As this column is being written the determination as to whether the administration of President Barack Obama and the leadership of Iran will strike a deal on limiting Iran’s ability to develop nuclear weapons remains undetermined. At last report Iran has refused to include its existing enriched uranium stockpiles for purpose of inspection and removal.
There will be a deal. Mr. Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry will cave on virtually every point of contention in order to “record” a deal. It has been obvious from the start that Mr. Obama and Mr. Kerry want a “deal” more than the ayatollahs who control Iran. But the “deal” is likely to trigger a backlash amongst America’s allies in the Middle East and the members of Congress (Republicans and Democrats alike).
The result internationally will likely be a greater recognition by those allies that they cannot trust or depend on the Obama Administration and a more steadfast determination to “go it alone” – much like Israel and Egypt did when they froze Mr. Kerry out of any negotiations leading to a suspension of hostilities in the latest Israeli/Hamas conflict, and Saudi Arabia did in launching attacks against the Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen. Those allies have gone well beyond recognizing that the Obama Administration will not help them in their efforts to combat Iran and the Islamic extremist to now expressing concern that Mr. Obama may actively interfere with their efforts.
The result in Congress is likely to be bi-partisan legislation requiring Mr. Obama to submit any final deal to the Congress for approval and reminding Mr. Obama that he cannot unilaterally lift sanctions against Iran previously imposed by the Congress without congressional approval. In the end, it is more than likely that Congress will refuse to ratify any deal struck by Mr. Obama.
Mr. Obama’s supporters have already warmed up their chants that any deal is better than the alternative – war with Iran. But that is just plain hooey. There are other alternatives and its Mr. Obama’s studied ignorance of economic power coupled with his inability to negotiate on the international stage that prevent us from pursuing those alternatives.
(Mr. Obama first served up his ignorance of economic policy immediately upon becoming president when he stated that his trillion dollar stimulus package would create hundreds of thousands of new jobs to mitigate the effects of the 2008 recession. He then promptly gave virtually all of that money to the public employee unions to pay for raises, gold-plated retirement plans and Cadillac health insurance plans for federal, state, and local public employees. Mr. Obama completely failed to understand that the raises and enhanced benefits for public employees not only would not “stimulate” the economy but rather would make a bad situation worse given that depleted tax revenues due to the economic downturn would in the immediate future be forced to absorb even greater costs for a now higher wage and benefits base for the public employees.)
Not a single instance in Mr. Obama’s six plus years as president has given any indication that he understands economic policy or its effect – domestically or globally. The fact that the economy, including job creation, is now staging a tepid recovery is a measure of how long the inevitable recovery was delayed by his policies. (Recessions and recovery are recurring and natural phenomena of a free market – government policy can either stimulate or repress the timeline in which they occur. Mr. Obama’s policies, like those of the socialist parties in Japan in the 1990’s have significantly repressed recovery.)
But I digress albeit as a predicate for what follows.
Great armies and sophisticated weaponry no longer singularly define the power of nations. The global economy and communications technologies have forever changed the emphasis of power. But even before the advent of these game changers, President Ronald Reagan demonstrated that economic might can crush a powerful military foe without firing a shot. Mr. Reagan used our economic might to force the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) – Russia today – into a costly “arms race” knowing full well that the United States economy could absorb it while the USSR economy could not. The inevitable happened. The Soviet economy collapsed, its satellite nations revolted in the face of economic deprivation and the communist empire disappeared.
The United States, under a series of presidents preceding Mr. Obama, imposed increasingly severe economic sanctions on Iran to penalize it for its sponsorship of international terrorism and its continuing pursuit of nuclear weapons and delivery systems. Even Mr. Obama signed a Republican backed increase in economic sanctions under the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act of 2010. The sanctions worked although they would have worked better and more decisively had they been imposed earlier and more compactly. Iran’s economy was in freefall. So much so that Iran agreed to negotiations on its nuclear program in exchange for an easing of sanctions to which Mr. Obama agreed – his first economic mistake and a reminder of his inability to negotiate from a position of strength.
Mr. Obama and Mr. Kerry have clearly demonstrated that a deal – any deal – with Iran is more important to them than it is to the ayatollahs. Mr. Obama believes that any deal will cement his legacy as the “peace president” and Mr. Kerry, having been repeatedly denied his quest for the presidency, covets a Nobel Peace prize which he believes – probably rightly so – will be granted upon signing an agreement. So anxious are they for such a deal, that they have ignored the most potent weapon available to bolster the opportunity for a deal that will foreclose Iran’s nuclear weapons ambitions – increased economic sanctions.
Had Mr. Obama refused to ease up the economic and trade sanctions with Iran, and in fact strengthened those sanctions, Iran’s economy would now be on life support. Its citizenry would be in open revolt. The ayatollah’s of Iran would face the unhappy choice of acceding to dismantling Iran’s nuclear program or losing power to a citizenry tired of economic deprivation and unimpressed with the idea that Iran should possess nuclear weapons and delivery systems.
It is not too late. Mr. Obama could walk away from the talks and immediately reimpose and strengthen sanctions – the Republican Congress would support him in an instant. But he won’t because it will cost him his “legacy.” But that “legacy” will likely land him a place in history adjacent to Neville Chamberlain. And while Mr. Chamberlain’s legacy is based on his naivete when dealing with despots (Hitler and Mussolini), Mr. Obama’s will couple naivete with economic ignorance.