Why trust Obama about Iran?

President Obama’s testy defense of his negotiations with Iran in the aftermath of Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to Congress belies a critical question: “Why trust the president about Iran?”  In light of the president’s shattered Middle East policies, it’s right to wonder about his judgment.  A nuclear-armed Iran is more than a threat to Israelis (and nervous Sunnis, whom minority Shiite Iranians vie with); it is a threat to the West and the U.S., in particular.

Wrote Walter Russell Mead for the Wall Street Journal in 2013:

With the advantages of hindsight, it appears that the White House made five big miscalculations about the Middle East. It misread the political maturity and capability of the Islamist groups it supported; it misread the political situation in Egypt; it misread the impact of its strategy on relations with America's two most important regional allies (Israel and Saudi Arabia); it failed to grasp the new dynamics of terrorist movements in the region; and it underestimated the costs of inaction in Syria.

Mead was an Obama voter in 2008 and sympathetic to the president’s aims.  Per Mead’s own summary, Obama’s Middle East initiatives have been one critical miscalculation after another.  The result is Obama policy failures that at the very least fuel tumult in the Middle East, leaving a dangerous vacuum that ISIS and Iran are battling to fill.

T.J. McFarland wrote presciently for Fox News in 2012, a year before Mead’s article:

If the chaos and upheavals continue, which seems likely, we could in a few years see a region stretching from the Atlantic Ocean to Pakistan which is anti-American and consumed by ethno-sectarian violence.  The region extends from North Africa to the Middle East to the Arabian Peninsula to the Persian Gulf to Central Asia.  It’s home to terrorists, much of the world’s exported oil and our long time ally Israel.   

McFarland’s estimate is close to being realized. 

Speaking of ISIS, Secretary of State John Kerry recently suggested that Iran has a role to play in defeating ISIS.  He offered cooperation with the Iranians.  But Iranian president Hassan Rouhani evidently doesn’t think much of the U.S.-led coalition’s fight against ISIS, calling it “ridiculous.”   

In September of 2014, NBC News reported Rouhani as saying about America’s fight against ISIS:

Are Americans afraid of giving casualties on the ground in Iraq? Are they afraid of their soldiers being killed in the fight they claim is against terrorism?

Not much respect for Obama, who is leading too far from behind to suit Rouhani.  Then again, the Iranians haven’t much respect for Kerry, either, who was being browbeaten by Iranian negotiators until they were ordered to stop. 

“Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif told his country’s state controlled media in a recent interview that Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has instructed him to stop yelling at Kerry and other top U.S. officials during the talks,” reported the Washington Free Beacon

Whatever the historic animus that post-1979 Iranian elites feel toward the U.S., the nation’s leaders’ expressions of contempt for Obama and Kerry make one wonder whether Iran or the U.S. wants a nuclear arms deal more.  In the high-stakes game the U.S. is playing with Iran, wanting a deal more can be a fateful disadvantage.

As Jennifer Rubin reported in her column for the Washington Post in January, former Obama advisor Dennis Ross had this to say:

In an event hosted by the pro-Israel group JINSA this past week, Ross virtually pleaded with the administration to stop chasing a deal. “The question is: what happens over the next few months to get a deal? It’s pretty clear at this point that the Iranians don’t feel much need to conclude an agreement, even though the P5+1 has demonstrated an awful lot of flexibility,” he cautioned. “Therefore, it’s important Iran not believe that we want an agreement more than they do. […] We can’t get a long-term deal unless we raise the price to Iran of refusing it”

Which brings us to Netanyahu’s address to Congress.  Netanyahu spoke soberly about the dangers of making a deal with the Iranians that failed 1) to remove much of Iran’s technological infrastructure for making nuclear weapons grade materials; 2) to prevent Iran’s acquisition or construction of ICBMs; 3) to put in place actions for intervening should Iran violate treaty obligations. 

Moreover, a ten-year agreement with Iran that prohibits nuclear weapons development is years too few.  An Iranian prohibition on nuclear weapons development (or acquisition) should be in perpetuity.  Iran is a rogue state wed to a pernicious faith-ideology, violent as it is aggressive; hateful, with that hate primarily targeting Israel (Jewry generally), the U.S., the West, Christians, and other faiths (and as stated before, Sunni Muslims). 

Netanyahu’s assessment of Iran and its intentions is hard-eyed, borne by the existential threat posed by Iran toward his people.  Obama appears to be forging ahead in negotiations with the Iranians despite the dreary realities of the Iranian regime – realities that date back to the shah’s overthrow.  But this has been the sum of Obama’s Middle Eastern policies and his policies toward Islamic militancy (which the president sidesteps characterizing as Islamic): avoid the tough realities and fashion policies based on what is wished for.    

President Obama’s testy defense of his negotiations with Iran in the aftermath of Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to Congress belies a critical question: “Why trust the president about Iran?”  In light of the president’s shattered Middle East policies, it’s right to wonder about his judgment.  A nuclear-armed Iran is more than a threat to Israelis (and nervous Sunnis, whom minority Shiite Iranians vie with); it is a threat to the West and the U.S., in particular.

Wrote Walter Russell Mead for the Wall Street Journal in 2013:

With the advantages of hindsight, it appears that the White House made five big miscalculations about the Middle East. It misread the political maturity and capability of the Islamist groups it supported; it misread the political situation in Egypt; it misread the impact of its strategy on relations with America's two most important regional allies (Israel and Saudi Arabia); it failed to grasp the new dynamics of terrorist movements in the region; and it underestimated the costs of inaction in Syria.

Mead was an Obama voter in 2008 and sympathetic to the president’s aims.  Per Mead’s own summary, Obama’s Middle East initiatives have been one critical miscalculation after another.  The result is Obama policy failures that at the very least fuel tumult in the Middle East, leaving a dangerous vacuum that ISIS and Iran are battling to fill.

T.J. McFarland wrote presciently for Fox News in 2012, a year before Mead’s article:

If the chaos and upheavals continue, which seems likely, we could in a few years see a region stretching from the Atlantic Ocean to Pakistan which is anti-American and consumed by ethno-sectarian violence.  The region extends from North Africa to the Middle East to the Arabian Peninsula to the Persian Gulf to Central Asia.  It’s home to terrorists, much of the world’s exported oil and our long time ally Israel.   

McFarland’s estimate is close to being realized. 

Speaking of ISIS, Secretary of State John Kerry recently suggested that Iran has a role to play in defeating ISIS.  He offered cooperation with the Iranians.  But Iranian president Hassan Rouhani evidently doesn’t think much of the U.S.-led coalition’s fight against ISIS, calling it “ridiculous.”   

In September of 2014, NBC News reported Rouhani as saying about America’s fight against ISIS:

Are Americans afraid of giving casualties on the ground in Iraq? Are they afraid of their soldiers being killed in the fight they claim is against terrorism?

Not much respect for Obama, who is leading too far from behind to suit Rouhani.  Then again, the Iranians haven’t much respect for Kerry, either, who was being browbeaten by Iranian negotiators until they were ordered to stop. 

“Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif told his country’s state controlled media in a recent interview that Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has instructed him to stop yelling at Kerry and other top U.S. officials during the talks,” reported the Washington Free Beacon

Whatever the historic animus that post-1979 Iranian elites feel toward the U.S., the nation’s leaders’ expressions of contempt for Obama and Kerry make one wonder whether Iran or the U.S. wants a nuclear arms deal more.  In the high-stakes game the U.S. is playing with Iran, wanting a deal more can be a fateful disadvantage.

As Jennifer Rubin reported in her column for the Washington Post in January, former Obama advisor Dennis Ross had this to say:

In an event hosted by the pro-Israel group JINSA this past week, Ross virtually pleaded with the administration to stop chasing a deal. “The question is: what happens over the next few months to get a deal? It’s pretty clear at this point that the Iranians don’t feel much need to conclude an agreement, even though the P5+1 has demonstrated an awful lot of flexibility,” he cautioned. “Therefore, it’s important Iran not believe that we want an agreement more than they do. […] We can’t get a long-term deal unless we raise the price to Iran of refusing it”

Which brings us to Netanyahu’s address to Congress.  Netanyahu spoke soberly about the dangers of making a deal with the Iranians that failed 1) to remove much of Iran’s technological infrastructure for making nuclear weapons grade materials; 2) to prevent Iran’s acquisition or construction of ICBMs; 3) to put in place actions for intervening should Iran violate treaty obligations. 

Moreover, a ten-year agreement with Iran that prohibits nuclear weapons development is years too few.  An Iranian prohibition on nuclear weapons development (or acquisition) should be in perpetuity.  Iran is a rogue state wed to a pernicious faith-ideology, violent as it is aggressive; hateful, with that hate primarily targeting Israel (Jewry generally), the U.S., the West, Christians, and other faiths (and as stated before, Sunni Muslims). 

Netanyahu’s assessment of Iran and its intentions is hard-eyed, borne by the existential threat posed by Iran toward his people.  Obama appears to be forging ahead in negotiations with the Iranians despite the dreary realities of the Iranian regime – realities that date back to the shah’s overthrow.  But this has been the sum of Obama’s Middle Eastern policies and his policies toward Islamic militancy (which the president sidesteps characterizing as Islamic): avoid the tough realities and fashion policies based on what is wished for.