The Mystery of Obama’s Iran*

By Sol W. Sanders
Saturday, July 18th, 2015 @ 5:36PM

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Even the most dogged defenders of Pres. Barack Obama’s “deal” with Iran will admit that the U.S. had to make concessions to achieve it. The extent of those concessions and their implications are certainly more than debatable.

True enough, in any major international agreement compromises are almost always necessary. Even the U.S.’ World War II “unconditional surrender” ended with Washington acceding to Japan’s maintaining the emperor, an integral part of its prewar military regime.
But any negotiation requires an understanding of or at least a hypothesis about the nature of the opponent and where he may be directing his energies.

The mystery in the current Obama Administration negotiations with Tehran’s mullahs is just what Obama thinks he is dealing. In his press conference this week, you got some hint of Obama’s thinking – but not what lies behind it.

One has to take many of his arguments with his opponents in the Congress, Israel and the Gulf states with more than a grain of salt. He has argued that his agreement will strengthen the hand of any future American president who might have to deal with the Iran’s nuclear capabilities. Leaving aside his interpretation of the agreement, conjecturing what might face a U.S. president in 15 years is, as he often says of his critics, not logical. Looking back over just the last 15 months, much less 15 years in the region indicates just what a total leap into the dark would be such speculation.

Therefore, does Obama think that he is dealing with an Iran which “inevitably” will become the hegemonic regional power? And, therefore, it is one with which the U.S. must come to an understanding, if not agreement, by making major concessions? There is a case to be made for that. With a population 20% under 14 [although suffering a dramatic, sudden drop in fertility] Iran will have a 100 million people by 2050 [a third of the current Arab population which has similar demographics]. With one of the oldest civilizations in the world, Persia is a treasure chest of resources and human talent. On the other hand, it might well be argued how mistaken the U.S. was of the future of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi’s Iran in the immediate post-World War II period. With Washington’s sponsorship, Pahlavi turned to squeezing the U.S. as a founding member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries [OPEC], and with charges of corruption and malfeasance, was abandoned by Washington in an ill-fated support of his military.

Does Obama think that the nuclear agreement he has negotiated will inevitably lead to an erosion of the mullahs’ rule and a less expansionist Iran? He has expressed hope of such developments but made it clear this may not be the case. It would have to be one of his “evolving” beliefs, for he refused even rhetorical support when the 2009 elections neared revolutionary dimensions. One of the most powerful of his opponents’ arguments is, of course, that lifting the sanctions is almost immediately going to put tens of billions of dollars into the pockets of Iran’s rulers. And Obama admits they are likely to “invest”, he says partially, this windfall in their continuing worldwide program of subversion and terrorism.

Does Obama believe that a threshold nuclear state – that is, by the U.S. abandoning its earlier goal of ending fuel enrichment and thereby the makings of a bomb — will make them less threatening to their neighbors? Does he believe their ability to create a bomb in a short period, blocked only by an infinitely complicated and untried international surveillance, will mobilize the other nations in the region to resist Tehran, creating a balance of power which the U.S. through diplomatic finesse “can :lead from behind”? His opponents believe it has already led to the beginning of an arms race, including nuclear weapons.

Or is it simply that Obama sees these concessions as part of his offer to redress old grievances of the Muslim world outlined in his supposedly seminal June 2009 Cairo speech? That would mean that he sees what critics view as the confusion and defeats of six years of American policy in the Mideast as only the inevitable product of earlier mistakes – especially military intervention by his predecessors. Therefore, does he now rely on what he identified as his hope that other issues with Iran of the U,.S., Israel and its Arab allies, would be mitigated by this agreement.

Questions about the nature of the Iranian regime, a very great puzzle itself, may therefore have to give way to the fundamental issue of what the President thinks he is dealing with in Tehran.

*Originally posted on on 

Categories: ACD/EWI Blog, Arab, Arabian Peninsula, Arms, Cairo Speech, Economy, Energy policy, Gulf, Hezbollah, Houthis, Iran, Iran deal, Islamist, Middle East Conflicts, Mideast, Nuclear Iran, Nuclear threat, Obama, Obama Administration, Oil market, OPEC, Terrorism, Terrorist Financing, U.S., U.S. Foreign Policy, U.S. Policy

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