The Veneer of Civilization

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Throughout the negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program, U.S. President Barack Obama frequently stated that “no deal is better than a bad deal” and that “all options are on the table.”

And then, on April 2, after a framework agreement was concluded in Lausanne, Switzerland (but without even a piece of paper to wave, Neville Chamberlain-like), Obama said, “Do you really think that this verifiable deal, if fully implemented … is a worse option than the risk of another war in the Middle East?”

As soon as the choice was altered from “a good deal or no deal” to “either this deal or war,” we witnessed a sudden surge in Iranian swagger and bravado, in both their words and their actions.

On May 7, Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Deputy Commander Brig. Gen. Hussein Salami told Fars television: “We welcome war with the United States, as we do believe that it will be the scene for our success, to display the real potential of our power. We have prepared ourselves for the most dangerous scenarios, and this is no big deal.”

On May 12, Mojtaba Zolnour, a member of the IRGC and a close personal friend of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, said: “The government of the Islamic Republic of Iran has divine permission to destroy Israel. The noble Quran permits the Islamic republic to destroy Israel. Even if Iran gives up its nuclear program, it will not weaken this country’s determination to destroy Israel.”

This Iranian saber rattling has been accompanied by renewed provocations. On April 28, in the Strait of Hormuz — a major oil route — an Iranian crew commandeered the Maersk Tigris, a cargo ship flying under the flag of the Marshall Islands, a U.S. protectorate. They held the ship for six days before releasing it and its crew members. And just a few days after that, Iranian gunboats opened fire on the Alpine Eternity, a Singaporean-flagged ship, and tried to force it into Iranian territorial waters.

The more the U.S. treats Iranians with kid gloves so as not to offend them and to keep them at the negotiating table, the more the Iranians feel a renewed sense of triumph, and disdain toward the United States and its allies. (One would think the Americans were the ones who needed sanctions lifted to help our ailing economy).

On May 6, Jason Rezaian, a Washington Post reporter who has been held in an Iranian prison since July 2014, was charged with espionage. This trumped-up charge was a direct rebuke to the United States, demonstrating just how much contempt the Iranians have for the U.S. It is clear that the Iranians believe that we are determined to give them their cake, and to let them eat it, too. And like a spoiled child in the midst of a temper tantrum, the more we give the Iranians, the more they demand.

The sad fact is that the American negotiating team is basing its entire strategy on little more than wishful thinking. While visiting Beijing at the weekend, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said that a deal with Iran “will have a positive influence on North Korea” (although he did add that he wasn’t sure that the North Koreans were capable of “internalizing the message”). One wonders whether the secretary of state also believes in unicorns and fairies.

History indicates that the nuclear negotiations with North Korea were precisely what led to their possession of a nuclear bomb. It is actually the Iranians who have taken note and learned from the North Koreans, and not the other way around.

It has become increasingly obvious that the Obama administration does not know how to negotiate. It seems that they are intent on making a deal, any deal, with the Iranians. And the more they grovel, the more contemptible the United States becomes in the eyes of the Iranians.

That is why the United States Senate needs to hold a free and open debate on the details of the negotiations. Over the last two weeks, the leadership of both the House and the Senate did no one any favors by putting the Iran Nuclear Review Act of 2015 (Corker-Cardin) on the suspension calendar. This means it requires a straight up or down vote, with no room for attaching amendments or for discussion.

The real danger in the Iran Nuclear Review Act of 2015 is that it has turned this negotiation, which has the standing of an international arms treaty, into a bill that would require a veto-proof majority to block. That means that it will become law even if only 34 Senate Democrats support it. While a treaty requires a positive action of two-thirds of the Senate to approve it, now it will take two-thirds of the Senate to veto it, which is much more difficult to achieve, particularly during the immediate aftermath of a euphoric deal-signing ceremony, probably on the White House Lawn, replete with lofty speeches of “peace in our time.”

The framers of the Constitution were prescient when they required two-thirds of the Senate to ratify a treaty. And these negotiations are nothing short of a nuclear arms treaty that will impact the order of the world for generations to come.

When the final deal is signed on June 30, the U.S. Senate must insist that it has the international standing of a treaty and demand that if it does not have the support of 67 senators, it is null and void.

In the meantime, those congressmen and senators who want to pretend that they are attentive to the genuine concerns of the Saudis, the Israelis and patriotic Americans wary of the Iranian negotiations, are now able to hide behind the Iran Nuclear Review Act, this piece of paper that they recently signed.

As the late Congressman Tom Lantos — the only Holocaust survivor in the U.S. House of Representatives — was fond of saying, “The veneer of civilization is paper thin.”

Originally published at Israel Hayom:

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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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