Candidate Obama’s words on Iran have come back to haunt President Obama. Previously critical of the Bush administration’s Iranian policy, Obama has chosen to continue the status quo rather than implement his own strategy. Now several former Bush administration officials, requesting anonymity, tell Pajamas Media they fear the Iranians are now trying to run out the clock and that Obama must quickly implement a more aggressive policy to replace Bush’s.
President Bush attempted negotiations in July 2008, when he sent Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs William Burns to sit in on nuclear talks with Iran. The talks ended without an agreement. But shortly after becoming president, Obama attempted the same tactic of engagement, stating:
Strong countries and strong presidents meet and talk with our adversaries. We shouldn’t be afraid to do so.
His policy of engagement and negotiations has failed, just like Bush’s attempt did. A former senior Bush official notes:
The Obama administration’s attempted engagement to affect Iranian behavior was a big zero. All it did was give the Iranians another year to advance their program.
Obama has frequently talked about crippling sanctions, but has enacted nothing. The Bush administration did enact sanctions, encouraging the UN to impose three sets: May 2006, December 2006, and March 2007. Yet in talking about President Bush’s foreign policy, candidate Obama stated:
Unfortunately, I fear our once great influence is waning, a victim of misguided policies and impetuous actions. Never has the U.S. possessed so much power, and never has the U.S. had so little influence to lead.
As president, Obama has obviously not followed his own advice with sanctions: an end-of-the-year deadline was pushed back to January, then February, and then came May, with talk of weakened sanctions that might bring Russia and China on board. A former CIA analyst commented:
The Obama administration is saying we are open and receptive, and what has that meant? Nothing. Russia and China enjoy this struggle that affects the U.S. and its allies, and they are hoping that the problem is continually ignored. The new set of sanctions does not appear to be very powerful and has been very slow moving in getting off the ground.
Reza Kahlili, author of A Time To Betray — a portrayal of his double life as a Revolutionary Guard member and CIA agent — noted that:
Once Iran gets nuclear bomb capacity they will become untouchable. My solution is for the American government to support the Iranian people. The U.S. government lost an opportunity during the election uprisings. There was a deafening silence — the protesters feel betrayed by the West. Every day the clerical establishment of the Iranian government propagandizes against the West. They have sold the idea that if you take any measures or voice any harsh criticism the moderates in Iran will be weakened. This is not true.
A former CIA official agrees:
Our government was very hesitant [during the protests] and that could have possibly been an opportunity lost to topple the regime.
He also noted that Iran having a nuclear weapon is universally supported by all Iranians; yet a new regime might be more receptive to American overtures.
The U.S. and its allies should impose a strict, harsh embargo. This would be more effective than what might come through the UN, which has shown its impotence in dealing with global problems. The former CIA analyst noted that by showing Russia and China that the U.S. and its allies would impose its own set of sanctions, Russia and China might be forced to be more flexible.
An embargo must include the prohibition of gasoline exported to Iran, cutting off all trade between Iran and Europe, and a quarantine of the Iranian leaders via blocking their travel outside of Iran.
The Obama administration has five options: engagement, sanctions, deterrence, regime change, and a military attack against the facilities. Both engagement and limited sanctions have proven unsuccessful. A former CIA official explained that the problem with sanctions is the inability to enforce them: “too many leaks in the system.”
Maintain and deter is an option if Iran gets a nuclear bomb or is in a permanent breakout stage (able to create a weapon in a short period of time.) This is an option of last resort, considering the Iranian regime is inflexible and appears not to be a rational player. The former CIA official noted:
Deterrence was successful with the Soviet Union because we were both existential. I am not sure it would be credible with Iran because they might not truly believe we would use the nuclear option.
The Obama administration should stop playing chess and start to implement an actionable strategy. Per former CIA Director Michael Hayden:
There is a time clock. The Iranians are cleverly keeping the clock running.