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Round Two: Revamped Team Obama Sends Strong Message to Tehran

Yesterday, Vice President Biden essentially threatened war with Iran. The US goal is “to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, period, end of discussion. Prevent, not contain, prevent!” Biden snapped to resounding applause. “The President of the United States cannot, and does not, bluff. President Barack Obama is not bluffing,” he said.

Biden’s speech at the annual AIPAC conference in Washington is part of a strong front the Obama administration is now presenting to Iran. This stands in contrast to the weak signals Washington has been sending Tehran’s way in the recent past.

Secretary John Kerry arrived in Saudi Arabia to push a similar message. Flanked by Prince Saud al-Faisal, the Saudi Foreign Minister, and the Foreign Ministers of Kuwait, Bahrain, and Oman, Secretary Kerry took a much stronger line than he did last week during discussions with Iran in Kazakhstan, saying negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program “cannot, by definition, remain open indefinitely.”

These are tragically mixed signals. Not long ago, Washington reported it was reducing the number of aircraft carriers in the Persian Gulf from two to one. Then Obama announced one of the most renowned Iran doves would be his next Secretary of Defense. Meanwhile, the US has been blowing hot and cold in Syria and Afghanistan, two of Iran’s neighbors, alternating between strong words (“Assad must go!”) and a failure to back up those words with action.

Iran needs to get a clear message. Right now there are signs that people there don’t really understand the nature of Tehran’s choice. If the Obama administration is serious about stopping Iran’s nuclear program, convincing Iran of the total seriousness of our intentions has to be job number one. Otherwise we are likely to stumble into war if Iran, thinking that we are bluffing, calls our bluff.

[Biden image: Shutterstock; Kerry image: Shutterstock.]

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