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Why Is President Obama Upset about Prime Minister Netanyahu's Speech to Congress on Iran?
Dear Friend of FLAME:
Let's face it: President Obama's Iran policy is in shambles. It's embarrassing. No wonder he's in a snit about Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu coming to Washington, D.C. to promote tougher measures against Iran at the U.S. Congress.
In fairness, Obama's not the only one who has failed to deter Iran from its obsession to acquire nuclear arms.
Iran has been violating the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, to which it is a signatory, for decades. It has also violated subsequent agreements to suspend its uranium conversion and enrichment activities reached with Britain, France and Germany, as well as other international bodies. President Bush implemented new sanctions against Iran in 2005, and in 2006 the U.N. Security Council banned transfers of nuclear technology to Iran and froze foreign assets of those tied to Iran's nuclear program.
Nonetheless, Iran has categorically rejected further efforts of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the P5+1 nations, the U.N. (all six of its resolutions, including more sanctions) and the United States to reach an agreement to stop the Islamic republic's race to nuclear arms.
Mr. Obama's futile efforts to "extend an open hand" to the closed jihadi fist of Iran have been ongoing since his election in 2008, including, it must be admitted, ratcheting up tougher sanctions. However, in order to buy Iran's cooperation in negotiations, Obama in 2014 started releasing some frozen Iranian assets. Unfortunately he's gotten nothing in return.
U.S. and Iranian negotiators have missed two settlement deadlines in 2014 and are now working against a rapidly approaching June 30 deadline, which we're quite certain they also will not meet unless the U.S. buckles to Iranian demands.
In the meantime, Speaker of the House John Boehner has invited Prime Minister Netanyahu to speak to Congress on the Iran threat, which apparently violated Mr. Obama's sense of propriety and increased his already substantial ire at the Israeli P.M.
Also in the meantime, Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Mark Kirk (R-IL) have introduced the Nuclear Weapons Free Iran Act of 2015, which will impose harsher sanctions on Iran should it fail (as it certainly will) to cease its nuclear arms development. President Obama, as ever, threatens to veto any such legislation.
This week's featured FLAME Hotline article by Washington Post columnist Marc Thiessen calls the White House on the carpet for its petty response to the Netanyahu visit. It accuses Obama of opposing a position that not only Israel holds on Iran, but also the U.S. Congress and our Arab allies.
I think you'll find Thiessen's short op-ed, reprinted below, useful in your conversations with friends, family and colleagues---especially anyone who believes the Netanyahu visit is ill-advised. They will be enlightened and perhaps distressed to see the self-aggrandizing politics behind Mr. Obama's tantrum. Please also pass this issue along to your contacts, and use social media to refer your friends to it.
Thanks for your support of FLAME and of Israel!
Why Netanyahu is right to go around Obama to Congress
By Marc A. Thiessen, Washington Post, January 26, 2015
After learning that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had accepted an invitation to address a joint session of Congress about the need for new sanctions to stop Iran's nuclear program, the Obama administration went . . . well, nuclear.
One "senior American official" threatened Netanyahu, telling the Israeli newspaper Haaretz that "Netanyahu ought to remember that President Obama has a year and a half left to his presidency, and that there will be a price." Meanwhile a "source close to [Secretary of State John] Kerry" told The Post that the "secretary's patience is not infinite" and that "playing politics with that relationship could blunt Secretary Kerry's enthusiasm for being Israel's primary defender."
Oh, please. No wonder Netanyahu is going around these people to Congress for support. Is Kerry defending Israel as a favor to Netanyahu, or because it is in the United States' vital interests to stand with our closest ally in the Middle East? Just the threat of withdrawing that support validates Netanyahu's suspicion that the Obama administration does not have Israel's back in its negotiations with Iran.
Using anonymous officials to attack Netanyahu is nothing new. Unnamed officials have called him "chickens---," "recalcitrant," "myopic," "reactionary," "obtuse," "blustering," "pompous," and "Aspergery" - all to one journalist (Jeffrey Goldberg of the Atlantic, who keeps a running list).
President Obama will not meet with Benjamin Netanyahu when the Israeli prime minister visits the U.S. in March as the invited guest of Republican congressional leaders.
The Obama team's outrage is a bit overwrought. Clearly, it is not a breach of protocol for a foreign leader to lobby Congress. After all, Obama himself deployed British Prime Minister David Cameron to lobby lawmakers to oppose new sanctions on Iran. It seems Netanyahu's crime is not so much a breach of diplomatic protocol, but rather, opposing the administration's position.
The fact that Netanyahu felt compelled to speak directly to Congress in order to oppose the administration's position speaks poorly, not of Netanyahu, but of Obama. If the leader of one of our closest allies is so worried about the deal Obama is going to cut with Iran that he is willing to risk a diplomatic rift with the administration to speak out, perhaps the problem is not with Israel, but with the Obama administration. And it is not just Israel that opposes Obama's deal with Iran; Arab leaders have made clear that they share Israel's view.
No doubt politics plays a role in Netanyahu's decision to address Congress. His speech will come just two weeks before the Israeli elections. But is it wrong for a politician to use the foreign stage of an ally to buttress his electoral case back home? If it is, then Barack Obama - who gave a campaign speech in Berlin before 200,000 adoring Germans who could not vote for him - is the wrong man to level that criticism.
Obama claims that new sanctions on Iran "will all but guarantee that diplomacy fails." If the mere threat of sanctions is enough to derail Iran's nuclear talks, then whatever deal is in the works is not worth having. It means that Obama is far more desperate for a deal than Tehran is - which is a sure-fire way to guarantee a bad agreement.
Obama wants a nuclear deal with Iran because it would be a major feather in his political cap at a time when his foreign policy is imploding across the world, from Yemen to Syria to Iraq. For Israel, Iran's nuclear program is not a political challenge; it is an existential one.
Obama can afford a bad deal because, as that anonymous official put it, he has a year and a half left to his presidency. The people of Israel, on the other hand, will have to live with the consequences long after Obama is gone.
Netanyahu understands this - which is why it is good that he is coming to Washington, and why House Republicans deserve credit for inviting him.
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