Pact could give Obama a rare boost in job per­for­mance rat­ing

The Washington Times Daily - - Front Page - BY DAVE BOYER BEN WOLF­GANG

The agree­ment on Iran’s nu­clear pro­gram pro­vides Pres­i­dent Obama with a rare po­ten­tial achieve­ment in a blun­der-filled sec­ond term, but the move is also rais­ing ten­sions with Is­rael, Amer­ica’s most im­por­tant ally in the Mid­dle East.

The ten­ta­tive pact an­nounced Sun­day is aimed at thwart­ing Iran’s am­bi­tions to build a nu­clear weapon — just the sort of for­eign-pol­icy de­vel­op­ment that an­a­lysts say Mr. Obama needs for any re­al­is­tic hope of get­ting his ad­min­is­tra­tion back on track.

Since win­ning re-elec­tion a year ago, Mr. Obama’s pres­i­dency has been side­tracked by a se­ries of scan­dals and mis­steps: the mis­han­dling of the Beng­hazi ter­ror­ist at­tack, the IRS’ tar­get­ing of con­ser­va­tive groups, the leaks about Na­tional Se­cu­rity Agency sur­veil­lance pro­grams, wors­en­ing re­la­tions with the me­dia over a lack of trans­parency, the gov­ern­ment shut­down and mul­ti­ple flaws in the roll­out of Oba­macare. Along the way, Mr. Obama’s job-ap­proval rat­ing has plum­meted from around 58 per­cent last De­cem­ber to the up­per 30s to­day.

The deal with Iran comes on the heels of the face-sav­ing diplo­matic so­lu­tion the White House was able to find in Syria, where U.S. mil­i­tary in­ter­ven­tion into that coun­try’s bloody civil war once looked in­evitable. In­stead, Mr. Obama seized a last-minute of­fer from Rus­sia to

bro­ker a deal to con­fis­cate Syria’s chem­i­cal weapons.

Such agree­ments were ex­actly what Amer­i­can vot­ers ex­pected from Mr. Obama, said Dante Scala, a po­lit­i­cal sci­ence pro­fes­sor at the Univer­sity of New Hamp­shire and a spe­cial­ist on the U.S. pres­i­dency.

“What he ul­ti­mately did in Syria and Iran is in keep­ing with where a lot of Amer­i­cans are in terms of for­eign pol­icy,” Mr. Scala said. “They cer­tainly don’t want more Amer­i­can troops in the Mid­dle East. Es­pe­cially on Iran, if he’s able to turn the page ... that would def­i­nitely be a big part of Obama’s legacy. It could go right up there with [the killing of] Osama bin Laden.”

But the agree­ment with Iran is also strain­ing the U.S.-Is­raeli re­la­tion­ship, which has de­te­ri­o­rated sharply dur­ing Mr. Obama’s pres­i­dency. Is­raeli Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu called the pact a “his­toric mis­take.”

“It’s not made the world a safer place,” Mr. Ne­tanyahu said. He as­serted that the agree­ment will al­low Iran to take “only cos­metic steps which it could re­verse eas­ily within a few weeks; and in re­turn, sanc­tions that took years to put in place are go­ing to be eased.”

James Jay Carafano, a na­tional se­cu­rity spe­cial­ist at the con­ser­va­tive Her­itage Foun­da­tion, said the Iran deal “ac­com­plishes noth­ing” and is part of a trou­bling pat­tern with the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s ap­proach to the Mid­dle East.

“This ad­min­is­tra­tion was des­per­ate for some­thing to make it look like they’re ac­com­plish­ing things,” Mr. Carafano said. “They’ve been con­sis­tent on that from Iraq to Afghanistan to Libya and Syria. It doesn’t ac­tu­ally mat­ter if you make things bet­ter, it just mat­ters that you cre­ate the ap­pear­ance that you’re mak­ing things bet­ter tem­po­rar­ily.”

With this agree­ment, Mr. Carafano said, U.S. re­la­tions with Is­rael have hit an all-time low.

“It makes it worse, but it’s re­ally hard to imag­ine how it could get any worse,” he said.

The agree­ment with Iran also puts Mr. Obama on worse terms with tra­di­tional U.S. ally Saudi Ara­bia, said Aaron David Miller, a Mid­dle East spe­cial­ist at the Woodrow Wil­son In­ter­na­tional Center in Wash­ing­ton.

“It has es­tranged the United States from its two clos­est al­lies in the re­gion,” Mr. Miller said. “You can’t de­scribe this as a good agree­ment. It has served to cre­ate real ten­sions in those two re­la­tion­ships, leav­ing both lead­er­ships an­gry, ag­grieved and will­ing to do ev­ery­thing they pos­si­bly can to un­der­mine it.”

Mr. Miller said the pact will also make it more dif­fi­cult for the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion to pur­sue an ac­cord be­tween Is­rael and the Pales­tinian Au­thor­ity.

“Ne­tanyahu will not make de­ci­sions un­til there’s much more clar­ity on Iran,” he said.

Mr. Scala said that it’s too soon to know whether the deal with Iran will achieve the in­tended re­sult of curb­ing the Is­lamist state’s nu­clear am­bi­tions.

“We don’t know what’s go­ing to hap­pen,” Mr. Scala said. “Things may fall through. All of that is pos­si­ble. But I think it does show at least part of what Obama in­tended to achieve” on for­eign pol­icy may be com­ing to fruition.

He said the deal may tem­po­rar­ily take at­ten­tion away from Mr. Obama’s do­mes­tic trou­bles, but in the long run it prob­a­bly won’t help to forge his legacy or boost his over­all agenda.

“I don’t ex­pect th­ese events to push the nee­dle very much in terms of his over­all ap­proval rat­ing,” Mr. Scala said. “I think a lot of that is bound right now, for most Amer­i­cans, with do­mes­tic is­sues like the fate of Oba­macare, whether the econ­omy will pick up in 2014, those sorts of things. I don’t ex­pect what hap­pened over the weekend [with Iran] to make much of a dif­fer­ence there.”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

QUIET DIPLO­MACY: Deputy Sec­re­tary of State Wil­liam J. Burns used his clout to ac­cel­er­ate pre­vi­ous at­tempts to cre­ate an open­ing for ne­go­ti­a­tions with Iran.

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