EDITORIAL: Surrender on Iranian sanctions

America’s friends never expected a president with a flexible backbone

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The saddest commentary on the deal Barack Obama and his frightened allies struck to save the Iranian nuclear program is that it’s what we knew to expect. Well into his second term, there are no surprises by this president. He promised Vladimir Putin that he would be “more flexible” once past his re-election, and this is the promise he’s keeping.

We’ve rarely had a president quite this naive and feckless, and we’ve never had one so eager to cede his authority to others. He seems oblivious to the interests of friends who once looked to America for protection and leadership. They never expected an American president with a flexible backbone.

The agreement, signed in the middle of the night in Geneva as if its authors were ashamed to be seen near it in the light of day, relieves the pressure of the sanctions that forced the radical Islamic regime in Tehran to the brink of surrendering its pursuit of a nuclear bomb. Now the regime knows it will never have to. Six months hence, if Iran resumes open pursuit of the bomb, can anyone imagine that sanctions will be resumed? Even the New York Times, Mr. Obama’s most faithful cheerleader, concedes that the deal “requires Iran to make only a modest down payment on the central problem.”

The “down payment” is modest indeed. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu calls the agreement a “very bad” and “dangerous” deal that does not require Iran “to take apart even one centrifuge.” Senior officials of several other Middle East countries, notably Saudi Arabia but including Qatar and Jordan, have joined Israel in discussions about what to do about the Iranian nuclear sites the deal now protects.

From his point of view, Mr. Obama’s run-and-hide strategy for confronting crises has worked well in the past. He has so far suffered no consequences for the fatal betrayal of the American ambassador in Benghazi. When Bashar Assad crossed Mr. Obama’s “red line” to employ poison gas to kill hundreds of thousands of Syrian rebels the president did not deal with the Syrian despot as he promised he would but called on Mr. Putin to do it for him. Now the retreat in Iran. If he can’t deal with a problem with a smile, a shoeshine and a speech Mr. Obama is stumped for a strategy.

Deceiving old friends is easy. Israeli sources say that when the White House learned that in recent days Israeli military technicians had been in Saudi Arabia to inspect bases that could be used to dispatch Israeli bombers to Iran, it sent strong messages to Israel and Saudi Arabia reminding them that American radar monitors the skies near Iran. Was this a threat?

America’s only reliable friends in the region have the most to lose to a nuclear Iran, and Mr. Natanyahu, who does not sound intimidated, reminded Washington that “Israel is not obligated by this agreement.” He said he “wants to make clear that we will not allow Iran to obtain military nuclear capability.”

The world is a more dangerous place than it was only days ago. The most dangerous regime in the world, freed from the restraint of sanctions and American resolve, is closer to developing the most dangerous weapon in the world. The deal in Geneva is bad news for everybody.

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