U.S. policy on Iran is weak, incoherent

September 15, 2012


— There are two positions one can take regarding the Iranian nuclear program: (a) it doesn’t matter, we can deter them, or (b) it does matter, we must stop them.

In my view, the first position — that we can contain Iran as we did the Soviet Union — is totally wrong, a product of wishful thinking and misread history. But at least it’s internally coherent.

What is incoherent is President Obama’s position. He declares the Iranian program intolerable — “I do not have a policy of containment; I have a policy to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon” — yet stands by as Iran rapidly approaches nuclearization.

A policy so incoherent, so knowingly and obviously contradictory, is a declaration of weakness and passivity. And this, as Anthony Cordesman, James Phillips and others have argued, can increase the chance of war. It creates, writes Cordesman, “the same conditions that helped trigger World War II — years of negotiations and threats, where the threats failed to be taken seriously until war became all too real.”

This has precipitated the current U.S.-Israeli crisis, sharpened by the president’s rebuff of the Israeli prime minister’s request for a meeting during his upcoming U.S. visit. Ominous new developments; no Obama response. Alarm bells going off everywhere; Obama plays deaf.

The old arguments, old excuses, old pretensions have become ridiculous:

  1. Sanctions. The director of national intelligence testified to Congress at the beginning of the year that they had zero effect in slowing the nuclear program. Now the International Atomic Energy Agency reports (Aug. 30) that the Iranian nuclear program, far from slowing, is actually accelerating. Iran has doubled the number of high-speed centrifuges at Fordow, the facility outside Qom built into a mountain to make it impregnable to air attack.

This week, the IAEA reported Iranian advances in calculating the explosive power of an atomic warhead. It noted once again Iran’s refusal to allow inspection of its weapons testing facility at Parchin, and cited satellite evidence of Iranian attempts to clean up and hide what’s gone on there.

The administration’s ritual response is that it has imposed the toughest sanctions ever. So what? They’re a means, not an end. And they’ve had no effect on the nuclear program.

  1. Negotiations. The latest, supposedly last-ditch round of talks in Istanbul, Baghdad, then Moscow has completely collapsed. The West even conceded to Iran the right to enrich — shattering a decade-long consensus and six Security Council resolutions demanding its cessation.

Iran’s response? Contemptuous rejection.

Why not? The mullahs have strung Obama along for more than three years and still see no credible threat emanating from the one country that could disarm them.

  1. Diplomatic isolation. The administration boasts that Iran is becoming increasingly isolated. Really? Just two weeks ago, 120 nations showed up in Tehran for a meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement — against U.S. entreaties not to attend. Even the U.N. secretary-general attended — after the administration implored him not to.

Which shows you what American entreaties are worth today. And the farcical nature of Iran’s alleged isolation.

The Obama policy is in shambles. Which is why Cordesman argues that the only way to prevent a nuclear Iran without war is to establish a credible military threat to make Iran recalculate and reconsider. That means U.S. red lines: deadlines beyond which Washington will not allow itself to be strung, as well as benchmark actions that would trigger a response, such as the further hardening of Iran’s nuclear facilities to the point of invulnerability and, therefore, irreversibility.

Which made all the more shocking Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s dismissal last Sunday of the very notion of any U.S. red lines. No deadlines. No bright-line action beyond which Iran must not go. The sleeping giant continues to slumber. And to wait. As the administration likes to put it, “for Iran to live up to its international obligations.”

This is beyond feckless. The Obama policy is a double game: a rhetorical commitment to stopping Iran, yet real-life actions that everyone understands will allow Iran to go nuclear.

Yet at the same time that it does nothing, the administration warns Israel sternly, repeatedly, publicly, even threateningly not to strike the Iranian nuclear program. With zero prospect of his policy succeeding, Obama insists on Israeli inaction, even as Iran races to close the window of opportunity for any successful attack.

Not since its birth six decades ago has Israel been so cast adrift by its closest ally.

— Charles Krauthammer is a columnist for Washington Post Writers Group.


tbaker 1 year, 7 months ago

Krauthammer’s point is tough to argue. He makes a strong case.

I personally do not want to see the US involved in another war. I also don’t want to see Iran get its hands on a nuclear weapon. Clearly the President feels the former is more advantageous. Staying out of another war is a very intoxicating proposition to a politician trying to get re-elected. I don’t blame him. Having no red-line policy with Iran is very bad as Krauthammer points out, but he fails to mention that this isn’t the sort of thing that costs you votes in November.

Failing to draw a line invites aggression. History is full of grizzly examples of this fact. Dr. Krauthammer is spot on with this assessment.

What keeps the Iranian government up at night is their own population, not the threat of a US attack. They know that if the attack on the nuclear facilities avoids civilian casualties and is coordinated with the opposition groups in the country, we might get a two-fer. Get rid of the nukes and the Mullahs all at once, but that is a very rosy forecast. The nanosecond an American or Israeli bomb lands on Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas will launch an all-out attack on Israel and this thing will become a much larger conflict overnight.

I hope and pray we have a source inside the Iranian government who knows exactly what is going on and can provide timely and accurate assessments of current and future intentions and capabilities. I would love to assume we do and believe the President’s apparent failure to draw a line with Iran is actually intentional and based on good information none of us are privy to, including Dr. Krauthammer. Gosh I hope I’m right, but history tells me this is wishful thinking.


oldbaldguy 1 year, 7 months ago

I personally would piss on the grave of the Ayatollah. These guys will go one day but it will not be because of us. The Iranians will have to do it. They want nukes to keep us from intervening with them. See Korea. They know full well, bombing Israel will lead to an attack from Israel and probably the U.S.

Contrary to popular opinion, the leaders are not suicidal. The poor fools that follow them may be.


just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 1 year, 7 months ago

For those ideologically predisposed to allergic reactions to facts, please don't follow this link.

"Top Myths about Iran’s Nuclear Enrichment Program"


msezdsit 1 year, 7 months ago

The war hawks will forever have a dire reason to go to war . They are the hate and war people and the wars are very profitable for a all their buddies.


Cait McKnelly 1 year, 7 months ago

Yeah. Uh huh. Keep trying Mr. Kraut. You haven't quite graduated from the Joseph Goebbels School of Propaganda yet.


Agnostick 1 year, 7 months ago

More goose eggs from the chuckenhawk...


Patricia Davis 1 year, 7 months ago

Let Israel fight Israel's wars. Let us stop sending billions each year to this Zionist, war mongering state.


hitme 1 year, 7 months ago

I really like the old joke about the Iranian asking the American why there were no Iranians on Star Trek? American reply, "Because it takes place IN THE FUTURE."


jayhawklawrence 1 year, 7 months ago

I went back and read some of Krauthammer's columns relating to North Korea and Iran during the Bush administration years and the tone was completely different.

Krauthammer wants to come across as an expert on foreign policy and all things political but he is in my view a complete fraud who is enjoying his so called success among conservatives and the massive amount of money he is getting paid to blather on.

The problem for Charlie is that he has created a written history of his ramblings on these topics and he is all over the map in his opinions. In other words, he doesn't know what he is talking about. He is simply feeding his customers what they want to hear. Don't take anything this joker says seriously.


Richard Heckler 1 year, 7 months ago

Bringing republicans back to power brings back this very right wing imperialistic foreign policy position.

Charles Krauthammer has endorsed the below policy.

"Rebuilding America's Defences," openly advocates for total global military domination” (Very dangerous position which threatens OUR freedoms and the nations security)

Our aim is to remind Americans of these lessons and to draw their consequences for today.

We need to increase defense spending significantly if we are to carry out our global protection for Wal-Mart,Oil,Coca Cola,Pepsico,diamonds,gold etc etc etc.

We need to strengthen our ties to dictator regimes friendly to American interests and Bogus values.

We need to promote the cause of the political right wing and economic rape for corp USA abroad.

We need to accept responsibility for America's unique role in forcing others to accept our corrupt principles.

Such a Reaganite policy of military strength and immoral clarity may not be fashionable today. But it is necessary if the United States is to build on the extortions of this past century and to ensure our security and our greatness no matter how many innocent USA soldiers die.

The Plans may bring out a shiver or two.






Armstrong 1 year, 7 months ago

Option (C) how I ran how well our nuclear program works. End of story


tange 1 year, 7 months ago

"U.S. policy on Iran is weak, incoherent"

Charles Krauthammer?


Charles Krauthammer.

/ self-made caricature


Getaroom 1 year, 7 months ago

Charles Krauthammer for President anyone? It would appear he has all the answers to everything, maybe he should have a shot at it? NOT!

I guess that Chuck missed something in the news with Israel, I should say Faux Nuz missed something, since they never report anything except GOP rhetoric and lies.

Get real people, there is always more to the story, and Krauthammer's only objective is to embrace Grover Norquist's Pledge, even thought he is neither a Senator or Congressman, thank GOD!!


Gotland 1 year, 7 months ago

Iran should be our ally. Israel has killed more US servicemen than Iran.


Abdu Omar 1 year, 7 months ago

Chuck, are you another zionist who wants the US to go to war for Israel? If I am reading what the American People are saying, they don't want another war. If Iran becomes "nuclearized" they can certainly blow up the world, but for what purpose? They, too, would be blown away and have nothing left. So, please, stop your sabre rattling and trying to push America into another war just to save the back sides of the zionists. If the Israelis want war, let them have it and we will sit this one out.


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