Thirteen years ago, Samantha Power made a name for herself with her Pulitzer prize-winning book, “‘A Problem from Hell’: America and the Age of Genocide.” In this book, she explored the history of America’s reluctance to intervene to stop or prevent genocides. Prescribing American intervention as justified on grounds both “moral” and in service of “enlightened self-interest,” Power asked how something so clear in retrospect as the need to stop genocide could “become so muddled at the time by rationalization, institutional constraints, and a lack of imagination.”
It appears that on Monday morning, Power herself is going to demonstrate exactly how such muddling takes place.
Power is now President Obama’s ambassador to the United Nations. On Monday morning, the UN Security Council is scheduled to vote on a resolution endorsing the Iran nuclear deal announced July 14 in Vienna, and adopting the terms of this deal, including the lifting of UN sanctions on Iran, sunset clauses for the main restrictions on Iran’s nuclear activities, and so forth. This deal, a byzantine tome officially titled the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), is a gift to Iran’s terror-sponsoring tyranny, crammed with concessions offered up by Secretary of State John Kerry and lead negotiator Under Secretary Wendy Sherman, in their desperate quest to satisfy President Obama’s desire for an agreement with Tehran. Columnist Charles Krauthammer sums up some of the worst of it in his latest column: “Worse than we could have imagined.” Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday warned yet again that this agreement “paves Iran’s way to arm itself with nuclear weapons within a decade, if Iran decides to honor the agreement, and before then if it decides to violate it, as it usually does.”
By law, Congress gets 60 days to review this deal. But Obama is not waiting for Congress before taking it to the UN Security Council. Protests from Congress notwithstanding, the U.S. began circulating a draft UN resolution as soon as the deal was announced last week. When negotiator Wendy Sherman was asked at a press briefing last Thursday whether the administration might hold off on a UN resolution long enough to give Congress its promised say, Sherman dismissed the idea — putting the UN ahead of the elected representatives of the American people. Here’s how Sherman put it:
UNDER SECRETARY SHERMAN: Well, the way that the UN Security Council resolution is structured, there is an interim period of 60 to 90 days that I think will accommodate the congressional review. And it would have been a little difficult when all of the members of the P5+1 wanted to go to the United Nations to get an endorsement of this since it is a product of the United Nations process, for us to say, “Well, excuse me, the world, you should wait for the United States Congress.”
As the New York Sun responded, in a terrific editorial, why the blazes shouldn’t the UN wait on the U.S. Congress? It’s time Sherman got a reminder that she works for the U.S., not the UN.
As it is, the UN Security Council will vote on a resolution which its members have had a chance to read, but the Obama administration has not deigned to share the draft with the American public. Instead, for a window on what kind of Iran nuclear project our tax dollars will be bankrolling at the UN, we can be grateful to UN reporter Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press, who got hold of a leaked copy of the draft resolution, crammed in all its convoluted complexity with concessions to Iran, which he has posted online.
Presumably Power will be the diplomat occupying the U.S. seat on the Security Council when this resolution is taken up for adoption (Kerry will be busy on Monday welcoming Cuba’s foreign minister to Washington, and it looks like Sherman will be busy further pressuring Congress). This is a resolution that represents an end-run around the U.S. Congress, to enshrine at the UN a deal that delivers Iran multiple pathways to nuclear weapons, and starts by delivering to Iran some $100 billion in unfrozen oil revenues followed by market access to earn hundreds of billions more, under the approving gaze of a UN not known for enforcing complex deals meant to contain rogue tyrannies. This is a windfall for Iran’s nuclear ventures, terrorist ventures and ambitions of “Death to Israel” — which those concerned about genocide would be wise to take seriously. Given the weapons, including ballistic missiles, that this deal by year eight would permit Iran, it might even be a good idea to for American envoys to take seriously Iran’s threats of “Death to America.”
Surely Power is smart enough to see the fatal flaws in this Iran deal, even if her bosses do not. She may be a functionary of the Obama administration, but she is also an American citizen, free to speak the truth. There is nothing to stop her from speaking up at the UN to say, “Never mind my instructions from Washington. I take seriously the phrase, ‘Never again.’ I cannot in good conscience vote for this terrible deal. I cannot condone a plan that could pave the way to nuclear genocide in the Middle East. I vote no.”
Of course, were Power to do this, she would almost certainly lose her job. Obama and Kerry could dispatch a more compliant flunky to cast a U.S. vote in favor of the resolution, and the UN and the Obama administration could carry right on without Samantha Power. Nonetheless, a statement of principle from the U.S. ambassador, a willingness in the real interest of the U.S. and its allies, to tell the truth, would be, morally and in terms of enlightened self-interest, the right thing to do.
What we can expect, instead, is that Power, rationalizing her role and deferring to institutional constraints and directives from above, and perhaps failing to imagine the most likely consequences of turning over this terrible deal to the UN Security Council — or perhaps preferring simply not to face them — will vote for the resolution. To the delight of such members as Russia, China and Venezuela, and with the assent of all 15 members, it will pass. There are interesting books waiting to be written, on how the U.S. not only permitted this to happen, but led the way. Odds are, it will not be pleasant reading.