by Michael Rubin
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced last summer that
Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei's confidants have repeatedly urged nuclear weapon development. Ayatollah Mohammad Baqer Kharrazi, secretary-general of Iranian Hezbollah, for example, declared in 2005: "We are able to produce atomic bombs, and we will do that. . . . The
During his campaign, Obama promised to meet unconditionally with
If he sits down with Ahmadinejad without precondition, he will not only have sent
Too often, new
In a June 14, 2008, debate, Abdollah Ramezanzadeh, government spokesman under Mohammad Khatami, criticized not Ahmadinejad's policy but his style, suggesting Khatami's strategy to lull the West better achieved
"We had an overt policy, which was one of negotiation and confidence building, and a covert policy, which was continuation of the activities," Ramezanzadeh explained.
Indeed, it was during Khatami's "dialogue of civilizations" that Tehran built its covert enrichment facility and, according to International Atomic Energy Agency reports, experimented with plutonium and uranium metal. Neither has a role in energy production, but have military applications.
And, according to the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate, it was under the reformists that
Obama may seek out Iranian moderates, but he should understand that, on the nuclear issue, differences between Iranian factions are illusionary. The supreme leader tolerates no officeholder who does not support his line on national security.
On Feb. 3, the Kayhan newspaper — Khamenei's mouthpiece — drove home the point by calling Obama's attempts to reach out to moderates "futile."
All this does not mean diplomacy is useless. But to be successful, it must be carefully crafted. Cost matters. Here, the Iran-Iraq War provides a lesson.
Ayatollah Khomeini swore to pursue war with
Bailing out a failing Iranian economy makes no strategic sense unless Obama's goal is to preserve regime longevity and provide
Neither is it wise to slowly ratchet up sanctions. No sanction yet imposed compares to the deprivation Iranians suffered in the 1980s. Instead, to achieve diplomatic leverage, Obama should impose maximal sanctions but offer to relieve them as
Under Section 311 of the U.S. Patriot Act, the president can designate Iranian banks — including
A military strategy role also exists. Obama, his adult life spent in sheltered circles, should realize that the military is not just about bombing, and that containment and deterrence are not simply rhetorical concepts but require military planning.
Nor should Obama repeat the mistakes of Jimmy Carter. Military deployments can provide diplomatic leverage.
During the 1970 Black September hostage crisis and after the 1975 Khmer Rouge seizure of the U.S. container ship Mayaguez, Nixon and Ford, respectively, quietly deployed forces to augment leverage as the two presidents muted any public bluster.
Two days after Iranian revolutionaries seized the U.S. Embassy in 1979, Carter's aides leaked that the president would not consider military force — information that the captors said led them to retrench.
A quiet but steady buildup in the
George W. Bush had the luxury of time and squandered it. Barack Obama will not be so lucky. For him to succeed, he must abandon his idealistic notion that diplomacy by itself is a panacea.
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