- - Tuesday, February 24, 2015

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

President Obama yearns for a “signature” accomplishment overseas to match his signature domestic achievement as the presidential legacy he leaves on Jan. 20, 2017. He’s racing toward a nuclear deal with Iran that would give him a foreign disaster to match the domestic disaster called Obamacare.

A man with “institutional memory,” a talent once highly prized in every institution, now only means in Washington someone who can remember where he parked his car last night. Only yesterday the president vowed that his goal was the elimination of Iran’s potential to produce a nuclear weapon. But that was apparently too much trouble. Mr. Obama now intends to settle for an agreement that would “degrade” Iran’s ability to produce the Islamic bomb within a year.

The particulars of the emerging deal are closely guarded, as much for political reasons as for security concerns, but members of Congress — both Democrats and Republicans — and several former secretaries of state are publicly fretting that Mr. Obama is about to make another of his signature bad deals.

The prospect of such a bad deal alarms even The Washington Post, the source of so many Democratic talking points. The president who pounded his chest and boasted that he was tough enough to stand up to the challenge now signals that he is ready to concede that Iran deserves a place as a regional nuclear power. Defiance of evil becomes tolerance of a new member of the club, bad odor or not.

Mr. Obama intends to implement his sweetheart deal with Iran without allowing a vote by either the House or the Senate, just like his attempt to impose amnesty as a cure for the immigration disaster that has metastasized under his administration. He thinks he can impose such a far-reaching nuclear deal unilaterally. He might be right.



The White House will make the usual big noises about how the deal will be enforced with tough inspections, that Iran will not be allowed to join the nuclear club through deceit and tricks. The usual suspects in the arms-control industry are making the usual noises. Daryl Kimball of the Arms Control Association tells The Associated Press that tough monitoring would supply “enough time to detect and disrupt” any attempt by Iran to continue to work on a bomb. But if there’s no will to stand up to Iran now, why would anyone expect such will to appear, as if by magic, when the Iranians flout an agreement?

Iran, like the rest of the world, has taken the measure of Barack Obama and found him, in the famous Texas verdict, “all hat and no cattle.” Defenders of a sweetheart deal for Iran argue that Russia and China are not likely to join in getting genuinely tough. They concede that it’s a bad deal but insist it’s the “least bad” deal.

The arms-control professionals, as they are pleased to call themselves, talk of a deal with Iran as if it were only about the centrifuges needed to produce enriched uranium — whether to demand the dismantling of 8,000 centrifuges or 6,000 centrifuges, or whether the U.S. should accept 4,500 centrifuges or even more if the Iranians are particularly beastly in the negotiations moving toward an agreement in March.

The number of centrifuges is important, of course, but at bottom it’s all about will and backbone — who has it, and who doesn’t. That’s why Mr. Obama and his wise men (and women) are terrified by the prospect of what Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister who sees the prospect of an Islamic bomb for what it is, might say when he speaks to Congress next month. His plain talk might trump President Obama’s celebrated eloquence.

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