The U.S. president's past record with Iran negotiations casts a skeptical light on the current talks of an impending deal, write two leaders from the Zionist Organization of America.
Ten Senate Democrats who had persistently expressed concern over President Barack Obama’s concessionary policy toward Iran over its nuclear weapons program recently wrote to the president that they would postpone seeking new sanctions legislation in the event of a failure of nuclear talks.
Under reportedly enormous pressure from the White House, the senators said they would await the March 24 deadline for a negotiated agreement with Tehran, despite their doubts that any such agreement would be forthcoming.
This delay is a serious mistake. One of the few things that might induce Tehran to agree to terminating its nuclear weapons program would be the certainty of renewed tough sanctions if it did not do so. Now such pressure is absent, and the chances of Iran agreeing are correspondingly reduced.
But this is only the latest blow to diplomatic efforts to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear threshold power. The fact is that Obama has a six-year record of indulging and conceding to Iran, without having achieved anything to prevent it from becoming a nuclear power, which he has repeatedly and publicly proclaimed he would do “everything, everything” to prevent.
Obama has a disturbing record on Iran sanctions. For more than a year after entering office, he prohibited a congressional vote on new sanctions. Moreover, the 2010 U.N. Security Council sanctions, which Obama eventually supported, included huge exemptions for numerous countries. These included China, which has extensive contracts in Iran’s energy sector developing oil refineries, and Russia, which supplies S-300 surface-to-air missiles to Iran.
In 2011, Obama sought to torpedo or weaken new and stronger congressional sanctions on Iran, even after these had been softened at his request. His opposition led Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), then chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, to publicly and angrily criticize the administration.
In 2013, Obama quietly lifted financial pressure on Tehran, stopping the blacklisting of entities and individuals assisting Iran’s evasion of international sanctions. He also publicized Israeli preparations to deal militarily with Iran, including Israel’s use of Azerbaijan airfields.
The biggest subversion of the cause of keeping Iran nuclear weapon-free came next: the Geneva Interim Agreement with Iran, which gave Tehran vital sanctions relief totaling some $20 billion (not the $6 to 7 billion originally acknowledged by the administration) while permitting Iran to retain — intact — the essential elements of its nuclear weapons program, including:
• Continued construction of its Arak plutonium plant;
• Continued uranium enrichment to 5 percent — which, with 19,000 centrifuges, can enable swift enrichment to weapons-grade level, allowing Iran to become a breakout nuclear state in a matter of months.
• Continued research and upgrading of centrifuges, enabling Iran to achieve a nuclear breakout in a mere two months.
• Continued nuclear research at military installations like Parchin that remain off-limits to inspectors.
• Continued intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) programs, whose only purpose is carrying nuclear warheads and which, according to U.S. intelligence, would enable Iran to strike the United States itself in 2015.
Iranian aggression is also met with silence. Tehran’s Syrian ally, Bashar Assad, continues to murder and maim across Syria in a conflict that has already claimed 200,000 lives. Iran continues funding the radical Islamic terror group, Hezbollah, which helps keep Assad in power. Iranian-supported rebels have just toppled Yemen’s pro-American government. Iran now has increasing holds in large swathes of Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen. Silence.
So, too, with Iranian threats to the United States and Israel. Statements continue to be made by Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ali Hosseini Khamenei, and other senior Iranian figures, with Khameini publicly calling for the destruction of the United States, which he terms the “Great Satan.” The Iranian Defense Ministry recently declared that “the Iranian nation still sees the U.S. as the No. 1 enemy.” And, Iran has been quietly expanding its reach in Latin America, courtesy of friendly regimes. Silence.
Perhaps Obama believes a nuclear Iran will be a source of stability. Perhaps he thinks an America that cannot threaten a nuclear Iran is good news. But what cannot be argued is that Obama truly intends to stop Iran from becoming a nuclear-threshold state.
Morton A. Klein is national president of the Zionist Organization of America. Daniel Mandel is director of the ZOA’s Center for Middle East Policy.