Iran calls Obama's bluff on nuclear deal
The decision by the Obama administration to "indefinitely" delay slapping sanctions on Iran for their clearly illegal missile tests is a direct response to Iranian threats to scuttle the nuclear deal if any additional sanctions are levied.
In other words, the administration was only bluffing when it declared that sanctions will "snap back" into place if Iran is caught cheating. And the sad truth is that even the miniscule pinprick sanctions the administration was talking about imposing for the illegal missile tests are now being held in abeyance lest the Iranians walk out of the nuclear agreement.
The reason for the delay is that Iran is threatening to back out of the deal if Obama enforces it. Iran's defiance and Obama's havering demonstrate that the mullahs feel less bound by the deal than he does. He's worried that it will collapse, but they aren't. Obama seems willing to sacrifice enforcement to preserve the illusion that a two-sided deal really exists.
Because the president wants this deal more than the Iranians do, the only truly binding part is the bit that imposes obligations on Washington, such as $100-150 billion in sanctions relief.
The deal ties the hands of U.S. leaders, current and future, whenever they try to deal with sectarian conflict in the Muslim world. It may not be inconvenient when soliciting Shiite Iranian help against the Sunni Islamic State, but it it is grossly inconvenient when, for example, dealing with mounting tension between Riyadh and Tehran. (Iranian threats about incinerating Israel are, of course, entirely overlooked.)
The provision on ballistic missiles is perhaps the most straightforward and non-controversial element in the entire deal. No one in Congress objected to its inclusion. On the contrary, it was used to persuade skeptical Democrats that Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry had not been outmaneuvered in negotiations. After all, unlike nuclear materials and centrifuges, ballistic missiles do not have a peaceful application.
Iran's regime, which insisted throughout the talks that its nuclear ambitions are peaceful, appears to have called Obama's bluff. If even obvious violations like this one cannot be punished, how will any other element of the deal be enforceable?
With every piece of evidence that emerges proving how truly bad this deal is, the mantra from treaty supporters remains unchanged; no matter how bad it is, it's better than no deal at all. The inanity of this argument is self-evident. There is no deal if one side gets to violate the terms of the agreement with impunity while the other side lives up to its negotiated obligations.
The Iranians say they "won't accept" the part of the deal that allows the West to sanction them for bad behavior or for other violations of the accord. If that's true, there's no hope that any of the terms of the agreement will be fulfilled by Iran, who will simply claim an interpretation of the deal favorable to them and dare Obama to risk blowing up the deal by sanctioning them.
The Iranians have, indeed, called Obama's bluff. The president's hope is that no one is noticing and he can ride off into the sunset, guaranteed a hero for preventing war.
At least for a year or so.