Despite claims to the contrary,
the use of force by the United States to prevent the mullahs in Teheran
from possessing nuclear weapons is now effectively off the table.
During the presidential campaign, President Obama assured the American
people that an Iranian atomic weapon would be “unacceptable,” but
unless Israel takes action, the President has entrapped himself in negotiations
that will not move these hardened jihadist revolutionaries but will
only provide them enough time to enrich the uranium they need for their
first atomic weapon.
Even if eschewing military
action were not a matter of conviction among Obama’s foreign policy
mandarins, the Iranians know that President has become so heavily invested
in negotiations that it is now up to them whether other, incompatible
policy options have been irretrievably excluded, especially the resort
to war by the U.S. and possibly even Israel.
The Administration has made
noises about tougher sanctions, but in all likelihood they’re a
pro forma display for our allies amounting to little more than the
phantom sensations of a lost limb or the twitching of a dying corpse.
While “carrots and sticks”
is attractive rhetorically, they are a crude and unwieldy device.
Moreover, there are no carrots more appealing to the Mullahs than possession
of nuclear weapons, and the sticks of harsher sanctions might only be
perceived by the Administration as potentially jeopardizing negotiations.
In any case, sanctions have only worked -- and worked over the course
of many years -- in the unique cases of Rhodesia and South Africa, when
the Communist world happily supported a guilty, moralistic West in ending
white minority rule.
As for negotiations, the likely
dynamic is clear: So sure are the Iranians of American reluctance to
use force that they are free to initially react with disdain and continue
to indulge in their hard-line anti-American rhetoric -- even as President
Ahmadinejad cleverly hedges his bets with hints of negotiations.
In the unlikely event that the Administration becomes frustrated in
the pursuit of negotiations -- or with the negotiations, themselves
-- the mullahs can shift gears (if that’s what it takes to maintain
power and their nuclear program) and become suitably emollient -- and
the U.S. will have no choice but to respond favorably.
Had Obama not treated the issue
of negotiations with Iran as a centerpiece of his campaign, he might
have room to maneuver. No longer. Meaningless insistence
on the need for “preparations” aside, the way he has positioned
himself, his desperate desire for sympathy in the Muslim world and the
appointment of a special envoy means that the President is locked into
negotiations and only negotiations as a promise not only to the American
people but to a waiting, fearful world.
The crucial issue is time.
Diplomacy, like law, is a slow-motion business. A commitment to
negotiations with Iran implies a time frame that will necessarily extend
beyond the date various national intelligence services say that the
Iranians can go nuclear.
A recent report to the French
government produced by its intelligence bureaucracy and based on information
revealed by the Iranian government itself (and thus not based on Western
projections) concludes that the Iranians will have enriched enough uranium
to produce an atomic weapon no later than the end of next year (Assembly
of a bomb by the Iranians isn’t the question; the remaining piece
of the puzzle is obtaining enough enriched uranium.). American
intelligence chiefs recently judged a year or so. And Israeli
intelligence believes the Iranians could go nuclear before the end of
That’s why Israel’s likely
new Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, in an interview in early February
with the Jerusalem Post, expressed the hope that President Obama
would set a time limit on negotiations. It’s a vain hope: It
would be regarded as disingenuous at best, a betrayal at worst -- and
not least by our diplomats in Foggy Bottom and a large part of the bleating
The Europeans have been negotiating
with Iran over uranium enrichment since at least 2003. The more
drawn-out the better, as the centrifuges continue to spin. And
so it will be with the U.S.: The Iranians will offer the occasional
concession and invite further discussions that would prove irresistible
to American and world opinion and thereby make it more difficult --
if not impossible -- even for the Israelis to act as “spoilers”
of their primary ally’s efforts and intervene militarily.
Repeated intelligence surprises
over the years about Iranian intentions and abilities -- including a
report a few days ago that the Iranians had more enriched uranium than
expected -- mean that there will be no advance warning that a nuclear
weapon is imminent so that the U.S. may break off negotiations and seriously
contemplate military action (Covert efforts begun in 2008 to delay enrichment
efforts are at best tenuous -- and may be vetoed by Obama as endangering
negotiations). The mullahs will simply announce a fait accompli,
with all that means in terms of proliferation, nuclear blackmail and
Still, the Administration presses
on in the belief that Iran can be persuaded to abandon its nuclear weapons
program; that even when the president couldn’t reach agreement with
their democratic opposition among the Republican Party over the recent
economic stimulus package they can talk sweet reason to the hard and
cynical men in Teheran; this despite the Iranians’ longtime commitment
to worldwide Islamic revolution, and a history of murder and oppression
of their own citizens -- and involvement as the world’s primary state-sponsor
In the late 1970s, Andrew Young,
President Carter’s Ambassador to the United Nations, told the world
that the Ayatollah Khomeini was “some kind of a saint.” But
apparently Khomeini didn’t get the word: He supported the takeover
of the U.S. Embassy in Teheran and instituted a murderous theocracy,
and now we’re facing the consequences of those events -- and with
the same misguided thinking by the spiritual and intellectual heirs
to Andrew Young and President Carter.
“Mankind is unteachable,”
Winston Churchill would say. Unteachable and, one might add, with
a bottomless capacity for self-deception. Maybe we’ll be assured
that even with nuclear weapons Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei will
turn out to be some kind of a saint.
And maybe it won’t matter
that the Obama Administration has for all intents and purposes taken
force off the table as an option to prevent a nuclear Iran.