Obama’s greatest achievement
The time for complaining about President Barack Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran has passed. The time has come to overcome the damage enormous damage his signature foreign policy accomplishment has caused.
To understand why this is the case, it is important to understand the breadth and depth of Obama’s failure.
On August 4, during the course of a press conference, Obama gave his interim assessment of his nuclear agreement with Iran.
“It worked,” he insisted.
A year after the deal was signed, Obama argued, events have proven that he was right and the deal’s critics were wrong.
“You’ll recall that there were all these horror stories about how Iran was going to cheat and this wasn’t going to work and Iran was going to get $150 billion to finance terrorism and all these kinds of scenarios, and none of them have come to pass,” he proclaimed.
Obama then snidely swiped at the deal’s opponents saying that it would be “impressive” if the people who criticized the deal would own up to their mistakes and admit that it worked.
As it works out, everything that Obama said about the deal with Iran during his press conference was a lie.
Some of his lies became apparent within hours.
For instance, Obama falsely claimed that Israel now “acknowledges this has been a game changer and Iran has abided by the deal and they no longer have the sort of short-term breakout capacity that would allow them to develop nuclear weapons.”
Hours later, the Defense Ministry issued a stinging rebuke of Obama’s claim, parroted more diplomatically by the Prime Minister’s Office.
Obama’s press conference took place the day after The Wall Street Journal reported that in January 2016, the US sent an unmarked plane to the Tehran airport filled with $400 million in cash, on the same day Iran released four US hostages.
Obama angrily rejected allegations that the cash payment was a ransom payment for the hostages’ release. He insisted that the US had made the payment as the first installment of a $1.7b. payment the administration made to settle an Iranian government lawsuit against America.
Obama claimed that the administration agreed to the settlement at the urging of the Justice Department.
He said his administration was able to settle the dispute only due to the nuclear deal which placed US officials in direct contact with their Iranian counterparts for the first time in decades.
Within a day, Obama’s claims were exposed as lies. It turns out that Justice Department lawyers opposed the cash payout to Iran.
One of the hostages released in January told the media that the Iranians refused to allow the hostages to leave Iran until the airplane with the cash landed in the airport.
The Iranians, for their part, contemptuously mocked Obama, and stated openly that the $400m. was a ransom payment for the hostages.
Two weeks later, Obama’s State Department admitted that the $400m. was a payment for the hostages.
Obama’s principle claim is that due to his deal, Iran no longer has a short-term nuclear breakout capacity. He also says that in accordance with the deal, Iran has shipped its nuclear materials out of the country. These claims are both untrue and misleading.
On Thursday Reuters reported that Iran did not ship the quantities of low-enriched uranium out of the country in the quantities the deal required.
Last January, when the deadline arrived for Iran to comply with the deal’s clauses calling for it to move its uranium enriched to 3.5 percent and 20 percent out of the country and so enable the US and its European colleagues to cancel UN sanctions against it, it worked out that Iran had failed to comply.
Rather than acknowledge Iran’s failure and maintain the sanctions in accordance with their deal, the Americans and Europeans decided to move the goalpost closer to Iran.
They secretly decreased the amount of uranium the Iranians were required to part with. They then announced triumphantly that they were canceling UN sanctions because Iran had complied with the agreement.
Reuters reported that much of the low-enriched uranium Iran did remove from its territory wasn’t actually removed from its possession. Instead it was transferred to neighboring Oman, where it is held under Iranian guard and control.
Obama of course knows all of this. So his claims that the agreement “worked” are nothing more than a card trick meant to trick the American public.
Obama’s assertion that Iran’s breakout time to a nuclear arsenal has been slowed as a result of his deal is similarly a stretch of the imagination. The Iranians have suspended much of their prior centrifuge spinning. But that is only because they are now directing their efforts to developing and deploying more advanced centrifuges that will be able to enrich uranium to bomb grade material far more rapidly than the centrifuges they were required to retire.
Experts have already placed Iran’s post-deal nuclear breakout time at a mere six months. And Iran can leave the agreement – which it never actually signed or officially agreed to – anytime it wants.
While developing their next generation centrifuges, the Iranians are expanding the range and precision of their ballistic missiles, deploying them and increasing the size of their arsenals. Despite the fact that these actions are prohibited under US law and breach what was initially claimed about the ever-changing nuclear deal, the Obama administration has refused to impose sanctions against Iran, insisting that its actions merely breach the spirit, rather than substance, of the deal.
The administration has had a similar response to Iran’s recent deployment of Russia’s S-300 missile defense battery around its military nuclear site at Fordo. On Sunday Iranian television showed footage of the missiles being set up around the formerly secret site.
As Omri Ceren of the Israel Project noted this week, Iran’s deployment of the S-300 system places it in breach of three US sanctions laws. Despite this, the White House announced on Wednesday that it has no intention of enforcing US law and applying sanctions on Iran. The S-300 missiles can be used both as a defensive system and as an offensive one.
On Tuesday, Tehran announced that it will be launching three satellites in the coming months.
Satellite launches are widely viewed as a means through which Iran is covertly developing a longrange ballistic missile capability. Rather than censure Iran for its actions, the Obama administration insists that such actions, as well as Iran’s recent longrange rocket tests, do not violate the nuclear deal or warrant US action.
Taken separately and together, Iran’s actions since the nuclear deal was officially concluded make clear that it continues to pursue its nuclear program, and indeed, has become more brazen in its nuclear operations than it was before the agreement was announced last year.
In other words, not only has the deal not worked, contrary to Obama’s claims, it has been a colossal failure on every level. The deal’s opponents were entirely right about the dangers it posed and Obama was entirely wrong.
This is true as well in relation to the administration’s qualified promises that the deal would lead to better relations between the US and Iran. As Shoshana and Stephen Bryen noted last week following the Iranian naval assault on the USS Nitze in the Strait of Hormuz, with its repeated harassment of US naval ships traversing the Strait of Hormuz, Iran is clearly practicing its tactic of swarming US naval craft as a preparation for a real strike against them.
The main reason that Iran’s nuclear program is such a grave concern for Israel and for other Middle Eastern states is that the Iranian regime has hegemonic ambitions. It seeks to destroy Israel and dominate the entire region.
Since it concluded the deal with Washington, Iran has surged its forces and massively expanded its power projection throughout the region.
On Thursday the Daily Mail reported that the commonly held belief that Iran commands 16,000 troops in Syria is wrong. According to the National Council of Resistance in Iran, the regime actually commands 60,000 forces in Syria, deployed throughout the country. The entire Syrian army today numbers a mere 50,000 men.
On August 4, Obama mocked claims that Iran would spend its windfall profits of $100b.-$150b.
from the sanctions relief the nuclear deal offered to fund terrorism. Yet, according to the Daily Mail report, to date Iran has spent $100b. on the war in Syria.
The implications of the report are blood curdling.
They mean that despite Obama’s denials, the funds Iran has received as a result of the sanctions relief he brought about through his nuclear deal have paid for Iran’s war in Syria. That war has caused the death of nearly half a million people and forced more than 11 million people to flee their homes.
Obviously, it is important for Americans to know the truth about the Iran deal and its consequences as they consider their votes for Obama’s replacement.
One of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s top candidates for secretary of state is Wendy Sherman.
Sherman was the chief negotiator of Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran.
For Israel, the question of what to do about Iran now is far more urgent than it is for Americans.
Today more and more commentators are voicing concern over the prospect that Obama will support an anti-Israel resolution at the UN Security Council as a parting shot at Israel.
But any such resolution will be small potatoes in comparison to the strategic devastation his nuclear deal, which is his main foreign policy legacy, has caused.
The rapidity of Iran’s advance makes clear that there is no justification for waiting to act until Obama has left office. If it doesn’t act soon, Israel is on the fast track to waking up one morning and discovering it has no means of thwarting the threat.
Indeed, with each passing month, its options for action become more and more limited.
After Israel’s security leadership undermined Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plan to attack Iran’s nuclear installations in 2010 and 2012, Netanyahu settled on a strategy of blocking Obama’s moves to appease Tehran.
That strategy of course failed last summer. Since then, Netanyahu has worked to build an anti-Iranian alliance with the Sunni Arab states. His efforts in this area have clearly met with some measure of success, as witnessed by public statements from prominent Saudis and others.
Whatever that success may be, and whatever the status of that burgeoning alliance of spurned US allies, the fact is that it’s time Israel and its new allies do something more than send signals.
Time is a-wasting.
Last spring Brig.-Gen. Hossein Salami, the deputy commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, said, “Today the grounds for the annihilation and collapse of the Zionist regime are more present than ever before.”
Thanks to Obama, he may be right.
It is time for Israel to make him eat his words.