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Crosstalk: Does Israel’s reveal change deal?



It would be fun to say “I told you so” about the failed Iran deal but the stakes are too high with this national security issue to be that smug or trite.

Last week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu revealed a massive cache of intelligence data — half a ton of documents — showing that the Obama Administration had bargained on lies from Iran to get a nonproliferation agreement in place.

The 2015 pact between Iran and six major powers — Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States — was supposed to be Obama’s signature foreign policy achievement, but was slated to be an epic fail because it was contingent upon Iran being truthful.

The plan has rightfully been described by President Donald Trump as “one of the worst deals I have ever witnessed.” He will decide by the end of the week whether to withdraw from the nuclear accord and is being pressured by European partners to stay the course.

By way of background, Obama took office in 2009 convinced that his predecessor, George W. Bush, and U.S. foreign policy since 1945 had made too many enemies. Obama didn’t blame our enemies for this — he blamed the U.S. Thus, as fast as he could, he reached out to Russia and Iran to “reset” our relations.

The Iran deal was the culmination of that faulty vision. The deal wasn’t really about ending Iran’s nuclear program; it was about taking the nuclear issue off the table by pretending to control it. Obama’s reasoning was that, if the U.S. was focused on the nuclear program, there couldn’t be a reset, so the issue needed to be shelved.

Under the deal, Iran agreed to lose 97 percent of its stockpile of enriched uranium and give up 14,000 of its 20,000 centrifuges, which are needed to enrich uranium. The rogue nation also agreed to curb production of plutonium, the other element needed to build a bomb, and dismantle its one plutonium reactor.

In exchange, the U.S. unfroze $100-150 billion in Iranian assets and lifted economic sanctions. This allowed Tehran to invest heavily in terrorist activities and ramp up hostilities in the region. We can see evidence of this fact in Syria, Yemen and Iraq.

One of the Obama administration’s popular talking points was that the deal was contingent upon Iran agreeing not to “attempt to design, pursue, build or otherwise seek a nuclear weapon,” which “would be an explicit and detectable violation of the agreement.”

Wouldn’t you think that Netanyahu’s disclosure of Iran’s hidden plans to jumpstart its program to build a nuclear arsenal violates both the spirit and purpose of the nonproliferation agreement?

Not to Obama’s henchmen who were complicit in selling the deal to the American people through the use of deception.

Tommy Vietor, former spokesman for Obama’s National Security Council, accused Trump last week of “cooking up intel with the Israelis” to start a war.

Yet, Israel shared all of the documents it had on the Iranian nuclear plan with all participants of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and the International Atomic Energy Agency. The U.S. verified the authenticity of the intelligence data dump.

Other defenders of Obama’s deal said the newly revealed documents do not matter.

“There is literally nothing new here,” claimed Jeffrey Lewis, an arms control expert, in a publicized report.

Why then were the documents, showing that Iran had plans to quickly weaponize, never revealed when Obama and former Secretary of State John Kerry were touting the benefits of the agreement?

“What this means is the deal was not constructed on a foundation of good faith or transparency,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo noted after Netanyahu’s disclosure.

Even if the deal is retained, it includes sunset clauses that allow key restrictions on uranium enrichment, centrifuge production and international monitoring to expire after 10-15 years.

Obama made that concession out of hope that Iran’s behavior would change between now and then.

Trump must walk away from this failed deal, which is built on dangerous ideological fantasy.

— RaeLynn Ricarte

The nuclear agreement negotiated with Iran is again under fire, and although I put little weight on recent “revelations” by Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu regarding Iran's nuclear program — experts have noted they were well aware of the information he revealed when negotiations were underway — that the deal is again under attack comes as no surprise.

To begin with, any deal decided and supervised by an eight-member committee, including Iran, the United States of America, Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China and the European Union, is bound to be narrowly focused and full of compromise, which it is. It does not address in any way Iran's broader actions in the Middle East, but only its nuclear program.

There are a lot of issues regarding Iran and the U.S. that still need to be addressed, all of them involving conventional weapons focused on the defeat of the U.S. and its biggest regional ally, Israel.

The decision to dissociate the nuclear impasse from the other problematic aspects of Iran’s foreign policy dates back to the George W. Bush administration. Its 2006 establishment of the P5+1 platform for negotiating with Tehran on its nuclear program was intended to provide a compelling vehicle for persuading the country to abandon its nuclear ambitions. The negotiations’ exclusive focus reflected the unusual international consensus surrounding the role for diplomacy in resolving the nuclear crisis — consensus that did not then, and does not now, extend to other aspects of the Iranian challenge, according to documentation published by brookings.edu.

Relieving sanctions against Iran to allow international inspection of their nuclear facilities even as Iran wreaks havoc in Syria and elsewhere is to walk between a rock and a hard place. There were, and are, many who question the decision to do so, and from where I sit I can't honestly say it will, or won't, work.

It may be a moot point. In December, 2017, Congress chose not to ratify the agreement.

This should come as no surprise to the leaders of Iran: They were told as much in a 2015 letter sent when negotations were underway by 48 Republicans serving in the Senate. They warned Iran against negotiating with the president.

In an “open letter to the leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran,” the senators wrote: “It has come to our attention while observing your nuclear negotiations with our government [President Obama] that you may not fully understand our constitutional system. Thus, we are writing to bring to your attention two features of our constitution — the power to make binding agreements and the different character of federal offices — which you should seriously consider as negotiations progress.”

The letter goes on to explain, first, that “while the president negotiates international agreements, Congress plays the significant role of ratifying them. In the case of a treaty, the Senate must ratify it by a two-thirds vote...anything not approved by Congress is a mere executive agreement.”

The letter continues, “Second, the offices of our constitution have different characteristics. For example, the president may serve only two four-year terms, whereas senators may serve an unlimited number of six-year terms. As applied today, for instance, President Obama will leave office in January, 2017, while most of us will remain in office well beyond them — perhaps decades.”

Without ratification, a decision on whether or not to continue with the agreement becomes, as before, “a mere executive agreement,” this time under the auspice of President Donald Trump.

One is reminded of the time-honored saying, “A house divided cannot stand.” Purely partisan negotiations, like purely partisan politics, are destined to fail.

And in the Middle East of today, rocked by war from within and without, such failure could be catastrophic.

We have long been ill served by many in the Senate, who will “remain in office...perhaps decades,” just as we have long been ill served by those holding the office of president who have seen fit to serve only those of their own political ideology.

— Mark Gibson



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