“The West Capitulates.” That was the headline on an article by Ibrahim al-Amin, editor of the Lebanese daily al-Akbar. He elaborated: “Victors and vanquished. This is the truth of conflicts in the world since ancient times. Only those who live with their eyes closed believe conflicts end with compromises.”
Al-Akbar is an anti-American newspaper, sympathetic to Hezbollah, the terrorist militia funded and instructed by Iran. Still, can one honestly dismiss Mr. al-Amin’s analysis — and his gloating — as unjustified?
Among the facts to consider: The unsigned, non-binding “understanding” announced last week dismantles none of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure — not even Fordow, the facility built secretly and illicitly under a mountain. It does nothing to slow the Islamic republic’s development of intercontinental ballistic missiles, whose only conceivable purpose is to deliver nuclear warheads to distant targets. It does not authorize “go-anywhere-anytime” inspections — the only kind of inspections likely to uncover whatever prohibited activities Iran undertakes over the months ahead.
It doesn’t even require Iran’s rulers to stop lying — to acknowledge that their nuclear program has not been strictly for “peaceful purposes” as they have claimed. And, of course, it doesn’t address Iran’s support for terrorists, its holding of innocent Americans hostage, its power grab in Iraq, its military support for the brutal Assad dynasty in Syria and Houthi rebels in Yemen, its continuing threats to topple Arab regimes with close ties to the United States, and to “erase Israel from the map” (that is “non-negotiable,” a commander of Iran’s Basji militia declared last week) and, in due time, bring “death to America.”
In exchange for not making these concessions, Iran is to be rewarded with the lifting of the remaining economic sanctions. Already, there is disagreement over whether that is to happen immediately or only gradually in response to Iran taking verifiable steps to slow its nuclear weapons development.
If that’s not Western capitulation, it will do until the real thing comes along — the real thing being the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the final agreement that is to replace the interim Joint Plan of Action by June 30. Whether the deal gets better or worse over the weeks ahead depends on which side will have tougher and more determined negotiators. What’s your best guess?
Announcing the latest stage in the palaver, President Obama didn’t ask for applause — he demanded it. He asserted that he is bringing “a peaceful resolution to the Iranian issue.” Those who question that assertion, he said, must be opposed to peaceful resolutions, opposed to diplomacy and gung-ho for war — which he insists is the only alternative to the deal now on the table.
No member of Congress wants to be so branded — least of all Democrats who are naturally inclined to give the benefit of any doubt to a Democratic president. But they, too, are elected leaders. The branch of government they represent is co-equal to the executive. They, too, will have legacies.
If, over the weeks ahead, they understand that the agreement being finalized is likely to lead to the spread of nuclear weapons (with a serious risk that some of those nukes will end up in the hands of terrorists), that it will further fuel jihadi fires (Sunni and Shia alike), that it will heighten our enemies’ contempt for us (while further depleting our allies’ trust in us), perhaps they will act on that knowledge — even if that means displeasing Mr. Obama.
Some of them are old enough to remember this: 21 years ago, President Clinton announced the conclusion of a “framework” with North Korea, an agreement he described as “a good deal for the United States” because North Korea would henceforth be obligated to “freeze and then dismantle its nuclear program.”
“The United States and international inspectors will carefully monitor North Korea to make sure it keeps its commitments,” he vowed. North Korea’s chief negotiator, Kang Sok Ju, provided further reassurance: The agreement will resolve “all questions of the so-called nuclear weapons development by North Korea” that have raised “such unfounded concerns and suspicions.”
He added: “We have neither the intention nor the plan to develop nuclear weapons.” He was lying. And we were choosing to believe him. Today, North Korea does indeed have nuclear weapons and is building more — while also developing longer-range missiles and assisting Iran’s nuclear weapons program in ways about which we know too little.
“We will witness in the coming years more rebellion against the power of America and the West,” Mr. al-Amin declared in his article extolling Iran’s victory at the bargaining table. Do you doubt that prediction? If not, shouldn’t we be having a more vigorous debate — with members of Congress prominently included — about such threats, the world our children will inherit if our adversaries achieve their goals, and the possibility that President Obama’s faith in achieving “conflict resolution” through the pursuit of “win-win” outcomes with revolutionary theocrats is profoundly misguided?
• Clifford D. May is president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a columnist for The Washington Times.
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