What message is being sent?

This is a regime which is a master at diplomatic sleight of hand, procrastination and duplicity.

November 24, 2013 21:46
2 minute read.
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton (2nd R) speaks with Iranian FM Mohammad Javad Zarif.

Iran talks in Geneva November 20 2 370. (photo credit: REUTERS/Denis Balibouse)

‘Always believe the threats of your enemies, more than the promises of your friends,” Holocaust survivor and Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel has said. This wise advice is becoming a cold reality for many of America’s longtime allies in the Middle East, amid an unprecedented breakdown in US foreign policy and credibility in the region.

Indeed, America’s allies in an extremely volatile part of the world have been left stunned by a foreign policy – from Egypt to Syria and now to Iran – which has been bumbling at best and damaging at worst. This foreign policy fumble has serious long-term implications for US national security.

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But today, with Iran within reach of the technical capacity to build a nuclear weapon, the US itself is nearing a point of no return. There is grave concern in Congress (and across America) that the emerging agreement being brokered by the US and world powers with Iran in Geneva will irrevocably weaken sanctions against Iran, without doing anything about the infrastructure of their nuclear program.

The only reason that the Iranians are at the table is because of the economic sanctions. Minimizing the sanctions without demanding that the Iranians dismantle their nuclear weapons program is giving away our leverage, and is a recipe for disaster.

Smooth talk by Iran’s new President Hassan Rouhani is no substitute for action. This is especially true when talking about a regime which is a master at diplomatic sleight of hand, procrastination and duplicity.

While tougher sanctions can always be modified in the event of real progress, a poor deal will likely erode the sanctions altogether among other countries eager to resume trade with Iran, despite administration pledges to maintain vigilance.

It seems that for the Obama administration, the importance of a deal in and of itself has superseded the outcome of such an accord.

Little wonder that the Saudis, who are vying with Iran for regional hegemony, are fit to be tied.

In a public show of pique, they first turned down a seat on the UN Security Council, and are now reportedly planning to scale back security cooperation with the US. And ties with Israel are again strained.

What message is America sending to its longtime allies in this volatile region? These allies have been left twisting in the wind.

The troubling perception of America in the region is one of weakness and retreat. The US should not lead from behind, nor withdraw from the Middle East. We should not hesitate to take bold steps as needed. This is not a call to arms, but for our country to simply act as a world leader.

In the words of Wiesel, if the promises of the US as a friend are unreliable, the threats of enemies will control.

The writer, a congressman from Colorado, is a member of the House Armed Services Committee and co-chairs the bipartisan Congressional Israel Allies Caucus.

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