Opinion | Morgan Liddick: Iran deal lacks trust from all sides
On Your Right
“For the second time in our history, a British prime minister has returned from Germany bringing peace with honor. I believe it is peace for our time.”
-Neville Chamberlain, Sept. 30, 1938
“The Iran negotiations have succeeded exactly as intended. It is a good deal.”
-Barack Obama, April 2, 2015
After being shown for 18 months that Barack Obama has no use for “red lines” when they demand a forceful response to international thuggery, we now understand he doesn’t much like deadlines, either. After almost two years of haggling with what his own administration identifies as the world’s worst state sponsor of terrorism, our inept negotiator-in-chief and his cadaverous secretary of state violated the supreme law of the bazaar: one can’t be afraid to get up and walk away. Instead, the United States remained at the negotiating table well past the deadline for an agreement with Iran over its nuclear program. We remained there after our partners’ principle negotiators went home. We remained after France complained privately that we had given too much away. France. We remained and were rewarded with a flimsy framework of nebulous goals which are already starting to unravel as the Iranians accuse our administration of lying outright about its intent and meaning. We remained, and now Tehran owns the White House. The mullahs understand that whatever they demand will ultimately be accepted, because this president has decided he must have this deal at all costs.
In addition to willful failure to understand one’s opponents, there’s ego. With Obamacare poised on the precipice, our foreign policy in tatters and our international leadership a laughingstock, our economic recovery only looking lively in comparison with the zombie economies of our trading partners, this president must have his legacy. So: the first American-Iranian agreement in 37 years; historic just for being accomplished. But “historic,” like “change,” can be either positive or negative. Ask the Czechs about Chamberlain’s “historic” accord.
The fundamental problem with these negotiations, with this “framework,” with this whole sordid affair is not how many Iranian centrifuges will be left spinning. Nor where their enriched uranium ends up. Nor how many inspections will occur where with what schedule and by whom. The fundamental problem, especially on our side of the table, is trust. With it, almost any negotiation, no matter how complex or difficult, can succeed. Without it, negotiating the price of a wooden chair faces enormous obstacles.
Should the West, and especially the United States, trust Iran? They have violated agreements in the past. They have sought to hide nuclear facilities, to erase the tracks of dual-purpose programs, to obfuscate both their intentions and their progress. Internationally, they are among the worst of the world’s bad actors and they support many who are only slightly less bad than they. Bashir Assad, for one. So “because we say so” should not be acceptable, no matter how hard the Obama administration pushes to make it so. But there is a far more concerning lack of trust — one that threatens not only to undermine these negotiations, but the foundations of our government.
Sen. Tom Cotton drafted a letter on this process, which was not the best of ideas: negotiating of treaties is the executive’s business. But he did so out of a feeling of unease with a president who has been less willing to negotiate with his political opponents than he is with rogue regimes like Iran. Unease with an administration whose departments have been used political purposes, which may have gotten diplomats killed, which has taken many unilateral actions, some with extensive and lasting effects, without so much as consultation with Congress. And destroyed evidence and lied about it when questioned. Sen. Cotton does not trust the president, who promises that sanctions on Iran would be lifted — agreeing with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, but not with Secretary of State Kerry, who noted that lifting sanctions “remains to be negotiated.”
Sen. Cotton’s colleagues do not trust, either. Nor, apparently, do the American people: In recent polls more than 70 percent said that negotiations would have little effect on Iran’s nuclear weapons program; more than 60 percent said Iranian leaders can’t be trusted and an equal number said Congress, not the president, should have the final say on any such deal.
In any negotiation, trust is a vital element. It is especially so in the powder keg on a highwire between two rickety towers over a shark-filled pool that is the Middle East. So perhaps before crowing and strutting as he did last Thursday, the president ought to sit down and ask himself why so many people don’t trust him with the task. And then, do something about it.
Calling them a bunch of racists won’t work. It’ll need to be something real this time.
Morgan Liddick writes a weekly column for the Summit Daily News.
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