Obama’s “Secret” Plan on Iran’s Nuclear Weapons Issue and Why (Even the Saudis Tell You) It Will Fail
By Barry Rubin
The problem with the Obama administration is that it wants to pursue policies that may be acceptable to the day-dreaming cultural elite, but not to regimes that are full of cunning and deceit, like the Iranian regime, whose primary objectives do not include development, openness, humanitarian values, the well-being of its citizens, or even religious tolerance; rather, all that the Iranian regime – and the ideology behind it – cares about is expansion and infiltrating other countries.
Oops! I didn’t write that and there’s no plagiarism intended !These are the words of Tariq Alhomayed, editor-in-chief of al-Sharq al-Awsat in that Saudi-backed newspaper’s April 15 issue. He once again illustrates a point I keep trying to make: anti-Islamist and moderate Arab states, intellectuals, and democratic opposition movements are just as upset with the Obama Administration as I am. And they are just as endangered by current U.S. policies as Israel is.
Alhomayed is horrified by reports that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says she thinks there are signs that Iran is moderating on the nuclear weapons issue and is going to negotiate seriously.
Iran, Alhomayed continued, has been working for three decades to “infiltrate our region” and “divide Arab states from within.” As examples he cites Iraq, Yemen, and Lebanon as well as the Palestinians. He even claims Tehran at times works with al-Qaida today, an accusation incidentally that U.S. intelligence reporting has confirms. So why, Alhomayed asks, would anyone trust Iran?
It is astonishing to note the extent that the Obama Administration, which supposedly is so sensitive to the views of Arabs and Muslims, has ignored the concerns of America’s own Arab allies. And it is astounding to see how much that same administration, which is so obsessed with being popular among Arabs and Muslims, is mistrusted and ridiculed by so many Arabs, Turks, and Iranians who want to be allies of the United States, as well as being ridiculed and stepped on by America’s enemies in the region.
Alhomayed is on target. The Washington Post has revealed what can be called President Barack Obama’s secret plan to solve the Iran nuclear crisis without a confrontation. It might sound familiar.
If Iran somehow proves that it doesn’t want nuclear weapon, the United States will agree to Tehran’ having peaceful nuclear power.
This is what Obama has just told the Iranian leadership through the visiting Turkish prime minister. Well, guess what? This is precisely the same plan he’s been proposing since 2009. This strategy hasn’t worked and it won’t work.
From a high-level U.S. government group-think approach, Obama’s plan sounds brilliant. It gives Tehran a way out and is intellectually cute. Hey, you claim you don’t want nuclear weapons but only nuclear-generated power so we’ll call your bluff.
One could also read into this a bit of nasty trickery: you pretend you aren’t building nuclear weapons and we’ll play along if you don’t actually assemble one or be too obvious about the drive for military weapons of mass destruction.
The phrase “too clever by half” might have been invented to describe this situation.
Someone who doesn’t know much about Iran, revolutionary Islamism, or Middle East politics might expect that this plan could possibly work in the real sense. Iran would recognize its “true interests” (as defined in Washington governmental corridors and media offices) and back down.
And someone who doesn’t know much about Iran, revolutionary Islamism, or Middle East politics might expect that this plan could possibly work in the fraudulent sense. Iran could recognize how to exploit this offer by taking the deal and pretend to be moderate while going ahead with its nuclear weapons’ drive.
Yet why should Tehran do either? Iran’s leadership really does want nuclear weapons and it doesn’t need to fool the West when it can call the West’s bluff. The Iranian leadership doesn’t believe the United States will attack because it views Obama as weak and itself as strong. They’re right in assuming they don’t have to worry about a U.S. assault.
At the same time, the Islamist leadership—like the Communist regimes of the past—firmly believes that the West is intrinsically hostile. So the Tehran regime finds the idea that the West might keep such a deal to be laughable. The Islamist regime is convinced that the Crusader-Zionist West will target it whatever Iran does. Stalling for time and continuing to seek deliverable nuclear weapons is obviously the best choice.
One could argue that Obama’s strategy is to give Tehran every chance to resolve the issue so that if Iran refuses to do so then Obama can some day mobilize support for military action. My view, however, is that he is engaging in wishful thinking allowing him to argue that he is working hard on the issue when in fact he isn’t doing anything. This strategy makes it far more likely that Iran will get nuclear weapons and also more likely that a war would result at some point.
Let me stress that point. Obama’s strategy makes war more probable–including the chance of an Israeli attack some day–not less so. Incidentally, forgive me for adding that my argument that Israel was never going to attack Iran at this time has been increasingly shown to be accurate.
At any rate, Obama’s strategy will fail to do anything but possibly look good to his domestic audience.
What then is the alternative? Not war but a comprehensive strategy designed to contain and weaken Iran that goes beyond sanctions to political action. This means undermining Iran’s allies, Hizballah in Lebanon and the Syrian regime, and giving strong support to the Arab states of the Persian Gulf so tha they feel the United States is really going to protect them. These people don’t want an American president who panders to what he thinks Arabs and Muslims want but a president who is tough in protecting U.S. interests, interests that includes their own survival.