Thursday, April 9, 2015

The Iranian Nuke Deal: Satire vs. Reality

Which was more ridiculous?  The satire, or the talks it lampooned?

Okay, since I’ve now become the Walter White of bloggers and no longer have to guard what comes out of my piehole, I’m just going to come out and say it:  The Iranian nuclear non-deal/deal is dead.

I know this, or think I do, because the satire I wrote poking fun at the talks has turned out to be only slightly less silly than the—well, than whatever it was that negotiators came up with and announced in Switzerland.  And now Iran tacking on new conditions post-announcement.

So let’s break it down, shall we?  The analysis below compares goals against the satire and the reality that followed.

Goal:  Not to get snookered.

The Satire:   My satire had Iran selling the U.S. and its partners the Brooklyn Bridge.  Well, okay, ya got me there.  That didn’t happen. 

The Reality:  What did happen, arguably, is that Iran sold the Obama administration a bill of goods, which in return it’s now peddling to the American people and the world.

Goal:  To get Iran to give up its nuclear arms ambitions.   Depending on which analysis you read, when this started we wanted to keep Iran to no more than 500 to 1,500 uranium-enriching centrifuges.  And the president went on record as saying that Iran did not need attack-proof underground uranium-enrichment facilities for a peaceful nuclear program.  In addition, we wanted Iran to scrap its heavy-water plant at Arak, which is designed to make plutonium.

The Satire:  Iran gets to keep its underground facility at Natanz fully operational, and will retain 9,999 working centrifuges.

The Reality:  Iran gets to keep both of its underground facilities, including Natanz, which will remain operational.  Iran retains about 6,100 centrifuges.  Iran keeps its plant at Arak.  (U.S. negotiators said the plant will be “redesigned.”  Iranian negotiators said it will be “modernized.”)

Goal:  To get Iran to agree to thorough and ongoing inspections, including unannounced site visits.

The Satire:  There would be no snap inspections, and Iran would get three months notice for any site visits.

The Reality:  The announcement does not address the issue of snap inspections.  News reports have indicated there will be none.   The timing and conditions of inspections that supposedly will take place are not clear.

Goal:  To reach an agreement with Iran so solid that only the technical details would be left for science-geek underlings to work out.

The Satire:  In the face of Iran’s refusal to call the arrangement an “agreement,” the U.S. and its partners agreed to label it a “Memorandum of Acknowledgment.”

The Reality:  They called it a set of “parameters.”

Goal:  To relax economic sanctions gradually and in phases as Iran proves its compliance and good faith.

The Satire:  The announcement portrayed in the satire left the issue of when the sanctions would be relaxed unclear.  In the face of Iranian demands that sanctions be lowered the moment the agreement was announced, a compromise had been floated to relax them the day after the announcement.

The Reality:  The actual announcement left the issue of when the sanctions would be relaxed unclear.  Today Iranian President Hassan Rouhani announced that sanctions must be lifted on the same day any deal is signed.  This is actually worse than the satire.

Like all predictions, especially bold ones, my statement that the deal is dead may or may not pan out.  It ought to.  This arrangement stinks out loud.  It leaves Iran with all of its bomb making facilities fully intact.  The president said this week in an interview on NPR that under the terms of the arrangement, yes, Iran can build a bomb in about 13 years.  That was, he said, a problem for whoever’s president at that time.   Obama will be keeping his promise not to let a bomb happen on his watch, and his concern ends there.

Yet doves, God bless ‘em, are giving the president a standing ovation.  People tend to forget it today, but Neville Chamberlain got the same reaction in September of 1938 when he and his negotiating partners put much of Czechoslovakia under the iron boot of Hitler’s Nazi Germany.  When Chamberlain returned to London, declaring that he had achieved “peace in our time,” so many adoring citizens thronged around him that he couldn’t get down the road, and was late for an appointment to brief the king.

Of course, what we now know is that he had achieved peace for a time, not for our time.  There is a big difference, but it’s one that’s lost on the doves, many of whom are now suggesting that it’s time for a second Nobel Peace Prize for Mr. Obama.  But if you examine some of the applause, the fuzzy-headed thinking becomes obvious.

An opinion and analysis piece that appeared in Slate the day after the announcement is typical.  Author and Mideast analyst Fred Kaplan’s headline declared the arrangement to be “The Deal of a Lifetime.”  But wait—if it’s a deal, then why did Secretary of State John Kerry not label it as such?  In fact, didn’t he go out of his way to emphasize that it was not final?  In the headline and also in the first sentence of the piece, that point seemed lost on Kaplan, who wrote, “The Iranian nuclear deal reached in Switzerland on Thursday is a significant breakthrough.”  But wait again.  In the very next sentence, he acknowledges that “it’s merely a ‘political framework’ for a formal deal.”  And then two sentences later he adds, “It might not lead to a deal as good as the outline suggests; it might not lead to a deal at all.”  Good.  He gets it, right?  But wait yet again.  One sentence later Kaplan is back to calling it a “deal,” one that contains “commitments.”  And that’s how he refers to it for the entire rest of the article.  It’s a deal, it’s not a deal.  She loves me, she loves me not.  What the hell is going on here?  You’ll have to figure that out on your own; clearly, Mr. Kaplan can’t help you.

Poor guy, he's not alone.  Here we are several days down the road, and an article posted just today shows that even the Associated Press hasn't figured it out.  In once sentence it's a deal, and in the next it's not.  The meaning of the word changes so often within the story that it's comical, if not laugh-out-loud funny.  Read it for yourself and see.

It’s not hard to see how we got to this crossroads.   One of the things I predicted some time ago was that not no way, not no how would the president let John Kerry leave the talks without some kind of document in his hand that he could wave in the air and refer to as a breakthrough.   How did I know this?  Because the president said so.   Yes, Mr. Obama gave lip service to the idea that we’d walk if we couldn’t reach a good deal.  But in the same breath he declared that we’d reach “the best deal possible”—and he ruled out the one and only thing that had succeeded in getting Iran’s attention so far, saying “Sanctions won’t do it.”  Add to that the political reality that the president could not afford to let a year and a half of negotiations do a swirlie—especially given that critics had warned him in advance that Iran was just playing him for time—and what do you get?  Kerry was sitting at the negotiating table holding a busted flush.  If a radio bloviator in Tucson knew that Kerry would have to accept a stinkeroo deal rather than no deal at all, do you think the Ayatollah didn’t know it, too?

A competent president might have said, “We will sign no deal that doesn’t remove Iran as a nuclear threat.  And if there is no deal, Iran will face consequences.”  But that does not describe President Obama.

The president has tried to convince you that the only other option is war—the implication being that if you don’t want this deal, then you, kind sir or madam, are a warmonger.  It’s a false dichotomy.  There were other paths, and there still are.  But you have to realize that there never was any real hope that we could get Iran to give up its nuclear ambitions in the near term, short of military action.  That option aside, here’s what we were (and are) left with:

1.  Keep the sanctions firmly in place, leaving an economically crippled Iran to try to stir up trouble and destabilize the region, as it has been doing, while it continues to enrich uranium in underground facilities.

2.  Lift the sanctions, leaving a now-wealthy Iran with a dramatically increased ability to stir up trouble and destabilize the region, as it has been doing, while it continues to enrich uranium in an underground facility and to prepare a second facility for such enrichment in the future.

In scenario one, there was at least the hope that sanctions, which already had been crippling enough to cause people to take to the streets of Tehran before the U.S. agreed to partially lift them in order to get Iran to the table, might cause nature to take its course.  In scenario two, that hope is gone, and Iran emerges as a more powerful threat to peace than it was before.  That is the scenario our leaders have chosen.

By the way, did you know that the current sanctions include various arms embargoes?  Those go away, too, if all the sanctions are lifted.  Money and arms will flow to Iran.  Now do you begin to understand why Irans chief negotiator received a heros welcome on his return home?  I dont know about you, but if I want to see who came out ahead in a given deal, I take note of whos popping the champagne corks.  

As in 1938, there never were any good choices here.  But nevertheless, there were choices.  The Obama administration made them.  And here is where its strategy has left us:

--We’ve reached a head-scratching deal/non-deal with Iran so confusing that no one can say with certainty what it does or does not do, if anything, although even the president concedes that in a best case scenario it’ll result in Iran obtaining full bomb making capability in slightly more than a decade. 

--Tension over the U.S. bargaining position has driven a wedge between us and our closest ally in the region, Israel, leaving relations at an historic low point.

--Our own government is so divided over this that about half the Senate saw fit to write an unprecedented appeal to a foreign power to settle it. 

--And despite president Obama’s personal why-can’t-we-be-friends letter sucking up to the Ayatollah, Iran’s Supreme Leader continues to lead crowds in chants of “Death to America!”

Do you think the mullahs in Iran are not laughing their butts off at us right now?


Find more along these lines in the political page of this blog.  And as always, I invite you to check out my novels.

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