The following is an excerpt from Sen. Tom Cotton's book "Only the Strong." It can be purchased here .
This Blame America First view of Iran explains Obama's early moves on the campaign trail and in office. During the 2008 campaign, he offered to meet with the ayatollahs without preconditions. In return, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran's extremist president, sent Obama a congratulatory note after the election, the first such note to a president-elect since the 1979 revolution. I guess the ayatollahs knew a mark when they saw one. Things got worse after Obama took office. He asked the ayatollahs to "unclench their fist" in return for "an extended hand" of American friendship. He echoed this spirit of cooperation in a secret letter to Iran's supreme leader, who replied with a blistering rant about the 1953 "coup" and the shah. Maybe he and Obama read the same history books.
But Obama wasn't deterred and he continued to conciliate Tehran. In June 2009, a rigged presidential election sparked the largest protest movement in Iran since the revolution. Fearful of antagonizing the murderous regime, Obama impotently remained silent and refused to support the protesters in the critical early days. In a moment when our vital interests of weakening an implacable enemy regime aligned with the aspirations of the Iranian people, the Citizen of the World president did nothing. [Earlier this month], President Obama confessed that "in retrospect, I think that was a mistake" to abandon the Iranian protesters in 2009 and 2010. This comes as little solace to the Iranians who were beaten, tortured, and killed by the regime. But more than that, it wasn't a mistake—it was purposeful. Obama refused to speak out not because he was concerned about "undermining the street cred" of protesters, as he ridiculously claims now, but because he was trying to maintain diplomatic channels with the oppressors of Iran. His weakness was rewarded with aggression. The mullahs tightened their grips, crushed the protests, continued to fund terror against Americans—and a priceless opportunity to weaken the regime in Tehran slipped through our fingers.
Then, three months after Obama initially refused to side with the Iranian protesters, our intelligence agencies revealed another secret underground nuclear facility in Iran. The ayatollahs acknowledged the facility, but humiliated Obama by agreeing to his latest diplomatic entreaty, only to reverse course the next day. Secretary of Defense Bob Gates later quipped, "Nine months of the 'extended hand' had produced zero progress."
At this point, Obama acquiesced to European allies and members of Congress, including some Democrats, demanding tougher sanctions on Iran—but only to a point. He watered down sanctions drafted at the UN or imposed by executive orders. In Congress, the Obama administration habitually worked behind the scenes to weaken or block new sanctions laws. Only when Congress rebuffed him with overwhelming, veto-proof majorities did he relent and, of course, take credit for the tough sanctions. Yet, Obama also had secret negotiations underway with Iran. In 2011, John Kerry, then a senator and later Obama's secretary of state, traveled to Oman with Obama's blessing to meet its sultan and explore the possibility of Oman hosting the secret talks.
He also passed messages via Oman's sultan to the Iranians hinting at a softening in America's opposition to Iran's nuclear program. Obama himself called the sultan twice. These overtures of course suggested to the ayatollahs that, despite the sanctions, Obama would ultimately throw them a lifeline.
The Oman channel was central to Obama's ideological ambitions with Iran. Direct talks began in the summer of 2012, led by Jake Sullivan, then a top aide at the State Department and later Joe Biden's national security adviser. More meetings followed soon after Obama's reelection and accelerated after supposed "moderate" Hassan Rouhani won Iran's presidential election in June 2013. In the "official" story about Obama's nuclear deal, Rouhani's victory was a turning point. But the president of Iran is little more than a figurehead; the supreme leader holds the real power in the regime. Obama and his team understood this reality. But I suspect they cite Rouhani's election because they don't want to admit the election that really mattered: Obama's reelection. As with Cuba, once Obama was safely reelected, he could pursue his grand plans without political constraint. Indeed, just a few months before Sullivan's secret meeting in Oman, Obama was caught on a hot mic telling Russian president Dmitry Medvedev that he would have "more flexibility" after the election. One must wonder if Sullivan delivered a similar message to the Iranians.
In any case, the negotiations heated up in 2013 and Obama's team hammered out many details, still keeping Congress, Israel, our Arab allies, and even our supposed European negotiating partners in the dark. Meanwhile, at the United Nations in September 2013, John Kerry became the first secretary of state to meet with an Iranian foreign minister since the revolution and Obama became the first president to speak by phone with an Iranian president. Only then did Obama reveal the secret talks. Within two months, an interim nuclear deal was reached, despite an effort by the French to slow it down and toughen it up. The French! Most American presidents would fear looking weaker than the French, but everything was going according to plan for Obama. The interim agreement gave Iran sanctions relief and, as Kerry had suggested in Oman, recognized Iran's right to enrich uranium—contrary to America's long-held position and several UN resolutions.
The final nuclear deal with Iran, reached in July 2015, was even worse. Obama had promised to "end their nuclear program," but the deal put Iran on the path to the bomb with merely temporary and feeble limits on Iran's enrichment of uranium and other nuclear activities. The deal didn't address Iran's ballistic-missile program, and it even lifted the embargo on conventional arms such as tanks. Iran got as much as $150 billion in sanctions relief from the deal, which it naturally used to support terrorists and its proxies in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen. In the final year of Obama's presidency, far from moderating its behavior, an empowered and emboldened Iran demanded pallets of literal cash—$400 million, to be exact—for the release of four American hostages, while also unjustly detaining American sailors. As usual with Democratic presidents, our enemy got everything and we got essentially nothing.
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