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Right Turn
Posted at 10:30 AM ET, 07/19/2011

Do we have an Iran policy?

The Obama administration is consumed with the debt ceiling debate and with preventing a meltdown in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Meanwhile, the greatest threat to our national security in decades, the potential for a nuclear-armed Islamic revolutionary state in Tehran, still looms.

Certainly, the Obama team continues to mouth platitudes about the “success” of sanctions and the “isolation” of Iran. But neither is true. The sanctions have not halted or even seriously disrupted the mullahs’ quest for nuclear weapons. And Iran continues to gather allies and extend its reach in the region as the U.S. looks more feeble with each passing day.

I spoke to Mark Dubowitz of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies yesterday about the state of the administration’s Iran policy. He was blunt:

I’d start with asking these questions:
1. Apart from sanctions, is anything else happening? What is the comprehensive strategy?
2. Who is driving Iran policy at the interagency level? Dennis Ross, Gary Samore, David Cohen, Bob Einhorn, Michele Flournoy, Tom Donilon, anyone else?

His conclusion on the first item is that nothing is happening, and we have no comprehensive approach. On the second, he says, “No one.”

And worse than benign neglect, our actions suggest the U.S. has little stomach to confront an increasingly aggressive Iranian regime. As Elliott Abrams, former deputy national security adviser, put it:

So what are we to make of the following statements by America’s senior military officer, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Michael Mullen? Reuters reports that at a luncheon with journalists, Mullen said this:
“Iran is very directly supporting extremist Shia groups which are killing our troops. And there’s no reason … for me to believe that they’re going to stop that as our numbers come down….There’s no question they want to influence, and particularly in the south,” Mullen said. “They are shipping high-tech weapons in there … which are killing our people and … the forensics prove that.”
. . . . So Iran’s killing of American troops is a problem because it complicates leaving some forces in Iraq?
What is one to make of it when our senior commander does not seem outraged by this Iranian conduct and does not demand that we put a stop to it? Our forces are not killing Iranians, but Iran has been killing Americans — in Iraq and Afghanistan, but also through involvement in terrorist attacks such as the Khobar Towers bombing in 1996 — for decades, and it has paid no price. This is the probable explanation why continuing American promises, or threats if you like, that “it is unacceptable for Iran to acquire nuclear weapons” don’t appear to rattle Tehran. What credibility can we possibly have when they know we know that Iran has been killing American soldiers year after year without any significant American response.

And the “international community” churns out reports noting violations of the sanctions that are supposed to halt the Iranian nuclear weapon program. Last month, the U.N. Security Council put out a statement noting new violations. The council proclaimed: “There had been three new alleged violations of the international sanctions imposed on Iran in relation to its nuclear program, the Chair of the Committee created to monitor the implementation of those measures reported today, as several concerned Security Council members urged Tehran to scale back the activities in dispute and seek a diplomatic solution.”

I’m sure that has them quaking in their boots in Tehran. The statement continued:

Equally concerned by Iran’s recent nuclear-related activities, France’s representative said the Expert Panel’s final report painted an “alarming” picture of Iran’s elaborate deception, aimed at evading the sanctions. France was particularly alarmed about reported violations of the arms embargo, including three new examples of illegal arms transfers that revealed Syria’s participation. Moreover, Syria had refused to cooperate with the Panel, which was a serious violation of its obligations under relevant Council resolutions.
By continuing activities that were contrary to its stated intentions, he said, Iran was “heading down a one-way street of violations of international obligations, isolation and repression,” at a time when people across the region were calling for openness and cooperation. . . .
While stressing that all members of the international community must comply strictly with Council resolutions, the Russian Federation’s representative said he favored dialogue and diplomacy to engage Iran fully on non-proliferation. There was need for a comprehensive solution that would recognize the right to the peaceful use of energy under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). He recalled that, during recent tripartite consultations on regional cooperation and development involving his own country, Kazakhstan and Iran, the latter had expressed interest in discussing such issues as weakening the sanctions regime. Hopefully such an approach would not hinder talks among the E3+3, he said.

In other words, sanctions are porous, and there is no consensus in favor of more robust action against the regime. And as we now know, with no international consensus, President Obama will do nothing.

By  |  10:30 AM ET, 07/19/2011

Categories:  foreign policy, Iran

 
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