Dan Gilmore / August 6, 2015

Obama’s Far Tougher on Political Opponents Than Iran

His speech Wednesday was petulant and narcissistic.

In the 1980s, the federal government’s nuclear energy program created a problem. In places like the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico, the government disposed its nuclear waste underground. Like any dump, it would eventually be sealed up and abandoned. But unlike a candy wrapper or a broken toaster, nuclear waste leaks radiation for hundreds of thousands of years before it reaches half-life. In the meantime, the government would post signs warning people away.

But what would the warning signs mean to humans 10,000 years in the future? Language evolves. Symbols change meaning. What could they use to communicate the danger that lay beneath? The urgency to warn future generations created a field called “nuclear semiotics.”

Contrast that to the flippancy with which Barack Obama approaches the Iranian deal supposedly ensuring nonproliferation of nuclear weapons.

Obama visited American University Wednesday to lobby for the Iran nuclear deal before jetting off to a Martha’s Vineyard vacation. He was ostensibly aiming to give the handful of undecided lawmakers something to think about over their August recess, but he didn’t appear to be interested in persuading anyone.

“After two years of negotiations, we have achieved a detailed arrangement that permanently prohibits Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon,” Obama said. Except his Iran deal makes two assumptions irreconcilable with human nature: That Iran doesn’t want the bomb and that weak-kneed bureaucratic oversight is a sufficient deterrent.

Iran agreed to halt nuclear research, allow some inspections and dispose of some of its nuclear reserves for 15 years in exchange for lifting the economic sanctions levied against it. Iran will receive about $150 billion in sanctions relief over the next 16 months, which the mullahs probably aren’t going to use on education or building bridges.

Obama was divisive. To him, you either favor his deal, or you want “some sort of war.” It’s “not just the best choice among alternatives,” he boasted, “this is the strongest non-proliferation agreement ever negotiated.” Thanks to him, a Nobel Peace Prize winner.

No, sanctions are the alternative, not war.

If the deal falls apart, he warned, then Iran will have no check on its development of nuclear weapons. If lawmakers approve the deal, he promised, then Iran will comply. The world will be safe, he assures. He also told us if we liked our health insurance plan we could keep it.

We certainly know what Obama thinks of the domestic dissenters to his plan. “Many of the same people who argued for the war in Iraq are now making the case against the Iran nuclear deal,” Obama said. It’s more of the politically hostile, take-no-prisoners approach we’ve come to expect from this executive. His administration will sweat it out for two years across the table from Iran, but when it comes to people that have taken the same oath of office, the knives come out.

For Obama, the debate over this deal comes down to the enlightened moderates and the extremists. “Just because Iranian hardliners chant ‘death to America’ does not mean that that’s what all Iranians believe,” he lectured. “In fact, it’s those hardliners who are most comfortable with the status quo. It’s those hardliners chanting ‘death to America’ who have been most opposed to the deal. They are making a common cause with the Republican caucus.”

Not only is this a frighteningly new rhetorical low for Obama, Charles Krauthammer explains, “what is even worse here is how delusional he is.” Obama “is pretending that those who chant death to America are some kind of KKK fringe in Iran,” Krauthammer elaborated. “The people leading the chant are the Revolutionary Guard, the army, the parliamentary leaders and of course … the supreme leader himself in a speech he made just a few days after the signing of the agreement.”

This is the best Obama the Great Orator can muster. This is the speech that is supposed to highlight his legacy and mastery of politics. Seven years from when an Illinois senator wowed audiences, he’s reduced to conniving pot shots. The peace prize winner is virtually promising war. But then again, he’s not aiming for Republican support, or even skeptical Democrats — all he needs is a third of the House and Senate to back his deal.

Obama admits his deal isn’t perfect. Israel hates it. As for the billions of dollars released after the lifting of sanctions, he concedes, “[L]et’s stipulate that some of that money will flow to activities that we object to.” That would be supporting the terrorists of Hezbollah and Syria’s Assad regime, and generally extending Iranian hegemony. But what’s funding a little terrorism when Obama’s legacy is at stake?

And, by the way, the people getting that $150 billion are the people chanting “death to America.”

While Obama was strong-arming for his deal, Michael Singh, managing director of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, was testifying to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee about it. Nuclear weapons development needs three things, Singh said: The ability to create fuel, a program to develop the weapons and a way to deliver the bomb to ground zero. Obama’s deal allows Iran to continue to enrich uranium, and it does nothing to curb the nation’s ballistic missile program. Furthermore, programs to develop the bomb “tend to be secretive by their very nature.”

Obama leaves America and the rest of the world with scant assurance that Iran will not pursue the bomb. For nonproliferation to hold, Iran has to have no desire for the weapon and the international community must be extremely vigilant for any violations.

In fact, the U.S. intelligence community says Iran is already sanitizing its military site at Parchin, a facility suspected of nuclear activity. And the State Department apparently has no idea what’s going on.

Obama made much in his speech about the courage it takes to pursue peace. But this isn’t courage; it’s the gripes and lectures of a petulant narcissist in pursuit of a legacy.

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