Dismantling the Iran Nuclear Deal
Barack Obama’s cash transfer to Iran of $400 million to trigger the release of four American hostages highlights yet again the strategic errors infecting his entire policy regarding Tehran’s ayatollahs.
Abject and humiliating though it was, however, the real lessons of the January ransom payment are even broader. Obama’s view of the world — and America’s place in it — is fundamentally flawed, as is that of his former secretary of State, Hillary Clinton. To avoid further significant harm to the United States, we should reject their grand strategy at the first opportunity, starting with abrogating the Vienna nuclear-weapons agreement.
Obama tried to minimize the significance of the cash transfer (itself only a “down payment” on the $1.7 billion settlement of a long-standing dispute), decoupling it both from the hostage release and the Vienna pact. He knew that pictures of pallets of shrink-wrapped foreign currency being delivered to the world’s largest funder of international terrorism would unravel nearly eight years of his appeasement policy and devastate his carefully-cultivated image.
Endless media interviews by Obama’s press flacks intoning that the payment was not a quid pro quo for freeing some (but not all) of the Americans kidnapped by Iran actually reduced administration credibility both on the deal and more generally. Moreover, the ransom-for-hostages swap was not even the first secret side-deal to the Vienna accord. Just weeks before, we learned of another agreement to allow Iran to swap out its existing uranium-enrichment centrifuges for more-efficient, more-productive centrifuges without violating the supposed commitments to limit its nuclear activities.
One wonders what else might yet emerge.
Indeed, since the Vienna agreement in July 2016, Iran’s belligerent behavior worldwide has only increased. Despite the accord’s wholly inadequate verification and compliance provisions, there already is evidence that Iran never had any intention of seriously complying with its obligations. German intelligence, for instance, reported publicly that Iran’s procurement activities in the West for nuclear and ballistic-missile components and materials has increased since the deal was announced. And what Iran has been able to conceal from international inspectors and US intelligence is almost certainly far more worrisome.
Tehran clearly saw the Vienna accords as a mere rest stop on the way to extracting more concessions from the United States, especially under Obama’s administration. Earlier this summer, for instance, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said “while on paper the US has lifted all sanctions, the psychological aftermath associated with many years of sanctions remains, and I think the US should play a more active role to remove them.”
As if on cue, Secretary of State John Kerry has tried to do just that. He is facilitating Iran’s efforts to do business in US dollars and evade statutory sanctions that can’t (and shouldn’t) be lifted because they were enacted to combat Iran’s state sponsorship of terrorism, not just to constrain its nuclear-weapons efforts.
Donald Trump has severely criticized Obama’s deal with Iran, while Hillary Clinton has strongly supported it, appropriately enough since its basic foundations were laid when she was at State. Clinton has been silent on the ransom-for-hostages payments; the mainstream media, of course, have not questioned her about it. But the ayatollahs, perfectly aware the deal is in every way beneficial to them, are worried. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei already has complained that “candidates in the American presidential election are threatening to tear up the nuclear deal. If they do so, we will burn it.”
Of course, Clinton was no longer secretary when the negotiations reached fruition. But her memoir, “Hard Choices,” makes it clear she strove mightily to reach agreement with the ayatollahs. What formed the basis of her strategic vision for this deal, for believing Iran ever intended to give up pursuing nuclear weapons? It was the same simple-minded economic determinism that later led a State Department flak to argue that Middle East jobs programs would help eliminate the terrorist war against the West. Clinton asked rhetorically “if Iran had a nuclear weapon tomorrow, would that create even one more job for a country where millions of young people are out of work?” Does she really think the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, the Pasdaran, sit around contemplating this question?
Clinton also welcomed Hassan Rouhani’s election as Iran’s president, describing it by saying “something remarkable happened” in Iranian politics. This, of course, was the same Rouhani who had once gloried about deceiving European nuclear negotiators, and who would never have been elected had not Supreme Leader Khamenei considered him a trustworthy subordinate.
The Iran cash ransom affair thus highlights once more that a resume entry is not equal to real qualifications or competence. Eight years of Obama appeasing the ayatollahs has been damaging and dangerous enough to the United States. We don’t need a third Obama term.
This article was originally published by The Pittsburgh Tribune Review.