IN his address to the American Israeli Political Action Committee last week, Sen. Barack Obama discarded some of his most dangerous positions.
Of Iran, for example, he said: "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
Except for the politically correct phrase
"violent extremists" instead of the more accurate "terrorists," those
words could have come from President Bush.
supported the Bush Doctrine should welcome this dramatic change. No
longer does Obama claim that talk of a threat from Iran is an
"obsession instead, he recognizes the danger of nuclear proliferation -
and acknowledges the Islamic Republic as something more than a "tiny"
He has also "evolved" on Iraq. He no longer shares Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's belief that America has already
lost the war. And he's discarded his pledge to pull US troops out in
the first year of his presidency. He now talks of "a responsible and
phased withdrawal" - exactly what Bush is committed to.
important: He no longer says "there are no good options in Iraq now,
"there are not many good options" - which means there are some.
In the Middle East, many see this transformation as a bid to woo the
Jewish vote. Unlikely: American Jews always vote Democrat by three to
Perhaps the change simply reflects the shift from the
primaries, which Obama won in part by courting the virulent anti-war
groups, to the general-election campaign, when he must appeal to the
electorate at large. That is, he must tailor his message for the
majority of Americans who think Iran is a threat, and the growing
plurality are starting to see that Iraq isn't a quagmire after all.
I prefer to believe that Obama is simply learning "on the job."
This is no bad thing, provided his mind is not atrophied by dogma. No
one gains experience without making mistakes and correcting them.
OBAMA should travel to the Middle East to get a feel of the place, talk
to people at all levels and acquire a deeper understanding of the
He should especially go to Iraq to see what is
happening, and hear what Iraqis think about their future, and talk to
the US civilian and military personnel, who have put their lives on the
line to help Iraq defeat its enemies.
I know no one who went
to Iraq without a hidden agenda and came back not supporting the
building of a new, open and pluralist society there.
Once he has completed his educational tour, Obama would have to tackle the second half of the task facing him.
The first half was his abandonment of appeasement toward the Islamic
Republic and defeatism on Iraq. The second half consists of announcing
what he'll do about Iran and Iraq. Having adopted Bush's analysis, will
he also adopt Bush's policies (albeit with variations to calm the
That is the key question of the coming
campaign. For if Obama goes the whole way, he would facilitate the
development of a bipartisan policy on the most crucial international
issues the United States has faced since the end of the Cold War.
That would tell the terrorists and insurgents in Iraq that, even under
President Obama, America won't feed its friends to the wolves and run
away. It would also tell the mullahs that the United States won't let
them dominate the Middle East in the name of Khomeinism.
The very perception of a truly united
United States would go a long way in defusing the situation in the
Middle East. On the other hand, the perception of the United States as
a house divided will encourage those who hope the Americans will run
away - leaving the Middle East to them, just to please Nancy Pelosi and
the small anti-war network that helped fly Obama's kite to such
The difference between the two perceptions could mean the difference between peace and war.
Amir Taheri's new book, "The Persian Night: Iran Under the Khomeinist Revolution," will be published this fall.