We Still Don't Know Why Obama Wants Deal with Iran
The past few days have produced at least three excellent articles on Obama's secret agreements, or would-be agreements, with Iran. At the Daily Beast, Michael Weiss and Michael Pregent put it in the framework of the fight against ISIS, explaining how our constant catering to Iran's desires makes it virtually impossible for us to defeat the Islamic State. Mosaic's Michael Doran lays out the history of Obama's Iran dealings (still mostly secret, including the details of the currently-operative interim agreement), which, as Doran puts it, has resulted in the Iranians having "bested the most powerful country on earth on their terms." Finally, there's Jeffrey Goldberg's musings at the Atlantic, which more or less conclude that, while Obama hopes to strike a deal with Iran that will both end its pursuit of nuclear weapons and moderate its international behavior:
Iran seems as interested as ever in becoming a regional hegemon, on its own terms. And its supreme leader, and his closest confidants, have made it clear, over and over again, that he is not interested in normalizing relations with the United States.
Those who have followed this space over the past several years will not be shocked or even surprised at these revelations, but the fact that four authoritative analysts--and Tony Badran of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies should be added to the list of clear-eyed observers -- have all concluded that Obama has been in thrall to Iran for several years now, with frightening consequences for our national interest, is news. And there are others: Eli Lake at Bloomberg and Kyle Orton on his own blog, for example, are two of the best.
All of these have done outstanding work, and it's encouraging that they have all come to agree with my essays over the past several years, going back to the earliest days of the Obama administration. It's worth dwelling on this point, as Michael Doran of Mosaic, for example, has still not accepted it. He thinks that the secret American talks with Iran revolve around the 2012 elections, which gave Obama greater freedom in pursuing his Iranian scheme. But that is wrong. The secret talks began in 2008, before Obama was even elected, and the back channel, as I was the first to reveal, was retired U.S. Ambassador William Miller, who confirmed the story to me and others.
In other words, Obama entered the White House with the intention of forging an alliance with our most dangerous enemy in the Middle East. That fact has to be the baseline of any serious analysis of our government's policies.
Which takes us straightaway to the great unanswered question: Why does the president want this alliance?
I don't know the answer. I suspect there is no single answer, but many components. No doubt one component is Obama's well-documented conviction that American misbehavior is responsible for many, if not most, of the world's problems. He probably believes the myths about the 1953 events that restored the shah to power in Tehran. He may well share at least some elements of the Iranian regime's hatred of past American actions.
But those fairly widespread, basically secular, and quintessentially leftist convictions don't get us there. They don't begin to explain the president's passion to embrace the Islamic Republic, the world's biggest killer of Americans, a regime that slaughters and imprisons and tortures its own citizens in record numbers, especially in light of its consistently anti-American behavior throughout the Obama years.
The president is apparently immovable on this matter, regardless of advice from his own people, from our military leaders, and from allies. Doran elegantly sums up Obama's Syria policy:
Clearly, the president viewed the anti-Assad movement in Syria just as he had viewed the Green Movement in Iran three years earlier: as an impediment to realizing the strategic priority of guiding Iran to the path of success. Was the Middle East in fact polarized between the Iranian-led alliance and just about everyone else? Yes. Were all traditional allies of the United States calling for him to stand up to Iran? Yes. Did the principal members of his National Security Council recommend as one that the United States heed the call of the allies? Again, yes. But Obama’s eyes were still locked on the main prize: the grand bargain with Tehran.
What is the reason for such relentless pigheadedness? Most all his people were on the other side, he wasn't getting any diplomatic cooperation from Zarif and Rouhani, American hostages were suffering in Iranian captivity, yet the president pursued his dream.
Past American sins aren't nearly good enough. It seems to me there must be something about Iran itself that draws him into the web of the mullahs. Perhaps if we knew more about his life it would at least provide a clue. Did he have a Persian lover? Did one of his professors glorify Shi'ism? I haven't seen a trace of helpful evidence.
I don't believe the theory that he's a closet Muslim. For this "explanation" to work, he'd have to be a closeted Twelver Shi'a, and there's no good reason to believe that.
Other theories point to Valerie Jarrett, who was born in Iran. Perhaps the dream comes from her? She's the president's closest adviser, after all, and she's a central player in the secret talks. But we know a lot about her, and what we know paints a convincing picture of an American pol, an Obama friend and loyalist, a friend of Michelle, and a practitioner par excellence of Chicago School Politics. Not a lover of the world's leading sponsor of terror.
None of his many interviewers has pressed Obama on this central question, nor have our congressional bigwigs seen fit to investigate it. Maybe that will change, as the media mood evolves toward bafflement and criticism. It seems to me that we are entitled to know a lot more about the secret talks, and about the White House guidance under which the talks have been conducted. I am still baffled that Congress has not demanded the text of the current agreement with Iran on the nuclear matter, and I am frustrated that no leading journalist has the slightest interest in the hostage question, which may well be linked to Obama's dream (maybe he doesn't want to escalate pressure for hostage releases because he doesn't want trouble from Khamenei).
I do know that it's a very big question, and I wish we knew the answer. It's urgent.