Barack Obama’s policy was to ask Iran to show some flexibility, give good relations with America a chance, just as he sought to make nice with Cuba, Russia, China, even the Muslim Brotherhood. Odious but not stupid, the mullahs knew a sucker when they saw one
Watching President Trump scupper the Iran Deal made me wonder where we would be today if Hillary Clinton had won the 2016 presidential election. I was reminded of fired FBI Director James Comey’s praise for the defeated Democratic nominee at a Town Hall meeting in April of this year: “Hillary Clinton is more meshed in, trained in, respectful of the norms and traditions that I’m so worried about being eroded today.” Lucky, I thought, Donald Trump is not “meshed in, trained in, respectful of the norms and traditions” that constituted the Obama Doctrine.
Barack Obama’s Big Idea was to ask the US’s traditional adversaries – Russia, Iran, Cuba, China, Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, and so on – to show some flexibility and give good relations with America a chance. His entreaty, however, was interpreted by Uncle Sam’s traditional adversaries – or, should we say, “partners in peace” – to mean the US, the self-identified guilty party in international relations, wanted a second chance. The Islamic Republic of Iran, eventually, decided it would play along with Obama’s “feel good” diplomacy, and entered into negotiations with the P5+1 (UN Security Council members plus Germany).
For the Obama administration, and for virtually every progressive we-are-the-world Westerner, the Iran Nuclear Deal was what we had been waiting for, the moment when hope and change meet and the promise of a global people’s community takes a giant step forward. Older hands warned that this was all a recipe for disaster, as I wrote in “Wiser Men on the Iranian Deal” back in May 2015.
But Barack Obama, the apotheosis of trendy left-wing millennialism, could not be dissuaded from his heal-the-world mission. He and Secretary of State John Kerry pushed ahead with a deal, their Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), signed in July, 2015. Given that Tehran retained the right to keep developing a delivery system for nuclear weaponry (that is, it’s a ballistic- and cruise-missile program), inadequate international oversight of its nuclear project and a sunset clause that, more or less, ensured a nuclear-weapons breakout ten years’ down the track, it was reasonable to refer to JCPOA as “Obama’s Munich Moment”.
Obama’s Big Idea was that the nuclear deal, concomitant with the release of billions of dollars of frozen Iran assets and the cessation of Western sanctions, would encourage the Iranian leaders to join the global people’s community as a responsible member. This is what President Obama said with the ink was barely dry on the deal:
The path of violence and rigid ideology, a foreign policy based on threats to attack your neighbours or eradicate Israel – that’s a dead end. A different path, one of tolerance and peaceful resolution of conflict, leads to more integration into the global community, and the ability of the Iranian people to prosper and thrive.
Now we know for sure what we should have known for sure from the beginning: Barack Obama, a professorial-style leftist ideologue, was quite possibly the most dangerous Leader of the Free World imaginable.
Iran, of course, took the billions of dollars released to it through the JCPOA and stepped up its sponsorship of militias in Yemen, Syria, Iraq and Lebanon. Not even Latin America has been safe from Iran’s anti-US adventurism. And all the while the Iranians have persisted with their Death-to-America and Death-to-Israel mania, which is not a treatable malady so much as a terminal psychosis. As Jonathan S. Tobin once politely enquired: “Has Obama read the Khamenei Palestine book?”
One additional indignity was dealt to Obama in August, 2016, when his State Department – while it wasn’t busy conspiring against the Trump campaign – forked out $400 million in cash to secure the release of American hostages in Iran. The JCPOA had bought zero good will from the theocrats who rule Iran. Still, no need to worry, because the State Department at the time assured the world that while the money did not constitute a “ransom payment”, the prisoner release was “contingent” on it. Well, that’s okay then.
The impediment to world peace, nevertheless, was not Barack Obama’s strategic patience but Donald Trump’s volatile impatience – or, at least, that is how the narrative goes. Thus, the mainstream media, Democrats (including those who opposed it in the first place) and European leaders et al are apoplectic about the threat to JCPOA. Naturally, Obama calls Trump’s decision a “serious mistake” while John Kerry says it risks “dragging the world back to the brink”. That said, it is not so easy refuting the specifics of President Trump’s address, even if they are not respectful of the norms of the Obama Doctrine: “At the heart of the deal was a giant fiction that a murderous regime desired only a peaceful nuclear-energy program.”
Far more credible than Barack Obama’s Iran Nuclear Deal is this: Tehran will never dare revive its nuclear-weapons program while Donald John Trump remains in the White House.
Just ask Kim Jong-un.