With President Obama stuck in a mire of his own making, the Administration is looking externally for a quick win. The perceived target of opportunity is a negotiated settlement with Iran. The tentative agreement struck on November 9, had it been executed, would have for the first time tacitly acknowledged Iran’s right to enrich uranium – in defiance of multiple existing United Nations Resolutions and the consistent stance of the West over the past decade.

The deal would have essentially frozen the Iranian nuclear program in place for six months in exchange for the easing of sanctions. For this pyrrhic victory, the Administration was willing to trade away one of its singular achievements: the imposition of truly painful economic sanctions on Iran, an achievement which eluded the Bush Administration.

The key to the recent sanctions success has been the effective exclusion of Iran from the global banking system, cutting off its access to hard currency. The result has been devastating to the country’s economy and the value of its currency. The Iranian Rial has lost half its value since last spring.

It is, in fact, the very success of the banking sanctions put in place last February that has, for the first time, brought Iran to the brink of agreeing to any curtailment of its nuclear program. But the Iranians were smart enough to seize on the domestic troubles of Obama to offer nothing for something. Trading away the first truly effective (read: painful) sanctions for what amounts to a very short-term freeze in the status quo is simply foolish.

Apparently we have the French to thank for scuttling this agreement at the eleventh hour, reportedly following a call between Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Hollande. That American diplomacy on this most crucial of matters has degenerated to the point where salvation comes from Paris is hopefully the result of a fleeting weakness – an indiscretion of the moment never to be repeated.

The success of the Obama sanctions raises the hopes of a real negotiated end to the Iranian nuclear program. That outcome would be a true victory that President Obama could proudly trumpet. But the Administration can never let the tactical need for a quick diversion overrule the true strategic interests of the Free World. 

In 1938, Neville Chamberlain signed an agreement with Germany that traded away the territory and sovereignty of Czechoslovakia for the pyrrhic victory of “peace in our time.” The result was catastrophic. In November 2013, Barack Obama was saved from equal folly only by the intervention of a French Socialist. All I can add is vive la France!

Of course, the talks are resuming and the politics of distraction remain in full force …

© 2013 Ben Brunson

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