No room for miscalculation with Iran

Even though the sign at the dog park says owners must pick up after their pets, it’s still a good idea to watch where you step.

As one of my former bosses — a deadly deal maker — used to say: Let the other guy shuffle, but always cut the cards.

Or take it from master negotiator Ronald Reagan, who ended the Cold War by ruthlessly adhering to one simple motto: Trust, but verify.

Has President Barack Obama learned these foreign policy lessons?

About to start his sixth year in office, Obama has decided to reverse decades of tough-minded diplomacy from both Democratic and Republican presidents. It’s time to give a little and negotiate face-to-face with Iran, Obama says.

You don’t have to be a foreign policy expert to realize the danger in that.

Is he tough enough, attentive enough and (I am sorry to say) forthright enough to get a good deal for the United States?

Look at the record.

Obama lied to the American people at the very moment they most needed to hear the truth about Obamacare. People could not keep the health plans or the doctors they liked. And he knew it.

He dropped the ball on the launch of the website, given three years and an unlimited budget. The effort wasn’t merely inept. It was aggressively inept.

Despite Obama’s bragging, his is not the most transparent government ever. Not even close.

He allowed the National Security Agency to expand electronic surveillance on Americans, and he never came clean about it until a man named Edward Snowden forced the discussion.

That same lack of accountability applies to the death of our ambassador to Libya in Benghazi, the Internal Revenue Service putting the screws to Obama’s political opponents and the Justice Department obtaining the phone records of the media — The Associated Press and a Fox News reporter to name two outlets we know of.

It will take hard work, honesty and accountability to negotiate a good deal with Iran and to sell it to the American people. This Muslim state today arms and trains anti-American jihadists. It repeatedly threatens genocide against Jews in the Middle East. We must get this right, but it’s starting out on shaky ground.

In November, the deal was announced to Americans as one that would prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. Yet Iran President Hassan Rouhani said the deal recognized the “right” of Iran to maintain a nuclear enrichment program. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the deal does not recognize Iran’s “right to enrich.” This disconnect was followed by an announcement out of Tehran just days ago that Iran would build a “new generation of centrifuges.”

They can do that in this agreement? Who knows?

That development prompted Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez, D-N.J., to say, “If you are talking about producing more advanced centrifuges that are only used to enrich uranium at a quicker rate … the only purposes of that … is because you’re thinking about nuclear power for nuclear weapons.”

This alarming start will be followed by thousands of other potential snags that must be hammered out diligently. It isn’t going to be easy, and there are real questions about whether this administration is that good.

If Obama screws this up like Bill Clinton screwed up the disarming of North Korea, we’re not just going to end up with a kooky rogue nation with The Bomb. We’re going to end up with a hell-bent Islamic terrorist state with The Bomb in the Middle East. That’s North Korea squared.

This administration to varying degrees has already miscalculated Egypt, Iraq, Syria, Libya and Afghanistan. If Obama miscalculates here, the results could be horrific.

I hope Obama, for once, has this one right. It is, however, more than disconcerting to know that Al-Jazeera calls Obama’s deal the “deal of the year.”

President Obama and Al-Jazeera on the same page? Frightful.

Time to get our Reagan on.

Sherman Frederick, former publisher of the Las Vegas Review-Journal and member of the Nevada Newspaper Hall of Fame, writes a column for Stephens Media. Read his blog at