In a rather devastating interview with Candy Crowley on CNN, Hillary Clinton she reveals the misguided premise at the heart of the Obami’s Iran engagement policy and the disastrous results that have flowed from it. This sequence sums up the failure of engagement:
CROWLEY: I want to bring your attention to something that President Obama said in his inaugural a little more than a year ago.
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OBAMA: “We will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.”
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CROWLEY: Has Iran unclenched its fist?
CLINTON: No. But…
CROWLEY: How about North Korea?
CLINTON: No. Not to the extent we would like to see them. But I think that’s — that is not all — all to the story. Engagement has brought us a lot in the last year. Let’s take North Korea first, and then we’ll go to Iran. In North Korea when we said that we were willing to work with North Korea if they were serious about returning to the six party talks, and about denuclearizing in an irreversible way, they basically did not respond in the first instance. But because we were willing to engage, we ended up getting a very strong sanctions regime against North Korea that China signed on to and Russia signed on to. And right now is being enforced around the world.
CROWLEY: Did the extended hand of the U.S. help in any way that you point to?
CLINTON: It did, because — because we extended it a neighbor like China knew we were going the extra mile. And all of a sudden said, “You know, you’re not just standing there hurling insults at them. You’ve said, ‘All right. Fine. We’re — we’re willing to work with them.’ They haven’t responded. So we’re going to sign on to these very tough measures.” Similarly in Iran — I don’t know what the outcome would have been if the Iranian government hadn’t made the decision it made following the elections to become so repressive.
But the fact is because we engaged, the rest of the world has really begun to see Iran the way we see it. When we started last year talking about the threats that Iran’s nuclear programs posed, Russia and other countries said, “Well we don’t see it that way.” But through very slow and steady diplomacy plus the fact that we had a two track process. Yes we reached out on engagement to Iran, but we always had the second track which is that we would have to try to get the world community to take stronger measures if they didn’t respond on the engagement front.
So let’s unpack that. For starters, even Clinton admits that the policy has failed. No unclenched hands in North Korea and Iran. And her justification — that our Iran policy was justified because “the world has really begun to see Iran the way we see it” — is simply preposterous. She would have us believe the world would not have seen the nature of the regime by its own actions (constructing the Qom enrichment site in violation of international agreements, stealing an election, and brutalizing its own people), but only now has begun to understand the nature of the regime because we have engaged in a futile Kabuki dance with the mullahs? It boggles the mind. And where is the evidence that Russia and China see it our way? When last we heard from them, the Russians were supplying missiles to Tehran, and the Chinese were rejecting sanctions.
There is no flicker of recognition that the president might have used his vaunted charisma and eloquence to get the world to “see Iran the way we see it” — that is, as an illegitimate and tyrannical regime. Indeed, she doesn’t even mention the democracy protestors other than to observe that she doesn’t know ”what the outcome would have been if the Iranian government hadn’t made the decision it made following the elections to become so repressive.” Not even a rhetorical bouquet to throw their way. Perhaps we are not even “bearing witness” these days. She seems oblivious to the notion that world opinion might be rallied to the cause of displacing, rather than soliciting the attention of, the despotic regime. And she gives no indication that the engagement policy has bestowed legitimacy upon the regime at the very time its citizens are seeking to overthrow it.
She also makes the bizarre claim that Iran really is not the greatest threat we face:
But I think that most of us believe the greater threats are the trans-national non-state networks. Primarily the extremists — the fundamentalist Islamic extremists who are connected Al Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula. Al Qaeda in — in Pakistan, and Afghanistan. Al Qaida in the Maghreb. I mean the — the kind of connectivity that exists. And they continue to try to increase the sophistication of their capacity. The attacks that they’re going to make. And the, you know, the biggest nightmare that any of us have is that one of these terrorist member organizations within this syndicate of terror will get their hands on a weapon of mass destruction. So that’s really the — the most threatening prospect we see.
Where to begin? She seems to suggest that we shouldn’t be so concerned about an Iranian regime with a full-blown nuclear-weapons program because there are also non-state terrorists (some of whom are supported by none other than Iran) who pose a similar threat. But wait. Isn’t this further reason to do what is necessary to prevent the Iranians from acquiring nuclear weapons? After all, they might be supplying those very same groups with nuclear materials.
In one short interview, Clinton has pulled back the curtain on the intellectual and moral hollowness and abject confusion at he heart of Obama’s engagement policy. The Iranian people, the West, and history will judge Clinton and the president for whom she spins — however ineptly.