March 4, 2015

The Commando vs. the Community Organizer

Benjamin Netanyahu was presidential – quite a contrast to his American counterpart.

In a much-anticipated and contentious address to Congress, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday spoke bluntly about the threat posed by the Islamic Republic of Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons. He was downright presidential – something our nation has sorely lacked for the last six years.

Netanyahu’s 45-minute speech recounted Iran’s past acts of terror, its continued call for the destruction of Israel, its recent success in spreading malign influence and control through the Middle East, and its track record of cheating and lying to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Netanyahu drew a line in the sand, and Barack Obama’s response will no doubt be on the wrong side.

Indeed, Obama immediately claimed there was “nothing new” in the prime minister’s speech, and in a sense he’s right: The facts about Iran are not new, nor are they in dispute, even among those currently negotiating with Iran. The key point is that Netanyahu and like-minded people believe the deal toward which Obama is working rewards Iran with a path to nuclear weapons rather than preventing Iran from obtaining them – something even the Obama administration still says would be “unacceptable.”

Obama obviously resents that a leader of Netanyahu’s stature would attempt to upset the diplomatic apple cart by speaking the plain truth at a time when the Obama administration seems determined to ignore the truth in pursuit of a deal –any deal.

Netanyahu raised three key points that the Obama administration is loath to acknowledge: The current Iranian regime is and will always be an enemy of the United States; Iran has proven time and time again that it cannot be trusted; and this is a bad deal we are better off without. These three points are unassailable.

Here’s the most critical excerpt of the speech:

> “Don’t be fooled. The battle between Iran and ISIS doesn’t turn Iran into a friend of America.

> "Iran and ISIS are competing for the crown of militant Islam. One calls itself the Islamic Republic. The other calls itself the Islamic State. Both want to impose a militant Islamic empire first on the region and then on the entire world. They just disagree among themselves who will be the ruler of that empire. … So when it comes to Iran and ISIS, the enemy of your enemy is your enemy.

> "The difference is that ISIS is armed with butcher knives, captured weapons and YouTube, whereas Iran could soon be armed with intercontinental ballistic missiles and nuclear bombs. We must always remember – I’ll say it one more time – the greatest danger facing our world is the marriage of militant Islam with nuclear weapons. To defeat ISIS and let Iran get nuclear weapons would be to win the battle, but lose the war. We can’t let that happen.

> "But that, my friends, is exactly what could happen, if the deal now being negotiated is accepted by Iran. That deal will not prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. It would all but guarantee that Iran gets those weapons – lots of them. …

> "The foremost sponsor of global terrorism could be weeks away from having enough enriched uranium for an entire arsenal of nuclear weapons and this with full international legitimacy.”

The Iranian regime is not just a regular dictatorship that hates and fears the United States. It is not Cuba, or Venezuela, or even North Korea. The senior clerics and office-holders in Iran are not just in power to enrich themselves and kill off their political enemies (although there is plenty of that in Iran). The entire leadership chain in Iran, from Supreme Leader Khamenei down through the legislative body and the parallel body of clerics that shape policy, are all true believers in the Islamic Revolution and as such are reflexively, congenitally anti-America. The “Death to America” signs so popular in Iran are not just political theater; they express the true feelings of the hard-liners who have ruled Iran since 1979. Despite all the swooning Western media talk about current Iranian President Hassan Ruhani’s “reformist” nature, he is of a kind with Khamenei, with his predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and indeed even with Old Whiskers himself – Ruhollah Khomeini.

Regarding Iran’s trustworthiness in any deal we might reach, we have said it so many times we’ve lost count: We are in the nuclear mess with Iran precisely because it has lied, cheated and obfuscated repeatedly under the previous deal known as the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Twelve years of work through the UNSC, the P5+1, the EU-3 and the IAEA Board of Governors were all about getting Iran to meet its sworn obligations under the NPT and demonstrate it was only working on peaceful nuclear energy.

In report after report the IAEA offered the same assessment going back to 2003: “We are unable to verify that all nuclear material in Iran is in peaceful activities.” But the Obama administration tells us with a straight face that somehow Iran can be held to the terms of a new deal.

As for the deal itself, political analyst Charles Krauthammer explained that it would allow Iran to finish the work necessary for an industrial-scale nuclear complex, including all the stages of mining, converting, processing, enriching and fabricating uranium. Only the final step of weaponization is left out of this deal, and Iran’s unresolved past and present weapons-related work is one of the largest points of concern at the IAEA. In other words, with the blessing of the United States and our negotiating partners, Iran would be allowed 10 years to build up its infrastructure without fear of sanctions or other penalties, and would suffer no penalty for splitting apart the NPT. This is a bad deal, and Netanyahu is right that we are better off without it.

Netanyahu ended his speech with a familiar refrain, but one that should not be taken lightly: “The days when the Jewish people remained passive in the face of genocidal enemies, those days are over. … For the first time in 100 generations, we, the Jewish people, can defend ourselves. This is why, as a prime minister of Israel, I can promise you one more thing: Even if Israel has to stand alone, Israel will stand.”

The Israelis have watched and waited as the United States and the rest of the world tried to convince Iran to give up its nuclear ambitions, but Israel will not wait forever. If Iran is not held to its NPT obligations to verify the peaceful nature of its nuclear program, a day will come, perhaps far earlier than any of us imagine, when Israel will decide it cannot wait any longer.

Finally, a post script of sorts. House Speaker John Boehner showed leadership in inviting Netanyahu to speak. He also very appropriately presented Netanyahu with a bust of Winston Churchill. In contrast, Barack Obama came into the Oval Office in 2009 to find such a Churchill bust, given by the British to George W. Bush. Obama promptly returned it to England.

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