- - Tuesday, April 21, 2015


In the 1979 summer movie classic “Meatballs,” the misfits of camp North Star take on the rich kids of Camp Mohawk in their annual Olympiad. After a day of getting cheated, pushed around, and beaten, the North Star kids gather for a pep talk from the head counselor (played by Bill Murray) who leads them in the ultimate chant of the soon-to-be-victorious misfit: “it just doesn’t matter.”

In the tradition of life imitating art (yes, “Meatballs” passes for art in this metaphor), recent events should cause a recalibration among those of us committed to preventing an Iranian nuke. It is clear that Iran has succeeded in changing its position in the international community. Before the end of the Obama Administration, it’s likely that some kind of agreement will be reached and sanctions will be lifted in all or in part.

David Rothkopf points out in Foreign Policy the many problems with both the framework agreement itself and the manner in which it was negotiated.

Max Boot points out in Commentary the absurdity of the Administration’s assertion that sanctions can be snapped in and out of place like a LEGO block.

But, for any real wisdom on the framework agreement, you have to go to the kids of Camp North Star. Good deal. Bad deal. No deal. It just doesn’t matter.

Iranian commitment to becoming either a nuclear weapons state or a weapons threshold state is simply beyond reasoned contestation – only those with a vested interest or a bad case of willful blindness are still convinced otherwise.

The Iran deal should convince us that we are now faced with only one of two possible outcomes: either Iran will develop a nuclear weapon essentially unimpeded, or their nuclear program will be disrupted by military means.

The conventional wisdom among the Iran Surrender Caucus – a conventional wisdom that our blundering negotiators continually share with the international media, apparently unaware that they get the New York Times in Tehran – is that American military power would barely impact Iran’s nuclear facilities. At best, they say, we might cause a setback of a few years; an outcome, one is left to assume, deemed worse than capitulation.

Ehud Barak, the most-decorated soldier in Israel’s history (and, therefore, almost as great a military authority as the U.S. lead negotiator and Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs, trained social worker and former EMILY’s List director Wendy Sherman), believes that the United States could destroy Iran’s nuclear capabilities “in a fraction of one night.” The US has created a weapon called the Massive Ordnance Penetrator that seems designed specifically for the job. Experts have repeatedly said we have the sea and air forces necessary to both strike and, if necessary, sustain strikes. History suggests that if you give the US military a specific task, they tend to figure out how to get the job done.

But, to the Iran Surrender Caucus, this isn’t about American military capabilities. It’s about political will.

Which brings us back to Camp North Star. It just doesn’t matter.

No deal with Iran will be worth the paper on which it is written. A good deal? Will be violated. A bad deal? Will be a bad deal and, still, will be violated. No deal? Will keep us wasting time at the negotiating table while Iranian officials laugh at us on the pages of the New York Times. And that “credible threat of military force?” To be credible, it would need to be credible.

Those of us who want to avoid the calamity of a nuclear-armed Iran must accept that President Obama, despite his early successes in ratcheting up sanctions, has lost the will – if ever he had it – to confront Iran in a meaningful way. We must now turn our attention to the unfortunate but necessary task of convincing the American people that immediate military action is required and probably long overdue. Members of Congress, Republican and Democrat, should stop fighting the last war of either impeding or requiring oversight over a deal. Instead, they should pass an Authorization for Use of Military Force and force the President to take a position on it.

Good or bad, there is no deal. It just doesn’t matter. Let’s move on.

Jonathan Greenberg is a Middle East analyst, public policy expert, and former staffer at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. He currently serves as senior vice president of the Salomon Center.

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