By Jackson Diehl, deputy editorial page editor
With the Iran nuclear deal in hand, President Obama appears ready to focus more of his attention on stemming the wars, mass atrocities and humanitarian catastrophes that have spread across the Middle East during his presidency. He has articulated several big goals he wants to reach before the next president takes office: to put the United States and its allies “on track to defeat” the Islamic State; to “have jump-started a process to resolve the civil war in Syria”; and to defend Israel and other U.S. allies from aggression mounted by Iran and its proxies.
Here’s the problem: The last two of those goals are, as the president conceives them, directly in conflict with each other.
At his post-deal news conference last month, Obama conceded that Iran might use some of the billions it will soon receive to supply the Lebanese Hezbollah militia with fresh weapons, and he vowed to do his best to stop it. “It is in the national security interest of the United States to prevent Iran from sending weapons to Hezbollah,” he said.
At the same time, Obama described the solution to the Syrian war as requiring an “agreement among the major powers that are interested in Syria.” He added, “Iran is one of those players, and I think that it’s important for them to be part of that conversation.” Read more at The Washington Post.
By Richard S. Goldstein
I voted for Barack Obama twice for president. I am a lifelong Democrat who has been in and around politics and government (including five years as a senior Hill staffer) since my political awakening as I protested the Vietnam War. That experience taught me, among other things, to hate war. I proudly consider myself a progressive who strongly supports the U.S.-Israel relationship.
Yet I look at this Iran agreement and am appalled by it because it’s a bad deal. On its merits — for America and not just for Israel — it fails to protect against the possibility that in a few short years Iranian missiles carrying nuclear weapons can reach anywhere in the world.
I’m really disappointed that I oppose this deal. I hoped, naively I suppose, that negotiations resulting from the sanctions for which my friends and I in the pro-Israel community lobbied, would result in a good deal. After all, the president and secretary of State repeatedly said “no deal is better than a bad deal.”
Let’s start with the apparent last-minute concession on ballistic missiles. In eight years, Iran, whose intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) program is already underway, can legally and without any penalty or sanctions acquire advanced missile parts, equipment and technology from other countries to accelerate its missile program. Read more of the excellent points raised by Richard Goldstein at The Hill.
“Palestine” by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
While Secretary of State John Kerry and President Obama do their best to paper over the brutality of the Iranian regime and force through a nuclear agreement, Iran’s religious leader has another issue on his mind: The destruction of Israel.
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has published a new book called “Palestine,” a 416-page screed against the Jewish state. A blurb on the back cover credits Khamenei as “The flagbearer of Jihad to liberate Jerusalem.”
A friend sent me a copy from Iran, the only place the book is currently available, though an Arabic translation is promised soon.
Obama administration officials likely hope that no American even hears about it. Read more about the Ayatollah’s new book at the New York Post.
Secretary of State John Kerry has been painting an apocalyptic picture of what would happen if Congress killed the Iran nuclear deal. Among other things, he has warned that “our friends in this effort will desert us.” But the top national security official from one of those nations involved in the negotiations, France, has a totally different view: He told two senior U.S. lawmakers that he thinks a Congressional no vote might actually be helpful.
His analysis is already having an effect on how members of Congress, especially House Democrats, are thinking about the deal.
The French official, Jacques Audibert, is now the senior diplomatic adviser to President Francois Hollande. Before that, as the director general for political affairs in the Foreign Ministry from 2009 to 2014, he led the French diplomatic team in the discussions with Iran and the P5+1 group. Earlier this month, he met with Democrat Loretta Sanchez and Republican Mike Turner, both top members of the House Armed Services Committee, to discuss the Iran deal. The U.S. ambassador to France, Jane Hartley, was also in the room. Read more at Bloomberg View.