- - Sunday, January 3, 2016

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

If we take them at their word, Barack Obama and his not so merry men have demonstrated incompetence once more in “inadvertently” listening in to conversations between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and members of Congress and other American friends of Israel who saw the president’s sweetheart deal with the mullahs in Iran as the disaster that it is. On the other hand, the eavesdropping may have been deliberate.

Only yesterday Mr. Obama’s spies were busily tapping into telephone conversations of the leaders of America’s friends. It’s true, of course, that everybody spies on everybody — no nation has permanent friends, only permanent interests, as her prime minister once told an incredulous Queen Victoria. But once caught spying on German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Mr. Obama promised, perhaps with his fingers crossed, that he would no longer eavesdrop on friends of the United States. Mr. Netanyahu quickly learned that he was not among those friends, and indeed had concluded long ago that Mr. Obama does not number the leader of the Jewish state among his trusted friends.

The eavesdropping on Mr. Netanyahu had little to do with national security, but with his obsession with the “legacy” he will leave of his dealings with the mullahs in Tehran. Mr. Obama thought the mullahs would make him look good even if he only delayed Iran’s Islamic bomb, and not prevent it, as he promised. The Israelis, not being burdened by the fantasy of good faith by the mullahs, opposed the deal. They correctly saw it as assuring the development of the nuclear bomb, sooner rather than later.

President Obama, as if cultivating fecklessness, has delayed his plan to impose financial sanctions on Iran for continuing to develop the ballistic missiles that could carry the bomb to targets in Europe and eventually even to North America. As the White House announced the delay in imposing sanctions, Iran, rubbing the president’s face in foolishness, announced that it would continue work on the missiles.

Republicans accused Mr. Obama and his administration Thursday of having no will to challenge Iran for its manifold transgressions. “If the president’s announced sanctions ultimately aren’t executed,” Rep. Mike Pompeo of Kansas told The Wall Street Journal, “it would demonstrate a level of fecklessness that even the president hasn’t shown before.

All of this explains but cannot excuse what the NSA was doing. Power once granted is eventually abused by those who have it, as we have seen here. It’s why the National Security Agency, and other officials of Mr. Obama’s administration, proceeded without leaving a paper trail. They knew there was a possibility they would get caught, but proceeded, anyway. It’s up to the Congress to find out in this new year just what happened, and make sure it won’t happen again. That’s a tall order for Congress, but a necessary one.

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