Preview to the Presidency: Iran

Debate over how the United States should handle Iran and its likely development of nuclear weapons was a hot topic during at least parts of the past campaign cycle.  Both Obama and McCain claimed that they would be tough enough to face down Iran.  Obama, for example, has called Iran’s nuclear programs “unacceptable”.  He suggested that he would be able to deter Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons by engaging in diplomacy and perhaps divesting – a college-student liberal’s favorite non-strategies for dealing with violations of international law.

When people say something is “unacceptable”, they usually mean that they will act to prohibit it.  Here though, the United States seems to really mean that we won’t “accept” the reality that we aren’t willing to do anything about Iranian nuclear weapons – as we did little to prevent Russia, China, Pakistan, India, Israel, or North Korea from developing nukes.

To paraphrase Kissinger, nations base their foreign policy on their self-interest, not on the polite requests of august statesmen such as President Elect Obama.  Though he claims to be keeping all options open, it is nearly inconceivable that Obama, who opposed war with a genocidal tyrant in Iraq, would support one against an Iran still maintaining a shell of democracy.  If Iran faces no serious consequences, it stands to reason that they will develop the nuclear weapons that are supported by a majority of Iranians.

So it was not much of a surprise when, soon after the Nov. 4 election, Iran scoffed at Obama’s transparent posturing:

Ali Larijani said Saturday that Obama should apply his campaign message of change to U.S. dealings with Iran.

“Obama must know that the change that he talks about is not simply a superficial changing of colors or tactics,” Larijani said in comments carried by the semi-official Mehr News Agency.

“What is expected is a change in strategy, not the repetition of objections to Iran’s nuclear program, which will be taking a step in the wrong direction.”

He added that Iran does not mind if the United States provides other Persian Gulf countries with nuclear technology, but “you should know that you cannot prevent the Islamic Republic [from reaching its goals in the nuclear field],” according to the news agency.

It will not be Obama’s fault if and when Iran decides to develop nuclear weapons.  McCain’s contention that he was better equiped to face down Iran was risible.  The United States would have been just as unwilling to embrace military action under Republican leadership.  But Obama will nonetheless pay a steep price if the “hope” he has sold the American people proves to be false.

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