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Commentary & Opinion

Herbert London: It’s Only A Paper Moon

Iranian Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan recently reaffirmed Iran’s position that issues involving Iran’s missile program are not matters for discussion. Presumably Iran is determined to keep developing its missile force. As for attempts to clarify Iran’s past activity regarding the “military dimensions” of its nuclear program, Dehghan noted that Iran will definitely not grant anyone access to its security and military “secrets.”

Concerning statements made by President Obama and Secretary Kerry after the deal was signed, Dehghan said, “The U.S. officials make boastful remarks and imagine that they can impose anything on the Iranian nation because they lack a proper knowledge of the Iranian nation…the time has come now for the Americans to realize that they are not the world’s super power and no one recognizes them as such any longer.”

In fact, in a clear reference to Obama’s “red lines” that seemed to exist only as disappearing ink, Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Commander Mohammad Ali Jafari said that several provisions of the resolution constitute “the crossing of red lines” that Iran set, particularly on the issue of military capabilities. As far as Iran is concerned military matters, including access to ballistic missiles, aren’t on any agenda, will not be a bargaining chip and remain none of the business of the P5+1.

So despite all the claims about peace and stability, the agreement is basically a statement of intention. Verification, to which President Obama refers, is a chimera. Iran will permit inspections when it chooses to do so, notwithstanding Kerry’s assurances to the contrary. 

In 1933 Billy Rose and Yip Harburg wrote “It’s Only A Paper Moon” with the lyrics “It’s a Barnum and Baily World/Just as phony as it can be, But it wouldn’t be make believe/If you believed in me.”

As I see it, the Iran resolution is a “make believe” document filled with intentions that rely on Iranian good will. The one person who contends the “make believe” becomes real is the president, if you believe in him. As a consequence this arrangement, however you cut it, is a presidential initiative to refashion the Middle East by “offshoring” responsibility for regional stability to the leading state sponsor of terrorism. In this case a belief in the president must exist without any doubts.

Alas, as Tennyson noted, “The old order changeth.” But it is a question of whether the new order enhances stability. From the Obama perspective U.S. foreign policy is being woven into the fabric of multi-lateral decision making, a step closer to world government. President Obama is not a naif, as some conservatives contend; he has a plan for a new world order.

The deal with Iran is merely one stage in a multi-stage process to reduce the American footprint on the world stage. In his mind, this agreement will release the U.S. from Middle East obligations and hasten the day when regional powers will fill the vacuum. Obama’s choice for the role of surrogate policeman is Iran. Hence an Iran that can and will acquire nuclear weapons becomes a military and political force with which to be reckoned.

The problem, of course, is that Iran has its own imperial agenda that goes beyond Obama’s romantic perception. Iran envisions a Persian empire that includes the oil fields of Saudi Arabia and swaths of territory from Yemen through Iraq and Syria and Lebanon. Obama is the romantic dealing with his dream of a new world order; Iranian leaders see a metaphorical chess board that allows them to move directly to an assault on the Queen.

The question that emerges is who is right? Thusfar, there isn’t any reason to place confidence in the president’s plan since the Iranian leadership is in open defiance. Iranian leaders encourage “death to America” chants, then suggest the treaty will be upheld. In discussing romantic yearnings in foreign policy Isaiah Berlin once said “…passionate effort at self-assertion both individual and collective, leads a search after means of excusing an unappeasable yearning for unattainable goals.” This seems to be an accurate depiction of the present administration position. Despite warnings about the danger of an accord in which the U.S. makes the major concessions, President Obama appears to be driven by an “unappeasable yearning,” a yearning that cannot be realized when the goal of a cooperative Iran is unattainable.

Herbert London is President of the London Center for Policy Research, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and author of the book The Transformational Decade (University Press of America). You can read all of Herb London’s commentaries at www.londoncenter.org

The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.

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