Fair and Unbalanced

Mike Littwin

"The pump don't work 'cause the vandals took the handles."

Littwin: A pretty big deal

Littwin: A pretty big deal

OK, the deal is not perfect. That’s what the experts say anyway. It’s not even a deal yet, although the way to bet is that what is now being called a “framework” will become one eventually.

Barack Obama took to the Rose Garden to call the nuclear deal with Iran “good,” which was just the restrained language he needed, although he also called it “historic.”

A deal with Iran — a successful deal, anyway — would be Obama’s greatest foreign policy achievement. But it was not the time to oversell. It was not — in one enduring lesson of Iraq — the time to claim any missions had been accomplished. What Obama did claim — and what is difficult to refute — is that the deal was better than anyone, including his congressional critics in both parties, could have expected.

The only way to reject this Iran deal out of hand now is to reject any deal with Iran out of hand.

That’s why the critics have been so muted. No enriched uranium for 10 years. Inspections for as long as 25 years. A deal more comprehensive than expected. A deal more detailed than expected. It could all fall apart by June, but the only way to reject this deal out of hand now is to reject any deal out of hand.

No one expected John Kerry to come back with so much detail — on verification, on reducing centrifuges, on the diminished nuclear plant in Arak, on the halt of uranium enrichment at Fordo, on the snapback of sanctions if Iran breaks the agreement, on the 10-year sunset that isn’t a 10-year sunset. The details help make Obama’s case that if Iran cheats, the world will know, and if the world knows, it would take a year before Iran could make a bomb. As of today, the “breakout” timing is said to be two to three months.

How do you say no to this deal? If it’s a real deal — if the details come to life in a real-time agreement — the easy answer is that you don’t. Not unless you’ve got something better.

We’ll be hearing a lot of debate on Arak and on Fordo and on other unfamiliar names and places from people whose credentials aren’t much better than yours or mine. Still, the deal can be critiqued on its own terms — and should be. It will be debated in Congress when/if the deal is finished in June — and even before — and should be.

But the framework/deal makes the open letter to Iran’s mullahs, written by Sen. Tom Cotton and signed by 46 other Republicans senators including Cory Gardner, look even more naive and unserious. John McCain, who blamed the hurried decision to sign the letter on the threat of a snowstorm, must be embarrassed. The deal is good enough even in framework form that when people like would-be-president Scott Walker say they’d scrap it on their first day in office — presumably right after killing off Obamacare — you know not to pay attention.

What this deal demands is that its critics come up with a serious alternative. The question is whether there is one.

As Obama said in his Rose Garden speech, history has shown us that Iran is not going to give up its search for the bomb just because we ask nicely, or even not so nicely. He said to put it this way to the inevitable critics: “Do you really think that this verifiable deal, if fully implemented, backed by the world’s major powers, is a worse option than the risk of another war in the Middle East? Is it worse than doing what we’ve done for almost two decades with Iran moving forward with its nuclear program and without robust inspections? I think the answer will be clear.”

So what is the alternative? Most critics — and, yes, they are from both parties — have said more sanctions and tougher negotiations would be their choice. Then there’s the let’s-do-another-Iraq-but-do-it-right-this-time chorus, led by people like former U.N. ambassador and professional hawk John Bolton, who insist that war, bombing to prevent the bombing, is the best option.

But here’s where the risk comes: If there is a deal, the tougher-sanctions alternative probably disappears. Congress can vote for tougher sanctions, scuttling the deal, but it can’t reasonably expect the rest of the world’s powers to go along. The world’s powers were in there with John Kerry negotiating the deal that Congress would be rejecting. If the details on the framework are successfully filled in, a fully negotiated deal is not just risky for Obama to implement, but also risky for any Congress to turn away from.

If there is a deal and Congress rejects it — a deal made in concert with Britain and Germany and France and Russia and China — let’s just say that writing an open letter to the United Nations Security Council won’t help.

So, in the Obama framework, if you’re going to stop Iran from getting a bomb, there are two options: a negotiated settlement or the Bolton alternative. Bombing to stop the bomb is a short-term solution, if it’s a solution at all. We don’t have to outline the risks; they’re obvious enough. So, of course, is the great likelihood that, with an agreement, Iran will continue to support terrorism, will continue to threaten Israel, and will make even more trouble, as sanctions are lifted and Iran’s economy improves, in Syria and Iraq.

But as every working pundit has pointed out, Reagan negotiated with the Soviet Union, Nixon went to China. And now Obama has talked to Iran. I’m not qualified to say whether the deal — if completed — would actually work. But I am qualified to say its critics have yet to explain why it wouldn’t.

[Photo of U.S. “Fat Man” atomic bomb via Wikimedia.]

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About the Author

Mike Littwin

He has covered Dr. J, four presidential inaugurations, six national conventions and countless brain-numbing speeches in the New Hampshire and Iowa snow.
mlittwin@coloradoindependent.com | Twitter @mike_littwin


  1. Bill on said:

    Good summary of the situation at this time; better framework than expected and muted response.

    That said, though, the chances that this will get any Congressional approval are remarkably dim. Facts matter little; the debate is only about politics. They still don’t accept Obamacare, and there is little chance they will give Obama a second shot at a decent legacy.

    Just as with the ACA, the haters and naysayers are not interested in proposing alternatives. This will be ACA all over again, a fact free demonization of all things Obama. And we will all be worse off for the debate.

  2. Don Lopez on said:

    “I’m not qualified to say whether the deal — if completed — would actually work.”

    Very few will read far enough to see that disclaimer because it’s the column’s penultimate sentence but it does prove once again that reading Mr. Littwin from back to front can be a huge time saver.

    Apparently, he draws great comfort from President Obama’s resolute statement that “Iran will never be permitted to develop a nuclear weapon,”

    But talk is cheap so I hope he can forgive those whose reaction is uncontrollable laughter.

    Here’s how the New York Post views the proposed deal:

    “The accord announced Thursday in Lausanne has more holes than Swiss cheese. It is certain to whet Iran’s nuclear appetite while provoking a nuclear arms race in the Middle East and, perhaps, beyond.

    First, the final agreement won’t take the form of a treaty, and so needn’t be submitted to the Senate.

    Second, Obama is on his way to a framework that will tie the hands of his successors for at least 10 years. A future president who tries to revisit the Iranian nuclear project would run into a big hurdle in the shape of the UN Security Council, where Russia, a supporter of Iran, has veto power.”

    And what about Iran’s threat to wipe Israel off the map? Does Obama’s deal address that threat or are we left to assume the two countries have recently kissed and made up?

    This from the Wall Street Journal:
    “Many U.S. Jewish leaders are unnerved both by the new Iran nuclear agreement and the public falling out between President Barack Obama and his Israeli counterpart, developments that are creating a rift in the durable alliance between Jews and the Democratic Party in the run-up to the 2016 elections.”

    Mr. Littwin’s salivating response to the proposed deal is, of course, no surprise. Neither is his omission of unanswered questions such as:

    Does he support a deal that doesn’t require Senate approval? If so, would he be as supportive were it made by a Republican president? Does he believe such an approach is good government?

    And in the opinion of Pulitzer Prize winning, nationally syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer:

    “Sanctions lifted. Restrictions gone. Nuclear development legitimized. Iran would reenter the international community, as Obama suggested in an interview in December, as “a very successful regional power.” A few years — probably around 10 — of good behavior and Iran would be home free.

    The agreement thus would provide a predictable path to an Iranian bomb. Indeed, a flourishing path, with trade resumed, oil pumping and foreign investment pouring into a restored economy.”

    And while Mr. Littwin has been a long time proponent of same-sex marriage and a supporter of so-called “gay rights” he fails, again, to mention that, according to the Washington Post, in Iran “homosexual intercourse between men can be punished by death, and men can be flogged for lesser acts such as kissing. Women may be flogged.”

    That omission perfectly demonstrates what an inconsequential non-issue so-called “gay rights” really is. Not even Mr. Littwin would allow it to interfere with Obama’s “greatest foreign policy achievement”. For Mr. Littwin that issue is simply a political cudgel to be used exclusively against Republicans.

    “What this deal demands is that its critics come up with a serious alternative. ”

    Not so! President Obama has already said that no deal is better than a bad one, so all that’s required of critics is demonstrating it’s a bad deal.

    Which shouldn’t be too difficult.

    “I marched with many people back in those days and I have reached out to some of my friends who marched with me, and all of them are shocked,” Rev. William Owens of the Coalition of African American Pastors (CAAP) told Breitbart News. “They never thought they would see this day that gay rights would be equated with civil rights. Not one agreed with this comparison.
    President Obama is a disgrace to the black community,” Owens said. “He is rewriting history. We didn’t suffer and die for gay marriage.”

    “At the heart of the deterioration of the fabric of Negro society is the deterioration of the Negro family.”
    Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Assistant Secretary of Labor, March, 1965

    “It is entirely legitimate for the American people to be deeply concerned when you’ve got a bunch of violent, vicious zealots who behead people or randomly shoot a bunch of folks in a deli in Paris.”
    President Obama redefining “randomly”

    “’Cause I don’t have no use
    For what you loosely call the truth” – Tina Turner

    Folds of Honor Foundation
    Wounded Warrior Project

    Memorial Day – May 25, 2015

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