The Obama administration’s recent announcement that it has yet again extended negotiations with Iran over its illegal nuclear programs is confirmation of another foreign policy failure under this president. I have been concerned about the direction of these negotiations since they began.
Even as the United States becomes more deeply mired in the swamp of Middle East conflicts, the Obama administration is guided by no coherent regional strategy. Challenges to vital American interests in this region come directly from Iran, the world’s largest state-sponsor of terrorism. Not only is President Barack Obama ignoring the clear and present danger posed by these Iranian ambitions, he is abetting those ambitions by surrendering key positions first and then pursuing negotiations that confirm our weakness.
For eight years, U.S. policy – backed by six U.N. Security Council resolutions – insisted Iran abandon its program to enrich uranium because of the mortal danger posed by an Iran armed with nuclear weapons. That position was abandoned virtually at the start of the negotiations with Iran.
Although the subjects of uranium enrichment, weapons programs, inspections regimes and nuclear power are highly complex, they all lead now to a very simple question: How much ability will Iran have to enrich uranium, and how many centrifuges will it be permitted to operate in reaching that goal?
When the U.N. Security Council passed its first resolution demanding that Iran cease enriching uranium, Iran had 800 centrifuges doing that illegal work. Today, after two years of direct negotiations on the issue, Iran has 19,000. Iran’s “Supreme Leader” recently announced he wants a major industrial scale of enrichment requiring 180,000 centrifuges.
It is difficult to see how these lengthy negotiations have made any real progress on the core issue. Any negotiated agreement that gives Iran the ability to retain so much enrichment capability is completely unacceptable and should be rejected by Congress.
The administration has made it clear that it intends to circumvent congressional scrutiny of any deal because of widespread, bipartisan opposition. This would be a serious mistake.
This is the most significant national security issue of our age, and it is being mishandled to secure a “legacy” for the Obama administration. It is important to reassert a vigorous congressional role before our country is burdened with a bad agreement that does little to prevent a nuclear Iran.
In the meantime, another extension of the misguided, mishandled negotiations means the Iranians can continue their dangerous nuclear activities, secure additional sanctions relief according to the terms of the interim agreement and buy more time to undermine the international sanctions regime. I am working with my Senate colleagues to break this dangerous cycle.