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The Emerging Iran Consensus
Former Obama Official Speaks Against Iran Policy

Martin Indyk, President Obama’s former Special Envoy for Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations (and Vice President of the Brookings Institution), is the latest to speak out against the Administration’s policy of rapprochement with Iran. Indyk, who can speak knowledgeably as a recent Administration insider (2013–14), has written a two-part essay that first lays out the Administration’s vision for the Middle East and then picks it apart. His conclusion:

[I]t is fanciful to imagine that the United States could convince Iran to shift from the region’s most threatening revisionist power and become instead a partner in establishing a new order in the Middle East. It would require the Supreme Leader to overcome his extreme paranoia about the intentions of the United States and curb the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps and the Ministry of Intelligence and Security—the regime’s mechanisms for pursuing its regional hegemonic ambitions. Any attempt at such a condominium would earn the United States the wrath of its traditional allies, Saudi Arabia and Israel, and their supporters in the Gulf Arab states and the U.S. Congress, respectively. Feeling betrayed, they would likely go their own way, acting without regard for U.S. interests.

Many of the former Administration officials who have criticized the policy were first-term appointees. That we’re now seeing this kind of conclusion from prominent second-term officials is significant. Increasingly, it seems that critics from the left as well as the right broadly agree that we need to be more realistic, not to mention firm, in dealing with Iran.

The President has been playing his Iran strategy extremely close to the vest (perhaps excessively so), and we haven’t been hearing much one way or the other about his thoughts on this. We can only hope that critics like Indyk, who are close to the Administration or have standing within it, are being heard.

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  • Anthony

    Reading this brings to mind a similarity (not intended to imply judgment one way or another on Iran and P+5 negotiations). That is, any honest and impartial observer (without certain and pertinent material facts) would find this sudden cascade of diabolical Iranian and Supreme Leader intent eerily reminiscent of environment enveloping what was said of Iraq and Saddam. We know 13 years later how that’s unfolding.

    • Corlyss

      Yeah. . . Bush should have gone in and bombed the snot out of Teheran. That’s the enduring lesson of the Iraq invasion, but just like his pusillanimous father, he got cold feet and didn’t follow thru on some blind notion that doing more would fracture a coalition that was one in name only.

      • Anthony

        I’ve always liked and respected GHWB.

        • Corlyss

          He chickened out on the brink of wiping out Fallujah, and then had to ramp up again to finish the job. After he was accused of causing the 2004 Xmas tsunami in Indonesia, and then the vitriolic reflexive rant the 90% of the media went on over Katrina, the guy completely lost his nerve. He might as well have resigned for all the good he did after Aug. 2005. The apologetic surge was about all he could muster, and then he dithered over that long enough to make Obama proud. People without the stomach for the fight need not apply for the job.

          • Anthony

            Patrician perhaps and too nuanced for some taste (red meat crowd) but combat veteran and willing public servant. No President can satisfy dual role office commands (satisfying major interests of corporate America and at the same time make a show of serving the people) to all national eyes effectively. GHWB, by your lights, may not have been as capable as some but from my memory his watch did not leave country despairing. As for Bush 43, he provided electorate with leadership range that it voted for twice.

            Regarding stomach for fight, in this game you never really know what fight may tax your capacity – big world getting smaller every day.

          • Corlyss

            “satisfy dual role office commands (satisfying major interests (capitalism) of corporate America and at the same time make a show of serving the people)”

            Please! Your socialist slip is showing . . . You can’t really at this late date think the two are so irreconcilably different. The foolish desire to use government to offset the perceived weakness of “the people” in dealing with corporate America has waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay overshot the mark and turned business into the slave of government.

            “GHWB, by your lights, may not have been as capable as some but from my memory his watch did not leave country despairing.”
            Oh, you think so? I knew a lot of people who despaired that he was so feckless he managed to turn a 91% favorability rating in 1991 into a contest that was decided by a one trick pony who captured enough votes to put in office one of the most politically vicious Democratic regimes ever. The only thing that made Clinton’s time a rosy memory was the Republican Congress that kept Bill from spending like Obama.

          • Anthony

            Thank God, we’re in America. Where you view can differ from mine. Also (though you’re inclined) refrain from labeling (socialist slip – I don’t pine for the past nor aspire to something not here; I live in the real world and have made and loss a few million). Regards.

          • Corlyss

            “I live in the real world”

            Sometimes the things you say make me wonder . . .

            “Finally, that 91% favorability you cite turns on that same public you berate”

            Occasionally even a blind squirrel likes the right candidate, even as he might be too damn fickle to remember that 1 year later. GHWB gave them rare-post Viet Nam pride in country; Clinton promised ’em baubles. Republicans will NEVER be able to out-give and out-promise Democrats.

          • Anthony


      • Wayne Lusvardi

        Bush did war with Tehran. He did it through Iraq by indirect warfare to contain Iranian expansionism. The Iraq War was a war of containment just as the Vietnam War was a war to contain Communism in Vietnam. It worked in Vietnam despite the erroneous rap that the U.S. lost the war. But it won the war because it contained Communism and the Asian Tiger nations (South Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Taiwan) all embraced Capitalism. Unfortunately, the Islamic religion is inimical to Capitalism, with some exceptions (Qatar and United Arab Emirates).

        • Corlyss

          Maybe I was too subtle. By “bomb the snot out of Teheran” I didn’t mean indirectly. I meant “turn Teheran into a howling wilderness.”

    • qet

      There is no sudden cascade of Iranian diabolism, Anthony. The diabolical goals and worldview of Iran’s leadership have been known for decades. What seems sudden is the amount of attention Iran is getting in the press lately. That has something to do with their nuclear program, and also their post-Saddam status in the region. You can continue to look behind you to 2003. Many still look even further behind to 1953 and Mossadegh. Doing so makes you a historian, not a current affairs analyst. Obama inherited the present situation just as LBJ and then Nixon inherited Vietnam. I don’t recall either of them getting a free pass from the media or the public–not even the Left public in Johnson’s case (you will recall the Left drove him from office over it)–on the ground that they hadn’t been the president(s) that “started it.” Continuing to ardently wish that Bush 43 had never invaded Iraq does not relieve the present Administration from managing the mess competently.

      And arguing that judgment must be suspended until one is in possession of all the “pertinent material facts” is not only a recipe for non-action, but it plays right into the strategy of actively keeping those facts from becoming known. It is Obama’s job and responsibility–today, now, February 20, 2015–to persuade us and justify his actions, especially in the face of the mounting criticism from those formerly part of his team who, one presumes, DO have said facts, or at least more of them than we do.

      • Anthony

        I’m making this short: Iranian cascade of which I refer is beyond TAI reporting and assuming you digest information widely, you are quite aware of it. Beyond that, inferences are yours alone vis-a-vis my posting of yesterday (similarities remain by my lights).

  • Corlyss

    “But is the Administration listening?”
    Geeez! You can STILL ask that silly question at this late date? Are you guys blind, deaf, and dumb?

    • Andrew Allison


      • Curious Mayhem

        Rhetorical shouldn’t be that obvious — bu this is shooting fish in the barrel.

      • Corlyss


  • bannedforselfcensorship

    I’m hoping for a decent deal. But I suspect we either get no deal “collapsed at the last moment” or a bad, bad deal designed to give us face but nothing else.

    then it gets really scary, because any action against the deal becomes a loss of face for Obama.

  • Ellen

    This deal with Iran is being negotiated by the same nitwits who negotiated 2 other disasters: the nuclear deal with North Korea,which was violated as soon as Bill Clinton left office, and the proposed offer by Kerry to reward Hamas for shooting rockets at Israeli civilians by building a port for them and letting them keep on building rockets, paid for by Qatar. This second piece of tom foolery was rejected by Israel and Egypt, and Kerry has had no standing with either Israelis or Sunni Arabs since then. This explains, perhaps, why he has now gone over to the Shiite side.

    No matter how dumb George W Bush may have been in his lack of grasp of the Middle East, John Kerry and Barack Obama take the prize for stupidity. And mind you, these men were the political choices of the US liberal elites, including those who call themselves intellectuals. A more useless collection of over-tenured dead wood you couldn’t hope to find.

  • jeburke

    Rather than annoy Obama with a speech by Bibi, the GOP Senate should formally resolve that any agreement with Iran not submitted to the Senate as a treaty will be a nullity, a dead letter. Such a stance would oblige Obama to drive a hard bargain.

  • stevewfromford

    And should no deal be reached, even one as on sided as Obama seems willing to agree to, what will Mr Obama do then? After his mideast policy lies in ruins and Iran continues to work towards nuclear weapons how will Obam react? Will he, as in so many other areas, just insist all is well and whistle past the graveyard?

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