I really, really apologize for being away. And I will try to stay focused here for the future. But this is an amazing, amazing thing that happened today.
The President announced this morning a nuclear deal with Iran that achieves every single objective the US had sought with respect to Iran's nuclear program:
- It reduces Iran's enriched uranium stockpile by 98%. That's NINETY EIGHT PERCENT. And the deal would only leave the lowest grade uranium behind. If Iran had enough of even that, it could build a bomb in a year, but the deal's reduction of the stockpile to 300 kilograms means that Iran won't have enough.
- Reduces the number of centrifuges by two-thirds. Down to roughly 6,000, there won't be enough centrifuges - which for the Donald Trump lovers among us is the thing that you use to enrich the uranium - to make a bomb.
- Leaves only one facility open for nuclear enrichment, and only for energy purposes.
- It gives the International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA, unprecedented and unrestricted access to all of Iran's nuclear facilities, and to any facility they suspect may be running a nuclear operation. There's no hiding, and there's no sanctions relief until IAEA verifies Iranian compliance.
The Republicans are completely beside themselves, Netanyahu had a fit on TV, and Fox News is running a cute headline saying that Obama has a "tough sales job" in Congress. Cute, because they are well aware that Congress chose to hand over the responsibility for this deal to the President, by willingly making any Congressional objection to the deal subject to a Presidential veto.
But let's be clear about why the Global Neocon Movement is losing its bearings today: the deal between Iran, the United States and five other global powers due to take final shape in a UN Security Council Resolution, slams the door on another costly military conflict in the Middle East. Secretary Kerry and President Obama have done the hard work, provided exemplary diplomatic leadership of global powers to achieve a stunning victory for global security and nuclear nonproliferation without firing a single shot. The Neocons aren't getting their war.
The current leader of the global Neocons, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, did everything he could to force a war with Iran. He even came to the US and spoke to the US Congress, breaking long-held traditions that foreign leaders respect the role of the President first. He even went so far today as to say that Israel isn't bound by this deal. Well, thank you, Captain Obvious.
While Netanyahu may be firing off word salad and empty threats, the historic achievement of a nuclear deal with Iran shows why President Obama was absolutely the critical leader this country and this world needed at this critical junction in time. This president, again and again, have proven the willingness to wield the power of tough but fair diplomacy in the interest of US and global security and regardless of lobby groups or political winds.
This ain't his first time at the rodeo. This is the same president who disarmed a middle eastern madman in the middle of his country's civil war without firing a single shot. Even as the president prepared to take military action against Syria, he never failed to pursue every diplomatic path.
This is the same man who ended two of history's longest wars, and made new history on reduction of actual active nuclear warheads for both US and Russia. He demonstrated that the United States isn't merely interested in keeping nukes out of the hands of extremist dictators but that global zero is an actual policy worth making real progress towards.
This is the president who has not backed away from using force when absolutely necessary - as he did in enforcing a UN Security Council resolution in Libya, but has never held the threat of force in the manner of a bully.
This is the president that took immeasurable risk to eliminate the world's most notorious terrorist, showing his resolve that the United States will not stop in the pursuit of the most wanted. Yet, he successfully conducted and framed it as a targeted operation rather than a war.
This is the same president who just this month re-opened diplomatic relations with Cuba, after a freeze since the days of JFK, opening not simply a new chapter in US-Cuba relations but a new direction in American leadership: the quintessential Obama Doctrine: The principle that the United States should never fear to negotiate and that we are a power strong enough to take calculated risks. Again and again, that doctrine, combined with the remarkable dedication of public servants who have truly put their country first, has borne fruit.
I believe - as I know President Obama does - that only one global power could have made this new direction a reality, and it's the United States. Only the United States could take the steps to be right without ever doubting our might. Only the United States could transform international relations from being based on mutually assured destruction to mutual interest, respect, and construction. Only the United States could take the world's itchy fingers off the trigger while still demanding results for a more integrated, fairer, and more connected globe.
But just because the United States is the only power that could transform the parameters of global relations was no guarantee that it would. Not until a president named Barack Obama was sworn into the Oval Office. President Obama has led the world in one issue after another - from trade to conflicts - into not just a new direction but a new paradigm: one where the world should have no illusions about America's strength but other nations need not set their policies to counter an American threat but rather to align with American engagement.
And that is a big change. That is something we have not really seen since America's rise to become a global power in the early 20th century. With Kennedy it had a chance but that chance died with the assassination of JFK himself. With that exception, sure, some presidents in the last century have been more war-prone than others, and certainly who is president made a difference. But now, Barack Obama has not only revived that new paradigm of America's role in the world as a power comfortable in its position to lead in diplomacy and engagement without fear, he has given that new paradigm shape.
That is why Barack Obama has secured his place in history, and that is why he has earned a new Nobel Peace Prize - to be shared with Secretary Kerry, I'm sure, but it's the president that gave this new paradigm complete shape, within the confines of which Kerry did his amazing work.
And so, I want to remind those of us discouraged by today's politics of tear-downs and disrespect that even through it all, we truly live in blessed times. And we are blessed with a leader we needed so desperately, even if his goodness isn't something the current climate makes us feel like we always deserved.