First, we all want Iran to give up their nuclear weapons aspirations. On the surface, events have moved tentatively in that direction since our November 14 blog which provided some background. We should be optimistic.
The White House's press release on the November 24 agreement painted a picture of a verifiable six month pause by Iran, a modest "reversable" $7 billion relaxation in sanctions, acknowledgement of Iran's right to peaceful use of atomic energy, and negotiations toward a comprehensive agreement. Iran then released the actual text of the agreement, claiming that the US version misrepresented some of the technical details. (It would be more encouraging if we could agree on what the agreement was.) The Israel lobby and some Republicans are cautious at best.
More important than the content of this agreement is the concern that the Iranians will be able to enlarge the reversal of sanctions while the Obama administration will not have the will to up the ante in the face of Iranian intransigence. And why might the mullahs question Obama's commitment? Consider:
- The new Obama administration was largely silent in the face of massive protests about the 2009 reelection of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad;
- Obama called for the removal of Iranian-supported Bashir Assad in Syria, then declared a "red line" with the use of chemical weapons, then did nothing as Assad killed some 100,000 of his citizens;
- Obama exited "Bush's War" in Iraq, leaving behind an Iranian-oriented Shia-dominated regime with major ongoing sectarian violence;
- Obama prepares to exit his Afghan War (another bordering Iranian neighbor), leaving Harmid Karzai and surviving Western supporters to deal with the Taliban;
- Obama promised to hold accountable those who killed the American ambassador in Benghazi and then did nothing; and
- Obama supported, then abandoned Hosni Mubarak then Mohamed Morsi in Egypt.
What could be different this time?
- Maybe John Kerry will be more forceful and persuasive than Hillary Clinton - particularly in the male-dominated cultures of the Middle East;
- Maybe the Europeans will view the proliferation of nuclear weapons as more significant than a series of largely civil wars in the Middle East and will not go along with the American president.
- Maybe the threat by Israel (and Saudi Arabia) to take out the Iranian nuclear development sites will provide a credible incentive to the Iranians, even if they do not fear the United States and Europe.
- Maybe Obama will feel a need for an international success with the collapse of Obamacare.
This week's video is a special Thanksgiving message from San Francisco.