The president’s happy talk and sad resultsAug 10, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 45 • By MAX BOOT
President Obama is putting on the hard sell to market the nuclear deal he reached with Iran. On July 14, in announcing the agreement, he said: “This deal shows the real and meaningful change that American leadership and diplomacy can bring—change that makes our country and the world safer and more secure. We negotiated from a position of strength and principle—and the result is a nuclear deal that cuts off every pathway to a nuclear weapon.”
He promised that this agreement would put Iran and the entire region on a path away from “violence and rigid ideology,” a path towards “tolerance and peaceful resolution of conflicts,” a path that “leads to more integration into the global economy, more engagement with the international community, and the ability of the Iranian people to prosper and thrive.” In conclusion, he said, “This deal offers an opportunity to move in a new direction. We should seize it.”
Stirring words. But are they credible? Aside from the specifics of the Iran deal, it is possible to look back on the president’s litany of pronouncements about the Middle East to assess the reliability of his promises. Here are a few highlights.
In 2011, President Obama joined an international coalition of countries to drive Muammar Qaddafi out of power. On August 22, after Qaddafi’s ouster, he said: “A season of conflict must lead to one of peace. The future of Libya is now in the hands of the Libyan people. Going forward, the United States will continue to stay in close coordination with the TNC [Transitional National Council]. We will continue to insist that the basic rights of the Libyan people are respected. And we will continue to work with our allies and partners in the international community to protect the people of Libya, and to support a peaceful transition to democracy.”
A year later, on July 7, 2012, he said, “The United States is proud of the role that we played in supporting the Libyan revolution and protecting the Libyan people, and we look forward to working closely with the new Libya—including the elected Congress and Libya’s new leaders. We will engage as partners as the Libyan people work to build open and transparent institutions, establish security and the rule of law, advance opportunity, and promote unity and national reconciliation.”
In fact the United States did precious little to bolster the legitimacy of Libya’s nascent democratic regime. Partly as a result of that failure, Libya transitioned not to democracy but to anarchy—anarchy in which U.S. ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed. Now Libya has, in effect, no government, and the country is divided among warring militias, with the Islamic State playing an increasingly prominent role.
In 2011, President Obama made a halfhearted effort to win renewal of the Status of Forces Agreement allowing U.S. troops to remain in Iraq. When negotiations, which had begun in the middle of the year, bogged down, the president, rather than getting personally involved in the talks, instead announced that all U.S. troops were coming home. But don’t worry, he said. Their departure would not imperil Iraq’s future.
On October 21, 2011, he promised: “With our diplomats and civilian advisers in the lead, we’ll help Iraqis strengthen institutions that are just, representative, and accountable. We’ll build new ties of trade and of commerce, culture, and education, that unleash the potential of the Iraqi people. We’ll partner with an Iraq that contributes to regional security and peace, just as we insist that other nations respect Iraq’s sovereignty. . . . Just as Iraqis have persevered through war, I’m confident that they can build a future worthy of their history as a cradle of civilization. . . . So to sum up, the United States is moving forward from a position of strength.”
A few weeks later, on December 12, 2011, he hosted Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki at the White House. In a joint appearance, Obama said: “The prime minister leads Iraq’s most inclusive government yet. Iraqis are working to build institutions that are efficient and independent and transparent. . . . In the coming years, it’s estimated that Iraq’s economy will grow even faster than China’s or India’s. . . . People throughout the region will see a new Iraq that’s determining its own destiny—a country in which people from different religious sects and ethnicities can resolve their differences peacefully through the democratic process.”
Aug 10, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 45 • By LEE SMITH
John Kerry is bullish on the Middle East. He believes that the Iran deal will make it possible for the White House and Tehran to tamp down wars in places like Syria and Yemen. And—who knows?—maybe even solve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
Aug 10, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 45 • By MICHAEL MAKOVSKY and WILLIAM KRISTOL
In May, President Barack Obama donned a yarmulke and spoke in a Washington, D.C., synagogue. He reminded his audience that Jeffrey Goldberg, a member of the congregation, once called him the “first Jewish president.” He claimed to be flattered by the characterization. And perhaps he was—most Jews, after all, voted for him for president, and many Jews of Obama’s acquaintance have sometimes seemed to care more about the well-being of Planned Parenthood than about the survival of the state of Israel.
5:05 PM, Jul 28, 2015 • By MARK HEMINGWAY
Despite little national coverage, scandals surrounding former NBA star and Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson have been intensifying over past few months. Monday's report at Deadspin is a good place to start -- things have gotten so bad that Johnson's allies are accusing a local paper that's done a lot of damning reporting on Johnson of racism.
Our unpopular president.Aug 3, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 44 • By JAY COST
Barack Obama is not popular. This plain and simple fact may surprise those who read only legacy journalists, who often elide this inconvenient truth. A recent Associated Press write-up is illustrative:
Even as the public remains closely divided about his presidency, Barack Obama is holding on to his support from the so-called “Obama coalition” of minorities, liberals and young Americans, an Associated Press-GfK poll shows, creating an incentive for the next Democratic presidential nominee to stick with him and his policies.
Aug 3, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 44 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
The Iran deal turns out to be so no good, so very bad, so awfully ugly, that there is a chance—an outside chance—that a congressional process accepted by the administration because it seemed to virtually guarantee the deal’s survival might actually kill it instead.
Aug 3, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 44 • By LEE SMITH
When the secretary of state says, as John Kerry did last week in his Senate testimony, that the Obama White House is “guaranteeing” Iran won’t have the bomb, you can be sure that—well, you can be pretty confident that he doesn’t mean it. And that someday soon he’ll pretend he never said it.
Obama’s besetting sin.Aug 3, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 44 • By FRED BARNES
The original sin of President Obama, politically speaking, was pushing his health care plan through Congress with Democratic votes alone. For rejecting even a veneer of bipartisanship, he and Democrats have paid an enormous price.
Jul 27, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 43 • By MICHAEL MAKOVSKY
In his first Inaugural Address, President Obama offered an open hand to the Iranian regime. On July 14, announcing the nuclear deal that is the culmination of that overture, he shook a closed fist at the American people. The president came out swinging—not at the regime in Tehran but at his predecessors in the Oval Office and in Congress who for decades imposed an increasingly tough sanctions regime on Iran.
Jul 27, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 43 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
President Obama had a moment of impressive moral clarity at his Iran press conference Wednesday. It was when he was asked about Bill Cosby.
“I’ll say this: If you give a woman—or a man, for that matter—without his or her knowledge, a drug, and then have sex with that person without consent, that’s rape.” And, Obama continued, “I think this country, any civilized country, should have no tolerance for rape.”
Barack Obama’s global test.Jul 27, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 43 • By MATTHEW CONTINETTI
‘Without this deal,” said President Obama on Tuesday, “there is no scenario where the world joins us in sanctioning Iran until it completely dismantles its nuclear program.” That was nothing new. Throughout the negotiations with Iran, “the world” has been one of the president’s favorite defenses against criticism. “Nothing we know about the Iranian government suggests that it would simply capitulate under that kind of pressure,” he continued. “And the world would not support an effort to permanently sanction Iran into submission.”
The coming Iran intelligence failureJul 27, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 43 • By REUEL MARC GERECHT
One might think that after the last Iraq war Democrats would be wary of allowing intelligence to dictate policy. Yet that is effectively what Barack Obama has done with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action signed in Vienna on July 14. The agreement with Iran is strategically premised on the notion that greater commerce will transform the virulently anti-American, antisemitic, terrorism-fond, increasingly imperial Islamic Republic into something more pleasant. Tactically, the agreement depends on Western intelligence against the Iranian nuclear target.
Once again, the president wants to save us without involving Congress. Jul 27, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 43 • By JEREMY RABKIN
President Obama’s deal with Iran is not even called an “agreement.” Technically, it’s a “joint comprehensive plan of action,” a mushy term adopted precisely to avoid the implication that it’s a formally binding agreement. In truth, it’s more like the sort of coordinated “plan of action” that desperate relatives negotiate with hostage-takers. Sometimes it works and the hostages come out alive. But lawyers are never required when negotiating this sort of arrangement. Law has nothing to do with it.
11:57 AM, Jul 16, 2015 • By ELLIOTT ABRAMS
Would George W. Bush have negotiated and signed the JCPOA with Iran? Even for those who (like me) worked in the Bush White House, that seems like a silly question. After all, who cares? Bush has been out of office for more than six years, and refrains from commenting on foreign affairs or from criticizing President Obama.
Gleanings and observations.11:39 AM, Jul 15, 2015 • By IRWIN M. STELZER
Years ago, a left-leaning reporter for a mainstream newspaper grossly exaggerated the crowd at one of her favorite protest rallies. When I pointed out the much lower crowd estimates by police and other sources, she responded with, “facts are the enemy of truth,” words from the mouth of Cervantes’ deranged Don Quijote de la Mancha. If facts are indeed the enemy of truth, President Obama has been on firm ground in recent weeks.