“Land of Song!” said the warrior bard,
“Tho’ all the world betrays thee,
One sword, at least, thy rights shall guard,
One faithful harp shall praise thee!”
— “The Minstrel Boy” by Thomas Moore
The last two weeks have seen a surprising sequence of events surrounding the Iran nuclear weapons talks. It all started on the night of Friday, May 29 when John Kerry arrived in Geneva for an all-day talk scheduled for the following day, Saturday, May 30. The talks did not go well. A senior administration official described them as “intense,” which is diplomatic-speak for “nasty.” There had been plans to continue the next day, but the Iranians mysteriously hightailed it out of Dodge City that night.
When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade. As he had a free morning on Sunday, Kerry decided to go biking in the French Alps. He’s an experienced cyclist and had brought his bicycle along. And so he set off, riding his orange trail bike, which matched the orange of his helmet. His cycling suit was an elegant black, except for some white markings and a blue band around the bottom of the shorts he wore over his tights. And his bright yellow arm-warmers provided just the right pop of color.
Alas, man proposes and God disposes. Shortly after he set out, we’re told that he hit a curb and fell off his bicycle, breaking his right femur. How that happened isn’t clear. The press wasn’t notified of the accident for some 90 minutes. Local officials said that he was “traveling at a slow speed, on flat ground.” There is a 40 second video where you can see your Secretary of State maneuver his bike, weaving through the other cyclists who were riding with him. They look like bodyguards, and for some reason they keep getting in his way. Riding with guys like this, no wonder he took a fall. You can see it here, but it doesn’t actually show Kerry hit the curb and fall.
Did Kerry’s elegant outfit get mussed up? We’ll never know. For the camera cuts away and we’re taken on what seems to be a ride backwards in time to where Kerry has not yet gotten on to his bicycle. The scene is surreal. There are lots of cars and security personnel aimlessly milling about and then, on the left side of the frame, Kerry can be seen walking out from behind some tall bushes, holding what might be a white folder in his left hand and his cell phone to his ear with his right. He turns and stares directly into the camera, in case we’ve not noticed him. We are perhaps meant to understand that our Secretary of State is not just a pretty face and a fashion plate. He is always working hard on our behalf. Right up until the moment he gets onto his bicycle he will be attending to his duties.
Kerry is flown back to Geneva where he spends the night in a hospital. On the following day, June 1, he is flown to Boston and taken to Massachusetts General Hospital where he apparently undergoes a four-hour surgery under a regional anesthetic. By Tuesday, his doctor says that he’s been fixed. He can walk and is starting physio.
The world breathes a collective sigh of relief, because now the nuke talks can go on. Kerry will continue to hold our side. Only no one hears from him for 10 days. “Ten days later, why no pictures of John Kerry?” asks the Washington Examiner.
The State Department doesn’t know. But later that Tuesday night, June 9, Kerry tweets a photo of himself in his hospital room with the message, “Feeling good a week after surgery. Good chats today w/ @AmbassadorRice & @StateDept senior team. The work continues!”
The photo is posted by the State Department on its website: Kerry is lounging on a chair covered with a white sheet. There is a stunning view of the Charles River from his window. Remarkably, even in his hospital room, he is a vision. We’ll forgive him his blue hospital pants, for they are topped with a blue denim designer shirt with dropped shoulders. Again, we are to understand that he’s working, for there’s a briefcase on the sofa and what looks like a laptop on his table. He’s holding a file folder open to some papers, and he’s on the phone. Not his cell phone, which is also on his table, but what looks to be a landline. See, he’s so busy he needs two phones. Kerry may have stayed in the hospital for 10 days, but he was working the entire time except maybe during his four-hour surgery procedure.
In the meantime, things were happening in the outside world. On June 4, CIA director Brennan made a secret visit to Israel to meet with Netanyahu and some folks from Mossad. It’s very hard to keep a secret in Israel, but this one wasn’t reported until June 8. This is quite a turn-around for a man who, only last April, called Netanyahu a liar, and described as “wholly disingenuous” Bibi’s claim that the nuclear framework that had been worked out with Iran would provide Iran with a “pathway to a bomb.”
Then, on June 8, no less a dignitary than Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey showed up on Bibi’s doorstep. Why this sudden solicitousness for a country and a man toward whom President Obama has shown such contempt? Were they there to brief a friend and ally on the secret nuke talks, to bring him up-to-date on everything that’s been going on behind its back? And behind the backs of the American people? I don’t think so.
And here’s why. On June 10 the Wall Street Journal reported that someone (some say Israel) had developed some extraordinarily sophisticated spyware — even more sophisticated than the Stuxnet virus that had thrown a wrench into Iran’s nuclear program for a while. The new virus — Duqu 2 — had infected the three major hotels at which the nuke talks were being held. This powerful spyware infects not only computers, but is capable of grabbing all kinds of other information as well. Information from telephones, wifi, microphones, hotel monitoring cameras, and more.
So the last thing that Bibi needed was an “update” on the status of the talks. Bibi already knew everything, and his visitors knew that he knew, and everyone knew that the Administration had been lying relentlessly — to Bibi and to the American people. At this point they might try to convince him that he had nothing to fear. That Obama had Israel’s back. That if the Israelis liked their country they could keep it. That costs would be imposed should they talk too much or otherwise prove uncooperative.
This sheds some light on Bibi’s curious speech at the Herzliya Conference on June 9, after his meetings with Brennan and Dempsey, a speech from someone who’s had it up to here. He’d been lied to and lied to and lied to. John Brennan has been described as “A man who lies his ass off.” Martin Dempsey, too, is a stranger to the truth, and certainly lied his ass off when he downplayed the importance of Ramadi falling into ISIS hands. John McCain lambasted him for it. These serial liars, working under the Liar-in-Chief of the United States, were asking Bibi to risk his country’s security on their word.
But, as I said, Bibi wasn’t having any of it, and the crucial take-away from his Herzliya speech was this: We don’t trust you. You’ve betrayed us with Iran, and now you’re planning to betray us at the United Nations. Having ensured that Iran gets nukes, you will now try to impose a “peace plan” on us, which will ensure that there will be no Israel for Iran to nuke. The costs you’ll impose on us are inconsequential. We are fighting for our existence. Whatever the pressure, “we’ll resist it.… [G]o ahead and boycott, go ahead and sanction. Our concerns over security are real, based on bitter experience, and vastly more important to us than any costs you can conceivably impose.”
What more is there to say? When everyone’s already set against you, you can either give in or stand and fight. And Bibi was going to choose to do the latter.
On Friday, June 12, Kerry was released from hospital. Standing on the steps of the hospital, he is unfailingly dapper in gray pants, a light blue shirt open at the neck, and a navy sport jacket. Even his aluminum crutches look like a fashion accent. He’d been very busy, he assured us, “working the phones” with Obama and top administration officials. He expected to be in Vienna for the close of the nuke talks.
Kerry said that being out of commission had given him “clarity,” that he’s “had a lot of time to think about some of the challenges we face.” Which challenges? He’d clearly moved on from Iran, focusing now more on Iraq: “Prime Minister (Haider) al-Abadi has a plan [to stop the Islamic State]. We support the plan and were part of the plan.”
Unless the Iranians plan to leave Kerry standing at the altar as they did with Jimmy Carter, there will be an agreement. Iran will get its nukes and lots of money besides. Kerry and Obama will declare a win. When your goal from the outset is to capitulate it’s not hard to succeed. Kerry’s chief negotiator, Wendy Sherman, too will move on at the end of June. She, too, will now have a “success” under her belt. She’d been with Bill Clinton’s administration, where she was involved in nuke talks with the North Koreans, but that didn’t go so well. Having proved her mettle with Iran, she’ll probably go on to serve in a Hillary administration, should there be one.
If the stakes for Israel are existential, so are they for the America that has existed for almost 250 years.