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Posted at 10:00 AM ET, 06/22/2012

Congress tries to lead on Iran; Obama clings to failed diplomacy

The Obama administration won’t take no for an answer. The Iran talks yielded no progress again this week, and yet the Obama administration desperately clings to the charade:

Diplomats close to the talks, on both sides, said afterwards that it was not yet clear – after the third round of high-level negotiations this year – which side might budge first.
“We don’t want a crisis or collapse of talks,” said one Western diplomat. He said that not all of Iran’s engagement was positive, and that Iran did not specifically say what steps it was willing to take regarding easing concerns about its 20 percent enriched uranium, which is a few steps away from weapons grade. . . ..
“It’s not collapse, it’s not suspension,” the Western diplomat added. But there was also not enough common ground yet to commit to another top-level meeting.

Good grief. No wonder the Iranians don’t take us seriously.

Even former Obama adviser Dennis Ross, who certainly participated in formulating Iran policy, confessed to the New York Times, “The issue here is, ‘How do you deal with a process that’s going to be harder and harder to justify?’ If it looks like you’re engaging in a process for the sake of process, that’s a bigger problem.” But Ross is no longer in the administration and he may be trying to distance himself from a disastrous policy that has gone on far too long. The report continues:

Though Mr. Ross keeps lines to former colleagues at the White House, he has not persuaded the administration to change course. A senior administration official said pursuing a comprehensive deal would take months of negotiation, during which time Tehran would continue to enrich uranium. Agreeing on interim steps could freeze Iran’s enrichment sooner.

Jonathan Schanzer of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies comments to me: “Has the White House finally given up on Iran? I’m watching now to see what other Obama allies say.”

The administration would be isolated even among Democrats should it persist in this useless process. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), the type of influential Democrat who can’t be passed off as making political hay out of the Iran talks’ collapse, isn’t budging from his insistence that Congress proceed with oil sanctions. He released a statement on Tuesday, which read:

“I’m disappointed, but not surprised by Iran’s ‘take now, pay later’ position – essentially seeking relief from sanctions in exchange for an unverifiable pledge from the Supreme Leader that Iran’s nuclear program is peaceful, while at the same time, demanding the right to enrich uranium. That position fails to reflect the determination of the United States that Iran not achieve nuclear weapons capability or to respond to the minimum conditions the P5+1 set forth in Baghdad. The talks were the preferred forum to reach an agreement, but in their absence the Congress will pursue other mechanisms to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear state. I look forward to working with the House of Representatives to pass a bipartisan sanctions bill as soon as possible and anticipate the Administration’s full implementation of the Central Bank sanctions next week.”

And on Wednesday the House Armed Services Committee held a hearing to discuss the military options. Former Democratic senator Chuck Robb, in prepared remarks, counseled that “the evidence from past and current talks demonstrates that negotiations and sanctions, however harsh, will not solve the problem alone. Iran’s stalling tactics during its most recent rounds of talks with the P5+1 this spring underscore this point. The time has come to dramatically increase the pressure on the Iranian regime.” He recommended: “At this late date, it is only the credible threat of force, combined with sanctions, that affords any realistic hope of an acceptable diplomatic resolution.” As part of this, he urged: “Boosting the visibility and credibility of the military option would send a strong signal to Iran and press the regime to negotiate in good faith.”

Committee chairman Rep. “Buck” McKeon (R-Calif.) likewise insisted, “I personally agree that all elements of national power should be brought to bear to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. I certainly recognize that no military operation is without risk. But given the fact that the president has stated that military option may have to be utilized to thwart Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, it is the committee’s responsibility to ensure that the military option is credible.”

But right now that threat is anything but credible. Persisting in the fiction that “technical talks” might unlock some solution sends the wrongheaded message that Ross, Menendez, McKeon, Robb and others have sought to head off. Unfortunately, without a president willing to articulate their muscular approach, the military option remains unconvincing.

Meanwhile, Israelis are left to hope against hope that the United States will step up to the plate. Vice Premier Shaul Mofaz ,visiting with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and members of Congress, sounded that theme: “The use of military power should be the last option, and I believe that this option should be led by the U.S. and the Western countries.”

That yearning for American leadership is widespread in the Jewish state. Visiting Israel, former deputy national security adviser Elliott Abrams relates: “It’s safe, it’s safe, one Israeli explained to me that he tells such questioners. We are all here and we aren’t going anywhere; Iran doesn’t terrify us. But you know, he added, it won’t be fun if we have to do this. You are the superpower. You should force them to back down or hit them if need be; for you it’s not such a big deal, look at those B-2s and those huge bunker-buster bombs you have and the size of your Navy. And your president said they shouldn’t have nuclear weapons, didn’t he? Maybe we in Israel won’t have to do it in the end; what do you think, is it possible, he asked … smiling wistfully.”

Until this U.S. president, Israelis had always imagined that with such an existential threat the United States would assume the mantle of leadership. But Israelis are no fools. They have been watching Obama for 3 1/2 years. They know all too well that Obama will look for any and every excuse not to act. In the end, they know it very well may be up to Israelis to defend the Zionist endeavor (preservation of a safe haven for world Jewry) and the West’s security.

By  |  10:00 AM ET, 06/22/2012

Categories:  Iran, Israel, President Obama

 
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