Monday, August 13, 2012

a few more notes on iran

even as representatives from the obama administration and republican presidential candidate mitt romney visit israel to discuss tensions between that country and iran over the iranian nuclear program, i wonder how much the obama administration itself hasn’t fomented this tension.

at the beginning of the month, leon e. panetta visited israel to meet with top officials of that country to discuss tensions with iran and the possibility of israeli strikes on iranian nuclear facilities.  even as the obama administration professes concern that israel might be preparing for unilateral strikes against iran, white house officials have said that while “they remain hopeful that Israel has no imminent plans to attack and may be willing to let the United States take the lead in any future military strike, which they say would not occur until next year at the earliest.”  the administration is leaving the door open for possible military strikes in the future, seemingly delivering two different messages simultaneously.

james mann, in his recent book the obamians, argues that this seems to be a pattern for the obama administration.  the president will deliver a speech arguing for one thing and simultaneously pursue sometimes contradictory policies.  with israel and iran it seems to have taken a gamble that may have backfired slightly.

in 2009 when obama took office, mann points out that the new administration could not justify a military strike against iran, especially in light of the difficulty of the operation and the two ongoing wars in iraq and afghanistan.  however, mann points out that “the Obama team didn’t mind keeping Iranian leaders on edge about the possibility of some kind of military action, by Israel if not the United States.”  quoting a comment given by joe biden and another senior obama aide, mann notes that the administration was suggesting that the united states may not stop israel from bombing iran’s nuclear operations.

years later, israel seems to be edging toward some sort of aggression, unless this tension has been orchestrated by the u.s. and israeli government to keep iran cautious.  this is not the first time the obama has made suggestions in an attempt to manipulate the policies of other nations.  the palestinian bid for recognition at the united nations was originally an idea floated by obama, most likely in an effort to convince israel to negotiate with the palestinians and continue talks toward creating a definite border and boundary for the palestinians.  this unfortunately backfired when the palestinians actively pursued recognition from the u.n. and the united states had to vote against the initiative.

in reviewing obama's foreign policy in an article for foreign affairs, martin s. indyk, similarly to james mann, notes that Obama's "tone has been neither that of American triumphalism and exceptionalism nor one of American decline.  On balance, this approach has been effective, conveying a degree of openness to the views of other leaders and the interests of other nations while still projecting confidence and leadership."  in this essay, "scoring obama's foreign policy," indyk may praise obama for his even-handedness while simultaneously criticizing the administration for certain failures and deficiencies in this area.  indyk argues that middle east diplomacy has been lackluster.  While "Iran and North Korean face growing isolation from the emerging global order that Obama is shaping... The giant question mark hanging over these efforts, however, remains the prospect of Iran's potential acquistion of a nuclear weapons capability.  That would deal a blow to the nonproliferation regime - a pillar of the U.S.-led international order - and raise questions about the efficacy of Obama's pressure tactics."  so maybe the economic sanctions that the obama administration has engineered has put significant pressure on the leaders of iran, it has yet to be seen that this tactic will effectively deter iran in its mission to produce a nuclear weapon.

furthermore, in another article from foreign affairs, jacques e. c. hymans argues that "military attacks by foreign powers have tended to unite politicians and scientists in a common cause to built the bomb."  If a strike against the nuclear program in iran will solidify the iranian scientific community around nuclear development, i cannot see why these economic sanctions would not galvanize nationalism at all levels of the iranian economy.  but i'm not certain there's a better solution.

1 comment:

GrrBrown said...

You know what this reminds me of? Saddam. While publicly protesting that Iraq had no WMD program of any kind, there were plenty of purposeful leaks and rumors that gave a contrary impression.
It turns out that Saddam didn't have WMDs at all, but he allowed these rumors to continue in order to keep the Iranians on edge. In a classic case of misidentification (thesaurus please) of who his greater enemy was, Saddam didn't realize that the United States was the greater threat until it was too late. I like this post, I feel like governments use this double speak often, throughout history even. See, the Korean peninsula for example. Go Deeper!