“It’s the top item on his foreign agenda for the rest of his term,” a source close to the White House’s thinking said of the Iran issue. “He doesn’t want to leave anything to chance.”
The stakes are enormous for Obama. If the talks break down and Iran dashes to build an atomic bomb before the West can stop it, he could go into the history books as the president whose naivete allowed the Islamic Republic to go nuclear…
On Saturday, Kerry spoke by phone to Obama from Geneva to discuss the outstanding issues in the final tense stages of negotiations, a senior State Department official said. “This went all the way up to (Obama) personally approving the final language,” the official said…
“Resolving the Iran issue would be a huge boon to his legacy,” said Colin Kahl, a former Pentagon official involved in Iran policymaking who now teaches at Georgetown University.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Monday the Senate might pursue stronger sanctions against Iran, after lawmakers criticized a nuclear accord that would ease sanctions.
Reid called the pact negotiated between six world powers and Iran an “important first step,” but expressed uncertainty whether it would be good enough…
Reid said he has discussed Netanyahu’s concerns with him.
“If I were the leader of that country, I’d be concerned, too,” he said of the Israeli leader. “I’ve spoken to him about this.
The final details of a nuclear agreement signed over the weekend between Iran and Western nations will not actually go into effect until further negotiations take place at a later date, according to a senior administration official and sources on Capitol Hill…
That means the six-month clock referenced by the administration and media has not yet started. Iran can continue its most controversial nuclear activities as negotiators work to finalize the interim deal reached over the weekend.
“There is no deal in place,” a senior congressional aide briefed on the deal told the Free Beacon. “The agreement signed this weekend was not an actual agreement—it was a list of ideas with no way to implement them.”
Hawkish senators are still pushing for new sanctions on Iran after the interim nuclear deal reached this weekend, but new sanctions don’t seem likely to become reality — at least for now…
A senior administration official emphasized Monday on a call with reporters that the White House would not support new sanctions.
“We believe that any sanctions that are passed during negotiations would do several things that would be unhelpful,” the official said.
The administration’s message to Congress is “it’s not going to be difficult to pass sanctions if and when it comes to that, so there’s no urgency to get a piece of legislation out now,” according to the official.
The official would not say if President Obama would veto new sanctions. “That’s a hypothetical bc a bill hasn’t been passed,” the official said.
U.S. President Barack Obama has had two overarching goals in the Iran crisis. The first was to stop the Iranian regime from gaining possession of a nuclear weapon. The second was to prevent Israel from attacking Iran’s nuclear facilities.
This weekend, the president achieved one of these goals. He boxed-in Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu so comprehensively that it’s unimaginable Israel will strike Iran in the foreseeable future. Netanyahu had his best chance to attack in 2010 and 2011, and he missed it. He came close but was swayed by Obama’s demand that he keep his planes parked. It would be a foolhardy act — one that could turn Israel into a true pariah state, and bring about the collapse of sanctions and possible war in the Middle East — if Israel were to attack Iran now, in the middle of negotiations.
A lawmaker from Netanyahu’s Likud faction told an Israeli television station earlier on Monday that the premier rebuked US President Barack Obama over the interim agreement agreed upon by the Western powers and Iran on Sunday.
“The prime minister made it clear to the most powerful man on earth that if he intends to stay the most powerful man on earth, it’s important to make a change in American policy because the practical result of his current policy is liable to lead him to the same failure that the Americans absorbed in North Korea and Pakistan, and Iran could be next in line,” Likud Beytenu MK Tzachi Hanegbi told the Knesset Channel…
In the call, Obama told Netanyahu that the P5+1 — the US, United Kingdom, France, Russia, China and Germany — would use the next several months to forge a “lasting, peaceful and comprehensive” solution to the slow-motion nuclear crisis causing consternation throughout the Middle East.
“My worry is not over the next six months,” said Dov Zakheim, former undersecretary of Defense in the Bush administration. “The problem to me is that the president has once again laid out another red line and his track record with red lines is ambiguous. The red line this time is the six months.”…
Several foreign officials said that the Syrian red line episode had eroded the Obama administration’s credibility around the world, which raises questions over promises made about Iran.
“When you draw red lines and then they are crossed and you don’t do anything about it, two things happen: Your enemies become emboldened and your allies become less sure,” said British Member of Parliament Liam Fox, a former Secretary of State for Defence. “That’s been the problem.”
Seventh, there are a number of wild cards in the form of various constituencies that do not want an agreement, including in no particular order: Benjamin Netanyahu, some of President Obama’s political opponents in the Republican Party, and the hawks in Iran’s parliament. Watching these various constituencies attempt to sabotage negotiations over the next six months will be interesting. Who knows what Netanyahu will do, although Israel’s stock market apparently rallied on news of the deal. The text of the agreement actually makes parallel references to “the respective roles of the President and the Congress” and “respective roles of the President and the Majlis (Iranian parliament),” which I suspect is a polite recognition that there are less enlightened political forces back home in both capitals who aren’t quite as moved by the mountain air in Geneva to find a peaceful way forward. Senator Inhofe is surely delighted to know that Wendy Sherman thinks he has an Iranian doppelganger in a beard and turban. The parties can do their best to design a deal that cuts out the various hardliners, but I don’t think the opponents will take this quietly. A good deal is one that is robust to sabotage.
Those who do not learn from history, the saying goes, are doomed to repeat it. In this case, we cannot afford to let the Obama administration learn on the job. It is time to recognize the hard lessons of the last 20 years and apply them to this process.
We should have demanded preconditions from the Iranians before any direct meetings took place, and we can at least do so now before additional negotiations begin. We can start by reclaiming the moral high ground and demand the Iranian regime immediately and unconditionally release the three Americans they are unjustly detaining, Saeed Abedini, Amir Hekmati, and Robert Levinson. American citizens are not bargaining chips, and there should be no further discussion while they are languishing in prison.
In addition, Iran should affirm Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state. The noxious rhetoric in which Israel is referred to as a “rabid dog” that is “doomed to failure and annihilation” should be utterly unacceptable to the United States. Tolerating such verbiage on the eve of the Geneva negotiations sent a dangerous signal to Iran that the Obama administration was more eager to get a deal than to stand with Israel.
Iran will gradually shake free of sanctions and glide into a zone of nuclear ambiguity that will keep its adversaries guessing until it opts to make its capabilities known. Saudi Arabia will move swiftly to acquire a nuclear deterrent from its clients in Islamabad; Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal made that clear to the Journal last week when he indiscreetly discussed “the arrangement with Pakistan.” Egypt is beginning to ponder a nuclear option of its own while drawing closer to a security alliance with Russia.
As for Israel, it cannot afford to live in a neighborhood where Iran becomes nuclear, Assad remains in power, and Hezbollah—Israel’s most immediate military threat—gains strength, clout and battlefield experience. The chances that Israel will hazard a strike on Iran’s nuclear sites greatly increased since Geneva. More so the chances of another war with Hezbollah.
After World War II the U.S. created a global system of security alliances to prevent the kind of foreign policy freelancing that is again becoming rampant in the Middle East. It worked until President Obama decided in his wisdom to throw it away. If you hear echoes of the 1930s in the capitulation at Geneva, it’s because the West is being led by the same sort of men, minus the umbrellas.