Diplomacy

Washington Post Editor: Administration’s Past Assurances Raise Questions about Iran Deal

The editorial page editor of the Washington Post has questioned how the United States can accept President Barack Obama’s guarantees about a nuclear deal with Iran in a column published today.

Fred Hiatt wrote that three factors—”the suspicious, poisonous partisanship of the moment here, with Israeli politics mixed in; worries that he wants a deal too much; and the record of his past assurances”—will make it very difficult for Obama to convince Congress and the American people of the worthiness of his Iran agreement.

Hiatt reviewed President Barack Obama’s record on Iraq, Libya and Syria. In Iraq, ignoring warnings that he was withdrawing troops from Iraq too quickly, “Obama belittled worries that instability might result….Today Iraq is in deep trouble, with a murderous ‘caliphate’ occupying much of its territory and predatory Shiite militia roaming through much of the rest.

While Obama assured the nation after joining a coalition of international forces to oust dictator Moammar Qaddafi in Libya that it’s “not to say that our work is complete,” there was no sustained international followup effort, and Libya now “is in the grip of civil war, with rival governments in the east and west and Islamist terrorists in between.”

And after stating before the nation that “I refused to wait for the images of slaughter and mass graves before taking action” in Syria, four years after the rebellion against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad began, in Hiatt’s words, “systematic and well-documented prison torture and other depredations of civil war killed 200,000 of his compatriots, and drove millions more from their homes.”

Hiatt claimed that these cases and others cited reflected a “litany of unfulfilled assurances,” which is “a product of wishful thinking and stubborn adherence to policies after they have failed,” leaving Hiatt to wonder if the president is trying too hard for a deal.

Openings as well as problems can appear unexpectedly in foreign affairs, but the coming two years offer only two obvious opportunities for Obama to burnish this legacy: trade deals with Europe and with Pacific nations, and a nuclear agreement with Iran. That limited field fuels worries that administration negotiators will accept the kind of deal that results from wanting it too badly.

Whatever its contours, Obama would be making a big mistake to try to implement such a momentous pact, as administration officials have suggested he might, without congressional buy-in. But it’s not surprising that he would be tempted to try.

Hiatt’s column reflects a growing sentiment in recent Washington Post editorials that a nuclear deal with Iran needs to demand more concessions from Iran and address bipartisan concerns. Earlier this month, an editorial observed disapprovingly that “it’s hard to escape the conclusion that Mr. Obama wishes to avoid congressional review because he suspects a bipartisan majority would oppose the deal he is prepared to make.”

The criticisms of Obama’s handling of the nuclear negotiations by the Post and its editor are especially notable because the paper endorsed Obama for president twice. In its 2008 endorsement, the Post praised Obama for “a sophisticated understanding of the world.”

The Post has also retreated from its earlier support of the nuclear negotiations with Iran, when, in November 2013, it supported the Joint Plan of Action arguing that “though the accord is freighted with risk, it is worthy as an interim step — and preferable to the military action that might otherwise have been deemed necessary,” urging lawmakers not to interfere while negotiations were ongoing.

 [Photo: ABC News (Australia) / YouTube ]