Obama’s open-hand policy now becoming clenched fist?

posted at 10:12 am on July 15, 2010 by Ed Morrissey

Or, in other words, welcome to 2007, Mr. President.  Joe Klein reports that Barack Obama has decided after eighteen months of his ineffective outreach to Iran that the mullahs really do want a nuclear weapon more than they want peace, love, and understanding.  Suddenly the military-strike option has returned to the table:

In late 2006, George W. Bush met with the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the Pentagon and asked if military action against Iran’s nuclear program was feasible. The unanimous answer was no. Air strikes could take out some of Iran’s nuclear facilities, but there was no way to eliminate all of them. Some of the nuclear labs were located in heavily populated areas; others were deep underground. And Iran’s ability to strike back by unconventional means, especially through its Hizballah terrorist network, was formidable. The military option was never officially taken off the table. At least, that’s what U.S. officials always said. But the emphasis was on the implausibility of a military strike. “Another war in the Middle East is the last thing we need,” Secretary of Defense Robert Gates wrote in 2008. It would be “disastrous on a number of levels.”

Gates is sounding more belligerent these days. “I don’t think we’re prepared to even talk about containing a nuclear Iran,” he told Fox News on June 20. “We do not accept the idea of Iran having nuclear weapons.” In fact, Gates was reflecting a new reality in the military and intelligence communities. Diplomacy and economic pressure remain the preferred means to force Iran to negotiate a nuclear deal, but there isn’t much hope that’s going to happen. “Will [sanctions] deter them from their ambitions with regards to nuclear capability?” CIA Director Leon Panetta told ABC News on June 27. “Probably not.” So the military option is very much back on the table.

What has changed? “I started to rethink this last November,” a recently retired U.S. official with extensive knowledge of the issue told me. “We offered the Iranians a really generous deal, which their negotiators accepted,” he went on, referring to the offer to exchange Iran’s 1.2 tons of low-enriched uranium (3.5% pure) for higher-enriched (20%) uranium for medical research and use. “When the leadership shot that down, I began to think, Well, we made the good-faith effort to engage. What do we do now?”

This conundrum didn’t begin with Obama’s election to the Presidency.  It began in 2007, when the American intelligence community produced a laughable NIE that asserted that Iran had stopped working towards nuclear weapons in 2003.  America’s allies openly scoffed at the conclusion of the NIE and critics called it a nakedly political move intended to force Bush into inaction on Iran.  Despite the criticism, it worked — and it allowed Barack Obama, among many others, to claim that Bush was too much of a cowboy and a war monger to be trusted with power.  In fact, in the same year, Obama asserted at a presidential debate that he wanted to meet one-on-one with the Iranian leader (although he later denied that he meant Mahmoud Ahmadinejad) without preconditions in order to reach a peaceful settlement of the issue.

What this produced was a three-year window for Tehran to pursue its nuclear-weapon program with little risk of interference.  Obama continued his open-hand rhetoric while grudgingly pursuing more sanctions, while Iran either ignored Obama, lectured him on the primacy of Islam, or gleefully insulted him on the world stage.  Obama’s “smart power” diplomatic team fell for the Peanuts football ploy that Iran has used for the last seven years in exploiting splits in the Western alliance by offering terms and then changing the terms when the West agrees to them.

Now that the Obama administration has wasted more than a year on the same kind of fruitless diplomacy that had already been tried over and over, they have suddenly reached the conclusion that Iran doesn’t want peace; it wants nukes.  And if it wants nukes more than it wants peace, they’re likely to want the nukes for a specific target.  All of this was blindingly apparent in 2007, but Obama somehow figured that starting over from scratch would work, since he was the change that the world wanted and needed.

A military strike is still a desperation move, for all of the reasons that the Bush team argued.  However, the only option worse is an Iran armed with nuclear weapons.  We’ve wasted three years getting back to that same realization, but you can bet that the Iranians haven’t wasted a day of it.


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Comment pages: 1 2

maverick muse on July 15, 2010 at 10:38 AM

I can’t disagree with any of your points.

Why does the Time article conclude that Russia is not an ally of Iran? It has sold the mullahs quite a bit of enriched uranium, weapons, and technical expertise. Russia wants that warm-water port in order to control oil exporting particularly.

We also cannot forget Iran’s cozy relationship with Venezuela. ObaMao seems to want to cozy up to Chavez, his ideological mentor in the worst way.

onlineanalyst on July 15, 2010 at 1:27 PM

If Iran was only a privately owned corporation, then Obama would really know how to deal with them.

He would just take them over, kick their ass, give them lots and lots of tax-payer dollars, insist they set up a Dem controlled slush fund, unionize the country, give them all purple t-shirts to wear, and make sure they know that, not only are they now officially “racists, but they are also now beholden to, ” . . . the one that we have been waiting for”.

Because if they don’t, then the oceans will surely rise up to cover their nation, their diseases will not be healed, the handicapped will not walk, etc.

Oh, by the way, it would really help if they would build a few nice lush 18-hole links!

Fatal on July 15, 2010 at 2:00 PM

I recall reading the transcripts from an interview one of the good milbloggers, Yon or someone else, conducted with one of the Iranian exiles who was a pretty sharp guy. He said if we surgically took out the Republican Guard and a few leaders, everything else would fall ino line. He said it wasn’t necessary to conduct a full scale operation on the whole country which would be counterproductive in terms of the average Iranian’s attitude, but they would welcome taking out the RG.

a capella on July 15, 2010 at 2:09 PM

Any backwoods moonshiner could have told them this in 2004. Save us from the good people.

Herb on July 15, 2010 at 3:51 PM

One of the first several acts of Hopey the Dopey after his extravagant inauguration (besides the for-show proclamation that Gitmo would be closed and the resumption of our tax dollars to subsidize abortions internationally) was to shut down supportive information to the Iranian people. The program, similar to Radio Free Europe’s, was a beacon of real hope to oppressed Iranians. Similarly, his administration took down the billboard information on radio information to Cubans.

Remember when ObaMao said that we had nothing to fear from Iran because “it is such a small country”?

Can this guy play a strategic game of Chutes and Ladders? We know that the naive ideologues in his administration cannot play three dimensional chess.

onlineanalyst on July 15, 2010 at 4:54 PM

Joe Klein reports that Barack Obama has decided after eighteen months of his ineffective outreach to Iran that the mullahs really do want a nuclear weapon more than they want peace, love, and understanding.

What.an.unprepared.and.ignorant.ass!

ya2daup on July 15, 2010 at 5:23 PM

When in trouble, name a IRAN CZAR. ;)

poxoma

Didn’t bode so well for Jimmy Carter, though.

maverick muse on July 15, 2010 at 10:42 AM

Which, in turn, proved supremely useful for America and Reagan in November, 1980.

jedijson on July 15, 2010 at 7:58 PM

One more thing:

Why does the Time article conclude that Russia is not an ally of Iran? It has sold the mullahs quite a bit of enriched uranium, weapons, and technical expertise. Russia wants that warm-water port in order to control oil exporting particularly.

I’ll bet there will be a military alliance between Russia and Iran in the not-too-distant future.

jedijson on July 15, 2010 at 8:02 PM

The worst part of all this is – is that had our forces started planning this strike in 2007 – by now they could have developed the most incredible weapons and plans. Instead, everyone twiddled their fingers and there is little hope now

gozzak on July 15, 2010 at 10:33 PM

The worst part of all this is – is that had our forces started planning this strike in 2007 – by now they could have developed the most incredible weapons and plans. Instead, everyone twiddled their fingers and there is little hope now – gozzak on July 15, 2010 at 10:33 PM

I would think/hope that contingency plans have always been in the works.

SC.Charlie on July 16, 2010 at 12:57 PM

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