Obama to World: I Failed, But It's Their Fault
Obviously, these efforts, like the secret negotiations that began even before I was sworn in, had to be secret, lest my domestic opponents mount a campaign against my diplomacy, or lest the Iranians panic. The need for secrecy was absolute. To do something as dramatic and game-changing as I had undertaken required everything be in place before the strategic realignment could be announced. You all remember when we replaced decades of enmity with the People’s Republic of China. There, too, secrecy was imperative.
I therefore kept the details of my opening to Iran from everyone except my closest personal associates. The others who could see that I was bending over backwards to reassure the Iranians—and later, the Russians as well—were our military officers in the field. They could see that the Iranians were killing U.S. soldiers, and wanted to respond. I couldn’t permit that and from time to time I had to replace some of the complainers.
The combination of secrecy and restraint was not sufficient to produce the strategic transformation I wanted—the supreme leader was not convinced by my words or actions--and I reluctantly introduced economic sanctions. These were much more effective, indeed even more effective than my pro-sanctions advocates had expected. That is one of the basic lessons we learned: good will is important if you want to change the world, but money is fundamental. This became clearer as the negotiations progressed. As we moved toward the formalization of the nuclear deal, the JCPOA, the Iranians, in our secret talks, were forever introducing new financial demands. Payment for impounded assets in the U.S., payment for the release of our hostages, which was done in cash, payment for decades of interest the Iranians demanded, and so forth.
We paid it all, and then some. And I got some good results: a nuclear deal was agreed, and Americans were freed. But there is no strategic realignment. The Iranians didn’t want a partnership with me. They went with Vladimir Putin, and, so far as I can tell, they mean it when they chant “Death to America.” They are still killing Americans, directly and indirectly, and they are still taking Americans hostage, and shaking us down for ransom.