The United States is hostage to Iran nuke talks

As Ed observed this morning, the biggest obstacle to a nuclear accord with Iran are the Iranians.

With the deadline for a final nuclear arrangement’s framework just hours away, the foundations of a deal seem to be forever out of reach for the P5+1 negotiators in Switzerland. No sooner does it seem like an agreement is in hand than do the Iranian negotiators return to the tables with another absurd demand that would further dilute the international community’s ability to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.

Negotiations with Iran have become more for the Obama administration than just a vehicle for preventing an Iranian nuclear breakout. White House officials have made it amply clear in private and in quotes provided to the press via unnamed officials that the president sees a nuclear deal with Iran — any deal — as a sorely needed legacy achievement.

In order to tamp down domestic opposition to a suboptimal Iran deal, the administration is now warning Americans that they essentially have an Iranian gun to their heads.

“As negotiations on a possible nuclear deal approach a March 31 deadline, U.S. officials are increasingly alarmed about Iran’s expanding military presence in Iraq — and the threat it may pose to American soldiers in the country,” Politico reported last week. “Two scenarios are of particular concern, officials say. One is that a collapse of the nuclear talks could escalate tensions between Iran and the U.S., emboldening Iranian hard-liners and potentially leading to attacks on Americans in Iraq.”

This is a particularly offensive admission. Iran was directly responsible for the deaths and injuries of hundreds of American soldiers over the course of the Iraq War, but this White House buried the hatchet with the Islamic Republic so it could rely on Tehran-allied Shiite militias to pacify Iraq. Out of convenience, the White House saw fit to overlook the fact that Iranian and American interests in Iraq were not aligned. In order to compel the nuclear deal’s domestic opponents to clam up, the White House has now taken to reminding the American public that Iran poses a military threat to U.S. interests and personnel in Iraq. How principled.

But the White House hasn’t stopped there. The administration is reportedly warning American Democrats that they are only emboldening Republicans if they continue to express apprehensions over the reported terms of a nuclear agreement with the Islamic Republic.

“In recent days, officials have tried to neutralize skeptical Democrats by arguing that opposing President Barack Obama would empower the new Republican majority, according to people familiar with the discussions,” The Wall Street Journal reported on Monday. “Meanwhile, the Obama administration has lined up Republicans to try to tamp down a likely political battle over any deal with Iran and scientists to defend an agreement on its technical merits.”

For example, White House officials have encouraged liberal groups to put U.S. lawmakers on the spot with the question: “Are you for solving this diplomatically or being forced…to war?” Ben Rhodes, one of Mr. Obama’s closest foreign-policy advisers, used those words at a January 2014 meeting with dozens of representatives from liberal political organizations, according to a transcript reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

This might be more galling than the administration’s claim that Iranian forces in Iraq could once again begin targeting U.S. troops for retaliation in the absence of a nuclear deal. The White House is reportedly prepared to cede to Iran the ability to enrich uranium at the fortified underground site at Fordow. The deterrent that would ostensibly compel Iran to decline to pursue a bomb is the fact that this site and others are supposedly still vulnerable to an attack from the air. The White House has made it perfectly clear, however, that the political will to punish Iran militarily simply does not exist. Beyond the threat of military force, which is off the table until 2017 if everyone was being honest, what other mechanisms exist that could force Iran to comply with the arrangement they agree to in Switzerland?

The Journal’s report indicates that the administration is prepared to allow Congress to buy into the deal with a nominal vote, but they have stopped short of acknowledging Congress’s authority to ratify international treaty. One could be forgiven for thinking that the White House is reserving its carrots and sticks almost exclusively for a nuclear deal’s domestic opponents. For this administration, the achievement of a deal is far more important than the terms to which all the negotiating parties agree. That’s some legacy.

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