Last week the US House voted 400-20 to dramatically increase sanctions on Iran, including measures to cripple Iran’s oil exports. Two days ago three-fourths of the US Senate sent a letter to President Obama demanding that the US “toughen sanctions and reinforce the credibility of our option to use military force” against Iran. Ominously, the Senate warned the president that the “time for diplomacy is nearing its end,” demanding a “convincing threat of the use of force that Iran will believe.”
What did the Iranians do to warrant such deafening and dramatic saber-rattling? Test a nuclear device? Open a military base in Mexico?
No. They voted for moderate Iranian politician, Hasan Rouhani, to be president. Rouhani ran on a platform of reaching out to the West and ending Iran’s largely US-imposed isolation from the international community.
To punctuate his expressed desire to open to the West, the English-speaking Rouhani unveiled his cabinet today, which includes a PhD from the University of Denver as his new foreign minister and a PhD from the George Washington University as his chief of staff. Iran watcher and RPI advisor Prof. Flint Leverett observed that “Rohani has appointed his A-team to do a deal with the U.S. It shows Iran is serious.”
The US administration has been caught utterly devoid of an Iran policy beyond the neocon talking points threatening war and demanding capitulation. In fact, the House sanctions resolution, designed to pass on the eve of Rouhani’s inauguration to head off any talk of improving relations, was literally drafted by the arch-neocon director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, Mark Dubowitz. This Foundation, dubbed AIPAC’s Think Tank, is only a lukewarm supporter of sanctions, however, opining recently that “sanctions may be most useful after a strike against Iran’s nuclear-weapons facilities.” War first, sanctions afterward.
The US position on Iran is simple: demand total submission. As a prerequisite to begin any negotiating process with Iran the US will demand an end all uranium enrichment, even that which is expressly permitted under the Non Proliferation Treaty. Also, Iran must allow US intelligence personnel under cover of IAEA inspection teams to enter the country and establish more military targets, as they did in Iraq. No country would agree to such demands, which is exactly as the neocons intend it to be.
President Obama simply has no plan that would enable him to begin earnest negotiations with his Iranian counterpart. His is perhaps the most inept and incomprehensible foreign policy of recent memory.
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