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the new world disorder
Is Obama Rethinking His "Trust the Mullahs" Strategy?

The Obama Administration imposed further sanctions against an uncooperative Iran today, possibly signaling that its hopes for a regional grand bargain are foundering. The New York Times reports:

Amid signs that Iran’s military is resisting efforts to open up its nuclear program to deeper inspection, the Obama administration on Friday imposed sanctions on several Iranian organizations, including one run by the reclusive scientist who is widely believed to direct research on building nuclear weapons.

In a statement, the White House said the sanctions were a continuation of its strategy to crack down on groups suspected of seeking to avoid or violate existing sanctions, even as “the United States remains committed” to striking an accord by late November that includes “a long-term, comprehensive solution that provides confidence that Iran’s nuclear program is exclusively peaceful.”

But in the month-and-a-half since the talks were extended, Iran has missed a major deadline to provide information about its nuclear research, declared it would not allow visits to a military site suspected of being part of nuclear component testing, and said it was completing work on far more powerful centrifuges to make nuclear fuel.

In yesterday’s press conference, the President held a firm line on Bashar Assad, rejecting the idea that the United States would work with him, and made significant overtures to both Iraqi and Syrian Sunnis. Put together with today’s events, there’s a shadow of a suggestion that the White House may be rethinking its grand strategy in the Middle East.

Thus far, President Obama has consistently prioritized seeking a rapprochement in Iran, where in return for being guaranteed security and recognition of a degree of regional hegemony by the United States, Iran would surrender its nuclear ambitions. This strategy by necessity discomfited many Sunnis, and both terrified and enraged longstanding U.S. allies like Saudi Arabia and Israel.

Now even some hard-core doves are beginning to worry that Iran is unwilling to hold up its end of the proposed bargain. At the same time, at least some Administration officials appear to be realizing that Sunni fears of Shia domination are a contributing factor behind the rise of groups like ISIS. The White House has invested heavily in the idea that better relations with Iran could lead to more stability in the Middle East. If doubts about the wisdom of that course are beginning to penetrate into the Oval Office, some dramatic changes in U.S. policy might be closer than many think.

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  • Gene

    “Strategy by necessity”? Are those WRM’s words or someone else’s?

    If [some] hard-core doves took until now to begin — BEGIN!! — to worry about Iran’s trustworthiness, I feel better about not taking them seriously all along. (BTW, it would be nice if the author could name a few of them.)

  • Gene

    Another thing I don’t get about this idea that a grand bargain with Iran is Obama’s priority: Why would a president in his second term … in fact, with only a couple of years left … adopt a policy that is so at odds with past US policy and that is so likely to be overturned by the next president? And why would the Iranians, whom we’re always told are not idiots, rely on the word of a guy who is out of office in two years, knowing there’s a strong possibility of the next president taking a different approach?

    • Corlyss

      What makes you think the Iran strategists view Obama as anything but risible and weak? UBL had it right: they don’t respect anything but the strong horse and Obama is a burro.

      • Andrew Allison

        Did you mean gelding?

        • Corlyss

          No. I meant a small a*s*s in the animal sense.

        • LarryD

          burro = donkey, not mule

          Just because O is deluded, doesn’t mean the mullahs are. they’ve always played for time, to get their nukes. Valerie Jarrett was born in Iran and lived their her first seven years, it is irrational to expect her to view America as her home, Iran is where her heart is, no matter what her passport says.

          • Andrew Allison

            Gelding = horse with no balls.

  • Andrew Allison

    “the White House may be rethinking its grand strategy in the Middle East” Grand strategy? GMAB.

  • Corlyss

    This is not April 1. You guys surely must know by now that the only time Doofus rethinks a disastrous policy is to double down on it. So it’s not really “rethinking” the policy but second-guessing the degree of their commitment to silliness. See Bret Stevens’ excellent précis of Obama foreign policy in the latest issue of Commentary.

  • jeburke

    “Rethinking its grand strategy”?? Surely, you jest, WRM. What grand strategy? There is none. You only impute a hidden strategy to the chaos because you have not yet come fully to grips with the alarming fact that the nation is rudderless. You think, “There must be a strategy in there somewhere.”

    • Pete

      Well, WRM did vote for Obama. I guess this is prohibiting him from seeing the hollowness on the man.

  • FriendlyGoat

    We might be able to trust some of the mullahs after they realize their asses are about to be kicked by a self-appointed caliph.

    • Corlyss

      Right. The IRG knows exactly how to deal with the beheaders and will not have HRW/AI/UN crackpots yammering after them to “be nice.” They’ll be more like the Russians were in 1979 when the silly gits decided if they could get a lot of publicity from holding Americans hostage, they might get a lot of dough from doing the same to the Russians in their Iran embassy. The Russians found out who the ringleader and his lieutenants were, killed them in colorful ways, and dumped their bodies on their families doorsteps. The Russian hostages were released immediately.

  • avery12

    This administration does not rethink things or otherwise correct itself. They squirt ink, or practice the D&D (diminish and discard) maneuver, or go on offense against republicans. But introspect? No.

  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    Iran has been playing for time all along, and the useful idiots from Obama on down are giving it to them.

  • Pete

    “In yesterday’s press conference, the President held a firm line on Bashar Assad, rejecting the idea that the United States would work with him, ”

    Why not?

  • Arkeygeezer

    Obama is doing what he said he would do. He has a pragmatic foreign policy that deals with reality, while utilizing military power only to defend American interests and personnel. His problem is that he lies a lot and has lost all credibility with our allies and our enemies.

    The reality is that the middle east is working out its own systems of government. This is being done through civil war with strong religious overtones. The U.S. should stay out of it and deal with the winners. So far, that is what we have done.

  • Arkeygeezer

    President Obama is doing what he said he would do. He has a pragmatic foreign policy that deals with reality while limiting American military action to defend American interests or personnel. His problem is that he lies a lot and has lost credibility with friend and foe alike, both foreign and domestic. The result has been a hung Congress and an inability to influence foreign governments.

    In the middle east people are rearranging their political systems along ethnic and religious lines through bloody civil wars. The U.S. should stay out of it and deal with the eventual winners. We are not going to change anything through moral suasion. Military action will only delay the inevitable. Its better to let it run its course and deal with the consequences later.

    Whether through expertise or ineptitude, the administration’s inaction seems to me to be appropriate.

    • PoohBear57

      “It’s better to let it run its course and deal with the consequences later.”
      You actually think this a ‘pragmatic’ view? That a nuclear-enabled Iran and bubonic plague-toting jihadis returning to this country would be desirable outcomes? To say nothing of an emboldened Putin and a resurgent Xi Jinping, all combining to make the world a safer place for all of us?
      I think it’s time for a new prescription in your rose-colored glasses.

      • Arkeygeezer

        My prescription is just fine. Lets examine your fears and concerns one at a time”

        “That a nuclear-enabled Iran” — if Iran wanted an A-bomb, they could have bought one from either Pakistan or North Korea long ago. That Genie has been out of the bottle for years.

        “and ….. jihadis returning to this country” — We already have evil people that would like to spread disease or blow up bombs in this country. A lot of them were trained by the U.S. Army, e.g. Timothy McVeigh.

        “an emboldened Putin” — We’ve been dealing with Russia as a super power since 1945 without starting WW3.

        “a resurgent Xi Jinping” — We will be dealing with an emerging China for the foreseeable future. Si Jinping has millions of replacements.

        These conditions will exist no matter what we do in the short term to ISIS. Why should we send troops in harm’s way, when there is no foreseeable gains to be made?

  • Duperray

    Middle East populations have 30-40 centuries of negociation experience. We, westerners, are so arrogant that we erased our ancestors experience, claiming that past generations are nothing with regard to Ourselves, We are the best, bla-bla.. Since 1945 our “arabic allies” are deceiving West, Saudi Arabia + Qatar cooperate & smile to us, while under the table funding extremist groups (with oil revenues) to dominate west influence, then fighting each others as they do for centuries.
    Let’s go away from this permanent quagmire, let’s them fight each other while developing new oil supply (after all, S.Arabia delivers no more than 10-15% of world Oil) in order to no longer buy their oil / gas, cutting their revenues.
    When a dominant country or else eventually dominates after bloody wars, let’s us encircle it with a sanitary barrier alike North Korea and backfire with extreme power every time they perform attack.
    By their faith as written in Koran, Allah always provides military strength to whom he favors, making the loser to bow without losing face. So for instance, in case US does not strongly react following a deadly attack, it means for them that “Allah wanted the attack to be performed”. It is a very efficient vector to drive populations. They only understand
    force and determination, spiting contempt to any weak atitude. It is another planet, those not having lived in their countries cannot understand.
    We will contend this boiling cauldron only by a world wide military alliance inclusive of all major powers, NATO being too small, too old and already demonized…

  • bruceamcallister

    Since all the anti-Obama commenters do is hurl epithets, I think it’s safe to ignore them. Constructing the ad hoc alliances, both in Europe and the mid-east to deal with the crises in the Ukraine and inSyria/Iraq respectively, takes time. Only neocons and others who think that rapid action is better than thoughtful believe otherwise.

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