No one in the West, with the exception of Obama, is hailing the Iran Nuclear Treaty as a piece of brilliant diplomacy or even as a bit of realpolitik; it is a crappy deal with limited inspections and a set of pious promises which, even now, hardline Iranians are indicating they will not keep. Of course it is possible that the US Congress will have the wit to defeat the treaty and Obama’s veto of that defeat but that will take an act of statesmanship which, I suspect, is well beyond the reach of the low information legislators America insists upon electing. A measure of just how bad this treaty is can be had by noting that Russia and China both fully support it.
There are many pixels being dispatched on what the treaty “means”. My view is that the treaty itself means nothing at all because Iran has no intention of any but the most cosmetic compliance with its provisions. What the treaty signifies is much clearer – the United States, under Obama, is prepared to be seen caving into a third, or maybe fourth rate, power at the cost of long standing aliances in the region. bin Laden’s remarks as to the “strong horse” seem prescient in the circumstances. Not that the US did this alone – it had assorted Euro drips along for the ride.
The treaty is, in fact, a sideshow. The main event is an American President saying to the world that America was no longer willing or able to stand up for its allies or even itself. This is the treaty’s real significance.
We saw the beginning of the collapse when Obama drew a red line on Assad’s use of chemical weapons and then allowed that red line to fade out of existence. If anyone was paying attention, and the entire Middle East was, that failure of nerve signalled the collapse of any serious American involvement in the Middle East. From ISIS to Iran, from Syria to Saudi, America hauling down its battle colours told a shocking but apparently true tale of a President willing to countenance crimes against humanity for the sake of a quiet life.
There is a perfectly legitimate line of neo-isolationist argument that says that the US is well rid of the Middle East and its endless wars. But that was not the argument Obama was following; in fact it is not clear that there was any particular rationale at all for the American retreat. America’s allies could make of that what they would. They could also consider America’s ill-advised support for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt or its bizarre “pinpricks and lily pads” strategy for dealing with ISIS. But what the Middle East and the world could not ignore was that America has largely given up any coherent strategy in the region. Embracing the humiliations inflicted by the Iranians in the treaty negotiations was just another instance of America’s tacit surrender.
My own interest in the Middle East is almost entirely focused upon Israel. It is a country which I admire and support and I think, contrary to the current Israeli commentary, today’s treaty was a huge win for Israel. One way or another Iran was going to get a nuclear device in the next few years. And the Muslim mystics who run the place are on record as saying that Israel is their first target. The fact Obama sold the farm to get a crappy treaty which might delay the reality of a nuclear Iran for a few years gives the Israelis two huge benefits: first, they know exactly where they stand vis a vis the US. What little trust there had been is now gone. At the same time, the Americans, for domestic reasons but also because they need to try to contain Israel’s actions, are going to spend the next year or two bolstering Israel’s defences any way they can.
Israel has been screwed by this treaty. But it does nothing to change the fact Israel was going to have to deal with a nuclear Iraq sooner rather than later. Now, at least they know that they cannot count on the US when they confront Iran and that means they really have nothing to lose in the manner of that confrontation.
In the course of praising his abortion of a treaty the ever dim John Kerry announced that Iran has the nuclear material to make ten bombs right now. (He claims that the treaty will ensure the destruction of this material…right.) No sensible Israeli war planner will assume that the diplomatic dimwits have found all the material and will further assume that Iran either has or will very soon have at least a couple of bombs. So will any Saudi or Egyptian general. So will anyone interested in the region. So, the simple question to be answered is whether Iran is to be permitted a first strike.
Oddly, the idiot treaty does not change that calculus. Because there are no surprise inspections, because there was no disclosure of the Iranian secret progress to date, the only rational expectation is that Iran has the bomb. A good treaty might have managed to extinguish that expectation, but this treaty leaves Iran’s neighbours with exactly the same level of concern.
The Israelis have their calculation to make, the Saudis have another. While Israel holds a place in Iranian mythology as the little Satan, Saudi Arabia is a much more basic enemy. The Shia/Sunni war is a basic fact of the Middle East. The whole of Israel could be evacuated to Vancouver Island (Just the Jews please, the Israeli Arabs can stay to welcome the Palestinian “refugees”.) and the Shia/Sunni war would continue. If the Iranians had just one bomb and the choice was between Riyadh and Tel Aviv it is not obvious which would be picked. But, and this might tip the scales, if Iran hits Israel, Iran will have large sections which will be glassed in a matter of minutes. The Israelis have that capability. The Saudis do not. Yet. (United Saudi/Israeli opposition to deal...who would have seen that coming?)
If Iran has a bomb or is about to get one, the Saudis will absolutely want a bomb of their own. And they have the money to buy several from the North Koreans or the Pakistanis. Unlike the Israelis, the Saudis do not have a history of proportionate, nuanced response to aggression.
In general treaties are supposed to make the world a marginally safer place. The Iran Nuclear Treaty did the precise opposite. It made an already unsafe region less safe. And it revealed the intellectual bankruptcy of the Obama regime.
UPDATE: The great Mark Steyn says:
But that’s not what the talks were about. Obama’s vision of the post-American Middle East sees Iran as the dominant power, and that’s what the negotiations were there to finesse. As I said to Sean, Obama’s belief that American power and influence has been bad for the world extends beyond America itself to America’s allies. So on missile defense he takes the side of Russia over US allies like Poland and the Czech Republic; in the Falklands he takes the side of Argentina over the United Kingdom; and now in the Middle East he takes the side of Iran over the Sunni Arab monarchies and Israel.
This agreement will have bloody and brutal consequences.