Underneath the Deal

now-the-really-hard-part-starts-after-landmark-iran-nuclear-dealThe Obama administration is entitled to be furious with Israel.  Although the U.S. got bragging rights for its (one-sided-not-in-our-favor) deal with Iran, Prime Minister Netanyahu remains determined publicly to say what the President wants to hide: Iran’s nuclear program could not be negotiated away, rolled back significantly or inspected properly. The only means to a signed document was for the U.S. to abandon its principles and pressure its allies. The U.S. has done that.

It was hard to oppose negotiations, it always is hard. Churchill said, “Its better to jaw, jaw than war, war” (you need the accent to make it work).  But a deal that is not a capitulation by one side requires two conditions: the parties must equally value the process; and there has to be a compatible endgame.  The West invested the process with much more value than did Iran, providing the mullahs with instant leverage, but most important, there was no agreed-upon end game.

The P5+1 wanted to negotiate the terms of Iran’s nuclear surrender; Iran was negotiating the conditions under which it will operate its nuclear program.

We’re familiar with the rules of buying a rug in the souk.  The goals are compatible – he wants to sell, you want to buy. If you want the rug more than he wants the deal, you will overpay; if he wants the deal more than you want the rug, you win.  But either way, money and rug will change hands.  Alternatively, if you want to buy a rug and he wants to sell a camel, no matter how ardently you bargain there will be no deal. Unless you change your mind and take the camel.

The White House took the camel.

Here is how it happened.  At the UN General Assembly this year, President Obama put forward his theory of Iran’s bellicosity, ascribing motives and goals to the Islamic regime that mirror American motives and goals – starting with American mistakes. “Iranians have long complained of a history of U.S. interference in their affairs and of America’s role in overthrowing the Iranian government during the Cold War.”  Since he asserted that the nuclear program stemmed from Iranian fear of American meddling, he assuaged what he said were their concerns.  “We are not seeking regime change, and we respect the right of the Iranian people to access peaceful nuclear energy.”  Then he promised what he called a better future. “I do believe that if we can resolve the issue of Iran’s nuclear program, that can serve as a major step down a long road toward a different relationship based on mutual interests and mutual respect.”

But what if Iran doesn’t believe we have “mutual interests” and seeks a future in which the Islamic Republic is the hegemonic Gulf power and the United States is banished from the region, leaving its Sunni allies and Israel without a patron? (Russia is already taken.) What if Iran seeks religious hegemony over the world’s Muslim population, which requires supporting Syria and Hezbollah in the face of more numerous Sunni adversaries?

In that case the nuclear program is not an “issue” to be “resolved,” but a means toward a considered end.  Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei – the only real power in Iran – believes, as did the Ayatollah Khomeini before him, that the program is the determinant of Iran’s power and prestige, and necessary to resist political and economic domination by the West. A nuclear-capable Iran would be a power with influence in the Muslim and the wider world, equal to the nuclear-armed United States and, as an oil-producing country, superior to Israel.

From that angle, the Administration’s belief that a mild easing of sanctions (a “tiny portion,” according to Secretary of State Kerry, and “very limited, temporary and reversible” according to President Obama) would induce Iran to begin the process of de-nuclearizing or denuding itself under the watchful, powerful, and punitive eye of the despised West was farfetched at best.  Even large-scale bribery (the $20 billion or so FDD’s Mark Dubowitz estimated might become available to the regime) would be unlikely to move the Iranians from their national nuclear project.

That was the most important understanding in the development of international sanctions. Sanctions were NOT designed to force Iran choose between nuclear progress and “mutual respect” with the West.  Sanctions, rather, were designed to force Iran to negotiate with itself.  To choose between two of its own national goals: the nuclear project and economic stability.  But at the very moment sanctions began to work and Iran began the internal conversation, the White House decided to buy the camel Iran was selling – temporary, reversible paper promises – for which the West would pay with eased sanctions and at least tacit acceptance of Iran’s “right” to uranium enrichment.

France (for itself, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the U.S. Congress) saved the Western position for a week.  Unable to acknowledge the fundamental American shift, and having pulled France back into the fold, the administration continues to blame Israel and, if reports are true, has warned it  not to consider military action against Iran without American “permission.”  Somehow, the U.S. has become the guarantor of the security of Iran’s nuclear program, and thus the guarantor of the Islamic Republic’s rotten regime.

The implications are staggering.  Iran has supported militias that killed American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.  It traffics in weapons and missile technology with North Korea, some of which it then supplies along with troops to the gruesomely murderous regime of Bashar Assad and the equally murderous Hezbollah.  Iran ships weapons through Somalia and across North Africa to jihadists in Sinai and Hamas in Gaza.  It stirs trouble for American allies in the Gulf and threatens Israel with genocide on a regular basis.

The election of the so-called “moderate” Hasan Rouhani made no difference at all to the Iranian people.  In the first 100 days of his administration, 207 people have been executed, some publicly.  Iranian-American pastor Saeed Abedani, in prison for over a year for practicing Christianity, was been moved to the “violent criminal” ward and denied medical treatment for injuries suffered in prison. Veteran Iran-watcher Michael Ledeen has chronicled the regime’s domestic violence, including the stoning deaths of four women and mass arrests of Kurds in Tehran in October.

Putting international priority on Iran’s nuclear program might have been reasonable given the stakes, but Iran presents a basket of issues for the West, the Sunni Muslim world and Russia. The Administration’s willingness to undermine the allied position on the nuclear program has left no room to maneuver on the other points – if it wants to.

Shoshana Bryen is Senior Director of The Jewish Policy Center.

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  • StanleyT

    Brilliantly stated. Should be required reading for Obama, Kerry and the entire State Department. But of course, that’s exactly why they will never read anything like this.

    • ingvard

      Stanley : Lets prolong your education to middle school and older including that Wilson guy the nightly news reader on whatever station that is. FOUR HUNDRED AND FORTY FOUR DAYS WHAT THE %#LL is wrong with theis fellow humans ????????????????. O that’s right the moocher class has over came the productive “class” and short term history or those less than 30 years old.
      Never, Never, Never, Never, Never, Never, Never, Never, Never, Never, Never, Never, Never, Never, Never, Never, Never, Never, Never, Never,
      Never, Give up.

    • Shoshana Bryen

      Thank you, StanleyT

  • vladimirval

    In order for negotiations to have a chance of a decent outcome, both sides must have same or at least similar goals. If both sides say the same thing but seek totally different outcomes there can be no decent outcome, just a victor and a sucker. The people of western civilizations are the suckers with Iran and Obama the winners. When our the supposed leader covets the enemy, we can not expect any other outcome. America needs a total change of leadership. The sooner this happens the better chance there is of saving our Republic and the world.

  • Edward smith

    What if we have burger kings and mcdonalds in Tehran and we have brent crude oil at a cheaper price alleviating the economic woes of millions of Americans on food stamps and government assistance? What if we finally have a chance at peace? True peace for our children and their children?

    What if we attain peace without dropping a single bomb like we could have had in the early 1990′s?

    We can finally achieve this. We can actually have a grand bargain with Iran like we could have had in 2005. As long as Obama can keep the zionist hawks at bay we can HAVE this peace.

    We can make peace with the Iranians with the stroke of a pen. Lift the sanctions, have the price of oil drop, and start negotiating with Iran about trade and Afghanistan and Iraq etc. Iran should be a major US ally. We’ve had enough of this animosity. 35 years is long enough. Let’s try peace for a change. We’ve tried war, it doesn’t work. Let’s try peace.

    • NYgal

      Chamberlain thought exactly the same as you do. Of cause, he did not bring peace with the Munich agreement and after the fall of Czechoslovakia, Germany had increased its armament production by a third, but the idea of peace at any price still persists.

      Too bad the peace-at-any- price lovers have never bothered to count the real cost of Munich – tens of millions dead, even without counting the Holocaust victims, Eastern Europe put under the Soviet yoke, Britain loosing its empire and having its economy ruined, cities destroyed, tens of millions of people turned into refugees after the war all across Europe.

      Just think, all of that would not have happened if only the world had guts to challenge Hitler and Germans in the early 30s, instead of throwing them Czechoslovakia for a ‘peace in our times’ worthless agreement.

      Just think what the price will be this time when the Atlantic will no longer protect American cities, as it did during the last war.

    • objectivefactsmatter

      “We’ve tried war, it doesn’t work. Let’s try peace.”

      You’re completely delusional to think that your hopes have any direct bearing on reality.

      Behold the modern Western leftist mind.

      • Edward smith

        Most of the world is filled with peace loving people. People that want to get along and live in peace. We can actually begin having real negotiations with Iran.

        • objectivefactsmatter

          “Most of the world is filled with peace loving people. People that want to get along and live in peace. We can actually begin having real negotiations with Iran.”

          I’m sure that’s true. I’m sure that’s not true for those in power in Iran, which is what matters most in this conversation.

          • kasandra

            You’re analysis, correct as it is, isn’t reaching “Edward smith.” Reason and logic don’t get delivered to Gum Drop Lane in Lollipop Land.

          • Edward smith

            It’s not correct. Iran has been reaching out to the west for years. We are finally coming around only to have the israelis try to throw a monkey wrench in all of our plans.

            Who possesses over 100 nuclear weapons illegally? Israel. Who supported the racist regime of south africa for years? Israel. Who is NOT a signatory to the NPT? Israel. Who is not a signatory to the geneva conventions? Israel. Who is interfering in out Political affairs? Israel.

          • objectivefactsmatter

            Who is ignorant and myopic? Edward smith.

          • objectivefactsmatter

            “It’s not correct. Iran has been reaching out to the west for years.”

            Yes they have. With death threats and stealth terror campaigns. Lovely outreach programs.

            I find it impossible that such a regime would use deception during diplomacy and particularly during arms negotiations with the world’s only superpower that they identify as Big Satan. Who could suggest such a thing? Only imperialists!

          • Edward smith

            Those in power in Iran who offered a grand bargain to Bush in 2005. Bush in all his ignorance, ignored them.

            Iran was willing to discuss a grand bargain.

          • objectivefactsmatter

            “Iran was willing to discuss a grand bargain.”

            Hudna on the path to global Shiite supremacy. Wonderful. Did you read the article? America does not want or need a “camel.” We can not tolerate a “camel” when we want an enforceable peace agreement.

          • Edward smith

            Bush was coming off of his “mission accomplished” in Iraq. He was not interested in talking with the Iranians. He was foolish for that.

          • objectivefactsmatter

            “Bush was coming off of his “mission accomplished” in Iraq. He was not interested in talking with the Iranians. He was foolish for that.”

            Bush didn’t have his crystal ball functioning too well at the time. And even looking back it’s not clear at all what “talk” would have accomplished. You have an extremely myopic and shallow view of international politics.

            I agree that he should have been more active, I’ll put it to you that way. Iran was and remains a bigger threat than Iraq, but Iraq was an easier sell. Iran has been the biggest nonnuclear threat in the world since 1979. Things can only get worse in that respect.

            But you know, most of the people in the world are peaceful, yada yada, so I’m sure some insane Shia lunatic won’t actually carry out any of those threats they’ve been articulating for over 3 decades. No problem because most people are peaceful.

        • objectivefactsmatter

          Edward smith • a day ago
          “We Americans. I’m sick and tired of these scumbags interfering in our politics. Here we have a chance at peace and this psycho netanyahu keeps getting in the way. Obama killed Osama Bin Laden, this kike better tread lightly!”

          Lovely sentiments from the lover of peace.

        • objectivefactsmatter

          “We can actually begin having real negotiations with Iran.”

          We were negotiating with them. It’s caving in that people here object to.

          • Edward smith

            Real negotiations with Iran. Negotiating trade, Afghanistan terrorism etc. Not some non sequitir about some nuclear energy program that 197 other nations have.

          • objectivefactsmatter

            “Real negotiations with Iran. Negotiating trade, Afghanistan terrorism etc”

            Wait, you say you’re happy because these issues are resolved? WTF?

            “Not some non sequitir about some nuclear energy program that 197 other nations have.”

            Nobody cares about peaceful use of nuclear reactors. Nobody but leftists. And they seem to be very happy with Iran having nukes. Hmm. Maybe they’re Marxists rooting for the “oppressed classes?” Maybe that includes you?

          • Edward smith

            We can actually begin having REAL talks with Iran. Talk about Afghanistan, terrorism, Iraq etc. IF we want to be successful in Iraq and Afghanistan we have to work with the Iranians. It’s that simple. We can’t be at war with every single country in the middle east. It will Bankrupt My country and my people.

            Iran does not have nukes. That’s a non sequitur.

          • objectivefactsmatter

            “We can actually begin having REAL talks with Iran.”

            REAL talks? I think I am for that. That didn’t happen and worse, we let them off the hook without demanding any guarantees that we should.

            “Talk about Afghanistan, terrorism, Iraq etc. IF we want to be successful in Iraq and Afghanistan we have to work with the Iranians. It’s that simple.”

            What you say is fundamentally true except for your remark that it’s simple. It’s not simple at all. Your problem is that your arguments are too simple. Caving in is one choice to “work with” Iran. It’s just the worst choice we have.

            “We can’t be at war with every single country in the middle east.”

            We could be in theory, but we’re not. That’s a non sequitur.

            “Iran does not have nukes. That’s a non sequitur.”

            Completely wrong. Iran has a process to produce nuclear weapons. These complex processes have incredible project inertia. It may be too late as we speak. It’s the most fundamental issue. Second is their history of supporting global jihad terror operations.

    • Softly Bob

      The problem is that Iran is run by an apocalyptic Muslim cult who believe that they can usher in the End Times and bring about the Islamic messiah by starting Global war – and they are not afraid to die for death will bring them martyrdom.
      You can’t make peace with people like that because peace offers them nothing. They want war.
      You also say that we’ve tried war and it doesn’t work. No, we haven’t tried war. We’ve tried being a punchbag while they hit us with Global terrorism, but we haven’t tried war yet!

      • Edward smith

        It wasn’t true with the red chinese it isn’t true now.

        • objectivefactsmatter

          The “red chinese” are ultimately pragmatic. They are the polar opposite of the Iranian regime when it comes to questions of materialism and realpolitik. The Chinese never wanted to get nuked by anyone in return. Some in Iran might not care, or might even want to get hit.

          And even so we still had to be more careful how we operated, and it was still a loss to democracy when the the Soviets and the Chinese went nuclear.

          All of your arguments are extremely naive. We should oppose ALL nuclear proliferation of our opposition, and most of all those who might think it’s just fine with Allah to blow the world up.

          Can you follow the conversation? At some point when it’s clear that our nuclear program was intended to avoid losing out to another nuclear power, we can possibly wind down our own programs.

          Or we can just submit to some alien sovereign and live in “peace.” Right?

          Are you an American?

          • Edward smith

            The rhetoric and propaganda surrounding Iran is no different than the rhetoric and propaganda that was surrounding the godless red chinese who couldn’t be reasoned with back in the 70′s. Well guess what? There are Mcdonalds in China now. U mad?

          • objectivefactsmatter

            “The rhetoric and propaganda surrounding Iran is no different than the rhetoric and propaganda that was surrounding the godless red chinese who couldn’t be reasoned with back in the 70′s.”

            I agree that the left has not come up with any new excuses. But the case against Iran is only similar in the concern that each want to replace our form of government or at the very least our hegemony.

            China and Iran are each clones of the Soviet Union. Is that your theory?

            “Well guess what? There are Mcdonalds in China now. U mad?”

            Yeah, I’m angry because the Big Macs there in China use inferior beef. However, if the Iranians will use good enough ingredients we won’t worry about their Shia fantasies to dominate the world and bring on the last days with a nuclear exchange.

          • Edward smith

            I don’t see Iran occupying any other country. Saudi Arabia invaded Bahrain with tanks. Not Iran. America invaded Iraq and occupied it. America invaded Afghanistan. Not Iran. Iran hasn’t invaded a country in over 200 years. The only hegemony your talking about is Americas.

            “China and Iran are each clones of the Soviet Union. Is that your theory?”

            Are your parents brother and sister? I said the propaganda and lies surrounding Iran are the same lies used about China in the 70′s.

            “However, if the Iranians will use good enough ingredients we won’t worry
            about their Shia fantasies to dominate the world and bring on the last
            days with a nuclear exchange.”

            The only way Iran is gonna have Nuclear weapons is if Israel drops THEIR nuclear weapons on Iranian soil.

          • objectivefactsmatter

            “I don’t see Iran occupying any other country.”

            That’s not the biggest risk, I’ll agree. What is your point? “occupation” is the only “evil” in the world? And it’s “never” justified?

            “Saudi Arabia invaded Bahrain with tanks.”

            I don’t want them to have nukes either. Iran is still more dangerous.

            “America invaded Iraq and occupied it.”

            For the oil and the capitalism.

            “America invaded Afghanistan.”

            For the hot chicks and ethnic foods. And drugs.

            “Not Iran.”

            Iran must be the good guys. Huh. I never noticed before.

            “Iran hasn’t invaded a country in over 200 years.”

            That’s a statement that might lead one to conclude that your knowledge of history is very weak.

            “The only hegemony your talking about is Americas.”

            That’s right. I believe in promoting American hegemony if the alternative is to have hostile actors empowered and working against us. Which is essentially why we spend the resources defending it.

          • objectivefactsmatter

            “Are your parents brother and sister? I said the propaganda and lies surrounding Iran are the same lies used about China in the 70′s.”

            You need to make your own case then. I won’t try to help you with your flawed theories.

            “The only way Iran is gonna have Nuclear weapons is if Israel drops THEIR nuclear weapons on Iranian soil.”

            You should have informed us about that a decade ago. I’m sure you tried. Ed smith understands the world better than any American nationalists, that’s for sure.

            Ed smith for Secretary of State. But then again we already have John Kerry so I guess you’re a pretty happy camper. He hates American hegemony as much as you do.

  • Ellman48

    “The West invested the process with much more value than did Iran,
    providing the mullahs with instant leverage, but most important, there
    was no agreed-upon end game.”

    The ‘end game’ is distraction from Obamacare’s myriad and irresolvable problems. Diversion, distractions, black-outs, shifting the focus, changing the subject, etc. have been the staples of this regime from the first day in office. North Korea duped us, so did Pakistan, and now Iran has joined the club of third-world countries that have demonstrated the unmitigated incompetence of the “community organizer” style of central government. Obama’s regime grows more bizarre and insane every day. One has to wonder where all this insanity and folly is moving us toward. The consequences will definitely be bad but the question is “How bad?” This ‘deal’ may shorten the lifetimes of millions of people, but at least it got our minds off the ultimate domestic calamity – Obamascare!