Obama policy on Iran is hurting U.S.

June 11, 2010


— In announcing the passage of a U.N. Security Council resolution imposing sanctions on Iran, President Obama stressed not once but twice Iran’s increasing “isolation” from the world. This claim is not surprising considering that after 16 months of an “extended hand” policy, in response to which Iran actually accelerated its nuclear program — more centrifuges, more enrichment sites, higher enrichment levels — Iranian “isolation” is about the only achievement to which the administration can even plausibly lay claim.

“Isolation” may have failed to deflect Iran’s nuclear ambitions, but it does enjoy incessant repetition by the administration. For example, in his State of the Union address, President Obama declared that “the Islamic Republic of Iran is more isolated.” Two months later, Vice President Biden asserted that “since our administration has come to power, I would point out that Iran is more isolated — internally, externally — has fewer friends in the world.” At the signing of the START treaty in April, Obama declared that “those nations that refuse to meet their obligations (to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, i.e., Iran) will be isolated.”

Really? On Tuesday, one day before the president touted passage of a surpassingly weak U.N. resolution and declared Iran yet more isolated, the leaders of Russia, Turkey and Iran gathered at a security summit in Istanbul “in a display of regional power that appeared to be calculated to test the United States,” as The New York Times put it. I would add: And calculated to demonstrate the hollowness of U.S. claims of Iranian isolation, to flaunt Iran’s growing ties with Russia and quasi-alliance with Turkey, a NATO member no less.

Apart from the fact that isolation is hardly an end in itself and is pointless if, regardless, Iran rushes headlong to become a nuclear power, the very claim of Iran’s increasing isolation is increasingly implausible. Just last month, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad hosted an ostentatious love fest in Tehran with the leaders of Turkey and Brazil. The three raised hands together and announced a uranium transfer deal that was designed to torpedo U.S. attempts to impose U.N. sanctions.

Six weeks ago, Iran was elected to the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women, a grotesque choice that mocked Obama’s attempt to isolate and delegitimize Iran in the very international institutions he treasures.

Increasing isolation? In the last year alone, Ahmadinejad has been welcomed in Kabul, Istanbul, Copenhagen, Caracas, Brasilia, La Paz, Senegal and Gambia. Today, he is in China.

Three Iran sanctions resolutions passed in the Bush years. They were all passed without a single “no” vote. But after 16 months of laboring to produce a mouse, Obama garnered only 12 votes for his sorry sanctions, with Lebanon abstaining and Turkey and Brazil voting no.

From the beginning, the Obama strategy toward Iran and other rogue states had been to offer good will and concessions on the premise that this would lead to one of two outcomes: (a) the other side changes policy, or (b) if they don’t, the world isolates the offending state and rallies around us — now that we have demonstrated last-mile good intentions.

Hence, nearly a year and a half of peace overtures, negotiation, concessions, two New Year’s messages to the Iranian people, a bit of groveling about U.S. involvement in the 1953 coup and a disgraceful silence when the regime’s very stability was threatened by peaceful demonstrators.

Iran’s response? Defiance, contempt and an acceleration of its nuclear program.

And the world’s response? Did it rally behind us? The Russians and Chinese bargained furiously and successfully to hollow out the sanctions resolution. Turkey is openly choosing sides with the region’s “strong horse” — Iran and its clients (Syria, Hezbollah, Hamas) — as it watches the United States flailingly try to placate Syria and appease Iran while it pressures Israel, neglects Lebanon and draws down its power in the region.

To say nothing of Brazil. Et tu, Lula?

This comes after 16 months of assiduously courting these powers with one conciliatory gesture after another: “resetting” relations with Russia, kowtowing to China, lavishing a two-day visit on Turkey highlighted by a speech to the Turkish parliament in Ankara, and elevating Brazil by supplanting the G-8 with the G-20. All this has been read as American weakness, evidence that Obama can be rolled.

The result is succinctly, if understatedly, captured in Wednesday’s Washington Post headline “U.S. alliance against Iran is showing new signs of vulnerability.”

You think?

— Charles Krauthammer is a columnist for Washington Post Writers Group. letters@charleskrauthammer.com


Orwell 7 years, 10 months ago

At least it's easy to write headlines for Krauthammer's columns. In this case the variable was "Iran." Next week it'll be "Obama policy on puppies (or spinach, or Renaissance architecture) hurting U.S."

Just like jokes, expressions of automatic opposition get pretty stale after the seventieth time you hear them.

BorderRuffian 7 years, 10 months ago

Obama's failed policies and initiatives HAVE become the stale joke. No longer able to lay all the blame at the feet of the Bush administration, Obama's weaknesses and inabilities are becoming more and more evident. His ultra-liberal, "placate them with massive bribes, errrrrrr, economic assistance," attempts have fallen far short on countries and puffed-up dictators who simply see these gestures as signs of weakness and indecisiveness. With BP, the Obaminator talks about "kicking ass," while with Achmadinijad and Kim jung Il he simply sends more "economic assistance." Pathetic!

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 10 months ago

I just skimmed this piece, figuring that it's all whining, but zero suggestions for what should be done differently. Am I wrong?

Scott Drummond 7 years, 10 months ago

Right as usual, bozo. See my inquiry below along the same lines. So far only jaywalker has attempted a response.

Liberty275 7 years, 8 months ago

LOL. You must really hate it when the left incessantly blames Bush - 18 months after he moved back to Crawford.

jaywalker 7 years, 10 months ago

While it's impossible to deny Krauthammer's partisanship, that still doesn't take away from this particular column. Nothing he wrote here is incorrect or skewed.

cato_the_elder 7 years, 10 months ago

This is a very serious situation than Americans need to take seriously. Obama has telegraphed weakness ever since he took office, failing to realize that it's much more important for other nations to fear and respect us than sing Kumbaya with us. Every country in the world that has ever been jealous of us (which includes most of those to whom we have given untold amounts of foreign aid since WW II) is now uniting against us on all fronts, recognizing that our leadership is weak. You can rail at Krauthammer all you want, but he is right on. If Iran succeeds in developing a nuclear weapon on Obama's watch, he should be summarily removed from office.

BorderRuffian 7 years, 10 months ago

Every now and then we need a completely failed US President like Carter or Obama to wake us up and put us back on the right track. Here's to good old "One and Done"!!! Who's next - Hillary?

Scott Drummond 7 years, 10 months ago

What alternative course of action should have been pursued by the President? Will the critics please provide specific detail of what they think should have been done different and why it would have led to a superior result.

madameX 7 years, 10 months ago

Thank you for posting this. I was going to post the same thing but you beat me to it.

I can't have much respect for someone who complains about a problem without offering some kind of solution, or at least acknowleding that they don't know what the solution is.

Liberty275 7 years, 8 months ago

Place unilateral sanctions on any country that supports Iran in any manner, forbidding any US company from dealing with them at all. Frankly it would be a good excuse to crawl out of bed with Russia, quit sending our jobs to china and leave brazil to venezuela so chavez can run his country further into the ground supporting his neighbors.

America can play hardball or girl's soccer. Unfortunately with the current president all we can manage is girl's soccer and mostly-failed drone strikes.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 10 months ago

"But I am not pretending to be the president."

Neither is Obama.

But heck, congrats on not being disappeared yet.

Flap Doodle 7 years, 10 months ago

This could be an all-purpose headline. "Obama policy on __ is hurting U.S." Just fill in the blank with the crisis de jure.

Paul R Getto 7 years, 10 months ago

scott3460.."What alternative course of action should have been pursued by the President? Will the critics please provide specific detail of what they think should have been done different and why it would have led to a superior result. " === Good point, scott: If Cheney and Brownback and "Family" had their way, we would have invaded Iran already. In a sense, if we 'needed' to invade someone and create a disaster, it would have made more sense than Iraq. Perhaps, as Jay Leno once joked, it was due to a typo. We can obviously 'kick ass' when we need to, but that helps little in the long term. If those who want to walk across the world with big boots are serious, they need to propose a war tax to pay for all these messes and get a draft going so there is enough cannon fodder to fill the pipeline. Endless war is attractive to those who make money from it, and don't have to send their kids to die.

jaywalker 7 years, 10 months ago

.."What alternative course of action should have been pursued by the President"

I'm guessing "anything but...", scott, short of invasion that is. 'Course, I'll be happy to come up with an alternative course of action as soon as I have access to all the intel briefings and the advice of some of the best minds this country has to offer. I don't for a second believe that such a round-table came up with this 'grovel and hope for the best' strategy. However, notoriously inconspicuous through all this ground-losing diplomacy is Mrs. Clinton, our supposedly impactful Sec. of State. This might not have been the best time to appoint a woman to such a position when our biggest trouble spot is the Middle East where the gender is disgustingly held, sometimes at best, as little better than dogs. Seriously, how does the U.N. allow Iran of all countries to be included in the Commission on the Status of Women?! That's like appointing Fred Phelps to the GLSOK, isn't it?

verity 7 years, 10 months ago

Since Cal Thomas' screed was published yesterday, I knew this had to be a Krauthammer screed. Clicked on it for the entertainment.

Jaywalker, what a tremendous sidestep there. You certainly have all the information you need to constantly criticize our president, but you must have special inside information in order to come up with an alternative. Well, you've certainly given me a good laugh this morning.

jaywalker 7 years, 10 months ago

Nice, verity. First of all, I hardly "constantly criticize our president". Second, I voted for the man, not that it matters, but who here doesn't have criticism for anybody or anything? Isn't that the majority of the activity here? You don't know me from Adam, but you had no problem tossin' some my way, sooo.... Not to mention the fact that I'm not the one in office that's being paid to come up with alternatives, as if ANYone on this here board could actually come up with such. If so, they wouldn't be on here, now would they? Lastly, when it comes to matters of national security and international relations, there's a gloss that can be analyzed, but I've said repeatedly that no one knows what really is at play or at stake in these issues 'less they're sittin' in that round room.

jafs 7 years, 10 months ago

Then it would follow that no one outside of that room can validly criticize the decisions.

Do you mean that?

Scott Drummond 7 years, 10 months ago

And if he does, how can he claim, as he did earlier this morning that nothing in the column is incorrect or skewed.

jaywalker 7 years, 10 months ago

Sweet cheese and rice..... Comprehension down today, fellas? Read the last line of my last post, jafs, particularly the sentence after "Lastly." And scott.......huh? How does one follow the other, brother?

sciencegeek 7 years, 10 months ago

If the LJW truly has a policy about "banned accounts and harassing comments", this user name should not be allowed. It has no place in a moral society.

Well, LJW?

Flap Doodle 7 years, 10 months ago

Speaking of the inept nature of the current regime: “Buried deep inside a federal newsletter on March 16 was something called a "notice of solicitation of comments" from the Bureau of Labor Statistics at the Department of Labor. "BLS is responsible for developing and implementing the collection of new data on green jobs," said the note in the Federal Register, which is widely read by government bureaucrats and almost never seen by the general public. But the notice said there is "no widely accepted standard definition of 'green jobs.'" To help find that definition, the Labor Department asked that readers send in suggestions. The notice came only after the department scoured studies from government, academia, and business in search of a definition. "The common thread through the studies and discussions is that green jobs are jobs related to preserving or restoring the environment," the notice said. Duh! Beyond that, a precise definition has eluded Labor Department officials. On Capitol Hill, a staffer for Sen. Charles Grassley, ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, was poring through the Federal Register and spotted the note. Then he went to the Department of Labor Web site, where he found a number of announcements like these: U.S. Department of Labor Announces $100 Million in Green Jobs Training through Recovery Act U.S. Department of Labor Announces $150 Million in "Pathways Out of Poverty" Training Grants for Green Jobs ** U.S. Department of Labor Announces Nearly $190 Million in State Energy Sector Partnership and Training Grants for Green Jobs In the staffer's mind, two and two came together. The Labor Department is shoving money out the door for "green jobs," yet at the same time is admitting it doesn't know what a "green job" is. Cue Grassley, a longtime watchdog of funny business in the federal bureaucracy. In a June 2 letter to Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, Grassley noted that there was an enormous amount of money in the $862 billion stimulus bill for those still-undefined green jobs. "According to the administration, the Recovery Act contains more than $80 billion in clean energy funding to promote economic recovery and develop clean energy jobs," Grassley wrote. "However, it has come to my attention that the [Labor Department] is just now attempting to define what a 'green job' is. Interestingly, this comes more than a year after the Recovery Act was signed into law and after millions of dollars in funding have already been distributed for green jobs..." Read more at the Washington Examiner: http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/politics/Billions-for-green-jobs_-whatever-they-area-96098934.html#ixzz0qYWpAAXe

Scott Drummond 7 years, 10 months ago

The Bureau of Labor Statistics is led by a gentleman by the name of Keith Hall who was...........wait for it..........appointed by george w. bush in 2007.

c_doc77 7 years, 10 months ago

Obama's dilemma is this on his rhetoric on Iran: if he doesn't take a harder line, he upsets the Israeli lobby (AIPAC); but if he does take a hard line, a strike against Iran - either facilitated by the U.S. or Israel with the help of U.S. and/or NATO - is near inevitable. Once he goes down that road, there is no turning back. That is going to hurt his chances of getting re-elected.

He has been very smooth in his war rhetoric from day one of his presidential bid. He catered to the anti-war left, saying that he was against the Iraq war from the beginning, and would almost immediately begin withdrawal of U.S. troops when he was elected. (He has modified that several times since.) But when it came to Iran, after saying he'd sit down and talk with Achmadinijad, he started saying a strike against Iran was still "on the table". So he's played both sides for a long time. And his supporters simply hear what they want to hear.

But right now, despite the fact that Helen Thomas was scapegoated in an attempt to change the subject to antisemitism, public opinion against Israel has been fomented in the wake of the flotilla incident. And Obama isn't going to touch this Iran thing until he absolutely has to for political reasons. Eventually U.S. or Israel with NATO's and/or U.S.'s blessing will probably bomb these people. If this happens, it may be the beginning of WW III because it will, in effect, "poke the Russian bear" and potentially set of a chain reaction. Russia is a major trading partner with Iran, and has voiced opposition to an Iranian strike going back to the Bush administration. And they proved, during the Georgian (NATO) invasion and attempted genocide of the Ossetians, that they are still game.

So is Iran "isolated"? That's the codeword for their not wanting to be dependent on the "global community" for energy. So their real crime is energy independence. That's why they have this nuclear program. It is difficult to be manipulated by outside forces when you are not locked into the global economy. Will they eventually seek to build nuclear weapons? Probably, but there is no evidence that they are - even the CIA said so. But if they did, so what? Many other nations have them, Pakistan and Israel included. Think of the hubris in encroaching on the sovereignty of a nation by preventing them from building such defenses.

"But didn't Achmadinijad want to wipe Israel off the map?" Please. First of all, he never said that. His quote was intentionally mistranslated so as to make him out to be a boogie man so the Bush regime could strike Iran - either directly or by proxy of Israel. The phrase "off the map" isn't a Farsi expression. Secondly, even if he did say that, which he did not, he does not have the authority to make such a decision - nor would he, unless he had a death wish for the Persian people.

verity 7 years, 10 months ago

You make way too much sense for this forum.

Scott Drummond 7 years, 10 months ago

Agreed, but at least he's presented a rational point of view in the face of the Krauthammer propaganda. Is Obama hurting the US? Probably not, he's just being cautious. Again, what other course of action is preferable?

verity 7 years, 10 months ago

I was being snarky in support of c_doc. I agree completely with her/him and am glad to see somebody taking a reasoned viewpoint, not the kneejerk rhetoric of so many people.

And I agree with matchbox below.

No matter what your personal viewpoint is on how to react to bullies, the U.S. simply does not have the resources to control the whole world.

Showing respect to other people and cultures is not a sign of weakness, but rather of strength. I do not have to dimish someone else to make myself feel better---this is in response to those who berate Obama for bowing.

While I certainly don't agree with everything Obama has done, adn I don't pretend to know whether he will ultimately be successful, I would certainly rather have him as our leader than the alternative any day of the year.

matchbox81 7 years, 10 months ago

I think the number 1 goal of the Iranian presidency is to goad the US into attacking his country - it will do more to rally his country around him than any action the Iranian president could do on his own.

beatrice 7 years, 10 months ago

I'm sure senator John "bomb, bomb, bomb / bomb, bomb Iran" McCain's policy would have been different. I don't believe it would have been better, unless America really wants to be in another war in the Middle East, that is.

Liberty275 7 years, 8 months ago

Oh! Let's all look over at the guy that lost the election so we don't need to pay attention to the guy that did!

Great strategy. Did you learn that from watching the NatGeo special on ostriches?

Flap Doodle 7 years, 10 months ago

President Hillary wouldn't have made such a hash of everything.

Richard Heckler 7 years, 10 months ago

Grassly is on the the very generous special interest money list of the medical insurance industry the people who do not want to give up $1.2 trillion health insurance tax dollars.

Richard Heckler 7 years, 10 months ago

Iran is years and years away from a working nuke weapon of any type whereas Israel is the sixth largest nuke power in the world and that leadership is insane.

This is one big problem for USA taxpayers = soldiers never leaving:

Plans to build a pipeline to siphon oil from newly conquered Iraq to Israel are being discussed between Washington, Tel Aviv and potential future government figures in Baghdad.

The plan envisages the reconstruction of an old pipeline, inactive since the end of the British mandate in Palestine in 1948, when the flow from Iraq's northern oilfields to Palestine was re-directed to Syria.

Now, its resurrection would transform economic power in the region, bringing revenue to the new US-dominated Iraq, cutting out Syria and solving Israel's energy crisis at a stroke.

It would also create an end less and easily accessible source of cheap Iraqi oil for the US guaranteed by reliable allies other than Saudi Arabia - a keystone of US foreign policy for decades and especially since 11 September 2001.

Until 1948, the pipeline ran from the Kurdish-controlled city of Mosul to the Israeli port of Haifa, on its northern Mediterranean coast.

The revival of the pipeline was first discussed openly by the Israeli Minister for National Infrastructures, Joseph Paritzky, according to the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz .

The paper quotes Paritzky as saying that the pipeline would cut Israel's energy bill drastically - probably by more than 25 per cent - since the country is currently largely dependent on expensive imports from Russia.

US intelligence sources confirmed to The Observer that the project has been discussed. One former senior CIA official said: 'It has long been a dream of a powerful section of the people now driving this administration [of President George W. Bush] and the war in Iraq to safeguard Israel's energy supply as well as that of the United States.

'The Haifa pipeline was something that existed, was resurrected as a dream and is now a viable project - albeit with a lot of building to do.'

The editor-in-chief of the Middle East Economic Review , Walid Khadduri, says in the current issue of Jane's Foreign Report that 'there's not a metre of it left, at least in Arab territory'.

To resurrect the pipeline would need the backing of whatever government the US is to put in place in Iraq, and has been discussed - according to Western diplomatic sources - con't http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2003/apr/20/israelandthepalestinians.oil

beaujackson 7 years, 10 months ago

Obama will be replaced. What's more scary are those who voted for him.

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