Commentary Magazine


Topic: bad actor

What IS Our Iran Policy?

Hillary’s speech, as limited as it was in the discussion of Iran, as opposed to graph after graph on the unsustainability of the status quo with regard to the Palestinians, was a puzzler. Unlike the president’s mute reaction to the June 12 stolen election and the brutal aftermath, Hillary made a convincing case that, yes, the regime is a very bad actor. She pronounced:

Elements in Iran’s government have become a menace, both to their own people and in the region. Iran’s president foments anti-Semitism, denies the Holocaust, and threatens to destroy Israel. The Iranian leadership funds and arms terrorists who have murdered Americans and Israelis alike. And it has waged a campaign of intimidation and persecution against its own people. Last June, Iranians marching silently were beaten with batons; political prisoners were rounded up and abused; and absurd and false accusations were leveled against the United States, Israel, and the West. People everywhere were horrified by the video of a young woman killed in the street. The Iranian leadership is denying its people rights that are universal to all human beings — including the right to speak freely, to assemble without fear; the right to the equal administration of justice, and to express your views without facing retribution.

Fine, as far as it goes. But what are we doing about it? In his address this year for the Iranian New Year, Obama said, “The United States does not meddle in Iran’s internal affairs. Our commitment – our responsibility – is to stand up for those rights that should be universal to all human beings. That includes the right to speak freely, to assemble without fear; the right to the equal administration of justice, and to express your views without facing retribution against you or your families.” Again — no meddling, but what actions are in gear to express our horror? Moreover, there seems to be no recognition that such a regime would be immune to our entreaties. We are, as Hillary often says, “bearing witness” — taking notes and making generalized statements, but not committing ourselves to assist those being murdered and brutalized as they try and wrest their government back from the regime.

Hillary also said today: “In addition to threatening Israel, a nuclear-armed Iran would embolden its terrorist clientele and would spark an arms race that could destabilize the region. This is unacceptable. Unacceptable to the United States. Unacceptable to Israel. And unacceptable to the region and the international community. So let me be very clear: The United States is determined to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.” As Rick noted, what is missing is the rest of the sentence: “The United States is determined to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons by ???” By committing ourselves to regime change? No. By imposition of crippling sanctions that were passed by the House and Senate months ago? Er, no. This is what she offers:

We are working with our partners in the United Nations on new Security Council sanctions that will show Iran’s leaders that there are real consequences for their intransigence, that the only choice is to live up to their international obligations. Our aim is not incremental sanctions, but sanctions that will bite. It is taking time to produce these sanctions, and we believe that time is a worthwhile investment for winning the broadest possible support for our efforts. But we will not compromise our commitment to preventing Iran from acquiring these weapons.

Taking time to produce them? Well, yes, lots and lots of time. Her self-defense is this: “We took this course with the understanding that the very effort of seeking engagement would strengthen our hand if Iran rejected our initiative. And over the last year, Iran’s leaders have been stripped of their usual excuses.” But no, engagement has not in fact resulted in agreement by China and Russia to join in an international sanctions effort. There is a pathetic naïveté here as well — that what was key was the stripping the mullahs of their excuses. Well, they come up with new ones all the time, as do Russia and China, for refusing to cooperate with efforts to impose sanctions.

Once again there is an unmistakable gap between rhetoric (“Unacceptable!”) and policies designed and urgently implemented to achieve those aims. We can surmise that the Obami are either incompetent or that the rhetoric is just that — rhetoric.

Hillary’s speech, as limited as it was in the discussion of Iran, as opposed to graph after graph on the unsustainability of the status quo with regard to the Palestinians, was a puzzler. Unlike the president’s mute reaction to the June 12 stolen election and the brutal aftermath, Hillary made a convincing case that, yes, the regime is a very bad actor. She pronounced:

Elements in Iran’s government have become a menace, both to their own people and in the region. Iran’s president foments anti-Semitism, denies the Holocaust, and threatens to destroy Israel. The Iranian leadership funds and arms terrorists who have murdered Americans and Israelis alike. And it has waged a campaign of intimidation and persecution against its own people. Last June, Iranians marching silently were beaten with batons; political prisoners were rounded up and abused; and absurd and false accusations were leveled against the United States, Israel, and the West. People everywhere were horrified by the video of a young woman killed in the street. The Iranian leadership is denying its people rights that are universal to all human beings — including the right to speak freely, to assemble without fear; the right to the equal administration of justice, and to express your views without facing retribution.

Fine, as far as it goes. But what are we doing about it? In his address this year for the Iranian New Year, Obama said, “The United States does not meddle in Iran’s internal affairs. Our commitment – our responsibility – is to stand up for those rights that should be universal to all human beings. That includes the right to speak freely, to assemble without fear; the right to the equal administration of justice, and to express your views without facing retribution against you or your families.” Again — no meddling, but what actions are in gear to express our horror? Moreover, there seems to be no recognition that such a regime would be immune to our entreaties. We are, as Hillary often says, “bearing witness” — taking notes and making generalized statements, but not committing ourselves to assist those being murdered and brutalized as they try and wrest their government back from the regime.

Hillary also said today: “In addition to threatening Israel, a nuclear-armed Iran would embolden its terrorist clientele and would spark an arms race that could destabilize the region. This is unacceptable. Unacceptable to the United States. Unacceptable to Israel. And unacceptable to the region and the international community. So let me be very clear: The United States is determined to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.” As Rick noted, what is missing is the rest of the sentence: “The United States is determined to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons by ???” By committing ourselves to regime change? No. By imposition of crippling sanctions that were passed by the House and Senate months ago? Er, no. This is what she offers:

We are working with our partners in the United Nations on new Security Council sanctions that will show Iran’s leaders that there are real consequences for their intransigence, that the only choice is to live up to their international obligations. Our aim is not incremental sanctions, but sanctions that will bite. It is taking time to produce these sanctions, and we believe that time is a worthwhile investment for winning the broadest possible support for our efforts. But we will not compromise our commitment to preventing Iran from acquiring these weapons.

Taking time to produce them? Well, yes, lots and lots of time. Her self-defense is this: “We took this course with the understanding that the very effort of seeking engagement would strengthen our hand if Iran rejected our initiative. And over the last year, Iran’s leaders have been stripped of their usual excuses.” But no, engagement has not in fact resulted in agreement by China and Russia to join in an international sanctions effort. There is a pathetic naïveté here as well — that what was key was the stripping the mullahs of their excuses. Well, they come up with new ones all the time, as do Russia and China, for refusing to cooperate with efforts to impose sanctions.

Once again there is an unmistakable gap between rhetoric (“Unacceptable!”) and policies designed and urgently implemented to achieve those aims. We can surmise that the Obami are either incompetent or that the rhetoric is just that — rhetoric.

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