“An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last” (Winston Churchill)
Marking two years since Iran’s nuclear deal (JCPOA), we would be badly mistaken if we assumed that the ‘architects’ of Barack Obama’s policy of handing over the keys of the Middle East to Tehran rulers feel any kind of regret or remorse.
Not a bit. Obama’s ‘cabal’, which gave Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) a carte blanche throughout the region when it was in charge of it Middle East policies, is quite happy with what it has ‘achieved’ despite its admission that “Iran’s behavior in the region has not improved”.
The other day, Robert Malley, a leading member of the said ‘cabal’ tweeted an article co-written by Philip Gordon, another ‘cabal’ member with Richard Nephew – a researcher and expert who dealt with Iran’s nuclear file between 2011 and 2013 – in The Atlantic magazine. Malley, a ‘progressive’ admirer of Lebanon’s Hezbollah and Iran’s rulers who detests Arab ‘conservatives’, tweeted ‘Why the Iran deal has worked, and why its critics have it wrong’. As for Gordon and Nephew, they chose for their article the following title ‘The ‘Worst Deal Ever’ That Actually Wasn’t’!
In their article Gordon and Nephew indirectly criticized American President Donald Trump’s and leading Republicans’ opposition to JCPOA by arguing “In fact, the deal is doing exactly what is was supposed to do: prevent Iran from acquiring enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon, demonstrate to the Iranian public the benefits of cooperation with the international community, and buy time for potential changes in Iranian politics and foreign policy”.
They added “Anyone who thought a deal would immediately change Iran’s regional agenda or who maintains that, if only America and its partners had insisted on such changes in the talks they would have materialized, has a misguided sense of what sanctions and diplomatic pressure can accomplish. Having been deeply involved in the negotiations, we think it’s important to be clear about the purpose, enduring benefits, and inevitable limitations of the agreement”.
Since the nuclear deal with Iran, many things have changed throughout the Middle East except in Iran, which is now convinced it has been given a carte blanche to do what it pleasesEyad Abu Shakra
The next decade
The co-writers then argued that “what the deal has done, at least for the next decade, is deter any realistic threat of a near-term Iranian nuclear weapon. The United States should use that decade wisely: standing up to and imposing costs on Iranian transgressions, supporting US allies in the region, making clear to the Iranian public that the West is not an enemy, and preparing for the day when some of the deal’s restrictions will no longer apply.
If, by 2030, Iran has not demonstrated that its nuclear program is exclusively peaceful and that it is willing to live in peace with its neighbors, the United States and its international partners will have difficult decisions to make about how to handle the issue going forward.
In conclusion, they wrote “But since there is a chance that Iran will have different leaders or policies by then—the current Supreme Leader will almost certainly be gone, and a new generation may have come to power—why make those difficult decisions now? The Iran deal has bought valuable time. Squandering that time without a better plan would be foolish”.
An important point to keep in mind as one reads those arguments is whether Malley and Gordon – both very close to Obama and Hillary Clinton – ever expected the Democrats to lose the race to the White House to Trump? Most opinion polls showed the contrary; and Gordon was indeed expected to be a member of Hillary Clinton’s team had she won.
Postponing the crisis
Another question is whether the Democrats – under Obama – were simply postponing the crisis past the incoming Democratic administration, in order to entangle the next Republican president with its complex ramifications and consequences. As we witnessed since the “deal’ – as described by Gordon and Nephew – the ‘Liberal’ Democrats fought strongly to defend it. Those ‘Liberal’ may be divided into two camps:
1- ‘Progressive apologists’ led by president Obama himself, who tacitly admire Tehran’s ‘revolutionary’ rhetoric against ‘militaristic’ and ‘conservative’ Arab regimes.
2- Trusted ‘Israel friends’ who believe that civil and sectarian wars within and between its neighboring states would be the best guarantee for Israel’s safety and security.
Giving Tehran’s mullahs the benefit of the doubt has been very much in the mind of Obama who once said they were not “suicidal”; and of course Israel’s interests have always been a strategic policy of every US administration.
On the other hand, the fate of the Arab countries never occupied a high position in Obama’s list of political priorities, recalling how he reneged on almost everything he promised in what was his ‘historic’ 2009 Cairo speech. This fate hit an all-time low after the collapse of his ‘Red Lines” many had thought existed in Syria to prevent Bashar Al-Assad’s massacring of his own people by chemical weapons and other means.
Since the nuclear deal with Iran, many things have changed throughout the Middle East except in Iran, which is now convinced it has been given a carte blanche to do what it pleases. In fact, from the beginning, former Secretary of State John Kerry was frank when he reiterated that the JCPOA negotiations were restricted to the nuclear file, and never touched on other ‘regional issues’.
However, it was well known that among those ‘regional issues’ was the IRGC’s occupation of four Arab capitals, its destruction of cities in both Syria and Iraq, and uprooting and displacing tens of millions of Syrians and Iraqis most of whom were Sunni Arabs!
Furthermore, most of the crises in the Middle East were relegated to the shadows of ‘The War against ISIS’; that artificial terrorist phantom that was nurtured and built up, if not created and given its raison d’etre, by the policies of Tehran Moscow and Obama’s Washington during three years of the Syrian uprising.
The presence of ISIS has been the perfect excuse to redraw the boundaries of the ‘New Middle East’, and the much sought after factor to justify bringing down everything, leaving only’ failed states’, sectarian animosities, epidemics of ignorance and intolerance, and systematic destruction of institutions, landmarks of civilizations and cultural heritage.
The whole Middle East has paid – and is still paying – a heavy price for the ‘decade’ the nuclear deal has gifted to Iran. This price is being paid even by the ordinary Iranian citizen, who has been deprived by his mullahs, zealots and Revolutionary Guards his/her social safety net and welfare opportunities for future generations.
This article was first published in Asharq Al-Awsat.
Eyad Abu Shakra (also written as Ayad Abou-Chakra) began his media career in 1973 with Annahar newspaper in Lebanon. He joined Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper in the UK in 1979, occupying several positions including: Senior Editor, Managing Editor, and Head of Research Unit, as well as being a regular columnist. He has several published works, including books, chapters in edited books, and specialized articles, in addition to frequent regular TV and radio appearances. Eyad tweets @eyad1949.