CHARLOTTE, NC, March 14, 2014 – When Secretary of State John Kerry testified on Capital Hill for the first time since negotiating the preliminary Iranian nuclear deal in Geneva last year, he was greeted with a heavy dose of skepticism. Even his own party displayed serious reservations about the agreement.
With a crisis already raging in Ukraine, Russia has upped the ante. Iran’s official news agency announced Russia has made a preliminary agreement to build two more nuclear power plants in that country.
According to William Bigelow of Breitbart News, Iran’s potential deal could send as much as half a million barrels of crude oil a day to Russia, which would increase Iran’s oil exports by 50% and greatly minimize the impact Western sanctions.
One of the harshest critics of Kerry’s “Thanksgiving gift” to Iran has been the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET) which has repeatedly emphasized the lopsided advantage the West granted to Iran’s regime with little or nothing in return. Even though caps were negotiated to slow Iran’s ability to enrich uranium, nothing was done to prevent them from increasing its uranium stockpile. Meanwhile, Iran’s centrifuges continue to operate with no restrictions on building more and now Russia is proposing construction of two additional nuclear power plants.
In return, the West gained nothing of consequence while Iran’s nuclear program remains virtually untouched.
As if those details were not bad enough, Western concessions in the deal are non-reversible while Iran has the option of easily changing the rules of concession at any time.
Two major concerns have arisen over the announcement of Russia’s intent to build the nuclear power plants in Iran. The first is the obvious suspicion by Israel and some Western countries that the new facilities could be part of Iran’s attempt to acquire nuclear weapons.
The second is a fear by neighboring countries that there could be radioactive leaks since Iran is located on a number of major fault lines and is, therefore, at risk of intense earthquakes.
In addition to the anticipated negative questions from Republicans, several Democrats made it clear to Kerry that they are not thrilled by his Geneva agreement with Iran. Rep. Juan Vargas, D-Calif, a Kerry supporter during his campaign for president in 2004, termed the deal “naïve.”
Another California congressman, Brad Sherman, said, “I was briefed by the administration on this deal and I was impressed a little bit less after I read it.”
Kerry made a feeble attempt to spin his way out of the challenges by responding, “There’s nothing naïve about what we’re doing. It is calculated. It may be wrong. You may find that it is a miscalculation, but it’s not a miscalculation based on naiveté. We understand the dangers. We understand the risks. We understand how critical all of this is…
Not exactly a ringing endorsement of White House foreign policy. When a secretary of state says we are not naïve but we may have miscalculated and we may be proved wrong, that certainly sounds like a definition of naïveté. Such claims seem to indicate that the administration truly does not “understand” the dangers, the risks or how critical the stakes are.
Now as the West attempts to devise a strategy for dealing with Russia’s Vladimir Putin in Crimea, they find themselves with new concerns as Putin appears to be financing additional nuclear projects in Iran. The problem is further complicated by flimsy negotiations with Iran in Geneva.
Words and spin are not the answer. We have become a paper tiger without teeth. Naïve is too of a word to describe U.S. policies. When ambivalence mixes with incompetence it is a recipe for trouble.
Bob Taylor has been traveling the world for more than 30 years as a writer and award winning television producer focusing on international events, people and cultures around the globe. Taylor is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com).
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