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Obama on the Iran deal: Trust me, “it’s my name on this”

Obama on the Iran deal: Trust me, “it’s my name on this”

It’s all about me, me, me

If you were looking for a monument to supreme egotism, you would have to go far to beat Obama’s statement in this interview with The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg:

“Look, 20 years from now, I’m still going to be around, God willing. If Iran has a nuclear weapon, it’s my name on this,” he said, referring to the apparently almost-finished nuclear agreement between Iran and a group of world powers led by the United States. “I think it’s fair to say that in addition to our profound national-security interests, I have a personal interest in locking this down.”

I rack my brain to think of another president in our history—or another statesman or even another prominent politician—who would think to say “trust me, because my ego is riding on this.” What on earth does ego have to do with judgment?

In the calculus of what are the most important considerations about any Iran deal, the most important would be “our profound national-security interests” and those of the entire world. That’s what’s riding on it, that’s the reason to “lock it down” (odd phrase for negotiations). The state of Obama’s personal reputation ought to be so low on the list of things to think about that it shouldn’t even be on his radar screen at this point, much less ours.

Obama says he’s got a special personal interest in “locking this down.” But an agreement on nuclear weapons with Iran is not merely a question of applying oneself. Obama may think there’s no limits to his powers, but sizing up Iran and negotiating with a country which is essentially an aggressive, repressive, fanatical enemy isn’t just a matter of trying hard enough and thinking you’re the smartest guy in the room. Even if it were true that Obama wanted and even needed to negotiate a good deal for the US in order to protect his precious reputation, that doesn’t mean he has a clue how to get there from here, or that it’s even possible to do so.

More is revealed in the following passage from Goldberg’s article on his interview with Obama [emphasis mine]:

In the wake of what seemed to have been a near-meltdown in the relationship between the United States and Israel, Obama talked about what he called his love for the Jewish state; his frustrations with it when it fails to live up to both Jewish and universal values; and his hope that, one day soon, its leaders, including and especially its prime minister, will come to understand Israel’s stark choices as he understands Israel’s stark choices. And, just as he did with Saudi Arabia, Obama issued a warning to Israel: If it proves unwilling to live up to its values—in this case, he made specific mention of Netanyahu’s seemingly flawed understanding of the role Israel’s Arab citizens play in its democratic order—the consequences could be profound.

Does anyone on earth believe that Obama “loves” “the Jewish state”? If so, he certainly has a funny way of showing it (“you always hurt the one you love”). But the telling part is that he thinks he is an expert not just on what the US wants from Israel (that, at least, would make a certain amount of sense, since he is the US president and is supposed to represent us) but that he is an expert on Israel’s own “stark choices.” He seems to think that he sees those choices more clearly than the Israeli leaders do, and that it is they who should come over to his way of thinking about their own country.

In addition, Obama says that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s understanding of “the role Israel’s Arab citizens play in its democratic order” is “flawed” (unlike Obama’s). Of course, this being Obama, he’s misstating what Netanyahu actually said. Here’s Obama [emphasis mine]:

…[G]oing into [the Israeli] election…there [was] discussion in which it appeared that Arab-Israeli citizens were somehow portrayed [by Netanyahu] as an invading force that might vote, and that this should be guarded against—this is contrary to the very language of the Israeli Declaration of Independence, which explicitly states that all people regardless of race or religion are full participants in the democracy. When something like that happens, that has foreign-policy consequences, and precisely because we’re so close to Israel, for us to simply stand there and say nothing would have meant that this office, the Oval Office, lost credibility when it came to speaking out on these issues.

Here’s what Netanyahu actually said. The context was a discussion of turnout and who was behind left-wing “get out the vote” efforts [emphasis mine]:

Funding from foreign governments to get more Israeli Arabs to vote worked, which means all right-wing voters must make sure to go to the polls, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned on Tuesday.

“The right-wing government is in danger. Arab voters are going en masse to the polls. Left-wing NGOs are bringing them on buses,” he said…

“We only have you,” a visibly tired Netanyahu pleaded. “Go to the polls, bring your friends and family, vote Mahal [Likud] to close the gap between us and Labor [Zionist Union].”

Netanyahu later clarified that “what’s wrong is not that Arab citizens are voting, but that massive funds from abroad from left-wing NGOs and foreign governments are bringing them en masse to the polls in an organized way, thus twisting the true will of all Israeli citizens who are voting, for the good of the Left.”

Left-wing Americans were instrumental in funding and organizing that get-out-the-vote effort, and some of the people helping the campaign against Netanyahu were people who had previously worked for Obama:

A coalition of U.S.-funded progressive groups has planned a massive get-out-the-vote effort to influence the Israeli elections, targeting communities that are most likely to vote against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his right-leaning Likud Party, according to a confidential strategy memo obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.

The U.S.-based 501(c)(3) group Ameinu sent out the fundraising proposal for the campaign to American donors on Dec. 17, 2014.

The $3 million initiative is described in the document as “a massive, non-partisan Get Out The Vote (GOTV) campaign targeting selected demographic and geographic segments of Israeli society.”

The targeted groups listed in the memo—young secular Israelis, low-income secular Jews, and Arab Israelis—are communities that traditionally oppose right-leaning parties such as Likud.

So Netanyahu was asking Likud voters to energize themselves and get their vote out in order to win despite the high turnout of Arab voters orchestrated by the left (including the American left) in order to defeat him. Obama knew that or should have known it, but he’s demagoguing in order to brand Netanyahu with his favorite charge, racism.

There’s more—much more—in the interview with which to disagree. Basic to Obama’s argument for his Iran deal is the idea that despite everything, Iran is a rational actor. I see no evidence, in either word or deed, that it is true. Obama argues that it is, however:

They [antisemitic European nations throughout history] may make irrational decisions with respect to discrimination, with respect to trying to use anti-Semitic rhetoric as an organizing tool. At the margins, where the costs are low, they may pursue policies based on hatred as opposed to self-interest. But the costs here [in the Iran negotiations] are not low, and what we’ve been very clear [about] to the Iranian regime over the past six years is that we will continue to ratchet up the costs, not simply for their anti-Semitism, but also for whatever expansionist ambitions they may have. That’s what the sanctions represent. That’s what the military option I’ve made clear I preserve represents. And so I think it is not at all contradictory to say that there are deep strains of anti-Semitism in the core regime, but that they also are interested in maintaining power, having some semblance of legitimacy inside their own country, which requires that they get themselves out of what is a deep economic rut that we’ve put them in, and on that basis they are then willing and prepared potentially to strike an agreement on their nuclear program.

Let’s go through these ideas in order:

(1) Antisemitic European nations such as Nazi Germany not only made “irrational decisions with respect to discrimination” of Jews, but they did not do so only “at the margins, where the costs are low.” The costs were high. An enormous amount of the energy and resources that could have been directed towards the war effort itself were directed by the Nazis towards killing the Jews, even towards the end of the war when Germany faced severe shortages of resources of all kinds (including manpower).

(2) In order for Obama’s threats of sanctions or the military option to work to intimidate the Iranian leaders into compliance, the Iranian leaders would have to believe he actually meant it. They are smart people, and they are well aware that his record indicates that he is a paper tiger.

(3) Yes, the Iranian leaders are very interested in retaining power and in getting out of their economic rut. This does motivate them to agree with the US on a nuclear deal, just as Obama says it would. But it does not motivate them to comply with such a deal. It makes sense for them to agree with it, get sanctions lifted, improve economically as a result, and fail to cooperate either through deceit and/or defiance, saying to the west: So, what are you going to do about it? The answer would almost certainly be “nothing,” as has been revealed by the last few years.

(4) Iran’s anti-semitism is embedded in a larger apocalyptic religious vision of theirs that does not shrink from massive destruction and death. This is the basis for the reasoning of those who argue that Iran is not a rational actor like most countries. Obama cannot counter that argument, except as an article of faith—his own—that it is simply not so.

Obama also takes as an article of faith his own ability to know best, despite a host of evidence to the contrary.

[Neo-neocon is a writer with degrees in law and family therapy, who blogs at neo-neocon.]


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PoliticiansRscum | May 24, 2015 at 10:47 am

He’ll still be around in 20 years????? Not if his past catches up with him.

Try to imagine Harry Truman offering peace terms to Imperial Japan that left their death-cult in place and in power, AND allowed them to maintain their military and develop atomic weapons.

He’d have been hauled out of the White House on a rail…at a minimum. He was at least as bad a Collectivist as was FDR, but he was also not delusional to anything like the extent that Barracula is.

Of course, while apt in some respects, that analogy is limited in that we are not at war openly with Iran. We are not in the position to impose terms on them like those we had to impose on Japan.

But we ARE in a position to openly and steadfastly oppose them and seek their overthrow, condemn their death-cult, impose every possible sanction we may, and hedge them around with military might.

And that’s the only course that makes any sense, unless and until they show signs of wanting to join the civilized world. OVER time, not as a head-fake for the boobs in DC.

    Vascaino in reply to Ragspierre. | May 24, 2015 at 1:09 pm

    ” He’d have been hauled out of the White House on a rail…at a minimum. ”

    Ahem, that would have been his white privilege.

Barack Hussein al-Chicagi is playing to the UN General Assembly. His megalomania seeks nothing less than to become General Secretary and start rulling the world.

“…and then the President remarked,’ Meeeeeee..Meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee…ME…MEEEEEEEEE.. ME-ME-ME MEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE….’…” (Associated Press)

casualobserver | May 24, 2015 at 12:25 pm

What strikes me as even more terrifying…..well, maybe depressing is the better emotion….is that Obama has to project this on himself. In the past big foreign policy efforts could always be looked at through the prism of our allies. Even Carter could talk about his accords through the eyes – and words – of other leaders in the region. Our president cannot do that. Since there are no leaders in the region OUTSIDE of Iran (and maybe Russia) who see this in any positive light, he has to praise it from an egotistical perspective. Which clearly is not a challenge.

” Does anyone on earth believe that Obama “loves” “the Jewish state”? If so, he certainly has a funny way of showing it ”

It seems that after all the lies from this administration Taquiya reigns supreme.
Just hope that the Israelis don’t swallow this.
What’s this, the second time he is trying to “get their back”?

    Ragspierre in reply to Vascaino. | May 24, 2015 at 5:06 pm

    He “loves” Israel like he “loves” America.

    Which is to say, not at all…even in the least. Not in Realityville, where things and nations actually exist.

Obamacare has his name on it, too! Ouch!

His domestic policy is the same as his foreign policy – anemic.

Sammy Finkelman | May 26, 2015 at 1:14 am

It’s significant:

1) He’s claiming that if he fails, it might take 20 years to become apparent.

2) He’s only worried about Iran getting a nuclear bomb, not using one. He’s actually specifically said that, in fact. That is, he thinks they are rational, (and he thinks rationality would prevent anyone from using it.)

Now, some more flaws in his reasoning:

Yes, he has a self-interest in not appearing to be a failure. But he would consider it a failure right off the bat if he used military force against Iran, or Hezbollah started bombarding Israel in retaliation. It could never be proven that he had taken the best possible course of action.

His only chance of appearing to be a total success is these negotiations. And certainly, at a minimum, he would want to run out the string.

Obama has a problem in that if 2 or 3 or even 10 people give him advice that something won’t work and 1 or 2 give him advice that it will, he’ll go with the outcome he likes. Defeating ISIS without using U.S. military force, for instance.

Another problem is that he asserts Iran has an interest in getting rid of sanctions. That appears to be true. The problem is that what Iran is negotiating. What is the least they can do to get rid of sanctions. Iran is NOT negotiating with the idea what can they do to get everyone to believe they are not interested in a nuclear bomb.

Iran’s goal is to get rid of sanctions with the least amount of harm to their nuclear bomb program. This also ignores the fact that there are other reasons for sanctions on Iran besides their nuclear bomb program

He doesn’t understand the Middle east at all. It is not possible for Israel to mitigate the hatred against it by any kind of concessions. Nor is there any reason to believe that making concessions will prevent an intensification of the hatred.

There’s no stark choice here. There’s just a simple and obvious choice: not to do anything until after there is lasting Arab goodwill.

Rick the Curmudgeon | May 28, 2015 at 1:48 pm

Maybe it’s his name on it, but it’s OUR ass…

    That’s what I was thinking. When an Iranian nuclear bomb is used, Obama going, “oops, my bad, I guess this reflects poorly on me now” is going to be cold comfort to the dead and dying.

Despite Obama’s posturing about being held accountable if anything goes wrong, he knows deep down that he can count on the laptop press to spin it as the fault of someone else dropping the ball after Obama masterfully built the perfect wall.

Heck, even now they’re flogging the narrative that any flaw in the agreement (or failure to make an agreement) won’t be Obama’s fault, it’ll be due to those awful Senators throwing a monkey wrench into the process by writing a letter.