The terms "backbone" and "France" are rarely mentioned in the same sentence, but today marks an exception to that general rule. According to various media accounts, the proposed nuclear deal between Iran, the United States and the EU powers fell apart when France objected to its generous terms.
Think about that for a moment. The socialist government of France is worried that the U.S. and its allies are going too easy on the mullahs and their nuclear program, while everyone else couldn't wait to sign on the dotted line. Call it a minor miracle. Call it a triumph of common sense.
Vive la France.
Incidentally, the nuclear talks are set to resume later this month, giving Secretary of State John Kerry a little time to "work" on his French counterparts. This "very bad deal" isn't dead yet.
It's scary to contemplate, but there may come a moment--in a matter of just weeks or months--when we'll look back on the failed Obamacare roll-out with a tinge of nostalgia.
You see, there is another debacle looming on the horizon, in the foreign policy arena. It's a catastrophe that will make a fatally-flawed health care plan look like a minor policy blunder. Borrowing a phrase from former President George H.W. Bush, what you "don't know about domestic policy" loses elections; what you don't know about foreign policy gets people killed. And a lot of people may die in the Middle East in relatively short order.
The door to disaster is being opened by an apparent deal between Washington and Tehran on the Iranian nuclear program. Secretary of State John Kerry flew to Geneva today to join the talks, amid word that an agreement is near. While details have yet to be announced, sources suggest that Iran will be allowed to keep its nuclear efforts, while giving up virtually nothing in return. At National Review, Elliott Abrams explains just how bad the proposed deal would be:
Iran gets billions of dollars in financial relief — the amount is unclear but relief from gold-trading sanctions alone is worth billions — and starts the process of reversing the sanctions momentum. Henceforth there will be fewer international sanctions, not more. In exchange, does it pull back from its nuclear-weapons program? From what we know now, it does not. Not one centrifuge is taken apart, as Netanyahu noted: There are 18,000 today, and 18,000 under this deal. Natanz and other sites remain intact. Not one ounce of enriched uranium is shipped overseas. Apparently Iran won’t enrich beyond 3.5 percent under this deal, but can build up limitless stocks of low-enriched uranium.
Abandoned here is the test of whether Iran needs any of this for a genuinely peaceful program; abandoned are the unanimous U.N. Security Council and IAEA Board resolutions that called for zero enrichment; abandoned is the test of whether Iran is truly further from a bomb.
The Obama administration entered these negotiations from a position of strength; Iran needs sanctions reflief badly. But it acted as if we were the weak party, desperately seeking a deal, any dea. The wily Iranian negotiators smelled this instantly and struck.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was even more blunt, calling it "a very bad deal." He also noted that Israel is not bound by any agreement between the U.S. and Iran, and remains ready to defend its interests.
In an interview with NBC News, Mr. Obama said the current talks were not aimed at sanctions relief. But Eli Lake at The Daily Beast discovered that the U.S. began easing financial restrictions on Iran several months ago.
Bottom line: Iran's path to the nuclear club just got a lot easier, and the Middle East is quickly plunging into chaos. An Israeli strike against Iranian nuclear facilities is now inevitable, and could lead to a wider, regional conflict.
There is also the spectre of a nuclear arms race in the Persian Gulf, involving some of Tehran's neighbors. The BBC reported earlier this week that Saudi Arabia has already "ordered" nuclear weapons from Pakistan and could take delivery shortly after Iran joins the nuclear club. The Saudis have been silent partners in Islamabad's nuclear program for years, with the understanding that the Paks would provide nuclear arms (and expertise) if Riyadh deems it necessary. Other Gulf states--including the United Arab Emirates and Qatar--might embark on similar efforts, to protect their own interests.
What about the U.S. nuclear umbrella? At this point, American credibility in the region is at a low ebb and many leaders have no faith in U.S. promises to defend them. That's why a senior Saudi official paid a highly-publicized visit to Moscow earlier this year and there have been recent overtures from the Egyptian military to their Russian counterparts, five decades after Anwar Sadat severed ties with the Soviet Union. No wonder Vladimir Putin is so anxious to conclude a nuclear deal with Iran; not only does his ally get a clear path to a nuclear capability, his own influence (and that of Russia) will grow significantly, as various Arab states look to Moscow for military hardware and security guarantees.
Why is the U.S. so intent on signing on to a very bad deal? Part of the answer can be found in Barack Obama's almost limitless faith in negotiations; if you can reach a deal (he apparently believes), you can somehow persuade the other side to live up to the agreement, no matter what their track record.
Consider the nuclear accord between the United States and North Korea, reached during the tenure of President George W. Bush. The agreement was supposed to curb Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions; instead, it allowed North Korea to covertly pursue a nuclear weapons capability while receiving energy aid and other forms of assistance for supposedly "complying" with the deal. There is no evidence that Iran will be any more compliant with any agreement it might reach with the U.S. and its allies.
Yet, the White House and the State Department are plunging blindly ahead, in part to satisfy the egos of the commander-in-chief and his secretary of state. Mr. Obama has long viewed himself as a transformational figure on the world stage, an image that was reinforced by his receipt of the Nobel Peace Prize early in his first term. Never mind that President Obama had done nothing to actually earn the award; when read your press clippings long enough, you will finally start believing in your "powers." Besides, with the president's popularity in decline (thanks to Obamacare), a diplomatic breakthrough with Iran can certainly change the conversation.
Likewise, Secretary of State John Kerry is also in search of a legacy. Having failed to generate an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, Mr. Kerry now has his sights on Iran, with no regard for the wider consequences. Perhaps he thinks the inevitable war, the regional nuclear arms race and the other, inevitable reprecussions can be delayed until 2017--or until Mr. Kerry retires to write his memoirs.
Worse yet, you can make a case that President Obama and John Kerry really don't care. Along with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, they have presided over an administration that has been openly hostile to Israel, to the point of openly complaining about having to deal with Prime Minister Netanyahu.
Against that backdrop, is it any wonder that President Obama and our Secretary of State are rushing headlong into the worst diplomatic deal since Munich? One recalls Winston Churchill's famous reaction to that agreement, noting that England and France had a choice between dishonour and war; you "chose dishonour and you shall have war."
Then again, the current administration doesn't have much use for Mr. Churchill, either. As you'll recall, one of Mr. Obama's first "decorating" acts at the White House was to remove the bust of the late Prime Minister, which was unceremoniously returned to the British Embassy in 2009.
Mr. Churchill knew a few things about fixing disasters. We can only hope Mr. Obama's successor has similar skills.