Obama Administration

Obama and Kerry Jeopardize Peace With Iran

Why does their rhetoric make us doubt their sincerity about seeking a diplomatic resolution?


Barack Obama and John Kerry should make up their minds: Do they want war or peace with Iran?

We should hope for peace, but Obama and Kerry make optimism difficult.

Ideally, the Obama administration would simply exit the Middle East, taking all its military and economic aid with it. The U.S. government cannot micromanage events there, especially when it is no honest, neutral broker. Shamefully, it is firmly in the Israeli camp against the Palestinians (who, let us remember, are the occupied, not the occupiers), and generally in the Sunni Muslim camp against the Shi'ites, led by Iran. (Iraq is the anomaly.)

As welcome as a U.S. exit would be, alas, it won't happen anytime soon, so the best we can hope for is rapprochement with Iran. The U.S.-led economic sanctions impose an unconscionable hardship on Iranians — for example, depriving the elderly and children of medicines and nourishment. Clearly, a war would be catastrophic on many levels for nearly all concerned, including Americans. (I say "nearly all" because opportunistic rulers in Israel and Saudi Arabia could benefit.)

Given the circumstances, one might expect signs of wholehearted American support for rapprochement, but we're not seeing them. The U.S. government, along with the four other permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany, reached an interim agreement with Iran aimed at demonstrating the peaceful nature of the Islamic Republic's nuclear facilities. Of course, we already knew the intentions are peaceful. Iran is a party to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and is routinely inspected by the International Atomic Energy Agency, which has certified that no uranium has been diverted to weapons production. Moreover, U.S. and Israeli intelligence say that Iran has not decided to build a nuclear bomb, and its Supreme Leader long ago condemned weapons of mass destruction as sinful.

Under the interim agreement, which is to be a bridge to a permanent accord, Iran will take additional measures to reassure the world, including converting its enriched uranium to a form unsuitable for weapons but appropriate for power generation and medical purposes.

This should cheer all peace-minded people. So why do Obama and Kerry say things that make us doubt their sincerity about seeking a diplomatic resolution?

For example, Kerry recently said that "the military option that is available to the United States is ready and prepared to do what it would have to do." Threatening war hardly demonstrates the spirit of peace-making.

Further, investigative reporter Gareth Porter points out that Kerry repeatedly says the agreement obligates Iran to "dismantle" nuclear equipment, such as centrifuges used to enrich uranium. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani protests that this is incorrect. Porter writes that the "tough U.S. rhetoric may be adding new obstacles to the search for a comprehensive nuclear agreement."

Is the administration moving the goal posts?

"In fact," Porter continues, drawing on CNN interviews, "[Iranian foreign minister Javad] Zarif has put on the table proposals for resolving the remaining enrichment issues that the Barack Obama administration has recognized as serious and realistic.… Zarif observed that the actual agreement said nothing about 'dismantling' any equipment.… So Iran was not required by the interim agreement to 'dismantle' anything." Instead, Iran agreed not to enrich over 5 percent, far below weapons grade, "and not increase enrichment capacity." Kerry's use of the word "dismantle" when discussing the future permanent agreement also disturbs Iran's leaders.

The NPT does not prohibit parties from enriching uranium for electricity and medical treatments.

"The Obama administration's rhetoric of 'dismantlement,' however, has created a new political reality: the US news media has accepted the idea that Iran must 'dismantle' at least some of its nuclear program to prove that it is not seeking nuclear weapons," Porter writes.

Thus, Kerry's deception could inflame the public against Iran and jeopardize the chance of a settlement.

Obama himself told the New Yorker's David Remnick there's less than an even chance of a permanent agreement, which is worse than the odds he gave late last year. And while he reminded Americans that it was the United States that overthrew a democratic Iranian government in 1953, he called on Israel and Saudi Arabia to focus on their common bond against Iran.

That doesn't sound like a man seeking peace.

This column originally appeared on the Future of Freedom Foundation.


NEXT: Anything Not Permitted Is Forbidden: Code Camp Edition

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Hey Sheldon,

    Has it ever occurred to you that maybe Iran might jeopardize peace with the US? You know it is possible for countries other than the US to start wars.

    The assumption of every article Reason publishes about Iran is that it is unthinkable that Iran would ever miscalculate or ever have anything but benign intentions towards the US. I really wish the US were as powerful as you guys seem to think they are. The ability to have total control over war and peace and deny any other country a vote in that matter would really be something to see and different than any other nation in history.

    1. Which war did Iran start?

      1. That is not the point. Aren’t they capable of starting a war just like any other country? Or is Iran somehow different than pretty much every nation in the history of the world?

        1. So we should sanction any country that’s even capable of going to war?

          1. Death to the Great Satan. Do you know who the Great Satan is?

      2. And beyond that Iran has committed multiple acts of war against both the United States and Iraq over the last 30 years.

        Kidnapping embassy staff, funding terrorist groups to attack the US Marine barracks and sending in agents to support violence in Iraq are acts of war and most certainly count as “starting a war”

        But don’t let the facts get in the way of believing Iran is the one nation without sin or ill intentions in the entire history of the world.

        1. Who started that war?

          1. So going to war with Iraq is starting a war with Iran?

            FAIL. Iran has committed multiple acts of war against the US and Iraq over the years.

            1. Let’s approach it from a different angle, although I’m getting the impression that your mind is made up on this one and you’re not really interested.

              Has the US ever committed acts of war against Iran?

              1. Has the US ever committed acts of war against Iran?

                Yes. It had a diplomatic embassy there following regime change.

  2. Shamefully, it is firmly in the Israeli camp against the Palestinians (who, let us remember, are the occupied, not the occupiers), and generally in the Sunni Muslim camp against the Shi’ites, led by Iran.

    Oh, noes!!11! Not the Joooz!111! Good goddamn; the Arabs with the most liberties in the ME are the ones living in Israel. And the occupied resist and refuse any opportunity at having their own state if it means having Israel as a neighbor.

    1. And heaven knows no self-respecting libertarian could ever support resistance against foreign occupiers!

      1. what exactly are the Israelis “occupying?” They invade some foreign land? There is no nation called Palestine and the single biggest reason for that is people called Palestinians.

        1. The West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

          1. both of which remain in dispute, neither of which is an independent nation. Again, the biggest impediment to a separate and sovereign Palestine has been the Palestinians. If only Israel would commit ritual suicide.

            1. They remain in dispute because they were occupied by Israel in an act of military aggression. Kuwait wasn’t an indepentent nation in 1991, either.

              1. Kuwait’s been independent since the 1960’s. Palestine as a sovereign nation has never existed. I don’t hear the Israelis calling for extermination or elimination or lobbing missiles into cafes. The Palestinians could have ended this long ago.

                1. By your logic, no nation in the middle east besides Iran and Turkey existed “as a sovereign nation” until after WWI. This is a view that is simply absurd and shows a nearly absolute lack of historical awareness regarding the area.

                  The fact that the mandate governments installed to divide the spoils of the conquered Ottoman Empire drew arbitrary boundaries to serve their own interests means nothing about which people’s rights to their own land count and which don’t.

                  1. It is Mary. The new meds have given this incarnation a slightly different twist but….

                  2. By your logic, no nation in the middle east besides Iran and Turkey existed “as a sovereign nation” until after WWI

                    things no one said for $600, Alex.

                    1. Let’s review. Please explain to me in some detail what you mean by Kuwait becoming a sovereign nation in the 1960s.

                      What was it before that? Are there any other polities that might be described in similar terms that are in nearby areas?

                      Why do you suppose I chose Iran and Turkey specifically as my examples? You are familiar with the Ottoman Empire? Was Kuwait involved in that situation in any way?

                      Who founded Kuwait City?

                      I look forward to being educated by your responses.

                2. As I understand it, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank have indeed been offered back to Egypt and Jordan, but neither country really wants their former territory back. Sure, they’ll say it’s because they want a Palestinian state, but it’s really because they don’t want to deal with the Palestinian inhabitants.

                  1. The West Bank is not part of Jordan. It’s part of Palestine. The “boundary” runs right through the middle of the city of Jerusalem.

                    Gaza was controlled by Egypt many centuries ago. Nowadays Egypt is having a hard time controlling its own territory.

                    Bottom line, why should Syria, Jordan and Egypt be expected to absorb and deal with evicted Palestinians? Why is it their problem?

                    1. The West Bank is not part of Jordan.

                      Well Jordan ruled it from 1948 to about 1972. When offered it back – they declined.

                      No one complained when Jordan occupied it. At least I don’t recall any complaints.

                      But the Jooooze? Evil. To the bone. Occupiers.

                    2. Arab occupiers = good.

                      Jooo occupiers = bad.

                      Can we talk about Dr. Raphael Mechoulam now?

  3. the Sunni Muslim camp against the Shi’ites, led by Iran.

    Because the Sunnis are just a bunch of big meanies Sheldon. It wouldn’t have anything to do with a 1300 year old religious conflict and the Shia desire to kill and convert the Sunnis. Why would the Sunni’s have any reason to fear Iran?

    Really Sheldon? Really?

    1. Are you denying the proactive efforts of Sunni monarchies to promote Sunni supremacy in the region? Those GCC states aren’t even bothering to distinguish between moderate and extremist rebels in Syria with their generous aid, and it was they who paid for all those madrassas in Afghanistan that teach kids how to recite the Qu’ran but not to read it.

    2. How many Shi’ite Islamist groups are taking over countries and violently imposing a minority-sectarian interpretaion of Sharia law on everyone else against their will?

      1. Well there is Iran for starters. And then there is Iraq and Lebanon. Maybe you haven’t heard of Hezbollah. But they are kind of a big deal.

        If you think there is no such thing as a Shia extremism, you really have no business commenting on the Middle East.

        1. Which country did Iran invade? Which country has Hezbollah taken over? What are Hezbollah’s stated goals? Compare and contrast with those of al-Qaeda.

          You were the one who suggested that the Sunni fight against Shi’a is justified by 1300 years of persecution. No one said anything about there being no Shi’ite extremism.

          1. among Hezbollah’s goals is the elimination of the state of Israel. For a time, the group has pretty much overrun Lebanon but that country’s army has resumed control of various checkpoints.

            1. And by “elimination of the state of Israel” are we talking about its replacement by a secular state without a state religion and a “chosen people,” or are we (erroneously) deciding that what that means is “exterminate the Jews?”

              1. If you think that Hezbollah just wants a secular state in Israel, you are too stupid and uniformed for words.

                1. I think you’re losing the focus of the conversation.

                2. To reiterate – yes, you can read whatever you want to into people’s statements. You can say “yes Iran says they want peace, but I’ve decided that they want war and if you don’t agree with me then you’re stupid.” You can say “yes Hezbollah says they want to eliminate the Jewish state in Palestine, but I’ve decided that they want to exterminate the Jews and if you don’t see that then you’re stupid.”

                  That’s all fine. I’m asking you to compare STATED INTENTIONS and ACTUAL PUBLICALLY OWNED ACTIONS to tell me that Sunni are so much more noble and victimized than the Shi’ites so that we need to take their side and defend them against that persecution.

              2. And by “elimination of the state of Israel” are we talking about its replacement by a secular state without a state religion and a “chosen people,”

                That statement is really Tony level stupid.

                1. Then you should have no trouble presenting evidence of the Shi’ite plot to exterminate the Jews.

                  1. http://www.aljazeera.com/video…..48838.html

                    5 seconds of googling. God your thick.

                    1. Five seconds of reading apparently, too.

                      “I will inform you with God as my witness, a devastating storm is on the way that will uproot the basis of Zionism,” Ahmadinejad said at annual Quds Day rallies.”

                      Where does he call for the extermination of the Jews? I felt like I read the article pretty closely, but I didn’t see it.

                      Guess I’m thicker than I thought.

                    2. Guess I’m thicker than I thought.

                      If you really think the President of Iran yelling “death to Israel” means “we’ll replace the government with a secular non-religious government that will treat Jews as equals” then yes, you really, really are thicker than you know.

                      I could also link to the massive volume of Iranian State produced anti-Semitic material and holocaust denial. But I wont since their is less point debating you than my cat.

                    3. Pick a topic you’d like to debate, first – you keep changing your mind. I’m asking you for some evidence that the Iranian government has some sort of intention of exterminating the Jews other than just your assumption and your decision to read what you want to see into what you are reading.

                      Is Iran hostile towards Israel? Yes. Has Israel bombed Iran and conducted assassinations within Iranian borders? Yes. Have prominent Israelis themselves made the occasional hostile comment towards Muslims in general? Very possibly.

                      Am I saying there is a cosmic struggle between Good Iran and Evil Israel? No. Am I saying that your take on Evil Iran trying to destroy Righteous Israel and purge the world of Jews just like Hitler tried to do is shallow and baseless? Yes.

                      Above all, am I suggesting that the US should stop taking sides in these feuds and either become an honest partner in brokering peace agreements or abandon the area altogether? Absolutely.

                    4. Am I saying that your take on Evil Iran trying to destroy Righteous Israel and purge the world of Jews just like Hitler tried to do is shallow and baseless? Yes.

                      Well except for one minor point. The leaders of Iran have proposed exactly that. You can look it up.

              3. why does the reasoning matter? I don’t see where one country wanting to eradicate another state becomes more acceptable if it is for secular, rather than religious, reasons. It’s like Jews are strangers to that part of the world any more than Muslims are.

                1. “It’s [not] like Jews are strangers to that part of the world any more than Muslims are.”

                  The sovereign Jewish state collapsed/was crushed in the first century AD. A very large proportion of the Jewish population left the area, only to return approximately 2000 years laters after being granted sovereignty over the area by European powers who had no right to grant it.

                  The “Muslims” are in fact all different kinds of people, a lot of whom have been in the area longer than even the ancient Jews.

                  The “conservative” faction in Israel wants the Torah to be the national consitution and Judaism the state religion. The central Jewish religious symbol, the Star of David, is on their flag.

                  Not wanting to be a non-Jew living under that government is not some sort of wildly irrational craziness or Nazism or even anti-semitism. It’s something I wouldn’t actually think it would be so hard for a professed libertarian to understand.

                  1. The “conservative” faction in Israel wants the Torah to be the national consitution and Judaism the state religion.

                    No different than so-cons here believing our laws should follow christian tradition, and certainly no crazier than half the shit the left thinks.

                    The central Jewish religious symbol, the Star of David, is on their flag.

                    ….are you really this stupid and ignorant? Have you looked at any other countries flags before? Look at the flag of Britain and tell me what you see. Oh wait, the head of state for Britain is also the head of the church of england! The brits are no different than the Taliban!

                    1. “No different than so-cons here believing our laws should follow christian tradition.”

                      Quite different, actually. They are not saying “follow Judaic tradition.” They are saying “Torah=Our Constitution.” More like those countries who want the Koran as theirs.

                      I’m also not that excited personally about the “believing our laws should follow christian tradition” thing, given the First Amendment.

                      I am also stupid enough to notice the cross on the British flag. And that they have an official state religion. I seem to remember something about that being mentioned in some things some angry Americans on the East Coast wrote some time ago, but my memory is feeling foggy. . . something about tyranny and rights and yadda yadda . . .

                  2. The Arabs want “their” land Judenrein.

  4. The real tension is the fact that 1) the US government owes the Saudi royal family an unbelievably enormous amount of money and 2) politically Israel is untouchable in the US no matter what they do.

    While Iran is actually one of the more civilized and rational countries in the area, it is an enemy to both Saudi Arabia and Israel. As much good as peaceful relations between Iran and the US would do for the world, the Saudis and the Israeli will resist it, hard, and they both have huge influence in the US.

    Whatever overtures Kerry and Obama may make to Iran, they always have to be tempered with threats and ultimatums to satisfy our other “allies.”

    1. Trudat…

    2. so countries run by mullahs are now rational and civilized? That Green movement sure went far, didn’t it.

      1. Define “mullah” for me.

    3. You didn’t mention the Israel – Saudi covert alliance.

      And a move towards Iran will mean upheaval in the prior arrangements. Which upheavals are often settled by war.

      So you talk peace. But promote the conditions for war. OOOOOOOOOK.

  5. Good to see an article here on this most important issue. Its the first one since December, and in the meantime the efforts to scuttle these negotiations have started to fall apart in the last few days because many Democrats are backing away from the Menendez bill.

    I would point out, Sheldon, that all of this rhetoric from both sides is exactly what happens in ALL negotiations. We’re not starting at the position that Iran would like to have in the best case. We are starting from the position we would like to have in the best case. Even in the article you site it says:

    “…(Obama and Kerry) have repeated that Iran will be required to “dismantle” parts of its nuclear program in the comprehensive agreement to be negotiated beginning next month.”

    So we will see what comes out of these negotiations. If they proceed like most negotiations, each side will give a bit. At least its a start at avoiding war. Be optimistic.

    1. Neville Chamberlain avoided war. A good thing too. Don’t you think?

      A company of Frenchmen could have thrown Hitler out of the Rhineland in 1935 and put paid to his career. But they preferred to avoid war.

      Avoiding war is the highest goal. Until you can’t.

      1. Every single time there is a foreign negotiation the Chamberlain reference comes out. Every time.

        So, based on your comment, why not start the war now? What’s the point of waiting, as negotiations will never work.

        The whole point of the sanctions was to get to this effort…negotiation. Why so afraid of them? Because of Chamberlain? There are 6 months to work out a deal. There now is a deadline that even Iran is aware of, which did not exist before. That in and of itself is an improvement. If a deal is not reached in 6 months, Iran knows what is next. I call that immense pressure.

        Have some faith. We’re not the French…or you Brits.

  6. My Uncle Michael just got an awesome six month old Ford Edge only from working part time off a home pc. hop over to this web-site W? o? r? k? s? 7? 7? .? ?? ?? ??

  7. Well where did all those Palestinians come from? Mark Twain didn’t notice them in his visit. Well the Jews came and started buying land at inflated prices and improving it. Then the Palestinians came from Syria and Egypt to a more economically viable place. The Jews were so attractive there that some Arab leaders in the 1920s liked the idea of having Jews in Israel.

    And then the Brits decided they didn’t like Jews and so promoted the Mufti-Of-Jerusalem. Who – ingrate that he was – sided with Hitler. Once the war with Hitler was resolved the Arabs decided to drive the Jews into the sea. It didn’t work and the Jews got more land than the UN promised but much less than the original League of Nations partition promised.

    Well the Arabs keep starting wars and losing. And the Arabs want “their” land Judenrein. And Gaza? Well the Gazans have a sewage problem. So they turn the sewage pipes into rockets. Just to keep the “peace”. Sewage floods are frequent in Gaza.

    1. Did I mention that the Mufti raised two divisions of SS? They were no good at fighting (typical) but they were very good at running death camps.

  8. Can we talk about Dr. Raphael Mechoulam now?

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.