The ongoing negotiations for a nuclear deal have been in extra innings for two weeks now, as both sides sought to convince their domestic audiences that they are driving the hardest possible bargain.
On Tuesday morning, President Obama took yet another stroll down "BFD Boulevard" to announce, from the East Room of the White House, that the United States and its international partners have reached a final agreement with Iran to claw back its attempt to create a nuclear weapon. In a fifteen-minute speech, the President laid out the contours of the deal, which include a 98% reduction in Iran's enriched uranium stockpile, the removal of two-thirds of Iran's centrifuges and accompanying infrastructure, 24/7 monitoring of those components, and permanent IAEA inspections. He also laid out the most clear reasoning for giving the deal a chance and, inadvertently, explained why it is that Iran is most likely to comply with the non-proliferation treaty in the future (video via Digitas Daily):
"Many times, in multiple countries, I have decided to use force. I will never hesitate to do so when it is in our national security interest. I strongly believe that our national security interest now depends upon preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. which means that without a diplomatic resolution, neither I nor a future U.S. president would face a decision about whether or not to allow Iran to obtain them nuclear weapon, or whether to use the military to stop it. No deal means a greater chance of more war in the middle east. We give nothing up by testing whether or not this problem can be solved peacefully. If Iran violates the deal, the same options available to me today will be available to any U.S. president in the future, and I have no doubt that 10 or 15 years from now, the person who holds this office will be in a far stronger position with Iran further from a weapon, and with the inspections and transparency that allow us to monitor the Iranian program."
In other words, we can still attack Iran if we really want to, just as surely as we can right now, if they get a nuclear weapon. What has also always been true, but what no one at the White House will say out loud and on the record, and what the media continually fails to point out, is that Israel can still nuke Iran anytime it feels like it. They are the true deterrent here, and the likely reason that Iran was always going to reach a deal, notwithstanding the 11th-hour theatrics. This deal will hold, or Israel will nuke Iran. The end.
The announcement of the deal will surely result in an avalanche of apocalyptic declarations by Republicans, such as the one that MSNBC broadcast instead of carrying Secretary of State John Kerry's live remarks in their entirety. The best one however, had to come from Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who just went with "this is a terrible deal" that's "going to make everything worse," before making the most revealing statement about any Republican reaction to the deal:
Graham: This is a terrible deal. It's going to make everything worse, and I really fear that we've set in motion a decade of chaos.
SCARBOROUGH: Well, first of all, I just have to say, I don't think it is a good deal. I don't know the outlines of the deal yet. I want to read the deal.
GRAHAM: Me, too.
SCARBOROUGH: I was telling you, though, what the President of the United States said. So let's read the deal, and I will -- like you, I'll be back with you in a couple weeks to let you know what I think of the deal.
Graham, and every other Republican you will hear from today, hates the deal that he hasn't read yet because they were always going to hate the deal. Because Obama.
Unfortunately for the Republicans, public opinion is on the side of the deal, and Hillary Clinton has the credentials to run on it thanks to the White House. Not only was then-Secretary of State Clinton instrumental in putting together the deal, she also (ironically) has the hawk-cred that has dogged her over the Iraq resolution.
Update: On Tuesday night, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton rleased the following statement in support of the Iran nuclear deal (via email from Hillary Clinton For America):
“I am still studying the details, but based on the briefings I received and a review of the documents, I support the agreement because it can help us prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. With vigorous enforcement, unyielding verification, and swift consequences for any violations, this agreement can make the United States, Israel, and our Arab partners safer.
“In light of the international community's long history and experience with Iranian behavior, the highest priority must be given to effective enforcement of the agreement. Signing is just the beginning. As President, I would use every tool in our arsenal to compel rigorous Iranian compliance. At the outset, we must see the verified roll back of the Iranian nuclear program required by the agreement. We can never permit Iran to evade its obligations or to place any suspicious site off limits to inspectors. And the response to any cheating must be immediate and decisive – starting with the return of sanctions but taking no options off the table, including, if necessary, our military options.
“The message to Iran should be loud and clear: We will never allow you to acquire a nuclear weapon; not just during the term of this agreement – never.
“Today’s agreement is the culmination of a sustained strategy of pressure and engagement executed over many years. As Secretary of State, I logged tens of thousands of miles and twisted a lot of arms to build a global coalition to impose the most crippling sanctions in history. That unprecedented pressure delivered a blow to Iran’s economy and gave us leverage at the negotiating table, starting in Oman in 2012. I know from experience what it took to build a global effort to get this done; I know what it will take to rally our partners to enforce it.
“Going forward, we have to be clear-eyed when it comes to the broader threat Iran represents. Even with a nuclear agreement, Iran poses a real challenge to the United States and our partners and a grave threat to our ally Israel. It continues to destabilize countries from Yemen to Lebanon, while exacerbating the conflict in Syria. It is developing missiles that can strike every country in the Middle East. And it fuels terrorism throughout the region and beyond, including through direct support to Hamas and Hizballah. We have to broadly confront and raise the costs for Iran’s destabilizing activities, insist on the return of U.S. citizens being held in Iranian prisons, and strengthen security cooperation with our allies and partners. Sanctions for terrorism, and other non-nuclear sanctions, must remain a key part of our strategy and must be vigorously enforced.
“Israel has to be confident that the United States will always ensure its Qualitative Military Edge in the region and its capacity to defend itself by itself. As President, I would invite the senior Israeli leadership to Washington for early talks on further strengthening our alliance. We must also deepen our security relationship with our Arab partners threatened by Iran. This includes our continued presence and providing needed capabilities. Iran should have no doubt about our support for the security of our partners.
“I know that there are people of good faith who oppose this deal - people I respect. They raise concerns that have to be taken seriously. They are right to call for extreme vigilance. I am as familiar with Iranian behavior and the need to confront it as anyone. I support this agreement because I believe it is the most effective path of all the alternatives available to the U.S. and our partners to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.
So we should applaud President Obama, Secretary Kerry, and Secretary Moniz for getting this done, and proceed with wisdom and strength in enforcing this deal to the fullest and in meeting the broader Iranian challenge.”