Hidden wisdom from country music plays to the futile negotiations to limit nuclear capabilities of Iran. The song known as “The Gambler” written by David Schlitz, recorded by Kenny Rogers, became a hit in the 1970s, later inspired a movie and today is best known as a car insurance commercial. Lines of this famous song seem particularly apropos.
Contrary to his own statements, Secretary of State John Kerry has seen little measurable progress in talks with Iran. Beyond Iran’s increased uranium refinement not much has happened over the last 12 years of negotiations. In fact, today the United States is in a worse position than when negotiations began.
International perception of the United States is at its lowest since WW II. The United States is observed as struggling with budgets, fainter militarily and writhing with political and racial divisions within. Red lines have been drawn, violated and promises ignored. Our allies are scratching their heads wondering if we will honor past agreements with NATO, Taiwan and Israel.
Know When to Fold Them
This perception has not gone unnoticed by Iran. We have weakened our own hand by tolerating Iran while they fund terrorist’s activities around the world, expand enrichment of uranium, threaten our naval vessels in the Persian Gulf, and shout “death to America.” Further, President Obama has waived sanctions to select politically friendly U.S. corporations to provide Iran with technology, aircraft parts and services.
Recently, Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter revealed that U.S. Mideast efforts to build a “moderate” rebel force in Syria summated to only 60 fighters, with hope another 7000 will be acceptable. Mocked by ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) whose claims their recruitment exceeds that of the United States daily. We have responded unconvincingly with sporadic aerial attacks that have done little to stop ISIS from executing Christians, Muslims and those in their own ranks who didn’t properly observe Ramadan. Secretary Kerry holds a weak hand.
Know When to Walk Away
Little has been done by President Obama to gain support for his Iranian negotiation with Congress. Republicans hold majorities in both the House and Senate and we would expect opposition but even his own party has been skeptical. Winning over Congress requires “political capital” or goodwill. It isn’t something purchased. It is earned with time, confidence and amity in action. It is the only currency on the Hill.
After six and a half years of White House occupancy, most presidents would know the value of political capital. President Reagan spent time with former Speaker of the House, Tip O’Neill to build a relationship and an understanding of issues they could agree and areas that needed work. Mr. Obama’s political capital wallet is rather thin.
It’s time for Secretary Kerry to walk away. The Obama Administration needs to build political capital with Congress and our allies. Congress needs to know what is going on, what are the terms and conditions, what are the likely outcomes. Similarly, a conversation needs to be held with Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who’s our closest Middle Eastern ally and the country with the most to lose in an Iranian nuclear agreement.
And Know When to Run
These negotiations cannot wait another 12 years. Iran is too close to having a nuclear weapon and access to jihadists who could detonate the weapon as martyrs. It is time for Secretary Kerry to run back to Washington as much needs to be done with Congress and our allies before we enter into any long-term agreement with Iran.
First, our hand needs to be stronger. President Obama needs Congressional support and funding for any deal. These negotiations should be first. Second, we need to build a coalition as if the negotiations are to fail, one with the purpose of eliminating the Iranian nuclear problem. Strength confirms resilience. Finally, with Congressional support, the threat of military action from a coalition, return to the negotiation table and play with a strong hand.
Todd Tiahrt is a former U.S. Representative for Kansas’s 4th Congressional district.