Who Changed the Rules?

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The November 24 deadline on nuclear talks between Iran and Western powers has come and gone. It comes as absolutely no surprise to anyone following the talks that this deadline was met with yet another deadline: July 1, 2015. As someone who cares deeply about the U.S., I am profoundly disgusted with the way the Iranian mullahs played the U.S. and the other P5+1 nations (U.K., France, Russia, China and Germany) like a fiddle, and the way the Obama administration elevated Iran to the level of an equal negotiating partner. I am equally revolted with the fact that President Barack Obama wrote a “secret letter” to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei saying that we share key interests in fighting the Islamic State group, once again elevating their national stature.

Iran’s record of human rights violations should have made it a pariah among nations long ago. In Iran, women are executed for being raped, acid is routinely thrown into the faces of women who are not adequately covered by their hijabs or chadors, political dissidents and religious minorities are routinely imprisoned, tortured and hanged. In fact, since President Hassan Rouhani, perceived as a moderate, took office 14 months ago, the number of hangings of dissidents has only increased — at least 936 executions.

Our own State Department has long listed Iran as the nation most responsible for the funding of global terrorism, including Hezbollah, Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah and many Shiite Hezbollah spin-offs such as Saraya al Kabar in Bahrain, and Hezbollah al-Abrar in Iraq. Speaking of Iraq, many of American servicemen have come back without limbs or in body bags because of Iranian-made improvised explosive devices with Farsi imprinted on them.

Yet, the Iranians, who invented the Persian bazaar, are nothing if not clever negotiators. They know that under Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran’s candid, straight-shooting former president, their economy was suffocating. They wanted to put an end to the sanctions that strangled their economy, and they wanted to have their yellowcake and eat it, too. Blunt declarations like “we will wipe Israel off the map” from the former Iranian president were not helping their dire economic situation.

So, as you recall, the mullahs, who are really the ones in control, presented the kinder, gentler face of the relatively unknown Rouhani. When Rouhani came to the United Nations in September 2013, he sounded as moderate as Mahatma Gandhi or Martin Luther King Jr. Obama practically groveled to have a face-to-face meeting with him while he was in New York and was overjoyed when the Iranian president deigned to take a phone call.

Rouhani’s history is not that of a “moderate.” He expressed support for the 1979 seizure of the American Embassy, for the use of terrorism against Americans, and for the fatwa against Salman Rushdie. He participated in the planning of the 1984 bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires that killed 84 people. But that shouldn’t interfere with Obama’s perception of him as a “moderate.”

This is the problem that comes with defining diplomacy as the one panacea to remedy all global ills. We tend to willfully blind ourselves to evidence that doesn’t fit our paradigm.

As long as negotiations are ongoing, the Iranians are laughing all the way to the bank. The sanctions relief that the Obama administration insisted on has injected a surge of anywhere from $11 billion to $20 billion into their economy. As is frequently said in Washington, it was the sanctions that initially brought the Iranians to the table. It is true that they came to the table, but were they negotiating in good faith or using their negotiations simply as a way to rid themselves of the crippling sanctions? And what leverage do we have with them now?

Aside from that, the administration was so gleeful that the Iranians actually deigned to speak with them that the U.S. initially released $8 billion in Iranian assets frozen during the 1979 Islamic revolution. Then, when the first four month extension was decided upon, the U.S. released another $2.8 billion in frozen assets. After the second extension Iran was to be given another $700 million per month in released frozen assets, just for remaining at the table.

It might have well been worth it if the Iranians had ceased all work on their nuclear project. But how much progress has been made in the cessation of their nuclear program, and did they change the rules or did we? When Obama was running for president in 2008, and spoke to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee policy conference, he emphatically stated that “all options are on the table,” meaning that if diplomacy and sanctions don’t work, America would utilize the military option. Does anyone believe that now?

The Joint Plan of Action, which was signed with much fanfare in Nov. 2013, allowed the Iranians to continue enriching uranium to a certain degree of purity. That was the first in a long cascade of concessions. It has been estimated that it would take just one to two months for additional enrichment to arrive at the purity levels required for a nuclear bomb. The deal ignored Iran’s other path toward a nuclear bomb — plutonium — and the heavy-water plutonium enrichment facility in Arak. The P5+1 nations totally ignored the fact that wile Iran was asked to limit its work on advanced centrifuges, 5,000 new ones were installed in the past year. The P5+1 nations also ignored the fact that Iran was capped at selling no more than one million barrels of oil a month. When Iran violated the cap, there was not a word from the White House or the other negotiating partners. Nor was there a word about the fact that the International Atomic Energy Administration was not allowed in for inspections. And most importantly: Why have we totally ignored the ballistic missiles program — the delivery mechanism for an Iranian nuclear bomb?

It is no surprise that after the JPA was signed, Rouhani tweeted, “In #Geneva agreement, world powers surrendered to Iran’s national will.” It is also no surprise that Khamenei said after the negotiations failed to achieve an agreement last month, “I do not disagree with the extension of the negotiations, as I have not disagreed with negotiations in the first place.”

This is no way to negotiate. This is appeasement. And as Sir Winston Churchill once said, “An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping he will eat him last.”

Sarah N. Stern is the founder and president of the Endowment for Middle East Truth, a pro-Israel and pro-American think tank and policy shop in Washington.

Article originally appeared at https://www.israelhayom.com/site/newsletter_opinion.php?id=10823

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About the Author

Sarah Stern
Sarah Stern is founder and president of the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET).

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