WHAT IF IRAN REJECTS THE DEAL?
Congress is back, and we will now have round one of the fight over the Iran deal. The White House having organized enough votes to block an override of the anticipated presidential veto, there are now multiple schemes to kill the deal anyway. Maybe some of the Democrats who have promised to vote with Obama will change their minds in the face of mounting public opposition. Maybe the Corker-Cardin law contains the seeds of its own distruction, and, surprise, surprise, can actually be used to force the Senate to treat the deal as a treaty rather than an executive agreement. I will confess that I can’t keep up with all the fine print, and anyway the central issue – Iran policy – is not going to be debated, at least for now.
The central issue is the war waged against us by Tehran and its allies, and whether we are going to continue to pay the Iranians billions of dollars to kill Americans and others. You would be amazed at the number of famous legislatures and their top staffers who do not know that we are presently giving Iran $700 million a month, as you would be amazed at the tiny handful of so-called leaders who publicly asked, “why would any president want to pay Iran hundreds of billions of dollars to kill Americans?”
It’s a question than answers itself, or so you would think. But then, since nobody asks it, we are still very far from the central issue, namely the war. Whatever happens in Congress in the next couple of weeks, the war will remain. The Iranians don’t need nukes to kill Americans, as they have demonstrated for the past 36 years, and sooner or later we will have to respond. Unless, of course, we just want to go quietly. If we want to win, we need to support regime change in Iran, last the off-repeated nonsense that Congress must choose between the deal and war become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Nonetheless, our history suggests a different solution: we may be saved by our enemies.
Our heroic combat in the two world wars of the last century were NOT the result of great American leadership or deep strategic thinking. They were provoked by badly judged actions by our enemies: the Germans torpedoed us into WWI on the North Atlantic Ocean, the Japanese bombed us into WWII at Pearl Harbor, and Al Qaeda suicide terrorists provoked our military entry into the Middle East after 9/11. The Marshall Plan was largely Stalin’s creations; if he had been more patient we’d have been so busy converted guns to butter, we’d have been unable to remain hyperactive in Europe. The Cold War was similarly catalyzed by Soviet actions in Greece, Turkey and Italy.
Will Iran repeat the errors of our previous tyrannical enemies? If you follow the debates in Tehran, there is every reason to believe that is possible. Remember that the ruling class is riven by internal conflict over the succession to Khamenei, who is still sick and still dying. The rulers still fear the people (the latest sign is the arrest of all seven leaders of the teachers’ union), mass executions are still rising, now approaching four every day. “Death to America” rings in the streets, and Khamenei has taken pains to say that, even if The Deal is approved, negotiations with Washington will cease (they won’t, but it’s significant that he feels driven to say they will).
Khamenei doesn’t want a partnership with us—what Obama wants—but he does want money. During the Vienna talks I forecast that Iran would sign nothing, but would seek a “no deal deal” in which Iran would promise to be good, and we would pay for it. The sanctions are already crumbling, and we have been paying $700 million/month for more than two years. Why should the Iranians formalize The Deal if the cash flow increases?
My prediction is along the previous lines: the Iranians will continue the negotiations by asking for further American concessions, loudly snarling “take it or leave it.” If we take it, they will have humiliated us once again. If Kerry and Obama throw their hands in the air, well, the Iranians figure they’ve broken the sanctions anyway and will press on.
Maybe then we can, at long last, start discussing the central issue and get around to figuring out how to win the war. Before we’ve lost it.
Michael Ledeen holds the Freedom Scholar Chair at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies in Washington, DC.