Due for a Bash-ing
CNN’s Dana Bash
Dana Bash, a likable correspondent for cable channel CNN, did anything but live up to her name Sunday in quizzing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell about the nuclear weapons negotiations the Obama administration is holding with Iran.
The Republican Senate created a firestorm last week by sending a letter signed by 47 of its 54 members to the Iranian regime warning that any deal could become invalid when President Obama leaves office. A huge backlash ensued, as conservatively oriented newspapers that had backed Republican senators in the papers’ districts condemned the politicians. Even a few Republicans in Congress, and a lot of conservative pundits, found fault with the letter, which sought to undermine the negotiations and betrayed the president.
Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Tenn.
Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark.
McConnell told Bash he had voted with his colleagues to send the letter, initiated by freshman Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, in office just a couple of months. “It’s a bad deal,” he said.
Tongue bashing in order
At that point, I am muttering to Bash as I watch CNN, “Don’t let him get away with that.” She wasn’t exactly bashing him. I wanted her to ask, “Senator, do you think any lessons are to be learned from history.”
“Well, of course I do,” McConnell would have replied before proceeding to obfuscate in the habitual manner of a politician.
Bash then would hold his feet to the fire, pointing out that the failure of negotiations at intervals since 2006 only allowed Iran to ramp up its production of nuclear facilities in secret without inspections to hold it back. With no agreement on inspections, the country continued on its path to development of a nuclear bomb, undeterred by the increasing pressure of economic sanctions.
Middle East expert Juan Cole put it this way: “But all of (President) Bush’s bluster had no effect on Iran, which went on constructing centrifuges and expanding its knowledge of how to close the fuel cycle.” Of the present situation, Cole warned, “An Ostrich foreign policy can’t work here. Nor could Iran’s enrichment program simply be bombed. Enough Iranian scientists and engineers know how to revive it that a bombing raid would only set it back a year or two.”
Is the plan still being worked out between United States and Iranian negotiators a “bad deal,” as McConnell insists?
Imperfect deal better than no deal
Eline Gordts of the Huffington Post made a cogent case for completing this deal: “Good means different things to different people, but we should realize that diplomacy by nature does not produce perfect outcomes because both sides have to compromise. We should compare the agreement to its alternatives, and the reality is that what is currently being negotiated will virtually block all of Iran’s pathways to a nuclear weapon. In that sense I think it is a good deal. It does not totally eliminate the risk, but it diminishes it really significantly. We should compare it to the alternative: no deal at all. With a deal, Iran will roll back its enrichment capacity. Without a deal, the capacity will be jacked up and the time Iran needs to produce the material for a nuclear weapon will be reduced to maybe just a few weeks. The inspection mechanisms that are currently in place will be much less intrusive than in the case of a deal, and the stockpile of enriched material that Iran has access to will grow instead of being reduced. Without a deal, Iran keeps its heavy water reactor that produces enough plutonium for one nuclear weapon per year, and there’s a risk that it could use the plutonium parts for nuclear weapons. With a deal, that reactor is going to be converted and it will produce less than a kilogram of plutonium per year, which means it would take Iran eight years to accumulate enough material for a nuclear weapon.”
Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in an insult to President Obama, addressed the U.S. House, warning members of calamity if a deal goes through. The same man addressed a joint session of Congress in 1996, darkly warning, “If Iran were to acquire nuclear weapons, this could presage catastrophic consequences, not only for my country, and not only for the Middle East, but for all mankind,” adding that, “the deadline for attaining this goal is getting extremely close.” That and similar fulminations of his since then have proved to be hot air.
Not all Jewish organizations are sympathetic to Netanyahu’s positions, widely viewed as politically motivated as elections to determine whether he keeps his job loom in Israel. The Philadelphia Jewish Voice wrote, “Sanctions alone will not stop Iran. It would be irresponsible not to ratchet up the sanctions if talks failed, but if talks do fail, sanctions will be even less likely than negotiations to stop Iran. The only remaining option will then be military action, and while it might stop Iran in the short term, it will guarantee that Iran will do all it can to eventually acquire nuclear weapons. That is why negotiations remain our best hope for stopping Iran.”
Here’s what Bash should have asked McConnell: “A number of persons informed in the ways of U.S. politics have declared that the senators’ letter to Iran was an attempt to sabotage the negotiations, because if they succeed, it will redound to Obama’s favor. Wasn’t that letter motivated by the wish to see Obama fail, the best interests of the country be damned?”
I can envision the look on McConnell’s face – similar to the one on Rush Limbaugh’s face when NBC