Obama rushing toward risky nuclear deal with Iran

The Detroit News

The emerging nuclear deal with Iran could be the capstone of an Obama administration foreign policy record that has made every possible mistake, from its reset with Russia to a Middle East strategy that managed to drive Israel and the Palestinians even further from peace.

Concerns about the talks with Iran, which Secretary of State John Kerry and his Iranian counterpart described this week as progressing toward agreement by the March 24 deadline, are coming from all corners and every political viewpoint.

The fear is that President Barack Obama is ready to make any deal for the sake of a deal, and is conceding too much wiggle room for the Iranians to continue their nuclear ambitions.

The Washington Post, in an editorial, summed up the major red flags this way:

■The initial goal of dismantling Iran’s ability to make a nuclear weapon has given way to acceptance of Iran’s capabilities, which the White House now hopes can be restricted.

■The Obama administration has acquiesced to Iran’s desires to increase its influence in the region.

■The president is planning to implement any deal it makes with Iran unilaterally, without seeking congressional approval.

Former secretaries of state Henry Kissinger and George Schultz are warning the administration is giving away too much, and seems outmatched at the negotiating table.

Kissinger rightly warns that a deal that leaves open a path for Iran to produce a nuclear weapon risks triggering the start of an arms race in the region, with other countries rushing to obtain their own bombs.

The administration has taken the unusual step of cutting off Israel from the flow of information about how the talks are coming together. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is scheduled to speak to Congress about the negotiations next month, is warning that the deal leaves Iran with too much bomb-making capacity.

The administration appears ready to allow most of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure to remain intact. Rather than extending the distance between Iran and a nuclear weapon, the deal would keep the Iranians within a year to 15 months from being able to produce a bomb.

Obama believes a vigorous inspection regime can detect an Iranian breakout. But given the size of Iran’s nuclear program, that is a risky bet.

The White House also seems convinced that reaching a nuclear deal will pave the way for a new relationship in which the United States would partner with Iran in combatting the Islamic State and other extremist groups.

That’s wishful thinking. Though driven by different ideologies, Iran and the Islamic State share the similar goal of pushing western influence out of the Middle East. That includes the destruction of Israel.

Allowing Iran, which has been a major financier of terrorist groups, to play a larger role in the region risks destabilizing other nations, including Saudi Arabia, an important ally of the United States.

The stakes in these negotiations are high — too high for this president or any other to act unilaterally. Bypassing Congress to sign a nuclear deal — or to end the sanctions that Congress voted to approve — is unprecedented.

Obama should step back from the table, listen to the advice of seasoned counselors, and respect Congress’ constitutional role in this process.