The Iranian regime supports violent extremists and challenges us across
the region. It pursues a nuclear capability that could spark a dangerous arms
race, and raise the prospect of a transfer of nuclear know-how to terrorists.
Its president denies the Holocaust and threatens to wipe Israel
off the map. The danger from Iran
is grave, it is real, and my goal will be to eliminate this threat.
--Barack Obama, June 4,
So begins the great transformation, whereby a dovish primary candidate
mutates into a (moderately) hawkish nominee.
It's a tall order in Obam a's case. He must prove that a 46-year-old
senator, a talented Chicago pol
with a thin résumé and without national security or executive experience, is a
plausible commander in chief. He must downplay the kumbaya rhetoric and
irresponsible national security votes, and talk tough while inventing shifty
rationalizations for prior weakness.
Exhibit A: Obama's June 4 address, quoted above, to the American Israel
Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). Read it alongside John McCain's speech to
AIPAC, and you'll be struck by the similarities. Both candidates pledged to
prevent a second Holocaust. Both said Iran
is a major strategic threat. And both promised to deal with this threat through
U.N. and non-U.N. sanctions, divestment, and--if necessary--force. But don't be
fooled. There are major differences.
McCain told AIPAC, correctly, that for decades negotiations with Iran
have failed to win concessions from the regime. This failure has been
bipartisan and transatlantic. President Clinton pledged major inducements for Iran
to liberalize. He got nothing.
President Bush has offered more bounty to Iran
in exchange for a suspension of uranium enrichment. Still nothing. The
Europeans have been talking to the Iranians for years. They have zilch to show
for it. McCain wants to increase pressure until the Iranians understand that
their interest lies in reaching a diplomatic solution.
Obama, though, wants his approach to begin with "aggressive, principled
diplomacy without self-defeating preconditions."
We will open up lines of communication, build an agenda, coordinate closely
with our allies, and evaluate the potential for progress. Sounds nice. Obama,
moreover, is willing to lead tough and principled diplomacy with the appropriate Iranian
leader at a time and place of my choosing, if--and only if--it can advance the
interests of the United States.
That's a pretty big "if," coming from the guy who has said he
would meet without preconditions in the first year of his administration with
the leaders of Iran,
Cuba, and North
If his non-precondition-conditions are met, what will Obama say to the
"appropriate Iranian leader"? This:
If you abandon your dangerous nuclear program, support for terror, and
threats to Israel,
there will be meaningful incentives--including the lifting of sanctions, and
political and economic integration with the international community.
Thus Obama would make an offer that the Iranians have repeatedly rejected,
except he would do it in person--at a historic summit, a propaganda coup for
the mullahs. Only after they refused the offer--again--would Obama
"ratchet up the pressure." We would be back where we started, except
the Iranian regime would have denied the leader of the Great Satan's demands in
person. This would not only be embarrassing. It would mean more leverage for Tehran.
Obama's "responsible, phased redeployment of our troops
would also redound to Iran's
strategic benefit. The policy would erase the security and political gains the United
States and its Iraqi allies have made in the
last year and a half. It would lead to more violence, not less, and to a weaker
Iraqi government, not a stronger one. It would breathe new life into the
radicals--many sponsored by the Iranian regime--who seek a failed state in Iraq.
And Tehran would quickly move to
fill any power vacuum that the Americans left behind in Iraq.
Why on earth, then, would the supreme leader of Iran, seeing the U.S.
president knocking on his door--a supplicant--and U.S. troops retreating from
Iraq, be moved to negotiate with the United States? By what strategic calculus
would he determine that that would be the time to give up his chips?
Ah, but we have entered the Obama zone, where conditions are not conditions,
where Ahmadinejad is and is not really the leader of Iran, where the Iranian
Revolutionary Guards isn't a terrorist group one year but is the next, where
Iran is simultaneously a "tiny" and a "grave" threat, and
where the absence of American combat troops in Iraq actually increases U.S.
influence in the Middle East.
Here, doves are reborn as hawks, and liberals are turned into
"pragmatists." And somehow the security of America
and her allies will be enhanced by inadvertently promoting the interests of her