Why does John Kerry refer to the Ayatollah as “Supreme Leader?”

December 03, 2013

 

* Yaakov Amidror (who until last month was Israel’s National Security Advisor) writing in The New York Times: Just after the signing ceremony in Geneva, President Rouhani of Iran declared that the world had recognized his country’s “nuclear rights.” He was right. Iran made only cosmetic concessions to preserve its primary goal, which is to continue enriching uranium. The agreement represents a failure, not a triumph, of diplomacy. With North Korea, too, there were talks and ceremonies and agreements – but then there was the bomb.

* Mark Steyn: “Iran, U.S. Set To Establish Joint Chamber Of Commerce Within Month,” reports Agence-France Presse. Government official Abolfazi Hejazi tells the English-language newspaper Iran Daily that the Islamic Republic will shortly commence direct flights to America. Passenger jets, not ICBMs, one assumes – although, as with everything else, the details have yet to be worked out. Still, the historic U.S.-Iranian rapprochement seems to be galloping along, and any moment now the cultural exchange program will be announced, and you’ll have to book early for the Tehran Ballet’s season at the Kennedy Center (“Death To America” in repertory with “Death To The Great Satan”).

* In Geneva, the participants came to the talks with different goals: The Americans and Europeans wanted an agreement; the Iranians wanted nukes. Each party got what it came for.

* Steyn: Worse than Munich. In 1938, facing a German seizure of the Sudetenland, the French and British prime ministers were negotiating with Berlin from a position of profound military weakness: it’s easy to despise Chamberlain with the benefit of hindsight, less easy to give an honest answer as to what one would have done differently playing a weak hand across the table from Hitler 75 years ago. This time round, a superpower and its allies, accounting for over 50 percent of the planet’s military spending, were facing a militarily insignificant country with a ruined economy and no more than two-to-three months’ worth of hard currency – and they gave it everything it wanted.

* Steyn: John Kerry said that “The Supreme Leader has indicated there is a fatwa which forbids them to do this.” The “Supreme Leader” is not Barack Obama but Ayatollah Khamenei. Why is America’s secretary of state dignifying Khamenei as “the Supreme Leader”? In his own famous remarks upon his return from Munich, Neville Chamberlain referred only to “Herr Hitler.” “Der Fuhrer” means, in effect, “the Supreme Leader,” but, unlike Kerry (and Obama), Chamberlain understood that it would be unseemly for the representative of a free people to confer respectability on such a designation. As for the Fuhrer de nos jours, Ayatollah Khamenei last month called Israel a “rabid dog” and dismissed “the leaders of the Zionist regime, who look like beasts and cannot be called human.” If the words of “the Supreme Leader” are to be taken at face value when it comes to these supposed constraints preventing Iran from going nuclear, why not also when he calls Jews subhuman?

* The Guardian reports that on Saturday night at the Geneva InterContinental, the final stages of the P5+1 talks were played out to the music bleeding through from the charity bash in the adjoining ballroom. At one point, the band played Johnny Cash:

“I fell into a burning ring of fire
I went down, down, down and the flames went higher
And it burns, burns, burns
The ring of fire...”

So it does.

* Bernard Lewis: America risks being seen as harmless as an enemy and treacherous as a friend.

* Jonathan Tobin: One of Obama’s prime objectives has been to ensure that Israel cannot act on its own or even in concert with some of its unlikely Arab allies of convenience against Iran. Indeed, that appears to be the only American objective that has actually been achieved with this agreement. Obama also lied to Netanyahu for months while Obama’s envoys were talking to Iran behind Israel’s back.

* Tobin: Obama has worried American Jewish supporters before, but never has he so ruthlessly undermined their faith. The choice for the pro-Israel community is clear. It can redefine its objectives, and concede defeat on stopping Iran and/or pretend nothing has happened. Or it can find its collective voice and speak out against a terrible betrayal that gives the lie to every Obama statement about stopping Iran. If it chooses the latter, these groups will face the usual “Israel Lobby” calumnies from anti-Semites and Israel-haters. But they cannot take counsel of their fears or be silenced. If they do, they will look back on this moment when it was still possible to mobilize congressional action against this betrayal with regret.

 

Also: Breaking news: French scientific team say the Al-Jazeera and Suha-Arafat appointed Swiss team got it completely wrong: Their detailed research concludes that Yasser Arafat was not poisoned, but died of natural causes associated with old age.

 

This dispatch follows the two most recent ones on the Geneva agreement.

The previous ones can be read here:

* “This is only the first sip, the first foretaste of a bitter cup”

* Diplomacy is better than war but bad diplomacy can cause bad wars


You can see these and other items that are not in these dispatches if you "like" this page: www.facebook.com/TomGrossMedia.

 

CONTENTS

1. Iran’s ISNA photo essay (how to fool the West)
2. Iran unveils plans for new nuclear site
3. U.S. concedes on Arak
4. ‘Iran to access $15bn under nuclear deal’
5. Israeli intelligence: U.S. freed top Iranian scientist and other Iranian convicts as part of secret talks before Geneva deal
6. Israeli intel: Agreement with Iran led Obama not to strike Assad
7. “Iran, U.S. to open joint Chamber of Commerce”
8. Americans divided over nuclear deal
9. PM Netanyahu’s Remarks at the Candle-Lighting Ceremony for the Fifth Night of Chanukah
10. White House denies Obama plans to travel to Tehran
11. Cartoons: the Saudis and Israelis, united in fear
12. “A most dangerous deal” (By Yaakov Amidror, New York Times, Nov. 27, 2013)
13. “U.S. boxes in Israel, not Iran” (By Mark Steyn, Orange County Register, Nov. 29, 2013)
14. “Worse than Munich” (By Bret Stephens, Wall St Journal, Nov. 26, 2013)
15. “Obama, Iran, and the Jews reconsidered” (By Jonathan Tobin, Commentary, Nov. 25, 2013)


[Notes below by Tom Gross]

IRAN’S ISNA PHOTO ESSAY (HOW TO FOOL THE WEST)

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and “smiling diplomacy”.

 

IRAN UNVEILS PLANS FOR NEW NUCLEAR SITE

“Moderate” Iranian Prime Minister Hassan Rouhani on Sunday announced plans to construct a new nuclear reactor in Iran, just days after Western governments claimed they had reached a tentative understanding to curb the Iranian’s nuclear ambitions.

The second reactor will be located at the country’s nuclear facility in Bushehr province, along the country’s southeast coastline near Shiraz, according to reports by the state-run Fars news agency:

english.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13920910000312

The first nuclear reactor at the Bushehr facility was built in 1985, with Russian support. That reactor came fully on line in August this year.

Tehran will not be obligated to allow inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency access to the second reactor, since notification is only required six months before nuclear material is brought into the facility.

***

In a separate move, Brigadier General Hossein Salami, the lieutenant commander of Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, announced last week that Iran has developed “indigenous” ballistic missile technology, which could eventually allow it to fire a nuclear payload over great distances.

Salami claimed that “Iran is among the only three world countries enjoying an indigenous ballistic missile technology,” according to the state-run Fars News Agency. (The others being the U.S. and Russia, he said.)

***

In its lead editorial on Thursday, The Washington Post described the Geneva agreement as “notable for its omissions,” and expressed concern that the combination of Western concessions and Iranian victories has left “the United States and its partners at a disadvantage in negotiating the comprehensive settlement.”

 

U.S. CONCEDES ON ARAK

Last week Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif told parliament that construction at the Arak site (where Iran is said to be developing a second plutonium route to a nuclear bomb) will continue even though the Western understanding of the agreement is that Iran agreed it would not.

Arak is a heavy water plant and scientists say there is no reason for heavy water reactors except for weaponry.

And Secretary of State Kerry had cited the agreement on Arak as an achievement of the deal.

The Obama administration has now backed the Iranian interpretation that construction will be allowed to continue.

 

‘IRAN TO ACCESS $15BN UNDER NUCLEAR DEAL’

Iran’s government-controlled Press TV reports that Tehran will have access to nearly $15 billion in oil revenues after the implementation of the Geneva nuclear deal between Iran and the six world powers.

presstv.com/detail/2013/11/30/337513/iran-to-access-15bn-under-nuclear-deal/

 

ISRAELI INTELLIGENCE: U.S. FREED TOP IRANIAN SCIENTIST AND OTHER IRANIAN CONVICTS AS PART OF SECRET TALKS BEFORE GENEVA DEAL

According to Israeli intelligence sources, reported in Israeli media, the Obama administration in April released a leading Iranian nuclear scientist, Mojtaba Atarodi. He had been arrested in California in 2011 for attempting to acquire equipment for Iran’s military-nuclear programs. Atarodi was working for the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, according to sources close to Israeli intelligence.

The secret talks between the U.S. and Iran have been continuing for some years in Oman, say the Israeli sources. The key figure in the Oman talks is said to be Salem Ben Nasser al Ismaily, the executive president of the Omani Center for Investment Promotion and Export Development and a close confidante of the Omani Sultan, Qaboos bin Said.

Ismaily is the author of a book written in English titled “A Cup of Coffee: A Westerner’s Guide to Business in the Gulf States.” The book tells the story of a fictional American businessman who fails in his business dealings in the Gulf until he meets a sultan, who explains to him how to “surrender to very different values of the Gulf rooted in ancient tribal customs and traditions.”

According to Israeli intelligence, Ismaily played a key role in 2010, in the release for “humanitarian reasons” of Sarah Shourd, an American who is said to have accidentally crossed into Iran while hiking in Iraq. Ismaily is also said to have assisted a year later in the release of her fiancé and fellow hiker, Shane Bauer, and their friend, Josh Fattal (whose Jewish origins had been kept secret by the American media during his captivity in Iran in order to protect him).

In August 2012, the U.S. freed Shahrzad Mir Gholikhan, an Iranian convicted on three counts of weapons trafficking, and Nosratollah Tajik, a former Iranian ambassador to Jordan who, had been caught trying to buy night-vision goggles from U.S. agents. And in January this year, Amir Hossein Seirafi, who had been convicted in the U.S. of trying to buy specialized vacuum pumps that could be used in the Iranian nuclear program, was released.

There is now speculation that Iran will release some of the Americans it has been holding hostage for years, including former FBI agent Robert Levinson (whom I have written about in these Middle East dispatches before). Levinson was last seen on March 9, 2007. Last week his son Dan Levinson wrote a piece in the Washington Post calling Rouhani and Foreign Minister Javad Zarif “well-respected men committed to the goodwill of all human beings, regardless of their nationality.”


Undated photo of retired-FBI agent Robert Levinson (photo credit: AP/Levinson Family)

 

ISRAELI INTEL: AGREEMENT WITH IRAN LED OBAMA NOT TO STRIKE ASSAD

President Obama’s change of policy regarding Syria, and his decision not to carry out punitive strikes against the Syrian regime in September, after Assad gassed to death 1,500 of his own people with chemical weapons in August, was the result of Iran asking him not to during secret U.S. back-channel discussions with Iran, Israel’s Channel 2 news reported, relying on information provided by Israeli intelligence.

The Obama administration last week acknowledged holding months of secret back-channel talks with Iran ahead of the interim deal on Iran’s rogue nuclear program that was signed last week by the P5+1 powers and Iran in Geneva.

 

“IRAN, U.S. TO OPEN JOINT CHAMBER OF COMMERCE”

The Lebanese publication Naharnet reports that Iran and the United States are to establish a joint chamber of commerce within a month, with direct flights also planned.

 

PM NETANYAHU’S REMARKS AT THE CANDLE-LIGHTING CEREMONY FOR THE FIFTH NIGHT OF CHANUKAH

(Communicated by the Israeli Prime Minister’s Media Adviser)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, this evening (Sunday, 1 December 2013), at the Great Synagogue in Rome, made the following remarks at the candle-lighting ceremony for the fifth night of Chanukah:

“In contrast to others, when I see that interests vital to the security of Israel’s citizens are in danger, I will not be silent.

It is very easy to be silent. It is very easy to receive a pat on the shoulder from the international community, to bow one’s head, but I am committed to the security of my people. I am committed to the future of my state and in contrast to periods in the past, we have a loud and clear voice among the nations and we will sound it in time in order to warn of the danger.

And as to the actual threat, we will act against it in time if need be. I would like to dispel any illusions. Iran aspires to attain an atomic bomb. It would thus threaten not only Israel but also Italy, Europe and the entire world. There should be no going astray after the attack of smiles. Today there is a regime in Iran that supports terrorism, facilitates the massacre of civilians in Syria and unceasingly arms its proxies – Hamas, Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad – with deadly missiles.

The most dangerous regime in the world must not be allowed to have the most dangerous weapon in the world. As we have warned, and I say this with regret, the sanctions regime has started to weaken and very quickly. If tangible steps are not taken soon, it is liable to collapse and the efforts of years will vanish without anything in exchange. But at the same time, I tell you and promise in the spirit of the Maccabees, we will not allow Iran to receive a military nuclear capability.”

***

Tom Gross adds: Netanyahu also held a 25-minute audience with Pope Francis at the Vatican yesterday. Netanyahu presented the pontiff with a Spanish translation of The Origins of the Inquisition, a book written by his late father, Ben-Zion Netanyahu, a leading historian on the topic. Netanyahu inscribed the inside cover: “To his Holiness Pope Franciscus, a great shepherd of our common heritage.”

 

AMERICANS DIVIDED OVER NUCLEAR DEAL

The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 41% of Americans of voting age favor the short-term deal that ends some economic sanctions on Iran in exchange for verifiable cutbacks in the Iranian nuclear weapons program. Forty-three percent (43%) oppose that deal. Sixteen percent (16%) are undecided.

The survey of 1,000 Likely Voters was conducted on November 25-26, 2013. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence.

 

WHITE HOUSE DENIES OBAMA PLANS TO TRAVEL TO TEHRAN

The White House is denying reports made by leading Arab news outlets that President Obama is planning to visit Tehran next year. Noting the high number of untruths the Obama administration has told about its policies in the Middle East over the past five years, many analysts say they are tempted to believe the Arab news reports.

As the New York Sun says in an editorial, a visit “would suggest Mr. Obama reckons that the Mullahs don’t hate Israel and America and that the recent difficulties have been merely about the Iranian effort to build an atomic bomb.”

 

CARTOONS: THE SAUDIS AND ISRAELIS, UNITED IN FEAR

Below are several cartoons from Dry Bones on Iran. The veteran, award-winning cartoonist is a long time subscriber to this list and these are reproduced with his permission.

***

 

 

 

 

 

 

And a cartoon from last June:


***

I attach four articles below. The first, from The New York Times, is by Yaakov Amidror, who was the head of the Israeli National Security Council from March 2011 until last month.

The authors of the other three articles are subscribers to this list, as are some of those mentioned in them, such as Bernard Lewis and Toby Young.

You may also wish to read “What a Final Iran Deal Must Do” by former U.S. Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and George Shultz in today’s Wall Street Journal:

online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304747004579228110944819396

They say “We must avoid an outcome in which Iran, freed from sanctions, emerges as a de facto nuclear power leading an Islamist camp, while traditional allies lose confidence in the credibility of American commitments and follow the Iranian model toward a nuclear-weapons capability, if only to balance it.”

-- Tom Gross


ARTICLES

“ANYONE WHO HAS CONDUCTED BUSINESS OR DIPLOMATIC NEGOTIATIONS KNOWS THAT YOU DON’T REDUCE THE PRESSURE ON YOUR OPPONENT ON THE EVE OF NEGOTIATIONS”

A Most Dangerous Deal
By Yaakov Amidror
New York Times
November 27, 2013

JERUSALEM – Just after the signing ceremony in Geneva on Sunday, President Hassan Rouhani of Iran declared that the world had recognized his country’s “nuclear rights.” He was right.

The agreement Iran reached with the so-called P5+1 – the United States, Britain, China, France and Russia, plus Germany – does not significantly roll back Iran’s nuclear capabilities. Iran made only cosmetic concessions to preserve its primary goal, which is to continue enriching uranium. The agreement represents a failure, not a triumph, of diplomacy. With North Korea, too, there were talks and ceremonies and agreements – but then there was the bomb. This is not an outcome Israel could accept with Iran.

Harsh sanctions led Iran to the negotiating table. The easing of those sanctions will now send companies from around the world racing into Iran to do business, which will lead to the eventual collapse of the sanctions that supposedly remain.

Might economic relief, reduced isolation and new goodwill lead to greater pressure on the Iranian regime to reach a fuller agreement later? I doubt it: As recently as last week, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, denounced Israel as a “rabid dog,” a jab that Western leaders failed to condemn.

The deal will only lead Iran to be more stubborn. Anyone who has conducted business or diplomatic negotiations knows that you don’t reduce the pressure on your opponent on the eve of negotiations. Yet that is essentially what happened in Geneva.

Iran will not only get to keep its existing 18,000 centrifuges; it will also be allowed to continue developing the next generation of centrifuges, provided it does not install them in uranium-enrichment facilities. Which is to say: Its uranium-enrichment capability is no weaker.

Under the deal Iran is supposed to convert its nearly 200 kilograms of uranium enriched to 20 percent purity – a short step away from bomb-grade material – into material that cannot be used for a weapon. In practice, this concession is almost completely meaningless.

The agreement does not require Iran to reduce its stockpile of uranium enriched to 3.5 percent, not even by one gram. Transforming unprocessed uranium into 3.5 percent-enriched uranium accounts for more than two-thirds of the time needed to transform unprocessed uranium into weapons-grade material. And given the thousands of centrifuges Iran has, the regime can enrich its stock of low-level uranium to weapons-grade quality in a matter of months. Iran already has enough of this material to make four bombs.

The Geneva deal, in short, did not address the nuclear threat at all. This was Iran’s great accomplishment. No wonder Mr. Rouhani boasted that the world had recognized Iran’s nuclear rights.

The United States, at the direction of President Obama, has developed sophisticated weaponry specifically in order to deter Iran from going nuclear. But heaven forbid those should have to be used is the dominant feeling in Western capitals. As a result, greater U.S. military capabilities may have given the P5+1 more reason, rather than less, to strike a deal in Geneva. And while the Obama administration maintains that the military option is still on the table in case Iran does not comply with the new agreement, that threat is becoming less and less credible.

Supporters of the agreement emphasize that future inspections in Iran will be frequent and strict. But people familiar with the history of past inspections are skeptical, to say the least. If the Iranians decide to deceive the inspectors, they will succeed; they have in the past.

Proponents of the deal also say that it is only a preliminary agreement and that the real fight will take place down the road. The experience of the past several weeks does not inspire optimism.

The six powers – the United States, Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia – have shown that they wanted an agreement more than Iran did. The party that was targeted by the sanctions has achieved more than the parties that imposed them.

There is no reason to think that the six powers will have more leverage in the future than they had before the Geneva agreement. On the contrary, they just gave that leverage away. After years of disingenuous negotiations, Iran is now just a few months away from a bomb.

The West has surrendered its most effective diplomatic tool in exchange for baseless promises of goodwill. I pray its gamble pays off, for if it does not there will be only one tool left to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. The Geneva agreement has made the world a more dangerous place. It did not have to be this way.

 

“JOHN KERRY HAS BEEN UNERRINGLY WRONG ON EVERY FOREIGN POLICY ISSUE FOR FOUR DECADES, SO SHEER BUNGLING STUPIDITY CANNOT BE RULED OUT”

U.S. boxes in Israel, not Iran
By Mark Steyn (Syndicated columnist)
Orange County Register (California)
November 29, 2013

“Iran, U.S. Set To Establish Joint Chamber Of Commerce Within Month,” reports Agence-France Presse. Government official Abolfazi Hejazi tells the English-language newspaper Iran Daily that the Islamic Republic will shortly commence direct flights to America. Passenger jets, not ICBMs, one assumes – although, as with everything else, the details have yet to be worked out. Still, the historic U.S.-Iranian rapprochement seems to be galloping along, and any moment now the cultural exchange program will be announced, and you’ll have to book early for the Tehran Ballet’s season at the Kennedy Center (“Death To America” in repertory with “Death To The Great Satan”).

In Geneva, the participants came to the talks with different goals: The Americans and Europeans wanted an agreement; the Iranians wanted nukes. Each party got what it came for. Before the deal, the mullahs’ existing facilities were said to be within four to seven weeks of nuclear “breakout”; under the new constraints, they’ll be eight to nine weeks from breakout. In return, they get formal international recognition of their enrichment program, and the gutting of sanctions – and everything they already have is, as they say over at Obamacare, grandfathered in.

Many pundits reached for the obvious appeasement analogies, but Bret Stephens [article below] in the Wall Street Journal argued that Geneva is actually worse than Munich. In 1938, facing a German seizure of the Sudetenland, the French and British prime ministers were negotiating with Berlin from a position of profound military weakness: it’s easy to despise Chamberlain with the benefit of hindsight, less easy to give an honest answer as to what one would have done differently playing a weak hand across the table from Hitler 75 years ago. This time round, a superpower and its allies, accounting for over 50 percent of the planet’s military spending, were facing a militarily insignificant country with a ruined economy and no more than two-to-three months’ worth of hard currency – and they gave it everything it wanted.

I would add two further points. First, the Munich Agreement’s language is brutal and unsparing, all “shalls” and “wills”: Paragraph 1) “The evacuation will begin on 1st October”; Paragraph 4) “The four territories marked on the attached map will be occupied by German troops in the following order.” By contrast, the P5+1 (U.S., U.K., France, Russia, China plus Germany) “Joint Plan of Action” barely reads like an international agreement at all. It’s all conditional, a forest of “woulds”: “There would be additional steps in between the initial measures and the final step…” In the post-modern phase of Western resolve, it’s an agreement to reach an agreement – supposedly within six months. But one gets the strong impression that, when that six-month deadline comes and goes, the temporary agreement will trundle along semipermanently to the satisfaction of all parties.

Secondly, there are subtler concessions. Explaining that their “singular object” was to “ensure that Iran does not acquire a nuclear weapon,” John Kerry said that “Foreign Minister Zarif emphasized that they don’t intend to do this, and the Supreme Leader has indicated there is a fatwa which forbids them to do this.” The “Supreme Leader” is not Barack Obama but Ayatollah Khamenei. Why is America’s secretary of state dignifying Khamenei as “the Supreme Leader”? In his own famous remarks upon his return from Munich, Neville Chamberlain referred only to “Herr Hitler.” “Der Fuhrer” means, in effect, “the Supreme Leader,” but, unlike Kerry (and Obama), Chamberlain understood that it would be unseemly for the representative of a free people to confer respectability on such a designation. As for the Fuhrer de nos jours, Ayatollah Khamenei called Israel a “rabid dog” and dismissed “the leaders of the Zionist regime, who look like beasts and cannot be called human.” If the words of “the Supreme Leader” are to be taken at face value when it comes to these supposed constraints preventing Iran from going nuclear, why not also when he calls Jews subhuman?

I am not much interested in whether “the Supreme Leader” can be trusted. Prudent persons already know the answer to that. A more relevant question is whether the U.S. can be trusted. Israel and the Sunni monarchies who comprise America’s least-worst friends in the Arab world were kept in the dark about not only the contents of the first direct U.S./Iranian talks in a third-of-a-century but even an acknowledgment that they were taking place. The only tip-off into the parameters of the emerging deal is said to have come from British briefings to their former Gulf protectorates and the French getting chatty with Israel. A couple of days ago, Nawaf Obaid, an adviser to Prince Mohammed, the Saudi Ambassador in London, was unusually candid about the Americans: “We were lied to, things were hidden from us,” he said. “The problem is not with the deal struck in Geneva but how it was done.”

“How it was done”: Some years ago, I heard that great scholar of Islam, Bernard Lewis, caution that America risked being seen as harmless as an enemy and treacherous as a friend. The Obama administration seems to have raised the thought to the level of doctrine. What has hitherto been unclear is whether this was through design or incompetence. Certainly, John Kerry has been unerringly wrong on every foreign policy issue for four decades, so sheer bungling stupidity cannot be ruled out.

But look at it this way: It’s been clear for some time that the United States was not going to take out Iran’s nuclear facilities. That leaves only one other nation even minded to keep the option on the table: Israel. Hence the strange new romance between the Zionist Entity and the Saudi and Gulf Cabinet ministers calling every night to urge them to get cracking: In the post-American world, you find your friends where you can, even if they’re Jews. But Obama and Kerry have not only taken a U.S. bombing raid off the table, they’ve ensured that any such raid by Israel will now come at a much steeper price: It’s one thing to bomb a global pariah, quite another to bomb a semi-rehabilitated member of the international community in defiance of an agreement signed by the Big Five world powers. Indeed, a disinterested observer might easily conclude that the point of the plan seems to be to box in Israel rather than Iran.

If it were to have that effect, the Sunni Arab states would be faced with a choice of accepting de facto Shia Persian hegemony – or getting the Saudis to pay the Pakistanis for a Sunni bomb. Nobody in Araby believes the U.S. can “contain” Iran, even if it wants to. And, since the Geneva deal, nobody’s very sure the U.S. wants to.

Meanwhile, through the many months they kept their allies in the dark, Washington was very obliging to the mullahs. According to the Times of Israel, among the Iranian prisoners quietly released by the U.S. as a friendly predeal gesture is Mojtada Atarodi, arrested in 2011 for attempting to acquire nuclear materials. Iran has felt under no pressure to reciprocate. America is containing itself, in hopes of a quiet life.

Will it get one? The Guardian reports that, last Saturday night at the Geneva InterContinental, the final stages of the P5+1 talks were played out to the music bleeding through from the charity bash in the adjoining ballroom. At one point, the band played Johnny Cash:

“I fell into a burning ring of fire
I went down, down, down and the flames went higher
And it burns, burns, burns
The ring of fire...”

So it does.

 

THE WEST IS BEING LED BY THE SAME SORT OF MEN, MINUS THE UMBRELLAS

Worse than Munich
In 1938, Chamberlain bought time to rearm. In 2013, Obama gives Iran time to go nuclear
By Bret Stephens
Wall Street Journal
November 26, 2013

To adapt Churchill : Never in the field of global diplomacy has so much been given away by so many for so little.

Britain and France’s capitulation to Nazi Germany at Munich has long been a byword for ignominy, moral and diplomatic. Yet neither Neville Chamberlain nor Édouard Daladier had the public support or military wherewithal to stand up to Hitler in September 1938. Britain had just 384,000 men in its regular army; the first Spitfire aircraft only entered RAF service that summer. “Peace for our time” it was not, but at least appeasement bought the West a year to rearm.

The signing of the Paris Peace Accords in January 1973 was a betrayal of an embattled U.S. ally and the abandonment of an effort for which 58,000 American troops gave their lives. Yet it did end America’s participation in a peripheral war, which neither Congress nor the public could indefinitely support. “Peace with honor” it was not, as the victims of Cambodia’s Killing Fields or Vietnam’s re-education camps can attest. But, for American purposes at least, it was peace.

By contrast, the interim nuclear agreement signed in Geneva on Sunday by Iran and the six big powers has many of the flaws of Munich and Paris. But it has none of their redeeming or exculpating aspects.

Consider: Britain and France came to Munich as military weaklings. The U.S. and its allies face Iran from a position of overwhelming strength. Britain and France won time to rearm. The U.S. and its allies have given Iran more time to stockpile uranium and develop its nuclear infrastructure. Britain and France had overwhelming domestic constituencies in favor of any deal that would avoid war. The Obama administration is defying broad bipartisan majorities in both houses of Congress for the sake of a deal.

As for the Vietnam parallels, the U.S. showed military resolve in the run-up to the Paris Accords with a massive bombing and mining campaign of the North that demonstrated presidential resolve and forced Hanoi to sign the deal. The administration comes to Geneva fresh from worming its way out of its own threat to use force to punish Syria’s Bashar Assad for his use of chemical weapons against his own people.

The Nixon administration also exited Vietnam in the context of a durable opening to Beijing that helped tilt the global balance of power against Moscow. Now the U.S. is attempting a fleeting opening with Tehran at the expense of a durable alliance of values with Israel and interests with Saudi Arabia. “How to Lose Friends and Alienate People” is the title of a hilarious memoir by British author Toby Young – but it could equally be the history of Barack Obama’s foreign policy.

That’s where the differences end between Geneva and the previous accords. What they have in common is that each deal was a betrayal of small countries – Czechoslovakia, South Vietnam, Israel – that had relied on Western security guarantees. Each was a victory for the dictatorships: “No matter the world wants it or not,” Iranian President Hasan Rouhani said Sunday, “this path will, God willingly, continue to the peak that has been considered by the martyred nuclear scientists.” Each deal increased the contempt of the dictatorships for the democracies: “If ever that silly old man comes interfering here again with his umbrella,” Hitler is reported to have said of Chamberlain after Munich, “I’ll kick him downstairs and jump on his stomach.”

And each deal was a prelude to worse. After Munich came the conquest of Czechoslovakia, the Nazi-Soviet pact and World War II. After Paris came the fall of Saigon and Phnom Penh and the humiliating exit from the embassy rooftop. After Geneva there will come a new, chaotic Mideast reality in which the United States will lose leverage over enemies and friends alike.

What will that look like? Iran will gradually shake free of sanctions and glide into a zone of nuclear ambiguity that will keep its adversaries guessing until it opts to make its capabilities known. Saudi Arabia will move swiftly to acquire a nuclear deterrent from its clients in Islamabad; Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal made that clear to the Journal last week when he indiscreetly discussed “the arrangement with Pakistan.” Egypt is beginning to ponder a nuclear option of its own while drawing closer to a security alliance with Russia.

As for Israel, it cannot afford to live in a neighborhood where Iran becomes nuclear, Assad remains in power, and Hezbollah – Israel’s most immediate military threat – gains strength, clout and battlefield experience. The chances that Israel will hazard a strike on Iran’s nuclear sites greatly increased since Geneva. More so the chances of another war with Hezbollah.

After World War II the U.S. created a global system of security alliances to prevent the kind of foreign policy freelancing that is again becoming rampant in the Middle East. It worked until President Obama decided in his wisdom to throw it away. If you hear echoes of the 1930s in the capitulation at Geneva, it’s because the West is being led by the same sort of men, minus the umbrellas.

 

“OBAMA LIED TO NETANYAHU FOR MONTHS”

Obama, Iran, and the Jews Reconsidered
By Jonathan S. Tobin
Commentary magazine
November 25, 2013

President Obama hasn’t made it easy on his Jewish supporters. Conservative critics – and if polls are right, the majority of Israelis – have always doubted his intentions toward the Jewish state and suspected him of either tilting toward the Palestinians or, as veteran diplomat Aaron David Miller memorably put it, someone who was “not in love with the idea of Israel.” But for the majority of American Jews who remain loyal Democrats and liberals, Obama was, at worst, a satisfactory ally of Israel, and, at best, the misunderstood victim of smears. At times, the president’s penchant for picking fights with the Netanyahu government over settlements, borders, and even a consensus Jewish issue like Jerusalem caused some liberal true believers like lawyer and author Alan Dershowitz to worry about his intentions. But even when the relationship between Washington and Jerusalem was at its worst during the past five years, the president’s supporters could point to the issue of paramount importance to Israel’s security and claim with some justification that he was as solid an ally as could be asked.

That issue was, of course, the Iranian nuclear threat, and from the earliest days of his first presidential campaign, Obama had made it clear that he would never allow them to gain a nuclear weapon. Though he had also mentioned his desire for a rapprochement with Iran in that first campaign, the president’s rhetoric on Iran was consistent and strong. Critics could point to failed efforts at engagement, his slowness to back tough sanctions, and his reliance on a shaky diplomatic process as undermining that rhetoric. Yet administration backers like columnist Jeffrey Goldberg continued to make the case that on this point there could be no doubting the president’s resolve.

But in the wake of this past weekend’s nuclear agreement with Iran and the evidence that the president has not only ignored Israel’s concerns about the deal (as well as those of Saudi Arabia) but appears to want a détente with Tehran that will upend America’s entire stance on the Middle East, it’s fair to say that the president has put his backers into a new and even more difficult test. Liberals may be lining up to take Obama and Secretary of State Kerry at their word that they have not given up their determination to thwart Iran’s nuclear ambitions and even accept the claim that the deal makes Israel safer. But given the administration’s acceptance of Iran’s “right” to enrich uranium and its apparent belief that it is unrealistic to think that Tehran can be forced to give up its nuclear program, belief in its bona fides on this issue can no longer be considered anything. At this point, American friends of Israel as well as those who understand the grave threat that Iran poses to U.S. interests and security need to face the fact that this president has abandoned them.

The disappointment must be especially acute for Goldberg, who has continued to insist that Obama should be trusted on Iran, even insisting that he would, if push came to shove, order air strikes or do whatever it took to make good on his pledge. Thus, to read the from this respected journalist is to see what happens when leaders cut their supporters off at the knees. Though the president has made Goldberg’s previous defenses of his Iran policy look silly, he is still hoping that the bottom line here won’t be complete betrayal and therefore tries weakly to rationalize or minimize what has just happened.

Goldberg’s position now is that demands for Iran to give up its nuclear program are unrealistic. That’s a new position for him, as he has never doubted that Iran’s goal was a weapon, a point that he doesn’t abandon even in his latest column when he rightly reminds us that, “Iran’s leaders are lying” about being only interested in a peaceful program. But also new is his belief that the crushing sanctions on Iran that he has been advocating for years would never bring about Iran’s capitulation. Thus he finds himself lamely accepting the administration’s excuse that a weak deal that legitimizes Iran’s nuclear infrastructure and does nothing to roll back the tremendous progress it has achieved on Obama’s watch is “the least-worst option.”

He justifies this surrender of principle by assuring himself, if not us, that Iran won’t take advantage of the opening Obama has given them. An even greater leap is his suggestion that after investing so much effort in this diplomatic campaign, the administration “might just have to walk away” from its new relationship with Iran once it realizes than Hassan Rouhani and the supposed moderates aren’t in charge in Tehran. This is absurd because, as reports about the secret diplomatic track that led to this agreement tell us, Obama’s efforts to make nice with Iran preceded Rouhani’s victory in the regime’s faux presidential election.

Equally absurd is his fainthearted attempt to reassure himself that “everything that has happened over these past months may not amount to anything at all.” Having gambled this much on appeasement of Iran, the administration isn’t backing off. No matter what tricks the Iranians pull in the next six months of talks, they know they’ve got the U.S. hooked and won’t let go. The future of the sanctions regime that neither Obama nor the Europeans ever really wanted is much more in question than Iran’s nuclear program. Only a fool would trust Iran’s word on this issue or believe that once they start to unravel, sanctions could be re-imposed.

All this puts American Jewish supporters of Israel like Goldberg in a tough position.

Liberal critics of Israel, like the J Street lobby that was set up to support Obama’s efforts to pressure the Jewish state to make concessions to the Palestinians, will instinctively back the president in any argument with Netanyahu. And it is true that most Americans are not terribly interested in involving the U.S. in yet another foreign conflict and may accept Obama and Kerry’s false argument that the alternative to a weak deal was war.

But mainstream American Jewish groups, and even most of their moderate and liberal supporters, understand what happened this past weekend was more than just another spat in a basically solid relationship. Try as they might, Obama and Kerry will be hard-pressed to persuade most supporters of Israel that they have the country’s best interests at heart as they embark on a road whose only main goal is to normalize relations with Iran.

Though American supporters of the Jewish state loved his rhetoric during his visit to Israel last spring, the president’s goal here has been to isolate America’s sole democratic ally in the Middle East. As Goldberg aptly pointed out, one of Obama’s prime objectives has been to ensure that Israel cannot act on its own or even in concert with some of its unlikely Arab allies of convenience against Iran. Indeed, that appears to be the only American objective that has actually been achieved with this agreement.

That is why Israel’s supporters cannot hesitate about backing congressional efforts to increase sanctions on Iran despite administration resistance. Jewish leaders were lied to earlier this month when senior officials tried to convince them to back off on lobbying for sanctions (an effort that met with at least partial success at first). They also lied to Netanyahu for months while Obama’s envoys were talking to Iran behind Israel’s back.

Obama has worried Jewish supporters before, but never has he so ruthlessly undermined their faith. The choice for the pro-Israel community is clear. It can, like Goldberg has done, redefine its objectives, and concede defeat on stopping Iran and/or pretend nothing has happened. Or it can find its collective voice and speak out against a terrible betrayal that gives the lie to every Obama statement about stopping Iran. If it chooses the latter, these groups will face the usual “Israel Lobby” calumnies from anti-Semites and Israel-haters who will claim they are undermining U.S. interests. But they cannot take counsel of their fears or be silenced. If they do, they will look back on this moment when it was still possible to mobilize congressional action against this betrayal with regret.

All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.