The obvious joke here is that if Iran enforces “red lines” the way Obama does, there isn’t much to worry about.
Of course, the problem is sadly opposite. Obama doesn’t enforce red lines. But Iran will. The Jerusalem Post reports:
Iran warned the U.S. on Monday that any attempt to encroach on the Islamic Republic’s ballistic missile program would constitute the crossing of a “red line.”
“The US calculations about the Islamic Republic and the Iranian nation are fully incorrect,” Iranian Deputy Chief of Staff Brig-Gen Maassoud Jazzayeri was quoted by the Fars News Agency as saying.
“The White House should know that defense capacities and missile power, specially at the present juncture where plots and threats are galore, is among the Iranian nation’s red lines and a backup for the country’s national security and we don’t allow anyone to violate it,” Jazzayeri said.
Jazzayeri accused US President Barack Obama of making vows and breaking them by saying removal of sanctions on Iran would be conditioned on the Islamic Republic halting its ballistic missile program.
You might ask what exactly Iran would do to enforce this red line. The answer is more obvious than it may seem. The Iranians would reduce their current, low level of cooperation with nuclear program safeguards even further, and drop more of their pretense of adhering to the JCPOA announced in July 2015 (but never signed by Iran).
They would, in other words, proclaim themselves justified in ignoring not just new demands from the U.S. for proof or compliance, but the original terms of the 2015 agreement.
Obama, meanwhile, will come under renewed pressure from Congress to be tougher with sanctions than he wants to be. Over the past week, members of both the Senate and the House have initiated efforts to hold the Obama administration accountable for assurances it gave about sanctions last year, when it was shopping the JCPOA on the Hill. Those assurances are in the process of being violated, and Congress wants to know why.
The major concerns are that the administration has changed its tune on whether Iran’s intermediate-range ballistic missile launches violate the terms of the JCPOA, and that Obama plans to grant Iran relief on non-nuclear sanctions, in the form of access to the U.S. financial system.
The latter would be both gratuitous and sneaky, since Obama’s top officials swore to Congress last year (e.g., here and here) that the non-nuclear sanctions were not in play with the JCPOA implementation process. The non-nuclear sanctions are of much longer standing than the nuclear-related sanctions; they were imposed because of Iran’s involvement in terrorism, and the basis for them has not been altered by anything in the JCPOA, or any other trend of behavior from Iran.
Washington – both pundits and officials – is naturally fascinated by the minutiae of this dispute. Observers out in the general public tend to be less so, and to hold (mostly) the very sensible view that (a) Obama is likely to let himself be snookered, and (b) he probably never took this business very seriously anyway, even aside from the obvious fact that he couldn’t negotiate a hug from his mother.
Eli Lake writes, perhaps unwittingly, the obituary of public credulity about the JCPOA process, with the opening words of his 1 April Bloomberg View post:
Like most of Washington, I was under the impression that the nuclear negotiations with Iran ended in July. There was the press conference in Vienna, the U.N. resolution that lifted the sanctions on Iran and the fight in Congress that followed. That turns out to have been wrong.
Was he really under that impression? Was most of Washington? I certainly wasn’t. It has been clear from the very beginning that for Iran, the whole JCPOA drama has been a process, the point of which is precisely to keep it open-ended – so that the Western powers will stay invested in it, and make one interim concession after another, while they keep missing out on a satisfyingly “final” resolution.
In negotiating parlance, this is called “stringing the other guy along.” Iran’s chief requirement is for time — not for a deal with definite terms. There are two big reasons why Iran wants to do things the “stringing along” way. One is that it keeps Iran fortified with ways to wriggle off the hook, even while she’s pocketing concessions.
The other – and this is very, very important – is that it holds Israel in check. As long as the Western powers haven’t walked away from an ongoing, just-short-of-conclusive process with Iran, political conditions are the most difficult they can possibly be for Israel to take direct, decisive action against Iran’s nuclear weapons program.
It’s to Iran’s advantage to always be renegotiating the “agreement” with the West. It’s also much easier to enforce a red line, any time you want, when your method of enforcement is to withhold cooperation, according to a checklist or schedule of your own.
What’s Obama going to do about it, after all – enforce a red line? Yeah, right.