Commentary Magazine


G-8 Failure Illustrates Obama’s Iran Folly

The news from the G-8 Summit at L’Aquila, Italy confirms what many of us have suspected all along about Barack Obama’s Iran policy: this administration is not willing to take the kind of actions needed to stop Tehran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

According to Jake Tapper of ABC News, the G-8 leaders will issue a communiqué expressing their dismay about post-election violence in Iran as well as about that nation’s pursuit of nuclear weapons. But they will not call for more stringent sanctions against Iran, nor will they pledge stricter enforcement of those measures that are already in place.

This is hardly surprising given the that the president didn’t even wait for what Roger Cohen hoped would be a “decent interval” after the stolen Iranian presidential election before reiterating his determination to pursue a policy of engagement with the Iranian regime. Moreover, given the extensive business ties between Iran and some of the other G-8 countries in Europe, it is equally unremarkable that there would be no enthusiasm at the gathering for progress toward effective action on the issue.

The point is, absent stronger sanctions and with Washington disavowing the threat of U.S. or even Israeli military strikes on Iran’s nuclear targets, what incentive does Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei or newly re-elected President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad have to give up their nuclear push?

As much as everyone knows that a military response to the Iranian program is, at best, problematic, the only viable alternative is complete economic isolation for Tehran. Tough sanctions, applied across the board and with Iran’s leading trading partners (e.g. Germany) participating, might bring down a government that has already lost any shred of internal legitimacy. At the least, it might force them to back away from their long cherished hope for what Obama once called a “game changing” nuclear option.

One would think that the aftermath of the election fiasco and the bloody repression on the streets of Tehran would be the perfect opportunity for Obama to take the lead on this issue and, at least, begin the process of expanding sanctions. But as has been the case since the election, Obama’s indecision and unwillingness to lead on this issue has effectively spiked any real hope of a diplomatic resolution of this impending crisis.

The clock is ticking toward the moment when Iran can proclaim having achieved nuclear capability. Every day we delay in moving toward effective sanctions makes it all the more certain that whatever measures are eventually taken, will come too late.

The G-8’s decision to punt on action regarding this issue is further proof that this administration is not serious about the problem; despite the existential threat Iran’s nuclear program poses to Israel and the peril it also presents to the rest of the region and the West. Obama’s apologists may continue to pretend that he understands the high stakes involved and that he will eventually make good on his campaign promises never to accept a nuclear Iran. But the rest of us now know — if we didn’t already understand it — that Obama is prepared to live with Iranian nukes.

Notwithstanding the incoherent messages coming from Vice President Biden and others in the administration, Israelis ought to conclude that they are on their own when it comes to Iran.