Comparing President Barack Obama nuke deal with Iran to the Holocaust, 59-year-old former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee forgot he no longer worked for Fox News and was running as a GOP candidate for president. While Huckabee’s intent was to back Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s opposition to the July 14 nuke deal with Iran, his gaffe cost him precious credibility only two weeks before the first GOP debate Aug. 6. Calling the Iranian nuke deal “idiotic” was inelegant enough but referring to the Holocaust was inexcusable. “By doing so, he will take the Israelis and march them to the door of the oven. This is the most idiotic thing, this Iran deal. It should be rejected by both Democrats and Republicans in Congress and by the American people,” said Huckabee, showing the kind of tone-deafness of decorum that makes his presidential run even more unlikely.
Anyone with any knowledge of the nuke deal can find plenty of room for criticism, especially its inspection provisions with the International Atomic Energy Agency [IAEA]. Whether there are flaws in the deal or not, it’s a multinational deal with the U.S., U.K, France, Germany, Russia and China, binding Iran, if nothing else, to show more international responsibility or at least accountability. Instead of making the torturous two-year negotiation a complete farce, it should not become an Election Year political football. Netanyahu’s opposition to the deal lacks common sense. Without the deal, Iran, with or without more petrodollars, will continue working on an A-bomb. What critics fail to see, no matter how much Secretary of State John Kerry or Obama have tried to explain, is that Iran will continue clandestine activities, whether there’s a deal in place or not.
Huckabee’s Holocaust metaphor fell flat not only because it’s offensive but because it lacks merit. Agreeing with Netanyahu apocalyptic view of Israel’s plight in the Middle East, Huckabee went over the top trying to validate Netanyahu’s worldview. “Dear Mr. Huckabee, no one is marching Jews to the ovens anymore,” said Israeli Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz. “That is why we established the State of Israel and the Israeli Defense Forces, and if necessary, we will know how to defend ourselves,” referring to dealing with Iranian threats. Where Huckabee and conservatives go off the rails is turning a legitimate international accord into an Election Year football. Everyone knows, in the White House or on Capitol Hill, that the hard-fought agreement has flaws—but it’s the best the P5+1 could do. Chucking the agreement does no one, certainly not Israel, any good.
Huckabee’s remarks show he’s prone to gaffes when he’s not carefully scripted. It’s one thing to back Tel Aviv, it’s still another to use offensive language. Huckabee know that the Iranian nuke deal probably has no effect, one way or another, on whether Iran gets the bomb. When you consider Iran was willing under its rights under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to delay any part of its nuclear program, it’s a remarkable achievement. It speaks volumes for how desperate Iran is to alleviate punitive economic sanctions. But, anyone with close ties to the negotiations knows, there’s nothing in the agreement that can stop Iran from pursuing an A-bomb, if that’s its goal. “The particular comments of Mr. Huckabee are, I think, a general pattern that we’ve seen that would . . . be considered ridiculous if it weren’t so sad,” said Obama in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Whether admitted to or not, Obama’s critique was equally political as Huckabee’s, pushing for the Congress to approve the July 14 nuke deal. Huckabee’s gaffe shows the extent to which candidates walk out on a limb making headlines. “What’s ‘ridiculous and sad’ is that President Obama does not take Iran’s repeated threats seriously,” said Huckabee’s statement. “For decades, Iranian leaders have pledged to ‘destroy’,’ ‘annihilate,’ and ‘wipe Israel off the map,’ with a ‘big Holocaust,” said Huckabee’s statement. Huckabee and other conservatives point out that with all the time Kerry spent negotiating a nuke deal with 56-year-old U.S.-educated Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, no mention was made of Iran genocidal public threats made against Israel. Kerry and Obama see past or current rhetoric against Israel as obstacles to a nuke deal.
Huckabee’s gaffe won’t change what Congress does when it tries to evaluate fairly the pros and cons of the hard-fought Iranian nuke deal. What’s important is that the Iranian nuke deal isn’t used as an Election Year political football. When you evaluate the deal objectively, it comes with all the flaws of any agreement, especially one that gives Iran too much wiggle-room on past and present military applications of its nuke program. IAEA’s Vienna-based inspectors, led by Director Gen. Yukiya Amano, want records of Iran’s past military applications as a baseline for current secretive activities. Huckabee calling the White House naïve about Iran’s intentions doesn’t deal with the merits of having a signed multilateral agreement. If Iran cheats, there are “snapback” provisions for economic sanctions. Without an agreement, Iran’s nuke program continues unfettered.