by Barry Rubin
We must now face an extremely unpleasant truth: even giving the Obama Administration every possible break regarding its
Note that I didn't even say "effective" action, that is, measures which would force
I'm saying that they aren't even going to make a good show of trying seriously to do anything at all.
Some say that the administration has secretly or implicitly accepted the idea that
From their behavior they still seem to expect, incredibly, that some kind of deal is possible with
Not only is the Obama administration failing the test but it is doing so in a way that seems to maximize the loss of
Yet the British, French, and Germans are ready to get tough on
All of this is watered down in media coverage, focused on day-to-day developments; swallowing many of the administration's excuses plus its endlessly repeated rhetoric that action is on the way. When the history of this absurdly failed effort is written the story will be a shocking one, the absurdity of policy obvious.
It was totally predictable that the Iranian government would not make a deal. It was totally predictable that
First, the administration set a September deadline for instituting higher sanctions and then, instead of following a two-track strategy of engagement plus pressure, postponed doing anything while engaged in talks with
Second, it refused to take advantage of the regime's international unpopularity and growing opposition demonstrations due to the stolen election. On the contrary, it assured the Iranian regime it would not do so.
Third, the administration set a December deadline if engagement failed, then refused to recognize it had failed and did nothing. It is the failure even to try to meet this time limit by implementing some credible action that has crossed the line, triggered the point of no return.
Here is something tremendously ironical: The British, French, and Germans want to act. Obama has the consensus among allies that he says is required. But he's letting himself be held back by
Sixth, the administration now defines sanctions as overwhelmingly focused on the Revolutionary Guards, which it cannot hurt economically, thus signaling the Iranian regime it will do nothing effective to damage the country's economy. This means that even if sanctions are increased they will be toothless. The White House ignored the face-saving way out given it by Congress, where the vast majority of Democrats supported an embargo on refined fuel supplies and other doable measures.
All of these steps tell
After these six failures, the
There is not the slightest indication that the Obama administration holds any of these views. On the contrary, without any apparent realization of the absurdity of the situation, high-ranking officials keep repeating in January 2010 as in January 2009 that some day the
At a minimum, the administration should implement the tough sanctions envisioned by Congress and supported by its European allies, an attempt to cut off the maximum amount of fuel supplies, loans, and trade from
Instead, while the
This sad debacle is going to be a case study of how failing to deal with a problem sooner, even if that requires some diplomatic confrontations, will lead to a much bigger and costlier conflict later involving military confrontations.
Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal.
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