Editorial Board, Wall Street Journal:
The debate is raging over President Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran, and Mr. Obama held a rare press conference Wednesday to say that “99% of the world community” agrees with him. Then why bother with a press conference? Mr. Obama made other claims we’ll address in coming days, but for today it’s worth rebutting his assertion that “none” of his critics “have presented to me or the American people a better alternative.”
Specifically, Mr. Obama resorted to his familiar default of the false political choice. “There really are only two alternatives here. Either the issue of Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon is resolved diplomatically through a negotiation or it’s resolved through force, through war. Those are—those are the options,” Mr. Obama said. He added that no better deal was or is possible than the one he has negotiated.
Mr. Obama knows there has always been an alternative to his diplomacy of concessions because many critics have suggested it. It’s called coercive diplomacy, and it might have worked to get a better deal if Mr. Obama had tried it.
Take the sanctions regime, which finally started to get tough in December 2011. By 2013 Iran had an official inflation rate of some 35%, its currency was falling, and its dollar reserves were estimated to be down to $20 billion. Mr. Obama had resisted those sanctions, only to take credit for them when Congress insisted and they began to show results in Tehran.
Yet Mr. Obama still resisted calls to put maximum pressure on Iran. He gave waivers to countries like Japan to import Iranian oil. He was reluctant to impose sanctions on global financial institutions that did business with Iran (especially Chinese banks that offered Tehran access to foreign currency). The U.S. could have gone much further to blacklist parts of Iran’s economy run by the Revolutionary Guard Corps. A bipartisan majority in Congress was prepared to impose more sanctions this year, but Mr. Obama refused as he rushed for a second-term deal.