How Bush & Cheney's 'Cowboy Diplomacy' Provoked Iran's Nuclear Growth

President Obama achieved a historic victory this week by signing a deal to restrain Iran’s nuclear ambitions while enabling the isolated nation to rejoin the international community. Republicans across the board erupted in fury without even reading the bill, so ingrained is the knee-jerk automatic rejection of anything President Obama says or does. Some even came out of the woodwork, like former Vice President and admitted war criminal Dick Cheney, who decided it was time to rear his ugly head up once again and criticize our President for rectifying a yet another crisis which was his fault.

For it was under the George W. Bush and Dick Cheney’s adminstration that Iran drastically expanded their nuclear program. The Islamic Republic of Iran had 164 centrifuges in 2003, and wanted to negotiate in order to get the sanctions that have been crippling their economy and stunting the growth of their middle class- which coincidentally repressed the growth of civil society and helped keep the theocratic regime secure. Cheney, apparently without irony, responded that “we don’t talk to evil,” threatening more sanctions and possibly military action. In response to that disrespectful rejection, Iran began drastically expanding their nuclear program. Just two years later, the Iranians had constructed 5,000 centrifuges, and had built 8,000 by the end of the Bush Administration.

Jon Chait of NY Mag notes that using Cheney’s own logic that he attempts to smear Obama with paints a very different picture of Cheney’s vendetta against Iran: “What’s more, the expansion of Iran’s power under Bush was not limited to the blossoming of its nuclear program. In 2003, an extremely hostile neighboring regime (that had launched a war against it two decades before) was deposed, creating a power vacuum that Iran filled. Cheney seems to have played a role there. A Cheney-style analysis of the Bush administration’s Iran policy would conclude that it was carrying out a deliberate plan to elevate Iran’s standing.”

What’s more, Cheney and the rest of the jingoist hyper-nationalists in the Republican Party are utterly off the mark with their fear-mongering statements and doomsday prophecies. “This is the first time that the number of centrifuges Iran operates will have been reduced. No other policy has achieved this. The critics can’t touch this.” writes Trita Parsi. “The critics said Iran would never honor its word. They were wrong. The IAEA has consistently attested that both the United States and Iran have lived up to their commitments.” Iran has wanted to negotiate and was willing to roll back their program the whole time, but Bush and Cheney never wanted to negotiate- so once again, President Obama had to clean up their mess.

This is a major achievement that we cannot let Republican war-hawks derail. Cheney must not be allowed to re-write the narrative and let the world forget that the Iranian nuclear program is just another entry on his long list of failures and crimes. The Republican Party cannot see anything beyond their desperate hunger for the White House, and will say and do anything in their ham-fisted efforts to grasp it. We cannot let the people who have already done so much damage to our nation and to stability in the world get away with their crimes, and we cannot let them torpedo this bright opportunity for a better future- not only for us, but potentially for the rest of the world.

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