When Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to a joint session of Congress on March 3, 2015, he blew up the Obama administration plan for negotiating with Iran over its nuclear ambitions.
That plan was founded on concessions, not a hard line (Adam Kredo, “Experts: U.S. Concessions Give Iran a Clear Path to Nuclear Bomb”, Washington Free Beacon, March 4, 2015). Those concessions allowed Iran to keep its nuclear infrastructure intact (ibid). They ‘all but guaranteed’ that Tehran would be able to build a nuclear bomb (ibid).
That’s not what Obama had been telling the American people about Iran. As Jeffrey Goldberg (no critic of Obama) and, separately, The Washington Free Beacon, have demonstrated, Barack Obama and his administration have gone on record some 40 times to make two arguments: first, the US will not allow Iran to go nuclear; and, second, when it comes to any deal with Iran, no deal is better than a bad deal.
For example, President Obama repeatedly stated between 2008-2012 that the US will not allow Iran to go nuclear (Obama's Crystal-Clear Promise to Stop Iran From Getting a Nuclear Weapon”, The Atlantic, October 2, 2012). Between June, 2008 and October 2012, Obama repeated this sentiment no less than 20 times. He made this declaration on June 5, 2008, June 8, 2008, October 7, 2008, November 7, 2008, February 27, 2009, January 27, 2010, July 1, 2010, May 19, 2011, May 22, 2011, October 13, 2011, November 14, 2011, December 8, 2011, December 16, 2011, January 24, 2012, March 2, 2012, March 4, 2012, March 5, 2012, March 6, 2012, March 14, 2012 and September 25, 2012 (ibid). His latest statement came on March 3, 2015, when he dismissed Netanyahu’s warning that the deal being arranged by the US wouldn’t stop Iran but pave the way for Iran to get a nuclear weapon. On March 3, 2015—after the speech--Obama pretty much guaranteed that a US deal would stop Iran, period (“Obama says Netanyahu's Iran speech contains 'nothing new'”, BBC, March 4, 2015).
In addition, both Obama and members of his administration have stated repeatedly that no deal is better than a bad deal with Iran (David Rutz, “20 Times Obama Administration Officials Said No Iran Deal Is Better Than a Bad Deal”, Washington Free Beacon, March 6, 2015).
When Netanyahu stood before Congress on March 3, 2015, it seemed shocking that he should declare the very opposite of what the administration had been saying for years. He alleged that US negotiations would guarantee that Iran does go nuclear (Jonathan Ferziger, “Netanyahu Says Iran Deal Guarantees Nuclear Arms”, Bloomberg News, March 3, 2015).
The Obama administration wasn’t going to tolerate such an allegation. It reacted quickly. It went on the offensive.
It rejected everything Netanyahu said. For example, the President dismissed it (“Obama dismisses Netanyahu's Congress speech as 'theater'”, DW, March 4, 2015). Obama was even said to rebuke Netanyahu over the speech (Dan Williams and Matt Spetalnick, “Israel's Netanyahu draws rebuke from Obama over Iran speech to Congress”, Reuters, March 3, 2015).
To protect the President, Democrats stood at a press conference after the speech and denounced it—and Netanyahu. Fox News contributor Lt Col Ralf Peters (Ret) described the Democrat attack on Netanyahu as ‘vituperative’ and ‘vicious’ (“Peters blasts Democrat response to Netanyahu speech”, Fox News, March 5, 2015).
But while the US was deriding and attacking Netanyahu, and claiming that the US was committed to stopping Iran from getting a bomb, political analysts in America took a different path. They agreed with Netanyahu.
Adam Kredo of the Washington Free Beacon (“Experts: U.S. Concessions Give Iran a Clear Path to Nuclear Bomb”, March 4, 2015), Clifford May at the Washington Times (“The dubious deal of the century”, March 3, 2015), Mortimer Zuckerman of US News and World Reports, (“Unable to Be Straight With Himself – Or the American People “, March 6, 2015) and Jennifer Rubin of the Washington Post (“The White House’s strange, illogical response to Netanyahu”, March 4, 2015) all agreed: the Obama administration was on the verge of capitulating to Iran.
The articles by May, Kredo, Zuckerman and Rubin (above) all suggested that the US ‘guarantee’ to keep Iran from going nuclear was a lie. Each article suggested that Obama has been misleading the US about Iran. Each suggested that he was pursuing a bad deal because he appeared to believe that a bad deal was better than no deal (Robert Robb, “A bad deal with Iran may be better than no deal”, azcentral, March 6, 2015).
The website, Conservative Papers, went so far as to say Obama was lying about Iran and Netanyahu (“Obama Smears Netanyahu with Lies”. March 3, 2015). Two days later, Fox’s Greta Van Susteren also went after Obama (“Watch Greta Destroy Obama’s Iran Deal In One Epic Rant”).
No government can repeat a concept 40 times and expect not to be ‘called out’ when it reverses direction. That’s what this administration has done with Iran (reverse direction). It took Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to wake everybody up.
What’s the result of Netanyahu’s wake-up call? Before the speech, US Secretary of State John Kerry worked with such open eagerness to get a deal done ASAP that critics feared the result (Michael Gordon, “Kerry Is Pushing for Agreement in Iran Nuclear Talks”, The New York Times, March 1, 2015). Critics specifically feared that Kerry’s eagerness was “an open invitation for the Iranians to press for concessions” as the March deadline approached (ibid). Now, Kerry sings a very different tune.
Since the speech, Kerry has seen Saudi Arabia and UAE sign nuclear agreements with South Korea, thereby opening the door to a regional arms race. Then, shortly after these signings, France openly denounced the Iran deal being sought by the US (Jennifer Rubin, “Distinguished pol of the week”, The Washington Post, March 8, 2015).
Now, Kerry and Obama are scrambling to keep allies from turning against the US-led negotiations. For example, Kerry has announced that the US and France seek to play down any disagreements they might have over the talks with Iran (Arshad Mohammed and John Irish, “U.S., France 'on same page' over Iran, want stronger deal”, Reuters, March 7, 2015); and President Obama now says he is willing to walk away from a ‘bad deal’ (“Obama: US would 'walk away' if no good Iran nuclear deal”, Daily Mail, March, 8, 2015).
For an administration that derided and dismissed Netanyahu’s warnings and suggestions, it has jumped very quickly to shift its focus from accepting ‘concessions’ to ‘we want a strong deal’.
That sounds like Netanyahu’s speech was a success. He accomplished what he'd set out to do: reshape those Iran negotiations.