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Obama's misguided Tehran-bound 'Peace Train'

By JAMES ZUMWALT, UPI Outside View Commentator   |   Dec. 3, 2013 at 12:08 AM   |   Comments

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HERNDON, Va., Dec. 3 (UPI) -- Listen closely as the Obama administration touts the Nov. 24 Geneva nuclear deal struck between the P5+1 countries (the United States, Britain, France, China, Russia, plus Germany) and Iran. The distant echo, "history repeats itself," resonates.

Obama spin doctors will credit diplomacy with prevailing -- the world taking pause to step back from the precipice of war. But U.S. compliance will eventually cause 21st-century historians to tell a different story: As the P5+1 countries stepped back, Iran stepped forward.

Once again, future generations will wonder how obvious warning signs were ignored. Democracies will be ostracized for failing to confront evil sooner -- only left again to confront it later.

Seventy-five years ago, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain negotiated away Czechoslovakia's future, surrendering its Sudetenland to Hitler; today, U.S. President Barack Obama negotiates away future regional balance of power to Iran's mullahs.

Chamberlain's claim of "peace in our time" lasted 13 months. Depending how far advanced Iran's nuclear program is, Obama's may not last that long.

Cat Stevens' 1971 hit song encouraged "Everyone jump upon the peace train," but not everyone is eager to jump onboard Obama's. Regional U.S. allies Israel, Saudi Arabia and Egypt are furious Washington has again backed down from seriously stopping Tehran's nuclear weapons program.

The Foundation for Democracy in Iran notes the deal makes war inevitable allowing "the Iranian regime to maintain its nuclear breakout capability, imposes little in the way of serious verification and thus serves as an encouragement to continued cheating."

Another critic agrees, noting it "subordinated common sense and reality-check to oversimplification and wishful-thinking ... maximizing ... prospects of war."

Obama ignores history: Appeasement never keeps aggression at bay; credible resolve to use force does.

The U.S. Senate can still derail Obama's "peace train," rescuing Obama from a Chamberlainesque fate by imposing more sanctions in Iran to kill the deal. But, depending on how he plays an ace he unwittingly was dealt, Obama himself has one last chance to prevent the consequences of a nuclear-armed Iran.

P5+1's overriding concern going into negotiations was delaying Tehran's forward progress in developing nuclear weapons. Continuing to allow Tehran to operate under the cloak of a "peaceful" nuclear program enables it to proceed as far as possible before reaching a perceived (by the West) "fork in the road" -- a civilian versus military split -- the latter dubbed the "breakout" point.

Iran's journey of supposedly "peaceful development" has taken a decade; however, the journey from breakout to weaponization is much shorter -- perhaps only two months -- occurring as Tehran produces sufficient weapons-grade uranium. A truly successful U.S. deal has always turned on stopping Iran's journey before the breakout point to verify peaceful intent.

The Geneva agreement is an interim deal to establish trust over the next six months, with various actions required on both sides. A comprehensive agreement by the end of that term is then required. (Interestingly, Syrian President Bashir Assad simultaneously announced the rebels would be defeated within the same six-month period.)

But, within hours of signing an interim deal heavily skewed in Iran's favor, the parties disagreed on the very key issue of whether it allowed Iran to continue uranium enrichment.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said, "Let me be clear ... (the deal) does not say that Iran has a right to enrich uranium;" Tehran's leadership indicated, "Iran's right to enrichment has been recognized in two places of the document."

How could such a critical issue have been left open to misinterpretation -- especially since it had always been a stumbling block in past negotiations and since Washington, it turns out, has secretly been negotiating with Tehran for months. (Was this the reason for Obama's inaction on Syria -- not to disrupt nuclear negotiations?)

Politicians "fuzz up" issues so voters believe they support both sides. The same ploy by diplomatic negotiators spells disaster, leaving parties to proceed in the direction each was headed beforehand. For Iran, it means completing its nuclear arms program; for the United States, doing nothing to stop it.

The parties' disagreement suggests the deal lacks the legal requisite "meeting of the minds," raising the question, "Does a deal exist?" (Obama now suggests no actual agreement does but rather "a list of ideas with no way to implement them.")

We should soon know Obama's position as among the first U.S. actions required is unfreezing $7 billion in Iranian assets and lifting some sanctions.

Tehran considers the deal binding, recently inviting inspectors' access to two sites. Not included is Parchin where trace evidence of nuclear weapon triggering device testing may exist despite massive Iranian cover-up efforts.

Iran's disagreement on enrichment now presents Obama with his "fork in the road."

One branch leads to unfreezing Iranian funds despite Tehran's continuing enrichment; the other allows Obama to make a "break out" from a decade-long, failed U.S. policy of unsuccessful Iranian talks. The latter demands a meaningful "red line," timely and full Iranian compliance verification, with failure triggering a forceful U.S. response.

It is unconscionable, during negotiations in Geneva, Iran's true intentions -- expressed by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei -- went ignored. Khamenei allayed Iranian Basij militia commanders' fears the Geneva negotiations meant Iran's retreat from its nuclear arms objective. Khamenei assured them "heroic flexibility" is but a stalling tactic, giving Iran more time to achieve it, eventually creating a world sans Israel and the U.S.

Iran's intentions couldn't be clearer.

The West continues to perceive Iran's nuclear program on a road where a fork lies ahead; for Tehran, there never was one. The road always led directly to nuclear armament.

To ensure this destination is reached, Iran's mullahs believe Allah placed a 21st-century Neville Chamberlain in the White House at their journey's most critical time.

Unfortunately, they may well be right.

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(A retired U.S. Marine, Lt. Col. James Zumwalt served in the Vietnam War, the U.S. invasion of Panama and the first Gulf War. He has written "Bare Feet, Iron Will -- Stories from the Other Side of Vietnam's Battlefields," "Living the Juche Lie: North Korea's Kim Dynasty" and "Doomsday: Iran -- The Clock is Ticking.")

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(United Press International's "Outside View" commentaries are written by outside contributors who specialize in a variety of important issues. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of United Press International. In the interests of creating an open forum, original submissions are invited.)

© 2013 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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