The suggestion that going to war with the clerical regime is too high a price to pay to stop the mullahs from acquiring nuclear weapons (which is what’s implied by defending the limited, temporary utility of the JCPOA) is downright odd. Obama was, in theory, willing to do just that in the nuclear negotiations. In theory, when he uttered the mantra that “all options are on the table,” Obama was—to borrow from La Rochefoucauld—giving the homage that hypocrisy pays to virtue. The nuclear deal wasn’t just “far from ideal”: It is the hinge of America’s downsizing in the region, the guarantor of a decent interval before nuclear proliferation comes to the Middle East.
Obama’s “wishful thinking” about the region was never more fully on display than when he speculated that his nuclear agreement with Tehran ought to allow the Iranians and the Saudis time to learn “to share” the region; it has, of course, done the opposite. The agreement—and the Iranian perception of that accord as a Western green light for its continuing aggression—has thrown jet fuel on the sectarian strife that Iran’s clerical regime has so malevolently encouraged. The Syrian war went from bad to catastrophic while Obama was engaged in his secret and then open diplomacy with Tehran. Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, and most probably Turkey, too—the only Muslim power in the Middle East that has the industrial capacity to check Iran’s clerical regime—will probably soon start down the nuclear path because of Obama’s accord.