Time for a New 'New Beginning'
Peace can be an elusive thing. It is endangered when leaders sacrifice common sense on the altar of ideology. Three Democratic leaders in the last forty years -- Jimmy Carter, Al Gore, and Barack Obama -- were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, an honor the Nobel Committee refused to bestow on any Republican during the same period. One "Saturday Night Live" joke on the odd decision to award President Obama's 2009 Peace Prize with no discernible achievement was not far off: he won for not being George W. Bush.
Yet recent presidents could never match Ronald Reagan, who followed the Roman aphorism, "If you want peace, prepare for war." Reagan delivered victory in the Cold War without firing a shot. His winning formula went beyond bluster, but he never failed to remind the world about our democratic values.
Because we believe all men are created equal, we do not believe all governments are created equal. Some merit our profound distrust, none more so than Iran. This brutal fascistic theocracy leads the world in political executions and sponsors terrorism worldwide. It mercilessly persecutes non-Muslim minorities and pro-democracy regime opponents. It is ruled by mullahs who spout a murderous ideology, calling the United States the "Great Satan" and Israel the "Little Satan." Israel is our closest Middle East ally because it shares our values and protects our security interests. That it is also the cradle of our Western democratic values is undoubtedly a major reason why Iran's leaders repeatedly deny the Nazi Holocaust while promising an Iranian genocide to wipe Israel off the map.
Unfortunately, the Obama administration's foreign policy has empowered our enemies and alienated our allies, especially Israel. This should have come as no surprise. In his 2009 speech in Cairo, the president announced a "new beginning" with a Muslim world that is decidedly non-democratic. He implied that America was to blame for many of the world's problems. Since then, the president has scaled back our leadership role in the Middle East.
Iran's hegemonic ambitions and pursuit of nuclear weapons makes it exceedingly dangerous. It claims its nuclear enrichment is for domestic energy and medical isotopes, a transparently deceptive claim.
Meaningful deterrence requires a combination of effective economic sanctions and a credible threat of military force. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu drew the "red line" at Iran's breakout point when it can build a nuclear warhead. In contrast, President Obama moved the red line to the point after Iran had produced an atomic bomb.
The president warned the Syrian dictator, Bashar al-Assad, not to gas his own people, adding that doing so would cross a "red line." Assad ignored him, and the president retreated. He was in retreat again when he eased Iranian economic sanctions via the November 24 Interim Agreement in Geneva. At this point, it is unclear his administration retains any deterrent credibility at all.
In his State of the Union Address, President Obama declared that "Iran has begun to eliminate its stockpile of higher levels of enriched uranium. It is not installing advanced centrifuges." This was sophistry. A work stoppage while building a house is hardly the same as demolishing the house. That Iran is not installing new centrifuges is not "eliminating its stockpile." Iran has not eliminated anything. It has not destroyed a single centrifuge. Nor has it turned over a single piece of equipment used to build nuclear warheads.
There is no getting around it: Geneva is a bad deal. It allows Iran to continue enriching uranium with existing centrifuges, thereby undermining numerous U.N. Security Council resolutions that prohibit Iran from enriching uranium. The agreement means Iran can become a nuclear state. Israel faces an existential threat. The Persian Gulf states likewise feel threatened. Now they seek to acquire their own nuclear weapons, which will spark an arms race in the world's most unstable region.
Congress has a role to play here. A bipartisan group of senators recently introduced the Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act. This bill tightens sanctions after the Interim Agreement's six-month test period ends. It requires Iran to comply with specified conditions, including actual degradation of its nuclear program. It also contains a statement of support for Israel should it strike Iran's nuclear facilities. Congress should not be intimidated by the president's threat to veto the bill.
Seventy years after the start of the atomic age, the need to make the correct international decisions is that much more compelling when we are dealing with the most dangerous technology known to us. Geneva is the latest chapter in the administration's "new beginning" that makes the world a more dangerous place. It is time for a different "new beginning" -- this time, one based on a renewal of confidence in our democratic values and unabashed support for our democratic allies. Congress should pass the Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act immediately and override the president's promised veto.
Frank Scaturro is former Counsel for the Constitution on the Senate Judiciary Committee and Republican/Conservative candidate for the House of Representatives in New York's 4th Congressional District.