It’s Lucy and the football, Iran-style. After ostensibly tough talk about
preventing Iran from going nuclear, the Obama administration acquiesced to yet
another round of talks with the mullahs.
This, 14 months after the last
group-of-six negotiations collapsed in Istanbul because of blatant Iranian
stalling and unseriousness. Nonetheless, the new negotiations will be
both without precondition and preceded by yet more talks to decide such
trivialities as venue.
These negotiations don’t just gain time for a
nuclear program about whose military intent the IAEA is issuing alarming
warnings. They make it extremely difficult for Israel to do anything
about it (while it still can), lest Israel be universally condemned for having
aborted a diplomatic solution.
If the administration were serious about
achievement rather than appearance, it would have warned that this was the last
chance for Iran to come clean and would have demanded a short timeline. After
all, President Obama insisted on deadlines for the Iraq withdrawal, the Afghan
surge and Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. Why leave these crucial talks
open-ended when the nuclear clock is ticking?
This re-engagement comes
immediately after Obama’s campaign-year posturing about Iran’s
nukes. Sunday in front of AIPAC, he warned that “Iran’s leaders should
have no doubt about the resolve of the United States.” This just two days after
he’d said (to The Atlantic) of possible US military action, “I don’t bluff.” Yet
on Tuesday he returns to the very engagement policy that he admits had
Won’t sanctions make a difference this time, however?
Sanctions are indeed hurting Iran economically. But when Obama’s own
director of national intelligence was asked by the Senate intelligence committee
whether sanctions had any effect on the course of Iran’s nuclear program, the
answer was simple: No. None whatsoever.
Obama garnered much AIPAC
applause by saying that his is not a containment policy but a prevention policy.
But what has he prevented? Keeping a coalition of six together is not success.
Holding talks is not success. Imposing sanctions is not success.
is halting and reversing the program. Yet Iran is tripling its uranium output,
moving enrichment facilities deep under a mountain near Qom and impeding IAEA
inspections of weaponization facilities.
So what is Obama’s real
objective? “We’re trying to make the decision to attack as hard as possible for
Israel,” an administration official told The Washington Post in the most
revealing White House admission since “leading from behind.”
and shocking. The world’s greatest exporter of terror (according to the State
Department), the systematic killer of Americans in Iraq and Afghanistan, the
self-declared enemy that invented “Death to America Day” is approaching nuclear
capability – and the focus of US policy is to prevent a democratic ally
threatened with annihilation from pre-empting the threat?
Indeed it is. The new
open-ended negotiations with Iran fit well with this strategy of tying Israel
down. As does Obama’s “I have Israel’s back” reassurance, designed to
persuade Israel and its supporters to pull back and outsource to Obama what for
Israel are life-and-death decisions.
Yet 48 hours later, Obama tells a
news conference that this phrase is just a historical reference to supporting
such allies as Britain and Japan – contradicting the intended impression he’d
given AIPAC that he was offering special protection to an ally under threat of
To AIPAC he declares that “no Israeli government
can tolerate a nuclear weapon in the hands of a regime that denies the
Holocaust, threatens to wipe Israel off the map, and sponsors terrorist groups
committed to Israel’s destruction” and affirms “Israel’s sovereign right to make
its own decisions... to meet its security needs.”
And then he pursues
policies – open-ended negotiations, deceptive promises of tough US backing for
Israel, boasts about the efficacy of sanctions, grave warnings about “war talk”
– meant, as his own official admitted, to stop Israel from exercising precisely
that sovereign right to self-protection.
Yet beyond these obvious
contradictions and walk-backs lies a transcendent logic: As with the Keystone
pipeline postponement, as with the debt-ceiling extension, as with the Afghan
withdrawal schedule, Obama wants to get past November 6 without any untoward
action that might threaten his reelection.
For Israel, however, the
stakes are somewhat higher: the very existence of a vibrant nation and its 6
million Jews. The asymmetry is stark. A fair-minded observer might judge that
Israel’s desire to not go gently into the darkness carries higher moral urgency
than the political future of one man, even if he is president of the United
The writer’s email address is letters@ charleskrauthammer.com.