When Hillary Clinton appeared at AIPAC in 2008, she told the conference that one of her guiding principles was a “simple one; no nuclear weapons for Iran.”
Iran simply cannot be allowed to continue its current behavior and I wish to underscore, I believe that we are further behind in constraining Iran today because of the failed policies of President Bush than we would have been had we taken a much more aggressive engagement course earlier. That is why it is imperative that we get both tough and smart about dealing with Iran before it is too late.
The Obama administration has now spent 15 months allowing Iran to continue its “current behavior.” The “tough and smart” engagement has consisted of an endlessly outstretched hand, combined with self-congratulatory statements about how “isolated” the failed engagement has made Iran. Sanctions that no one expects to be “crippling” are months off, and it is not clear what happens after that.
In his own 2008 AIPAC address, Barack Obama said that we had “no time to waste” and promised to use “all elements of American power to pressure Iran.” The key sentence in his prepared text was “I will do everything in my power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon” – a sentence that generated a standing ovation because, in the speech as delivered, Obama repeated the word “everything” three times:
I will do everything in my power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon — everything in my power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon — everything. [emphasis added]
Secretary of State Clinton’s speech this morning included a statement that the U.S. is “determined” to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, but as Jen notes, the speech included no reference to “all options” remaining on the table, much less the promise that Obama previously made, which was that every option will be used if necessary.
At yesterday’s Roundtable on Foreign Policy, there was the following exchange between moderator Dan Senor, Dr. Robert Kagan, and Senator Evan Bayh:
Dan Senor: Rob, there has been an attempt at engagement for — with Iran now for a year. The results speak for themselves. What are President Obama’s policy options for Iran?
Dr. Robert Kagan: Dan, the president came to office, in my estimation, believing that the key problem with Iran was Iran’s isolation, and you solve the isolation problem through engagement. Well, we figured out pretty early on that that was a mis-analysis, that the key problem was that Iran really wants to have a nuclear bomb. And if that’s the problem, then you need a different strategy, and there are three necessary elements to that strategy. One is diplomacy, second is economic sanctions, and third is a credible threat of force that’s — hovers in the background to compel the Iranians to take seriously the sanctions and the diplomacy. (Applause.)
Now — now, to — to the credit of the president, he has moved from a reliance solely on engagement to endorsing significant, although not yet crippling, sanctions. We’re slow. It’s taking too long. They won’t be comprehensive enough, but most importantly, they’re unlikely to be effective without the third part. ….
Dan Senor: Senator Bayh, is — is that credible threat of force there? The — at — at least the — the projection of it.
Sen. Evan Bayh: I’m not sure it’s there in the minds of the Iranians right now, but it needs to be there. …
So I — I agree entirely with what Rob said, and if you want to just be clear-eyed and realistic about this, we need to go with aggressive sanctions that are likely to hurt the regime, particularly the revolutionary guards. But you — you want to be honest about it, that’s unlikely to work.
The absence in Secretary Clinton’s speech of any sense of urgency, or of a possible Plan C, will be noted by those looking for something more significant than a rhetorical expression of “determination.”