Old and busted, nat-sec edition: You don’t screw with America. New hotness, smart-power edition: Don’t screw the Ayatollah! The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg sat down with Secretary of State John Kerry to discuss the seven-nation nuclear deal with Iran, and Kerry warned Congress that a rejection of the deal would destroy the faith that Ayatollah Ali Khameini had put into negotiations with the United States.
No, really, that’s his argument for approving the deal. If Congress blows up the deal, they will give Khameini “the ultimate screwing,” in Kerry’s own words:
The ayatollah approached this entire exercise extremely charily. He gave a kind of dismissive OK to [President Hassan] Rouhani and company to go do this, in the sense that he didn’t want to be blamed if this didn’t work. It was all Rouhani’s risk. He was playing the IRGC [Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps], and this and that. And so it was clear to me from my many conversations with Zarif and from the entire dynamic how fragile that journey was with him. The ayatollah constantly believed that we are untrustworthy, that you can’t negotiate with us, that we will screw them. This will be the ultimate screwing. We cut a deal, we stand up, it’s announced, five other countries believe in it—six other countries, because Iran signs off, and we’re the seventh—but you know, China, Russia, France, Germany, Britain, all sign off. Now the United States Congress will prove the ayatollah’s suspicion, and there’s no way he’s ever coming back. He will not come back to negotiate. Out of dignity, out of a suspicion that you can’t trust America. America is not going to negotiate in good faith. It didn’t negotiate in good faith now, would be his point.
Actually, the “ultimate screwing” will come when Iran conducts its first test of a nuclear device. Since when is the US’ trustworthiness on the line in this issue? Iran hid its pursuit of nuclear weapons for years from the IAEA, and only began negotiating on nuclear development after it got caught. It has routinely cheated on inspections, hid its military research, and continually refused to negotiate in good faith. For the past twelve years, whenever the P5+1 (or E3+3, whatever the Western formulation is at the moment) got close to an agreement with Iran, the Ayatollah and his henchmen would demand a significant concession on top of what had already been agreed, and the deal would fall apart.
Let’s not forget that, on top of this track record of bad-faith diplomacy, Khameini runs the world’s biggest terror-supporting state. It sponsors, funds, and arms terror networks throughout the region, including those in Gaza, Lebanon, and Syria that are aimed in direct opposition to Western aims and key regional allies. Khameini and his mullahcracy have chanted “Death to America” for 36 years straight. And Congress is supposed to worry that Khameini may lose faith in American diplomacy?
What color should we assume the sky is in Kerryworld, anyway?
Kerry did not save all of his magic pixie dust for Congress, however. He also wants Israel to know that this deal, which has managed to unify the normally fractious Israeli body politic into opposition, is the most pro-Israeli deal Kerry can imagine. Again, really:
Let me put this in very precise terms. Look, I’ve gone through this backwards and forwards a hundred times and I’m telling you, this deal is as pro-Israel, as pro-Israel’s security, as it gets.
Really? This is the ne plus ultra of pro-Israeli-ism? No wonder our partners in Jerusalem are worried. Kerry tries to suss out why Israelis don’t see this as particularly pro-Israel:
Because there’s a huge level of fear and mistrust and, frankly, there’s an inherent sense that, given Iran’s gains and avoidance in the past, that somehow they’re going to avoid something again. It’s a visceral feeling, it’s very emotional and visceral and I’m very in tune with that and very sensitive to that.
It’s not just “visceral” — it’s the wisdom of experience. Israel has had to deal with the impact of Iranian terror operations very close to home. In fact, southern Israel gets showered with rockets supplied in large part by Iran, at least indirectly. They understand the regional hegemonic ambitions of Khameini and his clique better than Kerry and Barack Obama do, and the immediate impact that lifting sanctions will have on those operations. The only good trade for sanctions would be the total and verified elimination of Iranian military nuclear operations as well as the dismantling of the terrorist operations run by Tehran throughout the region. This deal provides neither.
If Kerry’s entire pitch to Congress is that they must keep faith with Ali Khameini or he might end up disliking and distrusting us, this deal might be even worse than we think. This is a sorry state of affairs, when America’s top diplomat ends up as an apologist for a dictator that routinely declares “Death to America,” and says our only hope is to trust in his good faith. It’s absurd on its face.