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Posted at 12:00 PM ET, 12/ 8/2010

Do we have an Iran policy?

By Jennifer Rubin

The Post reports today from Geneva:

When two days of talks between Iran and major powers ended here Tuesday, with few signs of progress except an agreement to meet again next month in Istanbul, the dueling news conferences by both sides laid bare the difficulties ahead....

In every respect, the outcome of the latest round of discussions with Iran appears less substantive than the talks 14 months ago. Then, officials announced a series of agreements, including a plan to meet again within a month. That meeting never happened, and one of the key agreements quickly fell apart.

This prompts the question: Then, what are we doing there? And more specifically, it raises the concern that we really have no effective policy to thwart an Iranian nuclear program. As Danielle Pletka of the American Enterprise Institute told me this morning: "Plan A to get Iran to give up nuclear weapons is talking. Plan B is sanctions. There is no plan C, so we keep retrying Plan A and Plan B, offering greater concessions to Iran when we talk, and tougher sanctions when we don't. Every negotiation is like Groundhog Day, but at the end of the process, instead of spring, Iran gets a nuclear weapon."

Others foreign policy watchers see the Obama approach as more coherent. A senior advisor to a key senator on national security issues e-mailed me: "As long as the pressure keeps ratcheting up in the real world, there is no harm in sitting at a table with the Iranians. The problem is when the former (engagement, or the desire for it) is raised as a reason not to do the latter (pressure) -- when people say, we need to diminish the pressure to demonstrate our good faith, or to try to get them to the table in the first place, or to build trust, etc." But he asserted: "That is emphatically not where the administation is, however, as far as I can see. The view in the White House is that we need to squeeze the Iranians harder, because they are so clearly not serious about negotiating. And regardless, there is going to be a bipartisan push in Congress to ensure that they do so."

The danger, of course, is that by our conduct in the negotiations (e.g. the secretary of state scurrying after the Iranian foreign minister), we project not seriousness, but desperation. The advisor contended: "When we keep offering to talk, it makes us look reasonable and when the talks go nowhere, we are better positioned to say, well, we tried... now more pressure." That, however, doesn't take into account the potential that we embolden Iranian officials by humoring them and the international community with fruitless discussions, thereby making the regime even less likely to capitulate under pressure from sanctions. And it discounts that Russia, for example, will continue to aid the Iranians. Moreover, implicit in the argument is the belief that sanctions will prove effective in time to halt Iran's enrichment program. That's an unproven theory at this point.

In a speech earlier this year at the Council on Foreign Relations, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) had this advice for the administration:

It is time for us to take steps that make clear that if diplomatic and economic strategies continue to fail to change Iran's nuclear policies, a military strike is not just a remote possibility in the abstract, but a real and credible alternative policy that we and our allies are ready to exercise.

It is time to retire our ambiguous mantra about all options remaining on the table. It is time for our message to our friends and enemies in the region to become clearer: namely, that we will prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability -- by peaceful means if we possibly can, but with military force if we absolutely must. A military strike against Iran's nuclear facilities entails risks and costs, but I am convinced that the risks and costs of allowing Iran to obtain a nuclear weapons capability are much greater.

And there's the rub. Having taken the use of force effectively off the table, can the administration credibly put it back on, and if not, are we resigned to a nuclear-armed revolutionary Islamic state? Now that Obama's non-direct and non-peace-producing talks on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict have collapsed, perhaps he can turn his focus to the frightening possibilty that the worst aspect of his legacy may not be a massive deficit or even a 2012 defeat, but a nuclear-armed Iran.

Right Turn will continue to talk to elected officials and policy makers on this subject, which arguably is the most pressing national security issue in generations and, oddly, does not appear to engender a sense of urgency from the president or Capitol Hill.

By Jennifer Rubin  | December 8, 2010; 12:00 PM ET
Categories:  Iran, foreign policy  
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Comments

America's Iran policy is whatever Israel tells it to do.

Posted by: ardestani | December 8, 2010 12:25 PM | Report abuse

" . . . which arguably is the most pressing national security issue in generations and, oddly, does not appear to engender a sense of urgency from the president or Capitol Hill."

TO WHOM?

Posted by: 54465446 | December 8, 2010 1:01 PM | Report abuse

Our Iran policy is to register a strong UN protest after the mullahs nuke Tel Aviv.

Posted by: eoniii | December 8, 2010 1:02 PM | Report abuse

Our Iran policy is to register a strong protest at the UN after the mullahs nuke Tel Aviv.

Posted by: eoniii | December 8, 2010 1:04 PM | Report abuse

eonii:

Israel has somewhere south of 100 nuclear devices of various types. Iran has none currently that we know of (by consensus anyway).

Does that bring any perspective to your statement?

Posted by: 54465446 | December 8, 2010 1:18 PM | Report abuse

As Danielle Pletka is quoted in this article, the US "Plan A to get Iran to give up nuclear weapons is talking. Plan B is sanctions." Then, she later says that "at the end of the process, instead of spring, Iran gets a nuclear weapon."

Pletka lives in a dreamworld. When Plan A and B don't work, it is time think of a new approach. Repeating the same will not get you anywhere. Her Plan C probably involves a military attack, for which there is no justification. The most ridiculous fallacy of her statement is to claim that Iran "gets a nuclear weapon." There is absolutely no evidence that Iran has any nuclear weapons or is seeking any. So, her primary premise is false.

It is amazing that seemingly intelligent people cannot figure out the simple and final solution to the non-existent Iranian nuclear "problem." All claims that Iran is building nuclear weapons are false. If anyone has any evidence, please present it. The solution is then to drop ALL sanctions against Iran immediately, voluntarily and without preconditions. That is the only viable option. In response, Iran may agree to a slightly more stringent regime of inspection but it is not obligated to do so.

President Obama is just on automatic pilot and is blindly continuing the George Bush ridiculous policies against Iran. Hillary Clinton also has made a complete fool of herself repeatedly by making outlandish claims against Iran. So, the other necessary action is for President Obama to fire ALL his Iran policy advisors and start with a fresh outlook. In particular, Dennis Ross has only aggravated the situation. If the US continues on its current path, the talks will soon break off and the US would look like a complete fool.

Posted by: quinterius | December 8, 2010 1:18 PM | Report abuse

Actually there is no proof whatsoever that Israel has any nuclear devices of any kind, there are just rumors and suppositions. Nor has Israel ever expressed the wish to obtain nuclear weapons to either defend herself or to destroy her myriad enemies. In deep and abiding contrast, the Iranian government and large swaths of the Arab and Islamic world have publicly expressed their desire to obtain nuclear weapons with the expressed purpose of destroying Israel and wiping the Jewish People off the map. Now, 54465446, as you asked, "Does that bring any perspective to your statement?"

Posted by: Beniyyar | December 8, 2010 1:35 PM | Report abuse

Wikileaks revealed ALL of America's Arab allies (Eygpt, Arabia, and the Gulf States) are strongly urging a military strike on Iran !

Wikileaks revealed whenever the feckless Obama team met with Arab leaders... they wanted to talk about Palestinians, the Arabs ? Iran !

Ouch. Can't we blame Israel ? the Jews ?

With the breakdown of peace negotiations and the continuing feckless Iran nuke talks... Obama's Middle East foreign policy is now broken.

Who knew ?

Posted by: pvilso24 | December 8, 2010 2:13 PM | Report abuse

beniyyar:

If you won't even acknowledge that Israel has a substantial nuclear arsenal, then you would contest the location and certainty of the sun's rise, and we can have no serious discussion on any subject pertaining to Israeli defense.

That's ok though it's a big world.

Posted by: 54465446 | December 8, 2010 2:16 PM | Report abuse

pvilso24:

You forgot to include that they made those urgent appeals to George Bush.

Posted by: 54465446 | December 8, 2010 2:18 PM | Report abuse

beniyyar,

I just Googled Israel Nuclear Weapons/OMG.

Posted by: tfc834 | December 8, 2010 3:57 PM | Report abuse

Tough luck guys, Iran will run u over...
Now rest assured, Iran will bring the demise of the USA...
I am laughing wholeheartedly at u guys...

Posted by: Kinesics | December 8, 2010 3:58 PM | Report abuse

Israeli nukes, whether 1, 10, 100 or 1000 are no threat to anyone who isn't interested in exterminating Jews.

A single Iranian nuke is a huge and instantaneous threat to the entire region and the economy of the entire world.

Any measure of perspective would enable one to see that.

Posted by: cavalier4 | December 8, 2010 5:53 PM | Report abuse

"Israel has somewhere south of 100 nuclear devices of various types. Iran has none currently that we know of (by consensus anyway). Does that bring any perspective to your statement?"

This is as blatant an example as could be wished of the old moral equivalence wheeze that used to be trotted out with such regularity during the Cold War by the thoroughly discredited political forebears of this commenter: "We have nukes and bases in Turkey, so why shouldn't the Soviets have just as many nukes and just as many bases in Cuba? Etc. etc." And it's just as embarrassingly pathetic. The answer was and still is: Because we're the good guys. Anyone who thinks that nuclear weaponry in the possession of a democratic state that's governed by rational people who've had the benefit of the enlightenment (inter alia) -- and is not seriously suspected even by its enemies of being capable of first use -- is "the same" as such weapons in the hands of an oligarchic gang of mullahs who promise to wipe the object of their blind hatred off the map is a moral imbecile who shouldn't even be walking around unsupervised.

Posted by: Jeroboam | December 8, 2010 5:56 PM | Report abuse

Jeroboam:

I think of myself as a good guy, and this as a good government but I would have understood if the Indians thought the exact opposite. Trotting out the good guys and bad guys is always a poor negotiating tactic if you actually want to reach an agreement.

I was not in any way saying that Iran should have a nuclear weapon. I think that Israel has more than enough firepower and know-how to end that quest, whenever they deem it in their interests to do.

Israel has the weaponry to vaporize every Muslim Middle Eastern capital in an hour or two if they choose to do so. No Arab/Muslim army can take the field against them, especially the Iranians, who can't even reach them by land operations. We are talking about a bombing or missile campaign of the Israelis choosing whenever they are ready, just like they did with the Syrian facility.

There is no reason for us to start war number three on behalf on anyone's interests but our own.

Posted by: 54465446 | December 8, 2010 6:48 PM | Report abuse

"... which arguably is the most pressing national security issue in generations "

nonsense. it is only pressing to those who want Iran bombed for Israel's interests.

Posted by: wpost16 | December 8, 2010 9:24 PM | Report abuse

Well, 544, yes -- I'm sure everyone prefers to think of himself as the guy in the white hat, but we both know that a lot of them -- or even most of them -- are laboring under a delusion.

In any case, simply pointing out that it is right and proper to tolerate any nuclear weapons Israel may have while denying them to a regime like the one in Iran for the simple reason that they are decidedly not good guys was not suggested as a "negotiating tactic" designed to "reach an agreement" with the Iranians. They lie well outside the universe of those with whom negotiations and agreements are a realistic goal or prospect.

Furthermore, even if it really is true that "Israel has the weaponry to vaporize every Muslim Middle Eastern capital in an hour or two if they choose to do so," it's obviously foolish for an American administration to pursue policies that increase the likelihood of Israel's being forced someday actually to do anything like that.

Nor am I as sanguine as you seem to be about the Israelis' ability to eliminate the Iranian nuclear menace whenever they feel the time for that has come.

I'm also strongly of the opinion that eliminating the Iranian threat to the region by the only means that can be given a good chance to succeed (unless you're a hopeless naif on this subject) is very much in the interest of the US. And I certainly don't see why the fact that it's also in Israel's vital national interest should deter us in pursuing our own.

Posted by: Jeroboam | December 9, 2010 12:51 AM | Report abuse

The US military industrial complex needs a foe. The Ayatollahs have replaced the USSR. Keep it simple. Peace dividend makes the military businesses poor. That employs a lot of people.

Posted by: alimostofi | December 9, 2010 10:25 AM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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