WEINSTEIN: Obama acting like weak power in Iran negotiations

Jamie Weinstein Senior Writer
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Here’s a thought: If we’re starting negotiations to eliminate Iran’s nuclear program cowering in fear that Iran will walk away from the table, we’re probably not negotiating from a position of strength.

America’s interim deal with Iran went into effect over the weekend, giving the U.S. and other so-called world powers six months to negotiate a deal to end Iran’s nuclear weapons program. There is good reason to be skeptical that Iran would ever negotiate away its nuclear weapons program — which it denies even having — but given the Obama administration’s claim that sanctions brought Iran to the table, wouldn’t the prospect of more sanctions if a deal does not materialize provide even greater incentive for Iran to capitulate?

You would think so, but President Barack Obama is adamantly opposed to a Senate bill co-sponsored by Republican Sen. Mark Kirk and Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez that would impose further sanctions on Iran if the Islamic Republic doesn’t come to an acceptable agreement with the U.S. on its nuclear program. The bill, so far backed by 59 Senate Republicans and Democrats, has sent the Obama administration into a tizzy. The president has pledged to veto it. Administration officials say those who support it are essentially warmongers — in contrast, of course, to the president, who says he only wants to “give peace a chance.”

The administration’s desire to not hurt Iran’s feelings can be contrasted with the Iranian leadership’s complete disregard for America’s feelings. As Noah Pollack documented in The Weekly Standard, over the last several weeks, the Iranians have been sticking it to America. Their terrorist proxy Hizballah killed a pro-American Lebanese politician two days after Christmas. Iranian foreign minister Javed Zarif recently placed a wreath on the tomb of Imad Mugniyeh, the late Hizballah leader who purportedly masterminded the 1983 Beirut barracks terrorist bombing that killed nearly 250 American servicemen. Last week in a speech, Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei referred to America as “Satan” and led the crowd in “Death to America” chants.

The administration is so mindful about not hurting the feelings of Iran’s leadership, but how about demanding the Islamic Republic’s leadership act similarly? Shouldn’t Iran be worried that the world’s only superpower might walk away from the table? They certainly don’t seem to be, perhaps because they believe President Obama is desperate to get any nuclear deal, no matter how bad, so he can pretend to have solved the issue to the American public.

Now it is true the Iranian foreign minister has threatened to walk away from the table if new sanctions are passed. “We do not like to negotiate under duress,” he declared in December. But that’ nonsense. The only way Iran would ever possibly consider giving up their nuclear weapons program is under duress. As we know, the last time Iran slowed down its nuclear program was in 2003, right after the U.S invaded Iraq, when Iran feared it could be next.

If the U.S. wants to succeed diplomatically, President Obama should privately make clear to the Iranian leadership that they are more than free to walk away from the negotiation table if they want. But peacefully or less-than-peacefully, we intend to see the Iranian nuclear issue resolved to our satisfaction.

This is how a country as strong as the United States should act in the face of such a threat from a country like Iran. But it is almost certainly not how a country led by Barack Obama will act.

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