Some pundits love to carry on about the presumed brilliance of the Persians, reminding us that they invented chess, that they’re fabulous negotiators and strategists, and masters of deception. Others love to carry on about the presumed brilliance of President Obama, who plays basketball, not chess, but is still, as the historian Michael Beschloss once said, the smartest president in American history.
I don’t doubt the Persians and our president have high IQs, but I know from personal experience that the rulers of Iran are at least a bit crazy (I met with some of them when I was the “secret back channel” to Iran during the Reagan administration), and they have certainly wrecked their country. Obama’s results haven’t been particularly epic either.
Braininess doesn’t automatically translate into good policy or even to a clear understanding of what’s going on. Several thoughtful analysts have concluded — correctly, as I see it — that recent Middle Eastern deals are, at a minimum, giant steps toward a working alliance between the United States and Iran. It’s pretty clear that Obama believes he is on the verge of fulfilling one of his favorite dreams: a U.S.-Iranian consortium. Of late, that has produced two unexpected agreements, one terminating the Syrian chemical weapons program, and the other temporarily limiting at least some parts of the Iranian nuclear weapons program.
The Iranians, likewise, think they’ve made significant advances: they think they’re in the driver’s seat in Syria, and have won acceptance of their long-claimed “right to enrich uranium.”