Can we trust Obama on Iran?

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Can we trust President Obama? That seems to be the crux of the partisan divide regarding Iran. If we trust Obama to get and enforce a deal tough enough to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, then there is little need for congressional action. But if we don’t trust Obama, and if we take seriously the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran, then no deal probably is better than a deal negotiated by a president we cannot depend on.

So how do we decide? We could try to psychoanalyze the president. We could look at how he grew up, his associations before becoming president (even the ones he repudiated), various rumors that have been debunked but that we still remember because we’ve heard them so often, and our general impression that he’s somehow — different.

{mosads}But after six years in office, maybe it makes more sense to look at his record. Past performance is no guarantee of future results, but it’s the best yardstick we have.

No Republican president has been a better friend of Israel than Obama. It is a measure of the strength of Obama’s commitment to Israel that he has not let personal tensions with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu get in the way of a strong U.S.-Israeli relationship. Under Obama, U.S aid to Israel has reached record levels. After a frosty reception for Iron Dome from the George W. Bush administration, Obama fully backed Iron Dome and asked for funding above what Congress appropriated, which saved thousands of Israeli lives during the 2014 Gaza conflict. Obama also gave Israel access to the munitions it needed to replenish its supplies during that conflict.

Under Obama, military and intelligence cooperation have risen to unprecedented levels. Obama has always had Israel’s back at the U.N., and cast the only veto of his administration against an anti-settlement resolution. Unlike previous Republican administrations, he has never withheld or even threatened to withhold loan guarantees or arms shipments.

Obama restored Israel’s qualitative military edge after years of erosion under the Bush administration, mounted a successful diplomatic campaign against unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state and boycotted Durban II and Durban III.

After he was reelected, Obama became only the fifth sitting president to visit Israel, where he became the first U.S. president to receive the Israeli Presidential Medal of Distinction.

And what about Syria? Netanyahu has on several occasions praised Obama for eliminating Syria’s stockpile of chemical weapons, and Obama did it without firing a shot. Using diplomacy backed by a credible threat of military force, Obama forced Syrian President Bashar Assad and Russian President Vladimir Putin to back down. One of the most absurd criticisms of Obama is that he should have taken military action when Syria crossed our red line, as if the goal was to bomb Syria rather than to rid Syria if its chemical weapons.

Maybe after threatening Syria with military action if it did not eliminate its chemical weapons, Obama should have taken a page out of Groucho Marx’s script in “Duck Soup” and told Assad and Putin that even though they fully complied with our demands to remove the chemical weapons, he would nevertheless bomb Syria because he’d already paid a month’s rent on the battlefield. But I’d rather have a sane president.

Diplomacy remains our last best hope of preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. We still don’t know if Iran will agree to our conditions. If they do, we’ll all have a chance to see if the deal meets the expectations the administration has set. Until then, Congress should not jeopardize the success of negotiations by legislation or back-channel communications. The Obama administration has earned our trust and deserves a chance to succeed. For the sake of Israel and the United States, we should give the administration that chance.

This piece has been corrected to reflect the correct type of stockpiled weapons removed from Syria.

Sheffey has long been active in the pro-Israel community and in Jewish communal life. He is a lifelong member of AIPAC (the American Israel Public Affairs Committee) and served on the board of CityPAC, a pro-Israel Chicago-based political action committee, for seven years, including two years as its president. He is also active in Democratic politics and served as an elected delegate to the 2012 Democratic Convention from Illinois.

Tags Bashar Assad Benjamin Netanyahu Iran Iranian nuclear program Iron Dome Israel Syria Vladimir Putin
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