(/sites/default/files/uploads/2015/03/Khamenei.jpg)The Obama administration’s determination to reach an accord with Iran at any cost continues unabated. As the March 31st deadline approaches, the administration has taken to recklessly downplaying Iran’s increasing belligerence, as well as continuing a coordinated attack on Iran’s chief critic, newly re-elected Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
This weekend, the White House dismissed a speech by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei that included more chants of “Death to America” by both the crowd and Khamenei himself, insisting that it was only “intended for a domestic political audience.” Yesterday White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest doubled down on that contention when CNN White House correspondent Jim Acosta asked “if those comments give this White House any pause about moving forward with a nuclear deal with that country?” “Those kinds of comments only underscore why it is so critically important that the United States and the international community succeed in preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon,” Earnest insisted. “And the best way for us to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapons is sitting down at the negotiating table and getting Iran to make very specific commitments that would prevent them from obtaining nuclear weapons.”
When Acosta pressed Earnest about whether such a statement could undermine good faith negotiations, Earnest remained resolute. “Jim, what we have seen is — we have seen the Iranians sit down at the negotiating table and demonstrate a willingness to have constructive conversations,” he explained.
Those so-called constructive conversations are apparently sufficient to offset more than the Ayatollah’s weekend rhetoric. In a nationally televised show broadcast in February, Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard participated in a war games drill during which they assaulted and destroyed a replica of a U.S. aircraft carrier. “American aircraft carriers are very big ammunition depots housing a lot of missiles, rockets, torpedoes and everything else,” said the Guard’s navy chief, Adm. Ali Fadavi. Fadavi had previously boasted that his forces are capable of taking out aircraft carriers should war arise. Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari, the Guard’s chief commander, declared that the drills send a “message of (Iran’s) might” to “extraterritorial powers,” a reference to the United States. The simulation, called Great Prophet 9, took place near the Strait of Hormuz, a critical waterway though which more than 20 percent of the world’s oil passes.
The Obama administration was equally dismissive of that effort. “We are aware of a recent exercise by Iranian naval forces involving a mock-up of a vessel similar to an aircraft carrier,” said Defense Department spokeswoman Cmdr. Elissa Smith. “We are confident in our naval forces’ ability to defend themselves against any maritime threat.” Cmdr. Kevin Stephens, spokesman for the Fifth Fleet based in Bahrain, was equally sanguine. “It seems they’ve attempted to destroy the equivalent of a Hollywood movie set,” he noted sarcastically.
Such an easygoing attitude towards a country that remains on the State Department’s list of terror-sponsoring nations stands in stark contrast to the Obama administration’s treatment of Israel and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. On Monday, White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonoough led the offensive. In a speech at aimed at left-wing activists attending J Street’s fifth annual conference in Washington, D.C., he attacked the Jewish State’s _occupation_ of the West Bank. “An occupation that has lasted for almost 50 years must end, and the Palestinian people must have the right to live in and govern themselves in their own sovereign state,” he insisted. He also reiterated the tiresome trope regarding a two-state solution. “Palestinian children deserve the same right to be free in their own land as Israeli children in their land,” he declared. “A two-state solution will finally bring Israelis the security and normalcy to which they are entitled, and Palestinians the sovereignty and dignity they deserve.”
There may be nothing more intellectually bankrupt than the progressive notion that Israel remains the chief obstacle to either a two-state solution, or that such a solution is the ultimate cure for Middle East violence. Charles Krauthammer deftly exposes that bankruptcy. “I have news for the lowing herds: There would be no peace and no Palestinian state if Isaac Herzog were prime minister either,” he wrote following the outpouring of leftist handwringing that accompanied Netanyahu’s re-election. “Or Ehud Barak or Ehud Olmert for that matter. The latter two were (non-Likud) prime ministers who offered the Palestinians their own state — with its capital in Jerusalem and every Israeli settlement in the new Palestine uprooted — only to be rudely rejected.”
It’s worse than that. Following Netanyahu’s re-election, Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas and the PLO have not only threatened to halt security coordination with Israel, but indicated they will also engage in a “comprehensive dialogue” with Hamas and Islamic Jihad, aimed at facilitating their takeover of the West Bank. Both groups are dedicated to the annihilation of Israel, and would undoubtedly use the West Bank as a staging area to do so. Regardless, Israel remains the focus of the Obama administration’s ire.
According to the _Wall Street Journal,_ that ire was intensified by the administration’s allegation that Israel spied on the closed-door talks between Iran and the P5+1 negotiators comprised of the five permanent UN Security Council members, (the United States, the UK, Russia, China and France), plus non-member Germany. The _Journal_ notes that the spying didn’t upset the White House as much as the fact that the information gleaned from that effort was shared with Congressional lawmakers in an effort to diminish their support for any deal. “It is one thing for the U.S. and Israel to spy on each other. It is another thing for Israel to steal U.S. secrets and play them back to U.S. legislators to undermine U.S. diplomacy,” said a senior U.S. official briefed on the matter. Such a statement suggests the Obama administration considers the United States Congress just as much of an adversary as Netanyahu.
Regardless, Israel denied the allegations.” These allegations are utterly false,” the senior official in the Israeli Prime Minister’s office told CNN. “The state of Israel does not conduct espionage against the United States or Israel’s other allies.”
Israel insists they had other sources that included close surveillance of Iranian leaders receiving the latest offers, as well as info obtained from European leaders who have been “more transparent” about the ongoing negotiations. Netanyahu and Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer used the information in an effort to lobby Congress before any deal could be made. They knew such lobbying could damage their relationship with the White House, but figured the effort was worth the cost.
Israel’s efforts to influence the outcome of the talks continued this week. Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz and Yossi Cohen, Netanyahu’s national security adviser, led a delegation that met with a negotiating team in France, followed by a meeting with Britain’s delegation to the Iranian talks. No doubt the visit to France was buttressed by Paris’s split from the U.S. position on sanctions last week. French foreign minister Laurent Fabius told French negotiators that Iran must come clean regarding evidence of warhead development before the bulk of U.N. sanctions could be lifted. “We have been negotiating with Iran for 12 [years]. We shouldn’t be rushed into an agreement which will have to be comprehensive,” tweeted French ambassador to Washington, Gerard Araud. “For France, any agreement to be acceptable will have to give concrete guarantees on all issues. We won’t bypass any of them.” In other words, France is taking a harder line than the United States.
The _WSJ_ noted that Israel believed its Congressional lobbying campaign backfired because it alienated many Congressional Democrats needed to block the deal. That assessment may have been premature: yesterday a letter sent to President Obama, signed by House Committee on Foreign Affairs Chairman Rep. Edward R. Royce (R-Ca), and ranking Democrat Rep. Eliot L. Engel (D-NY)—along with 365 other House members—insisted that if a deal with Iran were reached, “permanent sanctions relief from congressionally mandated sanctions would require new legislation.” The letter was ostensibly welcomed by the White House because it was “bipartisan” and “sent to the president,” according to Earnest, who sought to distinguish it from the letter signed by 47 GOP Senators and sent to the Iranian leadership in an effort “to undermine the talks.” Earnest insisted Obama expects Congress to play “its rightful role”—in lifting the sanctions.
Negotiations are scheduled to end next week, and a final accord is to be reached by June 30. Yet Iran remains defiant. Yesterday they dismissed a suggestion by Yukiya Amano, head of the U.N.’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IEAE), that Iran submit to snap inspections of its nuclear sites as a way of building reassurance among the international community. ”It would be much better if Amano only talked about the IAEA’s seasonal and monthly reports,” responded Iranian nuclear spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi. The IEAE reiterated the French position, insisting it has evidence that Iran has worked on nuclear weapons, even as Iran has stonewalled their effort to follow up on those suspicions. Iran’s lack of candor remains one of the sticking points of the negotiations.
In the meantime, Israel and Netanyahu remain a punching bag of convenience for a desperate president and a clueless administration whose Middle East track record has been nothing short of catastrophic. It is not inconceivable that Obama and company would countenance a terrible deal with Iran for nothing more than the ability to bask in a self-aggrandizing “historical” moment that is nothing of the sort. In a devastatingly accurate _New York Pos_t column, Michael Goodwin describes Obama as a president who “abandons our allies, appeases tyrants, coddles adversaries and uses the Crusades as an excuse for inaction as Islamist terrorists slaughter their way across the Mideast.” Why? “If Obama’s six years in office teach us anything, it is that he is impervious to appeals to good sense,” Goodwin states. “Quite the contrary. Even respectful suggestions from supporters that he behave in the traditions of American presidents fill him with angry determination to do it his way.”
He further notes that Obama’s courtship of Iran
reached the height of absurdity last week, when Obama wished Iranians a happy Persian new year by equating Republican critics of his nuclear deal with the resistance of theocratic hard-liners, saying both “oppose a diplomatic solution.” That is a damnable slur given that a top American military official estimates that Iranian weapons, proxies and trainers killed 1,500 US soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. Who in their right mind would trust such an evil regime with a nuke?
How about a radical leftist, terror-appeasing president so determined to achieve “peace in our time,” Iran was excluded as a terror threat from the administration’s latest annual security assessment? With leadership like this, dangerous days are ahead.
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