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The retread problem: Exhibit A

I wanted to wait to see which Biden administration nominees would advocate a return to their old, ill-conceived policies. It didn’t take long.

Ambassador Wendy Sherman, Joe Biden's nominee to serve as U.S. Deputy Secretary of State. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.
Ambassador Wendy Sherman, Joe Biden's nominee to serve as U.S. Deputy Secretary of State. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.
Mitchell Bard
Mitchell Bard
Mitchell Bard is a foreign-policy analyst and an authority on U.S.-Israel relations who has written and edited 22 books, including The Arab Lobby, Death to the Infidels: Radical Islam’s War Against the Jews and After Anatevka: Tevye in Palestine.

When I wrote about U.S. President Joe Biden hiring retreads—former Obama officials who contributed to his most disastrous foreign policies—I purposely left out specific names in part because I was hoping against hope that I might be wrong about them. I wanted to wait to see who, if anyone, would advocate a return to their ill-conceived policies. It didn’t take long.

It should come as no great surprise that the retreads involved in the Iran nuclear deal negotiations would be the first to demonstrate they learned nothing from their mistakes.

First up to the plate was Wendy Sherman, who proved my point about the danger of hiring retreads during her confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. As one of the architects of the catastrophic nuclear deal, she could not admit her errors and, to read her testimony, you would think that it was a great triumph. While she admitted reality has changed, her response was to advocate the same ill-advised approach adopted in 2015.

Sherman acknowledged that Iran has now increased its uranium stockpile, increased the depth of its enrichment, and is using more sophisticated centrifuges. She blamed former President Donald Trump for leaving the agreement, but the truth is that Iran was violating the agreement from day one, and none of its recent actions were supposed to be possible once the deal was consummated.

When she insisted the United States should return to the deal, she unwittingly acknowledged that it was deeply flawed. Sherman said this time the deal should be “longer and stronger,” but why should that be necessary if it was such a success? We were told in 2015 that America had to give up most of its demands to get the shorter, weaker deal; why does she think Iran will now accept tougher terms? What leverage do we have in negotiations if Biden abandons the “maximum pressure” campaign he has criticized?

Rather than insisting on dealing with Iranian development of ballistic missiles, sponsorship of terror and destabilization of the region upfront as part of any renegotiation of the nuclear deal, Sherman is focused on Iran returning to “compliance,” which in reality meant no inspections of military facilities, no release of information about its nuclear program, no disclosure of secret facilities and numerous other acts of noncompliance.

Rather than demand steps to make building a bomb impossible, Sherman simply wants the breakout time to be one-year “because it allows us, if for some reason, Iran is able to cheat, though there were the most extraordinary verification and monitoring mechanisms, we would have time to snap back on sanctions or even to take military action. So we would maintain all of our options to ensure that Iran did not obtain a nuclear weapon.”

Why is acceptable for Iran to have a breakout time of one year? Remember that former President Barack Obama said that the sunset clauses of the agreement Sherman negotiated would allow Iran to reduce it to near zero. Any deal should prevent Iran from ever having an opportunity to breakout.

If it were not so dangerous, it would be laughable to hear her reassurance that Iran won’t be able to cheat because of the “extraordinary verification,” and that, even if it did, we could snapback sanctions.

She must think senators are suckers to try to sell them the same snake oil from 2015.

Verification was only extraordinary in its failure. If not for Israel, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) would never have known about Iran’s secret nuclear facilities and archives. Obama promised anytime, anywhere inspections, but instead, inspectors were never allowed into the most likely areas for developing a bomb: their military facilities.

And snapback sanctions? Obama promised that as well and then what happened when Iran openly violated the deal? Trump unilaterally implemented the snapback sanctions because the Europeans all balked. The Europeans even withdrew their support for a toothless resolution at the IAEA condemning recent Iranian violations of the deal. Meanwhile, Biden reversed Trump’s decision.

If these remarks were not sufficiently incredulous, the suggestion that Biden might take military action against Iran to prevent it going nuclear was a Trumpian whopper. Shortly after her testimony, the administration issued its “Interim National Security Strategic Guidance,” which said: “We do not believe that military force is the answer to the region’s challenges.” Besides flying up the flag of appeasement, the guidance also contained a veiled threat to discourage Israel from acting independently when it said: “We will not give our partners in the Middle East a blank check to pursue policies at odds with American interests and values.”

After her ingenuous and frightening testimony, Sherman should not be confirmed.

Sherman is not the only retread who proved my point in a confirmation hearing. Colin Kahl, Biden’s nominee to become the top policy official at the Pentagon, was equally alarming. To win support, he tried to tell senators what they wanted to hear by backing away from his public support for easing sanctions on Iran and criticism of the U.S. killing of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani in January 2020.

In 2015, Kahl ludicrously said that most of the $100 billion in frozen assets that were released to Iran “will go to butter.” Now, in an equally brilliant display of policy analysis, which raises more questions about his suitability for the Pentagon job, he admitted, “It’s completely conceivable” that some of the money may have gone towards Iranian proxy forces that have since attacked Americans.

Do you think?

Kahl also wrongly predicted that Trump started a war with Iran when Soleimani was killed, that recognition of Jerusalem isolated the United States and that moving the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem could lead to a third intifada.

Senators, do your job and keep these retreads out of government where they can do no harm. They are far better suited to positions in Hollywood for a remake of the film “Clueless.”

Mitchell Bard is a foreign-policy analyst and an authority on U.S.-Israel relations who has written and edited 22 books, including “The Arab Lobby, Death to the Infidels: Radical Islam’s War Against the Jews” and “After Anatevka: Tevye in Palestine.”

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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