Throughout the campaign season, Barack Obama’s precise stance on certain key Middle Eastern foreign policy issues has remained surprisingly nebulous. For example, we do not know whether Obama actually supports an immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq, or–as former foreign policy adviser Samantha Powers once suggested–his approach to Iraq would be more flexible. Similarly, we don’t know whether Obama supports an “even-handed” approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict–as he advocated during his failed congressional run in 2000–or whether he considers Israel’s security “sacrosanct.”
Yet Obama has been crystal clear on one specific policy approach: if elected, he will “engage in aggressive personal diplomacy” with Iran without preconditions, negotiating with “appropriate Iranian leaders” on any and all outstanding issues. Indeed, whether addressing fawning audiences of liberal supporters or skeptical audiences of pro-Israel activists, Obama has been impressively consistent on this issue. His address before AIPAC yesterday was no exception: lambasting the Iranian regime as “supporting terrorism,” Obama promised that he would “lead tough and principled diplomacy with the appropriate Iranian leader at a time and place of my choosing– if, and only if–it can advance the interests of the United States.” Obama seems to believe that the Iranians are eager to negotiate with a U.S. president, and are simply waiting for a president open to dialogue to emerge.
Make no mistake: this is a total pipedream. After all, as Obama has increasingly sought to convince doubters of his pro-Israel credentials, Iran and its supporters have come to view Obama as an agent of Israel’s interests–a perspective that likely precludes the meaningful Iranian–American dialogue that Obama expects if elected. In this vein, Iran’s state-funded PressTV covered Obama’s AIPAC speech as promising to “take care of Iran for Israel,” noting that Obama “has realized that by threatening Israel’s number one enemy, Iran, he can curry favor with the highly influential Israeli lobby in the U.S.” Similarly, Hezbollah’s al-Manar noted that Obama “strongly supported and defended the Zionist entity” in his speech before “the Zionist AIPAC council”–with the redundant use of the Z-word intended to communicate profound distrust for the presumptive Democratic nominee. Al-Manar‘s commenting readers were even more explicit in their disenchantment, referring to Obama as an “enemy” of Islam on account of his pro-Israel pronouncements.
In short, Obama’s desire to open dialogue with Iran is entirely inconsistent with his suddenly staunch embrace of Israel. His failure to acknowledge as much is simply the latest example of his foreign policy naïveté.