The Iran nuclear deal was a disaster. Despite Obama’s repeated claims that the deal would prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, Iran never saw it that way. “We did not agree to dismantle anything,” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told CNN in January 2014, while negotiations were in progress. Zarif also claimed Obama was mischaracterizing the intention of the deal. “The White House tries to portray it as basically a dismantling of Iran’s nuclear program. That is the word they use time and again,” Zarif said on the deal during the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani even bragged that “world powers surrendered to Iranian nation’s will.”
When the deal was finally official, we had a deal Iran never intended to keep, was unenforceable anyway, and yet Iran got a windfall of benefits at the expense of the safety and security of the United States and our Middle East allies. The deal lifted economic sanctions, thus freeing $150 billion in fresh capital—which even Obama’s Secretary of State John Kerry agreed could fuel military and terrorist activities. “I think that some of [the money] will end up in the hands of the IRGC or other entities, some of which are labeled terrorists,” Kerry said in 2016.
Obama himself admitted that his treasured nuclear deal wouldn’t stop Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. Iran refused nuclear inspections of military sites, despite Obama advisor Ben Rhodes promising they could be carried out “anywhere, anytime.” By September 2019, they were already using advanced centrifuges specifically prohibited by the nuclear deal, capable of enriching uranium into weapons-grade material.
Opposition to the Iran nuclear deal was bipartisan as well. Chuck Schumer opposed the deal, arguing Iran “will be able to achieve its dual goals of eliminating sanctions while ultimately retaining its nuclear and non-nuclear power.” It was a rare moment when I actually agreed with him.
Even as Iran refused to abide by the commitments of the deal, they enjoyed access to America’s financial system, and a huge influx of American taxpayer money, including the $400 million cash ransom given to them in exchange for four American hostages. Despite giving Iran tons of money with sanctions relief, Obama admitted that that money would likely benefit their military. “Now, this is not to say that sanctions relief will provide no benefit to Iran’s military. Let’s stipulate that some of that money will flow to activities that we object to,” he said.
Accountability for Iran was never part of the Obama-Biden foreign policy; appeasement was. When Soleimani’s Quds Force attempted to bomb a restaurant in Washington, D.C., in 2011, their administration did nothing in response. Former Defense Secretary James Mattis explained in his memoir:
Had the bomb gone off, those in the restaurant and on the street would have been ripped apart, blood rushing down sewer drains. It would have been the worst attack on us since 9/11. I sensed that only Iran’s impression of America’s impotence could have led them to risk such an act within a couple of miles of the White House. Absent one fundamental mistake — the terrorists had engaged an undercover DEA agent in an attempt to smuggle the bomb — the Iranians would have pulled off this devastating attack.
Mattis concluded that the failure to respond would make Iran “emboldened to challenge us more in the future,” which they did.
While Biden joined the chorus of Democrats blasting Trump for the strike that killed Soleimani, Obama and Biden’s own Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said the Soleimani strike “was a lawful military objective. The President under his constitutional authority as commander in chief had ample domestic legal authority to take him out.”
Years of Obama-Biden appeasement has lead to the current situation we’re in with Iran. Obama let Iran go unaccountable for years because he was desperate to get a nuclear deal with them that was unenforceable and did nothing to stop them from their objective: develop nuclear weapons.
Trump’s response was necessary and needed to show Iran that the days of Obama-Biden appeasement are over, and the days of accountability are back.
Matt Margolis is the author of Trumping Obama: How President Trump Saved Us From Barack Obama’s Legacy and the bestselling book The Worst President in History: The Legacy of Barack Obama. You can follow Matt on Twitter @MattMargolis