Are supposed negotiations with Iran the “October Surprise” intended to win the election for President Barack Obama, an Iranian trick for buying time, or both?
The answer is both. It’s an incredibly transparent ploy, though with the cooperation of the mass media such a gimmick might well have some effect.
Here’s the scenario we are supposed to believe: Obama’s sanctions (the tough Obama) have severely damaged Iran and so Tehran is looking for a way out. At the same time, Obama’s flexibility in dealing with possible enemies wins them over (the empathetic Obama). Thus, Obama’s greatness as a statesman might solve the problem of Iran’s nuclear drive short of war.
Let’s note some of the evidence that this ploy meets the needs of both sides in the conflict. For Obama, it is a potential electoral gain at the last minute in a hard-fought election in which his foreign policy has come under severe questioning. For the Iranian regime, the development buys even more time as it continues to go full-steam ahead with its nuclear drive.
If the Iranians are really sophisticated about American politics they understand the advantages for themselves:
– There will be pressure against new sanctions for the next six months or more since it could be said in the United States that these would damage a promising initiative.
– It might help reelect Obama, who is significantly softer on Iran. If the Iranians believe that a President Mitt Romney might launch a U.S. attack or support an Israeli one — I don’t believe this, but probably they do — that makes helping Obama win a top priority.
– Since the talks wouldn’t be until next year, Iran has to give up nothing to make the initiative. Note, too, that during the last five years Iran has repeatedly proposed different diplomatic formulae both in terms of meetings and potential compromises, only to retract them or make clear that Tehran’s terms are going to be unacceptable.
According to the Times, the agreement is: “ … a result of intense, secret exchanges between American and Iranian officials that date almost to the beginning of President Obama’s term.” In other words, nothing has happened for four years and suddenly we have a deal.
All this involves then is an Iranian offer to start talks, talks which could break down in a few hours or go on for years without result. Of course, the first Iranian demand will be for easing the sanctions.
Note, too, that the Obama administration officially denied the report — hey, we’re not playing politics with foreign policy! — and then leaked that it was true to its friends in the media.