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Getting Back on Track
Can Obama Make Iran Pull In Its Horns?

As the Middle East collapses into chaos, the U.S. must change the incentives for Iran—even if that means making uncomfortable choices in DC.

Published on: June 27, 2014
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  • rheddles

    A recognition that they are part of the Entente of Evil would also help. Obama does not see them as enemies but they see us as the primary enemy. Time to wake up.

  • Anthony

    Middle East – Persian Gulf. Area of world with long history and bewildering complications and where “push-pull” instruments beget unintended consequences. WRM: the Middle East often works on a different kind of logic; strength united with willpower in the service of achievable goals gets more points than professions of friendship and elaborate displays of pacific intent. Some have labeled what essay discusses as N – Cushion Billiards (unless a person is skilled at a high – N game, he or she faces great difficulty in predicting the ultimate effects of his or her actions). Such can characterize premise of above essay as it relates to Iranian considerations. Fundamentally, nothing is trivial in the game of power with its vicissitudes. In the same way given context/environment (disruptive times globally but specifically Middle East – Persian Gulf) enveloping essay’s subject matter, the world’s current superpower cannot avoid extending considerable effort as geopolitics is very much alive – and impacted by both rapid technological change and transformation.

    • Corlyss


      • Anthony

        Operational specifics (function of power dynamics).

        • Corlyss

          Eh? There’s a complete thought in there struggling to get out . . .

          • Anthony

            Depends on both where you sit and imaginative skills (some call social intelligence – …with many people the wisest thing you can do is to resolve to make use of those whom you cannot alter.

          • Corlyss

            That makes sense to me now. I agree with you.

          • Anthony

            As an aside Corlyss, whenever I cavalierly disagree with a recent commenter they crowd pleasingly vote up what is perceived as critique from you (what’s that really about – you seem to pull in that crowd that…called…) not knowing that our tete-a-tete go back at least five years on Via Media – no reply necessary just an observation.

          • Corlyss

            Geez, have we been on Via Media that long?
            I was just trying to understand what you were saying, Anthony. You’re one of my favorite people here. Disagreement doesn’t mean anything except that I see things differently from you; personally, I don’t consider that a bad thing. I hope you don’t.

          • Anthony

            Yes, since 2010 I think and Corlyss for me you’re imperturbable (cool).

          • Andrew Allison

            Corlyss imperturbable? You must be joking. No offense Corlyss, I think your heart is in the right place, but imperturbable it is not, by any stretch of the imagination [/grin]

          • Andrew Allison

            Anthony, you do Corlyss and the rest of us who find some of your comments impenetrable, an injustice.

      • Andrew Allison

        Cliff Notes version: might makes right.

        • Curious Mayhem

          Well, actually: tribal shame and honor make right. Not a logic the West gets, even now.

          • Andrew Allison

            Might I suggest that tribalism, like religion, is simply an excuse for the violence innate in our species, and that the outcomes of the resulting conflicts are largely determined by an amalgam of fanaticism and firepower, i.e., might. I agree that the so-called “leadership” of the West doesn’t get it: the failure to restrain Maliki from his jihad against Sunnis is the root cause of the current mess in Iraq. The problem we face there is the one which became apparent in Afghanistan and Pakistan, namely that intervening will simply make more enemies. It appears to me that the strategy should be: work it out among yourselves, but any attack upon us will result in the earthly equivalent of the wrath of God descending upon you, and being prepared to follow through on the promise.

          • Curious Mayhem

            No disagreement about human nature, and certainly none about our weird support of Maliki.

            But the tribal-sectarian cultural “space” and its attendant shame-honor code are inescapable if you really want to understand.

          • Corlyss

            You can, but I don’t agree. Tribe is the most basic social organization after family, and tribe is usually defined in terms of familial linkage. It’s pre-civilizational and more than just an excuse. Only a civilized person standing outside of a specific tribe on which his identity and life depended could have the perspective to call it an “just an excuse.”

        • Corlyss

          Well, geez, Andrew! Why didn’t ya say so? Of course I agree completely.

  • ShadrachSmith

    Better Question: Can Obama make Michelle cook him a cheeseburger?

    Let us keep our expectations within the scope of his abilities.

    • Corlyss

      LOL WRM has to occasionally drop these fantasies on us to keep his creds with the CFR crowd.

  • Ghosts of Benghazi


    • Corlyss

      Funniest retort I’ve seen today, Ghost.

    • azt24

      As if Obama wanted to make Iran pull in its horns. Obama wants to play kissy-face and get a deal, any deal — he doesn’t care what the deal says. So what if Iran goes nuclear, if the US has nukes isn’t it “fair” that Iran have them too? That’s how he feels, though he can’t say so out loud. But his followers can and do say so all the time.

  • Corlyss

    No. Next question . . .

  • toumanbeg

    A full blown air campaign would stop them (Iran’s mullahs). The geography of the populated portion of Iran is mountains and valleys. The valleys have rivers. This is all connected by tunnels and bridges.
    Iran has no ADS (air defence System ) to speak of. In a field where last week is obsolete, Iran’s ADS is decades old. Take down the ADS, then blow the bridges and cave in or block the tunnels. 2 weeks max. Then the Mullas can explain to the starving masses why nukes are more important then food. As a bonus, the Electrical grid in Iran is the typical Mid Eastern mess. That grid can be destroyed almost as an afterthought. Then they can be hungry while sitting in the dark. When they have had enough, they can just follow the treaty they signed (NPT) that requires ‘unfettered access’ by them.
    Obama hasn’t the ‘nads for something like that.

  • CiporaJuliannaKohn

    The Shia terror regime in Iran is a totalitarian, genocidal regime.
    Iran is the premier state sponsor of terror in the world. Iran has committed acts of terror world wide, on the soil of numerous sovereign nations, slaughtering civilians of many nations.
    The terror state of Iran has a number of terror proxies, such as Hezbollah, and they use their terror proxies to wage war against other sovereign states and their populations for no justifiable cause.
    The community of nations has indulged Iran and therefore this genocidal terror state has never been punished for its war crimes and crimes against humanity. The Shia terror regime has therefore been encouraged and emboldened to continue on the path of terror, hegemony, and military adventurism.
    The Shia terror regime has been actively supporting the genocidal Assad regime in its horrific genocide on the Syrian people, including the rape, torture and murder of innocent children.
    The terror state of Iran has an active and expanding nuclear weapons program. It is in violation of numerous Chapter VII UNSCR’s forbidding it to engage in any nuclear and ballistic missile activities.
    Yet, Obama is absolutely intent on signing a deal with Iran which would let that genocidal terror regime retain the essentials of its nuclear weapons program.
    Obama is willing to disregard Iran’s war crimes, its crimes against humanity, its terror, its aggressions, for the sole reason of Obama’s ambition to have a narrow, hollow, diplomatic win.
    Obama has lied to the American people and to America’s allies when he said that he would not let Iran get nuclear bombs. If Iran is allowed to retain its nuclear weapons program then Iran will have nuclear weapons, and that is a certainty.
    A nuclear Iran would be a catastrophe for the region and for world order and peace.
    It is unthinkable that a terror regime, a regime that has committed war crimes and crimes against humanity be allowed to become a nuclear power with the ability to carry out nuclear blackmail and nuclear terror. Any claim that Iran’s genocidal terror regime has been of help here or there where their national interests so dictate anyway is specious and naïve at best. Iran must be stopped at all costs from being a nuclear power or a nuclear threshold power.

  • stevewfromford

    How naive Mr Mead is.Obama is not interested in stopping the Iranians from getting a nuclear weapon. He suspended the banking sanctions that took a decade to get international agreement for and he did it without getting anything substantive in exchange. Mr Obama has now placed the US in a position to need help from Iran in Iraq and the mullahs will play Obama like a fiddle at a hoedown! The Mullahs know that they have nothing to fear from Obama as do the Saudi’s. Obama has single handed destroyed any chance of a peaceful resolution to the Iran nuclear issue and has ensured that Israel, possibly with the help of the Saudi’s, will attack Iran. Obama has managed to play a winning hand into a total disaster.

    • Curious Mayhem

      Yep. The US now has no leverage whatever in the region, and all parties with a stake had better prepare for the consequences.

  • ljgude

    No WRM, it is not about getting Iran to say yes. It is a matter of America saying NO. This is not about to happen under the current management. You say “President Obama is right to want a bargain with Iran, and right, too, that we can’t get such a bargain without offering Iran some incentives.” Again, it is not a matter of incentives. As I know you are aware WRM George Kennan explained the problem of trying to do business to with Joseph Stalin to Mr Truman and Mr. Harriman in his famous Long Memo – the gist of which was to point out that you can’t do quid pro quo with Uncle Joe. It is the same with any totalitarian regime. With Obama dithering the US into irrelevance there is absolutely no reason for today’s totalitarians do anything else than double down on their current strategy which includes getting atomic weapons as soon as they possibly can. The only question is: Will we lift sanctions in return for them pretending to slow their drive for atomic weapons? The answer is obvious.

  • bottomfish

    As far as I can see WRM’s argument is based on these premisses:

    (1)Iran’s only ambition in the Middle East is a Shia sphere of influence, which supposedly will “stabilize” the region;

    (2)when Iran demands a right of nuclear enrichment, with over 40,000 centrifuges and a heavy water reactor, that is only reasonable and Iran has no intention of making nuclear weapons;

    (3) her international terrorist operations simply do not exist;.

    This makes no sense to me.

  • Curious Mayhem

    Yeah, right. Whatever.

    Batten down the hatches.

  • Hussam Imtiaz

    National Council of Resistance of Iran, a broad coalition of democratic Iranian organizations, groups, and personalities, was founded in 1981 in Tehran, Iran on the initiative of Massoud Rajavi, the leader of the Iranian Resistance. For more information visit http://www.ncr-iran.org/

  • halpap

    You are fantasizing if you think Obama has long had the right goal with Iran, unless you think the right goal is to kick the can down the road until Iran has a nuclear weapon.

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