My AmSpec Column This Week Is On Obama’s Iran Negotiations…

…and the fact he’s threatening a veto of that bipartisan bill that would kick new sanctions against Iran in should the Iranians stonewall Obama, which everyone knows they will.

“I have no illusions about how hard it will be to achieve this objective, but for the sake of our national security and the peace and security of the world, now is the time to give diplomacy a chance to succeed,” Obama said in a written statement last week that threatened a veto of the bill. “Imposing additional sanctions now will only risk derailing our efforts to resolve this issue peacefully.”

While the president is busily lauding the power of diplomacy, Iran is going in a different direction. The Iranians announced last week they’re building two new nuclear reactors, which is hardly suggestive of an intention to ramp down their program. Also last week, Iran’s news agency reported that Jason Rezaian, a Washington Post correspondent the Iranians picked up in Tehran last July, has been referred to the Revolutionary Court for “processing.” Rezaian is wasting away in an Iranian jail; his mother reports he’s lost fifty pounds and is not doing well, which makes his story reminiscent of Alan Gross’s sufferings at the hands of the Castro regime before some generous dealing by the Obama administration brought him home. Rezaian hasn’t been informed as to the charges he faces, nor has he been allowed to consult with a lawyer.

Let’s remember that the current negotiations with Iran aren’t about human rights abuses, nor do they deal with Iran’s diplomatic estrangement from other powers. The subject matter of those negotiations has to do with Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons — perhaps the gravest national-security threat America faces. What we need are two things: a demonstration that America is as resolved to stop the Iranians from getting the bomb as the Iranians are to have it, and a showing of unity among the negotiating partners on the opposite site of the table from the mullahs.

But of course Obama offers neither. He’s in the midst of an intraparty squabble with Bob Menendez, the New Jersey senator who’s bringing the Iran sanctions bill, that has gotten somewhat ugly after Obama said Menendez was motivated by “donors and others” – which is French for “Jews” – in bringing the bill.

And you can’t call Obama’s negotiating tactics resolute when Congress is offering him a “good cop/bad cop” scenario in which he tells Iran that if they don’t deal with him Congress will bring those sanctions.

I left open the intepretation for why Obama would take such a weak position – either it’s a reflection of his own weakness and incompetence as a negotiator, or something more. You’re welcome to make what you want of it.



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