Defense8 July 2015

Notes from Norm: Don’t Walk Away

At the core of Barack Obama’s view of the world of despots and tyrants is his belief that engagement is the key to changing their behavior.

It is what has led him to dismiss 50 years of oppression, repression, torture and state sanctioned murder by the Castro Regime against their own people as an impediment to normalizing relations with Cuba.

For the President burnishing his political legacy is far more important than brandishing the power of freedom and democracy in some of the most oppressive nations on Earth.

Which brings us to his obsession of engagement with Iran.  A nation that has made it clear it has no interest in being engaged, much less changing its behavior, and does pose an existential threat to our country and our allies.

In 2008 candidate Barack Obama wanted to thread the needle of his rhetoric about dealing directly with the Iranian Regime.

His attempt to suggest that, as President, he would negotiate directly with Iran without “pre-conditions” was somehow different than “unconditional” meetings is mindful of the days of Bill Clinton wanting to debate the meaning of the word “is.”

I'm not advocating for the United States to simply walk away from talks with the Iranian Regime because another deadline has been passed and ignored by both the Iranians and the President and his negotiating team.

At this point President Obama has invested far too much of America’s credibility and standing in the world to satisfy his Pollyannaish policies of engagement to simply walk away.

One should hope, however,  that before negotiations are completed the President will, at a minimum, present to the American public an agreement that will push Iran further away from building a nuclear bomb.

In doing so, have an enforceable and verifiable inspection protocol of “anytime, anyplace” inspections, that will sound the alarm if Iran cheats on its commitments. And only gradually phase out the sanctions that forced them to grudgingly pull a seat up to the negotiating table, while requiring that Iran step away from state sponsored terrorism before it receives $50 billion of frozen assets.

I am not sanguine that this is the agreement the President will deliver.  His political calculation has less to do with the strongest agreement that can protect America and its allies than it has to do with promoting and preserving his policy of engagement.

In achieving an agreement – any kind of agreement – the President will stand before the world and wax eloquent that there will be peace in our time because of his commitment to engagement with dictators and tyrants.
We’ve seen this play before and it did not end well.

Dictators and tyrants and the regimes they create and the oppression and control they exert is not intended to evolve to democracy and equality for its people.

Nor are they historically prone to enthusiastically giving up their power or their quest for conquest and dominance for the greater good of global stability.

If there had been a shred of evidence of Iran’s intentions over the past three decades to become an active member of the community of nations or any pattern of the Iranian regime living up to any past agreements to curb their behavior the President’s approach would at least be based on some amount of precedent.

In place of that precedent we are only left with the precedent of Iran not being trusted to live up to its word.  A precedent where Iran has fostered and fomented conflict throughout the world – directly and indirectly caused the death of Americans and our allies – and lied about its nuclear intentions and ambitions.

A blown deadline does not justify walking away from negotiations with Iran.

Nor should it pressure the United States to agree to a deal with Iran that does not live up to the promises the President made to us and the world that any agreement would push Iran further away from developing a nuclear bomb and making the world safer for years to come.

Hope should have never been a strategy for dealing with the tyrannical regime of Iran.

Yet, it is hope all of us should have that the President will not abandon the safety and security of the world in exchange for the preservation of his failed policy of engagement with Iran.