WARS AND RUMORS OF WARS
Exclusive: Ben Carson asserts, 'We must shift to a posture of strength and engagement'
As the deadline for negotiations with Iran fast approaches, the stakes are high for ensuring that the United States and the international community secure a good deal. Rather than paving a path to atomic arms in the hands of the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism, or merely delaying that nightmarish scenario for a handful of years, an acceptable agreement would have to contain key provisions preventing the radical Islamic regime from ever achieving a nuclear weapons capability.
During a recent interview addressing this topic, President Obama made a number of troubling comments regarding the agreement, which is still being negotiated. He chose to emphasize that he views it as a legacy issue, noting that “it’s my name on this,” and saying that “in addition to our profound national security interests, I have a personal interest in locking this down.”
Rhetoric is one thing, but reality very often another. Hopefully, these critically consequential talks with a country that regularly calls for “death to America” are not about personal legacies, but instead are focused upon the true, long-lasting and potentially catastrophic consequences for millions, if not billions of people, if a bad deal is signed that positions Iran to pursue pathways to the bomb.
We must not forget that it was American financial pressure on Iran that brought the mullahs to the table. Biting sanctions and growing economic isolation were grinding its economy to a halt, creating rampant inflation and true financial pain in Tehran.
But as a reward for merely agreeing to talk about an illegal nuclear program that was carried out in secret for decades, Iran has already received billions of dollars in sanctions relief. Other nations are lining up business deals in Iran, convinced that the sanctions regime is crumbing and will not be reconstituted any time soon, especially if a deal is reached. Mind you, Iran still has not come clean about the military dimensions of its program, granted inspectors unfettered access to its nuclear sites or dismantled its nuclear infrastructure. Moving forward, we must ensure that Iran does not receive the gift of permanent sanctions relief for temporary actions.
For America, the time has arrived for a dramatically different approach to the Middle East. Over the course of the past seven years, we have made a number of serious strategic and tactical errors. The next president will inherit a Middle East that is far more dangerous, unpredictable, unstable and bloody.
A number of our allies in the Middle East are indicating to us that they have begun questioning whether the United States will truly stand with them – both in word and in deed. Deeply troubling are reports that several are arriving at the conclusion that they will need to acquire nuclear weapons as a counterweight to Iran, especially given its recent efforts to expand its influence across the Middle East.
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When America is perceived to be absent, disengaged or declining to demonstrate strong leadership, that creates a vacuum into which very bad actors step.
When we set red lines, as we did in Syria regarding the use of chemical weapons by Bashar al-Assad, and then fail to follow through on what we say, that sends a very dangerous message. It feeds the perception that America is a paper tiger and that we are unwilling to stand up for our principles. It raises questions about our will to prevail over the dark forces that are on the march and threaten the security of our allies, our troops and our citizens.
The fall of Ramadi at the hands of the Islamic State is proof positive that we face real threats in the Middle East. We do not have the luxury of deciding whether or not we wish to be at war – since our enemies are choosing to make war on us.
We stand on the precipice of what may ultimately be judged as a major inflection point for the region. America must lead from the front, and we must be clear-eyed about reality and unafraid to demonstrate resolve.
We must shift to a posture of strength and engagement. We need to reassure our allies that we are truly with them. We must direct our public criticism not at the nations with whom we share core values and mutual interests, but at our adversaries who seek to hurt, embarrass, weaken and destroy us.
America can choose to lead with integrity and resolve, or we can watch from the sidelines as a nuclear arms race erupts in the most volatile region on the face of the planet. The choice is ours.