Sunday, May 24, 2009


The must-read in today's NY Times Week in Review is an analysis of Obama's non-existent strategy towards Iran by Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett. For all his talk, Obama has done nothing to engage Iran or show a change in Bush's bellicose attitude towards Iranians.

Really, the Leveretts have written a depressing essay on Obama's non-starter policy towards Iran. This is not a feel-good analysis. But it happens to be the most important piece in today's The New York Times.

The Leveretts are pessimistic for many reasons. One of them is Obama's appointment of Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State notwithstanding her demeaning comments that she would "totally obliterate" Iran in the event of an attack upon Israel. Imagine if you were Iranian and you heard this. Clinton was saying that she would order the bombing of the whole nation. What does that say about Clinton's awareness of the killing and annihilation of Iranian children, women, ordinary citizens?

Then there is Dennis Ross whom Obama has appointed to be the point man in charge of crafting strategy towards Iran. This is the very Dennis Ross who last year indicated that diplomatic talks with Iran were doomed to failure, but that they were necessary in order to argue that the U.S. had first resorted to diplomacy before it began bombing.

But there are many other reasons for the Leveretts' pessimism. Write the Leveretts:

"Unfortunately, Mr. Obama is backing away from the bold steps required to achieve strategic, Nixon-to-China-type rapprochement with Tehran. Administration officials have professed disappointment that Iranian leaders have not responded more warmly to Mr. Obama’s rhetoric. Many say that the detention of the Iranian-American journalist Roxana Saberi (who was released this month) and Ayatollah Khamenei’s claim last week that America is “fomenting terrorism” inside Iran show that trying to engage Tehran is a fool’s errand.

"But this ignores the real reason Iranian leaders have not responded to the new president more enthusiastically: the Obama administration has done nothing to cancel or repudiate an ostensibly covert but well-publicized program, begun in President George W. Bush’s second term, to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to destabilize the Islamic Republic. Under these circumstances, the Iranian government — regardless of who wins the presidential elections on June 12 — will continue to suspect that American intentions toward the Islamic Republic remain, ultimately, hostile."

The suspicion of the Iranians is understandable and rational. The U.S. apparently is trying to destabilize the Iranian government by arming Iranian radicals and funding their attacks against Iranian police and institutions.

The Leveretts write how Obama should deal with Iran:

"Why has President Obama put himself in a position from which he cannot deliver on his own professed interest in improving relations with the Islamic Republic? Some diplomatic veterans who have spoken with him have told us that the president said that he did not realize, when he came to office, how “hard” the Iran problem would be. But what is hard about the Iran problem is not periodic inflammatory statements from President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad or episodes like Ms. Saberi’s detention. What is really hard is that getting America’s Iran policy “right” would require a president to take positions that some allies and domestic constituencies won’t like.

"To fix our Iran policy, the president would have to commit not to use force to change the borders or the form of government of the Islamic Republic. He would also have to accept that Iran will continue enriching uranium, and that the only realistic potential resolution to the nuclear issue would leave Iran in effect like Japan — a nation with an increasingly sophisticated nuclear fuel-cycle program that is carefully safeguarded to manage proliferation risks. Additionally, the president would have to accept that Iran’s relationships with Hamas and Hezbollah will continue, and be willing to work with Tehran to integrate these groups into lasting settlements of the Middle East’s core political conflicts."

Obama gathered many votes for himself because of his statements that he would not hesitate to begin a dialogue with Iran and its leaders. He said that the U.S. would show respect for Iran as a great country with a cultural heritage going back thousands of years. Instead, to date, Obama has done very little and has shown hardly any respect. Witness the appointments of Clinton and Ross.

If Obama keeps on this path, there is only one outcome, and that is either a U.S. or Israeli attack on Iran. We cannot allow this to happen.

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