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Obama Sends Letter to Iran, Alienates Allies

The bombshell revelation of the President’s secret letter to Ayatollah Khamenei confirms something that many Middle East watchers have been thinking for a while now: that the President is willing to suborn every other American consideration in the Middle East for the prospect of a grand bargain with Iran.

The letter, details of which were leaked to the Wall Street Journal yesterday, and which Khamenei reportedly did not answer, contained promises to cooperate on ISIS if the nuclear deal is signed, as well as this stunner of an assurance on Syria:

Mr. Obama’s letter also sought to assuage Iran’s concerns about the future of its close ally, President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, according to another person briefed on the letter. It states that the U.S.’s military operations inside Syria aren’t targeted at Mr. Assad or his security forces.

A deal with the Mullahs is Obama’s chief concern—it certainly trumps making common cause with the Sunni states over regional unrest or defeating ISIS. Our allies in the Middle East will certainly treat it as such. It’s no secret that Israel and Saudi Arabia believe their interests and America’s have diverged, but this is starker confirmation than they (or for that matter, we) expected. It will reverberate in Riyadh, Jerusalem, Cairo, and Abu Dhabi for a long time, even more so because these allies had to learn about it from the press. Sloppy and unfortunate.

As for what this all means more broadly, we refer you to but one passage from the latest essay by own Adam Garfinkle:

Some have argued that the Administration’s reluctance to attack Assad regime targets is related to its sharp focus on getting an acceptable deal with the Iranians over the nuclear portfolio. Some have argued that Obama thinks of his effort to bring Iran in from the cold as comparable to Nixon’s China coup in 1972. According to this analysis, Iran is the key that can save the Administration’s reputation in foreign policy for all time. If he pulls this off, so the argument goes, all else will be forgotten if not forgiven.

Maybe. I remain skeptical that this President, this White House, this Administration, is capable of that scale of strategic thinking. I suspect the decision-making process is more compartmentalized and incrementalist by nature, which also seems to be the conclusion of insider memoirs by Bob Gates and Leon Panetta. But I agree—and here I am at one with both Barack Obama and Bibi Netanyahu, it seems—that the outcome of the engagement with Iran is vastly more important than Da’ash or Syria or the future of Iraq.

Even if I am mistaken, and the Administration really does think as grandly as some claim, I am skeptical that it is going about its Big Idea in a competent fashion. The way to get the Iranians to bend is not to give them a pass on their regional mischief, but rather to stuff it back in their faces until it hurts. Western liberals think that good will extended will engender good will returned, concessions extended will evoke concessions returned, friendship proposed will render friendship accepted. That sort of thing works well at suburban country clubs and at EU-based soirees. It doesn’t work with Iranian mullahs (or Chinese Communists or Russian kleptocrats, and I could go on). Displays of liberal reasonableness are very likely to be taken in Tehran as signs of weakness and lack of resolve. Maybe the Iranians have already decided to make a deal; after all, they showed no signs of relenting in the Iran-Iraq War until they suddenly did, remaining blood-on-the-saddle types to the very end in order to gain the best possible terms. But if not, one can easily imagine a situation where we sit down expecting the Iranians to reciprocate our generosity in order to close the deal, and they expect more U.S. concessions to follow the ones already offered—at which point they may pocket the concessions and propose an extension.


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  • Anthony

    “Iran’s diplomats understand perfectly well what a Republican-controlled U.S. Congress could mean for them: more sanctions and less compromise. So the pressure is on to get an agreement in the ongoing talks over Iran’s nuclear program before the Nov. 24 deadline.” To wit: “negotiators for Iran and six world powers are focused on reaching a comprehensive nuclear deal by Nov. 24 and are not discussing extending the talks….”

  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    Obama; laughed at by our enemies, and sneered at by our allies.

  • Fat_Man

    It has been clear to me since Obama passed this opportunity to support the Iranian people against their tyrannous regime in 2009, that he supports the regime and believes that they will deal fairly with him because of who he is. He is, of course, delusional. Obama is just another infidel as far as the Iranian mullahs are concerned and they will give him diddly squat.

    Obama will sign any piece of paper the Iranians hand him at the current negotiations and proclaim peace in our time. They will laugh at him and go on their merry way. He will do his damnedest to stop Israel from attacking Iran. He does not care at all about what happens to Israel.

  • FriendlyGoat

    Bomb, bomb, bomb,………bomb, bomb Iran——McCain’s version of Barbara Ann, has never been as easy, cheap or inconsequential as imagined by some. That’s why Bush didn’t do it, you know.

    • Bob

      Well, you know, between “bomb, bomb, bomb Iran” and “Love Letters to the Ayatollah”, I think there might be a third way. It’s called Smart Diplomacy, and I think it has a mix of carrots and sticks.

      George H W Bush always struck me as a wily practitioner of Smart Diplomacy. I also seem to remember a senator, from Illinois, I believe, who talked a lot about Smart Diplomacy. Anyone know whatever happened to that guy?

      • Corlyss

        “It’s called Smart Diplomacy”
        Well, that leaves us out . . . . We don’t understand what makes that apocalyptic bunch tick. They’ve honed their instincts and tactics living in the region for thousands of years; we haven’t. They think long; we think in presidential election cycles. They’re patient; we aren’t, as witness Doofus’ mad rush to cut a deal, any deal, so he can do down in the history books as having done what many Presidents didn’t, as if that’s some kind of prize.

        • Bob

          I agree with this, except I think “Smart Diplomacy” would have taken it into account. At one time, I think US leaders did take it into account (think Nixon and HW Bush and maybe Clinton, too). After that we got impatient. And this applies to W’s years as well as Obama’s.

          But W showed a capacity to learn, and his efforts in his second term pared back some of the damage of his first term. Obama, however, seems determined to double down on dumb and dumber with every passing month.

  • Arkeygeezer

    I submit that the Administration’s efforts make some sense. If our policy is to contain the Middle East while it is in turmoil, and deal with the winners later, then trying to deal with Iran seems like a good idea. Iran will clearly be one of the winners in the Middle East blood-bath. I don’t think that ISIL, Saudi Arabia, Israel, or anybody else is going to beat them. Like them or not, we will be forced to make a deal with Iran sooner or later. Why not sooner?

    • Corlyss

      “If our de facto policy is to contain the Middle East”
      We don’t have a policy, even a de facto one. As long as Doofus is in charge, all we have is the attitudes and postures of his ilk.

      • Arkeygeezer

        I can agree that Obama is a petty, arrogant, Socialist nincompoop, BUT the fact is that he has been elected President by the American people until 2016. We have to deal with that fact.

        I also agree that Iran is an islamist theocratic state that supplies Islamic militants with arms, and stones women for infidelity, BUT Iran is also a leading military power in the middle east that is supplying the Kurds with arms. We have to deal with that reality.

        The fact that Obama and the Ayatollah Khamenei are in contact is not automatically a bad thing, BUT lets watch the Administration’s actions before automatically condemning them.

        • Corlyss

          Arkey, I’ve seen enough of this administration from the moment it became a certainty that an Uberleftie raised on Communist doctrine and schooled in tactics by Alinsky was going to be the Dims’ nominee. I don’t automatically condemn the administration just because I appear never to have a good thing to say about it. I never have a good thing to say about it because I am and always have been diametrically opposed to everything Obama represents in terms of Left policy positions for 50 years and on more issues than I have time or you have patience for me to enumerate. He was, in a word, totally predictable in his ambitions. The only thing stunning about him is that because of his race and Republican stupidity, he’s had no effective reasonable considered opposition. All those who could normally be relied on to push back in major ways have either been co-opted by the Dims (media, healthcare professionals, Wall Street, major corporations and their stockholders of major corporations), or bullied into silence with allegations of “racism.”

          “The fact that Obama and the Ayatollah Khamenei are in contact is not automatically a bad thing.”

          That depends on whose goals the contact meets. This administration has from the beginning set the bar too low for Iran on the grounds that American foreign policy toward Iran was based on petulant and unseemly race and religious prejudice. It was a ’60s juvenile assumption on its best days. But working from that premise the administration decided all it needed to do was show even a little interest because it wants an historic deal, no matter what it has to give up, because we are the greater nation, right? We could afford to give away a lot and still come out ahead, right? Obama ignored all the adults who cautioned that what the regime wants is recognition from the US and took his advice from Val, who spent years in the country when it was a tame western client state. Since 1979 the two countries have always worked together when common interests dictated such a marriage of necessity. The fact that the public didn’t know that is neither here nor there. So it’s not as if commonality were impossible, but we never formally recognized the Islamic Republic, which is what it wanted all along, acknowledgement of it as a regional power. With the administration showing so MUCH leg, the Iranians already have more than they dreamed was possible when they stopped their enrichment program in the halcyon days of 2003 when the mullahs thought they were next on Bush’s target list. Unfortunately, Bush had the military that his daddy and Clinton left him with, rather than the one Reagan left daddy, so nothing was done to amputate that cancerous growth in Teheran. With the Israelis, we’ve spent decades managing the threat until now. Now we have spurned the Israelis, more for domestic reasons IMO, than for serious strategic reasons. We think we’re smart enough to play the various regional actors off against each others in ways we haven’t managed since the 1950s when we could count on the Brits to guide us. We’ve effectively destroyed relations with our allies in the region, to questionable purposes, and cultivated their enemies to even more dubious purposes. And for what? Obama gives away his bargaining chips for nothing, shows weakness with every decision and gesture, and, in the words of his own staff, “bargains against his own interests.” The dope plays basketball and golf, not poker. He’s up against strategists who understand him a lot better than he and Val understand them.

          I can’t take any solace from a notion that perhaps there’s some unforeseen success this administration can pull out of wherever it gets its ideas and strategy from.

  • ljgude

    As someone who grew up on a chicken farm I find it hard not to take seriously the remarks emanating recently from the State Department casting aspersions on the Israli Prime Minister, but leaving that aside whatever animus our president has for Israel and Jews, I am far more troubled by his apparent consistent support of the Iranian regime. It is one thing to think you can reason with absolutists as Chamberlain did with Hitler out of an excess of aversion to war 20 yeas after the great slaughter of the Great War. It is quite another to refuse to succor to the Green revolution in Iran while backing the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. This is an active policy of support of absolutists as opposed to appeasement. This presidents apparent policy is appalling.

    That said, the leaked letter reminds me very directly of the leaked phony national intelligence assessment claiming the Iran was no threat to spike any attempt by Bush to act against Iran in the last two years of his administration. I think Iran’s allies at State, or the CIA, or wherever in our government used leaks to stymie Bush, and that now those with a contrary view are asserting their govern by leak power to stymie Obama. That’s a pretty dysfunctional way to run a country, and I also notice that these leakers are emboldened when they see the vultures circling a failed presidency. I think they should be turfed out of their comfy DC digs and sent to countryside for reeducation – preferably mucking out henhouses.

  • Corlyss

    Rumor has it that the letter was leaked to deflect criticism when even the administration’s craven groveling is not enough to swing a deal with those who enjoy watching the Western Five Plus 1 dance on the end of the string.

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