The Obama Administration’s disengagement from the Middle East has damaged America’s credibility and risked our security, and nowhere is that more evident than with the ongoing challenge of Iran.
For five years, Administration policies have strained relationships with key allies, contributed to instability in a region long essential to American and global security, and emboldened our nation’s adversaries. Look at Syria. After President Obama’s Syrian policy collapsed before the world’s eyes, we lost the trust of valued allies and were scorned by adversaries.
As a result, it is harder today to combat Iran’s destabilizing activities throughout the region and prevent its determined drive towards nuclear capability. Our allies who watched the United States back down in Syria worry that the credibility of our military option against Iran has been eroded, and fear he will cut a bad deal with Iran. They have good reason to worry.
The details of the interim nuclear deal reportedly offered to Iran are alarming. But even more alarming is the apparent objective of the Administration’s Iran diplomacy. The Administration doesn’t seek to end Iran’s nuclear program, but merely to stall it, even though Iran is on the threshold of acquiring a nuclear weapons capability.
The President said he will prevent Iran from acquiring a “nuclear weapon” but refuses to draw the line at a “nuclear weapons capability.” Iranian Foreign Minister said this weekend that the U.S. and its negotiating partners have not even asked Iran to suspend enrichment.
Multiple UN Security Council resolutions call for the full suspension of Iran’s nuclear enrichment activities, because the world understands that it ultimately leads to a nuclear weapon. What does it say that the UN calls for full suspension while the American President is willing to accept far less?
Any U.S. position must seek to end Iran’s nuclear program and its pursuit of a weapon outright, and make clear that the world’s most active state sponsor of terrorism, a fount of instability, and a brutal theocracy cannot and must not be trusted with the means to produce fissile material.
Administration officials say the deal will give diplomacy more time to work, and White House officials have insinuated that those who oppose this deal and support more sanctions are on a march to war. But since May 2006, the U.S. government has aggressively sought to diplomatically engage the Iranians, and since that time Iran’s centrifuges have continued to spin. Only one side has been marching to war.
An interim deal may indeed slow or halt some elements of Iran’s program. But it appears inevitable that Iran will be allowed to continue spinning some centrifuges, improving its ability to enrich uranium, the fissile material required for a bomb. It may even be allowed to continue producing new, more efficient IR-2 centrifuges. Even if it doesn’t install these new centrifuges, amassing such machines will reduce the time required for a ‘breakout’ capability. Is it worth it to put time back on the clock while Iran is acquiring the capability to more quickly take it back off?
Iran’s decades of deceit about its nuclear program cannot be ignored, and an unprecedented inspections and verification regime will be required to assure that Tehran is not cheating. If we are to trust any deal, Iran must open up completely to international inspectors and come clean on its weaponization and missile research. “Distrust and verify” must be our guiding principle.
President Obama often claims credit for the previous Iran sanctions, but now opposes more sanctions because it is a sensitive time for diplomacy. The President must recognize that it is sanctions that have brought Iran to the table and that the prospect of increased sanctions – such as the biparisan sanctions that recently passed the House of Representatives – are the key to producing any worthwhile agreement.
Obama should abandon this terrible deal with Iran. Further, rather than working to block bipartisan sanctions, the President should urge their immediate adoption in the Senate and work with America’s international partners to impose real pressure on Iran.
Iranian leaders must understand that they will risk regime-threatening pressure if they do not come into immediate compliance with the repeated demands of the UN Security Council and begin negotiating in earnest on the dismantlement of their nuclear program. Taking such steps will begin restoring America’s credibility and leadership in the Middle East, increasing our nation’s security, and that of our allies.
Eric Cantor, Majority Leader of the House of Representatives, represents Virginia’s 7th Congressional District.