Vive La France

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In physics, there is the well-known aphorism that “nature abhors a vacuum.” A vacuum has emerged in American global leadership under the Obama administration. This has been demonstrated time and time again. One flagrant case was the pusillanimous actions towards stopping the wanton killing machine in Bashar Assad’s Syria. After making impassioned speeches about the moral clarity of intervention, taking polls, realizing it is unpopular, offering to bring it to a vote before Congress, realizing there would not be the votes, U.S. President Barack Obama finally relegated that responsibility of ensuring the chemical weapons are destroyed to Russia and Iran (which is tantamount to having your child babysat by two known pedophiles).

 Also among the most glaring of cases of the Obama administration’s wholesale abandonment of the United States’ role as moral leader and credible world force include the hasty American retreat from Afghanistan and Iraq without ensuring that appropriate safeguards are in place (in Iraq, over 700 people were killed in October alone); the cancellation of the missile defense treaty that the George W. Bush administration had made with Poland and the Czech Republic; the waffling over support of the Egyptian military which have been putting down the Muslim Brotherhood; and the total abdication of the iron-clad assurances that were made under President George W. Bush in an exchange of letters with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on April 1, 2004, that Israel had the right to retain certain settlements outside the 1949 armistice lines (or pre-1967 borders).

 Beyond the void of moral, credible leadership, there appears to be an almost haphazard quality to the Obama administration’s foreign policy. Is its goal to defeat those who are at war with America and Western civilization, or is it to engender good will among them?

 Based on the polls throughout the Middle East, we are failing miserably at both objectives. Everywhere one can point to in the region, whether Egypt or Saudi Arabia, our polling numbers are plummeting.

 In my lifetime, I have never experienced such a high degree of disapproval, frustration or sheer mockery over American foreign policy. (A Western European diplomat quipped to me that “it is almost as though Toronto Mayor Rob Ford is running our foreign policy establishment.”)

 But nowhere can the disappointment be more profound than in Israel.

 In 1994, early in the Oslo years, I was speaking with a senior Israeli journalist. The Palestinian incitement to terror and violence had already begun. I wondered aloud why, since the only obligation on the Palestinians was to stop this, and Israel will be sacrificing tangible currency in return for promises that had already been proven empty, Israel was continuing on with the Oslo process. It had, after all, been sold to the Israelis and the Americans with a guarantee of reversibility (“if it doesn’t work, we can always reclaim it”).

 “I just had a high-level briefing with military intelligence headquarters,” the journalist said, “and compared with a new threat emerging out of the east, from Iran, the Palestinians pose no threat.” “Uncle Sam,” he continued, “wants us to do this deal with the Palestinians, so their incitement, their lies and their terror don’t matter. … We will need Uncle Sam’s help when it comes to a nuclear bomb, coming out of Iran.”

 In the last two decades, because of this reason, Israel has refused to blow the whistle on the wholesale violations of the Palestinians of the Oslo Accords and every subsequent agreement. By holding their tongues and making itself into a doormat for the Palestinians to walk over (and terrorize), Israel has looked like the guilty party, elevating the Palestinian Authority to higher levels in the international court of opinion.

 While doing this, Iran has advanced to the point of no return in its nuclear program. And now, when we are approaching the zero hour, where is the United States?

 Last week, Olli Heinonen, director of the International Atomic Energy Administration for 27 years, said at a Washington press conference that Iran has already passed the point of no return and that according to a recent Institute for Science and International Security report, Iran can achieve breakout in one month, and given a few hookups, can be at nuclear breakout within two weeks.

 Heinonen reported that if Iran continues to install IR-2 centrifuges, at the present rate, the breakout time could be reduced to two weeks. IR-2 centrifuges produce an average of four to five times faster output of highly enriched uranium. Iran had announced last January that it would install 3,000 1R-2 centrifuges into the facility of Natanz. Dr. Heinonen added that Iran has “passed the point of no return.”

 Yet, because of Iranian President Hasan Rouhani’s charm offensive at the United Nations earlier this fall, and a propensity for the Obama administration to confuse rhetoric with reality, the United States was all but ready to accept what Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called “a very bad deal” with Iran.

This deal would have allowed an easing up of international sanctions on Iran in return for the Islamic republic’s continuous enrichment of uranium to 3.5 percent, when they already have enough stockpiled enriched uranium at the 20% level for at least one nuclear bomb.

 Why, one wonders, does Iran need so much highly enriched uranium for “peaceful purposes”?

 Moreover, why are so many seemingly intelligent people willing to suspend their critical intellects and show the Iranians such trust?

 The very day before Rouhani left Tehran for his charm offensive at the United Nations, he was giving a speech at a military parade in which a fleet of Shahab-3 missiles that can easily reach Tel Aviv was carried by a convoy of trucks. A sign in Farsi on the first truck read, “Israel shall cease to exist.”

 Moreover, when running for president, Rouhani boasted in an interview on Iranian National Television of how he had used his skills as a nuclear negotiator as a smokescreen behind which to hide the introduction of yellowcake, of the heavy water plutonium reactor in Arak, of going from 150 centrifuges to 1,750 centrifuges.

 The Soviets had a great word for what Rouhani is doing: “doublespeak” — using words as a form of warfare to mask one’s true meaning.

 It was U.S. President Ronald Reagan who had said about the Soviets, “Trust but verify.”

 The P5+1 talks brought us perilously close to accepting a very bad deal. There was one nation, however, that refused, France. French Ambassador Laurent Fabius told French journalists, “We will not be part of a fool’s deal.”

 Nature abhors a vacuum and France has swept in to fill the vacuum in moral leadership. Vive la France!

Originally published at

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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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