Do we have an Iran policy?
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.
Posted by: ardestani | December 8, 2010 12:25 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: 54465446 | December 8, 2010 1:01 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: eoniii | December 8, 2010 1:02 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: eoniii | December 8, 2010 1:04 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: 54465446 | December 8, 2010 1:18 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: quinterius | December 8, 2010 1:18 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Beniyyar | December 8, 2010 1:35 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: pvilso24 | December 8, 2010 2:13 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: 54465446 | December 8, 2010 2:16 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: 54465446 | December 8, 2010 2:18 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: tfc834 | December 8, 2010 3:57 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Kinesics | December 8, 2010 3:58 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: cavalier4 | December 8, 2010 5:53 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Jeroboam | December 8, 2010 5:56 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: 54465446 | December 8, 2010 6:48 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: wpost16 | December 8, 2010 9:24 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Jeroboam | December 9, 2010 12:51 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: alimostofi | December 9, 2010 10:25 AM | Report abuse
The comments to this entry are closed.