Sen. Bob Menendez, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a Democrat, spoke for many of us when he characterized the administration as parroting Iran’s talking points on nuclear negotiations. But it isn’t just in the realm of nuclear talks that Obama acquiesces to Iranian positions. Charles Krauthammer points out that the administration is also acquiescing to Iranian domination of Syria, having told the New York Times that it is abandoning its long-stated goal of removing Assad.
Why is Obama taking positions so obviously pro-Iranian as to upset stalwarts in his own Party? The answer, as I have argued before, is that Obama sees Iran as the rising power in the region, and sees a grand bargain with the clerics as the solution to our woes in the Middle East.
Obama may well be correct on the first count. Iran has made great strides towards gaining a Middle East empire, as Krauthammer documents. Once it obtains nukes, it will be that much closer to regional triumph.
But what is the basis for believing that Iranian ascendancy is in America’s interests? No nation in the region has been more hostile towards the U.S. than Iran. No nation anywhere has been responsible for more American deaths since the mullahs came to power. No other nation in the region poses a direct threat our homeland via long range missiles that soon could contain nuclear warheads.
Terrorist organizations like al Qaeda and ISIS probably pose a greater threat to our homeland than Iran does. But there is no reason to believe that an ascendant Iran would help us defeat or minimize that threat.
Iran is committed to keeping pro-Iranian regimes in power in Syria and Iraq, but has never shown the will or the capacity to help them take back all of their territory. Thus, Iranian ascendancy is not inconsistent with ISIS and/or al Qaeda holding large chunks of land which they can use as a base for terrorizing the West.
Why, then, does the “grand bargain” option hold so much appeal for Obama. For several reasons, I believe.
First, it appeals to his intellectual arrogance. Those close to Obama say he sees international politics as an “intellectual puzzle to be solved.” While others react to this or that crisis, Obama looks at the big picture and seeks big solutions.
Any president can take a hard line on Iran. It takes a president of exceptional intellect and vision to see beyond the discord and view Iran as the solution, not the problem, or so Obama tells himself.
Second, the grand bargain approach is consistent with Obama’s laziness. Attempting to thwart Iran’s drive for empire would be hard work. It’s so much easier to pretend that Iranian ascendancy is a good thing, or at least a manageable one.
Finally, Obama suffers from the familiar leftist tendency to respect and defer to (and secretly admire) successful anti-American strongmen. A good leftist doesn’t want to be caught “on the wrong side of history.” If the future of the Middle East seems to belong to Iran, that’s good enough for Obama.
Fortunately, “strongmen” tend to come and go. Our goal should always be to attempt, insofar as prudence allows, to facilitate the exit of strongmen whose rule is bad for the United States.
The Iranian mullahs have spent the past 35 years proving that they fit this description. Regime change should have been Obama’s goal.
Instead, just as sanctions were beginning seriously to jeopardize the regime’s hold on power, Obama threw it a lifeline.
If Iranian ascendancy ushers in a new era of stability and relative peace in the Middle East, Obama’s approach will be vindicated and his self-image as intellectual powerhouse and visionary will stand confirmed.
In the more likely event that the rise of an Islamist, anti-American regime turns out badly for the interests of the U.S. (not to mention its close ally Israel), Obama will have turned out to be the intellectually arrogant, lazy leftist dabbler many of us always thought he is.