WASHINGTON – Those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it, goes the time-honored saying.
That wisdom does not bode well for President Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran.
In 1994, President Clinton said the framework of a deal reached with North Korea would lead to the end of that country’s nuclear program.
12 years later, North Korea exploded a nuclear device in an underground test.
On April 2, 2015, President Obama said his framework of a deal reached with Iran meant the country would never develop a nuclear weapon.
Less than a week later, Obama admitted that, under his deal, virtually nothing could stop Iran from getting the bomb after 12 years.
Nevertheless, both presidents expressed great optimism and confidence in their respective deals.
In fact, their words were so similar, it was “remarkable” according to someone who should know: James Woolsey was Clinton’s CIA director in 1994, when the U.S. struck the framework deal with North Korea.
Woolsey’s participation in Clinton’s deal only consisted of providing his national security council with the intelligence community’s assessment of North Korea’s capabilities.
“But that’s it. We had no part in policy making,” Woolsey told WND, confirming that he was not asked to assess the likelihood North Korea would abide by the deal.
WND showed Woolsey a series of quotes from presidents Clinton and Obama regarding their respective nuclear deals, and asked if the similarities seemed striking?
“It’s uncanny,” was his succinct summation.
“The verbiage is virtually identical,” said the former top spy, adding, “Your quotations sets are really quite remarkable.”
He also wryly observed, “The Obama administration folks could have saved some ink and paper by just taking the Clinton administration statements and blotting out ‘North Korea’ and inserting ‘Iran.'”
Clinton: This agreement will help to achieve a longstanding and vital American objective: an end to the threat of nuclear proliferation on the Korean Peninsula.
Obama: …Iran will never be permitted to develop a nuclear weapon.
Clinton: It does not rely on trust.
Obama: So this deal is not based on trust, it’s based on unprecedented verification.
Clinton: Compliance will be certified by the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Obama: …what we’re going to be doing is setting up a mechanism whereby, yes, I.A.E.A. (International Atomic Energy Agency) inspectors can go anyplace.
Clinton: Under the agreement, North Korea has agreed to freeze its existing nuclear program and to accept international inspection of all existing facilities.
Obama: …a deal to stop the progress of Iran’s nuclear program and roll it back in key areas.
Clinton: This agreement represents the first step on the road to a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula.
Obama: This framework would cut off every pathway that Iran could take to develop a nuclear weapon.
Clinton: …we have completed an agreement that will make the United States, the Korean Peninsula, and the world safer.
Obama: …if this framework leads to a final, comprehensive deal, it will make our country, our allies, and our world safer.
Clinton: The United States and North Korea have also agreed to ease trade restrictions and to move toward establishing liaison offices in each other’s capitals.
Obama: In return for Iran’s actions, the international community has agreed to provide Iran with relief from certain sanctions — our own sanctions, and international sanctions imposed by the United Nations Security Council.
Clinton: These offices will ease North Korea’s isolation.
Obama: …if Iran complies with its international obligations, then it can fully rejoin the community of nations…
Clinton: This agreement is good for the United States, good for our allies, and good for the safety of the entire world.
Obama: And it is a good deal, a deal that meets our core objectives … we are more likely to be safe, more likely to be secure, in a better position to protect our allies.
Clinton: It’s a crucial step toward drawing North Korea into the global community.
Obama: …there was an appetite among the Iranian people for a rejoining with the international community.
Clinton: And the United States has an unshakable commitment to protect our ally and our fellow democracy South Korea.
Obama: …a very clear message to the Iranians and to the entire region that if anybody messes with Israel, America will be there.
Clinton: We will continue to work closely with our allies and with the Congress as our relationship with North Korea develops.
Obama: But I say that hoping that we can conclude this diplomatic arrangement — and that it ushers a new era in U.S.-Iranian relations — and, just as importantly, over time, a new era in Iranian relations with its neighbors.
Given how the North Korea deal failed, WND asked Woolsey, did he think that portended badly for the Obama deal?
“Absolutely. I think Obama is not only making the same mistakes, but the same mistakes using the same words.”
So, if a deal with Iran would be unlikely to be any more successful than the deal with North Korea, did Woolsey see any option other than a military solution to keep Iran from getting the bomb?
“Not that I can think of,” was the chillingly concise response.
Would this administration attack Iran if it got the bomb?
“I’d be very surprised. They’d probably ask for an international conference.”
What are the worst of the Clinton mistakes that Obama is repeating?
- “Believing that the inspection system from the I.E.A.E. is actually going to shut down the program, in the one case, North Korea, and in the other, Iran.”
- “Basically, believing that easing the trade restrictions, in the Clinton case, and the sanctions, in the Obama case, is going to produce the behavior you want.”
- “Believing that easing up on the isolation of North Korea and Iran is going to create a spirit of community among the nations.”
The nation’s former top spy noted how both presidents vowed to protect U.S. allies, South Korea and Israel.
However, “In both cases, I think the allies would be well-advised to be extremely cautious and to make sure they’re going to be able to protect themselves. It’s not just that the (statements) are parallel; North Korea and Iran are best buddies and they work together.”
He described how that cooperation makes the danger even greater because it puts Iran on the path to acquiring the means to destroy the United States in a way that would be virtually undetectable and relatively easy to accomplish.
Woolsey said one of the reasons the North Koreans have both nuclear capability and long-range missiles is because of the cooperative efforts of their scientists and technical people with their counterparts in Iran. They visit one another’s test sites and attend one another’s launches.
“So, contrary to the predictions of the Clinton administration, North Korea has nukes as well as long-range missiles.”
“That means,” he explained, “they could launch into orbit a small nuclear weapon and detonate it over the United States and create an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) that would take out our electric grid.”
“You don’t need to have a lot of nuclear weapons, or large ones, to do that. You need one small one. And you don’t have to have accuracy because you are not shooting at anything on the ground. You’re just detonating somewhere above the middle of the country.”
Those observations led to a shocking conclusion: The very survival of America is at risk.
“Iran will, I think, within a very few years, be able to, essentially, do the same thing: knock out the infrastructure of the United States with a single nuclear blast above the center of the country.”
Knocking out that infrastructure would spell the end of America.
Woolsey wrote in the Wall Street Journal in August of a study by a congressional commission in 2008 that concluded such an EMP attack would kill up to 90 percent of the U.S. population within a year, due to starvation, disease and societal breakdown.
Iran may soon have the means, but, perhaps even more ominously, it also appears to have the motive to inflict such a disaster.
Most analysts believe North Korea obtained nuclear weapons to ensure the survival of the economically dysfunctional, totalitarian state. Nuclear weapons became a way to defend the regime.
Iran has openly and repeatedly stated it has a very different objective: Death to America.
Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, called for “death to America” just one day after Obama called upon Iran to accept a deal and just three weeks before he announced an agreement had been struck.
Many analysts believe deterrence, the threat of annihilation if a nuclear attack were launched, will not work against Iran because of its leaders’ religious convictions that destroying America is a holy duty more important than it’s nation’s own survival.
However, Woolsey painted an all-too-plausible scenario in which Iran would not even have to risk its survival to destroy America.
He began by describing how North Korea already has the ability to do that now.
Woolsey first referred to an article written in the Wall Street Journal in 2006 by former Defense Secretary William Perry (who served under Clinton from 1994-to-1997) and current Defense Secretary Ashton Carter that said, even back then, the risk of North Korea launching an effective attack was so great that the only secure defense was to put submarines off the coast and shoot down anything that might be launched from North Korea.
“Now, that was not some crazed person from the radical right, that was Bill Perry and Ash Carter. And they thought, almost a decade ago, that was the only way to keep the North Koreans from being able to launch a nuclear weapon.”
Furthermore, the key problem in defending against an EMP attack, as Woolsey described it, is that the launch of a nuclear warhead into orbit could easily be disguised as the launch of an ordinary satellite into orbit.
Consequently, “Anybody who talks about mutual assured destruction or deterrence with respect to EMP doesn’t know that he’s talking about.”
“That’s because en EMP launch would require just putting a single satellite into a low earth orbit. There are lots of satellites in low earth orbit. People launch them for all sorts of reasons. Surveillance, weather, etcetera …”
“If you launch a single satellite into low earth orbit, and you are the North Koreans or the Iranians, all you have to do is sit there with your finger on the trigger and wait until it passes somewhere above the center of the U.S. and detonate it,” emphasized Woolsey. “It doesn’t have to be accurate at all.”
And that single, small, unsophisticated warhead could throw America back into a virtual dark age, for those few who would survive.
“If the electricity infrastructure goes, we’re not back in the pre-internet 1980’s, we are back in the pre-electricity 1880’s. And very few of us have enough hand water pumps and plow horses to live in the 19th century.”
One would never know a satellite had a nuclear payload, and once it was launched, it would be too late to stop it.
“It’s up there with all the other satellites and you don’t know which is which. You can’t shoot down everybody’s satellites. Once you lose track of it after its launched it could be largely anonymous. And if its anonymous, deterrence doesn’t work.”
And even if the U.S. were to know one had been launched, Woolsey said, the North Koreans or Iranians would simply lie.
Iran has already launched four satellites into orbit, first in 2009 and most recently in February.
Woolsey absolutely shocked a panel of MSNBC journalists recently when he described the danger posed by both Iran and an EMP attack.
The former CIA chief characterized Iran’s danger to the world as, “Sort of like Germany’s in 1934 or 1935.” He said they were doing everything they could to spread their empire, controlling the capitals of four neighboring states.
“They are working hard, I think, on a nuclear weapon. And I think if we have a deal with them of the sort that’s been described, they’ll have one within a year, or so.”
Woolsey told the reporters he has spoken with several senior members of the executive branch about the threat posed by an EMP attack, “And you get a deer in the headlights look, they really don’t want to be bothered.”
WND asked Woolsey if the administration is in denial?
“They appear to not to want to listen. It’s an inconvenient truth, to borrow from Al Gore on global warming. It’s something they really don’t want to have to deal with because it disrupts the narrative.”
“They start with a narrative that is ‘We’ve won the war on terror and we are going to constrain rogue states such as North Korea and Iran by international sanctions, agreements and inspections.’ And that’s their story and they’re sticking to it.”
He said it also violates their narrative for them to admit that “we are very much in danger from North Korea now and will be from Iran very soon. I don’t know whether it will be months or years, but, if years, just a few.”
“And, at that point, they would be able to destroy the U.S. infrastructure with one nuclear weapon.”
Did he think, in their zeal for a deal, the administration was blindly putting politics above the security of the U.S. and exposing it to a clear and present danger?
“I don’t know whether it’s inattention or whether they have some argument that this is not, in fact, a danger. If there is such an argument, they have not made it.”
What should Israel do?
“Keep its powder dry. It may be the only hope anybody has to keep Iran from having a nuclear weapon. The United States is not going to do it successfully in this administration. If the Iranians get far enough along, then, basically, it may well be that Israel is the world’s only hope.”
The nation’s former top spy said it looked doubtful that the U.S was committed to keeping the Mideast “as a largely nuclear-free area,” because, “once Iran gets even really close to a nuke, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Turkey are not going to be far behind.”
For those reasons, Middle East analyst and deputy managing editor of The Jerusalem Post, Caroline Glick, now sees war as inevitable. Did he agree?
“Caroline has been right an awful lot of the time, and I’m tempted to be very sympathetic to that. My only real answer is from some of the last lines of Carl Sandburg’s poem, “The People, Yes.”
It is an optimistic lament of a work in which the poet predicts, “The learning and blundering people will live on.”
Woolsey quoted Sandburg, “Man is a long time coming. Man will yet win. Brother may yet line up with brother: This old anvil laughs at many broken hammers.”
The seasoned spy wistfully concluded by observing, “So, I hope Sandburg is right and Caroline is wrong but I’m afraid she’s got an awful lot going for her in making that prediction.”
Follow Garth Kant @DCgarth