Most of the discussion after President Obama’s recent State of the Union address centered on various programs and goals that have no chance of actually being passed by the Republican-controlled House and Senate. But the most cynical, and probably the most dangerous, collision between reality and rhetoric was when the president spoke about Iran’s illicit nuclear weapons program.
Members of Congress who are concerned by the ongoing nuclear progress of the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism are interested in pursuing a bill that would provide a backstop should the talks between Iran and the major powers break down due to Tehran’s unwillingness to dismantle its nuclear arms program.
The bipartisan legislation, authored by Sens. Mark Kirk, Illinois Republican, and Robert Menendez, New Jersey Democrat, would not impose new sanctions on Iran; instead, the measure is essentially a diplomatic insurance policy that improves the likelihood that Iran may decide to actually cut a deal rather than face stringent economic consequences.
The Obama administration has undertaken a full-fledged assault on the idea, wielding false assertions that seem to reflect desperation by the president and his staff to cut a deal with Iran at all costs — even if it’s a bad deal. The administration has even gone so far as to solicit an op-ed from our European allies urging Congress not to put in place the necessary measures to use financial pressure if, and only if, the negotiations fail. These are dangerous games, and they send exactly the wrong signal to Iran.
As Mr. Menendez correctly pointed out, the administration is increasingly using talking points that sound like they are coming straight out of Iran. In his State of the Union speech, the president said, “We’ve halted the progress of [Iran’s] nuclear program and reduced its stockpile of nuclear material.” In reality, Iran’s nuke program is surging forward. The world’s most respected and knowledgeable nuclear experts have explained that Iran has actually produced an additional nuclear bomb’s worth of enriched material while it has been dragging out negotiations and refusing to make concessions.
The president is even going so far as to threaten a veto, and he made the cavalier assertion that Congress would be to blame for a failure in diplomacy if “Iran starts up its nuclear program again.” How exactly do you “restart” something that has never really stopped? Nuclear inspectors still are refused the unfettered access they require, Iran’s centrifuges continue to spin, and Iran has announced plans to build two new nuclear reactors at Bushehr. Does that sound like the Iranians consider their nuclear program “frozen”?
The administration is falling over itself to pursue these negotiations, seemingly far less focused on getting the right outcome and far more concerned about hypothetical sanctions that would not even come into existence should Iran finally decide to do the right thing. Meanwhile, Iran announced that it is indicting an American reporter who has reportedly been held in inhumane conditions and publicly declared that it will never stop enrichment, let alone dismantle the nuclear arms program.
In negotiations, the party that typically comes out on top is the one with the leverage. With every passing day, Mr. Obama seems determined to deliver concession after concession to the Iranians while having nothing to show in return. Rather than increasing the economic pressure that finally brought Iran to the table after years of unwillingness to negotiate, we have instead loosened them and enabled Iran to receive $14 billion in sanctions relief.
A regime controlled by radical Islamists who call us The Great Satan, which unrepentantly denies its citizens human rights and bankrolls terrorist groups across the globe has been gifted $14 billion in return for simply agreeing to stonewall, delay, obfuscate and stretch out the talks while pressing ahead in underground facilities designed to deliver atomic arms. Does that make any sense at all?
When it comes to Iran, we need more pressure, not less, if we are ever going to compel the Iranians to give up their nuclear ambitions, which have the potential to further destabilize the Middle East and spark an atomic arms race.
At the moment we are all carrot and no stick, so Tehran is all too happy to engage in this charade while marching steadily toward its goal of possessing the deadliest arms known to mankind. It already has the ballistic missile capacity to deliver them.
The shocking part is the lengths to which the White House is trying to muzzle a measured, rational and reasonable Congress and is essentially doing the bidding of Iran.
• Armstrong Williams is sole owner/manager of Howard Stirk Holdings and executive editor of American CurrentSee online magazine.