The Deal With Iran: A Turning Point, Yes, But Toward What?
Published on: November 25, 2013
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  • Ooga Booga

    Anyone who supports this deal is either a) a total sucker, or b) basically okay with Iran getting the bomb. It really is as simple as that.

  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    The incompetent Obama strikes again. We are the Great Satan to Iran, they will never honor any agreement with us, and are going to be already cheating. Our only hope now is that Israel and Saudi Arabia can come to an agreement, which allows Israel to bomb Iran’s soft target energy industry, and put Iranians on foot and in the dark.

    • Bruce

      VM was quite astute in expressing skepticism based on past agreements with unreliable counterparties. It seems unfathomable that a country whose leaders believe in the 12th Imam will honor their agreements. Allah accepts lying if it furthers the cause.

  • Holme

    Look, I can understand a Rand-Paul-like neo-isolationist policy. I disagree with it, but I can understand its internal logic and appeal. But throwing our allies under the bus in order to chase warmer relations with Khomeinist “Death to America” Iran? What on Earth is this Administration *thinking*?

    I suspect this is what lies behind the Israeli and Saudi reactions; not anger at our stabbing them in the back, but stunned disbelief at our stabbing ourselves in the back.

    (A commenter here was fond of the famous Bernard Lewis quote (attributed to a Turkish general): “The problem with having the Americans as your allies is that you never know when they’ll turn around and stab themselves in the back.”)

    It might also be tempting to put the Middle East on the back burner (except for the Palestinian issue, of course; that is the world fulcrum, after all) in favor of a “pivot to Asia,” but is this kind of Middle East policy likely to inspire confidence in the US among Asian countries?

  • qet

    Ah, Via Meadia would feel right at home in 1938. That’s not intended as an insult. The British and French people really really did not want a war–another war–with Germany then, what with the wounds from the first still suppurating. Only in hindsight was it absolutely irrefutably unarguably indisputably crystal clear as an unmuddied lake or an azure sky in deepest summer that Hitler was bent on making war on Europe. So that it was not only easy but necessary, after nearly 6 years and 20-40 million dead (and that just in Europe/USSR) to say that OF COURSE the Brits and French ought to have sent in the divisions as soon as Hitler marched into the Rhineland. Sure, there were skeptics in 1938 and they turned out to be right, but history would never have verified their rightness had Britain preempted Hitler. So this is all to say that there is absolutely no way whatsoever of knowing the truth of the possible bad outcome to this treaty nonsense with sufficient force to overcome the political inertia of the mass of Americans who just want to be left in peace to watch the next episodes of Homeland and American Horror Story and watch Kim and Kanye videos.

  • Corlyss

    “American negotiators have a long and virtually unbroken record in such cases of bringing home carefully worded agreements, hammered out in difficult meetings—that somehow don’t stop the onward march of nukes.”

    But, like the ever-verdant periodic scramble for a “solution to the Palestine-Israeli conflict,” the nuclear negotiations serve their intended purpose, i.e., to divert attention from a besieged President and his domestic woes. It’s the same deal here. Obama, desperate to change the subject from the nation’s consequentially worst entitlements legislation since Social Security has focused like a laser on giving the Iranians everything they wanted for nothing in return just so he could proclaim “peace in our time.” God save us from this man, because it doesn’t look like the voters or the Republicans are smart enough to.

    If some kind of signed treaty is the result, watch for the new Senate rules to be deployed in support of it. Thanks, Harry Reid. Pat Caddell says Reid was “under orders” from Obama to get this rule change done. It won’t seem such a puzzlement to OBs (outside the beltway-ers) when the treaty comes up. Ditto climate change treaties/legislation. Like Caddell says, this president intends to rule by fiat and goodbye rule of law even more so than Obama has already destroyed the concept.

  • Anthony

    “The internet is packed with arm chair disarmament experts who’ve never visited a nuclear plant much less a bomb factory and they are ready, willing and, sort of, able to provide instant responses to a deal most of them know very little about.” Point taken, but this is WRM after all just an interim agreement (confidence building steps that would lead to a more substantive long-term deal – ideally), not a treaty; and it expires in six months so the arm chairs are… Carping someone once said is easy.

    More to the point: “a group of countries is beginning to mount what is developing into an organize campaign against the present world order….” An insightful mentor has said that ‘power’ is simultaneously fought on a wide variety of platforms and that there is incessant scrambling by nations and coalitions; both hoisting themselves aboard and heaving others overboard from all heights and angles. His intent being a nation/country of power must coil itself omnidirectionally and acknowledge that dissembling is here to stay (professionals of power are well versed in all its variants); and to expect foul play – an inning ends but the game of power goes on. It is the ending that counts.

    • Corlyss

      “An insightful mentor”
      Who was that? Does he have further useful insights?

      • Anthony

        Former instructor now personal friend and retiree as well as World War II vet (among other things). Thanks, Corlyss.

  • Corlyss

    Lee Smith:

    “However, it is only in the last few days with reports of secret U.S.-Iran talks conducted behind the backs of U.S. allies that we understand to what extent Obama abandoned the traditional regional order. Again, it’s useful to consider the White House’s Syria policy, not least because this has been Tehran’s key battleground for the last two and a half years. Accordingly, Obama saw Syria not in terms of how the outcome might affect traditional allies, but primarily in light of how it might affect his negotiations with Iran.

    “If some administration officials believed Obama seemed “impatient or disengaged” during deliberations on Syria policy, that’s only evidence that they hadn’t been clued in yet regarding the White House’s secret Iran talks. Discussions about arming the Syrian rebels or striking Assad were irrelevant because Obama’s mind had been made up long before. Similarly, it’s now clear that the so-called “walk-and-talk” in the Rose Garden where Obama ostensibly changed his mind after bouncing ideas off of White House chief of staff Denis McDonough was nothing but a clever piece of stagecraft out of The West Wing. There was never any chance Obama was going to strike Assad because he feared that targeting an Iranian ally, one in whom Tehran had invested men, weapons and money to ensure his survival, might anger his negotiating partner.”

  • wigwag

    Reading Professor Mead’s post I could not help but be reminded of Gibbons admonition that “the shores of history are strewn with the wrecks of Empires.” Perhaps Mark Twain came even closer to the point when he suggested that “empires like fish, rot from the head down.”

    What is remarkable to me is that we may be in the middle of a world-changing moment and nobody is even noticing; its a moment that might be as calamitous as the collapse of the British Empire yet Americans are too distracted by Obamacare, the Snowden revelations and other things that are, by historical standards trivial, to pay any attention.

    The whole thing is a tragedy and Professor Mead is right; the perpetrators of the disaster can be found in both political parties. Republican neoconservatives and Democratic liberal internationalists are both equally culpable. So are leftist isolationists and their doppelgangers; far right Tea Party crackpots.

    What Professor Mead alludes to but doesn’t come right and say is that the interim accords signed in Geneva are not important for what they tell us about Iran or its race for a nuclear weapon; it’s what the accords say about the United States that really matters.

    What should we conclude about our country when an American President is willing to acquiesce to the appointment of Baroness Catherine Ashton of Upholland as the lead negotiator for the P5+1 in a matter so important that the future of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East might depend on it? Did President Obama really believe that the thought of facing Lady Ashton across the negotiating table would send chills up the spines of her Iranian interlocutors?

    And what of the P5+1 process itself? Since when does the world’s only superpower contract out negotiations over an issue as important as nuclear proliferation in the Middle East to a bunch of keystone cops?

    Has the west ever been represented by a more feckless set of diplomats? Did President Obama really believe that the Chinese and Russians had the same ambitions for the negotiations as the British, French, German and Americans?

    In watching the news coverage from Geneva, I couldn’t help but notice that the most dangerous place in the world was between the various ministers and a microphone; this was especially true for Secretary of State Kerry.

    The one exception was the Chinese representative; he never said a thing; he was inscrutable throughout. Why wouldn’t he be? From his perspective all of the outcomes were equally positive; his country couldn’t lose.

    Professor Mead misses the mark when he says,

    “It may seem odd that China, in most ways the most formidable of the revisionist powers, has had so little success. The reason is simple: The United States under President Obama remains engaged in Asian geopolitics while it cares little for the ex-Soviet space and is more eager to exit the Middle East than to dampen its conflicts.”

    China’s failures In Asia stem far more from its own clumsy attempts to bully its neighbors than from anything that the United States has done.

    Japan isn’t Saudi Arabia; it has the third largest economy on the planet; it doesn’t need to rely solely on the United States to safeguard its interests. The Japanese don’t need to buy a nuclear weapon. They could build one in the time it takes Professor Mead to take the train from Poughkeepsie to Grand Central Station.

    The South Koreans aren’t the resource wealthy but otherwise ingenuity-bereft Gulf Arabs; nor are they a tiny nation like Israel despised by every single neighbor. They are capable of standing up for themselves. The same is true for Singapore, Taiwan and India. While they will all welcome American military backing, you can count on the fact that they will take heed of the experience of America’s erstwhile Middle East allies. If and when the going gets tough, they will know exactly what to expect from the United States.

    While it hasn’t been commented upon a lot, it is also remarkable what the negotiations about Iran have revealed about American politics. What are we to make of it when Thomas Friedman, one of the most famous columnists in the United States, takes to the pages of the New York Times to accuse politicians who oppose the Administration’s approach to Iran of doing so only to appease the Jews?

    That’s exactly what Friedman did just last week. He said,

    “…never have I seen more lawmakers — Democrats and Republicans — more willing to take Israel’s side against their own president’s. I’m certain this comes less from any careful consideration of the facts and more from a growing tendency by many American lawmakers to do whatever the Israel lobby asks them to do in order to garner Jewish votes and campaign donations.”

    Is this is what it has come to? The only possible reason to oppose Obama’s Iran policy is the need that politicians have to genuflect to the Jews? Lindsay Graham opposes the Administration on Iran; how many Jews does Friedman think live in South Carolina? Does he really think that even if they voted for Graham (which they won’t) that it will be enough to swing the election his way?

    Charles Schumer, who is Jewish himself, opposes the Obama approach to Iran; does Friedman really believe that in his heart of hearts Schumer thinks Obama has it right but that the Senator is so cowardly that he would rather genuflect to Jewish money?
    What the Iran imbroglio has revealed about the sentiments of the American left is as ugly as it is dispiriting.

    Of course, none of this should be surprising, long before the New York Times suborned hatemongering, we witnessed the same kind of appalling spectacle on American campuses. A perfect example was provided just this week at the campus where Professor Mead works.

    Bard has partnered with Al Quds University in Jerusalem to issue joint degrees to Palestinian students. Just this past week, Islamic Jihad held a demonstration on the Al Quds campus where students carried mock firearms, wore hoods, gave fascist style salutes and shouted “death to America” and “death to Israel.”

    Brandeis is also a partner with Al Quds and when its President asked the Al Quds president for an explanation, the famous “moderate” head of Al Quds, Sari Nusseibeh responded,

    “…some people capitalize on events in ways that misrepresent {Al Quds} as promoting inhumane, anti-Semitic, fascist and Nazi ideologies. Without these ideologies there would not have been the massacre of Jewish people in Europe; without the massacre there would not have been the enduring Palestinian catastrophe.”

    This was enough to placate Bard President, Leon Botstein who has a history of tolerating rapidly anti-Israel activities on his campus. If Botstein was troubled by hooded Palestinian students glorifying suicide bombers and giving Nazi-style salutes, you wouldn’t know it. Or maybe Botstein just didn’t wanted to antagonize George Soros who is funding the partnership. That would be the same George Soros who, when asked in a 60 minutes interview about whether he felt guilty about escaping Auschwitz when so many Jews perished, admitted that he couldn’t summon up any sympathy at all.

    I can’t help but wonder whether President Botstein would have adopted the same lackadaisical attitude if instead wearing black hoods the Al Quds demonstrators had been wearing white gowns and instead of giving the Nazi salute, the demonstrators had been burned a cross.

    While the Iran imbroglio and the Bard affair may seem unrelated; they’re not. They reveal that the American left has taken a very dark turn; few people seem to notice, few people seem to care. Even those who might be expected to care are apt to get annoyed if this reality is pointed out; its simply to enervating.

    During his only term in office, Jimmy Carter gave a famous speech decrying American malaise. What he failed to recognize was that he was the cause of that malaise. We are now suffering through another period of malaise and President Obama, with a lot of help from his predecessor, inspired it.

    There was a time that I hated Ronald Reagan. It is painful for me to admit that our country is desperately in need of another Ronald Reagan. In President Obama we’ve found the second coming of Carter.
    Is there another Reagan out there?

    If there is, I don’t see her.

    • Ooga Booga

      This might be your best (and most depressing) comment yet wigwag

      • wigwag

        Thanks Ooga Booga. I do find the whole thing quite dispiriting.
        When the news gets too depressing, I usually try to cheer myself up by reflecting on the words of Robert E. Lee,

        “The march of Providence is so slow, and our desires so impatient; the work of progress is so immense and our means of aiding it so feeble; the life of humanity is so long, that of the individual so brief, that we often see only the ebb of the advancing wave and are thus discouraged. It is history that teaches us to hope.”

    • Ooga Booga

      For a supposed “moderate”, Sari Nusseibeh has been very supportive of the “One State Solution” in recent years. (Of course you can find some people on the Israeli right with similar positions– but no one in American academia would consider them “moderate.”)

  • Mark Mazer

    Just one word: ZUGZWANG

  • Am I wrong to remember, Professor Mead, that you wrote a year or two ago that you were confident that President Obama would not let go Iran nuclear? Well, most Israeli observers agree with the view expressed by one official, that “Obama established Iran as a nuclear threshold state”. Of course, Obama can rest easy, because with this agreement, it’s likely that Iran will come out with its first nuke when he’s already out of office — but I sure hope that at least history will blame him for failing to stop a power-hungry fundamentalist Islamic theocracy from getting nukes.

    • wigwag

      “…but I sure hope that at least history will blame him for failing to stop a power-hungry fundamentalist Islamic theocracy from getting nukes.” (Petra Marquardt-Bigman)

      History is written by the winners, Petra. It will depend on who wins.

  • Anthony

    “The blockbuster nuclear deal reached early Sunday morning in Geneva between Iran and the U.S.-led coalition is both less and more consequential than early reports.” For less passionate and altering of perspective (stretching Iran’s potential breakout time), see

  • Atanu Maulik

    “China is pushing against the territorial status quo from the mountain passes of Andhra Pradesh to the rocky islets of the East and South China seas”_____A small correction, it will be Arunachal Pradesh.

  • This deal falls short of the verified suspension and dismantling of Iran’s nuclear weapons program. It allows Tehran to retain and continue developing its fissile material production capability and its delivery systems and effectively grant it a pass on its weaponization-related activities. It puts Iran’s leaders in a
    position to rapidly cross the nuclear threshold at a time of their choosing and it should be recognized for the bad deal that it is.

  • This blog is a bit too Zionist for my blood. My natural father was Jewish and I am adopted, but most people with half a brain view Netanyahu’s failure to attend the Mandela funeral as nothing more than racism, by another apartheid leader.

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