At his joint press conference today with the president of South Korea, President Obama aptly demonstrated why his Iran foreign policy has been a failure and why we face a real threat that Iran soon will acquire nuclear weapons. Here is the first of two exchanges:
Q: Thank you, Mr. President. I appreciate it. . . And, President Obama, I wanted to get your first reaction to the Iranian terror plot. Your Secretary of State called it a dangerous escalation. What specific steps will you take to hold Iran accountable, especially when Mitt Romney charged last week, “If you do not want America to be the strongest nation on Earth, I am not your President — you have that President today”?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, I didn’t know that you were the spokesperson for Mitt Romney. (Laughter.) But let me just talk about the plot in particular. We have a situation here where the Attorney General has laid out a very specific set of facts. What we know is that an individual of Iranian-American descent was involved in a plot to assassinate the ambassador to the United States from Saudi Arabia. And we also know that he had direct links, was paid by and directed by individuals in the Iranian government.
Now, those facts are there for all to see. And we would not be bringing forward a case unless we knew exactly how to support all the allegations that are contained in the indictment.
So we have contacted all our allies, the international community; we’ve laid the facts before them. And we believe that after people have analyzed them, there will not be a dispute that this is, in fact, what happened.
This is a — not just a dangerous escalation; this is part of a pattern of dangerous and reckless behavior by the Iranian government. One of the principles of international behavior is that our diplomats — we send them around the world — that they are going to be protected, they are not targets for threats or physical violence. And for Iran to have been involved in a plot like this indicates the degree to which it has been outside of accepted norms of international behavior for far too long. This is just one example of a series of steps that they’ve taken to create violence and to behave in a way that you don’t see other countries doing.
So with respect to how we respond, our first step is to make sure that we prosecute those individuals that have been named in the indictment. And I will leave to the Attorney General the task of describing how that will proceed.
The second thing that we’re going to continue to do is to apply the toughest sanctions and continue to mobilize the international community to make sure that Iran is further and further isolated and that it pays a price for this kind of behavior.
Keep in mind that when I came into office I think Iran saw itself as being able to play various countries against each other and avoid the kind of isolation that it deserved. Since that time, what we’ve seen, whether it relates to its nuclear program or its state-sponsored terrorism, that more and more countries have been willing to speak out in forceful ways, whether through the United Nations or through other avenues, to say this is not acceptable behavior. And it is having an impact. I mean, what we’ve seen is Iran’s economy is in a much more difficult state now than it was several years ago, in part because we’ve been able to unify the international community in naming Iran’s misbehavior and saying that it’s got to stop and there are going to be consequences to its actions.
Now, we don’t take any options off the table in terms of how we operate with Iran. But what you can expect is that we will continue to apply the sorts of pressure that will have a direct impact on the Iranian government until it makes a better choice in terms of how it’s going to interact with the rest of the international community.
There is great similarity between how Iran operates and how North Korea operates -- a willingness on their part to break international rules, to flout international norms, to not live up to their own commitments. And each time they do that the United States will join with its partners and allies in making sure that they pay a price.
And I think that — I have to emphasize that this plot was not simply directed at the United States of America. This is a plot that was directed against the Saudi ambassador. And I think that what you’re going to see is folks throughout the Middle East region questioning their ability to work effectively with Iran. This builds on the recognition within the region that Iran in fact has been hypocritical when it comes to dealing with the Arab Spring, given their own repressive activities inside their country, their willingness to prop up the Syrian regime at a time when they’re killing their own citizens.
This is a pattern of behavior that I think increasingly the international community is going to consider out of bounds and is going to continue to punish Iran for. Unfortunately, the Iranian people are the ones that probably suffer the most from this regime’s behavior. And we will continue to work to see how we can bring about a Iranian government that is actually responsive to its people but also following the rules of the road that other countries in the international community follow.
I provide the full answer to illustrate several points. First, notice the peevishness when a reporter asks a question raised by a potential competitor. It’s going to be one long, bitter campaign. Second, the man likes to talk and talk and talk. He’s either entranced with the sound of his own voice or he fears saying what he has in mind succinctly. Third, he’s got good reason to hide his answer in a fog of words. Essentially, he’s treating this as a crime. Inspector Clouseau, er, Attorney General Eric Holder will get to the bottom of it. And if they had reason to believe there was going to be an assassination but not sufficient evidence for an indictment, would Obama have acted? The degree to which the criminal justice mentality has overtaken these people is extraordinary. And finally, his answer is to keep doing more of what hasn’t worked, namely applying economic sanctions. He says we will “apply the toughest sanctions and continue to mobilize the international community to make sure that Iran is further and further isolated and that it pays a price for this kind of behavior.” Aren’t we doing this already?
Notice also the multilateral fetish. He proclaims: “Keep in mind that when I came into office I think Iran saw itself as being able to play various countries against each other and avoid the kind of isolation that it deserved. Since that time, what we’ve seen, whether it relates to its nuclear program or its state-sponsored terrorism, that more and more countries have been willing to speak out in forceful ways, whether through the United Nations or through other avenues, to say this is not acceptable behavior. And it is having an impact.” Oh, really? What evidence is there that this is impacting Iran’s behavior? In fact, the opposite is true. For Obama, “speaking out in forceful ways” means we are having an impact.
It’s frightful, actually. The president is a walking advertisement for our unserious and ineffectual policy toward Iran. Obama apparently thinks describing a problem in condescending terms is what matters. (“One of the principles of international behavior is that our diplomats — we send them around the world — that they are going to be protected, they are not targets for threats or physical violence.” Wow, for real?)
Most grievously, he is not willing to acknowledge that while we haven’t been at war with Iran, Iran is certainly at war with us. When later asked if this incident was an act of war, our commander in chief deferred to Holder. No, this is your call, Mr. President.
In fact, Iran has been killing Americans in Iraq and Afghanistan for some time, spreading terrorism and propping up another state sponsor of terror (Syria). What have we done? Sanctions and talk. Neither has had an impact.
Obama’s weakness is provocative to our enemies and demoralizing to our allies. Let’s hope we make it through the next 15 months without a deadly incident and without the mullahs’ acquisition of nuclear weapons.