© 2024
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Herbert London: The Obama Conundrum

Since 2009, well before official P5+1 formal negotiations, President Barack Obama was willfully engaged in a plan to achieve an accord with Iran on nuclear questions. It became a matter of pride for the president to contend that he was able to negotiate on accord that his predecessors could not. Yet the president has created a paradoxical box for himself in which the Iranian agreement – leaving aside its merits or lack thereof – forces him to be complicit in assisting Iranian foreign policy.

Hence, Washington’s disapproval of the Iranian desire for a “Shia Crescent” runs headlong into those measures needed to forestall this adventurism. Resistance to Iran’s foreign policy goals requires sanctions at the very least. But sanctions would undermine the nuclear accord.

It is clear to anyone who observes events in Syria that President Basha al Assad is responsible for the death of 400,000 of  his own people, the use of poison gas, the migration of millions to Europe and the destruction of the Sunni opposition. His removal was stated American policy when the civil war in Syria began (2011). However, with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard fighting to retain Assad’s dominance, American special forces and aircraft would be obliged to kill Iranians with whom an accord has been signed. It is hardly coincidental that the Obama administration has learned to live with Assad. Military action by the U.S. is certainly not in the cards and “snap back,” or the application of sanctions, is almost as distasteful.

As a consequence, Obama’s “box” is America’s dilemma. Neither Hillary nor Donald is likely to alter facts on the ground because it doesn’t appear as if they have much leverage. Clearly the deal with Iran could be rejected by the next president, and perhaps should be, but the question arises as to what is next. Direct intervention is not possible unless the U.S. is willing to put a troop force of 50,000 on the ground. Considering rhetoric used during the campaign season, this is unlikely and unpopular.

So for the time being, Iran is an ally of a dubious kind and a foe. Iran is assisting in the war against ISIS, or so it says, and at the same time is fighting to retain Assad’s power in Damascus. Iran describes the U.S. as the “great Satan” and in the next breath, demands further liberalization of sanctions.

To repair the obvious contradictions in policy, the Obama team engaged in a fantasy. With deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes at the ready with his pen and a vivid imagination, two levels of Iranian leadership were invented. There are according to his narrative, the “bad guys” who lead the chant “Death to America” and the “good guys” who are working to achieve moderation in policy, a modus vivendi. Of course, the good and the bad are really all bad, but if the Democratic Congressional leadership were truly informed, the deal with Iran would not have survived.

The reality of the nuclear deal with Iran is that it rests on a fiction. Ben Rhodes admitted as much and even flaunted the deception, but, more importantly, the legacy President Obama has worked so hard to create has the solidity of pie crust. It is a policy direction out of George Orwell’s 1984. We are in a box of Obama’s making and it is hard to breathe and very difficult to escape.

In 1946 Orwell in Politics and the English Language wrote: “Political language…is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.” I can only imagine what Orwell would say about the Obama “box.” 

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.

Related Content