- - Wednesday, February 19, 2014

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

With more than 30 years on the House of Representatives’ Foreign Affairs Committee, I have watched American presidents handle foreign-policy crises — from the Cuban Missile Crisis to the Iran hostages standoff to Ronald Reagan’s stare-down of the Soviet Union.

However, I have never been more frightened for the fate of the world than I am today because of the amateurishness of the Obama White House.

President Obama and his advisers have a dangerous tendency to view world affairs through the prism of a textbook. They see what they would like to see — not reality.

This worldview served them badly in Libya and cost four Americans their lives. It is serving them badly in Egypt, which is on the brink of either civil war or a military dictatorship. It served them badly in Syria, costing us significant international prestige and clout.

Mr. Obama and his team have squandered the hard-won security gains in Iraq, which may be sliding backward into anarchy and civil war. Al Qaeda (which the president once famously said was on the ropes) has had its flags flown over cities and villages from Aleppo in Syria to Fallujah in central Iraq.

By some estimates, al Qaeda controls more territory in the Middle East than at any time in its history — hardly an organization on the ropes. However, all these foreign-policy blunders pale in comparison to the disastrous course the president is charting with Iran.

The interim nuclear agreement with Iran, which is currently the subject of a new round of negotiations in Vienna, is a “historic mistake.” By every measure, Iran is a bad actor.

First, Iran is still a state sponsor of terrorism. In early January, Bahraini authorities foiled an attempt to smuggle explosives and arms into their country. According to published reports, the smuggled munitions included anti-personnel and armor-piercing explosives, as well as “50 Iranian-made hand bombs.”

Iran has been trying to destabilize Bahrain for years, in part because Bahrain is home to the U.S. 5th Fleet. If Bahrain falls into chaos, it will make it very hard for the 5th Fleet to continue to operate from Bahraini ports. A withdrawal of U.S. forces from the Persian Gulf would certainly benefit Iran.

Second, Iran has repeatedly ignored U.S. and United Nations demands to curtail the nuclear development needed to build weapons of mass destruction. Instead, Iran has been caught several times cheating or building secret nuclear sites. Iran’s Natanz and Fordow nuclear-fuel enrichment plants were both built in secret.

In May 2011, the International Atomic Energy Agency warned of Iranian efforts “involving the removal of the conventional high-explosive payload from the warhead of the Shahab-3 missile and replacing it with a spherical nuclear payload.”

Why would a country that is not trying to build a nuclear bomb even try to fit a nuclear payload onto a missile?

Third, Iran is still hostile toward Israel. The rhetoric out of Tehran against Israel may not be as flamboyant as it was under former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but the Iranian regime’s hatred of Israel is still very much on display.

Iran’s new “moderate” president, Hassan Rouhani, has called Israel or “the Zionist regime” an enemy nation and pledged to find a way to achieve supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s long-term goal of ensuring that Israel ceases to exist.

Based on Iran’s history of lies, deception and hostility, why should we believe they are playing square now? Giving Iran $7 billion in cash while leaving in place one of the most sophisticated enrichment programs in the world is not an act of good faith; it is an act of appeasement.

Appeasement did not work in the 1930s with Adolf Hitler. It did not work in the 1990s with North Korea. It will not work in 2014 with Iran.

The bipartisan group of 59 senators who support a bill written by Sens. Robert Menendez, New Jersey Democrat, and Mark Kirk, Illinois Republican, know this.

They want to buy the United States and the world some insurance against Iranian duplicity. The Menendez-Kirk bill blacklists several Iranian industrial sectors and threatens banks and companies around the world with exclusion from the U.S. market if they help Iran export any more oil.

However, this would occur only if Tehran violates the six-month interim deal or lets it expire without a comprehensive nuclear agreement. Tragically, the Obama administration is so immersed in its own fantasy world that the president has threatened to veto even this common-sense safeguard.

I have no doubt the Obama administration is putting enormous pressure on senators from both parties to abandon the Menendez-Kirk bill. I hope my former congressional colleagues in the Senate remember that they may be the only thing standing between the world and a possible nuclear holocaust.

Former Rep. Dan Burton, Indiana Republican, was a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and chairman of its Europe, Eurasia and emerging threats subcommittee.

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