Five former Obama Administration officials and a host of foreign policy panjandrums have issued an open letter expressing deep reservations about shape of the emerging Iranian nuclear deal. The Financial Times reports:
The signatories include Robert Einhorn, who used to be one of the state department’s leading experts on non-proliferation, Gary Samore, who was the White House adviser on nuclear issues in Mr Obama’s first term and General James Cartwright, who became a close adviser to the president during the first term when he was vice-chairman of the joint chiefs of staff. Other signatories include Dennis Ross, a former Middle East adviser at the White House and David Petraeus, former director of the CIA. […]
The letter comes after John Kerry, secretary of state, has signalled some flexibility over the issue of how Iran might account for past research into nuclear weapons under any final deal. The US was “not fixated on Iran specifically accounting for what they did at one point in time or another,” he said last week. “What we’re concerned about is going forward.” State department officials later insisted there had been no change in the US position.
The letter argues that international inspectors need to be able to visit potentially sensitive military sites in Iran and to conduct an investigation into past work on nuclear weapons. Only once such work is completed, the letter states, should Iran gain “any significant sanctions relief”.
Success has a thousand fathers, they say, while failure is an orphan—and the Iran deal is beginning to run low on parents. The White House should pay close attention; if ex-Administration officials and people closely involved in the negotiations say the final result falls short of a minimally acceptable deal, a number of Congressional Democrats are likely to vote to kill it.
This is an extremely unusual step—not at all what people in these positions normally do. Beginning with the Kissinger-Shultz letter, more and more of the American foreign policy establishment has been voicing growing doubts about the direction of America’s Iran policy.
One wonders what it will take for Captain Ahab to turn the Pequod around. In the meantime, the longer these negotiations go on, the more combustible the regional situation gets, the more doubts spread in Europe about the wisdom of our course, and the more allies of the President express their own growing concern.
While nothing is yet written for certain, this is not what diplomatic success usually looks like. In fact, it’s hard to think of another moment in American diplomatic history in which so many warning lights from so many places have flashed so brightly.