John Forbes Kerry is the 68th secretary of state of the United States of America.
If you’re ever tempted to ponder American decline, or for that matter the decline of the West, you might pause to reflect that John Kerry was preceded in his august office by, among others, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, John Quincy Adams, Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, William Seward, John Hay, Elihu Root, Charles Evans Hughes, Henry Stimson, George Marshall, Dean Acheson, Henry Kissinger, and George Shultz.
But leave aside such melancholy thoughts of the glories of the past. Let’s focus instead on the (admittedly grim) present. Let’s focus on something John Kerry said early last week. It is, even in light of his own sad record and by his own low standards, startlingly foolish. Here’s Kerry, in Jerusalem, attempting to reassure Israelis about Iran’s nuclear program:
I say to every Israeli that today we have the ability to stop [the Iranians] if they decided to move quickly to a bomb and I absolutely guarantee that in the future we will have the ability to know what they are doing so that we can still stop them if they decided to move to a bomb.
This Kerry guarantee is ludicrous. History shows, and every serious expert understands, that there can be no guarantee—let alone an absolute guarantee—that we will know everything the Iranian regime is doing in its efforts to acquire nuclear weapons technology. This would be the case even if Kerry were able, in the current negotiations, to secure a thoroughgoing and intrusive inspections regime, which he is not. With the inspections regime the Obama administration looks likely to settle for, we won’t be able to guarantee, we won’t even be able to have much confidence, that we’ll know what Iran is doing
To get a sense of how farcical Kerry’s “absolute guarantee” is, here’s what two of his illustrious predecessors, Kis-singer and Shultz, have to say about the prospective deal:
Negotiations that began 12 years ago as an international effort to prevent an Iranian capability to develop a nuclear arsenal are ending with an agreement that concedes this very capability, albeit short of its full capacity in the first 10 years. . . . Under the proposed agreement, for 10 years Iran will never be further than one year from a nuclear weapon and, after a decade, will be significantly closer. . . . In a large country with multiple facilities and ample experience in nuclear concealment, violations will be inherently difficult to detect. . . . Any report of a violation is likely to prompt debate over its significance—or even calls for new talks with Tehran to explore the issue. The experience of Iran’s work on a heavy-water reactor during the “interim agreement” period—when suspect activity was identified but played down in the interest of a positive negotiating atmosphere—is not encouraging.
Now, one could imagine a sophisticated case for a not-fully-reassuring deal, made by a more sophisticated negotiator than John Kerry: It’s not perfect, but some visibility into the program is better than none; we’ll probably pick up cheating once it’s been going on for a while; and, as Clint Eastwood put it, “If you want a guarantee, buy a toaster.” But we don’t have a serious or sophisticated negotiator. We have John Kerry. So the deal will be catastrophic. And the defense of it will be dishonest.
That’s why a group of senators fought over the last couple of weeks to strengthen the Corker-Cardin legislation—seeking to add to it standards that would make clear what an acceptable deal would be, and to create a process that would establish a fair playing field for debate and votes on the deal. The junior senators did their best. We salute them for struggling against the odds. But they could not overcome Corker’s resistance to modifying what he’d negotiated with the Democrats, other senior Republicans’ unwillingness to challenge a committee chairman’s work, the pro-Israel establishment’s commitment to bipartisanship, and a general lack of urgency about acting now to stop a bad Iran deal.
The effort was not entirely in vain. These senators at least began to educate their colleagues and the country in the many ways in which the deal toward which the Obama administration is hurtling is a very bad one. And perhaps the House will improve the legislation as it comes over to that body.
What is crucial now is that the broader anti-nuclear Iran effort not take the next two months off while Kerry negotiates. What is crucial now is that opponents of a nuclear Iran put aside tactical differences to focus on the fundamental task: preventing—or laying the groundwork for defeating—a deal that paves the way toward a Middle East dominated and intimidated by a terror-sponsoring, America-hating, Israel-denying, nuclear-weapons-capable Iran, whose economy will be strengthened with sanctions removed and whose nuclear weapons infrastructure the “international community” will have blessed.
For our part, we “absolutely guarantee” that if there is no further effort to rally opposition to this deal until after it’s signed, it will be too late. That’s why some senators had a sense of urgency about shaping the debate now. They were rebuffed by their elders in the Senate. But the fight goes on. It is a fight against strengthening the Iranian regime at home and abroad, a fight against a nuclear shield for Iranian terror, a fight against a nuclear arms race in the Middle East, a fight for a strong America and for a secure Israel.
The battle over Corker-Cardin may be over. The fight to stop the Iran deal has just begun.