US President Barack Obama..
(photo credit: AP)
We must now face an extremely unpleasant truth:
Even giving the Obama administration every possible break regarding its
Iran policy, it is now clear that the US government isn't going to take
strong action on the nuclear weapons issue. Note that I didn't even say
"effective" action, I'm saying that it isn't even going to make a good
show of trying seriously to do anything.
say that the administration has secretly or implicitly accepted the
idea that Iran will get nuclear weapons and is now seeking some
longer-term containment policy. I doubt that has happened. It is just
not even this close to reality.
From its behavior, it still seems to expect, incredibly, that
some kind of deal is possible with Teheran despite everything that has
happened. Then, too, it may hope that the opposition - unaided by
America - will overthrow the Iranian government and thus solve the
problem. And it is too fixated on short-term games about seeking
consensus among other powers; two of them - China and Russia - are
clearly not going to agree to anything serious. This fact was clear
many months ago, but the administration still doesn't recognize it.
Not only is the Obama administration failing the test but it is
doing so in a way that seems to maximize the loss of US credibility in
the region and the world. A lot of this comes from the administration's
philosophy of unprecedented concepts of guilt, apology, defeatism and
refusal to take leadership never seen before among past liberal
Democratic governments from Franklin Roosevelt to Bill Clinton.
Yet the British, French and Germans are ready to get tough on Iran, yearning for leadership and not getting it.
All of this is watered down in media coverage, focused on
day-to-day developments and swallowing many of the administration's
excuses plus its endlessly repeated rhetoric that action is on the way.
When the history of this absurdly failed effort is written, the story
will be a shocking one.
WAS totally predictable that the Iranian government would not make a
deal. It was totally predictable that Russia and China weren't going to
go along with tougher sanctions. It was totally predictable that a
failure by the US to take the leadership on the matter and instead
depend on consensus would lead to paralysis. And it is totally
predictable that a bungled diplomatic effort will produce an even more
aggressive Iranian policy along with crisis and violence.
First, the administration set a September deadline for
instituting increased sanctions and then, instead of following a
two-track strategy of engagement alongside pressure, postponed doing
anything while in talks with Iran.
Second, it refused to take advantage of the
regime's international unpopularity and growing opposition
demonstrations due to the alleged rigged June election for the
presidency. On the contrary, it assured the Iranian regime it would not
Third, the administration set a December deadline should
engagement fail, then refused to recognize it had failed and did
nothing. It is the failure even to try to meet this time limit by
implementing some credible action that has crossed the line, triggered
the point of no return.
Fourth, the US government kept pretending that it was somehow
convincing the Chinese and Russians to participate, while there was
never any chance of this happening. Indeed, this was clear from
statements repeatedly made by leaders of both countries. Now, this duo
has sabotaged the process without any cost inflicted by the US while
making clear they will continue doing so.
Fifth, high-ranking US officials still speak of their continued
eagerness to engage Iran and mention at least six months more of
discussion efforts before anything is done about sanctions.
Sixth, the administration now defines sanctions as
overwhelmingly focused on the Revolutionary Guards, who it cannot hurt
economically, thus signaling to the Iranian regime that it will do
nothing effective to hurt the country's economy. This means that even
if and when sanctions are increased, they will be toothless.
All of these steps tell Iran's regime: full speed ahead on
building nuclear weapons; repress your opponents brutally and the US
will do nothing.
After these six failures, the US is now - in effect - resting.
And that is the seventh failure. There are no signs that anything is
changing in Washington.
To believe that the administration has learned anything, we
would have to see the following: An angry US government which feels
that Iran's regime made it look foolish; a calculating administration
that believes the American people want it to get tough and gain
politically from being seen as decisive; a great power strategy that
would make an example of Iran to show what happens to a bunch of
repressive dictators who defy the US and spit on its friends and
interests; and a diplomatically astute government that understands the
uses of threats and pressure to force its opponent into a compromise.
There is not the slightest indication that the Obama
administration holds any of these views. On the contrary, without any
apparent realization of the absurdity of the situation, high-ranking
officials keep repeating in January 2010 as in January 2009 that, some
day, the US might do something to put pressure on Iran. Perhaps those
in the administration who do understand what's wrong don't have the
influence to affect the policy being set in the White House.
This is going to be a case study of how failing to deal with a
problem sooner, even if that requires some diplomatic confrontations,
will lead to a much bigger and costlier conflict later involving