Alternate headline: Dr. Strangepresident, or How Israel Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the Iranian Bomb. In his haste to defend himself from allegations that he paid a $400 million ransom to Iran in exchange for American hostages, Barack Obama made a curious counter-claim. After arguing that the payment to Iran had been disclosed at the time and was not connected to the release of Americans by Tehran, Obama then claimed that Israel had shifted its position on the Iran deal and was now supporting it:
And let me make a final point on this. It has been well over a year since the agreement with Iran to stop its nuclear program was signed. And by all accounts it has worked exactly the way we said it was going to work. You will recall that there were all these horror stories about how Iran was going to cheat, and this wasn’t going to work, and Iran was going to get $150 billion to finance terrorism and all these kinds of scenarios. And none of them have come to pass. And it’s not just the assessment of our intelligence community. It’s the assessment of the Israeli military and intelligence community. The country that was most opposed to this deal that acknowledges this has been a game-changer that Iran has abided by the deal that they no longer have the sort of short term breakout capacity that would alow them to develop nuclear weapons.
Did Israel do an about-face on the Iran deal? Not at all, the Times of Israel reports today, and Israeli officials are mystified about this claim. In fact, they still consider it in the same category as the Munich Agreement of 1938 … which to be fair was a “game changer”:
Israel on Friday bitterly rejected US President Barack Obama’s claim that its officials now support last year’s nuclear deal with Iran. Far from accepting Obama’s assertion, the Israeli Defense Ministry compared the year-old accord to the Munich Agreement signed by the European powers with Nazi Germany in 1938. …
A top minister close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, furthermore, directly contradicted Obama’s assertion that Israel now backs the accord. “I don’t know to which Israelis he (Obama) spoke recently. But I can promise you that the position of the prime minister, the defense minister and of most senior officials in the defense establishment has not changed,” Tzachi Hanegbi told The Times of Israel.
“The opposite is the case. The time that has elapsed since the deal was signed proved all our worries that, regrettably, we were justified before the deal was made,” said Hanegbi, a minister who works in the Prime Minister’s Office and who until recently chaired the Knesset’s powerful Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.
The Defense Ministry made the Munich argument explicit:
“The Munich Agreement didn’t prevent the Second World War and the Holocaust precisely because its basis, according to which Nazi Germany could be a partner for some sort of agreement, was flawed, and because the leaders of the world then ignored the explicit statements of [Adolf] Hitler and the rest of Nazi Germany’s leaders,” the ministry said.
“These things are also true about Iran, which also clearly states openly that its aim is to destroy the state of Israel,” it said, pointing to a recent State Department report that determined that Iran is the number one state sponsor of terrorism worldwide.
Apparently, Obama thought he could just drop that whopper into a Pentagon press briefing and no one would fact-check it. At least as far as the US media is concerned, Obama appears to be correct; that claim didn’t get much mention at all here. Obviously it got a lot of attention in Israel, and plenty of on-the-record denunciations.
I wonder how much attention our media will pay to the rebuke from our ally over this lie. It’s certainly newsworthy — top-ranking officials there just strongly implied that Obama is another Neville Chamberlain. Shouldn’t that lead the news here at some point?
While we’re on the subject, the first part of that excerpt from yesterday’s briefing is just as ridiculous. Much of the $150 billion has gone to the Revolutionary Guard (IRGC), whose Quds Force unit is still listed in the State Department’s 2015 state-sponsored terrorism report. The same report mentions Hezbollah, which Iran sponsors. That money has already gone directly to finance terrorism, and it will continue to do so in the future. John Kerry himself acknowledged as much in January:
“I think that some of it will end up in the hands of the IRGC or other entities, some of which are labeled terrorists,” he said in the interview in Davos, referring to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps. “You know, to some degree, I’m not going to sit here and tell you that every component of that can be prevented.”
Pretty much everything that Obama claimed in that excerpt is utterly false, except for the deal being a “game changer.” It is — just not in the way Obama wants us to believe.