circulating throughout Jewish communities across the country. A few of you may have gotten them. They’re filled with tall tales and dire warnings about a certain candidate for president. And all I want to say is — let me know if you see this guy named Barack Obama, because he sounds pretty frightening.” The crowd laughed, their fears relieved. Together we all thought: he can’t be that bad. But over time our fears were compounded.

We thought it was bad enough when President Obama admitted to wanting to put “daylight” between the United States and Israel during a meeting at the White House with Jewish leaders. We thought it was bad enough when Obama told French President Sarkozy, “You’re tired of [Netanyahu]? What about me? I have to deal with him every day.” We thought it was bad when he refused to call the Prime Minister in the immediate aftermath of his reelection this past March, a custom Obama seemed more than happy to extend to the leaders of Russia, Iran, Turkey, and China – all true beacons of human rights.

But all of these concerns are insignificant compared to what happened with the Iran nuclear deal. The President of the United States has now put Israel in grave and mortal danger by allowing Iran to keep its nuclear infrastructure. A deal that provides Iran with $150 billion dollars in sanctions relief without requiring the dismantling of the thousands of centrifuges at the Natanz uranium enrichment facility, the Arak heavy water reactor and plutonium plant, the Fordow underground uranium enrichment facility, or its ongoing ballistic missile program. A deal that allows Iran to continue research and development of faster and more efficient centrifuges. A deal that fails to provide “anywhere, anytime inspections” of suspected nuclear related facilities, rather providing Iran with 24 days of notice prior to any inspection. In other words, more than enough time to easily conceal any wrongdoing.

Now it falls to the United States Congress, using the checks and balances foreseen by the Founders, to stop the foreign policy of a President who is abrogating American moral leadership.

The author, whom Newsweek and The Washington Post call “the most famous rabbi in America,” is the founder of This World: The Values Network, the world’s leading organization defending Israel in American media. He is the international best-selling author of 30 books, including his most recent, “The Israel Warriors Handbook.” Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.

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  • Lauren

    This is worse than most know. This ‘deal’ has already been sent to the UN for ratification. Obama made sure it would not need Congressional ratification. On top of that Congress will not be able to override anything to do with the ‘deal’ because of the Coker bill. We already had laws on our books dealing with ratification and by passing the Corker Bill Congress assured that the USA would have no chance to stop this horrid ‘deal’. This is a sad era for America.

  • Paul Goodman

    Obama has done a great disservice to Africa Americans. As probably the weakest and worst president the USA has ever produced, lowering the reputation and standing of the U.S. in the world body politic to an unprecedented level, I suspect it will be a long time indeed before another African American will be trusted to run for president.

  • H. Givon

    Anyone who had investigated the earlier background of candidates for office and not just relied upon what was said at election time would not be surprised by Obama’s actions. Predictably, his fuzzy ‘hope and change’ turned into ‘chaos and despair’ as his ideology and m.o. created both domestic and international turmoil. His promise of transparency was as large a deceit as his early assertions about the U.S. not being a country founded on Judeo-Christian beliefs. At present, turning to the U.N. for endorsement of the perilous Iran agreement was an effort to render the U.S. Congress impotent. One must hope that Democrats in that body will have the courage to rise up and vote against the Iran deal just as they distanced themselves from the President during the 2014 elections. Their future is on the line as they demonstrate their integrity or lack of it. Iran’s murderous agenda will not differentiate between parties or ethnicity; it is a risk to all of Western civilization.

  • Denis MacEoin

    The deal is even more dangerous than most people know. Please read my March article at the Gatestone Institute on what the White House doesn’t know about Iran:

    And I would add to the list of the Islamic Republic’s wrongoings their persecution of their indigenous religious minotiyy, the Baha’is. They have hanged some 200, imprisoned many more, destroyed all their holy sites, dug up their graveyards, denied their young people the right to higher education, suspended pensions for the elderly. These are Iranians. I have lived in Iran among them and can confirm that they are utterly peaceful and forbidden to take part in politics. Of course, their World Centre and holiest shrines are in Israel. But the totasl irrationality that lies behind this persecution matches the insanity of their religious beliefs regarding the end of the world and the triumph of Shi’i Islam.

  • Mendel

    @Christina, To call Obama ‘..the most reckless and arrogant president” is simply false. How about the man who started a war in Afghanistan, stopped it before it was finished to pursue a more reckless war in Iraq and who called it a victory while stupidly not recognizing the insurrection for what it was while wasting billions or trillions which fell into the pockets of warlords, contractors and thieves while 5,000 Americans died, many thousands crippled mentally and physically, not to mention hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, many of whom we abandoned to their killers rather than admit them as our helpers?

  • Larry Andrews

    Rabbi Boteach missed President Obama’s most revealing statement in his interview with Thomas Friedman. This is what President Obama said: “The truth of the matter is that Iran will be and SHOULD be a regional power.” The Islamic Republic of Iran a totalitarian theocracy, a country without freedom of speech, without freedom of press, without free elections, and the number one state sponsor of terrorism in the world, according to President Obama SHOULD BE A REGIONAL POWER!! Congratulations President Obama! By giving the Islamic Republic of Iran nuclear weapons you have made that country a regional power!!

  • ASK

    You cannot expect a President, who does not uphold and defend and stand up for traditional and good moral values in his own country to do so outside of his homeland, can you?

  • Lia

    How can one expect an immoral person to lay down moral guidelines … or follow them in his/her own life? Or honour them in other people?

  • Daniel

    The worst is yet to come.

    Obama has much more evil on the drawing board.

  • I enjoyed reading this article very much…especially the analogy of the abusive husband relating to the terrorist regime if Iran. Obama is the most reckless and arrogant president America has seen…

  • art

    Pefidy!!! Obama has totally betrayed Israel. Obama has also guaranteed to help protect Irans’ computers against a sutxnet attack. This is to thwart any Israeli cyber attack. And it shows that Israel can no longer trust the US or share info with the US