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I am attempting to understand Obama’s position on Iran. What I write below is what I think Obama and his cohorts think they are doing. I am trying to write from their perspective, so it will be sympathetic.
Obama’s Grand Strategy:
The real problem in the world is Sunni extremism. ISIS, al-Qaeda, and all their affiliates are Sunni. Iran is the natural enemy of Sunni extremism, and is thus the natural ally of the United States. Sure, the Iranians have killed many Americans, but that is because America threatened Iran’s interests in the region. Iran’s true ambitions have always been regional. If America shows a willingness to see Iran succeed regionally and to become a protector of Shia everywhere in the region, they will no longer see the need to be hostile to the United States. An opportunity exists to cultivate Iran as an ally and make Iran a proxy in the America’s war on Sunni terror networks.
A nuclear Iran in the immediate future would further destabilize the region and make an even wider war much more likely. A nuclear deal is needed to push the Iranian nuke off the table for at least a few more years. During those years, America will cultivate an ever-closer alliance with the Iranian regime, making the Iran dependent on the United States and its allies for its economic health, without which the regime is at risk from its own restive population. After a few years of economic growth, and feeling less and less threatened by the United States, a mollified Iran will begin to modify its policies. Even when Iran begins to re-arm and finish its nuclear program, it will not matter: We will have affected Iranian policy through economic means, and Iran will discover that its regional goals are being fulfilled.
The regime is comprised of rational actors who understand that a nuclear attack on Israel will lead to Iran’s destruction; therefore, there will be no nuclear attack on Israel. America will remain dedicated to maintaining sufficient Israeli military power to ensure that any conventional or nuclear attack on Israel, successful or not, will lead to the destruction of the aggressor country. By doing this, we will secure Israel from such attacks. This will not, however, secure Israel or the United States from terrorism.
Cultivating an alliance with Iran is important, because this will force the Sunni countries, led by Saudi Arabia, more deeply into the arms of the United States — given that there will be no one but us capable of countering Iranian influence. The Saudis will seek greater protection from us, and we will in exchange demand greater effort from them to defund and fight extremist Sunni terrorist networks. When the Saudis recognize that the Sunni extremists can’t defeat the US or Iran, they will work to dry up funding to Sunni terrorist networks, further isolating ISIS and al-Qaeda. In turn, Iran will see that only by keeping on favorable terms with the US can their influence continue to grow; thus they will fight Sunni extremists for us, and thus they will not fund international terrorism for fear of undermining the regional influence they’ve acquired.
The only problem here is the Palestinians and Israel. Understandably, the Iranians and Arab powers will not let this go. However, this is a historic opportunity for Israel. It is in Israel’s long-term interest to make peace with the Palestinians at any price. Once that peace is at hand, funding for Hamas, Hezbollah and other terrorists groups will dry up, and Israel will be secure. As long as Israel occupies the West Bank and blockades Gaza, Iran and the Sunni countries will continue to support and encourage terrorism in the region. Once peace is made, however, no power will be motivated to sustain tensions over Israel.
The Logic of the Nuclear Deal:
We all know the Iranians lie and cheat on all the deals they make. We know they will lie and cheat on this deal too. The brilliance of the nuclear deal is that it does not matter. The Iranians have strong incentives to delay their Bomb for the time being, and that delay is all we need. While they delay, our alliance with them will grow. Iran will come to see its interests in a new light. By the time they get the Bomb, they will no longer feel the need to use it, nor will they see the United States as their main enemy. If we can get the stubborn Israelis to see that peace — at any price — is in their interests, Iran will no longer view them as an enemy. By then, a nuclear Iran will be no greater a worry than a nuclear Israel is today.
We are not naive; we know these results are not inevitable and will require deft diplomacy over the coming years. If a warmonger comes to office in the next election, our progress could be lost. But if the alliance with Iran is cultivated properly, and if Israel makes the necessary concessions for peace, Sunni Islamic terrorism will be starved for funds and volunteers. We will have a powerful proxy in Iran to fight Sunni radicals, and the region will be far more stable for it. Diplomacy in the Middle East will be about managing relations between two powerful regional blocs: the Sunni bloc, led by Saudi Arabia, and the Shia bloc, led by Iran. America can manage that rivalry, and with peace between Israel and the Palestinians, the existence of the Jewish state will fade as a regional grievance. There will be no more large wars, no more major terrorist threats, and stability will thus be brought to the whole region.
I’m trying to figure out what the Obama Administration believes it might gain from this deal, and this is what I’ve come up with. I disagree with the Administration’s assumptions, but from what I can tell, they’re thinking along these lines.
What do you think?Published in