Inside Obama's Head

Barack Obama is the 44th president of the United States. He is channeled here by Seth Cropsey, a senior fellow at Hudson Institute and former deputy undersecretary of the Navy.

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I was jeered when I received the Nobel Peace Prize a few months after my first election as president, but now that the framework agreement with Iran has been reached, my critics will need to reconsider.

There are problems that remain ahead. Iran might be able to build a weapon with the enriched uranium that the agreement leaves in their possession. They might cheat when it comes to complying with inspections; it’s not that hard. And it won’t be easy to convince Republicans -- although goodness knows the rest of the country has no idea what’s going on here -- that we have negotiated procedures that can be verified.

But the very fact of a diplomatic agreement between America and Iran overshadows everything else.

We have been at odds with the Iranians for nearly four decades. My administration has changed this by reaching agreement with Tehran on their nuclear program. The Bush people only talked about “building bridges” to the Iranians.

I’ve done it.

The agreement may not stop Iran from possessing nuclear weapons, but time will prove this to be a secondary consideration. The most important issue is the reason why Iran has been trying to become a nuclear power. The answer is simple: they feel insecure and are trying to protect themselves.

It’s hard to blame them for this. The U.S. has to accept its share of responsibility for Iran’s longstanding sense of isolation and fear. With President Eisenhower and Prime Minister Churchill’s approval, the U.S. and Britain -- a past threat to international stability -- overthrew an Iranian prime minister in the early 1950s. Yes, the mullahs had backed away from supporting the unfortunate prime minister, fearing that his nationalization of Iran’s oil industry was a harbinger of communist rule. But the pattern of Western intimidation had been set -- it produced the shah and his infamous secret police.

When they were finally toppled in 1979, the clerics faced more American hostility. Washington allowed the overthrown shah to be treated in an American hospital. It froze Iranian assets held in American financial institutions. In 1984, it imposed sanctions during the war between Iran and Iraq. The Reagan administration ended the import of Iranian goods and services to the U.S., and stopped the export of American products to Iran. Congress legislated additional sanctions in the mid-‘90s. Then Bush invaded two states that border Iran on the east and west: Afghanistan and Iraq.

Is it any wonder that the Iranians were nervous, that they tried to protect themselves by building nuclear weapons? Everyone knows that they could not hope to defeat the U.S. in a conventional war. So a nuclear weapons program made sense.

The framework that my administration reached yesterday will start to make Iran feel secure again, as will my administration’s removal of the U.S. military from Iraq and Afghanistan. And so will our unstated cooperation with Iran in fighting ISIS, and our continued downsizing of the U.S. military.

It does not matter that after ten years the limits that the framework puts on Iran’s nuclear development program will disappear. The decade will bring more cooperation between the U.S. and Iran -- and with that cooperation and the lifting of sanctions that is part of the framework, the mullahs will feel more secure and will focus their attention on rebuilding Iran’s economy.

Iran is an ancient and advanced civilization. It was the major power in the region centuries before Jesus was born. It can be a moderating force again now that the U.S. is all but out of the Middle East, along with the threats and instability its presence brought.

As for Israel, their fate has always been in their hands. If they had stopped building settlements in the West Bank when I told them, they could have turned aside the anger of the surrounding Muslim states. If they would only listen to reason today and return to their pre-1967 war borders, peace would break out with the Palestinians and with other Middle Eastern states.  Netanyahu doesn’t understand it now, and I doubt he ever will. But a more secure Iran is good for Israel. When Iran doesn’t feel threatened, they will not threaten others.

My generals keep telling me that if Iran breaks their promises or is able to build nuclear weapons under the constraints of the framework agreement, then other states in the region -- like Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states -- will find ways to buy Pakistani nukes or to start their own nuclear development programs. They worry like grandmothers that neither Iran nor the Saudis have a secure second strike capability. They’re afraid that this is an encouragement to strike first and to destroy the other side’s nuclear capability. This is just the kind of nonsense I’ve come to expect from the Pentagon. Of course a proliferated Middle East is not the best option, but it is a better one than we have now, where a threatened and anxious Iran feels it must lash out to defend itself.

And, besides, what sane leader would use nuclear weapons to attack another nuclear power in the first place? The generals, as usual, are stuck in Cold War thinking. I know best.