This John Kerry should have been president

Here is John Kerry today at the House Foreign Affairs Committee on the Iran nuclear deal. I’ve added some related comments below.

Congressman Royce put his finger on a critical point:  will lran in a permanent agreement be able to enrich?  Kerry ducks, but the answer is yes, as the President said to the Saban Forum just the other day.  There is simply no way to remove the knowledge of how to enrich uranium using centrifuges from Iranian minds.  That is the price we have to pay for failure over the past ten years to stop Iran from acquiring enrichment technology.  It will make no difference if ultimately we are able to get a permanent nuclear deal that verifiably and irreversibly limits enrichment to Iran’s peaceful nuclear program.

Michael Singh in a recent Washington Post piece asks some other good questions.  First is about implementation, which has to be impeccable.  But he extends his concern about implementation to two areas that are not addressed in the current agreement:  weaponization research and development of missiles.  Weaponization research would clearly be inconsistent with the current agreement, even if it is not explicitly addressed, so I am with him on that.  Missile development is not necessarily nuclear-related and clearly lies beyond the scope of the current, interim deal.  Quoting Michael should be enough to demonstrate the absurdity of what he suggests:

The United States and its allies must prepare contingency plans to respond to any Iranian cheating on the deal and to punish Iranian nuclear-related work not addressed in the deal.

I’d like to see any Administration get our allies to join in planning to punish the Iranians for something they haven’t even implicitly agreed to.

Second, Michael asks that Iran come clean on all its past nuclear weapons related work.  This is a reasonable goal for the next agreement, as he suggests.

Michael’s third question is never clearly stated (where are the editors of the Post when we need them?), but it revolves around the seriousness of American commitment to the Middle East by enforcing red lines:

…to signal to both Iran and our allies that the United States is not looking for the exit but remains committed to the region, U.S. officials should coordinate with allies regarding the content of a final agreement rather than presenting them with a fait accompli.

Yes, we should coordinate with allies, whose cooperation will be needed in continuing to enforce non-nuclear related sanctions on Iran even if a permanent nuclear agreement is reached.  But the US commitment to the region is declining and our allies had better get used to carrying greater burdens.  Israel really has no problem with this notion, as it wants to be capable of defending itself.  It is the Gulf states who need to get more serious about defending themselves from what will eventually be a more powerful Iran than the sanction-weakened basket case they’ve gotten used to.

Secretary Kerry has devoted himself day and night not only to stopping Iran’s progress toward nuclear weapons but also to forging an Israeli agreement with Palestine and depriving Syria of chemical weapons while pursuing a political settlement there.  He also shows astounding patience as the House Republicans hound him one more time about the murder of our ambassador and his colleagues in Benghazi, refuting once more their claim that no one was held responsible (two officials were demoted and left the State Department).  To suggest, as Michael does, that this Secretary of State is less than fully committed to sorting things out satisfactorily in the Middle East is absurd.

The President has however put some limits on what he can do.  The Administration will not back the Gulf states as they pump money into extremist pockets in Syria, or take the United States to war because they and Israel don’t like an agreement that provides Iran with an opportunity for partial rehabilitation.  Would we really want an American president to be less than assiduous in ensuring that his decisions serve American interests first and foremost?

John Kerry, good trooper that he is, defends the Administration with skill and restraint, even though he might have liked before the Congressional debate to resort to military action in Syria.  Would that his adversaries did likewise in challenging him.  Is there anyone out there who thinks calling the Supreme Leader by his official title amounts to “groveling,” as the inimitable Dana Rohrbacher suggested at today’s hearing?

Tags : , ,